Guys, I was dying to post pics from Brilliant Barcelona. But have loads of writing ahead of me today. Tomorrow is likely to be less hectic... till then, here's a halka-phulka column that appeared in Bombay Times....
When Fashion Goes ‘Platinum’….
Fashionistas are known to guard their shopping secrets in a demented sort of way. But only when it comes to what is called the ‘Cheap and Best’ option. Well, here’s one destination that is no longer a hidden one, at least not for smart shoppers. We all know how rapidly Bangkok- ka- Maal makes it to our malls and gets passed off as the asli deal. Snip and sell, has been an old trick, practiced by some of the biggest fashion labels in the rag trade. All it involves is a couple of trips to Bangkok (it’s cheaper to fly to Thailand from Mumbai than to Kolkata or Delhi), armed with gigantic suitcases. Ten years ago, local designers would return with dozens of inexpensive but trendy garments,promptly rip off the original labels, replace them with their own – and bingo! A new collection would be ready to flog in their stores (indecently marked up, of course). That’s before the Platinum Mall was discovered by canny, eagle-eyed shoppers from Mumbai. Today, Platinum has become the Fashion Temple for those in search of fun clothes, bags, shoes and accessories at throwaway prices. You can’t go wrong… and you can’t possibly lose.Platinum – especially the New Platinum next door to the original one, is like an Aladdin’s Cave, crammed with all sorts of goodies at startlingly low prices. I totally love it, but am not an addict. My raison d’etre for attacking Platinum is more out of desperation than anything else. Strange as it sounds, it’s virtually impossible to find pure cotton clothes in Mumbai these days. No mull-mull, no cambric, no organdie. The familiar ‘kapda dukaans’ are gone ( Rochiram’s on Colaba Causeway was an old haunt), and unless you shop at Fab India ( which has become a tad monotonous), or at any one of those snob boutiques where you know you are being ripped off, it is very difficult to lay ones hands on 100% cotton outfits that see you through the blistering summer. Platinum is the answer! And while you are stocking up on the latest smocks, you get to eat the best Thai food in the world, as well. That is, if you aren’t lucky enough to be at Chef Anando Soloman’s table!
All of a sudden, Bhutan has become the ‘It’ destination for restless desis looking for an exotic summer break. This is rather surprising, given Bhutan’s comparative inaccessibility. Only Drukair, the national carrier has landing rights into Paro, the sole airport in the Mountain Kingdom (Thai Airways also flies in these days). Charters from India have been launched recently and the planes are packed. Which is not the best news for the Bhutanese, knowing how fast our desis ruin pristine destinations with their utterly uncouth conduct. International foreigners are welcome, but only if they happen to be big spenders and not back packers. In order to guarantee that, visa fees are steep ( no visas for Indians, so far) and tourists have to undertake a daily spend of $500 or so. Room rates at the better lodges, hotels and resorts hover between $1,200 to $1,500 per night. Which is as it should be for this jewel of a place that does not wish to attract unruly mobs. The idea is to restrict entry to those who’ll respect local culture and traditions ( tough as it sounds,trading in tobacco is banned).But believe me, once you survive the hairy landing ( rated as one of the trickiest runway approaches on earth, with just 8 or 10 pilots qualified to fly into Paro), you are transported! Forget the food ( pretty inedible) and concentrate on the spectacular vistas of mist-draped mountain ranges, covered with lush forests ( hardly a bald patch in sight on those slopes).Yes, Bhutan is worth the trip. And I am ready to go back again. But this time, I shall cover my eyes as the pilot swings around three crazy mountainous bends, the wings of the aircraft barely scraping past the trees and homes on either side. Terrifying, but exhilarating as …. ummmm… hell??