Curious what flying a budget airline is like?

Time while traveling is gold; so in the interest of time in Thailand my sister Emily and I opted to take a flight to Southern Thailand rather than travel by train or bus. In the interest of time and money we turned to a budget airline, Air Asia, whose motto is “now everyone can fly”. For 1200 Thai Baht each (about $40) we could get one step closer to the island paradise of Koh Tao. Sure, “budget” and “airline” in the same sentence is a bit worrisome, but we figured we'd take our chances. I booked the tickets online, waived the travel insurance, waived the inflight food and drink, selected our seats for an additional 150 THB per seat ($5)... ok, first time I've been charged for airline seats. What are our options? Stand? Checked baggage was going to cost us an additional 300 THB per 15kg piece, and the rate was higher for every additional 5kg. Left my scale at home, but we figured we could surely check our bags at the airport so we didn't pay for checked baggage online. Tickets booked!

The Air Asia check-in line was short; I hoisted my bag on the scale first and offered up my passport. No checked baggage was included with my ticket, but I could add it for 900 THB per 15kg piece. What?!?!?! That's three times the online price! No other option so I paid the inflated price. Emily hauled her pack through the airport, hoping to carry-on without trouble.

Between check-in and security we were approached by Air Asia travel hawks... where are you going? Do you need to book a bus and ferry from Sarat Thani? Suspect, we deflected the questions and proceeded to our gate. We boarded our flight with the extra carry-on baggage, despite Air Asia signs warning “one-piece carry-on 7kg”. Emily's laptop and camera equipment alone probably weighed 7kg.

On board the flight we weren't offered beverage or food service; of course, I refused them when booking tickets. However, the flight attendants were selling the bus and ferry tickets from Sarat Thani, in addition to Air Asia teddy bears. We passed on both. I wondered if there was a charge to use the Air Asia toilet?


Top 10 Travel Destinations in Latin America

For fiber, craft and culture lovers alike
(in NO particular order)

1. Bocas del Toro, Panama - a sea lovers paradise, gorge
yourself on seafood at every meal or spend your day under the sun and in the water
2. Guadalajara, Mexico - handicrafts galore!
3. Merida, Mexico - architectural jewel, don't forget to buy a hammock (maybe extras for Christmas gifts too, you know you'll look back and wish you did!)
4. Antigua, Guatemala - Europe meets Latin America, a photographer's paradise, take in the sites, drool over the traditional textiles at the Nimpot store, play gringo and hike the surrounding volcanoes
5. Panajachel, Guatemala - ferry across Lake Antigua, visit the many street vendors for handcrafted goods, day trip to numerous destinations: Fuentes de Georginas hot springs, black sand beaches of Monterrico (okay, stay overnight and drive through the Auto Safari on your way back to Pana), largest outdoor market in Central America at Chichicastenango, and don't forget the epic comic book museum in Retalhuleu (for real)
6. Taxco, Mexico - holiday on the huge hill that is this bustling silver capital, hike above the city and quietly take in the view (no particular path, just hike toward the giant Jesus)
7. Domenecal, Costa Rica - surfers haven, 'nuf said
8. Creel, Mexico - expect to feel like you just entered the set for an 1800's old west film, ride the El Chepe train along the rim of the Copper Canyon to El Fuerte, order up street tacos and choco-flan, don't forget to buy a "cow" hat!
9. Casco Viejo, Panama City - picturesque (though "checkerboard"),  a central location to access the infamous and historic Panama Canal, amazing restaurants and museums are just a taxi drive away (don't pay the gringo rate!)
10. Lake Patzcuaro, Mexico - slow paced and calm (unless you visit during Day of the Dead!). Day trip to local craft villages and ferry to the island of Janitzio

What are your favorites? Let's hear 'em!


Christmas Stocking Giveaway!

Fill your stockings with unique, handmade gifts this Christmas. Check out stocking stuffer suggestions compiled by the folks at Little Mango Imports: http://littlemangoimports.com/stockingstuffers.aspx

This season we are giving away a stuffed Guatemalan fabric Christmas stocking! The stocking itself is made of Guatemalan fabric (my niece's first sewing project). Inside you will find:
  • one hackysack ball
  • two Guatemalan scarves
  • three coin purses
  • three dozen friendship bracelets
  • one beaded necklace from Indonesia
  • one hand painted wood candle holder
  • one hand painted wood turtle magnet

How to enter: simply leave a comment below, and if you blog about our contest you’ll receive 2 entries (be sure to comment with a link to your blog). The winner will be drawn Sunday, December 11th (basket will ship Monday for arrival just in time for Christmas). Good luck and thanks for playing!

Make your own stocking this season: "How To Time with Etsy" presents 3 videos with easy to follow instructions ~ http://youtu.be/Xn5RecvUFUU

December 2011 Specials at www.littlemangoimports.com:

Happy Holidays from the folks at Little Mango Imports!


Traditional Balinese Dance

These images depict the Wayang Wong dance drama, performed in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia during the festival of Kuningan. The Wayang Wong dance is taken from the Hindu epic Ramayana (originally performed as shadow puppet theater), and features masked performers and a percussion orchestra. The dance depicts a struggle between good and evil: the struggle to defeat the greedy King Rawana by an army of monkeys and Rawa, the reincarnated God Vishnu.

Balinese dance is an ancient Hindu tradition, performed for entertainment, ceremony and sacred purposes. Children begin learning the many hand positions and gestures (mudras) at a young age. The precision and passion in which Balinese dance is performed is beautiful and inspiring. A true art form!


Day of the Dead

 Los dias de los muertos or Noche de los Muertos or el Dia de Difuntos, as celebrated throughout Latin America, is a celebration of death, a festival of communion between the living and the dead. Preparation includes making offerings and decorating gravesites. This is all in preparation for the souls' return to their homes and the family reunions. 

The festivities begin October 27 with the return of those souls without homes or survivors to visit. October 28 those souls who were victim to murder, violence, or accident return. October 31 brings home the souls of dead children. On November 1 adult souls arrive and by November 2 the festivities have come to an end and all souls have departed. 

In Latin America, as in all societies, death is an emotional and very difficult aspect of life; still, the people deal with it in a very unique manner stemming from their religious and cultural roots. They remember their passed loved ones, celebrate their lives and deaths, and mock death itself. Figurines depicting people from all walks of life as skeletons are a traditional example of this mockery. 

Day of the Dead Merchandise at Little Mango Imports



Cruisin' through Saigon in the sea of motorbikes

Emily Taylor traveled in Southeast Asia this Summer. We are happy to share her second report:

Hello all, here's our story from week 2 in Vietnam/Cambodia...
(click to read about week 1)

We made it out of Siem Reap on a night bus headed back across the border from Cambodia to Vietnam. We had to get off the bus multiple times throughout the night to change buses and cross the border, only after Aaron busted a man who worked for the bus company going through people's bags, red-handed...SOB. Luckily our valuables were on us, but the man certainly went through our packs. We arrived back in Saigon in the morning and immediately went to the airport via moto which was a blast! There's not much like crusin' through crazy Saigon in the sea of motorbikes! Our flight to Hanoi was uneventful and we spent that afternoon looking for an honest travel agent to book us a tour on Ha Long Bay. We think we found one, but we're still not sure. Hanoi was better than we thought in the neat Old Quarter part of town, but extremely touristy.

The next day we set sail on Ha Long bay on a deluxe cruise. We sailed around all afternoon, kayaked around some floating fishing villages and explored the "Amazing Cave"...which was indeed amazing. A storm hit in the early evening and the chaos of plates and table cloths flying in the main cabin was cause enough for everyone to start pounding Tiger beers (the local brew).

Fun night on the boat with really fun people. Lots of Irish lasses, a few Aussies, a couple from Spain, and a man from Singapore with his "lady friend". That man, Richard, after many a drink, told Aaron he had a "lion nose" and would be very rich one day. Emily is sticking with Aaron like glue. Next morning we swam around the bay and cruised back to Hanoi where we almost immediately grabbed a night bus to the mountainous northern region of Vietnam, Sapa, where we are now.

We are on our second night here and thoroughly enjoying this absolutely beautiful place! Today we rented a motorbike and cruised around the countryside, up and down mountains and through small villages. The scenery was stunning and Aaron now deems himself an "expert motorbike driver"..hmm...

We have a few more days here including more motorbike cruising and the huge market on Saturday. We will then begin our journey down the coast back to Saigon.

Aaron & Emily

P.S. Aaron helped write this too.


The Lower to the Ground you Sit, the Cheaper the Food

Emily Taylor is currently traveling in Southeast Asia. We are happy to share her recent report:

Hello all, here's our story from week 1 in Vietnam/Cambodia...

We almost missed our connection when we arrived in the Tokyo airport because, though we had an hour and a half layover, we had to go through another level of security where there was only one lane open. Finally someone came around with our flight number to help us to the front of the line so we could make our flight. We made it with 10 minutes to spare!

We arrived in Saigon around 9:30 PM and were ushered to our hotel. The city was still bustling and crazy (as it is at every hour) with various cars, buses, motorbikes, and people in general. We put our stuff down and walked a few blocks to find delicious tomato & shrimp cake noodle soup from a street food cart where we sat at a plastic table with stools about 10 inches off the ground (the lower to the ground you sit, the cheaper the food). The meal was about 80 cents each, score. Turns out, the best food is always on the street.

Day one in Saigon consisted of wandering about the streets in search of the notorious Lunch Lady (as seen on Anthony Bourdain). She makes a different soup everyday with anything from pig blood to other exotic meats and vegetables in it. We don't know exactly what went into our lunch, but it was so yummy--the best meal we've had so far on the trip. We then got massaged by the blind for $3 each, which was an experience in itself. The rest of our day consisted of more wandering and more eating...small/large dumplings, pork banh mi sandwiches, more soup, and we finished the evening with traditional snails and beer on the street.

Day two we took a series of buses and finally made it out of the city...praise Buddha. After 7 hours of bus time, we made it to Chau Doc, a small city in the Mekong Delta near the Cambodian border. Our first hotel had mice turds all over the walls and prompted the move to a much better and cleaner place for pennies more. Out on the town for more noodle soup, this time with fish in it. We enjoyed some beers next to the river, watching the boats and river life pass by.

Day three we impulsively jumped on a boat at 7AM up the Mekong to Cambodia. We had a quick and smooth water border crossing and a nice day of chilling on the boat (yes, ukulele was played). We originally planned to skip Phnom Phen, but were exhausted after a long day of travel, and decided to stay the night. We were very glad to have spent the evening in the city as it was pretty darn cool. There were lots of beautiful temples, including the Royal Palace, and fun wandering all over the place.

Day four/five we took a minibus to Siem Reap which is the closest town to the Temples of Angkor. It's a bit touristy, but a very pleasant place to spend a few days in Cambodia. We found an amazing wooden hotel with an open air lounge area and a super friendly host, Dahlin (Darling with that Boston accent, we like to think). We wandered around the market in town and on the hunt for coffee, we stumbled into a cinema-cafe before dodging the approaching vicious downpour. The cafe was full of rainbow colored lawn chairs all facing the 5 TVs with various programming (Animal Planet, Asian music videos, WWE wrestling, soccer, and the feature film--a crazy Japanese film we could barely understand). Emily was the only female there. The Khmer food is delicious and the temples around Angkor are stunning. We had a long day of biking (about 30K) around the temples and countryside yesterday including lots of rice paddies, water buffalo, and children selling their postcards.

Today we are lounging around the town. Later tonight we'll take the night bus to Saigon, then fly north to Hanoi and venture out to Ha Long Bay and the Sapa region before hopping a train back down the coast.

We really love Cambodia and the people here speak great English and are very friendly. Can't wait to see Northern Vietnam!

Emily and Aaron


Get to know Little Mango Imports

Our mission is to offer indigenous, handmade handicrafts and textiles from the corners of the world. Little Mango Imports maintains its core values of fair business, cultural respect, tradition and community, quality merchandise, and exceptional customer service. 

• travel • culture • fiber • color • texture • respect • adventure • love • mango • tradition • history • art • appreciation • quality • community • textiles • creativity •

Whitney Taylor
A youth of travel and adventure instilled in Whitney a love for all things foreign: rich colors, smells and textures, art and exploration. While in college Whitney followed in her parents' footsteps, opening Little Mango Imports in 2005. She is also the head downhill ski racing coach for Nederland High School (Go Panthers!) and works for Happy Mango Beads (so please excuse her if she mistakenly signs an e-mail Happy Mango instead of Little Mango!). Whitney is a CrossFit enthusiast and an avid martial artist with over 18 years of training in traditional Japanese karate and weaponry.

Our marketing guru and Whitney's older sister, Samantha helps out in the warehouse and is our go-to person for creative, fun and fresh ideas. If you follow us on Twitter you have undoubtedly met Samantha.

John manages to get roped into all the not-so-fun tasks: measuring fabric, crunching numbers, and essentially providing muscle for Little Mango Imports. Whitney and John are currently working to open a small, nano brewery in Berthoud, CO: City Star Brewing.

John's six year old son likes to help out: fetch invoices from the printer, attempt to juggle with hackysack balls, remove loose threads from molas... that sort of thing. He considers Whitney's occupation to be "Seller Girl" and aspires to be a "Seller Boy" himself when he grows up.

Travel Companions
This is a tough job! Here's a little recognition to everyone who's accompanied Whitney continent to continent: Emily, Dan, Rudi, John, Amber, Sharlene, Carole, Heather, Drew, Avery and Haley.... you are ALL mangoes.


Mola Mola!

What are molas?
Molas (mor) are colorful appliqué panels completely hand crafted by the indigenous Kuna (Tule) of the San Blas Islands (Kuna Yala), an autonomous territory in Panama. Traditionally, molas are worn on the front and back of women’s blouses; therefore they have all been previously used. The production of molas didn’t begin until the 1800's when machine manufactured fabric became obtainable through trade.

How are molas made?

The technique of appliqué consists of cutting one or more pieces of fabric in an intricate, decorative design and hand stitching it on top of another piece of cloth. Original molas were comprised of only 2 colors (mor gwinagwad) and a geometric design using broad lines. Overtime, with greater exposure to and influence from outside cultures, mola colors and designs have become more complex depicting flowers, animals, and various figures.

How to determine the value of your mola:
The mola is evaluated based on its design and color, fineness of stitching, the number of layers it is comprised of, and overall workmanship.

How to display your mola:
Mola panels can be worn, framed, made into pillows, quilts, etc. The Aware Network in Australia even crafts Molas into shoes:

How to care for your mola:
Genuine molas are very durable and have been washed several times. Hand wash in warm water.

Shop for Molas: http://www.littlemangoimports.com/molas.html