The Standard, Kings Cross, London

Nestled within the vibrant landscape of King's Cross, The Standard Hotel London stands not just as a luxury accommodation option but as a cultural nexus, offering guests an unparalleled opportunity to immerse themselves in the eclectic charm of London's East End. Beyond its opulent rooms and impeccable service lies a rich history, innovative architecture, and a plethora of unique experiences waiting to be discovered.

Originally the Camden Council's office building, The Standard Hotel London King's Cross has undergone a remarkable transformation from bureaucratic stronghold to architectural gem. Constructed with functionality in mind, the building once housed administrative offices alongside a ground-floor library, serving as a hub for community engagement and intellectual exploration.

In a stroke of visionary creativity, architectural firms Orms, Shawn Hausman, and Archer Humphryes breathed new life into the structure, seamlessly blending its historic roots with contemporary design elements. The result is a masterpiece of modern luxury, where sleek interiors and avant-garde art installations harmonize with the building's heritage, preserving its essence while embracing the future.

The Standard Hotel London King's Cross serves as the perfect launchpad for exploring the vibrant tapestry of London's East, affectionately known as "Groovy East." This dynamic neighborhood pulses with creativity, diversity, and an irrepressible spirit that captures the essence of modern London.

Art enthusiasts will be captivated by the East's thriving art scene, where galleries and street art coalesce to form a vibrant kaleidoscope of expression. From contemporary exhibitions to hidden alleyway murals, there's no shortage of artistic inspiration to be found.

Food aficionados will delight in the East's culinary offerings, where Michelin-starred restaurants mingle with quirky cafes and bustling food markets. From traditional British fare to global gastronomic delights, the East End promises a culinary adventure like no other.

As night falls, Groovy East truly comes alive, with a plethora of bars, clubs, and live music venues igniting the night sky. Whether you're sipping cocktails in a chic rooftop bar or dancing to the beat of underground DJs, the East End offers an unparalleled nightlife experience that pulsates with energy and excitement.

Adding to the allure of The Standard Hotel is its unique offerings, including a recording booth and occasional radio station located within the library. Originally conceived as a lockdown experiment, these creative spaces have evolved into vibrant hubs of artistic expression, allowing guests to channel their creativity and share their voices with the world.

Within the confines of The Standard Hotel, guests will find an array of dining and drinking options that reflect the eclectic spirit of London's East. Decimo, the hotel's penthouse restaurant, offers a culinary journey inspired by the vibrant flavors of Spain and Mexico, served against the backdrop of breathtaking city views. Led by acclaimed chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, Decimo promises an unforgettable dining experience that celebrates the essence of modern Spanish and Mexican cuisine.

Meanwhile, Double Standard, the hotel's ground-floor bar and restaurant, exudes an effortlessly cool vibe, serving up a menu of elevated pub fare and craft cocktails. Whether you're sipping on a signature cocktail or indulging in a hearty burger, Double Standard offers a laid-back atmosphere where guests can unwind and socialize in style.

Isla provides the perfect brunch venue, indoor by the roaring fire or outside al fresco in the shaded terrace, ideal for brain storming meetups or solo charging up before the days explorations. 

The Standard Hotel London King's Cross offers more than just luxurious accommodation – it provides a gateway to the vibrant energy and cultural richness of London's East End. With its rich history, innovative architecture, and enticing culinary offerings, including renowned venues like Decimo and Double Standard, it invites travelers to immerse themselves in the spirit of this dynamic neighborhood, where every street corner tells a story and every meal is an adventure.

Lets not forget the most important resource!  the Staff!   friendly, efficient and can do!

The Standard Hotel London King's Cross serves as the perfect launchpad for exploring the vibrant tapestry of London's East, affectionately known as "Groovy East." This dynamic neighborhood pulses with creativity, diversity, and an irrepressible spirit that captures the essence of modern London.

The Park Hyatt, Siem Reap, Cambodia

The Park Hyatt, Siem Reap

Title: A Tale of Luxury and Transformation: The Park Hyatt Siem Reap

Nestled amidst the ancient wonders of Siem Reap, Cambodia, stands the epitome of opulence and elegance - the Park Hyatt Siem Reap. A beacon of modern luxury, this marvel of architecture and design seamlessly melds with the rich historical tapestry of the region.

In the heart of Siem Reap, where the vestiges of a bygone era whisper their tales, once stood a humble inn that embraced the city's culture and heritage. This original hotel, a local treasure, became the canvas for a visionary, Bill Bensley, whose passion for artistry and respect for tradition propelled the metamorphosis.

Bensley, a maestro of design, immersed himself in the storied past of Cambodia, drawing inspiration from its temples, markets, and folklore. He meticulously handpicked elements that would weave the essence of Cambodia into the hotel's very fabric. The result? A materpiece that marries contemporary elegance with Khmer soul.

Stepping into the reimagined Park Hyatt Siem Reap is akin to embarking on a visual odyssey. Cambodian artistry is evident in the intricate details that adorn every corner - handcrafted furnishings, Khmer-inspired motifs, and elaborate silk textiles. The lobby, resplendent with a mesmerizing mural depicting the epic bygone era, captures the soul of Cambodian culture and heritage.

Min A, the new Korean chef at the hotel's restaurant, adds a tantalizing twist to this exotic voyage. Hailing from South Korea, Min A brings her culinary expertise and a passion for Korean gastronomy. The restaurant's menu now boasts an array of special Korean dishes, impeccably crafted to perfection.

Guests are invited to savor the delicate flavors of traditional Bibimbap, a savory harmony of rice and vegetables, adorned with a dollop of gochujang. The Bulgogi, tender marinated slices of beef grilled to succulent perfection, offers a glimpse into Korea's culinary artistry.

Amidst the splendor of the Park Hyatt Siem Reap lies a haven for dessert aficionados - the charming bakery and café, a delightful escape from the bustling streets of Siem Reap. Stepping into this oasis, guests are greeted by the irresistible aroma of freshly baked pastries and premium brewed coffee.

The pastry display is a visual feast, showcasing an array of delectable cakes, each a work of art crafted by skilled patisseries. Layers of rich, velvety chocolate ganache, adorned with edible flowers and delicate gold leaf, tempt the taste buds. Tiramisu, with its delicate balance of coffee and mascarpone, transports diners to the cafes of Italy. The ethereal Macarons, in an array of vibrant hues, promise a burst of flavor with every bite.

For those seeking a cool indulgence, the ice cream selection beckons. Creamy, house-made ice cream, in flavors ranging from classic vanilla to exotic mango and coconut, awaits the discerning palate. Guests can choose to savor these frozen delights in the serene ambiance of the café or while strolling through the lush courtyard.

The café also offers a curated selection of beverages to complement the sweet treats. From perfectly brewed espressos to aromatic teas and refreshing iced beverages, the menu caters to every taste and preference.

As the afternoon sun filters through the foliage, guests can be seen enjoying a slice of cake or a scoop of ice cream, accompanied by the gentle melody of the background music. The bakery and café at Park Hyatt Siem Reap truly embody the sweet side of luxury, a retreat for those seeking a moment of indulgence and tranquility amidst their explorations in Cambodia.

The Park Hyatt Siem Reap, with its harmonious blend of history, artistry, and culinary delights, embodies the essence of indulgent travel. It offers an experience that transcends the ordinary, leaving guests enchanted and inspired by the fusion of old-world charm and contemporary sophistication.

The Collective for Good, Siem Reap, Cambodia

As a photographer and travel writer I've been a frequent visitor to the magical Angkor Wat and the town of Siem Reap over the years since my first visit in 2001 initially fascinated by the temples then fell in love with the people, over the years I've been privileged to see the place grow and evolve into an incredible destination that takes it's sustainability and socially beneficial credentials very seriously. My favourite place to stay has been the Treeline Urban Resort run by another Kiwi Joni Aker, it's designed and owned by Hok Kang a famous Cambodian Architect and founder of Browns Coffee cafes. Built with local materials and with a genuine heartfelt commitment to sustainability and nurturing Cambodian artists, The Treeline is the perfect place to be based.  Joni the GM keeps me up to date on what's happening on the sustainability front in town and actively encourages local initiatives such as the Kandal Village project and the new Wat Bo neighbourhood initiative. Both are neighbourhood associations promoting places offering something new and original in their hoods. On my trip before last, she suggested I come back and do a story on a new initiative covering all of Siem Reap town.

#Ecofriendly #socialenterprises #charities
#cafes #restaurants #hotels #resorts #conservation

A few years ago some key players in Siem Reap's sustainable and socially oriented businesses got together and set up The Collective for Good where like-minded businesses could have an accreditation scheme for social responsibility to help the growing number of visitors wanting to know their patronage was going to those businesses genuinely trying to make a difference.

I spoke to David from Little Red Fox Espresso and Craig from Phare the Cambodian Circus who were key players in moving the Collective for Good forwards along with Sara and Paul from Haven. among a few others. The critical meeting was in January 2022, and Enno a very energetic OFFTRACK TOURS intern initiated and led, others present included Wild, Spoons and Heartprint.

They explained how the concept was gladly embraced and the group grew to nearly a dozen members very quickly. Not everyone can pass the stringent requirements however but those genuinely wanting to join can always count on the Collective for help and advice on how to raise their sustainability efforts to join the group..

Collective members need to do away with plastic waste, source locally and sustainably as far as possible within the Cambodian context, offer staff medical benefits, and minimum wages, be a registered business, and pay tax and social benefits. In short, play fair and contribute to the community.

I discovered that many of the main players had come to Siem Reap over the years and like me been inspired by the warmth of the Cambodian people to return and set up businesses or charities hoping to improve the lot of the average Khmer. Mostly rural and entirely reliant on the tourist industry many locals were exploited by unscrupulous people, pseudo orphanages exploiting the children for tourist dollars as photo opportunities, and other “charities” fundraising only to disappear overnight a few months later.  Post the “killing fields” the lot of the average rural Cambodian was pretty dire. Luckily with tourism and some good-willed businesses and NGOs, the internet and gradually improving conditions post covid, there is now a remarkable number of young Cambodians with mobile phones, laptops and knowledge of the connected world enjoying Cambodian cafes and arts/craft markets marking a real improvement in the lives and expectations of Cambodians.

I visited the famous Spoons a Hospitality Training Charity supported by their restaurant and cafe and now an official Cambodian charity after a Cambodian management team handover from the original international charity that struggled with fundraising during COVID. This is a great example of Cambodians stepping up and being active in raising expectations and opportunities for themselves. The school is very comprehensive having a great track record of placing graduates into the local hospitality industry. The restaurant as well as providing valuable hands-on experience also helps to fund the school itself ad serves delicious classic Khmer dishes with modern flair garnish coming from their own herb farm out back!

A few years back I visited the Amazing Robert and Morrisson holding court at their fantastic Brick-a-Brack micro-hotel in Battambang and was given an insider’s walkthrough of Phare the circus school in Battambang, so it was a joy to meet Craig one of the founding members of the Collective for Good who is the Sales and Marketing Director of the performing arm of the school, Phare The Circus, in Siem Reap. All the Profits from the Circus in Siem Reap go to supporting the school’s training program offering opportunities to local villagers in the Battambang area.  Graig explained that the most important aspect of the school is not just giving training and work as circus talent but raising the expectations of local people who have often never travelled more than a few kilometres from their farms, or known any other expectations but to work, live and die on one. Many have never seen Angkor Wat their national treasure even though they only live a few kilometres away. The circus however has toured the world and been invited to perform in far and exotic places such as Paris and Miami. Having opened the eyes of the circus people to a world of possibilities many now aspire to be scooter mechanics or nail spa owners, previously inconceivable occupations!  Greg feels that anyone operating as a business in Cambodia is obliged to give back to the local community, for foreigners setting up where there is little local competition, it's not fair to exploit that advantage, foreign business owners should operate ethically and not abuse the situation, a very important consideration for the Collective.

Chatting to Little Red Foxe’s David he explained how he and his partner Adam, after visiting for many years took the plunge, invested their savings and set up the third cafe in Siem Reap. Offering their own vision backed by their hospitality business experience from Australia and a commitment to help their local Cambodian friends and people. Determined to be sustainable, over the years they gradually evolved from organizing community-based local street rubbish removal to completely doing away with plastics much as possible while sourcing organic and local produce for the cafe that had grown to include a fantastic selection of healthy food dishes! A joy to shoot and sample for sure! And very well-frequented by health-conscious travellers and local regulars! Their staff have embraced the sustainable ethos and post covid during which the city transformed the local roads into properly paved dust-free thoroughfares they express a newfound civic pride, initiating plastic rubbish drives while encouraging plastic waste awareness amongst their friends and families. David feels that It's activities like these that create a real grassroots awareness of sustainability in the community.

Sara and Paul of HAVEN explained to me how they grew disillusioned with their lives in Switzerland, feeling “there must be more to life than this”. They saved, then quit their good corporate jobs, sold everything they had and started their extensive world trip. When they arrived in Siem Reap they deeply connected with the place and people. After learning about the lack of opportunities for young adults, it was impossible for them to go back to Switzerland. They wanted to stay, create meaningful opportunities for this next generation and contribute to the development of the community. With a background in training and nutrition, they decided to set up HAVEN, a training restaurant taking in an annual group of young disadvantaged people and give them the theoretical and practical training to succeed in the food and beverage industry. Supported by the Restaurant itself the training is completely free to the students. they are provided with housing, medical benefits and training in not just the practical matter of working in a kitchen or as service staff but in food hygiene, stock taking, and interview techniques and guided to placements partnering hotels and restaurants regularly taking graduates in the thriving tourist sector.  Every year at graduation the whole school and restaurant celebrate and experience immense satisfaction that another year's class of young lives have been uplifted and given opportunities previously unimaginable. Head chef Pardet, who has been with them from the start, eagerly receives visiting former students that come back to thank Chef and the team, telling their success stories of life in the big wide world. There is never a dull moment for SARA and PAUL who obviously thrive on the challenges and achievements of each class.

WILD is a real breath of fresh air on the local scene! Bringing exceptionally good cocktails to Siem Reap fusing classics with local flavours. Lorraine and Renaud a Parisian couple, left their successful but unfulfilling corporate careers and fell in love with Siem Reap while Travelling.  They were compelled to set up a mould-breaking outdoor cocktail bar. Renaud inspired by local food on a visit to the Reunion islands started offering them to friends and visitors and soon they took off big time transforming WILD into a lunch and dinner venue! Part of the attraction of Siem Reap was the opportunity to make a real difference by uplifting the local Cambodian’s expectations and opportunities. While not being a social enterprise as such they pay their staff well above the local average and ensure they have medical benefits, good training and access to plastic-free food via the restaurant.  WILD actively contributes to local Charities in kind or with funds generated from their shop area featuring sustainable local items and some WILD merchandise such as the nicely decorated stainless steel water bottles. Plastic-free is an important goal for them!

Other Collective members are contributing in different ways like ACCB a biodiversity Centre in the nearby Kulen national park dedicated to preserving endangered Cambodian animal species while also doing their bit to employ, train and source locally. Christel the Center director went out of her way to pick me up in Siem Reap and drove me through classic Cambodian countryside up into the foothills of the National park, while showing me around the beautiful jungle-embraced Centre Christel talked about how her team of Cambodian and international conservationists are doing their best to preserve some of Cambodia's most endangered species. The Centre provides a vitally important place to study and breed the endangered water birds and turtle species often unique to Cambodia. Rescuing animals from the trafficking trade provides some real characters, of course, these vary depending on what rescued animals are at any time but I was lucky to see monkeys, civet cats (don't buy the coffee!) and some amazing eagles! My particular loves were the cheeky and playful otters. The centre engages on the national level with an outreach program to Cambodian temples that traditionally offer refuge to animals and collaborations with Universities that help shape the nation's attitudes to Conservation. Christel sees an increasing Cambodian interest in conservation and sustainability and is cautiously optimistic about the future.

Over at the incredible Heartprint Hub, I chatted to Wendy and Garry about their holiday visits to Siem Reap over the years where they recognized a sore need for education and a safe haven for the children of siem reap especially those from poor families often struggling with addiction problems. Leaving their building business behind in Australia they were ideally placed to help build houses for the poorest families and supply social support, therapy, and assistance to children and expectant mothers in the surrounding villages. Heartprint hub is a cafe and shop that helps support their effects as well as Australian and other charity funding while giving vocational training to older young people with disabilities or disadvantaged backgrounds.

It was a great honour to be invited to meet and shoot some of The Collective for Good’s movers and shakers. It's a valuable story that needs to be told and shows us all what’s possible with determination and compassion. The Collective is a growing and dedicated alliance determined to offer genuine sustainability and a social conscience to visitors to siem reap who are concerned enough to care where their patronage goes and want to know that their visit benefits Cambodians and the planet as much as possible.

Lola Rouge Restaurant at the Naumi Studio Hotel, Cuba St, Wellingon, New Zealand

The new Lola Rouge Restaurant at the Naumi Studio Hotel is a welcome addition to the Wellington Foodie Scene!

South and East Asian fusion dishes are shown off in an amazingly striking interior!

The Interior is part of the incredible makeover that the Naumi group have made of the former Cuba Street “Peoples Palace”.
Working with New Zealand artists and designers Naumi has taken a heritage building and made a veritable luxurious boho Nest for the adventurous traveller.
The Naumi Group has strong international roots in Singapore and sure bring that look, experience and level of service to NZ with Aplomb!
Lola Rouge itself has a strong Deco meets Siagon atmosphere with the private dining room being a stand out Statment in Red!
Kiran the Chef has taken great pains to ensure a fresh and adventurous Menu. Pan Asian food features with classic European favourites in the deserts section! The best of all worlds!


The Interiors are very Striking

The Team in the kitchen are a well oiled machine!

breakfasts are served for hotel guests and and others!

Ram, Roy, Kiran and Daron the GM, 
are all keen to make your experience second to none!

Naumi Studio Hotel, Cuba St, Wellingon, New Zealand

We love Owner Operated Hotels! They bring something special to the scene and the Naumi Studio Hotel is no exception!

Designed by the award-winning studio Material Creative the hotel is a real visual statement sitting on the upper reaches of Wellington’s vibrant Indie Cuba Street.

Working with New Zealand artists and designers Naumi have taken a heritage building and made a veritable luxurious boho Nest for the adventurous traveller.
The Naumi Group has strong international roots in Singapore and sure bring that look, experience and level of service to NZ with Aplomb!
We feel stongely that The Naumi Studio is a real breath of fresh air in the kiwi Hotel scene. 

The very literal “ Lola Rouge “ restaurant will open soon serving Pan-Asian food in sumptuous surroundings.

On our visit, we enjoyed the highly anticipated, after its one yeah covid hiatus, CubaDupa Street Festival that celebrates Wellington’s eclectic Cuba Street that is the Naumi’s home. The Hotel actively participated in the festival as a Host to bands and acts while it also sponsored the Reality TV Marriage Ceremony event.
The Naumi Studio provided the perfect Urban Escape from our hectic festival shooting. Enjoy our festival snaps after the main coverage of the Hotel. 


Roy the Barman, Kiran the Chef and Daron the GM, 
are all keen to make your stay the most memorable possible!

Naumi local Stories

Alistair's Music

A quaint little musical instrument shop specializing in traditional classical instruments such as cellos violins, acoustic guitars etc is to be found tucked away to the right of the main entrance to the Hotel.

It is owned by Alistiar and his wife Catriona who really know their trade, actively tuning and repairing instruments where needed and having many small impromptu musical events in the shop itself!  They have a word of mouth reputation for having eclectic and unusual instruments which attracts local and international musicians whenever they are in the Capital.

They are very welcoming even if you aren't a musician and the shop is full of amazingly decorated and handmade musical instruments from all over the world!

Fidel’s Cafe

Is a Cuba Street institution!
Great unpretentious food in a viby atmosphere with real locals.
Fidel's is just up the road for breakfastfrom the Naumi Hotel and is a great way to kick off your Cuba street exploration.

Splendid Lab

The Film revival is alive and well in Wellington!
Some of the Older labs are still doing film but there are a number of enthusiast run new film labs and shops popped up recently.
One of my Favs is Splendid with a friendly crew, new and expired films and some classics cameras to lust after. 
I love their Print Suitcase! Take a dip, find one you like and drop in one of your own prints to keep it all going!
the lab is good ive had severl dev and scans done with them and not regretted it!
Join them for a Photowalk while your visiting! Highly recommened!

CubaDupa Street festival

Held once a year in March
this years celebration was a particulary enhtusiastic event as the previous years had been cancelled due to COVID.