I have been a frequent visitor to South East Asia on and off for the last 20 years. It would be reasonable to say I’m addicted to travelling, shopping, and eating my way through the region and get back as often as I can. The region is so full of contrasts – from the buzz of the night markets to the serenity of a resort spa, from a visit to an ancient Buddhist temple followed by a ride in a tuktuk through noisy bustling streets. I love the smells of lemongrass and frangipani and the tastes of hot curries and tropical fruit. I love eating noodle soup for breakfast and satay sticks by a pool.
In 1997 I left the UK, en route to migrating to Australia, and spent five life-changing months in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Nowadays, I return to South East Asia as often as I can and have since discovered the wonder of Vietnam, Cambodia and most recently, Laos.
I have never failed to be awestruck by the resilience, strength and astounding creativity of the people I met along the way. In countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia, where recent history has caused great hardships, horror seems to have begat beauty.
Back in Sydney, I’d be wearing unique jewellery, clothes or shoes that I’d found on my travels and often get asked, “Where did you get that?” from folks back home. This compelled me to provide the market outside of South East Asia access to my fabulous finds and at the same time, give wider exposure to the talented artisans and designers I met along the way. I wanted to tell the story behind the home decorative pieces, the jewellery and accessories they create, so unique to the region, and through those stories bring back the memories of travel through the magical kingdoms of Thailand, Cambodia and so on. This is the background to the online store I created which launched last year: http://www.templesandmarkets.com
Now, when I return to the countries I love, it is to source new products for Temples and Markets. Along the way I have discovered products that are being created by resilient individuals employed by Social Enterprises that exist to improve the lives of the locals in these countries. I am proud to be associated with them and honoured to be bringing their products to the Temples and Markets audience.
Training – Education – Employment – Empowerment
The Social Enterprises featured on Temples and Markets are creating work opportunities for the locals and training them in a craft they can be proud of. Training and education leads to fair employment which leads to empowerment and a sustainable future.
Through the Temples and Markets E-store I tell the story behind each organisation and showcase the products they create. I like to think our customers are getting “Win-Win” – in other words, they are not only purchasing a beautiful piece of jewellery or home décor but they are doing their bit to give back to the resilient woman who made it in Cambodia or Vietnam. “Win-Win” or the “Feel Good Factor” (call it what you will), but doesn’t it make you feel good to be shopping ethically rather than shopping for the sake of sheer consumerism?
It is a definite “Win-Win” for me to be supporting these social enterprises and to be helping to trade artisans and emerging designers, often living in marginalised or poverty-stricken communities, into a better life.