A lover for all things beautiful, Yi Lian was most recently a Assistant Fashion News Editor at Harper's BAZAAR, before she left to focus on her floral business, Yi Lian Ng Floral Atelier, where she creates cheerful and lively bouquets. She has not given up her fashion roots however, and plans to start a high-fashion luxury blog. We follow her as she gets lost around the world.
What kind of traveler are you?
Super laidback but also adventurous! I am the type who would just book a flight and accommodation on a whim and sort everything else out when I arrive at the airport. I have no itineraries. I usually just go with what I'm feeling like every morning when I'm on the vacation. If I have a travel companion who likes to make plans, I let him/her lead and I just follow.
What are your 5 travel essentials?
- My sense of direction, because I often don't use maps
- My pretension of being local - I travel a lot alone so when I walk with intention, suspicious characters tend to leave me alone
- My sense of wonder. I love looking at new landscapes and allow myself to be wowed.
- My openness - why not make conversations with strangers?
- And, my hydrating facial masks!
What is your favourite destination to date and why?
Istanbul. I was there in May so that was a wonderful time of the year. 20-25 degree Celsius in the day, with bright blue skies, every day. The local food was so delicious and affordable, but as usual, I didn't research on where to go. Thankfully, Hussein Chalayan, a Turkish-born fashion designer whom I interviewed the week before my trip, emailed me his favourite places to visit and eat. I went along with many of his recommendations and of course visited the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, which were breathtakingly amazing.
I stayed in the super chic Mama Shelter, which is excellently located on the main shopping strip in Istanbul. I love the juxtaposition of Istanbul being extremely modern on one hand, yet having this ancient-ness to it. Both the new and old co-exist in such a harmonious way in Istanbul. The good-looking and friendly local men are icing on the cake too!
Pictured above: Blue Mosque (photo credit: Elia Locardi), Mama Shelter
Can you tell us where to hang out in Istanbul?
I wasn't much of a night creature in Istanbul but I went to Sabahattin Fish Restaurant (walking distance from Haghia Sophia), which Hussein Chalayan recommended, and my companions and I ate and drank to our hearts' (and stomachs') content for $50 per person!
You are drawn to beautiful things in your line of work. Where have you traveled to recently that's been particularly inspiring?
I'm never good at drawing distinctive sources of inspiration to my work. I think your brain is a memory disk of collecting EVERYTHING you see and in that memory disk, unlike the real memory disk, these memories merge into a collage that just shows up in your work so I really can't think of a particular place for particular inspiration.
My memories of places are made up of bits and pieces... So maybe: the old architecture in Paris; modern architecture in Beijing; the gardens in Paris; Chateau de Fontainebleau outside of Paris; Karl Lagerfeld's bookstore and photo studio on the left bank in Paris; the Bund in Shanghai; my walkabouts in London; the woods in Iowa; the distinctive facial features in Munich; the streetstyle in Paris and Tokyo; Yoyogi Park, Meiji Shrine and Aoyama in Tokyo; my living room view in Singapore; the cafes and graffiti in Melbourne; the markets, beaches and beach style in Sydney; the local designs, multi-label stores and cafes in Seoul; Ubud in Bali, walkabouts in Central in Hong Kong and basically just everywhere in Istanbul.
Pictured above: Grand Palais in Paris, CCTV Headquarters in Beijing
What are some of your must do's when you travel?
Get lost – every time this happens to me, I always discover places that I end up loving.
I also always have this dream of meeting a random local who would invite me and my travel companions to a house party at his/her place because that is, to me, the best way of finding out about the locals and their cultures. It has happened on some of my travels, but not always, unfortunately.
Have you ever stayed in a non-hotel accommodation on any of your trips?
Yes. I have stayed in strangers' apartments in London, Paris and Tokyo. I'd become friends with the London and Paris house owners. They are a couple with extremely good taste (that's why I picked their townhouse!) and it turned out one of them used to work in Burberry as a menswear designer. In Paris, I ended up chatting through the night with the apartment owner who was working as a pastry sous chef. We got along so well that when I moved from his place in the Fifth Arrondissement to W Hotel in the city, he took the subway with me to help me with my two suitcases. The next time I was in Paris, we met up again and he brought me to the most awesome Vietnamese pho place in Chinatown and a Cambodian joint in the 16th Arrondissement.
I love such experiences because you never know what you are going to learn and what friendships you are going to make. Everyone's connected and everyone's the same - I believe there is always some common ground one can find with one another. And I'm also a house voyeur. I love exploring through the knick knacks everyone has in their houses - it's so revealing of their preferences and taste, so what better way to do that than to pay a stranger to stay in his/her home?
Pictured above: The London apartment Yi Lian stayed in
If there was one fashion person's vacation home you would like to live in for a week, whose would it be, and why?
Christian Louboutin . I interviewed him recently and he talks about everything feverishly - from art to landscaping, to objects and music. He's a huge collector of everything so I would love to visit his home and paw through all his possessions and hear about the stories behind each item.
Pictured above: Christian Louboutin house in France (photo credit: Bethany Mullarkey)
Want more? Follow Yi Lian's journeys in Karuizawa.
Beautiful apartments in Istanbul
This stylish penthouse in Istanbul was designed by Philippe Stark. It is a lavish, decadent space with an amazing view of the Bosphorus.
Going to Istanbul? Check out more places to stay in Istanbul on Roomorama.