Holiday luxe – at mates rates


Relaxation in Bohol, Philippines, is just a click away

As expats we all have ‘that’ friend, or friends, with a villa in Bali or a farmhouse in France, a ski chalet in Japan or an apartment in a funky European capital. Or maybe we own a holiday house ourselves.

But what happens to these properties when they’re not being used? Home owners could opt for short-term holiday rentals, but with it comes myriad issues such as cleaning, maintenance and just being constantly available to answer queries. Or there’s long-term rental, but that means you never get to use it. Or just leave it empty, which is often not ideal but the best case scenario.

So former Hong Konger Thomas Bennett and colleague Jorge Munoz claim to have come up with a solution. Stay One Degree is a social network for luxury holiday home rentals. The online platform connects homeowners and friends and mutual connections from around the world.

Bennett says the idea sprang from their own rental experiences, which frequently left them frustrated and disappointed with uninspiring homes at over-inflated prices. Meanwhile, beautiful homes within their social network lay empty.

Word spread, and today Stay One Degree has a plethora of villas, townhouses, apartments and ski chalets on its books in over 40 countries. Prices start at a very friendly ‘mates rates’ of $1,000/night.

All properties are hand-picked by the team, based on ‘outstanding locations and unique elements’. Think cliff-top infinity pools in Bali to villas with vineyards in Tuscany. The social network allows members to grow connections and relationships so owners have the option of renting to like-minded guests of not much more than ‘one degree’ of connection, or to a wider pool of clients.

“We’re finding that owners who would never have considered renting out their holiday homes are now choosing to do so on this exclusive basis,” says Munoz. “Members therefore have access to special homes impossible to find anywhere else.”

Sign up at

French artist hits the decks with chocolate records

Artist Dr Julia Drouhin with her playable chocolate records at Harbour City

French artist Dr Julia Drouhin arrived in Hong Kong this week with her stash of playable chocolate records. Not only are the records sweet tasting, they produce an amazingly sweet sound, too. Dr Drouhin spent this morning’s media launch alternating between Canto Pop, The Beatles, Chinese opera and Abba.

The exhibition, The Sound of Chocolate, is part of this month’s wider chocolate festival hosted by Harbour City in TST.

Each chocolate record lasted for about four or five plays before the diamond tip of the record player began to scratch the grooves. The audience of local photographers and journalists was then able to tuck in.

According to Drouhin, there’s nothing new about chocolate ‘vinyl’. German companies were distributing the very same to children 100 years ago as part of a public relations initiative to promote their products.

Back in her Tasmanian home, Drouhin has perfected the art of creating the records using pinkysil silicon which she pours into a frame over the original vinyl record and then leaves to set. The resulting silicon mould is then carefully peeled away.

“The silicon is also great for giving your vinyl a really good clean – all the dust motes hiding in the grooves come away when you peel away the silicon,” says Drouhin.

Melted chocolate is then poured into the mould and the whole contraption placed in a fridge overnight. “The chocolate must be dark, milk chocolate doesn’t work because it contains too much sugar. This effects the smoothness of the chocolate and gives a rougher finish which of course means the sound quality is comprised.”

Once set, the chocolate carefully prised out of the silicone and can then be spun on a turntable.

Drouhin has exhibited all over the world but this is the first time she has used her chocolate to play Canto Pop.

She says chocolate is only good for 45” singles, although she says ice works very well with 33” long players (ice of course is harder to play as the environment must be below freezing – chocolate merely requires a room set to around 18 degrees).

Drouhin’s chocolate records will be on display as part of Harbour City’s The Sound of Chocolate Art Exhibition which runs until Feb 25. There will be daily live playings every 20 minutes between noon and 8pm, Gallery by the Harbour, Shop 207, 2/F, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, TST. For full details about this exhibition as well as the wider Harbour City Chocolate Trail 2018, see


Rags to recycling

Start 2018 as you mean to go on – reduce, reuse and recycle. An environmental initiative from local university student Kathryn Davies hopes to rid Hong Kong of plastic bags. Find out how to join the movement…

All sewn up. Davies with her shopping bags made of recycled scraps from the textile industry

What’s the big idea?

My big idea is to kill two birds with one stone – upcycle unwanted fabrics such as scraps from the textile or hotel industry to stop them going to landfill; and to create reusable, cloth bags that are a cheap alternative to plastic shopping bags. A further goal is to offer employment to those in need, particularly women.

How did it come about?

I was working on a PhD at Hong Kong University (HKU) until quite recently, but I was frustrated with the disconnect between lofty research and down-to-earth problems. Since being in Hong Kong, I’ve been mesmerized by the stunning natural environment that we have, but through participating in beach cleanups I have been heartbroken to see the senseless, even selfish, damage that we are causing. So, I decided to focus my time on doing something practical that would address the very real problem of plastic bag pollution. I thought putting together my skills with sewing would be the most realistic thing I could do.

So how does it work?

I want to create new systems of consumption and shopping so that there are reusable bags in place of plastic ones. The idea might involve rethinking how we can conveniently get reusable bags to where people need them – such as the supermarket or bakery – and how we could create a system for returning them. We’re very much in the planning stages at the moment.

How long has the idea taken to evolve?

It’s been brewing in my mind for a couple of years – as a PhD student you do a lot of procrastinating – but it was last September that we started to set the ball rolling by collecting fabric and sewing our first bags. We have just completed our first semester working with HKU social venture management students and we are still considering how best to move the idea forward. In the near future we hope to reach out to businesses who could distribute the bags, either as packaging for their products or directly into supermarkets.

How can readers get involved?

I hope one day all Hong Kongers will have a convenient reusable bag option available to them as an alternative to plastic bags. We may not be able to accomplish this easily in Hong Kong, so we may have to start by distributing the cloth bags to other countries where laws and habits are already favourable to less plastic consumption. I would encourage everyone to always carry a reusable bag with them – with each small change a difference is made. And I’ve discovered myself that it’s really not that inconvenient to live without disposable packaging. I’m also hoping to start up volunteer workshops, so people can come and help us sort and cut up the fabric to send to the ladies who sew for us. I’d love for Expat Parent readers to like us on Facebook and follow us when we advertise sales at local markets. Please do drop us a line and order some bags – our first prototypes! We hope to formally launch mid-year and have a website up and running by the end of this month, so stay tuned.

Follow Davies and her team at