Chocolate River Decor

Floating down the Mekong Delta

was one of the strangest and most enjoyable experiences of my life.

In order to get from Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand over to Luang Prabang (a.k.a. Loung Phabang) in Laos we had to take a combo bus ride to the border followed by a boat ride down the Mekong Delta.

Our Rough Guides travel bible advised us against taking the “fast boat” to Luang Prabang since many tourists get hurt in boat crashes due to the large, hidden rocks in the river.  The “slow boat”, however, would get us to the Luang Prabang dock safely…the only catch: it would take two whole days of travel.

The boat was packed with obnoxiously drunk teenage tourists who were interested in nothing but drinking warm cans of local beer sold to them by beggar children from passing river villages.  The “seats” on the boat were actually just long planks of wood with very low back supports and were only available to paying tourists – all the locals sat on the ground (or on bags of rice ) on the boat’s wooden platform.

The locals crowded at the front of the Slow Boat while tourists sat on rows of wood benches. (That's me in the beige hat on the far right. We sat as close to the front as possible, mainly because the toilet, a.k.a. the "bucket to pee in" was near the back).

The boat ride remains one of the most memorable parts of my entire trip. Jeff and I were eventually able to tune out the crazy teens (with the help of our trusty iPods) and enjoy the views of the breath-taking scenery around us. The tree-covered mountains that surrounded us on both sides were gorgeous to stare at – I watched each mountain, hill and mudslide slowly pass by as we drifted downstream.

Floating along the Chocolate Milk River was peaceful and inspiring.

I loved passing groups of kids who were swimming and splashing around in the river, providing us with some good old fashioned entertainment for a few minutes until we passed by.

Taking photos of the Mekong Delta (or the Chocolate Milk River as we affectionately dubbed it) became a major pastime. The view in every direction was  post-card perfect – untouched mountains, trees and the flowing chocolate milk stream. Brown, brown and more brown was constantly in our line of vision. I almost forgot that water can appear another colour… like blue.

This photo of the Mekong Delta was taken from the top of a hill before boarding the boat. Look at all those trees and mountains...gorgeous.

Floating along got me thinking about how much I like the colour brown in interiors. Brown is usually the go-to colour when implementing “earth tone” colour schemes and because of this, I feel that it’s often quickly dismissed as commonplace and boring. Not true! Brown is commonly used in Transitional design because it creates a rich, luxurious space.

The space below, designed by Donna Livingston, is a great example of how different shades of brown can combine to create a luxuriously chic interior that is far from “blah and boring”.

Photo courtesy of

Brown can be calming and serene…no wonder it’s used in most Zen interiors. Below is a great example of a peaceful, sophisticated space. This bedroom is from the Villa Mahapala luxury resort in Sanur, Indonesia. I like how the colour brown comes from natural materials (common in Balinese design) – no need for paint – that also provide the space with some visual and tactile texture. I could curl up for a nice nap in this space without hesitation.

Photo courtesy of

Brown is also a more subtle hue to use when introducing contrast into a space where black would appear overly bold and/or too dramatic. Check out the space below designed by the very talented team at Tomas Pearce Interior Design Consulting Inc.

I love anything and everything Tomas Pearce, so it’s no surprise I fell in love with the design in this private residence in Toronto, Canada. I think the rich brown focal wall grounds the space perfectly, and on a more practical note, it provides a dark, matte background for the TV (so viewing the bright screen is easier on the eyes) without clashing with the warm colour scheme (like black would). The browns combined with the cream/ivory in this space screams “luxury”…love it.

Photo courtesy of

So, in case you didn’t get the memo, I’m a fan of warm, brown-hued interiors. Warm, rich colours make me a happy girl…when used properly, of course.

Remember that browns work best when balanced with a variety of light and dark shades (as seen in all the example photos above). Maintaining contrast and balance is key… too much brown is not a good thing (no one wants to live in a space that resembles a chocolate-dipped ice cream without any of the vanilla coming through), just the same as too little brown can seem out of place. Creating the perfect brown space is a tricky skill to master, but the results are well worth the effort!

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  1. Yum, chocolate milk river!!

    Oh, ya…and the Tomas Pearce interiors are pretty delightful too! ;)

  2. Thanks, friend! Can you imagine if the river *was* chocolate milk? I would have brought one big straw with me…that would’ve helped pass the time on the boat for sure! :)

  3. reading this made my ass hurt all over again. LOVE the Villa Mahapala interior! Wow, why didn’t we go there again? Oh yeah, probably because it was over $4/night…..

  4. I specifically like the brown bedroom. But I will be decorating my place with Robert in lots of browns!!

  5. I would go through the flat-ass-slow-boat pain all over again if we could float on the Mekong one last time!

  6. I’m sure it will be gorgeous, Christine :)

  7. I love the pictures! I am now fully inspired to pick the palette for my den.
    Great post. :)

  8. Thanks, Kat, happy to hear you’re inspired!

  9. Hi Tania this piece reminds me of my trips to Vietnam, I always have a great time when I’m there and i never want to leave It’s just beautiful and has so much inspiration. my place has so many art pieces i brought back with me on me last trip and it helped with the project in hoci man city.

    I love the way you cooperated your trip photos with the living space project very nice…

  10. Thanks so much for stopping and commenting, Doyle, I’m glad you liked the post :)

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