It was August 2004. I was in Bali and I’d heard about a celebration known as Kuningan. This ceremony was held to mark the end of Galungan, a holiday similar to our New Year. Devotees dress in white with red sashes and bring offerings for their ancestors who are returning to heaven after spending time on earth for the Galungan festivities. They bring yellow rice, fish and fruit, placed in bowls made from leaves. The rice symbolises their gratitude to God for the blessings he has bestowed and the bowls are adorned with little figures representing angels which bring happiness and prosperity. It promised to be an incredible sight, so I made my way to the temple near Candidasa on Bali’s eastern coast.
Arriving, I wasn’t alone. In front of me was a sea of white, a crowd of people thronging the space between me and the temple entrance. Resigned to a long wait, I found a place in a queue of sorts and waited. It was late morning. The sun was already high in the sky and packing a powerful tropical punch. I wasn’t unduly worried. I’d put on some sun cream and had chosen what I thought to be a sensible outfit – a long sleeved cotton blouse. Time passed slowly and my shoulders began to redden. I applied more cream to the visible parts and thought no more of it. Eventually, I entered the temple and observed the prayers and rituals. It was a fascinating scene.
Later on, returning to the hotel, I realised the thin cotton blouse I’d worn was no match for the midday sun and my skin had not only reddened, it had blistered badly. I spent the rest of the holiday in the shade, cursing how ill-prepared I’d been. I’ve never been as casual about the sun since. Several of my friends have had skin cancer, and that’s not something I wish to emulate. According to statistics compiled for Cancer Research UK, there are over 15,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer each year. While many are treatable, some, sadly are not. Realistically, with the amount of travelling I do and how fair my skin is, I need to be proactive about the precautions I take. Sun cream alone isn’t enough of a solution. Yet there are many tropical places in the world that I still want to visit. I don’t want to find myself in a position where I’ve got to stay out of the sun completely and miss out on the chance of seeing them.
But here’s the rub. I’ve never found much in the way of UVA resistant clothing that I thought I’d actually like to wear. The thought of putting on one of those clingy long sleeved surfer shirts in soaring temperatures and high humidity just doesn’t appeal. Nor do I find the functionality of the standard traveller clothing appealing; it just doesn’t feel like I’m on holiday if I’m wearing a collared shirt. So up until now, I’ve slapped on the sun cream (ruining many a white blouse in the process with those impossible to remove stains) and hoped for the best.
I’m not ready to give up my view of a tropical beach just yet. So when a friend offered to let me trial a UVA resistant kaftan, I jumped at the chance. Finally, something that would prevent a repeat of my Balinese burns. Its first outing was to Ibiza. In May, the temperatures are in the mid-twenties, perfect for a trial in conditions similar to a good British summer. Here’s how I got on.
I just loved the colours in this. Blue always feels so summery and the mix of the palette works well as a pattern and means that it goes with a wider range of bottom halves. The longer length style, sitting flatteringly mid-thigh, meant this kaftan hid both generous hips and a tummy that likes to eat. I’m not usually a fan of the tie waist, as I do sometimes think such styles make me feel like a trussed turkey, but actually it too was attractive. I found that in a bow it did have a tendency to undo itself, but in a loose knot it looked just as good. The batwing sleeves hung to my elbow, giving it a pretty waterfall silhouette. The round neck, though high, was loose enough to be comfortable. In my selfies, though, it looks a little too high, reminding me of a hairdresser’s gown. In real life, this isn’t the case, as the length of the garment more than balances this out and obviously if you have someone else taking your holiday photos you’ll get a better image.
I trialled this in a number of situations. As I was on the move, it’s yet to sit round a pool (watch out for an update later this month when it comes with me to hotter Texas). When I first looked at the label, I was a little concerned to see that it was made of 100% polyester, usually favouring cotton and linen for high temperatures. It was so lightweight though, that I never felt hot and sticky; it didn’t cling and hung beautifully. The versatility of this style means that it’s as at home in a cafe as it is on the beach, sophisticated enough for the city yet casual enough to wear poolside. I even went for a short hike in it. The floatiness of the fabric meant it didn’t ride up or become too rucked up around the legs. My only criticism is that with half-sleeves the lower parts of your arms are exposed. I’d love to see that the range is widened to include a long sleeve tunic blouse in the same colourway and fabric.
I’m not alone in praising its versatility. Fellow tester Kate had this to say when she packed it for a Med cruise:
“In Rome today and melting. The kaftan is absolutely brilliant. I don’t need cream under it and there’s been no burning at all. I feel posh too! Ingenious.”
Kate’s a skin cancer survivor and adds:
“It gave me so much confidence, took away the worry I have when I see the sun is shining! I could sit on a beach and look like everyone else in a glamorous floaty cover up, yet I knew my skin was being protected.”
Value for money 10/10
This item is new for 2017 and the retail price has yet to be finalised. I’m assured that it should be in the region of £25 to £30. At this price bracket, that’s excellent value for money in my opinion. The kaftan is well made and you’re getting a quality product. With little competition in the UK market, it’s hard to find a comparison, but similar clothing from high-end retailers can go for up to £100, making this a bargain.
Let’s get real for a minute: the main reason you’re going to be looking at the Sunwise UVA product range is to buy clothing that is going to protect you from the sun. So did it do its job? I spent the day in and out of the sun, and even when my lower arms were reddening at my sunny cafe table over lunch, the parts covered by the kaftan were well protected. I’ve covered the lack of wrist-length sleeves in the style score, so for me this garment’s ability to protect me from sunburn in temperatures of around 25°C was first rate. If that changes when I up the temperatures a bit, I’ll edit this section to reflect its capabilities.
Would I buy it? Yes, absolutely, and another one too if further colourways were to become available. It’s not something I’d have considered before, but I’m a convert.
Where to find it:
Sunwise UVA is a recent start up and would value your custom as well as your comments. Their current range can be viewed online at:
They’re also on Facebook: look for Sunwise. UVA clothing
I’m a creature of habit. Packing for a trip to New York, I fall into the same tried and tested routine. When it comes to spending money, that means a wallet of crisp dollar bills which quickly morphs into a pocket full of nickels, dimes and pennies. Spending this ever-growing mountain of coins involves finding a retail assistant (and a queue of other shoppers waiting behind me to pay) with the patience of a saint while I count out the exact change. Of course, if they didn’t add on the tax at the till, I could sort it out beforehand instead of admitting defeat and breaking another twenty. So, at the end of the trip, I tip my leftover coins into the drawer at home and resolve to do things differently next time.
This time I have. For the last two days I have been trying out a Caxton FX currency card. Loaded up with dollars and bearing the Visa logo, I can use this like I would a regular credit card, but without the end of holiday bill that can take the edge off a good vacation.
Here’s what I did with it.
Day 1: The Bronx
Tino’s delicatessen in Arthur Avenue looked like the perfect spot for a coffee. Four elderly Italians with accents like Robert de Niro sat at one of the pavement cafes while I took the other. Interrupting their conversations every now and again to apologise for their colourful language, they spoke warmly of this close-knit community that had been their home for decades and puffed cigar smoke into each other’s faces.