#2138 | February’s To-Watch Recommendation

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Hey-ho,

A new thing I have decided to try and do this year is to give monthly entertainment recommendations, both because I have a lot of love for television shows/ movies/ books I consume, and also in a bid to force myself into a more disciplined balanced life (with work and a decent amount of hopefully enriching media consumption). Lets see how long I stick to this, but this month, here I am with The Good Place.

I first heard of The Good Place whilst I was in LA. We were at Universal Studios Hollywood, which is a wholly mediocre theme park remedied mainly by the fact that they had an hour long ‘ride’ called The World-Famous Studio Tour, where you go on this cart and they bring you around 13 blocks of the historic studio lots (which are still being used today!) and show you the behind the scenes movie magic stuff. It’s super super cool, and when we were on the tour the guide excitedly told us to be quiet at some parts because a show was being filmed live in one of the lots. That show was The Good Place.

So when I saw the show on Netflix, I thought – eh, why not? BEST. DECISION. EVER. The show stars Kristen Bell, who I first fell in love with during her Veronica Mars era, and who later on went to act in many movies you’ve probably seen – forgetting sarah marshall, you again, bad moms, and arguably her most prolific roles – the voice of Gossip Girl and Princess Anna in Frozen. Kristen Bell is basically extremely likeable, though I think she gets pretty b-grade roles, so I’m really excited that she’s the star of such a great series again!

The premise of The Good Place is fresh – Eleanor, played by Kristen Bell, wakes up in the afterlife and is told to relax, for she is finally in The Good Place. The Bad Place is for everyone who doesn’t live the absolute best and moral lives, which means all the famous philosophers and artists are there, ha ha. The heavenly architect, Michael, congratulates Eleanor on living this amazing life of community work and dedication to charity, and shows her to her new house which comes with her soul mate (matched by the heavenly computer system) attached. Welcome to perfection, she’s told. Here’s where you’re spending eternity, hope youre ready to be mega happy forever!

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Except there’s a mix up, and she’s actually a really annoying and awful person. In her words, she’s a “medium person”, someone who wasnt great but wasnt terrible either, and she deserves to go to a medium place, like Cincinnati. However, she’s out of luck – it’s either perfection or eternal damnation, and she really doesn’t want to be tortured forever. So she begs her soulmate, the pitiable but insanely endearing Chidi, who was a moral philosophy lecturer while he was alive, to teach her how to be good. Thus begins the season of her trying to earn her right to live in The Good Place and hide the fact that she’s a mistake from the rest of the neighbourhood.

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That’s basically the premise of the show. It’s created by Mike Schur, who co-created Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which should give you a sense of how funny and smart the writing is going to be like. The show is so fresh and irreverent that it truly makes the afterlife sound ridiculously fun, and the way it ignores storytelling convention (you think the show is about one thing, but actually, its like about five zillion other things, and also, oh, we forgot the first thing already) is incredible. It has a stellar ensemble cast. And it’s just so funny.

My favourite thing about the show, though, is Janet, the Siri-like Artificial Intelligence Assistant played by the excellent D’Arcy Carden. I firmly believe that she is the best damned thing about the show, because how can any show make us feel so strongly for an artificial assistant?? I came back home and was very nice to my Google Home after that. Hey Google, will you please wake me up at eight? and all that.

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Her comic timing is great too

Janet for the win!

In an age where the sitcom genre is getting a bit repetitive, The Good Place is really a fantastically devilish intervention. And the best part? The show really holds up to a second rewatching, where new meaning is brought to the same scenes we know and love. Amazing. I 10/10 recommend this.

x
Jem

#2137 | The best meal I had in Helsinki – Restaurant Krog Roba

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Helsinki, Finland
All photos taken with the Nikon D750 on a 35f1.8 lens

It’s only February, but 2018 is already shaping up to be the year of amazing meals. I am thinking in particular, today, of a wintery night in Helsinki dining in the softly lit Restaurant Krog Roba, a newish restaurant attached to Hotel Lilla Roberts of the Small Luxury Hotel group. It’s where the hotel’s daily breakfast was served so we were already acquainted with its cozy interior, and we returned one evening of our trip to try out their dinner menu, which turned out to be the best meal I personally had on this trip.

If you’re into seafood, Helsinki is going to be paradise for you. It goes without saying that everything is fresh, but you dont understand how fresh till you bite into your first lightly seared slice of salmon. Holy Smokes. That’s where it’s at. It’s not just the quality of ingredients, though, it’s also the care with which each dish is lovingly prepared. We actually ran into Karri Knaapila, the chef of Restaurant Krog Roba, on our first day in Helsinki at the fish market getting fish for his restaurant. I had the chance to chat with him for a bit before he rushed back to the restaurant, and he briefly explained his fish marination process to me. I must admit that I had no clue what he was talking about (except that it involved juniper berries and fennel seeds) because I am not well versed in cooking matters, but the way he spoke about his fish reminded me of the way my boyfriend talks about his favourite soccer team – with unparalleled love and affection. Alrighty, then.

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Chef Karri and his buddy from one of the fish market’s wholesaler stores – E. Eriksson. The chef swore that this was the best place to get fish – all the fish he uses in the restaurant is sourced from E. Eriksson!

On to our dinner itself, unequivocally the best meal I had in Helsinki. For context, we dined at two michelin starred restaurants in Helsinki, so we did have excellent meals throughout our trip. The Fins really know their way around food (on the other hand, my one brush with non-finnish food was a journey in disappointment). The point is, it wasn’t even that the michelin starred restaurants weren’t good – it was that our dinner at Krog Roba was so good that it eclipsed the other two for me. I dont think I am alone in this opinion either – the people sitting around me, a couple of which were pretty involved in the food scene, all seemed mega impressed with this meal.

I realised during the trip that white-tablecloth dining in Helsinki tends to be very tight and detailed, with a preference for three or four course meals over a longer dalliance of five to eight courses that many other cultures like. Krog Roba’s dinner menu is a four course affair – appetiser, salad, fish, dessert. I believe we had a special media arrangement since we were hosted by the hotel, but all these items should be available for ala carte dining as well.

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Appetiser:
Toast skagen with hand peeled shrimps. This is a classic Nordic appetiser, a kind of smørrebrød (open faced sandwich), and a great way to start dinner. The dish is infused and topped with dill, a recurring ingredient throughout the meal. I was wondering why the Fins love dill so much (literally, you hardly go a meal without having it in some form) and after talking to a couple of locals I figured that its equal parts the availability of the herb and equal parts health benefits. Dill is really good for your immunity system, and is known to boost digestion, help with insomnia, ease cramps, manage insulin levels, and so on. This makes a lot of sense once you take into account the fact that the Fins are some of the healthiest people in the world – and they all look mad young. I hung out with about three mothers who were twice my age but looked barely four years older than me. It was ridiculous. I am eating dill nonstop from now on.

Oh. And the toast bears a mention. The bread is IMPECCABLE.

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Starter 2:
This is mad fresh.
Sugar salted white fish, dill pesto and vendace roe – this is kind of like a salad, I guess, though they officially call it an appetiser. I am extremely partial to anything with pesto in it, because pesto is MAJOR YUMZ and also, I suspect, because good pesto is not easily available in Singapore. Therefore I get very excited whenever I see pesto in eateries abroad – in America, I sometimes ask for a side of pesto with my eggs even if my dish wasn’t originally supposed to come with pesto. And just a quick call back to the earlier ramble re: health benefits of dill, here we have dill pesto.

It goes extremely well with the sliced tomatoes, a heathy variation on the frenchfries-and-vanilla-ice-cream situation, if you will. And then there’s the cold water white fish, which was also very, very good. I was confused at first because my understanding of white fish is that it is a group of fish, not just one specific fish, but when I asked them it seems white fish is just this fish they always eat? I’m still a bit unclear as to what this means, but I suspect there’s a type of fish from Finland that they just colloquially label white fish. Anyway, the fish is sugar salted to make the meat firmer and thicker, then the top of the fish is lightly flamed just before serving which gives the fish skin an intensely delicious flavor. I was a bit sad that this dish was over so soon, but I guess that’s the whole point of a starter.

Anyway! On to:

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Main course:
Seared Pike with Pike fishcake a la Wallenberg with potato purée, peas and brown butter.

This is the chef’s signature dish. I actually dont think I’ve had Pike before Helsinki. Pike is a kind of freshwater fish which the locals call the ‘monster of the lakes’ – Chef Karri actually pointed out a Pikefish to me in the market, and it was huge. Pike and Salmon are what Lapland is known for, fishing wise, and Pike in particular is Krog Roba’s signature ingredient. In this dish, the slice of pike is seared, then served with pike fishcake, which is minced with cream and egg, then seasoned with dill and lemon to make a literal fish cake. This is so different from anything we have in Singapore! I ran a search on it later on, and realised that it’s uncommon because it’s infamously hard to cook – which is a pity, because when it’s done right the way Krog Roba does it, it’s delicious.

It’s also interesting that the same fish is done two ways in one dish, which really shows the skill of the chef in using different permutations to bring out the flavours of the Pike. As a fish, it’s not as fatty as, say, salmon, but it still has a very clean, mild taste, firm and slightly chewy, which I assume is what makes it so versatile. In any case, I’m glad I had it here, because it was a super first experience with Pike.

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Dessert:
Chocolate cake with sea buckthorn sorbet. I’m not a huge dessert person but this was SO good! Theres not that much I can say about chocolate cake that hasn’t already been said – this one is more like a dense brownie than a cake, really, and it’s a solidly yummy one at that. But the real genius is in pairing it with sea buckthorn sorbet. Sea buckthorn is something you’re unlikely to have ever tried before – I’ve never even seen it used in anything, and I dont think it’s popularly used in most places. In any case, my first encounter with sea buckthorn was in Helsinki. And what an encounter! In line with the city’s health is wealth mentality, Helsinki LOVES sea buckthorn. It’s used in juices, energy shots, eaten as is, used as toppings for desserts, blended into ice cream.. mainly because the berries are insanely high in vitamin C. One of our tour guides said she freezes the berries and pops a couple each morning, and she hasn’t fallen sick in five years. That’s insane. I mean, if you think about how freaking cold Helsinki is, that really is insane.


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These are sea buckthorn berries

The berries, though, are mad sour. This is actually very pleasant for me because I dont have a sweet tooth, and I love the biting taste of sourish berries and fruits. But I might be alone on this – many of the other people in our group blinked very hard when they first popped a berry, and then visibly got a bit red. Also, when I went to the market alone to try and buy a bottle of sea buckthorn juice home, the shopkeeper looked at my obvious tourist-asian aesthetic and tried to warn me away from it. Only after reassuring her that I’d tried it several times and liked it did she feel happy to make the sale, which left me both pleased with my purchase and mega impressed by her sales ethic!

But I digress. The point is that, given the extreme, extreme sour-ness of sea buckthorn, one can only (rightly) imagine the kick that a sea buckthorn flavoured sorbet will have. I greatly enjoyed this: I dont have much of a sweet tooth, so I think I could eat this all day. Even better is the fact that this portion of sorbet contains all the vitamins one might need for a day – imagine being told that your daily vitamin shot came in this form!! The sorbet also complements the dark chocolate cake beautifully, and ended the meal off on a satisfied, refreshed note. 🙂

And that concluded dinner. The best meal I had in Helsinki, too. I thought about it afterwards, why this meal impressed me so much, and I think it’s partly the freshness of ingredients (both in terms of literal freshness and freshness to me, so many things i tried were brand new to my palate) and partly the extreme care and detail with which each dish was prepared. None of the ingredients or garnishes used were superfluous, and they all obviously served some kind of purpose, either in terms of complementing/enhancing the other flavours in the dish or in terms of boosting certain healthy agendas. And yet in all this, taste was never compromised – all four dishes felt like the perfect materialisation of what the recipes called for, absolutely compact and delicious. I know it’s a weird parallel to make, but for me, the meal was like reading a really good academic argument – totally tight, beautifully composed, and enriching. Is it a weird parallel to make? Aish. Who cares. That was what it was like for me. Find your own parallel, if needed.

The ala carte menu changes seasonally, four times a year, so these exact items may not be available if you drop by – but my experience at Krog Roba for multiple breakfasts and this amazing dinner gives me confidence that the restaurant generally serves excellent food all year round. x

Restaurant Krog Roba
Pieni Roobertinkatu 3, 00130 Helsinki, Finland
Within Hotel Lilla Roberts

x
Jem

#2136 | Bucket List: Allas Sea Pool, Helsinki

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Allas Sea Pool, Helsinki, Finland
All photos in this post taken with the Samsung Note8

I’m a cold weather kinda girl. I suffer a lot in the heat and humidity, and Im not just saying it – my body temperature is actually half a degree higher than average, which meant that when the nation was doing fever-testing during the SARS outbreak, I got called out, like, every day. So i flourish, basically, in the cold, and I think my love for cold weather was a big part of why I adored Helsinki so much, and got way too excited when I saw Allas Sea Pool on the list of iconic places/experiences in Helsinki!

I generally like pools, bodies of water, onsens, etcetera, and the idea of splashing around in a 28 degree heated pool in -8 degree weather basically sounds like my idea of heaven. I expressed my enthusiasm accordingly when our guide mentioned the sea pool, causing the rest of my press group to look at me in ways that I felt betrayed some kind of dubious sentiment re: my sanity. To be fair, I was prancing around in a sweater and skirt trying to taste a falling snowflake while everyone else was bundled up and rushing to the next available cafe with indoor heating, so I think everyone there had different interests/ priorities in life, and perhaps theirs was not to catch hypothermia? I dunno. But I was the youngest in the group, and at twenty five, I believed I was invincible. So, swimming in negative degree weather? YAS PLEASE.

We arranged to meet at the sea pool at 4pm. I was the first to arrive, to the amusement of my guide. Actually I was about ten minutes early. I asked if I could go in first but she said no. Anyway. The rest trundled up the snowy hill in trickles at about four, with varying looks of apprehension on their faces. Also, only half the group showed up. I think everyone else had very real fears regarding freezing. This made me way more excited, I think because I was overcompensating and absorbing everyone’s share of excitement, and by the time we entered the building I was practically bouncing on my feet. LETS GO! I said. Paw, a guy I had just met the day before, from PIN Prestige, stared at me and mumbled something about being young and excited about stuff, which I 100% took as a compliment.

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There’s a ferris wheel right next to the pool! One of those cabins is a sauna room, which sounds insane. Didnt get to try this though.

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WOOHOO!

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HOW BEAUTIFUL IS THIS

Actually, the pool reminds me a bit of the Bondi Icebergs Pool in Sydney, but for cold weather. Entry is twelve euros if you’re over 12yo, but if you’re a student or unemployed you get in for eight. As I have not yet graduated from my Masters programme (convocation is in August), it’s the eight buck life for me baby! Tee, hee. You get a little electronic waterproof bracelet that you use to enter and exit the pool area, and you can use it for lockers inside the changing room as well. You have to rent towels though, so I kinda wish I had thought of bringing my hotel room towels over since Hotel Lilla Roberts, where I was staying, was only a five to ten minute walk away. Oh yes. Lastly. Your ticket is valid for TEN HOURS. If I had my way I would have stayed for ALL TEN, but I was on a schedule so I only stayed for two! Ah well. Next time.

I hurriedly changed and headed to the pool because I didn’t want to waste any time. The walk to the pool is the worst part, I think, because it’s freezing. Also, because everyone is dripping wet and going back and forth (saunas are in the shower rooms, pools are outdoors), the floor gets a bit icy and slippery. They have anti slip mats, but sometimes the ice just freezes right over that. So you just gotta be careful!

Once you get into the pool, it’s absolute heaven. We went about sunset timing, so we caught a really gorgeous sunset while treading water in the pool, which was absolutely sublime. The pool is cut right out of the sea too, so there was a huge ship that blared past us as it was coming in. I wish I took a photo, but I had put my phone in the locker by that time.

Some photos before I stowed my phone away:

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Happy swimmers! You can see the steam rising from the pool as the 28degree water meets the -8 degree air. Ahh. My muscles are relaxing just looking at this photo.

It’s compulsory to wear a swimsuit in the pool, by the way. Some public heated pools in Europe are nude pools, but not this one! There’s also an exercise lane in the pool so you get people swimming laps up and down there. It’s probably super good for your circulation to be swimming in that kinda weather. Which brings me to my next point..

As we were touring the building, before getting to the pool, our guide pointed out a separate pool at the other end of the platform. Unlike the main pool, it was completely empty, had no exercise lanes, and kind of just looked like someone built a pool by accident then forgot all about it.

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It’s the pool on the far right

I cant really remember her exact phrasing because I was in shock but the gist of what she said was that this was a freakin Baltic sea pool!!!! It is basically a pool linked to the Baltic sea right outside, filtered and UV-treated before being pumped in through cleaner currents so you’re not swimming in direct harbour water. But you are swimming in the freakin sea. The temperature in the Baltic sea pool is the same as that of the sea outside, and so the day we were there, it was a 1.5 degree pool. Suddenly everyone else’s fear of hypothermia seemed pretty legitimate. Most people straight up laughed, like it wasn’t even a consideration for them. Me, I was pretty half half. On one hand, I didn’t want to freeze. On the other hand, yolo. One of the guys on the trip, Patrick (the next youngest person at 28) from the NYT looked at me. You doing it?

I know he didn’t mean it that way but it was like a DIRECT CHALLENGE. And ever since watching the Jim Carrey film Yes Man in 2008 I seriously cannot say no to any kind of challenge. Actually I think I may have gotten the wrong takeaway from that film, but that’s another story. I was like, lemme think about it, and after a minute I was like YOU KNOW WHAT, YOLO.

So we ran and jumped into the pool.

The run from the heated pool to the sea pool is the worst. Bear in mind you’re dripping with 28 degree water which is rapidly trying to freeze on your body. You’re running through -8 degree air. You’re trying not to slip and fall down. Everyone is staring at you because you are crazy, and also because your presence is a challenge to them – if a small asian girl can do it then everyone else there better be able to. I learnt this from jumping into a 8 degree pool in Budapest with Shane, which greatly irritated an italian man who then had to jump in because he wanted to also impress his girlfriend or something, who stood by the side and watched. Ha Ha Ha.

Once we got to the pool I thought to myself I’d better do it now or lose my guts forever. But it really looked freaking cold, and there was a lifeguard who had appeared out of nowhere looking kind of concerned and amused, and I decided against straight up jumping in. I lowered myself down using the ladder and immediately started muttering curses under my breath the minute my toe touched the water. JUMPING DONUTS IT WAS COLD. I got all the way in and started making a lot of incoherent noise to stay warm. My greatest mistake was telling Patrick it was his turn while I was in the water because the minute he started descending using the only ladder in that corner of the pool I was trapped treading water with no way out. Every second he took to descend that ladder (very slowly, I may add, because it was COLD and also I think he was afraid of slipping since the ladder was icy) was like a LIFETIME to me. This entire time I was still making a lot of noise, I think I was so cold that my body had shut down and I was just shouting to generate heat. Actually, I may have yelled at him to HURRY THE HELL UP, which is something I retrospectively regret given that it was the second day we’d met. Then he was in the water and said: yeah, nope and immediately scurried up the ladder and ran back to the heated pool.

I was in such a hurry to get back to the heated pool that I actually jumped in, forgetting that my beanie was on my head. After that I put it on a rack to dry and it completely froze into an icicle. It was pretty ridiculous.

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While I was still nice and dry…

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Frozen beanie. Dunno if you can tell, but its solid like a rock.

It’s actually pretty common to wear a beanie in the pool if you’re not swimming laps, just so you keep your head warm.

Anyway back in the heated pool I think we were pretty proud of ourselves, and I immediately forgot all about the intense cold I had just experienced because I promptly started peer pressuring Juliana, the PR rep from Small Luxury Hotels, to do the same. Goooo, I told her, we flew allllll the way here and you’re not gonna do it? It’s like, when are you gonna come back to Helsinki? And then, in a moment I will question forever, I said: I’ll even do it with you.

So we did it.

The second run from heated to sea pool was even worse than the first one. Plus my theory on challenging other people must have been somewhat correct because these two Finnish girls overheard me and then followed us to the sea pool. So now there was pressure, because if I chickened out I would have disappointed my entire country, or something like that. I had to power through! So I took a step down the ladder, and the ladder was so cold that I just fell in.



DONKEY BUTT. IT WAS SO COLD I THINK MY MIND BLANKED OUT FOR A MOMENT BECAUSE MY NEXT MEMORY WAS RESURFACING WITH A MOUTHFUL OF SALTY WATER. IT REALLY WAS FREAKING SEA WATER.

Juliana was staring down at me. How was it? She called.
WAIT. I said. LET ME COME UP FIRST

(I’m glad that even while my brain was blanking out I had learnt my lesson from, like, five minutes ago.)

And then because I had peer pressured Juliana into dipping into the sea pool and thus felt personally responsible for her experience, I was hopping from one foot to the other while she went into the pool, waiting with a towel so i could wrap her with it when she emerged. After which we ran back to the heated pool, basically numb by then.

I think I really have short term muscle memory or something because once I got into the heated pool I shouted WHEEW! THAT WAS AMAZING! Then I set my sights on Adrian, aka superadrianme, and I was like, YO SUPERADRIANME! TIME TO GO!

To his credit he wasn’t even fazed, he looked at me and went, Siao.

So the grand total of sea pool dips I did remained at two.

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Triumphant post-freeze selfie!

By this time I was happily in the heated pool so I felt pretty pleased with myself all over again, and I texted Roz (waterproof samsung note8 thank u very much!) to tell her that i JUMPED IN THE SEA! And sent her a photo. Then I put my phone in the locker and went to swim. When I collected my phone again it was to a flurry of messages from her telling me not to be stupid and fall sick because the week after we were supposed to go to Niseko to snowboard and if I were sick I wouldnt be able to do anything. And then after that, a lone message from her, timestamped an hour later: Actually yohei says its really good for your circulation

So, fears of hypothermia allayed, I guess. After some time in the pool we headed to the sauna (they’re split male/female) and showered, then all met again in the cafe. I had a pretty epic local tap beer from the cafe bar which was made even better because I had just come out of the sauna, and everyone who has done an onsen before will tell you that a post-onsen beer is the best thing ever. This isnt an onsen, but it’s pretty similar I guess, so it was still pretty epic!

Overall I’d say this was easily one of the best swims of my life. 10/10 would recommend, because yolo, am I right? My only regret is not having time to go again on this trip, but if I’m ever in the area again, you know where you’ll find me – shrieking all the way from the heated to sea pool x

Allas Sea Pool, Helsinki
Mon – Fri 07:00 – 21:00
Sat 09:00 – 21:00
Sun 10:00 – 20:00

Swimming ticket (children over 12) €12
Children’s ticket (children 3-11) €6
Children 0-2 for free
Discounts for: students, conscripts, pensioners, the unemployed €8.
(The card or certificate proving eligibility for a discount must be presented on arrival.)

Katajanokanlaituri 2a
00160 Helsinki

x
Jem

#2135 | Exploring the Doha Al Mourjan Airport Lounge

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All photos in this post taken with the Samsung Note8

Hey guys!

In line with my new resolution of documenting my travel experiences for both myself and others who are researching their potential travel destinations, here I am with my documented experience of my expedition around the Doha Airport’s Al Mourjan business lounge. Haha.

This is useful for:
People deciding whether to redeem their miles for a lounge pass or not
People deciding if it’s worth it to pay for lounge access over a long transit in Doha
Curious people

Okay? Okay. Here we go!

The Doha Airport

I was transiting in Doha in the middle leg of my Singapore to Helsinki flight with Qatar airways, and my business class ticket gave me access to their lounge. I’ve transited in Doha many times, because Qatar transits through Doha to Europe often at very good prices, and I quite like flying Middle Eastern airlines.

This is my first time flying Business through Doha, normally I’m on economy, so I’ve never had lounge access before. A note before we move on – Doha has a really huge airport, like, if it were in Singapore it would literally be a GRC of its own. There’s a little sky train servicing the inside of the airport, which I’ve seen before while it was still being tested, and this is the first time I’ve managed to take it. It’s pretty cool, but the seats are single seats as opposed to a row. While this makes it look sleek and more minimalistic, it also means that less people actually get to sit. But I took it twice and it wasn’t ever crowded, so this was never an issue.

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Whats up train

The airport is so huge that it can really take some time to walk from one end to the other, so I’d suggest checking your gate and distance once you land, if youre transiting. It’s also one of the only airports that dont make you go through security when youre transiting, which is nice. You do another round of security before you board your flight at the flight gate, but that’s about it.

It’s also a very comfortable airport to transit in because it’s full of 24/7 cafes and places to sit for free. There are also a lot of quiet rooms where you can get a reclined seat and lie down to nap if you’ve got a long transit. Just be sure to set an alarm so you wake in time for your flight! There’s free wifi that’s mid-speed, and they also have free carts for you to wheel your stuff around if you have a lot of hand baggage. Dont take this for granted because some places AKA AMERICA makes you pay for baggage carts!

The Al Mourjan Lounge

The Qatar business and first class lounge is very huge and beautiful, and it’s basically like living in three hotel lobbies combined. I was really excited to explore it because I love lounges, probably because they’re a premium product and I am a KID who just wants to try everything and get a cheap thrill from knowing that it’s a premium product, lol.

The first thing I did was go take a shower because I’d just come off an 8 hour flight and I had another 6 hour leg to go.

There are two shower facilities there, and it’s like a little room for yourself where you can store your clothes, take a shit, and shower. It provides fluffy towels, hand towels, floor towels, etcetera etcetera. The soap they use is like, good stuff. It’s all RITUAL products and they also provide body moisturiser. I am really excited about all this because some time last year I paid to take a shower in the Bangkok airport and it was expensive and the towels were stringy and weird and the soap was weird and the shower room was dodgy, like cleanliness wise. So this really impressed me is what I am saying!

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In my private little shower room

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Fancy shower stuff

I asked for a toothbrush set also so I could brush my teeth! You can also ask for a hair dryer if you need one.

Oh yes. I stored my hand luggage in their very pretty locker room whilst I went to shower. That was a nice touch because I didnt want to leave my bag on an empty seat and risk having it stolen, or bring it into the shower room with me because that’s weird.

After that I went to walk around and jeez please remember to wear your fitbit if youre walking around the lounge because a tour of the lounge alone is like a thousand steps or something already!

There are SO many places to sit, and of those places, many of them are little enclaves so you get privacy while chillin by yourself. They also mostly come with charging ports, and little iPad looking thingies that you can use to browse the internet with or check on your flight details. There’s free wifi in the lounge, but again, it’s not super fast. If you do need super fast internet, the lounge has a business center, I guess cos some people are workaholics and want to set up meetings while they’re in transit or whatever.

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Seats with that little mobile control center thing

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Very extravagant water feature on the first floor

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View of the lounge from the second floor

There are two official eating areas, a cafe for ‘light’ bites, and a full on hot food area that’s on the second floor and looks more like a hotel restaurant.

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fancy cafe area on the first floor

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It says light bites, but actually the food is quite substantial.

Besides the two official eating areas, there’s also a cafe area for drinks, and also random drink stations with tea and coffee around the lounge, I guess because the lounge is so big that you might get thirsty walking half way? I dont know.

There’s also a game room, just because. Unfortunately I was alone and so had no one to play with, so I just took a photo and moved on.

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Mainly two player games. Oh well.

Oh! This is my favorite bit. There’s a lot of space for you to sleep if you have a long transit! There’s a quiet room, where you can check in and nap, and the staff will wake you up when you want them to. As with most lounges these days, they dont do boarding announcements, so you have to keep track of your flight details yourself. So this option is pretty cool if youre afraid you might oversleep. I didnt take a photo of this because it was full of people sleeping and I didnt want to be rude, haha.

There are also many little cubicles that look like futuristic trailer houses out of a muji catalog. They’re mainly single or two-person recliner seats that you can sleep in with some privacy, which is something I really like because I’ve spent many years curled up in weird positions in airports all over the world haha. Please see: 24 hour nightmare in Stansted.
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Anyway! After walking around and exploring the whole place I decided to go get some food and work done in the restaurant area. It’s on the second floor of the lounge, and it’s really huge what the heck. I walked up these giant spiral steps to get there and when I got in I was like, really, is this lounge ever at full capacity?!

I’m not complaining though. It’s really nice. The dining area has many different options of seating configuration depending on your group size, and a bar if you’re someone who knows how to be happy. Lol, Im joking. Half. Anyway, I got myself a seat by the window, a super comfortable sofa chair with a table so I could work. I wasn’t super hungry so I just got some snacks to try – the hummus and pita bread (love this, I really love dips so things like pesto and hummus are the bees knees for me), some butter chicken (pretty good) and some seafood penne (it was ok, I didnt finish this). The food’s not bad for lounge food, though I have to say that the Singapore Silverkris lounge has better food 😀 teehee.

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I was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of a bar – wasnt sure if there’d be one in Qatar!

Anyway after that it was time to go, and that brings me to my last point – the airport is so huge that it takes a substantial amount of time to get from the lounge to your gate. So dont forget to factor that part in!

Overall: a great experience, wish I had more time there because I’d totally want to take a nap in the quiet room. All the staff I met were super duper nice and friendly, and I really felt like they were genuinely warm and friendly although I know that objectively they’re probably just doing their job. So that’s 10/10 for their service staff training programme is what I’m saying.

This is probably one of the more worth it lounges if you’re on one of those traveller schemes and thinking of where to redeem your lounge pass access. I’ve been blessed enough to visit quite a few lounges, and this one stands out in terms of the variety of things they offer (good showers, napping spots, game room) and comfort levels.

Details:

Free for Qatar/Oneworld First and Business passengers
Option to purchase for Economy passengers
Website

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Jem

#2134 | Guide to: Dressing for subzero temperatures

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Location: Hotel Lilla Roberts, Helsinki
Photos taken on the Samsung Note8

Hello hello!

I spent a good two weeks in subzero temperatures this month – one week in Helsinki, which saw me in -4 to -14 degree temperatures, and one week in Hokkaido, which saw me in 0 to -12 degree temperatures with blizzards and thus, wind chill. Ugh, wind chill is the worst. Anyway, dressing for subzero temperatures can be a bit daunting for people who have never been to mad cold places (aka me), so I’m thankful that my friends gave me a lot of advice before my trips because I was super warm and toasty in Helsinki! And now here I am passing the advice on. Tada. (Hokkaido is a bit of a different story because I was snowboarding there, so I’ll write a different post on that next time)

What to do before your trip

Check:

– Is the country going to be snowing? If yes, you need a beanie so snow doesnt fall on your hair and melt and re-freeze.
– What is the “real feel” temperature, not just the actual temperature?
– Is it going to be windy, or just dry and cold? Wind makes a huge difference – this is why a -2 day in Hokkaido felt a lot colder than -10 in Helsinki.
– Is the temperature staying solidly around the high negative temperatures, or will it hover around zero? This makes a difference to footwear – if the temperature is slated to move around 1 to -2 degrees or so, chances are the snow might melt and refreeze, making the roads very icy and slippery to walk on.

Apps like Weather Underground will give you this kind of information. I programme mine to give me a weather update on my Note 8 every morning and also display real time temperature on my lock screen through the day, so I always know whats up. Im not sure if the iPhone can do this, but I’m sure theres an app for it somewhere..

The key to dressing in cold countries? Layers

I was super duper toasty in Helsinki, and pretty proud of myself too given that it was my first legit winter. Dressing for the cold is kind of like working with building blocks, one atop another. Here’s what I wore everyday:

1.Your heat tech layer


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Heat tech: Uniqlo

Leggings and a scoop neck top – I got these from Uniqlo. Uniqlo has several heat tech lines, the normal one, the ultra warm, etcetera. I have stuff from each line, but honestly I dont see a huge difference between them. You want to make sure these are tight, or at least fitting, or else it starts to trap air and make you colder. If not fitted right, too many layers can be a bad thing!

2. Your normal clothes layer


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Top: Her Velvet Vase
Skirt: Pomelo Fashion

For me, that’s a sweater and a skirt. Everyone calls me crazy for wearing a miniskirt in winter, but I have my reasons! I do wear jeans (with heattech leggings under), but in snowy countries the likelihood of stepping in snow is pretty high, and then the bottom of my jeans get wet and dont dry easily, which can be a pain. With a skirt and thick leggings, at least the leggings dry easy, and the outfit looks cute. I also lose most of my heat through my torso, so for me I do ok in a skirt, though if its an extra cold day I’ll wear two layers of leggings.

3. Keep your neck warm with a snoot or scarf!


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A snoot is just a round scarf that’s joined end to end. I got mine from a random shop in Taiwan, and it’s pretty good at blocking wind. I wear this while skiing/snowboarding too!

4. Headgear


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Beanie: Taiwan

This means a beanie or earmuffs. I find earmuffs cute but hard to wear if youve got long hair, so what I do is put my hair up in a ponytail if I’m wearing them. A good thing to do is also to check for snowfall during the day, and also evaluate your itinerary to see if you’ll be going in and outdoors a lot. You dont want snow to fall on your hair and melt when you go indoors, then refreeze when youre outdoors again, because that can be mad cold! In which case, it’s probably better to wear a beanie.

5. Shoes


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Socks: Taiwan
Boots: Timberland

Get long socks and snow boots. Snow boots are super important especially if the temperature is going to hover around 1 to -2 degrees, because roads are super icy at that temperature. Most of the time in Helsinki, it was more like -10 to -14, which meant I was just dealing with snow and not much ice.

I also recommend high cut boots that are water resistant, because if you get low cut boots and snow gets in and melts, youre going to be very miserable with cold socks. This is especially relevant if you might be trudging through parks with thick snow and not just walking on city pavements.

I got Timberlands because there was this buy two for fifty percent off promo in Singapore over Christmas, and I had no problems walking around in both Helsinki and Hokkaido. Another brand you can look at is Moon Boots, which some of my friends have and swear by!

6. Heavy Duty coat


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Coat: Passed down from a friend

Your coat will be what’s blocking out most of the wind, so get something warm and not just fashionable. When deciding on a coat to bring, it’s probably good to see what your itinerary is as well. I have this heavy duty wool blend coat, which is really warm, and also a waterproof jacket with fur lining, for days with heavy snowfall or if I think I’m going to be jumping in snow. *IF YOU THINK YOURE GOING TO BE JUMPING IN SNOW BEAUSE YOU ARE EXCITED ABOUT SNOW, GET A WATERPROOF JACKET* This wool blend coat is great for city life and all, but if it gets wet, it takes forever to dry. I think the same is true for most big coats, so just take note.

And you’re done!

Here are some outfits I wore throughout the trip:


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Basically my body always has three layers – heat tech, sweater/top, coat. And then a scarf. If youre super scared of the cold, you can wear 2 layers of heat tech.

PS. Dont just wear layers, wear the correct layers

I made the mistake of wearing a flowy skirt once, and it was MAD COLD even though I had ultrawarm leggings underneath. This is because the flowy material caught the wind and kind of just kept fanning around my legs, making it even colder. Ugh! Dont be like me. I was miserable!

Okay, I think that’s it. I also suggest bringing a pair of sunglasses, because snow reflects a lot of light and it can be very bright in snowy cities. Ditto with your sunscreen, even though its cold you’re actually getting a lot of UV reflected onto your face. So layer up on the skincare too!

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Jem