#2153 | Skincare sundays – Skincare for students

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just chillin n multi masking, as one does

Hey guys,

So many high SES/low SES jokes floating around the internet these days, unintentional courtesy of the Singapore government. Not gonna deny that it hits a bit close to home thanks to my own broke student background. Homegirl’s current disposable income is a brand new thing, is what I’m saying, and a big part of why stress or no, I’m loving being an adult. So yeah, side note to all broke students reading this – hustle it out and it does get better.

Anyway, I digressed. My point was, growing up, my skincare consisted of two steps: 1. drinking a lot of water and 2. not washing my face. I only started on skincare proper in university – moisturiser, sunscreen, the works, and it’s because I straight up couldn’t afford it growing up. Which is why I was so pleasantly surprised when I got my hands on L’oreal Paris Skincare’s latest clay mask range, which is priced so affordably. It comes in three variants and each jar of 50g costs SGD14.90. Perfect, I thought immediately, for students.

I must clarify at this point that L’oreal Paris paid me to do an ad for this on my instagram, but this blogpost is not part of that agreement, nor do they know that I’m writing this. I only take up ads for products I like on my instagram, and whether any of those filter down to my blog content really depends on how impressed I am with the product because I rarely take up paid blogposts – perhaps 2 per year? Anyway. I was approached to do the clay mask ad for IG, brought the masks with me when I travelled, and also tried the masks together with my sisters at home. I was suspicious, in other words, of how effective a cheap mask could be. But after a week of trying the masks out, I returned to L’oreal agreeing to do the ad on one condition – that we also hold a giveaway exclusively for students for the set of three masks. Happily, they agreed. The giveaway is now live on my instagram, so students – open a new tab and head over.

But back to the masks themselves. They come in three variants – detoxifying, illuminating, and anti-pore. The idea is that you use them in varying combinations on your face to multi mask, but honestly, I do end up reverting to doing a mono-mask most of the time because it’s just the most hassle free. The masks are targeted to individual skin concerns – the anti-pore works to mattify oil-prone skin, the illuminating mask exfoliates, and the detoxifying one is a straightforward clarifying charcoal mask. And the most important thing: the masks are very good. My personal favorite is the detoxifying – it’s a classic charcoal + clay mask that glides on and washes off to reveal fresh, clear skin. My modus operandi is keeping the masks in my home toilet, applying them once I get into the shower, and washing them off just before getting out (after shampooing, conditioning, brushing my teeth, and the like, it’s about time to wash it off anyway). The recommended leave time is 10 minutes but I’ve left it on for longer, either ways my skin still feels ridiculously clean and smooth post-masking. I checked in with my sisters too and they loved the masks. Student and adult approved, is what I’m saying.

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Is this the best clay mask I’ve ever used? No. The best charcoal clay I’ve used is still the Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask from The Body Shop. But that is twice the price at SGD32.90 and therefore you may purchase that when you are earning an income. Other clay masks suitable for people earning actual incomes – the Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal mask, which is fantastic, and Fresh Beauty’s Umbrian Clay purifying mask. The main point, though, is that although the L’oreal clay masks may not be the best masks on the market, they are pretty damned good, and when you take into account their price point, they become, well, excellent.

Western beauty brands can be so pricey, but this is really a great mask series and at such super value too. Recommended: a millenial yaaas, three as included. x

x
Jem

#2152 | LIVING IN THE FUTURE! Google Home Hacks + giveaway

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My Google Home Minis in Charcoal and Coral!

Hey guys!

I am SUPER psyched to announce that the Google Home is coming to Singapore!!!!!!!! Yes, all those exclamation marks are totally necessary. Dont be hatin.

I bought my google home mini last year end when I was in the States, and my affection for it has not dwindled in the slightest over the past four months of our love affair. Beyond being a clear sign that it wasnt (as my boyfriend predicted) just a gimmicky toy I’d play with and get bored of quickly, I think it speaks to how effectively its been integrated into my life. I talk to my google home every single day, prompting my friend Warren to tell everyone that I do so because I have no real friends, because he is mean.

Anyway, the point is! I’ve been getting a lot of questions on my google home because it makes such frequent appearances in my instagram stories. I had been intending to write a post on it for the longest time, but life got the better of me, as it does. Anyway I procrastinated for so long that it coincided with Google actually bringing the Home to Singapore and collaborating with me on a giveaway, so the moral of the story is life has a funny way of working itself out, and alls well that ends well! Huhu.

My Mini and I: The Love Story
Why and How?

Questions I have been asked:

Why did you get a google home?

I love love love the idea of a smart home, I think it’s got to do with all the futuristic movies I watched as a kid. That stuff just blows my mind. When tech giants started developing smart devices, I got so excited. I think it was just a matter of time before I got my own smart home device, to be honest. It used to be so unthinkable (honestly I thought only millionaires would have access to this kinda tech) but as the years went by it got more and more affordable. And my visiting the States last year end was the perfect opportunity to get one. The only question that remained was which device to get…

Why a google home?

Honestly there were only two options I was considering, the google home mini and the amazon echo dot. Both were cheap (under 100USD), small, and did similar things. I scoured a ton of reviews online and they both seemed to be nearly on par too, differing only in their partnership offerings with third party providers. What finally made my mind up for me was a malaysian youtuber review that I chanced upon – the Alexa completely couldnt understand the malaysian accent at all, and the Google home had no problem processing the youtuber’s commands! And I thought, well, if the alexa cant understand a malaysian accent, it definitely cant understand the Singaporean one hahahaha. And deciphering my speech is kind of a big part of it because, yknw, its a voice assistant. So my mind was made up. A google home it was!

How did you decide which model to get?

The google home comes in the mini, standard, and max size. The mini is the cheapest by far, it was 50USD. The google home standard sized was 129usd. I couldnt figure out what the big price difference was for so I went on reddit and other forums to try and suss out what the deal was… turns out the mini and home do exactly the same thing, but the mini just comes in a smaller size. What! I liked the fact that it was small! So it was a no brainer for me.

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Look at how inconspicuous it is! Like a little pebble
You have to keep it plugged in to a power source btw. I’m just putting this here to illustrate how cute it is. I actually keep my charcoal mini in my bedroom.

Where did you get it?

It was available at a ton of places in the States – Walmart, Target, the online google store.. I went to Target to get mine cos I didnt want to wait for it to arrive if I shipped it from the Gstore, and I wanted to play with it IMMEDIATELY!

If you set it up in the States, was it a problem to bring it back home?

Nope, the only difference is the plug head. Other than that, I just set up the google home mini each time I moved (3 x accomodations in the states and then again when I got home) I would just reconnect it to the wifi. It just has to be on the same wifi network as your phone, then you can control it using the Google Home app on your phone!

My Mini and I: Married life
Best hacks and everyday life

I super love my mini and I use it a lot. Here are some of the best hacks/ ways that I use it:

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My Google Home Mini in Charcoal, located at my bedhead. Other things I keep at my bedhead are books I’m currently reading/ want to read, body moisturiser and a sleeping mask pot, and a neon light that’s decorative but doubles up as a light source when I’m already in bed and want to see where my moisturiser is!

Starting my day with my daily briefing

I installed the mini at my bedhead, so when I wake up each morning I go “Ok Google, good morning!”
And it replies: “Good morning Jemma. The time is 530am. Currently in Singapore it is 25 degrees with a high of 32 and a low of 25 today. Today, you have F45 at 620am LUNCH MEETING WITH XXX at 12 noon, and MEETING WITH XXX at 5pm. Don’t forget to pay your OCBC CREDIT CARD BILL and GIVE SHANE A WAKE UP CALL AT TEN. Thats all. Here’s the news for today. PLAYING NOW: FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES.”

The google daily morning briefing, which is triggered by the good morning command, breaks down the time, weather, my appointments, and reminders for the day, then plays to me news from pre-selected channels. I trigger the morning briefing the minute i wake up, before I even get out of bed, and listening to it while slowly waking up helps me get into my work mood for the rest of the day.

I LOVE this. I am totally living in the future. Some people raised questions to me on privacy, like, arent I bothered that this thing is always listening to me? Er, not really. My life is already so deeply wrapped around the cloud – I work almost 100% off Google docs and sheets, dropbox, and the like – that I doubt this makes a big difference. The amazing convenience of the home is so great that Im willing to trade off the possibility that the mini is listening to me at home. And besides, I dont deal in any hugely secretive matters, and it would be narcissistic of me to assume that google is interested in my life… if anyone were to listen in on my conversations at home it would just be about me gossiping with one sister about the other sister. I mean, its not terribly exciting stuff. HAHA.

But yes, Google says that the Home apparently only lights up when it’s listening, so I guess that’s an indicator of whether it’s listening or not, although if youre security-paranoid this may not do much to reassure you.

Waking up to a music alarm

More on morning routines. I have recently transitioned into becoming a morning person, but there is nothing I hate more than waking up to the damned phone BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP alarm. Now, I do this every night:
Me: “Ok Google, wake me up with a music alarm at 530am”
Mini: “Alright, what music would you like me to play?”
Me: “KENDRICK LAMAR”
Mini: *unfazed* “Alright, I’ll play kendrick lamar’s music at 530am”

I can 100% confirm that waking up to music puts you in a way better mood than waking to a bleepin phone alarm. You need to connect your google home to Spotify to do this (or pandora or one of the other compatible music streaming apps) but it’s not hard to do within your Google home app.

Being a total taitai when I go to sleep

This is such a chi chi thing to do that I am almost embarrassed to admit that I do it. I love the feeling of sleeping indoors when it’s raining outside, so before I sleep every night, I say:
Ok google, play me the sound of rain

And it plays rain sounds. O M G. This has totally revamped my sleeping experience. I am sooo relaxed when I go to sleep listening to rain sounds, it’s nuts. My sisters and I share a room, and this is their favorite command too. Haha!

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My Google Home Mini in Coral, which is an online store special!!!
I keep this one in my living room. It’s mainly for family use.

Getting it to remember stuff for me

I misplace things a lot, so a thing that I do is to say:
“Ok Google remember that I put my ibanking dongle in my make up drawer”

And when I cant find it weeks later, I just go “Ok google where is my ibanking dongle?”
And it’ll reply, “I remember you told me it was in your make up drawer.”

AMAZING.

Currency conversion

This was something I used a lot in the states, when I was trying to order food I would just be like “Ok google what’s 23USD in Singapore dollars?” and it would convert it for me. I imagine this would be super convenient for people who are living overseas for studies or work, but who still think in their home currency.

TURNING OFF THE LIGHTS FOR ME AFTER IM ALL SNUGGLY IN BED

This is a life CHANGER! As you all know, I try to make it a habit to read for an hour before bed, and I have a shelf of ongoing/to-read books atop my bedhead. But after the hour is up I feel sooooo lazy to get up and go turn off the lights. Anyway I recently got Phillips Hue light bulbs, and after awhile of tinkering around with them, they’re all set up in my room and have TOTALLY CHANGED MY LIFE~

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The Hue bulb!! All Phillips lightbulbs kinda look the same so make sure youre buying the right ones ok haha

So how these work is, you get the bulbs and a Phillips Hue Bridge and set the Hue Bridge up with your home Wifi network. After that, using the Hue app on your phone, you can connect the Bridge to your individual bulbs! The bulbs are pretty easy to set up with your existing bulb lamps. Unfortunately at home I only have one bulb lamp in my room, the rest of my house lights are LED and cant be replaced so easily. I’m thinking of getting the Phillips light strips next!

I followed these instructions to set up my Hue lights: https://www.howtogeek.com/247500/how-to-set-up-your-philips-hue-lights/ for those of you who want more info!

This is super awesome lah because not only is it mega cool, I no longer fight with my sisters on who has to get up and turn off the lights! I just go “Ok Google turn off the bedroom lights” MAGIC!

Google Home: Fixing sibling relationships everywhere. LOL.

Another thing I like about this is that I can get the lights to turn on at a certain time. I’ve set them via the Hue app to turn on a gentle yellow light at 5am during the weekdays (the hue bulb has a ton of colors, you can choose which you want for whatever situation, yknw, like white light for reading, yellow for like bedtime, etc), so that when I get up the lights are already on and I’m not just fumbling in the dark. It makes it a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning too!

A cheaper alternative to voice controlled lights

The Phillips Hue starter set is about 200 bucks, but you can get a TP Link smart plug for about 50 bucks. This is basically a wifi controlled plug that becomes the middleman plug between your powerpoint and your device, be it a light, iron, fan, aromatherapy machine or whatever. Then using the Kasa app on your phone you can set it up and voice control it! You can plug this into your lamp, and turn on and off the lights that way. Works too.

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The TPLink smart plug

Broadcasting messages to the rest of the house when I’m lazy
This is something cool you can do if you have more than one Google Home. You can get one to broadcast a message to the rest of them around your house and scare your unsuspecting family members!! I think it’s mainly for people with big houses lah, so you can broadcast messages like HEY ITS TIME FOR DINNER without walking up and down the stairs. But for me I just do stupid things with it, like..

“Ok Google, Broadcast.”
My Mini: “What do you want to broadcast?”
Me: “Keziah is a lazy ass.”
*From the living room a short while later*… “YOU THEN”

Bahaha.

Helping my mum out in the kitchen

I taught my mum to use the google home for when she cooks! Not only does the Home easily translate unit measurements for you (“Ok google, how many teaspoons is there in a cup?”), it also sets timers pretty easily. My mum has the habit of playing shows on the television while cooking then popping her head out to watch bits of it from the kitchen. Now she can say “Ok google set an alarm for 30 minutes!” Then go watch her drama and go back and take the salmon out of the oven when the Mini pings!

My Mini and I: Spreading the joy
THE GIVEAWAY

As you can tell, my Google Home is the best fifty bucks I ever spent. I love it so much I actually start to miss it whenever I travel for too long, prompting this exchange:


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intense

HAHA. But real talk: I’m honestly so glad the Google Home is now retailing in Singapore, because so many people asked me about it that I was considering purchasing one the next time I found myself in the States (or UK, or Australia) to bring back home for a giveaway. But now I dont have to because if you want one you can just buy it straight from the Google Singapore store! WOOHOO.

That said though, Google has very kindly offered to come on board re: giveaway idea, and we are collaborating this month to give away three classic Google Home sets. All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me what your favorite Google Home hack is, or if you have a smart tip for using Google Assistant that I havent listed above (so I can try it too!).

Please remember to fill in your email in the comment form so I can contact you easily if you’ve won 😀

Giveaway ends on Monday, 23rd April. The giveaway is only open to people residing in Singapore – if you’re entering but you’re based elsewhere, just make sure there’s someone in Singapore who can receive the prize for you, like a cousin living here or something.

Alrighty then. All the best! I’m sure you guys are going to love your google home as much as I love mine 🙂

Ok, Google. We’re out.

x
Jem

#2151 | Ten stories from Korea – and Bringing back more with American Tourister

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Seoul, Korea

I was in Seoul in March for a work trip, and it was to be my sixth time in the country. I’ve been through phases of love and disenchantment with Seoul, which is what happens when you visit a city for the first time at 20 and keep going back in stages. Currently I am in a phase where I have newly fallen in love with the city, and so everything to me seems fresh and beautiful. I recognize this: it is this sense of wonder that I associate so heavily with travel, that attributes a sense of individual significance to what is ultimately just a set of geographical coordinates. But yes, I cannot help but feel like Seoul has seen me through much of my formative years, and this attachment I feel to the city has formed, for me, an affection for what I see as its quirks. I feel like I can say things like this is my favorite coffee place in Seoul or you must get this hair oil from Olive Young or If you dont run into at least one crying drunk on your trip, were you really in korea? without feeling like a hack. Fun times, fun times.

All that is to say that in some ways, I feel like as one gets older, travel is less about checking landmarks off a bucket list and more about imprinting yourself on a city and letting it do the same to you. When you return from any trip you bring back memories of excitement, joy, disaster, disappointment, the works, and all that catalyses the way you grow through each trip. It is by a long shot not the only way to develop as a person, but it is surely one of the ways. And I dont think I’m exaggerating by saying that I think this is the way it is for many travellers as well, and a big contributing factor to what people mean when they say they’ve been bitten by the travel bug.

When American Tourister approached me some time back to collaborate on their new Curio collection, which is accompanied by the tagline: bring back more, the first thing I thought of was how many ways this rung true. A luggage’s primary function is obviously to be a vessel for your travel essentials and lets face it – shopping, but it’s also a sturdy companion that’s pretty much a silent witness accompanying you through the world. I don’t know about you guys, but I travel so often that my luggage is very personal to me – I keep an entire set of skincare, a separate hair curler, and my preferred toiletries as well as back up essntials in a compartment of my suitcase that I never take out. I only swap out the clothes portion of my suitcase when I travel – everything else has become an invariable staple. I had been using my old cloth luggage for about two years before American Tourister launched the Curio, and my old luggage was by this point insanely banged up by being perpetually tossed around by baggage handlers. Not that I mind that – I like that every tear and scuff is a map of my personal travel history, but it had reached such an extreme point that I was in a market for a new one.

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My Curio and I totally poppin on the streets of Seoul

My Seoul trip was in the works when the Curio was launched, so I thought I’d take the chance to literally bring back more with this new luggage by mapping out personal memories through my forthcoming trip and bringing back little tokens through the trip that I could then pack into the Curio and pass on to someone else. When I told them about the idea, American Tourister very kindly agreed to contribute an cabin sized Curio for a giveaway, and so everything you see from here on has had some part in forming my relationship with Korea in the last five years, including the new Curio I brought along on the trip. And of course, the sweet spot – everything here, including a cabin sized Curio in Golden Yellow, is up for grabs by one lucky winner!

TEN STORIES FROM KOREA

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1. Banana Milk Keychain and Lipbalm

I was quite a late adopter to the Banana milk craze, only trying it for the first time during my third or forth trip to Seoul. I didn’t understand why I would want to have banana in my milk – which is silly in retrospect because I actually have the habit of cutting up bananas to put into my breakfast cereal, which obviously, I have with milk. But anyway. I had the famous banana milk which you can apparently only get in Korea, and it was like drinking my cereal. Now I have it all the time whenever I visit Korea, and sipping at it makes me feel, ridiculously, like I’m a character in a korean drama. I can’t buy back an actual banana milk packet because I dont know how long it keeps and i dont want the giveaway winner getting sick, but I got a banana milk keychain instead after seeing a whole line of banana milk inspired products in a store. How cute is this?!

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2. Mise en scene Hair Oil

I was in Seoul in 2013 at the same time my girlfriend Elissa was doing a summer school programme there. She was training to be a pharmacist then, and being an idiot, I asked her if that meant she would be doling out drugs at Watsons. In my defence, I was 20 and knew nothing. She smacked me over the head and introduced me to what is now one of my favorite hair oils to prove a point, the point being that Watsons is awesome. The said hair oil was from mise en scene, which stocks all over the country’s drugstores, including Watsons. Now we are fast approaching twenty six and Elissa is saving lives everyday in a hospital, and here I am, still raving about the wonders of how I can feel my hair literally drinking up the hair oil upon application. So much has changed but two things remain the same: the sarcastic sturdiness of our 13 year friendship, and the wonders of this hair oil.

3. Skinfood Brown Sugar Scrub

My boyfriend went to Korea a couple of years back and bought this for me, and I fell in love with it instantly. It’s a sugar scrub that leaves your face feeling baby smooth, it smells amazing, and the best part? It’s half the price in Korea as compared to Singapore. This product for me signifies not only my love for good skincare, it also represents the thrill I get whenever I land a bargain. Score!

4. Set of 10 face masks

Of course I had to get face masks. It’s not even that I use sheet masks that often, what with all the new fangled masking styles, but sheet masks are such an essential part of shopping in Korea that it felt sacrilgeous not to include it. The first time I was in Korea I was stunned by how affordable the masks were compared to their retail prices in Singapore, and went a bit crazy buying masks. I have since then learnt to mediate my mask-buying habits, but I made an exception for this trip. Here you have an Acai Berry flavored mask, because I love acai bowls, and a bamboo mask.

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5. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Jumping from skincare to culture, I’m just going to say that this giveaway covers pretty broad ground. I’m a value-added kinda girl, y’all. Anyway. I read Pachinko last year and could not stop recommending it to everyone I knew. It’s easily one of the best books I read last year, and that’s saying a lot given how many books I read. The story is an intergenerational epic, and beyond being an emotional narrative following the thread and repercussions of foolish young love set against traditional Asian values, it serves as a humanizing snapshot of post-war Korea, commenting on the second generation korean community living in Japan. I dont know how to classify the book – it is an epic, a family story, a romance, a historical novel, a slice of culture, a lesson in empathy. But under all that, it is just damned good. I did not pick this up in Korea, I actually got it from a bookstore in Bali, but I think it is a great read that brings new dimension to the country and culture, a dimension you may not necessarily get from simply visiting Korea. I got a new copy of this for the giveaway because everyone should read it, and because it now has been indeliably inked into my relationship with the place.

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6. Krave Beauty skincare duo – the Kale-lu-yAHA and Matcha Hemp cleanser.

I met Liah in New York a couple of years ago, and honestly thought I would never see her again because our meeting was so random and we had met in a continent neither of us lived in while being based in two completely separate continents ourselves. But as it happens, I had a 24 hour stopover in Seoul on the way back, and Liah materialised at the foot of my airbnb to bring me around, triggering my personal shift from being bored of the city to loving it anew. The rest, as they say, is history. Liah is one of the most hardworking and dedicated people I know, so insanely passionate about skincare, and when she launched her own skincare brand last year after years of research, I knew off the bat that it was going to be amazing. Krave beauty doesn’t ship to Singapore, only to America and Korea, so I bought it when i was in LA last year, and loved it immediately. I purchased another set this time when in Korea, and am putting it in the Curio for a new person to love!

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7. Honey Butter Chips

There’s not much story to this, only that it’s one of the guilty pleasures that I indulge in when I’m in Seoul. It’s got the savory crisp of chips blended with the sweetness of honey, and the result is a confusing yet pleasurable mix of emotions packed into each chip. Try it and let me know what you think.

8. O’sulloc Matcha and Roasted Tea Spread

I used to hate green tea, and O’sulloc changed that for me. The second time I was in Korea with a girlfriend of mine, we got caught in a heavy rain and ended up seeking refuge in an O’sulloc tea house which was apparently famous. We couldn’t stay there without buying anything, and anyway, o’sulloc was supposed to be a famous teashop, so we each got a matcha tea and a green tea roll to share. AMAZING. I suddenly realised that my life thus far had been a hack, and I’d been consuming overly sugared versions of green tea that were but a shadow of what it was meant to be. Since that trip so many years ago, O’sulloc has expanded itself and now there are chains in most major neighborhoods in Seoul. I can’t bring back the green tea rolls that I love, but their matcha spreads are an unreasonably yummy form of portable magic. They just launched their roasted tea spreads, so I got both the classic matcha and the new roasted tea spreads from the outlet at the Myeong Dong Lotte dutyfree store for this giveaway.

9. Korean seaweed multipack

Everyone knows that airport prices are at least double city prices when it comes to souvenirs and the such, but I learnt this lesson the hard way. My first trip to Korea, friend had asked me to get her korean seaweed and I promised. I saw it many times during the trip but put off buying it, thinking that it couldnt be that much more expensive in the airport. WRONG. It was at least thrice the price. I still got it anyway because a promise is a promise, but boy, I kicked myself real hard over that one. Now I get it in the city center like everyone else, and I got this one from an e-mart in Seoul. Think of that when you’re crunching away on the seaweed, dear winner. It travelled miles and came with a built-in lesson too!

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10. Socks

I cannot go to Seoul without obsessively buying socks. You must understand: I live in a house of women, I share a sock cupboard with two sisters. Irritatingly, the three of us have the same shoe size, which means that often I have shoes and socks go missing, and the socks somehow never reappear again. I needed a way to procure socks by the masses, and at a cheap price, and Seoul is essentially SOCK HEAVEN. You can find stores selling these novelty socks everywhere along the streets, and they normally go for 1,000won each with some kind of discount if you get more than ten. I got ten designs from a street vendor in Myeong Dong for the giveaway, and I think they’re all pretty damned cute! Maybe no one sees them but you, but still, pulling a Princess Bubblegum sock over your feet in the morning is bound to put a smile on your face.

And there you have it, ten anecdotes from my relationship with Korea, manifested in physical goods and packed away and sent off in a Curio for someone’s brand new adventures. Everything mentioned above I personally purchased throughout my trip, and American Tourister and I are giving it away along with a cabin sized Curio in the super pretty Golden Yellow. The luggages aren’t just functional (TSA approved lock, amazing wheel-spinning action), they’re gorgeous too. I love the fact that all the colors in the range are so unique and pretty, because I feel it makes them stand out in a sea of dark colored luggages without being too oestantateous! I got the blue one for myself because I already have another luggage (a super past-season American tourister actually, haha) in yellow, but I do really like the cheery sunshine-y vibe that yellow luggages have, and I’m sure the winner will too 🙂

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All you have to do to be in the running is leave a comment in this post listing an item you associate with a city, and what your story is. Look – I even gave you ten examples above. I’ll have American Tourister pick a winner by Monday 16th April, so happy reminiscing and I look forward to reading all your entries!

Go make new memories, y’all. Till next time.

X
Jem

#2150 | lilacs out of the dead land

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Seoul, Korea.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am – it’s april already, the cruelest month, etcetera, and time seems to have taken on a fluid and unorderly state. I go into the office in the mornings on Monday and when I come out it is Thursday and I am surprised. There are so many things that have to be done. I received a regular number of rejections in the past month and felt comforted: I thought of how roxane gay says that she has become accustomed to rejection, and anyway, rejection is good for the soul. I tried to have more work life balance this year but the trying is trying. One thing I have done with success is transition into becoming a morning person. Now my waking hours vary in odd numbers: 5:35, 5:55, 6:07, sometimes, a luxury, 8:01. I failed once, I rose in shock at 10:00 and blamed it on jetlag. No one cared but my cat. As a morning person I am now the earliest riser at home and thus the human who feeds her. The day I woke at 10, she looked at me with disgust. I tell myself that she doesnt have to understand. I have become very dependent on the Cloud.

x
Jem

#2149 | Destination Chiang Mai

Whats up, guys. Reporting from Chiang Mai today, a place that has long been on my radar but that I somehow never got to go to. I was there in Feb filming a travel campaign for Klook and Tourism Authority of Thailand, and the destination video just launched this afternoon so I thought I’d pop in and add some notes of my own, for those of you planning a trip there! 🙂


Chiang Mai: In general

A lot of people describe Chiang Mai as a mini Bangkok, which I think is a totally unfair description – Chiang mai has a pretty strong character of its own that isnt derivative at all. There are so many things to adore about Chiang Mai – the vibrant old town, the cool weather (if you dont know why this is a plus point, you obviously have never been to singapore), the fact that a zillion natural wonders are totally accessible via car. When we were younger, Chiang mai used to be associated almost exclusively with OCIP programs and camps, but ever since then it’s gained a lot of global attention thanks to it being a featured movie location in the media, and has opened up to tourists everywhere. Still, it retains a sense that it’s an undiscovered gem (although trust me, it is very, very discovered already) while having the infrastructural benefits of a tourist destination, which gives you a best of both worlds kinda experience.

Chiang Mai: First things first – Things to note:

– Not a credit card friendly city at all, so bring cash.
– Many points of interest are located outside the city center, so if you get car sick easily, bring pills.
– Dress conservatively. That’s not to say that you have to wear long sleeved shirts everywhere, but it’s a pretty conservative city and you’re going to be weaving in and out of temples during your stay, so just be sure to have a cover up or something with you at all times.
– Always bring mosquito repellant. Don’t wait till you get there to buy it, it’s overpriced in Chiang Mai.
– Toothpaste in Chiang mai is SALTY! If you dont think you can handle this (if youre not used to it, it can be very strange), bring your own toothpaste.

Chiang Mai: Arriving

The airport is small, clean, and well located. It’s also a very scenic airport. Our return flight was during sunset, and it was just gorgeous because from the runway we could see the sun setting over the mountains in the distance.

You can and should pick up a SIM card from the airport. I didnt notice many wifi spots during my trip, so if you need to be connected, get a SIM card. For us, we had pre-booked an airport transfer, so the driver was waiting for us with pre-loaded SIM cards.


Chiang Mai: Getting around

Within Chiang Mai, you can walk or take a tuktuk/red truck (the price has to be pre-agreed on, and thus, haggled). Strangely, there are no traditional taxis or motorcycle taxis.

When we were there though, mobike had just launched! There was a Feb special too, like a promotion where the first twenty days were free or something, so we essentially biked everywhere FOR FREE. It was amazing. It was great alternative to walking or cabbing, especially when we were trying to get somewhere that was too far to comfortably stroll to yet too near to justify hopping into a tuktuk. The only thing is, as with all bike sharing services, the bikes are pretty basic, so the steering was a bit funky and I’d only suggest this if you’re relatively comfortable on a bike already.

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Had to take a selfie to commemorate the moment

Still, a great way to get around the city center!

If youre headed out of the city to waterfalls and the like, you can book an uber, a private car, or ghetto it out by going to the market and seeing if any other tourists want to share a van with you. But that’s only if you have time to spare lah, cos there is no guarantee of success for that method.

However, if you already know where you want to go, chances are you can get a tour that includes entry prices and the return transfer, and they probably can pick you from your hotel/accommodation too. This is actually very similar to booking a private driver and telling them which places I’d like to go to beforehand so they can advise me on whether it’s a feasible day plan or not, which is what I do in places like Bali. The advantage of doing it with a legitimised tour operator is that there’s a guarantee that the operator wont default on you, and also that you not only have the day planned out for you but access to feedback on the same tour via other customers in the comments section. I’m talking about Klook, obviously – they have a best price guarantee, and you can read reviews before booking anything. Then once you book it, it goes into your phone’s app and you can download it for offline and easy access. Technology for the win!


Chiang Mai: Things to do

I think the video actually covered Chiang Mai’s offerings super well. Everything we did was awesome. Watch it, is what I’m saying!

There were a couple of things we didnt get to do because of our tight schedules though, so if i were to return, I’d probably want to do a Mae Kampong Homestay and take a traditional thai cooking class!! We met some Americans on their retirement tour (they were all like, 60, and had biked across the length of thailand, putting us to absolute shame) and they said that their cooking class experience was revolutionary. I super want to take a cooking class but somehow have not had the chance yet. It’s on my list.

But yeah, if I return to Chiang Mai, i’d probably re-visit the elephant sanctuary. I think that was hands down the best thing I did on the trip; I’m probably going to write a post on it soon. 🙂


Chiang Mai: The Classics

As with many southeast asian destinations, there are really great night markets, massage parlours, and affordable bars around. If you just stroll down the river, you’ll see a ton of places that look interesting and that are buzzing with excited locals and tourists. But I do think that unlike Bangkok, youre not guaranteed great experiences whereever you go. I did have a pretty crappy thai massage on my first night, so I started googling and Yelping reviews the rest of the days, and I had great experiences the rest of the trip. Same with food – some places weren’t very good, and some places were amazing. This, along with the fact that so much of Chiang Mai lies outside the city, means that Chiang Mai is really a planned sorta destination – I probably wouldnt just show up and wing everything. Definitely, definitely pre-book your accommodation too, because if you show up and try to check into a random hotel/hostel you might just be turned away.


Chiang Mai: Unexpected hits

The two things I got that surprised me the most: aromatherapy oils and strawberries.

I’ve recently gotten pretty into aroma diffusers because they make your entire room smell like a legit spa, and I got my boyfriend one for christmas too. They really transform the entire vibe of your living space, but damn, those oils are expensive. Imagine, then, my delight when I discovered them selling mega cheap at every corner in chiang mai!!!!!

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different places selling aroma diffuser oils

Many of these stores sell ghetto bottled oils in a variety of scents, but if you’re unsure about getting it from pop up stores, there are plenty of local brands that make their own oils and have set up boutiques around town. I bought at least 20 bottles of essential oils whilst I was there. The prices ranged from about 60BHT for a small bottle to 250BHT for a big one. That’s like 6 to 10 SGD. In Singapore, these tiny bottles can cost up to eighty dollars, so, SCORE! is what I am saying.

It’s great that the bottles are so affordable. I was an idiot and forgot to bring mosquito repellant, so I bought a bottle of lemongrass essential oil and dabbed it on my pulse points everyday in chiang mai. Didn’t have much problems with mosquitoes after that. If you’re looking out for oils, I also recommend you get at least one bottle of moke flower oil, it’s special to Thailand and the locals are pretty proud of it. It has a pleasant, light scent, and is often used in thai spas.

Please note that not all oils can be used in an aroma diffuser, so let the shopkeeper know if youre buying it for your diffuser and they will point out which oils you should be looking at.

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Another sleeper hit from our trip were the amazingly sweet and cheap strawberries. I think strawberries are MAD expensive in singapore because they’re not native to our region, so seeing them go for 10BHT(40cents) was mind blowing to me. I got a cup and they were SO fresh and sweet, and in Chiang mai they also serve the strawberries with this interesting mix of salt, chilli flakes, and sugar, which sounds strange but is incredibly addictive. I bought another cup of strawberries for the road after this, and then bought a giant bag to bring home to Singapore.

Wrapping up

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All smiles at the White Temple, which is actually a privately-owned art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple. Whaaat? I visited this as part of a longer day tour, linked here.

Alright, I think that’s it for now! This post turned out way longer than I expected, I was actually just intending to share the video and then jot down some personal notes on the city. But I totally got carried away, which happens way too often these days, ha. More activity-specific posts from Chiang Mai to come, but till then, Sawasdee Krab x

x
Jem