#2052 | LA diaries: Funny stories from Griffith Observatory

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imagesLos Angeles, America

Hey guys,

So, I spent a lot of time alone in Los Angeles, purely by virtue of the fact that I was there on a work trip and knew no one else going prior to the trip. Of course in my time there I made friends, both from Singaporean press and otherwise, but still a lot of my time was spent roaming the city by myself. This is not a complaint, of course, it seems over the years a lot of my travel has been solo, and I’ve always enjoyed time by myself. But the funny thing about traveling alone is that strange things are bound to happen, and often you open yourself up to the possibility of new interactions that might be deterred by the presence of company.

At the opening keynote of the Airbnb Open 2016 conference by Brian Chesky, he mentioned the Airbnb ethos being that the magic is not in the places you go – the magic is in the people, and always has been. This is true. I can attest to this. The things that struck me most in my travels, the moments I’ve looked back on and labelled significant in retrospect, have always been about interactions, whether good or bad. The first time a stranger defended me from a drunk man in public. The first time someone gave me a free coffee in New York cos I looked cold. The first time someone shouted at me in the UK for being chinese and because she thought “your food stinks”. The first time I was picked up (literally) and found myself on the other side of the road in Korea because someone was frustrated at how slowly I was walking and decided to just pick me up and deposit me to a side. The first time (in London) my Airbnb host tried to explain to me the mechanics of a tampon while tipsy. Getting cat called. Learning how to say no. Learning how to stand up for yourself in a strange land in a way that doesn’t get you killed. Learning how not to always be suspicious of every new person, and learning to accept kindness from strangers. These emotions I subconsciously link to different cities all over the world but I have come to realise that a place, for me, is and always has been the sum of it’s people and relationships.

That’s a big part of why I love staying in Airbnbs, I love couchsurfing, and I love talking to strangers on subways. It doesn’t always go according to plan of course. But sometimes that window of opportunity you open up for conversation turns into something beautiful you keep for years to come. Does this always have to happen in an Airbnb? Obviously not. But it is a platform, and on platforms the frequencies of certain things happening are increased.

Today’s story isnt about an Airbnb, although it happened while on an Airbnb press con trip. A couple of days after that beautifully succinct line from Chesky, i found myself at loose ends for a couple of hours. That happens, often, when you’re on agenda – theres very little scheduled free time, but sometimes you think you’ve got a full day of meetings then bam! Two hours with no specific itinerary.

So I thought to myself – what does one do when alone in LA? Do whatever your uber driver suggests, of course. Always ask a local for advice!

I hopped in an Uber and asked him to send me wherever he thought was best for a solo female traveller with two hours to kill.

“It’s 3pm. You gotta catch the sunset.”

And so the sunset it was.

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Solo travel then selfie lor. Taken with a go pro!

He deposited me halfway up the hill and so I hiked the rest of the way. Hiking as a word used here in its loosest form. It was more of walking at an incline. As I walked, slightly grumpy that he refused to send me the full way, I caught sight of the Hollywood sign and all was right with the world because POP CULTURE!!!

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Shot on a Nikon D750 85f1.8 lens, which is SUCH an amazing lens it can capture such great detail and at such a distance too!

So obviously I was walking by myself happily basking in the golden glow of sunset being rather smug by that point about the weather, and about how if I were in Singapore, I would be sweating buckets with my top sticking to my shoulder blades and my hair being disgusting because of the humidity. And despite my exhaustion (it had been work work work nonstop for the past few months) I found myself grinning because how can work look like this? Catching the sunset from one of the most iconic spots in LA during my break time? This is privilege, and I am blessed. And despite how tough the going gets, it is still privilege. It is a good existence. There is space and cause to be grateful, and grateful I must be.

I reached the top and believe me i gasped. The Griffith Observatory is one of the most iconic buildings in los angeles and say what you will about icons not living up to pictures in HD, but I’ve always been the kind of girl to be blown away by the likes of the eiffel tower and the empire state and now the griffith. I settled myself in a nice spot on the observatory deck and waited for the sun to dip into dusk. And that’s when the funny stories that had been waiting to happen, happened.

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Beside me, I heard a mother and daughter talking. It became apparent to me that she was raising this kid on her own (or at least it seemed like it). Whether or not she was, motherhood is tough. But she was a total trouper, answering her kid’s million and one questions about why the sun moved this way, which neighbourhood fell under the sunset rays, where they lived (too far for this, baby) and whether they could see this everyday (no, baby, it’s too far). I must be honest, I don’t like children. But there was something about this mother-daughter pair that I couldnt help being drawn to. After awhile they started trying to take pictures of the sunset and selfies together, and I remember something my mother said to me once, long ago: i wish we took more pictures together growing up. And so I turned around and asked: can i help take a picture of you two?

My goodness i have never seen such an excited child.

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I downloaded it off my camera and sent it to her (again, another advantage of a wifi-enabled camera haha) and the look on her face was all I needed to validate my being a creep about taking someone else’s picture.

I’m going to print this,
she told me, so she has something to remember this moment by when she gets older. Even if she doesn’t actually remember it. And i thought to myself, these are the moments of little delights that make travel special. I have gotten so much from travel. But instead of waiting for someone to talk to me and give me a memory to hold on to, why not do something for a stranger? Take turns. Be that person that someone else will remember years from now, thinking there was that once a stranger in xxx country did this thing for me.. people are nice. Why the hell not?

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I dont think I’m being annoying about this, by the way. I think it’s not too much of a stretch to say that she genuinely liked and appreciated the pictures. And I felt (no other way to put this) happy too, to have done that for her.

And there I was, being cheesy and happy and having a moment by myself, when someone tapped me on the shoulder.

“Excuse me,” this girl said, “I saw what you just did. Could you take a picture of us too?”

It was a tall, pretty girl with her tall, pretty boyfriend.

“We’re trying to get something instagrammable,” she explained, and he chipped in: “can you suggest a few poses for us?”

I mean, that was kind of hilarious. I shrugged. Why the hell not?

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(Later, she joked: we should pay you! But she did not.)

And then somehow that turned into me standing there taking pictures of a bunch of other people.. for an hour. Someone asked me if I was the designated photographer for the observatory and if I needed to be tipped (no, and no). Nobody actually offered to tip me. A bunch of people felt the need to explain to me how they got there, and what they were doing. There were a surprising number of people who came to Griffith on a regular basis, locals. Equally surprising were the number of people who confessed that they were on (tinder) dates, because the need to photograph-document the first blind date is interesting to me. What if the date doesn’t go well? What if it never pans out? What if one party ghosts the other after this sunset? Such a poignant moment to choose to document, a moment of potential and hope and possibly loss. First dates, ha.

My favourite photos from the day:

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I wonder what their stories are.

After the sun started visibly moving across the sky (there’s always this beautiful period of generic sunset, and then suddenly a very small amount of time where the sun seems to hurry up and set incredibly quickly), everyone kept quiet and turned towards the horizon. And down it went. Camera shutters clicked. Time lapses were taken. Someone tapped me on the shoulder again – just a random dude, holding a sketch pad.

“See that?” he said, pointing to a little lookout below us. “That’s where Joseph Gordon Levitt sits in 500 days of Summer to sketch the city.”

That’s the only thing he said to me. After that he turned away and stared at the sun again, as if he hadn’t said a word to me. He wasn’t looking for conversation. I don’t know. He had something to say and he had said it, and the moment passed. Something about solo travel invites this, I’ve learnt. People dont tap you on the shoulder and drop sentences on you when you travel in groups, that’s for sure. I laughed inwardly.

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Said place where JGL sits to ponder his architectural dreams

And then the sun set, just like that. The deck erupted in cheers and applause. Strangers grinned at one another. I thought about how people find kinship and solidarity in moments of shared appreciation. And how the feeling is so easily let go after the moment has passed.

Afterwards, I spotted one of the journalists from Singapore who’d been in the observatory for the star show (and missed the sunset!) skyping her daughter the city view. I took a picture of it from afar and sent it to her later, and i think possibly that is when we became proper friends.

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After that, it was time to leave.

Another funny thing about Griffith is, beautiful as it is, there is no cellular signal up there and traffic up and down the mountain is awful. And so after uber proved impossible, we hitchhiked down by ambushing a Chinese couple who looked ultra worried about being spoken to by strangers until we started speaking in Mandarin. And then it was all, hey bruh! help a sister out!

They dropped us halfway down the mountain (again!!!) where there was an internet signal finally, and where we could call an uber. We were near this place called The Greek Theatre and it was bustlin.

“Come in,” said the woman by the door. “Here’s a raffle ticket.”
“We dont have event tickets,” we said.
“It’s free. And if you go in and turn to the right, you can get free hot chocolate and cookies.”

What in the world.

What sort of surreal alternate life did I land myself in?
I found myself thinking. I am not the sort to hitchhike because people who hitchhike get chopped up into pieces and sold off as chunks of meat. I know this because I watch movies. But desperate times call for desperate measures and instead of being killed I found myself being ushered into some sort of community party with a Santa Claus in a corner granting kids their wishes, a little string orchestra, and free cookies and hot drinks?!

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Incredible.

As we waited for our uber sipping on free hot coffee, i found myself thinking of Brian Chesky’s words again. The magic is in the people. It’s not a revolutionary truth, it’s something we’ve known innately all along, but had never defined so succinctly. There’s something to building an entire empire (lets face it, that’s what airbnb is) on this line of thought. He’s on to something. There are worse things to be founded on.

And that is, I suppose, my not so short segue into my LA Diaries series. An amazing four days in the city of angels. More to come, of course, and though this is not strictly an airbnb story, it sure shares the same sentiment.

Till then x

x
♥jem

#2049 | jemma for airbnb: totoro in shin-okubo

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imagesTokyo, Japan

Another day, another beautiful Airbnb. We stayed in this gorgeous traditional meets modern apartment in Shin-Okubo, Tokyo, on our recent Japan trip. Shin-Okubo is better known as Koreatown in Tokyo, which is strange because anything korean related only spans one small street. That said, it is a wonderful area in Tokyo, not subject to the ridiculous crowds of Shinjuku or Shibuya, but accessible to everything all the same via either one stop on the jr line or a ten minute stroll.

Japanese apartments are known to be small, but efficient. Very rarely will you get a huge sprawling apartment with a lot of empty space like the type you might find in resorts or less land-locked cities. Tokyo is crowded, and so apartments stack, and they don’t waste any space. But japan is also home to some of the best and innovative designers (after all, it is the home of muji), and so apartments, though small, never feel cramped.

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The boys on their futons

Part of this involves the fact that their beddings can be rolled away and kept at the start of the day, though of course lazybums like us leave them out and survive on them throughout the day. When I mentioned this to my sister, she said it sounded awful that we all had to sleep on the floor.

“Aha,” I said, “But it is a japanese floor. The most comfortable floor in the world.”
“Aah,” she replied, nodding wisely, not understanding anything I said.

It might not make sense to anyone who’s not had personal experience with the japanese tatami futons. But sleeping on the floor, in japan, is just as comfortable as sleeping on a bed, if not more. And in the winter, these futons can be plugged into a socket that makes it a heated blanket instead! How bout that. I dont know how they get out of bed to go to work at all, I imagine a heated blanket would be impossible to resist in the mornings. But then again, #japan..

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and me, teetering on the side of my mattress so i dont get my outside-clothes on the sheets

The rooms in the apartment were segregated by these sliding paper doors that are characteristic of japan. If you’ve ever watched a Ghibli film, you’ll know what I mean – those little sliding doors that make up both their cupboard and room doors. This means that they can be opened half way to open up the rooms to each other so everyone can chat across the apartment, or to let light in so sunlight floods the place without having to turn the lamps on in the darker parts of the place.

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And reading on the sofa, which folded out to become yet another bed in case your travel party is larger than normal… who knew you could stuff so many people, hypothetically, into the same place? PS. Here I’m reading The Vegetarian by Han Kang, which is like Murakami on drugs – strange, weird, but interestingly, easier to come to terms with. Would recommend.

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and a little work corner, if you need to get some writing done

As I’ve said many times before, it’s all about finding a balance between a great apartment and a fantastic location. Location is almost always the key, and that doesn’t mean getting a place thats necessarily in the middle of the city centre, but also places that have things to do and see around them, and so not just places that are smack right in the middle of a quiet residential neighbourhood. Luckily for us, this place had both. I consider Shin-Okubo pretty central, and there were a TON of things to do nearby. There was even a cafe right below our airbnb that I dropped by a couple of times to sit and work – it opens till 2am. 🙂

It seems my criteria for Airbnb listings has also informally extended to include proximity to convenience stores, adding on to the previous checklist of a easy walk from the train, the train station being an easy segue into the city centre, etcetera etcetera. Two minutes from our apartment we had one of Japan’s wonderful 7-11s (and so, breakfast for the trip settled everyday), and two minutes from that we had the Shin-Okubo train station. As I mentioned previously in last year’s Broke Student’s Guide to Tokyo, getting an airbnb on the JR Yamanote line is essential to any first timer in Tokyo because the day pass for the JRY gives you access to nearly all the hotspots you’d want to see. And while I’d been to Tokyo before, it was all the boys’ first times, and so the JR line rule still applied!

PS. Buying the JR Yamanote day pass is easy – just buy it off a machine. If youre not sure on how, then go approach the station master and tell him you want a JR Yamanote day pass. He’ll show you how to do it – the Japanese are really helpful! It’ll set you back about 750 yen for the day. Which sounds like a lot, until you realise that it costs about two bucks per train ride anyway.. so count how many places youre intending to see, before deciding if it makes sense to get a pass!

But one of the absolute best secret tips we got from our Airbnb host? Hitting this late night eatery hiding out on the second floor of an obscure building a street down from where we stayed. TORIKIZOKU, a traditional yakitori place that’s mad cheap and delicious – 280yen per item on the menu, including drinks!!!

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Torikizoku
2-23-1-2F Hyakunincho, Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture

The stuff you only hear of if you get to know a local, hey? Even if you never get to meet your host (as in our case, a self-check in airbnb that was mediated primarily through messages on the Airbnb app), your airbnb listing will often come with an e-Guidebook which most people miss out on – it’s in your trip itinerary after your booking is confirmed 🙂 It usually consists checkin information, house rules, and places of interest around the area, and is created by your host, so you know what that means – LOCAL TIPS GALORE.

But honestly. Ho-nest-ly. Tokyo is so amazing that there will never be a time when I feel like I’m done talking about it. This is the fifth japanese airbnb I’ve stayed in (tokyo last year, then osaka and kyoto and osaka again), and you’d think that it gets repetitive after awhile. But you would be wrong. Each place I’ve stayed in brings its own flavour to my trip, and I’d like to think that they set the background to your experience in each new city, be it a traditional, uber-cosmopolitan, or uniquely modern apartment. And that’s part of the reason why I’ve always returned to airbnb time and time again, I suppose – even before I started working with them long term. Just a bit of side-talk: I get a lot of emails from you guys everytime I publish a new Airbnb post, and I’m always both surprised and grateful that people havent heard of it (probably because it’s such a big part of my travel plans) and also that people are willing to try. It really signals to me a sort of adventurousness that is new – we used to all be so safe in terms of our choices when we travelled, but if not now, when are we going to try and explore the world / new destinations on our own terms? It’s on that note that I’m thrilled to announce: I’m flying to LA tomorrow for a weekend, on agenda for Airbnb Open and to chat with them about what makes Airbnb, well, Airbnb. The future of travel. So stay tuned, because more on that real soon! x

Ten days in Tokyo: perfection. Miss you already, tokz. Till next time.

This Airbnb Listing
$33 off your first booking here

x
♥jem

#2047 | Best Beauty Buys in Seoul

Hay guys!

So I just went to Korea with Laneige for a whirlwind three days, an experience I detailed properly in a separate post (because there are so many things to talk about! SO MANY!). The Korean HQ very generously put us up in JW Marriott DongDaeMun, which was both breathtaking and deliciously convenient because it was RIGHT NEXT to the midnight shopping district in Seoul. You know what this means! Running out in between shoots to Skin Food and Olive Young, popping by the stores after the day’s itinerary had wrapped just to check out the goods, so on and so forth.. and boy, Seoul is really a haven of beauty buys.

I told myself I would spend NO MONEY in Seoul because I am trying to be a responsible adult. Unfortunately part of being a responsible adult includes being self-delusional because obviously I spent all my loose change within the first hour of touching down. There’s no way you can fight a WAKEMAKE lipstick, guys. No way. I lost myself for an hour before the business bit of the trip properly begun, walking the aisles – beauty aisles, that is. And I don’t consider myself a beauty junkie, but I do consider myself an excellent gifter.. which is how I justified all my purchases. THEY’RE ALL GIFTS FOR FRIENDS Y’ALL!

But gifting includes testing, trying, and therefore I got two of nearly everything – for myself, and then for friends.. ah. This life. Thankfully I am also still a bit of a OCD freak when it comes to money, because financial prudence is essential to any kind of lifestyle I think. So I am pretty pleased with myself right now because I think I bagged a bunch of the best beauty buys EVER for really great prices. Unfortunately I didn’t actually plan to write this post so I wasn’t keeping track religiously of the exact prices I paid for things, but I have a rough idea of how much each item cost, which I will approximate in this post.

And because sharing is caring, here they are:


1. ARITAUM BIG HAIR BRUSH.

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You can laugh. Go ahead. But this is hands down the best thing I bought in korea. I think it cost me 4SGD and it is a MIRACLE BRUSH. I have really fine, bleached-to-death hair, which gets tangled like nobody’s business. I HATE round brushes even though so many beauty bloggers swear by them for styling because they always tangle up my hair so bad that I’m perpetually yanking off half my scalp trying to untangle that shitshow. I’ve got a bunch of reliable hair brushes at home that I use, but I still find that they pull my hair out when I’m trying to brush through. So I’ve been on the lookout for a brush that will be both gentle with my scalp and still work through all the tangles. I bought this big flat brush when I saw it because I forgot to bring my hairbrush to Korea and I didn’t want to use the hotel comb because I know my hair just cant handle it, which is to say I bought this brush rather perfunctorily and without much expectation.

BUT IT IS MAJESTIC.

I wish I had gone back to buy like four more brushes because it is SO GOOD. It runs through my hair like silk and keeps it tangle free. It doesn’t stress out my hair either – there’s very minimal breakage when I comb through. And when I brought it with me on my recent diving trip, my girlfriends all freaked out when they tried it because it was SO GOOD. I would totally recommend buying this whenever one is in korea, and then buying another few more to give to girlfriends who have similar problems with tangled hair and who are terrified of hair loss from YANKING RANDOM COMBS THROUGH THEIR DAMNED HAIR. It’s a perfect gift. And so worth the four bucks. This brush is bae. Trust me on this.


2. MISE EN SCENE PERFECT REPAIR HAIR SERUM

I mean, since we’re on the topic of hair, right?

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This serum is something a friend introduced to me three years ago, the first time I stepped foot in Seoul. It’s only available in Korea and on eBay. And it is INCREDIBLE. When I applied this to my hair, I could actually feel my hair drink up the oil. It just soaked it right up, like it was a thirsty little human! And after applying it, I really felt a notable difference in my hair texture each morning after waking up… It contains argan oil, royal jelly, and rose water, for those of you into technical details. I don’t really know what that means specifically but I know argan oil is really good for your hair. And bottles of argan oil are great, but generally expensive too. This 70ml bottle here though? It cost 6,500KRW, which is about eight bucks SGD. TOTAL. STEAL. I buy a few bottles every time I’m in Korea because it’s such a necessity for me, and at such a great price point. I apply it every night after showering before bed, and if I go swimming or diving, a whole ton goes on my hair after to keep it sleek and shiny. It’s worked for me for the past three years, and I swear by it. Recommend!


3. WAKEMAKE HOLOGRAPHIC NAIL POLISH

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This is something I found in Olive Young (their version of a Watsons, I suppose?) and it was suchhhhh a hidden gem. WAKEMAKE has it’s own nail polish line with a ton of great polish colors, but the real treasure was finding a series of holographic colors that you cant really find anywhere else. Holographic nails are a total trend right now, and they’re so eye catching and gorgeous. The problem is, holographic nail polish is mad expensive. Chanel does one for about a hundred bucks, and so do other luxury level brands, starting from at least forty dollars. This is the only decent quality cheap one I’ve found – the WAKEMAKE version is only about 5SGD, and it glides on so smoothly that they could have totally doubled their price and people would still buy it in droves! It comes in three colors – holographic silver, holographic purple, and holographic pink. I obviously bought all three to give away as gifts, and they’ve been all so well received thus far. Would recommend, either for yourself or as gifts for friends!


4. SKIN FOOD BLACK SUGAR SCRUB

This is technically available in Singapore too, but at twice the retail price in Korea. It’s 6,500KRW (or less? I can’t remember) which is about eight bucks… but the singapore stores sell it at fourteen or fifteen dollars. The price difference alone makes it a really good deal for anyone going to Korea, but with such a huge difference you’d be a little bit skeptical…

Which is proof that sometimes life really just gives you one big luck-out. The Skin Food Black Sugar Scrub is an AMAZING product that is easily worth the singapore retail price or more. I have no idea why they price it so low in Korea when it is clearly a superior product. It’s an exfoliating scrub that you apply as the fourth step in your Ten Step Korean Skincare Routine (i know, i know. Koreans! So crazy) and it really just makes your face glow. Everyone I know who’s tried it loves it, and for good reason! Definitely check this out when you go to Korea – and when you buy anything from Korean make up stores, they give you a whole ton of samples as well, so that’s always fun!

PS. The Brown Rice oil cleansing tissue from Skin Food is also a very, very good product. I just didn’t include it here because the price difference between korean and singapore retail price is strangely only about a dollar, so it’s not technically classified a best beauty buy in korea since you can get it back home as well for a similar price!


5. DIY LANEIGE TWO TONE LIP BAR

This is an incredible souvenir for yourself or a really unique gift for a friend because i don’t think you can get this anywhere else in the world. Remember Song Hye Kyo in Descendants of the Sun? She wore the Two Tone Lip Bar and everyone went NUTS all over the world. It was sold out for months after the drama premiered, especially in the shades she used! So already this is a star product and a must buy for anyone headed the Korea way since it’s hard to get in most other parts of the world…

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BUT. At the Laneige store in MyeongDong, level two, theres a TWO TONE DIY LIP BAR. This means based on your color consulting and preferences, you can actually MAKE YOUR OWN TWO TONE LIP BAR and have your name engraved on the casing. How insane is that?! It means you can essentially have a lip bar that no one else in the world has… unless you have very basic taste and pick the same thing as everyone else, in which case I can’t help you. But it’s a very, very cool gift nonetheless. It costs 30,000KRW which is about thirty six SGD. This might sound expensive compared to the standard one (25,000KRW), but when you compare it to the Singapore retail price of the standard (non-customised) colors which is 34SGD, then you’ll realise the unique customised one is only two bucks more!!!!!

Do note that they take a couple of days to actually make it for you and so don’t try and get it on your last day in Korea. Get it first, then come back and pick up the finished product a couple of days later!


6. MISSHA ANGLED EYELINER BRUSH

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Actually I suspect this is a eyebrow brush, not an eyeliner brush. But I use it for my gel eyeliner, so whatever works, right? I don’t think it’s actually from missha since it’s not branded, but I found it in a Missha store and it cost only about four singapore dollars. Ridiculous! It’s very soft and picks up / applies the gel formula wonderfully, which, coming from someone who’s tried about fifty eyeliner brushes, is rare and fantastic. If you’re a gel liner user, I would recommend picking up one of these brushes in Korea!

And a great side note is – if you have eyelash extensions, the other fluffy end doubles up as a lash comb as long as you’ve not gotten any weird gunk on it by brushing it with mascara or anything. Just close your eyes, hold it to your lash, and twirl.

Ok so those are my top six buys!! Other really good purchases in Korea include the thousand different types of lipsticks you can get there… but these were the really amazing, unique buys that I felt really stood out from the rest. I’m sure there are a ton of other interesting things you can get from Seoul, but I only had little gasps of breaks in between scheduled itin and also I was there only over a weekend, so this isn’t as comprehensive as say a specialised Korean beauty blogger I suppose. But this is the modern world and so we are all entitled to say whatever we want and so I say that these are GREAT.

Till next time! x

x
♥jem

#2045| | WORKAHOLIC’S GUIDE TO TAKING A PLANE

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Hey guys,

So those of you who are long-term readers know that I’m way neurotic about my schedule and time, which results in a. an obsession with planners (google calendars, paper planners, notebooks, everything!) b. a low/no tolerance for time wasting during what I call waste-blocks of time (in between meetings, on buses or trains, while waiting for class to start) and c. people who know me calling me crazy. Well, yknw what it also results in? PRODUCTIVITY. So no shame in my game, y’all! I get a lot of emails from you guys on a monthly basis asking for tips on how to balance school, work, a social life, and still have time for some kind of creative/productive outside activity, and my answer has always been to find your own way of properly managing your time.

However, I still get a ton of people coming back to me saying they have no idea how to do that, and so I’ve decided to once and for all pen down what it’s like to live inside a workaholic’s brain by showing you guys what I do when I take a flight somewhere.

So I suppose my working title for this post is the WORKAHOLIC’S GUIDE TO TAKING A PLANE which sounds both dumb and hilarious and absolutely true at the same time.

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Why a plane?

Well. I fly a lot – for work, for leisure, for whatever reason – and over the past couple of years travel has become a really big part of my content. And so a lot of my time is spent on planes – but plane rides very much fall into the category of waste-blocks of time, which I mentioned earlier. Why? Because much like holiday-currency, you tend to feel like these blocks of time aren’t ‘real’, and your brain goes into holiday mode when you get on a plane, or on a bus, or train, or while you wait for your lunch order to arrive.

About a year ago, I got off the two-hour long commute to university to the horrifying realisation that I did nothing with these two hours. Nothing! I was just scrolling facebook aimlessly reading stupid articles that added nothing to my life. It was awful. Not just because I’d wasted two hours, but because I’d wasted two hours precisely when I had a ton of things due – a thesis draft, some client revisions, a proposal for another paper I was writing.. Ugh. Since then I’d enforced a hard and fast rule for myself – no using my phone/ social media when on any form of public transport.

And I tell you, my quality of life has just increased 150%. I love to read, and so when I made the conscious decision not to use my phone, I found myself deliberately bringing books out with me, and the number of books I read per month just skyrocketed. The one exception to the no-phone rule was when I was reading an e-book. And then later in the year, as I got more and more tired from school and life in general, I found myself less able to concentrate on moving vehicles – and so I downloaded podcasts to listen to on the train. PSA: The TED app will let you pre-download talks for free, as will iTunes University. This realisation changed my life forever. And if I’m in a cab, I just nap in a way that is almost aggressive. But at least these things – sleeping, reading, listening to podcasts – actually edify my life in some way. Whereas nobody really upgraded themselves by scrolling through facebook, ever. Lol.

The plane ride is a much more exaggerated version of the public transport waste-block, but the general principle is the same – learning how to maximise your time to the best of your ability, so that when you’re done with the ride and it’s time to play, it’s time to play hard.


Pre-flight considerations

I will always try to book a red-eye flight if possible. Reason being, I dont like the idea of “wasting” a full day in the air. Also, I have perfected the art of knocking out anywhere on command, and so I generally have no problems getting on a flight and sleeping the whole way, then waking up refreshed and ready to take on the destination immediately at the start of a new day. If you’re flying out from Changi Airport, you can do what I do – one of my personal pre-flight routines is stopping by the Whiskey Bar in DFS T2 or Long Bar by Raffles in DFS T3. These bars are basically hidden gems in Changi Airport that give you free drinks if you stop by before your flight. If I’m flying solo, as I do quite often, I’ll just check in for my flight early and then settle myself in the bar for a drink and to read a book/ get some emails replied and work done, so that when it’s time to board I’m ready to sleep.

Another thing I always check before the flight is whether the plane I’m taking is wifi enabled. If it is, then I know I can still liaise with clients inflight, and get to all my emails and cloud documents while flying. If it’s not a wifi-enabled aircraft, then I’ll make sure I attend to all urgent emails before I board, just so there are no loose ends hanging around.


In Flight Itinerary: MAXIMIZING PRODUCTIVITY ON A LONG HAUL FLIGHT

It’s not always possible to book a red-eye (either due to budget or scheduling concerns) and so when I’m on a day-flight, this is my in-flight itinerary:

TAKEOFF

I get uncomfortable when the plane is about to fly, so I always go to sleep once I settle into my seat on the plane. See above re: sleeping on command. If I know I’m on a day flight, I’ll take a cup of coffee before I board (there are starbucks outlets at nearly every terminal, my current go-to is a cup of cold brew) and then go to sleep, because caffeine takes about half an hour to kick in, by which time the plane should be in the air.

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If you dont have an eye mask, putting your hair over your face works both to block out the light and to scare the crap out of other passengers around you. Added benefit: if it isnt a full flight, the person who got the seat next to you will probably choose to sit somewhere else……..

THE FIRST HOUR

Either the caffeine kicks in, or the motion of the plane ascending and consequently popping your ears wakes you up. Not sure which it is, but I always wake up a short while after the plane happily cruising in the air. Propitious timing, indeed.

Flying is extremely dehydrating, so the first thing I’ll do is ask for a bottle of water, then do my skincare. Most skincare brands have travel sized samples – eg. if you purchase anything from the Laneige online store, they’ll send you a bunch of samples along with your purchase. And so carrying a bunch of these in your travel bag comes in pretty handy!

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What I’m using here is the Kiehl’s avocado eye cream (bought it at the T3 duty free store before flying), but I also like to use the Laneige water bank sleeping mask or the Allies of Skin overnight mask (it comes in travel friendly sizes). For super long haul flights to the US or something, I’ll also pack a mask set – I’m currently addicted to The Body Shop’s at-home facial mask sets. The great thing about cream (is that what you call it?) masks is, you dont have to deal with waste packaging or a dried up sheet mask after your twenty minutes of hydration, so it’s pretty convenient. I also always have a hand cream in my travel bag. Generally I think any brand will do, as long as you’re actively moisturising your skin when youre flying. I’m currently using the Neal’s Yard Wild Rose hand cream because it smells nice.

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Flight Essentials..

HOURS 1.5 – 4

You’re fresh on the flight, you’ve just woken up from your takeoff nap. This is the best time to do whatever work that requires the highest level of brain power on your list because you’re the most alert now. For me, that includes reading and grading scripts, and preparing the tutorial plan for upcoming classes. I’m currently doing my masters in NTU, and so part of the terms of my scholarship means I have to teach undergrads for a year. Which is fine, but any type of academic work definitely requires the highest level of concentration or focus for me compared to anything else, so I start with that first.

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At about the two to three hour mark, I can actually feel myself getting tired, and so I switch to..

HOURS 4-5

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Freelance writing. This includes penning upcoming blogposts, writing articles for some of my partner websites, or crafting drafts for client work. It’s not that this is easier than academic work for sure, it’s more that writing comes more naturally to me, and so I can do it to a reasonable standard even when it’s not the start of my day. So, level two intensity work comes in here, I guess. This is also when I penned this post, so post-ception for the day:

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Ha!

Let me digress a little. I’m someone who gets very frustrated with small inefficiencies, and so I really love it when I can find something that helps me smooth over certain arbitrary logistical processes easily. A big part of flying is that stupid security check in thing you have to do, which yes, is important, but is really cumbersome as well because sometimes they make you take off your jacket and shoes and socks and take your entire life out of your bag just for them to give you the once-over. Ugh!

So one of my flying lifehack tips is: carry a bag that has a separate laptop compartment if youre someone who needs to work on the go. This backpack I have pictured above is from Adidas, and I realised over the last half-year that adidas has a really good range of bags that do this laptop-segregation thing. I got one for myself and one for my boyfriend, and they’ve been the best flight companions ever! When you need to go through security, just slide the laptop out of the segregated compartment – no need to struggle with all the other jinglejangles in your bag. And when you want to reach for your laptop to get some work done on the plane, it’s mega convenient. Love!

HOURS 5 – 6.5

Read. I always have a book with me on a flight in case I’m too tired to work, and I consider reading one of the more low-intensity activities compared to writing or doing acad work. In my day-to-day, I try to have at least an hour of reading time before I go to sleep, which I do to moderate success – when it’s crunch time then it’s not possible, but otherwise I try to keep to it. I post my reading recommendations on Snapchat (@jemmawei), and sometimes on instagram under the hashtag #jemmareads, in case any of you were interested!

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Here I’m reading The Vegetarian by Han Kang, purchased at Times; T3 Departure Hall.

HOURS 6.5 – 7.5 OR TILL TOUCHDOWN

Photoediting. It’s ironic because visual content creation is so much a part of what I do, but it’s arguably the easiest. I’m so used to photo editing that it’s become a bit of a brainless process for me. I’ve also reached a point where I know exactly what I want my pictures to look like because I create my own filters in Afterlight that I only ever slightly vary from, so the editing process is pretty streamlined for me. It’s a marker of how far technology has come that my phone is probably more powerful than my computer when it comes to editing pictures now! I’d say nearly 90% of my photos are edited on the phone over the computer..

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And if I get even too tired to do that, I sleep.

If it’s a mega long haul (15 hours and above), then after I wake up, I repeat from the start since technically I’m nice and fresh again. Very rarely do I watch movies on flights because I hate not having control over what I watch and if I start a new movie and it sucks then I’ve wasted two hours of my time!!!! So even when I want to watch something on a plane I find myself falling back on things I’ve already watched before and that I know I like… which is basically a waste of my time. lol.

So yes. That’s essentially my in-flight itinerary. It’s not hard and fast – so I dont have to spend three hours doing high intensity work, if I’m tired, I’ll just switch to the next level of work. But it’s a general guideline. And I have breaks in between to walk around (I set my fitbit or phone to remind me every two hours to go for a walk) and also to top up skincare.

If this sounds crazy to you, that’s ok. Like I said, it’s all about finding a way of managing your time that works for you. If you cant focus on flights and want to do something else, by all means! Some of my friends read, some of them dedicate flight/transport time to zoning out and relaxing, and some of them use the space for creative work..

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I mean, to each his own.

And before you call my friends degenerates, playing with their food has given them creative space (somewhat) that has in turn fuelled their careers – martin is a filmmaker and warren is a graphic designer. So there’s that. Maybe if you’re a business student you’ll spend the flight coming up with the best way to sell a bizplan to the entire plane. If youre a mathematician maybe you’ll spend the flight calculating the probability of getting seated next to a baby on the plane, then turning it into an award winning app and selling it for a million dollars. TO EACH HIS OWN.

The idea is to have some sort of meaningful way of spending at least 50% of your time on either the bus, or train, or plane – be it sleeping (which to me is very meaningful, believe me), or reading, or daydreaming new ideas for things. It sounds simple, but it starts with a conscious decision to want to not squander that waste-block of time doing nothing. And following that, your life may not fall immediately into place, but at least you’ll be a step closer 🙂

Till next time x

♥jem

#2044 | Digital Nomading – How to Travel and Work Anywhere

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imagesBangkok, Thailand

So guys, it’s been about seven months now since I’ve started renting my own office space (jeez, time flies) and it still remains one of my best decisions to date. Most of you who follow my Snapchat/Instagram will know that I work out of this coworking space called The Hive, where I have a fixed desk that I intensively decorate with everything I can find, and I’m of the firm belief that liking where you work/ the environment you work in makes a colossal difference to the level of happiness you feel when coming in to work ie. Not wanting to kill yourself when you wake up in the morning to drag your ass to work…

But the thing is, being a freelancer of sorts means that I’m always on the go, and so much of my work requires me to move not just in between spaces in Singapore but also out of it, from country to country. And my membership to The Hive gives me access to Hive locations all over the world, which I’m immensely thankful for because it means that I can work reliably out of different countries whenever I travel to places where The Hive has a set up! A bit like those gyms that give you global memberships I suppose.. but for mobile workspaces instead. Recently I was in Bangkok, Thailand, and so I just had to pop in to The Hive, Bangkok (Thong Lor) to check out the space for myself.

The Hive Bangkok Thong Lor
Piman 49, 49 40/9 Soi Sukhumvit 49, 40/9 Klang Alley,
Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

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The first thing that struck me was just how open and well lit the space was. Much like The Hive Singapore, the Bangkok location relies heavily on natural lighting to give its wood-chic aesthetic a calm, relaxing vibe. Wifi is strong, and powerpoints are wired to each desk. Given the cost of living in Bangkok compared to Singapore, I could totally imagine myself relocating to Bangkok for a couple of months and working out of the Hive if I needed a break from the Singapore scene desperately without wanting to stop work completely..

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Theres also a rooftop cafe and outdoor space where you can get a beer or coffee and hold casual meetings or just take a breather in the middle of the work day. I hear that they screen movies on the roof once a month too, which is something my own office back in Singapore is starting to do. Fun times!

And perhaps the most enticing part of The Hive Bangkok – in the basement sits The Hive Spa, which we definitely do not have in Singapore. But it makes so much sense for the geographical location of the place, for what is a trip to Thailand without at least one good massage? Can you imagine breaking off for a foot massage when things get too intense in the middle of your work day? It sounds like perfection to me..

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Heavenly.

I believe members get 50% off the spa as well. I checked, and the monthly dedicated desk in the Thong Lor location is about a third what it costs in Singapore, at about 200+ a month. So if I ever decide to migrate to Bangkok, that’s my workspace all set already…

Visiting The Hive Bangkok just reconfirmed what I already knew – that The Hive truly is the best coworking space ever 😀 Love it that my Singaporean membership gives me access to the other locations. Currently besides the one I work in in Singapore and this one, there’s another one in another area of Bangkok and three in Hong Kong. I can’t wait for them to expand even more so I can turn into a full on digital nomad and just country hop from place to place, working off my laptop..

And yet another thing that made the Hive Thong Lor so perfect for me:

The Hive Thong Lor is located in Klang Alley, which also seats a bunch of gorgeous cafes, in case you ever need a change of scenery. After visiting the office, I went for a short cafe-hopping romp around the area, and I can safely say that they’re some of the best / most memorable cafes in Bangkok I’ve visited! Would totally recommend working out of the Hive for a half-day if need be, then getting a massage, and walking around the area if youre on a work and leisure trip…

Cafes within walking distance of the Hive:

1. Rocket Coffeebar S.49

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Right next to The Hive is Rocket Coffeebar S.49.

Rocket Coffeebar is an instagrammer’s dream come true. It’s full of great natural light, wood, marble, and the ever trendy succulents. The coffee is fantastic as well, and they have these really interesting looking pastries which we ordered to share. Looks like a cross between a cupcake and doughnut – the one we got was apple crumble flavoured, so in the middle of the pastry you’d cut into a tumble of warm sugared apple cubes. Interesting concept, but I do think in all honesty that it looks better than it tastes.. would stick to the coffee, although it made for a memorable experience!

There were a couple of people working off their computers in Rocket as well, and the crowd seemed to consist trendy millennials with huge headphones and round framed glasses. You know the type.

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Rocket Coffebar S.49
46, 21/13 Klang Alley, Khlong Tan Nuea,
Watthana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

2.D’ARK BY PHILLIP DI BELLA

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Right across Rocket you have D’ark, which has a similar duplex style layout. We didn’t stay long because it looked so similar to Rocket, so I think this is an either-or situation for you. I hear their coffee is really good though.

3. Organika Teahouse

Sitting on top of D’ark, on the top floor of the same building, lies Organika Teahouse. One of the best kept secrets in the area, I feel, and discovered through Foursquare, the app that has become super uncool but which I still swear by. Organika is actually attached to their in-house spa, so their clientele consists mostly of ladies waiting for their spa session to begin, or hanging around after their facials. But it’s free for all to walk in and have a cuppa, so do feel free.

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Walking into Organika is like leaving Bangkok and stepping into a fairytale. It’s so different from the outside world that you’ll blink a few times upon entering – the lift opens into a dark, woody lobby, which then opens up into this incredibly bright and leafy teahouse which feels like a very, very upscale version of the treehouses we read about in storybooks as kids. There are actual trees growing indoors, which is pretty incredible, and the entire effect is very relaxing and calming. Sanctuary is the word we are looking for here.

The cafe is expensive by Bangkok standards, which is to say, it costs about what you would pay for a teahouse in Singapore, perhaps. I spent about twenty bucks on a tea based cocktail with panna cotta on the side, which i think is pretty reasonable..

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Stayed for about an hour because it was so relaxing that we didn’t feel like leaving. An hour under the trees, sipping cocktails.. not bad at all.

They also have the best restroom I’ve ever seen in my life..

ORGANIKA FLAGSHIP STORE
Located at 6 fl., Piman49, Soi Sukhumvit49
Bangkok, Thailand
Open everyday 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

4. Starbucks Sukhumvit 49

Lastly! Just down the road from The Hive sits one of the most gorgeous Starbucks outlets I’ve seen in Bangkok, the one in The 49 Terrace. I’ve blogged about it in depth before, which you can read here. But if you’ve already read that post, here’s a picture of a dog I met there instead..

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Cutie.

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I really can’t think of a better neighbourhood in Bangkok to be working out of. Good coffee, good food, the chance of running into a cute dog.. and of course, the perfection that is The Hive Thong Lor itself, with all that any freelancer on the go needs. So happy I managed to drop by and visit another Hive location around the world – can’t wait to see what the others turn out to be like! Hong Kong next, perhaps? 🙂

You can work out of the Hive Thong Lor on a day-pass of 350BHT, which works out to 14SGD/day for those of you travelling to Bangkok for an extended period of time/ on a work trip and needing a place to sit and work. I seriously cannot recommend the Hive enough, being someone who works out of it regularly in Singapore. And now I can’t wait to go back to Bangkok and spend more time in The Hive there as well! The workaholic life is real. But if you had such a gorgeous space to work out of, wouldn’t you?

The Hive Bangkok Thong Lor
Piman 49, 49 40/9 Soi Sukhumvit 49, 40/9 Klang Alley,
Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

x
♥jem