REVIEW: KISpeel Skincare – Clarifying Start Toner, Hydra Micro-Raphides & Nutritive Micro-Raphides [Serum & Cream], Marine Vital [Essence & Ampoule], Cica Repair Cream & Micro-Raphides Spot Cream

Hello everyone!

As Chinese New Year draws near, it is kinda imperative that we (especially the ladies) stay on top of our skincare game and ensure our skin leading up to the grand reunion looks healthy and radiant because as much as possible, we certainly do not wish to invite embarrassing questions about our skin from (untactful) relatives whom we’ve not met in a year. If your current skincare regimen hasn’t been of much help, it isn’t too late to start a new one – with KISpeel, that is!

KISpeel, a combination of the acronym for ‘Keep Ideal Skin’ and ‘Peel’ (as in facial peels, a form of exfoliation), is a Korean skincare company that specialises in post-cleanse skin maintenance. Their strong belief in providing long-term solutions to skin woes has led them to steer clear from silicones (e.g. Dimethicone, Methicone, etc.), artificial colourants and synthetic fragrances when formulating their products.

But that is not to say that they are free of preservatives. Although preservatives are  essential in preventing mold, bacteria, and microbial growth in skincare products, some do way more harm than good to our health. Therefore, KISpeel has always been upfront about only including preservatives made with 1, 2-hexanediol – a solvent rated ‘1’ (low hazard) by Environmental Working Group (EWG) and ‘safe’ by Cosmetic Ingredient Review (which I feel is a more reliable database as it offers a more in-depth assessment of ingredients) – in their products.

All KISpeel products

All KISpeel products

As a relatively young brand, KISpeel presently only carries 9 products (but yay to our wallets 😁) which they have kindly sent to me for review purposes. If you’re interested to find out more, read on!

*Prices stated do not include delivery charges

POST-CLEANSER

CLARIFYING START TONER

KISpeel Clarifying Start Toner // 150ml / 5.1 fl.oz (S$24.90)

KISpeel Clarifying Start Toner // 150ml / 5.1 fl.oz (S$24.90)

KISpeel Clarifying Start Toner

KISpeel Clarifying Start Toner

Ingredients in KISpeel Clarifying Start Toner

Ingredients in KISpeel Clarifying Start Toner

KISpeel Clarifying Start Toner application

KISpeel Clarifying Start Toner application

KISpeel Clarifying Start Toner application

KISpeel Clarifying Start Toner application

Our skin becomes more alkaline in response to being stripped of its acidic mantle after every cleanse and this makes it more susceptible to damage and inflammation. Toners fill the void by restoring the skin’s pH balance and providing a base layer of hydration so that it would be more amenable to the subsequent products layered on it. But with the Clarifying Start Toner, you get more than you bargain for because it comes with other benefits as well!

Suitable for sensitive skin types, this clear, non-sticky unscented toner effectively exfoliates, soothes and moisturises the skin with Centella Asiatica Water, Witch Hazel Extract, AHA (citric acid) and PHA (lactobionic acid). Moreover, it also contains Propolis and Vitis Vinifera (grape) Culture extracts for their anti-oxidation and anti-ageing properties. Since the product is dispensed from a pump bottle, you can easily gauge the amount you’ve collected on the cotton pad (2 to 3 pumps would be sufficient) and prevent unnecessary wastage. The toner, however, tends to separate if  left sitting for a while. When that happens, simply shake the solution to thoroughly mix it before use.

THE HYDRA SERIES

KISpeel Hydra Series

KISpeel Hydra Series

Specially curated for oily and dehydrated¹ skin (yes, it is possible to have both!), the Hydra series is mainly composed of ingredients such as Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid, Witch Hazel and Propolis extracts (which are also known for their soothing and pore-tightening properties), Shea butter (which aids in cell regeneration) and Macadamia Ternifolia seed oil to remove excess oil from skin and improve moisture retention. Fragrance-free and colour-free, the products are also suitable for sensitive skin.

¹Dehydration is a skin condition caused by a lack of water while dry skin is a skin type and caused by a lack of oil production.

It is common for oily skin to peel and feel dehydrated because of the harsh ingredients often found in skincare products that control oil.

On top of that, the Hydra serum and cream – or as a matter of fact, the majority of KISpeel products – also contain Micro-Raphides. Measuring approximately half the size of a pore, these needle-shaped crystals, which are originally found in specialised plant cells (most commonly in leaves), have undergone purification to remove their toxicity so that they can safely and comfortably penetrate into the skin to stimulate blood circulation and boost cell turnover² while delivering the active ingredients. Therefore, it may produce a prickly sensation (somewhat like little jolts of static electricity) as the product is being applied onto the skin, thereby causing a momentary itch (for me at least, but it went away very quickly).

²Cell turnover is the process where the skin produces new skin cells, which travel from the lowest layer of the epidermis to the top layer, and then shed off the skin (exfoliation) to prevent dead cells from building up on the skin’s surface.

Be sure not to rub your eyes without first washing your hands after using products with Micro-Raphides as the stinging effect will transfer to whatever you come in contact with.

Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum // 50ml / 1.7 fl.oz (S$22.90)

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum // 50ml / 1.7 fl.oz (S$22.90)

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum

Ingredients in KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum

Ingredients in KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum application

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum application

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum application

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum application

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum application

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum application

Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum is a water-based milk-type serum that features more concentrated ingredients to control sebum production and seal moisture into the skin. Sleek and simple, it comes in an opaque pump bottle and, if your budget allows, can be used day and night. Weightless and fast-absorbing, it also has a non-greasy finish and does not leave a sticky residue once it settles into the skin. The serum has an emollient but thicker consistency than regular moisturising cream and can be used as an alternative or in addition to creams or lotions to enhance your skincare regimen.

Using your fingertips, take a few pumps of the serum and evenly apply it to the whole face before patting it in. However, because the serum tends to penetrate too rapidly, it may cause slight irritation to sensitive skin. In such cases, it would be advisable to wait for a few minutes for the face to dry completely from cleansing or toning before proceeding with this step.

Hydra Micro-Raphides Cream

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Cream // 50ml / 1.7 fl.oz (S$22.90)

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Cream // 50ml / 1.7 fl.oz (S$22.90)

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Cream

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Cream

Ingredients in KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Cream

Ingredients in KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Cream

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Cream application

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Cream application

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Cream application

KISpeel Hydra Micro-Raphides Cream application

The cream, on a other hand, is made up of larger molecules and hence works more on the surface. Used at the final step of your skincare regimen, it provides superficial hydration and increases the treatment potential of the serum by locking in its potent actives with a heavier and thicker formula on top.

Taking an appropriate amount of the cream from the tub, apply over the face with some pressure to allow for better infiltration efficiency.

Casual skincare routine for oily and dehydrated skin: Clarifying Start Toner → Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum → Cica Repair Cream → Micro-Raphides Spot Cream (optional)

For combination skin type, use both Hydra and Nutritive series

For excessive oiliness and dehydration or to be used during spring & summer: Clarifying Start Toner → Hydra Micro-Raphides Serum → Hydra Micro-Raphides Cream → Micro-Raphides Spot Cream (optional)
Clear skin boot camp: Clarifying Start Toner → Marine Vital Essence → Marine Vital Ampoule → Hydra Micro-Raphides Cream → Micro-Raphides Spot Cream (optional)

THE NUTRITIVE SERIES

KISpeel Nutritive Series

KISpeel Nutritive Series

In contrast, the Nutritive series nourishes and moisturises dry and dehydrated skin with Panax Ginseng Root Extract (which regenerates skin cells and detoxifies the skin), Shea butter (to provide a heavy-duty dose of emollient benefits), Phellinus Linteus and Bertholletia Excelsa Seed Oil (for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties) to fight winter gloom. Similarly, Micro-Raphides form part of its key ingredients for exfoliation purposes and therefore give the same tingling effect as the Hydra series.

Nutritive Micro-Raphides Serum

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Serum // 50ml / 1.7 fl.oz (S$26.90)

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Serum // 50ml / 1.7 fl.oz (S$26.90)

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Serum

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Serum

Ingredients in KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Serum

Ingredients in KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Serum

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Serum application

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Serum application

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Serum application

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Serum application

The Nutritive serum is likewise a milk-type serum that combines a cascade of skin-replenishing ingredients to firm up the skin by restoring its natural elasticity. It has a creamier and more opaque consistency than the Hydra serum and takes a longer time for most of its greasiness to subside. When it does, it leaves a protective film on the surface of the skin for a dewy finish.

Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream // 50ml / 1.7 fl.oz (S$26.90)

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream // 50ml / 1.7 fl.oz (S$26.90)

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream

Ingredients in KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream

Ingredients in KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream application

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream application

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream application

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream application

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream application

KISpeel Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream application

The texture of the Nutritive cream is richer and thicker than that of the Hydra Cream which gives it a higher tendency to a leave a white cast on the skin. If that happens, lightly pat your palms against your face a couple of times until the product is assimilated. Another point to note about the Nutritive cream is that it has a faint yet discernible mildly pleasant chemical smell which your nose would be trained to ignore after awhile. To apply both the serum and cream, follow the steps indicated for the Hydra series.

Casual skincare routine for dry skin type: Clarifying Start Toner → Nutritive Micro-Raphides Serum → Cica Repair Cream → Micro-Raphides Spot Cream (optional)

For combination skin type, use both Hydra and Nutritive series

For excessive dryness or to be used during autumn and winter: Clarifying Start Toner → Nutritive Micro-Raphides Serum → Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream → Micro-Raphides Spot Cream (optional)
Clear skin boot camp: Clarifying Start Toner → Marine Vital Essence → Marine Vital Ampoule → Nutritive Micro-Raphides Cream → Micro-Raphides Spot Cream (optional)

THE MARINE VITAL SERIES

KISpeel Marine Vital Series

KISpeel Marine Vital Series

Particularly in the case of modern women, the fight against the signs of ageing starts from an early age and therefore, it is no wonder that essences, ampoules and serums have exploded in popularity in recent years. But instead of having to pile on tons of skincare products to achieve a youthful complexion (like, have you heard of the 10-step Korean skincare regimen?!), KISpeel has narrowed down to just two to rev up the results and keep you from going broke.

Hydrolyzed Collagen, Caviar and Plankton extracts, and Thala Complex are the key ingredients in this anti-wrinkle and brightening series due to their ability to plump and tighten the skin while improving its elasticity and moisture content. The Thala Complex – a combination of clear seawater, Hydrolyzed Algin and Marine Polysaccharides (Exopolysaccharides) obtained from the coast of Brittany, France – represents a good resources of nutrients that helps promote skin regeneration and health. However, unlike the KISpeel products featured earlier, the Marine Vital series does not contain Micro-Raphides.

Marine Vital Essence

KISpeel Marine Vital Essence // 150ml / 5.1 fl.oz (S$26.90)

KISpeel Marine Vital Essence // 150ml / 5.1 fl.oz (S$26.90)

KISpeel Marine Vital Essence

KISpeel Marine Vital Essence

KISpeel Marine Vital Essence

KISpeel Marine Vital Essence

Ingredients in KISpeel Marine Vital Essence

Ingredients in KISpeel Marine Vital Essence

KISpeel Marine Vital Essence application

KISpeel Marine Vital Essence application

Stored in a pump container for easy dispensing, one pump is all it takes to give your skin its needed vitality boost. The Marine Vital Essence works similarly to a serum as it targets specifically wrinkles, fine lines, and uneven skin tones but it is less concentrated and has no viscosity. Gentler on the skin, it is intended for use before ampoule or serum due to its lightweight nature and more watery consistency. Formulated without fragrance, it instantly adds another layer of hydration while fortifying the natural resilience of the skin without leaving a greasy sensation or causing irritation. Simply apply an appropriate amount of the essence evenly to the skin and lightly tap on it to help it absorb better.

Marine Vital Ampoule

KISpeel Marine Vital Ampoule // 50ml / 1.7 fl.oz (S$29.90)

KISpeel Marine Vital Ampoule // 50ml / 1.7 fl.oz (S$29.90)

Ingredients in KISpeel Marine Vital Ampoule

Ingredients in KISpeel Marine Vital Ampoule

KISpeel Marine Vital Ampoule application

KISpeel Marine Vital Ampoule application

KISpeel Marine Vital Ampoule application

KISpeel Marine Vital Ampoule application

Toner, serum, essence… As if there isn’t already a maze of beauty terminology to brood over, there’s now ampoule?! Understandably, those who are new to the whole Korean skincare approach may not be familiar with these cosmetic jargon but ampoules are merely supercharged versions of serums with higher concentrations of active ingredients which can help avert a specific skin crisis in relatively less time.

The Marine Vital Ampoule in this instance helps reduce facial lines and revitalise the look of lacklustre skin. However, since it renders a stronger effect than serum, it should be used only when necessary because the potency factor may heighten skin sensitivity. It is ideal, say, on occasions when the skin requires intensive treatment (perhaps a few days before your wedding) and yet, time does not seem to be on your side. Due to its thicker and more luscious texture (but won’t leave a sticky film on the skin), this unscented ampoule is more suitable for night use and should be applied after essence.

For an extra boost: Clarifying Start Toner → Marine Vital Essence → Marine Vital Ampoule → Cica Repair Cream

COMPLEMENTS

Apart from developing a range of products to cater to different skin types, KISpeel is also dedicated in providing solutions for other cosmetic concerns such as redness, hyperpigmentation and zits, as evident by the addition of the Cica Repair Cream and Micro-Raphides Spot Cream. These products can be used in conjunction with those mentioned earlier as part of your daily skincare routine.

Cica Repair Cream

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream // 50ml / 1.7 fl.oz (S$19.90)

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream // 50ml / 1.7 fl.oz (S$19.90)

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream

Ingredients in KISpeel Cica Repair Cream

Ingredients in KISpeel Cica Repair Cream

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream application

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream application

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream application

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream application

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream application

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream application

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream application

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream application

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream application

KISpeel Cica Repair Cream application

Slick and soft in texture, this moisturising cream boasts a therapeutic blend of Centella Asiatica leaf water and Centella Asiatica Extract, along with other soothing ingredients known for their healing and anti-inflammatory properties, to calm irritated and sensitive skin without leaving an icky feeling. It contains Allantoin and Aloe Vera leaf juice to stimulate the growth of healthy tissue and aid the skin repair process while keeping the skin hydrated. Multi-functional, it can also be applied on any other parts of the body (e.g. neck, that require a little tender loving care. To use, evenly massage a suitable amount of product into the skin and gently pat until absorbed.

Micro-Raphides Spot Cream

KISpeel Micro-Raphides Spot Cream // 10ml / 0.3 fl.oz (S$21.90)

KISpeel Micro-Raphides Spot Cream // 10ml / 0.3 fl.oz (S$21.90)

KISpeel Micro-Raphides Spot Cream

KISpeel Micro-Raphides Spot Cream

KISpeel Micro-Raphides Spot Cream applicator

KISpeel Micro-Raphides Spot Cream applicator

Ingredients in KISpeel Micro-Raphides Spot Cream applicator (click to enlarge)

Ingredients in KISpeel Micro-Raphides Spot Cream applicator (click to enlarge)

KISpeel Micro-Raphides Spot Cream application

KISpeel Micro-Raphides Spot Cream application

KISpeel Micro-Raphides Spot Cream application

KISpeel Micro-Raphides Spot Cream application

Formulated with almost the same set of ingredients as the Cico Repair Cream, the Micro-Raphides Spot Cream offers targeted treatment for hyperpigmentation and pimples by soothing inflamed skin and diminishing their appearance with Centella Asiatica and Aloe Vera extracts. That said, this would only be effective with surface blemishes and not so much with more severe skin conditions such as cystic acne.

What sets this spot cream apart from the repair cream is the added Micro-Raphides which helps revitalise the skin and exfoliate dead skin cells. Likewise, the thin crystalline needles may cause a tingling sensation as it penetrates deep into the skin. But fret not, the (bearable) sting typically does not last beyond a few seconds and it will be gone before you know it.

To minimise contamination and preserve the purity of the product, the spot cream is dispensed through a convex applicator (when pressed down) which can be directly applied to the affected areas in circular motions twice to thrice a day. Unless you choose to apply the cream with your fingers, be sure to disinfect the applicator with soap or anti-bacterial wipes and then dry it after every use to keep it sterile.

Finished face!

Finished face!

All in all, apart from the tingling sensation given rise by the Micro-Raphides which I’m still trying to get accustomed to, I like that the ingredients are gentle enough on my sensitive skin. Furthermore, I really appreciate the no-nonsense approach KISpeel has to skincare as they do not allude to the need of having a myriad of products, but just the essentials! In terms of price, KISpeel is pretty much on par with or lower than most mid-tier Korean beauty brands which, of course, have a much wider distribution since KISpeel is only available online and at I’M STARTICE.

What are your thoughts about KISpeel? Would you be willing to give this brand a shot? Let me know your views in the comments below 🙂

Thanks for reading!

KISpeel is available on Qoo10 Singapore and I’M STARTICE. For more information, visit KISpeel website or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
This post is brought to you by KISpeel.

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South Korea, the Land of Morning Calm – Exploring Seoul & Jeju Island

Happy 2018, everyone! 🎆🎉

I know it’s a little late, but how did you spend your Christmas and New Year’s? In view of our financial constraints brought about by our upcoming wedding in November, fiancé and I settled on a staycation in lieu of a getaway last year-end holiday. In a way, I was relieved to have escaped the harsh cold weather in the destinations we had shortlisted before aborting the plan. Being someone with exceptionally low tolerance for cold, holidaying in temperate places during winter is seldom fun for me. But unless I’m travelling alone, I usually don’t have a choice. Tropical Asians generally prefer to go somewhere cooler (it’s like air-conditioned air everywhere, they say), don’t they?

I wanderlust pretty often. But much as I enjoy jetting off to foreign lands from time to time, I’m not going to lie – I tend to drag my heels over writing travelogues mainly because of the amount of time needed to invest in editing the colossal torrent of pictures taken and recalling the experience (which is often impeded by my bad memory) when it could be better spent on doing beauty reviews. But knowing these experiences will be mostly forgotten in a few years, electronically journaling them is an absolute necessity. Thus this is why, after procrastinating for more than a year, my Seoul travelogue is finally happening 🤣

Changi Airport was decked out in Pokémon deco for Christmas in 2016! Their best theme yet :B

Changi Airport was decked out in Pokémon deco for Christmas in 2016! Their best theme yet :B

The gigantic Pikachu that has been making its rounds in Singapore - its last appearance was at Hillion Mall in December!

The gigantic Pikachu that has been making its rounds in Singapore – its last appearance was at Hillion Mall in December!

Having immersed ourselves in quite a number of Korean dramas and Running Man that year (largely kick-started by Descendants of the Sun in 2016 🤣), Seoul came naturally as our top destination pick. That said, it was my second trip to Seoul with the first being solo (fully subsidised by BLS Korea – thank you for having me!) during summer in July in the same year for a conference as a beauty blogger. I had a blast so I didn’t mind going there again to stock up on my Korean beauty supplies. My fiancé and I normally travel free and easy on our own but this time we were joined by his parents who prefer going on organised tours. For that, they engaged the services of Super Travels who provided us a Chinese-speaking tour guide (a Taiwanese living in South Korea) for our 8D6N trip.

The trip started on an awry note as my winter kicks gave way in the midst of my Grab ride to the airport unbeknownst to me. It was only after alighting from the car that I realised one side of my shoes was missing its thick sole. The infrequent usage must have dried out the glue and caused the sole to detach in the car 😫 I immediately changed out into my spare espadrilles meant for indoor use and discarded the unusable pair while praying that I wouldn’t need to hike across rough terrain.

For easy navigation, click on the hyperlinks in the daily itinerary to jump to their respective write-up, or choose one of the days below:

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6 | DAY 7

* * DAY 1 * *

(Pocket WiFi Rental → Korean Healthfood Restaurant →
ELAND Cruise → GLAD Hotel)

We boarded our SQ flight at 7.05 am at Terminal 3 and arrived at Incheon International Airport about seven hours later. If I remember correctly, we had to take a shuttle bus after disembarking from the plane to get to the immigration hall. The queue to clear customs was relatively short (like my previous time) so it didn’t take long before we could collect our luggage at the carousel. Our tour guide and a few other Singapore tourists (who took the same flight as us) had already gathered at the waiting area when we emerged through the arrival gate.

Anticipating that we wouldn’t have time to look for and pick up a pocket WiFi at Incheon Airport (there are plenty to choose from and the booth I got my WiFi Egg from on my first visit was super efficient), we had actually rented one from WifiBaby in Singapore for S$44 for 8 days ($5.50/day per unit). It ran on 4G with a daily fair usage of 500MB (after which the network speed would slow down) and could be shared among five devices. Technically, pocket WiFi isn’t entirely necessary if you’re on a free and easy trip because there is practically WiFi at most touristy areas. But I hate the thought of having to hunt for hotspots to post a photo on Instagram because I heavily rely on GPS to identify my location then and there. Besides, if you’re travelling in tour groups which often set off on long and dreary journeys, a pocket WiFi is a definite must.

Changi Recommends was our initial choice (for convenience sake) but all units were – as usual – already booked for that period when we tried to make a request online four days before. I figured that unless you plan your holiday way ahead of time (especially during peak seasons), it is almost impossible to successfully place a reservation for the pocket WiFi with Changi Recommends so the next best alternative would be WifiBaby for their comparable rates. The downside, however, is that you’d have to put down a deposit (though I don’t remember having to do so for my order) and collect and return the device to their office at Raffles Place during business hours.

[BACK TO TOP]

Chilly winds engulfed me the moment I stepped out of the airport to get to the bus, followed by speckles of drizzle on my cardigan. Looking up at the gloomy sky, the rain didn’t seem like it was letting up anytime soon and that was when I knew my feet were going to be trapped in moist, smelly shoes for the next seven days. Therefore, my dedicated hashtag for this vacation was along the lines of #coldrea which was an understatement in itself. Perhaps #soakcoldrea would have been more apt 🙄..

Like Japan, South Korea is one hour ahead of Singapore which, by the way, requires some getting used to for sleepyheads like myself (as this means having to wake up an hour earlier every time 😴). After what felt like an hour’s drive, the bus dropped us off at Korean Healthfood Restaurant for dinner at about 6pm KST.

Korean Healthfood Restaurant

Korean Healthfood Restaurant

The overall facade of the restaurant somehow reminded me of that of a factory store. The name of the restaurant wholly in Chinese characters, coupled with the absence of local diners inside, gave me the impression that it was very tourist-oriented. For a split second, I thought we were going to be pressured to buy something at our first destination! Thankfully, this suspicion proved to be unfounded when pots and pots of piping hot samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) were served to our table.

Kimchi (salted and fermented vegetables), a common side dish in Korean cuisine

Kimchi (salted and fermented vegetables), a common side dish in Korean cuisine

Pickled radish, another common side dish

Pickled radish, another common side dish

Samgyetang

Samgyetang

Glutinous rice inside the chicken

Glutinous rice inside the chicken

As if there wasn't enough carb in this dish, I went ahead to add some noodles..

As if there wasn’t enough carb in this dish, I went ahead to add some noodles..

For the record, I am not very well-versed in Korean cuisine (outside of kimchi and barbecue) so despite samgyetang being a relatively popular Korean dish, I had never tasted it prior to this trip. What better way to try a Korean delicacy for the first time than to have it in its place of origin? 😋

This bubbling pot of samgyetang sent warmth to my chilled soul (and belly) right from the very first mouthful. The ginseng taste in the broth is pretty mild on my Chinese taste buds but may be a little overpowering for those who’ve not had it before. And then came the surprise when I pried the chicken open with the spoon: there’s even glutinous rice with red dates and chestnuts (and a whole lot of other herbs) tucked in there to complete the hearty meal! Apparently, each ingredient of the samgyetang also packs tons of health benefits including boosting energy and the immune system.

The chicken meat was soft and tender but the many fragments of bones made it rather bothersome to savour fully. Still, the samgyetang was a great introductory dish to Korean cuisine, especially during the cold weather months. I was craving for samgyetang so much within a week from returning home that I started hunting it down at Korean restaurants and stocking up on the instant version!

Korean Healthfood Restaurant · 93 Yeonnam-ro, Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul  03975, South Korea
[BACK TO TOP]

Post dinner, we hopped onto the bus and headed to the next destination. The vehicle halted at a bus bay and we walked some distance to an area lit with colourful neon lights. Behind these Christmas decorations was Eland Cruise, purportedly the filming location of the ship scene in My Love from the Star.

Hello day 1!

Hello day 1!

The entrance to Eland Cruise ferry dock

The entrance to Eland Cruise ferry dock

Pokémon milk cartons in the Eland Cruise convenience store! (PokémonGO wasn't launched in Korea yet at that point in time 😫)

Pokémon milk cartons in the Eland Cruise convenience store! (PokémonGO wasn’t launched in Korea yet at that point in time 😫)

Winnie and Pikachu on the packaging? TAKE OUR MONEY!

Winnie and Pikachu on the packaging? TAKE OUR MONEY!

We were ushered to a kitchen (or bakery) on the second floor of the dock where we would try our hands at making danpatbbang (sweet red bean bread) alongside a live demonstration by a troupe of good-looking Korean performers who also attempted to inject some entertainment into what they were doing. To get us into character, we were also given a disposable toque blanche to wear.

Ingredients all set up on the table!

Ingredients all set up on the table!

Performers teaching the tourists how to make bread!

Performers teaching the tourists how to make bread!

At the dock waiting to board the cruise ship

At the dock waiting to board the cruise ship

Everything on this display looked fine until I saw the English translation of the text.. Why..

Everything on this display looked fine until I saw the English translation of the text.. Why..

Following the bread-making session which lasted around 30 minutes, we proceeded to board the cruise ship to watch the Pang Show put up by the same group of performers earlier while all of our danpatbbang was being baked. The show, inspired by TV series King of Baking, Kim Tak-goo, went on for another 30 minutes, bringing laughter to the audience with their silly antics despite the language barrier.

During the performance, the boat would have already sailed to the middle of Han River so once the show ended, we spent the next few minutes at the deck viewing the rainbow fountain (the world’s longest bridge fountain) along Banpo Bridge. I don’t remember paying attention to the attraction because I was literally shivering and couldn’t wait to return to the bus to take refuge from the biting cold!

The ticket to the Pang Show!

The ticket to the Pang Show!

Pang Show

Pang Show

The "pastry chefs" showing us what they can do with pots and pans

The “pastry chefs” showing us what they can do with pots and pans

Halfway through the show, the actors froze for a few seconds for the audience to snap some pictures LOL

Halfway through the show, the actors froze for a few seconds for the audience to snap some pictures 😂

On the deck

On the deck

My ready-to-eat danpatbbang!

My ready-to-eat danpatbbang!

By the time we landed at the dock, our freshly baked danpatbbang was ready for collection! Excitedly, I sunk my teeth into one of those I made, foolishly expecting it to have a similar taste to the red bean buns we have in Singapore. Needless to say, I didn’t really enjoy it as I found it a little too bland for my liking 😣 But on the overall, it was a great and educational experience your kids wouldn’t want to miss.

ELAND Cruise (Pang Pang Cruise) · 290 Yeouidong-ro, Yeoeuido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, South Korea · Book through Klook or KKday
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As the night wore on, an increasing number of yawns filled the bus as it crawled down the slippery road towards our hotel for the night. Located in the financial center of Seoul, GLAD Hotel Yeouido is built opposite the South Korean capitol building and in front of National Assembly subway station (like, literally a minute’s walk away, visible from the lobby) which makes commuting around Seoul extremely easy. If only the hotel I lodged in on my first visit (Belle-Essence Seoul Hotel, 15-minutes’ walk away from Yeoksam station, permanently closed now) was that convenient – I would have been more inclined to tote back a bigger shopping haul 🤩

There were a few convenience stores and pubs (chimaek, anyone?) in the vicinity of GLAD Hotel. Oh, KBS Broadcasting Station is nearby too if you want to catch a glimpse of Korean celebrities (though we didn’t see any during our stay 😆)!

GLAD Hotel Yeouido at night

GLAD Hotel Yeouido at night

GLAD Hotel Yeouido in the day

GLAD Hotel Yeouido in the day

GLAD Hotel Yeouido lobby (taken on our last day when we checked out) - the ambience gave me a very warm-and-fuzzy feel and I really liked that huge Christmas wreath they hung on the wall

GLAD Hotel Yeouido lobby (taken on our last day when we checked out) – the ambience gave me a very warm-and-fuzzy feel and I really liked that huge Christmas wreath they hung on the wall

Our room

Our room

Quotes about life!

Quotes about life!

LOVE the design of the sink! The knobs next to the tap are for adjusting the water temperature and pressure

LOVE the design of the sink! The knobs next to the tap are for adjusting the water temperature and pressure

As always, fiancé's eyes lit up upon the sight of a rain shower head.. I'm more of a handheld shower head kinda person so I was GLAD the bathroom was equipped with the best of both worlds lol

As always, fiancé’s eyes lit up upon the sight of a rain shower head.. I’m more of a handheld shower head kinda person so I was GLAD the bathroom was equipped with the best of both worlds lol

The toilet bowl is strangely separated from the bathroom perhaps due to space constraints. But that didn't bother me much. Furthermore, it's a smart toilet, baybeh!

The toilet bowl is strangely separated from the bathroom perhaps due to space constraints. But that didn’t bother me much. Furthermore, it’s a smart toilet, baybeh!

Much to our delight, we accommodated at this hotel twice during the trip (once more before we departed) and both times were equally wonderful. It is one of the better five-star hotels in Seoul that are not too exorbitantly priced for their rooms (according Agoda) and the best one we stayed in Korea. Certainly a hotel worth considering for our future Seoul visits!

GLAD Hotel · 17-5, Yeouido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul 150-874, South Korea
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* * DAY 2 * *

(K TurtleNamsan Seoul Tower →
Korea Bibimbap Experience Center →
Gimpo International Airport [Seoul to Jeju Island with T-Way] → Mysterious Road → Arboretum Theme Park →
Da Hae Jeong → Yongduam Rock → Best Western Hotel)

One reason for my preference for independent travel is the freedom to sleep in which is never possible in group tours. Our daily morning call was around 7am KST (8am latest) because it was a primarily weekday trip and the tour guide wanted to avoid the rush hour jam. It was so tough leaving the warm bed for the chilly morning air. With our bulky luggage in tow (since we were scheduled to leave for Jeju Island later that day), we joined the other early risers in the bus.

For breakfast before setting out for Namsan Seoul Tower, we were taken to a buffet restaurant called “K Turtle” in an unknown building (another reason for my dislike towards group tours is not knowing where I am most of the time, especially when it comes to meal times). The food spread (Chinese-Korean) there was boring at best.

K Turtle entrance

K Turtle entrance

Dining area

Dining area

Dreadful food..

Dreadful food..

I wasn't kidding when I said there were more veggies than meat at the buffet

I wasn’t kidding when I said there were more veggies than meat at the buffet

One of the more decent food at the buffet..

One of the more decent food at the buffet..

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The first tower-type tourist attraction in Korea, Namsan Seoul Tower is one of the tallest towers in the Orient with its highest point at almost 480m above sea level. An iconic symbol of Seoul today, it was first established as a broadcast tower to send out TV and radio signals in 1969. Although I am not very familiar with the landscapes in Korea, I had certainly seen and heard about N Seoul Tower in the earlier episodes of Running Man so I was pretty psyched to be there.

Vehicles were not allowed at certain point so we had to get to the tower by foot

Vehicles were not allowed at certain point so we had to get to the tower by foot

N Seoul Tower

N Seoul Tower

We took a lift up to the observatory level

We took a lift up to the observatory level

Mandatory shot as a Singaporean!

Mandatory shot as a Singaporean!

They've got quite a number of observatory binoculars like this on the level!

They’ve got quite a number of observatory binoculars like this on the level!

"I'm on a diet," says no one ever on a holiday. Churros and Ice Cream to compensate for the horrible breakfast!

“I’m on a diet,” says no one ever on a holiday. Churros and Ice Cream to compensate for the horrible breakfast!

Apart from the breathtaking view of Seoul from the observatory, many couples go to N Seoul Tower for the purpose of locking their “padlocks of love” on the railing along the ground terrace because, y’know, it’s a cheaper alternative to travelling all the way to Pont des Arts in Paris for the same thing 😛 That aside, it’s also an unusual way to leave your footprints at this popular dating spot, so much as I am not the mushy sort, I could not let this opportunity pass!

The locks typically come in pairs (duh) with a black permanent marker and are sold as a set at souvenir shops there at a reasonable price (I think). However, there was little variety of designs to choose from and most had a smooth, rubbery texture which made the ink less resistant to fading (the writings on some of the existing locks had been completely wiped off). The design of the padlock is so generic that you won’t be able to spot yours easily among the sea of others so bring your own padlocks and markers if you’re planning to lock your love here! Ideally, if I were to do this again, I would be #extra and put a written note in a hollow padlock made of fluorescent or reflective material.

No prize for guessing who picked the colour.. I wrote the one on the right!

No prize for guessing who picked the colour.. I wrote the one on the right!

The railings were so overly saturated with padlocks that there wasn't any space left to hang ours and we had to resort to padlocking them to someone else's like a love triangle LOL. It won't be long before all these padlocks get removed because I doubt the railings will be able to withstand the weight of so much love 😛

The railings were so overly saturated with padlocks that there wasn’t any space left to hang ours and we had to resort to padlocking them to someone else’s like a love triangle LOL. It won’t be long before all these padlocks get removed because I doubt the railings will be able to withstand the weight of so much love 😛

SO. MANY. OF. THEM. (and this is just one tiny part of ONE railing) Of course, it doesn't have to be padlock. Some creative people actually hung handphone covers and pencil cases lol

SO. MANY. OF. THEM. (and this is just one tiny part of ONE railing) Of course, it doesn’t have to be padlock. Some creative people actually hung handphone covers and pencil cases lol

Basking in the sun while it lasted 😟

Basking in the sun while it lasted 😟

Fiancé and I kept the keys as memento of the visit even though they were supposed to be discarded. But we are not the most organised people on the planet so the keys are as good as gone now 😝

If you have a choice, swing by Namsan Seoul Tower at night because that’s when it comes to life with magnificent illumination (more bang for your buck 😌)!

Namsan Seoul Tower · 105 Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan 2(i)ga-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
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They say no trip to South Korea would have been complete without eating bibimbap, a healthy and fuss-free mixed rice dish traditionally using day-old rice and leftovers. Dubbed the Korean spin on nachos, the bibimbap is served with a medley of vegetables and meat arranged over a bed of rice, topped with fried egg and a dollop of hot chili paste and is so dearly loved by the Koreans that it is ranked second after kimchi (or among top 10 on other reports) as the most popular Korean food. At the Korean Traditional Bibimbap Experience Center (another place meant for tourists, I reckon), we got to observe how the bibimbap was made before relishing it for lunch.

Korean Traditional Bibimbap Experience Centre

Korean Traditional Bibimbap Experience Centre

This was served together with the banchan (side dishes) but none of us knew what it was.. Any ideas? I remember not liking the taste..

This was served together with the banchan (side dishes) but none of us knew what it was.. Any ideas? I remember not liking the taste..

Hunje ori (smoked duck) - the only dish on the table that called my name 😍

Hunje ori (smoked duck) – the only dish on the table that called my name 😍

A gigantic stone bowl of bibimbap (minus the sunny side up) to be shared among a table of 8-10

A gigantic stone bowl of bibimbap (minus the sunny side up) to be shared among a table of 8-10

How bibimbap is supposed to be eaten (kinda looks like fried rice now haha)

How bibimbap is supposed to be eaten (kinda looks like fried rice now haha)

Bibimbap in its unmixed state kinda reminds me of our traditional Hakka lei cha fan (“thunder tea rice”) but with more ingredients (like meat – which is mostly absent in lei cha fan), flavour and better visual appeal, and has to be stirred together like lo hei. It offers nutrients and a snappy crunch with every bite but as someone with a deep fondness for savoury and scrumptious food, the abundance of greens in this dish doesn’t quite make my taste buds throw a party for my mouth. Plus, taking into account that this place was specially created for tourists to participate in the Korean culture, it would be unfair to peg our expectations of a good bibimbap to that level (heck, there wasn’t even a fried egg on top 🙄) as I’m sure there are better ones out there.

That said, the bibimbap would have been much more of a pleasure to chow down on during our final days of bulgogi and Korean BBQ indulgence in Korea!

Korea Traditional Bibimbap Experience Centre (Gung-gol) · 경기도 고양시 덕양구 용두로 121 번길 6 (용두동) / 6 Yongdu-ro 121 beon-gil Deogyang-gu, Goyang-si Gyeonggi-do 10549, South Korea
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As food coma started to kick in, we made our way to Gimpo International Airport to catch our T’way flight to Jeju Island. T’way Air is a South Korean low-cost airline serving several destinations in Asia including China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam that flies directly to Jeju International Airport. The interior design of Gimpo Airport is, of course, incomparable to the world-class beauty of Incheon with its slightly dated amenities (or lack thereof) in the transit area but service was generally pleasant and more acceptable than that of Jeju International Airport. The journey from Gimpo to Jeju took about an hour or thereabouts according to the timestamps of my photos.

T'way check-in counter at Gimpo International Airport

T’way check-in counter at Gimpo International Airport

Upon landing at Jeju International Airport, we proceeded to the baggage claim area where we waited half an hour or more for our luggage to show up on the turnstile. Probably because of the limited number of conveyor belts there, at least three carriers had to share one so there was a significant delay in processing ours which got us more anxious as time went by.

We exited the airport only to realise that it was pouring quite heavily. Dragging the wheels of our luggage, we braved through the strong winds with our spare hands futilely shielding us from the haphazard downfalls of rain to get to our tour bus parked at an unsheltered area. At this juncture, my feet were already drenched to the skin, no thanks to my water-receptive shoes. Plagued by the discomfort of walking in squishy shoes and the risk of developing foot odour, I was in a desperate need to buy a new pair which wasn’t feasible given our tight itinerary 😥

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And off the bus went. Along the way to Arboretum Theme Park, we experienced the oddity of being moved against gravity on the Mysterious Road (Dokkaebi Road). To illustrate that things roll upslope on this road’s inclination, the bus driver turned off the engine and true enough, the entire bus actually propelled slowly forward on its own! If not for the rain, we would have gotten off the bus to do more experiments on the road, such as pouring water or rolling a coin on it and observing where it trails to and taking pictures (hence, none taken) but obviously we figured it wasn’t worth catching a cold over. Although this baffling phenomenon has been explained by numerous theories (mostly centered around optical illusion), it was still a fascinating sight to behold!

The Mysterious Road is marked at the start and finish points in multiple languages and the sidewalk beyond the end of the inclination are dotted by souvenir shops and street food stalls. We stopped by one of the stalls to grab a quick bite before taking part in an impromptu session of archery at the shop next to it. I vaguely remember the tour guide leading us there so I’m pretty sure he got a cut from the earnings because the archery activity was so random and nobody wanted to participate in it initially (most of us were puzzled by the choice to go there in fact) until some subtle nudging 😏 Or maybe, that was his way to kill time before resuming our trip to Arboretum Theme Park.

When hunger strikes... everything looks good

When hunger strikes… everything looks good

The best! I can't remember what it is.. perhaps crab stick in fish cake? But the chili sauce ruined it (I am not a fan of sauces lol)

The best! I can’t remember what it is.. perhaps crab stick in fish cake? But the chili sauce ruined it (I am not a fan of sauces lol)

Why must everything go with ketchup/chili sauce?!

Why must everything go with ketchup/chili sauce?!

Mysterious Road · 2894-63 1100 (Cheonbaek)-ro, Nohyeong-dong, Cheju, Jeju-do, South Korea
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Dusk had already fallen when we arrived at Arboretum Theme Park (the façade of Sumokwon Theme Park looks strikingly similar on Google so it could also be known as another name) even though it was barely 6pm KST. The theme park comprises an indoor museum and a 5D theatre. The inside of the building looked far too institutional (literally, it resembled a school) for a place of interest but it was clean and easy to navigate our way around because as far as I know, there were only a few rooms on every floor.

Arboretum Theme Park at night

Arboretum Theme Park at night

The first room we were brought to was the 5D theatre (camera is prohibited) where we saw a 10-minute (or so) kids-friendly animation called “Poseidon”. Apart from the 3D effect and the occasional water spritzing and chair movements, it was nothing too spectacular and memorable partially because I didn’t like the plot. Maybe, just maybe, if I had stayed on for the next screening – an animated horror film (my favourite genre) – which was another 15 minutes later, I would have a different opinion. Alas, we left because fiancé chickened out wanted to spend the limited free time given to us on exploring other parts of the theme park.

The ice museum is one of the permanent features of the theme park which showcases ice sculptures crafted by famous Japanese artists. It is kept at sub-zero temperature to preserve the ice and visitors are expected to bring their own winter outfits all year round. Unlike many ice museums of the like, visitors are allowed to touch the sculptures, so hug them or kiss them (that’s gross, though) – nobody’s gonna stop you!

Biiiiig snowman

Biiiiig snowman

Icy globe

Icy globe

My favourite part of the ice museum - the ice slide! Visitors get unlimited rides down the slide on an inflatable float. Cheap thrills 😆

My favourite part of the ice museum – the ice slide! Visitors get unlimited rides down the slide on an inflatable float. Cheap thrills 😆

Unable to bear with the cold any longer, we moved over to the 3D illusion art museum which is the theme park equivalent of Trick Eye Museum where 2D art installations are turned into three-dimensional through the use of optical illusions. This was a great opportunity for us to experience illusion art without additional charges since we hadn’t (still haven’t – too far and expensive!) visited the local Trick Eye Museum at Sentosa and I beat myself up for not doing so earlier because, omagawd, we had so much fun!

I don’t want to bore you with a bunch of pictures and make this post ridiculously longer than it already is, so here are some of my favourite shots:

Literal meaning of "holding (your) sh*t together" 🤣

Literal meaning of “holding (your) sh*t together” 🤣

Baywatch starring @griftz

Baywatch starring @griftz HAHAHA

@griftz, a wanted man? Nah, the text below him reads "First Korean Nobel Prize Winner in Literature" (Google-translated lah, don't whack me if I'm wrong!) If we had known what it meant then, he would be smiling instead 😅

@griftz, a wanted man? Nah, the text below him reads “First Korean Nobel Prize Winner in Literature” (Google-translated lah, don’t whack me if I’m wrong!) If we had known what it meant then, he would be smiling instead 😅

My (fail) attempt in becoming part of SNSD (no more soon, though)

My (fail) attempt in becoming part of SNSD (no more soon, though)

Due to time constraints, we were only able to see and take pictures with a handful of the many art installations at the museum which, in my opinion, was what made the admission ticket worthwhile. Of course, if you don’t have an abnormally low tolerance for cold like me, the ice museum would also make an enjoyable highlight of your time at Arboretum Theme Park!

Arboretum Theme Park · 69 Eunsu-gil, Yeon-dong, Cheju, Jeju-do, South Korea
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After everyone gathered at the assembly point, we boarded the bus to our (late) dinner venue to fill our stomach with another round of authentic Korean fare. Da Hae Jeong (which also has an outlet in Busan) was vacant when we got there so we had the whole restaurant to ourselves!

Da Hae Jeong

Da Hae Jeong

Our dinner spread

Our dinner spread

Grilled fish

Grilled fish

Gyeran-jjim (steamed eggs)

Gyeran-jjim (steamed eggs)

Other banchan dishes. I can't remember what the middle one is... Maybe chicken?

Other banchan dishes. I can’t remember what the middle one is… Maybe chicken?

Many of the dishes were pretty much standard across all the meals we had but the star of the table that night was, no doubt, the gyeran-jjim, or steamed eggs. Fluffy and custardy in texture, the gyeran-jjim was served simmering-hot in an earthenware bowl and has a mildly sweet taste. This unassuming dish is often sprinkled with scallions but I loved it in its bare form, and so did the rest at the same table as evident by how quickly the bowl was emptied. The small portion was obviously not enough to satisfy our appetite so we ended up ordering another, paid for out of our own pocket.

Da Hae Jeong (다해정) · 877-2 Yongdam 2(i)-dong, Cheju, Jeju-do, South Korea · Phone: +82 64-745-1688
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Before calling it a night, the tour bus stopped somewhere near the northern coast for us to view the Yongduam Rock (or Dragon Head Rock) but we had to get off and walk a distance. Feeling exhausted and reluctant to venture out in the cold and drizzle (which gradually became heavier, phew!), fiancé and I chose to stay in the bus while everyone else alighted. Missing out on the Yongduam Rock was no big deal to me because I was never intrigued by geological formations, regardless of how peculiar or stunning they may be. Furthermore, perhaps it takes a certain kind of imagination to make out the dragon head among the pile of rocks but, I just cannot see it in any of the Yongduam Rock pictures I found on Google Images 🤔

Yongduam Rock (Dragon Head Rock 용두암) · Yongduam-gil, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea · Phone: +82 64-728-3601
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For the two nights in Jeju Island, we put up at Best Western Hotel (undeniably a name made up of highly searchable keywords 😆) where we would max out our daily sugar intake at the Starbucks outlet next to the lobby with a cuppa hot chocolate or Green Tea Frappé. Just a few steps away was a 24-hour convenience store that would become our spot for midnight munchies, and facing the hotel was a stretch of malls that we didn’t have the opportunity to explore owing to the unfavourable weather and the fact that we were always returning from our tour past standard operating hours.

Best Western Jeju Hotel (taken on the day we checked out)

Best Western Jeju Hotel (taken on the day we checked out)

Our spacious room - just for the two of us!

Our spacious room – just for the two of us!

The pantry area, separated from the beds with a little partition

The pantry area, separated from the beds with a little partition

The toilet. No rain shower head, though

The toilet. No rain shower head, though

Like many other large lodging establishments, Best Western uses electronic keycards for room access, and unless you want to leave the hotel several tens of dollars poorer, do not lose your keycard if you plan to stay with them. Do not attempt to keep it as a memento. Don’t even think about it.

We thought we had misplaced one of our keycards and was told to pay upon check-out a replacement fee of ₩40,000 (S$50) – or thereabouts (but it was an amount astronomical enough to drop my jaw) – which was ridiculous considering that it was just a generic card and the hotel could easily deactivate it. What’s a cheap keycard to a hotel, much less an international one? By and large, the stay was pleasant (I mean, the location is great and the room had almost everything we needed) but this incident sure left a bad taste in our mouths.

Well, it turned out the card was actually in the pocket of one of fiancé’s soiled jeans all the while 😑 and it was only discovered when he unpacked his luggage in Singapore. Now that we’ve found the precious keycard, can we get a refund?!

Best Western Hotel · 27 Doryeong-ro, Cheju, Jeju-do 690-762, South Korea
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* * DAY 3 * *

(Olleh Gaseo Jeonbok Meogja → Teseum →
Seongeup Folk VillageSeongsan Ilchulbong Peak
Mandarin Orange Farm)

Since breakfast wasn’t included for most of our hotel stays in Korea, we were often driven out to designated eateries to have our first meal of the day. This arrangement enabled us to break away from the repetitive menus of hotel breakfast buffets and be fully immersed in the flavours and aromas of the Korean cuisine from the get-go each day 😋 So on the third day, we started our morning with a bowl of juk (Korean porridge) and ended the night with the most palatable jogaetang (clam stew) and my virgin sannakji (moving octopus sashimi) experience – all from the same seafood restaurant called Olleh Gaseo Jeonbok Meogja which translates loosely to “let’s go and eat abalone”.

Restaurant front - all the fresh seafood 😋

Restaurant front – all the fresh seafood 😋

Dining area

Dining area

Very grateful for my clear skin throughout my stay in Korea because I usually break out whenever I travel. All credits goes to Dr Ram of The Wellness Clinic for keeping my pimples at bay

Very grateful for my clear skin throughout my stay in Korea because I usually break out whenever I travel. All credits goes to Dr Ram of The Wellness Clinic for keeping my pimples at bay

The usual banchan, again

The usual banchan, again

Korean porridge (juk) topped tiny seaweed shreds

Korean porridge (juk) topped with seaweed shreds

Jam sandwich for those who were still feeling hungry!

Jam sandwich for those who were still feeling hungry!

Filling merely half the bowl, the juk was plain without any superfluous ingredients apart from the mounds of seaweed shreds on top of it (no abalone too, in case you’re wondering). The grains looked like they were submerged in water and not smoothly blended together and we didn’t like the slightly gritty texture and taste (or lack thereof). Perhaps it is the Korean tradition to keep breakfast light, but a bowl of porridge definitely didn’t satiate our hunger so we reached for the jam and bread thereafter.

Fortunately, dinner was worlds apart from the bland and mediocre food we had in the day. Admittedly, we felt a pang of a disappointment when the bus pulled over in front of the same restaurant as that seemed to spell yet another round of unsatisfactory meal. But as soon as we dug in, we were all blown away!

Three-quarter of the dinner spread. It does not look that fantastic, I know

Three-quarter of the dinner spread. It does not look that fantastic, I know

Spicy rice cakes (tteokbokki)

Spicy rice cakes (tteokbokki)

Seafood/clams stew (jogaetang) - hands down the best dish of the whole Korea trip!

Seafood/clams stew (jogaetang) – hands down the best dish of the whole Korea trip!

In no time, our table was populated with dishes but ultimately, it was the jogaetang that stole the scene. Loaded with at least four different kinds of seafood fresh (largely short-neck clams) from the tank and then boiled in light, clear broth which thickened with flavour over time, this piping hot stew provided a much-needed respite from the cold. The natural sweetness of the prawns balanced out the briny tang of the abalone (which was still moving in its shell when the stew was served) and clams to give a refreshing taste, making it worthy of whatever calories it contained. Fiancé asked if we could go for a second serving but for some reason, I refused?! 😭

Even till today, I am still kicking myself for not ordering another bowl of jogaetang and this is probably one regret I’m going to have to live with for the rest of my life..

Moving octopus tentacles (sannakji)

Moving octopus tentacles (sannakji)

This has got to be one of the must-try dishes in Korea!

This has got to be one of the must-try dishes in Korea!

The restaurant was also where I didn’t expect to strike an item off my bucket list – trying the sannakji! The sannakji is inarguably the most controversial South Korean delicacy as it involves slaughtering the baby octopus alive (which I didn’t know prior to this experience) and serving its still-writhing tentacles to diners. It was never supposed to be served to the guests in this restaurant until someone in our tour group spotted it appearing from its hideout in one of the tanks, thereby leading it to its unfortunate fate. The sannakji was a treat from our tour guide and although I enjoyed the chewy and slimy texture, I wished it was, at the very least, given a quick and minimally painful death before it was severed for the dinner plate.

Olleh Gaseo Jeonbok Meogja (올레가서전복먹자) · 2614-3, Doduil-dong, Jeju-si, Jeju, South Korea · Operating Hours: 07:00 – 21:00 · Phone: +82 64-713-2277
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South Korea is home to at least five teddy bear museums in the world, of which two – including the first in the country which was established in 2001 – are in Jeju Island. However, the concept of teddy bear museums didn’t quite gain traction among international visitors until it was popularised by the 2006 hit Korean TV series Goong. As part of our itinerary, we were able to embrace our inner child at Teseum Jeju (Teddy Bear Safari), a spin-off from the original that prides itself as the world’s first exhibition theme park with various real life-sized wildlife and marine stuffed animals and teddy bears. Apart from those, there are also teddy bears dressed in traditional clothes of countries around the world (though the depiction can get a little stereotypical, so view with an open mind) and as gods from Greek mythology. On top of that, you can even come face-to-face with celebearties 😆

Teseum / Teddybear Safari (Jeju)

Teseum / Teddybear Safari (Jeju)

The museum is made up of two interconnected 2-storey buildings (A and B), each dedicating to a certain theme. Stuffed animals (not teddy bears, mind you) are displayed in a safari context on the first level while marine animals, subjects of prominent artworks and notable film characters take the form of teddy bears on the second. The place seemed moderately small and well-structured so two hours is all you need to see everything. I vaguely remember that there was a café somewhere in the building too but I could be wrong. Fiancé and I then concluded the tour with a brief shopping stint at the gift shop which honestly had more interesting variety of teddy bears than the museum itself.

Finds at the safari

Finds at the safari

This is also part of the Safari Zone, I think..

This is also part of the Safari Zone, I think..

There were quite a number of teddy bears with this “eyes shut, mouth wide open” expression to the extent that it looked kinda lazy.. Makes me wonder if this was the operator’s way of saving cost on the eye balls..

Why go to the bird park when you can see stuffed flamingoes at Teseum? /s

Why go to the bird park when you can see stuffed flamingoes at Teseum? /s

Aye, aye, captain!

Aye, aye, captain!

Lifesize bear!

Lifesize bear!

More safari animals..

More safari animals..

The most docile-looking tiger

The most docile-looking tiger

Generic bears at the gift shop

Generic bears at the gift shop

Racks and racks of teddy bears for sale..

Racks and racks of teddy bears for sale..

For sale: Kate Middleton and Prince William teddy bears. But I don't know, the workmanship looks kinda sloppy

For sale: Kate Middleton and Prince William teddy bears. But I don’t know, the workmanship looks kinda sloppy

Teddy bears in hanbok (traditional Korean costume)

Teddy bears in hanbok (traditional Korean costume)

More choices at the Korean section. We got a pair from here! All of the displayed teddy bears are placed upright using a stand which you would have to buy separately

More choices at the Korean section. We got a pair from here! All of the displayed teddy bears are placed upright using a stand which you would have to buy separately

On the whole, I thought the museum was rather.. pointless? It might have lost its charm over the years but it certainly didn’t live up to whatever hype it had a decade ago. First of all, to call this a museum would be a misnomer because none of its exhibits bear any cultural or historical value. I would have probably closed my eyes to this if there was at least a vintage bear but no, you’re paying to see mass-produced ugly – well, some – teddy bears pretending to be of great worth (though the museum claims otherwise). Echoing what an online reviewer wrote, Teseum is “more like a showroom for a teddy bear manufacturer” and it certainly doesn’t take much time and effort, as compared to making wax figures, to create teddy bears with generic faces. Calling Teseum a teddy bear gallery or exhibition would have been more apt.

And is it me or is the term ‘museum’ very loosely used these days? It seems like anyone can put a few bunches of human hair together and call it a hair museum just so that it would justify the collection of admission fees.

Secondly, as a tourist attraction (assuming since there were hardly any locals when we were there), not having the descriptions of the exhibits in English is patently absurd which further validates my point about Teseum serving absolute no educational purpose at all. Teseum feeds mainly on the obsession of teddy bears so I wouldn’t recommend this place if you’re not a fan. In fact, if you’re interested in genuine vintage toys or plushies, our MINT Museum of Toys would be so much more worthy of your time and money! (#notsponsored)

Jeju Teseum (제주테지움) · 2159, Pyeonghwa-ro, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea · Operating Hours: 08:30-19:00 · Phone: +82 64-799-4820
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The afternoon dawned and it was time to eat, again! By then, our immunity to the usual Korean fare had set in so we were exhilarated to learn that we were going to be grilling some meat for lunch that day. It’s a pity I had forgotten to note down the name and address of the restaurant because the seasoning for the meat was actually quite en pointe, so much so that there wasn’t any leftover at the end of the meal (or we could just be hungry). To aid in my digestion, I would wrap the meat in the lettuce provided before chomping down on it – just like the Koreans do!

The restaurant

The restaurant

Banchan

Banchan

I'm terrible at identifying the different kinds of meat.. This is either chicken or pork.. Most likely it's the latter..

I’m terrible at identifying the different kinds of meat.. This is either chicken or pork.. Most likely it’s the latter..

This could be beef.. Haha #ifail

This could be beef.. Haha #ifail

Rubbing our overindulged bellies in delight, we set out for Seongeup Village which was one of the filming sites for the most amazing miniseries of all time, Dae Jang Geum. Coincidentally, I had just rewatched the show with fiancé a few weeks prior to the trip because he, who had never watched a single episode due to his NS commitments when it was first aired on TV, didn’t understand why I loved it so much. Hence, while the excitement of most fans had already waned off, we were both thrilled to bits to set foot on this culture-rich old-fashioned village (even though up till now we still can’t figure out the scene/episode(s) in which the filming was done there 😐). Once we were at the entrance, we were handed over to a Chinese-speaking villager (more precisely, a Chinese who married into the village) for a guided tour around the village.

Seongeup Village boasts cultural properties that have been handed down from generation to generation and it is unique in the sense that some of its thatched huts are still inhabited by people who sleep, work and go about their business there. Even so, there wasn’t much activity going on (apart from the sounds of TVs blaring from inhabited huts) and many huts we went into were either empty or used to store their pots whereas those that were inhabited had their doors shut for privacy reasons. It would be better if there were demonstrations on how the pots were utilised to make kimchi or the miraculous tea they were about to sell us, though.

Mandatory shot for DJG fans

Mandatory shot for DJG fans

The dol hareubang, a large rock statue said to offer both protection and fertility to the household, is a common sight in Jeju

The dol hareubang, a large rock statue said to offer both protection and fertility to the household, is a common sight in Jeju

The thatched huts - mostly vacant

The thatched huts – mostly vacant

The pots used to store kimchi or brew tea, I guess?

The pots used to store kimchi or brew tea, I guess?

Inside one of the vacant thatched huts.. now just a storage space

Inside one of the vacant thatched huts.. now just a storage space

At the end of the tour, we were brought to a well-furnished hut where another villager would deliver her sales pitch about horse bones and their five-taste tea (omija) which was touted to possess all five basic tastes – sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness and spiciness. But she also mentioned that, depending on the individual’s physical conditions, the taste of the tea may vary on every taste bud (something along the lines of people with illnesses would only be able to taste bitterness or spiciness).

I’m sorry to be rude but, this smells like bull to me.

Sample cups filled with the tea were distributed to the group and frankly, it tasted like plum juice to me and people I asked (including a diabetic lady) – sweet with a hint of sourness. Well, I guess you must be on your deathbed to taste the other end of the spectrum, then. Each jar of omija cost about S$50, I think, as I remember it being quite expensive. However, because I accidentally articulated my liking for the taste (I mean, I’ve always liked eating sweet plums), fiancé purchased one jar on a whim despite my best efforts to stop him 😒 And as usual, it’s still sitting in the refrigerator, barely touched.

Seongeup Folk Village (성읍민속마을) · 104, Seongeupjeonguihyeon-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, South Korea · Phone: +82-64-740-6000~1, +82-64-742-8866, +82 64-758-7181
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The weather grew progressively gloomier and more blustery as the bus got closer to our next outdoor destination – the Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak or also known as Sunrise Peak – and eventually poured. Hard. What luck! Foreseeing that it would rain, our tour guide had thoughtfully prepared disposable ponchos for each and everyone of us so that we could comfortably scale the tuff cone. But the rain was just too heavy and my shoes were already wet beyond redemption (which makes them prone to slipping), so fiancé and I decided, once again, to stay put on ground level while the rest soldiered on and continued their expedition to the peak.

After the rain cleared

After the rain cleared

Seongsan Ilchulbong. I really wanted to go to the peak.. Damn the bad weather!

Seongsan Ilchulbong. I really wanted to go to the peak.. Damn the bad weather!

In the meantime, we brought business to the gift shops with our purchase of a few boxes of the Jeju cactus crunch choco (an airy snack covered with little rice puffs) for our family and friends back home. Available in a handful of flavours, the Jeju specialty is usually packed – individually – in boxes of roughly 12 pieces and is cheaper when bought in larger quantities, which makes it an ideal souvenir.

From there, we went to an Innisfree shop located further down the sloped base amidst the now-subsided rain to do my first round of cosmetics shopping. But just as we were about to leave, the rain returned with a vengeance, trapping us in the shop for a good 20 minutes 😑

Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak [UNESCO World Heritage] · 284-12, Ilchul-ro, Seongsan-eup, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, South Korea · Phone: +82 64-710-7923
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Our final stop before dinner at Olleh Gaseo Jeonbok Meogja was a Mandarin orange/tangerine farm where we were supposed to pick our own oranges. But the torrential downpour had sort of dampened everyone’s mood and caused much of the farm to be mucky and marshy. With no desire to dirty our footwear, we were there for merely 20 minutes, tops – most of which spent on entertaining the affectionate dog guarding the farm. Others took the opportunity to visit the loo and buy boxes of the Jeju snack we got at Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak earlier (but pricier) as well as other miscellaneous stuff made from tangerines from the shop next to the farm.

Wet, wet, wet

Wet, wet, wet

Jeju Orange Farm

Jeju Orange Farm

Smelly boi 😝

Smelly boi 😝

Unfortunately, I do not know the name and address of this farm but if you are interested, here is a list of all the tangerine farms in Jeju Island compiled by Jeju Weekly.

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* * DAY 4 * *

(Jeju International Airport [Jeju to Seoul with T-Way] →
Nami IslandGeummun Dak-galbi →
Holiday Inn Resort Alpensia Pyeongchang)

After two fruitful and much warmer days in Jeju Island, it was time to leave. In lieu of not partaking in the hotel breakfast (as we couldn’t wake up in time for it 😆), fiancé and I had a quick meal at Lotteria, a popular Korean fast food joint in the bustling departure hall at Jeju International Airport. In front of it (and a few more shops) conveniently lay a row of departure gates which were visible from where we were eating. Subsequently, we joined our tour group on the floor (chairs were scarce so people were literally seated everywhere) while waiting for the cue to board our flight which had already been delayed once.

Goodbye Jeju!

Goodbye Jeju!

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Our touchdown in Seoul was followed by lunch at a restaurant in Banghwa-dong (exact location unknown) where we had spicy hot pot to help us adjust to the sudden dip in temperature. Adding flavour to the broth were mainly vegetables (too much of them, actually) and beef shavings which, I vaguely recall, weren’t enough to go around.

Spicy hotpot for lunch

Spicy hot pot for lunch

After having our fill of lunch, we piled onto our bus and headed to Namiseom Ferry Dock where we would take a 10-minute ferry ride into Nami Island. As Nami Island is not accessible via road, visitor can only reach the place by sea from its designated dock at ₩10,000 per entry (for foreigners).

Once a desolate piece of land with only few scattered chestnut trees, poplar trees, and mulberry trees on the fringes of a modest peanut farm, Nami Island is presently known for its picturesque setting and tree-lined pavements that provide the perfect backdrop for (wedding) photography. With its popularity heightened by the 2002 Korean TV series Winter Sonata, the self-governed nation continues to draw flocks of nature-loving visitors annually, thereby making it one of the most visited weekend getaways in Korea. Getting into Nami Island would require one’s passport.

Ferry to Nami Island

Ferry to Nami Island

Nami Island entrance (the queue is for the return trip to the dock)

Nami Island entrance (the queue is for the return trip to the dock)

Wet everywhere 😑 It made me feel like staying in the bus..

Wet everywhere 😑 It made me feel like staying in the bus..

Clearly a tourist destination as evident from the different country flags placed along the stretch of pavement near the entrance

Clearly a tourist destination as evident from the different country flags placed along the stretch of pavement near the entrance

Some of the shops at Nami Island

Some of the shops at Nami Island

Fireplaces like this can be found in various parts of Nami Island. While others used them to warm their hands, I tried to dry my shoes above them (which obviously didn't work lol)

Fireplaces like this can be found in various parts of Nami Island. While others used them to warm their hands, I tried to dry my shoes above them (which obviously didn’t work lol)

Peacocks can be found near food establishments

Peacocks can be found near food establishments

Let your nose take you to where these red bean pancakes are sold..

Let your nose take you to where these red bean pancakes are sold..

Plain buns, I guess? This stall was unattended when I took this picture

Plain buns, I guess? This stall was unattended when I took this picture

My guilty pleasure.. A must-have in the cold

My guilty pleasure.. A must-have in the cold

Generic sausages but still, worth every penny!

Generic sausages but still, worth every penny!

Tree-lined pavement with lamps in the shape of balloons illuminating from above the moment dusk set in. Our tour guide actually took a picture of fiancé and me against these trees but it turned out awful.. I looked so fat in my pink Taobao winter coat 😭

Tree-lined pavement with lamps in the shape of balloons illuminating from above the moment dusk set in. Our tour guide actually took a picture of fiancé and me against these trees but it turned out awful.. I looked so fat in my pink Taobao winter coat 😭

More dreamy lights

More dreamy lights

Fiancé and I were walking around Nami Island aimlessly (and buying food as we saw them) because there wasn’t any activity planned out for us. Tired of repeatedly stepping into the puddles of water left by the rain, we decided to head back to the meeting point before the rest. Don’t get me wrong – Nami Island is, indeed, a lovely place worth visiting, especially during the autumn season when foliage turns fiery shades of scarlet (just Google the pictures – breathtaking, I tell you). But as always, the persistent rain (and the extreme cold for me) ruined the experience and made me really reluctant to fully take in the beauty of the place.

Maybe next time!

Namiseom Island (남이섬 종합휴양지) · 1, Namisum-gil, Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do (accessible only by ferry) · Namiseom Ferry Dock: 1024, Bukhangangbyeon-ro, Gapyeong-eup, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do · Phone: +82-31-580-8114
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A short distance away from the ferry dock was Geummun Dak-Galbi where we had spicy stir-fried chicken (dak galbi) for dinner. The restaurant was housed on the ground floor of a three-storey building which, on the surface, would have resembled a haunted school if not for the illuminating presence of the LED signboard against its dark façade. Although I’m not sure if the restaurant actually owned the entire building, the only activity seemed to be coming from them.

For some reasons, taking this picture made me feel eerily uncomfortable, like, I half-expected "someone" to be standing near one of the windows on the second floor (yeah, probably too much horror flicks haha)

For some reasons, taking this picture made me feel eerily uncomfortable, like, I half-expected “someone” to be standing near one of the windows on the second floor (yeah, probably too much horror flicks haha)

Inside the restaurant

Inside the restaurant

Before mixing in the condiments

Before mixing in the condiments

Where's the chicken?

Where’s the chicken?

Possibly the laziest and most underwhelming meal we had during the trip, the dak galbi felt like a poor attempt at passing off as a meat dish with only a few chunks of chicken among a mass of cabbage strips despite the fact that it was meant for four grown adults. The pathetic portion is a far cry from the way it looks on Google pictures taken by walk-in diners so either our agency had opted for the cheapest meal package or the restaurant had run out of chickens by 6.30pm KST. And to top it off, it tasted nothing short of ordinary so it failed to leave a lasting impression on us. In fact, none of us remembered we had dak galbi until we went through all the photographs again.

Geummun Dak-galbi 금문 닭갈비 · 323 Daljeon-ri, Gapyeong-eup, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea · Phone: +82 31-581-9282
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Shortly thereafter, we embarked on a five-hour drive to Pyeongchang (hats off to the driver, and tour guide for keeping him in conversation to help him stay awake behind the wheel – tough job!). The bus stopped by a deserted convenience store en route for us to buy some nibbles as well as to use the toilet before completing the rest of the journey. As we were nearing our destination, we dropped by a ski rental shop to choose and collect our ski suits that would be used on the next day. The designs of their female ski jackets were generally very obiang-looking (kinda like those of Lularoe leggings 🤣) but I realised the patterns tended to be less ostentatious and tacky with smaller sizes. Still, they were goddamn hideous. I very much preferred the men’s which were predominantly in simple colours of red, blue, and so on. Blah.. gender stereotyping at its finest 😑

For my future reference, I wore M for the ski jacket and L for pants.

It was already past midnight (KST) when we checked into our room at Holiday Inn Resort Alpensia Pyeongchang but having spent the whole evening sleeping in the bus, we wanted to stay up for a little while to watch TV after taking a shower. The in-room TV came with an extensive selection of premium TV channels – including a few catered to the kink-inclined 😉

Our room (for 4 actually!) at Holiday Inn Resort Alpensia Pyeongchang

Our room (for 4 actually!) at Holiday Inn Resort Alpensia Pyeongchang

Spacious pee-pee area equipped with basic amenities

Spacious pee-pee area equipped with basic amenities

Fiancé's favourite rain shower head!

Fiancé’s favourite rain shower head!

But our bodies couldn’t resist the softness of the bed and warmth of the duvet so very soon, we found ourselves drifting into our slumber with the TV still turned on in the background (our usual practice when staying at hotels to cancel out any unwanted sounds in the middle of the night, if you get what I mean 😐).

By the way, the hotel (as with most hotels in Pyeongchang) charges for WiFi access at ₩14,300 (S$18) per day, so good thing we had rented a pocket WiFi for our trip!

Holiday Inn Resort Alpensia Pyeongchang · 325 Solbong-ro, Daegwalnyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do, South Korea · Phone: +82 33-339-0000
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* * DAY 5 * *

(Alpensia Ski Resort → Hotel Inter-Burgo Wonju)

Looking through our room windows, we saw the rays of the winter sun cast upon the accumulation of snow around the hotel compound, unveiling what was in the pitch darkness the night before. Are we in Winter Wonderland now?

Since we wouldn’t be checking out until late morning, we had the luxury of sleeping in but nevertheless managed to wake up just in time before the hotel breakfast buffet ended. Given that time was tight, we would have passed on it if not for the fact that breakfast and lunch on Day 5 were excluded from our tour package. At the restaurant with only 5 minutes remaining until the chafers were taken away, we scrambled to scoop whatever was left  – basically croissant, smoked salmon, sausages and chicken wings – onto our plates. Although the dishes had already cooled down to room temperature, they were still fairly tasty!

My all-time favourite buffet food XD

My all-time favourite buffet food XD

The casino is no longer in operation

The casino is no longer in operation

The sole purpose of coming to Pyeongchang was to ski at the Alpensia Ski Resort behind our hotel. We kept our personal belongings in a rented locker and obtained a complete set of ski gear over a counter (rental fees already included in the cost of our tour package). But because we didn’t know how to ski (and couldn’t be bothered to hire a private instructor), we took them off after a couple of minutes of reckless “skiing” as the weight of the boots was hindering our movement. We were freezing too so it didn’t take long for us to retreat indoors. Oh my.. when did we become so boring? 不认老都不行了。

Awful ski jacket -_- We had snow on our hair!

Awful ski jacket -_- We had snow on our hair!

Ticket to Alpensia Ski Resort! (Tested an Innisfree nail polish in Jeju.. obviously I can't do nail polishes for nuts)

Ticket to Alpensia Ski Resort! (Tested an Innisfree nail polish in Jeju.. obviously I can’t do nail polishes for nuts)

Entrance to the ski area

Entrance to the ski area

Time to ski!

Time to ski!

This place is huge!

This place is huge!

Successfully "skied" without falling down WOOO maybe I'm born for this!

Successfully “skied” without falling down WOOO maybe I’m born for this!

Never too old for a snowball fight!

Never too old for a snowball fight!

This was where my then-boyfriend proposed! (The guy behind him looked like he was proposing to someone else as well lol)

This was where my then-boyfriend proposed! (The guy behind him looked like he was proposing to someone else as well lol)

Food options are limited at the Alpensia Ski Resort so unless you don’t mind going on a 3-hour bus ride to Seoul to tame your hunger, you are pretty much stuck with the usual hotel restaurant fare, fast food restaurants (Domino’s Pizza, Baskin Robbins, etc.) and the cafeteria within the resort that served mediocre international food. For convenience sake, our lunch venue was settled on the cafeteria which would become packed with famished skiers as the afternoon set in. Stalls were run on a self-service basis, where diners would receive a queue number to collect their orders.

The Japanese food stall I bought my lunch from

The Japanese food stall I bought my lunch from

Free flow of unappetising sides.. (those aren't onion rings, in case you're wondering. And no, I still don't know what those were haha)

Free flow of unappetising sides.. (those aren’t onion rings, in case you’re wondering. And no, I still don’t know what those were haha)

Cheese Pork Cutlet (13,000₩). only ordered this because of the cheesy factor. The breaded pork was lightly filled with cheese and served with a fist-sized lump of rice and salad. The portion size was just right for me but the meat itself was dry.

Cheese Pork Cutlet (₩13,000). only ordered this because of the cheesy factor. The breaded pork was lightly filled with cheese and served with a fist-sized lump of rice and salad. The portion size was just right for me but the meat itself was dry.

As we had some time to spare before setting off again for another region of South Korea, we looked around in the retail shops and (finally) bought a pair of winter boots for myself to wear in place of my damp and musky espadrilles (that’s like 4 days later but better late than never). The new dry boots added what felt like a spring to my step and for once in this trip, I just wanted to keep walking 😄

Alpensia Ski Resort (알펜시아리조트 스키장) · 325, Solbong-ro, Daegwallyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do, South Korea · Phone: +82-33-339-0000~9
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Moving farther out of Pyeongchang, we had another round of Korean hot pot at an unidentified restaurant – which most locals probably don’t even know exists – for dinner. This time around, there were more ingredients (that appealed to my taste buds) with a free-flow of meat but the bland broth did little to enhance their tastes and vice versa. Granted, the meal was healthy but everyone got bored of them very quickly.

Red meat and lotsa mandu

Red meat and lotsa mandu

Our bus resumed its route and at last ground to a halt at the top of a slope where Hotel Inter-Burgo Wonju was located. Once we had collected our access cards, we took the lift up to our respective rooms. Upon entering ours, we were greeted with a slight musky odour and warm air as if the air-conditioner hadn’t been turned on for a while. But that’s not all, for there were more to be undesired when the power came on.

The lights were dim but non-adjustable and were unevenly distributed across the room. Thus there were a lot of dark corners which I had absolutely no hankering to inspect (God knows what was inhabiting there). The wallpaper, furniture – especially the armchair by the stained coffee table – and carpet looked dated while duvets were of an odd, mold-like green with a texture that resembled crepe paper – crumply and thin. The pillows were as flat as pancakes and dust was amassed on the bedside wall lights which were not working. Television reception in the room was terrible as there was not one channel that had optimum signal quality. What’s more, the only English channels were BBC and CNN 🙄 Thanks Hotel Inter-Burgo, just what I needed to catch up on current affairs and be bombarded with Trump news.

Can you feel the eeriness in this room just by looking at this picture?

Can you feel the eeriness in this room just by looking at this picture?

A dark corner next to the bed. Yikes!

A dark corner next to the bed. Yikes!

The filthiness of the room made me extremely wary of what might be lurking on that bedspread so I would scrutinise its every detail. While doing so, I would occasionally spot little critters crawling on the bed frame. As a former victim of bed bug infestation, I was tremendously fearful of repeating history. Hence I laid a bathroom towel on the duvet before sleeping on it to avoid direct contact with the bed.

I could go on about the condition of the room, but you get the gist. To be fair, the room in the day looked less shabby and had a beautiful view of the surrounding snow-covered landscape but I was essentially so paranoid and crept out throughout my stay that I couldn’t wait to leave this hotel. Thank goodness it was just for a night.

The toilet, on the other hand, was better lit than the bedroom and equipped with possibly the most state-of-the-art technology in this ageing hotel – a washlet. The grouted gaps between the tiles contributed to the clean look of the toilet. Still, I wouldn’t want to sit in the bathtub. Basic toiletries were also provided although it was rather miserly of the hotel to combine hair and body wash in a single diminutive bottle. The shower door hinge was faulty too as it kept swinging open and couldn’t stay shut when I was bathing.

Bathtub and an additional shower head

Bathtub and an additional shower head

Another shower head, but with rain shower effect

Another shower head, but with rain shower effect

Washlet

Washlet

Not wanting to be cooped up in this hellhole all night, fiancé and I decided to explore the hotel grounds and perhaps, look for something in the vicinity to fill the void from our unfinished dinner earlier. When we got to the spacious but empty lobby, we realised that all the restaurants in the hotel were closed although it was barely 8pm KST. There were also no malls or dining options nearby and according to the tour guide, the city centre was a 30-minute drive away 😑 There was, however, a 7-Eleven store near the drop-off point from where we eventually bought cup noodles and some Korean beverages.

The saving grace of this hotel would be the free fast-speed WiFi connection which we tapped into to stream Running Man (I remember it was the BLACKPINK episode 😆) on our phone. It was truly a no-frills business hotel with the most basic amenities at a mid-range cost (if booked through the right medium) and could be the best hotel you can find in Wonju based on online reviews. That said, Hotel Inter-Burgo still fell short of the expectations of a four-star hotel. In my opinion, it deserved three stars or less.

Hotel Inter-Burgo Wonju · 200 Dongbusunhwan-ro, Bangok-dong, Wonju, Gangwon-do, South Korea · Phone: +82 33-769-8114
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* * Day 6 * *

(Everland → Sky 한식 (Sky Hansik) → Dalin Laver Museum →
Doota Mall → Nolboo Restaurant → GLAD Hotel)

Once again, we overslept and missed the hotel breakfast (or maybe instinctively we just weren’t keen) so lugging our baggage, we jumped straight onto our bus for  Everland. The theme park was thronged with many other tour groups who, like us, were all heading to see the two newly-arrived Chinese giant pandas, Ai Bao and Le Bao, at Panda World first. But we ended up devoting more time at the gift shop because the pandas were resting (and also if we really wanted to see pandas, we can always visit Jia Jia and Kai Kai at River Safari).

Thereafter, we were given time to roam Everland on our own. Due to fiancé’s acrophobia (*yawns* 😏) and our reluctance to squander our (limited) time at theme park away on queuing, we didn’t take any of the rides and only went on a food hunt and gift shop-hop for the most part.

Tickets to Everland!

Tickets to Everland!

Feeling some Disneyland vibes at the entrance

Feeling some Disneyland vibes at the entrance

Home to Ai Bao and Le Bao

Home to Ai Bao and Le Bao

Also includes the mandatory red pandas to complete the panda family

Also includes the mandatory red pandas to complete the panda family

ZzzZz leave me alone

ZzzZz leave me alone

The panda from the opposite angle.. clearly just pretending to sleep. Lazy, lazy.

The panda from the opposite angle.. clearly just pretending to sleep. Lazy, lazy.

The centrepiece of Everland - an enchanting Christmas tree

The centrepiece of Everland – an enchanting Christmas tree

Closed 😠

Closed 😠

LINE FRIENDS official shop

LINE FRIENDS official shop

LINE FRIENDS merchandise

LINE FRIENDS merchandise

Argh Brown is so cute

Argh Brown is so cute

Brown snacks!

Brown snacks!

We had three servings of this matcha churros.. #sorrynotsorry #madforchurros

We had three servings of this matcha churros.. #sorrynotsorry #madforchurros

The same cafe also had a dine-in area but it wasn't easy getting an empty table. By sheer luck, we managed to find one 😁

The same cafe also had a dine-in area but it wasn’t easy getting an empty table. By sheer luck, we managed to find one 😁

Dine-in area

Dine-in area

Panda Mushroom Soup (4,300₩) - The soup, although palatable, had a similar creamy consistency as that of canned ones - nothing to write home about. But how cute are those panda-shaped croutons?

Panda Mushroom Soup (₩4,300) – The soup, although palatable, had a similar creamy consistency as that of canned ones – nothing to write home about. But how cute are those panda-shaped croutons?

Candy galore!

Candy galore!

Edible and stackable Lego blocks

Edible and stackable Lego blocks

Last gift shop stop - Monami

Last gift shop stop – Monami

Stationery paradise! It's always a joy for me to be surrounded by colourful pens 😍

Stationery paradise! It’s always a joy for me to be surrounded by colourful pens 😍

You can even build your own Monami pen! But I don't really like the quality of Monami pens so I didn't bother with this section.

You can even build your own Monami pen! But I don’t really like the quality of Monami pens so I didn’t bother with this section.

Queuing to get tea and some food for our starving stomachs

Queuing to get tea and some food for our starving stomachs

Cold weather + hot tea = pure bliss

Cold weather + hot tea = pure bliss

Bet this was a better breakfast option as compared to the breakfast buffet at Hotel Inter-Burgo.

Bet this was a better breakfast option as compared to the breakfast buffet at Hotel Inter-Burgo.

Generally, we are not fond of visiting theme parks while on a time-sensitive tour because it wouldn’t be possible to enjoy them to the fullest under a tight schedule and this was no exception. If given a chance to visit South Korea again (without being on a tour group – just no, thank you), I would certainly insist on going to Everland or Lotte World (against fiancé’s will) and queue for the rides 😁

Everland · 199 Everland-ro, Pogog-eup, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea · Operating Hours: 10:00 – 19:00 (Mon to Thu, Sun) 10:00 – 20:00 (Fri & Sat)
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Under the recommendation of our tour guide (that’s what he claimed), we were taken to Sky Hansik (Sky 한식) somewhere in Pil-dong (exact address unknown but it was quite near to Everland) to binge on Korean barbecue for lunch. The restaurant was bustling with a mix of locals and foreigners in another tour group when we were there and staff were scuffling around trying to clear used plates from tables. It operated on a self-service system so we were free to take as much food and drinks as we wanted. All in all, the meat quality and seasoning was average and the food selection was nothing spectacular. But I was glad to have had a satiating meal for the first time in a long while.

Sky Hansik

Sky Hansik

Meat section - that's literally all they have

Meat section – that’s literally all they have

Some banchan

Some banchan

Beverage dispenser

Beverage dispenser

Barbecue away!

Barbecue away!

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Our next stop was Dalin Laver Museum and while there, we were taken on a guided tour around the gallery to learn about the process of making laver (seaweed). The tour  concluded at their – what else – in-house laver specialty shop where the Chinese-speaking sales representatives demonstrated the various uses of the laver, such as cooking them in soup or stuffing them in rice balls, in an effort to entice customers. They then invited us to try the samples of all the flavours before beginning their sales pitch. Among the 8 (I think) flavours available, barbecue is my favourite because not only is it indeed infused with barbecue essence, it also has only right amount of saltiness 😆 Others that come close are sea salt and kimchi and I prefer eating them as is to preserve the original flavour of their seasoning.

They call themselves a museum but there was hardly any English on their information panel 🙄

They call themselves a museum but there was hardly any English on their information panel 🙄

Laver sales pitch 😄

Laver sales pitch 😄

Laver rice balls!

Laver rice balls!

Samples 😋

Samples 😋

Dalin Laver packaging (click to enlarge)

Dalin Laver packaging (click to enlarge)

The laver is sold in bundles of 5 packets in the same flavour. Each packet contains 5 sheets of laver that are a little smaller than A4 and most amazingly, it only breaks along intentional creases; no scissors is necessary to cut them into bite-size pieces! Fiancé noticed the grin of satisfaction when I bit into the samples and readily bought 10 different sets (I forgot the prices, but our order cost at least S$100) with the secondary intention to give some out as souvenirs. It was one of the rare on-tour purchases we did not regret making. Unfortunately, this brand of laver is not sold anywhere else, not even online 😐 So.. anyone booking a Seoul tour package soon and doesn’t mind letting me tompang my laver order? 😫

Strangely enough, the museum also enables visitors to partake in a hanbok fitting experience on the second floor 🤨 It felt a little out of place but I suppose that helped save us a trip to Gyeongbokgung Palace. The entire level is dedicated to this short cultural experience so you can find different styles of hanbok in common sizes strewn all over the rack with plenty of photography props to aid you in perfecting your shots.

With my <em>jeonha</em> (king) (please pardon any costume inaccuracies - we just took whatever matched and fit us from the rack!)

With my jeonha, or king (please pardon any costume inaccuracies – we just took whatever matched and fit us from the rack!)

Food replicas - can see, cannot eat 😆 The dishes that contributed to the jeonha's obesity. (But seriously though, that's A LOT of food. Did he share them with his subordinates?!)

Food replicas – can see, cannot eat 😆 The dishes that contributed to the jeonha‘s obesity. (But seriously though, that’s A LOT of food. Did he share them with his subordinates?!)

LOL at the indecent exposure caused by the slit on the back of my chima (skirt)

LOL at the indecent exposure caused by the slit on the back of my chima (skirt)

One last shot before we took off the hanbok!

One last shot before we took off the hanbok!

We had fun playing dress-up but still, nothing beats wearing hanbok to the actual locations where history was made. Furthermore, as an added advantage of wearing hanbok at any of the palaces, admission is free. However, this is likely to be counterbalanced by the rental fees of the costumes if you don’t own one.

Dalin Laver Museum · 7 Hangang-daero 21-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea · Phone: +82 2-793-7300
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As promised on our itinerary, we were allowed time to shop and have dinner in Dongdaemun district so our bus dropped us off in front of Doota Mall. We could have walked over to Dongdaemun Market but considering that none of us had been there before, we didn’t want to risk getting lost in the maze of stalls (which we honestly didn’t mind if we were in Seoul without a tour group) and hold up everyone else. Thus, we chose to remain in the mall for some serious shopping 😸

One of the levels in Doota Mall

One of the levels in Doota Mall

Cosmetics shops

Cosmetics shops

Doota Mall is composed of 8 floors, each catering to different demographics. While I went crazy in ARITAUM (for Laneige) and Tony Moly on 4F, fiancé monitored my spending discreetly, occasionally dissuading me from purchasing more cosmetics. But when it was his turn to go gaga on B2, he had no qualms about forking over his money on several shoes 😏 #doublestandard

Doota Mall · 275 Jangchungdan-ro, Gwanghui-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea · Nearest Subway Station: Dongdaemun (Line 1 or 4 – Exit 8) Dongdaemun History & Culture Park (Line 2, 4 or 5 – exit 14)
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Once we had shopped till our hearts’ content (read: bank almost emptied), we reunited with fiancé’s parents at 1F for dinner nearby. As we were walking along a row of eateries at an alley, we caught sight of the signboard of Nolboo Restaurant and decided to give it a try not knowing that it was actually part of an established chain (they even have an outlet in Singapore). We placed an order with the waiting staff for two hot pots with chicken-based broth (yeah, so much for variety 😶) because we weren’t in the mood for spicy. Soon after, the ingredients – a mixture of fresh meat and vegetables – were served to our table and they were ready to be cooked!

Nolboo Restaurant front

Nolboo Restaurant front

Restaurant entrance

Restaurant entrance

What we ate

What we ate

But the moment we took our first bite of our meat, we regretted our decision because it lacked flavour. Should we have gone for budae jjigae (army stew) like everyone else in the restaurant, the food might have tasted a lot nicer so we’ve only got ourselves to blame. Nevertheless, the portion and quality of the ingredients were undoubtedly much better than those of what we had eaten during our tour.

Following our uneventful dinner, we recharged ourselves for our final day in South Korea at GLAD Hotel Yeouido which I have already covered on Day 1.

Nolboo Restaurant · 34, Eulji-ro 43-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul 04564, South Korea · Phone: +82 2-2264-1669
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* * DAY 7 * *

(LOTTE Department Store → Myeongdong Shopping Street →
Cheongha Korea Co. Ltd → Departure [Tax Refund])

So long, GLAD Hotel Yeouido! Much as we didn’t want to leave the hotel, we had to 😪 Once our tour guide had gone around to do a headcount on the bus, the driver stepped on the gas pedal and drove a short distance to a rather dilapidated-looking commercial building (exact location unknown; not worth knowing anyway) for our breakfast. Due to the size of our tour group, we had to take a cramped lift up in batches to the Chinese restaurant at the topmost floor. Before the waiting staff arrived at our tables with our breakfast, our tour guide assured us that it would be food that’d take us back home, so in our minds we were imagining kaya toast, fried you tiao, dim sum, Teochew porridge or whatnot.

But, lo and behold…

...the heck are these?

…the heck are these?

*deep breaths* For the last time, Singapore is not in China, and the food on the table is downright criminal, they belonged in the trash because I certainly had more delectable breakfast dishes when I was in Beijing and Chengdu. The appalled expression on everyone’s face said it all. I had lamented about breakfast on Day 2, but this took the cake. We dried beancurd, peanuts, baby bok choy and this white rolls thing to go with our plain porridge (not pictured). Bruh, where is the meat?! Did someone just assume we had turned vegan for the day? In the end, only the bok choy and peanuts were eaten up and the white rolls were practically untouched.

Checking off more compulsory shopping stops on the itinerary, we were subsequently brought to a ginseng gallery showroom where the spendthrift fiancé bought a box of red ginseng extract. Then, we were driven to a cosmetics megastore that stocked up on seemingly passé products and unheard-of brands. As a way to curb impulse spending, I was constantly looking up products on Carousell to ascertain if I could get them at a bargain price (and you’d be surprised to see tons of them listed there in their unopened condition). That tactic worked wonders because, much to the surprise of fiancé, these tourist traps failed to make me any poorer ✌

We climbed back on the bus and thereafter alighted near Lotte Department Store in Myeongdong. Since breakfast was horrendously inadequate, we made it a priority to have lunch first at 고구려 (Goguryeo) Corean Cuisine on 13F of the mall to acquire some energy for the vigorous shopping later on.

I must say, these banchan looked much more appetising..

I must say, these banchan looked much more appetising..

I underestimated the portion of my samgyetang and added fried chicken (₩18,000) to the order. The parts were huge and it felt like the entire chicken was there. But it was heavenly - crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, and perfectly coated with salty deliciousness.

I underestimated the portion of my samgyetang and added fried chicken (₩18,000) to the order. The parts were huge and it felt like the entire chicken was there. But it was heavenly – crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, and perfectly coated with salty deliciousness.

My samgyetang (₩15,000, cheaper than the fried chicken 😯) meant for two. The broth was thicker and more flavourful than the one we had on Day 1!

My samgyetang (₩15,000, cheaper than the fried chicken 😯) meant for two. The broth was thicker and more flavourful than the one we had on Day 1!

After footing the bill, we and his parents went our separate ways because they wanted to wander the mall on their own. Before taking the underpass to the shopping street across the road, I went on a lipstick shopping frenzy at the HERA booth on B1 while fiancé splurged on a new cologne.

LOTTE Department Store (main) · 30, Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea · Nearest Subway Station: City Hall (Line 1)
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Having already familiarised myself with the layout of Myeongdong shopping street on my first visit to Seoul merely a few months ago, getting to the intended shops and back was a breeze. I continued my shopping streak at one of the numerous Innisfree and Etude House outlets in Myeongdong near the underpass and amassed considerable amount of samples in the process. For the remaining few minutes of free and easy time, we scoured a small area for delicious street food but only managed to buy from three stalls. In response to not being able to try a wider range of the food, fiancé groused about spending too much time at Lotte Department Store earlier 🤣 Well, would this constitute as a good excuse to return to Seoul? I don’t mind hitting the streets of Hongdae and Ewha (I was there on my solo trip) again 😆

Fiancé's favourite snack - mochi

Fiancé’s favourite snack – mochi

The baked cheese had a firm texture which was hardly stretched when bitten. But it was not too bad!

The baked cheese had a firm texture which was hardly stretched when bitten. But it was not too bad!

The beef steak was what made me fall in love with the shopping street! Fiancé and I are both steak lovers so I knew I had to introduce this stall to him!

The beef steak was what made me fall in love with the shopping street! Fiancé and I are both steak lovers so I knew I had to introduce this stall to him!

Sizzle, sizzle! If I remember the cost correctly, each serving should be about S$5?

Sizzle, sizzle! If I remember the cost correctly, each serving should be about S$5?

Thick chunks perfectly seared with a drizzle of teriyaki sauce! Fiancé gave this his stamp of approval.

Thick chunks perfectly seared with a drizzle of teriyaki sauce! Fiancé gave this his stamp of approval.

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Our bus picked us up outside Young Lotte Plaza and proceeded to a random jewellery shop in hopes of exhausting the remaining Korean banknotes we had with us. The group obliged the tour guide by making a couple of rounds about the display cabinets but ultimately left empty-handed within minutes because clearly no one was interested in splashing out hundreds of dollars on some impractical piece of ornament. Taking the hint that we were eager and ready to leave, our (dismayed) tour guide told us to get on the bus for our last meal in Seoul at Cheongha Korea.

The building comprises a hypermarket on the first two floors and a restaurant on the third, and it accepts strictly (tourists-only) group reservations accompanied by a tour guide. Judging from its close proximity to Incheon International Airport, I reckon this place typically serves as the final stop for tourists to eat and stockpile on local specialities and souvenirs before catching their return flight home. Hence, perhaps to facilitate human traffic flow and speed up the payment process, any individual customers who attempt to shop or dine there would be turned away.

Restaurant at Cheongha Korea

Restaurant at Cheongha Korea

What we ate for dinner - beoseot jeongol

What we ate for dinner – beoseot jeongol

Our dinner was yet another simple and healthy one-pot meal, but this time it was beoseot jeongol (mushroom casserole) which had broth quite similar to the taste of sukiyaki, topped with a touch of spiciness. Some felt it was a tad too salty but not so for me since my taste buds tend to gravitate towards briny and piquant flavours. However, as someone who isn’t really big on mushrooms and vegetables in general, the measly amount of meat in this dish didn’t do it for me.

Following an extensive shopping spree at the hypermarket where we snapped up packets boxes of tteokbokki and churros crackers, and honey tong tong (‘coz honey butter chips are so overrated), our bus made its way to the airport.

Cheongha Korea Co. Ltd (for tourist groups only) · 211-2 Unnam-dong, 78 Jung-gu, Incheon City, South Korea · Phone: +82 32-751-0448
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Hauling our inflated luggage out of the vehicle to the SIA check-in counters, we were relieved to have met the baggage weight allowance despite buying so much. While waiting for the gates to open, we went to the refund counters at the departure hall with our passports and the applicable receipts to get our tax reimbursement. Technically, based on the information I read, we were supposed to do this before checking in our luggage but past experience told me it wasn’t necessary.

A useful rule of thumb is that any purchases made at large, touristy department stores and brick and mortar stores downtown amounting between ₩30,000 and ₩200,000 on a single receipt (unless products are already tax-free) would be eligible for tax refund. That said, do check with the shop assistants first just to be sure. Some department stores are also equipped with tax refund kiosks and counters to process your tax refund on the spot (yay to more shopping cash 🤑) but it is only possible up to a certain limit. Plus, we usually leave our passports in the hotel safe because we can be quite careless at times 😥 We had the option of receiving the refund in USD or KRW but somehow fatigue from seven days of non-stop touring had kicked in… and I stupidly opted for KRW. When I finally realised the blunder I had committed, it was already too late because completed transactions are irrevocable 😭

LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE AND DON’T BE LIKE ME OK.

At last, we boarded our SQ flight and was once again greeted with a sense of familiarity. As the plane gained speed and began to lift skyward, we bade farewell to South Korea. Admittedly, I didn’t have as much of a great time as I did on my solo trip because of various natural factors and oversights on my part – for a start, I hated the cold and was inadequately dressed and prepared for it. On top of that, it was constantly raining and that made commuting a hassle. Referring back to the original itinerary from the tour agency, I also noticed that we had skipped several stops such as the Garden of Morning Calm in Seoul as well as Seopjikoji in Jeju, which could likewise be attributed to the weather.

Therefore, if we ever plan to travel to South Korea again, I am going to make doubly sure it doesn’t happen during the winter season (spring or autumn would be ideal). And yes, it has got to be a free and easy one.

My Korea haul!

My Korea haul!

Thanks for reading!

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[XMAS BUFFET] Feast in Merriment @ Element, Amara Singapore

Hello everyone!

Let’s begin this post with a Christmas song sing-along! I know, why don’t we sing Deck The Halls, a crowd favourite at any Christmas party for sure?

♪ Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la 
♪ Tis the season to be jolly FATTY
Fa la la la la, la la la la ♪

Throw away your skinny jeans and belts because with all the Christmas-themed buffets in town, stretch pants are back in fashion once again! With so many festive buffets to choose from but a limited calorie budget to work with, hopefully this write-up on the Yuletide dinner and lunch buffet that’s set to launch on the eve of Christmas at Element (courtesy of Amara Singapore) would help you decide if it’s worthwhile to expand your waistline for. That is, unless you belong to the ‘I-can-eat-as-much-as-I-want-and-I-will-still-be-skinny’ group.

In which case, I hate you.

—🎄 Appetisers 🎄—

Cognac Lobster Bisque

Cognac Lobster Bisque

In the pot, this may look like an ordinary lobster bisque to you but it actually includes an ingredient which gives it an extra zing of flavour – Cognac. Added last to the bisque for a stronger kick, the smoothness and silky richness of the Cognac marries well with the sweetness and creaminess of the soup. Perhaps to cater to children and non-drinkers at the buffet, only a soupçon of Cognac was added so the slight bitter and tangy aftertaste that I got from the lobster bisque didn’t occur to me that it was Cognac. In fact, I had thought it was the spiciness from pepper because the distinctive bold flavour of Cognac just wasn’t picked up by my taste bud! Ironically, Fiona, who isn’t a fan of alcohol, could tell in one sip that there was liquor in the bisque 🤷 But it wasn’t too overpowering so she cleaned the bowl in no time!

Personally, I did not really like the texture of the lobster bisque as it was a little too watered-down for my liking and I prefer it to be creamier and heartier. Still, this is a rare find at any buffet and a must-try if you are a crustacean lover like me!

Tuna Tataki with Cucumber Ribbons and Puffed Quinoa

Tuna Tataki with Cucumber Ribbons and Puffed Quinoa

Tuna Tataki with Cucumber Ribbons and Puffed Quinoa (reviewed here)

Tuna Tataki with Cucumber Ribbons and Puffed Quinoa (reviewed here)

One of my favourite dishes at Element makes an appearance again this Christmas! If you’ve not read my verdict on the tuna tataki on my previous post, I urge you to do so now for a more detailed review! But in summary, the cool, softly chewy texture of the Tataki was what does it for me and this was also probably why it was snapped up so quickly at the media tasting event 😍

Editor’s note: Most of them was taken away by you, my dear.

Smoked Duck, Salami and Prosciutto

Smoked Duck, Salami and Prosciutto

Honey Baked Butter Squash with Honey Mustard and Pumpkin Seed

Honey Baked Butter Squash with Honey Mustard and Pumpkin Seed

Diced to bite-sized pieces, the butternut squash felt squishy in the mouth, almost like the texture of potato but softer, and has a lightly sweet and nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin (although many would argue that they’re basically the same considering that they are used interchangeably in certain countries) on its own. The pumpkin seeds give it an added crunch while the honey mustard lends a slightly zestier and more savoury edge. This is definitely the dish to go for if you intend to start the buffet on a healthier note. But being someone who is huge on more piquant flavours, this was rather bland on my palate.

Cocktail Prawn and Crab Meat with Duo Melon

Cocktail Prawn and Crab Meat with Duo Melon

Cocktail Prawn and Crab Meat with Duo Melon

Cocktail Prawn and Crab Meat with Duo Melon

A fine example of a simple yet elegant pairing that cannot go wrong, this dish features shredded crab meat mixed with a mayonnaise base and topped with a mountain of prawns. The prawns, which are deshelled for fuss-free eating, have such irresistibly crunchy and firm texture that I could not help but gobble up at least 15 pieces of them in one sitting. No doubt this is going to be a favourite among children and adults alike at the buffet table!

Marinated Duck Rilette with Red Wine, Dried Fruits and Gherkin Salsa

Marinated Duck Rilette with Red Wine, Dried Fruits and Gherkin Salsa

Believe it or not, the duck rillette took me some courage to overcome my apprehension of trying it. Apart from the fact that I had never eaten meat prepared Rillette-style (a cooking method originated from France 🇫🇷) before, it honestly wasn’t the most appealing dish on the buffet table. But I recalled tasting the tuna tataki for the first time and instantly falling head over heels for it. Thinking that this would turn out the same way, I took the plunge and scooped some of the duck rillette along with the sauce onto my plate.

Voilà! Fortune favours the brave, perhaps. The duck rillette (or rillettes de canard, as the French calls it) came across as a breath of fresh air. Soft and smooth in texture, it was akin to the texture of a pastry or pâté. By itself, the meat was rather salty (and in Fiona’s words, tasted like “mushy canned food”) so pairing it with the red wine sauce – which resembled and tasted delightful like cranberry jam – would be highly recommended as the sweetness of the sauce evens it out. This would also go perfectly with bread!

—🎄 Main Course🎄—

Turkey Buah Keluak

Turkey Buah Keluak

What’s Christmas in Singapore without roast turkey smeared with the familiar buah keluak (yes, it isn’t charred although it looks like it)? From cempadak creme brûlée to pandan pudding, it seems like we can always count on Element to come up with the most innovative fusion food ideas regardless of the occasion. And in case you didn’t know, buah keluak (or pangium edule, Malay for “the fruit which nauseates” 🤨) is dubbed the black truffle of the East as it is considered an acquired taste. Used mainly in Malay, Indonesian and Peranakan cooking, these seeds are obtained from their poisonous fruit and are then made safe for consumption by fermentation.

The presence of the buah keluak lends a bitter and earthy taste to the turkey, which would otherwise be terribly bland and dry like chicken breast meat (but twice as bad). According to the chef, this took three days to prepare which, unless the turkey is served to a large group of people who love jaw-tiringly chewy meat, isn’t worth the effort (and slaughter). That said, I truly appreciate the creativity and ingenuity presented in this dish and would recommend this to homesick non-Asians who don’t mind a little South East-Asian twist.

Stir-fried Moreton Bay Bug with Salted Egg

Stir-fried Moreton Bay Bug with Salted Egg

Who would have thought a foreign-sounding crustacean could be localised into a dish that would fit my palate to an absolute T? The creaminess of the salted egg sauce coupled with the firmness and lightly crispiness of the meat was a dream-come-true.  Unlike typical salted egg dishes that would bring you to a state of surfeit (i.e. “gelat“) after a few mouthfuls, this just kept me asking for more. I figured it was probably due to it being infused with some spice during preparation.

Steamed Garoupa with Lime Beurre Blanc topped with Tomato Vierge

Steamed Garoupa with Lime Beurre Blanc topped with Tomato Vierge

Roasted Chicken with Meat Floss

Roasted Chicken with Meat Floss

Tajima Wagyu Beef with Foie Gras, Truffle Mashed Potato and Port Jus

Tajima Wagyu Beef with Foie Gras, Truffle Mashed Potato and Port Jus

The addition of the foie gras (those whitish slabs but in very limited quantity) was a splendid touch as it helped to bring out the flavour of the wagyu beef even more. However, probably to cater to the masses at the buffet, the meat was generally cooked to medium which made it somewhat tough and chewy and thereby cheapen the quality of the meat. I feel that this would be better suited at the live station so patrons can request for their steak to be cooked to their preferred doneness (which in my case, would be rare). Furthermore, as an avid lover of wagyu beef, it also kinda annoyed me that the beautiful marbling of the wagyu beef was wholly concealed by the charring and port jus sauce 😫 Where’s the justice for the poor wagyu cattle that died for this?

— 🎄 Desserts🎄—

Cempedak Creme Brûlée

Cempedak Creme Brûlée

The Cempedak Creme Brûlée is like the pinnacle of the Christmas tree as it is, without a doubt, the ⭐ of the dessert section (and as a result of that, effectively stealing the thunder from the log cakes at a Christmas-theme buffet 🤣). Find out why this is the best dessert in my tummy’s opinion on my previous review here.

Macarons (Gingerbread Spices / Coconut / Blueberry + Salted Caramel) - 6 pcs/pack at S$16+ or 10 pcs/pack at S$25+

Macarons (Gingerbread Spices [pink] / Coconut [white – highly recommended] / Blueberry + Salted Caramel [blue – highly recommended]) – 6 pcs/pack at S$16+ or 10 pcs/pack at S$25+

Ho, ho, ho! Spot me on the Christmas log cakes!

Ho, ho, ho! Spot me on the Christmas log cakes!

Fancy gifting your loved ones a log cake to commemorate the season of giving? Element also offers traditional log cakes in three tantalising flavours to suit different tastes. They are available for order at the restaurant.

Amara's Signature Cempadak Yule Log Cake (1 kg, S$65+)

Amara’s Signature Cempedak Yule Log Cake (1 kg, S$65+)

Out of all the log cakes that were brought out, the Cempedak Yule Log Cake was the first to be reduced to nothing which pretty much attests to the popularity of the cempedak in Element’s dessert line-up. The log cake had a fluffy texture with a very robust cempedak flavour that was fragrant and yet not too overpowering at the same time. Each bite of the cake melted in my mouth before I realised what was happening.

Dark Chocolate Cherry Yule Log Cake (1 kg, S$52+)

Dark Chocolate Cherry Yule Log Cake (1 kg, S$52+)

 

Pink Champagne Lychee Yule Log Cake (1 kg, S$52+) - this is alcoholic

Pink Champagne Lychee Yule Log Cake (1 kg, S$52+) – this is alcoholic

Christmas is the time to spend with your family and loved ones, and what better way to do so than to indulge in some cempedak goodness (and many other crowd favourites) at Element? If you’re interested to dine at Element, do make your reservations in advance to avoid being a sad 🐼!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Element at Amara Singapore · 165 Tanjong Pagar Road Singapore 088539 · Tel: 6879 2607 · Nearest MRT station: Tanjong Pagar (EW15) · Click here for more information
Prices and time for Christmas Eve/Christmas Buffet Lunch and Dinner as above

Prices and time for Christmas Eve/Christmas Buffet Lunch and Dinner as above 

The writer is a glutton who occasionally allows his appetite free rein and steals food from Fiona’s plate. Among some of his favourite food are a good steak and meaty crabs doused in chili sauce. Read more posts by Alphonsus here.

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REVIEW: shu uemura × Super Mario Bros. – Rouge Unlimited in RD187 & PK 375, Invincible Superstar Premium Curler & Dual Stamp-Me Liner

Hello everyone!

A few days ago, I posted my review on the Peach’s Eye & Cheek palette and as promised, this second part will see me blabbering on about the rest of the items I’ve gotten from this collection. Read on to find out how two shades of the lipsticks, the eyeliner and eyelash curler from the Super Mario Bros. collaboration fare in my book!

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros (PART II)

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros (PART II)

click here to read my review on the shu uemura × Super Mario Bros PEACH’S EYE & CHEEK PALETTE

#1 Dual Stamp-Me Liner

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Dual Stamp-Me Liner (US$34 / S$45)

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Dual Stamp-Me Liner (US$34 / S$45)

Clear indication on the body of the pen for easy location of the stamp end

Clear indication on the body of the pen for easy location of the stamp end

Super Star motif on the inside of the box

Super Star motif on the inside of the box

It's not stated on the website, but I suppose "Hidden Star" is the name of the shade

It’s not stated on the website, but I suppose “Hidden Star” is the name of the shade

The felt tip on the liquid eyeliner end

The felt tip on the liquid eyeliner end

See the eyeliner in action

See the eyeliner in action

Thick-winged eyeliner

Thick-winged eyeliner

Classic eyeliner flick

Classic eyeliner flick

Available only in one shade (a jet black with pinpricks of multicoloured glitter), the dual-ended eyeliner offers a stamp on one side and a felt-tip liquid eyeliner on the other for regular use. For clarity, I’ll talk about the latter first.

Unlike most eyeliners, this wasn’t love at first application. For a start, it skipped and dragged slightly on my lid, and while it is great that the felt-tip has a firm texture for a more controlled application, it felt somewhat scratchy. The ink somehow does not flow consistently and bleeds quite terribly on every first use so I have to test the eyeliner on the back of my hand before applying it to the lids every time. Although those problems would have been curtailed on subsequent uses (within the same application), some pressure still has to be exerted upon the applicator – which I try to avoid because it pricks – for a more pigmented finish.

The eyeliner didn’t budge an inch on my upper lid after eight hours of wear but it smudged on my lower lid (partly because I was watching a comedy and I tear up easily when I laugh 😂) and that was even with a layer of eye shadow beneath it to supposedly prevent it from running. I tried to smudge it further with my finger to balance out the unintentional smokey eyes but it stubbornly stays put!

But looking past these flaws, its coverage is remarkably opaque for a liquid eyeliner. Apart from that, it is waterproof, dries down moderately fast with excellent staying power. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you would be a whiz with creating an intense cat eye and other graphic looks!

The pattern on the stamp end

The pattern on the stamp end

Super Star stamp on the temple

Super Star stamp on the temple

Super Star stamp on the cheekbone

Super Star stamp on the cheekbone

If your attempts to draw perfect stars on your face have always ended in failure, listen up! You can now achieve them in just one simple step with the Super Star stamp!

Truth be told, the stamp feature initially felt like a gimmicky tactic to market the eyeliner so I was half-expecting a blotchy mess from it. But, boy oh boy, was I blown away by the precision and pigmentation it delivers in a single punch! Not only did it hold up to my longwear tests (by rubbing and showering with it), it had very minimal bleeding on my sandpaper-rough face too which contributed to crispness of the stars’ corners. The stamp is fairly easy to use and does not require much pressure to get a clean and even impression (plus pressing the stamp down too hard would also cause the rim to leave an imprint). The ink stays all day without distorting the shape and, on top of that, removes effortlessly with my Sephora cleansing wipe.

Granted, the idea of makeup stamps may not have been pioneered by shu uemura (see Milk) but I’ve not seen any with a hollow middle like this one which gives users the liberty to fill the stars with whatever colour they want for a more rockstar appeal à la Kat Von D 😝 That said, if only there were more designs and colours to choose from! A sparkle or snowflake imprint would have been so apt for the festive season, don’t you agree?

Stamp and eyeliner (two strokes to show continuity of ink flow) swatches. The first pass of the eyeliner is directly below the star. Notice how it bleeds more than the one next to it?

Stamp and eyeliner (two strokes to show continuity of ink flow) swatches. The first pass of the eyeliner is directly below the star. Notice how it bleeds more than the one next to it?

Compare finish and pigmentation with eyeliners of other brands (pardon the redness of my wrist caused by rubbing my lipstick swatches off too vigorously)

Compare finish and pigmentation with eyeliners of other brands (pardon the redness of my wrist caused by rubbing my lipstick swatches off too vigorously 😝)

The line-up of lipsticks in this collection includes five popular shades from the Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte series (PK 375, PK 376, RD 187, BG 954 & OR 570) and two limited edition Sheer Shine shades (Stage Cleared & Saved Peach) in translucent dark fuchsia plastic casing housed in light pink box graced by an enlarged pixel art of Princess Peach. The packaging in this collection is to die for but the inner video game nerd in me is totally geeking out over the various 8-bit Super Mario graphics plastered all over the (all-pink 😍) lipsticks in particular. Oh, would ya just look at that?

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte (S$38)

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte (S$38)

Super Mario motif on the inside of the box

Super Mario motif on the inside of the box

The lipstick packaging

The lipstick packaging

Furthermore, the lipsticks come largely in my favourite finish 😁 In my first shu uemura Rouge Unlimited review, I had declared my desire to try their Supreme Mattes and this collection just about provides the opportunity to do so! To cut a long story short, I loved the finish so much that I actually hit the store to purchase another shade despite having sent me one as a PR sample already.

Swatches of 4 out of 5 Supreme Mattes (BG954 not pictured) from this collection

Swatches of 4 out of 5 Supreme Mattes (BG954 not pictured) from this collection

#2 Rouge Unlimited in RD 187

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in RD 187

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in RD 187

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in RD 187

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in RD 187

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in RD 187

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in RD 187

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in RD 187

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in RD 187

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in RD 187

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in RD 187

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in RD 187

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in RD 187

RD 187 is a vivid red with blue undertones and has a “superb matte effect” which shu uemura attributes to their careful selection of matte powders. This lipstick applies with some slip and has the ability to smooth out fine lines without stripping away the moisture so exfoliating prior to application wouldn’t be absolutely necessary. The colour goes on evenly without tug and infuses the lips with fullness and sensuality in spite of the minimal shine.

Lightweight with a comfortable texture, it has a medium coverage but is buildable to a full opacity. It stays put throughout the day where unctuous and heavy food and drinks are not involved and fades evenly when they are without the tell-tale ring of colour around the lip line. Also, it is neither drying nor hydrating.

Swatch comparison for RD 187 with reds from other brands

Swatch comparison for RD 187 with reds from other brands

#3 Rouge Unlimited in PK 375

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in PK 375

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in PK 375

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in PK 375

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in PK 375

(single swatch)

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in PK 375

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in PK 375

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in PK 375

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in PK 375

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in PK 375

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Rouge Unlimited Supreme Matte in PK 375

PK 375 is a muted plum with pink undertones. Non-glossy, it envelops the lips in a soft matte colour which applies with some tug. This shade gives a medium coverage but is, once again, buildable to a full without weighing down the lips. It has a reasonable wear time (about the same duration as RD 187) and most of it managed to last through the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Burger I had for dinner the other day, albeit with some of it settling visibly into my lip natural crevices.

As compared to RD 187, this actually has a much drier consistency with a slightly powdery texture which could explain its tendency to emphasise any signs of dryness and imperfection. Nevertheless, this self-purchased lipstick still wears rather comfortably (the texture isn’t bothersome) and is overall neither drying nor hydrating.

Swatch comparison for PK 375 with rosy pinks from other brands

Swatch comparison for PK 375 with rosy pinks from other brands

#4 Invisible Superstar Premium Curler

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Invincible Superstar Premium Curler (S$30)

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Invincible Superstar Premium Curler (S$30)

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Invincible Superstar Premium Curler

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Invincible Superstar Premium Curler

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Invincible Superstar Premium Curler

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Invincible Superstar Premium Curler

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Invincible Superstar Premium Curler

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Invincible Superstar Premium Curler

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Invincible Superstar Premium Curler

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Invincible Superstar Premium Curler

Super Star motif on the inside of the box

Super Star motif on the inside of the box

Putting the Invincible Superstar Premium Curler to the test

Putting the Invincible Superstar Premium Curler to the test

The curler managed to capture most, if not all, of my upper lashes

The curler managed to capture most, if not all, of my upper lashes

Before and after using the Invincible Superstar Premium Curler + mascara (side view)

Before and after using the Invincible Superstar Premium Curler + mascara (side view)

Before and after using the Invincible Superstar Premium Curler + mascara (front view)

Before and after using the Invincible Superstar Premium Curler + mascara (front view)

Touted as the Holy Grail of eyelash curlers, the critically acclaimed shu uemura eyelash curler takes on a special appearance for this collection as it gets an all-gold treatment with a polished Super Star charm on a detachable gold beaded chain. For the uninformed, the “uniquely curved” eyepiece is designed to be universally fitting on most eye shapes while the shape of the silicone pad gives an elongated sweeping curl. In addition, the durable hinge at the center of the curler “regulates the amount of pressure applied to the lashes which ensures safety”. Unlike the eyelash curler in shu uemura’s regular line, this does not include a replacement pad (and neither does the brand sell them separately) so despite being priced the same, the limited edition is essentially marginally more expensive without it. But hey, what’s a few dollars more for a rare packaging like this?

Having already owned a shu uemura eyelash curler from the Karl Lagerfeld collaboration years ago, I have a set of expectations in mind and this works just as well as the one before – or even better. It grabs every strand of my lashes (including the hard-to-reach ones on the inner and outer corners of my eye) without pinching despite having problematic hooded eyes. Suitable for beginners, it doesn’t require much effort to give the lashes a natural curl which held up for more than an hour bare (but could be shorter with mascara on). For this, I could actually feel the impact of the curler on my lashes even without squeezing it much. The sharp edges of it left a small impression on both corners of my lid but they fortunately went away after some time. However, I still find the eyelash curler slightly too big for my eye although that’s certainly not enough a reason to stop me from using this amazing tool.

Generally, the products in this collection – especially the lipsticks – perform up to par even though prices are steeper than usual. It’s a worthy expense if you like Super Mario Bros or cute, limited-edition packaging. Just don’t get the eye and cheek palette.

Without a doubt, shu uemura stole the show with this totally rad throwback collection and judging from the overwhelming response it gets everywhere (most of it are sold out in the U.S. as well as at Tangs and Sephora online), I guess the public agrees too!

Wearing every shu uemura × Super Mario Bros product I have! Which side do you prefer?

Wearing every shu uemura × Super Mario Bros product I have! Which side do you prefer?

What are you favourite products from the shu uemura × Super Mario Bros. collection? Did you get anything? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or simply take a poll!

 

Thanks for reading!

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros is now available on the Sephora Singapore (online), at TANGS and shu uemura boutiques islandwide.

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[SHOUT-OUT] Shopee × Seoul Shop Pop-Up Store @ Suntec City

Hello everyone!

The Prudential Marina Bay Carnival opens tomorrow and those who’ve planned to go there might be wondering what to do before the doors open at 4 pm. Well, perhaps you could consider adding Suntec City to your afternoon itinerary since it’s just one stop away from Bayfront MRT and has a free shuttle service to the carnival. Most importantly, if you’re into all things Korean, there’s something new there to keep you occupied for at least an hour!

From now till 17 December 2017 (that’s two days from now), get your Korean fix without leaving Singapore! In partnership with Shopee, Seoul Shop (the same management behind I’M STARTICE) has set up a pop-up store at Suntec City (West-North Link) that provides a unique (believe me on this) and fuss-free shopping experience!

Expect an array of products ranging from beauty, accessories to household essentials flown in from South Korea at the store which will make great Christmas gifts! For the neat freaks, I spotted some nice 2018 planners on the shelves too 😆

The aisle

The aisle

Cutesy stationery found here!

Cutesy stationery found here!

If you're a fan of LINE Friends, this is why you should go to the pop-up store!

If you’re a fan of LINE Friends, this is why you should go to the pop-up store!

Handheld LINE Friends fans (if you didn't manage to score one from McDonald's)

Handheld LINE Friends fans (if you didn’t manage to score one from McDonald’s)

Isn't this the cutest tea infuser you've ever seen?!

Isn’t this the cutest tea infuser you’ve ever seen?!

Iceberg-inspired cup cover and infuser! Gwiyo

Iceberg-inspired cup cover and infuser! Gwiyo 😍

Writing pads!

Writing pads!

A durian-looking humidifier? Not expensive at all - only S$13.41 (before discount)!

A durian-looking humidifier? Not expensive at all – only S$13.41 (before discount)!

Wigs! Quite a number of styles available!

Wigs! Quite a number of styles available!

Vanity mirror for you to see if the wig looks nice on you!

Vanity mirror for you to see if the wig looks nice on you!

I guess.. these are hair dyes? Buy one get one free!

I guess.. these are hair dyes? Buy one get one free!

Eye shadow palettes

Eye shadow palettes

Lipsticks! Don't expect insane pigmentation though because Koreans like barely-there makeup looks!

Lipsticks! Don’t expect insane pigmentation though because Koreans like barely-there makeup looks!

But how is this little retail space different from the surfeit of pop-up stores out there? For one, a customer service counter takes the place of the cashier because the shop adopts a contactless payment system whereby only credit cards are accepted through the Shopee app. In other words, all purchases at the pop-up store are made through @hiseoul.sg on the Shopee app so you don’t have to tote around your bulky wallet! Hence, don’t be deceived by the lack of customers waiting in line at the counter (as given the Singaporean mentality, when a shop has short or no queue, it is presumably not good, right?) because checkout queues are practically nonexistent at the pop-up shop!

That said, do arm yourselves with the app already downloaded on your phone to speed up the transaction process (and save your mobile data). Once you have the app installed, register for an account with your mobile number, add a credit card via Account Settings and you are good to go! In the meantime, you can browse the catalogue to get a better sense of what may be available at the pop-up shop. Due to space constraints, only a small selection of items (from the catalogue) is sold at the pop-up shop so it is advisable that you drop by before you make any order on the app.

To add new credit card, go to settings (gear icon on top left) on your profile page

To add new credit card, go to settings (gear icon on top left) on your profile page

Tap on 'Bank Accounts/Cards'

Tap on ‘Bank Accounts/Cards’

Then, tap on 'Add New Credit Card/Debit Card'

Then, tap on ‘Add New Credit Card/Debit Card’

What’s more, buying through the app entitles you to a 15% off your total bill with the code “HISESEOUL“! If your Korean sheet mask supplies are running low, I suggest you take this opportunity to stock them up! Don’t say I bo jio worz 🤭 Prices reflected on the shelves are before the discount is applied!

When it comes to mask packaging, Korea wins hands-down!

When it comes to mask packaging, Korea wins hands-down!

I spy the Americano and Latte Mask on the bottom right. Like, what?!

I spy the Americano and Latte Mask on the bottom right. Like, what?!

More masks! The ones on the bottom row are mask for your feet! Bought one box and it friggin' works!

More masks! The ones on the bottom row are mask for your feet! Bought one box and it friggin’ works!

Buy this Peel Off mask and film down your reaction XD #waystogoviral

Buy this Peel Off mask and film down your reaction XD #waystogoviral

There will be a live makeup demonstration by native Korean makeup artist Jinnie Lee on Saturday and Sunday (16/12, 17/12) at 1-2 pm and 6-7 pm so be sure to stick around if you’re heading to the pop-up store this weekend! Psst.. I heard there will also flash deals up for grabs over the weekend! You won’t wanna miss them 🤤

Can’t make it for the event or want something on mobile but is not available at the store? If you don’t mind the wait, go ahead and place your order with ease because Shopee is currently offering FREE local shipping on top of the 15% discount that is extended to orders made through the app! Simply apply the same code “HISESEOUL” at checkout to enjoy the offer! But remember, all good things must come to an end – this irresistible promotion sadly runs right up until this Sunday, 17 December 2017. The good news, though, is that you get to keep the Shopee coins (100 Shopee Coins = $1 discount) you earned from your Seoul Store order for three months!

Some products available on the app

Some products available on the app

That’s not all! Shopping at the pop-up store comes with an extra treat – a goodie bag! But do act fast because the goodie bags are available while stock lasts on a first-come-first-serve basis and are limited to one redemption per person. Psst.. get another friend to make the payment of half your order to fully utilise this offer 😜

Mmm, what else? Oh yes, a grand draw! Who can say no to contests? Stand a chance to win a pair of tickets to Seoul by following @hiseoul.sg on Shopee. And as an added bonus for your support, you get to double your chances of winning with any purchase on @hiseoul.sg from 11 to 17 December too! Easy, right?

Look for 'Seoul Shop' in the search bar

Look for ‘Seoul Shop’ in the search bar

Hit the 'Follow' button!

Hit the ‘Follow’ button!

So, wait no further and start Shopee-ing now! 😁 Who knows? You could be the lucky one jetting off to Seoul next year!

Shopee × Seoul Shop Pop-Up Store · 11 – 17 December 2017 · Suntec City West-North Link 1-2 (Outside Cotton On) · 3E Temasek Boulevard Singapore 038984 · Operating hours: 11.00 am to 9.00 pm · Nearest MRT stations: Esplanade (CC3) / Promenade (CC4/DT15) / City Hall (NS25/EW13) · More information here
This post is brought to you by Seoul Shop.

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REVIEW: shu uemura × Super Mario Bros. – Peach’s Eye & Cheek Palette

Hello everyone!

Before the internet became a household fixture, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was a huge phenomenon which provided hours of enjoyment for children cooped up in the house all day (like myself). Through the NES, users were introduced to a whole new world of video games. The “Jump Man” in Donkey Kong in particular received so much attention that it was eventually made into its own game called Super Mario Bros. Today, the character is undeniably one of the things that is synonymous with the ’90s.

This year, the Italian plumber – who recently turns 32 – gets his big break in the beauty world when he was invited to collaborate on a holiday makeup collection by shu uemura. Released on 1 October in the U.S., this 25-piece Super Mario Bros-themed collection offers lipsticks, palettes, cushion cases, cleansing oil and many others presented in packaging that will hit you gamer girls right in the childhood.

Having grown up with Super Mario Bros, saying that I was excited for this launch would be an understatement. I was literally counting down the days until this collection finally makes its appearance at the local shu uemura counters on 15 November!

But sounds like Christmas came early this year as shu uemura Singapore had kindly sent me a few products to blabber about here 😍 In this first instalment of my two-part review on this collection, the spotlight will be solely on the Peach’s Eye & Cheek Palette (which has sold out in the U.S., by the way 😨).

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Peach's Eye & Cheek Palette (S$128)

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Peach’s Eye & Cheek Palette (S$128)

Goomba motif on the inside of the box!

Goomba motif on the inside of the box!

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Peach's Eye & Cheek Palette

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Peach’s Eye & Cheek Palette

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Peach's Eye & Cheek Palette

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Peach’s Eye & Cheek Palette

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Peach's Eye & Cheek Palette

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Peach’s Eye & Cheek Palette

Inspired by Princess Peach (a character in the Mario franchise), the limited-edition eye and cheek palette includes a dual-ended brush, six eye shadows and two glow ons (shu uemura’s version of blush that enhances the natural glow of cheeks) embossed with some distinctive elements of the game. The shades, organised in quads of purple and brown hues, are specially curated to create two highly-achievable monochromatic looks and are exclusive to the palette.

Made with acrylic plastic with a glossy surface, the palette is pink on the outside with pixel art of some notable characters and items of Super Mario, and white on the inside. It is thin yet sturdy and doesn’t take up much storage space. Upon opening the lid, you will be greeted with a removable transparent sheet of plastic with the names (or rather purpose) of each product placed on top of the pans to guide application and perhaps, to prevent the inbuilt mirror from getting dirtied by powder residue.

From top row, left to right: IR pink, S mauve, P plum, G gold light, ME orange, ME bronze eye shadows (1.0 g x 6 / 0.03 oz) // bottom: dreamy peach, brave orange glow ons (3.5 g x 2 / 0.12 oz)

From top row, left to right: IR pink, S mauve, P plum, G gold light, ME orange, ME bronze eye shadows (1.0 g x 6 / 0.03 oz) // bottom: dreamy peach, brave orange glow ons (3.5 g x 2 / 0.12 oz)

☆ Eye Shadows ☆

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Peach's Eye & Cheek Palette eye shadows

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Peach’s Eye & Cheek Palette eye shadows

The base shade on the first half of the palette is described as a pink with an iridescent finish which, according to shu uemura, “offer(s) glimmering reflections of changing colors”. It is a light wash of cool pink with finely milled shimmers which have a gritty texture to it. Sheer in coverage, it acts as a lightening and smoothing agent for the shade applied atop it. It can also be used on its own for a dewy look. This feels smidgen dusty and is prone to sheer out when applied dry. Hence, you would get better results (i.e. colour intensifies and a more pronounced shine) when used with a wet brush. Otherwise, if you don’t want to leave a water stain on the eye shadow, perhaps using a dense brush would help the colour show better on the lid.

Compare Base with other similar shades from the Kat Von D Shade + Light (Plum) and Urban Decay Naked 3 palettes

Compare Base with other similar shades from the Kat Von D Shade + Light (Plum) and Urban Decay Naked 3 palettes

The styling shade is described as a mauve with a shimmery finish. It appears more of a violet to me with warm undertones and has a slight metallic sheen to it. This shade is safely one of those eye shadows that appears dull when applied, but comes alive when light hits it. It applies sheer at first but is buildable to a semi-opaque coverage. It isn’t too soft or firm in the pan which gives it a smooth and blendable texture. The edges also diffuse rather well without losing much intensity. I experienced a negligible amount of kickback in the pan when I dabbed it with my brush but there wasn’t much fallout on me.

Compare Styling with other similar shades from the Kat Von D Shade + Light (Plum) and Urban Decay Naked 3 palettes

Compare Styling with other similar shades from the Kat Von D Shade + Light (Plum) and Urban Decay Naked 3 palettes

The defining shade is described as a plum with a pearl finish which, as defined by shu uemura, lends a “silky shimmer of light for luminous radiance”. This deep violet contains chunkier purple glitter and has a drier and somewhat uneven texture so undoubtedly there would be fallout during application. Moderately dense and generally patchy in consistency, it sheers out quickly when blended but can be built to an opaque coverage if used with a dense brush. The metallic sheen becomes rather glaring as the eye shadow is piled on. Similarly, this applies noticeably better with a dampened brush. Occasionally, I would use this shade alongside the browns to give my eyes a smokier look.

Compare Define with other similar shades from the Kat Von D Shade + Light (Plum) and Urban Decay Naked 3 palettes

Compare Define with other similar shades from the Kat Von D Shade + Light (Plum) and Urban Decay Naked 3 palettes

APPLICATION & SUGGESTED LOOK

Apply the base colour all over lids with the shader side of the dual-ended brush

Apply the base colour all over lids with the shader side of the dual-ended brush

With the same end of the brush, apply the styling shade above the base

With the same end of the brush, apply the styling shade above the base

Define the eyes while still using the shader brush

Define the eyes while still using the shader brush

Apply styling colour along the lower lash line with the precision end of the brush

Apply styling colour along the lower lash line with the precision end of the brush

Using the same brush, add definition along the outer corner of the eye and do a little bit of crease-cutting on the upper lid. Blend out harsh edges with shader brush.

Using the same brush, add definition along the outer corner of the eye and do a little bit of crease-cutting on the upper lid. Blend out harsh edges with shader brush.

From plain to glamourous!

From plain to glamourous!

The base shade on the next half of the palette is described as a gold light with glittery finish which adds “abundant sparkles for glistening glamour”. It is a cool-toned pale gold with a powdery smooth texture. The glitter in this eye shadow is more sparkly in appearance. Although it also seems more scattered, it was fortunately not messy to work with. It may offer sheer coverage but as a base colour, this packs a punch of glow even on the first layer and piling on the product will only build up the shine. I find that this shade applies more smoothly and evenly with the finger tip. On top of that, it can also be used as a lid topper to enhance the sparkle of the main eye shadow colour.

Compare Base with other similar shades from TheBalm NUDE 'tude, Urban Decay Naked Heat and Juvia's Place Nubian 2 palettes

Compare Base with other similar shades from TheBalm NUDE ‘tude, Urban Decay Naked Heat and Juvia’s Place Nubian 2 palettes

The styling shade for the second look is described as an orange with a metallic finish which is supposedly “smooth like liquid with a metallic glow”. It is an orange with brown undertones and has micro-glitter distributed uniformly to give a nice, frosted sheen. This shade applies evenly and goes on semi-opaque on the first swipe when used with a finger or dense brush (dry or dampened – it doesn’t really matter). Buildable to a completely opaque coverage, it is lightweight and blends fairly well on the lid. It may feel a bit gritty in the pan but there is hardly any kickback and fallout. If I have to pick a favourite in this palette, this will be it!

Compare Styling with other similar shades from TheBalm NUDE 'tude, Urban Decay Naked Heat and Juvia's Place Nubian 2 palettes

Compare Styling with other similar shades from TheBalm NUDE ‘tude, Urban Decay Naked Heat and Juvia’s Place Nubian 2 palettes

Lastly, add some definition to the eye with a metallic bronze. This warm-toned brown has faint multicoloured micro-glitter that seems more loosely incorporated into the product. The eye shadow has a powdery smooth consistency with rich pigmentation. It is best applied with a dampened brush for maximum coverage and colour intensity. However, it would require a firmer hand to completely diffuse the edges.

Compare Styling with other similar shades from TheBalm NUDE 'tude, Urban Decay Naked Heat and Juvia's Place Nubian 2 palettes

Compare Styling with other similar shades from TheBalm NUDE ‘tude, Urban Decay Naked Heat and Juvia’s Place Nubian 2 palettes

APPLICATION & SUGGESTED LOOK

Apply base colour all over the lid with the shader brush

Apply base colour all over the lid with the shader brush

Using the same brush, pack on some colours with the styling shade

Using the same brush, pack on some colours with the styling shade

Define the eye by adding a darker shade on the outer corner

Define the eye by adding a darker shade on the outer corner

Cut them crease with the darkest shade on the palette!

Cut them crease with the darkest shade on the palette!

Be extra - apply defining shade on the inner corner to add emphasis to the center of the lid

Be extra – apply defining shade on the inner corner to add emphasis to the center of the lid

Line the lower lash line with the styling shade

Line the lower lash line with the styling shade

Followed by the defining shade on the outer corner

Followed by the defining shade on the outer corner

Don't forget to blend out the edges!

Don’t forget to blend out the edges!

From girl-next-door to femme fatale 🤗

From girl-next-door to femme fatale 🤗

When glam meets edgy

When glam meets edgy

☆ Glow Ons ☆

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Peach's Eye & Cheek Palette blush

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros Peach’s Eye & Cheek Palette blush

Dreamy Peach is a warm pink with flecks of gold shimmers even though it appears to have more orange undertones in the pan. This Super Star and Super Mushroom-embossed blush has sheer pigmentation and can be built to a semi-sheer at most. It blends quite easily owing to its soft texture but has the tendency to sheer out on normal or drier skin (I had swatch it on my wrist a couple of times and it fades away quickly every time). It doesn’t cause any kickback in the pan nor leave any noticeable dents even after multiple uses and that is great if you, like me, don’t want to ruin the cute embossing on the glow ons 😁

Darling Princess (3-4 swipes)

Darling Princess (3-4 swipes)

Darling Princess Darling Princess (3-4 swipes, blended out)

Darling Princess Darling Princess (3-4 swipes, blended out)

Brave Orange is a pale neon orange with yellow undertones topped with accents of gold shimmers. It comes with Fire Flower and the iconic Question Mark Block embossed on it. Soft and lightly powdery in texture, this blush feels luxuriously smooth to the touch and is buildable to a semi-sheer coverage. I actually find this more pigmented than Dreamy Peach and surprisingly, does not camouflage into my Chinese skin tone nor look too yellowish on me. It can be doubled as a bronzer for lighter skin tones to give a subtle contour. However, it does have the tendency to cling onto the drier areas of the skin which could be why it applied slightly uneven on me and needed some effort to buff out the unsightly streak.

Adventure Princess (1 swipe)

Adventure Princess (1 swipe)

Adventure Princess (3-4 swipes)

Adventure Princess (3-4 swipes)

Adventure Princess for contouring (using Sigma F04 Extreme Structure Contour™ Brush)

Adventure Princess for contouring (using Sigma F04 Extreme Structure Contour™ Brush)

Adventure Princess for contouring (using Sigma F04 Extreme Structure Contour™ Brush)

Adventure Princess for contouring (using Sigma F04 Extreme Structure Contour™ Brush)

Two looks (without the lipstick, yet!) side by side. Which one do you prefer?

Two looks (without the lipstick, yet!) side by side. Which one do you prefer?

As a Japanese brand serving international markets, shu uemura has managed to strike a balance between bold and delicate with this palette to cater to people on either ends of the preference spectrum. While it delivers a relatively lighter wash of colour with a touch of glitter when used as-is, these attributes can also be easily amped up on the lid with your finger tip or a dampened brush. That said, the choice of shades (especially the glow ons) seems to gear towards lighter skin tones in general.

And in case you didn’t catch the price earlier, this would set you back a whooping S$128 so unless you are obsessed with Super Mario or don’t mind splurging a few hundred dollars on a high-end product (made with top grade ingredients and presumably state-of-the-art technology, no less), I honestly don’t think this is worth burning a hole in your pocket for in terms of the price per ounce for each product in this palette.

What are your thoughts on this adorable palette? Let me know what you think in the comments below or take a quick poll!

 

Totally unrelated to this palette but what are some of your favourite NES games? Apart from Super Mario Bros, I was hooked on playing Antarctic AdventureIce Climber, Circus, Duck Hunt, Bubble Bobble, Popeye and Bomberman 😆 There should be more but I can’t remember their names at the moment. Just listening to the 8-bit music of these games brings back so many childhood memories!

Anyhoo, thanks for reading and stay tuned for part two of this collection 🙂

shu uemura × Super Mario Bros is now available on the Sephora Singapore (online), at TANGS and shu uemura boutiques islandwide.
The product featured in this review was editorially selected. All opinions, as always, are genuine and uninfluenced.

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REVIEW: Fenty Beauty – Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 200 & 260, Match Stix Trio in Medium & Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Trophy Wife

Hello everyone!

Rihanna has been dominating the beauty headlines lately with the launch of her newest business venture, Fenty Beauty (backed by Kendo Holdings which also owns Marc Jacobs, Kat Von D and Bite Beauty). More notably, her line of foundations, which boasts a diverse (never-seen-before) range of shades that complements the palest to the deepest of skin tones, has kinda set the benchmark for diversity in the beauty industry. Now, this is what I call a breakthrough!

Although I was equally thrilled about the launch as many of you, I did not rush into buying anything when the brand landed here. Instead, I decided to wait for the Sephora sale to kick off before getting some of their highly-raved products to try. Clearly, a similar plan was also devised by many others, as evident from the almost-bare racks to emptied samples of Fenty Beauty at most outlets during the sale which left me with no choice but to guess my shade online.

Sephora has a shade finder tool on their mobile app that determines the foundation shade (of almost every brand) that matches your skin based on the existing ones you are already using. The Fenty foundation shade that corresponded to my Benefit Big Easy and M·A·C NC25 foundation suggested by the app was 240 but since that was already sold out everywhere, I took a gamble and bought two other shades I felt were also rather close to my skin tone.

But before we go into the reviews, let's take a minute to appreciate the original, clean-cut, no-nonsense, hexagonal packaging of Fenty Beauty. The design is truly an eye-pleaser. They tessellate with one another so it is very easy to store them. And the foundation looks really prestigious with the glass bottle.

But before we go into the reviews, let’s take a minute to appreciate the original, clean-cut, no-nonsense, hexagonal packaging of Fenty Beauty. The design is truly an eye-pleaser. They tessellate with one another so it is very easy to store them. And the foundation looks really prestigious with the glass bottle.

#1 Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation (200)

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 200

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 200

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 200

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 200

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 200

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 200

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 200

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 200

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 200

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 200

...did I just find my PERFECT foundation match?!

…did I just find my PERFECT foundation match?!

Shade 200 is described as a cool in the medium range with a matte finish. It provides medium to full coverage in just two layers and has little to no trail of moisture on the surface. Lightweight, the foundation gives a smooth, natural veil effect and acts like a second skin which conceals my blemishes and redness rather nicely. However, I find that I have to work it into the skin very quickly because it dries completely like greased lightning (a perfect ally for people who are always tight for time) even on my misted face or with a damp sponge. Any tardiness in blending out the edges will result in conspicuous patches on my face. That said, it adheres well to the skin and isn’t prone to transfer so I did not have to worry much about the foundation melting off my face when I was outdoors.

But about ten minutes into wear, the foundation oxidises to a darker beige that, although isn’t too far off my natural shade, creates an overall uneven complexion (which kinda defeats the purpose of putting on foundation). Furthermore, despite the claims of this foundation being “climate-adaptive” as well as “resistant to sweat and humidity”, it failed to keep my face shine-free in the hot and humid weather of Singapore. As a matter of fact, not only did my face became oilier than ever at the end of the day, my pores also became visibly clogged and enlarged.

#2 Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation (260)

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 260

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 260

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 260

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 260

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 260

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 260