Monthly Archives: November 2016

Decollete Mask

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I was very happy to see this – sheet masks really seem to be improving my complexion, to the point where my neck is clearly being left behind, so a version which is designed to treat both areas at once looked like a great idea.

It’s a tricky item to deal with, though. It needs unfolding carefully and takes time to position piece by piece with multiple flaps and gaps to smooth out in the right places. There’s a 9 step set of pictorial instructions to help with this, but even so I found it needed readjusting constantly to keep it all in contact with my skin.

I have only seen this in Tokyo so far, but feel I could probably create the same effect either by doubling up on sheet masks, or tracking down a specific neck patch to use at the same time. But the product works so well that I will be pursuing this idea…


Salt and Vinegar Candy

Category : Food

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These popped up in Daiso, yet another example of the Asian tendency to combine ingredients in ways that would horrify Westerners, but for S$2 a packet, I felt they were worth a try.

I know that tomato is technically a fruit, so it has some natural sweetness, but the Salt Tomato candy was too bizarre to taste for long. It’s not that there was too much salt, but combined with the sugar of the candy it was just wrong.

The Lychee Vinegar candy was reasonably good in comparison. I didn’t like it at all, but it was reminiscent of those sour pear candies which were popular when I was young, except with too much sugary lychee taste.

I am packing the rest of these off to daughters #1 and #2 in England and await their verdict with interest…

Breast Mud

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‘Discover the secrets of Balinese beauty’, claims the box, with delightful artwork including some very suggestively shaped hills. ‘The mud mask is made from mud which has a strong tightening, straining and shaping effect…’

Look more closely and you will discover that the mud is actually from the Dead Sea, and there is no suggestion that the coconut extract and various other herbal ingredients in there come from Bali itself or even anywhere else in Indonesia.

But I was on the loose in Jakarta looking for shopping entertainment, and this seemed like a good idea at the time.

Fast forward to the point when I decided to try this out. For a start, having experienced a DIY all-over mud mask at the Dead Sea for real, I can tell you that this bears no resemblance. It smells a lot better, but otherwise there is simply no comparison.

This could better be described as Dead Sea sand, because it is pinkish and gritty, not to mention impossible to mix into any useful consistency. I tried for ages, adding water as instructed, adding more product in the hope of producing ‘mud’ which could easily be applied. But all I got was either wet sand, or sand at the bottom of a bowl of water.

It really did not stick as expected, with grit ending up everywhere – I tried this in the bath and ended up showering several times afterwards then still finding bits the next day. On the other hand, it did function fairly well in the way of an exfoliating salt scrub, and my skin did end up feeling silky smooth.

There is enough in the pack for several applications, but there was so much mess in my bathroom I do not expect I will be using this product again.


Omija (5 flavour) Tea

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This is something very Korean, a special tea which is a unique blend of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy. I first tried it in a traditional tea house in the Bukchon district of old wooden houses in Seoul. It came in a cup the size of a soup bowl, alongside a plate of some unusual but tasty cookies.

Once you get over the initial surprise of having all these flavours explode onto your taste buds at once, it is very nice indeed, quite apart from being supposedly good for headaches, hangovers and general malaise.

So when I saw this version in a store later, I had to snap it up, although I must confess that the interesting presentation was as big a draw as the flavour.

Koreans are good at ‘liquid teas’, which usually come in a jar and look more like runny jam with citrus peel than actual tea until you add water. This one was liquid with a lemon slice and some berries floating inside the pouch. All the instructions were in Korean but there were helpful pictures, a line marking how much water to add – either hot or cold, plus a handy straw.

There’s a ziplock style seal at the top of each pouch, but since this was already sticky on the outside I would not have liked to put it in my bag for consumption later. That aside, the tea itself was just as delicious as the proper version I’d had before. I hope I can find this again in one of the Korean groceries in Singapore.

Hippo Patch

Category : Beauty

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There’s no real way to lose weight apart from eating less and exercising more, but there’s also an irresistible appeal about anything that promises an easier option.

Besides, the artwork on this slimming patch, with the cute hippo transformed from sad to svelte, made me laugh. ‘The God of Patches. Bye-bye to excess fat’, says the blurb on the back. When you read the instructions carefully, you see that this product simply smooths and moisturises, to cool and firm the skin, so actual inch loss will be in your imagination.

But never mind, it was only HK$18 so had to be worth a try.

In practice, this patch was less amusing, probably because it is supposed to remain in place for 8 hours. And as it is a hydrogel patch, it is very wet and slippery, so it needs to be secured to your stomach with a large adhesive cover almost identical to a wound dressing.

I put this on at bedtime, and swiftly found myself in some discomfort. The patch seemed to heat up, and was unpleasantly damp and sweaty under the dressing. I did not sleep especially well, and in the morning found the whole thing very difficult to remove. The dressing disintegrated into annoying shreds which had to be peeled off individually, leaving a sticky residue on my skin.

And of course there was no discernible improvement… I won’t be buying any more of these.

Yak Jerky

Category : Food

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Eating well is a bit of a problem in Tibet. Even in the cities – which in practise means just Lhasa and Shigatse – you either have to look hard or be ordering something recognisable in a smart hotel to end up with a meal memorable for the right reasons.

Out in the wilds, where if there is electricity it is only available for a couple of hours a day, refrigeration isn’t an option, cooking is done over yak dung fires, and a lot depends on bringing a large kettle to the boil. If you haven’t brought your own supplies, you will find the menu is restricted to noodle soup and egg fried rice. Every day, at every meal.

It isn’t reasonable to complain… life above 3,500m is hard, not much grows and both crops and livestock have to be very sturdy to survive. Gourmet local treats are not in evidence, and yak meat turns up in pretty nearly everything whether you have ordered it or not.

It mainly comes in 2 forms, either dried into small hard cubes, or sealed into foil pouches with enough liquid to retain a bit of softness. Either way is perfect for bringing home to share the experience with family and friends, even if they do end up feeding it to their boyfriend’s dog instead (daughter #1!).

To be honest, a bit of yak is not that bad. It looks like beef but tastes more like goat, especially the dried version which is fairly gamey. The wetter variety is a lot easier to chew but comes apart in unappealing fibres. Eating it fresh is obviously better, although you usually run the gauntlet of the yak meat stall just outside and that can be enough to put anyone off (see below…)

I am sad to confess that the nicest yak meat I tasted on my most recent trip to Tibet was the yak burger with all the trimmings at the Shangri-La Hotel in Lhasa, the night before we flew home. Hopefully I won’t have to eat any more for the foreseeable future.

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Donkey Milk Face Cream

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You can always rely on Korean cosmetics companies to come up with interesting and unusual ingredients, many of them home grown natural products. It probably taps into the Asian way of embracing the change in seasons, which often means that certain foodstuffs are only available for a limited time each year. (Certainly, the fruit and veg you find in the supermarkets out here are a far cry from the year-round, hot-housed, usually disappointing produce on sale in the US or UK.)

There is also a constant race to come up with something new and surprising, because crazes come and go very quickly, and competition between the top brands is fierce. Some trends peak and vanish almost immediately, others stand the test of time.

Donkey milk (and its cousin, donkey gelatin) looks to be one that will stay. And if you think about it, Cleopatra is said to have bathed in this and she was famously the most beautiful woman in the world…

Legends aside, there is also some science to back this up. Donkey milk is apparently far closer to human milk than is cow’s milk, so it causes fewer allergies and it beneficial for sensitive skin. It is also low in fat, high in lactose, deeply hydrating for the skin, and contains all manner of good things including a range of vitamins.

You may be wondering why we don’t drink this instead of cow’s milk, but the reality is that donkeys have to be milked by hand, which makes it impractical to keep large herds.

I came back from Seoul with a small collection of donkey milk-related products, and have been trying them with interest. Luckily, they do not smell either of milk or donkey, which is a distinct bonus but means that I would not have guessed they were any different from the plant based products I am used to. But my skin feels soft, I have had no adverse reactions, so would consider buying a full-sized version of either of these creams should I see them again.

Sweet Pringles

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What were they thinking?

I saw these ‘butter caramel’ Pringles in Seoul and could not believe my eyes, then saw them again in Singapore alongside the ‘sweet mayo cheese’ version.

There is no way to be polite about them – fake butter flavour, horrible sweet taste… they were completely revolting.


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These have been around for a while now, but they still surprise me with how useful they can be.

Everyone has those moments when a wardrobe malfunction or an unexpected need to be culturally sensitive brings sudden embarrassment. You can pre-empt the possibility of one and carry these around in your bag in case of the other.

Alternatively, they can spare some blushes if you are wearing anything slightly see-through.

Essentially, they are large circular fabric stickers, in a tasteful shade of nude, which cover up your nipples. They go on and peel off quite easily, without leaving an annoying residue – in fact the adhesive is only round the edge of the circle so there is no chance of irritating your delicate areas.

They are cheaper, easier to carry ‘just in case’ and less liable to slip than the reusable silicone alternative. These are the Japanese version, and at less than S$1 a set, they are a steal!

Facial Wipes

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When you travel light, it helps to avoid taking containers of liquid in your hand carry bag. I know that technically you are allowed a small zip lock bag of 100ml bottles on board a plane, but the fewer you actually have, the better.

It is possible to track down non liquid versions of all sorts of ‘essentials’, from deodorants and toothpaste to foundations and eye colours. Wipes of different sorts are also really useful, especially makeup and nail polish removers, so I was very interested to see these.

I bought them in Mumbai, with the idea of taking them on a trekking holiday, but in the end decided they were actually too bulky for my pack. Having rediscovered them, they are now in my gym bag…

From Kara, these wipes are designed to cleanse, hydrate, nourish and deodorise, whilst promising to be 100% natural and alcohol free. The toning version contains rose and thyme, and works very nicely. There is none of the harsh ‘chemical’ feel you find with some wipes, and the scent is pleasant but unobtrusive.

The moisturising pack interested me the most, as I have not seen this before, and honey plus almond seemed like a good combination. I wasn’t so sure when I removed the first wipe from the packet, as I had been expecting to find it thick with cream, but it did not feel any different from a cleansing wipe. However, it did leave my skin feeling fresh and moisturised, with a matte finish. I was sure I would end up applying my usual moisturiser as well before too long, but this proved not to be the case.

There are only 10 wipes in each packet but I expect I will use them all.