Author Archives: julietours

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Beauty Bar

A first in Singapore, this cashless automated ‘store’ dispensing cosmetics and skincare items is something of a novelty, and has been attracting quite a lot of interest at the new Downtown Gallery complex.

Touch screen displays allow you to choose the product you are after, and once you have wielded your credit card a cushioned drawer opens up to reveal your purchase. It is all incredibly efficient.

I was slightly perplexed by the whole idea at first, but it actually makes sense. If you need an emergency lipstick before that important, unexpected meeting, or you don’t finish working on those vital documents until after the shops have closed, this could be a lifesaver.

Even if it isn’t an emergency, for someone working in one of the many offices nearby, this must be a welcome opportunity to save time and trouble. A quick stop here and you can spend your lunch hour chatting with friends over a gourmet salad rather than slogging over to the centre of town and fighting the department store crowds. Yes, you could shop online with the same effect, but here you have the product in your hand immediately with no waiting for the mail or collecting missed parcels later.

The bank of screens offers a range of designer cosmetics from firms like Shiseido, Clarins and Nars, and seems to cover a comprehensive range of products. Free samples are also available once you have made a purchase, and there are assistants hovering in case of any problems. I am tempted to try this out just for the fun of it…

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Rage Room

There are moments in life, no matter how calm and patient you are, when anger and frustration threaten to take over and you really need to hit something.

Tempting though it may be to thump your rival or your infuriating boss, it is never a good idea to punch anything harder than your pillow. (I am not going to dwell on the possible legal complications of actually assaulting someone…)

Taking up boxing or muay thai is a good plan if you regularly struggle with feelings like these. Or you could try a ‘rage room’.

Here in Singapore we have The Fragment Room, which is an accurate description of what the place looks like when your half hour is up. For $38 you are kitted out in protective overalls, with hard hat and goggles, then let loose on a crate of empty bottles or other junk that has already been discarded but diverted from the recycling plant.

If your fury is directed at a particular piece of technology – like the computer which lost your project, for example – you can either bring your own or choose one from the shelves outside. Either option costs extra, as does a second crate if you haven’t yet worked off your rage.

The rules are simple – let out all your anger, don’t hurt yourself and don’t set fire to anything. You can plug your own music into the speakers and play it at top volume, and each room can safely hold 2 people if you want to bring a friend. Baseball bats and golf clubs are provided to help you wreak destruction, together with a handy platform on which to balance things before you take a swing.

Daughter #2 and I tried this out and had a wonderfully cathartic time. It is surprisingly hard work and we were pleasantly exhausted by the time we had smashed all our empties then had a go at further destruction of the remains heaped up against the wall. It really is a great way of releasing all those pent-up worries and frustrations.

The company calls this the ‘new age of anger therapy’ and I really think they have a point. I hope I won’t need this for real, but if I do, it is nice to know they are there!

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Belly Button Cleaner

Obviously, this is the product you have been crying out for. I mean, who does not need to spend $30 on a special kit to clean their belly button?

Suffice to say I did not buy this, only snigger with amusement as I took photos. If your regular bathing routine does not leave you with a clean belly button, I am not sure you are the sort of person who would spend this much money on a fancy gel to do the job instead. The kit does come with a ‘soft stick’ but honestly – a disposable cotton bud really ought to be just as good and is probably more hygienic.

If you really want one of these, I suggest you get down to Tokyu Hands before they sell out…

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Arabic Chips

Category : Food

I do love a quick spin round the supermarket when I’m on my travels – for one thing, I always wonder if I’d like to live there, and seeing what the grocery shopping is like is a good gauge. For another, I love to discover (and taste) local variations on popular products.

So here, fresh from a short hop to the UAE, are 3 sorts of chips which took my eye.

Lays is obviously an international brand, American in origin and around since the 1930s, but it does come up with a fascinating range of local flavours. The 2 here are produced in Saudi Arabia for regional consumption, and do a great job of capturing a distinctive Arabic taste.

Both have labneh, or yoghurt, as their main flavouring, which is pretty similar to the sour cream flavour you find elsewhere. But one includes mint and the other the ‘zatar’ blend of herbs which turns up as a dip or sprinkles in many local dishes. I liked them both, especially the ‘Lebanese mix’, and was interested to see that both included what are described as ‘natural and nature identical’ flavourings on their ingredient lists.

The Chips Oman were exactly that, and actually were manufactured in Oman. Looking at the shape of the tub, I was expecting the contents to be something very like ‘Pringles’ , but in fact the illustration is pretty exact and these chips, whilst a similar texture, are short flat strips liberally dusted with chilli powder and paprika. Of the three, these were my favourite, and I wish I’d bought more.

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Mouthwash Sachets

‘Experience this innovative mouthwash!’ boasted the packet – ‘The latest oral hygiene etiquette product!’ Who could resist?

This Propolinse mouthwash comes in a box of 6 handy 12ml one-use sachets. They are rather convenient as something to keep in your bag for after lunch, or if you are still scarred by that time your travel-sized bottle of mouthwash leaked and turned everything in your toilet bag blue and minty.

The name and package design suggests that it contains honey, but a swift glance at the ingredients reveals that this is quite low down the list, below the likes of artificial sweetener and citrus extracts. There’s menthol and castor oil in there, too, which probably explains why it tastes more like cough syrup than actual honey.

This is a Japanese product (although apparently made in Korea and packed in Singapore) and is tagged as especially suitable for smokers and to prevent bad breath. It also has an unnerving way of rinsing way more from your mouth than a regular brushing seems to do.

The blurb on the packaging says it all: ‘I’m surprised to see, detergent in the new sense mouth’, not to mention: ‘All the dirty microbes are now visible’. I love the sachet idea, but definitely prefer the regular minty version. As for my husband, he thought it tasted “sour and fruity, almost like vinegar”, which isn’t much of a recommendation. I don’t think I’ll be buying this again…

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Toothbrush Sanitiser

They say you should replace your toothbrush every month or so, and even sooner if you have been suffering from a sore throat or other mouth-related problems.

This sounds like perfectly good advice, as – if you think about it – just rinsing off your brush after using it means bacteria from your mouth mostly stays on the bristles, ready to re-infect you next time.

(Pause to imagine how disgusting that sounds…)

Short of using a new toothbrush every day, putting it through the dishwasher on a regular basis, or installing one of those ultraviolet disinfecting machines you see at clinics and salons, there isn’t much to do about this apart from stifling your imagination and hoping for the best.

Unless this entertaining device I found recently actually works…

From Dr Tungs, a brand I have never heard of before, it’s a snap-on toothbrush sanitiser that claims to use natural essential oils to kill germs and neutralise bacterial growth on your toothbrush. A small disc attaches to a regular toothbrush cover, with tiny holes on the inside surface which apparently release disinfecting vapours.

For S$6.50, you get a cover with a disc attached, plus 2 extra discs. Each disc lasts 2 months so this gives you 6 months protection – not a bad deal!

The packet says the disc contains one or more of lemon, lime, peppermint, tea tree and thyme oils, which surprised me slightly. I mean, is there not a consistent recipe, or would any of these oils do the same job by themselves?

The disc in my toothbrush cover smells very like it contains tea tree oil, and I was slightly concerned that this would be overpowering as I cleaned my teeth. So far, though, although the brush does smell when I take it from the cover, giving it a rinse and applying toothpaste makes any potential taste undetectable.

I’m not saying this works, and I’m not sure how I would be able to tell either way, but there appears to be no harm in continuing to give it a try.

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Fairy Puff Ice Cream Toastie

The main draw here is the machine which makes this treat possible – a sort of toasted sandwich maker but with a domed lid. Somehow it manages to toast and seal 2 halves of a bread bun whilst NOT melting the ice cream that forms the filling.

Everything else is window dressing and here there was some serious ‘unicorn’ going on.

The bread was a riot of colourful swirls, the ice cream was bright blue, and the decoration was multi-coloured sprinkles.

In days gone by (and sometimes still today if you are lucky enough to find a traditional ‘ice cream uncle’) a scoop of ice cream in Singapore came folded inside a slice of pink and green coloured bread.

As a modern update, this rainbow ‘fairy puff’ manages perfectly both to hark back to the old ways and appeal to the inexplicable current trend for all things cute and fairy-tale. The S$8 price tag was a shocker, though.

And don’t ask me what it actually tasted like…

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Cleansing Powder

Always a fan of skin care products that can be transported easily in hand baggage, I was intrigued by these tiny cones of cleansing scrub. No liquids here to consider as you decant items into small containers for a holiday.

From Korean company Skylake, this is a weekly scrub rather than a daily cleanser, but is still a space saving and disposable item which is easy to take along on a trip. Each little cone is barely 4cm long and contains just 1.5 grams of powder. And with a box of 30 costing exactly S$30, that means just one dollar each, which isn’t bad.

It works very nicely, too. You empty the powder into your hand, mix it with a little water, and massage onto your face for 3 to 5 minutes before rinsing away. It not only exfoliates but apparently polishes away dead skin and impurities too, to ‘refine pores, lighten freckles and pigmentations, promoting a fresh, radiant and glowing complexion’.

The powder is supposed to contain oriental herbs, and some translation of the ingredients list revealed these to be skullcap, marsh parsley, azuki and mung beans. The only problem is, the combined scent of these, together with the various added cleansing agents, reminded me strongly of curry powder. Which is, let’s be honest, not exactly what you want to be smelling of when you’ve washed your face.

My skin did feel smoother, though, and applying regular face creams afterwards seemed to mask the curry smell very efficiently. All in all, I think I shall continue to use these.

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Sweetcorn Soda

Category : Food

Only in Asia, where it is perfectly normal for something Westerners see just as a vegetable to turn up as dessert.

I have tried sweetcorn flavoured ice cream, toyed with sweetcorn (and red beans) sprinkled over sundaes, but absolutely could not face drinking this sweetcorn soda, which is a new taste sensation on offer in Singapore.

Sorry…but there are limits!

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Penguin Cool Bath

Category : Beauty

Sometimes I have to try things even though I’m pretty sure I’m not going to like them much, and this particular product falls firmly into that category.

I love a bath, but definitely prefer the water to be as hot as possible. The last time I willingly stepped into a cool bath was shortly after moving to Tokyo for the first time, many years ago – the air con wasn’t working and the temperature in September was so hot and humid after autumnal London that I thought I was going to expire. Keeping the tub full and taking regular dips seemed the best way of staying cool…

This sachet of Japanese Cool Bath Liquid, spotted in Tokyu Hands, brought back a few memories, and although these days I am more than accustomed to constant heat and humidity, I was curious as to how the contents would work.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the bright blue colour and fresh minty smell made it feel very much like I was bathing in mouthwash. Possibly the menthol in the product is supposed to have a cooling effect on the skin, but the only thing I could really feel was a decidedly uncomfortable prickling sensation in certain delicate areas.

To be honest, this was a bit of a waste of a good bath.