Security Luggage Racks

Security Luggage Racks

I don’t know about you, but I get very nervous on trains when I have to leave my luggage on those racks at the end of the carriage. When the train is full, or I can’t actually see my bags from where I’m sitting, I have to jump up and make sure they are not being ‘accidentally’ removed during station stops en route.

Of course it is possible to carry bicycle locks or similar, for peace of mind, but you never know when you are going to need one, and usually I never realise it would have been a smart idea until too late.

So I was very happy to see this locking device for suitcases, on the NEX train from Narita airport into Tokyo. It also made me laugh, because Japan is probably the last place in the world where you could leave your bags unattended without stress, but also probably the first place to think of making life that little bit easier and more convenient for travellers. The service is also completely free of charge.

Essentially, you heave your bag onto the rack, and use one of the curly cords to secure the handle to the rail. Set your own combination and you are free to relax until your destination. The only trick is remembering the code to remove the cord in time to get off the train. And as Japanese trains tend to stop for seconds only at most intermediate stations, there is no time to be messing about with this. If you forget the number or it is the 3rd possibility you try, you will probably find you have either missed your stop or need to continue to the end of the line before rail staff are available to help you unlock your bag.

Oh, and as this is Japan and the status quo hinges on everyone being polite and considerate to everyone else, do please remember to reset the lock to zero for the convenience of the next user…



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…

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.

Black Milk

Not something to drink, but an online Australian fashion house that specialises in clothes made from stretchy nylon material with amazing designs.

If you want mermaid leggings printed with shimmering green scales, a Batman swim suit (complete with cape) or a full length dress that looks like Monet’s waterlilies, this is the place to try. Fans of some of the more popular fantasy franchises, including Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, can also find plenty of interest here.

Daughter #2 is hooked on the brand, and days when one of their their trademark black shiny envelopes drop into the mailbox are red letter days indeed.

What I like most of all is their inside out dresses, made from fabric which is somehow printed with a contrasting design on the other side. They are a miracle of construction, and a positive showstopper if you decide to return from the Ladies in what looks like a completely different outfit halfway through the night.

Not to mention, obviously, that you get 2 for the space of 1 when packing light for a trip.

Pictured above – Tartan v Koi and Amethyst v Aurora…

3 in 1 Ring

I do love a piece of jewellery that can be ‘tweaked’ to do double duty – a ring that has two different sides, earrings that can be transformed to add a dangling extra to a simple stud, a necklace that twists into a bracelet. It’s not just fun, but can give you endless options from a very small selection of components. I know jewellery doesn’t take up much room, but when you are travelling light sometimes every item counts.

This ring from Danish jewellers Dyrberg/Kern is really striking. The stainless steel band comes with inserts to adjust the size, and an ingenious screw fitting means you can interchange the 3 toppings that make up the set.

There’s silvery heart shape, a ‘diamond’ set in gilt and a pink disc which looks to be brushed metal, also in a gilt setting. It’s an airline exclusive, spotted in the Tiger Air magazine for S$150, and if the metal parts had all been the same colour I might have been seriously tempted.

Portable Toilet Bag

Category : Other

There’s a phrase where I come from, used to describe the contents of a suitcase or car that has been over packed … we say it has ‘everything but the kitchen sink’. This portable toilet bag reminded me of that, because it really does seem over cautious to be packing your own toilet.

Mind you, I can think of trips I have taken where the ‘facilities’ have been a huge trial. In the wilds of Western Tibet, for example, the toilets are so basic and horrible that it is actually better when they don’t exist and you have to find yourself a quiet spot in the open. And on some long train journeys, the bathrooms tend to be locked not just during but also for an hour before AND after stops at places where you never know if there is time to risk a quick dash into the station building. Travelling on the Trans-Siberian with 2 small children, this was sometimes an enormous problem…

Anyway, when I saw these in ever reliable Daiso, I had to give them a go. The packet says they are very handy for traffic jams and disasters, although to be honest I cannot see how anyone but a child could get away with using one in a car.

The dark blue bag has a zip lock fastener to prevent nasty spills afterwards, and a strange, foam piece at the neck which ladies are advised to fold over the top. I am not clear how this makes the opening any wider as advertised, and you can’t then fold it inside the used bag afterwards, but never mind.

Inside the bag is a handful of white grains that are supposed to turn liquids to jelly, and absorb the smell. As this gave off a disturbingly savoury aroma like prawn crackers as the bag was opened, I was not optimistic, but in fact it all worked exactly as claimed.

Although the bag is dark blue, it is still fairly see through, so it is nice that the kit includes a small black ‘bin liner’ in which to hide everything until you can dispose of it discreetly.

I can’t say I am ever going to be carrying one of these around on a normal trip, but for just S$2, if I had toddlers in tow, I might be tempted to slip a couple into my rucksack.

Deodorant Talc

Category : Beauty

There are many ingenious products designed to help you beat the 100ml only liquids rule and travel with everything you need hand carry, like tooth wipes and solid shampoo bars.

Here’s another, a deodorant which not only comes in powder form but also in a container less than 9cm high.

Tao zing powder is Thai and claims to work as an anti-perspirant as well as preventing odour. It looks and smells like talcum, and although it is designed to be used on the underarms, also works well if you sprinkle it in smelly trainers.

I tried this on one side only during a normal day in tropical Singapore, and was impressed. The powdered armpit stayed fresh and dry, and the only disadvantage was that faint scent of clean baby that I always associate with talc.

I like this and will be keeping it handy for my next hand carry only trip.

Rent a Blanket?

There are national carriers, there are budget airlines, and then there is AirAsia.

Of all the companies offering cheap flights around the region, this is the one that really makes me tired. And it’s not just because wherever you are heading to, it will involve spending half the night waiting for a connection in the dismal Low Cost Carrier Terminal at Kula Lumpur airport.

It can’t be an accident that once you have had your water bottle taken away, there is nothing on sale with which to replace it but flimsy plastic cups which you can barely drink from without spilling. Not to mention that bringing your own snacks on board is not allowed – you are literally forced to spend money on the plane.

And for those passengers who had the forethought to eat heartily before the flight, there is still no escape.

Most airlines like to turn the heat up on an overnight flight, so it lulls everyone to sleep. They then cool the cabin down in time to wake everyone up for breakfast before landing. Not AirAsia… I was shocked to realise that the temperature had been turned down so low that I was absolutely freezing.

At which point I discovered that blankets are not just handed out – you have to RENT them. It’s only 10RM, which isn’t going to break the bank, but it is the principle of the thing that infuriates me, especially as they take them back one whole hour before the plane lands, which is quite a long time to shiver.

I like a budget flight as much as the next person, so now I board AirAsia planes wearing thermals and with a sweater and jacket in my hand carry.

There was a joke going the rounds in the UK not that long ago, that one of our own budget carriers was going to start charging passengers to use the toilet in flight. I hope this idea never comes to the attention of AirAsia…

Mini Lip Balm

Category : Beauty


It’s just lip balm, but it’s the size which I love. This little tube is barely 3.5cm high, so small there is no room for the twisting mechanism on most lip balms so you have to push it up from the bottom as it wears down.

Really it takes packing light to extremes, and it is so small I rarely use it because I don’t want it to run out, but I love the fact I have it and it makes me smile.

Travel Lash Tool

I’m a great fan of anything that does several jobs at once. I love the idea that someone has thought of a way to combine two or more tools into one, and I really love anything which will make packing quicker and lighter for my travels.

This little tool ticked all those boxes, although I suppose I have managed to get along without it perfectly well up until now.

Never mind, it cost S$2 and manages to incorporate not just a brush which could be used either to tidy your brows or apply mascara, but also a comb to untangle any clumping of freshly mascara-ed lashes. More importantly, especially when you consider how messy stray mascara can be, the comb folds neatly into the handle and there is a cover for the brush which screws securely into place.

I can see this is going to become an indispensable part of my travelling make-up kit.