In the midst of chaos, there are refinements, they say. It’s a literal translation from Chinese. Please do not ask me to quote. I am as banana as it gets when it comes to writing and reading. I can only speak, which serves pretty well when it comes to ordering food and buying things. Other than that, do not hand me a menu and ask me to read what it says because if you want Hokkien Mee, I will order Wat Tan Hor for you and watch you cry.
Ramblings aside, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly and locally known as Saigon) is exactly that. The city is chaotic on its surface but in between all the chaos there lies a beautiful refinement that could only be appreciated if you observe. The soul of the city is lively, the streets busy. It has roadside vendors to local coffee shops to high end coffee franchises all on one street. The beauty of the city can only be appreciated when you explore it on foot.
Which is what we did. We stayed in Pullman, Ho Chi Minh. Located at the heart of the city, it is close enough to where the attractions are, yet there is distance to all the noise and traffic. A landmark on its own, it stands at a 30-storey height, towering over shoplots around it. It isn’t cheap for a night here, but it is worth it if you are an Accor Club member.
Took an early flight and landed in Ho Chi Minh City at 11am local time. We booked a local tour to bring us around for 2 days. They have vans that could seat up to 12 passengers, so worry not if you are travelling with a large group and opt for a local tour instead of tours from travel agencies. This allows for more flexibility in your destinations and time.
So first off, food!
Vietnam is famous for their spring rolls and Pho. Naturally the first item checked off the list was Pho. I regret to inform that there are no pictures because honestly I was way too hungry to remember taking a picture before walloping it down like a vulture. I also truly think that was definitely a wrong expression.
Vietnam serves their dishes with plenty of vegetables. They come raw, so you have a choice of either eating them in their finest naked form or dip them into your soups, if you order dishes with soup. It is definitely not possible to dip them into spring rolls. I didn’t try.
The Pho was really good. Rice noodles in a clear soup base, which looks as innocently clear as a 4-year-old but shocks you into remission like a 4-year-old doing karate on your shins with nunchucks. The rice noodles were springy and firm, giving a very satisfying bite that is unlike our version of Char Kuey Teow. The soup makes the dish. Simple and wholesomely delightful to the tastebuds, it is a must have in Vietnam.
The one that takes the cake though is the dessert.
I do not know the name. I wish I was more in my blogger mindset when all these amazing food were in front of me. Let’s call it the Vietnam version of cendol. It has cendol, cincau, tapioca jelly the likes we put into bubur chachas, water chestnut coated with sweet tapioca jelly, and the yellow stuff tastes like green bean paste we use in ang ku kuehs. When served, they top it off with santan.
It was delicious. It wasn’t too sweet and very fragrant with different textures playing in your mouth. I highly recommend trying it especially if you are the kind that likes agar-agar and tapioca jelly.
If you book a local tour they will bring you here first. Prices are tourist, if you know what that means. If you don’t, it means it’s not cheap but it is affordable. Spring rolls, desserts and Pho are good. You can try the others but I wouldn’t recommend it because some things are just not worth it.
We then headed out to the Independence Palace Saigon only to find they were closed till 2pm. So we headed to the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica and the Saigon Central Post Office. Why post office?
Opposite the post office is the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, the city’s cathedral. It wasn’t open to public so we didn’t get a chance to see the interior.
We checked into the hotel after that to rest and shower. Pullman has amazing interior decors. Unfortunately I do not have pictures that can justify. Also if you are on a family trip and plan to stay in Pullman and you share a room with your siblings of different genders, be ready to scream when you are using the bathroom because there are literally no walls that separates the bedroom and the bathrooms.
Not to worry though, there are blinds that roll down with a click of the button that separates the bathroom and the bedroom so you don’t have to be kicked out everytime someone takes a shower. I didn’t get a chance to use that luxurious tub because I shared a room with my brother. Pullman clearly has no family friendly concept in mind when they designed their rooms but I would honestly trade that for that bed anytime. Options are either king sized beds or twin super singles so obviously we took the twin to ourselves and the bed is to die for. Everything about the bed and duvet is to die for. Try it out in Pullman Bangsar and you will see why.
Since we weren’t tied to a tour group we went for some street food hunting at night. Bui Vien, a backpacker street, is a mere 15 minutes walk away from Pullman. Bui Vien is as lively and as loud as it gets. It is happening. That would be the best word to describe it. Pubs, restaurants, roadside vendors are all integrated into this street. The father read about this restaurant from Tripadvisor called Bun Cha 145.
Bun Cha is yet another dish local to Vietnam, but more famously known in Hanoi. Bun Cha in Bui Vien street offers the best of this dish in Ho Chi Minh City and well, reviews were not wrong.
The only way I could put Bun Cha’s taste into perspective is it is a familiar taste but yet very unfamiliar at the same time. It is Asian, of course, but there is a difference with the kind of soup we are used to in Malaysia. It is sweet, it is savoury. Yet there are pickled papaya pieces in it. It is an odd combination that just turns out to be the best damn thing in the world. It is familiar yet unfamiliar. It is not something we have tried yet it feels like home. Bun Cha is pretty amazing. You’ve got to at least try it once in your life.
You can order their side dishes to go with your Bun Cha and as natural as Vietnam comes, we ordered spring rolls. Fried spring rolls in Vietnam are generally delicious, so it is no surprise that spring rolls in this place is pretty damn good as well. They say to “emerge spring rolls when eating together” but I’m guessing to immerse the spring rolls into your soup is probably the closest that I could decipher. Or maybe spring rolls just fly out of nowhere when you are eating in a group.
Oh, on a sidenote, their chili is hot. Really spicy. So if you can’t take spice, go easy on the chili. Like their Pho, it looks innocent but you tend to get kicked in the guts if you judge it by its looks.
Bui Vien offers some other awesome street food as well, which we tried on the third day.
This Tau Fu Fah puts our Malaysian Tau Fu Fah to shame. It is probably the smoothest tau fu fah I have ever had in my life. It is topped with ginger sugar syrup, some flour/sago balls that we often get in our leng chee kangs and santan. Santan is key to making it taste so good. It was the best food that reached my mouth during the whole trip.
Look out for the aunty selling it on Bui Vien. Do keep an eye out for a bunch of people sitting in front of a dark, dingy shoplot because yet again I do not know the number of the shop. If you think two helpings is still not enough but you want to try something else, she offers takeaways.
While having bun cha in Bun Cha, we noticed the stall opposite to Bun Cha across the road had amassed a number of people by night. Naturally we had to follow the herd and find out what it was. It was a stall serving barbeque. Meats and seafood. Having had pleasant experiences with street food, one must not stop at only one, or two but go all the way. So we sat ourselves down and ordered.
Oh boy was it good. We ordered 6 pieces of chicken thighs and wings, 3 of each, but literally got two platefuls of chicken. The wings came with the drummets and the thighs came with the drumsticks. For the 5 of us, that was a lot. I guess when we ordered we didn’t think they would include the drummets because one, chicken is Malaysian is stingyly small, two, we were so not used to the generosity of getting both parts. The octopus was juicy and springy, not too hard to bite into but leaves a pleasant barbequed aftertaste in your mouth. Eat it on its own without dipping into the condiments for the best taste. I urge you to order the octopus out of the list of things barbequeable, trust me, it is unforgettable.
Still staying on the topic of food, Vietnam will not be legit without photos of Pho. I know I said I don’t, but that was the other restaurant.
So, here is one.
Out of the three times we had Pho, this was the best Pho we ever had at the most unconvincing location. About 100m from the hotel, we spotted two shops selling Pho, but they only serve beef soup. Most of us can’t take beef so we walked further down to spot this stall in an alley selling Pho. There were more locals there than the ones in the shops so if locals go there, it must be good. Damn right it was. The soup was wow. For soup that looks like plain water it definitely knows how to trick your senses. It was hot, savoury, a little herby and sweet all in one bowl with noodles that are springy and firm. They weren’t stingy on the meat as well. Perfect. Definitely good enough to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner or whenever you want it.
Ho Chi Minh City has a lot of street vendors selling different things but in terms of meals, most of them are soups. We had the Banh Mi, which are baguettes filled with veges and a choice of meat or eggs, but they were just okay. Couldn’t find the one Anthony Bourdain went to that he raved about. We settled to try some tomato soup with pork fillet at a small narrow shoplot near the Ben Thanh Market.
I have no idea what it’s called. I know its tomato soup because the whole pot was brimming with tomatoes floating around and it tasted like one, albeit a watered down version from what we used to think tomato soups are. It was okay. Wasn’t great, but the soup gets better with every mouthful. The ground pork fillet was tender and nice, had a good aroma and a pleasant compliment to the dish. They serve it with pig’s blood as well. I gave that to my brother. I give everything that irks me to my brother.
The highlight was however a different thing.
At every table in this place there are several of these kueh looking things placed on plates for you to have with your dish. It looks so much like lepat pisang to a point we had to argue with my dad for 10 minutes that it wasn’t lepat pisang, who claimed that he knows what a lepat pisang is and he has eaten one since he was young to know for certain it was lepat pisang. It was not. It was fishcake. Tasty, tasty fishcake that is what fishcakes are supposed to be like. Pungent, chewy and springy enough. You can eat it on its own or throw it into your bowl of soup.
You know a Malaysian when food is priority LOL. I think that was all there is to introduce to eat. Food to buy home?
Ben Thanh Market is the answer to your question. Ben Thanh Market is a 30 minutes walk away from the hotel so we took a leisurely walk while stopping for snacks and coffee along the way. By the way, there is coffee everywhere in Vietnam. Drop by any stalls or cafes and you will find good coffee without a doubt. My favourite was Highlands Coffee, a franchise much like San Francisco Coffee in Malaysia, but like ten times better. Order the iced version as it is less sweet than the warm counterpart. Plus when the temperature hits a 32 degrees (celsius) outside, your throat will thank you.
Ben Thanh Market is, well, a market. It sells everything from food to clothes to souvenirs. This place is HOT! Malaysians are very much used to the heat because we have summer all year round but really, I have never been in a place so hot and stuffy. I think I have, I just can’t remember. I’m trying to make a point here. The stall vendors installed fans on top of their stalls but it doesn’t serve a purpose. You will sweat like you ran a full marathon whilst going up a slope. You can buy paper fans if you are ever stuck in Ben Thanh. It makes things much more bearable.
As normal Malaysians, our souvenirs must be food. Ben Thanh is where you find the cheapest local products. Want some of that Vietnam coffee? Ben Thanh has them in a variety. You have the famous weasel coffee all the way to elephant beans. No, elephant beans are not taken like the weasel’s from their poop, worry not. They are just larger beans in size compared to the normal coffee beans. The prices for products are the cheapest you can find in this place so far, so if you fancy something, be sure to get it before you regret it. Sound advice because I did not and then I had to spend extra at the airport.
If you are a fan of ciku like I am, you will be delighted to find cikus going for cheap in this market. Cikus are one of my favourite fruits and I am so glad I found them here because it’s pretty difficult to find them in Malaysia and they are puny compared to the ones here. I wish I have taken a picture of them to show you. The cikus are very sweet and less sandy in texture than the ones in Malaysia so that is good news to people who likes ciku but don’t fancy the texture. I personally find the texture appealing and I love it when my brother doesn’t. MORE FOR ME!!
There is also a food court in Ben Thanh where you can try their local dishes. Prices are EXPENSIVE. We were surprised at how much it cost in a place like that. If need be, order only the desserts. Desserts are good and will not cost a bomb for mediocrity.
If you walk around Ho Chi Minh you will find almost every shop owner you come across wear Under Armour t-shirts. Those are ciplak versions you can find in the night market near the Ben Thanh Market. We chanced upon it when we were out and about on a Thursday night, so the night market might be coincidentally open on that night or every night. The whole street is filled with fake goods. Hermes Birkins? Checked. Under Armour activewears? Checked. Patek Philippe, Rolex, Audemars Piguet? Check, check, checked. Those are the things they sell in the night markets so if you want to get good bargains and aren’t irked with buying fakes, you are in the right place. Shop owner himself said, “there is nothing real here”. Honest man, that one. Bargaining is also a must or else you’ll end up paying the price of a real for a fake.
There aren’t many historical places to visit in Vietnam. We only decided to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, which for the record is the one place you have to visit in Vietnam to qualify the entire trip. It was also the only touristy place to visit.
Cu Chi Tunnels were tunnels made by the guerillas as shelter and operation base during the wars in Vietnam. These tunnels span a length of 250km in total and were dug by hand by the guerillas using only shovels for 20 long years. It protected the guerillas from air attacks, bombs and Agent Orange. I wasn’t comfortable taking pictures of this place so I only took a few.
Cu Chi Tunnel is one to experience on your own. I will spare you the details, but if you are interested you can check out the images in Google. There are English-speaking guides to bring you around the area. I would say that if you do not have health issues or severe claustrophobia that could lead to death, try the tunnels out. It is an experience unlike any other. You get a feel of what it was like for the guerillas back then. Also follow the guides’ instructions closely or else if you are lost nobody is going to save you. Who ask you to geh kiang. In these tunnels, kia si is win.
Several things that tickled our fancy:-
Vietnam (and its food) has been good to us the entire trip. We really enjoyed ourselves there. History aficionados will love the war museum, which regrettably I have forgotten to mention and photograph, as usual. Food lovers will love Vietnam. Even people who are mostly mildly interested in everything will fall in love with the nightlife in Bui Vien. I’d probably want to make a trip here again someday, preferably with friends, and be free to party like crazy.
Woo. This has been stagnant for days. I have got to be more serious about this blog.
Now, a little on the inside. RANDOM FACTS!!
1. My family house is as old as I am.
That’s right. I’ve never shifted in my life and my father bought this house when I was a baby but we moved in only when I turned one because it was under construction.
2. My dog saved my life.
Not in a literal jumped into a river and saved me from drowning way, but she basically brought my happy self back. I love her so much if I had to choose who to save in a fire I would save her anytime. In comparison to my boyfriend. Also because he has legs and common sense to run.
3. I have caused an accident before.
Traffic accident, that is. I was young, 7 I think. We do stupid things at that age like not look at the sideview mirror before opening the vehicle door. I did exactly that, didn’t see a motorbike on my end and he ended up in the drain with a bleeding finger, broken nail, bruises and abrasions. It was the huge monsoon kinda drain, his whole bike fell into it along with him. He turned out to be my Arts teacher in Form 3. Sorry, Sir.
4. I have a list of favourite animals.
Sea turtles are my first love. Followed closely by pandas. Then penguins.
5. My main weakness is luxury bags.
And criticism. And lack of self control on spending. Hence title.
6. I fired an M16.
Only will happen if you go NS. They had shooting course or something around 2 months into training. It was the only program I looked forward to the most. 100m range, 76/100 score. Not bad for a person with 800 on each eye. With astig. Ask your optometrist.
7. Koalas are marsupials, not bears.
So stating them as koala bears is technically wrong. They’re closer to being possums but they look like bears. Fluffy teddy bears with claws that could kill. I said random facts, not all are of me. Hehehe.
8. I wanted to be an architect.
Maths not good. Add maths not good. What to do. At least I still can build virtual ones on the Sims 4 so all hope is not lost!
9. I was a vegetarian for 10 months.
I wanted to be a better earth settler by being a vegetarian to reduce animal’s suffering but guess what made me break? Yeap, crabs. My dad was also worried for my health because I looked pale and tired all the time, so there’s that too on a sidenote.
10. I cannot donate blood.
I want to so badly but I’m anaemic, so I would kill myself in the process of helping others. Sad sentiments, really. I did the next best thing I could think of though. I signed up for organ donation with full support of my family and I urge everyone to do so because those body parts are precious and could save someone’s life. It would be such a waste for it to be buried when someone else needs it desperately. So please, discuss with your family and sign up to be one!
11. I was a school swimmer.
I mean, not the best, but technically if I joined the school’s swimming team and entered competitions I’m still considered a school swimmer right? Or not? I did come in third in a three people race…I’m really not then.
12. I broke my arm when I was in Form 2.
Form 2 = 14 years old for non-Malaysians. Hello to you! Went to the beach with friend’s church group despite my mum’s strong reluctance (maternal instinct that shit was gonna happen to me). Ended up in the hospital with a second elbow because both radius and ulna snapped. I had the most care I’ve ever had in my life and so many people loved me. Hehe. I couldn’t thank you enough for the concerns and visits. Really appreciated it. Also got discharged from the hospital as soon as I can, not because it was expensive to stay another night, but I really wanted to show off my broken arm. I thought I was cool. Still think so AHAHAHA.
13. Seeing ghosts.
Infrasound. Sometimes shadows or images that you seem to see out of the corner of your eyes are caused by infrasounds. The frequency from 8Hz to 14Hz are responsible for vibrations that could create fear, panic and the likes because it is out of range from the human’s hearing range, but deep enough to vibrate, say, your eyeballs. Thus sometimes when you think you’re seeing things, you’re actually experiencing infrasounds. Unless a translucent person is literally standing in front of you, you aren’t seeing ghosts. I can finally sleep. In you’re interested a Cracked article did explain it.
14. I hate running.
I absolutely hate any form of running. Jogging included. I don’t understand what’s the joy of it when your lungs feel like exploding and feeling like your heart’s gonna burst and you want to die right there and then. Adrenaline? I have roller coasters for that. No hate to people who enjoy it though. You do you.
15. I’m a junkie.
Not the drugs way. The junk food way. I was raised by a strict mum who refuses to let me and my siblings indulge in junk food so once I’ve gained freedom in university…POTATO CHIPS HERE I COME!
16. I swear a lot. A lot.
With only people I’m comfortable with, of course. They will testify. Irony is lost on me though when my ex, who uses exclusively all the Cantonese and Hokkien swear words in every sentence claimed one of the reasons he dumped me was because I said fuck. I was mad, what do you expect me to say?! Also that was an excuse. He was flirting with other girls behind my back. I dodged a bullet there.
17. I once went without sleep for 48 hours straight.
Not. Good. Don’t do it. I slept 15 hours straight after that.
18. When a male penguin falls in love with a female penguin, he will find the smoothest and roundest pebble as a present. Kinda like an engagement ring.
I love this fact best. It’s too adorable! They mate for life too.
19. I’m addicted to buying face masks.
Ask any Kbeauty addict. Masks are kryptonite to many of us. I just bought 8 masks from The Face Shop yesterday and I’m already considering getting some more from Althea. They’re hydrogels. It’s different. The Face Shop is also running a promo now on 50% off for the 2nd item you purchase only in retail stores. Technically I got it for cheap. Hehe. Excuses.
20. I procrastinate.
Sometimes it’s severe. Like this post which I procrastinated for 4 days. Time to make that planner work.
I’m thinking of starting a YouTube channel. What do you think?
I love Sundays. I also hate Sundays when it reaches 5pm. WHY CAN’T SUNDAYS BE A WEEK LONG?!
Sundays are reserved for a walk in the beautiful park with your dog, for a picnic in nature or a drink out in some swanky cafes over overpriced everything with friends. Sundays are for happy. Sundays are hardly ever wrong to begin with. Sundays are for comfort food and cheat days. I can go on and on about Sundays. Did I mention Sundays are for comfort food?
My Sundays, barring times where I have events or activities or places to go, are mainly for enjoying the quiet morning without my alarm demanding my attention, then to be awaken by my alarm-dog barking at 8am sharp, to having a series of “CAYLY! NO! KEEP QUIET!” from across the house, to my sister opening my parents’ room door for my dog to go in, to my dog scratching the door to come out, to me pulling my dog up onto my bed, to my dog trying to wrestle with my hand because apparently she decides her own play time, to yet another “NO! CAYLY! NAUGHTY GIRL!” to me getting up grudgingly and throwing her dirty looks to which she takes as “BATH TIME!” and jumped off the bed like an olympic diver waiting eagerly for me at the stairs to bring her to the groomers, to me grunting and making my way to the bathroom and fast forward to when she’s at the groomers and now there’s peace and quiet in the house. By this time I’m mostly hungry and need something quick.
What better way to reward yourself than to have comfort food? I know, my headline sounds like wallet-digging, money-spending kinda reward but no. This post doesn’t need that. My sort of reward comes in packets or boxes in supermarkets. I’m talking mac and cheese. The instant kind.
Well, I’m not exactly promoting health food here. I’m far from being the health food kinda girl. Girl’s gotta have what she’s gotta have, ya know? So, seriously, if you are disgusted with anything that comes with the word instant, then you should instantly leave this blog. Or if you’re gonna leave nasty comments, read DISCLAIMER: NOT HEALTH FOOD ENTHUSIAST HERE. TAKE YOUR CONCERNS ELSEWHERE. INSTANTLY. ahaha. I have overdone that one.
I have tried a few instant mac and cheeses including the KRAFT ones that they are well known for. I have found my favourite in the limited selection that we have here. Introducing San Remo La Pasta Macaroni Cheese, photographed amateurly by yours truly. This is such an unflattering picture.
4 side serves? THAT’s A LIE!!
If you’re asking in your head why didn’t I make some myself instead of choosing the instant option, well, I live in a small town called Muar. (And Public Service Announcement (hereinafter referred to as “PSA”): Muar is not in JB, Muar is nowhere near JB, and Johore has many other districts other than JB. We are closer to Melaka than JB and please do not give me that OH MY GAD YOU CAME ALL THE WAY TO KL FOR THIS? well yeah, it takes almost the same amount of time going either way). Muar isn’t exactly stocked with many options and the only cheese we have are those we can pronounce. Therefore, mac and cheese from scratch? That’s a no go.
I’m not gonna go into details on the nutrition value or the fat contents or any of the health concerns in this pack. It’s there on the back of the packet if you ever decide to browse the supermarket aisle and come across it. I’m gonna go about how good it is, how you can make it better and how not to embarrass yourself cooking instant mac and cheese. Because I have.
I should hire professional photographers on standby next. This is a shame.
For starters, follow the instructions on the back of the packet. I tried to make it the first time with my peranakan agak-agak attitude, and to say the least, it did not go well at all. Agak-agak and westernised food do not mix. Second tip: I know it says low fat milk on the packet but full cream milk tends to work best for that rich flavor and satisfaction. You will only get disappointment with low fat milk. And I mean are you really that concerned on having low fat milk with instant mac and cheese. The irony, though.
Third most important tip: DO NOT and I repeat, emphasise DO NOT USE HL MILK. It gives a really odd taste. This first time I made this, HL milk kinda ruined the whole experience for me. It was so notoriously bad I stayed away from any sort of cheese based meal for a whole month before I attempt another shot at this. HL milk with this mac and cheese is more gangsta than Mr. Big.
Said Mr. Big in question, accurate to size.
Common sense would dictate you do not yogurt it as well in case you’re wondering whether you can yogurt it as a healthier option. And again, this isn’t exactly your go to meal to think about healthier options.
Tip 4: Stir it up constantly. The packet says let it simmer and stir occasionally but really you need to be constantly stirring and checking it especially at the end where it’s almost reduced to a gravy because it will burn. Fast. That’s not a good taste either.
I like to add a little umph of cheese to my mac and cheese so I add a few mozarella pieces and stir them together till it melts into a smooth beautiful golden concoction with a side of pasta. Or if you are the kind that likes to have mouthfuls of stringy mozarella, put the blocks in and let them heat do their job.
This isn’t a promotion for healthy. No greens in sight. Also, on a more relevant note, you have to let it simmer while stirring till it’s this dry to be a successful mac and cheese maker. Patience, young macawan.
And voila! You got yourself a week’s worth of comfort food that you have to run treadmills for. Now isn’t that a beautiful yellow?
How does it taste like? Heaven. I’m a big cheese fan, not the connoisseur kind, the everything cheese I will eat kind. It will get a little rich for people who are not used to creams or cheesy meals, and this cheese taste nothing like the fake cheese they use in KFC’s cheesy wedges. I mean this may be fake as well, but its better than the fake fake. KRAFT’s to me taste like that fake fake and this is a tat bit better at fake. If done precisely according to the instructions, the macaroni is al dente and just the right amount of bite. All of it is coated richly with cheese without being too overwhelming. It’s a Sunday meal you don’t have to fork out a chicken set price just to get it as side dish with. Hearty and overall satisfying. Comfort food ma, right?
That shall conclude the rant on instant mac and cheese. I really need to write stuff with more substance.
Having mine with a side of iZombie, how has your weekend been going?
Caution: This post could result in damage to your bank account.
Anddddd yet another post. Teehee.
By now I guess you would realise I don’t intend to stick to only writing about Singapore. Or food. Or travel. Singapore was a one time thing that might appear again in the future, but enough of Singapore for now. AM I RITE??
Backtracking to a 17-year-old me, just fresh out of school and off to National Service camp. It was fun times with days on end training in water sports under the blazing afternoon sun. Blazing afternoon sun also means sun damage to my skin causing dark spots and pigmentation that will take a very long time to go away. I should have listened to my mum when she nagged me about sunscreen. (This part has no relevance at all to the rest of the post.)
It wasn’t till 2 years ago that I started to wander into the world of cosmetics. Particularly Korean skincare aka K-beauty. I sunk into that rabbit hole faster than you can pronounce Sulwhasoo. I have normal skin (which a lot of articles dub us the luckiest people on the planet…but I thought everyone had the same skin) with it occasionally being dry. I took it for granted since my skin hardly gave me any problems. Pimples and zits were special occasion troublemakers that only appear when I least want them. (This part neither.)
There are only certain Korean brands that are available as retail outlets in Malaysia. The more popular ones like The Face Shop (infamous for being incorrectly associated to The Body Shop…they fooled me for sure), Skinfood, Elianto and Innisfree who joined the market only a few years back eventhough it has been in existence since 2000 in Korea (that’s 17 years!). Don’t bash me for not including all of it. I’m not very up to trend on what’s new and about. Korea, being the Mecca of all new and innovative skincare certainly did not bring its share to the shores of Malaysia until maybe years later. So it was tough times for me.
Althea however offers the online alternative to obtaining some of the brands that you cannot find in retail outlets here. Prices are several Ringgit cheaper than existing stores. With the addition of occasional promotions like Brand Day where you get a 15% off plus free gifts, or during special holidays like Christmas, prices normally come down to way cheaper than retail stores. Their products are authentic and shipped from Korea itself, so you get the freshest batch of the bunch.
Their packaging is pretty amazing too. That fuchsia will have you running like a coyote to the front door before your postman can ring the bell.
Housed in a soft pink box, opening it feels like a surprise present you already know you’re getting. The box is sturdy and can hold rough throws and handling because we all know what goes on even to fragile-labelled items…ehem. Do not expect it to block bullets or catch a grenade for you. Be assured though that through my experiences purchasing from Althea every item came pristine and well-packaged, including glass bottles. Only the pink outer box would suffer from dents and tears but usually nothing too major.
Althea has upgraded from a promise to a guarantee. Free shipping only applies to RM99 and above, and I told you it looks like a present to yourself.
There are downsides as well to shopping on Althea where availability of products aren’t sufficient to satisfy avid Korean skincare addicts. They do not offer full range of products and some brands featured on their site only has one best-selling item. The wait time is also hard to bear, considering that it was shipped from Korea instead of a warehouse in Malaysia. Took me 5 whole days of agitated over-clicking the tracking link before it arrives. All is well, all is well.
We all secretly love this part best.
So, what did I buy from Althea this time?
Primera Miracle Seed Essence and Elizavecca Gold CF-Nest White Bomb Eye Cream.
I’ve used the Primera Essence before and I love it. I could only find it on Althea as of today except if I use sites like Gmarket or Koreamart which I absolutely have no confidence in, not because it’s shady but I just don’t know what goes on in these sites. People have used it successfully before so no shade. Plus once there’s shipping fees my face immediately goes meh.
Again, Althea does not carry the whole range from Primera but at least they have this one. That Elivdsbiheihfa fancylongname eye cream is a new product I’ve been meaning to try and need I say I’m quite a sucker for packaging. Pig bomb wearing a mask leh where else can you find designs like that except for Korea? I think Asia countries in general have mastered the art of packaging and the ability to constantly make people hand in their cash voluntarily for no apparent reason except for a cartoon of a pig bomb.
On how to pack light. And I do mean light. ‘Look Ma, no hands’ light.
No trip to USS is complete without a picture of the famous globe, so I’m showing you a globe in a ‘globe’. See what I did there? EH??? AHAHAH. Stop it, Alicia.
A trip to Singapore wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Resorts World Sentosa. Unless you have been there more than once or you are the urban adventurer that “does not do touristy things”, it is bound to be on your list. Despite having been there a couple of times, RWS is the magical place I cannot get enough of. Universal Studios Singapore? This is an even more magical place.
Now, I am sure that Universal Studios (or more favourably known as USS because seriously try saying Universal Studios Singapore a dozen times it’ll end up sounding like Universannfohzpewihnjbcdi-pore) is no stranger to…well anyone in fact. No introductions needed, everything you need to know about USS is on the internet. So I thought I’ll introduce something a little different. A way to thoroughly enjoy USS without fuss.
Two things you need to know about rides in USS is that some rides do not allow carry-on bags and some rides will get you wet. In my case I got soaked. Hair to shoes. No joke. Thanks Rapid Adventure. There are lockers strategically located around USS which allow you to place your bags and loose items for certain rides, but most of the time those will be fully occupied and the wait time for rides would end up costing you quite a bit.
We didn’t want to burden ourselves with having to store our bags and to take them out again and to do the same thing over and over at most of the rides so we decided to go hands-free. What about our passports, cash and phones then? This is when I shall bow and worship the realm where all things known to men can be found with a click of the mouse. The mother known as the internet has offered the smartest solution to storing: the ziplock bag. Can be made into a makeshift wallet, it is waterproof, small, lightweight, foldable and low maintenance, it was the answer to all the questions of whether such a thing does exist in this world.
Disclaimer: This method will only work if you have a place to stay the night before, not on a day trip, you are not an avid photographer who have pledged to never let your pictures be harassed by a phone’s camera, you are not bringing children or you have absolute confidence that nobody in the world would be interested in stealing your things.
In fact, the only things you would need are your phone, ezlink, cash for meals and souvenirs, and tissues. You could fit a lipbalm, sunscreen and other small items in your ziplock bag depending on the size you’re planning to use. Passports are not necessary but being the kiasi people we are we brought our passports along. You will also need people with deep pockets, people who wear cargo pants or a man. Men pants tend to have deeper pockets that will fit your belongings so unless you are comfortable with wearing one or a man yourself, then you can skip this necessity entirely.
The ziplock bag saved my stuff when I was drenched. They were perfectly dry and the best part was you could use your phone even when its in the bag itself. In case you’re wondering, fingerprint sensors do not work while in bag. I mean, come on.
This mug could have fooled me as a Alice in Wonderland tea party mug that I had a small heart attack when I thought who in the world would stack mugs like that and all three were in the air when I lifted the handle, costing me a series of panic shrieks to oh my god genius I absolutely need this overpriced mug. And that’s cookie monster.
Another tip would be to enjoy all the rides first no matter how many times you plan to queue and to leave the shopping to an hour before you leave. You don’t want to be burdened with storing your precious memories served in the form of trinkets and printed mugs at every ride that you go on.
Through experience, our water bottles and cotton candy that we place on top of lockers seem to pass the nobody-is-interested-to-take-us test.
My phone is in perfect working condition and could have been extremely delighted I placed it securely in a waterproof bag that it gave me a graphic mustache as a sign of gratitude. What was going on with that hair though.
At the end of the day travelling with only the essentials has given us the best experience without the hassle of having to worry about our belongings. I would definitely be doing this again if I ever go back to USS (god forbid, the tickets cost a kidney to a mere Malaysian Ringgit earner like me leh). So if you are a single traveler or come in a pack of friends without kids tagging along, the ziplock bag is your best friend. Do not take it for granted. It has feelings too.
If anyone were to ask me what my favourite food is, I have long decided that it would be crabs. The crustacean.
Had a long weekend during the Thaipusam holiday, so I took the opportunity to visit a close friend in Singapore. Long story short, I am from Muar, almost only 3 hours away from Singapore by car, but I decided to take a flight from KL instead. Which means I drove 2 hours to KL to catch a one hour flight because I wanted to go Changi Airport. It wasn’t hailed as one of the best airports in the world for nothing, right?! I needed to see what the hype was about. Enough of that anyway.
We went for dinner on the first night, settling with Dancing Crab after some steamboat place on the rooftop of Vivo City had a massive one hour wait. But let me just say are all Singaporean restaurants awesome or what? That steamboat place has a free manicure service while you wait for your turn. WHO DOES THAT?! Call me a jakun but I have never been handed a FREE manicure service while I wait for my turn to eat. USING OPI PRODUCTS OK. Singapore no cut cost one.
We ended up in Dancing Crab anyway because we were freaking hungry and though the manicure was tempting, food was a must to grumbling, growling bellies. Still had to wait, but at least they have a nice seating corner and a wait time of only 15 minutes, which according to that friend was the shortest wait time for a popular place. EVER. Singaporeans queue for everything apparently.
The ambience was nice, the decor immaculate. They had fake crabs on the roof and a net decor around the restaurant to prove just how serious they are in this business. Prices here are on the higher range, but don’t ask me about how much everything was. My friend paid for the meal. Teehee.
We ordered a Sampler Platter and two Sri Lankan crab set or something to that effect. I left the ordering to my friend. I was just waiting to eat like a vulture.
They call it a Sampler Platter, but they may have served giants before.
The Sampler Platter comes with a corn bread, some Calamari rings, fried mushrooms, cauliflower and lady’s finger, two crab cakes and six fried chicken wings and drummets with accompanying sauces. Everything was pretty good, but the sauce takes the cake. It was so delicious we dipped everything in it and ordered two extras.
Then, the highlight came.
Two huge Sri Lankan crabs in their mild signature Dancing Crab sauce accompanied by prawns, clams, corn and some other bits of no recollection. Crabs can get lonely on a huge table.
Imagine my delight when this dish arrived. I could hardly contain myself. If you’re wondering why are there no plates that’s because it was not served on one. They pour it on the table in all its glory without the unnecessary constraints of a plate people use in civilised environment. Because you don’t need one when it comes to crabs. Tables are lined with new plastic each time for hygiene purposes and common sense.
This. Is. The. Best. Sri. Lankan. Crab. I. Have. Ever. Tasted. The BEST. Not the best way of cooking it but the freshest, most luxurious bite into sweet, thick meat that falls right off the exoskeleton (see ma, I know my biology). Every crevices are filled with huge chunks of meat you can pull right out and it remains intact with all the sweet, sweet revenge on that one baby crab that pinched you on the beach some day in your past. The taste is pure buttery goodness with a firm yet soft bite that is utterly satisfying. Every moment with that crab was a head shaking, eyes closing, saliva inducing moment for someone as passionate about crabs as me. The crustacean. Albeit being a ‘mild’ variant, the chilli was as spicy as your grandma’s sambal belacan when she made it with a temper. So be warned that a mild is a spicy, and a ‘spicy’ is probably tongue-numbing.
Look Ma! I made a claw!
Forgive my dirty fingers and very shiny happy face of delight at my claw being intact. My point is, it was that fresh. My other point is they have plastic bibs that you can choose not to wear if you want your wife or your mum (shame) to give you perfect dagger stares and a whole lot of nyeh nyeh nyeh the next few days. Put the bib on and protect your dignity. Everyone was doing it it wasn’t weird.
And that concludes the best treat of a meal I have ever had in Singapore. Recommended? Definitely. Will go again? Yes, if Papa’s paying. Will I go with my own money? Ehh…probably, if I have money to spare and a will power to not buy all the skincare in the world for at least half a year.