Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Tokyo Must-Go Bucket List

Shit I'm so madly excited. Just got news that I'll be going to Tokyo, Japan this year.

The company had a target to hit for the past month and with the incredible hard work of the entire team, we managed to exceed it. At the beginning, most if not all, felt that the goal was impossible but with constant encouragement from the boss who absolutely believed we can, the team actually did it.

We were all still at work on Chinese New Year Eve when the good news broke, and the atmosphere immediately exploded with a sense of achievement and excitement. Even the usual cool and composed personalities couldn't contain the exhilaration hahahaha man, what a great feeling. So grateful to have experienced that priceless moment.

As a reward, the company will be sending the entire team on a trip to Japan! YAY!

On the assumption that we'll go to Tokyo, my thoughts led me to think about the many places that I've yet to visit in Tokyo. I've been there four times, but still, there are so much to see. As an excuse to dive into countless travel articles and guides, here's my personal list of yet-to-go-therefore-must-go places in Tokyo as personal reference for upcoming trips (YES, TRIPS) in the future.

1. Tokyo Skytree

A relatively new landmark in town, also the tallest structure in Japan, Tokyo Skytree offers breath-taking views of the city from the observation deck and well, shopping complex below hahaha! Plus the Sumida Aquarium and Konica Minolta Planeterium. I hear about the cute Moomin House Café as well. The first time I was in Tokyo, the tower was completed but not open for the public yet. On the second visit, it was just launched so the crowd was crazy and it was a hot humid summer and I just cannot I just cannot hahahaha

View of Tokyo Skytree from Sensoji Temple, Asakusa.

2. Ebisu Garden Place

Because Hana Yori Dango, duh. Or more specifically, Matsomoto Jun hehe the iconic spot where he stubbornly waited for Tsukushi under the rain. When she finally did, reluctantly, arrive they went on their first date and the rest is history. Ahh the drama series that sparked my obsession with Arashi, this is an absolute must-go! I don't know why I missed it in the previous trips. 

Photo taken from Mia's site hehe more Hanadan film locations there!

3. Landscape Gardens

Either Rikugien Garden or Koishikawa Garden, or both. Beautiful traditional landscape gardens in the heart of a bustling metropolitan? Sign me up please. These two gardens were built more than 400 years ago, can you imagine all the effort and care poured to maintain the beauty? I'd love to take a leisurely stroll around and you know, take lots of photographs for Instagram hahaha apparently it's best to go during spring or autumn. Look at it, just look at it.

Rikugien Garden 

Koishikawa Garden

Photo credits to my travel bible, the only guide you'll ever need.

4. Sanrio Puroland

Hang out with Hello Kitty, Kiki & Lala, My Melody, Pom Pom Purin, and many other cute Sanrio characters in a pretty pastel world. Wonderful. I should have went there last time!  

5. Tokyo DisneySea

First and only in the world! An adult version of Tokyo Disneyland, the concept is supposedly inspired by myths and legends of the sea. I heard alcohol is served here too teehee

6. Cosmo Clock 21

Technically located in Yokohama but close enough to Tokyo for a quick stop. I absolutely love ferris wheels and it was really a dream come true to finally see the Cosmo Clock 21 with my own eyes back in 2012. I was borderline obsessed with this particular ferrris wheel hahahaha sadly, it was closed by the time I got there so next time, I'd want to get on it for a ride. I bet the view must be impressive!

Mesmerizing lights. 

7. Roppongi Hills

For a stunning view of Tokyo Tower standing tall in the midst of the bustling city, I need to get to Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills! I'm particularly excited for the open air sky deck on the roof for a clear, unobstructed view. Need. To. Get. That. Iconic. Shot. And. Instagram. It. 

Photo from here.

So that's my list, as far as I could think of. There are many more places that I'd love to revisit, such as the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, but let's make time for the new sights first okay hahaha hope I'll be able to at least cross one or two things off this list on the upcoming trip. If I don't, well, more reasons to go back to Tokyo again hahahah not too soon though, my next plan will be Hokkaido in winter, February 2016, let's go! 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hollywood Cosmetics from Japan

Just the other day, Carols mentioned a skincare range that her friend from Japan had introduced to her. Apparently famous celebs in Japan also love this brand and before she could say any more, I was like, "STOP TALKING AND JUST GIVE IT TO ME NOW."

Next thing I know I got a set in my hands. Good job, Carols hehehe it's not even available in Malaysia, at least not yet. The unbreakable bond between women and beauty products, ain't nothing going to stop a girl from getting what she wants to make her look nicer! 

Orchid Enzyme Pack by Hollywood Cosmetics

The concept and packaging are a refreshing change from the cutting-edge rocket-science-technology stuff we've been seing all over drugstores these days. This is simple and practical, I like. Each set contains the Orchid Pick Up Cream in 100g and Orchid Mask in 50g. A plastic cup and spatula is provided as well for convenience. It works to gently exfoliate dead skin cells and dirt for a brigther complexion. 

We'll see! The process is fun, you know. Here's how it works:  

Find the little cup lol

With the spatula, scoop out powder mask into cup.

The amount varies according to skin type. 

Sensitive - Half scoop
Dry - One scoop
Neutral - Two scoops
Oily - Three scoops

I've got combination skin that can be rather sensitive at times, which fits into neither category fml but I load up on one or two scoops anyways, just because it's so fun hahaha I've never tried any face mask that works like this before. Usually just slap on sheet masks and go on with life. For this though, there are little preparations involved which may feel rather therapeutic, I think. Makes me think that taking some time to prepare something good for myself doesn't sound so bad at all.  

Next, squeeze out three lines of the cream.

From bottom of the cup to the top edge, three times, that's how you can count the three lines. Don't have to be too particular about it, sometimes I do two and half, sometimes I do three. After that, with the spatula provided, combine the two ingredients in the plastic cup until it becomes a smooth paste. I did that once and found that using my fingers are so much more fun! Which is why for the past few weeks I've been using my fingers to both mix and apply, so satisfying hahahaha

Next. just apply on freshly cleaned face. 

There's a time guide for this step too.

Sensitive - 3 to 4 minutes
Dry - 5 to 6 minutes
Neutral - 7 to 8 minutes
Oily - 10 minutes

I'll just leave it on as long as I'd like to though, without setting a timer I'd aim for about 5 to 10 minutes. I guess that's the best part about using natural products, it won't burn your skin off if you leave it a minute more than you're supposed to hahaha it also smells fairly subtle, barely noticed it which is why am having a hard time trying to describe it. After a while, you can remove it with the spatula or cotton pads. I like to rinse it off right away with water. Didn't feel any tight, dry sensation after washing off. 

The first time I had this on, I thought I had such a hard time getting it off because of the slippery smooth feel when it comes in contact with water. It wasn't until I looked into the mirror that I realized that it has actually come off already, that's my skin that feels slippery smooth hahahaha first usage, didn't see a life-changing difference. Just slighter brighter, slightly radiant skin as per usual post-wash complexion. After wash, you can just slap on the usual skin care products.

It wasn't until several rounds later that I started to see a little more obvious results. It's been a few weeks now and I've been diligently using it once or twice a week. I daresay these days my skin tone is slightly more even, a tad brighter for sure. Pores have shrunk a little, contributing to an overall smoother effect. Must be all the enzyme working to bust those grime stuck in pores. Best part is, makeup glides on much easier and I just have to put on a small amount for sheer coverage.

My skin is still far from perfect, which is a nearly impossible goal anyway so I can proudly say that I'm happy with the current situation. I don't know what other factors may have contributed to the radiant and smooth condition, or how long this shall last, but hey if it's all thanks to the Orchid Enzyme Pack by Hollywood Cosmetics, I'll continue with this routine.  

Bonus! Nail Repair Serum by Hollywood Cosmetics

I have a bad habit of manually chipping off nail polish when it starts to chip a little. This causes the nail surface to strip off and you'll see little white patches on the surface. Simply speaking, it's bad for your nails. 

A few days after I got this, I had the perfect situation to test it out on those pesky little white patches hahahah just turn the pink tip according to the arrow, and gently squeeze.  A pearly white serum will ooze out of the transparent rubber applicator, with which you will rub onto the nail surface. I like to rub it in further with my fingers after that, and within seconds it will absorb and turn into a matte, velvet film over the nails, feels real smooth to the touch. 

I did it a few times over a day, and it soon repairs my nails into a dull, healthy shine. Cuticles will be softened and nourished too. I have chronic dry skin, which is real apparent especially on my hands. For me, this also works as a quick saver if I need my cuticles and nails to look moisturized and healthy before heading out for a meeting. It looks unbelievably great! So glad for the opportunity to try these products, please head to Japan to get it hahahaha many thanks to Carols! 

Monday, February 16, 2015

GakuPuro Final : Wrap-Up & Goodbyes

Hoho finally huh! After that fairly good night, we woke up with a heavy heart for the final day of the Student Power: Connecting the World Project. For the past couple days we've had meals in this little cafe downstairs, that morning we had a good breakfast served as well.

Healthy breakfast of toast, salad, soup, meat, yogurt and fresh fruits. Got cherries also! After a good meal and some light chit chat, we headed towards to conference room to begin the final team presentation session. Besides the participants, there were reps from Fukushima University, Rotary Club of Minami-Souma, as well as the local media. Gulp. Each team member took turns to share different points. I asked Ribon to take some photos when it's my turn and I'd help her do the same haha! I did it all in English, luckily my interpreter assisted throughout the process.

As each team presented, it was rather interesting to hear their views. You know how there's this stereotype that the Japanese keep their personal opinions and feelings to themselves rather than voicing it out to the world? It's incredibly refreshing to hear the teams strongly voice out their thoughts to the audience and trust me, it wasn't all rainbows and roses. I have the utmost respect for the project leaders that took these in stride and further emphasised that this entire project was not organized to lead our opinions in a particular direction. It was to open up our eyes to the everyday reality of Fukushima after the major disaster, and let our thoughts and perspectives form freely by itself.  

At some point, a participant stated that he's not likely to return again until the area is officially fully secure from radiation, to which everyone responded with silence. To be clear, it's not that it wasn't secure at the time, but there were still of course risks of exposure. But to say that out loud so clearly, it was interesting to see the expressions that reacted to it. It's really admirable these young students were feeling so passionately about what's going on in the country and actively pursuing a variety of knowledge and experiences. A big contrast to my personal impression of students back home, which includes myself. 

After all teams presented, I got pulled into an interview with the media gah super embarassing to have all the attention like that. Picked me possibly because I was the most "foreign" in both language and hair color. Should have touched up hair color before the project lol hope I did not embarass my country wtf

Ended the session with obligatory group photo! 

None of the group photos came out perfect hahahaha

Took individual photos with everyone as well hehe super semangat ok tulah keremajaan, hoped to remember everyone's names! Gave this back. Still don't know how it works and how the read the radiation stats fml

Grabbed our luggages and re-group at the lobby to say goodbyes! 

The atmosphere was amazing though. Some were sad to that the project has come to an end, some could barely believe time flew so quickly, some were relieved that the project completed so successfully, and many were simply happy with the promise of new friendships. My host dad also saw me off, so sad to leave! 

The bus departed and headed towards Tokyo. It was a long ride and many fell asleep right away after the bento lunch provided in the bus. At first I sat alone but Ribon asked me over and we had such a great time chatting and giggling and being silly. The bus later stopped at a highway rest stop (love 'em!) and I still have quite a lot of money left, so we both grabbed some ice cream.


Looks all fine and dandy, but seconds later I don't know what happened I spilled the entire ice cream cone on myself. My bag, phone, pants and hands were soiled it was so ridiculous I don't know what came over us we burst out laughing and laughing and laughing. It was just so ridiculous! We felt damn bad laughing also because some others were asleep but there's no stopping once it started hahaha I still remember this incident so clearly after almost three years. The bus arrived at Haneda Airport and I got off with Diida and Hiroshi, leaving the others to head straight to the city. 

Ribon quickly passed me a letter. Super sweet and thoughtful notes! 

I still had plenty of time before the night flight departs so I left my luggage in the rented lockers, and took a train to have a little exploration in Akihabara, Tokyo. I think there was a train heading straight there, which was why I chose to head there hahahaha otherwise I'd totally have gone for Shibuya. The journey took around half hour, and I was soon embraced by the city's neon lights. Didn't do much really, just grabbed some kebab dinner and aimlessly explored around for an hour or two. Didn't buy anything boo

As it was about time to head back to the airport, I had no idea how to go back to the station anymore fml had to aimlessly look for any random train stations. A bit panic but I found my way to the subway. I think it was the first time I took a subway in Japan, a total world of difference from the JR Line trains that I'd usually take in Tokyo.You see hahahaha

So I got to the airport in time, checked-in and had the most ridiculous experience of my entire life. Just as people were lining up the gate for boarding, I decided to go for a pee. As I was doing my business in the cubicle, it dawned on me that I might have entered the men's bathroom, usually indicated with blue color at the outside. 

Then I vaguely remembered glimpses of urinals, which I had initially brushed off as kids urinals sometimes found in women's bathroom. I was like OMFG WHAT HAVE I DONE. Somemore already time to board plane! 

To confirm, I took a peep under the door and really can see some men's shoes walking on out, and far-off sound of peeing faaark I had no idea what to do, just panic and cold sweat in the cubicle. Scared people suspect what I do so long inside no sound so I flushed a few times also hahahahaha but no choice die die still have to get out, so I put my hair up to look less girlish and comtemplated just running out but damn chicken shit keep looking under the door to see if anyone's coming or not. 

This went on for like an eternity until the point I didn't hear much noise anymore and decided to just fuck it, brace myself and ran out without looking up at anymore. I have no idea if anyone saw me but after I gone out I realized that I really sweat like mad hahahaha scared like hell.

Ok the end. FINALLY! Bring out the fireworks! 

Monday, February 9, 2015

New Hair Color at Number76 Hair Salon!

I'm so excited with my new hair color, done just in time for Chinese New Year celebrations hehe one day I'll do a hair-volution post to sum up all my hair colors, that'll be fun! I've had my hair colored since I was 19 years old. Seven years!! Shit I'm old fml.

I don't know why this time it feels so different and I'm actually documenting it here. Maybe because I just had a three-hour nap and wide awake hahaha you know I haven't tried ash tones in like forever, don't even remember when is the last time I had it, if I even had it. I love red and/or purple tones so it has always been that. The last time I had my hair done was in November 2013, just before I fly off to Japan. It was a three-tone autumn-inspired mix of browns and reds, really special.

So three months after, I'm back for a brand-new color yeah! 

Contrary to popular belief, I don't actually get my hair done like every other day lol

I made my appoointment just before the peak pre-holiday period with Director Amy at Number76 Bangsar 2 branch. So glad its open 10am until 10pm daily so I can hop over after work. Some like it during weekends but I prefer after work, because I'll have something to look forward to all day. With Number76, the results always come out to be a complicated mix of tones to the point that I don't even know what to call that color anymore hahahaha apparently it's all mixed according to the stylist's discretion, so it's all personalized, in a sense. As usual, I left it to Amy to decide and she asked if I wanted to try ash tones.

Hesitated a little (you know, comfort zone and all that) but she assured that it'll suit me and proceeded with the service without really revealing what she has in mind hahaha that's what I love about going to a favourite stylist, because they know you well enough to make decisions for you! Since young, the trauma of shitty haircuts at small-town auntie-salons still heavily lingered but in the last few years that I've been visiting Number76, I can barely believe that I have this ultimate level of trust with my stylist.

In about two hours, the results were revealed! 

I did the new signature Ultrasonic Premium hair treatment as well! Super love this range of treatments because they make my hair so fabulously smooth. The last time I did it, the effects lasted a month and half without proper home care. My hair is prone to tangles (like, literally, hair balls would pop up on the hair brush) so I know the effects have faded once I can't run my hands through it without getting stuck haha it differs for each person, so I guess I'm lucky? Hehe 

This time, it's a two-tone color with beige-ish brown-ish ash-ish base (see what I mean about defining color names) with deep plum ends. NO BLEACH, fuck yeah. Both cool and warm colors yay the best of both worlds! My fine hair texture responds well to colors and previous colors were also light tones, so don't have to specially bleach the ends to achieve such a vibrant purple. 

I love it I love it I love it I love it I love it

Even my colleagues thought it was different to see me in the cool brown tones. I've been really careful in making sure the color doesn't fade, so that it will last in time for Chinese New Year! Did you know that scalp shampoos can actually speed up the fading process? So yeah don't go there. Imma stick to shampoo for colors instead. It's been almost ten days and the purple ends seem to be still going strong. Phew. 

Just ten more days, sila bertahan! 

After ten days it looks like this:

Direct sunlight
Daytime outdoors
Daytime under shade

To be honest, these two-tone colors suit hair with waves or curls best because it looks more defined that way. I couldn't agree more and I'm so grateful that my hair is naturally wavy; can be easily styled for stronger waves. Usually I will blow dry my hair, apply hair care oil then twist it up in a bun. 

Sometimes I will go to sleep just like that, which will create tigher, longer-lasting curls. Otherwise I will do it in the morning, after another round of hair care oil, and let it go once I reach the office. I've had people asking if I permed my hair hahahah #action

After ten days, taken just this afternoon. 

Got a bit faded filter ok, which automatically makes the photo looks nicer haha don't know what logic but ok I accept and apply. Cheeks a little flushed from that bottle of Strongbow cider we had post-brunch. Damn, I want to blog about that brunch too, that was so incredibly epic. Anyway yah that's all! Super enjoying my new hair color and love it even more when random strangers ask me about it hahaha get your hair done also ok! Go make appointment at Number76.com