Sunday, February 7, 2016

Japan's New Year Lucky Bag or Fukubukuro - Tokyu Hands 2016 Edition

In Japan, stores come out with a Fukubukuro or Lucky Bag to celebrate the New Year. Sorry, that's the calendar New Year, and not the Lunar New Year, so you have to actually wait until 2017 to get yours.

Different stores come up with their own version of the Fukubukuro or Lucky Bag as a way to get rid of their excess inventory from the previous year. The Fukubukuro is normally sold at a flat rate, you have no idea what you're buying, but the value of the items inside are worth much more than what you pay for it.

Last Year, I thought it was Chinese New Year they referred to because I saw a review of the Starbucks Fukubukuro and I asked my friend to get me one but it was all sold out. This year, my parents celebrated New Year's Day in Japan, so again I asked them to buy me a Starbucks one. Seems like the Starbucks bag is very popular because it gets sold out on the same day.

Since my mom thought I wanted any Fukubukuro, she bought me a Godiva one, or a Tokyu Hands one to choose from. We know that the answer is obvious right?

Sofia had her own stash of goodies from the grandparents, but she was very
keen to share my Tokyu Hands Stash. 
The Tokyu Hands Fukubukuro is ¥3,000.
This was everything that was included in the bag.
I was very intrigued by some of the stuff I got, since I've never seen them before, but it's definitely a classic case of you didn't know you needed or wanted one until you realize what it does.

Since this is a review, a decided to group the items by actual price to see the real value of the lucky bag.
These are everything was around ¥1,000 or more.
With these items alone, you already get your money's worth.

I'm sure the next question is, even if you got your money's worth, do you even want these items?
Uhmmm YEAH!!! I never knew they had a salad shaker, and it comes with
and Ice Pack too. Sof immediately grabbed the insulated bottle holder,
and chopsticks always come in handy (slightly cheaper).
I didn't know what this was at first! Then I realized it was
a pencil case for your notebook, so you won't forget to
carry your essentials to your meetings. 
I started using it the next day.
It comes with an adjustable strap too.

Since we already did the math and got our ROI, everything else is a bonus. Hahaha. So here are the other things in the lucky bag.
These were the items in the around ¥500 range.
These were the items in the around ¥300 range.
Sof and I are still fighting over the mini envelope notes - through Math Duel
but I love the cute To Do List and have already started using them for work.

I guess the key to a happy Fukubukuro experience is to buy them from shops where you love the whole assortment. Like Starbucks or Tokyu Hands. The reason I passed on the Godiva lucky bag is because I only like dark chocolates, so I didn't want to get a random selection, no matter how good the other chocolates were. Anyway, don't forget to head to Japan for the New Year if you want to grab your own lucky bag. Here's to a lucky new year. just saying. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Get Authentic Korean Fried Chicken in Singapore from Choo Choo Chicken

Whenever I'm in Singapore, I still get to try new places. Some I read about in Magazines or Blog Posts, while some I visit based on recommendations of friends.

If you like Fried Chicken, you must try Choo Choo Chicken, the authentic Korean version. They have a branch that opened a few months back in Cineleisure Orchard Mall.

Since I barely have shopping time when I go to Singapore for work,
I always plan for to have late dinner, so we had the restaurant all to ourselves.
We ordered half a chicken, which comes in unidentifiable pieces. Hahaha.
You can choose two sauces, so we got spicy and garlic. I prefer the spicy one.
I think half a chicken is around SG$15 but they have sets for two.
Out of curiosity and the love for Spam, I also ordered the
Choo Choo Spam Rice Burger SG$6.90 which was pretty good
and goes well with the fried chicken.
I was trying to balance out our meal by ordering a salad...
and I chose the Fried Mushroom Salad, so I'm not sure how successful
I was health-wise, but taste-wise, it was another winner.
Thanks Anson for introducing me to this place, and for coming to meet me in
between shopping and working when I get back to the hotel.
And thanks for this beautiful photo too.
How can you not love a Fried Chicken restaurant that supplies you with
finger gloves. How's that for finger lickin' good. Hahaha.


If you want, no frills, but yummy fried chicken in Singapore, Choo Choo Chicken is a good option. And they are open until 11:00PM too! just saying.


Choo Choo Chicken
8 Grange Road 
Cineleisure #03-06
Singapore
https://www.facebook.com/Choo-Choo-Chicken-%EC%B8%84%EC%B8%84-607095979350844/

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Highlights from Semarang, Solo, and Singapore

Life was so busy after the holidays, I didn't get a chance to travel for work until last week. That was a very welcome, more than a month's rest for me.

Last week, it was back to the daily grind, flying off on Sunday to make it in time for a market visit to Semarang and Solo in Java, Indonesia, with meetings in Singapore on Thursday, heading back home to wrap up the week on Friday. It was so tiring, I did nothing but sleep since I got home, and on Monday, I fly to Singapore again. 

Paradise Dynasty. Officially my favorite restaurant when I transit at
Changi Airport. Located in Terminal 3 Public Area.

The great thing about flying to different places in Indonesia, is we not only see the local market, but also the cultural highlights in the areas we visit.

In Semarang, we visited Lawang Sewu or A Thousand Doors, the old Headquarters of the Dutch East Indies Railway Company. I think it was the oldest Railway Station in Indonesia, but don't quote me on that. What I am definitely sure of, is the place got it's name from the numerous doors in the place, 972 I think, just 28 short of a thousand, and that it has a reputation for being haunted.


We also got a chance to visit Sam Poo Kong Temple. Interestingly, Admiral Zheng He, was a Muslim explorer from Mainland China, who first brought Islam to Indonesia.

We traveled by land to Solo, which is the hometown of the current Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, also called (Jokowi). We visited the Keraton Solo, or Solo Palace, where one of the two remaining symbolic kings in Java still reside.

I love the bright blue doors of the Palace,
with Angie in our matching stylish pants and gold sandals.
The English Tour group in front of the Wedding Pavillion at the Palace.
Thanks for sharing your ride, Pak Marlan.

I had many good meals during the trip, but it seems like my mouth was faster than my camera. Hahaha. So, sorry, no evidence, except for our last meal in Solo, which was really, really yummy.
Nasi Liwet from the DIY Station, where you take some rice cooked in
coconut milk, put some cooked shredded papaya on top, shredded chicken,
hard boiled egg and coconut cream, which I ate with a side of some sour beef,
and vegetables with sambal. Two Thumbs Up!!!
Dessert was yummy too, with homemade Ice Cream,
and Fried Banana topped which chocolate sprinkles and cheese (I love Keju!).

We arrived in Singapore just in time for a late dinner on Wednesday night.
Thanks Tim for sharing with us your baked Mont D'Or craving.
Ooops, not in photo, but blog post on Bistro du Sommelier to follow.
Thursday turned out to be such a hectic day, work-wise, we decided to go after some retail therapy post work, so another late dinner it was.
Thank you Spize at River Valley, for being the Go-To-Late-Dinner place,
for 6 years now. 
Fingers crossed my trip next week will give me more time to breathe, in between work, shopping and more great meals. just saying.


INDONESIA
Lawang Sewu
Komplek Tugu Muda, 
Jalan Pemuda, 
Jawa Tengah 13220, 
Indonesia

Sam Poo Kong Temple
Semarang
Central Java
Indonesia

Keraton Solo
Solo Kecamatan Pasar Kliwon, 
Surakarta, 
Jawa Tengah 57144, 
Indonesia

SINGAPORE
Paradise Dynasty Changi Airport
 #03-32 Terminal 3, 
65 Airport Blvd, 
Singapore 819663

Bistro du Sommelier
Rilette Bar
53 Armenian St, 
Singapore 179940

Spize at River Valley Road
409 River Valley Rd, 
Singapore 248307

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Shopping for Jewels in Siem Reap, Cambodia

A visit to Siem Reap has recently been on bucket list for two reasons. While there is always the desire to see Angkor Wat, the last time we visited Phnom Penh I wasn't really into buying gems as I am now. You can read about that visit here.

Gem stones shopping in Cambodia is a bit different from gem stones shopping in Sri Lanka which you can read about here. The main difference being that in Sri Lanka, they mostly deal in Natural Colored Stones, which means that really nice stones, are quite expensive (depending on the stone of course), while for the more affordable ones, you would see the stone's natural inclusions.

All the stones used in my stackable rings here were from my Sri Lankan
Jeweller. So if you'll notice, the apatite (Blue Stones) are quite cloudy,
and looks like it has some cracks, those are the natural inclusions.

In Sri Lanka, you go to different jewellers, where everything is priced per carat (which is negotiable), then when everything is weighed, you negotiate some more.

In Cambodia, we just went to the jewellery section of the old market, where there were so many vendors.
I bought a lot of stuff from this lady.
At first, it was a complete culture shock for me, because the stones were already set in what they call "Steel Silver" - some will claim sterling silver, but reality is that it's not 92.5% (sterling) but probably a 50% mixed with something else, and the prices seemed to good to be true, or to be real.


Here is the low-down, which a few honest sellers will tell you about. 

1. Fact: The jewels sold in Cambodia are all real. In fact, the stores all have a tester that will show you if the item is a stone or real gem, or glass.

2. Most of the gems sold in Cambodia are Heat Treated. 
Heat treatment is considered to be a natural type of enhancement as it is a continuation of the processes that occur in the earth when the stone was originally formed. During treatment, the stone is heated to very high temperatures (approximately 1600 Celsius) causing inclusions, chemical elements, and other impurities to reform themselves and change the color of the stone. This color change may result in the stone being darker, lighter, more intense or of a different color. An example of this is the dissolving of rutile silk inclusions in blue sapphires, which improves both clarity and color. This heat treatment is permanent and irreversible. 

3. Just take note that Heat Treated gems, while real, are much less valuable than the Natural Colored gems.

One of the vendors in the Old Market in Siem Reap was nice enough to demonstrate to me how they heat the rubies.

Here are some tips when shopping in Cambodia to get a good deal. 
1. Be familiar with the prices. I am quite familiar with the price per carat in general of my favorite gemstones with natural color. Therefore, I expect to pay much less for something that is heat enhanced.
2. Bring a mini-flashlight. While they test the properties of what makes it a stone. A flashlight will show you if a stone has natural inclusions, as they will claim that some of what they sell is much more expensive because the color is natural.
3. Buy the stones that look "believably-real" even when heat enhanced. I normally prefer the earth colors for this, ie Aquamarine, Amethyst, White Topaz, Smokey Quartz, Citrine, Peridot, etc. I find that rubies and sapphires for example look too good to be true.
4. Think about what you want, and how you will set it, before you go to buy. It gets really overwhelming if you just go and look.
5. Buy the stones that you like, because you want them, and not because you think it's valuable. At the end of the day, you're not really investing here. Just make sure you pay the right price for the quality that you get. (ie higher price for natural stones, lower price for heat enhanced stones)
6. Don't let the steel-silver setting stop you from buying, just think of it as something that comes free with the price of the stone. I normally buy the stones I want and I tell my jeweller to just dispose of the setting.
7. Look around the whole market, and buy from the person who you liked the most from. Buying in bulk really gives you bargaining power and brings down the price really fast. When you buy pieces one at a time, they do the whole weighing routine and price per carat bargaining, but once you pick out a lot if pieces, it becomes a whole different ballgame bargaining for the best price if you take everything. If the price is still too high for what you want to pay, you can just pick the few pieces you like best, and get the pro-rated best price for that.

Here are some of my stones from Cambodia. The big ones look more natural,
I bought the smaller ones to experiment with, but you see what I mean when I
say that it looks "less real". I think they look even "less real" the bigger they get.
Compare it with these stones from Sri Lanka where even the bright stones
are natural.
The benefit of buying from Cambodia is that you can get big pieces from
5-10 carats at affordable prices, while in Sri Lanka the bigger the stone,
the higher the price per carat (esp if the quality is good).
This little girl was so patient with me, because I spent three days going back
to the jewellery market.


Here are some of the gems I've bought from both Sri Lanka and Cambodia.
Jewellery by Coley 
Single or Stackable Rings
Available Now


I can't wait to go back and buy more. just saying.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Uncle Ho Tuckshop, for Authentic Vietnamese Food in Pasir Panjang

When I lived and worked in Singapore, our office relocated from the City Center, where we had a lovely view of Clarke Quay from our pantry which I enjoyed with my morning coffee everyday, to the extreme West, where we had a view of Indonesia, ok, I might be exaggerating a bit, but you get the point. I clearly wan't working in the city center anymore!

We were one of the first tenants that moved in, and there was barely anywhere decent to eat in Mapletree Business City. For close to two years, we had to choose between a sandwich (in fairness, there were a lot of sandwich shops), Steak, or the stinky food court (seriously, there was something wrong with the exhaust which is so bad, it will scar you for life!). Hahaha, so clearly, we ate a lot of steak, whenever our schedules would allow it.

With my recent change in roles, I've been visiting our Singapore office again for work. Things have started to look up, because Ben and Jerry's and Coffee is now free in our office! Hooray! 
I used to have to pay for this! Since it's now Free of Charge, I have 2 half
scoops every day I'm in Singapore for work, and around 3 cups of
Skinny Cappuccino.

Another good thing is there are more eating options around the office. My friend Dung, took and treated me to a Vietnamese Hole in the Wall place, Uncle Ho Tuckshop, a few buildings down the street. Ironically, I was travelling to Ho Chi Minh City for work the next day, but he reassured me that Pho at Uncle Ho's was even more authentic than Pho in Ho Chi Minh.

Dry Pho and Beef Pho with Soup. Yummy!
Dung ordered Pork Chop, and since he is a frequent customer,
we got a free Fried Pork Dish too!
Many thanks for lunch Dung, and Thanks for introducing me to this place.

I can't wait to take my boss to lunch here because he loves noodles, and I honestly think it's a level up from the not-so-stinky-anymore food court, where we sometimes still eat. just saying.


Uncle Ho Tuckshop
01-04 Behn Meyer Building, 
100 Pasir Panjang Rd, 
Singapore 118518
https://www.facebook.com/Uncle-Ho-Tuckshop-944345772277528/

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Brazo de Mercedes Cupcakes from Mylene's in Marikina

Marikina is close enough to where I live, but not really part of my usual haunts, so in the past, we would normally go to Marikina to eat, if there was anything we would crave for or if there are new places we'd like to try.

Rustic Mornings is one of our brunch favorites which you can read about here, but there were also a lot of other good places we visited when we went on our Marikina Food Trip which you can read about here.

I now find myself in Marikina more often since the idea of Wanderlust Sandals became a reality, and on one of my trips there, I saw another branch of Mylene's, a favorite Ensaymada place in Marikina, so of course I had to stop.

Not only did I score some freshly baked ensaymada, which they were serving it fresh from the oven, since they had so many orders for Christmas (during that time), the ensaymada never even made it to their shelves, I found some new discoveries too.

They have different flavors of ensaymada, but I was
happy enough to stick to the classic.
Php180/box of 6

My favorite discovery was their Brazo De Mercedes Cupcakes. Look at those tall yummy brazos, in single serve sizes to boot. Quite good value too at Php50 per piece.
I just bought one to try but I am sure I will be back for more.
Just like the real brazo, that custard cuts through the meringue generously
from top too bottom. Php240/box of 6

I was also excited to try their Tres Leches Cupcake. I think Sof liked it more than I did, but only because I already have a standard I am comparing it too. I remember I even attempted to make my own Tres Leches cake last year because I wasn't able to find what I was looking for commercially. You can read about that here.
Tres Leches Cupcake
Php270/Box of 6

Now I have another reason to go to Marikina, or put another way, I have another thing to add to my to buy list when I find myself there. just saying.


Mylene's Ensaymada
RANCHO BRANCH: Ruby's Bldg. #36 Lilac St. Rancho 1 corner hacienda heights, Marikina City (Rancho 1 gate entrance).
Monday to Saturday 8am-9pm

IPIL BRANCH: 51 Ipil St. Marikina Heights, Marikina City (Infront of Infant Jesus School New Building).
Monday to Sunday 8am-9pm

CALUMPANG BRANCH: 12 Calderon St. Calumpang Marikina City. (along cafe lydia)
Monday to Sunday 8am-9pm

XAVIERVILLE BRANCH: 98a Xavierville Avenue corner Esteban Abada Loyola Heights, Quezon City
Monday to Saturday 9am-8:30pm


Friday, January 22, 2016

Wanderlust Sandals - Now Available!

The long wait is over! After all the hype, Wanderlust Sandals are finally available for sale.

Inspired by Places, To take you Places... Literally!!!

While our sandals are proudly made by artisans in the Philippines, our first line, the "Athinas Collection" was inspired by my trip to Athens, Greece, last August. You can say that God does work in mysterious ways, because who would have thought, that just a mere five months after, that trip would leave a legacy, and touch the lives of everyone who buys a pair of our well-crafted sandals.

If there's one thing we ensure, it's the quality and craftsmanship you get with Real Leather sandals, which I have personally tested myself (Yes, I literally wore my sample pair everyday for more than a month, to make sure it's not just comfortable on top of being stylish and classy, but durable as well).

Our first collection is available in Champagne Gold and in Black Brown Embossed Croc Leather.

 


The flash makes the sandals look more silver than gold, but in reality, the sandals are a pale gold color that virtually dresses up any outfit. 
 


While the Black Brown combination of the embossed leather, makes this pair quite versatile in a classic way.



We only started selling today, mostly to or through friends connected on social networks and the reception has been so good, our first collection is almost sold out! You can grab a pair now, or if we're sold out for your size, you can pre-order to so we can give you priority once our new stocks arrive, just in time for summer.


You can buy a pair of Wanderlust Sandals though the following channels:

1. Like our Facebook Page and message us for inquiries or orders:
https://www.facebook.com/WanderlustSandals/

2. Follow us on Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/wanderlustsandals/

3. Or visit the following stockists starting January 25, 2016

MANILA

Foot Zone Day Spa
Unit 106 Richbelt Tower,
17 Annapolis St.,
San Juan, 1502
Metro Manila
You can call +63 917 8091250 to inquire about size availability before visiting

CAGAYAN DE ORO

Marites Couture
Door 2 Rivera Building
Capistrano corner Mabini Streets
Cagayan de Oro City
You can contact Theresa Canoy at +63 916 3524363 to inquire about size availability before visiting


Many thanks to our favorite blogger for all the photos. Wanderlust Sandals look really good on you, Yuki!



Interested Distributors for Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam may contact me directly so we can discuss possibilities for taking Wanderlust Sandals to even more places. just saying.