Strippers, soup noodles and shopping – a weekend in Bangkok

Clearly I am the worst blogger in the world. Can I blame China?

Between travelling the Asian triangle of Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, trying to find a job, trying to figure out if I even WANT one, I keep forgetting about my blog! The poor thing sits here on the interwebs like some poor abandoned pet, sure it was cute at first, now it requires work? Boo.

I still like writing in it but I just get lazy. So lazy. Then I try and find a billion pictures and attempt to photo blog it all. This one case in point was from my trip to Bangkok end of Jan. It was a weekend of strippers, shopping and spa for a Hen’s Night, but in the end all I have are pictures of food (this is fine because the stripper was a let down anyway).

We started off with dinner at Roof by Muse. Food was great (and we were starving, as evidenced from lack of photos). Loved this cocktail floating in dried ice.

2013-01-25 20.51.16Roof by Muse http://www.musebkk.com

The next day saw us at Hyde and Seek, awesome gastropub where we all fell in love with this:

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http://www.hydeandseek.com

Once the hen night shenanigans were officially over, we stuck to more local fair such as Bangkok’s famous street noodles.

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We also hit up this favourite of mine at Siam station. Seriously I could eat these noodles every day. I think I very nearly did.

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 And finally, a friend took us to this awesome, university hang out which was as adorable as it was good. The music was, as the name suggested, from the sixties and food was tasty Thai.2013-01-29 22.49.27

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http://dishfinders.com/places/897143-music-of-the-sixties-bangkok

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Chinese New Year preparations

Chinese New Year is in two days and this time I actually prepared a potential blog post to lead up to it (applause please since Christmas and New Year were a big fail). We celebrate the new year in Singapore (mandatory, no questions asked) but we bring half of Hong Kong’s food products back in our suitcases.

Being “self-employed”, I decided to follow my mom on her rounds of Sheung Wan for the best lap cheong (cured sausage?) and other random things.

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Then I got distracted taking random pictures of things…

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Like this.

I like Sheung Wan for its old school charm which still has the feel of a Hong Kong that wasn’t Asia’s biggest finance centre. Before all the IFCs and ICCs and whatever Cs came in. As someone who couldn’t be a foodie if she tried, I can’t even begin to name the stuff in the pics I took (useless I know) but at to be honest I was mainly taking pics for the feel of the place. Most of these places are along Des Veoux and it’s a great area to walk around and take a look at (though don’t actually go before Chinese New Year, it’s hectic!)

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Fish maw…?

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Dried fish…and stuff

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Tea! Right?

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Old jars on display

Wishing everyone a happy year of the water snake. For those of you like me who are Roosters, apparently our luck’s pretty good this year particularly if you’re self-employed. No health issues to worry about BUT if you have female colleagues/bosses, be wary of them. Just something I read in a random horoscope book. Never hurts to prepare!

Shanghai in pictures

I keep finding it hard to leave this city so much so that I’ve managed to extend it for another month…even though it means I’m going to spend a few weeks bouncing around. Before I get back to my smoggy, shovy, pushy, currently-adopted city, I’ll be heading to Bangkok for a hen’s night, Singapore for Chinese New Year and Koh Samui for a wedding. Not that I’m complaining.

I really like being in Shanghai, though the cold has definitely been a challenge. Fake Canadian that I am, I actually  freak out when I see the temperature go below 0. So far I am trying to keep my layering to about 2 to 3 layers, just in case it ever gets colder and I need to wear more. These are pics I’ve snapped on my little Samsung were mainly taken before it got too cold to work a touch screen without gloves (and that’s the only way to work one…need special gloves).

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Jing An temple is just memorable for me because for the first two months I lived practically next door. I finally took a peek inside on a free pray-day. It was a lot more chaotic than this picture suggests. People running around trying to burn joss sticks on open fire is a little scary.

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Made an important visit to People’s Square to find a husband. In the past parents used to congregate there and really share info about their kids to help them find a mate (much to their children’s embarrassment, according to my Chinese teacher. Nowadays, there are just as many matchmakers as parents, and probably even more tourists. If my crappy Mandarin is correct, I believe the sign above says something like “Mom! Here is where I’ll find my true love.”

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I like spending time in Tianzifang. An old Shikumen style sort-of tourist trap where there are lots of interesting stores. I’ve been about four times and still can’t find my way around. It’s like an ever-changing maze. But lately I’ve learned to just wander and somehow I end up where I need to be. Ridiculous I know.

2012-12-09 17.02.51Poor bunnies, saw them being sold while walking to The Bund.2012-12-14 17.13.39

A friend took me to this lovely furniture/cafe (popular in Shanghai) that my crappy photo does not do justice to. This is the address is anyone ever wants to pop in for a cuppa or a couch. The surrounding areas are also great for a walk. 145 Nanchang Lu, 南昌路145号

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Of course I can’t post about Shanghai without a requisite food picture. On Beijing Road behind the Portman Ritz-Carlton there’s a local dumpling restaurant that does these great steamed jiao zi. They were delicious, and gone in about 20 minutes which is what happens when you eat with your 21 year old male classmates.

I think there’s a real possibility that I could live here (if I don’t get run over by a cab, or a bicycle first). It’s still more affordable than HK though that’s probably changing soon. And somehow there doesn’t seem to be that many bankers here (which is a nice change). Beyond the pollution, the language (which I’m still struggling with) and the occasional food poisoning, I still think there’s a lot f possibility. It could be worth it, especially for views like the ones below.

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Spa Review: Chuan Spa at Langham Place Mongkok

Chuan Spa -  EntranceChristmas really is the time of giving and I’ve been fortunate to have been given not one, not two but THREE awesome spa opportunities while back in Hong Kong.

This review is really more of an ode to a therapist at Chuan Spa. The first time I went, I tried their Dermaheal facial as part of a machines-treatment-based story. The therapist, Jessie, was awesome, especially considering the facial was paaaaainful, mainly because it involved lots of little needles. Ouch.

This time I went to try their signature Chuan Yu Facial. Chuan Spa is inspired and based around Traditional Chinese Medicine concepts and so before each treatment you fill in a form to determine what element you are. The first time I did this in Shanghai at the Langham Xintiandi for an article, I was metal (the weather was changing), this time I was water (which I put down to being severely congested and as a result, probably dehydrated).

I sat in the waiting room for a bit and coughed so badly I think they hurried me into my room just to stop my hacking from tearing through their zen (I totally don’t blame them, I was so embarassed).

I’m not saying that the Chuan Yu facial cured me of my tuberculosis (ie. really really bad cough/cold/flu) but it definitely helped. A week later in Singapore, I now feel almost totally fine. Going to a spa while you’re trying to hack out a lung is definitely not ideal for you (or your fellow spa guests!) but maybe that extra nurturing and kindness you get from an expert therapist is the best medicine haha.

Chuan Yu Facial 01

Jessie put up with a lot of coughing through my facial and I felt extremely bad for potentially sending germs directly at her. She kept assuring me this wasn’t an issue and even brought me chamomile tea after which she said was known to be good for cough. The facial was really soothing, and involving a lot of massage and pressure points. It also included the use of jade in the treatment designed to stimulate circulation. I drifted in and out of sleep but I definitely felt the cool jade being pressed into my palms and on certain points of my face. It was actually really nice.

After the treatment, I was resting in the relaxation room, gazing out at Hong Kong’s smoggy scenery when Jessie brought me a cup of chamomile tea, supposedly good for the respiratory system but I was already feeling much better and hacking way less after the treatment.

http://www.chuanspa.com

Hot happy holidays in Singapore

Hello blog, it’s been awhile! I’ve been meaning to blog since Christmas but I was sick before it and then sicker after and then I came back to Shanghai where the internet hates me. Anyway here’s a picture post of my time back in Singapore. Warm Christmases are the norm for me but it was good to check out some new places. 2012-12-23 13.39.40

Visited a cozy brunch place in Katong called Rabbit, Carrot, Gun. The place as far as I could tell only had carrots, no rabbits and no (illegal) guns, but the lunch was great. So great that I of course did not take any pics (not a food blogger).

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Anyone who references my favourite childhood half-cartoon gets my vote for a fun place to visit.

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Evening strolls and snacks are always fun in Singapore (yes they usually take place post-clubbing) but Marina Bay Sands is really way nicer at 3am when no one is there. Below is late night garlic naan from an prata place near my home. As you all know, I never say no to carbs no matter what time it is.

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Christmas in my family is a big affair. Six aunts and uncles and their spouses, 23 cousins and second cousins and their spouses and kids. Basically it adds up to a big Christmas feast…but because we spent so much time demolishing it, all I have left is a photo of the Christmas pasta.

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And yeah these are all my instagram photos, you can follow me there @karentanfong too. At least that gets updated a little more often!

Spa Review: The Spa at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental

Last year for Christmas, my dad got his ladies (me, my mother and my sister) Time Rituals to use at the Spa at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental. Of course it took us almost a whole year to coordinate schedules and actually go. So a week before Christmas, I flew in from Shanghai (yes especially for this) and we spent two luxe-y hours at the spa.

Heat Experience

I’ve been to the Spa at the Landmark a few times but never for a full-on massage and funny enough, never for work either. A Time Ritual gives you two hours of your choice of treatments and is a Mandarin Oriental staple. It’s interesting because if you wanted to, you could spend (or more like, waste) the time getting a pedicure and doing waxing. But you could also go for their more cash-worthy massages, facials, scrubs etc.

I’ve been rundown since my last week in Shanghai (where I apparently caught a cold/flu napping…weird) so I’m now stuck with a bad cough that makes it sound like I’m dying. My therapist Sunita suggested the Rasul treatment for 20 mins followed by their signature Oriental massage to detox and clear the congestion as well as get a little facial in there via the Dead Sea mud. She also suggested using Aromatherapy Associates’ Breathe Support oil in the massage to help clear up the congested feeling.

The Rasul is the only treatment I’ve done at the Spa and I really hadn’t intended to do it again when there was a plethora of other fun things to try but it just seemed like the best thing to do for my poor frail physique. Sitting in the Rasul with its honking huge amethyst crystal, caked in mud and waiting desperately for the steam to end also felt somehow soothing and calming. Maybe it has to do with the whole “Age of Aquarius” thing we wrote about at AsiaSpa earlier this year, but I did feel that now at year-end, a little time to reflect and be peaceful was a good idea. The dry heat, steam and final shower was good, and didn’t feel as long and torturous as it had the last time I went. I have a real love/hate relationship with steam…love what it does for you, but kinda hate the whole “I can’t breathe” feeling.

Rasul 1

That’s not me, obviously.

The massage was great. Someone once said to me you can really feel it in a therapist’s touch if they know what they’re doing and Sunita had that in spades. Her skills plus the combination of peppermint and lavender in the soothing oil really worked their magic on me. Sunita was especially attentive since I occasionally sounded like I was dying, and never showed any disgust at the germs I was polluting the room with (really sorry about that).

Spending an afternoon at the Landmark Mandarin’s spa is obviously not a stressful experience and we all had a really good time. Personally, the Time Ritual has an opposite effect on me from what’s intended I think. Obviously buying someone time is done to give them two hours of pampering, but for me to have that choice of choosing treatments kind of stresses me out! I like to know I’m getting the best deal so I get a bit stressed making sure I can get all my treatments in, and I can help but sit there wondering if they’re going to deduct the time it takes to walk from treatment room to Rasul, or the shower I needed to take post-Rasul, or the bathroom break I went for before the massage. Of course they don’t do that, they aren’t as petty as I am! But I couldn’t help but wonder…

http://www.mandarinoriental.com/landmark

Shanghai sightings

Hello internet world I’m back! Getting on to wordpress was a bit difficult here in Shanghai but I’ve finally managed to get my act together and write a post, ironically just two weeks before I’m supposed to head back to HK haha.

I’ve been in Shanghai for just over a month now and I’ve barely scratched the surface of the city. I came here to study Mandarin and I alternate between feeling successful and slightly more fluent, and useless unable to get by except for a few choice phrases.

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Cute old school mailboxes in an old laneway

But besides that, if I’m going to be honest, I came for a change of pace. I wanted to see what it would be like living somewhere else without having to invest in the whole moving countries thing right away. At least this way I could say I was doing something productive while having a good time.

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pretty fences

At the same time, this IS China. I was reveling in being able to eat doritoes on my bed as I blogged, but now I’m throwing an internal tantrum because one of my neighbours is definitely smoking and the smell is making its way into my room. But I’ve generally found that the things that annoy people about China (the spitting, the shoving, the near-maniacal driving by anything with wheels) don’t faze me, I tend to find it more amusing than aggravating (except for the smoking in the apartment. that drives me crazy). The only thing I find hard to get used to is having my friends so far away (technically a phone call I guess, but I don’t have a long distance calling plan), and also the lack of easy access to my magic skincare drawer back at home. When I ran out of serum earlier this month I felt like I had dry raisin face till I made it back to HK and restocked.

Of course nothing would make a proper Shanghai post without some pics of food, so here are pics of some of my favourites so far.

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Juicy soupy oily sheng jian. Delicious and oh-so-bad for the skin hah.

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Rice cakes drowning in crab sauce

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my RMB 1.50 lunch

Tried this: MTM’s Aqua BB Cream

A good BB cream is hard to come by. Too light and you get no coverage, too heavy and you end up looking like a geisha and not in a good way. My favourite used to be Hanskin’s simplest formula which had SPF 35. But I can’t find it anymore. Since then I’ve been using Jane Iredale’s tinted moisturizer but that only has an SPF of 15 and it’s pretty expensive (not to mention it doesn’t seem to have much coverage…also what’s the point of SPF 15??).

When I got a tube of MTM’s Aqua BB Cream, I was pretty excited and with good reason. I started using it while in Singapore, (which thanks to the humidity, is the LAST place you’d want to wear heavy makeup ). I realised that just one quick application of the cream made my skin look great. While I was running around doing my journalism-thing, it was the only makeup I wore to look presentable. And maybe it was just the sun, but I really think my skin looked good.

I’ve brought it with me to Shanghai and am already worried it’s going to run out. I wear it every day with a bit of concealer and powder and then whatever makeup I have time to slap on before I’m late for class. It goes on nice and light but clearly with some substance and I like the effect it gives. Let’s hope that it lasts as long as my Shanghai adventure otherwise I’m actually going to have to *gasp* pay for a new tube,

http://www.mtmskincare.com

 

Spa Rant-Protection First

shoshanaspa

Protection first

Once I went for a massage (I know, this seems to happen a lot), and it was seemingly going well. It was soothing massage, so there was oil involved and things seemed to be going well until I noticed a really odd scratchy/squishy sound. This was followed by some odd snapping sounds until I finally looked up and turned and realised my therapist was wearing rubber gloves.

Rubber gloves. For a massage. Seriously? In all my years of spa-ing that has never happened to me before. It was so surprising I asked my therapist why she was using gloves. Her answer was “it’s for your protection, and mine.”

Well this was another stunner. What did I need protection from? I assumed she washed her hands before starting the massage…and I didn’t think I was particularly germ-ridden.

To be honest, it didn’t feel THAT different getting a massage through…

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Dare to detox: A trip to Rasayana Resort in Pattaya

Just because I love to spa, definitely doesn’t mean I love to be healthy! It’s a bit ironic I know, having worked for three years on “Asia’s wellness bible.” I just love carbs (and chocolate) too much! But even I was beginning to feel it was getting to be a bit much…like did I really need to have three helpings of pasta at dinner? Probably not.

We choose Rasayana in Pattaya for a few reasons. First of all to be very honest, it was the cheapest. We already had tickets to Bangkok so it would only be a short drive to Pattaya and the package included the transfer. Secondly, it suited our timing. Most detoxes take at least 10 days, that’s how long you should be doing it to see results like weight loss etc. but I really didn’t have that time (story of my life). Also, for a detox newb like me, this seemed like a good ease-in option.

The package at Rasayana sounds more intense then it looks. It basically comprised of two days of Far Infra-Red Sauna sessions and colonics, raw food meals, one yoga class and three massages peppered throughout the stay. The first day we arrived, we checked-in, had our first raw food meal, a foot massage and then came back for dinner.

The hotel:

Fairtex is next to Rasayana and our package included three nights’ stay. This hotel looked like it had stepped out of the 70s (or present-day China). Everything was gold and gaudy and red and carpeted. It was hilarious. At least it wasn’t trying to actually be luxurious. The hotel has a huge muay thai ring, which I think is the main reason all the Russians were there, and lots of sports facilities. This was good because after the raw foods and colonics and sauna, we weren’t really interested in venturing further afield. Most days we swam. played squash and worked out. The room was large and comfortable AND it had cable, so we also did a lot of tv-watching. Truth: TV in bed in a hotel is one of my absolute favourite things to do.

The food:

Sigh. Raw foods are good for you. Cooked at 42 degrees to replicate the way nature intended for us to eat. Ergo, no meat, no processed foods, no dairy, NO CARBS. Given that my favourite food is mac ‘n’ cheese, it was torture. To be fair, it was really tasty. My favourite dish was the Mexican Taco Cups (above) which included a basket made of dehydrated carrots filled with spicy tomatoes and…something white and undefinable (by me anyway). I also really loved the banana smoothie which was simply banana, water and honey. Being lactose intolerant, the joys of smoothies has been largely lost on me, so this was wonderful and a great way to start the day. Now having been away from it for two weeks, I have to grudgingly admit that I miss the feeling all those healthy foods gave me.

The detox:

This was a pretty light detox as far as they go. But this was good as it didn’t leave us too drained and unable to do anything else. Plus this being my first time, I’m glad we didn’t go full-on into scary multiple colonics and clay drinks and whatever. I really liked the infra-red sauna as a good way to sweat out excess water and toxins. I also felt it made me sweat more  at the gym, or even walking around in the sweltering heat. We also got three massages in the package, a foot massage, Thai massage and light Thai-style lymphatic drainage, which I enjoyed immensely more than the Chinese pounding style.

The chamber of secrets…

Then there was the colonics. I haven’t been blogging very long so this might be a little TMI, but these were my first ever colonics (and quite possibly, my last). Colonics, or hydrotherapy, cleanse the colon via the *ahem* back-door entrance. It’s not exactly painful, but it’s uncomfortable. I guess I’d been lulled into a false sense of expectation by all my friends who “love” it. Plus it’s not exactly a passive experience where you just lie there and it happens. You have to do your part. At least through the ordeal, the therapist was extremely understanding and helped soothe my near panic. I’ll admit I felt pretty damned cleansed when it was all over, but I was super weary of doing it the next day. In the end I mustered up the courage and continued. The second time was much easier, so I guess it paid to ‘go with the flow’. Ugh okay I’ll stop now.

The end:

I’m really glad that we did this, especially prior to my Shanghai trip. While I can’t say I’ve given up on my love for pasta, and fries, and chocolate and bread (and many many more…) I am trying to be a bit more cautious of how much I eat, and what I do. This is obviously going to be very hard in Shanghai where I have no access to a gym, and plenty of access to delicious dumplings. But I guess we’ll see!