31 July 2008

Guts, Worms and Fish Bits: Seafood in Yanjae-dong

Cyndi's dad recently flew back to Korea to visit his mother in Busan. (Hwaiting, Halmoni!)
Before he made his way back to Hawaii, he stopped by Bundang to visit his daughter and favorite niece (Me, of course!).

We met up with my emobu's good friend Sandwich Ajusshi, who happens to be vacationing in Seoul with his family.

We also got to meet some of my eemobu's dongsaengs, including the gentleman in pink who has promised to hook us up with some tickets to a musical and/or B-boy show! 잘부탁합니다.

Sandwich Ajusshi spent a small fortune treating us to a sumptuous seafood feast at 별난휏집 (Byul Nan Hweh Jip) in Yangjae. Apparently, it's a very popular restaurant, frequented by a lot of celebrities. Sadly, we did not spot any celebrities that evening.

In addition to large platters of sashimi, I got to try a variety of *interesting* seafood dishes. I was feeling adventurous and tried pretty much everything that they put before me. Cyndi, on the other hand, was a little more prudent and just stuck to the tempura, sashimi, and 알밥 (fish roe) hand roll.

Here are some of the more memorable dishes from that evening.

Sandwich Ajusshi kept referring to this green soju as "yak" (medicine), swearing that it was very healthy. I believe that this alcoholic beverage contains some kind of fish juice. To my relief, it just tasted like a milder version of soju.

This is one of my uncle's favorite dishes of the evening. I'm told that it's some part of the male fish anatomy. It was surprisingly soft, like soondubu.

This is a platter of raw sea cucumber, sea worm, and abalone. Perhaps an alternative to the chips and dip at your next Super Bowl party?

This last item may possibly rival Stinky Tofu as the most offensive (to my olfactory system) dish I've ever had the privilege to try. I can't aptly capture the smell in words, but I guess it smelled like old fish steeped in pama chemicals. At first bite, the fish was just very salty. Then, my tongue started to tingle and the pama juice began to invade my entire mouth. It was an experience to say the least. Sandwich Ajusshi told me that this dish is very popular in Jeollado. Props to the folks in Jeollado.

You can find more footage of our seafood feast in the video. This edition of Annalog Eats also features a special guest- My emobu aka Cyndi's appa.

Scaling...my teeth

Now, I don't want you to all rush out an examine old photos of my teeth, but I must confess that it's been over a year since my last dental cleaning. I know. I'm so ashamed...

Since I'm often in Hannam-dong, Cyndi made me an appointment at International Mee Dental Clinic (across from Dankook University, next to the KFC). With U.N. Village just a hop, skip, and a jump away, Mee Clinic caters to a foreign clientèle and offers an English speaking staff. See. They even have a website in English. As my luck would have it, however, my teeth were cleaned by a dental hygienist who spoke little English. As she told me, the only phrase she knew was "It's o.k.?" Fortunately, I was just going in for a routine cleaning, or as they call it "scaling," so conversation was limited.

(Until today, I had no idea that the official term for the removal of calculus and other deposits on the teeth" is actually scaling).

When I walked into Mee, I was greeted by the photos of smiling blonde children. "This is indeed an INTERNATIONAL dental clinic!" smiled the blue-eyed children. After filling out my basic info (All in Korean! Good job, Annalog!), I sat in one of the comfy leather chairs and got to peruse a couple of fashion magazines.

Then, two friendly, pink-clad, dental hygienists guided me into a private room. They graciously ushered me to a comfy chair with a personal TV screen. (It's hard to view the TV screen when your seat is reclined fully, but I do appreciate the thought). The hygienist noted that I was American, and asked me where I was from. When I replied "California," she exclaimed in Korean, "Ooh. Good pronunciation." It's good to know that I'm still able to say "California" with an American accent.

When I opened my mouth and said, "Ahhhhhhh," the hygienist made some sort of muffled exclamation in Korean. I'm guessing she said something like, "Wo! That's a lot of plaque." Then, she proceeded to "scale" my teeth. The cleaning I received at Mee was a little different from what I recall getting back in the Homeland. Yes, it was a little uncomfortable (especially due to my sensitive gums), but my teeth didn't end up feeling violated by buffing tools and fluoride as it has from past cleanings. The hygienist did do a lot of prodding and twirling in between my teeth, but it felt as if she was giving my teeth a thorough cleaning.

The service at Mee is excellent. They are very considerate. Usually, when I'm in the dentist chair, I'm gagging on saliva and water before I'm finally allowed to spit. At Mee, the staff made sure to stop regularly and allow me to daintily rinse my mouth in a mini-sink.

After the scaling, the hygienist sat down and gave me the lowdown on my teeth. This is the point when I should have admitted that I couldn't understand everything she was saying, but instead, through gestures and some familiar vocabulary, I simply guessed at what she was saying (this tendency to guess is a very bad habit of mine). I don't know the Korean for common dental terms, but if I understood correctly, she basically told me that I need a couple of fillings and should replace a couple of old fillings. Eeps.

She then gave me a very helpful demonstration of how I should brush my teeth. Apparently, I've been too rough on my gums. She also told me that, ideally, I should brush four times a day! This must be why I'm always seeing Korean women brushing their teeth in public restrooms. I was surprised that she made no mention of flossing. Dentists are always lecturing me about flossing.

The scaling took less than 30 minutes and cost 60,000 won (without insurance). I wish I had come earlier in the year. I will have to return again next winter, if not sooner. Maybe I should take care of those fillings...Cyndi, onegaishimasu...

BB Cream Week: M.D. Formula Nutritious B.B. Cream by It's Skin

When we first hopped on the B.B. Cream bandwagon (before we became entrenched in the seedy beauty underworld of eyelash extensions and chemical peels), we used the M.D. Formula Nutritious B.B. Cream by It's Skin. We were hooked by the fact that it was "dermatologist tested," but now I know that most of the B.B. creams have been tested by a paid professional. In fact, the "Clinically tested" thing is sort of It's Skin's shtick, part of their whole branding. Anyway, it's been a while since we've used It's Skin's BB Cream, so we decided to examine the sample packet once again, only this time, with much more knowledge and expertise (haha).

VIDEO (Watch the magic unfold before your very eyes):
Here's a brief video demonstration. I just reviewed all of my BB cream videos on jumpcut and realize that the results of the BB creams are barely perceptible. I swear that the effects are much more apparent in iMovieHD.

Before we knew better, we sent a couple of friends their own tubes of It's Skin's "Nutritious B.B. Cream." All we have to say is, sorry, friends. We realize now that the B.B. Cream is mediocre. To begin with, if you're trying to cover up any of the more brazen pimples, you'll need to dab on some extra BB cream. More than anything, the cream simply made my complexion go from inherently pale to wan. The cream is also slightly drying on my skin, and doesn't stay on very long. On the other hand, my sister and our friends back in the Homeland seem to like It's Skin's BB Cream, so it may just not be right for my skin. If I remember correctly, It's Skin's BB Cream is in the man-won price range, so one of the pluses, is that it's a good bargain.

Afternoon Tea in Pretty Little Sinsa-dong

At the risk of sounding like a prissy little hipster wannabe, my favorite Seoul hotspot has become Karosogil in Sinsa-dong. Sinsa has even become a regular meeting spot to work on curriculum with my favorite colleague.

I've heard from a number of people that Apgujeong is where all the IT people go, but I think Karosogil in Sinsa is far more interesting. This particular road in Sinsa is full of aesthetically pleasing boutiques, cafes, wine bars, and restaurants. Yes, most of the eateries are foreign- themed. Yes, most of the merchandise is over-priced and can be found at half the price in Dongdaemun. Yes, you have to pay a pretty penny for such pretension. But, you know what? You can only stare at flashing neon signs and poorly designed buildings jam-packed with Love Motels and noraebangs before you starve for a little architectural eye candy.

Karosogil is quite small. It only spans a few blocks, but it feels much more fresh than Apgu. It's also less noisy and not as cluttered. You also don't have to worry about being run over by some foreign sports car leisurely cruising the streets for no apparent reason.

I rarely ever buy anything in Sinsa, but I still enjoy window-shopping and people watching.

I've noticed that the pedestrians (mostly young women) walking along Karosogil are very attractive; even more so that the folks in Apgujeong. In my opinion, the trendy women in Apgu seem like they're headed to a music video shoot, while the women in Sinsa are simply fashionably elegant women out for a cup of coffee or some facial cream from L'Occitaine. Meanwhile, the men like to sit near the window or patio, preening like the prized specimens that they are. It seems, however, that most of the women ignore them in favor of the cute dress in the store next door.

You may have to click on this picture to get a closer look, but I snapped this gang of skinny-jean boys. I say "gang," because the only reason for a group of young men to dress in coordinated outfits is because they're in some team or gang. I'm pretty sure these guys were part of an aspiring boy band. Otherwise, young men have no business wearing jeans that tight.

While in Sinsa last weekend, Cyndi and I had some afternoon tea at a little French cafe. The only other time I've had high tea was at the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, so perhaps I'm just ignorant, but our tea platter was aju lame.

The "Tea Platter" consisted of so-called tarts (in America we call these cookies), and a mismatched plate of savory bites.

I'm no tea connoisseur, but I don't think steak goes well with Earl Grey Tea.

Neither does a shot glass of unspecified meat. (I think it may have been pâté).

Despite the disappointing tea, I still enjoy Karosogil. Next time though, I think I'll stick to The Second Factory cafe and their paninis and waffles.

To get to Karosogil, you make take the subway to Sinsa station. Take Exit #8 and walk straight up the street for about 6 minutes or so, until you see a street sign that says "Karosogil." Turn left. You can also take the 1005-1 bus from Bundang and get off at Sinsa Station (Just walk towards Subway Exit 8). Karosogil is also walking distance from Rodeo Drive in Apgu (about 15 minutes). I'm afraid that I'm very bad with directions, so I can't give you any more specifics.

30 July 2008

BB Cream Week: Hanskin's Super Magic BB Cream

Our third featured BB cream is a sample of Hanskin's Super Magic BB Cream. Cyndi vaguely recalls reading somewhere that Hanskin was one of the first cosmetic shops to get into the BB Cream game. I'm not sure how long Hanskin has been producing BB creams, but they certainly have a daunting array of BB creams to choose from. Fortunately, Hanskin is very generous with their samples (just be sure to request lots of samples), so it's easy to try out their creams without committing to a whole tube. Hanskin's products are higher priced than that of FaceShop or Missha, so we had high expectations for the Hanskin BB creams.

Hanskin has a couple of "Magic BB Creams," but Cyndi tried the one in the black tube.

I've decided that unflattering before and after photos are not necessary, so I hope that this video demonstration will suffice for all you people who prefer visuals over my lengthy rambling.

VIDEO (Watch the magic unfold before your very eyes):

I have to admit that Super Magic was a bit of a disappointment. It's a lot more wet than the other BB Creams that we've tried. Cyndi thinks the soppy texture is due to its moisturizing factor. The cream made Cyndi take on a noticeably grayish hue that did not really compliment her skin tone. The cream does create a dewy look, but it does not last very long. Cyndi also noted that the cream made her break out a little, so I don't think she'll be using Super Magic in the future. The cream was not awful, but we recommend trying a sample before purchasing the cream. The Hanskin creams generally start at around 20,000 won, so it's best to try them out before purchasing. I regret buying my sister a tube simply based on the saleswoman's recommendation. I hope that my sister has more magical results with Super Magic Cream...

29 July 2008

BB Cream Week: Let Me Finish by Banila Co.

Both Cyndi and are regular users of today's featured B.B. Cream "Let Me Finish" by Banila Co.

My pimples tends to hang around my cheek and lip area. You may not be able to see them in this photo, but trust me, they're there.

I know that the difference appears faint in this after shot, but if you look closely, the dark spots on my cheeks have diminished a tad. I know that my head is a shade lighter than my body, but that's acceptable in Korea :)

VIDEO (Watch the magic unfold before your very eyes):
I'd like to note that jumpcut seems to soften the video, so our complexions seem much cleaner in the video. You should see the footage in HD...

Despite it's odd name "Let Me Finish," has become a favorite because it goes on smoothly, does an adequate job of covering blemishes, and doesn't whiten your complexion as severely as other BB Creams that we've tried. One of the noticeable flaws is that "Let Me Finish" smells a little like a baby's bottom (only without the baby powder), but the scent quickly fades once you've applied the cream. The cream doesn't last, so you'll need to reapply if you want all-day coverage.

27 July 2008

BB Cream Week: Missha M Perfect Cover B.B. Cream

A number of people seem to have stumbled across my blog looking for information on B.B. Cream, the magical Blemish Balm Cream that claims to conceal, as well as heal, moisturize, and protect your skin. For this reason, plus the fact that Cyndi and I are becoming increasingly vain :), I hereby proclaim this week BB Cream Week. Throughout this week, I will post videos, pics, and comments for the various BB Creams we have lying about.

First up to bat is Cyndi's pick "M Perfect Cover B.B. Cream" by Missha. According to the tube, "MISSHA M Perfect Cover B.B. Cream offers a novel skincare concept with B.B. cream, which lightens skin tone by healing visible wrinkles and blemishes, with excellent skin-cover ability, and prevents skin aging through effective whitening and anti-wrinkle properties." The cream also offer SPF 42 PA+++. Thats a lot of promises for one little cream...

It's hard see from this picture, but Cyndi has a few red marks on her forehead.

The red marks are not visible at all once they are covered by the cream. Essentially, the cream evens out your skin tone (in addition to fighting wrinkles, allegedly).

VIDEO (Watch the magic unfold before your very eyes):
I'm starting to feel like I work for the home shopping network. Someone needs to send us a check right quick!

Missha's M Perfect Cover B.B. Cream may whiten your skin a tad too much, but it offers smooth matte coverage without leaving your skin feeling oily. The M cream seems to tighten your skin, and perhaps dry it out a bit, so it may be a good pick for oily or combination skin. The cream also had a faint powdery scent that smells a bit like a fresh baby's bottom. The cream will wear out as the day goes by, so you'll probably want to reapply or powder your nose later in the day.

Villa Sortino in Itaewon

I just wanted to wish my cousin Nani and her hubby of 21 years a happy anniversary! They invited us to celebrate the occasion at Villa Sortino Ristorante in Itaewon. Given how posh the interior is, I was surprised by the moderate pricing. Most of the pasta dishes were under 20,000 won. Everything we tried, from the appetizers to desserts, was delicious.

The restaurant is right in front of the Itaewon Fire Station bus stop heading towards the Hamilton Hotel (That means it's across the street from the Fire Station).

Taiwan: Night Markets + ThreadingThread

Apparently, one of the musts of traveling to Taiwan is a trip to the Taiwanese Night Market. We made visits to two of Taipei's most popular night markets, Shilin Market and Rao Her Market. Night Market is very similar in feel to Namdaemun market, with all the stalls of street food and inexpensive clothing and trinkets. In terms of trendy fashion, you can't beat Seoul's Dongdaemun, but the Night Market is nonetheless fun with all the interesting smells, sights, and sounds. I thought that Night Markets ran all night-long, hence the name, but the markets we visited closed up around 11 pm or 12 am. I believe that there are certain Night Markets that stay open until the early morning hours, but we didn't visit any of those.

I must also note that the Taiwanese vendors are more open to bargaining. Perhaps this just shows how bad at bargaining I am, but in Korea, only after much wheedling will the salesperson magnanimously award me with a measly 1000 won discount. In contrast, the Taiwanese vendors seemed quick to negotiate and slash their prices. Whenever I get a discount from a Korean vendor, I always walk away feeling a little resentful because the salespeople make me feel as if their children will have to eat ramyun for the rest of their life all because they gave me a 500 won discount. Whereas in Taiwan, I felt very proud myself when I was able to get several dollars knocked off. I felt really smart at that moment (I know that in actuality I'm just a foolish little tourist with "sucker" written all across my face). My tip to vendors is to significantly mark up your merchandise, then when some fresh-faced foreigner comes along, allow them to engage in some hard core bargaining. Once you come to a more palatable price,
the customer will walk away feeling very pleased with herself, as if she won a great prize. Seriously, I fall for it all the time.

This is the entrance to Rao Her market in Songshan. It was very Las Vegas (the entrance, not the market).

The highlight of our Night Market experience, besides all the successful bargaining, was the full-facial threading. We used to get our eyebrows and upper-lip threaded back in the Homeland (Shout out to Deepa), but have not had the opportunity since moving to the Motherland. We were quite pleased to hear that threading would only cost us around 8USD, but we were taken off guard when we found out that $8 would get your whole face threaded!

After coating your face in baby powder, the threading professional will then attack your face with a simple piece of thread. I'm not going to lie. Threading hurts. The pinching from the string is bearable, but VERY uncomfortable, especially the cheek area.

I had my face threaded by a young twenty-something guy. I think he was some sort of trainee, because when it came time to shape my eyebrows, he sent me to an older gentleman. Based on the fact that this older man's face was plastered on a bunch of posters, I think he may have been the founder of this whole setup. If the website ever gets to working, you can find more info at teacherchi.com

We were instructed to refrain from washing our face for 24 hours. We were allowed to use baby wipes and apply sunscreen, lotion, and makeup, but we could not wet our face with water. Go figure. It was quite inconvenient, especially since we had the glamour shots the next day. Imagine taking all that makeup off with a baby wipe.

So, you're probably thinking. Dang! Do Asian women have that much facial hair to require such extensive threading? Apparently, threading is not just about hair removal. If I am able to understand the following sign, hair removal is not the primary aim. Threading can also clear out your pores, stimulate your metabolism, and change your destiny. Pretty lofty goals for such a humble piece of string.

1) Easy to absorb other cosmetic articles.
2) Are to make-up and next to the face.
3) Don't easy to grow pimples.
4) Show highlight and fair on your face.
5) Beginning of destiny and change destiny.
6) Remove acne. Face lifting.
7) Clean the dirt of pore.
8) Stimulate facial nerve and metabolism.
9) Remove skin-dulling.
10) Remove facial hair...

As interesting as it was to get our entire face threaded, I would not do this procedure again. First of all, it was very uncomfortable. Secondly, I still saw a lot of unwanted hair on my face. Thirdly, rather than removing acne, I think the thread merely aggravated existing pimples.

Cyndi, on the other hand, would do the threading again. She says that her face felt cleaner. Her only word of caution is that the thread may open up any old cuts on your face. The thread opened up an old battle would from Piggy.

Based on the intrigued expressions of many locals passing by the stand, threading is not an established Taiwanese custom. In fact, my Taiwanese classmate had once told me that facial hair on the upper lip area and arms were considered signs of beauty. I was surprised to see so many Taiwanese women getting their beauty threaded off. Times are changin'.

Cyndi and I had our faces threaded at Rao Her Night Market, while J.IM had her face threaded at the Longshan Undergroud Market. Check out the video to catch a glimpse of this new-fangled threading technology (Just kidding. Threading has been utilized for centuries by hairy women across Asia).

25 July 2008

Student Annalog: 우리 IS Family

Today in Korean class, we got around to talking about how the Korean education system is in an unhealthy state right now. My classmate, a Japanese woman who is seven months pregnant, looked a little disheartened at the thought of raising her child in such an intense system. She jokingly said that she and her Korean husband were going to immigrate as soon as possible. I added that she could home-school her kid. My Korean teacher promptly shot that idea down, explaining that in Korea, a kid that was taught at home would be branded an outcast. Yes, that's right. Even if you are able to offer your child a superior education, in Korea, your poor kid will be labeled a wangta. Home school your kid, and people will immediately think that something was wrong with the child. The idea that you would not want your child to be with other children is nearly incomprehensible.

As my teacher noted, in Korea it's all about 우리 (uri). The idea that one would want to keep themselves from others (e.g. not go to a dinner with a group of friends) is thought to be strange. In Korea, isolation seems to be a form of punishment, not a personal choice.

Uri is the Korean equivalent of the plural pronoun "we." As all students will first learn in Korean 101, Koreans place greater emphasis on the collective (as opposed to the individual). For example, you would say "In our country (uri nara), we do this..." instead of "In my country (nae nara), we do this..." I have known this fact for awhile now, but the importance of the collective over the individual suddenly solidified in mind today.

As my teacher explained, this notion of "uri" is why Koreans dress alike or why Koreans will drag themselves through three rounds of drinking just because their co-workers are doing the same. From an American perspective, it'd be easy to pass such behavior off as the result of social pressures, but I think it goes deeper. I think this desire to do as others do is rooted in an intrinsic desire for oneness. Americans can undoubtedly be patriotic when the time arises, but in America we tend to think of ourselves as the sum of its parts, whereas in Korea, they're just a single integer: 1.

Since kindergarten, I've been told to "be free to be me," to "march to the beat of my own drum." I wonder if Korean children receive any such messages, or if they're simply told to make their families proud, and ultimately, make their country proud.

This reminder of the importance of uri in the Motherland has made me realize that though internally I may be a hyphenated-American, externally I'm Korean. I am the "i" in uri. Perhaps this why taxi drivers feel like they have the right to lecture me. We are one in the same. We are family. 우리가 가족입니다.

I guess this means that whenever I get unwanted advice or the next time some tries to pressure me hang out when I want to be a hermit for the day, I'll do what I do with some of my more overbearing relatives, just smile and nod, then ignore everything they said. ㅋㅋㅋ

23 July 2008

Kwangjang Market: Wang Soondae, Mayak Kimbap, and Bindaeddeok the Size of My Face

Okay, time to take a break from all the talk about beauty and glamor and get back to more important matter. Over the weekend, we took J.IM to 광장시장 (Kwangjang Market) in Jongno. It's sort of the Dongdaemun for ajummas. We didn't go to Kwangjang for flower print blouses and elastic waisted pants though. We went for the cheap market eats. As most restaurants in Seoul can probably proclaim, many of the food vendors in Kwangjang have been featured on SBS, MBC, or KBS. Not sure if it's due to all the hype, but there is definitely something special about this humble little market.

The marketplace is specifically know for three dishes: soondae, bindaeddeok, and kimbap. Of course, we had to sample all three.

The 왕순대 (wang soondae) is indeed king-sized. Quite frightening actually. I'm not really into soondae, but Cyndi says that it was good. If you're friendly, the ajumma might even thrown in a complimentary serving of sliced pig ear or intestines.

In addition to super-sized soondae, you can find platter-sized bindaeddeok. It's about the size of a medium pizza.

In my opinion, bindaeddeok goes well with a bowl of dongdongju.

Kwangjang Market is also well known for its so-called mayak kimbap, kimbap allegedly so addictive, it's like a drug. People even stop by regularly just to pick up several trays worth of kimbap. There are no actual drugs in the kimbap. It's just rice, carrots, and takuan (yellow pickles), dripping in sesame oil. Really, that's it.

I wouldn't say that the kimbap is remarkably tasty, but there is something about it that makes you want to eat more. I suspect it's the small bite size pieces that make it so easy to snack on.

To get to Kwangjang Market, take the subway and get off at Jongno 5-ga Station (Line 1). Take exit 8.

Summer Beauty Buys: Cyndi's Picks

Here are Cyndi's recommended beauty buys for the summer.

Tiger Balm Mosquito Repellent Spray (purchased at Watsons in Singapore)
The mosquitoes seem to luvvvvvv Cyndi. Instead of walking around swathed in a big mosquito net, she makes an effort to protect herself with this spray on repellent by Tiger Balm.

VICHY Myokine Intensive Anti-wrinkle Eye Cream (purchased at some drugstore in Seoul)
Cyndi's had several eye creams in rotation, but her current favorite is this eye cream from Vichy. Neither of us knows what "Myokine" is, but it sounds impressive. Cyndi reports that since using this cream, she's noticed less "white bumps" under her eyes. Sounds like the Myokine is kicking butt. Cyndi also likes to use the "Regeneration Age Resisting Eye Cream" by Simple, in case you were wondering.

Olay White Radiance "Crystal Clear Lotion" (purchased at Tokyo Drugstore in Taipei)
It looks like a toner, but it's a lotion. Cyndi suspects that this "Crystal Clear Lotion" is what Koreans call "skin." Or maybe"essence." Truthfully, we don't know. It comes in a pretty bottle and doesn't make her break out; that's all that matters.

Simple Soothing Facial Toner (purchased at Watsons in Singapore)
Cyndi likes this toner because it's 100% alcohol and fragrance free. It is indeed "simple." After cleansing her face, Cyndi gently runs toner across her face using a cotton pad. Then, she applies one of her eye creams and dabs the Olay Crystal Clear Lotion all across her face. Cyndi has pretty nice skin, so perhaps I need to use toner as well.

Provice Star Shine Hair Mist (Missa)
The "nutritive system" of this hair mist is supposed to make your hair "elastic" and "vital." I'm not sure what that means, but I hope it means that your hair is less likely to melt off once it's been hit by a downpour of Seoul's tainted rain water. In any case, it has a nice fragrance. Cyndi purchased the mist based on a recommendation by her co-worker. Plus, the spray was on sale for about 2000 won.

Given the number of lotions, masks, and cleansers Cyndi has acquired since our sojourn to Korea, her list of beauty buys is quite modest. I think I may have to get her to put together content for a second list. Or maybe she just wants to keep all her beauty secrets to herself. 그렇지, Cyndi?

22 July 2008

Summer Beauty Buys: Annalog's Picks

Other than my trusty BB cream, I still don't wear very much makeup. This fact, however, doesn't stop me from regularly perusing Seoul's plethora of cosmetic shops and drug stores. Cyndi, J.IM, and I have recently spent a lot of time and money (eeps!) picking up some great new products, so I thought it'd be a good idea to share our top Asian beauty buys for the summer.

The following items are my picks. I will post Cyndi and J.IM's list within the next few days, if not sooner.

Okay, let's proceed with the budget beauty extravaganza!

I recently switched from my Missha "M' BB Cream to Banila Co.'s "Let Me Finish" BB Cream. Banila Co.'s BB cream is slightly more pricey (over $20), but in my inexpert opinion, it seems to do a better job of covering up my blemishes. It also gives me a "dewy" look (as opposed to a matte finish) that makes me feel more polished. I just smear the cream all over my face; dab a little extra cream on the bigger blemishes; then cover it all with a slight dusting of powder.

AQUAIR "Deep Moist" Hair Treatment Lotion (purchased at Watsons)
My over-processed hair is in dire need of some extra TLC, so I picked up a bottle of this Aquair hair lotion at a Watsons in Taipei. This hair lotion, made by the Shiseido Co. comes in a handy spray bottle and has a nice light scent. It may be all wishful thinking of my part, but my pama-induced curls seem to look a tad more healthy.

Since I'm down to my last tube of Labello (which I could only find in Hong Kong!), I'm always on the lookout for another replacement lip balm. Despite the similar packaging, Nivea lip balm just doesn't cut it. It's like smearing a candle across your lips. My current substitute is a tube of "Essential Lip Balm" from It's Skin. The lip balm feels smooth going on, without leaving any sort of sticky residue. Plus, it has SPF 10. That can't hurt, right?

Even though I had just picked up a bottle of Aquair Hair Lotion in Taipei, when Cyndi told me that Missha's "Hair Mist" comes with sun protection, I decided that Procure 365 would make a prudent purchase. The hair mist comes in three scents: floral, fruity, and something blue. I picked "Fresh Flower." I can't single out any noticeable effects on my hair, but I do feel better knowing that my hair's got a little SPF. I spray this one on in the morning, and Aquair in the evening.

I love drugstores in Asia. They're always filled with interesting regional items. In Taipei, we made many stops at the various drugstore. I noticed a line of Garnier products that featured a Chinese fruit, longan, aka "dragon eye." I picked up a bottle of the "Gentle Clarifying Foam," and was very pleased with its soft texture and fresh scent, so I wet back to the drugstore to pick up a tube of the eye cream. Both bottles were described as "light." I had thought this meant "gentle," but I soon realized that it referred to the fact that the products are meant to help whiten the appearance of your skin. I'm already pretty fair (bordering on glow-in-the-dark), so I could do without the whitening agents. Oh well. The products also claim to be "tested on Asian skin." Better Asians than lab animals, I guess.

Eye Contour Whitening Cream with SPF 15 (Garnier Skin Naturals)

Gentle Clarifying Foam with Pure Lemon Essence + long dan (Garnier Skin Naturals)

I also picked up a jar of moisturizing cream another product in the Garnier Skin Naturals line. It's nothing special in terms of the moisturizing, but I keep using it because it smells so darn good. The scent reminds me of a gardenia lei.

Fresh 24h Moisturizing Cream (Garnier Skin Naturals)

Speaking of smelling good, I picked up Anna Sui's "Flight of Fancy" Eau de toilette at the Duty-free. It's my official scent for the summer; meaning, I use it liberally in order to mask the damp odor of a shirt that has not dried properly thanks to the humidity. It smells colorful, like a fruity cocktail.

20 July 2008

Taiwan: Kaohsiung Eats

Time to highlight the eats from the second leg of our trip to Taiwan.

The food in Kaohsiung was delicious. As a port city, Kaohsiung has some great seafood. I especially enjoyed the sashimi. It's been awhile since I've had good sashimi (Sorry Motherland, but Korean sashimi is just too slimy).

I also finally mustered up the courage to try stinky tofu. I've been told that stinky tofu may smell like a leaky sewage pipe, but it's actually quite tasty. I will concede that stinky tofu is nowhere as bad as it smells, but I would still say that stinky tofu is an acquired taste. Folks may disagree, but stinky tofu is surprisingly dry, and tastes just as it smells, perhaps a little milder.

Stinky tofu aside, I would say that everything I tried in Kaohsiung was quite delicious. In addition to various seafood dishes (similar to Chinese cuisine), I tried a number of street food and snacks for the very first time. Some of the more memorable eats were:

  • Pork Dumpling (Meatball wrapped in rice dough and smothered in a sweet Taiwanese gravy)
  • Spicy shelled sea bugs (I have no idea what they were, but they were compared to Korean bbeondaegi)
  • "Virgin crab" (crab with a mega load of eggs)
  • Taiwanese shave ice (In my opinion, it's much more delicious that Korean shave ice. The fruits in Taiwan are so fresh and yummy. We had fresh mango. It was the perfect cure for a blistering summer day on the island).
  • Taiwanese ice cakes. (A man was selling these near a shrine. It's similar to Korean jujuba, only a little more creamy. It reminded me of the Samurai ice cakes back in Hawaii, only the Taiwanese ice cakes tasted more like actual fruit.)
I have to give major thanks to Ben and Ben's Brother for introducing us to so many good eats. Everything they put in front of us was mighty tasty. The only snack they did not endorse was deep fried ice cream at the night market, and of course, that tasted like crapola. Actually, it tasted more like deep fried chalk. It was the stinky tofu of desserts.

I repeatedly tried to post some pictures to help you visualize some of these eats, but either Blogger or my Internet is being a major jerk, so you'll just have to sit through another one of my videos if you'd like a visual sampling of our Kaohsiung eats.

Kaohsiung Eats from Annalog on Vimeo.

I still have a lot to share from our trip to Taiwan. I'll eventually get around to it, and explain these clips:

Dream Mall from Annalog on Vimeo.

17 July 2008

Taiwan:Taipei Eats

I've sampled some Taiwanese food back home, but I had forgotten that Taiwanese cuisine is quite different from American-Chinese food. Taiwanese food is less about stir fry and more about pork, pickled vegetables, stewed meats, and unfamiliar spices (unfamiliar to me). Though the flavors are quite different, Taiwanese food vaguely reminds me of Korean food, though more brown than red.

I will admit that the food may not look very pretty, but it's often quite tasty. Though, I think J.IM and Cyndi would disagree.

I have to admit that we did a pretty terrible job of sampling the good eats in Taipei. This was primarily due to the fact that we only stuck to restaurants with picture or English menus.

At least, we tried some authentic Taiwanese beef noodles at the Rao Her Night Market in Shongsang.

We also tried out a shabu shabu buffet in Ximen. Unlike the hot pots back home, the broth was filled with all sorts of unidentified spices and dried thingamabobbies.

Cyndi had read about a placed called "Modern Toilet," a concept restaurant where you sit atop toilet bowls and eat out of dishes shaped like toilets and urinals. Against our better judgment, we decided to check it out.

The food was pretty disgusting, and I'm not even taking into account the fact it was served in a toilet bowl. Even the complimentary fro-yo (poop shaped-- mmm...) was disappointing.

Sadly, the best meal that I had in Taipei was the boxed lunch that I purchased at the train station. Back in the day, these travel lunches came in tin boxes. Today, the lunches come in a cardboard box or one of the plastic containers pictured below.

We asked the sales clerk about the contents of one of the wrapped box lunches. He said that it was "rice." I asked him if it was chicken, and he replied "yes." Then, I said, "Or, is it pork?" Again, he nodded his head, and said "yes." Thankfully, the mysterious box lunch turned out to be a yummy pork chop.

There's not much too look at, but I've compiled all of the highlights of our Taipei eats including photos and videos of our shabu shabu, Shilin Food Plaza, and the dreadful Modern Toilet.

I will dedicate another post to our eats in Kaohsiung, which were much more interesting and tasty.