eating ice, busan in winter (tbt)

Of all the countries I’ve visited (excluding China and the US where I’ve lived), I’ve visited Korea the most – three times. That being said, I haven’t actually seen much of Korea because all of my trips were more for visiting people than exploring or adventuring. So when my sister and I took a short trip to Busan in January 2015, we went to the beach and ate ice. Yeah, we’re all about contradictions like that. But it was good. And it had mango. Yum.

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We went to a place called Binguru just across the street from the Gwangalli Beach, and although there are many, many places in Korea that sell shaved ice, it’s definitely more popular in the summer. I was told that this was Taiwanese shaved ice (baobing) rather than the very similar Korean version (bingsu), but honestly I’m not too sure what differentiates them … I think they’re basically the same. Both use a fluffy form of shaved ice and are served either with red bean topping or sweet with fruit.

In contrast, the good ol’ American snow cone is ground-up ice with syrup for flavor … totally paling in comparison to the fluffy and fresh Asian ices. However, as good as baobing and bingsu are, I could totally go for a snow cone right now.

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beauty product overload

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I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to beauty stuff, but lately I’ve become somewhat more involved. Now that I’m in my ‘late 20s’ (oh gracious goodness, I’ve moved up a box on surveys!), things are definitely not as they were when I was a bright-eyed coed. I don’t have as much tolerance for alcohol, I can’t pull all-nighters with the same ease, when I’m sick it takes longer to bounce back, I have unexplained aches in my knee and back, and (probably as a result of all the alcohol, coffee, all-nighters, and sun) my skin isn’t as great.

Since I live in Asia, land of way too many beauty products, I’ve taken up face masks, serum, and some other stuff. I’m still not a big makeup or product devotee like some of my friends here and the only thing I really subscribe to is daily lotion with SPF for my face – after all, I grew up under the Texas sun.

Do you want the whole run-down? This might seem involved to some, but really it’s pretty basic.

  • paper facial mask – once a week
  • clay mask – once a month if my skin isn’t too dry
  • serum – overnight, once or twice a week
  • face scrub – two or three times a week
  • nose pore strips – once a week
  • paper eye mask – once a week

There are so many beauty products available, and everything is supposedly formulated for Asian skin. I had always used general American products so I had a bit of a learning curve when it came to brands and products. Are things really that different? Yes and no. There are cultural differences (lots of lotions have whitening properties), physiological differences (Asian skin tends to be of a more olive tone and get more oily), and climactic differences (products that adhere and breathe well are good for the humid summers here), so Asian beauty products target a much smaller niche than American ones.

It’s not that big a deal, but here I don’t have to do as much searching, just more reading about what the heck all these products are and how I’m supposed to use them. Oh, and I must say that Innisfree is great. Those Koreans do their beauty stuff right … even though I think they go overboard with their 10-step daily routines.

my last meal in hong kong … popeyes!

For my last meal in Hong Kong, I had Popeyes! Yay Popeyes! Although it was actually kinda disappointing and a tad disgusting. My flight left around 10 AM, so I left my hotel in Central around 7 AM, which was too early for most places with decent breakfasts. I grabbed a cab to Hong Kong Station, caught the Airport Express, and searched for food at HKIA (Hong Kong International Airport, aka HKG).

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I ordered one of their breakfast sets. The scrambled eggs were hella watery. The day before, I had breakfast at the hotel (a super fancy breakfast buffet) and the scrambled eggs were watery as well. Is that a thing in Hong Kong? There were also chicken tenders (decent but ho-hum), really squishy nasty sausages (but edible with a helluva lotta ketchup), and a cup of coffee. Yum, coffee. So much coffee these last few days!

No biscuits though. Goodness gracious I miss normal Popeyes. Sometimes I just want some good ol’ fried chicken with mashed potatoes and biscuits. Even for breakfast.

indian food, oh how i crave it (tbt)

Ah, it’s been such a while since I last posted! Shame shame on me. I’m currently up to my eyeballs in work, and am at this moment sitting on a hotel bed in Hong Kong taking advantage of the fact that I don’t have to use a VPN to access WordPress. Hurrah for no GFW!

Anyways, here’s a throwback post from my last trip to India in 2013. The best part of India? Indian food. Ah yes. Haven’t had Indian food since I’ve been in China. Sigh.

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I went to India for the first time in 2012, and it was way outside my comfort zone and all-in-all a valuable experience, but I gotta say, I never thought I’d go back. That time around we were traveling around Delhi and Agra (North India), and we mostly ate vegetarian curries … which I got super sick of after a while.

Then I went back to India in 2013 with some work/school colleagues, and again, I thought it would be the last time. It was an all-around better experience because we went to Mumbai, which was safer and cleaner, and we went in January as opposed to July. And the food! Much more varied. Egg bhurji, chicken lollipops, oh so much naan, and lots of masala chai. And now I kind of want to go again. It’d be nice to explore more, especially cities where you can still see the old colonial influence like Kolkata or Chennai, but I’d definitely stay in the developed areas and travel with a group given all the recent news.

Basically I think I’m getting a bit sick of China and Chinese food and want some adventure. I’m currently in Hong Kong, but still. Starting to get super restless, ya know?

adventures in a missed flight

Today I had an exciting new experience: I missed a flight. Oh my gracious goodness. First time for everything, right? And I’m normally so responsible! So here’s a photo essay to document the experience. Because I have lots of time to kill before my rescheduled flight.

My flight was scheduled for 8:25 AM, and lately I’ve been too busy to prepare, so I decided to stay up to pack and grab a taxi at 5ish. I closed my eyes for a second and the next thing I know, it’s 7 AM. Whups. Threw stuff in my suitcase, ran out the door, and hailed a taxi. It’s about an hour’s drive, so it was obvious I wasn’t going to make it, but in case there was another morning flight, I thought getting to the airport ASAP was priority.

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In the cab I called the travel agent, and when I was told there were no flights until the afternoon, I had the taxi stop at Twosome Coffee instead, because coffee makes everything better. Newly opened on Taixing Road, between West Nanjing Road and Wujiang Road, it’s located in a great location next door to Cachet Boutique, which is a nice boutique hotel I’ve been working with. The coffee was pretty good, I had an Americano … because I’m patriotic like that.

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Was waiting for the agent to call back with availability, and decided to once again head to the airport, this time taking the Line 2 metro, which is slower than a cab but cheaper. On the train they called and I booked a new ticket leaving at 3 PM.

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I was already way far out in Pudong at that point, so it would’ve ridiculous to go home to wait just to come back an hour later. I arrived at the Pudong International Airport at about 10:30 AM.

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Check in wouldn’t start until 12:30, so I chilled. Wandered around the few snack shops and bookstores.

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Ended up at Burger King even though I had BK for dinner last night … not many options for food outside security. Tried their chili cheese fries, aka Cheese and Spicy Beef Sauce French Fries. There wasn’t enough sauce for the amount of fries and the sauce was too sweet, but they were decent enough and today’s a day for new experiences.

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The check-in process was easy enough, but since I only have a carry-on with me, I much would’ve preferred to use a kiosk, but alas, China Southern Airlines isn’t that technologically advanced.

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Then there was customs, which I breezed through like a boss. I’m so glad they’ve gotten over the whole taking off your shoes part of the screening process! I’m by no means a frequent flier, but I’ve flown enough to know how to get through without getting stopped, having anything confiscated, or beeping in metal detectors – lessons that were hard learned (ah, my favorite embroidery scissors … I’m sorry I had to abandon you in Xi’an!).

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After the security check I still had over an hour, so I browsed the duty free shops.

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And the other duty free shops.

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And the others too. Might as well, right?

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And wandered up and down the terminal. What did I find? More gates – yawn.

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Finally I sat down at my assigned gate, took a deep breath, and opened my suitcase. Wow that was a mess. When I say I threw things in this morning, I wasn’t kidding. And yep, I forgot my toiletries bag. Sigh.

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A gate change brought me to the lower level … which is the same area I waited in on my way to Hong Kong and to Tokyo. Huh.

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Boarding! Ciao! And only six and a half hours behind schedule. It’s been fun (not really)!

hong kong food (tbt)

Throwback Thursday! Back in December I went to Hong Kong for a two-day visa run. Here’s some of what I ate. Because when one travels, one eats. And since I’d been to Hong Kong previously, I had already seen the sights so I didn’t do much except wander around the art galleries and do some shopping while waiting for my expedited work visa to come through.

And you know what? There’s only one place on the list (Ebeneezer’s, which was really great) that I can’t get in Shanghai. The others (Café de Coral, Delifrance, Toast Box, and Starbucks) all have locations in Shanghai, and instant noodles are, well … everywhere.

In my defense of this rather depressing list, I was on a tight budget. I did have one good meal in a nice Cantonese restaurant … but there’s no photo of the delicious seafood stew I had because I was too starving to think about photos first. I’ve never been to any of the places’ Shanghai locations (other than Starbucks of course), but I will definitely have to visit Toast Box again. I’ll pass on Café de Coral though … there were eggshells in my eggs.

mumbai’s dhobi ghat (tbt)

Ah Mumbai, that was great fun. I was in Mumbai with some classmates last January and one of my classmates who had lived in Mumbai was showing us the sights. And probably one of the coolest things was Dhobi Ghat, a large open-air laundromat. All you could do was overlook and take some pictures, but it was still really neat because … where else do you find a giant open-air laundromat?

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uniquely asian: the potato chip saga

A while back I had remarked about the weird flavors of potato chips on offer in Shanghai. Well, I thought I’d take things a step further. So here’s my review of Wasabi Shrimp and Spicy Green Peppercorn Fish. Ah Lay’s, I know you’re trying to cater to the very-lucrative Asian market, but … slow your roll.

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First of all, I have to admit that I’ve never liked wasabi. The worst thing that could happen to me when eating sushi would be that the fish or roll would run into that glob of green nastiness. So in a way that potato chip flavor was successful, because the wasabi taste was definitely present – but I had to chuck the bag because I couldn’t get beyond three chips. I could taste a hint of the shrimp, but it was pretty much all wasabi to me. Spicy Green Peppercorn Fish, on the other hand, I finished. It was reminiscent of the dish – all pepper and not fishy – but not too spicy or numbing, so my palate could cope. It wasn’t particularly great and definitely won’t make my list of favorites or go-tos, but it was interesting in an entirely tolerable sort of way.

Verdict: Avoid Wasabi Shrimp (unless you happen to really like wasabi) but give Spicy Green Peppercorn Fish a try … it’s definitely Chinese-y.

pineapple cakes (from taiwan)

Pineapple cakes (鳳梨酥/凤梨酥 in traditional/simplified Chinese) are delicious. As in: absolutely mind-boggling delicious. It’s the delicate, refined kind of delicious that you savor, and never have more than one of at a time. Ah, so good. I’ve certainly had pineapple cakes before, but I humbly admit that while those cakes were good, the ones actually from Taiwan are absolute heaven.

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Taiwan is known for their pineapple cakes – it’s one of their specialties, and probably the single thing that people expect someone who travels to Taiwan to buy. So good. Crumbly at the touch, so soft and gooey with just enough denseness. The right amounts of moistness and sweetness, perfect balance of pastry and jam, oh my! Note to self: must travel to Taiwan.

white valentine’s day

Today is White Valentine’s Day! Uh … what? Since coming to China, I’ve discovered a whole host of new holidays, and my holiday calendar is positively chock full with all the US, Jewish, Christian, Chinese, and nonsense holidays (like Pi Day, which is also today!). Last Saturday was Women’s Day, which I had written off as yet another crazy Chinese holiday, but turns out it’s International Women’s Day. Er … apparently the United States didn’t get that ‘international’ memo.

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White Valentine’s Day (otherwise known as White Day) is yet another manufactured holiday to push sales, but it’s pretty localized around  Japan … and for good reason. It’s celebrated on March 14th, one month after Valentine’s Day, as a reverse Valentine’s Day. And there’s the rub. In the West, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with boys giving girls chocolate. In Japan, where White Day originated, girls give boys chocolate on Valentine’s Day and the reverse occurs on White Day, making their White Day the equivalent of everyone else’s Valentine’s Day. Confusing, right?

So what does that mean for China? Well here, where there’s always a random holiday around the corner and other cultures’ holidays are gleefully appropriated (for marketing purposes, of course), it looks like the guys are supposed to shill out for both Valentine’s Day and White Valentine’s Day. Huh. That sucks. But it hasn’t really taken ahold, so there’s no pressure on the gents. Even Valentine’s Day isn’t that big of a deal, which was a letdown … I miss those day after Valentine’s Day deals on chocolate!