Sunday, 28 August 2011

Review : Hada Labo's Retinol Lifting + Firming Lotion

Product : Hada Labo's Retinol Lifting + Firming Lotion
Made In : Japan
Purchased From : Mannings, Hong Kong
Quantity : 170ml
Price : $109HK




In the early days, it seemed that most people were visiting to read my review on Hada Labo's Super Hyaluronic Acid [SHA] Lotion. In hindsight, the piece wasn't perfectly written but it was my first attempt at introducing a brand and a product in the one post. It is much harder than you think! For those who have not read it, I have nothing but praise for the SHA Lotion. I feel that it really has helped me hydrate, soften and even out my skin.

I am generally happy with most of the Hada Labo products that I have come into contact with and intend to try as much from the line as possible. So when I heard that Hada Labo was coming out with a Retinol range, I had to get my hands on it. Admittedly, I am in my early 20s but my skin is showing signs of wear and tear.  I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that I've had very sensitive and dry skin throughout my entire life, and it has always been my nightmare. 

In a way, my skin is dry because it's sensitive. It's also sensitive because it's dry. It's this never ending cycle that even my dermatologist could not fix. I guess I also have myself to blame. I sleep late, I thrive under pressure and I am results driven. Coded language for 'stress-head', I've been told!

So it is really no surprise that I have wrinkles under and around my eye, and on my forehead. Not to mention that my face is starting to lose its overral elasticity! This is why I really wanted to try the new Hada Labo Lotion which, in addition to the line's main ingredient Super Hyaluronic Acid, has Retinol and Collagen to combat the signs of aging. 

I bought the Lotion in Hong Kong and it was the only Hada Labo product that had 'Made in Japan' printed on it.




WHAT IS SUPER HYALURONIC ACID [SHA]?
Hyaluronic Acid is used in beauty mainly to moisten and plump the skin through deep hydration. The Hada Labo website explains that 1 gram of Hyaluronic Acid is able to hold up to 6 litres of water and that Super Hyaluronic Acid is able to retain twice this amount of moisture.

Using a SHA or Hyaluronic Acid in your skincare regime preps the skin for any subsequent serum or moisturiser. It has the potential to boost the hydrating effect of any other products applied afterward.

WHAT IT RETINOL?
Retinol is also known as vitamin A and is used as an anti-aging chemical to increase the skin's turnover rate. Theoretically, this directly leads to more vibrant, glowing and youthful skin. It can also help increase our body's collagen production which will give us smoother and firmer skin.

WHAT IS COLLAGEN?
Collagen is a type of protein that is essential for supporting the body's tissues. In skincare, collagen is responsible for firming and strengthening our skin. As we age, collagen degradation occurs which causes wrinkles and facial sagging. Products with collagen as an ingredient have the potential to stimulate the production of skin cells to combat these tell-tale signs of aging.



HOW TO USE
The steps for using this Retinol Lotion is the same as the original Hada Labo SHA Lotion. You use the lotion directly after you cleanse your face and slowly pat it into your skin until it dries.

For extensive directions, please visit the SHA Lotion Review where I wrote about in much more detail!

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE RETINOL AND SHA LOTION?
The main differences would probably have to be the colour, texture, amount of product I use and the feel of my skin after I use it.

The SHA Lotion comes out a clear, raindrop-like liquid and is very runny and fluid. Usually, I'll pour three drops onto my palm, compress my hands together and pat it into my face. My skin drinks the product up quite quickly and easily. My face feels refreshed and bouncy after the product.

For the Retinol Lotion, the colour of the liquid is slightly yellow and is sticker than the SHA Lotion. I can get away with using one drop for my entire face. I will usually start off by patting the liquid into my face and then swiping the product in an upward motion. After it has settled, my face feels much more moisturised in comparison to the SHA Lotion.

RESULTS
After a good few months of using this product religiously day and night, my skin felt a lot smoother and looked much more resilient. It has seriously improved the look and feel of my skin - not an overstatement! Moreover, the increased smoothness and resilience of my skin has allowed my make up to sit better and last longer on my face.

Having said that, this is not a miracle anti-aging product and there are some issues that I need to address. Firstly, the concentration of retinol in non-prescription products are usually very small and therefore the results are not necessarily immediate or visible. In all honestly, I don't think this product has really done anything for my wrinkles or has helped lift or firm my face in any way. Sure, it plumps my lines when the product immediately touches my face but the effects wear off during the day. 

Another thing is that when retinol is worn on the face, your skin becomes prone to sun damage such as redness, irritation and freckles. This is why products with retinol in them are usually Night products. Touch wood, I've had no irritation with the Lotion and it has not caused any redness whatsoever. But it's better to be safe than sorry! So in the morning, I stick to my SHA Lotion which works just as well and at night I use the Retinol Lotion.

RE-PURCHASE?
This is a tough one. According to my age, I shouldn't be needing anti-aging products. I am still in my early 20s and under normal circumstances, I should not be looking or touching anti-aging products until a good three-four years later. Instead, I should be more preoccupied with looking for products that hydrate and protect me from the sun.

I don't mind using the Retinol Lotion. In fact, I prefer the texture and finish of this product on my face. But because it is an anti-aging product and there is no way to know whether using these types of products prematuraly will cause any damage, I'm choosing not to re-purchase this anytime soon.

However, in a few years time, this will be an absolute staple in my skincare regime. Just you wait and see!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Review : Clinique's Moisture Surge Face Spray Thirsty Skin Relief





Product : Clinique's Moisture Surge Face Spray Thirsty Skin Relief
Made In : USA
Purchase From : Gift With Purchase
Quantity : 30ml
Price : RRP $45AUD for 125ml

Hi everyone! It's been a few days since I last updated and that's because I've been really busy! I want to say hello to my new readers and followers! When I first started writing, I didn't expect to get any readers. I didn't actively promote my blog and only one of my real life friends knew about me blogging. I really just wanted to write because I genuinely am passionate about skincare. It is really encouraging to see people commenting and following. Thank you!

Okay, on to today's review!

I am a bit of a Clinique freak. All my friends know it. Over the years I have tried the large majority of Clinique's products and those that I have not tried, my mother has! So we always have these Gift With Purchase (GWP) sample size products lying around the house. This Moisture Surge Face Spray is one of them.

Up until the end of last year, I did not use face sprays/mists. My reasoning was that my skin is extra dry, what is a spray of water/product going to do for my skin? So when I recieved this GWP, I wasn't neccessarily rushing to try it. After all, the spray is basically a liquid version of the Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief Moisturiser that I frequently use.

But facial sprays seem to be one of those 'it' beauty items that everyone is or has used. I will say that the good thing about these mists is that they are very versatile. You can use it as a toner, to set make up, to moistuen your face before a mid-day make up refresh, to hydrate your face when you feel it going dry and even to cool your skin after a day in the sun.

APPLICATION
I've heard that this Clinique spray is quite popular amongst make up artists. They typically use it before applying make up because it gives the client's face an even  smoother canvas to put foundation on. What they do is cleanse their client's skin, apply a thick layer of moistursier, let that settle and then spray the face once over with the mist. They then fan dry the entire face before applying foundation and they swear the make up sits better and lasts much longer.

Although I see the merits in this type of application, I personally don't use it like that. I tend to use the spray whenever my face feels dry. The instructions say to spray it 20-30cms away from the face but I spray it closer to get more product. If when I pull the bottle 20cms away from my face, all I'm getting is this very fine mist which does nothing for my skin. I, at least, want a few visible droplets on my face.

What I like most about this spray is that it doesn't mess or cake up my make up. I usually give my face three sprays - left, centre and right. If I have time, I will let it dry naturally but if I'm in a hurry, I will fan it dry. I have tried to pat it into my skin but then my foundation starts to lump and cake. Disaster!

RESULTS
I am impartial to this product because, while the dewy effect it gives my make up is nice, I have used another spray that gives an even better result at a much lower price. I've had this bottle for over a year now and I can't seem to finish it because I like my other spray better.

Unfortunately, I will not be buying the full size product.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Look What I Conquered Today! Meet 'Blue', 'Lyric' and 'Blair' .



I just want to say a thank you to all the lovely people who left a comment in my last post hoping/wishing that I would have a better day today. You're all too sweet <3

Today was 100% better!

I was at the Sydney International Spa and Beauty Expo which is an industry event where the spa and beauty industry congregate together to share ideas, products, treatments, equipment, tools and services. This event is closed to only traders within the industry but I was there accompanying my friend who is a freelance make-up artist. She came to see the make up products on offer and I tagged along for the nail polish!

There were two OPI stands there and they were selling their bottles for $10, which is just about half price off retail. They also were selling those super adorable OPI mini nail polish packs for $15. I'm not sure how much they usually are but I imagine that, that would be a pretty big bargain as well!  Oh and if you bought 10 nail polishes, they gave you one for free! Unfortunately, they selection was a bit limited and I didn't stay for that long because people kept pushing and nudging me out of the way!

Nonetheless, I picked up Shatter in Blue. 

I was never into the whole shatter craze. Before OPI had their shatter range, I tried a few shatters from other brands and they never created a pattern that I liked. But when I saw Cosmetic Cupcake's post on OPI's Blue Shatter, I was completely sold. I love electric blue!

2 coats of Rimmel's I Love Lasting Finish in 239 Your Majesty and 1 coat of Shatter by OPI in Blue


I'm going to have to remove it later anyway because tomorrow I'm going somewhere that is non-shatter friendly. AHAH. But this is what my first attempt looked like.

I'm going to have to play around with it because sometimes the shatter comes out really nicely and other times it just looks wrong! But I love how the polish shatters immediately and that there is next to no waiting time. I am an instantaneous person and I like to see results happen before my eyes. The other shatters that I've tried make you wait and wait. . .and wait some more.



I became a fan of Zoya after I bought a bottle last year in Hong Kong. I would say that I prefer Zoya to OPI. I find that the brushes are thinner and sturdier, which makes application much easier for my shaky hands. Unfortunately, Zoya has only two stockists in my state and even then, they are absolutely no where near me.

I bought 'Lyric', a sandy nude and 'Blair', a blackberry red with a hint of purple. I bought 'Lyric' for myself and 'Blair' for my mother who loves dark shiny reds. The selection at the Zoya stall was, again, smaller than I imagined and so I wasn't able to pick up any other shades. I wish I had found more colours because they were only $8.50 each. Usually they retail for $17!

It seems I'm just a simple girl after all. Almost half price off nail polishes makes me happy. 

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Dear Nivea, Happy 100th Birthday. Love Valentine.



Totally had a bad day. I didn't sleep at all last night and had to drag myself out of bed extra early for work! I just wasn't feeling it today. Maybe because I've been so tired lately.

Massive sigh. Massive, massive sigh. 

I just didn't have a great day.

But when I got home, I found a small purple package waiting for me! It looked very Cadbury, minus the fact that it had Nivea written all over it. AHAH. Loe and behold, the very generous people at Nivea sent me a compact mirror to celebrate their 100 years of skincare. Definitely wasn't expecting something like that in the mail!



It's a cute little mirror that is, thankfully, very light! In July, Guerlain gifted me a small mirror with my name engraved on it. It's been sitting on my dresser for ages and unfortunately, I don't plan to take it out with me anywhere! It is ridiculously heavy and the craftsmanship is a bit haphazard. Can't say that, that is something I expected from Guerlain.

But that's a another story for another time.

Geez, if only every bad day ended with a little surprise!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Girl, I Be Digging Your Bag Pt 2


Girl, I'm also digging your Celine Ballerina Flats. Gorgeous!

  



So sure, the Rosabel Bag from Jimmy Choo's 24:7 Collection looks like a sturdier, thinner and taller version of Mulberry's Alexa Chung. Sure it kind of looks like it might break your arm if you fill the bag up too much. But there's just something pretty about this look. Without a doubt, it has that structured shape I like in a bag and is versatile enough for a brunch date with the girls, holiday getaway and even for work. They also come in a range of textures - leather, calf leather and croc embossed.

I love Jessica Alba's the most!

I don't think it's something that I want now, but maybe in the future. Apparently there's a waiting list for these bags already. Should I be putting my name down now to guarantee I get one in two or three years time? AHAH.


Does this photo belong to you? Sorry, I forgot I saved it from your website! Want me to take it down? Email me at mynameisvalentine20@hotmail.com


And what the heck, I love the Birkin as well. But then again, which girl doesn't. Loving the look of the Gris.

When I achieve world domination (through my musical talents, of course!), I'll be rocking a Birkin or two. Victoria Beckham style. You know what I mean? AHAH.

So since my last 'Girl, I Be Digging Your Bag', have any of you ladies seen a bag that you're dying to have?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Review : Neutrogena's UltraSheer Pure-Mild Sunblock Lotion SPF 50+

Product : Neutrogena's 'UltraSheer Pure-Mild Sunblock Lotion SPF 50+'
Made In : Korea
Purchased From : Watsons, Hong Kong
Quantity : 80ml





FROM THE BACK OF THE PRODUCT
Neutrogena UltraSheer Pure-Mild Sunblock Lotion SPF50+ PA+++ provides effective UVA/UVB protection with PureScreen, a powerful blend of naturally-sourced mineral sunscreen ingredients. The extra-gentle formula is clinically tested to be mild on delicate, sensitive skin.

- hypoallergenic
- oil free/fragrance free/PABA free
- waterpoorf/sweatproof
- won't clog pores




I only started wearing sunscreen this year after seeing some freckles developing on my face. I know, I know - I should have started earlier! But I really don't like that sticky sunscreen feeling on my skin. And don't even get me started on that white-cast/gray shadow that you get after applying the product on your face. Until this year, my skincare philosophy was the less I put on my face, the better. This was mainly because my skin was in the worst condition imaginable. It was sensitive, thin, very dry and even my dermatologist was at a lost. My daytime skin routine was a quick wash with warm water, moisturise with heavy duty Hydraderm Sorbolene or Clinique's Moisture Surge before heading out the door. That's how it's always been.

My mother has always been hassling me about wearing sunscreen because sun damage is the most difficult skin problem to reverse.

I guess all that time spent lazing on the uni lawns was a bad idea after all...

A few people have recommended Neutrogena sunblocks/sunscreens, saying that they're excellent sun products. Most people seem to compliment that they are very light, absorb quickly into the skin and does not leave your face with a gray mask.

This is one of the main reasons that attracted me to Ultra Sheer Pure Mild. Additionally, it is SPF50+ and is designed for delicate and sensitive skin.




At first, I thought the opening was unneccessarily big. But I realised later on that this product is not only for the face, but also the body. Hence, a bigger hole will make this dispensing of product quicker and easier.

It's not much of a help for me since it's winter over here and I was going to use the sunblock mainly for my face.




The good thing about this sunblock is that if you use sparingly, it feels light on the skin. Its texture is similar to a lotion, except that it is less runny and a bit heavier. 

When spreading the product over your face, you have to work quickly as the lotion tends to dry or set on your skin immediately. 

You can see in the above photos that where the lotion is thinning, the product is already setting into my skin.




Here you can see more clearly how the lotion is drying up. It has not be thoroughly rubbed into my skin yet, but you can get a feel for how the product seems to sink in without much rubbing. 

RESULT
The good thing about this sunblock as it is not sticky and does not have an offensive, persistent smell. There is a chemical type of smell, but it's nothing unbearable.

As for the problems, there are a good few. The product dries too quickly onto my skin and is difficult to spread. When I tried to rub the formula out more, I ended up with white splotches over my face.  Because of this, I tend to put on more product than neccessary, making my face heavy and cakey. The product gives my face a white/gray mask which makes me look sickly and unwell.  

My biggest compliant would be that my face feels dry and chalky after the sunblock. It feels dehydrated as the finish is so matte and oil-absorbing. In addition, this product made me break out on my forehead. It is now marked with small bumps that are proving excessively difficult to remove. It's been two months and I have no idea what they are, let alone what to do about them!

Argh! This has to be the worst product I've come across this year!

Like with most products that do not work for me because they are not moisturising enough, I firmly believe that this Neutrogena sunblock would be great for individuals with oily skin. It seems that the product absorbs oil and minimises shine due to its dry to the touch formula. I imagine that this would be heaven sent for oily people!

What's your current sunscreen?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Clinique's Black Honey Collection for Fall 2011

 

This gorgeous photo popped up on my Facebook newsfeed a few days ago from Clinique Hong Kong. After a quick Google search, it seems that this is Clinique's 2011 Autumn/Fall Make  Up Collection called 'Black Honey'.  The collection is centred around warm shades of berry and violet which have been Clinique cult favourites since 1971!

In the above photo, there is the Lash Power Volumising Mascara, Limited Edition Colour Surge Eyeshadow Quad in Black Honey, Limited Edition Gradient Powder Blusher in Black Honey, Brush-on Cream Liner in Black Honey and Superbalm Moisturising Gloss in Black Honey.

I really appreciate the fact that Clinique's eye shadow palettes always come in sensible, work-friendly combinations. The colours are rarely outrageous or heavily pigmented, and work just to give your eyes that understated pop of colour. Unlike colours from MAC, Clinique's eye shadows do not scream out of attention making them perfect for work, formal occassions and for no-make up looks. 

I always find Clinique's eye shadow to be velvety, easy to blend and last the distance without primer. For me, the bonus is that they have never irritated my eye area.

I also recommend Clinique's High Impact Mascara and High Defintion Lashes Brush and Then Comb Mascara. Both mascaras are easy to use, separates eyelashes quite well and are amazingly easy to remove. You don't even need make up remover - all you have to do is gently wet your lashes with warm water and then rub them with your fingers until the mascara lumps together and slide them off.

Unfortunately, it's Spring for me soon and so I won't be able to purchase this at a Clinique counter. The sad truth is, I will probably have to wait until Autumn 2012 before I can get my hands on this if I don't order online or go overseas. It seems we're a season behind!

Not to worry! I'll leave you all with two photos that detail how to wear the eye shadow palette and the rest of the products from the new collection.



 

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Being Valentine : A Weekday In Photos


 

A Sunny Day on the Water.
Contemplating Life with a Chatime Pearl Milk Tea.
Subpar Gamberi Al Fuoco Pizza and Pollo Fettuccine.
Hot Chocolate and Chocolate Frappe.



Just out of curiosity, what's your dream? What are you doing to achieve them? I need some inspiration.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Review : Laneige's Water Sleeping Pack_EX

Product : Laneige's 'Water Sleeping Pack_EX'
Made In : Korea
Purchased From : Laneige, Hong Kong
Quantity : 80ml
Price : $190HK

It goes without saying that face masks are the rage in Asia. From caviar sheet masks to black charcoal cream masks, the beauty market is now saturated with these products that promise clear and vibrant skin when used once or twice a week.

The latest addition to the endless proliferation of face masks is the increasingly popular sleeping mask. Simplistically, sleeping masks are usually a gel that is spread over your face after your night skincare routine and removed the next day with warm water. The idea is that your skin's peak absorption period is during the nighttime and therefore a sleep mask will help boost your skin's ability to retain moisture while you rest.




One of the more popular sleeping masks is Laneige's 'Sleeping Pack_EX'. This product has been the brand's Number 1 seller for nine years and has undergone several updates to give consumers better results. The Sleeping Pack that I bought is the latest offering from Laneige which promises skin brightness, translucency, whiteness,  an even skintone, a brightened eye area and an overall improvement of the skin's condition.

To be very honest, I was a little hesitant when buying this. I have never tried anything by Laneige and I don't know too much about the brand. So cue speech where I express my intense fear of getting a reaction, breaking out etc. Also, I've never tried a sleeping mask before and worried about smearing the product all over my pillow.

I ended up buying it because I didn't buy a lot of face masks this time in Hong Kong and the price was quite affordable for a gel mask. Even in hindsight, I still believe that this product is inexpensive as you only need a very small amount for each application.

EXPERIENCE
The Pack itself comes with a small plastic spatula and an instructional leaflet.

The leaflet advises that the mask is used after you apply you night skincare routine. Taking some product (about 2.5cm in diameter), proceed to mark your nose tip, cheeks, forehead and chin area before spreading it outward over your face. After this, head to bed and wash off the Pack in the morning.

It suggests that you use this mask once or twice a week and that you can apply more of the product over your dry spots. 




The very first thing I noticed about the Pack was that it was heavily scented. It has a floral scent that smells quite strong and artificial. Unfortunately, that's how our house's toilet cleaning detergent smells, so I was a bit put off! The scent does fade slightly after you leave the gel on your face for awhile. But if you have a sensitive nose like me, you may continue to get whiffs of it!





The texture of the gel feels very similar to Clinique's Moistre Surge Extended Thirst Relief. It is very light, refreshing and soothing on my skin. When I put the Pack on, my face glowed in a radiant and brightened way as if I had been sitting under an endless waterfall and the water was just sliding onto my skin. Does that make much sense? My face looked moist, dewy and very radiant - too bad this wasn't a normal moisturiser because this is how I want my face to look after my moisturiser!

The Pack was absorbed very quickly and is a bit sticky. But after about 15 minutes, the stickiness is completely gone and I could go to bed without worrying about the product rubbing onto my pillow.

With the mask on, my face felt unbelievably soft and hydrated. It was elastic, bouncy, plump and supple. I cannot emphasise how amazing my skin feels when the mask was on my face. It was seriously as soft as a baby's!
 
RESULTS
After my morning face wash, most of the effects were gone. My face was soft, but definitely not as soft, plump or moist as what it was with the Pack still on my face. 

My complexion did look a bit brighter and I looked well rested, despite only sleeping a few hours.

The very first time I tried the Pack, the effects lasted about two days. My skin did have a glow about it but on subsequent uses, the mask didn't hydrate very well. It felt almost redundant because after my morning face wash, my face felt the same as before I put the Pack on. I'm not sure what the reason is, but it seems which each try, the experience gets more disappointing. I even tried to apply the product more liberally but the results, again, were not as 'WOW' as my first try.

My mother, who has normal/dry skin, tried this mask and it broke her out. She got bumps on her forehead and cheeks. I've had no breakouts or reactions so far. Phew!

RE-PURCHASE?
I like the concept of a sleeping mask. I like not having to wait fifteen minutes before I peel off a sheet mask or heading to the bathroom to wash off a cream mask. I also like the idea of having a gel-like product that I can put on at the end of my nighttime routine to seal in everything before it.

Laneige's philosophy centres on the idea that water and moisture is key to healthy skin and this is similar to what I believe. From personal experience, I know that when my skin is hydrated, it glows and is much more resilient. So when I purchased the sleeping Pack, I was hoping that it would help boost my skin's moisture retention abilities. At the bare minimum, I wanted my night-after face to feel as if I had just done a fifteen minute sheet mask. I wasn't really asking for anything revolutionary.

Unfortunately, if didn't even met this expectation.

I absolutely loved how moist, hydrated and supple my skin felt with the mask on. But when the mask came off, the effects weren't very outstanding. My skin felt softer, but only a tiny bit more than usual. In all honesty, I get better results with other sheet and cream-based masks.

I will not be re-purchasing this product. I would rather pay more for Clinique's Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief. The feel of the two products are the same but at least with Moisture Surge, I can use it as a night mask, moisturiser and face primer.

Keeping in mind that I do have very dry and sensitive skin, I do believe that people with oily or combination skin might have better luck with this product.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Tourist In My Own City : Aroma Festival 2011




What are your Sundays usually like? For me, I usually sleep in until whenever I wake up. Sometimes that means sleeping till 11AM and sometimes that means sleeping until 3PM. Come to think of it, it's been an extremely long time since I've woken up on a Sunday before 11AM. 

But last Sunday, I made a massive effort to get up at 8AM because the Aroma Festival was on at The Rocks in Circular Quay. The Aroma Festival is an annual event that showcases a variety of imported and local coffee, spices, teas and chocolates. I've heard from friends who've been previously that it's like being in one massive open air cafe, in the sense that, no matter where you go, there's always that lingering scent of freshly brewed coffee. 

I love the smell of coffee. It's addictive, don't you think?




I always love going to The Rocks. It's got this great sense of history and antiquity with the cobbled streets and stone buildings. In a way, it's kind of romantic strolling along the street alone or with friends while reminiscing about the by-gone years. It's something different from the concrete jungle of the CBD, that's for sure. 

Of course, it also doesn't hurt that the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House are right in your face when you're exploring The Rocks!

I have wanted to the Festival for more than two years now but never got the chance to because I was always too busy. This year, I'm just as busy but I made a humongous effort to go. This year is actually my 'No More Excuses' Year. 




The Aroma Festival was split into four sections - the Orient, the Continent, the Latin Corner and the Oasis. Each corner had their own delights like Dim Sum, chai and herbal teas, Turkish coffees and Bolivian chocolates. 

There was also a range of live performances like the lion dancing in the Orient and the live music in the Latin, Oasis and Continent sections. 





At every corner there was someone brewing coffee, pouring out hot chocolate, making crepes, cooking meat wraps and tempting people over for cupcakes and nougats. All coffee stands sold their regular sized coffees for $2 and I chanced on some delicious hot chocolate for $4. There were so many different coffee brands and blends on show, making it extremely difficult to choose something to try. I ended up being boring and buying a cup of Vittoria coffee. I always drink Vittoria because it's just right for me. It's hard to explain. Hmm, it's smooth, creamy and the after taste is light - just the way I like it. 

I wish the coffee stalls sold smaller cups of coffee so that I could try other brands and blends. I'm actually one of those people who can only have one medium-strength coffee a day, otherwise I'd get the shakes!

The lines to get coffee and food were really long, so I didn't get to try much of the food. I really wanted to grab a chocolate crepe and a potato chip spiral, find myself a nice spot overlooking the Harbour Bridge and just relax. Alas, things rarely go my way these days! I was really pressed for time because I had work later in the day. I know right? Work on a Sunday? Boo! I felt so out of place in my work coat and pencil skirt! Everyone looked so comfy in their jeans, scarves and hoodies!

Ahh, maybe next year? AHAH.

We settled for a seafood pancake in The Rocks Markets which are on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Even there we waited for about 20 minutes to get our food.



I did go home with some Rocky Road - yum! I know the picture doesn't look very appetising  because of the lighting and what not. But let me assure you that they are super delicious! I got two original, one cookies and cream, one raspberry and cream, and one honeycomb for $10. It was buy four, get one free!

I've been trying to redo my entire diet to lose the horrifying 8KG I've gained since last year's March. But I guess any radical diet plan will have to wait until I demolish all those chocolates. Oh, dear me!

Monday, 1 August 2011

My Macau .

Have you guys ever been to Macau? For those that aren't quite familiar, Macau is about one hour away by TurboJet and has really become Asia's Las Vegas. It used to be a Portuguese colony, but was officially handed back to China in 1999.

Macau is always a fun place to go. We never stay for long and therefore never do the tourist rounds like visiting the famous landmarks and eating the local food. But nonetheless, we always have fun! While my father talks business, my mother, brother and I tag along for a bit of a sticky beak at Asia's Las Vegas!

Over the years, Macau has truly transformed into something spectacular. Many years ago, I remember catching a rundown ferry from Hong Kong to Macau and then boarding an equally old mini shuttle bus that took us to our hotel. If I had a choice back then, I would have stayed in Hong Kong.

But since late 2001, the government has been quite active in promoting Macau as the Eastern Las Vegas. They opened up the Cotai Strip which is now home to some of the world's most impressive luxury hotel casino resorts.

So much has changed! The streets are now littered with brand new coach shuttle buses that ferry people from one hotel casino to another. The speed-boat ride from Hong Kong is quick, comfortable and spacious. The hotels on the Contai Strip are brand new, glamorous and a complete spectacle on their own. It would take days, if not a good week to fully appreciate the entertainment, leisure and restaurants that are now found in hotels!

This time we went to Macau, my brother and I stayed in the Hard Rock and my parents stayed at the Crown Hotel. Both hotels are situated within the same complex named the City of Dreams and so we travelled together from the ferry terminal. The City of Dreams sent a nanny van to take us to our hotels.

 

This is the Hard Rock's lobby. How interesting is it to have lyrics up there?! Love it. I haven't stayed at other Hard Rock hotels so I'm not sure if this is something uniform, but I really like it. Very refreshing.




My brother and I stayed in 1157. The only problem was there was only one bed. 

 


We called reception for a swap but they didn't have anymore rooms available on that particular day. So we had to deal with.





Not a big fan of the shower design. I had to be very careful about not spraying water onto the floor. Slipping in the bathroom is never a good experience.




Just in case anyone wanted to know what the toilet looked like. . .AHAH. It's in a different room to the actual bathroom.




Guitar on the pillowcases. Nice touch but the pillows were too soft. I barely got any sleep!



Compared to the Grand Hyatt and Crown Casino which are also situated within the City of Dreams, Hard Rock is much more contemporary, youthful and fun. If you ask me, the Hard Rock is similar to staying at a serviced apartment.

The decor and furnishings are simplistic and modernistic. I've stayed in Hard Rock before and the rooms used to have an Ipod/Iphone docking system where I'd charge and play my Ipod at full blast. They have now taken that away and if you require it, you must call up and request it. You also have to pay a $200HK deposit and so I decided against it since I knew my parents' room would have one. I maxed out my batteries trying to get the most out of the City of Dreams' free wifi.

The room is relatively small when compared to other hotels, especially The Venetian across the road. The bathroom at the Venetian was only slightly smaller than our entire Hard Rock room.

The service in Hard Rock is friendly, but slow. I called through for an extra roll of toilet paper and I kid you not, it took them 20 minutes to bring one up. But when I opened the door, I was met with a cheerful staff member who asked twice if that was all I needed. Very attentive indeed. 

I have been told that out of the three hotels in the City of Dreams, Hard Rock is the most budget-friendly. So I guess, you get what you pay for?