Easy Trip to Batam, Indonesia

Some months back my girlfriends and I decided to make an impromptu trip to Batam.

It’s just a one hour ferry ride away from Singapore, and safer than you may think it is for girls. It’s a popular and easy to plan (actually no planning required at all lol).

You can just google for any ferry companies to Batam, or even on sites like Groupon (now Fave or something?) I went via Majestic Ferry but there are others like BatamFast, Sindo etc. It’s under S$50 all-in.  If you’d rather a package of hotel+ferry, it’s also available but some packages impose a compulsory half day tour which I prefer not to join since I did that before.

Here’s the Batam map:Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Interior of the ferry, rather clean I would say:Image and video hosting by TinyPic

We stayed at Nayoga Mansion, which was a tad too far for my liking. I think it’s better to stay at Nagoya Hill, right beside Nagoya Hill Shopping Centre. Actually, I realised that Mega Mall (right in front of Batam Centre Ferry Terminal) is much nicer and newer than Nagoya Hill Shopping Centre.

In terms of things to do there, there really isn’t much, besides cheap massage, grocery shopping, movies and food. So if you’re looking for exciting things to do and see, perhaps you’ll be disappointed. It’s not exactly as fun as Bali or Phuket, it’s more like going to Johor Bahru. lol.

We did manage to eat something really nice though:

http://dpenyetzbatam.com/shop/

Apparently this is quite famous haha. We had a delicious selection of ayam penyet, fried tofu, soup. It was really good!

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Anyway there’s the usual Starbucks, JCo, Black Canyon, A&W, Pizzahut etc, so not to worry for those who don’t know if you can get used to the Indo taste. lol.

Day trip in Johor Bahru Malaysia

What do you do if you’re looking for a day of leisure in JB that’s also relatively safe?

Many Singaporeans who don’t drive will like to go City Square or the newly opened Komtar JBCC when they want a day trip to JB to get more bang for their buck (‘cos S$1 = RM3). I used to visit City Square as it’s quite easy to get there – it’s literally just besides the JB customs, just cross the overhead bridge and you’re there. City Sq has many shops – affordable restaurants, cinema and shops – perfect for students on budget like I was.

I used to take a cab (teksi) after the JB customs to Taman Sentosa (nearby KSL Mall) more than 10 years back for RM6, but faced the problem that it was hard to get a teksi from there back to City Sq. With Grab/Uber it’s much easier, just invest in a data SIM card and viola, JB customs to KSL Mall in under RM10, another mall to explore!

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Anyway, the thing that sparked this post is more than the usual hair salons, cinemas, eateries in JB. I went for yet another short day trip to JB very recently, and one of my friends recommended this massage place outside of KSL Mall. I know, I was thinking why on earth are we walking under the hot sun for like 10 minutes in search of this massage place when there’s a few inside the mall?

We were at: https://www.facebook.com/thaiimperialjb/

Thai Imperial I : 217, Jalan Dato Sulaiman, Tmn Century,johor bahru TEL: 07-333 1355
THAI IMPERIAL II: 70, Jalan Serampang, Tmn Pelangi,johor bahru TEL: 07-332 1633

(all photos grabbed from google)

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

We went to the outlet at Sulaiman, and opted for a member happy hour oil massage at RM79 for 90 minutes (Super cheap!) There are quite a few Thai masseurs, and it’s definitely not sleazy. Private rooms are also provided (or at least I had one without additional charges lol). I was on one of those hollow beds with a hole for my head to face down and breathe, which I prefer to just a mattress on the floor.

And the massage was omg super good! I’m not a fan of full body oil massage as they are often painful, always oily and tend to do little for my aching upper back, shoulders and neck. However, the masseuse focused on my pain areas (typical pain points from a desk-bound job) and it was painful but gooood. Or in her words, “Ohhhh, no pain no good~!”

It’s sore, but a good kind of sore. I seriously love a nice back/shoulder/neck rub that eases the chronic soreness I have. Oh but do be “warned”, they will do a bit of the Thai-style twisting of your bodies at the end. lol. I groaned and laughed when she did that.

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Anyway, if you’re planning a short staycation, you can consider the newly opened Holiday Villa (there’s an infinity pool!) that’s just next to KSL Mall (which also has its own hotel & residence). And you can also pop by Taman Sentosa for the nice Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs Soup with rice).

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Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh 顺发肉骨茶
11 Jalan Sutera Satu, Taman Sentosa, 80150 Johor Bahru. Tel: +019-778-0709
Operating daily 8 am – 8 pm (Monday closed at 5 pm)

Alternatively, if you’re at Taman Sentosa area at night, there’s also plenty of food places around the area in walking distance.

Taiwan Buys

Well, just thought I’d share a snapshot of what I bought from my Taiwan trip (late post i know):

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Generally, these are some of the items that i purchased, and most of them are kind of available everywhere in shopping streets and night markets.

  • Bags from pgmall and skyblue shops are cheap.
  • Contact lens from Pegavision is also good from a friend’s recommendation.
  • Clothes follow the season, and cheap ones are like NT200 a pop
  • Shoe shops are aplenty too, and generally flats are cheap at NT200-390
  • Taiwan does stock up several Korean and Japan cosmetics, but these will be higher than if you get it directly from the source countries, of course. That’s kind of why I didn’t buy cosmetics.
  • Apparently this Neogen Bio Peel Gauze Peeling Wine (it’s a facial wipe) is really good for exfoliating, but I’ve not tried it yet.
  • Items like fake eyelashes “falsies”, and facial masks are cheap too. Some brands are My Beauty Diary, and My Scheming Masks. Generally one box of 10 can be as cheap as NT168-200
  • Please consider before buying electronics in TW. I bought a hairdryer on a whim, and then realised it’s 110V and incompatible with my country’s power. :/

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Anyway before I end this post, just like to promote the above item from my loots. I remember it’s cheap, and it really can pick out all the hairs from my hairbrush! I used to spend much time removing hair with my hands but it was so difficult. This tool seriously makes it a breeze. the metal hook thingys will catch the hairs and let you pull it off the brush easily.

Prelude to Sawadee Land aka Bangkok

SO excited!

I’ve been to Bangkok quite a few times because well, tickets to travel within SEA are usually cheap (think inter-state travel in USA, or budget flight within EU). It’s been 2 years since my last visit, and I just can’t wait for May this year where I’ll go again!

I don’t know why I’m unusually excited  about this place, as I had always just seen it as just another place for shopping. Anyway, like to share some of my planning.

For traveler SIM card, it’s really cheap to buy them at the Thailand airports. There’s even an option to purchase a set of 3 SIM cards! I’m intending to use internet for Uber/Grab rides, and also for realtime map. Gotta love technology~

AIS Website

Again i succumbed to the cheaper rates of Airbnb and booked a studio condo near Ratchathewi BTS (somewhere near Siam & Platinum Mall). I hope it’ll be nice.

I’ve always gone there for shopping and eating at Black Canyon Cafe, but I think for this trip I will also check out:

  • MK Gold (My friend raves about this)
  • Cat Cafe near Ratchathewi BTS
  • Night Streetfood opposite CentralWorld (This is da bomb!)

Generally, tourists stay in these areas:

  • Khao San Road for partygoers
  • Pratunam for cheap shopping (platinum mall, pratunam market)
  • Nearby BTS such as Ratchethewi, Nana, Silom, Chitlom etc for easy navigation to other areas

Shall update this when I can!

 

Taiwan Trip 2016 – Taipei

Ahh, it’s been a long hiatus again, sometimes I just wish I’m still studying full-time with a lot more free time to create entries. Nowadays I’m struggling to just get enough sleep week by week. The perils of growing old, lol.

Anyway, this shall be the last part of my 2016 Taiwan trip, I probably will have a post on some of the things I bought that I think is nice.

Anyway, the city of Taipei is pretty easy to navigate with its robust metro system. Here’s a metro map with places of interest at the station. For a more comprehensive map you can also grab a free copy upon your arrival in Taiwan.

My usual go-to places in taipei:

  • Houshanpi: Wu-fen Pu wholesale market & Raohe Night Market
  • Jiantan: Shihlin Night Market
  • Danshui: Old street at north of Taipei, kind of like a big park
  • Ximen: My choice of stay! Love Ximen cause I can always grab some supper snacks back to my room to munch on ;p

I’ve also been to:

  • Xinbeitou: Hotsprings
  • Xindian: A smaller park near south of Taipei
  • Guting: Shida Night Market
  • Taipei Main Station: Shopping at the underground station
  • Danshui: From here I can also take a bus to Yang Ming Shan (mountain), but I remembered walking for what seemed like ages and still didn’t reach the top before I gave up and went to Xinbeitou for some hotspring instead lol.

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As you can see, I’m more of a shopping, laid-back traveler. I actually don’t mind staying in hostels if I’m traveling alone (though I would prefer those capsule type that I can draw up a curtain or close the door to have my own space). To save cost when I travel with my other half, I’ll go for Airbnb (inspite of his complains because hotel > Airbnb LOL).

My favourite location to stay is at Ximen for reasons as above, though I guess it’s not bad to as long as I can stay nearby night markets as well (because supper!). If you’re not picky it’s very possible to find an okay listing around SGD 50 (USD 35) in Ximen.

For this trip we actually went to a couple of new places:

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I read that this place is where people visit for fresh seafood. It’s easier to walk from the station, but do prepare an umbrella in case it rains as there’s no shelter along the way. This place is also located within a wet market and I was a little disappointed as there’s nothing to see nearby. The seafood is fresh and recommended to go there with more friends, I had a hard time trying but failed to finish the box of thick sashimi that my other half absolutely hated. lol. there’s also cooked food in its premises that we didn’t try as I was too full from the sashimi.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Another place we went was a cat cafe. It’s the oldest cat cafe in Taipei but it’s actually a very normal restaurant with not many patrons when we went. And most of the kitties were napping hence not very keen in playing. Nevertheless they were very cute!

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Well, most of our Taipei itinerary was very very laidback. So to end off I’ll just post some of the night market scenes:

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Pepper Buns – yum yum!

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Omelette in many ways, Ah Zhone meesua, plum fried sweet potatos are my favourite! 

Apparently these 2 beef noodle shops are highly raved, but we didn’t get a chance to try them. So if you are in the area do try it out!

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I Love Taiwan 2016 – Sun Moon Lake

On the 2nd morning we had a late breakfast at one of the makeshift breakfast stalls at the Fengjia University monument. We waited quite a while for bus 160 opposite Watsons and I think with our Easycard it was a free 20-30 minutes bus ride back to Taichung HSR station. At the booth near exit 5 (pictured below) we bought two-way bus tickets to Sun Moon lake.

You can also buy a package tour ticket to Sun Moon Lake or Cing Jing Farm at this counter, and for more information you may visit the company’s website:

http://www.ntbus.com.tw/en-p-1.html

The bus actually begin operation from early morning (i think 7+ am?) but being the lazy couple we are, we reached the counter only in the afternoon and thought it was too late for us to complete the package in time. Hence we only went for the return bus tickets, but just nice this uncle was selling us the boat ride tickets for NT150 for one.

Of course, if you’d rather have a private car then you can DIY your itinerary at https://www.rtaiwanr.com/taichung-city/lavender-tour

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Side note: I visited Qing Jing Farm in 2014, and it was a relaxing stay. Generally people take a morning bus up and stay at the higher area 5 to 8. We took a NT50 bus and started from the top at the sheep show, walked down  and reach Little Swiss Garden for flowers-watching and a lunch at Carton King. You can also take a early morning bus to HeHuan mountain to watch the sunrise but we were just too lazy. lol.

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Anyway back to the topic, this is a typical pass covering the return bus rides, unlimited transfer, boat rides and I think some entrance fees as well as cable ride.

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Below is the rough map of Sun Moon Lake. We took about 2 hours to finish the boat ride with 3 pier stops including the starting point (Shuishe), including a short walk at the street stalls at the last point Ita Thao (there’s also quite a number of homestay hotels there). So do go early if you aspire to really utilise the package fully.

Then we spent about 1.5 hours to share a motorised bicycle to ride along the Ita Thao Lakeside Trail. If you rent the motor bike instead then you will ride on the actual road instead of the trail.

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L-R and down: Tea Eggs at Xuanguang stop but it’s available everywhere. Starting point at bus drop-off area. Shuishe Pier. Walking street at Ita Thao pier.

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Different scenes around the lake. Top left photo is from a section of the Ita Thao walking trail:

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Overall I am pretty happy for our decision to plan a Taichung itinerary in our Taiwan trip 🙂 We went back to our airbnb to have an early rest before heading to Taipei the next day. Because we were with luggage, we hailed a cab to Taichung HSR station which I think cost NT280 for a short 10 minutes ride.

I Love Taiwan 2016 – Day 1

I’ve always have a special penchant towards Taiwan. I’ve been there 3 times before this, and I find it easy to navigate as I can understand Mandarin (actually even if you don’t it’s still fine as many of the attractions come with English signs)

My main love for TW is a combination of factors – cheap & good street food, shopping, and of course the friendly local people.

(There’s a recent spiked decrease in mainland China tourists in Taiwan – I’m guessing over the issue of country autonomy again? I personally prefer Taiwan to be an independent country but that’s just me lol. Anyway, good for me since there’s less crowd at the tourist spots!)

I was toying with travelling in Nov 2016 or in first quarter 2017 since the weather is the nicest during this period (cooling but not freezing, at 5-25 deg cel depending on the month). Then I saw a really cheap Jetstar promotion which after adding in reasonable check-in luggage, cost SGD388 for 2 (15kg there and 35kg back under husband’s name)! WOW! Normal prices are like SGD300 for one person. Side note that 35kg is just nice for me this time, and I feel that I didn’t buy a lot. So to be safe it’s best to have at least 45kg or more for 2 person. Traveling in a colder period also means the fashion will be more of the Autumn/Winter type, so if you’re from the tropical climate countries you won’t be able to buy as much clothes. But I still like it as I love walking and enjoying the cool breeze~!

At the Jetstar counter at Changi Airport, there’s actually automated kiosks that travelers scan their passports, get boarding passes and then add on check-in luggages. They will then print the boarding passes and bag tags before dropping off their luggages at the counter. This is rather confusing for a first-time user and there was a bit of chaos as some had to re-queue at another counter as they forgot to print their bag tags.

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After a 4-hour flight to Taipei Taoyuan Airport (this flight will go on to Japan), we joined the long queue at the customs. There’s actually money changers inside and outside the gate, but I recommend to queue FIRST as there the passport-stamping area there will be a money changer before you exit the customs area, and OUTSIDE the customs area at arrival there’s also a counter for the 3, 5, 7-day SIM card packages. It’s really cheap so I do recommend to get it and stay connected!

we followed the signs to the bus area.

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

There’re many buses here, some go to Taipei (Taipei Main Station, Ximen Ding), some to Taichung (3 hrs journey?) and the bus we took is to Taoyuan High Speed Rail. It cost NT30 and takes about 20 minutes.

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The HSR comes from Taipei, hence I recommend you to spend an extra USD1 for an assigned seat for your 40 minutes journey to Taichung, unless you’re taking the train really early.

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At Taichung HSR station, walk down to the level below and outside for the bus 160 to Fengjia Night Market. It will help a lot if you already have the Metro Card, and you can always do the top-up at a 7-11. It’s really cheap, like 2-30NT or free I think.

(Side note again, you’ll also see a booth selling tour bus packages to Sun Moon Lake and CingJing farm etc)

You’ll alight at Watsons, right smack at the fengjia night market. This is a stop before the Overseas Chinese University stop. If in doubt just ask the driver (in Chinese though lol).

Well, if you feel like cutting away all the hassle you may spend around USD 9 for the short taxi ride.

Anyway we had the unlimited wifi SIM card package from the airport, so I was checking the route using iPhone map too.

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After settling down at our Airbnb that’s really near the night market (if I can I will include a review of the places I stayed), we went to Fengjia night market!

But before that we went to this raved yakitori place called Gekiuma Yakitori a short 10 mins walk away.

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I think the yakitori is nice since I like grilled food, ambience is nice too; I won’t necessarily go back again as I think I can find similar yakitori in Fengjia NM. Anyway this shop is like a yAkihito cum bar so it’s nice if you’ll like to sit down and drink while eating and listening to music. Soup is freeflow too!

Next we walked back to Fengjia NM for more eating, and shopping! Btw in Taiwan it seems that many NM are located next to an university, same for Fengjia NM. I had the milk steamboat here, and also we had breakfast at this area the next day, right at the street where the Fengjia University monument is at. Try their breakfast!

please try the fried sweet potato balls! One of my favorite snacks! 😀

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Random thoughts on Travel

I was just thinking, as I’m from South East Asia (SEA) I’m pretty accustomed to travelling in this region (Malaysia, Bangkok, Indonesia) and also Taiwan & Hong Kong, so much so that I actually don’t really think much about planning for these trips. Now I wonder if I should have a short guide for each of these countries for the similar lazy souls out there..

^-^

One Day in Tokyo

Many months back I had a long-ish break before my next job, so I signed up for an interesting “job”, as an OBC, or On Board Courier.

Basically there are some businesses that require immediate, next day, hand delivery service, and OBC companies come in to fulfill that gap that other delivery companies can’t. This is because the OBC will be activated to fly on the same day to the venue.

Well since it’s always going to be such a short notice thing, in the end I only was lucky enough to do it once. Oh well. In any case for an OBC the perks are frequent flyer miles, some allowance and free flight to the destination you cannot really choose – I guess it’s good if you’re a retiree or student, and have some countries you really want to visit. Sometimes it’s possible to extend a trip on your own expense with the OBC company.

It’s definitely a plus if you know multiple languages and hold a passport that’s visa-exempt to many countries. I only know 3, and Japanese is not one of them sadly. I only took a basic short course for it.

Anyway, for me I got a Whatsapp message around 9 am, and around 10 pm the same night I was on my way to Japan – Tokyo. There’s quite a lot of communication needed as I also had to communicate with the agents, and take photographs of the parcel(s) whenever possible.

By 9 am the next morning I was in Tokyo Narita Airport and done with my courier work. I had around 8-9 hours before my flight home, so I decided to head down to Shibuya for a very short sightseeing.

I remembered heading to a counter to buy an airport express train to Ueno Station before walking the underground tunnel to transit to another line in order to reach Shibuya. Japan metro system is rather comprehensive and easy to navigate, although once I reached the station itself it’s more complicated to find my way out onto ground floor and into the sun.

I have to mention that toilets at the mall are small but clean and cosy!

Anyway for a Japan guide you can visit this website: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2027.html

By Keisei Skyliner
1 transfer, 65 minutes, 2400-2670 yen, 2 connections per hour
Take the Keisei Skyliner from Narita Airport to Nippori Station (about 40 minutes, 2470 yen) and transfer to the JR Yamanote Line to get to Shinjuku Station (20 minutes, 200 yen). There are connections every 20-40 minutes. If purchased in advance online or via a travel agent outside of Japan, foreign tourists can ride the Skyliner for just 2200 yen.

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Ueno Station. I was approached by Japanese students doing an English survey – I think something related to tourism?

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I very randomly window shopped in Shibuya, while getting slightly lost in the many buildings and shops.

Shibuya’s guide: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3007.html

Many of the cafes as well as the airport train have complimentary wifi, there I read that Don Quijote is quite a good place for cheap and good things to buy – apparently it’s raved among tourists as a place to visit!

https://anakjajan.com/2015/07/30/don-quijote-the-most-awesome-discount-store-in-japan/

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The famous Shibuya crossing

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Interesting facade of a shop

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Ramen from a shop located underground

I asked a random lady if it’s nice and she said it was, but it turned out rather salty and not that nice. I guess she was just too polite to tell a tourist the truth lol.

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Interesting motivational sign at the shop

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Some souvenirs at the airport before flying back

I ended up feeling jet-lagged the next day, and wished I had extended my trip. Oh well. lol. Would love to go for another OBC trip again, it was rather exciting. And funny too, I kept telling the airport customs staff in my basic Japanese that I totally suck in it and I don’t understand them, but they continued speaking to me in Japanese @.@ I wished I had attended more classes then..

Seoul 2016 Beauty Buys

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Hello Girlfriends!

I’ve earlier this year been to Seoul for about a week, and of course I went slightly crazy and bought all kinds of cosmetics and skincare products.

I will be reviewing my hauls in the coming weeks when I’m free to do so. But just an overview of what I bought:

  • Iope Matte BB Cushion in M23 (came with their makeup remover)
  • The Saem Aloe Vera Gel, Snail Plumper, Snail Peeling Gel, Snail Deep Cleansing Foam, Pumpkin Heating Mask, Kissholic Lipstick, single eyeshadow
  • Etude House Dear My Wish / Booming Lipstick, Balm+Colour Tint, Proof10 Gel-Liquid liner, Bling Bling Eye Stick, Blusher, Shockara Mascara, Color My Brows. (I later also got their Gel eyeliner, BB Cushion Concealer and Face Blur)
  • Face Shop Liquid Eyeliner
  • 3W Clinic Collagen Hand Cream
  • Missha Lasting Painting Tint
  • Mamonde Creamy Tint Balm Intense
  • Some sunblock x 2 that was on sale
  • Innisfree, Nature Republic, Saem sheet masks
  • (Innisfree Sandalwood perfume was for a friend)

But…some part of me still thinks I didn’t buy enough and wanted to buy more even when I got back (and i did lol). I guess Korean products really do attract people with their nice packaging, good effects and wonderfully affordable prices. It’s like even if you’re on a budget, you can still get basic but good skincare and makeup there (think The Face Shop, Etude House). AND they give A LOT OF samples!!! wheeeee!

Generally besides those shops carrying individual brands such as in streets of MyeongDong and Ewha, there’s also neighbourhood shops selling cheap stuff. I saw really cheap hand creams and masks from lesser known brands like 3W, like around 2000 won?

Well I don’t know if you can get access to Korean products readily in your country, but if you do, why not try some of them out? If you already do and have good ones to recommend, do let me know cause I’m looking out for more beauty hauls!

Yep that’s about it, I will definitely return with updates! Meanwhile, Stay Beautiful! 🙂