Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring 2013 Trend : The White Polish

Several magazines reported the white polish trend earlier this year and I must say, I liked what I saw. It looked fresh and clean but with an edge and I just had to dabble my hands in it! And so happens that I somehow end up with two practically identical white polishes and one lovely white 'glitter' this month. Here they are:
Left to right: OPI Alpine Snow, OPI Lights of Emerald City (From their Oz: The Great and Powerful line), and Ciate Snow Virgin 010.

OPI Lights of Emerald City just looks so good in the bottle, it's so dreamy because of the square white (glitter?) flakes suspended in the clear liquid with smaller square (again, glitter?) flakes that glow like oil slick when the light hits them. It evokes an image of an afternoon in a snow-covered village where it's still fairly bright outside but all the lights are on.

Here's a macro shot of OPI LoEC with flash:

OPI LoEC is best for layering. It is a pain in the ass to work with, though, as it's very goopy and the white square flakes are hard to pick up. I had to use different technique to apply it: I'd put a blob on my nails and maneuver the flakes around to get an aesthetically pleasant random look.

I layered this polish over Jessica's Cloud Mine in the picture. Here's how Cloud Mine looks on its own (1 coat):
And here's one coat of OPI Lights of Emerald City over Cloud Mine:

Tedious application aside, I do love the result! Sometimes your first instinct is to get as much white square flakes as you can on your nails but it actually looks better applied sparsely.

On to the white polishes:

I love the white polish trend! It just looks so...clean, like a good start, as Spring should be! They are really identical in terms of look but I must say I like OPI better. The formula as well as the brush are better than Ciate, it spreads more easily and if you've gotten the hang of it, you can get a smooth and opaque finish in a single coat (I have 2 coats on in the picture, though).

Ciate on the other hand, is a disappointment. The formula is less thick but what makes it worse is the brush. It looks like it can't decide whether it wants to be the round or the panoramic type and ends up somewhere in between, resulting in uneven and clumsy application. It took 3 coats to get it even and opaque in the picture. Oh, and you know the little black bow that looks so cute especially in the ad? I hate it. It looks cheap and poorly made in real life, and what's worse is, it is attached to the cap instead of the bottle so it becomes a nuisance when you're applying the polish as you have to be careful not to let the ribbon touch your wet nails.

I'm gonna end this post by showcasing all the polishes used in this post:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Travel Report : Bintan

I thought I'd start this post with a little bit of personal musing so please bear with me ;->

As someone who grew up near the Equator, I have always envied people who got to experience four seasons, especially autumn and winter. I love the foliage and the temperature (I think), it's just visually so interesting to me. I'm not much of a beach person, I hate it when I'm sweating, squinting, not to mention my hair would probably behave better in drier climate, lol.

Anyway...I was reading a blog about someone who lived in Ontario or something and how over the weekend she had visited this amazing small town just an hour outside the city and how it was like a world apart. Good grief, it was a very chic town! With New England architecture, snow, winter foliage, and all.

There I was, feeling sorry for myself when I realized that didn't have to be the case. I'd imagine people who grew up in the West would probably dream they could live next to a tropical paradise, one where they wouldn't need to hop on a 20-hour long flight to get to, and here I am, living next to literally more than a hundred beaches to pick from, taking it for granted.

I was then determined to have a weekend getaway, free and easy, just to soak in the beauty of living in South East Asia. It was just a question of where. Bali? Phuket? Boracay? Bunaken? After a long and borderline on obsessive research using company hours >:-D I then decided to visit Bintan.


Now that I've been there, it's funny how in hindsight I had never ever given this island any thoughts whatsoever since the day I have been walking on this earth. I mean, how could it be? Just how?

Bintan is a part of Indonesia, located very close to Singapore. I knew it was a vacation destination but somehow never really gave it much thoughts. It doesn't have an airport so you either get there from Batam or Singapore by ferry. And because of this slight 'inconvenience', it remains relatively under the radar.

So off to the travel report.

Warning: Photo spam ahead.

(Disclaimer: I am someone who prefers a relaxing, soul-rejuvenating, quiet vacation to wild-partying or extreme-shopping ones. So when I like or recommend something, it is based on these personal preferences. Also, when I say something is worth the money spent, it is relative to the circumstances.)

My roommate and I went to Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on a Saturday. The only public transportation you can take is bus 35 that starts its route from Bedok Terminal.
Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal

We then checked in at Bintan Resort Ferries (BRF) 's counter to collect our ticket. I don't know if you can just buy the ticket on the spot but in my case I already bought the tickets online.

Off to the immigration and the waiting lounge! The atmosphere in the terminal was definitely far more relaxed than that in an airport.

The Waiting Lounge

BRF offers two types of class, Economy and Emerald. You can check the fares here. Emerald Class is about 40% more expensive than the Economy but I strongly recommend it. The cabin is more spacious, less people, you get to wait in a private lounge with snacks and drinks, board the ferry last and alight first. Even my roomie who is the world's stingiest person thinks it's worth the extra dollars.
Emerald Class Exclusive Wating Lounge

Emerald Class Exclusive Waiting Lounge

Boarding from Emerald Class Designated Gate
This is our ferry. Too bad I didn't have any picture of the cabin but it was spacious with ample leg room and the toilets were very, very clean! Super plus plus! Please note that you may want to take some precautionary action to prevent seasickness because it could get horrible for some.

Our Ferry
It was an especially sunny day, look at how great the color of the water is! I love it when the sea water is this blue-green color. The journey took about 55 minutes, I was just enjoying the view when suddenly I saw an island. We were almost there!
Alighting the ferry.
Many hotels in Bintan, if not all of them, offers shuttle service to and from the hotel. It is very convenient because you don't have to worry about how to get to your hotel. They also know the ferry schedule so you don't have to worry about missing your ferry when you go back, just tell the hotel clerk your ferry schedule and they will advise you which shuttle service to take.

First impression of Bintan was that it was secluded and relaxed, and somehow still rife with wildlife. On the road to the resort there were monkeys on the street!

Arriving at Nirwana Resort Hotel, about 10-15 minutes from the Terminal.

The room. The rate is about SGD200 per night but I was actually bumped to a more exclusive suite so the following images might not be accurate representations.

The suite was not mind-blowingly great but it was decent. Nirwana Resort Hotel is a 4-star accommodation but keep in mind this is still a third-world country with different culture so keep your expectations in check.

After settling in and everything, we were ready to just vacate our minds of any worries and it wasn't hard to do, not with these all around you:

Look at the color of the sea!

Hotel's Pool

Coconut trees danced lazily to the (strong) wind

Welcome to Paradise

That's the Banyan Tree Resort in the distance

The water is cool!

Blue sky, blue-green sea
As I said, I was never a beach person but Bintan might as well have turned me into one. It was so quiet and relaxing, my cares just melted away. I seriously couldn't think about work even if I had wanted to! FYI, this trip was hurriedly put-together in a week, no preparation whatsoever, and I was smack-dab in the middle of the busiest week of the year (the week before CNY) with hundreds of task looming over my head, and somehow in Bintan, I didn't think about any of those tasks for a minute.

Crazy big wild lizard walking across the yard like nobody's business

Wild crab in the sea

Wild crab swimming away

Elephant out in the open, this is actually part of the resort

I love how Bintan still feels pristine that it has a lot of wildlife like the lizard and the crab above. You might also get ants in your room. This might not be for everyone but I kinda dig it. There are actually tons of things to do (such as visiting the elephants) in the resort alone but really, we were just so burnt out that all we wanted to do was just relax and switch off our brains.

Some room service we ordered: Mie Goreng Jawa (Javanese-style fried noodle) and Nasi Mande (rice with some local-style chicken and veggies)
Mie Goreng Jawa, too rich and sticky for my liking

Nasi Mande, love this!
I love Nasi Mande! For you westerners, perhaps you think about how pathetic that dish is, what with a couple of small chicken chunks and the most pathetic lump of greens you've ever seen, but you gotta understand that in Indonesia that's how things are done. The rice is served with the most amount while the chicken, the greens, and everything else serve as accompaniments, unlike in the west where the meat is the highlight. Here,you eat a spoonful of rice with just a shred of chicken but fear not, the chicken (or any accompanying meat for that matter) has been marinated in more salt than you would in the west, that's why you only need small shred to balance out a spoonful of plain rice.

Now, can you guess what this is?
Hint:Look at top right of the picture

It's an iguana enclosure!! Yes, I have never seen so much lizard in my life as I had when I was in Bintan (in case you're wondering, haha)

The sun had started to set, the ocean and the sky didn't look as bright and blue as during the day.

In the night, the hotel hosted a buffet in an open-air setting near the beach. It was very appealing but I had made it my mission to visit the famous Kelong Restaurant (that reads Keh-long to you, my western readers, it rhymes with 'meh') when I was in Bintan and since I had thought they only opened at night, I chose to go there instead.

The resort provided a shuttle service to Kelong but you can actually just walk, it's not *that* far.

Flickering lights from afar, is that you, Singapore?

*Side note: Bintan is not known from being cheap, actually it is quite expensive compared to other parts of Indonesia. And due to its proximity to Singapore and for ease of the international tourists coming in from Singapore, they use Singapore dollars for any cash transaction.

We ordered their famous Gong Gong, it's some kind of seashell and has a texture akin to squid. You yank them out of their shell and dip them in the sauce to eat.

Crispy Baby Squid

Stir-fry broccoli

Seafood Tom Yum
Love, love, love the Gong Gong. When I was eating, there was a Japanese tourist sitting behind me. As he signed his bill, he exclaimed to the waiter, "Gong Gong very nice!". Hear, hear.

They also come in crackers form.

That concludes our first night in Bintan.

The next day, we had breakfast at The Coffeeshop at the hotel. Decent selection but the western selection was not that tasty. If I may suggest, sample the local selection instead, they were more tasty. It was paradoxical, things that looked like it might taste great actually didn't, and things that looked bland actually tasted great.
The Western selection

The Local selection

Before we left, we went for another round at Kelong. (Yes, they actually open during the day!).
Second plate of Gong Gong in the trip

That's calamari on the left
The Kelong, signature cocktail at Kelong
I actually tried another cocktail the night before called 'Eden' but I didn't like it very much but I really like The Kelong, it really captures the island feel with the coconut-flavored liquor in it.

Some exterior shots of Kelong during the day and the linked Calypso Bar.

Look at how green and clean the water is.
And that concludes our first trip to Bintan. I love you, Bintan! Can't wait to visit you again, see you soon!