Thursday, June 20, 2013

Still Here!

Yeah, I have a million half-written drafts lined up that I really need to publish. I will get around to it soon, especially now that I've got a bit of a breather before I embark on a new series of goldsmithing. 

In the meantime, here's a picture of a poor bird who Chabi attacked and killed a couple of months ago. I wanted to bury it in the garden but H threw it out instead. RIP little dude. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bonjour, Wow Wow Cosmetics and Other Beauty Stuff

I must confess that I used to (and maybe still do) have a bit of a snobby attitude towards Bonjour. It's one of those chain cosmetic retailers like Sasa, but something about Bonjour feels a bit more downmarket than Sasa. I guess because Sasa carries Korean and Japanese drugstore brands, so they feel a bit more hip or something, and you see a lot of stylish chicks buying stuff there.

On the other hand, Bonjour seems to be mostly filled with tourists who naively buy suspicious skin care brands with vaguely-European names. The staff in Sasa are already a bit pushy, but at least they back off when I nicely ask. Bonjour staff, on the other hand, insist on hanging around and trying to upsell shit to you, which I really loathe.

I must confess that even worse in my estimation is Angel, another chain, because it seems like an even worse Bonjour, and the only time I've ever stepped into an Angel shop is when I went with the Other Dude to look for a particular nail polish she wanted.

Anyway, so this is a really unusual entry for me to be writing, but I feel that, in fairness, I must really give credit where it's due. I got caught out in the rain (we've been having a month of shitty weather) in Wan Chai, and I had to duck into a Bonjour for cover. I figured I'd wander around, and the Wow Wow Cosmetics display immediately caught my eye. I love colours, and I've been looking for cheap, bright eyeshadows, so I thought I'd inspect their selection.

Dudes, I was pretty impressed. I swatched a few of the colours and they came out really pigmented and vivid, and each pan is only HKD69. I ended up buying three colours, and I can tell you that next time I see a Bonjour, I'm definitely going to buy more.

It's really fucking tough to take accurate pictures of the colours, but here they are in flourescent light without a flash. The colours look a lot darker in this picture.

Swatched on my arm. Good Lord, please excuse my freckles. My arm is N15, by the way. The blue is really not photographing well at all. In real life, the colour is a really gorgeous, shimmery teal, not the light blue you see below. The gold and purple are pretty accurate, though.

Alright, so what do they look like on the eyes? There's hardly any fallout with these shadows and they're extremely easy to blend, so the shadow on my lashes is entirely my fault. See, the thing is, I hardly wear makeup outside unless I know I'm only going to be out for less than four hours because I hate carrying bags, and I don't want to have to bring shit with me for touch ups. So all of the pictures you see below are the results of one of my favourite hobbies, which is applying makeup at night before I shower. I just really like putting it on and experimenting with colours, and I don't really care if anyone sees me with it on. The point of this is that I'd already put on mascara earlier and so the eyeshadows ended up sticking to it as I applied them at night, ie. this is proof that you should put your mascara on after your eyeshadow.

Here is the gold (with the L'Oreal Infallible Endless Chocolat) in flourescent light. I'm between an N10 to N15, by the way.

Here it is in sunlight, a much more accurate depiction of how warm and gorgeous the colour is. Yes, i realize that I have invisible lower lashes, so I hardly ever put mascara on them.

Here's the purple one in flourescent light. It looks so flat, tsk. In normal light, it's really more vibrant. I used Endless Chocolat, a Make Up For Ever Aqua Liner, and a Maybelline black gel liner as well.

And here is the teal shadow, which is still really not photographing well in flourescent light. This is with a darker blue shadow from Sweet Pea and Fay and a gel liner.

I thought I'd have fun and dirty up the look a bit by smudging the gel liner and applying it to my lower water line.

So Wow Wow gets a big thumbs up from me, and if you're looking to stock up on cheap but reasonably good quality eyeshadows (can't speak for the rest of the stuff, I didn't try them), I highly recommend this brand. You can find out more from their Web site -- seriously, it's supposed to be a French brand, but I couldn't find anything about it on Google. I suspect it's one of those Bonjour "European" brands. The site is kind of shitty, but you can also look at the Bonjour site directly to see the list of colours they carry.

Also, one more positive about Bonjour is that they carry Egyptian Magic at their Causeway Bay branches. Don't laugh, I know it sounds like some crazy hippie shit, but I've been using Egyptian Magic for almost 10 years now, and it's so pussy. It's better than any of the other creams I've tried (and believe me, I went through a lot, from Guinot to SK-II and my mom's La Mer, which made me break out). I have combination skin and even though Egyptian Magic feels greasy on application, I've never had any problems with it. I use it day and night, although I use much less during the day and apply this mattifying sunscreen from Sunplay over it and that takes care of any excess shine. I don't know if it's genetics or what, but my skin is pretty damn good. It's as soft as freshly-waxed scrotum, and for an old dude, I don't have a lot of wrinkles.

However, I usually buy my Egyptian Magic from Joey over at Nice Beauty 123 because I want to support entrepreneurs and she gives me all kinds of face mask samples with my order. She sells a lot of cult Japanese and Korean beauty products (as well as the "European" ones), by the way. Seriously, all you have to do is slap a "Le" on a product name and people are stupid enough to buy it. Le Shit.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Boracay Island

Dudes, I'm back in Hong Kong from my trip to Manila and Boracay with H. We weren't really gone that long, so my excuse for not writing is that I had to do a shitload of goldsmithing. I realize I haven't really put up any examples of my work before because I feel kind of weird about self-promotion, but since a few of you have been asking me about my jewellery, I decided to upload a few pictures of a recent ring that I did.

This was a commission, the client provided the giant amber bead and I did the rest. Quite a fun project, actually, although I had a fit of perfectionism when the two circles at each end of the amber bead didn't have perfectly-aligned angles and I scrapped the entire ring I'd made and started over again. Anyway, so now you've seen a sample of my work. I do have a Web site but I haven't updated it in more than 4 years, so it's really embarrassing.

Anyway, let's get down to business! This is going to be a long-ass entry, so get a drink and some snacks and kick back.

It was H's first trip to Manila, and to be honest, I was a bit apprehensive because there's a lot of good in that city, but it's easy to only see the awful stuff if you don't live there. H is by no means sheltered, and he's traveled a lot, but it was weird for him to be staying at my friend's mansion with all of these beautiful and expensive things and tons of food and then go outside and see all the squatters and garbage and traffic and people scrabbling just to have a handful of rice to eat.

And the thing is, if you live in Manila, you learn to tune shit like that out pretty quickly. People in my social class only really go to malls and restaurants that can be found in cities like Hong Kong or somewhere in North America, and I feel like that's why so many of them are sheltered and naive (or ignorant). I think that's why I tend to dislike people from that social class when they visit Hong Kong because they act as though they're better than HKers because they're more Westernized and can speak English. I've written about this before so I won't keep harping on it here.

Also, another thing that often bothers me in Manila (although I deal with it better now) is how people talk shit about me behind my back. My features are kind of weird so people often don't know what type of Asian I am, and I'm quite pale, so most Filipinos assume I'm Korean or something. They don't realize I can speak Tagalog and so they feel pretty free to say all kinds of things about me.

It was worst in Boracay -- not with the locals, who are extremely lovely and kind and more cosmopolitan in their outlook than people from Manila, but with the tourists from Manila. At one point, we shared a van with a group of young people from Manila who happily discussed my appearance and mocked my piercings and tattoos and said I had disfigured myself. I translated for H, who was furious, but I made him stay quiet. When the driver asked me where we wanted to get dropped off, I responded in Tagalog, and there was a palpable atmosphere of shock in the van. And some idiot dude was like (in Tagalog), "Did you hear that? She spoke Tagalog."

Me (in Tagalog): Yeah, I can speak it and I understood everything you guys said.

It also happened at the airport in Kalibo. As usual, it was a fucking mess (I'll explain more later). H and I were queueing to check in, and we stepped aside from the line to let a tour group through. We returned to the queue and this stupid cunt behind us said to her family in Tagalog, "Did you see these two Koreans or Japanese or whatever they are cut in front of us? They're so rude and ignorant!"

I turned around and spat out in Tagalog, "We didn't cut in line, we've been here for 15 minutes." The stupid cunt looked shocked and one of her kids whispered, "Mommy, they were here before us." Her other kids just stared at me like morons.

This doesn't bother me as much as it used to, but it's still an unpleasant experience. I wonder if this is a Filipino thing. I speak a number of languages, and most of the time, people don't realize I understand their language and assume I'm a foreigner, but people don't talk about me like they do in the Philippines.

And the other thing is the staring, too. H couldn't stand it, I just ignore it because I don't know what else to do. I think people do it partly because I'm pale, and partly because my features are a bit weird. H and I visited Intramuros (still really beautiful despite not being really cared for, worth a visit), and he got really angry because everyone seemed to be staring at us. When we bought water from a little sari sari store, the lady there said to me, "Miss, be careful. I'm serious, be careful." H put a vise-like hold on me after I told him that.

But you know what, though...I don't like it but when people have grown up in institutionalized urban poverty, combined with colonial and Catholic bullshit that lingers to this day, it's understandable why they behave the way they do. And it just gets worse with each succeeding generation because poverty and ignorance become even more entrenched, and as it does, people care even less and end up blaming the poor for being poor in the first place and nothing changes.

When I was there, I heard this rap song where the artist was telling people how they're responsible for their own poverty because they're lazy and have no ambition. But if your parents have no jobs, and you've grown up begging on the streets and have to turn to sniffing glue to stop your hunger pangs and you see all these rich people on TV and around you with lives you can't ever hope to reach no matter how much you struggle because you won't ever get into the "right" schools and meet the "right" people  and there's so much corruption -- fucking hell, who wouldn't give up? There are success stories, sure, but those people are outliers who succeed despite of the system.

The rich people, though, they're just usually pieces of shit with major colonial mentality issues. Yes, I know I'm generalizing but there's nothing funnier than a privileged person criticizing other people's privilege, right?

Well! What the hell was I writing all of that for? Time to go back to the purpose of this blog. As Jay-Z says, "If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be lyrically Talib Kweli" but it's better to just double your dollars and be criticized for being dumb than being right.

So! It's not like we didn't end up having fun in Manila in the 2 days we were there. Intramuros is beautiful despite the lack of care. We had tea at Cafe Barbara inside Plaza San Luis, we went to the Collective, which is like this industrial building with an open-air space for performances and dancing, and we went to Saguijo, a house that got converted into an indie bar and gallery and watched some bands perform covers of Dream Theatre and Nirvana. I think we were the oldest people there, and it's scary when the band is young enough to be your children.

What we were really looking forward to was our trip to Boracay. I'd been there almost 12 years ago, back when it was still pristine and there were hardly any bars and restaurants. My sister and I stayed with a family and we rode horses and went snorkeling around the different islands.

My brother goes to Boracay quite frequently, and he insisted that H and I go back because of how beautiful the beach is, even though it's very commercialized now. The actual travel to and from Boracay was kind of a pain in the ass. There are two airports that will take you to Aklan, the region where Boracay is. Caticlan is closer to Boracay; it's just a short distance to the ferry that takes you to Boracay island. Kalibo is farther away, you'll need to take about a 1.5 hour bus ride to the ferry.

We arrived at Kalibo because the tickets were cheaper. The airport is small (we're talking one room), which made it crowded enough when all the passengers got off, but there were all kinds of people hanging around making it chaotic. There were some people who were working there selling transportation packages, but there were others who were just standing around, which is pretty typical of developing countries.

We bought a roundtrip package with Southwest Tours (bus to ferry, ferry tickets and fees, van to hotel), which cost Php800 each or about HKD150 (just under USD20). We could have bought all the tickets separately for less money, but we didn't want to deal with the hassle, especially at the ferry, where you have to buy 3 tickets to for one journey.

The people at Southwest were nice but disorganized. We got issued paper stubs that were our bus tickets, but no one told us where the buses were and we got abandoned by our bus. We boarded another bus and then later on, we were told that we weren't in the right bus. After waiting around, we managed to get squeezed into a van instead, which was fine until this kid sitting in front of us vomited. Her mother made her finish barfing in a plastic bag and then wiped her with a tissue, but the smell was really horrible. I opened my window but it wasn't enough, and I had to ask the mother to open her window, too. Thank God we only had about 20 minutes left till the pier.

Transportation in the Philippines is just a nightmare. There's the endless traffic problem that never seems to be resolved because of corruption. Then taxi drivers can get quite shady. ALWAYS make sure you're in a metered taxi and that the driver actually turns the meter on. Two drivers tried to rip us off by taking the long route, and one of them boldly demanded a bigger tip even though I felt sorry for him and didn't argue about the route he'd taken and even gave him a tip, for fuck's sake.

If you're a woman traveling alone, always sit in the back and stay alert. A few years ago, a taxi driver masturbated while driving, and I didn't realize what was happening until I leaned forward to pay. I've never taken the bus or a jeepney so I can't comment on those, but I've taken the light rail a few times and a dude tried to rub up against me only once, so I guess it's not THAT bad. The best way really is to huddle with other women.

At the ferry pier, we got stuck with a bunch of mainland Chinese tourists, and H got progressively more irritated at them as we waited for the boat. See, the thing is, we have friends from China, and they're awesome people. When we were in Beijing, the people we met were really polite and friendly and cool. So where the fuck do these rude, shitty mainland tourists come from??  They're like the people I yell at when they jump the queue at the supermarket here in Hong Kong. They were pushing everyone, not queueing, and leaving their luggage scattered everywhere so that other people didn't have space. They were rude to the Filipino staff, as well. I guess at least they didn't talk shit about me behind my back although I overheard a few speculating on my ethnicity.

Anyway, I guess that's enough of all the negative shit, let's get started with the fun stuff. We stayed at Hannah Hotel at Station 1, and I highly, highly recommend this place. It's cheap (we paid USD50 per night, and we found out that if we had booked directly with the hotel instead of through Agoda, we could have only paid USD30 per night), clean, quiet but only a minute's walk away from the beach, and the owner, Paolo, is the coolest, nicest dude ever. If you stay at Hannah, don't be an asshole to him because H and I will beat you up.

There's a free breakfast but it's just a sandwich so you're really better off eating breakfast elsewhere. The hotel has a really awesome roof garden with hammocks, and it's just so relaxing to hang out there at night after returning from the beach.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the sight of two dogs in the final stages of copulation. I don't know if you've seen dogs doing it before, but towards the end, they go ass to ass via dog acrobatics somehow. The male dog that we saw, though, was a fucking lazy ass bastard and instead of staying on his feet during the ass to ass portion, he decided he was too tired and ended up lying down on the ground.

That poor bitch. She's completely going, "What the fuck, asshole!!"

Dog: Aw, baby, it was so good humping you, I got all tired out. Lemme just stay here for a mo'.

Bitch: FML.

After dropping off our stuff, we went to the beach to catch the sunset. My brother said that during peak season, you can barely find a spot on the sand to put down your towel, but fortunately for us, it wasn't that busy.

Beautiful, isn't it? My brother goes to Boracay a lot and he told us that we absolutely had to stay at Station 1 (the island is roughly divided into three areas) because Station 2 and 3 are too busy.

The sand is really amazing, just so soft and powdery. It's not grainy at all, I've had skin exfoliators that were rougher than the sand at Boracay. The water is also still quite pristine. There's no littering or smoking on the beach, thank God. There was a lot of seaweed, though.

Back in the days before the ferry, my sister and I had to take one of these boats to Boracay island.

We went to Mang Inasal for dinner at D'Mall (it's not really a mall, more like an open air bazaar type place). Inasal chicken is basically grilled chicken that's been marinated in all kinds of spices. It's delicious.

Pretty crowded, too.

We also got pork sisig, which is a dish made from pig's head and sometimes organs like the liver and kidneys. Also delicious.

I made a naked sand dude after dinner. Later on, we saw people freaking out over it and posing next to it for pictures.

We didn't really plan on doing the bar and club thing (honestly, the music is terrible there, lots of really shitty Euro disco stuff and we heard "Hotel California" four times at different places), but we came across this one and decided to hang out for some drinks. I can't remember the name of the bar, I think it starts with an N, but you can't miss it, it's a giant white tent.

A few minutes after we sat down, they put up the tent walls, and we found out that there was going to be a fire dance show!

There are quite a few fire dancers in Boracay, but this group had an extremely charismatic, amazing ladyboy fire dancer. She's just unbelievable. Look at her!

She has excellent comic timing, too. She was flirting with the audience and had everyone eating out of her hand.

There was another ladyboy in the group who is pretty talented, too, but she ended up setting the ceiling lamps on fire by accident.

Dammit, I'm too lazy to orient this picture.

Everyone thought it was pretty funny and no one left the tent.

Finally, some dude threw his shoe at the burning lamp and knocked it off and the show continued.

Isn't she just great?

There were also dudes in the fire dance group, but they weren't as charming. The fire dance went on pretty long, maybe an hour or more? The dancers also circulated around the tent so that you could take pictures with them.

The bar had a minimum charge of Php580 or something, which is something like HKD100. That got us four drinks already. I felt so guilty about spending so little and getting a great show that I ended up stuffing their bras with more money when they came around with their torches.

My brother gave me a list of places to eat, and we made it to most of them. First off, you've really got to try the fruit shakes at Jonah's. You can have them with or without milk, and they're just as good either way. My brother recommended the banana and peanut butter shake, but I found it extremely heavy. I liked the avocado and mango ones the best. You can have them add alcohol, as well.

For breakfast, we ate at Real Coffee. I guess they're famous for their cupcakes, which you have to order a day ahead, but I didn't think they were particularly great. We got a bunch to bring back to my friend, and I wasn't really impressed.

However, the chicken and pesto omelette is fantastic. The french toast was pretty good, too.

There's the staff busy baking. A group of chicks from Manila showed up and in between talking shit about me, they whined and pleaded with the waitress for cupcakes. They were acting like spoiled, entitled shits and didn't shut up until the owner (a white American chick) came out.'s okay to be assholes to the local staff, but not to white people. I hope they fell asleep on the beach and a dog shat on their faces.

French toast and fried eggs.

Chicken pesto omelette. There's also cheese and onions and tomatoes in it.

I'm glad that the locals in Boracay are earning a living from tourists, but man, all those bars and clubs blaring shitty music kind of ruins the vibe at night. Maybe I'm just too anti-social or boring, but what kind of asshole goes to a beautiful island like this so that they can dance at some shitty club?

On our last night, we ate at Two Seasons where we had the oyster sisig and a four-cheese pizza. Both extremely delicious, and we couldn't finish them and had to doggie bag the pizza. This restaurant is just so amazing, if I ever have a big enough garden, I want a covered table like that.

This is the oyster sisig. God, just looking at the picture makes me want to eat it again. I should learn how to make it.

Four cheese pizza. Not exactly local food (although local cheese, I think?), but I totally recommend it.

We ended up making friends with a couple of local kids -- leave it to us to befriend 11-year-olds. They were swimming next to us on the beach, and we ended up having little swimming competitions and collecting seaweed to see which one of us could get the most. Aren't they too cute?

What I really like about the Boracay locals is how culturally sophisticated they are. Since they meet a lot of tourists from different countries, they're not as narrow-minded and ignorant as people from Manila. And at the same time, they've still got that laid back island attitude. Perhaps too laid back, though? The two kids just followed us around, and we took them to dinner, and afterwards, they were even ready to take us back to our hotel. I had to tell them not to do this with strangers because who knows what kind of sick perverts could take advantage of them? After all, there were a bunch of older white men with very young-looking prostitutes walking around, so there's definitely sex tourism going on.

Speaking of prostitution, I find it so odd and depressing whenever I see johns at restaurants with the prostitute they hired and the girl's family. I understand that the chicks want to use this chance to feed their family at places they normally can't afford, but I just find it so sad seeing those parents not giving a shit that their daughter has to work as a prostitute and just sitting there stuffing their faces. Yes, it's back to that whole thing I wrote about poverty earlier, I know. I have nothing against prostitution but it's pretty obvious that a lot of these chicks would rather be doing something else. And who knows how many of them have been trafficked?

I guess I shouldn't end this entry on such a down note, so here are some pictures of our last day in Boracay. I'd really like to go back soon. Oh, and you can't see it in this picture, but there was this Russian couple who, for some reason, obviously didn't bring any swimsuits because they wore their underwear to the beach. The dude wore his button down shirt and briefs in the water while his girlfriend wore a lacy bra and panties. I thought it was kind of funny, I mean, they obviously would have known they were going to go to a beach, so why the hell didn't they bring swimsuits? Or at least buy some at one of the shops there?

Imagine waking up to this every day...bliss.