Korea Trip 2010, Part 12: A Buddhist Temple in Seoul

    Continued from Part 11: Namdaemun Marketplace, Part 2
    Or start from the beginning, Part 1: Flying to Tokyo

    I was quite excited to do this post because the place was so peaceful and lovely.  My pictures really don't do the place justice; partly because my camera sucks and partly because it was very cloudy that day.  Anyway, by my aunt's apartment, there was a little Buddhist temple.  It was a very peaceful place even though it's sandwiched by immense apartment buildings on every side.  The vibe is a bit like how Central Park is a patch of greenery in NYC, on a much much (much) smaller scale of course :)  The pic above is the temple gate and in the background you can see the modern apartments of Seoul.

    Dragon :D!

    Once inside (apparently anyone can wander in and out as they please during the day), there were steps that led up to some beautiful buildings (my aunt said they're renovating so they were all freshly painted) and a Buddha statue :}

    There was marble alter and you can see the swastika that Hitler misappropriated :P

    Little buddhas that were inset along the walls of the pavilion :)

    Here's a view of Seoul from the pavilion :)  I love the type of pine trees that grow in Korea - it's cute how it's all branch-less at the bottom and bushy on top ^_^ Like tall bonsai~  I wonder if I could plant a tree like that here.... 

    Off the pavilion were little temple buildings and bunch of lanterns strung up on poles.  

    On the left was an alter?-ish looking thing with candles lit inside. Those are names and wishes written on the candles; I can barely read it but one of them is wishing someone will fall in love with her -____-;;

     It's like being in a sae-guk drama ^_^! Love the bright colors.

    Maybe I should finish watching Dae-Jang-Geum (Jewel in A Palace)....  I got through 30 episodes (it was really good) so I still have 20 some left to go~ I would've finished but finals got in the way and I never got back to it :P  Anyway, the focal point of the temple grounds was this building:

    The car ruins the effect a bit eheh but even monks have places to go ;)  That's my mom up there ^_^

    From the front.

    These are three different drums and my aunt told my that they are rung (or 'bonged' may be more appropriate) a couple times a day (I don't think it's every hour...maybe it is. Don't remember).

    This dragon is behind the metal curvy edged sheet-looking drum on the right.  It swings back and forth and hits the curvy thing and makes it ring :}

    And here is me by my favorite drum ;)   I am fond of this pic because my legs look so slim but I must confess that it's the flattering angle and lighting >.<  And is it just me or is it not amusing how the top of the drum is all dusty xD?

    I did a run through of the pictures I have left to post....holy smokes, this series is going to be well over 20, if not over 30 posts long O_O!  *sigh* But I'm motivated because it makes me so happy that people actually read them ^_^v Thank you!

NOTD: Zoya Faye from the Sunshine 2011 Collection

    Zoya Faye - 2 coats
    Seche Vite Top Coat

    Finally, it's Saturday!  Anyway, I whipped out Zoya Faye again because I like it so much.  It's definitely on the classier side compared to the rest of the Sunshine Collection and when the weather warms out I may actually wear this to work :D  I think the plum color is formal enough to pull off in summer when work clothes can be a tad more casual - what do you think?

Review: Skinlite Green Tea Essence Mask

    I was poking around Sasa for something interesting to try and this caught my eye, primarily because they're selling this brand at Forever21 now of all places O_O   Given, F21 is owned by Koreans, but I was still surprised to see them selling Skinlite and Cosline (if I remember correctly) sheet masks!  I tweeted about this a few days ago and I guess it was only a matter of time since 1.) sheet masks will definitely be making waves in America within the next five years and 2.) F21 is trying to expand into a makeup/skincare (surprise, surprise).  The marketing of their makeup and skincare leaves much to be desired (they have everything jumbled in a big bin -_-) and if they just displayed it better I bet more people would buy it.  The way they have it now makes sheet masks look so....cheap.  But on the upside, they weren't expensive either :D!  Though I wouldn't say they were cheap. I think they were $1.50/each (F21 actually has better prices than Sasa).  Anyway, I thought I'd pop this review up and let you guys know about this intriguing sheet mask development.  Speaking of, if anyone sees these masks at F21 - try the COSLINE brand (I'll review their Strawberry Pack soon) because dude, they are so cheap but sell some damn fine~ products :D

    Purchased at: Sasa

    Price: $1.60/mask


    Skinlite Green Tea Essence Mask is useful for lifting and ultra-hydrating results. Enriched with Vitamin E, Phyto Collagen & Green Tea Extract helps lift and hydrate in 15-20 minutes.

    * Skin recovery sheet type essence mask.
    * 23ml/sheet
    * Green Tea Extract helps to keep skin much moisturized.
    * Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate prevents skin trouble and making skin healthy.
    * Vitamin E & Collagen : increasing skin elasticity & brightening.
    - Official site description.
    Suitable for: All skin types.

    Experience: The mask comes all folded up like the Silk Whitia masks.  It smelled rather strongly of fresh cut herbs (basil?) rather than the gentle, mild scent of green tea that I was expecting.  It was nicely drenched with about a quarter sized amount left over for your neck etc.   I thought I'd love the many slits (aka more adjustable) but there were so many slits that the mask was floppy and annoying to place on my face.  The thick cloth texture did not stick to my face around the edges very well either.  So far, not great.   My face starting itching a bit, which made me nervous but I left the mask on 20-30 minutes anyway.  The itching went away after 10-15 minutes and after I took off the mask there was no redness so I'm not sure where the itching came from.  Although the mask experience itself wasn't all that great, my face did look plumper, brighter, and was more hydrated - so I guess it did a good job.  I also noticed a pimple I had on my forehead healed the next day.  I'm not sure if the mask had anything to do with it healing quickly, but obviously the mask didn't hurt.


    You have to click to see the # of slits.  There's 8 slits around and slits between the eyes and at the corner of the lips.

    Fit: Sadly, not so good.  Even though it had a ton of little slits to adjust, the mask was too thick and did not stick to my face well. After a few minutes, all the flaps were pretty much flopping around :\  I think they tried to make this super-adjustable but the inability of the mask to stick your face really well kind of killed it.  Also the mask itself just did not fit my general face shape well.  The nose placement was odd and barely covered my nose and I dunno, it was just not a fun experience putting it on.  People who like the shape of the MBD or FaceQ masks will not like this mask.

    Scent: Clean, sharp scent of basil or fresh cut herbs more than green tea imho.   It smells very natural and organic but it's rather strong.  People that are sensitive to strong scents may not like it although the fragrance itself is not bad.

    Mask texture: Quite thick (see pic) and did not stick to my face well. It's a cloth mask, as opposed to a paper/pulp mask, so it did have a bit of a fabric feel to it, which was nice.  However, overall I did not like this mask texture because it was just so damn thick so the flaps (around the slits) started flopping as the mask dried :P  This is a problem I've never had with other paper masks (MBD, Silk Whitia, FaceQ) so I wasn't too happy about that.

    Excess serum: Mask was very wet and there was about a small quarter-sized amount of excess serum.

    Claims: Lift, hydrate, increase skin elasticity, brightening.  Not sure about "lifting" or skin elasticity, but indeed my face felt more hydrated and looked brighter. 

    Results: Pretty good regardless of the faint itching and terrible mask fit.

    I don't really recommend this mask because:
    - Lots of slits and thus very adjustable.
    - Clean, organic scent.
    - Face did look brighter and was more hydrated.

    - Mask did not stick to face well.
    - Strong basil scent.
    - Faint itching sensation.
    - Expensive.  Even the MBD Blooming of Beauty masks are only ~$1.52/mask.  
    One thing that popped out at me was the remarkably good English on the packaging albeit with a few odd capitalizations and dropped prepositions. I was so curious about this phenomenon (because let's face it, grammatically correct English on any Asian beauty products pretty much is a phenomenon), that I did a bit of research: Skinlite is owned by Adwin Korea Corp (Est 1999), who also owns Purederm, Carederm, Aqualette, and Prreti (minus a point for the suspicious and slightly nonsensical spelling of what I think is 'pretty' :P).  These are new brands to me so I am quite interested in trying them out someday.  I can tell they are weak on packaging style (probably why they aren't so popular) and they seem to be going for a more scientific skincare angle, so who knows what gems they may have ;)?

    Although I don't recommend this particular mask, if anyone knows more about other Skinlite products, let me know :D

Korea Trip 2010, Part 11: Namdaemun Marketplace, Part 2

    Yes, another travel post finishedddd!  Anyway, I went to Namdaemun 3-4 times while I was Seoul because I liked it so much.  They had a HUGE jewelry/beads floor - but it was open only to wholesalers :( so I didn't get to buy anything.  You can watch people handmaking fabric flowers, feathered hairbands, etc - it's amazing to see the work that goes behind making a single hairband~ I didn't take enough pictures of this place because I was too busy poking my head into the little booths, but hopefully this post will give you a little taste of what it is like :}

    This is a continuation to Namdaemun Marketplace, Part 1 :)
    To start from the beginning go to Part 1: Flying to Tokyo

    Anyway! To continue from Part 1: One my aunts told us not to exchange our money at the airport because it was a rip-off.  We did exchange about $200 at the airport for bus fares and such, but the rest of the cash we exchanged here:

    From old ladies like this ^_^

    It looked mad sketchy, but my aunt said that they give the best exchange rates.  These old ladies keep a couple thousand dollars worth of money in various currencies in a pouch around their waist; that and a little box set up with a calculator and rubberbands - that's all they need :}  These ladies have a little sign saying they exchange yen, yuan, won, and usd, but the exact exchange rate is somewhat informal because YES, you can bargain exchange rates.  It's best to go with an older fluent-speaking Korean man or woman to bargain for you because you'll get the best exchange rate.  However, don't expect to bargain too much either way, these ladies track the daily exchange rate and you won't be able to deviate much from that - it wouldn't be fair to them, honestly.  Either way, you'll probably get a better rate than what you will at the airport.  A lot of people both Koreans (about to visit the States I guess) and foreigners were exchanging money, so obviously it's quite legit.

    At first I wondered why the exchange-ladies didn't get robbed but my aunt told me it's because these old ladies are in the same place everyday aka have their territory, so the people/shopkeepers around them know to "protect" them.   Plus most of these exchange-ladies are 50+ so you'd look like a right douche bag trying to rip off the bag they have strapped around their body.  Not to mention these streets are very busy, no way you'd get far without someone tackling you.

    Anyway, less chat more pics ^_^!

    Sign says: Dak Gom Tang aka Chicken Beef Soup
    Gomtang (beef brisket & tripe soup) is a traditional soup that is enjoyed by many Koreans. In translation, gomtangbear soup but in this case gom refers to the extensive boiling which depicts the hearty flavors and nutrients that this dish provides. It is commonly said that consuming this soup will provide excellent strength much like a bear. - From Trifood
    For lunch we ate at a real hole-in-the-wall at Namedaemun.  Gom-tang soup is one of my favorite Korean dishes...I have a weakness for beef broth soups and gom-tang is a rare treat for me because it's rather hard to make since it requires a lot of boiling.  But made properly, this beef soup is actually quite healthy since you are supposed to skim off most of the fat :) DAK gom tang is gomtang/beef soup with pieces of chicken in it.  Dak = chicken :)

    Guy in blue shirt: The quintessential Korean "ahjusshi" aka older man.
    Good lord, could he fit the ahjusshi stereotype any better -_-;;? Wonbin he is not.

    How do you know this place has good, authentic food?  It's filled with old (aka aged 50+) Korean people xD  Younger folks tend to go to "trendier" fusion places, like coffee shops and cafes.  If you want to find real Korean food, follow the older Korean people.   This is the kind of restaurant that only locals know of and are able to keep regulars because of their food quality. They don't need a flashy setup because people come for the taste ;)

    Some people may find the set up dingier and rather fire-hazardous (it SO is), but it all points to good cooking xD

    Dak gom tang = Chicken-beef soup

    This restaurant literally sells only one thing: dak gom tag. There's a small menu on the wall, but they are all different versions of this beef broth+chicken soup. Remember what I said about the best restaurants only serving one thing ^_^?

    Anyway, you flavor the soup to your taste with spring onions and the soy sauce on the table.  The chicken leg is from Korean chickens, which are rangier and slightly less meaty than their American counterparts.   It was cooked so that the meat fell of the bones and melted in your mouth.  It was really clean tasting dish - it's hard to describe.    It's a "health" food, hence why a lot of old people are eating there ^_^ I believe it's pretty traditional as most dishes go.   Very simple but wholesome.  This was one of my favorite meals in Korea, which is saying something considering how many different places I ate.

    Those stairs are even more sketchy in real life :\ Definitely would not have passed building inspection in America xD  They even had a pad of cloth taped to the ceiling above the stairs because people kept bumping their head into it ^^

    Tangent: See the grannies in the back of the picture?   That is the classic halmoni (granny) in Korea wearing the halmoni "uniform" - wide-brimmed sunhat/cap, polo shirt, sneakers, khaki shorts, and short curly hair.   All grannies pretty much dress like that since it's both practical and comfortable.  Public transportation is free for all elderly citizens so you see a lot of older folk out and about :) They're all slightly off their rocker ^_~, but god knows I want to be just like them after I retire - bustling around a city, sightseeing with all my friends!  

    I think free public transportation for senior citizens is something America should really implement.  Yes, senior citizens get discounts but that's really not the same thing as free.  I hesitate to make too many broad assumptions but I think if America did this, a lot of elderly people would become healthier (literally) just by having a way to get around for free.  Even if they have nowhere particular to go, I think the act of just being outside would increase the overall physical and mental health of ALL senior citizens, rich and poor, in America.

    For dinner we went to another little restaurant, which was located inside one of the shopping buildings at Namdaemun.  It was sandwiched between the "imported furniture and goods" section and the "clothing/bath" section.   Random huh ^_^?

    This place didn't even have a menu.  They just bring the food out to you since they serve only 2 things:

    This was some good stuff and I don't even like seafood.  On the left is a salad with raw fish and hot sauce (a sushi salad if you will) and on the right is fish-head soup. You just eat everything with rice.

    I was kind of nervous about the fish head soup - my aunt ate every bit of meat of the head O_O (which I didn't do) but damn the soup was tasty.  It was fermented soybean-paste soup with the "deep" flavor Koreans really like: a deep flavor means the soybeans were fermented for a long time.  It's really good for you ^_^


    After mixing my "sushi salad" I wolfed it down even though I could've done with less lettuce (I hate salads obviously).  But it was crazy good!  It's the best seafood dish I've eaten in my life~  The textures and flavors of the hot sauce + lettuce + raw fish just really make this a very simple yet yummy dish.  The texture of the raw fish was perfect - it tasted very fresh.   Supposedly, the raw fish is brought in fresh every day and never frozen - it certainly tasted that way.  Definitely one of yummiest "salads" I've ever eaten. And the idea of hot sauce instead of dressing appeals greatly to me. Not only is it less fattening, it adds a hella lot more flavor!

    *whew* I didn't take any more pictures at Namdaemun Market, but I think you guys get the idea ^_^!  Like I said, this is my favorite marketplace in Seoul, perfect for picking up really useful things (cuz even as a makeup lover I know makeup is more a luxury than a necessity ^_~) and have all these interesting eateries nestled in between.  Don't get turned off by the cramped, occasionally dingy surface - this place is as real as it gets :D  It was really overwhelming at first - the hustle, the crowd, the number of things to look at - but it's so Korean, truly a vibrant clash of the new and old - I loved it :D!

    On to Part 12: A Buddhist Temple in Seoul


NOTD: Jill Stuart Love Scandal #109 and HAIR :}

    I was lucky enough to win Ashura (Clover Beauty Inn)'s Jill Stuart giveaway.  I was really excited to win because I've never tried any Jill Stuart products and JS's gorgeous packaging has always intrigued me.   I feel like I'm holding a magic potion ^_^!  This polish is Jill Stuart Love Scandal #109, which is from the Jill Stuart Valentine Love Collection LE 2011!  You can see swatches of this whole LE collection here

    LT: No flash.  RT: Flash/Sunlight.

    No base coat.
    Jill Stuart Love Scandal #109 - 2 coats
    OPI for Sephora Flurry Up

    It's a gorgeous rich red -  definitely the best Valentine's-red color ever :}  Besides being my first JS polish, it was my first "jelly" finish polish.  I love the jelly finish - it adds a translucent delicacy that such a vibrant color normally wouldn't have. 

    And of course, the packaging is gorgeous - I love it.  The jeweled cap just really captures my fancy ;)  The sweet, girly, finely detailed packaging is very luxe in my eyes without being saccharine. This the the kind of "fake gem" Holika Holika should put on top of their Aqua Muse Watery lipsticks!

    The brush is flat (tho not as wide as the Lioele Ice Cream polishes) and pretty easy to use.  The jelly polish is a little more watery than I'm used to but it wasn't streaky at all.   This polish also removes very cleanly and does not leave stains even though it's quite a bright color. 

    My only real complaint is that it wasn't very long lasting.  I had to remove this color for work so I only got to wear this for the weekend so I didn't use a base coat, but even without a base coat, Zoya polishes last 2-3 days but this one started chipping by the end of day 1.  I haven't tried this polish with a base coat yet though, so it may not be a big deal.  Also, if you want to buy this they are 75 HKD aka ~$9.65 USD, which is a tad pricey for a tiny bottle of polish. You're definitely paying for the packaging. Overall, it's a lovely color in a gorgeous bottle that looks oh-so-pretty on my dresser ^_^

    Also I got a haircut a few days ago :D  I'm not particularly sure how I feel about my new bangs but it just feels really good to have my hair re-layered.  I also trimmed off the split ends and overall, my hair feels a lot lighter and manageable :) But my mom said that this cut makes my face look fatter O_o so I guess that makes me wonder if this is a flattering cut ^_^;;;

    Here are a few of the hairstyles I've had before. Which bangs should I get next time?  Should even get bangs at all?  I've been thinking of just growing out my bangs out completely like this:

    Also I was having a lot of fun on Taaz, which is a website where you can put in a pic of yourself and virtually put on makeup, colored contacts, and different hairstyles :D!  I seriously used to kill SO much time on that website while procrastinating in college xD  Anyway, which hairstyle do you think I should get next time?

    I'm kind surprised how much I like #1 and #11 :D I don't think I have the heart to chop my hair that short yet but maybe in a few years I will.  #5 and #9 please me too.  I've been thinking of lightening my hair color for spring but I haven't dyed my hair since....freshman year in HS.  I streaked my hair light red my senior year of HS too but you couldn't even see it so it hardly counts -_-  Anyway, let me know what you peeps think :)!!

    And last but not least . . . .

    H a p p y  E a s t e r !

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