Estetica Beauty’s ést.lab Skincare Products vs Klairs and Peter Thomas Roth

Sensitive skin makes the search for suitable beauty products more difficult.

I’m back from a short break in Korea!

Before I go into this review, here are some beliefs I hold about skin care. They may be unique to me, but I believe this applies to many people.

Personally, the quality of my skin is directly affected by these three factors: sleep, diet, and exercise. My skincare has a lot less impact on my skin. For instance, I could use the most suitable products for my skin and still look like death after only three hours of sleep.

I don’t expect my skincare products to be a miracle cure. I think products ideally should just maintain my skin as I’m in aircon all the time. So as long as I wake up and my skin looks rested and plump, I’m good.

Sometimes it’s all about the experience. Between two products that maintain my skin reasonably well, I’d go for the product that feels more luxurious.

Review time! 💄

estetica-klairs

Klairs and Estetica products

Recently, I was gifted some Estetica Beauty products (read all about the experience here).

My skin woes: Sensitive skin, itchy scar area on right cheek from an old wound, pimple scarring.

The products recommended by Estetica Beauty are for sensitive skin users like me.

1. Serum

estetica-vs-klairs

Background: I’ve been using Klairs for some time. My friends gave Klair’s Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop raving reviews so I thought I would give that a go. But after applying about 85 percent of the bottle, my skin started itching slightly and turning a little patchy and red after each application.

I switched to Klairs’ soothing moist serum this time. The first few applications went kind of well, but the serum dried quickly and also left me with dry itching skin. Still, mixed with my usual moisturizer, it worked fine.

With ést.lab’s Ultra Hyalusol Serum, I can worry a little less about the itching.

The consistency of this serum feels like any watery and hydrating serum, but it spreads super easily on my face. Overall? I would repurchase it.

Niacinamide lovers, gather!

est-lab-ultra-hyalusol-serum-ingredients
The ingredients

I was happy to know that ést.lab’s serum and cream both contain an ingredient called niacinamide, which treats complexion issues.

Years ago, I used a product with niacinamide from Ponds and my skin was really nice. I never found a good replacement so I was quite happy when I read the ingredients list!

2. Cream

I fell in love the first time I saw Peter Thomas Roth in Sephora – it gives the feeling of sheer luxury, from the appearance of the jar to the texture and smell of the cream.

Peter-thomas-roth-faves
Here are my favorite skincare products from Peter Thomas Roth.

Overall, my Peter Thomas Roth creams did a lot to improve my skin.

The Vitamin C Brightening Moisturizer did brighten and moisturize my skin without any itching. It’s a reliable pick-me-up. Still, I was probably overzealous in applying the cream, which would make my skin slightly oily the next day.

The rose stem cell bio-repair gel mask is another winner. The first time I applied it, I felt tingling on my face that was not unpleasant. My skin did not react to the gel which was great.

When I woke up the next day after using this gel mask overnight, my complexion was clear and felt “translucent”. I was really excited and exclaimed, “Where are my pores?”

Instructions were to use the mask two to three times a week. The texture of this gel mask is also more suitable for masking than applying as a day and night cream.

Overall, I recommend Peter Thomas Roth very much.

Search for an all-purpose cream for sensitive skin

Nonetheless, a moisturizing cream for simple day-to-day use is quite elusive – it shouldn’t react with further treatments like the gel mask by Peter Thomas Roth, and it should be good enough as a standalone moisturizer.

Previous creams I’ve enjoyed are from La Roche Posay, which is another helpful brand for sensitive skin. Yet, I never felt like I received any bang for my buck. La Roche Posay doesn’t plump up my skin.

est-lab-cream

Can this Anti-Stress Hydra Cream be better than my creams from Peter Thomas Roth?

At least with ést.lab’s sensitive skin line, I know there’s niacinamide, so it’s not only moisturizing and maintaining.

est-lab-anti-stress-hydra-cream-ingredients

ést.lab’s Anti-Stress Hydra Cream also comes in a fairly attractive package.

After a few weeks of using it, my verdict is that it’s a great, basic cream that suits all types of weather. I used it in both Korea and Singapore.

The only con: as it is creamy, unlike the cooling serum, I have to rub the moisturizer in a bit which generates heat and makes my skin redder.

Would I repurchase this? I think the serum is actually really suitable for my skin, but the cream is more basic. I’d encourage people to give the cream a go for sensitive skin. Otherwise, I’d keep going for ést.lab’s Ultra Hyalusol Serum and top it off with more Peter Thomas Roth products.

 

6 reasons why you shouldn’t visit Estetica Singapore (Updated and resolved!)

Questionable selling practices, Mandarin-heavy service, and customer data privacy issues.

Update: This has been resolved with Estetica very pleasantly. The full original review is below the update which spans from March 20 – 25, 2018. Read on! 

March 20, 2018

I’m going to Korea in a week, so I decided to use my package with Estetica to clean up my face.

It’s been 5 months since I bought my package. Overall, I think the package has been fairly pricey to me plus the first encounter with Estetica was not great, but it’s undeniable that the effects have been good. My skin is clearer (I also stopped drinking as often as I did last year).

My scars from the pimple scare are still there, but I don’t feel super bad without concealer or makeup now. And the pimples that my therapists pop never scars.

Verdict? I might continue treatments with Estetica if my wallet allows it.

Estetica’s team read my blog 😱

But before my third treatment, account manager Vivian came up to me and asked to meet in a room. I knew something was up, probably with this blog. Oops.

She was pretty nervous but to her credit, everyone in Estetica Yishun was super nice to me despite the negative review! Plus I was going to have my facial after the meeting with her, so I felt worried.

The main takeaways from Vivian were:

  1. “Sorry, it’s Estetica’s mistake and we’ve reviewed all our mistakes.”
  2. “We read your blog and thought it was actually a balanced review.”
  3. “We’re hoping you can pull the post down, even though it’s your right to air your opinions.” (For this, management actually clarified that this was not what they wanted to communicate.)

Her response was totally reasonable! I was surprised that Estetica thought my review was balanced since I added all the reaction gifs just to make it a more engaging read.

I offered to unpublish the post and get a refund since I was worried it would get awkward. To Vivian’s credit she insisted I keep my package and it would be “very bad” of them to refund me over a bad review.

I was honest about the fact that I wasn’t sure what to do as well.

Truth is, I wrote the review hoping to be totally honest about my experience. But it’s not my intention to damage anyone’s career or reputation or business. Afterall, this blog isn’t monetized or read widely.

A refund would mean at least, my issue has been resolved. Taking down the post would be goodwill and a sign that the case is closed from me.

Deep down inside, I hoped for a resolution which would not require me to unpublish the post since my objective has always been to write the truth.

Vivian then said she’ll call the management to discuss further.

When I was done with my facial, we arranged a meeting with the management on Friday.

Kept thinking about that between Tuesday to Friday! I felt so stupid about posting a bad-ish review. And I thought they might sue me.

My reaction ranged between:

And:

I was a bit scared about the upcoming meeting, but I received a meeting confirmation call from one of their corporate office staff, Karen, who sounded a bit nervous and apologetic.


March 23, 2018

I met with the director of Estetica, Lim Ker Han, at the Yishun outlet. What happened next surprised me greatly!

After admittedly one or two sleepless nights wondering if Estetica would sue me for defamation or something, I turned up for my appointment with the management.

Throughout the meetings with the staff and the management, they’ve been nothing but non-defensive, courteous, and apologetic.

This was a very pleasant surprise especially after I was thinking of all sorts of doomsday scenarios.

Resolutions

I offered Han the chance to do a written line-by-line rebuttal of what I said since that’s only fair, but they declined. So, I’ll go through what Hans said to me here.

Here are the cons which might be misunderstandings or minor inconveniences:

1. The staff I’ve met thus far speak very little English.

Han told me that he wishes Estetica staff could speak all four languages in Singapore complete with Japanese and Korean chops. They do send staff to a four-week English language course, but to be reasonable it’s really hard to expect staff to be able to speak fluently. Some don’t speak English at all. “Please be patient with us,” he told me.

2. Even if you sign up for the trial promotion facial, you might end up being persuaded to buy an SGD7,800 package first without having the trial.

For this, Han apologized. All staff go through sales training and learn sales tactics. He said that my experience might have crossed some boundaries for me, but to another, it might be reasonable. Nonetheless, Estetica will avoid making customers feel uncomfortable, as my first experience with them was.

The manager of the store has been with Estetica for over 20 years, and I was worried she would be awkward with me. But she’s really nice to me thus far in the short time I met her.

3. The staff may try to sell you a semi-permanent makeup treatment without making it clear.

Vivian told me on March 20 that following my review, Estetica researched it and have stopped using the term “micro needling” or “derma rolling” to talk about this treatment. She apologized for the miscommunication.

I checked Estetica’s website and true enough this language was avoided for the BB Dewy Shine Therapy treatment. Kudos to them for rectifying it and clearing things up! 👍

Next up, the scary part.

4. Be prepared for your data like your name, age, date of purchase, and amount purchased to be shared during the consultation. Maybe your picture too.

Han apologized for this mistake and have counseled his staff. It was inexcusable.

I did not realize it when writing my review but this might be the most damaging thing to Estetica.

Moving forward I’m not too sure what will happen since this is a mistake made in the past. But at least I flagged it out and Estetica will never make this mistake again.


What I felt about this

Overall? I think Estetica’s response has been very apologetic and they’ve been working hard on rectifying the issues I raised.

Estetica has been very apologetic and they’ve been working hard on rectifying the issues I raised.

I sincerely appreciate that they reached out and the director came down to speak to me directly, with zero intimidation and a lot of warmth.

I can’t say they will do that for every negative review posted online, but I think the management did their very best. It’s not easy to run a business and have zero errors.

Gifts of goodwill

To be clear, even if Estetica did not gift me anything, I would have written the clarification above.

Han gave me some Estetica products as a sign of goodwill for the negative experience I had. He said that these were gifts and he’s not buying a good review. I appreciated that!

Since it’s a gift and not in exchange for a follow-up review, I accepted it. I’m declaring the gifts here:

Estetica-goodwill
The range of Estetica products Han provided for sensitive skin. In particular, the sunscreen is popular.

Personally, I’m quite excited to try the sunscreen. I’ve been using Kose’s sunscreen for a long time and it’s non-oily and clogging. But as my therapist noted in my third facial, I have some congestion so I think a change might help.

Estetica-cream-serum-sensitive

Note: I reviewed the products above here.

I was curious about how the products looked so I took them out. They’re in a really nice shade of rose gold and I admit that I love rose gold.

That was all about the meeting!


March 25, 2018

Estetica reached out to clarify the data claims. They gave me a missed call.

Here is their message to me in full:

Estetica data response

(On Friday, after the meeting, I got Starbucks cards for involved staff at Yishun’s outlet to show that I have moved on and appreciate their kind gesture of picking out products suitable for my skin.)

I’ve not made any changes to the original post below, which you can read here.


October 25, 2017:

I had an outbreak of pimples recently and decided it was a good time to have some loving self-care for my skin. I decided to pay a visit to Estetica Beauty in Yishun.

But after visiting, I felt that there were more cons than pros. The service I’ve had on my one visit so far has been pleasant, but I’ve been left with more questions than answers.

Firstly, these were good signs in my opinion:

  1. The staff there seem pretty nice and happy to negotiate the prices.
  2. The therapist extracted my pimples successfully and my skin was better after the first treatment.
  3. The therapist plucked my brows and I got a fantastic shoulder massage.
  4. I had no downtime or negative effects from the facial.
  5. The staff genuinely believe in their beauty services. The manager was doing a facial as I did my treatment in the next room.

Overall, I would say Estetica helped improved my appearance after the first facial.

However, there are some aspects of their service that I disliked.

This is my word against Estetica’s, so please take it with a pinch of salt.

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Image credit: Pixabay. My visit to Estetica Singapore in Yishun left me with more questions than answers.

1. Language: a serious obstacle

The staff at Estetica Yishun spoke mostly Mandarin instead of English.  If you’re more comfortable speaking in English and want to understand exactly what is going on, go to Aeon at Orchard Road instead.

The language problem was exacerbated when the manager was selling the package, which I explain below under the semi-permanent makeup procedure section.

2. From SGD68 to SGD7,800 – even before the trial facial (which never happened)

During the consultation, pictures of my skin were taken for analysis. To be honest, when I saw the images, it looked like something any layman could analyze based on the lines and the color of the skin.

The consultation process was more focused on selling than on prescribing services.

I had signed up for this promotion to understand what Estetica’s facial experience is like.

estetica-promotion-2017
Image credit: Estetica. The banner says “1st Trial Promo”. It’s misleading. What I understand from a “trial promo” is that I can try out a business’ service before purchasing more. It isn’t the case for my experience at Estetica.

From many online reviews, most reviewers went through a consultation and then enjoyed different facials recommended for their skin.

The Smart Local, which I thought was reputable, did the OxyGeneo 3-in-1 Therapy in 2016. The Honey Combers did the Derma Calm Facial in 2015. This review featured on Yahoo had a two-hour facial.

However, instead of being escorted to do a recommended facial immediately for the price of the first trial, I had to decide on a package immediately and buy it first.  

That’s not a first trial promo.

What I understood from the trial promotion was that I could do a recommended facial for SGD68, and then decide if I wanted to commit to buying a full package. I know packages can be pricey.

I didn’t get to do the trial facial, but was pressured to purchase a SGD7,800 package immediately. 

When I asked why I wasn’t doing the trial facial, I was told that the “customized facial” advertised was just a basic facial. They told me my skin condition was bad and so I couldn’t do any “basic facials” but the costlier “special ones” instead.

The classic bait and switch!

I said I signed up for the trial promotion in the first place because I wanted to know what Estetica’s facials were like and how my skin reacted to Estetica’s products before committing to a pricey package.

In response, the manager gave me…

… A one thousand dollar discount, from SGD7,800 to SGD6,800.

I should have walked out there and then, but I really wanted to do the facial in the end. While the selling process was unpleasant, I do think Estetica’s treatments may not be inherently lousy.

I can’t help but compare my Estetica experience to Aeon Medical’s half-hour consultation, where I felt the doctor actually knew what he was talking about. Rather than taking just skin samples with a brightly lit camera-pen, Aeon took full-face photos that showed both freckles or UV damaged areas and sensitive skin areas.

The selling was done after the doctor’s medical advice, which means that you get a clearer idea of what you’re paying for.

3. Tried to sell me a semi-permanent makeup procedure without making the procedure clear

I was not looking to do a semi-permanent makeup procedure. All I wanted was a facial near my home.

My interest was piqued when I heard them mention “micro needling”.

To convince me to buy more services, the manager showed me before and after effects of the treatment taken on the phone. True enough, the customers’ complexion had improved significantly.

But the customers’ pictures immediately after the first session of “micro needling” looked too good to be true. There was no blood, no punctures, just smoother, whiter skin.

Redness is a side effect of derma needling procedures. Here’s an example. No pain no gain.

Not believing my eyes, I specifically asked if the treatment was derma/micro needling and whether it would cause redness or bleeding.

“Micro needling (also known as collagen induction therapy) involves using fine needles to create hundreds of tiny, invisible puncture wounds in the top layer of skin.” (Source)

The manager said, yes, it is micro needling, and no, there is no downtime or redness! She held up a bottle and said they’ll inject the “serum” into my skin with tiny needles.

The serum looked like foundation. I didn’t notice it at first and just thought it was the way the “serum” looks.

I left thinking that the customers did micro needling only. It was so miraculous that they had instant results instead of looking like they were bleeding from every pore of their face.

I realized only when I got home that Estetica was trying to sell me the BB Dewy Shine Therapy: a semi-permanent makeup treatment using MTS (Micro Needle Therapy System).

Image credit: Jessie Ting. It finally clicked when I saw the bottles of foundation on Google Image Search.

“A semi-permanent make-up treatment using MTS (Micro Needle Therapy System) with skin colour brightening ampoules infused with healing properties.” (Source)

Injecting color into your skin for a semi-permanent effect is different from inducing collagen with micro needling.

I felt like an idiot. Of course, the customers’ complexions improved. They might just as well be wearing BB cream post-treatment.

During the sale process, it was not clear that they were trying to get me to buy this semi-permanent makeup treatment. If they had referred to the bottles of “serum” as “BB cream” instead or even said the name of the treatment, I would have told them that I wasn’t interested in semi-permanent makeup.

Because the manager spoke mostly Mandarin, omitted mentions of “BB cream”, and did not use any of the names of Estetica’s services, she successfully made me think that I would eventually receive a micro-needling treatment. 

It reminds me of what this lady, also a negative reviewer, went through. For this reviewer, at least she had a trial facial first before paying for her package. I didn’t even get a trial!

Estetica told her: “我们一定会把你的皮肤治好.” (“We will definitely cure your skin.”).

Estetica told me: “You no longer have to wear foundation when you go out.” I thought this meant that my skin would be cured and healed so nicely I won’t need foundation.

Perhaps, Estetica thought customers would have been ok with getting their face semi-permanently tattooed without describing the actual process.

To me, this procedure involves injecting foundation/colors into your skin – even if the colors are mixed with “ampoules”.

Imagine getting a face tattoo and not knowing that it was a face tattoo because they called the ink a “serum”.

Wow. Close shave. Imagine if I had requested this “micro needling” treatment.


You’ve read so far and probably have your own gut response or criticism to what I wrote.

For instance, signing up for a trial promotion facial doesn’t mean I’m necessarily entitled to one. Taken in good faith, maybe the “customized facial” (or “basic facial”) really wasn’t suitable for my skin.

And perhaps I misunderstood them when they were explaining the micro-needling treatment. I’d like to give the specialists the benefit of doubt.

Here is where it gets serious.


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Image credit: Pixabay.

4. Forget customer data privacy

I was undecided at signing such a huge package especially without being able to try out the facial.

Shockingly, the manager whipped out past receipts of other customers to show that some customers bought SGD6,800-7,800 worth of beauty services to last over three to five years.

I know she wanted to help me make my decision, but I could see customers’ information and she made no effort to hide it.

During the skin consultation, I also saw the names and gender of customers before me.

5. Packages and extra comments offered

Estetica offered me packages in this order. I did not include the value of the products given except for the package I bought:

  • SGD7,800, no expiry
  • SGD6,800, to be used in 3 years
  • SGD2,800, for any facials or services
  • SGD1,800, credits for any facials or services, and SGD300 worth of products – I bought this package.
  • SGD 1,200, for only one type of facial

But during the consultation, the manager commented on my personal belongings. They seemed to be actively looking for income indicators, such as handbags and jewelry.

Later when I was paying, they commented that I must have a lot of savings. Such comments are definitely not warranted.

To recap, here are the pros:

  1. The staff there seem pretty nice and happy to negotiate the prices.
  2. The therapist extracted my pimples successfully and my skin was better after the first treatment.
  3. The therapist plucked my brows and I got a fantastic shoulder massage.
  4. I had no downtime or negative effects from the facial.
  5. The staff genuinely believe in their beauty services. In fact, the manager was doing a facial.

Here are the cons which might be misunderstandings or minor inconveniences:

  1. The staff I’ve met thus far speak very little English.
  2. Even if you sign up for the trial promotion facial, you might end up being persuaded to buy an SGD7,800 package first without having the trial.
  3. The staff may try to sell you a semi-permanent makeup treatment without making it clear. If you feel negative about semi-permanent makeup, beware.

Here are the serious cons:

  1. Be prepared for your data like your name, age, date of purchase, and amount purchased to be shared during the consultation. Maybe your picture too, since I do not know if the manager had received the customers’ consent to share their treatment photos with me.
  2. The staff will zoom in on things that indicate your ability to pay.

Verdict: Why I still bought a package

I thought the price was still reasonable enough for specialized care. Also, I didn’t want to head all the way to town to do a facial.

I was simply desperate for a solution to the 10 pimples and scars on my face, but not in town so I won’t have to walk around without makeup. The first facial went well.

Nonetheless, the consultation was a negative experience. I never did my trial facial before I was pressured into buying a package. Estetica staff showing me other customers’ receipts may be an invasion of their privacy.

If you think I’m biased, there are other negative reviews on Yelp about Estetica at Northpoint.

Good food, good prices at Lavender Bistro at Johor Bahru, Malaysia

We had good food for less than USD20 or SGD25 per person.

Recently, I went to Johor Bahru (JB) again for pre-Lunar New Year shopping, eating, and grooming.

For non-Singaporeans/Malaysians, many Singaporeans go to JB for day or weekend trips because of the exchange rate.

Before we went, my friends did some research and found a place that’s well-reviewed online called Lavender Bistro. Here’s how my trip went.

Prices (pre-GST and service charge) will be indicated!

Cozy interior design

The bistro is on the second floor of the building. We went up the stairs and were seated immediately. The staff was really attentive.

The cozy decor here.
In JB, it’s hard to find alcohol. But it’s possible to have alcoholic drinks at Lavender Bistro, which is awesome.
Brunch items available.
As a seafood lover, this selection was great!
There are some pan-Asian dishes here.

Food VS Menu

So here’s how the food measured up against the menu.

To check the price of each item against SGD, divide each price by three. For USD, divide the price by four. The actual conversion at the moment is 1 USD = 3.89 MYR.

First up, we had the baked New Zealand mussels.

The service at Lavender Bistro was top notch. We did not need to ask for additional plates!

Baked New Zealand Mussels: MYR26.42

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Baked New Zealand mussels
Mmmm! The inside of the mussel was juicy.

Soul-warming soups!

The soups were great. I don’t usually have soups, but this was really worth it. If you love truffles and mushroom soups, the bisque is for you.

If there were one thing my friends and I raved about, it would be the baguette they served with the soup. It’s soft in the middle, crispy outside, and absolutely fragrant.

Chicken Chowder: MYR12.26

Truffle Mushroom Bisque: MYR15

Truffle mushroom bisque
Chicken chowder

Main courses: Plates of pasta

The pasta was the main attraction. Overall, the pasta tasted well-made. This was especially obvious with the pappardelle. The seafood tasted fresh.

I had the squid ink pasta. If you’re looking for a serious mouthful of black squid ink, you might be disappointed – it’s just black colored pasta in what tastes like vongole broth.

For me, I’m fine with either, but would have definitely liked to eat squid ink!

Squid Ink Seafood Linguine: MYR33.96

Spicy Aglio Olio Water Scampi: MYR46.23

Squid Ink Seafood Linguine (bottom) and Spicy Aglio Olio Water Scampi (top)
lavender-bistro-johor-bahru-food4.jpg
A closer look at the Spicy Aglio Olio Water Scampi. Look at those huge prawns!

 

The seafood spaghetti is seafood marinara (tomato-based pasta).

Seafood Spaghetti: MYR29.25

Seafood Marinara

 

The duck pasta was a great dish. It tasted sophisticated, like something you could get at a French cafe. For SGD11 or USD8, it’s a real steal!

Pappardelle with Duck Stroganoff: MYR33

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Pappardelle with Duck Stroganoff

 

During my meal, I also indulged in two different drinks.

These two drinks cost about SGD10 in total. In Singapore, you wouldn’t even get a wine at that price!

Cafe Mocha: MYR10.38

White wine: MYR17.92

Two different drinks.

Ending it off with sweets

The best thing is that the bakery is just downstairs. You can get some breads or sweets from the floor below and enjoy them at the bistro upstairs.

The bakery has really pretty cakes going for a reasonable price. If you’re looking for a beautiful budget birthday cake that tastes good, this may be a good place to visit.

Cakes, cakes, cakes!
My favorite cakes. Unicorns are all the rage now!

I had a honey egg roll cake. I do not have a sweet tooth but I thought the cake had a really appealing taste for a Singaporean. It’s not too sweet or oily. I would have bought the roll cake home if this bakery were my last stop!

lavender-bistro-johor-bahru-food12.jpg
Yummy baked goods.

Verdict

10/10 would visit this cafe again!

For MYR366.30 (about USD94 or SGD124), we had:

  • 1 shared appetizer
  • 4 soups
  • 5 main courses
  • 6 drinks

This was good quality food for less than USD20 or SGD25 per person.

The damage for 5 people: MYR366.30. This is about USD94 or SGD124.

Address

Address: 68, Jalan Serampang, Taman Pelangi, 80400 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Hours: 10am – 10pm
Phone: +60 7-335 9966

We left JB only at about 10pm, all feeling great.


Feeling like a million bucks after a day trip to JB.

Road to meeting NamChin’s parents

My trip to Korea and meeting the parents in 2012

Can’t believe I had a nightmare about sending clients a copy riddled with errors. Plus I haven’t been feeling well yesterday and today so here’s some light-hearted stuff.

The first time I met NamChin‘s parents was in the summer of 2012. After my school trip ended, we met up in Seoul and left for Daejeon where his family stayed.

SouthKorea-summer-2012-194.JPG
It was summer but I spotted this pretty leaf.

Road to Daejeon

Daejeon is South Korea ‘s fifth-largest metropolis. I think it is like Yishun. It’s not as glitzy but it has everything you might need at arm’s length. And it’s easy to find spaces without a lot of people.

I really enjoyed this trip because it was the first time I got to see my boyfriend’s house and where he lived! Yay!

NamChin and I took the KTX from Seoul to Daejeon. It takes around one hour.

Train-to-daejeon
On a train to Daejeon in the summer of 2012
SouthKorea-summer-2012-9
Yongsan station in Seoul.

I was very amused when we were in Korea and NamChin knew where we were all the time because everything was foreign to me. That’s him dragging the luggage from behind on the right.

SouthKorea-summer-2012-11
Before leaving we had some time for lunch. I had this soup noodle thing. It was spicy.
SouthKorea-summer-2012-10
And of course, a snack to top it off. Waffles and ice-cream!
SouthKorea-summer-2012-5
Waiting for the train. No zombies.
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A different view.
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Inside the station
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KTX!
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Inside the KTX. TRAIN TO BUSAN ZOMBIES!
SouthKorea-summer-2012-8
On the train!
SouthKorea-summer-2012-16
Nice view!

NamChin’s house

Finally, we reached Daejeon. I was really excited to see where he stayed. His family has since moved to another area of Daejeon which is why we feel more comfortable posting these pics.

SouthKorea-summer-2012-19
Taking the taxi! So quaint
SouthKorea-summer-2012-20
What I saw on my way to his house.

We reached the residential area after a short ride.

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A residential area in Daejeon (not the block he stayed in). Looks like HDB flat! There’s a security guard post.
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A carpark. You can see where they stringently recycle stuff, which was the part that surprised me since in Singapore we just stuff everything down the chute.

There are even cameras to make sure people recycle their trash correctly.

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The corridor outside his home.

You can see that the houses were densely packed. One morning, I woke up to a loud shrill female voice. It was the neighbor. I wasn’t surprised though because in Singapore, I can hear my neighbors too. But I was still groggy from sleep.

Me: Hmm, I don’t think I have an Indian neighbour…
Voice: [Korean]
Me: Oh, I’m in Korea!

I reflected on it and thought that actually, Korean and Indian might sound a little similar. They have rolled Rs and when spoken really fast, can sound like a rapidly rolling marble of various sounds.


On the first day of meeting the NamChin’s parents, we went to eat fish porridge together.

We had a pretty idyllic stay. My boyfriend’s family stayed on the first floor of an apartment block. The windows were flooded with sunlight every morning and the lace curtains offered some privacy.

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Every morning I woke up to a delicious meal that Omma cooked. And the menu was different everyday.

Even though Omma has a full-time job, the menu changed everyday and we ate so much food.

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The lace curtains! Very pretty.
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The plants on the indoors balcony
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Seeing this picture reminds me of the houses in the Reply series!

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They didn’t have a sofa and a table. We sat on the floor most of the time. This table has foldable legs and they kept it folded up in one of the rooms.
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Wearing the NamChin’s “ggalggari” (the casual name for the innerwear from army), which was super warm and comfortable.

Apparently, Koreans like to joke that the “ggalggari” is the highest tech Korean military gear. I have to agree. Very comfortable.

Visited NamChin’s primary school!

I was really interested to see NamChin’s primary school so we went there. But there wasn’t a fence and people can easily walk in, which freaked me out a little because it’s a primary school! The name of the school is St. Mary Elementary School.

Apparently, when night falls, people can walk into schools to use the facilities such as the fields. I think that’s a good practice.

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The security guards didn’t stop us.
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I thought I would only see this in dramas.
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Lovely flowers.

Oh, and apparently Song Joong Ki came from this primary school. Yes, the one from Descendants of the Sun. Technically he is my boyfriend’s sunbae (lol). And sauce confirmed.

NamChin: Song Joong Ki sunbae, notice me!

The post got long so here are other stuff to do in Daejeon..

Best fish porridge in Daejeon

Wongol shikdang and nature

I had the best fish porridge ever in Daejeon, Korea.

원골 식당 (Wongol shikdang/restaurant)
254-1 Cheonnae-ri, Jewon-myeon, Geumsan, Chungcheongnam-do, South Korea

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The carpark of Wongol shikdang
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Here was the restaurant. They’ve since expanded into two more of these houses.

The first time I drank makgeolli

The first time I had makgeolli was during my first meal with NamChin’s parents. I really wasn’t expecting to drink. Moreover, alcohol at lunch time seems a bit extreme. And I was quite young back then so I wasn’t expecting to be drinking at all.

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Drank from a small cup

“Is this milk?” I asked before taking a swig. It was slightly sweet, addictive, and then the alcohol hit me.

“WTF,” I thought. “It’s only the first meal together and I’m drinking already.” And it was about 4pm when it was still bright.

Thankfully, the alcohol wasn’t too strong so nothing crazy happened.

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The tasty makgeolli!

Soon, the dishes were ready.

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The fish dish!

I wasn’t expecting much because it was a week into Korea and I was getting sick of Korean food. But this was really, really, tasty stuff. The fish was fresh.

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Covered with spicy sauce
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The porridge

The porridge was thick and flavorful, which went well with the fried fish.

After the good meal, we had a walk before heading back. The restaurant is surrounded by nature and it was lovely. Before you see more pics here’s the address again because it is THAT GOOD.

원골 식당 (Wongol shikdang/restaurant)
254-1 Cheonnae-ri, Jewon-myeon, Geumsan, Chungcheongnam-do, South Korea

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Just outside the restaurant.
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Walking around the stream. Kids were playing there too.

It was spring going summer, so the weather was good and cool. I walked a little in the stream as well.

Beautiful!

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Tsk tsk. 
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The waters are really clear. And no, the fish isn’t caught from this stream.

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It was a really lovely day.
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Looking at the fish porridge place from the stream.
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Omma made me this flower ring.

Omma made me this flower ring from flowers by the stream, which she used to do to entertain herself when she was younger.

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Delicate and beautiful.

Korean chicken

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One night, we had takeout. It was also my first time having Korean chicken.

 

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My first time having Korean chicken!

Little did I know Korean chicken would become so popular, thanks to You Who Came From The Stars.

Some sushi in Korea too.

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Besides the food, I had a great time in Daejeon. Walked around a lot but it was a pity I did not take any more pictures.

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Daejeon at night.
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NamChin buying me a red bean bun from a stall. Sadly, I did not take pics.

Now I’m much more used to Korean food, but after this trip, I rushed like crazy to my favorite zichar (煮炒) place to have some Singaporean-Chinese food. Shovelled Hong Kong style steamed pomfret with rice and sambal kangkong.

That felt really good too.

What I saw in Daejeon

Featuring Sung Sim Dang

Here’s a short introduction of what I saw in Daejeon during my trip there in summer 2012.

KAIST

Daejeon is famous for being home to the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST), one of Korea’s top universities.

I’ve never been to KAIST to take a look, but I’ve been to Hanbat National University instead. It’s really scenic and quiet there.

Next!

Say department Store

1-16 Munhwa 1(il)-dong, Jung-gu, Daejeon, South Korea

This is my favorite mall. It’s similar to North Point and Golden Village in Yishun. Why I love it:

    • Has budaejjigae (army stew). It’s a delicious pot of instant ramyeon, spam, sausage, egg, baked beans, and kimchi. The first time I had budaejjigae was there.
    • Has a really comfy movie theater
    • Has Smoothie King
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My first time eating budaejjigae!
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Soupy~
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The cinema at Say Department Store
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We watched this movie and the ticket was like this. Korea was more advanced than Singapore. These tickets were purchased at the self-service booth.
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Taking the subway! It was a little smaller than Singapore’s trains.

Sung Sim Dang

Phone, +82 42-220-4153 · Address. 중구 은행동 145번지; Daejeon 301-839.

This deserves a category of its own.

Best bread and pastries in Korea! It’s conveniently located next to Old Downtown, or Eunhangdong. It’s the most awesome shopping street – not commercialized like MyeongDong. You could get nails done for really cheap!

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Outside the store. It has a lovely exterior, but after its renovations, it no longer looks like that.
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Pastries galore!

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This is what we got.
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Yum!
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I think this is apple bread.
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Sausage bread.
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Fried bun, which Sung Sim Dang is famous for.
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Inside the buns.

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Eun Haeng Dong (the street where Sung Sim Dang is located).
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Walking and exploring Eun Haeng Dong.
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Of course, we had to have this long soft serve ice cream.

Whenever I go to Korea the ice cream is a must have.

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Tons of Molang!

This brings back good memories of walking around the street on a lovely day eating street food with my boyfriend. And this was already five years ago! I’ll always cherish those innocent and carefree moments where everything felt new and fresh.

How I became a writer

Going pro with words

I used to write and speak crappy English. When I was 5, I read Alice in the Wonderland to an older lady who was kind enough to babysit/play with me.

Me: Alice and her seester.

Nice lady: No, sister. Not seester.

Me: Seester?!?

Nice lady: Sister.

Me: SEESTER.

Rages  

With enough practice and correction from teachers and my father, my English slowly improved. I began to enjoy writing to express myself, and more importantly, reading other people’s thoughts. I read everything and anything without judgment.

This meant that while I was lucky enough to be exposed to different ideas when I was younger, it did mean that I read my fair share of trashy stuff like gossip rags or blogs. That’s where I learned un-politically correct views and sayings. One moment I’m not proud of was my liberal use of “tranny”, which I picked up from a popular blog. On hindsight, not all reading materials were good for my value system. I should have stayed far away from it.

Back then, teenagers wanted to go pro in sports. Nowadays, teenagers want to go pro in esports! The dream is to get paid to play video games.

In my leisure time, I read, wrote diaries, stories, and even fake news. My dream was to get paid to write.

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Young dreams. Image credit: Pixabay.

Not a journalist

As time passed, my desire to become a journalist left me. While I still enjoyed reading, I couldn’t imagine writing for any papers in Singapore. I also didn’t think I was good enough to write for any publication.

Bu$ine$$

After sitting for the A-levels, I decided to do a business degree. It seemed the most sensible thing to do given that I wasn’t sure what the job prospects were like in Singapore if I took a degree in literature. I wasn’t fond of getting a communications degree since that’s not about entirely about stories or writing.

I do not regret doing my business degree at all. I see a university education as a way to broaden my perspective and to try things I’m bad at – like finance and understanding how the mysterious capitalist system works.

Secretly, I really wanted a shot at earning big bucks which I quickly realized was not going to happen after Year 1. 💸

It turned out that I became deeply interested in market research once I understood what it entailed. Market research provided me a way of writing a narrative about consumers from data. This helped me become more comfortable with business models, numbers, and graphs and diagrams. And it proves helpful when I have to understand media analytics now.

Market research provided me a way of writing a narrative about consumers from data.

Thankfully, in my free time in university, I also managed to take up some modules in literature. These were mentally and labor intensive modules with tons of readings which definitely helped me to appreciate people who major in literature.

I fear literature majors – they’ve either taken a gamble with their potential careers or they know what they’re going to do with their degree (which is even more terrifying). And they know how to wield words like a weapon to create change. You should fear them.

Career options

When I graduated, I decided that I wanted to try something related to business but more exciting than market research. I enjoyed market research very much and spinning a story out of data insights. But I thought I had youth on my side to try something else out first.

My first job worked out as I gained life experience, but eventually, I learned that I didn’t have any marketable skills after more than a year. This made me reconsider writing for a living.

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Image credit: PIxabay.

Going “pro”

A moment that profoundly changed my views on a career was when I watched a Korean TV show. No matter how well the amateur singers sang, they could never sound better than professional singers at a karaoke. It was then I realized the difference between being a pro and just being really good.

Amateur singers followed the vocal guides well and sang into the microphone. Professionals understood the song, the music, and the machine. They blended in with tinny voices to create a work of vocal art for us to enjoy.

As vocalists, they are chained to their career choice and their art. But this commitment distinguishes them in this sphere and gives them an actual opportunity to become the very best.

It was then I realized the difference between being a pro and just being really good.

I wondered what would my profession be. I wanted to be able to create something that makes people go, “Aha! You must do this for a living!”

I wanted to do something that seemingly effortlessly and quickly, but with intention and seasoned practice. I wanted to commit to doing something over and over again, such that one day, I could say that I’m good at it.

I wanted to be able to create something that makes people go, “Aha! You must do this for a living!”

That was when I decided to make content my living.   

My life changed the moment I committed to writing for my whole life. To go “pro”, like athletes, I have to be paid for my writing.

I made a conscious choice to pivot to a content-based role and actively sought out opportunities in publications.

I think I stumbled upon my writing job half by submitting a decent writing test, and half by sheer dumb luck. I was not qualified based on experience to be a writer or an editor, but my employers took a leap of faith with me.

And that’s how I went “pro”.

Ending off

To end this off, here’s what I took away from my journey.

1. Read, read, read. But do think critically about the material, such as the author’s intentions and the message behind the words.

2. It’s still a profession. You need to be good and that’s just to qualify for a job. To thrive, you’ll need a really good grasp of the language. The best copy editors and writers I know spend time poring over things like commas and phrases. It takes a passion for language and a respect for the writing profession enough to care about these little details.

3. You don’t need a relevant degree. While I strongly encourage people to go for their dreams, it does help to have different skill sets. For example, market research helps me to understand media analytics. Just spend more time weaving it all together.

4. You’ll have to take the plunge and commit to this as a career. I also accept that I may never earn big bucks.

5. At the end of the day, it’s a job. I had to do a writing test to prove that I met the requirements of the job. And if I write badly I’m going to get fired. Having a business degree also helped me to understand the demands of my job quickly. It’s not all about the writing. Work is equally about the machine that supports the publication.

6. Have great editors. I get schooled on a daily basis – from my article angles to my English. But I love it because I love my job and I love writing. And best of all, I pick up editing skills along the way.

I leave you Harper Lee’s wise words. I admire her work and her modesty. It’s humbling to know that all she aspired to was to do the best she could with her God-given talent. She wanted to “leave some record of… small-town middle-class southern life.” All she wanted to be was “the Jane Austen of south Alabama.”

“It takes time and patience and effort to turn out a work of art, and few people seem willing to go all the way. I see a great deal of sloppiness and I deplore it. I think writers today are too easily pleased with their work. This is sad. There’s no substitute for struggling, if a struggle is needed, to make an English sentence as beautiful as it should be.”