Beauty Diaries: My College Skincare Routine

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Today, I talk about one of the loves of my life: skincare. ✨

After more than a year of wanting to write this post, it finally gets written—yay! People have reacted with varying levels of curiosity and astonishment when they first hear about my daily skincare routine. I still remember my American roommates’ jaws dropping when they first saw the bevy of bottles on my shelf and my collection of sheet masks during Opening Days. 

How I Discovered Skincare 🙈

I began developing a semblance of a skincare routine only towards the end of 2016. Before that, for a good decade, all I did was wash my face with two towels (one hot, one cold) every morning before scrambling to school at 6.30 am. In secondary school, I started using a foam cleanser. After A-levels ended in 2016, I wandered into Kiehl’s with a skincare-loving friend (Junru!) and bought my first products. The journey started there and then. Subsequently, K-beauty aficionados like Xin Min and au naturel organic purists like my mother showed me the path. 

Since then, my routine has evolved with the season, with experimentation, and by trial and error. Many products have fallen in and out of favor, but I have found a go-to routine with a certain set of core products that I’m most comfortable with. One thing for sure: my skin and complexion have improved!

My Skincare Philosophy 💡

  1. Be kind to your skin and it will be kind to you.
  2. Though a routine might not make a big difference to your young dewy skin now, your future self will thank you for it.
  3. Expensive/cult products don’t always work. The best products are the ones that work for you.
  4. Skincare can be a good alternative to make-up. 
  5. Habit and routine is key. The length/complexity of a routine is less important than how regularly you do a routine. Tedious routines are not going to last. So keep the number of products at a level with which you’re most comfortable and can persist. 

My Current College Routine ⏰

I do 90% of these steps in college. In total, they take me roughly 10 minutes in the morning and 13 minutes at night (unless I do a sheet mask). 

If you’re new to skincare, I advise that you start with 3 core steps (don’t overload your skin): sunscreen, cleansing, and moisturizing — absolutely crucial to any and all skincare routines in the universe. 🌏

At home, I also steam my face, which has been transformative but quite impossible to do in college. 

Below, I’ve listed both past and present products I’ve used in each step of my routine, with ratings:

🌸: Stopped using it after the first few tries.

🌸🌸: While using it, I couldn’t wait to finish and replace it. Made little difference to my skin.

🌸🌸🌸: Nothing phenomenal, but at least it made my skin feel good.

🌸🌸🌸🌸: My skin improved markedly, and I would use it again (and again).

🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸: Holy Grail. I cannot do without this in my routine.


Step 1: Cleansing (ESSENTIAL)

I use a foam cleanser in the morning (just a tiny smear). At night, in the shower, I do “double cleansing” — an oil cleanser to remove my sunscreen and a foam cleanser afterwards. Choose low-pH cleansers that do not strip away essential layers from your skin.  

Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil Ex 🌸🌸🌸🌸

AmorePacific Treatment Cleansing Foam 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

AmorePacific Treatment Cleansing Oil 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Illi Total Aging Care Cleansing Oil 🌸🌸🌸

Neutrogena Deep Clean Acne Foam Cleanser 🌸🌸

Step 2: Exfoliator (once in a while)

In my freshman year, I used the Cure Natural Aqua Gel about once every two weeks — it was very therapeutic rubbing away all the dead skin that has accumulated on my face (you’ll be surprised). I left my bottle at home this semester, so I occasionally use the Murad Skin Polish on my nose to prevent blackheads.

Apart from that, I’ve stopped physical exfoliation, i.e. scrubbing, (because of laziness) and now primarily use the COSRX Pimple Clear Pads as a substitute — the pads are pre-soaked in betaine salicylate and willow bark water to chemically exfoliate. 

COSRX One Step Original Clear Pads 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Murad Pore Reform™ Skin Smoothing Polish 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Cure Natural Aqua Gel 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine 🌸🌸🌸

Step 3: Toner / First Treatment Essence

Toner is not essential (it’s for balancing the pH of your skin), unless your cleanser is stripping. Any essence or serum that can boost the absorption of your subsequent steps will do the same work. 

Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum EX 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Naruko La Creme Face Renewal Miracle Essence 🌸🌸🌸🌸

MISSHA Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence 🌸🌸🌸

Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal-Extract Alcohol-Free Toner 🌸🌸

Step 4: Sheet Masks (when you feel like it)

Pamper your skin, scare your roommates, and don’t leave it on for too long!! Usually, I just wear it and do my readings or read the news on my phone. I’ve tried many, but here are the memorable ones.

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For porecting: 

  • [Bubbling Charcoal Sheet Mask] Dr. Jart+ Porecting Solution 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸
  • [Charcoal Sheet Mask] Dr. Jart+ Pore Minimalist 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

For hydration: 

  • [Rubber Mask] Dr. Jart+ Hydration Lover 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸
  • [Bio-Cellulose Mask] FOR BELOVED ONE Extreme Hydration  🌸🌸🌸🌸
  • [Hydrogel Mask] Naruko Snail Essence Intense Hydra Repair Mask 🌸🌸🌸

  • Dr. Jart+ Vital Hydra Solution 🌸🌸🌸

  • Dr. Jart+ Soothing Hydra Solution 🌸🌸🌸

For clearing:

  • [Rubber Mask] Dr. Jart+ Clear Lover 🌸🌸🌸🌸
  • Dr. Jart+ Clearing Solution 🌸🌸🌸

For brightening:

  • My Beauty Diary Imperial Bird’s Nest Mask 🌸🌸🌸🌸
  • Dr. Jart+ V7 Toning Masks 🌸🌸🌸🌸
  • Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Mask 🌸🌸🌸
  • Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Pack Aqua 🌸🌸🌸
  • SK-II Facial Treatment Mask 🌸 (Cult-favorite, award-winning, but BEWARE! The leftover serum pilled and balled up on my face. This happened several times. And I had to wash my face again right after, which defeated the whole point of doing a sheet mask. I subsequently gave them away. What a waste of money. -_-)

Step 5: Oils / Essences / Serums

As many or as few as you like. I recommend going simple and not tiring your skin. I currently only use the Kiehl’s serum, which I’ve bought more than five times.

Kiehl’s Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence 🌸🌸🌸

Naruko Supreme Rejuvenating Elixir Oil 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum 🌸🌸🌸

Step 6: Eye Serum / Eye Cream

Splurge on your eyes, darling.

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Concentrate Matrix 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Complex 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Step 7: Moisturizer / Night Cream

I currently use two moisturizers per routine (instead of one) since Boston’s wintry weather makes the skin around my nose really dry. In the morning, I will use the COSRX Snail Cream to touch up the sensitive skin around my nose and at the edges of my mouth, followed by AmorePacific’s Creme to seal in the moisture. At night, I will use the COSRX Snail Cream, followed by the Sulwhasoo Overnight Mask.

AmorePacific The Essential Creme Fluid 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Day)

Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask EX 🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Night)

COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream 🌸🌸🌸 (Winter)

COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask 🌸🌸🌸

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel-Cream 🌸🌸🌸

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream 🌸🌸

Step 8: Sunscreen (ESSENTIAL)

The most essential step towards good skin. Uneven pigmentation? Dark spots? Premature wrinkles? Sun protection is the best anti-aging product out there. I used to hate sunscreen because the European products I tried always left my skin feeling greasy (which can be a real nightmare in Singapore’s sultry humidity).

In 2017, I started wearing sunscreen on a close to daily basis and it took me a while to change that into a daily habit. Now, it’s second nature and I put sunscreen on even if I’m just going to be indoors all day long. Depending on the season, I use different types of sunscreen. For instance, in the summer, I use the spray versions of the ANESSA and Biore sunscreens on my body.

Shiseido ANESSA Perfect UV Sunscreen Skincare Gel SPF50+ PA++++ 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Face) (All seasons) (Waterproof)

Shiseido ANESSA Perfect UV Sunscreen Skincare Milk SPF50+ PA++++ 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Face) (All seasons) (Waterproof)

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++ 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Face) (Indoors) (Not waterproof)

Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel SPF 50 PA+++ 🌸🌸🌸

Dr. Jart+ Every Sun Day UV Sun Fluid Broad Spectrum SPF 30 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Avène Ultra-Light Hydrating Sunscreen Lotion Spray SPF 50+ 🌸🌸

Others (throughout the day)

Kiehl’s Cactus Flower & Tibetan Ginseng Hydrating Mist 🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Good for flights and after exercising) (Portable)

Crabtree & Evelyn Soothing Hand Cream Therapy, Goatmilk and Oat 🌸🌸🌸🌸  (Winter)

L’Occitane Cherry Blossom Hand Cream 🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Winter) (Portable)

L’Occitane Verbena Cooling Hand Cream Gel 🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Summer) (Portable)


If you’ve read all the way till here, I applaud you for your dedication!!!

So, what’s next?

I’m definitely no expert and my choice of products is limited to my skin type, my budget, and the weather I have to surrender myself to. If you are hungry for more, Fifty Shades of Snail (one of the only beauty blogs I read) will be a great portal to the world of Asian skincare and the infinite options (product formulations) available for customizing your own routine. Delve right in!  

Do you do skincare? What are your favorite products? 💖

Wishing you all healthy, glowing skin, 

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My Sophomore Spring Harvard Classes + Some Little Things

Belatedly, wishing all of you: Happy Year of the Pig!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

First things first, things that have served as brilliant reminders when life works weirdly:

1. Turn your FOMO into JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) — I would like to interpret it as loving yourself and realizing that doing nothing or doing less are all relative terms that we use to measure ourselves relative to something external. Though we might often doubt ourselves for not doing enough, not spending time on academics or extracurriculars might mean spending it with your body, your mind, or your soul. (Thank you, Marwah. x) That’s as worthwhile and meaningful. We all have different paths and different destinations along the way. So the balance is to walk my own path while still keeping in sight where I want to go and to make sure I’m keeping pace with my internal calling.

 

2. Maintaining a healthy weight is a marathon not a sprint!!!

3. My classes. Let’s say, Q = “Eating more brings weight gain” — at least, there’s one thing in life that works by the same causal logic as proposition Q: reading and thinking more brings a better version of myself. I’ve slacked off quite a bit this long weekend (on Sunday, I curled up in a corner of Cabot Library and just read romance novels for an entire afternoon). No skimping on readings subsequently, Selina!!!

Now, a bit more about what I’m taking this semester:

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AESTHINT 47 Forbidden Romance in Modern China

I was destined to take this class. Forbidden Romance? Check. China? Check. We’ve studied illicit love letters between Lu Xun and his female student, Yu Dafu’s auto-erotic story of narcissism and patriotism, and the secret love affair between the married darling of modern China and Virginia Woolf’s nephew.

Almost astonishingly, I’ve discovered that women back then had much greater latitude in exploring new forms of intimacy, constructing a new feminine subjectivity in romantic liaisons, and breaking from societal traditions. The many types of love (teacher-student, extramarital, eroticism, older woman-younger man) that flourished then amidst the post-May 4th zeitgeist might be considered taboo right now. Perhaps, the literary history of modern romance is a narrative of regression.

Professor David Wang, who teaches this, is so incredibly earnest and empathetic in his lectures. His lecture on the life of Yu Dafu (a writer who began his life with debauchery and ended up in martyrdom) was the first time I teared up in a lecture.

HIST-LIT 97 Sophomore Tutorial — Cultures of U.S. Imperialism

One of my main reasons for declaring History & Literature is to explore imperialism/postcolonialism and narrative historiography (empire and globalization through fiction) in tandem. We will be reading many authors who I have encountered before (which could be a good or a bad thing): E. M. Forster, Joseph Conrad (!!!), J. M. Coetzee, Wole Soyinka, and Jamaica Kincaid. Thus far, we’ve looked at the British empire as much as the U.S. empire. It’s interesting being the only non-American a class as U.S.-centric as this one, and having grown up with a partially Anglophone education in Singapore that bears the indelible vestiges of British colonialism.

PHIL 33 Ethical Issues in Social, Cultural, and Artistic Representation

Telling other people about my classes this semester has been a mouthful because of Phil 33. Everyone’s response is always a lull, followed by, Say again?

I didn’t actually shop this class, but shopped numerous others. Expectedly, on the Friday of Shopping Week, I once again ended up in utter confusion and disarray about my course cart. After my friend told me in the afternoon about this class, I decided to enroll on a whim. I’m interested in the topics we have been discussing in class (it’s just 8 of us) in the abstract, but not that much in the specific. Right now, we have been analyzing arguments on both sides of the Confederate symbol debate. How do we judge the past? What gives a symbol its racist meaning? How can we correct historical injustice?

Subsequent topics might resonate more:

  • Cultural Property and Cultural Appropriation
  • Stereotypes
  • Ethics and Fictional Representations

PHIL 136 Phenomenology of Lived Experience

Taught by Professor Samantha Matherne!!! (She taught my Kant class last semester and was phenomenal.) Absolutely a blast so far. I wasn’t familiar at all with the word ‘Phenomenology’ before taking this class and still am not quite sure. The central question is: what are the general structures that any experience involves?

We started by looking at treatments of the phenomenology of lived experience in general in texts by Brentano and Husserl (now Heidegger). I’m really excited to later work out the phenomenology of specific modes of lived experience in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, Emilio Uranga’s “Essay on an Ontology of the Mexican,” and Sara Ahmed’s “Orientations: Towards a Queer Phenomenology.”

I WILL DO MY READINGS THOROUGHLY!

If any of these ideas interest you, come talk to me about my classes anytime.

4. Happy Lantern Festival! 元宵节快乐~We’ve reached the fifteenth (and the last) day of the Lunar New Year celebrations so fast. There have been some dreary days and afternoons of seemingly incurable malaise, but also some mornings when I sit in class and look at the world in wonder, emerging from a vulnerable conversation into a kinder world.

Even though I haven’t eaten tangyuans (those glutinous balls with black sesame or peanut paste fillings), I had a call with my mom tonight across continents and time zones, which put my life in perspective and filled me with faith. Thank you for always believing in me. You don’t know how much it means to me, 妈咪 ❤ Sending this ball of positive energy to all of you. On cold nights with swirling snow weighing on gaunt treetops, think of this cute picture below.

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Lots of love,

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Interning in Venture Capital in China

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Before I get swept up in the semester, let me close the chapter of winter break. I’m writing down my internship thoughts in the polar chill of Cambridge, MA. January has ended. Everything’s days and continents away.

Did you do anything meaningful over the break other than drink bubble tea?

Yes!! (Doing meaningful things and drinking bubble tea are not mutually exclusive, after all.) I went to Beijing during the last two weeks of break for an internship at Northern Light Venture Capital (NLVC).

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Interns + Michael – Harry

What on earth is venture capital??

To be really honest, I had a pretty vague idea before going. But, here’s the textbook definition:

Venture capital is a type of financing provided to private, early-stage companies deemed to have high growth potential by investors in exchange for equity, or partial ownership of the company.

Here’s what I now think after two weeks: although VC is about returns, it can also be about creating social good through innovative (perhaps, disruptive) ideas that improve lives and efficiency. When you have lots of money, you can mold the future. You will also want to be richer. So you become a Limited Partner (LP) at a firm with knowledgeable people to invest your money in startups with lots of potential (which also happen to be hungry for capital). VC is a risky asset class. But, high risk, high returns. In some sense, it’s a win-win.

Why did you want to do a VC internship in China?

I wanted to immerse myself in China’s unique startup ecosystem. As a storyteller by heart, I’m intrigued by China’s burgeoning “content entrepreneurship” amidst its media revolution (from Wechat public accounts to Zhihu to Ximalaya FM podcasts to online fiction publishing).

I’m also fascinated by the media sector, which might be disrupted by new formats of how we experience content (augmented reality, livecasts) and communicate with one another (what’s after the mobile phone?). How the real and the virtual will merge in content consumption is a ripe area of growth.

In learning first-hand about NLVC’s portfolio companies, and how people who have one foot in the future and one in the present conceive of these possibilities, I sought to draw insights for my own career. My mantra is: Do something different every break!

What did you do?

We met with investment and legal professionals, visited start-ups (ranging from autonomous vehicles to data analytics to fashion to e-sports to teleradiology to AI+ entertainment), and sat in on New Horizon VC’s in-house team meetings in different sectors (TMT, Healthcare, and Risk Control & Portfolio Management).

What did you learn?

Here are some unexpected takeaways and nuggets of information:

  • You can only truly understand ‘consumer demand’ when you are in the field. Example: It’s really easy to be idealistic at a place like Harvard that online education is going to be the next big thing and to take the thirst for knowledge for granted. But, beyond a certain point, is knowledge really value-adding to most people’s lives? From the investor’s perspective, the future of pay-for-knowledge startups (知识付费) is extremely uncertain.
  • What’s the next big thing after PC/Mobile? The traditional keyboard/touchpad model might be rendered utterly obsolete. Here’s speculation from a VC professional we met —  perhaps, mobile phones might be separated into different devices according to function, e.g. watch, augmented reality glasses, fitness devices, or even soft screens (which is totally new to me).
  • Sometimes, the best indicator of how far a startup can go is the founder.
  • The big challenge for autonomous vehicles is one of generalization (beyond particularization — an operational design domain, and localization after data collection).
  • Many technologies seemingly far away from our lives are actually already all around us. The commercialization of autonomous vehicles is upon us — from airports to valet parking. AI is being used in product placements on variety shows that I’ve watched — many of the products and advertisements on Singer (歌手) were augmented!
  • In China, Wechat mini-programs are very crucial to many startups’ creative strategies.
  • For many e-commerce startups, the focus is now on a streamlining of the offline and the online retail experience. This concept of ‘new retail‘ can engage online data to make the physical consumer experience individually tailored. Here’s a read of Alibaba’s pivot.
  • What’s important to a startup? Ideas, leadership, funds, timing. An oft-overlooked aspect is the importance of a talented team who will leave their high-paying jobs to join you to develop your start-up idea at the drop of a hat and will stick with you and stand by you even in times of hardship. That’s what really takes to make a sustainable startup.
  • Augmented/virtual reality sports matches! Imagine The Hunger Games in the virtual realm. Kind of like Ready Player One. Maybe a good story idea.
  • While a typical EM (emerging market) crisis, as triggered by withdrawal of foreign currency, is unlikely in China due to its low external debts, one can only be cautiously optimistic about how the Chinese government will rebalance as the market undergoes structural reforms. While smooth rebalancing is currently the most probable medium-term outcome, the second most likely outlook is that China may encounter Japan-style stagnation (without its wealth).

Ultimately, I learned that it’s very hard to be the number one in any field. But, this internship has really taught me to think in terms of intersections — if you can become the top 10% of multiple fields, there may be a niche intersection where you can make an irreplaceable and maximized impact to the world.

That’s so cool! How can I get to know more about VC, entrepreneurship, and China?

Here are some interesting articles shared by everyone in the internship:

Some career guidance from wiser people I met:

I read so much. How about some photos?

A snapshot of some happy moments. Most of the time, I was so busy that I didn’t have time to take pictures.

Exhibit A: I tried a Rachel Zoe jumpsuit at the offline experience store of 女神派 Ms. Paris, a designer clothing rental platform — a Chinese version of Rent the Runway. Of the four main pillars of human life — clothes, food, accommodation, and travel (衣食住行) — the sharing economy is finally starting to take off for clothes (after Airbnb, Uber/Lyft/Didi, bike-sharing, etc.).

Exhibit B: I’m sitting on a gaming chair at e-sports startup, 9eplay.

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Exhibit C: Harry and I met with our Harvard & Singapore senior, Zara! She is currently working in venture capital at GGV Capital’s Beijing office — fun fact: aside from being a blogger, she also co-hosts 996, a bi-weekly English podcast featuring the movers and shakers in China’s tech industry. Writers put themselves out there, she said, that’s how opportunity comes knocking. 她说:“肯定会迷茫,但是专注于把眼前的事情做到极致。” Really inspired. ❤

Exhibit D: My internship roommate, Olivia!!! We are at some door in the Forbidden Palace’s Imperial Garden. 

Coming up next: shopping week, figuring out classes, and crazy little things.

Lots of love,

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From A Foodie: Tasting Taipei — worn, but lovely

My From A Foodie posts on this blog are too few for my liking. Read the first installment from my two months in Japan: From A Foodie: Tasting Japan & Its Shokunin Spirit. 🍙

I ushered in 2019 in Taipei with my parents — the three of us were there on family vacation for nine joyful, tummy-filled days.

Taipei is a place where the best foods are found in the street-side stalls with no air-conditioning, or nestled in an obscure alley, or at its thronging night markets (which I didn’t thoroughly experience because we were dieting as a family -__-). The meals we had at the hotel or in upscale restaurants were all less satisfactory than the intimate hole-in-the-wall eateries, overflowing with customers by word of mouth.

For fellow bubble tea lovers, I’ve highlighted all the bubble tea I tried at various places with a pink flower. 🌸 A new milestone has finally emerged in my study of the art of bubble tea-drinking. I finally figured out the difference between pearls (珍珠) and boba (波霸). I would like to share this important category distinction with all of you:

Pearls (珍珠): small
Boba (波霸): big

Ta-da!

Shilin 士林

Breakfast 早餐

Since we stayed at The Grand Hotel near the Jiantan and Yuanshan stations, and considering how hungry my parents were when we headed out of the hotel at 11am every day, we mostly had breakfast nearby. There was an abundance of options though! I did my research well under the limitations of proximity.

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  • Man Jia Ziang 满佳香

A nook in the alleys that come to life by nighttime. By day, all the Shilin Night Market stalls were closed or kept, but this all-day breakfast store was bustling. Order the warm milk tea with fresh milk and their egg pancakes with fillings ranging from tuna to steak to hash brown. Also, order the fried dumplings and scallion pancakes! Prices are incredibly down-to-earth.

  • Fong Sheng Hao 丰盛号

Called one of Taipei’s top 10 must-eat breakfasts, it pairs charcoal-grilled toast with milk tea. Both my dad and I ordered the classic meat, egg, and cheese toast while my mom got hers with spicy meat. Easy to eat and oh so delicious when downed with milk tea.

  • Lin‘s Chinese Pizza 林家葱油饼

A stall right outside the Shilin station. Always a long queue. We had this three times throughout the trip since it was located close to our hotel. Many combinations for your picking. My favorite is the original with chili and cheese. My mom likes hers with egg. My dad likes his with pickles.

Shilin Night Market 士林夜市

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  • Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken 豪大大鸡排

Bigger than my face. No picture to show because I was so hungry that I ate it without first taking a photo. Not any different (other than atmosphere-wise) from the branches it has opened in Singapore. But here’s a picture of me posing with happiness above.

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  • Smoothie House 思慕昔

We were too full to try this CNN-endorsed dessert at its original store at Yong Kang Street (read below: because we dined at Kao Chi), so we tried it at the one at Shilin instead. We got the Super Fruits Mix Mango Snowflake Iced with Sorbet, which was just okay. And that’s disappointing. 😦 At least it looked pretty.

  • GomanMango

Better than Smoothie House! Not too sweet, not too sour. As it happens with all good food encountered at the peak of hunger, I forgot to take a photo.

  • 🌸 TP Tea 茶汤会 🌸

Tieguanyin latte is quite good. Would have been better without pearls! Middle of the pack in Taipei but still better than any bubble tea I’ve had in the U.S. T_T I’m going to be impossible to satisfy. Argh.

Ximen 西门町

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  • 🌸 Tiger Sugar 老虎堂 🌸

OMG. The first time I’ve had brown sugar with my milk and it was LIFE-CHANGING. Unlike at other places, the sugar level, amount of ice, or toppings aren’t customizable here. Everything is perfectly balanced!!! They know what they are doing, trust me.

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  • Ay Chung Rice Noodles 阿宗面线

This feels more like a tourist experience than a tasting experience. Not because the noodles weren’t good, but because of the crowd that gathers on the curb collectively slurping from their paper containers.

Tamsui 淡水

  • 🌸 Bubble Lee 李圆圆 🌸

Best boba!!! The chewiness, the subtle sweetness, the heat that dissipates in the milk and on the tip of my tongue.

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  • Mochi99 麻吉奶奶鲜奶麻薯

Delicious. The mochi made from fresh milk leaves it with a creamier aftertaste. I ordered the classic peanut flavor. Mixing it in the peanut powder was really fun (could have been a messy affair).

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  • Kakigori 朝日夫妇

The line for sit-in was too long, but there were only limited flavors for takeaway. I chose the pineapple and dragonfruit flavor and it looked so cute! A bit too cold by the sea though. I was sniffling halfway through this.

Taipei Main Station 台北总站

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  • Zheng Pork Knuckle 郑记猪脚饭

We arrived right before the lunch hour crush. Best pork knuckles I’ve ever had (aside from my mom’s). My parents were initially quite put off by the sparse surroundings, but they were won over by the taste. The different types of pickles offset the heaviness of the pork skin (good for your skin!). A simple bowl of greatness. Right as we sat down to eat, a line of fifteen people formed at the counter. Phew.

Jiufen & Shifen 九份、十份

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  • A Mei Tea House 阿妹茶楼

The tea house that inspired Hayao Miyazaki. The building behind Yubaba’s Bathhouse in Spirited Away, a film that terrified me in my childhood and still moves me to tears with its heart, its touch of innocence, and its ethical complexity. The stairs leading to the tea house was so crowded that we moved about a step every half a minute. At 8pm, the teahouse was all lit up with red lanterns and thrumming with a flurry of voices, clinging of teacups, and waiters in black and white patiently demonstrating the traditional art of tea-making. A set includes four tiny bites — sesame and peanut crackers, one green bean cake, two sugared plums, and one mochi — and a pot of tea that can be refilled by the kettle bubbling beside the table. Ask for the top floor window seat if you can.

  • 🌸 Hanlin Tea Room 翰林茶馆 🌸

Love the white bubbles.

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  • 🌸 Xing Fu Tang 幸福堂 🌸

As good as Tiger Sugar! The ceremony of preparing the drink is more aesthetic — the server lights up the surface of the cup with a flame.

Yong Kang Street 永康街

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  • Kao Chi 高记

I’m going to say this three times: better than Din Tai Fung. Better than Din Tai Fung. Better than Din Tai Fung. Every dish we ordered was a pleasing aesthetic and gustatory experience. Must-orders include: the beef cubes (melt-in-your-mouth tender) and the Shen Jian Bao (pan-fried Pork Buns) served in a hot pan.

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  • 🌸 Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea-house 春水堂 🌸

The world’s original bubble tea!!! Its hot drinks — sesame milk tea, ginger milk tea, and milk tea with bubbles — are so good on a rainy, cold day. We ended up here by accident after touring the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. The original, iced milk tea with pearls is also quite stellar, but nothing innovative.

Others 小吃

Pineapple Tarts & Nougat 凤梨酥、牛轧糖

  • Chia Te 佳德

BEST PINEAPPLE TART OF MY LIFE. I recommend the pineapple tart with egg yolk most. It was melt-in-your-mouth kind of heavenly bliss.

***

Read this on a hungry day! Hee hee. Or as I currently am, sniffling and eating porridge in a hotel room in Beijing, but with a Happy Lemon strawberry milk tea within my reach. All delivered by Meituan. God Bless China.

Lots of love,

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Sky Lanterns & New Year Resolutions

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Get off the old train, step onto the platform, merging into the stream of bobbing heads flowing along at the speed of a sweating snail.

Squeeze past the human gantry, craning my neck for a look at the sky behind the canopy roof. See the miniature sky in the phone screens held up by the multiple raised hands, the real blue expanse split up, obscured, and obstructed from view by the sheer size of the crowd. There are many gasps of wonder around me. The path reaches the edge of the platform and now widens —

As the crowd cascades left and right, the sky unfurls before me. Baby blue. Rolls of clouds like crinkled leather. Suddenly, from behind a corrugated roof, a lantern rising. From between buildings on two sides of the track, a gap of light. Another lantern-like bird or bird-like lantern. A third. The sky dotted by lanterns rising, faint streams of smoke trailing, embers behind the paper.

Choose a lantern from a catalog of auspicious blessings. Watch it pinned up by worn, quick hands. Pick up a brush and dip it into an ink-splattered bucket.

Scrawl. Scribble. Signature. An imprint of wishes, prayers, and dreams by a railroad. Set against a sky full of lanterns, like the old, wise eyes of clouds watching from up above.

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There’s something reassuring about ritualized actions — writing prayers on paper, letting the lantern rise, watch it soar up and beyond until it’s a tiny dot. It will eventually land somewhere, wedged on a rooftop, fluttering in the mountains, resting on a rock. Yet, at least from what I can witness, its symbolism leaves me full of hope. Apart from the wishes I’ve released up into the sky, penned on all four sides of the sky lantern, I feel compelled to write down my 2019 resolutions after a break of two years (I used to religiously write all my resolutions down on a piece of drawing block and pin it up on my desk).

Some small things:

New Year Resolutions

养生 Health 🍵

  • Eat wisely. Lose another 3 kilograms, which I inevitably gained in Taipei and Singapore. T_T
  • Sleep early before 12:30AM daily. My mom scoffingly informed me of this phrase she read online — “用着最好的护肤品,熬着最晚的夜!” — which is me personified: slathering layers of skincare products on my face while staying up late.

On a side note, I’m bringing jasmine tea leaves(茉莉花茶), chrysanthemum packets(夏桑菊), and my beloved Chia Te pineapple tarts (THE BEST I’VE EVER EATEN) to campus. Guess which is not going to be helpful for my first resolution.

To be really honest, I can understand my parents’ strict standards for my weight. To them, it represents how much self-discipline I have. If it is within my ability to be healthier and to look more attractive, compromising that reeks of laziness and unchecked desire.

责任 Responsibility 🐝

  • Be punctual. Be punctual. Be punctual. I would like to apologize here to everyone who has ever waited for me. New year, new me!
  • Be better at responding to text messages.
  • Every year, this resolution remains the same: time management. Only when I can manage my time well enough to accommodate for emergencies will I have the room in my life for unexpected opportunities and adventures. ❤
  • Full attendance for all classes this year (even if I’m feeling unwell). On the first day of 2019, my dad did a ceremony where he paid my tuition fees for the spring semester. I’m immensely grateful for the freedom my parents have given me to experiment, to choose, and to figure out my dreams at my own pace. I’m going to remember that on the mornings when I can’t get out of bed.

情感 Relationships 👨‍👩‍👧

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跟爸爸妈妈在一起的时光是最快乐的。可是,快乐的时光总是那么的短暂啊。小时候,我觉得好女儿志在四方,向往着成为一个矫健的雄鹰,飞过天南地北,头也不回、勇往直前地闯天下。长大后才愈加发现,家是我最眷恋的港湾。似乎,暮然回首,那一场又一场考试,各式各样的申请,就是为了将我推上离您们越来越远的道路,一瞬间会很想哭。很多人都说父母子女一场就是一段渐行渐远的缘分,可是我坚信我们是例外。感谢您们让我明白成长虽艰难且不可避免,但依旧是奇妙、幸福的。所以,我就算舍不得您们也还是要长大呀。希望2019年第一次的道别我可以坚强,不要再流泪了。

  • To not cry when my parents are sending me off at the airport. Be stronger. Farewells are meant for teaching us how to better reunite.
  • Be a kinder, more peaceful person to friends and also to strangers. Be more considerate to those who love me. Often, we are careless to those who care for us the most. I would like to be less selfish and to get into the habit of thinking from the perspectives of others — make that into a first instinct!
  • Have more faith when God makes me wait. Let me see waiting as an opportunity to build my faith and to understand that there is a reason — 我想,有时候,上帝赐予我的礼物会有意晚一点递到我手中。也许,上帝只是为了更精心地绑一个蝴蝶结,让 ‘等待’ 抚平我的焦躁,好让我有一双更善于识别美好的眼睛。Thank you, Father. ❤

 

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May all your dreams & resolutions come true in 2019 too! 🌠🌠🌠

Lots of love,

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