Yina Goes

Singapore Top Travel, Beauty, Food, Lifestyle Blog

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Europe/UK Sep'17: Hotel Du Vin Wimbledon, London

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Welcome to the first of my Europe/UK travelogues!!!

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As I'm sitting in a cafe along Keong Sai Road in little Singapore and typing this post, there is so much that I am missing about Europe and London!

Thanks to Frasers Hospitality, I was whisked away to Europe and the United Kingdom for the time of my life - Did you know that Frasers Hospitality (a home-grown brand) has managed to grow from just two properties in Singapore in 1998 to now over 140 properties in more than 80 key cities around the world?

Apart from well-known brands like Fraser Suites, Fraser Place, Modena by Fraser and more, Frasers Hospitality's portfolio also includes beautiful boutique luxury hotel brands like Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, in the United Kingdom.

During my time in Europe and the United Kingdom, I was very privileged to experience some of Frasers Hospitality's best properties, starting with Hotel du Vin, Wimbledon!

Hotel du Vin Wimbledon

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If you're looking for a laid-back yet accessible countryside stay that makes the best of British heritage and tradition, you are so gonna love Hotel Du Vin, Wimbledon!

Wimbledon may be world-famous for its tennis, but what I truly appreciated about beautiful Wimbledon was its tranquil, quiet surroundings with the huge expanse of parkland and Wimbledon Village, home to a blend of chic shops, cafes and bars set amongst charming period buildings just a stone's throw away from Hotel Du Vin.

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Hotel Du Vin, Wimbledon at Cannizaro House is a 19th Century house bursting with so much character and historic charm.

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As with all Hotel Du Vin properties, Hotel Du Vin, Wimbledon was lovingly converted from a 19th Century house with all of its individual character and historic charm. Its rich heritage shone through the moment I stepped into the property, with its luxurious yet cozy furnishings throughout.

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The Rooms

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There are 48 luxury hotel rooms and suites in Hotel Du Vin, Wimbledon, each individually and uniquely decorated. I love the distinctively British look with its muted colors, leather furnishings and wallpaper!

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Every single room is different, but this particular suite that overlooks the parks with its stand-alone bathtub had me in love.

The Orangerie

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My favourite part of Hotel Du Vin, Wimbledon has GOT to be the Orangerie, with its full-length glass windows and cool airy space where you can sit and chill all day, from morning coffee to afternoon tea to post-dinner drinks! The real reason for my love though, is the amazing breakfast spread and great menu!

From little breakfast jars of yogurt, fresh fruit juices, warm baked goods and cereal to a delicious menu of cooked-upon-request dishes, the breakfast was scrumptious and just so delicious!

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Perhaps I was just famished after a long flight, but everything at The Orangerie tasted amazing, from the perfectly-done eggs benedict with smoked salmon to the overnight oats that came served prettily in little glass jars!

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Cannizaro Park

The Orangerie also overlooks Cannizaro Park and it was a delight to see huge dogs running freely through the grassy plains as they engaged in a robust game of fetch with their owners!

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Beautifully-landscaped gardens right outside the Orangerie!

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It was such a pleasant morning strolling about Cannizaro Park, and look at these little visitors I spotted among the flowerbeds ;)

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Public aviaries are now a rare sight, so I absolutely adored this gorgeous Italian-styled bird house at the park with these inquisitive cockatiels!

Wimbledon Village

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Don't forget to pay nearby Wimbledon Village a visit! The beautiful streets here house quaint little boutiques, traditional British bars and cafes and more :)

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You might even spot horses from Wimbledon Village Stables, where one can attend horse riding lessons!

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Love the tranquil countryside feel and laid-back living at Wimbledon!

If I have the opportunity to in future, I would definitely definitely want to return to Hotel Du Vin at Wimbledon and spend at least a weekend out at Wimbledon just to enjoy the slower pace of living and holidaying! :)

About Hotel Du Vin Wimbledon

Cannizaro House, West Side Common, Wimbledon, London SW19 4UE, UK
Phone: +44 330 024 0706
Website here

Hotel Du Vin at Wimbledon is just one of many gorgeous properties managed by Frasers Hospitality. Thank you, Frasers Hospitality for putting me up! I'll be sharing on more properties across UK/Europe, so stay tuned :)

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Hokkaido Aug'17: 12D11N Summer Road Trip Itinerary


Konichiwa, folks! 

As you might already know, Japan is one of my top favourite destinations in the world! To date, I've been to Japan eight times, and I am still not tired of the country, what with its crazy amazing food, unique culture and gorgeous countryside/nature. Japan just has so much to offer, and every trip is always a brand new experience.

I have always, always wanted to visit Hokkaido, and I'm really glad that I made it happen this summer! 

Although Hokkaido is famous for its winter and ski resorts, it's an absolutely splendid place to visit during summer time. Summers on the island of Hokkaido are mild and cool, with beautiful weather  as well as their famous fields of flowers and lavender in full bloom!

I'll be sharing my 12D11N self-drive itinerary in this post, and will be following up with more detailed posts on each area and what they have to offer - I am certain that you'd fall in love with Hokkaido in summer, just as I did.

Basically sums up my time in Hokkaido. Lots of pretty flowers, onsen & soft serve ice cream - What is there not to love?

Flights to Hokkaido

First things first, flights to Hokkaido! There are no direct flights from Singapore to New Chitose Airport, and your best option is to do a layover at either Narita or Haneda Airport, before another short domestic flight to New Chitose Airport, located near Sapporo. Both ANA and JAL offer flights to New Chitose Airport, but tickets usually cost at least SGD800 and above for a return trip.

The next best option in my opinion is to fly via Thai Airways, which consists of a ten-hour layover at Bangkok, but costs less than $600. If you book early and there's a good promo going on, flights could be even cheaper than $400!

This could be a good option for you if a 10-hour layover at Bangkok isn't a problem - You even get to squeeze in some Thai massage and mango sticky rice before/after your Hokkaido trip!

I use Skyscanner to check for the cheapest ticket prices in the vicinity of my travel dates. Basically, SkyScanner searches for the cheapest airfares across 1,200 airline and travel sites, and there's also a feature that tells you exactly which dates offer the cheapest flights in that month, which is great to know, especially if you have slightly flexible travel dates.


How Long To Spend In Hokkaido?

Of course, when you book your flight, you need to have an idea of how many days you're going to be spending in Hokkaido. In my opinion, anything less than 7 days is really too short, because Hokkaido is huge and there are so many different, interesting areas to explore! Getting around from destination to destination also takes time, with our longest drive being over 2.5 hours long.

I had initially planned for a 7-day stay in Hokkaido, but found myself wanting to stay on longer and revised my plans! It also depends on what kind of vacation you prefer, do you want to just touch-and-go throughout the different areas (perhaps stay in Sapporo and do day trips throughout) or really travel around, staying overnight and experiencing what each area has to offer?

I went for the latter, taking my time to experience and indulge in what Hokkaido had to offer. It was a rejuvenating and highly gratifying experience that fulfilled the wanderlust in me and fed my soul.

Car Rental/Self-Drive in Hokkaido

Why choose to self-drive in Hokkaido? Unlike Tokyo or other parts of Japan, Hokkaido is a wild island that is a lot more sparsely populated, and getting around from destination to destination is so much more convenient with your own car!

It's not difficult to drive around in Hokkaido as most of the roads are well-maintained and traffic is friendly. Gas stations are aplenty and at no point in time did we run into any trouble on the roads.

Apart from the picturesque scenery along the roads, if you're fortunate enough, you might even run into wild foxes on the road, as I did!

This beauty was right smack in the middle of the quiet road that we were driving on - Instead of running away, it even approached the car as we slowed down to take pictures and say hi!

We rented our car online from RentalCars.com. For roughly SGD100 a day, you'll get yourself a decent Japanese car - In our case a Honda Fit. We picked up the car from a counter at New Chitose Airport (after which you'll be brought via shuttle bus to the car rental company to pick up your car).

You can decide on a few different locations to pick up and return your car, and we decided on returning the car at Sapporo (our last destination) as it's more fuss-free to travel around Sapporo City via public transport/walking. This way, we could also take the train from Sapporo to New Chitose Airport, saving on a couple days of car rental expenses.

Do remember to apply for your IDP (International Driving Permit) beforehand in Singapore and bring both your driver's license and IDP along when you pick up your car! You might not be allowed to pick up your car without these necessary documents.

The staff at the counter briefed us on how to use the built-in GPS, instructions on fuelling up the tank and numbers to contact in case of any emergencies, but we didn't have any issues with the car at all. ;)

Accommodation in Hokkaido

Hokkaido has got a plethora of unique accommodation options to offer, from ryokans (traditional Japanese styled rooms), pensions (sort of like b&bs), resorts and hotels. Prices can differ drastically - from SGD800 for a room with private onsen in Noboribetsu to under SGD100 for a small hotel room in Sapporo City.

Some of the websites I booked my accommodation from include JapanICan.com, Bookings.com, Agoda.com and Hotels.com! Here's a list of the various accommodations I booked for Hokkaido below.

*Starred accommdations are the highly recommended ones! Do also note that I booked my hotels quite late so they got pretty expensive. If possible, try to book as early as you can for the best prices!

AreaAccommodationPrice Per Night (2 Pax/1 Room)
Noboribetsu Ryotei Hanayura (Private Onsen)*787.57
HakodateLa Vista Hakodate Bay Hotel*308.59
Furano/Bielpetit hotel MELON Furano273.5
Lake ToyaThe Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort*371.77
JozankeiJozankei Hotel221.22
Sapporo/OtaruHotel LiVEMAX Sapporo Eki-mae86.99


WiFi Connectivity in Hokkaido

I stayed connected via my pocket wifi device from Changi Recommends!

This device can be booked online via Changi Recommends' website, then picked up and dropped off at Changi Airport on your day of departure and arrival. Extremely convenient and fuss-free! The network was very strong, save for some mountainous roads and areas where there was no reception. You can connect multiple devices to one pocket wifi too!

Hokkaido 12D11N Summer Road Trip Itinerary

The trickiest part about planning my self-drive road trip was determining the sequence and driving routes to make for the most time-efficient and sensible itinerary, as many of the places I wanted to visit were located all over the island of Hokkaido.

Some highlights of my itinerary include: the private onsen at Noboribetsu, fruit picking at Jozankei, traditional wagyu sukuyaki lunch at Hakodate, Furano's gorgeous flower farms and our day trip to beautiful Otaru!

There's really loads more to do in Hokkaido that I didn't get the opportunity to explore, from checking out the amazing coastal view at Shakotan/Cape Kamui to dolphine/whale watching at Shiretoko National Park.. Hokkaido is one of those places you really don't mind visiting again and again!

After studying the map for the longest time and lots of consideration and intensive brain work, I decided on the below itinerary:

Hokkaido 
12D11N Itinerary
1 August - 12 August 2017

Day 1 - Chitose to Noboribetsu

Arrive at New Chitose Airport
Pick up rental car
Lunch at Wagyu Bibi Log House
Drive to Noboribetsu (58min)
Accommodation at Ryotei Hanayura (Private Onsen)
Kaiseki Dinner at Ryotei Hanayura


Day 2 - Noboribetsu to Hakodate

Breakfast at Ryotei Hanayura
Explore Jigokudani (Hell Valley) at Noboribetsu
Drive to Hakodate - Lunch stop along the way (2h 34min)
Accomodation at La Vista Hakodate Bay
Dinner at Uni Murakami (sea urchin restaurant)

Day 3 - Hakodate

Explore Hakodate Morning Market
Lunch at Asari Honten (wagyu beef sukuyaki)
Explore Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse area
Go on Mount Hakodate Ropeway
Dinner at Lucky Pierrot

Day 4 - Hakodate to Lake Toya

Breakfast at La Vista Hakodate Bay
Drive to Lake Toya (2h 32min)
Accommodation at Lake Toya Nonokaze Resort
Buffet dinner at Lake Toya Nonokaze Resort
Watch summer fireworks by the lake

Day 5 - Lake Toya to Jozankei

Breakfast at Lake Toya Nonokaze Resort
Lunch at Sendoan (scallop & seafood)
Stop for ice cream at Lake Hill Farm
Drive to Jozankei (1h 6min)
Cherry picking at Jozankei Farm
Foot spa at Kokoro No Sato Morino Bettei 
Accommodation at Jozankei Hotel
Dinner at Jozankei Hotel

Day 6 - Jozankei to Yubari to Furano

Drive to Yubari (1h 51min)
Stop for yubari melons at Yubari
Drive to Furano (1h 42min)
Accommodation at petit hotel MELON Furano
Dinner near petit hotel MELON Furano

Day 7 - Furano/Biel

Visit Tomita Farm
- Eat Lavender Ice Cream
Visit Shikisai No Oka
- Alpaca Farm
Lunch at Fukuzushi (giant sushi)
Visit Blue Pond at Biel
Family Mart Combini Dinner

Day 8 - Furano to Sapporo

Jam making at Furano Jam Garden
Visit Rokutei Viewing Platform
Lunch at Campana Rokkatei 
Drive to Sapporo (1h 50min)
Accommodation at Hotel LiVEMAX Sapporo Eki-mae
Drop off rental car
Explore Sapporo City
Oysters & scallops at Gotsubo
Ramen at Aji No Karyu

Day 9 - Sapporo to Otaru

Train from Sapporo to Otaru (58min)
Take a bus to visit Otaru Aquarium
Lunch at Wakadori Jidai Naruto Honten
Explore Otaru Canal 
Explore Sakaimachi Street
Visit Otaru Music Box Museum
Train from Otaru to Sapporo (58min)
Dinner at 串鳥 Kushidori

Day 10 - Sapporo to Shiroi Koibito Park

Combini Breakfast
Train from Sapporo to Shiroi Koibito Park (32min)
Explore Shiroi Koibito Park
Eat Shiroi Koibito Soft Serve
Train from Shiroi Koibito Park to Sapporo (32min)
Dinner at Yoshinoya

Day 11 - Sapporo

Coffee at Streamer Coffee Company
Shopping at Sapporo Station
Lunch at Sutadonya
Explore Susukino area
Dinner at Onya-sai (shabu shabu sukiyaki buffet)

Day 12 - Sapporo to Chitose

Train from Sapporo to New Chitose Airport (49min)
Last minute shopping for snacks and omiyage
Flight back home

View downloadable itinerary here.

***

Hopefully, this will be a useful reference for your own Hokkaido road trip planning - I'd be glad to know that all the effort I put into planning my trip and writing these blog posts are of help to others!

I'll be going in-depth in the upcoming Hokkaido blog posts, so remember to hit subscribe on my blog feed if you'd like to be updated when new updates are up!

Until the next update, see you in a bit!

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Open Water Diving with Gill Divers! (Part 1)

I've been wanting to learn diving for the longest longest time and I finally got down to it!

*Disclaimer - Not a sponsored post* 

SSI vs PADI

There are two different international diving organisations / dive companies that conducts dive courses - SSI and PADI. Apparently each one has their merits but there isn't a huge difference. You can dive no matter which company you choose to get certified with! There are companies in Singapore that offer either SSI or PADI - I picked Gill Divers (SSI) only because I have friends diving with Gill Divers previously haha. I didn't do that much research TBH.

Open Water Diver Course

This globally-recognized certification program is the best way to begin your life-long adventure as a certified scuba diver. Personalized training is combined with in-water practice sessions to ensure you have the skills and experience required to become truly comfortable underwater. You will earn the SSI Open Water Diver certification.



To get certified for Open Water Diving, you simply go through the following:
1. Online learning (six chapters)
2. Theory session with test at the end (3.5h)
3. Pool session (7h)
4. Weekend Trip (Bintan/Tioman - I chose Tioman!)

Price: $ 599

Includes: Theory Session, Pool Session, Weekend Trip - Transport, Accommodation, Meals, Equipment Rental
Does not include: Travel Insurance / Marine Park Fee (If applicable) / VISA on Arrival (If applicable)

Online Learning / Theory Session

Let's start with the Online Learning / Theory session!

You basically log into a website where there are some learning materials to go through - From the history of scuba diving to some physics and theory science behind diving (like water pressure, weight of water etc....)

There are quizzes at the end of every chapter which you have to complete and score at least 8/10. During the theory session, an instructor will run you through the material briefly, and then you do a test at the end.

The class was conducted in the evening at Gill Divers at Hong Kong Street - After work hours so no worries for those working office hours!

The passing mark is actually 45/50 - But even if you score slightly lesser, it's ok! The instructor personally will run through the questions you flunked and you're good to go.



Pool Session



Pool session was on a Sunday, reporting time at 9am! Way too early for a Sunday.

Received this reminder email in my inbox with information for pool sesh and obviously my eyes glazed over all the important parts cos the only things I picked out from from this email was "bring your own lunch and water" LOL.

Smart ass me happily appeared for pool session without my swimwear. What a bimbotic moment! I thought that perhaps we would slip into our wetsuits straight away and not have to wear swimwear maybe.

Thankfully I had a set of sportswear in the car so HAHAHA I ended up wearing my sports bra and exercise tights into the pool!

In order to pass the pool session, you have to be able to swim 200m / snorkel 300m and tread / float for 10 minutes!

It was a SUPER hot day goodness!

Please remember to spam on the sunblock like crazy!!! Waterproof sunblock alright. And take oral sunblock too (Like Heliocare) if you have it! I put on sunblock on my face, sprayed sunblock on my arms and even took my IDS Lyco-white pills.... But...

Those tan lines after an entire day in the pool SIGH. On the bright side, I didn't get sunburnt, just extremely tanned.

Lunch break!! Got my priorities so right. I woke up early in the morning just to prep lunch! Toasted hot dogs, prepared buns and even brought condiments along HAHAHAHAHAHA. What a picnic!

Shiok!!

During the course of the day, we were taught how to put on/take off our gear, how to control our buoyancy and other stuff like clearing our masks while underwater and how to do emergency ascends.

The gear was super heavy man. The oxygen tank weighs about 10kg and putting on the buoyancy control device with the tank was a huge weight on the shoulders and restricted my movement so much. It took a bit of practice to get used to breathing through my mouth, as well as get used to staying in the water for such an extended period.

I hated climbing out of the pool most because the gear was so heavy that my knees were nearly buckling under the weight as I struggled up the pool ladder!

So far so good, I've cleared the theory and pool session and what's remaining is the weekend trip to Tioman for the actual open water diving! I hope I won't panic in the water or accidentally do something wrong with my gear. The pool session also made me realise what a hassle diving is! The gear and all that are really no joke.

About the equipment


Basically, Gill Divers provides all the equipment you'll need on a rental basis, but the wetsuits, buoyancy vests and regulators aren't in new condition so some of the gear like the regulators (breathing apparatus) might have really worn out parts like mouth pieces that are grimy or a bit chewed off and stuff lol. Sounds quite gross but oh well it's rental equipment so be prepared!

I also had issues with water entering my mask and I'm considering if I should get my own personal mask!

I think I may also get a full body rash guard because the company only provides us with the short sleeved ones which I don't prefer cos... TAN LINES hahaha. Plus full body ones give more protection!

Generally though, I feel that $600 is a great price to learn a new life skill - Covering everything from theory to pool to the cost of the entire trip!

Even if I don't fall in love with diving and want to go on dive trips all the time, I'm sure I'll enjoy the fact that I CAN dive and will be able to if I happen to visit places with great diving sites such as Fiji or Philippines or even Maldives!!

Can't wait to get fully certified real soon, stay tuned for my Tioman update!
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Less is More: A Holistic Journey In Taipei with FANCL & Janine Chang

Do you agree that Less is More?

It seems that as the years pass, less is indeed becoming more to me - I'm wearing lesser makeup, I care less about people/things that shouldn't matter to me, and I'm learning to appreciate the simpler things in life, paring life down to its basic essentials with no unnecessary frills nor drama.

FANCL's no preservatives philosphy has always resonated strongly with me, and I was glad for this opportunity to spend time in Taipei to realign myself holistically, together with FANCL!

FANCL Taipei Media Press Trip 2017

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It was with great excitment that we flew into Taipei, Taiwan from Singapore for FANCL's media conference with media and press from all over the region!

Checking into Le Meridien Taipei

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I loved the central location and luxurious ambience of Le Meridien Taipei, where we were put up for two nights! Le Meridien Taipei is known to be one of the best hotels in Taipei for their excellent hospitality and posh facilities.

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Of course, our stay was made all the better with FANCL products prepared for us by the wonderful team. From FANCL's iconic Washing PowderCleansing Oil to their Amino Shampoo and Conditioner!

Dinner at Mountain and Sea House 山海樓

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We had an intimate dinner with the FANCL team at Mountain and Sea House Restaurant, renown for their vintage Taiwanese cuisine!

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The FANCL team kindly prepared some treats for us!

One of the best-kept beauty secrets around? FANCL's best-selling TENSE UP collagen drink for more youthful and suppler skin!

Thank goodness for the two slimming supplements too - Calorie Cut and Fat Burner for blocking calories and burning fats for us to eat guilt-free!

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We enjoyed a course of delicious dishes prepared with the healthy ingredients and fresh local produce that 山海樓 is known for. All the dishes were simply prepared but delicious and wholesome!

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In line with FANCL's no-preservatives ideology, every dish is made with ingredients that are completely organic and sourced entirely from local farms!

I truly enjoyed Mountain and Sea House's traditional Taiwanese cuisine that was so delicate and exquisite, miles apart from Taiwan's street food, but utterly delicious!


FANCL Press Conference


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Ready for the FANCL press conference with my BBF Evonne!

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FANCL's signature products: Facial Washing Powder, Mild Cleansing Old, Moisturising Emulsion and Moisturising Lotion! These star products are some of my favourites too!



I think FANCL did an excellent job of picking their brand ambassador - Janine Chang (張鈞甯) exudes such a pure, natural and healthy vibe, and embodies FANCL and its "Less is more" philosophy perfectly!

By taking a preservative-free approach towards her life and skincare, gorgeous Janine believes in being empowered to make the conscious choice to choose pollutant-free beauty - FANCL.

Fine Dining Dinner at RAW Taipei

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Dinner after the press conference was at Raw by Andre Chiang, one of the best contemporary fine-dining restaurants in Taipei!

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In fact, we happened to be there at the same time as popular Taiwanese host 小S (which we only found out after we left....) - Do you spot her in this picture above?

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Watching the chefs work their magic in the open-concept kitchen, which we were seated right in front of!

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Every morsel of food truly blew me away! I enjoyed each course immensely, from its presentation to how different flavours and ingredients came together in a playful and creative manner that kept all my senses intrigued and entertained. Definitely worth a second visit the next time I'm in Taipei!

Tea Appreciation & Lunch at 食养山房 Shi-Yang Culture Restaurant

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On our last day together, we spent a serene afternoon at 食养山房, a quaint and peaceful tea house tucked away into the picturesque mountainous wilderness of Yang Ming Shan.

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The art of tea appreciation lies in the ritualistic and careful preparation of tea, brewed from the finest aromatic leaves that calms the senses and relaxes the soul.


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Lunch at 食养山房 was so good! The zen atmosphere combined with the beautifully presented dishes that were so healthfully prepared made for an extremely memorable meal. Every dish came plated like a work of art and tasted just as wonderful. Or maybe it was just the mountain air that made everything extra appetizing.

If you happen to be in Taipei and you're looking for a retreat away from the stress and noise of daily life, do spend some time at 食养山房 to rejuvenate and nourish the soul!

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More of these essential health supplements - I really need to stock up on my Tense Up drinks and slimming supplements soon!

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Although this was a very short trip, I truly had an enlightening time exploring the essence of FANCL's "no preservative" approach that can be applied in so many aspects of living! Every conscious effort goes a long way towards nuturing a healthy mind, body and soul.

Here's one with the entire Singapore team - Thank you for sending us over, FANCL!

FANCL is available at the following locations:

Bugis Junction
313@somerset
VivoCity
Suntec City
Robinsons 
Raffles City
Isetan Scotts

You can also take a look at FANCL Singapore's website to check out the range of products available!


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