Snaps: Thaipusam Celebration at Batu Caves

About a year ago, my friends suggested for a shoot at the Thaipusam festival in Batu Caves but I couldn’t make it back then because I had to work (yes, even though it was a public holiday). I had to pass on that opportunity last year. This time around, as it happens I didn’t need to work on Thaipusam Day and again, my shutter loving friends invited me along to shoot. This time around, I wasn’t going to miss on the opportunity too.

I was all pumped up for the Thaipusam shoot until Robin told me that we’ll be meeting at 2am at the KTM station to take the train down, so that we will arrive at 3am. And I died a little inside when I heard the plan, because this is equivalent to me not sleeping at all seeing that I usually only sleep at 2am anyways. But for the sake of this all, I decided if I wanted to shoot the festival, I will go all the way.

The first meeting was at the Bandar Tasik Selatan KTM station, where I met up with Tian Chad, Robin and Tobias. From which we took the KTM to KL Sentral to change to the other KTM line which was headed to Batu Caves. I didn’t time the journey, but it took us less than 45 minutes to arrive at the station. Since it was in the wee hours of the morning, the train was relatively spacious still.

| ISO 800, 25 mm f/1.8, f/1.8, 1/60 sec | 

So, at approximately 4am in the morning, I found myself sandwiched between a sea of devotees and I’m among the thousands queuing in line to head up to the caves. It wasn’t a dream, I could feel the heat in the humid air and sweat trickling down my face. To top this all, I had both my cameras with me, with my lenses too. At times like this, I am ever so grateful that my Olympus cameras and lenses are so compact and lightweight, it didn’t feel so much of a burden to carry them around.

| ISO 1600, 25 mm f/1.8, f/1.8, 1/125 sec | 

We did eventually made it to the top of the caves, where we stayed there to shoot for a little while. Personally, when we first started out, I felt lost and overwhelmed amongst all the happenings and I couldn’t decide on what to shoot. This is why, I didn’t have much pictures from the first half of the shoot. It is only after we made our way down from the caves and headed to the preparation areas for the devotees, that I found my interesting subjects to shoot or perhaps, it was because I had the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO Lens with me.

I have never shot with that lens before but I know when it was first released, Jackie and Alex had a chance to try it out and they were gushing about it all. Since I could finally use that lens, I ditched all my lenses during the second half of the shoot and only shot with just that lens alone (except for a couple of pictures).

| ISO 1600, 60 mm f/2.8, f/2.8, 1/2000 sec | 

| ISO 200, 40-150 mm f/2.8 PRO, 40mm, f/2.8, 1/160 sec |

| ISO 200, 40-150 mm f/2.8 PRO, 48mm, f/2.8, 1/160 sec |

| ISO 200, 40-150 mm f/2.8 PRO, 67mm, f/2.8, 1/160 sec |

| ISO 200, 40-150 mm f/2.8 PRO, 40mm, f/2.8, 1/160 sec |

| ISO 200, 40-150 mm f/2.8 PRO, 75mm, f/2.8, 1/160 sec |

| ISO 200, 40-150 mm f/2.8 PRO, 79mm, f/2.8, 1/160 sec |

| ISO 200, 40-150 mm f/2.8 PRO, 90mm, f/2.8, 1/160 sec |

| ISO 200, 40-150 mm f/2.8 PRO, 40mm, f/2.8, 1/160 sec |

| ISO 200, 40-150 mm f/2.8 PRO, 46mm, f/2.8, 1/160 sec |

| ISO 200, 40-150 mm f/2.8 PRO, 43mm, f/2.8, 1/160 sec |

And that’s all the pictures I have from Thaipusam festival, which was actually a rather lengthy shoot. We spend about like 6 hours there but for me, I only did actually started shooting about 7am onwards. Nevertheless, the whole experience of witnessing for myself what happened during Thaipusam, from the preparation to the prayers and to the walk up the caves. I can say with pride that as a Malaysian myself, I know more about this than I had previously.

My parents’ reaction when I told them I was headed to the festival was that, it’ll be packed and uncomfortable. Knowing this, I still went ahead because I couldn’t possibly miss a cultural event like this when I would travel to another country for something similar. Throngs of tourists come over here to watch this, I would be ashamed if I didn’t at least attend it once.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures and reading this post, albeit it being a rather short post on the Thaipusam festival. Oh, I do realise that some pictures may feel rather repetitive, in the sense that I shot mostly portraits. I did wished I shot more ‘action’ photographs, but somehow there were always a handful of photographers crowding around the devotees and it made it harder to compose while trying to avoid capturing that.

On a side note, I am falling madly in love with the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO Lens especially when there are so much to love about the lens. I’m very tempted to use the lens again, I’m hoping to come up with a shoot concept which would allow me to test the lens more in-depth. Any suggestions for that? Or perhaps, would anyone be up for a collaboration? :) Let me know!
Till next time,

Review: Mon Amour Snail Hydrate Moisturizer

Hola, gorgeous! It’s the weekday after Valentine's Day weekend and I hope you had a good day yesterday. I would love to share with you what I did if it was interesting at all, but all I really did was just work, for 12 hours straight and I had to cancel my plans yesterday. So, nope I won’t be whining talking about that, instead let me share with you a new beauty product that I have been using for about a month plus.

Thanks to the awesome team at HiShop for sending the Mon Amour Snail Hydrate Moisturizer over for me to try. :) Whenever I try on new beauty products, I’m really selective with the products that I use. This is mainly because (I mentioned this before), I have a very strict beauty regime with a whole set of products which works on my skin and I stick to them. But this time around, I decided to give this a try, because it uses snail mucin. I have previously used products which contained snail mucin, and from my experiences, those product with that works really well on my skin.

As the name of the product suggest, the  Mon Amour Snail Hydrate Moisturizer  is a daily moisturizer which hydrates and provides antioxidant protection while improving skin texture and tone, leaving it smooth and radiant. The packaging of the moisturizer is rather simple, with a jar-like concept. Open the top and you get to your moisturizer. No frills and straight to the point. The product comes in 50ml which is rather huge, and would most definitely, last me for a couple of months plus.

Once I opened the top of the product, I didn’t expect to see another cover over it. I’m quite surprised that they had a second lid, which I suppose is to prevent the product from getting contaminated since it is made from 100% natural ingredients. What I found about the product, based on the first impression was that it has a rather thick jelly-like consistency.

From the picture above you can see, just how thick and rich the product is. The thing about moisturizer which I am afraid of is usually the sticky, oily ones which is why my daily moisturizer is a water gel based one. When I first applied the product, I found it to be thick and putting too much made my skin shine, like it appears oily.  That is when I decided to read the how-to instructions and found this;
“Apply moisturizer to face using gentle upward strokes, making sure moisturizer absorbs into skin. If you think there is an excessive amount of moisturizer on the skin, blot with tissue.”
Ahh. So, that explains why. So, please always do remember to read the instructions before using any products at all. After I realised that I was having too much on my face, I used lesser product on my face upon application. When I did that, I realised that my skin absorbed the product faster and it didn’t leave my skin oily, which was pretty amazing since I’m pretty particular about that.
Like any other moisturizer, application of this is just the same. I used my third finger to apply this to my skin, in upward motion with gentle strokes. I would continue doing this slowly, to ensure that the products is absorbed by my skin.

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So, now that I have talked all about the product – in terms of the packaging and the application of it. I’ll move on now to how the product is after using it for approximately one month. To be honest, one month is a rather short period and it could take longer time to see the results of the usage of the product. The product is said to improves skin radiance and gently exfoliates, revealing smoother, healthier looking skin and texture.

The past month have been one hectic month and to be honest, I haven’t had time to take care of my skin. I have pretty much neglected it and only stuck on to my basic daily regime. I also had really late nights and my eye bags have been increasingly prominent, with more pimples popping all over. But despite this all, I would say that my condition of my skin was really good. There are still the occasional pimples which could be due to hormones + late nights, but otherwise my skin had been rather smooth and clear. I noticed that I don’t look as haggard as I should be with the lack of sleep.

All this changes were things that I could notice and it wasn’t that difficult to notice these changes. As I look into mirror daily, I could see these changes and although it wasn’t a drastic one but it shows that the product is working for my skin. That is pretty much amazing, I would say.

Here’s a picture I have of myself after using the product without any make up on at all. This is pretty much my “I just woke up and showered” face, you can see the tiny pimples on my face too but aside from that I would say that my skin is pretty clear and smooth.

Once again, thanks to HiShop for sending this amazing product over which have effectively replaced my previous moisturizer! I do like it that much. :D And here’s an even better news, if you do want to get this Mon Amour Snail Hydrate MoisturizerHiShop have ever so graciously offered a 15% off with the usage of this coupon code : CARMENHONG. Just enter that code upon checking out and you’ll receive your discounts!
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Eat: Valentine’s Menu at Tanzini Upper Deck, G Tower

When I watched The Hundred-Foot Journey, I fell in love with the intricate art of cooking and the appreciation of finer food (albeit this being secondary to the plot). Leaving the cinema, I wondered what it would be like to be served by such passionate chef, as so much goes on behind the kitchen that isn't always shared, from the inspiration, inception and execution of dishes. After tasting Valentine’s Menu at Tanzini, Upper Deck, I am happy to tell you that I know I know exactly how that felt like.

I first heard of Tanzini from the Malaysian International Gourmet Festival that I attended last year, so when I was invited along to review their Valentine’s Menu, I was pretty thrilled. When I arrived, I found out that there are actually two Valentine’s Menu, one for the Gentleman and another one for the Ladies, each with their own distinct appetizer, soup and starters.

Before I go on, this Valentine’s Menu is the creation of Senior Sous ChefEugene Lee who took the time to explain why the menus were designed as such, along with the rationale behind every dish. As he explained, I couldn’t help but feel inspired with the sheer amount of thought that went into making this menu. Let me not bore you further, but show you what Valentine's Menu has to offer.

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Baker’s Feature | Valentine’s Artisanal Specials 

Kicking things off is a special Baker’s Feature,a showpiece from their in-house bakery. We were served with the Caramel Peanut Cinnamon Roll, soft and fluffy, yet richly infused with cinnamon flavour and coated with caramel. Despite being overloaded with goodness, it wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet, the flavour being derived from their use of natural ingredients instead of table sugar.

Amuse Bouche | Tsarskaya

Next, before the appetizer, Chef Eugene served an amuse-bouche, which usually helps to prepare the guest for the meal and to give an idea of the chef's direction for the meal. For the Valentine Menu, Tsarskaya oysters, a type of Pacific oyster harvested in the sea waters of France were served. 
These oysters are picked for their distant salt water taste, which is then coupled with Strawberry-Mango-Passion Fruit Pearls and served with Konbu Shoyu which is a soy sauce made naturally from seaweed. The oysters smelled strongly of salt water, but when consumed, the taste was instead subtler than anticipated, and the oyster had a firm and meaty texture. The fruit pearls were a rather unique twist to what would normally be a citrus based complement. 

Appetizer (Gentleman) | Britanny Blue

Appetizer (Ladies) | Stone Crab

And for the appetizers, the theme was Asian Kerabu in both menus. These appetizers were served with an intention of contrasting flavours and textures. In Britanny Blue, poached lobster was served with Asian Slaw and Yolk Carpaccio. The Asian Slaw is actually black fungus cooked in a kerabu style, its crispy texture contrasting against the chewy texture of the lobster. The Yolk Carpaccio, on the other hand is egg yolk cooked at an exact temperature to produce its final form (as pictured above).  For Stone Crab, the Stone Crab Ceviche was shredded, prepared kerabu style, then served together with Stone Crab Floss and Pickled Cucumber. 

Soup (Ladies) | Roasted Butternut Squash

Soup (Gentleman) | Cauliflower & Atari Miso

As for the soups, the Ladies were served Roasted Butternut Squash, butternut squash being a type of pumpkin with a sweet, nutty taste. The dish comprises of Butternut Squash Soup and Butternut Brulee. As for the Gentleman, the Cauliflower & Atari Miso consists of Veloute of Cauliflower & Atari Miso, Roasted Cauliflower Sriracha and Cauliflower Cous Cous. Interestingly, the miso is made in-house from local soy bean, which has a distinct taste compared to its Japanese counterpart. In addition, the Thai srirracha chili paste used with the roasted cauliflower gave the smooth creamy miso soup a very bold taste, contrasting with the Roasted Butternut Squash, which was sweet with a mild taste but still a creamy soup.  Chef Eugene cheekily adds that he designed the menu as such, to illustrate the contrast between most males and females, with the male being the bold one and the ladies, elegant. :) 

Starter (Ladies) | Free Range Chicken “Pie”

Starter (Gentleman) | Muscovy Duck “Spring Roll”

For the ladies, we had the Free Range Chicken “Pie”. Here, Chef Eugene created a deconstructed chicken pie by placing Roulade of Chicken & Chestnut on the Kataifi pastry crusts, which are then garnished with thin strips of Cured Egg Yolks . In fact, rather than looking like a pie, it really reminds me of a pretty little bird’s nest. The idea here was to create something that was beautiful to look at while tasting delicious too!

In Muscovy Duck “Spring Roll” for the gentleman, crispy Vietnamese rice paper was used to wrap a Muscovy Duck Confit. This was then served with sautéed Shimeji mushrooms and Shishito Japanese green chili, with Roasted Butternut Squash Puree glazed along the dish. The Muscovy duck was Chef Eugene’s choice because of its bigger size compared to others. This breed of duck is usually found overseas, but there is a local producer based in Ipoh who rears these ducks free-range making for leaner yet tender meat.

Intermezzo | Sorbet of the Day

Before heading on to the mains, we had the Sorbet of the Day to cleanse the palate, giving our taste buds a break from the array of intense flavours we had earlier on, preventing flavours from clashing and interfering with our subsequent apprecition of a the dishes to come. As luck would have it, our Sorbet of the Day was the green apple soy bean sorbet. This was an accidental creation by the kitchen crew due to a glut of soy beans. Boy, am I glad they concocted this because it has such a refreshing yet very unique flavour to it. There were hints of apple but there was this mild soy taste to it as well.

Mains Seduction | Barramundi

Mains Seduction | Wagyu Beef Ribs

For the mains, a choice of either having the Barramundi or Wagyu Beef Ribs was presented. The Barramundi dish isn’t just a plain fish steak. It is actually Seared Barramundi stuffed with Otak-Otak, in the classic baba nyonya style. This was inspired from the Chef’s roots as he comes from a Peranakan background. Using only the freshest fish straight out from the aquaculture farms, the normally bland tasting barramundi is brought to life as the spice and heat of the Otak-Otak brings out the sweetess in the flesh of the fish.

The Wagyu Beef Ribs, on the other hand is Tanzini’s signature Slow Brasied Wagyu Beef Ribs Goulash Style. The braised beef was hearty and very flavourful, which was no surprise since it was marinated for approximately 72 hours. I do enjoy my meat tender yet chewy, and this was prepared to perfection. Every bite was heavenly, with the taste of the goulash stew (made up of cumin, tomato paste, paprika.. just to name a few of the ingredients) enveloping my palate. Served with Spring Onion Mash and French Beans, this combination pairs amazingly well with the goulash stew.

Sweet Ending | Chocolate & Butter

Dessert is of course the finale to the meal, innocuously called Chocolate & Butter. Of course, nothing is ever that simple as it is an elaborate four element affair; the brown butter ice cream, the chocolate mousse, the brown milk solids and also, the brown butter powder. As the Chef Eugene explained more about the dessert, I was rather impressed with the amount of thought which went into making this dessert. Fun fact! The brown milk solids were toasted till it turned to a powder with the intention of drying out the tongue, enabling one to fully taste the ice cream. 

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Here is both of the menu placed right beside one another, so you can see the difference and the complete list of the dishes in this one-of-a-kind Valentine's Menu. If you read every word in this post above, you'll know just how much thought went into creating this menu. 

Personally I always believe you don't need one special day to show love to your significant other, but it would be nice to splurge once a year for an unforgettable Valentine's dinner a midst the gorgeous Kuala Lumpur's skies. The individual menu is each priced at RM400++, and it comes with a welcome drink for the lady and gentleman, respectively.

Welcome Drink | Her Magical Valentine

Welcome Drink | His Luxury Valentine

We only have a week or so before February 14 comes, so if you haven't decided on a suitable place... This would be one of the perfect place to celebrate with your loved ones. You'll have to hurry to make a reservation as Upper Deck can only house 25 couples!

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Level 28 GTower, 199 Jalan Tun Razak 
03 - 2168 1899 
Valentine’s Menu only available for dinner on February 14, 2014 

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  | Meet Chef Eugene!  | 

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Other than the menu above, Tanzini's Lower Deck also has their own Valentine's Menu which is priced at RM600++, with a different menu (see below for the menu).

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Thank you Tanzini for having me and Issac for extending the invitation to me. I hope you enjoyed reading this post (and figured out where to celebrate!). Do have a blasting February 14. :)

Till next time,

Review: number76’s Ultrasonic Iron Treatment

I don’t think I’ll need to introduce what Number76 is, it is definitely something you would have heard of if you have ever considered getting your hair done. I first stumbled upon it years ago, and I was there to try out their tansan treatment when it was first introduced. And now, I’m back there again to try their signature treatment, the Ultrasonic Iron Treatment.

I have only ever heard so many amazing reviews about the Ultrasonic Iron Treatment, especially on how much smoother and manageable the hair is after the treatment. When I heard of these reviews, I was thinking whether it’ll work on my hair because here’s the thing; my hair is frizzy, curly with a rather rough texture. Once, my best friend joked that he could use my hair to scrub his floor. *ouch*

I decided that it’ll be nice to give the treatment a try, and see if it would work on my hair. I made an appointment at Number76, the Northpoint branch and I was assigned Director Yamamoto as my stylist. My last visit to the salon was sometime back, and when I returned there again, I realised they revamped the interior of the salon.

It looks more industrial, spacious and fresh, which is very different from most salons. I like how much natural light fills the whole place up, because then you can see your hair color under the natural light, which is important especially after coloring your hair.

A day before I went to the saloon, I actually had an impromptu hair cut; I had the stylist chopped my hair till shoulders’ length and the stylist then styled a messy hair do for me, which explains why my hair is so messy. That is how I look like with short curly hair, and with black roots obviously showing already. This is why then, that I decided I would colour my hair here in Number76. I wanted an ashy brown colour, but I didn’t want to bleach my hair. As it turns out, I didn’t need to bleach my hair, and I can still get ashy tones.

Here’s another picture after I’m all prepped up at the seat. Because I was also doing hair colouring which is a chemical hair service, I had two towels wrapped around my neck, then the large plastic coat, and another towel on my shoulders. They also had my bag placed into a black protective bag too! Anyways, let me get back to the Ultrasonic Iron Hair Treatment,  that is the main review that I am posting about.

For the Ultrasonic Iron Hair Treatment, what happens is you’ll have a hair treatment done and after rinsing the treatment off, then with your hair in a semi wet condition, the stylist would then iron the hair with the special Ultrasonic Iron. Unlike other normal iron, this one doesn’t heat up like normal iron and hence, it is not damaging to your hair.

What the Ultrasonic Iron actually does is that it vibrates at 37,000 beats per second, separating particle of protein, water and oil in the hair treatment earlier to ensure that it penetrates deep inside your hair structure. So, when that happens, it will leave your hair feeling soft, silky and smooth! What more is that you can see the immediate results of it. I recorded a short video to show you how the Ultrasonic Iron works, with the vibrations and the no-heating element too! The video is not edited, and is as recorded so excuse the noob recording skills.


And this is how my hair looks like immediately after the Ultrasonic Iron Hair Treatment, before styling it of course. My hair is still slightly damp from the treatment but you can see obviously how much softer my curls are and hair looks more manageable than before. After the treatment, then scalp tonic and hair serum will be applied on the hair. The stylist would then proceed to ask you how you’ll like to have your hair styled. Since I usually have curly hair, Director Yamamoto suggested I opt for a straight hair styling instead.

And straight hair styling, it was! For this, they had to blow dry my hair which made my hair fluffy cause the curls go all over the place. Then, they flat ironed my hair as you can see in the picture above. I honestly never seen my hair straight but yet voluminous. I did have straight hair before, but it was rebond-ed hair and my hair was so boringly flat.

And ta-da! This is the end product from the treatment and the styling too. :) So so amazing work done by Director Yamamoto and Frankie! I have never seen my hair like this and it was just amazing how lovely I look like in this silky, straight hair. I loved the fact that it look so natural too. Like man, I can rock this straight asymmetrical hair. I was so so mad in love with my hair, you have no idea. So much so that I was considering keeping this hair permanent. It’s actually a really nice feeling to be able to run through my hair.

I couldn’t resist getting one more selfie with Director Yamamoto,  who looks like so adorably cute here. He’s based in Number76’s Northpoint branch, so do drop them a call to book an appointment with him. If you can request for Frankie as your stylist assistant, you should too! He’s quite the friendly person, and it was nice to have him to assist the stylist. :) The treatment lasts for approximately one month and is priced at RM250, together with after treatment products. 

There are four tubes of hair treatments for you to apply on a weekly basis which will help to maintain the effect from the Ultrasonic Iron Treatment. These tubes are also sold separately if you would like to purchase additional ones at RM25/pack. It has been two weeks or so since I last did my treatment and my hair is back to curly, but I can tell that my curls are so much defined and it is definitely softer and less frizzy compared as to before I did the treatment. Below are the information of the saloon for the MidValley Branch, do drop them a visit soon if you’re interested!

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// Number76 (MidValley Branch) //
A-G-2, Ground Floor, North Point, Mid Valley City
Open daily from 10AM – 10PM

+603 – 2287 0661/0662
Facebook: Number76Twitter: @number_76
Instagram: @number_76

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Here’s one last picture of my hair after the treatment, I’m actually missing this straight hair. Which look do you think is better for me? The curly ones with all that drama, or an elegant straight cut for me?
Till next time,