NZ, halfway


Perfect travel companion

I have a new favorite product for traveling and every day too. It is Gatsby Powdered Oil Clear Paper kit. As the name says, the product removes unwanted oil and leaves skin bright and matte.

These wonder papers are going for their ultimate test soon, since I am having a 10 hour flight from Singapore to Auckland starting this evening. I am sure I can count on Gatsby to make me look fresh after a long flight.

I will be the next two weeks in New Zealand. I will be on the road most of the time and I hope I will have time to make quick updates to my blog, so keep checking it. After I have come back I will post pictures and more experiences of my first trip to the Southern Hemisphere.


HSBC architecture

Some time ago I noticed something familiar in Singapore in the area where I walk daily. The local HSBC headquarters looks exactly the same as it looks in London. Although, the London HSBC tower at 8 Canada Square is twice as high and one of the tallest buildings in town, they look very similar. I guess this is one way to be consistent in branding.

The international HSBC headquarters in London was completed in 2002. I did not find any information about the completion year of the Singapore headquarters, but it seems that it is older and that it has been renovated to look like the London tower. Here is an older picture of the Singapore tower.


OMG!! It is HUGE!

There are two magazines I buy regularly: Monocle and HUGE. The first one I can understand as it is written in English, but HUGE is in Japanese and therefore the text parts remain a mystery for me. I do not care. HUGE provides excellent editorials and picture reports what is hot in hi-end fashion in Japan at the moment. Good thing is that the magazine does not only concentrate the most fashionable matters, but also puts old and new together in an original way. I love it. Issue 1/2010 is in stores now. In Singapore it can be found at in Kinokuniya Takashimaya.

PS. HUGE and Monocle should be bought from their origin countries (Japan and England), because they cost twice as much in Singapore compared to the original price. Same thing happens with many non-Singaporean hi-end fashion labels.


Something to do in the Yuletide

Foam balls, sequins, beads and pins...what can be made of them? Classy christmas decorations, of course. I got a starter kit as an early christmas present from my friends in Finland. Now I have gone crazy and I have done several sequin-and-bead balls and one bigger Faberge-like egg. Designing a "Faberge" egg is fun, but finishing it is a different thing. It takes a lot of patience and accuracy to keep the patterns symmetrical. In Singapore the ingredients can be found at Spotlight at Plaza Singapura.


Sunday patterns


In the shadows

Alley view from Egham.

My favorite ad

Although Pierre Cardin is not in the sharpest front line of fashion any more, I love this ad I saw at Knightsbridge tube station in London last week.


England is a modern country...

Street view from Egham.


Standing still

I guess Singapore's economy is not blooming yet, judging by the dozens of anchored empty ships outside the harbor.



Smiths of Smithfield

I started my recent trip to Finland with a stopover in London. During my short stay I had a perfect Sunday brunch with friends at the rooftop restaurant at Smiths of Smithfield restaurant complex. The restaurant served not only delicious food but also magnificent views over London's rooftops. With a single glance from the table one could see The Barbican, St Paul's Cathedral and Smithfield Meat Market. If only it had been warmer so that we could have enjoyed their big balcony.


Changing logo

While doing groceries at Takashimaya's Cold Storage I noticed that the new Pepsi packages are finally hitting the shelves. I am not sure I like the new logo. The typeface is too lightweight and static. What do you think?


Finland, land of swamps

I had a perfect break from the hectic city life in Seinäjoki in Western Finland last week. I woke up early and I headed for duckboards at Paukaneva swamp. The weather was chilly and fresh and it was very quiet. A moment to breath clean, cool air.

Swamps make up one third of Finland's land mass. Although that fact is taught at schools, one easily forgets, as swamps are rarely seen in daily life. They are hidden in the forests and rural areas.

For me, swamps are mystical places. But for some they are a source of livelihood; swamps used to be dried for agricultural land. These days they are a source of sod, which is used as fuel and fertilizer. Also a lot of berries grow there, including the tasty yellow cloudberry.

Enough of lecturing. Happy Independence Day Finland, the beautiful land of the swamps!

After a day outdoors, a real Finnish sauna. Lovely!

Back in Singapore

I got back to Singapore from my short trip to Europe yesterday evening. Today I visited new 313 shopping centre which was opened while I was away. First thing that caught my eye was Santa Claus with his elf at the ground floor. This was my first encounter with Santa in Singapore. There is something wrong with this...I did not see a single one Santa in Finland during my recent visit.



Photos by Finnish National Opera / Heikki Tuuli

My short visit to Finland was filled with culture. My trip started with a new interpretation of Swan Lake and it ended with the second performance of Rusalka. If I say I liked Swan Lake, I was overwhelmed by Rusalka.

I must admit I did not know much of Rusalka before I saw it. Still, it is one of the best operas I have ever seen at Finnish National Opera. Director Richard Jones is said to be one of the opera directors of his generation. It is easy to agree, so tense and visual he had made his Rusalka. Mr. Jones had divided Antonín Dvorak's famous opera in three sets: lake view, Czech gasthaus and final scene at a bordello. In every scene the often referred moon is hanging above the sets.

At the second night's performance Elisabet Strid was playing Rusalka and Mika Pohjonen the prince whom Rusalka falls in love with destructive consequenses. The lead couple was a bit unbalanced, but they both sung very well. I liked especially Ms. Strid's performance. In addition there were very good performers for Water Gnome (Gregory Frank) and Ježibaba (Maria Kettunen).

As a visualist I enjoyed the sets as much the music and singing. The sets were simple but eye catching, especially in the first and the last act. The first set was somewhat traditional although the was a diving board under the moon. The last act was set to happen at a bordello where blond girls were waiting their customers with devil-may-care looks. The whole act was a quite sad but it touched me the most.

Rusalka is not just an opera, it is a figure in Slavic mythology. If you would like to know more, click here.

Rusalka will be played at Finnish National Opera until January 19th 2010.


New Swan Lake

Picture by Antti Aimo-Koivisto, Lehtikuva

After a long SQ flight and a nice but rainy weekend in London, I am now in freezing cold Helsinki. My time here could not have started better. I went to see and feel a new version of the famous Swan Lake at Finnish National Ballet (FNB) today.

The performance was stunning. FNB's new Artistic director Kenneth Greve had made a modern interpretation of Ivanov's and Petipa's classic choreography. The lead dancers were great although the choreography seemed to be quite difficult for some male dancers. Tchaikovsky's music had gone through some modernization as well but it did not bother.

As a visual person I looked most critically the sets and the costumes. I was very impressed by the actual swan lake set. The lake was beautifully portrayed in a simple yet sophisticated and mysterious way. It was made using only lights and smoke. Costumes were great too, especially I liked von Rothbart's dark toned and a bit scary outfits. And his little helpers in black hoods - they were super cute!

There is only performance left this season, this Friday. Catch it if you can!



It is time to do restock my Finnish tar shampoo, brief English introduction here. Today I am heading to Finland for a short cooling holiday. Keep checking the blog for freezing updates from the North!


Hello Kitty Lab

Picture from kittylab.com.sg

My favorite kitten has landed in Singapore! Hello Kitty is celebrating her 35th birthday in Singapore with Hello Kitty Lab for two weeks, starting from November 14th. I payed a visit this rainy day and it was worth the trip to the other side of the island.

As everyone knows, Hello Kitty is a famous scientist. She was doing one of her experiments and something went terribly wrong. There was a huge explosion in her laboratory and her head doubled its size turning Hello Kitty into Dr. Kitty, who is now giving Singaporeans a chance to make their own experiments in the Hello Kitty Lab.

Actually the lab is a small town where visitors play games designed by Dr. Kitty. If one wins, they can add features to their own Hello Kitty creation. The tasks vary and put the visitor on a good mood. The lab is extremely nicely designed and eye is given to the details. After finishing the lab, every visitor is given a Kitty ID card with a picture of their newly created Kitty character. If one finishes the lab tour in 35 minutes, he will be given a medal.

For those who like Hello Kitty, Hello Kitty Lab is a must visit. I believe others like it too. The venue is open until November 29th.
Unfortunatelly taking photos was not allowed in the Hello Kitty Lab. Here are some samples from the lab.


The tallest building in Hong Kong

Behind this worn out but lively street stands the tallest building in Hong Kong, the International Commerce Center. It has now reached its peak and is 484m tall with 118 floors. The lower levels of the building are already in use although the higher floors are still under construction. The ICC is being built above the Kowloon MTR station next to The Arch where I once almost moved to.


Waiting for the perfect shot

It was another storm this evening. I tried my best to catch a lightning, but I missed the biggest bangs. Here are today's best shots. As it is monsoon season, there lots of storms to come...

Sunset before rain

Casino taking shape

I took a quick look at the direction of MarinaBay Sands building site today and I saw the three towers being connected finally. I can not wait to see the whole complex ready. I am especially interested in the SkyPark which is going to be 340m long connecting all the three pictured hotel towers. The roof top of MarinaBay Sands is going to host not only bars and restaurants, but huge garden and swimming pools too. They must have an amazing view up there!

Here is an illustration of how the SkyPark is being built.
Picture from MarinaBay Sands. See it larger here.

Sign language

It is hard to believe that these kind of signs still exist. The sign is from Hong Kong's MTR train.


Valentino: The Last Emperor

Pictures time.com

I watched a very good documentary about haute couture fashion designer Valentino last Friday. Actually it was a documentary about two men, Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti. Almost everyone knows Valentino by name, but there could not be Valentino without Giancarlo, who his Valentino's lifelong business partner and lover. They have been together over 40 years and it is touching to see how they still work together every single day. As Valentino puts it, 'It was the best thing to me to make dresses, I am a disaster in everything else' and Giancarlo takes care of everything else. Valentino: The Last Emperor is now on dvd. Catch it while you can!

My Christmas tree

Although I am traveling during Christmas time, I decided to get a (plastic) Christmas tree. I found a perfect tree at OG department store in Orchard Road. I did not want to make it American style tree like all the Christmas trees in Singapore. I only put some white lights, silver and blue ornaments, cones and the most important part of all, Finnish flags, which I made by myself.

Here is a song about Christmas tree in German. It is recorded in a very special year, 1977.


Lights! Camera!

It has been lately stormy in Singapore. Almost every day heavy showers with thunder and lightnings. I have been watching these nature's spectacles from a high floor and I have tried to capture lightnings on film. I can assure you it is not easy. Above you can see a few pictures of lightning striking above the sea and lighting the whole night sky.


Sheldon J. Plankton, I assume

Off Hollywood road in Hong Kong I found this graffiti which looks quite a lot like the crazy Plankton, who continuously tries to steal the secret recipe for Krabby Patty in SpongeBob Squarepants tv series. I miss those lazy Sunday mornings in New York watching SpongeBob's adventures in Bikini Bottom :) I have to revive this habit from this Sunday on!


Names, names, names!

Every I time I visit Hong Kong, I go to Metropol Restaurant in United Center next to newly refurbished Pacific Place shopping heaven (there was nothing wrong with the old one either). The restaurant has extremely good and traditional dim sum. You never know what comes from the waitresses' steamy vans. They do not speak English and I can not Mandarin. So it is international hand language one has to stick to.

My absolute favorites are their desserts. Pictured (colored) here are my three all time favorite buns they serve. Sometimes they have sold out them, but last weekend I managed to get them all. My only problem with these buns is that I have not found them in Singapore. I am sure they are served here as well, but where? And what should I call these buns? I know bun is 'bao' in Mandarin, but my Mandarin skills end there. Can you help?

Here are short descriptions of the buns:
Top: This bun has yellow egg(?) custard in it.
Right: This bun has also yellow custard inside it.
Left: This bun has sugar coating and and no custard inside.

Weekend in Hong Kong, part 2: The Chinese side