101.1001 #86 | 30.30 #19 bbmm activity: korean spa jjimjibang

kor0003spasalt

Task #83 of 101.1001 and task #19 of 30in30 is to do a new activity with mm. We are in seoul for holiday and as soon as we got off the plane and deposited our luggage at the hotel, we headed to a jjimjibang spa to rest and pamper ourselves. We got the deluxe package at KRW100,000 (USD100). We ended up staying from 10am to 5pm so it was worth it.

The spa says it’s the largest in Korea. At a sprawling 7 floors I can believe it. There are sauna, steam areas, baths, massage rooms, sleeping rooms, relaxation hall, restaurants, a rooftop garden, internet café even a cinema.

First we got keys to our locker. The key was a regular locker key as well as a smartchip that recorded any purchases or treatments. We had a quick shower at the large bath area. Korean baths are like Japanese baths, sexes are segregated and you don’t wear anything inside except a small towel to strategically cover certain areas.

First stop of our treatment was the herbal steam bath. We were seated on wooden stools with an opening in the middle. The herbs and water were heated and the steam rose up through the opening. We were covered in a sort of plastic tent to keep the steam in. Quite surreal, the herbs smelled really nice though.

After the shower and steam we changed into standard issue pajamas—t-shirt and shorts. Everyone inside the facility was dressed in these pajamas. The massage part was 90mins of a mix of acupressure and thai style. The young technician got almost every troublesome spot in my shoulders, lower back, arms and definitely hit the ITB around my left knee.

At the end of the massage it was around 1pm so time for lunch. The spa had a cafeteria and 2 restaurants. We went to the self-service korean restaurant and had tofu soup and beef rib soup. Came with banchans and I had a tasteless beer.

We found massage chairs in the main hall and fell asleep for around 1.5hrs. One of the features of traditional korean spas is the sight of people asleep at sleeping rooms and areas. Admission is 24hrs so some people stay the night.

Then it was time to check out the heat rooms. The traditional pine scented one was so hot inside we could barely walk, our soles were burning up. Lasted 10 seconds inside there, max. The himalayan salt room was a pleasant 52°C, blankets were provided so we lay down and rested on pink salt crystals. The charcoal heated rooms were good too, we went into the high temperature one, around the same as the salt room. In between rooms, we sat in the ice room to cool down, and then on the floor.

Last stop was the baths area. There was a steam room and half a dozen baths at different temperatures. We like the outdoor ones for the fresh air, the ones with jetstream massage and the cold 24°C cooling pool.

Great day, and the perfect cure for a night spent on a red-eye flight.

korea trip day 01

kor0001spa

Early start, flight at 1am arrived 5.30am. Didn’t get much sleep on the plane, slow moving immigration meant we were out at arrivals after 7am. After a little walking around, we finally found the right stop for the airport bus to take us to our hotel. Trip was over 1hr, so we managed to nap a bit.

Way too early to check into hotel, so we left our luggage and headed to the subway. Got a t-money (like octopus) and our brains weren’t working, we initially only filled up for KRW1,000 (USD1.00). Hahaha. Caught the mistake easily. The destination was dragon hill spa, a traditional korean spa occupying 7 floors of a building. There were spas, steam rooms, dry heat rooms, saunas, massages, restaurants, resting area and even arcade games and a rooftop garden. We went for the massage package at KRW100,000 (USD100) including 30mins of herbal steam bath, 90mins of acupressure massage. The steam bath was interesting, and the massage was excellent. Lunch was typical korean food of tofu soup and beef rib soup. We got to the spa around 10am and we left at 5pm. Lots and lots to do in term of rest, pampering and relaxation.

kor0004ewhastreet

We took the subway at rush hour back to our hotel area at Ewha Women’s University. The night street vendors were just starting and we grabbed a bowl of extremely spicy tteokbokki (aka topoki) and freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.

kor0006tofupot

Hunting around the street market area looking for dinner led us to a homely upstairs place serving tofu hotpot with spicy squid. Wow, food in korea is hot! The tofu was wonderfully silken. Of course, walking back to the hotel we saw many other restaurants, but we were happy with our choice. Popped into a supermarket to get water and green tea for the next few days.

The hotel is new, it’s more like a serviced apartment with a small kitchenette, a full sized fridge, a washing machine, a closet and even a shoe cupboard. Happy with our choice and happy to be settled in early.

hokkaido day 4: jozankei, shikotsuko

joz136spa joz138spaoutdoor

Woke up at 7am to soak in the other onsen at the hotel. They switch in the morning, so this one was the male onsen at night. Two indoor spas, an outdoor one and a steam room. I like this outdoor one, the temperature was perfect. We tried them all before breakfast.

joz143bfast joz152salad

Lots to enjoy at breakfast too. Salmon, stuffed squid, rice, soup, fish balls and freshly squeezed apple and vegetable juice. We weren’t in any hurry so after breakfast we decamped to the lounge to chill before it was time to checked out. After we paid our bill we even managed to fit in a visit to the shop and bought massage pillows. Then it was off to explore the Jozankei area for the day.

joz169road joz178snowtrees

First stop was the dam, which also had a viewing platform over the valley. Unfortunately it was still closed for the winter. We could see how the area had much more snow than in Sapporo proper. The roads were all ploughed, but the packed ice at the side was quite thick. There was also an extremely loud continuous announcement that sounded ominous — probably telling whoever was in the area that the dam was closed, or perhaps it was so loud to scare off the bears, who knows.

joz205shikotsuko

joz193shikotsuko joz198shikotsuko

Drove about an hour to lake shikotsu 支笏湖. When we rounded the corner and saw the lake for the first time we said “wow” at the same time. So beautiful. It’s the second deepest lake in Japan and is surrounded by 3 volcanoes. There is a small touristy development with hotels, a visitor centre, some restaurants and in the summer there are paddle boats and sightseeing cruises. Not a lot open at the off season, still nice to walk around the breathe crisp fresh air.

joz238soba 

joz237tempura joz252owlcafecoffee

Lunch was tempura and soba at one of the few restaurants there. Simple family style restaurant producing quality food. Stopped off at café owl for coffee and tea. Another small quaint place we had the whole place to ourselves. Ah, that’s the life.

joz289hotelroom joz295spa
Drove back to Jozankei and there was enough time to explore the park and part of the river. There was a suspension bridge over the river but access was blocked by ice. So we went ahead and checked into our next hotel, shiraito onsen, a small family-run ryokan. It was funny, communicating with the elderly lady who ran the place. Mostly using sign and body language.

The tatami room was more basic than at the shogetsu grand, as was the onsen. The so-called outdoor spa was one bath probably max 3 people with a glass door opening out to a courtyard. Enjoyed the soak though.

joz303dinner joz318grill
Another fabulous kaiseki dinner, and we realised we were the only guests at the hotel. Lovely dinner, huge menu with course after course after course served. Starters, salad, sashimi, chawanmushi, tempura, soba, rice, soup, a gigantic platter of grilled crab, fish, ribs and finished with yuzu ice cream.

Tried the indoor onsen after dinner — two spas that were quite, quite hot. Long day, quite tired so we turned in early. This hotel was small enough not to have wifi, so it was a good excuse to get some rest.

hokkaido day 3: sapporo, jozankei

Woke up to mm wishing me happy birthday, yay. Breakfast was a the café denmark inside the station shopping complex — egg curry roll, brioche and I had a royal milk tea which was basically normal tea made stronger than their normal weak standards. Checked out of the hotel, not before trying the free massage chair at the lift lobby and also discovering they had a lounge with free coffee. Ah well. Had some difficulty finding the car rental place, we were a little confused with google maps before realising that the office was next to Sapporo subway station and not the JR station. It was actually just a couple of blocks from our hotel on the same side of the street. Ah well.

sap184curbmkt sap191curbcrab

Drove 20mins to curb market and found a parking space around the shops. Unlike the covered nijo market, curb market had seafood shops lining both sides of a stretch of the road. Lots and lots of crab, crab and more crab. We had lunch at an upstairs restaurant, which we remember from last time. Uni & ikura rice, grilled cuttlefish, grilled corn and a bottle of beer to share. Yummy. Dessert was melon slices from one of the shops on the street.

joz011cafe joz014cake

After lunch it was off to leg 2 of our trip, to Jozankei onsen. It’s only about 45mins’ drive from Sapporo, on a regular main road. Small village with several hotels, a couple of shops and some cafés. It was too early for check in so we stopped at a traditional café. Tea, coffee, toast and pound cake. Very quaint and European style, down to the delicate china and wooden tables.

joz022hotel joz046honey

We were staying at two different onsen hotels at Jozankei. The first is the Shogetsu Grand, a more commercial and larger place. Lovely view of the river valley from our tatami room. We unpacked and made our way to the lounge for tea, coffee and to sample their honey bar. They had something like 15-20 different types of honey to try, from flowery ones like lavender and rose to fruity ones like apple and pomegranate to odd ones like sunflower and something woody. Crackers and yogurt were available to go with the honey. So relaxing, just sitting there at the lounge.

joz065spa

joz070spaoutdoor joz072spaoutdoor

Even more relaxing was the onsen itself. A very large spa with 3 indoor pools at different temperatures, an outdoor spa and a steam room. Obviously you’re not supposed to take pictures in an onsen, but we sneaked them while no one was around. Great soak for about an hour until it was time for dinner.

joz083setting joz101papillote
joz115riceeggsoup joz122dessert

Dinner was amazing. It was served in our room, and like all kaseki meals it consisted of neverending courses. Umeshu appetiser with small plates of starters, fish, sashimi, pork meatballs cooked in broth at the table, pumpkin and pork rib en papillote, chawanmushi, flavoured rice, soup and a seasonal sakura pudding with blueberry vinegar. Even though we were full it wasn’t the type of bloaty fullness associated with overeating. Most of the dishes were vegetable or seafood, only a small amount of red meat.

After laying around and allowing the food to digest, we headed down to the onsen for another soak. The relaxation was topped off with 10mins at the massage chair (¥100) and then it was time for bed. What a great day.

30in30 #9: something relaxing

00sap05onsen

Task #9 in 30 in 30 is to do something relaxing.

Day three of our vacation, drove a short 45min down from sapporo to jozankei where we have 2 nights at 2 different onsen hotels. Today is at shogetsu grand. We visited the onsen before and after dinner. The onsen has 4 different spas and a steam room. One large spa, a cooler one with space to lie down, a really hot one and our favourite, the outdoor spa. Although outside, it is covered and secluded so there is privacy. Very important since at japanese onsens no clothes are allowed. We’re also not supposed to take cameras and mobile phones inside but we sneaked our iphones and took some pics and video while the place was empty.

japan trip day 2 part 2

shirahama — coastal sights, sunset, onsen

shira168sandanbeki shira183senjojiki

After a leisurely lunch, we drove south along the coast to see the sights there. First it was a brief stop at the marine lookout tower. Just a quick snap from the entrance. Then it was sandanbeki 三段壁 which means three parts cliff. A short walk brought us to a lookout platform with 180° views of both sets of cliffs. There was a tunnel inside one of the cliffs that led to underground caves, but we didn’t have time to explore them.

Parking at the cliffs was ¥500, which would be refunded if we spent at least ¥1,000 at the shop. Thinking that we didn’t have anything particular to buy, we thought we’d walk around the shop anyway. Ha! Ended up spending over ¥4,000 on a bag of green satsumas and bottles of blueberry vinegar. At least the bottles were plastic, our liquid haul was beginning to build up. We had 30kg allowance, but we were still relatively restrained in our shopping, there were still whiskies to buy.

Another few minutes’ drive from sandanbeki was senjojiki 千畳敷, flat slate-like rock formations on the coast. Worth spending a few minutes taking pictures and walking down to the bottom. No car park fees or shop temptations.

shira197sunset shira204onsen

We had a voucher for one of the public onsens, and we had about 1.5-2hrs till dinner back at the hotel. We had assumed that everything was provided for, but forgot towels. Ah well, ¥250 on a towel souvenir is okay.

This onsen was spread over a large hill, with spas at different levels. We started with the indoor one next to the showers and quickly moved onto a secluded one outdoors. That one was very nice and peaceful, sitting in the hot spring we could hear the wind through the trees and birds calling too. Well, until the peace and quiet was shattered by a group of mainland tourists. Ugh. These idiots are everywhere, can’t escape them.

We changed back to street clothes and went to explore the spas at the upper levels. What a shame we didn’t have time to try them out, some had great views and seemed a lot quieter than the main ones downhill. What we did manage to catch, with perfect timing, was the sunset. Spectacular colours over the bay witnessed from a wonderful vantage point, it was fate.

shirakan060sukiyaki shirakan061sukiyaki

Dinner back at the hotel was sukiyaki tonight. A huge platter of one small lobster, a variety of fish, squid, pork, chicken, beef, mushrooms and green vegetables. Sashimi, small plates and pickles at the side of course. There was enough for 4 people, especially if we took up the offer of additional rice. Could only try a small amount of udon at the end. Umeshu with the meal, as usual.

After dinner, we re-organised our bags. It was funny, we didn’t discuss it, didn’t agree on anything, but as soon as we got back to our room, we went to our respective corners and started the repacking process. It was a good use of the rest time between a meal and going to the onsen.

We didn’t have exclusive use of the onsen tonight, a few other people came and went. One woman brought her baby to shower and soak in the indoor spa for a while. We still went through each of the spas, even when it started raining we stayed at the outdoor one. Didn’t want to leave the comfortable hot springs, a bit sad, our final night at the onsen.

japan trip day 2 part 1

shirahama 白浜 — beach, engetsu island 円月島

shirakan051bfast shirakan058hamegg

I’d set the alarm for 7am, our breakfast was at 8am. We went to bed around 10pm last night so we got a decent amount of sleep, hopefully catching up on lost sleep because of the red eye flight. One thing we had been looking forward to very much was Japanese breakfast. We were not disappointed. Another splendid selection — 6 small dishes including salmon roe, mashed potato, pickles and small mushrooms; pickles, grilled fish, salad, rice, miso soup. On the table was also the small grill on a stove from last night, already with slices of ham and sausage. Next to it was an egg. Aha, we were to make ham and egg ourselves, loving this cooking yourself business. A small bowl of yogurt and a slice of orange to finish.

We were in no hurry to go out, so we tried out the foot spa in our balcony. It was just above lukewarm and quite relaxing. Would have been great to enjoy with a cup of tea but I didn’t have milk.

shira018beach shira023spa

The hotel had valet parked our car safely in one of the covered spaces next to the entrance. We got the key but our first destination didn’t need the car. In advertisements and on tripadvisor we read that the hotel was 3 minutes from the beach. It’s an exaggeration! The beach is literally across the road so no more than 1 minute away. Perhaps the 3 minutes refer to actually hitting the sandy part and not just the pathway. Anyway, pedantic.

The beach was a revelation. Research before the trip had registered that there was a beach, but we did not expect the pristine white sandy beach and a sweeping secluded bay that greeted us. Not too crowded on a Saturday morning either. There were palm trees and tree parasols. There was even a public onsen with views across the beach. We walked all the way to one end and walked back, it was so pleasant.

shira045shop shira048sweets

Coming out from the beach, we continued exploring the shopping streets behind the hotel but it seemed like it was off season as most of the shops were closed. Not just closed for the morning, but closed for a longer period. We visited a family mart opposite the hotel and a small shop selling fish cakes and sweet biscuits. Bought coffee, tea and coke zero at the former and biscuits for souvenirs at the latter.

shira065engetsu shira075wineshop

Back in the car, we drove north to see Engetsu island 円月島. A natural arch located along the coast, apparently sometimes the sunset hits it just perfectly at the arch. At the coastal point closest to the island were a couple of parking spots, but they charged money so we parked at a nearby small shop. The mean granny defending the shop wasn’t all that pleased at our presence, even though we ended up buying things from her. This was the only unfriendly Japanese person we met on the whole trip. Strange woman.

We tried to drive further up the coast but there was nothing more to see. So we headed back towards town in the direction of the market. But not before finding a wine shop and having more tasting. This time, we couldn’t get away from the Japanese insistence on no drinking for the driver so only mm was able to taste the sake and umeshu offered. She sneaked me a few sips when the shopkeeper wasn’t looking though. Ended up buying honey umeshu, so much choice.

shirahama — toretore market 南紀白浜 とれとれ市場

shira090tore shira134fish

shira110tuna shira101sushi

shira135juice shira141salt

Toretore market was exactly the huge food market we expected. It was full of people and full of great stuff. Seafood stalls selling fresh fish, prawns, lobsters, crabs, oysters and even whale, some of the food were for cooking at home but a lot of it was packaged and ready to be eaten as sashimi or sushi straightaway. Fruit and veg. Pickles. Juice. Sweets. Wine. Cooked food. Cans and jars. It was foodie heaven. We even managed to catch the fishmonger cutting up a whole tuna, down to gouging out the eyes and the delicious cheeks.

shira151lunch shira156uniroe

We bought a large selection of sashimi for lunch — fresh whale, which I’d tried in Bergen but mm has never tried. Large scallops, white fish and fatty salmon. Chirashi of salmon roe and uni, two of our favourites. Got a cup of umeshu each from the giant glass tank displayed at the shop.

Would have been great to find space to picnic, but the available tables and chairs were part of existing eating establishments. So we made the quick and easy decision to head back to the comfort of our hotel room, only 10mins away. What a life, eh.

japan trip day 1 part 2

wakayama 和歌山

waka006market waka037grapes

I managed to nap for a few minutes while mm drove us from Yamazaki distillery to our next destination, Marina City at Wakayama 和歌山. A longer drive than from Kansai, about 2.5hrs.

We were aiming for the Kuroshio market that supposedly had a tuna cutting demo everyday. We knew we’d miss it, but was hoping to see stalls with seafood, sweets and local produce. True enough, there were stalls at two buildings — the fruit and veg nearest the car park was full of delicious looking fruits, juices and jars of honey. The main market building was a bit deserted, some of the fish stalls were closed for the day already.

waka016chirashiumeshu waka023umeshu

It was almost 2pm so the first order of business was to find lunch. Disappointed that the only restaurant that seemed to be still open wasn’t serving anymore but very grateful that the fast food section was still open. One stall selling grilled food — raw seafood and vegetables, that customers grilled themselves. The other was the typical Japanese fast food of seafood rice bowl. No brainer in terms of choice. Sushi wins every time. We had salmon, salmon roe and uni chirashi, and although not the best we’ve ever had, it hit the spot.

For drinks we each ordered a umeshu, famous local plum wine. I had a mature umeshu and mm had a yuzu umeshu. The mature umeshu was sweet, just how I liked it. Again, perfect for the time and place.

The good thing about an almost empty market was that we were free to wander around. Bought some sweets and visited a umeshu shop. They charged a nominal amount for a small sample and we tried umeshu flavoured with honey and another flavoured with tea. Bought a few bottles too, the start of our bottle-collecting holiday.

shirahama-kan onsen hotel 白浜 館

shira030hotel shirakan007roomspa

shirakan004room shirakan010tatami

I took over the driving to Shirahama 白浜. We’d been awake since 5am after 2 hrs sleep so it was a long, tired 2.5hrs on a highway that was peppered with tunnels and tolls. The GPS brought us to the back of the hotel and it took us a few minutes to find the entrance. An old fashioned, rather basic hotel, it was well tended and we liked our room. Japanese style room with tatami floor, the living area converted to futon beds at night. A small balcony looked out to the main road and there was even our own private foot spa on the balcony.

shirakan032dinner shirakan034sushi

shirakan040beef shirakan043beef

shirakan044tempura shirakan046rice

Dinner was included, and it was a fantastic spread that greeted us when we were shown to our table. Not quite kaiseki style, but close. Lots of small dishes already set out — starters, sashimi, pickles, vegetables. We ordered more umeshu with the meal, mm had one with soda and I had one on the rocks. The dishes were delicious and intricate, small bites and portions of food that is now familiar to us.

Hot dishes included tempura and the meat / seafood course we cooked ourselves. They provided tiny grills powered by burning fuel blocks and we had a few small slices of beef, prawn, seafood and vegetables. Nice to cook food ourselves and to be able to control timing and flavours. The rice was flavoured with mushrooms and vegetables; it too cooked in its pot at the table.

shirakan016onsen shirakan024onsen

By then we were tired so we couldn’t wait to go to the hot springs. Japanese styled, so segregated by gender and no clothing or towels allowed. Not our first time at onsens so we weren’t bothered. After showering, we visited each spa in turn. There were 4 different ones: an indoor one next to the shower area, a semi-outdoor “longevity” one, an outdoor one underneath trees and a tall tub accessed via a wooden staircase. Our favourite was the outdoor one underneath the trees — enough seclusion from the elements but with fresh air and breeze that made the hot water even more relaxing.

Needed to do some research on where to go and to get phone numbers for the GPS. No internet in our room (our biggest complaint) and even worse, the advertised internet in the lobby didn’t work. I couldn’t connect on either the iphone or the mba although somehow mm got through on her iphone 3GS. Says something about older models. I was too tired to function and was very grateful when she took advantage of the small window to gather much needed information. Was out as soon as the lights were off and my head hit the pillow.

massage

mb020marriott

Spa day. Was shopping with mm a few weeks ago and she stopped at one of those aromatherapy places. They had a trial promotion for massages, so we booked for a trial at < a href=”http://www.alqvimia.com” title=”alqvimia”>alqvimia. I’m more used to standard massages that are more muscle manipulation (ie more painful) than these oil-slathering type of massage. First, the therapist checked for which type of oil would suit my type, then she put on soothing music and I got 60mins of a nice relaxing massage. It was okay, I felt no different afterwards. I probably won’t go again, too expensive.

massage day

queenspa

We took the train, 45mins, went through two vastly different immigration checkpoints (one side fully electronic with fingerprint sensor, the other a scramble and long queue), checked in with the counter at the station and within minutes were at the queen spa complex. Seven levels of relaxation, wow.

First, we were directed to the lockers where we were given a security wristband with a number. This number will be used at the end to settle up. Then it was time for sauna, steam room and a shower before changing into the uniform pajamas. Then the fun begins. The menu had a selection of body massage, facial, hand, foot, head, back massages as well as manicures, pedicures and even hairdressing. One floor was massage, another was the pool, the main lobby had huge armchairs with personal tv sets.

We opted for 90min body massage. It’s pretty standard, my muscles were sore afterwards because it’s been a while for me. There were free fruit, ice cream, snacks, tea, coffee and soft drinks. After the massage it was time for dinner. Again there were choices — the main restaurant upstairs, the smaller restaurant on the main floor or sit at the armchairs and order noodles. The food was good, relatively expensive.

Head and foot massage for 90mins after dinner. By then it was 10.30pm and we’d been there over 5hrs. Total bill including tips worked out to be just over £100 for 2 people. The tip situation is always awkward, they push for big tips and give limited choice on the slip you sign at the end of each procedure. The smallest amount is already 30% of the cost of the massage and it goes up to several times the cost. Reading the reviews it seems to be a persistent issue and I won’t be surprised that westerners or people who can’t read have been scammed into giving a biggest available tip amount.

Although called a spa, and having the usual spa facilities, it’s too family like, noisy and busy to be truly relaxing. Staff are polite but quite in-your-face. It’s the nature of the beast I suppose. Go without expectations, know what you want and it will be a good experience.

spa day

It’s mm’s birthday. We went to a spa at one of the big hotels. Very tastefully and serenely decorated, with tea served as soon as we arrived and peaceful ambient music throughout.

We went for a 3 hour package. Started with foot massage — foot spa, massage itself then a mud wrap. Then hot stone massage and facial. The first time we had hot stone massage was in Bangkok after the Kenya trip. It was much needed, really great and relaxing. Nothing since then has compared. I fell asleep somewhere between the massage and facial, totally missing the facial experience. The next thing I knew, the therapist was peeling the mask off. Heh.

We had a little time to spare so we enjoyed the hot pool, sauna and steam room. Pretty decent.

Dinner with her family at the usual restaurant. Good to have a pampering day.

birthday pampering

spafourseasons

Met mm for lunch at our usual Korean restaurant, but that wasn’t the pampering for the day. After lunch we went to our hairdresser’s to get our hair cut, but that wasn’t the pampering for the day.

mm treated me to spa at the Four Seasons; and I treated her to dinner at the Marriott — those were the pampering for the day.

She’d booked a 90-minute relaxation massage for both of us. We got there 1.5hrs early to use the other amenities. The pampering started with the shower — not only rainforest, but 6 jets from the side. Then it was soaking in a large semi-oval whirlpool with waterfall feature. Sauna and aromatherapy steam room too. The relaxation room had reclining beds, personal TV screen and 3 choices of juices.

When it was time for the massage, we were led to the treatment area and allowed for rest for a few minutes. Initially we booked a double room but for some reason it wasn’t possible. It didn’t matter cos basically I fell asleep shortly after the massage started. I dunno, sometimes I wish I could stay awake during massages to fully appreciate it but other times I’m glad I’m relaxed enough to sleep. It included a hot stone treatment and I woke up for a minute during that.

After the massage we lounged around munching on dried fruit and hot tea. Then it was back to the steam room for one final soak before showering. Everything was available — robes, towels, shampoo, lotion, mousse.

Dinner wasn’t as pampering. We hadn’t been to lunch or dinner buffet for a long time. We agreed that even though it was at the Marriott, the standard isn’t as high as before. Or our expectations have risen up several notches. There was a giant seafood counter, but that was about it as far as wow factor went. It was a nice dinner though, it was great to spend time together and do something special to celebrate our birthdays.

relax day 2

We slept in and didn’t get up till after 10am. I wish I can do that every day, sigh. After the spa yesterday we were given a couple of coupons for complimentary drinks, so we went to the café and had tea (for me) and coffee (for her). Real tea leaves albeit lipton, which I had to abandon after one cup, I like real tea leaves but lipton sucks.

She wanted to go to a buddhist temple to ask for her fortune. Though skeptical at whether someone who is (?) regularly (?) going to doctrine lessons should be asking for fortunes in the temple of another religion, I was happy that the result was excellent. She asked for guidance on career and the outcome is that she is in a good position, with good prospect and people looking out for her. I’m relieved.

It was extremely hot and I was dripping inside, didn’t improve when we got outside and had to walk a way to the bus stop. There we found out that the next bus was in 15 mins time. We lucked out a bit, we found somewhere to sit under shelter, and the supervisor at the bus stop said she’d look out for the bus for us. In the end, I spotted it first!! Yay me! It was a long ride, 35 mins, to the end of another island, but it was worth it. We had lunch at a really famous Portuguese restaurant, Fernando’s, it’s motto is “no airconditioning, no high chairs, no ketchup, but we have food and drink.”

It was already 2pm and still we had to wait, I can’t imagine what it would have been like earlier, or at dinner time. We had chorizo sausages, garlic prawns, whole roasted squid and a green salad. Came with yummy bread that I bought half a dozen of, to the surprise of the waitress who had to ask the manager. I also had, like, 3 bottles of beer, yikes. Hey! It was hot and I was thirsty.

Took the bus back out to town, walked around and bit, bought some custard tarts, then went to take the ferry back.

Funny system with the ferries. They have 4-5 sailings per hour, and when most of the passengers for that sailing had boarded, they let people who have tickets for subsequent sailings on as standby. So the practice is if you bought a ticket for say 8pm, you can turn up at the terminal at 6pm and see if you can get onto the, say 6.30pm. Which is what we did, and we were lucky.

Got home at around 9pm and I was too full from the day to eat dinner.

Sigh. We had a wonderful time, the prospect of going to work tomorrow ……. not keen.

r&r

Went to St Gregory’ spa with AL and RO yesterday — my ex-colleagues from my previous company. Funny that none of us are doing the same job we were when we knew each other, 2 of us have left the company altogether. But we miss the family atmosphere, I’ve been where I am for 2.5 years now and if I think back at the days when I’ve done 2.5 yrs at the previous place, there’s a big difference. I don’t feel loyalty, don’t feel like I belong, no teamwork. We’ve been well and truly spoiled.

Anyway I did a body scrub and hair therapy massage at the spa. The scrub was nothing out of the ordinary, just some scrubbing with gritty bits that are supposed to exfoiliate, then wrapped in plastic and a simple head massage. The hair therapy was fun. Wet hair, then lots and lots of cream massaged into the scalp, with a finger massage. Then as it gets absorbed, a neck, shoulder and hand massage. Then a bit of steaming before more massaging and washing off. My hair was definitely softer afterwards. I was told not to wash it till Monday but I thought to myself there’s no way I can stand not washing my hair for 2 days.

The spa is part of the complex at the Plaza Hotel, there’s also a pool, a gym and a climbing wall I was eyeing, but never had the nerve to try. I was the first to finish, so I got a carrot juice while I waited. Afterwards we took a taxi to Suntec and had prata and gravy at the famous place there. I was already full.

Hung out at my room to play ligretto, wow, it’s been a long long time since I played. Next time I’m back in Switzerland I’ll have to remember to buy a box.

They left around 6pm, I was far too full from the prata to eat, so I took an early shower and turned on the Powerbook. But ezboard was down and I was soon getting tired. Nothing on TV either.

Decided to take a nap around 8.30pm. Next thing I know when I opened my eyes it was nearly 10pm and I was a bit cold. Turned the aircon down and went back to sleep. Woke up this morning at 8.15am, having slept for nearly 12 hours.

I needed that.

Came back from a big breakfast — birchermuseli, fruit, sausages, chee cheong fun, fried bee hoon, kaya toast. Hence the unusual phenomenon of posting at 10.30 in the morning.

No plans today, meeting C&R for early dinner, may be.