Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hair Perming Experience in Seoul

All wired up for perming!

I used to have a soft, curly hair when I was young...until my nanny decide to chop them off! I was 6 when my hair transformed to Moe in The Three Stooges! From then on, my locks become straight and blah for years to come. Come to think about it, I couldn't blame 100% on that incident since my sisters have straight hair too! LOL!

Don't you just love this?

Looking at most K-Pop girls with their mild and soft curls, I gotta say, I want one of those (back)! I could just grab my hair curler or use the paper curling technique, but who got the time! Normal perm at a proper professional salon would cost around RM200 - 300, or could be more. Then there's Groupon discount that offers perming for less than RM100, but I wouldn't risk having my hair messed up on some unknown hair salon.

So...what a girl to do in Seoul beside shopping and sightseeing? Do what every women do in Korea? 

Get your hair done, honey!

10,000 won (RM 27) for a bag.
Any bags from man-bag, handbag, purse, backpacks...
This bag place is just next to the hair salon I went to.

One day, I decided to travel alone to Ewha Women Univ station after hearing many feedbacks that this is the place where students usually shop (aka thrift shopping).  As I hopped out the subway, I could see massive amount of clothing shops and more shop stretches to one end to another. Everything from men and women clothing, 10,000 won (RM 27) worth of bags, wedding clothes and cosmetics are here. After going around the shopping districts in Dongdaemun, Namdaemun, Itaewon, Myeongdong and even Hongdae, nothing beats the quality and price you will get at Ewha. Will explain to you more on price guide while shopping in Seoul soon.

40,000 krw for Perming at Soonsu salon at Ewha. That's only RM 110.

So here's the golden question? How in the world to communicate with the local hair stylist when you only know some basic Hangul/Korean language? This happens to me and I gotta tell you I am still laughing at this incident as I'm tapping my keyboard...

Another interesting salon in Ewha called Orang Hair.
I have no idea how much perming would cost at this nifty place.

You just have to get creative with what you know and if that's not enough, use hand gestures. Its always easy if you can ask them for a hair menu or magazines. In which case, they have presented me with a folder of permed Korean hair. Ooohh, goodie!

There was a time of 'lost in translation' where he showed me two different hair rods as he utter things in Korean which I assume its how. With the aid of the hair menu, its all in the pointing. I still have a few Korean language app on my iPhone, so that also helps me to communicate. These are the most spoken words I have used to assist the hair stylist. 

Iko: This one or 'Ne' for Yes
Used this to point to what hair you prefer. I pointed at the 'out of bed', soft curls figures.

Anniyo: No
Used this to point out which hair you don't prefer. I pointed to the ones where the hair curls get a bit too 80's for my style, where the curls is too tight and curly. Don't worry about your hair looking like a poodle at first...in long term, the curls will tame down eventually. 

The end result - SATISFYING!
Hair perm works more effectively if your hair has not been chemically treated yet.
In the other words, perming first, color later!

The hair stylist also showed me some tips on how to blow dry my hair. He showed me by curling the strands of my hair with his index fingers and roll inwards as I blow dry them. He did that over and over again, from left to right side of my hair. He was speaking Korean the whole time, but I knew what he's trying to show me. Just nod and say 'ne' (yes) or 'ihae haesseoyo' (I understand).

Guess how long the perming takes time? About 3 hours! Thankfully I got myself a bubble tea before hand and most of the hair salon in Seoul will have at least some coffee vending machine somewhere.

This is where the magic begins at Soonsu .
Here is the Foursquare link to the salon.

Now, two months later.

How's my perm behaving these days?
Its been more than two months since the perm and with on and off attention to my hair. Best way to keep it bouncy and healthy is to limit the use of harsh chemicals and only use products that are meant for perm or chemically treated hair and just let it fly. I would say my soft curls has its ups and downs. Since I opt for a mild curl, chances that the curl will easily died down a lil faster than those who made their curl more tighter aka Nicole Kidman early hair.  So if you want a long lasting curl (provided if you take good care of them), do choose for a tighter 80's looking curl. It will poodle you up at first, but it will tame down eventually.

Most of the time, I let my hair dry naturally (towel dry) since it creates more wave as it dries out. It is best not to comb out your hair like you do normally after hair wash and instead only do that while you condition your hair in the shower with a wide tooth comb (I use my fingers, haha). 

Summary of permed hair care

1. No to brushing hair. Yes to combing with a wide tooth comb while you condition your hair in the shower. I find that this is the time when my hair shed the most. It sucks to give up brushing for awhile.
2. Only use shampoo and conditioner for perm hair. I am currently using Hairmomatherapy from C. Michael that I just found in Jusco supermarket and can be found in Watson if I'm not mistaken. If I'm mistaken this only retails at RM14 or RM15 per bottle which is quite affordable.
3. Let hair dry naturally or blow dry them using the finger-spiralling technique and give it a shine with hair serum, mousse or those hair spray for curly hair. But best not to use these that often.
4. Only use fabric hairband instead of the elastic ones.

Would love to hear if you have had experience on hair perming and your personal tips to take care of them. I'd love to hear it from you! 

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Glance of Doo Guesthouse

Bicycle ride from Doo Guesthouse

I knew the moment I strolled down the Bukchon neighborhood back in the wintry 2009, it won't be my last time there. Every corners and sights bring such delight and tranquillity, like walking in a 600 years old time capsule back in the ancient Joseon Dynasty. 

Finally my Seoul chapter re-opens back again this Summer and I immediately searched high and low for the best Hanok stay in Bukchon. Doo Guesthouse had me at "anyeong haseyo" with such great reviews from international visitors for its location, good value, staff and facilities. 

Also, if you're an artists, writers or musicians, you will get to enjoy a complimentary night on your 5th stay! Glad the members in my family are artists, so with 6 nights to spend, we only spent 100,000 won per night versus to the original cost at 120,000 won per night (total costs for 4 person). In return, we have to produce a work of art, preferably our own interpretation/drawing of Hanok. That's RM67 per person/night (Malaysian calculation). Below are the comparison costs for staying in traditional guesthouse (Doo Guesthouse) versus to staying in a non traditional guesthouse/hostel:

Cost for 4 person in traditional guesthouse (Doo Guesthouse):
120,000 (promotion price of 5th night free is 96,000)
RM 268 for 4 person/ RM 67 per person

Costs for 4 person in non traditional guesthouse aka hostel:
88,000 - 90,000 krw
RM 240 for 4 person/ RM 60 per person

Our personalized Korean room keychain

Speaking of locks, here's another ancient way of locking the door in Hanoks - 
using a metal spoon!

Traditional Korean way of living
After some visit at Changdeokgung palace and Bukchon Hanok Village, you will get some understanding on the history as well as the architectural values and structures of Korean traditional houses. No nails were used to assemble the woods - the same with Malaysian traditional kampung (tanggam technique).

Dad sketch-demonstrating how the wood assembly works

 It's a bird, it's a rain gutter!

Our family room called Doo-Ma. Each room has its own name.

Summer flowers outside Doo Guesthouse

Mom doing what she loves the most - sketching flowers

Sleep quality
The mattress and pillows takes awhile to get used to, but all of us (my parents and two young adults) seems to adjusts to the feel on our 2nd night with no problem. If you're not used to thin mattress, there are another layer of mattress provided for newbies (yours truly). The wheat husk pillow is the most interesting to sleep on, with its beady-like texture which is reminds me a lot of a gigantic batu seremban (a Malaysian traditional game), haha. Very unusual from what we are used to, but its definitely an experience worth trying.

Quiet environment
Though every doors and windows and even the wall surface are covered with rice paper, it proves to be durable, wind and water resistant. Ergo, due to this material just like Japanese traditional house (ryokan) you will probably hear some movement from the next door neighbor. Being our chatty nature, we have to keep reminding ourselves to be a bit quiet, hehe!

So simply said, sleeping in traditional Korean house is not for everyone. But for us, waking up to sweet sound of birds, spectacular view outside the window, walking down to nearby local cafes and restaurants and rubbing shoulders with friendly ajummas and ajussi made our stay in Seoul more meaningful. Add that with Changdeokgung palace, Insadong and many cultural visits just a walking distance, it simply a wonderful privilege staying in Doo Guesthouse.

Take it from a person who never stayed in a Hanok on first visit...You never been to Korea if you have not stayed in a Hanok.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Cocomama's furry butler, Joop the Cat

There's something about Amsterdam that not a lot of people would know of...no, it doesn't involve Red Light district or the 'coffeeshops'...

Meowwwww...yes, CATS!

In most of my travels, it's hard to see glimpse of cats (not the usual stray cats - home cats) cos lets just face it, you can't bring cats to local parks...But if you just stroll along the quiet street of Singel or even Jordaan, you'll be lucky to bump to these furry friends by the shopfront windows, pawing to say hi or a pressing sideways, aching for pat on the head.

I'm not sure if it's the see through Dutch style windows, but it seems that Amsterdamers are really into cats. For the short duration of 4 days in Amsterdam, I basically saw more than 5 random places that have cats...in my hostel (Cocomama), in a cafe where it just lay lazy on top of tables, in a glasses shop...I mean, if one could just bump to these in short amount of time, just imagine the actual amount of cats here in this quaint city.

This tortie ball was waving at me over and over again...and the funny thing is, I saw her twice. I'm assuming it's a she cos most tortoiseshells are female...just like my Hitam.

Cat eye glasses, anyone?

De Poezenboot - The Catboat.
Got my cat treat souvenir for my cat back home

Cat lovers or not, one just need to get a glimpse of De Poezenboot. It's just a few blocks away from the Centraalstation. This floating meowship was established in 1968 by the late Henriette van Weelde and since then, she has housed over 1,000 stray cats. Entrance is free, but donations are always welcomed.

With so many houseboats around Singel, finding this place can be a little tricky. Just like houses, the houseboats are also numbered (Singel 38G), so after a few search, we finally saw the small sign on the top of the boat.

...ookay, I leave you alone...

Took me about 15 mins to get here, but despite the difficulty navigating and the cold weather, it feels so wonderful getting lost in Amsterdam...its not a big city, so chance you'll probably end up at the same place again...and while you're 'lost', do look up at the many white Amsterdam windows, soak in the calm and serene views of the canals and frail winter trees...try not to breath in much, you'll get high, hahaha!

So, if you're heading to Amsterdam soon, don't forget to look out for these furtastic hidden wonders!
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