Monday, June 25, 2012


I love accessories! They can dress up a simple outfit instantly or add a little flair and color to your regular wardrobe. My favorite accessories are colorful jewelry. It doesn’t matter whether they are costume jewelry or made of precious stones, because they are all extremely useful and beautiful to look at. The power of enhancing your style with the right accessories is limitless.

Colorful beaded bracelets are perfect for summer!
Photo: Michal Zacharzewski, SXC
Chinese beads and coins made into bracelets
Photo: Andrew Beierle, SXC
Here in China, shopping for accessories is a must for any visitor because of the endless variety and availability of big, bold, bright and beautiful pieces everywhere. Now that it’s summer over here, simple outfits are normally the way to go and adding colorful accessories can be the perfect warm weather look. Lately, I find myself drawn to jewelry with symbolic and spiritual connotations such as Buddha beads and jade bracelets. I also love turquoise jewelry because of their calming and serene color and it is just something that never goes out of style.


My collection of Buddha bead bracelets (from bazaars around China)

Buddha beads are also known as “mala beads” or Tibetan Prayer Beads. They are normally used for reciting prayers/mantras and meditation. They are also said to carry good luck but many people wear them for purely decorative purposes. Although I am not Buddhist, I do love wearing the bracelets because of their tradition, symbolism and beauty. Plus it’s never bad to carry around a little bit of luck.


Chinese Jade
Photo: Isidro Lam, SXC
Jewelry stand selling Jade in a Hong Kong marketplace
Photo: Morgane Constanty, SXC
Jade is a gemstone with special meaning in China for thousands of years because of its unique symbolic energy, purity, grace and beauty. Jade is said to stimulate creativity, mental agility, and have a balancing and harmonizing effect on the mind and body. Its beautiful green color is said to also have healing properties on the body especially on the kidneys, heart and stomach. I personally like wearing jade for its unique green color, simplicity, elegance and sophistication.


I love turquoise and coral-colored pendants.
I bought these at a marketplace in Huangshan.

Turquoise beaded bracelets.
The way to wear them is to stack them up.
Photo: Mee Lin Woon, SXC

I’ve loved turquoise jewelry for many years now. I can’t get enough of its wonderful, calming and amazing color. It reminds me of the beach, the ocean, the waves and endless summer days. It is also elegant and makes a big statement to an otherwise simple outfit. Wear it with neutrals like white or black and you can never go wrong.

My favorite necklace this summer was a gift
from my aunt in Spain. It goes great with a
white blouse or dress.

What are your favorite accessories?

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Boracay Island, Philippines. My own photo.
Summer has officially started in China and I like to say that the madness has begun...the umbrellas are out (Chinese women would not let the harsh sun touch their beautiful skin), the humidity and heat are unbearable, and there's the endless yearning to get away for a few days to a really, nice stretch of beach.

The search for the perfect beach getaway doesn't come easy in Mainland China though. Northern cities such as Dalian and Qingdao have some pretty nice beaches but the water on the east coast tends to be quite cold almost year round. A much better alternative would be heading south to the beaches of Hong Kong (which are quite beautiful and underrated) or to the numerous beach resorts in Sanya on the Chinese island of Hainan where the sun simply doesn't stop shining. 

When it comes to beaches though, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Boracay Island, is found in my hometown of the Philippines. It is at this time that I miss it the most...its clear tranquil waters and powder soft white sand. There's just simply nothing like it in the world. However, it is the monsoon season right now in the Philippines and not the right time to visit. November - May (the dry season) would be the best time to visit.

Boracay Island, Philippines. My own photo.

While hunting for the ultimate beach getaway this summer, it's important to always arm yourself with the right products to beat the heat and protect your skin. Summer often calls for a few extras you wouldn't otherwise use the rest of the year. Here are some of my favorite products this summer, which have become essentials to me this season and I believe are perfect for everyone!

Summer Armor: my product essentials

Clean & Clear Oil Control Film ($3.59)
Neutrogena Deep Clean Foaming Cleanser (US$3)

In the summer, my face gets so oily that only one facial cleanser will do: Neutrogena Deep Clean Foaming Cleanser. I've tried much more expensive cleansers over the years but I still come back to this one a lot. This affordable drugstore find is a true gem! My face feels squeaky clean after cleansing and doesn't feel dry at all. I also love the light, citrusy scent. Likewise, I cannot leave the house without Clean & Clear Oil Control Film. This product is awesome and very easy to carry around at all times. The thin sheets absorb oil, grease and shine on your face completely and is fantastic for quick touch ups. I also love the uplifting grapefruit scent. It makes you look and feel fresher in an instant.  

Alba Botanica Natural Pure Lavender Sunscreen SPF45 (US$10.99) (113g)
Jason Sport Natural Sunblock SPF45 (US$9.87) (113g)
These two natural sunblocks don't have any harmful chemicals and are made with certified organic ingredients. Alba Botanica Natural Protection Pure Lavender Sunscreen SPF45 has a nice light, lavender scent which I love! Jason Sport Natural Sunblock SPF45 is sweat and water resistant which is perfect for me since I really hate reapplying! I know I should always put again after swimming but I sometimes forget which is why I also like getting an SPF of 30 or higher. 

Inoherb Olive Oil Hand Cream (US$1.50)
I am really loving this hand cream right now. Chinese brand Inoherb Olive Oil Hand Cream has become a staple in my bag this summer! It contains olive oil, honey and shea butter to moisturize hands. I love its light olive scent and its silky creaminess. I can't even believe how insanely low the price is! It can be addicting as I find myself putting it on many times a day! 

L'Oreal Nutri-Sleek Multi-Effect Protection Spray (US$7)

I discovered this the other day at Walmart and me and my hair are hooked! L'Oreal Nutri-Sleek Multi-Effect Protection Spray contains Argan Oil to moisturize your hair and keep it silky smooth. It also provides your hair with intensive protection from the sun's UV rays. I believe they only sell the spray in China. In other countries, the serum version is available.

Clinique High Impact Lip Colour SPF15 in Honey Blush (US$15)

I cannot get enough of Clinique High Impact Lip Colour SPF15 Honey Blush right now. It is the ultimate summer lipstick. It has SPF15 to protect your lips, moisturizes and is described as a warm pinkish nude with golden flecks. Really beautiful shade!

Estee Lauder Pure Color Shimmer Gloss in Racy Raspberry 

My mother-in-law gave me Estee Lauder Pure Color Shimmer Gloss in Racy Raspberry and I love it! You can see I’ve used it up quite a bit. It’s a light coral pink with a subtle shimmer. It originally comes in a set of two lip glosses so I don’t think you can buy them individually in the same particular shade anymore. However, there are many similar ones in Estee Lauder’s Pure Color range like Pure Color Gloss in Impulsive Coral (US$22.50) which is perhaps the closest color to this one.

So, what are your product essentials for summer? Send me a note and would love to hear about your choices. 

I don't really wear a lot of makeup in the summer but I never
go out without lipstick! Here I am wearing my favorite lipstick now,
Clinique High Impact Lip Colour in Honey Blush.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Huangshan City's Old Town Magic

Last weekend, Marc and I decided to get away from the city for awhile and breathe some fresh mountain air. So, we hopped on a bus which took us four hours south of Hefei to wonderful Huangshan City (locals also call it Tunxi, its original name). This quaint and beautiful mountain city which is located in the southernmost point of Anhui province is known for two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Mount Huangshan (which means “Yellow Mountain” in English) and Hongcun and Xidi, the ancient villages of Southern Anhui.

View from the my window on the bus as we near Huangshan City
A photo of Mount Huangshan
Ink painting showing Huangshan by painter Shitao circa 1670
Ironically, we actually didn’t get to go to any of these sites because we found out a little too late that although both sites surround the geographic expanse of the city, getting to them would take another 1-2 hour bus ride being 50-80 kilometers away from the city proper. The mountain is also best explored for at least 2-3 days because of its immensity and it is best to book tour packages or stay in one of the hotels located on the mountain. Since we were only staying 2 nights in Huangshan City and didn’t book any tour or tour guide for any of these sites, we decided to leave them for another trip and to just relax and enjoy the beautiful city of Huangshan and its one other famous attraction located right in the heart of its downtown area: The Old Town, also known as Tunxi Ancient Street or Song Street.

Me in front of The Old Gate at Tunxi Ancient Street
Tunxi Ancient Street in a way, kind of reminds me of Yu Yuan (Yu Gardens) in Shanghai, though the main difference is that it is much older and instead of a network of streets, this one consists of one main 1.2 kilometer street. Walking this street is truly like going through a portal back in time.

The street’s centuries-old history goes back all the way to the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279). At that time, many architects and workmen from Tunxi lived in the city of Hangzhou (the Song Dynasty capital), and upon returning home copied the structural style and architecture in the big city, and so Tunxi Ancient Street was built. 

By the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Tunxi Ancient Street street had 47 stores with shops on both sides of the street featuring the local Anhui style of stone base, brick construction and tile roof. Nowadays,  the street is also used as a natural studio for films and period TV series in China

An ancient Chinese medicine store where you can buy herbs
for any ailment

Paint brushes and paintings on scrolls depicting Huangshan mountain
I loved this awesome stationery store
with cute cards and notebooks.
After walking for some time, this cute coffee shop
called Sweet Time Coffee enticed us to stop by.

The perfect shopping ender
which for sure they never made back then:
a great Banana Mango Milkshake!