The MAC Select program has done it again – it blew me away! And being surprised with the MAC Select birthday gift on a recent shopping trip was a total icing on the cake, so I wanted to let you know about it right away.
It’s safe to say that the MAC Select program may be the best beauty loyalty program of the moment! Any makeup lover who’s been disappointed by the Sephora VIB / VIB Rouge program or hasn’t signed up yet, you’ll want to get on this now (And no, it’s not too late!)
What is the MAC Select Program
The MAC Select program is MAC’s own loyalty program for any shoppers (it’s different from its Pro program). Anyone can sign up at a MAC store; it’s free to join and the program has been around for 1.5 years. It’s one of the best programs out there (at least in Canada for makeup lovers)
There is no app or card; you have a unique identifier code and to get points credited, you must let the sales associate know your email address upon checkout (if buying in-store); points are automatically credited for online purchases.
Points reset every year, so aim to achieve the level you want – I find the “Devoted” ($200 spend) to be the right middle ground especially because MAC has done a lot of value sets/kits and ran multiple 25% off sales for Select Members during the year (outside the holiday period). You can stock up and save money while building your status.
Last year’s MAC Select Anniversary Gift
I do recommend you signing up as you never know how the program evolves. With minimal effort on your side and without realizing it, you could have spent enough money to enjoy the annual anniversary gifts!
There are 3 tiers and the tier layout is very similar to Sephora. The more you spend, the better the perks are as both the Anniversary Gift and Birthday gift are available only to the higher tier members. Spends are accrued on an annual basis and points to expire every year so it’s best to aim to get your points up during the holidays/sales if you’re interested in maintaining the perks.
Tier 1 (Seduced): $0 min spend; Everyone who joins is automatically classified as Seduced. Minimal perks
Tier 2 (Devoted): $200 min spend: You get all the perks of the Seduced level + the Anniversary Gift + the Birthday Gift + a complimentary 30-minute makeup application + early access to collections.
Tier 3 (Obsessed): $500 min spend; you get all the perks of the Devoted level + 2x complimentary 60-min makeup application + early access to shop + exclusive invites + free shipping with $65 spend
As I’ve only been a Devoted member, I can’t speak to the others; I’ll summarize in that it is the best in-between tier that gives you the most worthwhile perks of the program (birthday gift, complimentary makeup, early access) without spending excessively. You can read more about my thoughts of the MAC Select program over on this blog post.
MAC Select Birthday Gift 2018 – Details
Who: Gifts are available for Devoted (Min: $200 spend/year) and Obsessed members (min: $500 spend/year) only
When: Available starting in 2018 (Spend must have accrued in the previous year)
How: You must enter your birthday in your MAC Account online
What: MAC Select Birthday Gift 2018: A full-sized MAC Fix+ in the original scent ($30, available here)
Where: MAC free-standing stores. I wasn’t aware of this but was told I was eligible upon check out by the sales associate
I’m thrilled with the very generous 2018 gift is a full-sized MAC Fix+ Spray ($30, available here) as it is one of my favourite products. The MAC Fix+ is one of the most popular beauty products out there and and it’s not skintone specific, ensuring that ALL Select members can make the most out of their gift! I’m sure MAC makes a lot of money on it so I’m very surprised by how generous it is – think of it this way, it’s a 15% return-on-investment ($30/$200 spend) for Devoted members and a 6% ROI for Obsessed members.
As I’ve previously mentioned several times in this post, I find the middle tier, Devoted, to have the best of both worlds. If you’re aware that Obsessed members get a different gift, please let me know. the 15% ROI on your $200 investment is a satisfying return to be frank.
As far as I know, there’s no purchase required to pick up your gift!
Have you picked up your MAC Select birthday gift yet?
Joining the range of sunscreems from Shiseido is the new Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Proctector ($40, available here) which is meant to protect the skin from pollution and aggressors while protecting the skin. A new claim for this particular launch is that the sunscreen works to absorb excess sebum/oil on the skin to achieve a more matte finish.
As a long-time user of the original ShiseidoUltra Protection Cream ($47, available here), I was very pleased to give this a go. The original blue tube is my current sunscreen of choice so I’m thrilled for the super timely arrival to give this a shot.
The Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Proctector comes in 2 versions, one for the face and one for the body. I’ve never had issues using a body sunscreen on my face so I wouldn’t worry so much about buying the face vs. body versions. The face version that I have, comes in a 30ml bottle and has an SPF42 water-resistant formula (up to 40 minutes).
I found the Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Proctector to be even more liquidy than the blue version which is saying something as the other one is fairly watery compared to a regular cream-like sunscreen. There is an obvious sunscreen smell and applies on the skin like a serum base. It does absorb quickly but I was disappointed to see the obvious white tint which is common but definitely not something I was excited to see. The sunscreen dissolves on the skin fairly quickly which means I don’t have to wait for it to dry before starting my makeup routine.
I can’t comment too much on the oil-control property as I only get very oily only during the summer but I’m keen to bring this with me on my upcoming trip to Thailand and let you know how it goes. With regards to the “urban environment” claim, which aims to protect your skin from pollution and aggressors, I wouldn’t put too much weight behind it – I’ve used a few other products (notably the ClarinsMulti Active range) and I don’t think you can see or feel a massive difference in your before and after. I personally didn’t so I would advise not to put too much weight behind it.
Ultimately the Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Proctector is a great addition to the range and one that would suit you if you like a lightweight sunscreen that feels less like sunscreen but more of a moisturizer.
Disclaimer: This post features product(s) provided for editorial consideration. All opinions are my own. For more information about my review policy, please click here.
The very promise of staying at an ethically-run and gorgeous green oasis in Siem Reap was all I needed to pick Maison557 as my base for the 3 days I was spending to explore the world-famous UNESCO site, Angkor Wat.
Located a few minutes away from the main market and ease of access to the temple, I was very keen to explore all that Angkor Wat has to offer with and escape the humidity and heat of Siem Reap at the comfort of my own little villa.
Lush, leafy and authentic are three words that came to mind when I first stepped to this charming bed and breakfast. It feels like a little green paradise in the middle of the city. Inspired by the architecture of the bygone French colonial era of the 1950s, this little bed-and-breakfast is your little heaven if you wish to avoid all the branded hotel chains that have seemingly popped up everywhere overnight in Cambodia.
Siem Reap is a famously touristy destination, and there’s no shortage to find a budget hotel or hostel as your base to stay in whilst exploring Angkor Wat. With so many tourists and motorists around, you’ll find that it can get super noisy in the area, but fortunately, Maison557 is located at a convenient spot in the Wat Bo Area neighborhood minutes away from Pub Street, local markets and only 8km away from the airport, which is often the point of arrival for most tourists.
The location of the B&B is really great with a local market right across from the river, restaurants, pizza / pastry shops (thanks to the French, there are tons of bakeries/pastry shops, and coffee shops found throughout the city), and even the famous Pub Street is an easy walk from the B&B. I walked home in the evening a few times with no issue, and if you feel safety is a major concern, there are still plenty of tuk-tuks to be found.
The allure of having my own luxurious room and space to escape the heat and humidity was too much to pass up so I was glad to have the Villa Suite with its own pool, for my personal use during my stay.
Indulging in my Maison557 Villa Suite pool. This private pool is for the villa guests’ own personal use! It’s cleaned daily and you can enjoy breakfast by the pool every morning!
The B&B consists of 7 rooms so it’s best to book earlier than later, especially during the high-season. With standard rooms, loft suite as well as the Villa Suite for families available, it’s a charmingly delightful place to stay.
Maison557 is a more upscale experience, and your experience will reflect that. With a complimentary breakfast spread that’s simply begging to be posted on Instagram, as well as details to personal touches like welcome fruits in addition to locally-sourced toiletries, this is one of those places you can feel really good about splurging a bit of extra money on.
I knew how hot and humid Cambodia can be so I knew I was also going to spend a lot of time at my chosen accommodation. That’s what made the Villa Suite at Maison557 so attractive. Beyond the welcoming king-sized bed, was my own personal 10×3.5 pool and a private terrace surrounded by fronds and palm trees for a truly relaxing and indulgent experience.
The Villa Suite Experience
Maison557 Villa Suite | King-sized bed for two!
I wanted a taste of tropical paradise without the price tag and Maison557 is the place to splurge. Boasting a massive bedroom, lounge, private terrace, and your very own pool, I knew this was going to be a fantastic 3 day stay.
Tastefully decorated, and peppered with locally-sourced toiletries, Maison557 quickly became a home away from home that I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about. Within a few minutes of my arrival, I had already insta-storied, and sent my friends a family a peek and snapshot at my home away from home.
Breakfast is served outside, overlooking the pool and garden and within the comfort of your private terrace. If you are a fan of French pastries (and who isn’t?) then you’ll definitely enjoy this breakfast spread. Fruits, yogurt, croissants, sweet rolls, coffee/tea to get you started for the day! If you plan on doing a day trip or plan on leaving the vicinity for your tours earlier than when breakfast is provided, be sure to ask to have some breakfast wrapped to go. The suite probably suits honeymooners / couples best as it provides a lot of privacy, and relaxation opportunity.
Maison557 Villa Suite | Breakfast spread for temple hunters (and instagram) by the pool!
The staff is what really made my stay all that much more enjoyable – from the initial contact over email all the way to alleviating my concerns about being a solo female traveller in a quieter part of town. Every morning, I am greeted with smiles and my breakfasts are ready even before I’m fully awake. They are incredibly helpful when it comes to helping me arrange day trips and tours for my short stay – no question was inconvenient and no
A quick glance of their website showed a bunch of options for tour guides, and drivers. Knowing that there are pre-vetted and highly recommended guides helped me narrow down my options quickly, spending much less time on research and trying to guess who I should hire for my trip.
Additional Pictures from Maison557
Maison557 Welcome Desk | various guides, coupons to use during your stay at the B&B
Maison557 Villa Suite | Lounge area – a great area in the room to relax and commemorate the days’ memories!
Maison557 Main Pool Area | This is the common-pool area open to all guests; towels are provided and the pool is cleaned daily
Maison557 Villa Suite | Enjoying my welcome fruit platter by the pool!
Maison557 is a stunning bed-and-breakfast that has an authentic Southeast Asia vibe to it, and feels a world away from the chaos and hubbub of Siem Reap. Perfect for anyone looking to indulge at a reasonable price and have the most comfortable quiet spot after a morning of temple-hunting all over Angkor Wat.
Conveniently located close to Angkor Wat, this hotel makes the perfect base for couples, families, and anyone looking for a quiet, relaxing time in Siem Reap. With only a few rooms and limited number of guests, this may not be the most convenient hotel to find travel partners / enjoy the social scene.
Keep in mind, the hotel operates on a cash-only basis (so bring those USD) and via PayPal.
Pin for Later!
Disclaimer: I stayed as a guest of Maison557. All opinions are my own. For more information about my review policy, please click here.
It’s not everyday where I would be hawking why you should stock up on high-end beauty goodies because these things cost a lot of money and more likely than not, there are some more budget-friendly alternatives available. That said, here are a few of my trusted and beloved high-end goodies I’ve been repurchasing over and over again.
Where it makes sense, I’ve linked my written reviews of them. Although I normally would try to find a more sensible, price-conscious alternative, these are the 5 products I’ve splurged on at every Sephora sale. Oftentimes, my basket will featured 2-3 of each because that’s how obsessed I am with them. Do you spot your favourite here too? Let me know what you think of them below and feel free to leave a suggestion or two!
Laura MercierSilk Creme Oil Free Photo Edition Foundation ($58, available here)
It will not come as a surprise to many that I have re-converted to the famous foundation by Laura Mercier. After years of playing around with other high-end foundations, the Silk Creme Oil Free Photo Edition Foundation
is one that’s back in my rotation and for a good reason too: this foundation has yet to fail me with anything I’ve thrown in its way since I started using the updated formula in 2016. I’ve written multiple odes and love songs to this particular product and you can find them below:
PhilosophyPurity Made Simple Cleanser ($15-56, available here)
I’m not normally steadfastly loyal to a particular product but I have to say that using the Phisolophy cleanser for a number of years has kept my skin relatively clean (along with a dedicated skincare regimen) and moisturized even during the harshest temperatures during the winter. I’m not normally one to buy a product at full-price when I can get a discount on it but I did end up splurging on the value-size of this product a few weeks ago as my current cleanser was stripping my skin.
Too FacedChocolate Soleil Bronzer ($38, available here) & MAC Cosmic Force ($33, available here)
I’ve not come across a bronzer and blush combination that I love more than the look of the Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer and MAC Cosmic Force together. The Chocolate Soleil Bronzer has a hint of taupe which makes it look natural on my light-medium skintone. It creates more sculpted and contoured cheekbones in a natural way whilst the nude blush that is MAC Cosmic Force subtly emphasizes that contoured look and make it look like you mean business! I love this combination though I admit, it can look a little too forced at times. Worth it though!
MACPure Zen & Shy Girl Lipsticks ($23, available here).
Shy Girl, who? Some readers would know that the MAC Shy Girl is my staple nude lipstick from MAC. It’s my go-to, all-occasion, and most beloved lip colour that I have repurchased more often than I care to admit and probably have used most consistently over the last 4 years or so.
Recently, another MAC nude lipstick is starting to edge its way to replace Shy Girl, and that’s another popular nude shade, MAC Pure Zen. With a more beige-y pink tone, this is a favourite during the months where my skin is a tad darker as the nude lip colour is far more striking this way.
Make Up For Ever Artist Color Shadow ($22, available here).
It’s hard for me to pick a favourite but I would say that the last item I would gladly repurchase and highly recommend, is any of Make Up For Ever’s eye makeup range. I think this is a brand that does an impressive job on their complexion, eye, and lip product range that it’s so difficult to isolate one. I thought about including just one item on this list but I couldn’t narrow it to just one. If I can give you some recommendations, it would be: 1) Artist Shadow, 2) AquaXL Eyeliners (they’re waterproof!), and 3) Smokey Mascara.
What are some of your favourite, and most-repurchased products?
The Guerlain Terracotta range is as iconic as the Meteorites Pearles that we’ve seen over the years. One to add a touch of sunkissed glow, the other to create the natural, from-within radiance to fool even the most discerning viewer. The latest launch from the brand is the Guerlain Terracotta Light Healthy Glow Powder ($64, available here) which combines a health tanned look with that natural glow from a healthy skin in one powder form.
I’ve used “healthy glow powders” in the past – they’re supposed to be different than regular bronzer because 1) there’s ingredients in there that’s supposed to make it look less like a bronzer and 2) it should look more of a natural tan/shade on your skin (due to its sheerer pigmentation). In some, like the one from Guerlain, they have arranged the pan to add a touch of highlight so that as you swirl the colours together, you’re getting both the sunkissed glowy look together.
Healthy glow powder tends to suit those with more mature skin and/or those who doesn’t want a very harsh look to their face. These powders tend to be a lot less pigmented than a typical bronzer and not much of a “one shade fits all” as there are typically 2-3 colours in the range. In the winter, my lighter skintone can highlight any bronzer I’m wearing a little too harshly so healthy glow powders like these would replace them.
The challenge I often have when recommending “healthy glow powders” is that they’re often geared towards those with pale and lighter skin. On my light-medium skintone (NC20-25), I have to reapply frequently to get some colour on my face which is why I rarely finish one but go through my bronzers regularly. An alternative way to use these powders is as a blush if you like a bit more of a chiseled/defined look.
If you’re someone who finds the famous/iconic NARS Laguna to be too brown/ashy or can’t find the “perfect” bronzer, you should consider looking into these kinds of powders as they wear well on lighter skintones. For those who find NARS Laguna is just enough or even a little too light, you’ll want to skip this as it will not show up on your skin (or even if it does, it’s more of the sheen from the highlighter). Although the colour is buildable, you likely won’t end up oompa-loompa like as the colour can be very very sheer, no matter how you’re looking to apply it.
All this to say
I have a hard time recommending healthy glow powders as they sound very gimmicky, and you can make bronzers work by applying it lightly. They are often only offered by high-end brands which actually makes them priced on the pricier end of the price spectrum.
I would recommend these only if you haven’t had any luck with other bronzers in the market or you have mature skin where the colours can catch and look unnatural on you.
What do you think of healthy glow powders? Have you used the Guerlain Terracotta range before?
Disclaimer: This post features product(s) provided for editorial consideration. All opinions are my own. For more information about my review policy, please click here.
There are tons of places around the world where you can enjoy delicious plates of seafood and indulge yourself in a bit of “self-care” in the form of stuffing yourself with the freshest seafood (if you’re a fan like me), and one of those places is Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon, a place where you absolutely must consider visiting when travelling in Portugal.
Cervejaria Ramiro is a legendary spot in the heart of Lisbon, familiar to locals and tourists alike. It’s a favourite hangout for locals and now that tourists know about it, lineups can get fairly long. Don’t be daunted by the line up though; the waiters are incredibly efficient, and since you’re sitting elbow-to-elbow, “canteen style”, every single seat will be occupied and used – you’ll be seated before you know it!
I was incredibly lucky on the day I visited that there were only two people waiting to be seated but it’s not uncommon to see lineup’s that snake around the corner and wait times around 1 hour long.
Visiting Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon, A Seafood Lover’s Paradise.
The Cervejaria Ramiro is a spot for anyone who is obsessed with seafood should consider frequenting. The spot serves only the freshest seafood (along with wine and beer) and cooked to perfection. Simplistic in its approach, explosive in its flavour profile. From tiger prawns to clams, King Crabs and lobsters, you will not walk out hungry, and your wallet will be grateful because you probably will discover you spent less than expected, especially if you live in cities where fresh seafood is hard to come by and very expensive.
When I arrived at Cervejaria Ramiro, it was on a Monday just before the dinner rush. I sat down and was provided a basket of bread (which costs €2.90, so decline politely if you’re not interested). I opted to keep the bread as I thought I would need something to dunk the sauces with. I was then presented the menu on a tablet – on it, are pictures with the name of the species and price per kilo.
How and What to Order
An order of steamed king crab for a party of 1 – I love dipping the bread into the cooked roe which is so delicious!
You order by quantity (i.e. 1 King Crab, 3 tiger prawns) and the waiter will select the size of the shellfish based on the table size. So for example, for a party of 1 person, they’ll pick a smaller King Crab (unless indicated otherwise) than they would pick for a family of 4. Unfortunately, you can’t really budget ahead of time which is something I always like to do when going to a new restaurant. However, my experience, as well as reviewers on Tripadvisors indicate that we walked out feeling like we spent a lot less than we expected (and this is coming from someone who lives in Toronto where the cost of fresh seafood can be astronomical).
The cooking at Cervejaria Ramiro is very simplistic – steamed, cooked with garlic or olive oil, to allow the sweetness and juiciness of the freshest catch to shine. Don’t expect to be able to customize your order or have the shellfish cooked in other ways as they only serve what’s on the menu. There is nothing else on the menu aside from shellfish and the steak sandwich. So don’t expect you can order pasta or sweet desserts.
Delicious shrimp with garlic! This is a staple order for anyone coming here for the first time or if you don’t know what to order!
I opted to order a beer to enjoy with my order. You can also order a bottle of wine which I hear is fairly inexpensive as well. Don’t be tempted to start with the bread – you’ll get full quickly and won’t have room for the seafood. I ordered a steamed king crab; the roe was cooked in a way that made it the perfect dipping sauce for the bread. Also, I have to ask – what do the Portuguese feed their shellfish? The king crab whick I asked specifically for a party of 1 is easily going to fill up 2-3 people. The king crab also comes with a shellfish hammer as the shells on this bad boy are tough!
Also absolutely necessary to get is the Shrimp with Garlic – a generous portion of juicy shrimpt dripping with olive oil with a hint of spiciness and tons of garlic flavour.
The barnacles, and razor clams are equally popular and not to be missed.
If you have room, dinner is a steak sandwich. Have it if you can – Anthony Bourdain recommends it.
Sitting elbow-to-elbow, canteen style at the restaurant!
The canteen-style, and sitting elbow-to-elbow is very reminiscent of my expereince travelling in Asia and is probably not everyone’s style or preferences especially when it gets really loud, crowded and hot in the area. Those factors weren’t enough to deter me though as I would do more than that to get fresh seafood at reasonable prices.
There was another girl travelling alone who was ahead of me and we got seated together and shared a bit of our dishes so we can enjoy more variety.
If it’s a fine-dining, quiet, you-can-listen-to-your-neighbour-talk kind of atmosphere you’re looking for, better to skip Cervejaria Ramiro.
You can expect to spend at least an hour here – ultimately the shells have to be peeled and deveined to be enjoyed. Savour all the flavour and down those beer and wine as you work your way through the plate.
Fresh shellfish about to be cooked; all of them are as fresh as it gets!
Due to the crowd size and small space, you might only see your waiter once or twice so don’t expect 4-5* level service as they need to turn the tables fairly quickly. If you come in without any expectations with their service, the seafood is more than sufficient to blow your mind away!
The waiters are no-nonsense, and brisk – highly efficient and something I found to be a part of the charm. Don’t be that person asking tons of questions you can find by going through the menu or watching your fellow diners and have some idea of what you want to order before you come in. Trust their recommendations if you’re really overwhelmed by the variety – they’re experienced enough to let you know what’s best and most popular. Don’t be concerned about getting ripped off – everything is sold by weight and you can review the price per kilo before agreeing to a plate.
The Price Tag & Reservations
I ended up ordering the king crab, shrimp with garlic, a bottle of beer and the bread. My total before tip came to around €40 which was around CAD$60, which I thought was reasonable and worth the splurge.
I am not sure if you can get a reservation or not – I didn’t when I showed up, but it seems like the place does take reservation during dinner. If you can get a reservation, I would highly recommend it.
At the end of the day
Eating at Cervejaria Ramiro was an experience of its own and I enjoyed a taste of no-nonsense Portuguese hospitality along the way which was appreciated. I devoured my plates in a matter of minutes and if I had gone earlier in the week, I would have loved to return and enjoy another delicious lunch or dinner here!
I have a secret to let you in on – I love to indulge in a spa treatment way more often than I think I should. A part of it is because I travel often (work and personal) which means I need a proper massage every once in a while to align everything back in place. And my favourite spot? Four Seasons Spa Toronto!
Economy class can wreck your back, especially on those long-haul trips. I’ve been frequenting (is that too formal?) the Four Seasons Spa Toronto for about 3 years now and I love the renovation work they’ve done recently. Their spa is located on the 9th floor of the hotel and is aptly called their Cloud 9 spot which I adore. I’ve been to a few other spas in Toronto (mostly the hotel-owned ones) like Park Hyatt’s Stillwater Spa (closed for renovation work until 2019), Ritz-Carlton Clarins’ MyBlend spa as well as the Shangri-La Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie. Of the bunch, I’ve had the best service, treatment and overall experience at Four Seasons (Obviously!)
By the way, this post is in no way sponsored, nor have I received a complimentary spa treatment (One can only wish) in exchange for this blog post. I just love it so much and thought to share my experiences with you.
Four Seasons Spa Toronto | My Favourite Pick Me Up Spot.
With a diverse spa menu (Facials and massages), the spa will cater to everyone. I always go with their deep-tissue aromatherapy massage (The Winter-scent is my go-to) and I feel like a million bucks after each treatment. Not only are the massage therapists really great at making you feel like the most valued guest at the hotel and spa, everyone from the ones at the front desk, all the way to the attendants throughout the area, are always so welcoming and kind.
I know, I know. They get paid to do their job and to make you feel like a million bucks.
I think the reason I wanted to highlight Four Seasons Spa is because I didn’t get the same level of attentiveness from the other high-end spa’s I’ve been to. I’m sure Shangri-La and Ritz-Carlton pay their spa employees at a competitive rate as Four Seasons would but I can’t comment on how “special” I feel and how relaxed I get every time I drop by the hotel for a treatment.
A First Class Treatment for Every Guest
When you arrive to check-in at the hotel, you’re immediately provided a tour (if it’s your first time) of the facility. It’s massive and there’s tons of different areas: saunas, pool, balcony, lounge area. I like to arrive early to relax by the pool or on the balcony for a bit if the weather is nice. Since the pool is shared with the hotel guests, you may see young children and families which I think is cute and if you really want to get away from all the noise, you can make yourself comfortable in the lounge area.
The facility tour finishes at the change room where you can get undressed and into your robe. There is a lounge area where you can enjoy some snacks pre and post treatment. I always have to remind myself to drink just enough water before my treatment begins.
I usually hang out in the lounge area while waiting for my massage therapist (MT). I appreciate that the attendants are discreet but also constantly working because I feel like no matter how many guests there are at the spa, the toilets, lounge, and even the refreshments section are always spotlessly clean and constantly restocked. I can tell a few of us guests would be enjoying the biscottis and fruits but when I come back for a second helping, it always looks like no one’s touched the plates at all!
I appreciate the refreshment stations throughout the facility – no walking long distances to get a drink of water (Which you will need if you’re doing the steam room!)
A Breakdown of Your Treatment
I love getting full body massages so this is what I usually opt for when I drop by the spa. My MT will guide me to the treatment room at which point she will ask for my scent and music preference (Winter and Oriental!) The entire experience never feels rushed or choppy – the whole spa experience just flows in the most relaxing and enjoyable manner, one that makes me want to return over and over again.
The start the treatment with a soft chime (The best chime you’ll hear all day). Working their way from the back, legs, shoulders, and always with emphasis on the lower back, I immediately felt the tensions melt away. Of the various MT’s I’ve had, I’ve always had a perfect treatment in the 3+ years I’ve been visiting the spa!
After the treatment is completed, the MT will let you know with another chime (Sad sound!) The minute it’s over, they’ll put the robe and sandals near you so you can get into your robe quickly.
The MT’s often suggests using the steam room which is something that I highly recommend you do! The steam helps to unclog the impurities on your skin and is just the most relaxing thing you’ll do. I recommend wearing a swimsuit under your robe but if you forgot, wrap yourself in the towels provided (hang your robe outside) and enjoy a steam session. I always like to spend no more than 10 minutes here. Be sure to drink lots of water after so you don’t feel dehydrated!
After the treatment and steam session is done, I’ll usually snack a bit. I always like to shower before I leave too and I appreciate the grooming items available for use so you can leave the facility looking like a million+ bucks!
The Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette needs no introduction. I think the Naked range are a collection of really great palettes – #1 and #3 are ones that I went ahead and bought, but never ended up keeping. It wasn’t a surprise that I completely skipped over the Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette launches until recently. Only because the Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette went on sale for 50% off and I could not, not get an $18 palette that I could use on an everyday basis and for travelling too!
I won’t go into too much details about the Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette or going on too much of a swatchfest here as there are tons of them out there. Instead, maybe let me walk you through a couple of different ideas to use this palette beyond every other post about this particular palette.
Also, they Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette is on sale at major retailers that carry the brand including Sephora, and the Beauty Boutique.
So obviously with a palette like this, it’s one to keep for everyday wear, perfect to keep in your makeup bag on the go because it can take your look from day-to-night instantly. Beyond the eye-wear, the palette would be helpful to keep handy for beauty needs in a pinch.
Venus: Being the only shade in the palette that is not matte, this would be the perfect highlighter for the cheeks in a pinch. It’s not too overly glittery and the warm cream can work with a lot of skintones.
Foxy: Not everyone can get away with it, but when I’m a bit more tanned, Foxy can be used as a matte highlighter in a pinch. It’s not meant to be too obvious but works well if I’m trying to highlight the nose, or cupids bow without any shimmer to it.
Naked2/Faint: Depending on your skintone, these two colours can work really well as two things: contour on-the-go for the cheeks and nose. The matte colour and brown undertone makes it super easy to add a bit of cheekbook and create a more chiselled finish.
Crave: Do you always look like a panda mid-way through the night, because that happens to me, all the time whenever I use a black eyeliner that isn’t the Stila Waterproof Eyeliner. Have you ever thought of using a black eyeshadow to set your eyeliner? Once I discovered that trick, my eyeliner game changed for the better! It’s like setting your foundation with powder to prevent it from fading, melting – just apply the same logic with the eyeliner!
How do you like to play around with a basic neutral palette?
Having been fortunate enough to visit Amsterdam thrice in the last few years, I thought it would be lovely to round up some of the best Instagram spots in Amsterdam. There are far more than the ones I’ve listed and I look forward to knowing yours if you have a favourite spot of your own to share!
My recent visit to Amsterdam resulted in a lot of photos that even I was shocked by. Amsterdam may not be like Paris, but it won’t be argued that it is just as charming and picturesque (or even more so) than Paris. With canals, tulips, cobblestoned alleys and charming brown buildings that dates back to earlier this century lining up the streets, I challenge you to not take hundreds of photos because it’s fairly difficult to do!
Lately I’ve been using my Instagram more as a photo album of my travels for friends outside my Facebook circle. I know I’ll never win the algorithm game – once I master something, it’s guaranteed to be updated just because.
Despite the flood of tourists, there’s something so authentic about Amsterdam – perhaps it’s the way everything is so compact and tightly built due to the limited space which means building or creating new amenities aren’t always possible, so coming back a third time around meant I was able to navigate my way incredibly easily.
It’s immensely easily to get around, either on foot or by public transit, so no matter your age, and travel preference, you’ll enjoy making your way through the city.
There are a number of things you can do for free and since the city is so compact, it makes for the perfect, easy and hassle-free weekend trip from anywhere!
The Best Instagram Spots in Amsterdam
1. The Coffee or Gelato Photo: CT Coffee & Coconuts and Massimo Gelato
Amsterdam is famous for their cafes and coffee shops but be careful not to confuse them – one is an actual dispensery and the other is a regular coffee shop. Delicious espresso can be had throughout the city for as little as € 1-2 so I recommend stopping by and enjoying a delicious brew during your day. Plus, these make for the perfect coffee instagram shots too!
Although I can’t recommend just one coffee shop, the CT Coffee & Coconuts is a popular one for locals and tourists alike. It’ll be crowded on the weekend for brunch but if you can make your way to the area, it’s well-worth the effort!
For a tasty gelato and lovely picture to go with it, I recommend heading over to Massimo Gelato near Oude Pijp which is a stone’s throw away from Albert Cuypmarkt – an open market for all cheap food, trinkets and local delicacies.
2. The Canals: Prinsengracht
The canals that cuts through the city of Amsterdam makes it difficult to not snap a canal shot. But there’s really only a handful of places that actually looks like the pictures in travel magazines and charmingly very authentic. Of the many canal spots, I think Prinsengracht is the best one – it’s very quiet and not too crowded, and there are tons of spots to choose from to get that great angle.
3. The Unique Architecture: Dam & Amsterdam Centraal, Museum Quarter
The distance between Dam and Amsterdam Centraal is not too far so it’s easily walkable and I highly recommend it. Although you can expect a big crowd, Dam and Amsterdam Centraal have some of the most iconic and unique architecture throughout the city. Find the Royal Palace in Dam, take an evening shot of the Damrak with the silhouette of the lights from nearby casinos and restaurants lighting up the canal.
For even more interesting architecture, head over to the Museum Quarter where you will find… you guessed it! Various museums that Amsterdam is famous for. Home of the “I Amsterdam” sign, Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art and the Van Gogh Museum, each with their own unique architecture, you won’t be bored here! It’s the central hub of the city and the contrast between the classic and modern architecture will sure to please any visitors!
4. The Tulips: Bloemenmarkt, or Keukenhof
What’s Amsterdam without the tulips? A lot, but tulips remain to be its most recognizable emblem. When in season, you can find tulips quite literally, everywhere. Rijksmuseum is a good spot with a lovely background for that tulip shot. Oh, you want that Instagram shot? Head over to Bloemenmarkt (Flower market) which has vendors lining up the street selling all sorts of tulip bunches and bulbs in various colours perfect for that overhead shot like the one below!
If you have time, and can make it out of the city, consider a day trip to Keukenhof. It’s one of Amsterdam’s most famous tulip gardens and only open for a few months of the year but will satisfy all your tulip photo dreams. And by the way, no you cannot run through the field of tulips and destroy the hard work the workers have put in to make the garden look beautiful for everyone!
5. The Food Shot: Albert Cuypmarkt
I can’t rave enough about the Albert Cuyp open market in Amsterdam because it’s the spot to go for any sort of delicious Amsterdam staples and enjoy the open-air market if you’re interested in shopping for trinkets and souvenirs. It can get very crowded here so your photos may not be very “clean” looking but these make for the perfect Instastory photos!
I get very excited when coming to a country / city with tons of good hostel options – I’m not a hostel snob by any means, I think some places do it better than others, and I’m always on the lookout to save a bit of money for street food and fun in the sun. Whilst researching for my upcoming trip to Cambodia, the same name kept coming up over and over again – Mad Monkey Hostel. With such a quirky name, and consistently 4+ rating on TripAdvisor, Booking.com and other booking/review sites, I had to check it out for myself.
Researching accommodation options in a developing area can be challenging at best – the prices may be too good to be true, pictures may be misleading and even the location, might not be easily found on Google Maps. That was my experience before finding Mad Monkey hostel given that most tourist skip over countries like Cambodia and cities like Phnom Penh because they’re tight on time, and just want to see the highlights. I think it would be absolutely remiss to skip Phnom Penh and I’m super glad to have found and spent a night there at Mad Monkey Hostel.
The Pre-Booking Experience: Mad for Mad Monkey Already!
Right of the bat, the website immediately caught my attention – clean, interactive, and with all the information I could possibly need to figure out the rest of my itinerary, I immediately felt that much more confident!
As I went through the website, I was very impressed with the Southeast Asia travel guides on their blog, history of the chain, and also to discover, that you can stay at Mad Monkey Hostels all over Southeast Asia! You know when you find that hidden gem of a place and wished it was everywhere? That’s exactly what Mad Monkey Hostel offers – on a budget!
As a first-time visitor to Phnom Penh, and having read about the less-than-stellar stories about some of the experiences solo travellers have faced, I was a little afraid of being carjacked, pick-pocketed, and being taken advantage of. Now I know you’re thinking that the same thing could happen in South Africa, Jordan, or any of the other places I’ve visited but something about Cambodia felt it could really happen as perhaps they don’t care as much about tourism in the city. That said, over email, I received reassurance that I could do my tour of the city with a trusted tuk-tuk driver from the hostel (which I feel far more confident in rather than flagging one of my own) and they would be the one taking me between sites and back to the hostel.
It may not seem like a big deal to many, but as a solo female traveller, any reassurance whilst travelling solo is always welcomed.
Arriving at the Hostel: Partying it up at Mad Monkey
Mad Monkey Hostel is well-known for their lively vibe which is a balance of partying, relaxing and meeting new people. There are some hostels that focus exclusively on partying and I feel Mad Monkey does a good job at balancing that so it’s not known as just another party hostel. I would say, the hostel caters to a younger group though if you’re up for a bit more fun, Mad Monkey is the place to be!
The Hostel, Room & Location
I stayed at the female dorm for 1 night at Mad Monkey Phnom Penh. After arriving early from Bangkok, and depositing my luggage at the hostel, I was on my way to learn more about Cambodia’s history, particularly paying tributes to victims of the Cambodian genocide.
Mad Monkey Hostel Phnom Penh is located in a central location in the BKK1 area, and a quick glance at Google Maps indicates many variety of restaurants, bakeries, and markets within walking distance which should make your stay convenient.
The hostel has a rooftop bar, restaurant and swimming pool so there’s a lot of opportunities to meet new people and find travel partners if you’re looking to split costs and save a bit of money! The vibe is very social without excessive drinking which I’m not a big fan of. I’m an introvert and am definitely past my partying-until-5-am-university-days and Mad Monkey hostel felt like a place where I could have fun, be social and meet lifelong friends!
If you really want to party, be sure to check out their “Crawl 4 School” bar crawls, and rooftop events. Feeling competitive? Beer pong tournaments, Keg Night, and Free Punch Parties are also a thing here. You won’t be bored.
There are a number of room options available at the hostel – dorms and private, all within your budget. The dorms cost anywhere between USD$6-8 per bed and private rooms cost as little as USD$20-25 per night per room.
What to do in Phnom Penh? Mad Monkey’s Got You Covered
A sign of a well-run hostel is the wide variety and ease of booking last minute trips, or activities at the front desk. Guess what? Mad Monkey’s got you covered with their tour and activities desk in addition to booking your visa or arranging transportation options. With hotel-like amenities and hostel prices, this hostel should be on your radar should you be planning to travel this way soon!
Most Importantly, Mad Monkey Hostel Gives Back
Sustainable and responsible travel is something I want to do more of during my travels. Perhaps this is something most will take for granted, but I try not to. Mad Monkey Hostel is jointly managed by Western and Khmer staff members, the hostel focuses on providing a safe, and fair working environment for their workers, and they give back through a number of initiatives including the Clean Water Initiative and Education Fund. Staying at Mad Monkey Hostel means your tourist money is going direct towards those who benefit from it most.