An Exercise In Trivial Pursuits

Fatshion, Food & Frivolities – Life in Las Vegas & Singapore


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Elvis, Atomic Testing and Sex (museums) in Las Vegas

During our 3 day “mini-moon” where T’s company gave him extra days to celebrate our wedding, we became tourists in the city we currently live in. T is originally from upstate New York and while he’s lived here for about 5 years, there is still a lot he hasn’t seen. To be honest, Las Vegas is one of those cities where there’s just so much to see and do, you’ll never be bored! Just the major shows and exhibits alone, keep changing all the time. We however skipped the bright lights and headed for lesser known museums with Groupon offers. YUP! I’m couponing again!

We spent a total of USD45 for the both of us visiting:

20131112-182542.jpg1. Atomic Testing Museum (with a visit to the AREA 51 exhibit) $20

We started with this museum because we wanted an off-the-Strip experience. No neon lights, no crazy partying. Some serious stuff, you know? Why this museum is so important is that the testing were done in Nevada. I’ve always kinda-sorta known some stuff about the bombs used in WWII but I never knew much otherwise. The atomic testing here definitely changed the history of this State and the world – affecting the land, the forced migration of Native Americans and devastation that followed after.

If you’re curious about the related historical events, there are films, photos, depiction of life in that era and lots of archived materials from the atomic testing programme itself. Extremely informative and educational (might not be something you want to bring your 3-8 year old kids to unless they are into this kind of thing).

The Area 51 exhibit though, was a total let-down for me. T rated 6/10 because he actually found some of the information about planes and technology (minimally explained) interesting. It was more like 4/10 for me. Poor quality displays and unclear curation that looked like it could have been done by some secondary school class (with a little bit of help from a teacher).

20131112-182710.jpg2. The King’s Ransom Museum – Personal Treasures of Elvis Presley $10

I think at $5 per person, this was really worth our time (even if it took us a while to find this place which is actually on Fremont Street and not The Strip). While this was really quite fun, I wouldn’t call it a museum. It’s a good-sized collection of random Elvis-related items. Some photos and trivia from his childhood, many were clothes he wore in movies and concerts, personal possessions that were given away to miscellaneous people in his life and even a section with Lisa-Marie’s childhood toys.

My favourite item in the entire collection was a library slip of a book he signed out for as an Elementary School kid. I’m not sure if it’s real or a copy but I think that if it is real, it’s awesome! I love books and as a child, I was always borrowing books in school and my mother would take us to the library in Toa Payoh every weekend to loan new ones. How did they even find that book with the slip? It wasn’t till much later that he became famous. Who’d have thought to save every single library loan slip signed!?

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3. Erotic Heritage Museum $15

$7.50 per person is reasonable, I think – plus it’s near The Strip and very appropriate for Vegas! If you think it’s all pornography and smut, you’re only 1/3 right. It’s not pure pornography because it’s called the Erotic Heritage Museum for a reason (though maybe a little thinly disguised). There are videos, porn movies, sex toys, ancient artwork (Chinese porcelain figurines, Japanese paintings, handwritten Persian sex manuals etc), the evolution of selling sex throughout history, celebrity scandals etc. There’s also a small library outside the curated space of the museum with books on human sexuality.

I wouldn’t recommend this place if you’re purely looking for porn, also it’s a museum – how things get to be in a museum is that they are dead (or too freaking old). The porn stuff on display are the classics (if you can even call them that) that don’t seem to go beyond 1988. It was quite fascinating though and we spent about an hour in there.

Because Las Vegas is largely a tourist destination, there are so many other interesting little places to visit. I’ll definitely be checking out everything from Madame Tussauds, to Bodies… The Exhibition, to the Pinball Hall of Fame and all the little odd ones that are waiting to be discovered! So fun!!!


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Couponing (Las Vegas): 60-minute couple’s in-studio photo shoot USD30 at Che·za·ray Photography

Date: 30 May 2013

Deal: 60-minute couple’s in-studio photo shoot with two 8″x10″ prints and two 5″x7″ prints for USD30

  • $30 for a Couples Photography Package ($395 Value)
  • 60-minute in-studio photo shoot
  • Two 8″x10″ prints
  • Two 5″x7″ prints

How it went:

T bought the Groupon voucher at my request and proceeded to make the appointment with the studio. All this was done through e-mail and really quite easy. An e-mail confirmation was sent about a week before the shoot to fill in some release forms (basically signing our rights to the pictures away and allowing the photographer to use them as he deems fit i.e. like stock photo or his portfolio). But here’s the thing, Mister being Mister didn’t bother reading it or filling out the form until I bugged him about it and this was like 2 days before the shoot. So the first confirmation said our shoot was 30 May 2013 and to arrive on time with hair and make-up done. BUT when we sent the release form back, it suddenly changed to 31 May 2013 and Mister being Mister, didn’t read it so we turned up at the previous appointment time. There’s a boo boo!

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Getting to the venue was no problem at all. Upon arrival we rang a bell, T tried calling the number found in the e-mail correspondence and we were told that we weren’t supposed to be there. The photographer assumed we were his 4pm appointment and were 2 hours early, then told us to come back. I was upset and disappointed. T still thought that the photographer got it wrong and went to check the first e-mail again. We left and never went back at 4pm. I was angry and wanted to get him to write to Groupon for refund. But Mister is kind and gentle, unlike me. He doesn’t like being antagonistic and said I could write the e-mail if I wanted to because he couldn’t do it. It was good that I didn’t because Cesare (the photographer) rang back shortly after that conversation and it turns out that our appointment was for the next day. Cesare asked T a bunch of questions about our hair colour and eye-colour, then gave instructions for what to do and what kind of clothes to bring. After disconnecting, T double checked his email and realised there indeed was a 2nd e-mail sent just the day before to change it to 31 May!

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Cesare’s studio was an extension in his home, not unlike an extra garage. Inside, it was spacious and air-conditioned (respite much needed from the desert sun). Lining one side of the wall were large portraits of A-listers like Sharon Stone, Antonio Banderas and Morgan Freeman in their younger days. On the opposite end was a bathroom – toilet, vanity/basin, shower. Other than that, the studio housed several shelving of magazines and random photography equipment, as well as a computer station and backdrops. Cesare himself was friendly and in general, nice. He tried to make us feel comfortable in front of the camera (mostly T, not me). He tried cracking some jokes to help T break into a smile and we did some practice poses before we changed and did the actual shoot.

I can’t remember how many photos he took but we ended up only choosing 2 even though there were so many more. On top of the USD30, we paid another USD200 for digital touch-ups (much needed) and high-resolution digital files (so that we can print or send it out to our family, or just use it for a profile photo on Facebook). Selection was quite fast because I knew what I wanted in a photo and T was easy with my choices. At the same time, T didn’t like how he looked (not because the photography was bad but he thought he looked fat as he has recently gained weight). I thought T looked adorable in the pictures but because he didn’t and I respect that, here’s the one that’s approved by both of us…

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I have seen other photographs taken by Cesare on his facebook page and I do realise that he takes better pictures than those of us. I supposed it’s the subject – we’re just not good looking enough maybe? No make-over. These are our own clothes, I did my hair and make-up. T obviously did his own hair *koffkoff*.

Would I recommend Cesare Bonazza? Yes. He’s professional and easy to work with. It really helps that he’s in a good location too.

Is this Groupon really worth $395? I don’t think so. At least not for my shallow pockets. Imagine if I had paid the US$395 in full and on top of that, an additional top-up (the US$200 was already discounted for 50% apparently) for touch-ups and the digital files – that’s US$800 just for 2 photos.

But we had fun. I like doing random things like that just for the experience. No regrets about it. I can’t wait to do another fun studio shoot with T soon!


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Couponing: $32 Gelish Manicure and Spa Pedicure (worth $126) at Almost Paradise in 2 locations

Date: 7 May 2013

Deal: SGD 32 for Gelish Manicure and Spa Pedicure (worth $126).

•Uses OPI, Zoya and Tins nail polish
•Revitalize dull looking nails
•Removes excess cuticles
•Spa manicure and pedicure include foot scrub, hands and feet mask
•Gelish manicure with longer lasting results
•Expert nail therapists

How it went:

Instructions on the Groupon voucher said to sms and book. I tried on 16 April and then again on 19 April – no reply. So I rang the shop and got through after 2 tries. I wasn’t impressed at all. The address on the groupon said “Raffles Place: The Arcade #03-11A”. It turns out that #03-11A was some other shop and they are actually #03-11. No signage outside the salon, only a sticker saying “Solone” – which turns out to be the brand name of a line of Taiwanese cosmetics. First impressions going downhill. The name of this salon is ALMOST PARADISE and not by any measure is it even close to decent. Look at the pictures and judge for yourself. Can we just cut to the chase and say FALSE ADVERTISING ALERT!!!!??!

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To be fair though, the entire process of mani and pedi took less than 30 minutes so I could go back to work in a jiffy. Gelish nails dry fast and my nails are already groomed and short. The nail technician who was doing my hands charged me S$10 to remove what’s left of my last gelish manicure (about 1/4 of my nails). She said that my nails were already short so she’d just shape them. All was well until I was done with my manicure and realised that she didn’t do a good job of cleaning up my cuticles and hello… hangnail after a manicure?!

My pedicurist did try her best with my horrible feet cuticles (I blame running for all the rough skin around the toenails) but the “spa” part of the pedicure was rather perfunctory. It was basically a) remove cuticles and file down nails b) buff the soles with a file c) scrub feet and ankles d) 3-4 brush strokes worth of something (on my shins only) that was maybe moisturiser or a mask.

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I chose a really light colour for my hands so you can’t really muck that up too much. And as for my feet… Up close, you can see that it’s got streaks and it’s not smooth – who’s going to go near my feet though?

So ALMOST PARADISE it is not. I paid a total of S$42 for the experience and I dare them to charge S$126 that they say it’s worth. Not recommend. Buyers beware!


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Couponing: SGD18 instead of SGD48 for Classic Gelish Manicure @ Orchard

Date: 22 February 2013

Deal: SGD 18 instead of SGD 48 for Classic Gelish Manicure @ Orchard

– One session of Classic Gelish Manicure
– BeauMax uses SuperNail ProGel
– Wide range of colours to choose from
– Experienced, skilled nail therapists
– Central location in Orchard

How it went:

All the above were true and I was happy. Found International Building easily (it’s right next to Shaw Towers, with the 24hr TCC at the ground floor) and the lifts were fast/accessible. If you like the convenience of town but are afraid of Orchard Road prices, and do not want the noise in the maze that is Far East Plaza, this is a good option. This building is quiet and not bustling with activities. Very private and cosy.

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Other than nail services, they also provide facials, waxing and massages. There are 3 rooms and a total of 8 integrated seats (high-back cushioned seating with individual taps for soaking feet) for mani-pedis.

The deal said I could call, SMS or email to book an appointment. I emailed on 18 February and didn’t get a reply, so I smsed on 19th February and within 2 hours, my appointment was confirmed.

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I opted to do additional nail art and I kept going back and forth with what I wanted. My therapist patiently explained to me the various prices for all the various types available while she was cleaning my cuticles and shaping my nails. I then settled on adding polka dots to all my nails and 2 hand crafted acrylic bows for an additional $25. So I paid a total of $43. I like gel-based polishes because they are quick to dry and long-lasting. So that’s okay. (Everything took me about 50minutes and I went out with my polish completely dried, so no weird finger action there.)

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Overall a good experience – they didn’t hard sell when I told them I couldn’t commit to a 10-session package because I’m not sure how long I’ll be here and I only do my nails once every 2 months or so. They have a good deal going though – $38.80 x 10 sessions includes soak off and 3 additional FOC glitter overlays.

Recommended!! Check out http://www.beaumaxme.com


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Couponing: $9.90 foot reflexology instead of $20 at Miao Health Enhancement Centre

Date: 13 July 2012

Deal: Bugis Foot Reflex: 30 Mins Session ONLY $9.90 instead of $20!

How it went:

Found the shop very easily. (Miao Health Enhancement Centre, Burlington Square, 175 Bencoolen Street, #01-35) Convenient location for me. I’ve got direct buses from my home and it’s not far from my work place. (I bought 3 of these coupons and I’m sure I’ll be using them up quite quickly.)

This is a tiny shop slightly bigger than my bedroom. There are 4 armchairs, 2 beds, 1 electronic massage chair, and 1 back massage chair (those you have to sit up facing down). Very simply furnished and no frills.

When I arrived, it was rather quiet and I was the only customer there so that was great! I sat down on a big, comfy armchair and got my feet wiped with a hot towel (very nice) before having my leg and foot slathered with body lotion. I don’t really like foot reflexology because of the mixed feeling of pain/tickle.

The masseur was a middle-aged Chinese man who was friendly and polite. I was too busy distracting myself from the pain to talk to him (read: playing with the phone) and he left me alone so that was cool. He did look up and explain to me what he was doing once in a while especially when I winced.

Overall a good experience – none too traumatizing. I think I felt better almost immediately! I was walking awkwardly for the last 2 days and my knees actually hurt.

Effective! I would’ve paid the full price of $20. Recommended! Cheap and good!

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Couponing: Facial + Lymphatic Face Massage + Shoulder Relax Massage + Eyebrow Trimming at Xin Beauty

Date: 26 August 2011

Deal: 88% OFF on 75mins Facial (3 Choices) + Lymphatic Face Massage + Shoulder Relax Massage + Eyebrow Trimming @$25 ONLY

How it went:

Midpoint Orchard is a really strange building that’s out of place in fancy Orchard Road, especially with the addition of Ion Orchard, 313@Somerset and Orchard Central. It’s a building that’s stuck in the late 70s with minor renovations done probably in the early 90s. There are so many small beauty salons and electronic shops, I really wonder who patronises them. Xin Beauty is one of those neighbourhood shops that basically transported its entire operation there – no upscaling for town, and the size of my living room!

Whilst the location was good, everything was so basic that I’d rather not get a facial in town. My hair was sticking up after the facial and there was no space, nothing to help me get out into public without looking like a doofus. I just needed a hair brush and a hair dryer to sort the mane out. I went to one of the small hair salons and they tried charging me $12 to do just that. I’m not even asking for a wash. Just blow and brush. ARGH! Luckily they had those old fashion hand dryers in the toilets and I bent down, put my head under the hot air stream and brushed my hair out with my fingers. Sometimes old fashioned is good. Forget those fancy air-stream hand dryers where you dip your hands in.

Practical sized room. Just enough for the bed & a tray of products.

Practical sized room. Just enough for the bed & a tray of products.

Ok so anyway, this is a $25 facial in the heart of town but in a dingy building, where the entire shop (reception, pantry, and treatment rooms) was enclosed in a space the size of my living room (I’m not even joking). The deal was that I could choose from 3 facials – Option 1: Skin Perfector Anti-pigmentation Treatment; Option 2: Anti-blemish Skin Renewal Treatment; Option 3: Oxy-Pure Rejuvenating Treatment. I had no idea which treatment I received and it certainly didn’t match any of those fancy-titled options. It was largely one of those old fashioned “Mode Circle” (anybody remember those?) facials that I had in the early 90s. As a pimply teenager, I’d have been okay with it, thinking that facials were all like that. Painful, uncomfortable and awkward. But I’m not. It didn’t feel like it was worth my time. I didn’t feel any better after the treatment. Firstly, the technique was so-so. I wouldn’t say it was bad but I’ve had a lot better, many more times. Secondly, the products used were very generic and hardly anything special. Thirdly, I could hear the girls outside gossiping at the top of their voices because the entire space was open on the top and it is really small.

Generic products

Generic products

So was it worth $288? Nope! Of course not! But to be honest for $25, I suppose it’s justified. Also I might go back again (if I have a ride straight home) because the beautician working on me thought I was still in school. She thought I was a 22 year old with really dry skin. She tsk-tsked me when I said I barely used home care products other than the basic facial wash, make-up remover, exfoliator and sunblock. When she asked me to guess how old she was and it turned out she was only 5 years older than I was heehee… Cheap thrills, I know. But people should stop tsktsking me when I see so many people my age who actually look older!


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Couponing: Nobel Award Winning Facial + 30 min Massage + 30 min Neck and Eyes Treatment at Beaute Hub

Date: 25 August 2011

Deal: $15 for 60 min Nobel Award Winning Facial + 30 min Massage + 30 min Neck and Eyes Treatment at Beaute Hub (Worth $448)

How it went:

Let’s just say, this is an experience I’d rather forget. Even if there was another deal offer at $15, I wouldn’t take it and neither should anyone else, unless you’re desperately in need of a quick facial/massage. It was trouble from the start. I bought the voucher on 31 May 2011. I called up 2 days later (in June obviously) to book an appointment, but I was told to call back in August because they had no more slots. The voucher is valid from 1 June to 30 November 2011. I’m assuming this meant that they didn’t have the capacity to accommodate. Imagine if I were to buy a package, I’d only be able to have a facial every 2-3 months? So anyway, I did call back in August and I managed to get an appointment on a weekday afternoon (alarm bells, hello)…

Firstly, bad location (for me) because you had to walk a distance from the MRT station before you actually get there. Also when leaving, I had a bad time trying to hail a cab. Secondly, the place was a little dinghy and perhaps in my crazy imagination, what a whorehouse would look like inside (please see pictures). Thirdly, they made me leave my shoes outside!!! Along the sidewalk!! Mind you, it’s not within a building. This was a shophouse. Okay, I had to remove my shoes (this I understand for cleanliness) but can’t you put the shoe racks within your shop? Fourthly, I didn’t like the 2 consultants at the reception. One (Malaysian) was ambivalent but tried to get me to upgrade before I even went in ($99 for an ampoule of Jasmine whatever) and the other (PRC) was staring at my trolley bag filled with toiletries then told me not to drag it on its wheels on their floor. Yes, I probably looked like a hobo so I deserve that kind of stare. But… your floor is made of cheap chip-wood. There’s a hollow-echoing sound when you walk on it. And Miss PRC, are you wearing your skanky heels inside the shop if we can’t bring our shoes in? The same shoes I see you wear in and OUT of the shop to buy food from next door?

Beaute Hub - almost missed it because it was partially hidden

Beaute Hub – almost missed it because it was partially hidden

They had about 6 treatment rooms when it looked like they only had space for 4

They had about 6 treatment rooms when it looked like they only had space for 4

I waited for almost 15min in this corner space that was just wide enough for 1 armchair.

I waited for almost 15min in this corner space that was just wide enough for 1 armchair.

Can’t say I enjoyed the treatment either. I don’t know what kind of back massage requires me to lie on my back while you try to shimmy your arms down the grooves between my shoulder and the treatment bed instead of having me lie on my front. I don’t think it’s the therapist’s fault while I was wincing in pain several times – from the extraction to the scraping face massage (was it a rock she was using??) to the weird shoulder and upper body massage. I suppose that’s how they do it at Beaute Hub. If this was their award winning facial… I’d be afraid to try the other treatments. Oh! But I did like what she did on my eyes. She used a very hot/warm eye mask before brushing on the cold/icy face mask. The contrast was interesting and I think the eye mask did make me relax. I probably nodded off during a) the head massage bit b) the eye masking.

Super cramped room. You had to crab-walk sideways to move.

Super cramped room. You had to crab-walk sideways to move.

Saving grace - hair dryer, mirror & hair brushes!!!

Saving grace – hair dryer, mirror & hair brushes!!!

So was it worth $448? Not at all! I guess the $15 I paid would’ve gone to the cost of the hair-straightener (why do they even give out these things?) as well as the nice eye mask that was used on me. Other than that, if I’d known, I’d just say hello can I pay you $15 for the eye treatment and please don’t do the other stuff on me. One saving grace is the mirror and hairdryer! I must say that this cancels out having to put my shoes in the alleyway and risk losing them. My hair goes crazy after a facial because they put it up in a headband. The hairdryer and brush is important for public service (i.e. don’t want to scare people with my Mad Max head).