MNG (by Mango) Now At JCPenney Department Store

Now, I don’t really care all that much about ‘high fashion’ or brands, but this caught my eye because the first time I’d ever heard of Mango, or it’s MNG line of clothes, was in Singapore, where it’s apparently very desirable.  Singapore in general is very fashion conscious and the malls are filled with high end boutiques.

MNG (by Mango) is now available at JCPenney

I developed a particular distaste for Mango, not because of how the clothes look (I’ve never even been in the store, but the stuff in the online JCPenney catalog looks nice), but because we lived with a roommate during our first year in Singapore that talked about the brand non-stop.  I’m sure you know the type of person I’m talking about.  She wasn’t happy unless she was telling you about how great and fashionable Mango (or some other brand) is, and about how many items she has, like I gave a damn.  It got to the point that when we’d pass a Mango store in the mall, either myself or my wife would say, “Look! It’s Mango!”  The reply would usually be, “Fuck Mango.”  Like I said, not because the brand is necessarily bad, but because we were tired of hearing about it and associated it with a bitch we didn’t like.


Anyway, in Singapore, and I presume other parts of Asia, Mango is a very desirable brand.  If you have Mango stuff, you’re cool.  I suppose that’s just not the case in the US, though.  Maybe it just never caught on the same way it did in Singapore?  Mango has a few stores here and there in NYC and on the West Coast, but I just don’t get that same ‘exclusive’ feel that I did before, knowing that Mango is carried at department store now.

Regardless, if you’re from Asia and you were wondering how to get Mango clothes in the US, you can get it from your nearest JCPenney now, or just order directly from the JCPenney online catalog.

(Note: This post is not sponsored by Mango in any way.)

Shopping in Singapore

One of the things you might often here myself or my wife saying as we walk along the aisles in a store or supermarket is “It costs how much?!” One of the hardest things for me to get used to is the difference in the value of the currency. So, costs initially seem high to me on first glance. Often, after I take the time to pull out my phone and check the conversion rate, it’s not as bad as I had thought. Sometimes it’s still priced higher than what I’m used to, but you also have to consider import fees. On top of that, there’s a 7% GST (goods and services tax).

Sometimes though, I just can’t figure out where the difference in cost is going. Sometimes I think it’s just a matter of merchants overcharging because they can. It’s as if anything that even hints of luxury here, whether it be a pair of Asics (225 SGD?) or a pair of jeans (120 SGD?), gets a hefty price tag put on it.

One way to get around this is to keep an eye out for sales. This is also one way I’ve determined that ‘normal’ prices are often too high. The sales will often price items at 50% or more below the normal price. Now, you know that even if there is a sale, the company still wants to make a profit, and if they can make a profit at 50 – 60% off, then the ‘normal’ price is a bit steep. That’s fine. That’s just how it is here. It just teaches you something, and that’s to keep an eye on flyers and make sure you know when there’s going to be a sale on an item you’ve had your eye on.

So, when you’re walking around in Singapore, don’t go nuts when you see the prices. Remember the conversion rates, remember the import fees, and remember to wait for the sales.

Despite knowing all that, sometimes I’m still shocked, like when I saw these cereal prices:

And it’s not just the Cheerios. Have a look at some of the other items along the shelves in this photo:

As much as I love them, I’m not going to pay over 10 bucks for a box of plain Cheerios. I mean, they weren’t even Honey Nut Cheerios. Don’t these go for about 3.50 or 4 dollars a box in the US? I decided to be reasonable and I got the 5 dollar box of Capt’n Crunch instead. That’s a decent price, and the stuff is good!

Kipling Bags

While my wife and I were out today, we had to pass through Vivocity Mall. The monorail going to Sentosa Island departs from there. Since we were there anyway, we decided to stop by the Kipling store to have a look at the bags. My wife has been talking about wanting a new Kipling bag for almost a year. The last one she had was ruined when battery acid got on it.

So, we took a look inside, and, thankfully, almost everything was on sale. It’s the Great Singapore Sale right now! So, she found a bag she liked and while she was posing in the mirror I went ahead and browsed around a bit myself. I saw the one on the right and liked it and decided I should get one as well.

In the end, my wife wound up paying for both of the bags, as a gift, since I was covering the costs of our outing to Sentosa.

If you’re not familiar with Kipling, they’re a really good brand. Also, each bag comes with a monkey attached to it, like you can see in the photo. Each monkey has a tag on it with a name. My wife’s bag, on the left, has a monkey named Lorena (scary right?). My bag has a monkey named Clotilde on it. Sounds like some sort of heavily muscled Norse woman to me.

Regardless, the bags are nice. They’re made of a good quality and should last us for quite a few years. I want more!

Moleskine Notebooks

The first time I’d ever heard of a moleskine notebook was when I was reading a blog about a woman’s trip to Vietnam. She had taken a lot of notes in a moleskine and had scanned and embedded them as a slideshow into a blog post. I thought it was a really interesting idea, and a great way to record thoughts about a trip you take when you might not have a laptop handy. For example, if you’re on a hike through the hills you might not have time to whip out your laptop and jot down a few things. Despite the proliferation of digital media, there are still a lot of times when old fashioned notebooks are just the most practical and sensible thing to use.

Moleskines are appealing because they have an interesting name and an interesting history. I know it’s silly to feel more prestigious just based on an item you might have, but moleskines are just that sort of thing. They even advertise it and market it that way. The cover wrapper (seen in green and orange on the ones in the photo) say: “The legendary notebook of Hemingway, Picasso, Chatwin.” I suppose it’s something like how Apple promotes their products.

When you break open the plastic and flip it open, the first thing you’ll probably notice is a leaflet inside that details the history of moleskine notebooks. Apparently they fell out of production for a while, but some authors ordered a bulk of them because they were sad to see them go. Later, another manufacturer, in Milan I believe, picked up the production and they’re marketed world-wide again.

Typically I wouldn’t fall for something like that, but I really enjoy writing, and writing is all about frame of mind. If you’re in the right frame of mind, you’ll write well. If not, what you produce is at best bland. So, having something that’s touted as a notebook used by famous figures is just the thing to set the mood, and it also pushes you to only write things in it that are meaningful.

So, yesterday, my wife and I bought each other one each, as gifts. The one I got for my wife is an “Info Book” style Moleskine, with tabbed, labeled sections. She’s a fanatic for organizers and loved it. I got the plain, ruled paper moleskine. That’s appropriate for what I want to do with it, which is record thoughts that I have that I can later use for blog articles. I’m sure everyone has had a great thought or idea, only to realize later when they sit down they can’t quite grasp it again. This is my solution.

We picked the pocket sized versions because that makes for easy portability. It’ll slip easily into a bag or pocket. The quality is really nice. Each one is hand made, and comes with a defect-free guarantee that’s easy to cash in on. If you find a defect, all you have to do is take a digital image and e-mail it to a provided address. They’ll ship you a new notebook right away. Quality and service are important to this company.

So, if you’re looking for a quality notebook that you can shelf and cherish later on, this might be something you’ll want to look into. Just keep in mind that they’re a bit pricey since they’re premium items.

Counterfeit Goods in Singapore

Prior to just a few weeks ago, I had no idea there was a counterfeit goods market in Singapore at all.  During my trip to Kuala Lumpur I saw plenty of counterfeit goods that looked great.  When I used to think of counterfeit, or “bootleg” items, I always thought of cheap quality, or of something that didn’t look quite right.  The things we saw in Kuala Lumpur were near matches though.  You wouldn’t be able to tell they were fake at all.  The same could be said of most of the counterfeit items I saw in the Philippines.

Shortly after returning from Kuala Lumpur I stumbled across an article on a blog that was talking about how large the counterfeit goods market is in Singapore.  I can’t remember the link for it anymore, though I did find another site called “Havocscope: Global Illicit Markets Indexes” that had the value of the counterfeit market in Singapore pegged at $136.2 million dollars.  Who knew?

According to the article I’d originally read, the Singapore government does its best to keep counterfeit items out of stores that are in the downtown, touristy areas.  It stated that most counterfeit items are found in the outlying areas.

Now, I’m not entirely sure that what this guy is selling is counterfeit, but the slim, plastic packaging wrapping those DVDs looks very familiar.  I’ve seen a lot of counterfeit DVD stalls in Kuala Lumpur and especially in the Philippines.  I wasn’t really surprised that he had them, or that he was selling them.  What shocked me was that this guy was selling them by the Citibank at Tampines MRT station, along a crowded area where people transferring from the bus to the train pass through.  That seems a little dangerous for him.

What do you think?

Is Starbucks Really That Great?

I used to be a pretty big fan of Starbucks.  I would stop by one when I had time, or when I happened to be near close-by, to get a cup of “fancy” coffee.  I didn’t go often, because of the price, and because there usually wasn’t one that close to where I lived.

What did I like most about Starbucks?  Well, the coffee was decent, but it wasn’t really that great.  The atmosphere in the store is nice, but I never really hung around.  Most of the time I would go through the drive through, or, if I were in a mall, I would get my coffee and get out.  So… what was it?  After spending some time thinking about it, I realized that the only reason I really went to Starbucks is because of effective marketing.  It wasn’t for the cheesy atmosphere and it definitely wasn’t for the so-so coffee.  It was because of how I viewed myself when I was standing there holding a cup with the Starbucks logo emblazoned on it.  Starbucks managed to effectively market itself as a prestigious, premium coffee seller, and because of that, I felt as though I were treating myself to something nice when I purchased their product.  It’s not really bad.  I can’t call them evil for it.  It just means that they did their business the right way and used effective marketing plans.

Having realized that, and having realized that there are far better coffees available than what they offer, I’m no longer as interested in going there anymore.  That’s right!  I’ve found a coffee that is far superior to what Starbucks offers, at a fraction of the cost.  It’s called Kopi O, and it can be found at any hawker center in Singapore.  You won’t be served by a fancy “barrista,” you probably won’t have air conditioning, and I doubt you’d find free wifi (though most wifi in the US locations isn’t free anyways), but you’ll get a damn good cup of coffee that will certainly hit the spot after a meal, or along with your breakfast.

I’m sure those of you in other countries are wondering how that helps you, but use it as an example.  The best coffee, or really the best of anything doesn’t always come with the highest price tag.  So, get out there and take a few chances and explore smaller shops to see if they have a better version of what you’re interested in.

As for myself, I’d take Kopi O over Starbucks any day, which is why I’m glad I found this fantastic little store in the Downtown East mall:

It sells the same stuff as the hawker stalls that sell Kopi O, but it’s located inside the mall.  The prices are a bit higher, but only by about 30 to 50 cents, which is ok, considering its location.  When my wife and I visit the mall to see a movie, we can buy our tickets, have dinner, and then hang out at this little coffee shop while we wait for the show to start.  Oddly enough, this Kopi Alley store is located right next to The Coffee Bean ( a Starbucks clone for those of you not familiar with it), but that doesn’t seem to be hurting its business any.