Travel – John

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A café in Penang, Malaysia

To travel to other countries from NZ, it can be costly and uncomfortable due to its remoteness. But from Singapore, travel options are easily accessible and there are so many locations to choose from! Out of all the places I went to during my exchange, I’d like to introduce you to the two best places that I would recommend going to or else this blog would be too long and boring. Keep in mind that this is only out of my own experience and I’m sure there are many other awesome places to explore depending on your personal taste, so don’t be confined to these places!

  1. Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

From my knowledge, the city of Bagan applied to UNESCO for recognition as a world heritage site but is not yet accepted (I’m not 100% sure of its current application status). Bagan is an ancient city of Myanmar and it is full of pagodas (Buddhist temples) everywhere you go which are mostly banned from climbing for maintenance reasons. But while our stay in this city, we asked some locals if there are any pagodas that are open for climbing and a few teenage locals led us to a secret pagoda that we could climb on to watch the sunrise/sunset. We were grateful that we finally got a chance to climb a pagoda but their ultimate purpose was to sell some painting. We thought it was a win-win deal so we just bought one for them. Our main purpose of visiting this city was to watch the sunrise and the sunset. Especially during sunrise, the hot air balloons would fly over the air with birds flying and I managed to get a satisfactory shot of them both with the rising sun. Getting up at 6am to get this shot is tiring but let’s say I did it for the gram 😀

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SUNRISE was beautiful – there are special places to see the sunrise and it’s always good to ask locals for advice or do sufficient research in case you might fail. The big black dots are the hot air balloons and the small dots are the birds flying. You can also ride the balloons if you pay but we thought it was just way too expensive and risky
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SUNSET was also beautiful – we paid to get on a boat from a nearby river to watch the sunset and it was a great idea indeed
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On a side note, the boats do look quite dodgy and looks like they’re about to collapse in any minute so just make sure you can swim. We took the risk and managed to survive but our boat was quite shaky
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E-bikes – this e-bike is the best transportation method you can possibly get in Bagan. With it you can explore the whole city as the city itself isn’t so big. There are no ubers, grabs or whatsoever. There is also an option to hire a driver for a day but it was too expensive and we thought it would be fun to ride e-bikes instead. This was the best part of Bagan for me to be honest, it was so fun
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Pagoda (temple) – I forget the name of this pagoda but Bagan is said to have three main pagodas described by a local as the biggest, the most beautiful and the oldest (from my memory). Finding these temples aren’t that hard so it’s best to explore every one of them possible until you get sick of them!
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There are so many dogs lying or strolling around pagodas and the city in general but don’t touch them just in case, you know, things happen
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It really is a thing for restaurants in Bagan to decorate tissues like this inside a cup
  1. Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is a very chill city and also has a number of interesting tourist attractions. It’s a city that I want to visit again if I have the chance to travel around South-East Asia again. The food here is great and the best part is, the locals aren’t too eager to sell stuff to you just because you look like a foreigner. I just loved how the people I saw in this city were all chill and looked satisfied with their lives.

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“Sah wah dee kraap” – Ronald Mcdonald from Chiang Mai airport
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The best beer I’ve tasted so far in my life. Part of the reason why I want to visit this place again
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This restaurant is called Lemongrass Thai cuisine. We tried Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, and Tom yum soup and all of them tasted fantastic
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Chill vibes of Chiang Mai streets make it an attractive city too
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This temple is called Doi Su thep and it’s on a mountain. I’d recommend booking a tour guide package to go here. From up the hill, you can enjoy the night city scenery of Chiang Mai
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These elephants are intelligent. They know how to draw paintings, play football, troll their trainers by not giving them their hats and when you give them money they dance to express their happiness
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“Tuk tuk” taxis are a convenient method of going around places when you’re not going too far
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White tigers’ visuals are 11 out of 10

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Campus Life – John

Living on campus was a whole new experience for me as I have never lived for this long outside home. At first, it was quite a depressing start as my room had no air conditioning to survive the humid weather and I knew of nobody to meet. (It does get quite depressing when it’s pouring with rain outside and your room looks like a colourless prison).

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Typical room of RVRC

It wasn’t long however before I got to start meeting new people, especially those on exchange as well from Korea. (I really can say there is a thing for Koreans to group wherever they go). Staying close with these people made my campus life a lot better as we ate and hung out almost every day. We also celebrated each other’s birthdays and made food together on public holidays as well for a good Korean food session.

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Celebrating one of our fam’s birthday (faces blurred for privacy)
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Making Korean food for ourselves on Chinese New Year
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UTown Residence (UTR) – one of the accommodation in UTown
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UTown – #NUS sign in front of ERC (Education Resource Centre)

I’ve introduced this place before in my second blog and it is called University Town (UTown for short). It is a small town-like area located on the northern part of the campus. It is in my opinion, the most modern area where all the good things are such as good food, air conditioned indoors, plenty of study spaces inside ERC (and a Starbucks that’s open for 24 hours). This place is where I stayed the most often during my stay at NUS.

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UTown Green

One time, we were chilling at UTown Green and met a few other students who were exchange students from Italy and the US who were singing with guitars. My friends and I asked to join in, and sang the whole night long. Something you would only imagine happening in movies came into reality on that day for me.

UTown is equipped with a few other of the on-campus accommodation including UTown residence, Tembusu college, Residential college 4, etc. Most of the people that I was close with during my exchange lived in UTown so it was a meet up place for us to study or chill together. If you happen to be allocated to one of the UTown colleges, here are some brief impressions of them from my point of view.

Cinnamon college – If you’re into board games, its lounge on the ground floor has a lot of them so give it a try. On an additional note, apparently this college is where the smarties are so it’s noise level is quite low compared to other ones.

UTown Residence – It has a pretty big lounge on the ground floor that is relatively accessible to non-residents as well unlike other on-campus lounges of UTown.

Residential college 4 – This college is the furthest one on the other end of UTown and its quite a pain walking to the UTown bus stop.

College of Alice and Peter Tan – I don’t know much about this college and I hope its name has no pun intended.

Tembusu college – From my impressions, this college seems to have the most social events.

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Ridge view residential college (RVRC)

To be honest, these two places are the main places that I went to on campus excluding lecture halls or tutorial rooms. RVRC is where I stayed during my time in NUS. Five of the friends from our group including me lived in this part of the campus and meaningful time was also spent with them. I recall how when one of us wanted to eat something, we would always go and cook our midnight noodles. Overnight talks with these lovely people made unforgettable memories during my stay.

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Korean spicy noodles a.k.a. shin ramen

My most favourite thing about living on campus is that you get to live within walking distances with your friends. The good thing about meeting other exchange students is that they are quite open to making new friends and trying new things. Also, quite a lot of local Singaporean students stay on-campus so try making friends with these nice guys too because they are such a lovely bunch of people. Luckily for me, I got to meet people who were very keen on travelling to nearby South-Eastern countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Indonesia and so many more. The location of Singapore is perfect for travelling around as it is not pricey whereas from NZ, it would cost thousands. So, continuing from this blog in my next blog, where I get to talk about a topic of my choice, I’d like to talk about my experience in travelling to countries around Singapore! (Because to be fully honest, I feel that I have lived about half of my exchange life out of campus.)

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Food, Glorious Food – John

Hello guys! For this blog, I’ll give you some tips and introduce you to the three best dishes in my opinion and a few bars you should visit while in Singapore! I’m not going to talk about the famous chicken rice of Singapore because it’s too cliché and I still don’t quite understand what it’s so famous for (It’s literally just chicken on rice). I won’t be too wordy on this blog as the pictures will describe for itself! 🙂

ALWAYS REMEMBER that MOST (but not all) of the food sold in places have additional charges of 10% for service charge and 7% for GST charge. When you go to places like the hawker centre (food courts) or on-campus food courts, you don’t have to worry about these charges.

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This first dish is called “ayam penyet” or smashed fried chicken and is commonly sold in hawker centres under the Indonesian category. It is the first dish that my Singaporean buddies suggested to me during orientation week. I’d say it is one of the top dishes under $5 that you could get for a fulfilling lunch. There are various types of “ayam” or “chicken” so it’s always a good idea to also give other ones a try too!

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If you happen to stay in the NUS campus quite often and want to try something new, try this dish called “ma la xiang guo” or also known as “mala hotpot”. This dish is a combination of meat and vegetables chosen by you and cooked on the spot. It’s commonly sold in on-campus food courts and it also isn’t too costly. You can choose what to put inside and when you go to the counter to pay, I recommend you to ask for a “xiao la (little bit spicy)” or you could challenge yourself to a “zhong la (medium spice level)”. At first, I didn’t really prefer this dish but the more I ate it, the more I loved it.

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The third one is also quite a famous dish of Singapore and it’s called “chilli crab”. It is one of the main dishes you should try while in Singapore. But brace yourselves because it is quite pricey if you want to get a good one at a restaurant and some places even charge you the “market price”.

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This famous place is called “TWG tea” and they sell a massive variety of teas from all around the globe. When you go here, there’s a thick booklet which introduces you to all the different kinds of teas and it’s quite interesting to have a read and choose which tea you would like. If you feel like being classy one day, an afternoon tea with some chatter would make a great day.

Now that’s enough of food, let’s get to the second part of the blog; drinks! A moderate (be a sensible drinker guys or else you might get spanked by the Singaporean police) amount of alcohol goes well with enjoying the night life of Singapore fully. If you like to enjoy your weekend nights, you will fall in love with the night vibes of this city and who knows, you might even also fall in love with someone special.

 

 

This place is called “Level 33” and is a craft-brewery. They make their own beers and it tastes great too! We ordered a beer set which gave us stout, pale ales, lager, and wheat beer for a reasonable price. This is also known as one of the best places to see the night view of Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and in my opinion, the best place to feel the MBS vibes. Other great rooftop bars I recommend other than level 33 are “1-altitude” which is the highest rooftop bar in the world and “Ce la vi” on the top of MBS.

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This cocktail is called “Singapore sling” and is commonly seen in most bars. This one was when I went to “Holland village” which is the nearest place from campus where there are a lot of bars that open till late. This drink is for those people who like fruity cocktails and would like to try a Singaporean cocktail.

To be honest, there are more good food places than just these that I’ve introduced to you. Now it’s your job to explore more of the tasty and EXPENSIVE Singaporean food! 🙂

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Accommodation Awards – John

I’ll introduce you guys the on-campus accommodation that I’m currently staying in. The place is called Ridge View Residential College (RVRC) and it consists of five blocks (A, B, C, D, E), a tower block and the main administration building where the dining hall is. I’ll divide this blog into three sections so it will be somewhat of a review.

Location 

I’d say that RVRC has one of the best locations out of all the on-campus housing / school hostels. Most of the on-campus shuttle buses (A1, A2, B1, B2, C, D1, D2) are within walking distances of around 3 minutes from my place. And yes, NUS have on-campus shuttle buses that operate on a regular basis because the campus is too big to walk around. Also, it is quite close to University Town (UTown), where all the good things are at such as good food, plenty of study spaces and STARBUCKS. I have classes all over the place including the science block, Biz (Business school) and FASS (Faculty of Arts and Social sciences) so the location was perfect for me as all the buses were within a few minutes of walking distance.

Facilities

As RVRC is quite a large residential college, we have many cleaners working to clean the walkways, toilets, and other facilities. Other than the cleanliness, I’d say that the number one necessity while living in Singapore would be an air conditioner. But in RVRC, we don’t have one.

The good thing about facilities is that we have the University Sports Centre within 5 minutes walking distance. It has an outdoor and indoor swimming pool, and a gym. If you’re a student at NUS, it’s all FREE. As the weather in Singapore is extremely hot and humid, staying in the pools is the best thing to do when it gets too hot.

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Food 

Here’s a picture of a typical dinner meal in RVRC. RVRC has a compulsory meal plan included for students. I’m not sure whether it applies for other students but it does for exchange students. The food is undoubtedly cheap as it costs about $3 per breakfast and $4 per dinner. For this price, the food is worth the price. It’s not that great, but it’s not too bad! I normally wake up late so I rarely eat breakfast but I’ve heard that the breakfast meals are better than the dinner meals. The meal plan is divided into a few cuisines including Asian, Malay, Indian, Western and Noodles so you are given quite a variety of choices.
In conclusion, I personally like RVRC except for the fact that there is no air-con! I made quite a few good friends from RVRC, so I don’t have to eat every meal by myself. We made some good memories while having some late night noodle sessions and overnight talks. Overall, it has good accessibility to plenty of facilities and the food here is not that bad, too.

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First Impressions – John

Hey guys! To start off, I’ll just briefly introduce myself as this is my first blog. My name’s John and I’m a second year BCom student majoring in Accounting and Finance. I’m currently on exchange at National University of Singapore (NUS) in Singapore.

As soon as I got out of Changi airport, I could instantly feel the humidity and hot weather here in Singapore. It was quite an extreme weather change for me as I was on my way from South Korea which was about -4 degrees, to 26 degrees in Singapore. January is apparently the “cold” season of Singapore when there is unexpected rain and it is very humid. It’s similar to NZ, where weather forecasts are quite unpredictable. Local friends in Singapore told me to always carry an umbrella to prepare myself for unexpected rain. But carrying an umbrella is a bit pointless as heavy rains will make you wet anyway so it’s a better idea to just get used to it.

During my first few days after arrival, it was quite depressing because I didn’t know a single thing about Singapore. Staying in the dorms would make it worse so I decided to go around places near campus to buy some essentials. Singapore has quite a lot of welcome parties and programmes prepared for exchange students so you just have to socialize.

After arriving in the dorms, I attended two orientations, one for all exchange students and another for all business school exchange students. During orientation, I got a chance to talk to other exchange students who came from various countries such as Poland, Finland, Taiwan, Canada, US, Thailand, Taiwan and more. It was an interesting experience to talk to people with different backgrounds. I also noticed that I could even be the youngest student out of almost all the exchange students as most students were third or fourth year students. Other than that, orientation sessions were the typical informative talks which weren’t so interesting, so let’s skip to my first impressions of Singapore.

Although Singapore seems to try quite hard to promote the use of proper English, most of the locals don’t speak proper English, and some don’t speak English at all so they will directly speak Chinese to you which was quite surprising. Also, due to their local Singlish accent, I couldn’t understand more than half the things they were trying to say. The locals mostly speak Singlish which is a unique mixture of various languages including Malay, Chinese and English. When speaking to locals, it is a good idea to simplify your sentences and only speak of the main words you are trying to say or use body language if you can’t communicate at all.

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Singapore has one of the greatest night views I’ve seen in my life. The above photo is the view of taken from the world’s highest rooftop bar (apparently), 1-Altitude. They have free entry for ladies on ladies’ night but unfortunately for men it’s around S$30 for the entrance fee + one drink. It sounds costly BUT it is definitely worth it as you get the view from the highest building in Singapore and they also had awesome live music there!!

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Moving on to the country itself, it is a modern city with a very convenient transportation system. It has a country-wide network of buses and trains (called MRT and LRT) as seen in this photo. I really like the transportation system here as the trains operate on a regular basis, taking an average three minute gap between each one.

That’s my story for now and I’ll bring you with more exciting stories about Singapore and more when I go travelling around South-East Asia! I’m really enjoying my time in Singapore, living the high-end life, spending too much, soon to be seeing minuses in my bank account. 🙂

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