Quirks of Great Britain – Atharva

In my six months of living in a small city on this little island, I’ve learnt a thing or two about its people, places and culture. So, here’s a mish-mash of quirks and some differences that I have noticed between the UK and New Zealand.

The people:
The Brits are a mighty tea-loving people who never stop complaining about the weather or the state of the government (Brexit is still fresh in memory). Some things that distract them from this moaning include a Royal Wedding (I must confess, I watched it live instead of studying for an exam) and a summer’s day where the temperature just enters the twenties and everybody has a sudden urge to sunbathe. When someone asks you “You alright?” or “You ok?” it doesn’t mean you look funny or have just tripped over and fallen. They want to know how you are. If you have the sniffles or a cough, you’re not just “sick” but rather “ill” or “feeling poorly”. Brits also come in different accents ranging from the industrial Northern, the sing-songy Welsh, to the BBC News refined accent and others that I still need subtitles for. Nonetheless, they are one of the most hardy bunch of folk I have ever met.

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Buckingham Palace and Victoria Memorial. Union Jack on the mast means Old Lizzie wasn’t home.

The places:
The British Empire gave us Imperial Units then went “Wait, this Metric thing is catching up, huh?” and stuck to their precious imperial units. Distances on roads are measured in miles, so “London 120” on a motorway sign is in miles, not kilometres. You may also pass the odd “Speed bumps for the next 200 yards” sign. I still don’t know how long a yard is though. The place names here don’t always sound like they’re written. For example: Salisbury (Sawls-bree), Leicester (Les-ter) and Worcestershire (Wus-ter-sher). Staying on the theme of place names, small towns can often be boring so locals come up with entertaining names for where they live. My two favourites being North Piddle and Petersfinger. Furthermore, I think every small town follows a very similar format. If I was to make a starter pack I’d definitely include a small river, one main cobbled street with a marketplace or square and of course a church that’s at least 300 years old. Bonus points for original Tudor houses and a working mill.

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Greenwich: Probably the only place where they show you how long a yard is.

The culture:
As culture varies with geographical region and age, I can best comment on urban youth culture. It’s not too different from Kiwi youth culture with an emphasis on socialising and the odd night out. I do think young Brits have better fashions sense and a greater availability of trendy clothes as major European brands and “fashionable” countries such as France and Italy are not too far from Britain’s dull shores. Unfortunately for us, New Zealand doesn’t have much of an exposure to world class brands and their products, leaving us with a more limited choice. Media of course plays a huge role in youth culture and shows such as The Great British Bake Off and Love Island are greedily consumed by the British masses.

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Old and New: The Shard stands tall behind the walls of the Tower of London.

Overall, I’ve growth to appreciate the unique mannerisms of this little nation that once controlled a fifth of the world. It’s had its ups and downs in history for sure and I only wish it success and progress for the years to come, and during whatever uncertainty that lies ahead.

God save the Queen,

Adobe Spark

Campus Life – Caitlin

I feel like unpacking the lifestyle of a student at the Universidad de Chile cannot be done to full justice in just one blog. I find myself unsure of where to start, let alone how to describe everything I want to say in approximately 500 words. However, I will endeavour as best as I can to illustrate my experience as a Chilean student!

During my first few weeks, the university life seemed to be, on the surface level at least, relatively equal to UoA in the fundamental elements. My university campus has a definite left-wing alti vibe, the students attend classes, hang around campus with friends during break, everything is standard university procedure. However, when I say the students are alternative, I seriously mean it. I thought the UoA kids were pretty into the hippie, alti fashion but we are put to shame by the Chilean students. Over here it would definitely be uncommon if you didn’t have either multiple piercings or a multi coloured/shaved hairstyle which you rocked with pride. Also, and this is a point I’ll expand on later in the blog, the students are seriously left wing. There is an alive and buzzing feeling of activism and social movement in the campus which I simply have never felt in NZ on the same scale. The university walls are all painted with political propaganda and my university in particular is famous for frequent marches and protests in the street to campaign social change.

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The quad area where students will often hang out on a Friday after class

To say a little more about campus life, everything in general is a little more relaxed (in terms of following rules). Every Friday the students hang around campus to party together in the quad, with stalls selling everything from tequila shots to ‘magic’ cakes. Everyone smokes all throughout the entire day (tobacco and other substances). During the lunch break entrepreneurial students often bring their own handmade food items to sell in stalls, such as vegan burgers, sushi rolls etc.

But now onto the more serious topic of this blog – perhaps some of you may have seen videos on Facebook of the large feminist movement that has spread across all of Chile. The truth is that there has been an outrage building for years in Chile against the machismo and femicide occurring within the country and education establishments. The movement is in response to several unresolved harassment cases within the university faculties which female students have lodged against professors. What started as a protest has turned into a full on strike, with university classes postponed indefinitely and in some cases with the campuses barricaded.

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An example of an area of my campus which has been barricaded with tables and desks. The banner reads ‘Sister, I believe you’.

Therefore, I am now in my fourth week without class, with no clue if my classes will even start again before my exchange is finished. The teachers have had to meet with all the exchange students to talk about how we can finish our courses via individual tests in order to gain the credits. When I visited my campus to talk to a professor I saw that access to my faculty’s building had been blocked by overturned tables and chairs and even more propaganda had been added to the walls, now showing feminist words and sexual abuse testimonies.

I hope I have made clear what I meant when I said there is a tangible atmosphere of social activism which simply doesn’t exist in New Zealand. I could never imagine a protest of this level taking place in an Auckland university, complete with marches of thousands of people taking place on the main street of Santiago every week. Therefore, although the unpredictable university life here has at times has left me at times slightly perplexed, it has been a special experience to see university students like myself band together to try and produce a social change for the better.

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More political propaganda at my campus. The words roughly translate to ‘Everything contrary to oppression resides in action’.

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Behind The Scenes – Cathy

As cliche as it is, I’ll be writing this post on my travels during my semester abroad. I know that most of my friends must be thoroughly sick of me and my travel posts on social media, but c’mon, this is pretty much a once in a lifetime opportunity. Part of the reason I chose to do my exchange in Europe was because I got a severe case of travelbug after my last backpacking trip here 2 years ago. There’s just so many places to see and explore, and having budget airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet made it far too tempting.

My trip over Easter break wasn’t particularly well thought out – the majority of my planning involved sitting in a cafe on my phone checking Skyscanner and Hostelword to see where the next cheap flight was. All I had were some vague notions of places I wanted to see and that I needed to be somewhere sunny and warm (despite how much I love Scotland, I felt like I needed a healthy dose of vitamin D in my life after 3 months of snow and rain). I spent my Easter break of 3 weeks hopping around London, Toulouse, Barcelona, Malta, Naples and Portugal, seems like a random mix of places nowhere near each other, but all I did was see what cheap flights there were from each city and strung this trip together. I went to all of those places except London by myself. Although I would’ve loved to have joined some of my friends on their adventures over break, my last minute and spontaneous planning made that extremely difficult and besides, travelling alone was a challenge I was ready to take on.

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Comino, Malta. New Zealand is obviously the most beautiful country in the world but Malta sure gives us a good run for our money.

Solo travel is an experience I’d recommend to everyone. There are definitely a lot of challenges, tough times and breaking points, but it’s amazing to have the freedom to go wherever I want at my own pace and only be doing the things I wanted to be doing. It was completely up to me whether I wanted to be on my feet all day, or to take a nap in the afternoon, or spend the day sitting in the park reading a book. There’s also definitely a sense of accomplishment when I finally made it back to Glasgow after 3 weeks. I planned and booked everything by myself and I managed to make all my flights, trains and buses and to the hostels. Logistically, everything went as smoothly as I could’ve hoped.

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Naples, Italy. Gorgeous sunset with Mt Vesuvius in the background. Was an absolute hike to get to this view but I loaded up on pizza and gelato straight afterwards.

There’s this notion that travelling alone as a young female is dangerous, and I’d just like to say that it’s absolute nonsense! There’s danger everywhere you go and as long as you’re aware of your surrounding and take precautions, I wouldn’t say solo travelling is any more dangerous than wandering around Auckland by yourself.

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Barcelona, Spain. View of Barcelona from Bunkers del Carmel and finally enjoying some warmth and sunshine. There’s also no shame in asking strangers to take a photo of you on your phone.

I also wanted to make a note and say that it’s totally OK to feel lonely at times and to take a break when you’re travelling for long periods of time by yourself. There’s definitely been a few days where I’ve just gone for nap in the afternoon or just sat in the park and read a book. Don’t feel like you need to always be on the go and making the most of your time there – remember you’re on holiday! It’s easy to get sucked into believing that every minute of travelling is amazing and fun. Although my Instagram game has definitely improved from my travel snaps, obviously I’m not going to be posting pictures of being in a cramped bus at 3am or feeling deathly seasick on the boat ride to Comino.

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Valleta, Malta. I actually can’t get over how amazing this country is – walking into the upper Barrakka Gardens makes you feel like you’ve walked into literal paradise.

Cathy’s Top Tips

  • Skyscanner, rome2rio, Google maps (offline) are all your friends – would be ideal to have a phone plan/ provider that lets you use data across the EU. GIffgaff is an excellent one based in the UK with great deals for students
  • Bring your student ID or proof of age for concessions on transport and attractions (doesn’t work everywhere but always worth a shot)
  • Always bring a towel and jandals
  • HEADPHONES ARE ESSENTIAL – Spotify Premium is a great investment – download all the music and podcasts that you can or else your head might cave in on your 8am flight with a crying toddler. Having a book is a good option too – I finished a whole novel on my trip
  • Be aware of your surroundings!! Trust your gut instinct and remember it’s better to be safe than sorry. I decided to sit around at the bus station in Barcelona for an hour at 6am waiting for it to get lighter before walking to my hostel. Also if you’re feeling a bit shifty about the areas that you’re in, ask your hostel reception about what areas to avoid.
  • Let friends & family know about your plans. Although nothing unfortunate happened on my trip, it’s always a good idea to have someone check in on you to make sure everything’s ok!
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Porto, Portugal. Absolutely gorgeous and underrated city! Unfortunately it looks a bit underwhelming because of the weather. There are also basically no photos of me in Portugal because I only had about 4 outfits with me and I had started to resemble a raccoon with the dark circles under my eyes by the end of the 3 weeks.

As always, happy to answer any questions! I’m currently in Poland with my parents who are up to visit and it’s a whopping 25 degrees! Hope everyone back in Auckland is staying warm.

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My Favourite Spots in Dublin – Tate

We were given a choice of what we wanted to talk about for this blog post, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourite spots around Dublin city, all of which are within walking distance of Trinity College or Binary Hub!

Indoors

There’s a lot to be seen around Dublin — museums, galleries, libraries, and cathedrals. They’re all located relatively centrally, and you can almost stumble from one to the other, especially once you’re in the depths of Georgian Dublin. (The different areas can be categorised by their architectural era and as somebody with a not-so-secret love for architecture—I’m the gal who stops and goes “oh, finally a fluted column!”—Georgian is definitely my fave). Fortunately, almost everything has free admission, so you can get in and get your fill of art/history/culture without breaking the bank.

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One of my faves from a previous visit to the National Gallery!

Two of my top spots are just down the road from Trinity. If you leave campus down by the Science buildings, onto Nassau Street, you’ll go past the site of Finn’s Hotel (where James Joyce met his future wife, Nora) and soon enough find yourself at the National Gallery of Ireland. It spans multiple floors, numerous exhibitions, and—to bring up architecture again—even the building itself is gorgeous. On my first visit there, I happened upon a massive, absolutely magnificent portrait of Graham Norton—just a room over from several stained-glass depictions of Bible scenes. There’s really something for everybody. Also in this area you can find the Museum of Archaeology and the Natural History Museum, if you wanted to make a day of it.

There are loads of gorgeous cathedrals and churches dotted around town, too—in particular, St. Patrick’s is great to visit, and there’s loads of history there. It’s also not far from Marsh’s Library, if you don’t mind parting with €2 in exchange for seeing a bunch of stunning old books. (I might be showing my true colours as an old lady and a major nerd here, but, like, it’s my blog post, whaddaya gonna do).

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Marsh’s Library!

Another particular favourite of mine—though this one certainly isn’t free to access—is the Lighthouse Cinema. It’s a five-minute walk from Binary Hub, just across the Liffey, and in addition to showing a spectacular selection of films—I took my Californian friend to a very emotional showing of Lady Bird there—they’ve also been known to throw costume parties and cocktail evenings in the lead-up to big film releases. (They went ham over Isle for Dogs.)

Outdoors

In terms of the outdoors, there are parks abound in Dublin. Many areas have greens or squares of grass/trees/shrubs etc. too, so you never feel too enclosed by the city. The aforementioned St. Patrick’s Cathedral has gorgeous grounds, and I’ve also heard people rave about the Iveagh Gardens (not to be confused with Beyonce’s Ivy Park clothing line). My two personal favourite outdoor spots, though—Trinity grounds not included—are Merrion Square and Phoenix Park.

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Oscar Wilde dominates the whole Merrion Square area. I mean, the whole thing.

Merrion Square is right by the National Gallery, just down the round from Trinity. When you see everything awash with Oscar Wilde references, you’re in the right place. Wilde lived on Merrion Square, as did W.B. Yeats, although further down the road. There’s a monument to Wilde which faces his house, and I’ve taken it upon myself to ensure all my friends have visited the spot (yeah, this blog post has devolved into Tate’s Nerd Preferences, but they’re part of why Dublin is such a fantastic city). I always find Merrion Square really relaxing, and it’s a two-minute walk from Trinity, so definitely worth a look-in at least.

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Lovely day in Phoenix Park!

Phoenix Park, though, is iconic. It’s huge—7.07km²—and offers up everything from fields of daisies to Dublin Zoo to a herd of deer that have been known to take food but also potentially to give a bite if you’re not careful. On a sunny day, people flock to Phoenix Park; Ed Sheeran performed there a couple of weeks ago, which I’d forgotten until I tried to make a trip and found it far more populated than usual, even for summer. Oh, well. There was another park just down the road. Classic Dublin.

I’m heading to Barcelona in a few days for a cruise around the Mediterranean (with my mum, no less), but I’ll be back one last time to give you a reflection on my experience at Trinity this sem. Until then!

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Travel Diary – Lauren

As my semester studying at Tec de Monterrey has drawn to a close, I have now begun my 8 weeks of travel before heading home to New Zealand for my final semester at UoA. I have decided to share with you just a few of the travel opportunities I have had.

I think most people have the expectation that a semester abroad will involve travel, and I found that the lighter workload at Tec gave me the ability to explore a variety of new places. Because I knew I had time to travel at the end of my exchange, I didn’t feel too  pressured to adventure very far afield during the semester. Guadalajara is such a central location which makes it easy to do weekend trips, but Mexico is a very big country. In New Zealand, I would never imagine travelling 5 hours for two nights away, but in Mexico, this is an easy weekend trip.

Getting around: I mostly used buses to get around from Guadalajara. Unlike New Zealand roads, I found Mexican roads to be very straight and direct which made travel by bus super easy. So when people exclaimed how windy a trip was, I never took it as literal truth as I found the same journey a breeze. Primera Plus is a very safe and comfortable bus company, with some buses even flaunting screens on each seat, USB ports and reclining chairs. ADO is the Primera Plus equivalent that operates in Southern Mexico and they were also great. Depending on where you are heading, there are also various cheap airlines which often have good sales. Since leaving Guadalajara, I have been travelling alone. I have always felt safe and travelling alone has allowed me to meet many awesome people at hostels to explore new places with!

My first trip away was with an Australian friend to a colonial city called Guanajuato. Guanajuato is a great weekend get-away spot. We spent three nights there, with most of the time spent drinking coffee on the hostel rooftop, wandering the beautiful Callejon’s (narrow pedestrian streets), admiring the views and eating delicious food.

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View from the Pipila lookout in Guanajuato

Another trip was out to the Pacific Coast where my friends and I stayed at a small beach-side town called Sayulita. I loved the beautiful white sand, hot weather and swimming in the ocean. The town had a cool hippie vibe about it, but it is a popular destination for American tourists which made some parts a little less typical ‘Mexico’.

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Sayulita

I went on one organized tour, with other people from Tec and other universities in Guadalajara, to Huasteca in the state of San Luis Potosi. Although we had to take an overnight but there and back as it is on the other side of the country to Guadalajara, we spent the weekend exploring waterfalls and kayaking up turquoise coloured rivers. It was such a great trip as I’d missed nature!

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Amazing water in Huasteca

I really loved Mexico City and San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas! I could write forever about the wonderful sites I have seen, delicious food I’ve eaten and lovely people I’ve met, but here are some photos for you to enjoy, and hopefully one day you will travel to Mexico to experience it all for yourself.

 

 

As I write this, I am currently sitting at a Lake edge hostel in Guatemala. After crossing over from Chiapas in Mexico, I arrived at Lago Atitlan.

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My view right now.

I will spend almost four weeks volunteering at an awesome hostel here, before heading back through Belize to make my way to Cancun for my flight home. I have really enjoyed my travels so far and feel so blessed that I have been able to see so much of Mexico. I’ve loved making the most of my weekends exploring Guadalajara and beyond, rather than sitting at a desk studying like I do in Auckland!

I really believe Mexico has something for everyone, from hostel dorms to luxury all-inclusive hotels, street food to fancy restaurants, and cities to beaches and the jungle. I wouldn’t say it is a very popular destination for New Zealanders, but I hope my raving reviews about Mexico will encourage others to experience all that Mexico has to offer!

Thank you,

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Campus Life – Cathy

It’s hard to believe that in another 2 weeks, exams will be over and my time in Glasgow will be coming to an end. Honestly, the thought of that breaks my heart a wee bit (or a lot).

One of the reasons I’ve loved my time here so much is the campus life and student culture in Glasgow. Let’s start with the campus itself; one of the biggest features of UoG is the Main Building which gives off some serious Hogwarts vibes. I’ve been here for a full semester now and walk past the building pretty much every day that I’m at uni, and I sometimes still get awestruck by how it looks, especially on the rare days where we see a few rays of sunshine.

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She’s a right stunner in both the snow and sunshine

Another iconic feature of UoG is the Cloisters, where graduations are held and have also featured in TV shows like Cloud Atlas and Outlander!

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Just 2 kiwis from Auckland having the time of their lives in Glasgow ❤

The West End houses a large majority of UoG’s students, making it super student-friendly and convenient. Having come from Auckland, it’s really nice to be able to walk everywhere I need to and not having to deal with commuting or traffic every single day. Uni is only a 15 minute walk away from my accommodation, and there are plenty of supermarkets, cafes, pubs, and bars minutes away from me. I generally don’t even take the bus or subway anywhere as everything’s so close and I actually like walking. Even a night out in town on Sauchiehall Street is doable on foot within 30 minutes.

Despite all the cool things to experience on exchange, let’s not forget that we’re here to study as well. I’m not going to lie, I have sometimes forgotten that I’m here to try and maybe learn a few things. As a conjoint student, I’ve had a bit more flexibility with which classes I could take. This semester, I’ve ended up taking all first and second year classes which are counting towards electives back in Auckland. In all honesty, I feel like I’ve put in less effort in academics this semester than I would in Auckland because I chose to do lower level elective classes. But I’ve gone to almost all my lectures, I promise! Very motivational since the lectures mostly aren’t recorded like they are in Auckland.

Outside of class, I’ve managed to keep myself fairly busy. I’ve been making good use of the uni gym in the Stevenson Building (or fondly known as ‘Stevie’), and going fairly regularly to fitness classes and the netball drop in sessions. Would highly recommend the Supercircuits class – absolute killer of a workout, but the feeling of achievement and endorphins afterwards is unbeatable. I’ve also decided I wanted to try a new sport and found myself joining Farflung, the Glasgow uni ultimate frisbee club. Joining a sports club is something I couldn’t recommend enough to anyone coming to Glasgow. Everyone in Farflung has been super friendly; I’ve learnt a whole new sport, met a whole bunch of great people and even ended up going to a rookie tournament out in Stirling which has definitely been one of the highlights of my time here.

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Early days of my professional Ultimate Frisbee career. Photo courtesy of my friend Tascha

This semester has actually flown by so fast, and I’m really happy with how I’ve taken to living in Scotland. As always, happy to take on any questions and comments!

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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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