Backpacking around Europe – Pre-trip II

This post is all about the financial arrangements for the trip. Being away for 2.5 months, it is kind of rattling to have to figure out how much money you will spend, how much money to convert into cash, and how to get extra money if needed.

Here’s some basic steps to get started:

1. Determine your overall budget

This can be done through research about the places you wish to visit, the average costs of accommodation in the area, and the mode of transport that you are likely to take. For me, I use booking.com and hostelworld.com to gauge the rough prices of hostels in cities that I think I might stay in, and also goeuro.com to look at the transportation costs to and fro the cities. For the trip, I plan to take mainly buses between cities joined by land, and just one or two flights between cities that further apart.

2. Determine the amount of cash to convert

After having your big number, now it’s time to determine how much cash you wish to carry on-hand, and how much to leave in the bank. It is definitely good to have a substantial amount of cash on-hand in case of transactions not allowing card usage. However, do be aware of the possibility of your cash being stolen or misplaced. It is definitely safer to keep money in the bank and withdraw when needed (albeit withdrawal processing fees) – but think, would you rather pay about $5 for withdrawal or lose $1000 worth of cash?

3. Find a money exchange counter with a good rate

Now, this will take some time of scouting. For Singaporeans, I believe that The Arcade building in Raffles Place provides the best rates for conversion of SGD into Euros. There are several counters in this building, and most of them offer rates that are close to what’s stated on Google. This time, I managed to get a selling rate of 1.5575 (Google stated 1.55). Might not be the best of the best, but fairly acceptable for me. Be wary of some counters charging really high rates even up to 1.57!

4. Connect with your credit/debit card bank

This is really important, to make sure that all the cards that you plan to use during the trip are activated for overseas usage. Also, it is important to ensure that you know all the PINs to your cards, and also the steps to take in the event when your card gets stolen or lost. You can also check the withdrawal processing fee that your bank charges for each withdrawal to mentally prepare yourself. DBS bank in Singapore charges S$5 for each withdrawal.

5. Travel insurance

Now, it is nice to live on the edge but there is more assurance living on the edge with a travel insurance on hand. It doesn’t have to one with the biggest amount of coverage (especially if you don’t plan to do any extremely dangerous activities). Just get one with ample coverage and a premium that you can afford. For this trip, as I plan to move along several countries, it is easier for me to get an annual package covering worldwide. I purchased mine from DirectAsia which offers really affordable insurance premiums and convenient services!

Now it’s about 12 more hours to the longest flight in my life! Westbound to Europe, here I go!

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Backpacking around Europe – Pre-trip I

IThese 3 months of summer vacation will be an epic one for me. I’ll be embarking on a backpacking trip to Europe from 14 May to 25 July 2016, a continent which I’d always been dreaming to visit. It feels really amazing when the prospects of achieving something that always seemed pretty far away in the past is just less than 2 weeks ahead of you! I’d never thought that I could actually manage a 2.5 months holiday in Europe (due to issues like distance, cost and just the perceived difficulty). But you know what, nothing is impossible if you really want to do it. Often times we just make excuses not to do something (even though we talk about how we wish to do it) just because it seems daunting or too troublesome. Well, I think it is a great pity to not give your desires a chance over your fears. That’s being unfair to yourself and your heart’s content.

Ok, blabbering thoughts aside.

As I was too caught up with college work and exams, I only truly started to “prepare” a few days ago. However, there are a few things that one could do within the rush of everyday life to do some research, make notes and reminders for yourself and to craft a rough budget (so you don’t get a heart attack when you crunch up a big number at the last minute).

Preparation

Main Flight:

I booked my flight to and from Europe in January, as I was 100% set on embarking on this trip, and I already knew roughly the route that I will pass through. A multi-city return flight from Singapore to Milan, and Madrid to Singapore cost me 588 pounds (SGD 1157) with British Airways (stopover in London Heathrow). Booked through Skyscanner.

Mapping:

I’m all for spontaneity but I do also like crafting out a rough flow of direction to head towards. For this, I was glued to Google Maps seeking the best flow from Milan to Madrid. (Subjected to changes)

Budgeting:

As someone who is pretty particular about expenditures (in other words, rather poor), I would check GoEuro and Booking.com from time to time to gauge the rough costs of buses, trains and hostels in the various cities, to be able to conjure an estimated amount for mental preparation. Along the way, I managed to snag a flight from Rome to Budapest through Skyscanner for 26.50 Euros (SGD 41.20) with Ryanair.

From my research, buses are a REALLY cheap way to travel to different cities (especially in Eastern Europe), and they don’t take that much longer than trains too. Hostels in Eastern Europe are really cheap and look pretty good too.

Self-reminders:

I’m sure everyone dreads the horror of forgetting to bring something on a trip. Sometimes, my brain comes up with random reminders that I need to bring this or that, or buy this or that for the trip, that I probably will not remember by the time I am actually packing or purchasing for the trip. Hence, I jot them down through the months, and now I have a handy list of the little things I need to bring or buy. One stress off my mind!

Packing

Backpack:

As this is my first time doing a backpacking trip, I had to get a backpack. Being price-sensitive, I sourced for different brands, types and prices. Eventually I purchased an Outgear Venture 40L (+10L) for only SGD 118. This brand seems to have diminished over the years, but I read plenty of good reviews from past users saying that it is still sturdy (zips and straps) after many years of usage. Good enough for me!

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Packing Cubes:

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THESE ARE GODLIKE, I swear! I was getting worried about how I’m going to fit the amount of clothes that I wish to bring on the trip but these babies solved my issues. I got a pack of 4 packing cases (2 big, 1 small, 1 long – probably for shoes?) for only SGD 14.90 from IKEA.

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Holy, I managed to stuff 8 dresses in the case on the left and 11 tops + 7 bottoms + 2 sports bras on the right! Did I mention that the one on the right is double-sided?! Also, the small one fits 3 sets of padded bikini nicely!

These cubes are a dear for compartmentalizing, and making your backpack neat and organized! They only occupied a little more than 1/4 of my backpack (assuming 50L)!

Miscellaneous:

Over the next few days, I’ll be off purchasing the things that I listed during my self-reminder phase (refer above), as well as a few more pouches for compartmentalizing my things.

Solo Trip to Bangkok in July 2015

I made an impulse decision to travel to Bangkok by myself from 8 July 2015 to 13 July 2015 and little did I know that I would fall head over heels in love with travelling solo.

Day 1

I arrived at Bangkok’s Survanabhumi Airport in the evening and was wary about what to do, as any would in a suddenly foreign country. I purchased a SIM card from the telco called dtac for THB 299 which provides 7 days’ unlimited usage of 1.5Gb data, and THB 100 credit. You can purchase SIM cards from any other telcos such as True Move as well, as they are all probably the same standard price.

I took the taxi to the city, which was charged at a fixed price of THB 450 (the THB 50 included in the cost is for the driver’s standby fee – this is written on a notice at the airport, so it’s definitely not a scam). There are no taxi meters for journey from the airport to the city, only for city to airport. I had an enjoyable taxi ride with a friendly driver who was keen to teach me a few basic words in Thai, and to practise his English skills.

Started with dinner at an amazing Thai food restaurant on Lang Suan Road, and then headed to a rooftop bar nearby.

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The SpeakEasy @ Hotel Muse

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The SpeakEasy is located above the boutique Hotel Muse. The topmost level is completely open-air with big couches facing the view of the Bangkok skyline. SpeakEasy offers a Cigar menu – a perfect combination with its lounge setting and a glass of Mojito. I enjoyed my time there trying to smoke a Cigar for the first time, along with one of my favourite genre of music – R&B!

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Day 2

For this day, I planned to explore the cultural side of Bangkok city – basically the temples and sights along the Chao Phraya river.

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I purchased a Single Trip ferry ticket that costs 40 baht, since I wasn’t sure if I would be visiting multiple stops. My aim is to get to N9: Ta Chang to visit the Grand Palace.

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On the boat, I met a fellow solo traveller! Her name is Kate and she is from South Korea. There’s a sense of warmth and empowerment to find a female soloist like myself – I don’t feel so alone anymore, in the spirit and love of independent travelling.

Grand Palace

Upon docking at N9, I went in search for the legendary Bangkok Grand Palace, and it seems like you cannot miss it as a plethora of tourists flock within and around it. Do note that the Palace closes at 3.30pm!

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I decided to walk to Wat Pho although it is located one ferry stop away, at N8: Tha Tien. Along the way, there was a market with lots of beautiful fruits!

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Wat Pho

When walking towards Wat Pho, BE CAREFUL of scammers who will tell you that Wat Pho is closed (especially if it is a public holiday). Thank goodness that I read about these scammers who will divert you to other attractions that they want you to see (and pay for) instead.

Entrance to Wat Pho is a standard 100 baht, and there will be a long queue to get the tickets, as well as to view the reclining Buddha and get a good photo of/with it!

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I was feeling a little bummed that Wat Arun had been closed for renovations. I was not really sure of what I should do if I do not head to Wat Arun. Thankfully, I met this Thai elementary school teacher who thought I was Thai, and started a conversation with me in Thai. Further chatting with this kind man gained me useful advices on how to explore this area of Tha Thien. He spoke to a Tuk-Tuk driver to bring me to another temple, Wat Suthat (which is free to enter every Thursday), and back to catch the sunset against Wat Arun – for a really good bargain! The perks of meeting local people!

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The temple was so under-rated and lack of the tourist crowd – I love it!

After this visit, I met a Thai engineer who told me I should visit this particular tourist center to purchase a cheap and convenient package for visiting the Damoen Saduak Floating Market (which was my plan for tomorrow). Will touch on this again later!

Evening view of Wat Arun

I got back to the area near Wat Pho to hopefully catch the sun setting against Wat Arun (Wat Pho is on the opposite bank from Wat Arun).

For a direct and good view, head to Amorosa – the rooftop bar atop Arun Residences. Apart from good view, you get affordable drinks – e.g. Cosmopolitan for just 195 baht!

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Apparently, there’s a light show on Wat Arun’s building that I didn’t know about! Life is always full of wonderful surprises. 🙂

I was kind of worrying about how to get back from this area as the ferries had already stop operating by the time I was done with Wat Arun’s beauty. Well, the spirit of travelling and an open mind begets the ease of meeting nice people! Managed to snag a tuk-tuk ride with two other people who were heading back to the city too!

Day 3

I woke up at the unearthly hour of 5am, as I was expecting a van to pick me up to the Damoen Saduak Floating Market at 6.30am. Damoen Saduak is out of Bangkok, near Central Thailand in the Ratchaburi Province.

As I had mentioned, I was able to snag a bargain deal which consists of:
– To and fro transfer to the market (a hefty ride of 2 hours each)
– Visit to elephant farm and elephant ride
I got those at half-price of what a normal tourist centre will offer. That’s because I showed that I am a student, and claimed that I do not have enough cash for the rest of my trip (haha, cheap trick, I know). 
The travel company is Siam Master Travel Limited located at 148 Samsen Rd, Banphanthom Pranakorn, Bangkok 10200. 

It’s what you would expect of a floating market – locals selling items and food, and even cooking and serving food from their sampans.

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(To be continued… Probably, probably not)

 

Latino Saturday at D’Bell

D'Bell
D’Bell

Located on the outskirts of nightlife hotspot, Clarke Quay, D’Bell is an Indian restaurant topped with a Latin-Spanish fusion bar along North Canal Road. Other than introducing Latin Saturday nights once every fortnight, D’Bell recently hosted a BBQ & Dance party – making use of its outdoor balcony, free flow Sangria and Reggaeton hits to spice up their Latino-Español flavour.

D'Bell - Cocktail Americano
D’Bell – Cocktail Americano

Event

The Latino BBQ & Dance party provides a full BBQ menu with free flow Sangria, and a night of upbeat Reggaeton hits, at a cost of just $25. A food coupon will be given to you which is redeemable for an appetizer and main course. Ease your way into the night with free flow Sangria, then power up and groove to live hits by Cocktail Americano – a fresh decent pair from Cuba and Paraguay – folllowed by the Argentine DJ Raptah rocking Reggaeton in the house.

Food

The BBQ menu comes in two parts – appetizer and main, both dedicatedly prepared by an Argentine chef.

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D’Bell – Appetizer

The appetizer consists of rocket salad, potato salad and buttered corn. A mild start to whats to come next – a varied platter of meat as the main course.

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D’Bell – Main

The plate includes beef, chicken thigh, chicken breast, and German wurst which are accompanied by a special Spanish spice condiment called Chimichurri. A flavourful meat fest, I must say!

Drinks

D'Bell - Sangria
D’Bell – Sangria
D'Bell - Jungle
D’Bell – Jungle

By default, free flow Sangria juice and Jungle juice are provided at your own service.

Both juices tastes really pleasant and it depends on whether you are inclined to red wine (Sangria) or Vodka (Jungle).

D'Bell - Cinnamon Pina Colada
D’Bell – Cinnamon Pina Colada

I also found my new favourite cocktail at D’Bell – a Cinammon twist to the Pina Colada. My two favourite things in one, what’s there not to love? Apart from that, there were also a berry flavoured Rum-based cocktail, and a Kahlua-based cocktail that caught my alcohol palette. All cocktails have yet to be named, as they are newly concocted by D’Bell’s new bartender, Feroz. I’m already anticipating their appearance on the menu!

Ambience

D’Bell has two levels with absolutely different functions.

On level one, expect to find an Indian restaurant offering an abundance of Indian food options that’s sure to fire up your night before heading upwards.

Up on level two, it is a warmly-lit bar of Latino-Spanish fusion concept. Expect regular Latin nights and Reggaeton, brought to you by a diverse Latino and Spanish team hailing from Argentina, Spain, Cuba, Paraguay, etc. Choose to sit at the bar, or wooden tables and chairs for a casual chit-chat, or even indulge in the big lounge sofa for a big gathering. There’s also an enclosed area for groups of customers who wish to just dine and talk.

Service

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D’Bell – Chefs

Not only was the service of standard, there was also an element of care from the staff during the event. I felt well taken care of, as staff come around to ask if the food, drinks, or our night is going alright. I think that it was a really nice gesture.

D’Bell is a place recommendable for nice drink over a chat with friends while getting to network around without a loud and overwhelming environment. Also, it definitely satisfies the earbuds of Reggaeton music-goers. I am personally a fan of Cocktail Americano after this event, as they are able to cover both Reggaeton and generic songs really well! I hope they’ll continue playing regularly at D’Bell as I’m sure to hit this place again – to try out new concoctions by bartender Feroz, and check out their new release of Spanish tapas menu which will be launched next month! Who wants to join me?

No. 5 Emerald Hill presents Cinco de Mayo

Photo by NightDoWhat.
Photo by NightDoWhat.

Located within the heart of town, No. 5 Emerald Hill Cocktail Bar is an enchanting two-storey Peranakan house offering reasonably priced drinks, tantalizing bites and the liberation of throwing your peanut shell litter on the ground! Having been around for almost 24 years, No. 5 (as it’s more simply known) is a place where the long-term regular customers consider home, as they return for its reasonable prices and warm hospitality from the service staff. As for a first-timer, one cannot fail to notice its antique interior incorporating wood and timber, along with an outstanding drinks display wall behind the bar where red Chinese lanterns hang overhead emitting a soft oriental glow if you visit at night.

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Cinco de Mayo at No. 5

For the past 6 years, No. 5 has been hosting the Cinco de Mayo event. Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “Fifth of May”) is like Mexico’s version of St. Patrick’s Day celebrating their military victory over French forces in 1982. Indeed, the interior of No. 5 was well-decorated with Mexican props and colours on the 2nd of May this year when the event was held.

Tequila Shots by No. 5

We started our night being greeted with free rounds of Tequila shots served by a beautiful Mexican mascot. Talk about a pleasant welcome!

Drinks

Pink Margarita by No. 5
Pink Margarita by No. 5

Every year, No. 5 offers a special cocktail for Cinco de Mayo and this year they created the Pink Margarita. A mixture of Tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and watermelon syrup – this cocktail is a refreshing starter for your palate. Definitely appealing in both looks and taste!

Lychee Martini by No. 5

A must-try cocktail at No. 5 is the Lychee Martini. I was told that this is the most popular lady-drink, and it’s a tad different from those served at other clubs. Why? Because there’s more Vodka! And it’s Grey Goose! I personally love this one, and I’m sure the sweet-cocktail drinkers out there will too.

Chilli Vodka by No. 5

 

Chilli Vodka by No. 5
Chilli Vodka by No. 5

The heat of the night – literally – was the Chilli Vodka. It’s dispensed from a super huge jar of red hot Chilli soaked in premium Vodka displayed on the bar-top. This Chilli-infused Vodka is served in a long shot glass, and prepare to feel the burn in your throat and tongue after taking the shot. It’s very spicy, but it’s a very interesting experience not to miss. Just prepare a glass of ice water to put out the fire!

Food

Har Cheong Gai by No. 5

A must-try menu item at No. 5 is their Har Cheong Gai (shrimp paste chicken drumlets and wings). I was very excited to try it as I’d heard and seen many good reviews about it, and I was not disappointed! This highly-raved menu item packs the punch with its crispy exterior and it’s not too oily. What about the shrimp paste? There’s definitely a hint of goodness there though it’s not too rich.

No. 5 Pizza by No. 5

The No. 5 Pizza is a thin-crust pizza topped with pepperoni. Though not particularly outstanding, it has a nice texture and works as a tasty snack alongside your drinks, or a light dinner to kickstart the night.

Ambience

No. 5 is a two-level cocktail bar and each level has a different decor and ambience.

No. 5 Emerald Hill Level 1 (Photo credits: CityNomads.com)

The ground floor is a preservation of the authentic and traditional wood-work which has been unchanged since its opening in 1991. Dimly lit by the red Chinese lanterns, this area is a great place to unwind after a long day or network around. Enjoy a drink from the magnificently furnished bar and chill with the music played by No. 5’s resident DJ Raymond. Oh, and did I mention that you can just throw your cracked peanut shells on the floor? Another promising effort by No. 5 to preserve the feeling of ancient-time Singapore.

For Cinco de Mayo, strings of Mexican colours hung from the ceiling while Mexican hats accessorise the pillars. Perhaps the event ambience could be amplified with feisty Mexican music, but I guess No. 5 goers appreciate the soft vibes.

No. 5 @ Emerald Hill Storey 2
No. 5 @ Emerald Hill Storey 2

The upper storey is furnished with marble-top tables and wooden chairs with a wall filled with frames of old photographs chronicling No. 5’s early years. The decor of this level exudes a old-school vintage coffee-shop ambience, and is a perfect sit-down socializing avenue. There’s also a pool table tucked in the corner, where a game costs only $2.

Service

The service staff members at No. 5 are really attentive and radiates a positive attitude. Whilst talking to a long-term regular customer, I got to know that the staff are like friends to them, and will always remember their usual orders. This probably plays a huge factor for them to return to No. 5, as friendly staff with exceptional customer service is what makes a place like home.

I had a really great night at No. 5 Emerald Hill!

With the regulars of No. 5. Photo by NightDoWhat.
With the regulars of No. 5. Photo by NightDoWhat.

Apart from the Cinco de Mayo event, No. 5 also hosts a rad beach-themed party in September, and its anniversary party in December. I’m already looking forward to the beach party – I heard there’s going to be REAL sand covering the ground! Who’s with me?!

No. 5 Emerald Hill

Address: No. 5 Emerald Hill Road Singapore 229289 (Nearest MRT station: Somerset)
Opening hours: Mon to Thu – 12pm to 2am,
Fri, Sat, and eve of PH – 12pm to 3am,
Sun and PH – 5pm to 2am
Website: http://www.emerald-hill.com/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/No5EmeraldHill

 This entry is also featured on NightDoWhat here

5 things foreigners like about Singapore – and Singaporeans should too

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This year marks the 50th year of independence for Singapore. 50 years ago, the rest of the world probably did not think much about Singapore, but come 50 years later, the rest of the world looks up to Singapore in one way or another. Whenever I’m abroad, the people whom I interact with would usually comment about how great they think Singapore is. This makes me inevitably proud to be a Singaporean. However, most of us are always looking at how much greener the grass on the other side is. In conjunction with our SG50 movement, I think it is a good time for us to appreciate and look at how green our grass is

1. Safe

Many foreigners are fascinated by how safe Singapore is. Singapore is a place where you can walk around the streets at 3am in the morning without having to crank your neck left and right to be cautious. Yes, there will definitely be certain crime cases that emerge once in a blue moon, but generally, locals can feel safe wandering the streets at any time of the day or night.

According to an online source, Singapore’s Crime Index is the second lowest in the world, and its safety index is the second highest (falling behind Isle Of Man, a British island off the United Kingdom). As Singaporeans like to say, we are very “law-by-law”. There are an abundance of laws enforced strictly here. Some people may think this leads to us being “boring”, “rigid” or “too constraint”, but how else are we able to strut around the streets knowing that our pockets don’t get picked at any random time of the day?

Adding on, Singapore had never experienced any real threats from nature, apart from the occasional flash floods from rain. Due to our geographical location, we are (as of current times) disaster-proof. As a nation who never had to go through the loss of lives and damage of infrastructure by Mother Nature’s work, we may never fully comprehend how much of a miraculous fact this is to others who are prone.

2. Clean, Modern and New

We have “Do Not Litter” signs and campaigns, fines and corrective work order for littering offences and spitting is not allowed. Singapore surely holds sky-high standards about its cleanliness. Foreigners are in awe whenever they see how clean and green Singapore is. The streets are clear, toilets are well-maintained, and the buses and trains look as good as new. Moreover, the air in Singapore is so fresh – thanks to our low percentage of coal-producing economy, and efforts to keep the environment clean and green. Some may argue that these efforts are targeted to impress foreigners travelling into Singapore. But hey, who’re the ones who actually stay here (and get to enjoy) much longer than them?

As of 2015, Singapore is only 50 years old. This is a super young age for a metropolis. Hence, much of our infrastructure are relatively new and avant-garde. Foreigners look at the skyline of Singapore and feel impressed by how Singapore gets crafted into modernity so quickly in the short span of 50 independent years. For us, let’s be grateful that we get to enjoy this modern civilization from the beginning of our lives, which in turn bestows us with modern education and opportunities.

3. Racial Harmony

Chinese people, Malay people, Indian people, Eurasians – we have it all! We grow up, we study, we play and we work together with different races all the time. Yet, this is the most natural thing of all for us. Exclusive of expatraites and foreign talents, Singapore houses 4 main races and religion by default. What baffles the foreigners is how we’re all different but essentially the same – Singaporeans. When we go overseas, we don’t introduce ourselves as “Chinese” or “Malay” or “Indian”, but “Singaporean”. Singapore strongly enforces racial harmony and provides equal opportunities for every Singaporean regardless of race and religion. Since young, we celebrate Racial Harmony Day and draw 4 stick persons of different colours during Art and Craft lessons. Our acceptance and understanding of each other makes us a peaceful nation, and a very interesting cultural insight for the foreigners.

4. Small

Singapore so small, cannot get lost one lah!

That’s what Singaporeans always claim. Indeed, having a land area of 716.1 kilometre square, it takes only about an hour get from one end to another. More often than not, our small size makes us feel that Singapore is boring because we had either seen everything, or think there’s “nothing to see/do one lah“.

However, foreigners are usually amused by how small and convenient Singapore is. Because of our tiny size, public transport systems and routes can be easily established and well-maintained. We are able to get to almost anywhere on the island quickly and easily. Would you rather a 2 hours’ drive or a 20 minutes bus ride to school?

5. Summer All-year Round

Singapore is too hot!!

Yes, this is a grievance that every Singaporean has to go through every day of the year (I’m guilty of this too). 90% of the times, we are greeted with a fiery blaze of sunshine every day. The temperature rests between 29-32 degree Celcius. While we hate and curse about this, people from the other side of the Earth are fantasizing about endless summers when days are bright and it’s always a suitable weather to head out for fun! Think about it, it’s like we’re on an endless summer vacation, and we get to clad around in light summer clothes instead of heavy coats that cost a bomb. We’ll probably never experience a grey period when we are locked inside our homes, unable to get out of the house due to a snowstorm, so embrace our summer freedom!

Personally, I am guilty of looking at the “greener grass” most of the time. However, whenever I am away, I’ll always think of Singapore at the back of my mind. This small island home of mine is like a small firestone in my heart that is ever-burning. I’m still in the progress of appreciating Singapore more and more each day, and I hope we all learn to give enough credit to this beauty of 50 years.

What do you think about Singapore? I’m interested to see your comments!

A railway history: Tanjong Pagar Railway Station

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Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.

Once thought of as a fascinating way of transportation, the rail was widely used in the early 1900s in the transportation of goods, coal and people – the ingredients to spur civilization that carved our modern city. Singapore went on track (pun intended) to open the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in 1932 to make it a gateway to Asia. It stretches from Singapore all the way to Thailand, and its architecture was beautifully influenced by the neo-classical and art-deco era. Though the railway station has ceased to operate, it was declared as a national monument in appreciation for its architecture and social impact. Now, it opens on public holidays, from 9am to 6pm. Visitors are free to roam freely around and test out their photography skills. I spent Labour Day this year at this historical site, and I do appreciate its neo-classical and art-deco architecture. However, it is too crowded to do any serious photography (too many photobombers). Word of advice: try hitting the place super early to avoid the crowd! Here are the visuals:

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Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
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Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
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Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
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Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
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Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
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Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.
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Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Photo by Chloe Kwok.

The Tanjong Pagar Railway Station is located at 30 Keppel Rd, Singapore 089059.
Directions: From Tanjong Pagar MRT station exit A, walk along Choon Guan St, then Yan Kit Rd, then Cantonment Link and finally Keppel Rd (15 minutes).
Alternatively, take buses 10, 30, 57, 80, 97, 100, 131, 145, 97E.

To check when the railway station will be open for the public, click here for the official list of public holidays in Singapore yearly!

Notes from The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer

I recently picked up this book from the library, afterwhich I found out it was listed as one of the “7 books that will change how you see the world” on MarkManson.net, a personal favourite website of mine.

Though this book is essentially talking about mass movements, revolutions and war, I came across many points in the book that resonates everyday behaviour. Hence, I extracted some quotes from the book that speaks more directly to me. These are for my own personal future reference, and to record my thoughts and/or personal understanding of those points.

The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer

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Part 1: The Appeal of Mass Movement

I The Desire for Change

Section 2

“There is in us a tendency to locate the shaping forces of our existence outside ourselves. Success and failure are unavoidably related in our minds with the state of things around us. Hence it is that people with a sense of fulfilment think it a good world and would like to conserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change.” 

When people are contented with their own lives, they will naturally preserve the current state in fear that any change will cause a ripple to their calmness. On the other end of the spectrum, the not-so-successful would think that change could cause a positive ripple in their stagnant position.

“The tendency to look for all causes outside ourselves persists even when it is clear that our state of being is the product of personal qualities such as ability, character, appearance, health and so on.”

People may think that by changing external conditions, their internal state of being will improve. In actual fact, the biggest change one can make is himself. The change in your internal conditions (a better attitude, developing more skills, self-grooming, self-care and self-love), will reflect in your external situation.

Section 3

“When our mode of life is so precarious as to make it patent that we cannot control the circumstances of our existence, we tend to stick to the proven and the familiar. We counteract a deep feeling of insecurity by making of our existence a fixed routine.”

When people can’t see that they can make a change, they submit to whatever that life serves them. They are not used to an environment where change is active hence are willing to take on the routine that life has written for them. In contrast, a person like me, who believes that life is up to my control and change is always possible, will never get used to “familiar” and can never accept a routine that is not my own.

“The abjectly poor, too, stand in awe of the world around them and are not hospitable to change. It is a dangerous life we live when hunger and cold are at our heels.”

However, some people have no choice of controlling and changing their lives because they are barely self-sufficient. To be able to survive on the minimum state of conditions, that is enough. The search for more is not even a least bit of the concerns in their minds that are occupied with fulfilling basic needs.

Section 4

“The powerful can be as timid as the weak. What seems to count more than possession of instruments of power is faith in the future.”

It’s with faith that people see possibilities. It is those possibilities that motivates the actions to achieve them.

“For the hopeful can draw strength from the most ridiculous sources of power – a slogan, a word, a button.”

When one has hope, one has already implicitly set their hearts to make a change. Nothing more needs to be employed to give strength, and those “sources” are just something tangible to latch your ideas onto.

“If the Communists win Europe and a large part of the world, it will not be because they know how to stir up discontent or how to infect people with hatred, but because they know how to preach hope.”

Section 5

“Thus the differences between the conservative and the radical seem to spring mainly from their attitude toward the future. Fear of the future causes us to lean against and cling to the present, while faith in the future renders us receptive to change.”

It depends on whether one has great foresight of seeing change in the future, great courage to take the risks of change, and great desire to carve one’s future.

II The Desire for Substitutes

Section 7

“To the frustrated a mass movement offers substitutes either for the whole self or for the elements which make life bearable and which they cannot evoke out of their individual resources.”

A person’s call for change may be a person’s call for escape from one’s self which one cannot seem to find satisfaction with. One hopes that in effecting change, one can gain a new self and be rid of the self that one has already grown tired of.

Section 11

“The burning conviction that we have a holy duty toward others is often a way of attaching our drowning selves to a passing raft. What looks like giving a hand is often a holding on for dear life. “

Sometimes, helping others with their problems is a distraction from your own.

Section 13

“When our individual interests and prospects do not seem worth living for, we are in desperate need of something apart from us to live for.”

“Hence the embracing of a substitute will necessarily be passionate and extreme.”

When life is still, there is a need to find a cause where one can generate the desire and passion that humankind craves.

“We cannot be sure that we have something worth living for unless we are ready to die for it.”

Part 2: The Potential Converts

IV The Role of the Undesirables in Human Affairs

Section 18

“There is a tendency to judge a race, a nation or any distinct group by its least worthy members.”

I think most of us are guilty of this at some point in life, and now I’m starting to remind myself that there’s so much more to an entity than one skewed view about it.

“The decent, average people who do the nation’s work in cities and on the land are worked upon and shaped by minorities at both ends – the best and the worst.”

V The Poor

Section 20

“It is usually those whose poverty is relatively recent, the “new poor”, who throb with the ferment of frustration. The memory of better things is as fire in their veins”

I would like to relate this to a quote I recently came across – “It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” One who had tasted and knew success, and is mercilessly stripped off it may not be able to accept and adapt to the new less-than-ideal plight. One will persistently believe that one deserves more.

Section 21

“The poor on the borderline of starvation live purposeful lives. To be engaged in a desperate struggle for food and shelter is to be wholly free from a sense of futility. The goals are concrete and immediate. Every meal is a fulfillment; to go to sleep on a full stomach is a triumph; and every windfall a miracle.”

The need to achieve tremendously may cripple one’s sense of self-satisfaction. When needs and expectations are little, goals are attainable, which fuels the sense of fulfillment – even if the goals are little. In comparison with having a big goal which is unattainable, or at least in the short-run, the sense of fulfillment of the individual dwindles.

Section 22

“Misery does not automatically generate discontent, nor is the intensity of discontent directly proportionate to the degree of misery. Discontent is likely to be highest when misery is bearable; when conditions have so improved that an ideal state seems almost within reach.”

When you know that you can do something about your misery, the discontentment of being stuck in it intensifies, fueling the need for action and change.

“The intensity of discontent seems to be in inverse proportion to the distance from the object fervently desired.”

When your dream is within reach but you can’t seem to grasp it yet, that is when desperation seeps in. The closer you are to the dream, the more anxious one gets in wanting to attain it.

Section 23

“We are less dissatisfied when we lack many things than when we seem to lack but one thing.”

And sometimes that one thing becomes the purpose of your entire existence, and no matter how many other things you get, you still will never feel satisfied. This is akin to having many achievements but still feeling like you’re missing something because you are not pursuing your true passion. On the other hand, if one is lacking much, one will be occupied with trying to develop one’s basic self, placing less emphasis on that one true desire first, until the point of stagnantation arrives.

Section 26

“Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual.”

You have no one to blame but yourself. You are responsible for your actions and consequences. This is the price, and the exhilariting beauty, of freedom.

Section 30

“Nothing so bolsters our self-confidence and reconciles us with ourselves as the continuous ability to create; to see things grow and develop under our hand, day in, day out.”

When one sees the impact that one has the ability to create, one can see – again and again – how purposeful and meaningful life can be.

VI The Misfits

Section 37

“The permanent misfits are those who because of a lack of talent or some irrparable defect in body or mind cannot do the one thing for which their whole being craves. No achievement, however spectacular, in other fields can give them a sense of fulfillment.”

When you are not where you want to be or doing what you want to do, you feel like you don’t belong as you are not where you feel like you are meant to be.

X The Bored

Section 41

“When people are bored, it is primarily with their own selves that they are bored. The consciousness of a barren, meaningless existence is the main fountainhead of boredom.” 

Life is never boring. It’s the self that gets boring hence bored.

Part 3: United Action and Self-Sacrifice

XIII Factors Promoting Self-sacrifice

Section 46

“The purpose of the Iron Curtain is perhaps more to prevent the Russian people from reaching out – even in thought – toward an outside world, than to prevent the infiltration of spies and saboteurs. The curtain is both physical and psychological.”

A psychological barrier as much as a physical one.

Section 47

“It is one of the main tasks of a real leader to mask the grim reality of dying and killing by evoking in his followers the illusion that they are participating in a grandiose spectacle, a solemn or light-hearted dynamic performance.” “Their uniforms, flags, emblems, parades, music, and elaborate etiquette and ritual are designed to separate the soldier from his flesh-and-blood self and mask the overwhelming reality of life and death.”

Things can be viewed in a vastly different angle if you package it differently.

Section 54

“we are less ready to die for what we have or are than for what we wish to have and to be”

Because our desires overshadows our contentment.

“ “Things which are not” are indeed mightier than “things that are”. In all ages men have fought most desperately for beautiful cities yet to be built and gardens yet to be planted.” 

Section 57

“We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand.”

There are many interpretations that will arise when something can be understood. When something is not understood, it will just be a fixed mystery, an uncovered truth, that is acceptable by all.

Section 62

“The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a God or not. The atheist is a religious person. He believes in atheism as though it were a new religion.”

XIV Unifying Agents

Section 68

“We do not usually look for allies when we love. Indeed, we often look on those who love with us as rivals and trespassers. But we always look for allies when we hate.”

When we hate something, we like to gather other energies with us to validate the issue that we hate on. When we love something, our need to possess the love interest creates a trace of jealousy that prevents any neutral and open feelings about sharing the loving process.

Section 73

“It is easier to hate an enemy with much good in him than one who is all bad. We cannot hate those we despise. The Japanese had an advantage over us in that they admired us more than we admired them. They could hate us more fervently than we could hate them. The Americans are poor haters in international affairs because of their innate feeling of superiority over all foreigners.”

“The best yardstick for the value of his attitude, for the sincerity of his conviction, and the force of his well is the hostility he receives from the…enemy.”

Section 78

“The less satisfaction we derive from being ourselves, the greater is our desire to be like others. We are therefore more ready to imitate those who are different from us than those nearly like us,” 

Section 83

“The truth seems to be that propaganda on its own cannot force its way into unwilling minds; neither can it inculcate something wholly new; nor can it keep people persuaded once they have ceased to believe.”

“The gifted propagandist brings to a boil ideas and passions already simmering in the minds of his hearers. He echoes their innermost feelings. Where opinion is not coerced, people can be made to believe only in what they already “know”.”

Section 84

“Propaganda thus serves more to justify ourselves than to convince others;”

People will choose to hear only what they believe in. Section 93

“People whose lives are barren and insecure seem to show a greater willingness to obey than people who are self-sufficient and self-confident.”

XVIII Good and Bad Mass Movements Section 120

“A mass movement with a concrete, limited objective is likely to have a shorter active phase than a movement with a nebulous, indefinite objective. The vague objective is perhaps indispensable for the development of chronic extremism. Said Oliver Cromwell: “A man never goes so far as when he does not know whither he is going.””

“When a mass movement is set in motion to free a nation from tyranny, either domestic or foreign, or to resist an aggressor, or to renovate a backward society, there is a natural point of termination once the struggle with the enemy is over or the process of reorganization is nearing completion. On the other hand, when the objective is an ideal society of perfect unity and selflessness – whether it be a City of God, a Communist heaven on earth, or Hitler’s warrior state – the active phase is without an automatic end.”

All quotes are cited from The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer.