December 2020

SHN at Parkroyal Kitchener Road

Went back to Singapore for almost a month for some personal matters, it wasn’t planned and it’s wasn’t for any joyous occasion. Still, I’ll like to note down some experiences, thoughts, and emotions that went through during my journey to and back of Singapore from United States.

Took a morning flight back to Singapore and was surprised by the number of people still travelling in this pandemic, I guess life just goes on, though some people are really dressed in protective gear from head to toe. Can’t blame them tho. We got to layover at Japan, Narita, and honestly we were a little excited – it’s the nearest thing to getting to travel to Japan. However, there were only some stores open, welp better than nothing.

Stay Home Notice with ParkRoyal @ Kitchener Road

Of course we have to serve the Stay Home Notice (SHN) of 14 days in a dedicated hotel. Luckily we left Singapore in late 2018 so we don’t have to fork out the $2000/pax for the mandatory staycation.

Not sure about other hotels, but we were given one of this each to use for the 14 days.
They didn’t even provide detergent.

After collecting our bagages, we were ushered to corner of the airport to register where we waited for a bus that took us to our hotels. We don’t have options as to where we want to stay, I think there’s a rotation system within the dedicated hotels and different batches of flights are brought to different hotels. Some people got Swiss Hotel and some Ritz Carlton but we got ParkRoyal Kitchener ): Welp.

Ok before I start ranting here’s a list of things you better have with you just in case your hotel doesn’t provide – mine provided only the bare necessities.

  • Shampoo and body wash – You’re gonna stay in the same place for 2 weeks, and you have no idea what shampoo they provide you with which may suck and dry your hair out. Luckily Singapore have super developed delivery services like Grab and Food panda that delivers groceries too, so the biggest problem you’ll face.
  • Detergent (Dishwasher and Laundry) – I’m not even exaggerating. ParkRoyal gave us a set of utensils each and want us to use it for 14 days, no problem with that, very environmentally friendly , very much kudos. But can they at least provide dishwasher with it ??? We had our family members sent us some, but we forgot to ask for sponge and used hands to wash it throughout lolol. Yes, hotel not AirBnB, so no washing machine. Yes hotel have laundry services, but ParkRoyal was charging 5 pieces for $20 dollars ?! You bet our cheap ass got our family to send us detergent and washed our clothes in the basin lolol. That’s also when I kind of appreciates Idaho’s dry weather, NOTHING DRIES IN SINGAPORE, ESPECIALLY NOT IN A POORLY VENTILATED HOTEL ROOM. I heard Swiss Hotel provided free laundry services tho, welp.
  • Lots of entertainment – Don’t forget your HDMI cable. Thankfully we brought along our Switch and its dork, computer, books, my studies, hard disks, and a HDMI cable. These kept us very entertained with me almost completing Hyrule Warriors and we binged watched Alice in Borderland and Sweet Home. 14 weeks felt more like 5 days for me. You might even want to bring along a yoga mat if possible.

I think that’s about it. Oh, you should download Grab and FoodPanda too! They can deliver food to the hotel and the staff will bring your orders to your room.

Aisle outside of SHN rooms
Little tables outside the SHN rooms where meals and stuff were placed on.
Our room was 2132.

3 meals were served daily without fail (though I’m pretty sure they forgotten about us on the 3rd day and we starved till I called front desk asking for food). This is FREAKING fattening, the foods were fine, but the consistency of it plus the constant orders coming from grab and endless bubble tea I’m currently the heaviest I’ve ever been my whole life. Yes, became fat before I was released back into wild. Very sad.

Omg so much dust and hair on the floor I cannot.
Imagine the amount of dust 2 person accumulates in a unventilated room for 14 days.
I promise you it’s 100x worse than pictured.

We were ushered in to our rooms after close to 3 hours wait in the hotel lobby after a near 24 hours flight journey. The lifts were key operated where only the staff can bypass the control panel and bring us up. We were not issued any keycards, meaning if we were to leave the rooms, we can’t re-enter – discouraging us to leave our rooms. Of course no one was allowed in to our rooms, just imagine how dirty and messy a room can be with 2 weeks without cleaning supplies. We had to eat on our beds because there was only 1 wall facing desk. However they will provide you with extra sheets and duvet cover when requested, so that’s what we did and we changed our sheets ourselves.

OH YA, if you’re a smoker, sucks to be you. You won’t be able to smoke cause there’s no balcony and there wasn’t any option for us to choose a smoking room for this hotel. Some other hotels have balcony tho, so it’s really up to luck.

First day breakfast.
Foods were served in bento boxes.

We had to do the Covid swb test on the 11th day of our stay which is mandatory for all travellers coming into Singapore. We had to pay for the test ourselves but got a pleasant surprise that the test was $128 instead of the reported $200. It was my first time doing the test, wasn’t as terrible for me I just teared a little. It’ll probably be worse for people with sinus issues.

That’s all I can remember for now, will update if I remember anything else.

After the 14 days SHN we had 11 days to do whatever we want before we head back to Singapore. Yup, spent more days in the hotel that actually be back Singapore, welp. Anyway, you bet I made the fullest use of it LOL. In the 11 days, I finished the government issued Singapore Re-discovery Voucher and went to USS, Sanrio Characters Island Lights, Gardens By The Bay, and Zoo (in pouring rain). HAHAH. Had a lot of fun and met most of my friends that I wanted to meet. It was a tiny blessing amongst all the chaos of 2020. Will spare you the details of a Singaporean touring Singapore.

OH AND I GOT TO WATCH 2 MOVIES IN THE THEATRE!!

Got to experience the trace together app, and having to ‘check-in’ everywhere and making detours to the monitored entries and exits, even though social distance were hardly practiced. Quite an experience I should say, to see how the entire country adapted to a pandemic, and how we successfully keep it under control proving that it is very possible if people cooperate. (Can’t say the same for every country) Also not forgetting the sacrifices and hard working-ness of the front liners and delivery persons that allowed the rest of the population to rest easy which I feel is very commemorable.

On the 2nd of January, we took the first flight back to United States > Narita > San Fran > Boise.

Even though we took the pre-departure Covid test, no one from any side of the immigration requested for our Covid results. Japan not asking for it is kinda understandable since we are just passing, Singapore too since we are leaving the country. I’ve tried not to ask what U.S. is doing since Trump. No state required quarantine for Idaho too. So here we are, back in our U.S. home and trying to unpack as much as we can and slip into our normal routine before December 2020. Time to get my shit together for a final sprint for my final year here.

See you next post.

P.S. Omg why is Covid not gone yet. 2020 gotta be the worst year ever for me. Can’t wait for this thing to be over and people can live their lives.

Spending money in USA.

Youtrip

The sole reason of earning money is to spend it.

Before coming over to United States, I was under the impression that everything is very cheap, and that the living expenses is much lower, or as I was told. After being here for about 1.5 years, I would like to ask those people that told me that U.S. have low living expenses to this – WHERE? HOW? Other than the cars, which honestly are cheap here (To be fair, comparing to Singapore, car from where ever other than, are cheap.) I don’t really find the things here cheap. Ok, the car and outlet/brand shoppings.

Groceries are all in USD, the prices showed all does not include state taxes which ranges from states to states. The variety of things we can buy are limited. (Lame example – nail clippers: You can get 10000 different designs and 10000 different colours if nail clippers from Taobao for 1/5 of the price here where you can maybe find like 4 designs.)

The restaurants here are even more ridiculous, other than fast food, normal restaurants can cost up to 50 USD for 2 person per meal. 50 USD-60 USD after tax which are not included in stated prices and 15-20% of tips. 60 USD is almost 85 SGD! Plus it’s not even any fancy food. Ridiculous.

I truly don’t think the living expenses here are lower than Singapore. There are many people in poverty here in United States too. Many times you can see people asking for help on the local community Facebook groups. Good thing is that people are generally helpful to those who are in need.

Actually, not everything are expensive. Shopping here can be ridiculously cheap. For brands like Nike, Adidas, Champion, Reebok, New Balance, Calvin Klein, and more, you can find apparels that’s lower than 20 SGD?! Nike and Adidas shoes can cost as low as 30 USD?! Sometimes things are so cheap you feel compelled to buy it. Premium outlets of U.S. brands are even more ridiculous. Lower end designer bags (Coach/Kate Spade/ Tory Burch/ Michael Kors) can have up to 70-80% discount off original retail prices. The next time you see someone selling these brands at ridiculously low price on Carousell and claiming them to be genuine. They probably are.

But of course, there will come a time where I think “hey that’s enough clothes, even if it’s this cheap.” – But today is not that day.

Oh man I can go on and on.

My initial objective of this post is to share HOW we convert our SGDs to USDs for spendings here. Ok lemme start.

All our income are in Singapore Dollars, cause our bosses are Singaporean, which causes a problem. US shops don’t take Singapore Dollars in-exchange for goods and services. When we just arrived in US, we used DBS’s multi-currency account to convert our money from SGD to USD. Which really isn’t very economical. Bank exchange rates are notoriously bad, we lose a lot when we convert larger amount over. Seeing that we live here, we have to transfer a lot and frequent. So I explored other options.

Thank god I applied for YouTrip before coming over here.

YouTrip (previously partnering with Ez-link) is Singapore’s first digital bank. I applied it out of curiosity and because I’m someone that will not miss out of free stuff. This card is so useful and convenient!

The rates are currently the best too!

Lazy crop.

The difference might seem minute, but accumulated overtime, you’re really getting a huge difference in money thrown into the sea.

Plus it has so many other currencies available. I use it to pay for my SOAS UOL school fees too, which is in Pounds. Plus if I am in Singapore, I confirm plus chop use it to pay for my monthly Taobao loots (I used to just use DBS’s exchange rate – thinking ‘aiya taobao stuff already so cheap, give them the extra loh’.). How I wish I have this card during Uni days too so that I can pay it with this card. The bank’s exchange rates are really daylight robbery.

All these extra money means more shopping. Which is what I am gonna do right now. Thank you for your attention, nice pal, see you next post.

366 Wing Sports Day

366 Wing Sports Day

On 7th of February 2020 was Wing Sport Day!
For those that don’t know what a ‘Wing’ is an air force unit of several squadrons or groups, and Mountain Home AFB is home to wing 366 – which Singapore’s squadron (428) is part of. Whoever attends the sport day don’t have to report for work. Yay.

Image may contain: one or more people
$3 per person only!
(Excluding equipment rental which was about $19 ~ $25)

Initially I wanted to ski, I’ve never skied or snowboarded before this, as I heard skiing is easier. I don’t know what got over me, perhaps FOMO as most of my friends are snowboarding, I chose to snowboard in the end.

HARDEST SPORT EVER.

No matter how hard I tried I can’t seem to heel stand. (Using my heel as pivot to stand). NO MATTER HOW HARD I TRIED. It’s either that my CG is too low, or I don’t have one. After endless amount of trying I can only manage to stand using my toes as pivot. Meaning I have to flip like a fish on land with my face facing the ground to push myself up. Not a problem, if you don’t want to face the way you’re going, in this case, down a steep hill.

Got encouraged to go up the steepest point of the mountain after a few round down the ‘bunny slope’ – slope for beginners. They told me with a steeper slope it’ll be easier to master standing up, and you’ll be forced to pick up the skill faster with the speed and incline.

Welp ok, no ok. I TOOK AT LEAST 1.5 FREAK HOURS TO GO FROM TOP TO BOTTOM FALLING EVERY 10 SECONDS. (Other took 10-20 minutes?) No joke, I counted. I cannot stay ‘a stand’ for more than 10 seconds. Burdening one of my friend having to stay with me to make sure I stay alive. The mountain was SUPER foggy, you can hardly see any trees/slope/cliff ahead. Plus I can’t face the way I’m going.

It was 1.5 hours of falling, trying, falling, trying again and again. A few falls has impact as big as getting hit by a car. I didn’t get hit by a car before (or yet), but the fall impact was probably how a car hitting me will feel like. Thank goodness for helmets and soft snow.

But it was fun! Trying new things, even though you’re falling/failing more than half the time, is always fun. Grateful for the friend that stuck around, I would’ve be dead otherwise hahah. And the knowledge that I conquered (debatable) this tall mountain (tho by falling most of the way down) feels good.

10/10 would go and fall again. Might try skiing too.

Will keep falling until I get it.

Here’s a picture:

“Wei Er! Can take photo doesn’t mean can snow board leh!” – C.Gabriel Tan 2020

Til next winter.

Two Ponds Tubing and Recreation

Two Ponds Tubing and recreation

Went tubing on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it was my first actual tubing experience here despite being my second winter here in Idaho.
Initially was a bit worried that it’s gonna be a boring child’s play thing.
I worked in Singapore’s Garden’s By the Bay’s Christmas Wonderland for 2 years, and I’ve seen the ‘tubing’ they did, it was not impressive and it was S$4 per trip down.

Two ponds isn’t very far from Mountain Home AFB, it’s slightly less than an hour’s drive towards Sun Valley. As we drove up the mountain, you can see how the amount of snow increases and the scenery becomes more beautiful. Being higher up in the mountain it’s covered in thick snow so white and pure.

Here’s a little video I compiled from the trip-

Over all it’s an amazing experience, mainly due to the crazy bunch of people I was with them that made 2.5 hours of doing the same thing seems fun. One of the guys dropped his cap on one of the ride down and for a while we all tired to grab back the cap as we race down. It was hilarious and fun watching everyone try so hard.

10/10 will go again with the right company.

P.S. It’s child friendly and cheap! $60 for 4pax, or $20 for 1!

More info at – https://www.twopondsidaho.com/tubing