Monday, August 27, 2012

A Kuala Lumpur Weekend

As promised on my last post, I would share with you about my weekend trip to Kuala Lumpur. It was amazing!

Waking up Friday morning to catch the 9 AM "luxury coach" there was a drag at first. But I was so thrilled to find out the "luxury coach" features massaging reclining seats which made the five-hour bus ride not bad at all. The city mass transport in Kuala Lumpur is very unreliable, so we walked to our first choice of hostel, Reggae, for about 45 minutes or so in the Chinatown area (it's a really great hostel, btw!). Recuperating from the ride, we spent the evening strolling around for bargain items in the Chinatown night market and chilling at the rooftop.

The only landmark we were dying to visit in KL city itself were the Petronas twin towers which are best viewed at night. Waiting for the dusk and our grand visit to the towers, we decided to go to Batu Cave which is about 20 minute train ride away. Climbing up its 272 steps was totally worthwhile since the view from up top was beautiful and we got to see some violent monkey fights at the main shrine. Our visit to Batu Cave was followed by a pursuit of Little India for a pursuit of some good Indian food. Apparently there were 2 Little Indias in the KL city, and we mistook the smaller one for the real one and the smaller one doesn't really have Indian restaurant. For the crave of Indian food, five of us hopped on a small taxi to the bigger Little India where we just went into whatever we found first. Aside from the way better quality of Indian food compared to University City's "Big 3" (Tandoor, New Delhi, Sitar), I grew to enjoy Indian snacks and desserts I have never seen in Philly.

The highlight of the trip was the guided hiking trip by Open Sky Unlimited on Sunday to Bukit Tabur, an hour drive away from the city. It was a sweaty hike under cloudy morning skies, but it was definitely worthwhile for the even more amazing view from the peak. After the hike, our guides Amos and Kevin took us for a special brunch to a local mamak restaurant as they educated us about their local food. All in all, they definitely gave us a really professional service.

The weekend had  to end, somehow. We finally packed and hit the bus station to come back to Singapore where another great week was just starting :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Solo Adventure Followed by Another Great Week

Last Monday was a public holiday here in Singapore for Hari Raya observance. Since everyone else decided to sleep in, I took that opportunity to just explore on my own  some interesting faucets of Singapore that others most likely won't be interested in visiting. My adventure that day began at Chinese Garden, which is just a few MRT stops away. It's a really refreshing place to run, bike, and picnic. I almost forgot all the dynamics of industrious Singapore as I climbed the main pagoda and saw so many green :)

From Chinese Garden, I hopped on the MRT to Haw Par Villa or Tiger Balm Garden, which happened to be a tourist trap. Other than the not-so-aesthetically-painted Chinese folklore statues, there's really nothing else to it. However, after entering one of their attractions called "10 Courts of Hell", my heart was just amazed once again as I was reminded of how deep my Father's love is for me. He could've just poured all His wrath on me because as a filthy rugged sinner, I deserve punishment. As vivid as they were, the kinds of wrath I saw through statutes at that place would not probably compare to what I deserve. But the good news is He chose not to. Instead, He poured it our on His perfect son Jesus Christ so that I can be one again with Him and experience His grace and mercy.

As I continued to think of His love, I moved on to my next stop: Singapore Botanic Garden. For the interest of time and mom's love of orchids, I purposefully zoomed into just the Orchid Garden. I was really glad I went there since there were so many colorful and rare collections from around the world that I haven't seen before.

As far as campus life goes, this past week has been very dynamic and fun, thanks to Campus Clubs and Activities Fair. Beyond the freebies and free food, I think I've became interested in joining Deli Aprecio. Class activities have also picked up and I made more non-Business friends through my Engineering classes.

That's about it for now. Stay tuned for more updates on my Malaysia adventure this weekend :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Honeymoon is Over!

Classes finally started this week for me here. First day was especially hectic for everyone who was trying to add/drop courses. Praise the Lord I pretty much have all the classes that I wanted except for 1 that would ruin my 3-day weekend anyway.

Aside from classes, I had the cool chance to visit Microsoft Singapore as a part of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation week at NTU. All of you B&E majors reading this, please don't be jealous or bitter. It's our bread and butter, gotta get it where ever we can :)  Microsoft HQ here is amazing and the people taking us on a tour was awesome. We got to play with many of their new gadgets and innovation. Located on the 21st and 22nd floor of One Marina, the view outside its windows was simply gorgeous as well.

I also praise the Lord for providing me with a family of believer on campus. NTU Cru is adopting me during my exchange here. I was plugged right into a discipleship group for final year ladies.
This semester, we're going through a Cru curriculum that speaks about being sent to a world of harvest through a biblical perspective. Crossroads also kicked off last night. It was awesome to finally meet everyone in the ministry. Next week, we will be having a vision tea for to welcome the freshmen, and I'm glad that they asked me to be a part of their flash mob dance to this song.

So this weekend is a long weekend due to the Hari Raya, but unfortunately the ICA hasn't issued my student pass yet which means I can't travel outside Singapore. The plan is to check out the World Food Fair and hang out at Orchard Road today with my fellow Dragon Rensy. Tonight, the group of exchange students I've been hanging out with is also throwing a sushi dinner and karaoke for the birthday girl Diana. A relaxing day at Sentosa Island might be planned for tomorrow. For the rest of the weekend, it might just be exploring more of Singapore's hidden gems :)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Welcome Week

It's only my first week here, but my schedule is already looking packed. Praise the Lord that I am adjusting well, finally settled in my dorm, and familiar with the public transportation. The climate is hot (average high is 85 F) and humid (average humidity of 67%). If you want to send me snail mails, here's my address:
Nanyang Technological University
Hall of Residence 10, 52-4-1020
22 Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639810

I still do get lost on campus sometimes. It is a HUGE campus with a lot of trees and hills, which is nice. However, the buildings are more like labyrinths inside another jumbo labirynth. There are 4 shuttle buses and one of them actually take people to the nearest MRT station. There are also 2 public bus routes serving the campus and surrounding neighborhood which pool at a nearby shopping mall called Jurong Point. Anyhow, here is the recap of the week:
  •  Orientations: I got to attend 2 different ones for the general exchange as well as the Business exchange (more free lunches, more free goodies lol). Informations regarding transitioning into the whole NTU life as courses, healthcare, safety, and other services were being explained. I can't believe that there are 400-something exchange students in total this semester, yet very few Americans. Such great opportunities to make some new friends from all over the world, but I definitely still need to make more local friends :) 

  • Cruising Singapore River: This is a great way to enjoy Singapore's greatest landscapes and history. Surrounded by historical as well as modern buildings, Singapore River is definitely the heart of Singapore. The "Quays" such as Clarke Quay and Boat Quay are also cool places to hang out. There are plenty of restaurants, food booths, and shopping centers too on these spots.

  •  National Day: There weren't much going on in the morning. It was quiet until afternoon-ish when people started coming out for lunch and just hanging out downtown. Red and white totally dominated the city. Not knowing much about what to do/where to go, I was very blessed to be invited by my exchange buddy Christine and her friends to spend the evening with them. We had dinner of Hainanese chicken rice at the air-conditioned hawker center inside Marina Square before heading somewhere near Millenia Walk to watch the fireworks.

  • A Day in the Bay+Singaporean meals: Another day of adventure! I started the day off with Singapore's national breakfast: Paket B from Canteen 11 accross from my hall.   For S$1.50 only, I had a very substantial breakfast of 2 boiled eggs, kaya toast, and a cup of tea with milk in it before heading downtown for the Singapore Flyer
I also had the chance to lunch at Canteen A with Ashley, one of the NTU Cru staffs who has been in touch with me. It was a really great time of getting to know each other, encouragement, and prayer as she introduced me to another Singaporean dish: laksa. I'm really looking forward to meeting my discipleship group (equivalent with Drexel Cru 's growth group) and going to Crossroads (equivalent with Drexel Cru 's large group) kick-off for the semester :)

  • Singapore Discovery Tour: Sponsored by the super awesome NBS Exchange Club, this tour took us through Singapore's important trails and landmarks. We started this tour on Bugis which is a  famous open-air shopping market for everything under the sun.  The guides got us a box of durian that we ended up throwing away because it was hard to insist us exchangers to finish it. We also had a chance to have some Singaporean dishes for lunch at one of the hawker centers.  

    After fueling ourselves, we were ready for some more adventure. We walked to the Arab street and the Kampong Glam areas populated by Malay and Middle Eastern small businesses. The dominating businesses here are imported textiles, rugs, as well as ethnic food. There's also the famous Sultan Mosque in this district. After succeeding better in getting us to try food from the stalls, our guides took us on an MRT ride to the Raffles Place where we would meet our Singapore Footprint guides.

    The Singapore Footprint guides then  led us through the most important landmarks in Singapore along  the river such as the Fullerton Hotel, Cavanaugh Bridge, Asian Civilisation Museum, Peranakan Museum, National Museum, and the Armenian Church. The tour ended there for the day, but a handful of us decided to go for more adventure to the recently-opened Gardens by the Bay. From this spot, we got a really beautiful view of Singapore's night. Tired from a day filled with fun, we ended up eating at the Marina Bay food court instead of the original plan of visiting the touristy Lau Pa Sat market.

    Wednesday, August 8, 2012

    Let the Countdown Stop...

    ...and the journey begin!

    The long-awaited moment finally came. After church service and fellowship hour were over last Sunday, I went home for a quick bite, then caught my shuttle ride to JFK. New York traffic was bad. It literally took 4 hours to get there. To add to the hassle, my baggage went over 3 kgs of the allowance. Thankfully, the check-in person was okay with it.

    So those shenanigans were minuscule compared to my flight experience. The best part? My seat! It was the best seat I've ever had flying with SQ. Window view next to the emergency door, which I would consider a perfect combo. To add into this combo, I sat and got acquainted with another Singapore-US exchange student during the flight. Hailing from his hometown in AZ, home college in GA, and an internship in NY, Scott is spending this semester at Singapore Management University. It was nice to chat with another person who is going through a similar adventure.

    As we boarded, the sky was pretty clear. But soon enough, thunderstorms came and forced a 40-minute delay. We still landed in Frankfurt close to being on-time, though. Not surprisingly, my flight experience with SQ was very pleasant. This time around, it didn't feel like the 20-something hour journey was long at all. They served really good food.

    I also had the chance to catch up on "The Lucky One", "Five Year Engagement", "Hunger Games", "Comme Un Chef", "The Soul of Bread", "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", and 2 episodes of "The Office".

    We landed in Singapore around 6:35 AM. It was still very dark. Mr.Yeo, the flight attendant, said that I should expect that every single day. The immigration, baggage claim, and custom went fairly quick and smooth, thank God. Scott and I eventually separated as he headed to Sleepy Sam's downtown, and I headed to NTU in the West.