Saturday, May 14, 2016

Twenty Something Travel to [Paris] (Eiffel Tower)

Like I have mentioned in my blog post about travelling in Paris here, Eiffel Tower totally deserves a separate blog post. So here it is!

Paris travelers, do not forget to purchase a ticket to head to the viewing deck of Eiffel Tower when you are there! For students, you can enjoy discount by flashing your student card at the ticket counter. Do note that you can opt to walk the stairs to the top or take the elevator up, the latter will be slightly more expensive than the former. If you are in heels or don't feel strong enough to take the stairs up, go for the elevator instead! There are a few levels for you to explore when you reach the top of the Eiffel Tower. My mum and I stayed for almost 3 hours there because we were busy enjoying the magical view and taking pictures! (not even exaggerating here)

We decided to get a bouquet of fresh flowers to use it as a prop for our photos on the way there.

The flower shop where we bought our roses

The florist who created the bouquet for us

Pose 1

Pose 2



Pose 3

Pose 4

The majestic Eiffel Tower
Eating bread while queuing 
Yay! Got our tickets finally!

View 1

View 2

View 3

The spine-tingling transparent flooring (I wasn't even scared)

View 4

View 5 (Spot the shadow of the Eiffel Tower)

View 6 (Spot Arc de Triomphe)

View 7

View 8


There is a stall where you can queue to buy champagne to complement that breathtaking view. 

Don't ask me how did we end up spending 3 hours there. I mean these are just 3% of the pictures we took after some intense filtering work. But we really had lots of fun taking pictures and admiring the impressive view up there!
With my lovely mum

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post as much as we enjoyed our time there! Till next time :)

Monday, May 2, 2016

About Life and Suicide

I am very appreciative of what I have now. Life is not perfect, this is absolutely true. You cannot always have what you want. You may seem fine from the outset, but later in your life, there are bound to be problems and obstacles that may stop you from moving forward. You may feel that it is the end of the world, you may feel that you are never going to climb back up after you fell, you may even feel that it is the world against you. But that is not true. 

The greatest thing about being a human is learning how to live life properly. That means you learn how to live life happily, truthfully, kindly, sincerely and fully. The beauty of being a human is you possess the ability to talk, eat, drink, walk, sleep, learn, travel, exercise, think, analyse etc. There is nothing in this world that resembles what a human can do. 

Look around you, you have your family, friends, and sometimes, a soulmate. But even if you don't have any of them, so what? You still have that person in the mirror. Yes, yourself. If external factors are unfavourable, and you really can't do anything about it, then work from within. Learn how to stay calm, learn how to relax, learn how to pick yourself up from failure, learn how to change your perspective, learn...how to be happy. 

I was told that people who dare to commit suicide and have successfully done so have one thing in common: they feel that whatever they are going through now is the end of the world. They can't see any light at the end of the tunnel. They are gravely in pain due to what life has put them through. They find no meaning to live anymore. This is the end. For them, it is easier to kill themselves than to wake up in the morning and face this terrible reality over and over again. Death is painful but it is just a one time thing. Do it and it will relieve pain for the rest their lives. 

But commit suicide so that you can escape from all these problems? Think twice. 

Let's just say one day, a very successful businessman made a wrong choice and invested in something that he shouldn't have. He later became bankrupt. The company he founded collapsed. His wife left him with the kids. He is left with nothing. If you are him, what will you do? 

Let's just say one day, a law student lost his scholarship because he did not meet the minimum GPA to qualify for it. He then failed his degree, and there goes his dream to be a lawyer. His soulmate for 10 years left him after that. If you are him, what will you do?

These hypothetical scenarios sound quite bad, aren't they?

One can live in sorrow and decided to end his life. One can choose to do pick himself up again and do something more meaningful, for instance, start all over again and find a job in a different field. The thing is there is no one answer to those questions, that's because there are simply way too many options in life. Point is: nothing is the end of the world other than end of the world itself. It is all about perspective. 

Suicide among youngsters nowadays is getting more common. It may be because of the competitive school and working environment, parents' expectations or peer pressure. Whatever it is, the problem arises because people tend to tie their expectations to happiness. And when the outcome falls far from the expectation, they grieve. But when the outcome turns out a hundred times worse than the expectation, they lose hope and they rather kill themselves than to live with this allegedly 'terrible horrible and miserable' outcome. 

Learn how to:

Change the way you treat your life. 

That means instead of tying your expectations to happiness, tie your happiness to your surroundings. Appreciate what you have, appreciate that you are living in this beautiful world, appreciate the people around you, appreciate...yourself. Even if the outcome is a thousand times worse than your expectation, learn to learn from it. Take it as a lesson, no matter how painful it is, and move on. Tell yourself, so what if I fail? There are plenty of options available for you to pick and choose. Your happiness should not be based on 'how successful you are' but it should be based on 'how appreciative you are' about the things/people around you, and of course, yourself. If you are happy, I am pretty sure a satisfying life will follow. To change the way you treat your life is not easy, it comes with constantly reminding yourself about being appreciative. 

Do things that will make you happy when you are sad.

That means go for a swim, talk to your best friend, walk your puppy, watch a movie, play the piano, go for a cycling trip, travel overseas, watch youtube, eat an ice-cream etc. While doing these things, reflect about your attitude towards life. It is not just about being successful and being able to be the best in school or at work, it is something more than that. It is about how you feel when you live. And being successful is just one of the billions way to be happy. Sad enough, happiness that derives from being successful is also very short as compared to doing what will really make you happy. I mean how many exams are there in one semester? Say 2 exams, and you did very well, you are happy. But for how long? 3 months? Then say if you did badly in your subsequent exam, then what? Sad again? Point is: don't let external factors dictate your happiness. Happiness should come from within. It is a skill/knowledge to be able to be happy constantly in your life. Try to work on it, and you will see the beauty about living. 

Don't push yourself too hard. Even if you are not extraordinarily smart or good at something, so what? 

Being able to manage your expectations through identifying and admitting your weaknesses is also one key point towards living a happy and satisfying life. Not everyone is born to run like Usain Bolt, not everyone is born to lead like Obama, not everyone is born to dance like Michael Jackson. Find your strengths, work on them. Identify your weaknesses, and accept them. Yes, you can always believe in 'nothing is impossible' and argue that one is not supposed to accept his weaknesses. But many people fail to realise that there is a caveat to that phrase: nothing is impossible only if you can stay positive throughout failures. If you can't, then nothing is possible. Focus on your strengths, work on them, and you will realise they will lead you to somewhere you never expect. 

Being able to live happily is the second luckiest thing in the world. 

Being able to live is the first. 



p/s: This post is inspired by a recent event. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

NUS Hall Life Q&A [Should I stay in hall?]

Hello readers! 

My exam ended yesterday so I'm now back with a blog post, titled "NUS Hall Life Q&A [Should I stay in hall?]".

I decided to talk about this because a lot of my juniors have been asking me this question and back then, when I was still a freshman, this question bothered me the most. I don't know why but it was a pretty tough decision to make, and especially more choices are available now in NUS (residential colleges etc). 

I will pick some of the most frequently asked questions and answer them here. But in the event if any of you have any other questions, feel free to drop a comment and as usual I will answer them as soon as I see them! Do note that I previously stayed in King Edward VII hall (KE), so I would not be able to provide in depth information about other halls, residential colleges and Prince George Park residence (PGP). 

Here's a picture of my room in KE:

Took it at night with my old phone, so please pardon the quality. :)

1. General question: What are the available types of accommodation in NUS? What are the differences between them?

This is how a single room in Kent Ridge Hall looks like. (Source: Google)

There are three types of accommodation in NUS, namely halls, residential colleges and residences. There are 6 halls, 4 residential colleges and 2 residences in the main campus (Kent Ridge). If you stay in hall, you will need to take part in hall CCAs and activities to earn 'points' for your subsequent stay the next year. Your admission only guarantees an academic year of stay. For residential colleges, you will have to take up extra modules outside of those that you take in school called the University Town College Programme (UTCP) and your admission guarantees you two years of stay. Residences are generally quieter and they are just like normal apartments with minimal activities. 

2. Should I stay in hall?

I would firstly ask you to consider staying in residential colleges first because firstly they are newly built, so they have better facilities, more modern interior and cleaner surroundings. I heard they have better food too. The thing about residential colleges is that they require more than a year of commitment. So once you are enrolled, you have to stay for more than a year to get certified for the 'extra modules' you take. But if residential colleges are out, then I would recommend you to consider staying in hall, for at least a year. The reason is firstly, there isn't any commitment pressure if you decided not to stay for the second year. If hall isn't for you, you can always excuse yourself from those activities and not get any offer to stay next year. 

The reason why I recommend halls is because you can take part in CCAs and experience what hall life is. This is especially important you have not been staying away from home since young. They have more than 20 CCAs available for you to choose. Say you really like hall after staying for a while, you can always take part in more CCAs so as to earn sufficient 'points' to get a spot for yourself next year! So it is better in the sense that you won't get tied up and you can choose to leave anytime. I mean, when will you get another chance to stay with your schoolmates from different faculties after uni right? So seize the opportunity when you still can!

For PGP wise, they are more like an apartment. There are minimal activities, no catering services like residential colleges and halls, plus admission is based on balloting. There are however hawker stalls nearby which you can get your meal from. But if you prefer to have more privacy, quieter environment, but you want to stay near school, then PGP may be a better option for you. They also have air-conditioned rooms, so this may be a bonus!


3. Is registration for catering in hall compulsory? How is the food in hall?

Tembusu Dining Hall (Source: Google)
Yes, it is compulsory. If you want me to rate the food in KE, it would be a 4/10. I'm not a fussy eater but I just could not appreciate the food cooked in hall. Breakfast was generally fine because they normally prepare sandwiches and some other cooked food. And I would always take the sandwiches, I mean you can't go wrong with bread and egg mayo. Sadly, there is no way that you can opt out from that. If you are like me, you will most likely end up wasting money on meal plans. 

There is however an open air common kitchen which can get quite dirty at times. So occasionally, I would prepare my meals there. If not, I would either head to the hawker stalls located at PGP, if not, to Kent Ridge MRT to settle my meals. (Yes, PGP is right opposite KE)

4. Are there air-conditioned rooms in hall?

A single room in King Edward VII Hall (Source: Google)

No. Honestly it can get really hot in the afternoon and perhaps at night if there isn't any wind. On some days, it can be quite cooling too. But if you really need an air-conditioned room to study, you can always head to the common study room in hall or those mini study rooms in PGP that offer more privacy. 

5. I heard that hall life can be quite hectic. What if I can't cope with studies?

KE hall friends

Don't worry, like I have mentioned earlier, there is no commitment pressure in hall. So if you feel it is getting harder to cope with studies, then just excuse yourself from all the CCAs and focus on your priority. But be prepared to lose your space in hall the next year if you do that. You wouldn't know whether you can cope until you really join hall. I mean it is just a year, no harm trying anyway. 

But do note that if you intend to stay for the second year, you have to take part in at least 4 CCAs. That means you will be busy with CCAs 4 days in a week, each session can last up to 3 hours. 

6. How does the hall point system work?

Honestly, I don't really know. But very briefly, for KE, you have to take part in at least 4 CCAs to get qualified for the second year stay. That is the minimum. Then you will be awarded points based on your attendance, performance, leadership position held etc. You will also get extra points if you sign up to attend hall plays or hall activities like dinner and dance. The system is also 'bell-curved' in the sense that there will not be a clear threshold on how many points you need to obtain in order to qualify for a second year stay. It is entirely dependent on the competitiveness of the batch of people that are applying. 

7. What facilities do hall residents get to enjoy? How does the room look like?

Us at the common kitchen 
In KE, there is a multi-purpose hall where you can play badminton table tennis and other sports; a grand piano which residents are free to use; an air-conditioned study room which opens 24 hours; a dining hall where residents have their food; common lounges with television, board games and sofa for residents to chill; a general lounge with a projector where residents can screen movies from their laptops; a gym room; common kitchen on each level and laundry rooms at each block.

When you move in, you will get a study table, a chair, a single bed, a book rack, a wardrobe and a fan. There is a common washroom on each level with hot shower.  


It will look something like that 

8. You said there are 6 halls in total, which one should I choose?

You should take into account factors such as: the distance between your faculty and hall, their hall culture (some halls are well-known for sports -Eusoff hall and Temasek hall; some halls are better known for arts - Kent Ridge Hall etc), the facilities they offer, the food, accessibility and more. Choose the one that suits you best. 

For further details, you can visit the Hostel Admission Services website here. Alternatively, leave your queries in the comment box below!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Twenty Something Travel to [Paris]

I told myself I needed to clear the backlog since last year and apparently it didn't materialise. Hence, the late travel post on my trip to Paris! My Paris trip took place in Summer 2015, right after London. So here I will tell you how to get from London to Paris without taking the plane (of course you can't walk there but...). I mean it is a good idea to visit London then Paris or vice versa because it's very convenient.

Champ de Mars Garden near Eiffel Tower

Seine River
The most visited monument in the world is the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I didn't know the tower was named after the architect who built it until I saw the description in the brochure. Prior to visiting Paris, I thought Eiffel Tower was just another overrated monument but I took back my words when I saw it in Paris. I was utterly amazed by how beautiful Eiffel Tower was. There was this magical emission of beauty, love and something really Parisian which was inexplicable.

How did I get to Paris from London


Self-check in counter which was very convenient

St Pancras Railway Station

In the Eurostar
Sister left us to study for IB after London, so here's a wefie of the two of us!
My mum and I took Eurostar (something like an express train) from the St Pancras Railway Station (London) to Gare du Nord (Paris). We bought the tickets online and printed the barcode out. Check in was easy and convenient because there were signs in English to direct you everywhere. The standard ticket for Eurostar will be comfortable enough for you to sit through a 4-hour train ride so upgrade will not be necessary.

Telecommunication


Galeries Lafayette -a luxurious shopping mall with branded goods
Some people told me France used a different operator therefore SIM from London could not be used in Paris. I was about the discard my 30 days unlimited SIM card I bought from London, read about it here. Surprisingly, my SIM worked in Paris! So we saved a bit there! (Readers, to play safe, choose my line operator so that you don't have to buy a SIM twice!)

Transportation


Another department store Printemps
We took the metro (Paris's MRT) from Gau du Nord to the station near our hotel. We didn't stay at the central so it took some time. I learnt one precious lesson here: TAKE THE CAB FROM THE AIRPORT! (But choose the cab driver wisely) We abandoned the idea of taking the cab because it looked very unsystematic there. Drivers were everywhere to solicit their service to you and to be honest, some of them looked quite creepy which gave me that eerie feeling. So we took the metro because we thought it was safer. But we only realised there were no lift and escalator at almost every metro station. What was worse was they had flights and flights of staircases. My mum and I carried our luggage up and down and down and up again because we needed to transit at two stations before reaching our hotel.

For the rest of the days, we travelled by metro because it's cheaper and more convenient. It took me quite a while to figure out how the metro tickets work because they sell them by single trip and in bundles. So we just planned where we wanted to go on one day, took the metro to the nearest station, toured the place by foot, from one place to another, and then hop on to any metro at the end of the day to head back to our hotel. The best way to explore Paris is by foot and we did it for the entire trip.

Honestly, I felt uneasy because of all those negative reviews about Paris online I read beforehand (I will talk about it later) . But I told myself I just needed to be aware of the surroundings and be brave. Something I thought scary happened: We had three luggage in total and my mum couldn't carry hers by herself (she had two). So I had to help her by bringing them up together. There was no other way. We had to leave our luggage right at the end of the staircase and go all the way down to take the next one. A couple, I believe were Parisan, were checking our luggage out. I saw them doing that (they were maneuvering it with smirky face) when I was carrying the second luggage and I quickly went up and held the luggage with a smile. They left after that. I felt so terrible after that. I guess it wasn't that easy to be in an unfamiliar country where you didn't know the language, the place and the people.

Accommodation

There are hotels to hostels for you to choose from. I would say choose somewhere safe, not so far from the places that you intend to visit, like a hotel where there will be access card and security guards. Read the reviews beforehand and make sure you stay in the safe zone (I used the Be Safe! app to check).

Food

The food we tried here was as good if not better than that in London. I fell in love with their steak after trying a few, and wine too! If you can't read French, it will be a good idea to eat near tourist attractions because they will normally provide you with an English menu. If not, you can simply ask 'parley oo anglay' to inquire if any of the waiter speaks English. It is good to know basic French so that people will entertain you if you have problem (especially for those which you can use to ask for directions for essentials like toilet/food place).

As our accommodation did not include breakfast, we went to a nearby supermarket to buy breakfast for ourselves. We tried their milk, biscuit, bread and cup noodles. Nothing fancy but it was different from those that I have tasted in my life. Scroll down to read about them!

Steak and pasta at Le Buron

Mussels and beer at Leon de Bruxelles
Beautiful Eclairs

Entrecote at Zimmer (must try restaurant)

Foie Gras de Canard at Zimmer


Creme Brulee
Financiers - my favourite snack! Dip it into milk and eat...you will love it!
Escargot at Avenue (must try restaurant) - a bit pricey though

Prawn Risotto at Avenue

Cote de Veau Limousin - Veal Chop at Avenue (This was DAMN GOOD!) 
Rosy Cheeks after drinking champagne and some white wine
Amorino Rose Ice-cream

Places

We agreed to go back to the hotel before sunset as it would be safer. Anyway it did not affect our travel plan much because the night came around 10pm. That means 9pm there looked like 4pm in Singapore. That weather was too good to travel. The weather was slightly colder as compared to London, around 15-18 degrees Celcius.

We visited the Eiffel Tower, the Lourve, Notre Dame de Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Musee d Orsay, Champs-Elysees, Sainte-Chappelle, Jardin du Luxembourg, Palais Garnier, Jardin de Tuileries, Galleries Lafayette etc. Their architectural styles were fascinating and the art pieces displayed in museums were astonishing. Now I know why some people love Paris so much.

Some pictures to share:

Palais Garnier


Seine River

La Madeleine (a Roman Catholic Church)

Galleries Lafayette
The Place de la Concorde
Paris Opera

Arc de Triomphe

Champs-Elysees
Jardin du Luxembourg
Chillin' here
Pont des Arts

Notre Dame
Sainte-Chapelle
Entrance of Musee du Louvre


Musee du Louvre (standard tourist shot)

Musee du Louvre (standard tourist shot 2)
Musee du Louvre (standard tourist shot 3)

Eh...wait! Where are pictures of the Eiffel Tower?

Dear readers, I will be collating the pictures we took at the Eiffel Tower and post them in a separate blog post! Reason: the Eiffel Tower is too magical and the author feels that it deserves a separate post! Look forward to it okay!

Scam?

Before heading to Paris, I actually read a lot of reviews on travelling in this city itself. A lot of reviews online were about tourists getting scammed near tourist attractions. I was kind of worried before heading to Paris and even while we were there, we made sure we headed home before dawn. Actually it wasn't really that scary or bad as described online.

There was this lady who approached us when we were resting near the Eiffel Tower to sell us some bracelet. She kept pushing and asked what language do we speak (so that she could sell us the stuff). We said no by waving our hands, stood up and walked away.

I think when you travel, especially to a place where you don't speak their language, you just have to be aware of your surroundings and be careful. Be sensitive. If people approach you and start getting pushy, just waved to show you are not interested and walk away. If you are unsure if they really need help or they are just real scammers, just walk away. If in doubt, walk away. I'm not asking you to be selfish but it's really not safe to talk to strangers when you are overseas. You don't know their language, you don't know what they want from you and you can't get help immediately if something really happen to you. So why risk it right?

Also, don't walk in dark alleys or go to places like clubs when you are travelling alone or in small groups. I'm not saying things will happen when you do, but just be extra careful when you are out there. Another safety tip is to get the number of your country's embassy if there is one in the country you are travelling in. It's always good to have it. Lastly, always keep your purse inside your jacket or coat where it's not easily accessible.

As usual, if you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comment box below. I will reply them if there is any! Have fun travelling people :)

p/s: OMG I have exactly a month to my finals. Can't believe time passes so fast, especially when you are in university. A small note to myself to study hard and never give up. It's never too late because the time to start is always NOW. Don't get distracted by the surroundings. Focus and work hard towards your goal. Till next time peeps :)