Day 5: sleeping on 2019

Well, last night was certainly eventful. To say the least, we were almost stranded on the other side of the country, which admittedly isn’t as extreme as it sounds for such a small country. But still, it was very late, and the trains we took to get here were dwindling in numbers. After frantically catching the last trains, we all made it back to our rooms safe and sound. Eventually, I woke up that morning and went out for a little breakfast and shopping. I never really paid attention to a lot of the grocery items, but this section caught my eye.

Delicious chips and snacks of many varieties

Although I generally nowadays try to avoid the delicious, fried goodness of potato chips, I do appreciate all the different flavors and regional varieties. I used to be a man of original flavor chips, but now I am a little more bold with my tastes.

Seaweed and Kimchi, who would’ve known

I didn’t end up purchasing any of these delicious looking chips, but I certainly will try my best to procure some from the comfort of my home in the states.

After a day of recovery and relaxation, we went out to dinner at this nice Indonesian restaurant near the National Museum of Singapore and downtown. It was truly a hidden gem, being at the top floor of a seemingly shadier looking shopping mall. The food was delicious and of such a great variety. Standouts for me were the beef rendang and their homemade tahu helor. 8.6/10 Howdies, wish I could get refills on those delicious Singaporean drinks.

Singapore seems to be a fan of Disney

One thing that really stood out me to during these first days were that Singapore, from the perspective of a Vietnamese American U.S. Citizen, is that there was a feeling of interconnectedness in Singapore. To me, it felt like a nicer, cleaner extension of the United States, while at the same time, housing rich diversity of Asian cultures in such a dense area. Much of the technology and architecture felt very Western, and a lot of the upscale city life felt similar to that of New York or Dallas. The people were overall very friendly and sociable, and spoke English with enough proficiency to not feel that all foreign. For me, I am used to Vietnamese and Asian cuisine, so I found the food to be not too much of a far stretch and frankly quite delicious for the price compared to the United States. The presence of many American and Western brands also helped reinforce that familiar feeling. On nearly every major mall or city area you’d be bound to find a McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Nike, Adidas, H&M, and much more.

Another thing I noticed while exploring the hawker food stands and the local shops was the how family played a role in connecting everything around. At a lot of hawker stands and family restaurants, the entire family is helping out and working some part of the restaurant. Whether it’s cooking the food or bussing tables, nearly everyone is involved in some capacity. The familial unit is seen as paramount and central to the success and connectedness of a family in a lot of Asian cultures. This somewhat contrasts a lot of U.S. ideology of how after a certain point, a lot of children become very independent and families aren’t as closely knit. By getting children involved in restaurant and food work early on, they do get a lot of first hand experience with what their parents are in charge of. Something we also learned about in the cooking class we would attend was how the popularity of cooking was on a decline in Singapore due to the availability of cheap food. By passing on their knowledge of cooking and food to their children, Singaporean parents can keep their legacy around for years to come. I found the interconnectedness between food and family to be quite interesting.

Day 4: NYE

Today was the day of the big beach party tonight. During the daytime we went to the mall for shopping. I ended up buying some nice maroon chino shorts and a t shirt for the party. At around 5 we went to look for a place to eat and get some drinks, since we anticipated that the beach party would have exorbitantly overpriced drinks. Despite intense debate, we ended up settling on a Mexican restaurant.

Excited to find a Mexican restaurant far from Texas

We were a bit skeptical at first about this so called “Mexican Restaurant”. With most of us being native Texans and spending many years in Bryan/College Station, we’d seen eaten our share of Mexican food. Initial impressions were promising, as the menu was very authentic and captured that vibrant, latin vibe.

Looks Legit

So authentic, in fact, when we read the back of the menu, we were a bit surprised to find out about the poor mixologist’s fate.

…Well then…

Each person at our table of about 11 opted for the “2 margs for 15” deal. It turned out to be pretty good, and actually had a nice amount of alcohol in it without it being too overbearing.

We were all pretty hungry too, so me and two other friends opted to split a Taco fiesta which consisted of 10 4-inch tacos. I had the chicken and baja fish and it turned out to be pretty delicious. The chicken was tender and well flavored in al pastor sauce with pineapples. The baja fish was crispy and light and had a nice sauce with it as well. 8.7/10 Howdies

Taco Fiesta with Barbacoa, Chicken, and Baja Fish. 8.7/10 Howdies

After having a good time at the Mexican restaurant, we made our way upstairs to the monorail (which was reasonably packed) and after a bit of walking we finally arrived to the beach party. We didn’t really know what to expect from the beach party on how much hype and “litness” it’d be, but it certainly looked great.

Beach party entrance

Essentially, the party consisted of a bunch of drink booths, a foam pit with a separate group of DJs, and the main concert stage, which was where spent most of the night at.

Party as seen from the drinking area

We apparently were given a complimentary free drink, which seemed to be just some weak rum and Coke. After that, we went to the main dance area and started busting the moves.

It was hot, everyone was sweaty, the smells were interesting, but it was a night to remember.

T

We were all smiles before we entered the Foam Zone.

A New Year’s Eve Party to remember

Here we are, inside the foam zone. which despite the name turned out to be a horrific hellhole of survival. The foam cannot mercilessly douses everyone in chemical foam, blinding and choking everyone in its direct path. I genuinely am amazed that I survived that. Even as I kept wiping foam from my face, more foam would take over, slowly enclosing over until my entire body was covered in foam.

A New Year’s Eve Party to remember

Despite our journey into the battlefield known as the Foam Zone, we made it out with our lives and some amazing memories. I certainly haven’t had this much fun before on a New Year’s Eve.

A New Year’s Eve Party to remember

Day 3: Pre-Beach party Beach Party

After being exhausted and tired from walking around sightseeing all day yesterday, we went out for some morning yoga and back to Changi City Point to get some breakfast.

Breakfast in the morn

The stuffed waffle was cheap but delicious and piping hot. Great wake me up in the morning and would definitely recommend. Although, you will probably want to eat it ASAP as one of our friends tried to save some for lunch and it wasn’t as good. 7.9/10 Howdies

After breakfast we commuted via a long MRT ride down to the big VivoCity mall and from there took a monorail down to Siloso Beach to check it out and have some fun before the beach party the next day.

The beach felt like a usual one in the States (sorta like Florida). It was clean and had white sand of sorts, but it was interesting to see how it was both coarse and fine grain sand. The water was nice and we did some watersports like kayaking and paddle boarding. The waters were a little choppy and rough though so we had a fun time struggling just to keep afloat.

After we had thoroughly soaked up the sun (some more than others), we explored around the island a bit. We had already seen the small Merlion at Marina Bay, but we were surprised to find a giant Merlion on the island. We also found a nice little photo spot and ran into our old friend Vin Diesel.

After that, we returned to the VivoCity mall through the Sentosa monorail and had some delicious sushi and sake. The salmon sashimi was amazingly fresh and melt in your mouth. 9/10 Howdies.

Salmon and Sake dinner

Day 2: real explorer hours

Now that the jet lag part of the trip was finished up and we were all pretty acclimated to the local transportation, weather, culture, we could finally venture out to all the beautiful destinations of Singapore! First up, the most important meal of the day.

Kaya Toast with Coffee and some bean paste pastry

After breakfast, we did a little shopping around Changi City Point. Some friends and I figured that for class days we could buy oatmeal since one cool thing about the dorms here is that they have machines that can instantly dispense cold and hot water. We figured this would be more convenient, despite the fact that we are only in Singapore for a very short time, it would be difficult to commute with the metro and back, especially a lot of places only open at around 7am and not earlier. After we finished shopping, our prof took us out to our first hawker food centre. Here, you can get all kinds of delicious and filling food for very cheap.

The place I had for lunch was this stand selling Lor Mee, a Chinese dish popular in Singapore. This hawker stand in particular had apparently been awarded a Michelin star, thus meaning that it was probably pretty good. And that it was, it was absolutely delicious.

Michelin Starred Lor Mee hawker stand

After the hawker stand, we went to one of the big hotspots in all of Singapore, Marina Bay. Since it’s pretty well known that this place is amazing, I don’t have much else to contribute on top of that, so here are a bunch of photos.

Once we wrapped up the night show, we headed back to our dorms and were eager for another day of exploring on Sunday!

Day 1: Is it still Thursday?

Once we arrived in Singapore and had all met up at the airport, it was time to travel to SUTD, the university we’d be studying at, and get settled in our dorm rooms.

Jackie Chan Pavillion
SUTD Dorms

The campus is pretty impressive, and I really do like the modern architecture style and the way everything is laid out. It is probably a part of Singaporean culture, but I really do appreciate the amount of foliage and nature. It’s very charming and peaceful.

My dorm whilst I threw all my stuff down

I was expecting to be sharing a room with 3 other guys (or gals), but it seems that here, all of the rooms are either single beds or rarely a double room. Pretty interesting considering how back in College Station we’re often with roommates, but maybe at this upscale university they can afford it.

Once we’d gotten settled in and unpacked, we headed down to the metro subway. Compared to places like New York and San Francisco, I was really impressed by how clean and well maintained the railways were.

Ridin’ on the Metroooooo

We went out for lunch in the Changi City Point Mall, which at first I thought was relatively big (how so wrong I’d be in a few days), and we ate a nice Vietnamese restaurant.

The coffee was a great pick up after so much traveling and still not be used to the local time zone. I’m not going to rate the Pork Banh Mi, simply because I would be biased and give it a 10 because I love Banh Mi sandwiches. But it was really good, the pork was super flavorful. Never really thought about it, but this is the closest I’ve been to Vietnam geographically speaking. After lunch, we walked around some more and saw some interesting sights.

After the mall, our next meal was at Din Tai Fung, which looked like the usual Dim Sum restaurant. We ended up getting pretty much one of everything when it came to dumplings. I ate too many things that night, but I must say that everything was good and I left full.

And that wraps up our Friday after all of our traveling! Now that we’re all settled in and a little familiar with the area, the upcoming posts will be a lot more interesting with more sightseeing.

Day 0: 20 hours in a plane seat

Howdy fellow blog readers! Now that I’m finally settled in and not super jet lagged, I can finally share how my journey to Singapore has been going!

Early morning at DFW Airport

First up was getting to DFW Airport and flying over to Hong Kong for the first leg of the air trip. Since this was the day after Christmas, I figured that it would be a little bit busy…

Departure Hall

Fortunately, I was able to drop my bag and get through security just in time to board. Lateness aside, I could finally relax and settle in for the 17 hour flight.

Inside of the plane, and Crazy Rich Asians

I didn’t really plan anything out ahead of time of what to do on the plane. I did prepare some material such as downloading a bunch of books and music, but I ended up watching some of the on board movies for most of the flight. The first thing I watched was “Crazy Rich Asians”, which I had been told to watch before countless times by a lot of my other friends, but never got around to it. It was a great movie which ironically was about Singapore, which I found amusing for myself since I didn’t really do any research on the local attractions in Singapore, opting to just go in blind. Other movies I watched were Ant Man and the Wasp, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Incredibles 2, and also the first season of The Office. To elaborate real quick on The Office, I have watched Seasons 2-7 about 10 times over. When I first discovered the show, I was advised by some of my friends that they didn’t like Season 1 as much as the other ones. After watching I have to agree, but in all fairness the show was just starting out and everyone in the world was getting used to Michael Scott and Stanley the Secret Weapon.

At least with these long and expensive flights, food is provided, and I do end up enjoying most of the airline food. The first meal we had was served about an hour after takeoff, and it was a hot bowl of beef, rice, and some vegetables, alongside a basil dinner roll, a chocolate mousse, and some water. The beef was tender and pretty good, the rice was cooked through and had some nice umami flavor. I generally am not a fan of vegetables but they definitely helped out with the beef, which was a little bland. All in all, a solid starter meal, which I would rate at about 7.5/10 Howdies.

Snack: Margherita Stromboli and Caramel gelato

After about another 8 hours passed or so, we were served a nice little snack. This consisted of a boxed, warm margherita stromboli and some caramel gelato. The stromboli dough itself was kinda bland, probably didn’t have much seasoning. However, the inside filling was delicious, just a simple tomato sauce, mozzarella, italian seasonings, and actual basil leaves, which were quite good. The gelato was creamy and pretty delicious, although I’m not much of a caramel person anymore. I just wish the stromboli had some more seasoning, and if they can’t afford that, make the stromboli bigger, because I was still a little hungry afterwards. 6.9/10 Howdies.

Breakfast: Canadian Bacon, Scrambled Eggs, Hash Brown, mushrooms

Finally, about 2 hours before departure, we will served a nice breakfast. This was probably my favorite meal out of the 3. With this one we got a nice piece of canadian bacon, scrambled eggs, ham, and mushrooms in the bowl, along with a blueberry muffin top, greek yogurt, granola, and a cup of water. The breakfast bowl was pretty good, the ham was tasty and flavorful, the hash brown was hot and cooked nicely, and the mushrooms were a nice touch. The scrambled eggs I enjoyed a lot, because they were tasty, creamy, well seasoned, and had some chives mixed in. At home, I prefer making eggs the English/Gordon Ramsay way versus a lot of American preparations involving cooking the hell out of it, while G. Ramsay cooks the eggs gently and gets a more creamy, savory scrambled eggs. I usually add a little cream and chives to really make it nice. The muffin was decent, nothing extraordinary, and the yogurt was good with the granola mixed in. Maybe it’s just because this meal had the most food, and we were about to be off the plane soon, but I found it to be very tasty and filling. 8.2/10 Howdies.

Hong Kong DisneyLand in the Hong Kong airport

Finally, after a long flight, was a 3 hour layover in the Hong Kong airport. I met up with a few people from my study abroad group who had been on the same flight and we camped out near the next gate. We were all still pretty tired, so we ended up sleeping for most of the layover, despite the fact that in local HK time, it was 5pm. We did pass by some cool shops and I definitely was interested by a Hong Kong Disney Land shop.

Dinner enroute to Singapore: Chicken Spaghetti, dinner roll, fruit, ice cream, and water

And so, the final airline meal until my return flight: Chicken Patty Spaghetti, dinner roll, fruit, ice cream, and a water cup. Despite the advertised “chicken patty” pasta, I only had about 2 small chunks of chicken. The pasta was cooked through at least, and the sauce was pretty tasty. Unlike the other flight, this dinner roll was not seasoned, although the provided butter did help. The fruit was actually pretty tasty and fresh, and I wish I had more. The ice cream was good (this is ice cream we’re talking about) and overall it was a decent meal. I didn’t really like it as much as the others, but considering that this was only a 4 hour flight to Singapore (and in my domestic travel experience, you’d be lucky to get a bag of peanuts on a similar length flight), I had to give props for providing a free meal. 7.2/10 Howdies.

Changi Airport baggage claim

Finally, we had made it into Singapore! At least, the airport, which turned out to be just as amazing as everyone had said it would be. Compared to all the cramped, small, dirty airports in the U.S., this one was massive and sparkling. We had arrived at around 1am Singaporean Time, so not many were in the airport, but the scale of everything is crazy. Upon arrival, you’re hit with a sense of Singapore’s nature centric culture, with so much green and plant life proudly on display. It’s quite a wonderful experience. Immigration and getting our bags was simple enough, and now we just had to wait until morning to go to our dorms. Here are some more pictures from the airport.

After some more hours of waiting, and slowly getting to meet everyone as they began to arrive, our professor arrived, and we finally were able to start Day 1! Check out the next blog post for that!

Christmas and Singapore Prep!

Howdy everyone. First time blogging and using WordPress so still trying to figure all this out. My 2018 was quite eventful, not to say that other years aren’t so, but in that I had a lot of setbacks and achievements throughout. Regardless, every year I mature more and gain more first hand experience, and I’m thankful for all the friends and family that have helped me along the well.

Besides the end of year reflection, I’ve decided to attend a 2 week long software engineering study abroad in Singapore! There were a few reasons I decided to this. One was because next semester of college will be my last one, and I figured I might as well go on a study abroad while I still have the chance to. Another reason is because my last semester will also be filled with difficult classes I’d like to be able to fully focus on, and if I can get this software engineering class out of the way a little bit, it would help out.

I’ve only traveled internationally once to France and Italy a few summers ago, so I’m not very familiar with being in Asia or flying on my own, but I’ve planned it all out and shouldn’t have much to worry out. My journey to and from Singapore is pretty interesting as well. I’ll depart from DFW early tomorrow morning, and be in Hong Kong at nighttime with a few hours of layover, and then fly to Singapore and arrive at around midnight on Friday. When I return to the U.S., I’ll be leaving Singapore early on a Saturday morning. Then, I’ll be in Japan with a few hours of layover (which I am damn excited about). After that, a long flight over to LAX (not as exciting, but still cool). Finally, I will be back at DFW, technically on Saturday night due to weird time zone stuff.

I do know a few friends who have traveled to Singapore and they all gave great advice on the local culture and areas of interest. I’m really excited to be able to share a ton of pictures and experiences soon! Merry Christmas!