A Travellerspoint blog

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Rag and Flag

Giving back to Singapore

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NUS has an annual community service project that gives back to local groups in need. The event is actually a 2 day-2 part celebration called Rag and Flag. It was such a cool experience to witness, and it is so widely accepted across campus that over S$509,944.80 (~$421,000 USD) was raised last year, numbers have not been announced for this year yet.

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Flag Day was on August 3rd this year, and students and faculty from all across campus took to the streets of Singapore and asked for donations for different charities. Each of the dorms compete against the others in hopes of raising the most money. Also, individuals who collect the highest get really cool prizes like iPads. The students really care about giving back to Singapore, so almost everyone participates in Flag day.

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Rag
Rag Day is the day students show thanks for all the donations from the public. They do this by putting on performances for the public to come watch. Each of the faculties and halls build a float, choreograph dances and design their own costumes to get ready for this. Hundreds of hours of work goes into each float, and once again it is a competition between the halls and faculties to see who has the best. The floats are all made of 100% recycled material/trash. For example, the Faculty of Engineering made a float using old soda cans. The choreographed dances are each about 8 minuets long, and involve a ton of different people, costume changes and they even do stunts. It was unbelievable to watch.

Overall it was a very fun day. I honestly can't imagine schools in the States doing something like this and having it be as successful as NUS's was.

Posted by Cassi 16:52 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Majulah! The Singapore Spirit

National Day Parade

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This year Rag and Flag was on the same day at the National Day Parade, Singapore's Independence Day. Tuesday was the 46th anniversary of their independence from Malaysia, and they had a huge celebration in the Mariana Bay area. For both Rag and Flag and the National Day Parade, NUS set up a huge area just for students with bleachers, loud speakers and a big screen to watch the Parade on. Local's must enter a lottery to try and receive tickets for the celebration, otherwise you cannot watch it. A local student told me it is lucky to see it even once in your lifetime, but they broadcast it on national TV for everyone else.

"Parade" is a very lose term for the celebration. It was more of a show for the people of Singapore about their nation. They have a few divisions of the military march across the stage at the beginning, which is why they call it a parade, but it was mostly singing and dancing and the story of Singapore's history. I actually learned quite a bit about the country, and there was even a rap about the new subway system.

After the show, which was about an hour and a half long, there were amazing fireworks all around the Marina Bay area, with lazers and music and everything. Fireworks were mostly set off from a barge in the middle of the bay, but were also lit from the tops of all the skyscrapers. This was really cool because they literally surrounded you with fireworks.

Posted by Cassi 17:58 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

First Day of School

Classes have to start sometime...

Thursday and Friday were the first days of Class for the semester. Granted I wish this was just a 5 month long vacation, I do have a reason to be here.

My first class was MA2334, Probability and Statistics for Engineers. While I am used to being one of the few girls in my classes even at home, this was the first time I was the only non-Asian person, and the fact I have blonde hair really made me stand out. My second class made this even more apparent. ME3112, or Mechanics of Machines, has about 400 students in one big lecture hall. Once again I was one of the few girls and most definitely the only blonde. When I took my seat, about 5 of the people in my row turned and looked at me like I was completely lost and that just made me laugh. Luckily in ME3122, or Heat Transfer, there are about 5 other exchange students that I was able to sit with.

So far the classes seem on par with classes from home. My statistics teacher studied at Berkeley, so his English is very good. On the other hand, my Heat Transfer teacher grew up and studied in Malaysia, so he is shaky at times. The nice thing here is all lecture notes are posted online before the class, so it makes following the teachers much easier. I'm not sure I would be able to take good notes if this were not the case.

The only class I have not started is GE2226, or Geography and Societies of Southeast Asia. I looked at the first lecture notes and I can already tell this is going to be a very difficult class. I know nothing going into it, but I hope to learn a lot before I leave Singapore.

Posted by Cassi 20:06 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia

Off to see the big city


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This weekend I am going to Kuala Lampur which is the capital of Malaysia. Here is some information about the city from Wiki.

Kuala Lumpur is the capital and the second largest city in Malaysia by population. The city proper, making up an area of 243 km2 (94 sq mi), has a population of 1.4 million as of 2010. Greater Kuala Lumpur, also known as the Klang Valley, is an urban agglomeration of 7.2 million. It is the fastest growing metropolitan region in the country, in terms of population and economy.

Since the 1990s, the city has played host to many international sporting, political and cultural events including the 1998 Commonwealth Games and the Formula One World Championship. In addition, Kuala Lumpur is home to the tallest twin buildings in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers, which have become an iconic symbol of Malaysia's futuristic developments.

We will also be visiting the Batu Caves:

Batu Caves is a limestone hill, which has a series of caves and cave temples, located in Gombak district, 13 kilometres (8 mi) north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu or Batu River, which flows past the hill. Batu Caves is also the name of the nearby village. The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia.

There are various undeveloped caves which contain a diverse range of cave fauna, including some unique species, such as Liphistiidae spiders and Eonycteris and Rousettus fruit bats. The site is also well known for its numerous macaque monkeys, which visitors feed — sometimes involuntarily. These monkeys may also pose a biting hazard to tourists (especially small children) as they can be quite territorial.

Posted by Cassi 20:20 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

First Morning in KL

Batu Caves


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Packing our bags, Bailey, Kourtney and I met the group in Utown before we left for Kuala Lumpur at 11pm Friday night. We took a bus through the night and arrived in the city at about 5:30am, dropped off our bags at the hotel and then went straight to the Petronas Towers. These are the tallest twin towers in the world, and tickets to go to the sky bridge sell out quickly each morning. We went to get tickets, find a breakfast place and plan the rest of our day. Tickets each have a specific time you can go up to the sky bridge, that way there are never more than about 20 people on the bridge at once. Our tickets were for 2:20 so we had all morning to do as we pleased.

We decided to first go to the Batu Caves, the largest Hindu shrine outside of India. There is a huge statue of Lord Murugan at the entrance, and it is over 43m high. It is entirely gold in color and is really impressive in person. Behind that there are 272 steps up to the biggest of the three caves. These steps are very steep and they are surrounded by wild monkeys. These are macaque monkeys, and they are likely to steal things right from your hands. We watched a monkey steal an entire Pringles can out of someone's hand, and then open it and eat them one at a time. Despite the stealing, these were the cutest monkeys I have ever seen, and there were a whole bunch of baby monkeys that were adorable!

After the caves we took a cab to China town, which had one of the biggest outdoor markets I've ever been in. They had every type of black market and/or fake replica of designer watches, purses, shoes, clothes, jewelry or anything else you can think of. I ended up getting a new 'Coach' wallet. It's starting price was $89RM, and I eventually got it for $15RM (~$5 USD). A friend of mine got a matching 'Tiffany Co.' bracelet and necklace, and someone else got a new North Face backpack.

From China town we went back to the Petronas towers for our sky bridge visit.

Posted by Cassi 18:34 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Petronas Towers

170m above the street in the sky bridge


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The Petronas Towers are a symbol of Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia as a whole. They are beautiful both during the day and lit up at night. We made it back just in time to go for our 2:20 tour. First we watched a movie on the construction of the towers, which was actually really interesting. They were built independently, and then the sky bridge was brought up and attached to them after. The sky bridge itself was a whole new engineering idea, as it has to bend and twist with the movement of the buildings due to winds, and this had not been done before. After the video we were able to go up to the bridge, which is located about 170m above street level.

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After going up the towers, we finally went back to check into our rooms, which were actually apartments with full kitchens, tv areas, 2 bathrooms and 6 beds, they were very nice. We stayed in one of the many shopping areas of the city, so it was clean and full of places to eat and shop. Seeing as we hadn't slept all night really we all took naps, and then got ready to go out for the night. We grabbed dinner and then all met up to go out to Zouk. Zouk is a pair of clubs, one of which is in Singapore and the other in Kuala Lumpur. Because we knew it from home, we figured it would be the best place to go in Malaysia without having to explore local places. Walking to Zouk, we saw the Petronas towers again, which at night are beautifully lit up.

Posted by Cassi 19:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Sunday in KL

Just enough time for shopping


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Sunday we had all morning to wander around the city, as our bus wasn't heading back to Singapore until 4pm. With our free time we set off in search of Times Square Mall. I can't even begin to explain this building, so here is a description of it from wiki:

Berjaya Times Square Kuala Lumpur is the 13th biggest shopping mall in the world. It is currently the 7th largest building in the world in terms of floor area and has also been tagged as the "world's largest building ever built in a single phase", with 7.5 million square feet (700,000 m²). It offers shopping, luxury accommodation, business, food and entertainment.

Currently, it has space for more than 1,000 retail shops, 1,200 luxury service suites, 65 food outlets to suit many tastes and entertainment attractions such as Asia's largest indoor theme park, Berjaya Times Square Theme Park and Malaysia's first-ever GSC MAXX 2D & 3D theatre which is located on the 10th Floor.

Basically anything you could possibly need can be found in this mall. My friend Bailey and I walked around for a few hours, getting lost in awe of all the stores. The coolest part was the indoor theme park, which has a very impressive indoor roller coaster. And one of the most interesting things was the theme park was built on the 7th level of the mall!

After the mall and walking through KL, we had to go back to our hotel, pack and then get back to Singapore. It's about a 5 hour bus ride to customs and then another half hour to school, so we got back pretty late on Sunday. The trip was alot of fun and cost in total (with shopping included) about $100 USD. Totally worth it for the weekend!

Posted by Cassi 17:19 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

GE2226

One whole week of school done

Now I've offically had one week of school and I went to my first class of GE2226, which is a class on the culture, geography, politics, religions and everything else in Southeast Asia. The difference between this class and my engineering classes is it is full of exchange students. We have a field trip scheduled for the 27th, through the historical parts of Singapore.

I have to do group projects, write papers and the final exam isn't worth my entire grade! Basically this class has everything that my engineering classes are missing, and is much different from the classes I am used to. But I think it will be interesting and I hope to learn a lot about the region before I leave.

In my first class I already learned much about the countries in the area. ASEAN, or Association of Southeast Asian Nations is made up of 11 countries, including Singapore. Indonesia is by far the biggest, in terms of land and population, and as a result anytime a new president/prime minister gets elected in the neighboring countries, they will visit Indonesia before anywhere else. We talked about the differences in flora and fauna due to the land bridges and waterways in the ice age, and where the sea levels had dropped to.

Overall, it seams like it will be a very interesting class.

Posted by Cassi 18:31 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Singapore Turf Club

Singapore's Horse Racing Track

Friday night we decided to go to the Singapore Horse Racing Track. Most of my friends from the UK, or various other parts of Europe, go to horse races all the time at home and wanted to check it out. Bailey and I met up with them straight from class, wearing our usual shorts and tanktops for the Singapore weather. However, all the girls and guys from Europe were dressed up, like you would see people at the Kentucky Derby (minus the crazy hats). Luckily for us, upon arrival the Singapore Turf Club we found it was not exactly what the Europeans are used to, and most people were in old T-shirts and shorts. It seemed they only cared about the gambling and not the actual horses in the race.

Most of my friends were betting on the races, but it took us a few rounds to really understand how the betting works. Unlike most horse races, you do not get the odds that were true when you placed the bet. Instead, everyone gets the same odds as determined right before the race begins. Therefore, it is better to hold out on betting until the last possible minute. After we figured this out, we also realized there were several different types of bets that could be placed. It was really funny to watch my friends trying to figure out the Singapore system, as apparently horse races in the UK are a much bigger deal and the betting system is entirely different. For those of us who hadn't been to horse races, it was a fun experience for a night.

Posted by Cassi 14:10 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

A calm weekend in Singapore

So much to do without leaving the city

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This was the first weekend in a while that we decided to stay in Singapore. Although we live here, we don't have much opportunity to explore during the week, as classes take up a lot of our time and everyones schedules are so different. Thursday night we had a girls night, 4 of us went out to a bar with live music and got some pizza (yes, pizza in Singapore!). A night without the boys was alot of fun, it is much easier to just hangout and chat when we are in a group at a small place with good music.

On Saturday a group of us ventured down to Orchard Road, an area known for its upscale shopping malls and high end restaurants. The buildings in this area of town are very cool- the architecture is amazing. And to top it off, the street is lined with trees and grass areas. It's hard to capture in just one picture, but the whole street is beautiful. We ended the day Saturday at Sentosa, clearly one of our favorite spots in Singapore. There was a beach party/pool party that we went to Saturday night.
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Sunday we decided to go into the downtown area of the city. Bailey and I caught the laser light show at Marina Bay, a show that occurs every night with music, fountains and lasers all choreographed. From there we ventured to the Singapore Flyer, the huge ferris wheel right along the bay. We haven't been on it yet, as we found out there are student discounts during the week and have decided to go back another time. However, any night spent along the water front at Marina Bay is a beautiful night, so we were not disappointed. The city lit up is a spectacular sight.

Posted by Cassi 23:36 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Singapore Botanic Gardens

National Orchid Garden

Wednesday Morning I went to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Although it is located close to city core and Orchard Road, it is like entering another world. As soon as you walk past the gates and into the trees you cannot hear cars and there is no reminder of the city surrounding you. The park had open greens where people could picnic, it had jungle areas where lizards and birds surrounded you, it had swan lake- where actually I didn't see any swans but HUGE lizards swimming around in it (pictured below). There is a concert area set up down a hill, with a pavilion and cover for rain, and there are hundreds of walking paths that lead you all over the park. To give an idea of the size of the park, I was there for 3 hours and only saw about half of the area.

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Aside from just the park, the Botanic Gardens are also home to the National Orchid Garden, the largest collection of orchids in the world. This area of the park is the most beautiful, as orchids of all colors surrounded you wherever you walked.

Posted by Cassi 15:27 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Helipad at Swissotel

Open Air at the 73rd Story

Thursday Night there was an open party at the Swissotel, one of the tallest hotels in Singapore. Not only is there a "sky bar" on the 70th story with full glass window walls to give spectacular views, but the party carried up to the 73rd level where they set up a bar and music on top of the Helipad! No railings, no walls and open air at the top of Singapore! The view was unbelievable, from the top you can easily see the edge of Singapore, and even Indonesia and Malaysia in the distance. We stayed on the top for a while, just looking out over the city enjoying everything about our lives, as this was an unbelievable experience.

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A panoramic of Singapore from the roof!

The lights out in the harbor are all boats lined up; there are always boats moving in and out of Singapore. This is a view of the Marina Bay area, with Marina Bay Sands Hotel in the middle, the Singapore Flyer on the left, and downtown Singapore on the right.

Posted by Cassi 15:56 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Night Safari

The First night zoo in the world

Friday night we spent 3 hours at the Singapore Night Safari, the world’s first wildlife park built specially for visits in the night. The lighting is all designed to resemble moon light, and it is home to a variety of nocturnal animals. We walked throughout the park, they have several trails leading you around to all the animals, which are divided into 8 sub groups. We also watched the creatures of the night show, which we all thought was funny because they had 'exotic' animals including raccoon's (apparently they are exotic to Singapore). And lastly we took a tram ride around the park which actually went inside some of the exhibits and allowed animals to come up to the cars.

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Some of the animals at the night zoo include: Tigers, Lions, Giraffes, Hyenas, Zebras, Leopards, Water Buffalos, Asian Elephants, Rhinos, Hippos, Sloth Bears and all sorts of pigs and deer and sea otters. It was really cool to see them all at night, and the walking paths were all lit up by flamed torches which was fun. The only problem is you cannot use flash photography inside the park, as it will blind the animals, so very few of my pictures actually came out well. But here is an idea of what we saw:

Posted by Cassi 16:57 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Field Trip

GE2226 Throughout Singapore

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Saturday I spent the whole day on a field trip for my Southeast Asia class. We went all through Singapore to places of significance that most tourists wouldn't take the time to see.

We visited a burial sight, where our teacher told us all about the history of Malays and Chinese and a whole bunch of other ethnic groups in the area that all use the same burial site as a religious place to ask for favors and to give thanks.

We also went to temples of all kinds- Buddhist, Hindu, Chinese- and visited a Mosque and a Church. Our professor took us to the places that tourists generally aren't allowed to enter to give us more of an authentic feel for the people who worship there.

Lastly we visited a famous market located in Chinatown. This was a 'wet market', where they keep the animals alive and you pick exactly which ones you want. They had frogs, fish, snakes, eels and a bunch of other things, and they were killing them right in front of us. I personally thought it was really gross!

This field trip will be the basis of our final project, a presentation of a topic of our choosing. We are broken into groups already, and after Saturday we will have to decided on a topic somehow related to something we saw or heard about within Singapore.

The pictures show candles it up at the Hindu Temple, fish heads and live frogs at the Wet Market, the burial sight we visited, and the inside of the Chinese Temple.

Posted by Cassi 12:37 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Back to the Beach

Of course, another trip to Sentosa

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We all spent the day Sunday at Sentosa, hanging out on Siloso Beach. There was another foam party, they happen the last Sunday of every month through the summer, and we had some quality beach time. We played beach volleyball, grabbed lunch at a local restaurant and watched the sunset over the water.

Another thing we did was the "Songs of the Sea" show, a performance done each night with singing, a light show and even fireworks. It reminds me of a Disney light show for kids, with lasers, projections onto fountains of spraying water, and animations throughout the story.

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Posted by Cassi 23:27 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

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