A Travellerspoint blog

August 2011

Orientation Week

The Official Beginning to a New School Year

Monday marked the official start of Orientation campus wide. That means both freshman and returning students are now back on campus, as well as graduate, exchange, international and whatever other types of students exist. There are just over 36,000 at NUS, and things are really starting to fill up. Buses are jam packed, cafeterias have long lines and students are walking around in groups all over. Orientation here is a bit different than in the States. At Clarkson, our orientation focuses more around meeting the people who live it your dorm, meeting other students in the same grade and generally finding your way around campus. Here orientations are very 'Faculty' specific (a 'Faculty' is what we would call a 'School', for example I belong to the Faculty of Engineering). There have been tours of each faculty, speakers, and upperclassman who are able to answer questions for any underclassman students.

We also had an official welcome party for the exchange students last night. They had free food, some speakers and prizes to be given out. I would estimate 300 students were in attendance, from all over the world. I have made many friends, mostly from Europe. Of the students I hang out with, most are from Sweden, Germany, the UK, Canada and the US. When we get into talks about politics or economics it is very interesting to see how people react. In most cases we know too little about each others systems to truly argue, it is more of explaining our own systems to others, but once in a while a real debate will break out and people get genuinely upset. It is very entertaining, and I try to avoid those situations as much as possible.

Besides the orientations, there have also been several celebrations on campus this week because a new section called University Town opened up. It consists of 6 high rise buildings that now serve as dorms (mostly for graduate and international students) a new cafeteria and the worlds largest Starbucks! Music has been playing everywhere and many celebrations have taken place. Right now, NUS is a very exciting place to be.

Posted by Cassi 10:48 Archived in Singapore

Rain in Singapore

I'm convinced they just hit 'copy and paste' for the weather forecast


Today is the third day since my arrival that it has been raining when I woke up. Singapore weather is very odd in that the weather forecast is the same everyday: Thunderstorms. The difference between here and home though is it will only thunder for about 20 minutes and then be done. The entire rest of the day will be hot and humid and sticky and make you wish it was still raining. And, half the time it never even rains!

When you see the weather forecast, you expect the next 10 days to be miserable, but everyday here is actually quite hot and sunny and ends up being beach weather. I have never seen it rain in the afternoon or at night, only in the morning, which means every afternoon is perfect for Sentosa!

Posted by Cassi 13:28 Archived in Singapore


What exactly is a Fishball?

The the big question is food: What is there to eat in Singapore? Well I'm going to give you an idea by showing some pictures of our brand new cafeteria! This place just opened at the new Utown campus, and it is not exactly the same cafeteria as you would find back at home...


I've been sticking to the Mixed Veggie Rice myself, but I hope this gives an idea of what kinds of food are most easily found on the Island of Singapore.

Posted by Cassi 11:19 Archived in Singapore

Tioman Islands: Malaysia

Getting ready to leave Singapore already!

This weekend a group of students are heading to Tioman Island, a small island off the East coast of Malaysia. I can't tell you much in advance, but I hear the beaches are amazing, and the jungles have all sorts of animals. We are supposed to pick up our Singapore Student Visas today and then leave tomorrow morning.

Here is the description from Wikipedia:


Tioman Island (locally known as Gunung Daik Bercabang Tiga) is a small island located 32 km off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia in the state of Pahang, and is some 39 km long and 12 km wide. It has eight main villages, the largest and most populous being Kampung Tekek in the north. The densely forested island is sparsely inhabited, and is surrounded by numerous coral reefs, making it a popular scuba diving spot. There are also a lot of resorts and chalets around the island which has duty free status.

Its beaches were depicted in the 1958 movie, South Pacific as Bali Hai. In the 1970s, TIME Magazine selected Tioman as one of the world's most beautiful islands.

Apart from its diverse marine life, the inland rainforest area, encompassing approximately 12,383 hectares, in Tioman is a strictly enforced nature reserve. There are several protected species of mammals on the island, including the Binturong, Long-tailed Macaque, Slow Loris, Black Giant Squirrel, Red Giant Flying Squirrel, Mouse deer, Brush-tailed Porcupine, and Common Palm Civet, from a total of 45 species of mammals and 138 species of birds, including the majestic Frigatebird. Moreover, Tioman has species that are endemic to its shores. The soft-shelled turtle and the Tioman walking catfish are both unique and can be seen on rainforest walks.

The part of Malaysia I am going to is at the bottom of the peninsula, and the island is on the southeast coast. It is only a 3 hour bus ride from Singapore, and then a 2 hour ferry from the town of Mersing to reach Tioman Island.

Posted by Cassi 20:15 Archived in Malaysia

Student Pass

Now I am able to leave Singapore


I picked up my visa today, which means I am officially able to travel to other countries now! The plan is to leave at 5am tomorrow, get a bus to the town of Mersing, Malaysia and then a ferry over to Tioman Island. There are about 50 exchange students going to Tioman Island this weekend, and there is going to be a BBQ party for us on Saturday night. I highly doubt the BBQ will have hamburgers or hotdogs.. so me and my friend Bailey (from Vancouver) are going shopping today for some food we can bring with us. Being in the city in Singapore and eating new foods is very different than being on a tiny Island in Malaysia and eating whatever food is given to you, so we want to be prepared. I will let you know how it all turns out for us.

Here is my new Student Pass!

Posted by Cassi 20:28 Archived in Singapore

Travel to Tioman Island

My first trip out of Singapore

View NUS Exchange on Cassi's travel map.


The trip to Tioman Island was all organized by a fellow student and a school volunteer who both have a lot of experience traveling in the area, which made my first trip out of Singapore a lot easier to handle. My friends and I exchanged money to Malaysian Riggits (1 MR = .3306 USD) on Friday, and got lots of bug spray and new beach towels at Clementi Market before packing.

Saturday morning at 4:30am a group of about 50 exchange students met outside of UTown and got on a private bus. We went through customs with our new student visas without problem and then had a 2 hour bus ride to the town of Mersing, Malaysia. The roads in Malaysia aren’t exactly in the best shape, so it was a very long bus ride and it was impossible to sleep. Once in Mersing we had to wait for the ferry to Tioman Island for about an hour. After that it was a 2 and a half hour ferry ride to the island. Because we left so early in the morning, we arrived to our hotel at about 11am, and still had all day for ourselves. Regardless of the time it took to arrive, the trip was amazing!

Posted by Cassi 09:59 Archived in Malaysia

Tioman Islands Day 1

Beach, Beach and more Beach

View NUS Exchange on Cassi's travel map.


When we first arrived at Tioman we checked into our individual chalets, 3 people to a room. Everyone was so tired from the trip that we changed into bathing suits and went to sleep on the beach! At the time it seemed like a great idea, but when we woke up sunburnt a few hours later we realized it probably wasn't the smartest thing to have done. After our naps, we all went swimming in the ocean which is actually part of the South China Sea. Much like Sentosa, the water here felt like bathwater but here it was perfectly clear and extremely beautiful.

In the afternoon 6 of us decided to go Snorkeling at a reef just off shore, and it was amazing. There were a ton of fish, and the coral was really bright colors. We saw ‘nemo’ fish, a few sharks, a string ray, sea cucumbers and lots and lots of other brightly colored fish. After a few hours at the reef we decided to go pier jumping. The pier that our ferry docked at was right off the beach from our hotel, and we went to the end and jumped off into the ocean! The guys we were with were doing backflips and all sorts of dives, but it was actually quite high so none of the girls tried anything like that. None the less, it was a lot of fun.

After spending all day at the beach, we had to spend some time in our room. This is when we realized that our bathroom was being shared with lizards, who could come and go as they pleased through cutouts in the walls. For the rest of the weekend we called our bathroom the "lizard portal" because there were so many of them around! Besides the lizards, the toilets were actually very nice. At the ferry dock and other various places throughout the weekend the toilets were just holes in the ground, so we were very happy when we saw western toilets in our room.

Dinner was provided for us each night, and a party was also included afterwards on the beach. The person who organized the trip did an amazing job. Everything was taken care of for us: Transportation, Accommodation, Food and all Drinks. We went to a place called the Malaysian Surf Centre, and it was owned by a guy named Tim who was from Australia. He was a total surf bum who has spent his life traveling around Southeast Asia. It was a really cute place, and we stayed there basically all night. Overall my first day in Malaysia was amazing!


Posted by Cassi 10:14 Archived in Malaysia

Tioman Islands Day 2

Hiking in the Jungles of Malaysia

View NUS Exchange on Cassi's travel map.


Our second day at Tioman Island we discovered an amazing thing: They had real breakfast food! This is the first time since arriving in Singapore that I have seen a true breakfast. We all got omelets and toast with butter and jelly and orange juice! It was the best thing I could have imagined on such a tiny Island.

Sunday was not spent on the beach, but rather deep in the Malaysian jungle. We decided to go hiking to a waterfall which the locals told us was a two hour round trip hike. About 10 of us decided to go at about 11:30am. However, we realized a few problems after we got a few hours in.

1. This was not an average hike, but rather a mountain climbing experience
2. We would be lucky to make it back before dark
3. We should have brought extra clothes to change into from all the sweat

This hike involved repelling down boulders using tree roots, climbing through caverns and jumping across gorges. About half the group was bleeding by the time we finished the hike from falling on rocks trying to navigate the jungle. When someone would fall, it was likely they would lose their water bottle and would be unable to get it back. We had no tour guide, but rather were following the ‘trail’ left by the locals: beer cans nailed to trees every few hundred yards. There was no clear path through the jungle, and we actually had to cut through some areas because there was so much vegetation around us. And lastly, this hike was leading us directly to the top of one of the mountains on the Island. We actually debated giving up about 3 hours into the hike when we still had not seen a waterfall.

But we did eventually find it. The term waterfall was a very lose term, rapids would be more like it. However, the rapids created beautiful pools that we could all swim in, so we spent about an hour swimming and climbing upriver through the rapids in the middle of the jungle. It was truly an amazing place, with the water and the trees at the top of this mountain, It was absolutely beautiful.


Luckily there was a faster way back down so we did get back before dark, overall the trip lasted 6 or 7 hours, and we did get to see some very cool things. Wild monkeys were swinging in the tops of the trees, and we saw a lizard about a foot and a half long that was black with little yellow spots. We saw crayfish in the swimming area and there were a million different types of butterflies around us. Lastly the view from the top of the mountain out over the jungle top all the way to the ocean was amazing, and made the whole trip worth it.

Sunday night was mush like the previous, we had dinner and a beach party again all provided for us. The locals were fishing on the pier so we got to hold a dead shark and a dead squid that they caught and brought to the party, so that was interesting. Overall, the second day was very tiring but was a lot of fun.

Posted by Cassi 10:44 Archived in Malaysia

Tioman Island Day 3

Goodbye Beautiful Island

View NUS Exchange on Cassi's travel map.

Monday we spent the whole day at the beach again. We swam out to a raft the resort had anchored in the ocean and played beach volleyball and generally just chilled. Our ferry came to pick us up from the resort at 2:30 in the afternoon, so we didn’t venture far. Monday was the most beautiful day there, as there were zero clouds in the sky and the water was the brightest blue that I’ve ever seen in the ocean. The pictures just don’t capture the whole experience, but they are all I have to share.
We made it back to Singapore just after midnight (after a 3 hour ferry back, dinner just outside of Mersing, a 2 hour bus ride to customs, people getting caught trying to smuggle in cigarettes and then catching a city bus back to NUS). Overall the trip cost me under $130 USD total. It was an amazing place, and I hope to go back sometime soon!


Posted by Cassi 10:59 Archived in Malaysia

Rag and Flag

Giving back to Singapore


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.

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.


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

Majulah! The Singapore Spirit

National Day Parade


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

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

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia

Off to see the big city

View NUS Exchange on Cassi's travel map.

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

First Morning in KL

Batu Caves

View NUS Exchange on Cassi's travel map.


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

Petronas Towers

170m above the street in the sky bridge

View NUS Exchange on Cassi's travel map.

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.


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

(Entries 1 - 15 of 26) Page [1] 2 » Next