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VTL – Singapore to South Korea (Seoul)

Autumn in Seoul – though winter seems more appropriate now cos it’s so cold!

Ever since I posted my first instastory that I have arrived in Seoul on 17 November, I have been bombarded with many messages on VTL (Vaccinated Travel Lanes) and PCR tests – even though some of my friends are not visiting Seoul but other countries? LOL i’m not ICA!

Here’s a short list of what we had to do before we visited Seoul

  1. Book tickets on the Singapore Airlines website – make sure it’s a VTL flight
  2. Take a PCR test within 72 hours of taking the flight – we did a quick check, the cheapest in Singapore is about $128, and we took it at Minmed. After that, they sent us a document and when I called to check, it has been automatically notarised.
  3. Apply for K-ETA https://www.k-eta.go.kr/portal/apply/index.do For us, we applied this a few days before our flight because the info wasn’t updated. Process was pretty fast online.
  4. Buy travel insurance, and COVID-19 insurance cover. There’s also a minimum coverage of 30 million won https://overseas.mofa.go.kr/sg-en/brd/m_2435/view.do?seq=761362 – I bought FWD and added on COVID-19 cover (not a sponsored post lol)
  5. Print out all these things – Vaccination cert (notarised copy), K ETA, Travel insurance, PCR test results
  6. You can also apply for the PCR test first that will be taken at the Incheon airport https://safe2gopass.com/
  7. Download the Quarantine app – will need to do daily health declaration, seems to be only activated after immigration

On the plane

There was no social distancing and I was seated in the middle in a super packed plane. Feels weird in a COVID-19 world but at least everyone already took PCR!

At the Incheon Airport

I need to rant a bit about this because we waited for 3.5 hours for the whole immigration thing to be completed. First they checked my vaccination and PCR (i think), then next counter my kETA and passed me a form? and lastly, then out of the immigration checkpoint before I could collect my baggage.

At the exit, we were greeted by the Tourism Agency there with some freebies, thank you!

Then we were ushered and waited for a group before they brought us to the clinic/hospital area for PCR which was across the roads (very near). Had to take a queue number and read a brochure before we could move to the main ‘hospital’ clinic for registration again. If you have registered on https://safe2gopass.com/ it’s easier because your records are inside. We chose ‘west’ but to be honest, both stations were quite near each other so no difference in my opinion.

This was taken when we were queueing to take the test to depart

At the clinic for PCR test

https://safe2gopass.com/price

When you register on safe2go, you can see the prices here.

Once you registered at the clinic itself again (even if you have done that online because you will need to verify your details), you will take a queue number for payment. After payment, you are brought to a quick 30 second doctor station, and then to another room to take the PCR test. They are behind a glass wall so don’t be alarmed like I was (they put in their hands through gloves and for me i had to bend a little so that they can reach my nose? lol)

After this PCR test, we took the car (booked one who waited for us for a few hours omg) to our hotel https://all.accor.com/hotel/B696/index.en.shtml Mercure Ambassador Seoul Hongdae (I highly recommend this for the price and location) and had to wait for 3.5 hours for our results.

By the way, we found out (by emailing the embassy) that the day of arrival is day 0. So we stayed for 7 days and did not need to do the additional PCR test.

Getting Around

We had to fill up a declaration form instead of scanning the QR code on the Quarantine app because it doesn’t work for us. We used data roaming so didn’t have a korea number as well. Just need to fill up the physical form with time, place we are staying (hongdae) and telephone number. Probably also consent as well.

It’s quite fun identifying some SG numbers on the list. LOL.

Going back

We found out we could do a ART test so we went to the airport early. The clinic opened at 7am so there was a short queue – same process as above, you can also book an appointement on safe2go. We paid 90,000 won for ART though and it was quite painful (same as PCR?). Results were out in one hour and we got it by email.

Before coming back to Singapore, remember to also fill this in https://eservices.ica.gov.sg/sgarrivalcard/ – the SG arrival card.

IMPORTANT THING TO NOTE: The ART/PCR results need to be printed – handphone screenshots are not allowed and people were made to go to the back to the queue to check in. Counter K has free printing, or you can take your results from the clinic before you check in your flight. There’s also some printing service at the newspaper stand but is currently out of order (as of 24 Nov 2021). Remember to bring your vaccination cert too!

Back in Singapore

I think the officers are not very familiar with VTL yet so we were almost made to go to another immigration checkpoint area. You can book your PCR test here first: https://safetravel.changiairport.com/#/ (interestingly when i booked it was $160, the price dropped and I was given a partial refund. Now it’s at $125)

You need to prepare your passport and QR code (to the booked test) before going in to register and take the PCR test.

For this PCR test, swab throat and two nostrils. The throat part was uncomfortable because – GAG REFLEX!

Anyway, got the tests results in about 4-5 hours time by email. Thought someone would call us at home but no one did.

For more updated information, please check: https://safetravel.ica.gov.sg/vtl/requirements-and-process

Have fun and safe travels!

Life.

While watching some Korean drama it occured to me (probably should have put some thought into this) that life can go in very unexpected ways in a split second. Not to be morbid but anything can happen – an accident, an aneurysm, heart attack, being at the “wrong place at the wrong time” kind of situation etc. “Live life to the fullest because you never know what will happen” is very common but when you really meet with something drastic in life, it is probably too late in many scenarios. One wrong move may change your life forever (even if you manage to stay alive).

We live lives that are different but kind of the same. A mix of different backgrounds, scenarios, ways of life and endings. It’s like buying insurance because you want some assurance financially in the event something happens to you. There’s a chance this may happen, if not to you, to someone else. But there might be a chance, you don’t know it yet but you’re going through it to find out.

Morbid topic yes, but I also thought about life after death. Not that much religion wise but I always visualised a place where I would meet my grandparents again, so it’s somewhat like heaven? I also thought that after leaving this “material” world I could have my ashes scattered in the wind or something (because I’m not a fan of water). It led me to think further if my kids needed some place or something to remember me by (which need not be ashes right 🤔). Everything we did in this world has some effect (though it differs in magnitude and for me probably not so much effect 😅) though once we’re gone we are truly gone when everyone who knows us are also gone? (Like in the show coco)

Life itself is a journey and I guess it’s a journey where I find meaning in it.

I am fortunate to have a family though we kind of fight (the kids especially at this age but I do hope they grow up healthy, kind and happy); a few groups of good friends… so thank you and I hope to continue to go through this journey with you.

Review: Ruth Chris Steakhouse at Park Royal Marina Bay

As part of our Restaurant Week adventures in May 2022, we reserved a dinner for two at Ruth Chris Steakhouse for $68++ excluding add ons. We have heard for a long time from friends that the steak here is a must-try and we were pretty excited to finally get the opportunity to visit Ruth Chris.

We have tried Morton’s , Lawry’s, Cut, Bedrock Grill, Wooloomooloo, so we are not new to good steak in Singapore! 🥩 I am not really into meats that much, but the Mr. is a big fan.

Dinner Set at $68++

Appetiser: Caesar Salad or Carpaccio or crab and Corn Chowder

Entrée – Served with Mashed Potatoes or Creamed Spinach

Petite Filet (4oz) or Salmon Fillet or Sizzling Blue Crab Cakes

Upgrades

Filet (8oz) with shrimp – Supplement of $60++

“U.S. Petite Filet (4oz/115g) with Oscar Style – Supplement of $23++

Dessert: Mini New Orleans Cheesecake or Vanilla or Chocolate Ice Cream or Sorbet

For appetisers, I got the soup while the Mr. got the Carpaccio – which I thought was more worth if you like raw stuff, as the raw beef was pretty good. The soup was still good too though. We both also got the Petite Filet with Oscar Style at an additional $23 each, which is 1 crab cake and 3 asparagus. For dessert, it we both chose the New Orleans cheesecake.

For the beef, though 4 oz. is quite small, the sides of spinach and mash potato (we ordered 1 each) made the meal very filling. We rate the steak 7.5 out of 10 stars.

I didn’t really like the crab cake though – didn’t like the sauce that much with the asparagus.

The cheesecake wasn’t as “mini” as I thought it would be and was yums. It was a good size so you don’t get sick of the taste.

Overall, still a great meal, with impeccable service so I will give it 4 out of 5 stars ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️. Probably good for a special occasion because it wasn’t cheap even for Restaurant Week – we spent $225 in total after tax and one extra coffee!

How to choose an infant care or childcare in Singapore

If you are a first-time parent in Singapore, one of the things to do is to register your interest for infant care (2- 18 months) or childcare (18 months and up) the day your kid is born. No joking – once you get the necessary details, it’s time to register interest at a school. It is also time for you to be familiar with terms like ECDA – Early Childhood Development Agency; its Preschool Search and if you don’t know how to use the system, you can read up on the step-by-step guide here. Here are some things to look out for when choosing an infant care or childcare in Singapore.

Photo by Naomi Shi on Pexels.com

Just some back story that I will like to share – when I first started my journey looking for schools, I was actually living at Tanah Merah temporarily before my place in the North was ready. I enrolled in a private school which was at the landed property area; which sent me a notice that it was moving out 3 months after my daughter was supposed to start school. So I sent my daughter to PCF Sparkle Thots since we were moving and there was vacancy (I indicated interest in advance just to secure a spot) and when we moved to the North, transferred to My First Skool. The thing is, after indicating interest, I did not get any response, so I made a trip down to my top 2 choices and knocked on the doors – I actually got the principal’s attention. It also helps that I could start the new year in December so luck was on my side as the kids get promoted to the next level in December. Now, we are also looking at a few private schools for my second kid who seems to need more attention, so I must say I have invested the past almost-7 years looking at these.

Back to how to choose an infant care/ childcare:

  1. Budget – Budget and financials remain the top of my priority when choosing infant care and childcare. Even government infant cares and preschools are pretty pricey, especially infant care. For example, My First Skool charges $1,300+ for infant care; and there are also miscellaneous charges. Childcare is at $770.40. I guess you’ll say, obviously money is the most important consideration, but for childcare, I would say, having all the information such as subsidies is very important. Check out the subsidy calculators and infographics here. If you’re a working mother, the basic subsidy is $300, and there are additional subsidies up to $710 for infant care; and $467 for Childcare. Do take note that some ‘branded’ preschools do have promotions so you should enquire instead of taking the prices as fixed.
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

2. Proximity and convenience– Distance from your house to the place is very important, especially when you need to pick up your child from work, and you have to pick them up by 7pm. My kids used to take the school bus at an additional cost and it was just a 5-minute ride, but convenience is really key here because it’s an every weekday routine. Many centres are located in business parks and near your office, but I really wonder what happened to these centres during the Covid period where people worked from home. Do check with the centre if there are school bus services; timing and additional charges; and safety measures that are put in place (e.g. who’s the bus aunty, is there a teacher traveling with them, where is the pick up and drop off?).

Photo by lilartsy on Pexels.com

3. School environment and teachers – Most schools will offer a tour and explanation of daily activities and even planned meals. Some things to look out for is the environment like the classroom for your kids’ level and toilet (very important in my opinion), and some questions I would definitely ask are a) student teacher ratio b) how experienced the teachers are c) food d) activities – if outdoor, is the route there safe e) how are the classmates like (i even ask about gender ratio) so that my kid can gel in if joining midway or at a later age, f) parent support groups. Of course there are other questions and things to look out for e.g. extra activities like gym, music classes, english/mandarin language teaching methods, student feedback apps… it really also depends on the amount you’re paying. If you’re looking at government preschools, perhaps look at the newer preschools so that everything will be newer. If you’re looking at the higher end preschools then of course, find out more in detail what value this will bring in terms of the additional activities – some even learn the violin in class! You can also ask for the syllabus and topics for the year, or term. For me, I also considered if there will be a large discrepancy when my kids transition to primary school.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

4. Last but not least, when you’re looking to confirm a school… consider the ‘orientation programme‘ or how the school will help your kid adapt. Due to Covid, many preschools have stopped allowing a parent to accompany their kid for 3 days, but seems like this will change soon. Other things that the preschool can do is to allow the kid to meet the teachers, and it is important that the preschool shows enthusiasm to understand your kid better because every kid is different. It is also a stressful time for the kid! I have stopped asking about updated HFMD stats because it is common everywhere, but it is a good thing to ask as I have friends whose kids are in schools that seems to have higher rates of infection, an indication of limited cleanliness!

I hope this helps you decide on a great infant care or childcare for you and your child!

Review: Restaurant Week SG (May 2022) : Amo at Hongkong St

I was a big fan of Restaurant Week many years back and after the whole reopening after covid, decided to try out some of the places again! Held from 6-29 May 2022, lunch starts from S$28 and dinner S$38!

Amo was a last minute choice and I was glad that a weekend lunch was available. Described as a “sleek Italian eatery that whips up pizza, seafood and meat plates”, I can understand why it’s pretty popular.

“An Italian Concept by Michelin Star Chef-Restaurateur Beppe De Vito. A social destination serving up a delicious slice of original Italian food and drinks. inspired by authentic traditions and modern techniques”

Actually what I realised when we looked at the menu online, was that they already had a set lunch here so you can visit the restaurant on any other day too. But of course, for restaurant week we had a pretty delicious selection.

There were two other groups seated around us – could hear them speaking rather clearly actually, so it’s more of a comfortable vibe rather than romantic (perhaps it’s also lunch and where we were seated).

Snack: Truffle Arancini, Bufala Mozzarella, Tomato Aioli

Starter: Burrata Campana, Oven Baked Eggplant, Walnut Pesto, Sourdough Crostini, Micro Arugula

Or Artisanal Trofie, Beef Shank, Oven Baked Mushrooms, Orange Salmoriglio

Main Spanish Octopus, Tomato Jam, Chickpea Hummus, Pickled Artichoke, Chorizo Emulsion

Or Charred Grilled Iberico Pluma, Whipped Potato, Wild Mugnuli, Chili Vinaigrette

Dessert: Ariaga Dark Chocolate Tart, Hazelnut Praline, Orange Crema, Kampot Salt

We had different starters – I preferred the beef, we both got the iberico which was really tasty like what reviews said, and the dessert was really yummy! I can still remember the orange chocolate taste… yums!

Overall, I give it 4 out of 5 stars! I like the comfortable vibe and service wasn’t as bad as reviews. It was pretty good and the staff were attentive. The food is good, and at $48++ for lunch ($50++ for the non-restaurant week set), it’s pretty affordable for a good meal. Loved the Iberico pork and dessert it’s a must-have! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

How to upskill without spending too much money

I was thinking the other day about how long it has been since I graduated. It was 2014 and has been almost 10 years! The thought of upskilling has always been on my mind, but a quick search showed that I not only needed to commit effort and time, but a ton load of money! Yawns, this really puts me off, and I will rather utilise some of these free resources. Of course, YouTube is a good place to start if you like watching random videos and there are tons of resources there.

Here are some more structured programmes that are better structured:

Resources to upskill doesn’t have to be expensive!

1. Courserahttps://www.coursera.org

Coursera is a platform that hosts more than 5,000 legit courses that are backed by universities. You can choose from an array of topics – it feels like you’re in an international university with lots of choices. You can pay a small amount to take the course, or audit a course for free. Once you “join” the course, you are sent the course materials or you can access it directly on the platform, with deadlines just like school. You can even check out courses from your alma mater to see if the syllabus has changed or whether it’s now more effective. For some courses there are pathways to build competencies and you get “certified” too.

Recommendations: choose a pathway that helps with your career, or just take a fun course that builds your interpersonal or photography skills!

2. Udemy https://www.udemy.com

This platform is very similar to Coursera in my opinion and I was introduced to it as pre-work for my project management course. Like Coursera, there are so many topics to choose from and generally they are video courses (more than 185,000 video courses!) taught by experts.

Recommendations: if you’re paying, wait for discounts/ sale! You can also try out the following platform that might incorporate udemy too.

3. NTUC Learning hub https://www.ntuclearninghub.com

I took so many courses on NTUC learning hub for the IBF funded courses in 2020 where I was actually given $10/h as a training allowance! Gone were the days of that during covid but a lot of these courses are funded, especially if you’re Singaporean!

Recommendations: take note of funding deadlines and become a ntuc member to get UTAP funding. This post is not sponsored! 😛

4. Libby app (National Library Board)

If you’re Singaporean, make sure you download the Libby app so that you can get access to e-books when you register with your National Library Board account. More info here: https://mobileapp.nlb.gov.sg/get-started-with/libby/

It’s easy to use, can be used on the go, and you have access to the large catalogue that NLB boasts! Definitely a great resource to have when you will like to get more information on certain skills or topics.

Recommendations: you can reserve e-books or popular books on the app, they usually are available quite soon!

I hope these options are useful to you in your journey to upskill!

Show review: Single’s Inferno

Official trailer of Single’s Inferno

Here’s the show that everyone’s talking about – Single’s Inferno, the reality dating show that’s a mix between Terrace House and Love Island.

Here’s a quick review of the show – only two episodes are out at the moment, and I can’t wait for the next to be aired!

1. Everyone in the show is so good looking and Guys mostly go for the same type

Pic from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-10330571/amp/Singles-Inferno-Viewers-obsessed-Korean-dating-Netflix.html

So there are 4 girls and 5 guys and each person is being introduced to “inferno”. As you can see, everyone is good looking, but no other introduction is given eg age,occupation etc. It is only when a guy and a girl chooses each other that they are sent to “paradise” and then they can introduce themselves further.

Anyway, every guy turned to look at Ji-a when she walked down the stairs. Glamourous https://www.realitytitbit.com/whats-on/get-to-know-singles-inferno-contestant-ji-a-and-the-rest-of-the-cast-on-ig and also the other sweet looking girl-next-door Ji Yeon who seems to be the most popular for now. No idea why netizens are so annoyed by white skin korean/Asian beauty standards?

2. It is a mix of popular shows Terrace House and Love Island

There are some commentators who watch the scenes and they do give some insights when they see certain reactions. As an Asian show, it is also more conservative than Love Island, so the couples seem to get more time to get to know each other. I do get some “survivor” vibes from this show though because the canned food that they’re given feels a little sad at times! Well, we’re only at episode two…

I will say… watch it if you have been a fan of Terrace House or Love Island!

The next episode will be out on Christmas Day, 2021!

Favourite Artists Series: Hwang Kyu Baik

I have only known about Hwang Kyu Baik’s works during my recent trip to Seoul last month (Nov 2021) and Three Moons was the first piece that caught my eye. I then did more investigative work into his other pieces and realised that apart from painting, he dabbled more in printmaking for a large part of his life. Born 1932, he was already an established artist in 1968 where he went to Europe to study art history and did printmaking.

http://www.kbhwang.org/painting.html

Perhaps I am more captivated by artists who show the western and asian aspects in their art. This exhibition at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea, portrays his work in three very palatable parts 1. The start of his career, painting and success in the country before moving to Europe 2. Printmaking – in particular Intaglio 3. Painting again and a newfound perspective regarding human consciousness and the existence of life.

For more information on the artist, visit http://www.kbhwang.org/

Favourite Artist Series: Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

Landscapes by Wu Guan Zhong. Pic credits: https://toutiao.sctx.com/toutiao/details-69172.html
A mixture of western Fauvism and Chinese Calligraphy. Pic credits: https://toutiao.sctx.com/toutiao/details-69172.html

While I am no art expert, I decided to start this series of my favourite artists with Wu Guan Zhong 吴冠中 because I felt the connection to his paintings the first time I saw them in Singapore. Perhaps it is that mix of western and chinese influence that captivates me, or that the simplicty of brushstrokes that capture the smallest details. I always thought that the paintings were ahead of his time, keeping in mind that the artist was born in 1919.

Many of my friends know that for personal reasons I travelled to Hangzhou pretty often in 2019 and I had the opportunity to visit one of the art museums there with his paintings as well. Interestingly, he spent some time at Hangzhou’s China Academy of Art after transferring there in 1936 from engineering school against his father’s wishes. After spending some time in the school campus and also parts of beautiful Hangzhou, I seemingly feel that I could see the sources of inspiration that built the foundation of his works.

The western influence of his art came from his time spent in France, and it seemed that the differences of western and chinese culture and religion; and post-impressionism built his work.

For those in Singapore, you can still visit his works at the National Gallery here until 10 April 2022.

More work here: http://www.artnet.com/artists/wu-guanzhong/

Wistful & Romantic

Hello Spotify Audio Aura

It’s the newest thing that you publish on Instastory – the Spotify “Your 2021 in review”! It’s always fun to look at an overview of the year, and guess what, this year I have been “wistful” and “romantic”.

So… I didn’t know what “wistful” means and had to check the dictionary. Oh, it means to have a feeling of vague or regretful longing. That melancholic feeling of what-ifs, turning back time, or just being there on a gloomy rainy day.

Guess you can never hide that side of you from your song choices. Spotify is a psychic!

Interesting observation is that no one on my Instagram has the same taste for music as me – apart from one other friend with a similar song choice.

I wonder if music preferences show your personality.

Having grown up learning and being “forced” to listen to classical music when I was young, I don’t listen to such pieces anymore. What do I listen to now?

Oh my gosh, my piano teacher will be so disappointed with my preferred genres LOL. Had to Google “Neo Mellow” though.

Oh wow, a quick search shows that personality traits are linked to musical styles (more here: https://www.verywellmind.com/music-and-personality-2795424)!

People actually define themselves through music, use it as a means to relate to people. And we actually are defensive about our music choices because we think it might relate to our personality? Interesting…

Okay let me see what liking “pop” shows about me. “Extroverted, honest, conventional, hardworking, high self esteem.” Oh man, I’m supposedly less creative and more uneasy. 😅

Another study also said that types of music you enjoy depends on the way your brain processes information.

And since I like “mellow” music (Neo-mellow) I am more empathetic? But wait, I like dance pop too which makes me a “systemiser”? Guess I’m both.

Seems like I just like the letter “J” a lot 😅

Do you think your music preference relates to your personality?

Ways to save money this Christmas

Christmas Decorations in Seoul, South Korea

Christmas is my favourite time of year – winding down that busy year, meeting up with friends, exchanging presents… it’s also the time of the year that I spend so much on gifts, decorations and Christmas food! Before you continue reading this article, I want to reiterate that you don’t actually have a “net profit” trying these methods out, but you’ll save a little here and there. If this intrigues you, read on!

By right I should start with a preach on consumerism and how Christmas gift giving is somewhat commercialised and bad for the environment but sorry I love to give and receive gifts. Here are some ways to save some money this year:

1) Join ShopBack

Okay as you can see, I use ShopBack ALOT

For those who don’t know what ShopBack is, it’s a cashback reward program. Once you hit a reward of $10, you can cash out to your bank account directly. Don’t underestimate that 5% off your groceries that are a must to buy, or even travel!

One trick to get even better rewards is to buy the vouchers during sale. I love to buy Zalora vouchers that can go up to 20% rebate! Look out for challenges and promos too.

By the way, this is not a sponsored post though they should pay me. 😬

2) Secret Santa

Why does this save $ for you? Because you don’t have to get EVERYONE a present, but just your “chosen one”. This year, I am trying out a new Secret Santa format because of COVID-19 restrictions.

First, use Draw Names – https://www.drawnames.com.sg/secret-santa-generator this is the trusty website that I have used for years and seems like it has improved to include addresses and automatic wish list links!

Second, make sure everyone inputs their address and set a budget and time for the gift exchange.

On the day itself- VIRTUAL GIFT EXCHANGE! will update if this is successful because it’s happening in two weeks.

3. Potluck parties, dining deals and eatigo

Save some money by having potlucks and eating at places with promotions and dining deals. Usually I check Chope, or better still, eatigo!

You don’t have to compromise on food quality by buying “lower quality/alternative brand” food especially during end-of-year. My favourite at the moment is the promotion for 40% off ala carte at Peach Garden (note: doesn’t cover dim sum)!

Hope these methods work for you, since you already missed the 11/11 and Cyber Monday sales! You can try end year sales or perhaps 12/12 sales? Cutting it close there though.

Have a great end of year and Merry Christmas to all! 🎄