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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!

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! 🎄

Teaching

Teaching Geography has always been something I wanted to do since I was young. I could become like the teacher in The Magic School Bus, bringing students to any part of the world and learning topics like development, tourism, the environment. It will be so fun!

I was actually awarded the MOE teaching award when I was an undergraduate and rejected it. To be honest, it was a different experience teaching in a secondary school compared to my 6-month stint teaching numeracy at a special school. But both to me, were enriching experiences. I do want to become someone who shapes the next generation’s lives – especially in secondary school because i feel that it’s the age where you really build your character. Also, I am generally enthusiastic about CCAs and things outside teaching like school events etc.

So why am I still hesitating becoming a teacher?

Well apart from the fact that I always ask myself how can teachers teach when they have only worked as teachers and do not have “real world experience” – not trying to belittle anyone here, but I do value work experience outside teaching for a more all-rounded education and perspective.

1. The horror stories sound really horrible

Dealing with parents and teenage angst sounds really scary. Admin work sounds like a chore to most too, although coming from gov as my first job meant I’m probably used to it.

2. No confidence in my patience

I used to have more patience, especially when I was teaching in the special school. That was truly an eye-opening experience where academics is not priority; creativity was most important as we needed to find new ways to teach; and simple joys. I am also not very sure if I can conform to being most “junior” and listening to others if they are very strict on the rules because I am not myself.

3. Going to trainee school aka NIE

When NIE was one-year long, I already thought it’s very long. Now with the compulsory stint and NIE, it would mean a pay freeze for the next two years. From one perspective, getting paid at this range is great since technically I would be a student. But to be honest, I am really quite old and have commitments compared to fresh grads!

This really sounds like a way to convince myself why I shouldn’t take up teaching but I will find a way to combine my interests of communication and geography. Hopefully one day, I will get the opportunity to shape young minds, and interest them with the wonders of GEOGRAPHY.

Not so fun fact: my husband actually scored the worst in the cohort for geography and dropped it in secondary four.

Taking a breather at Lower Seletar Reservoir Park

For the past few days I have been wanting to visit Lower Seletar Reservoir Park. Where’s that you ask? Simply put, it’s the scenic route from Yio Chu Kang to Khatib not to be confused with Upper Seletar Reservoir that is nearer to Mandai.

It’s not that near to Khatib MRT so if you’re going by public transport check out the list of buses here and where to alight. https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/lower-seletar-reservoir-park#

Look at that view.
There’s rental for kayaks and dragon boats but not sure if it’s still operational during this period. Saw some kayaks though!
Saw a few doggy friends there
The older bridge behind

It was a busy Sunday morning at 8.30am and the pathways are relatively crowded. Lots of uncles hanging around in groups (wonder if it’s because coffee shop seating areas are closed at the moment).

There’s a lot of space to take a breather on the greens though to take in the beauty of the reservoir so it’s a great place to recharge. As usual from what you can see from the MRTs there are always these illegal fishing activities but they don’t really bother you.

Hope to get the chance to come here more often, and maybe catch the sunset one day!

What I did as a student to boost my CV

My brother is in university now and he came to me few months back asking about some career advice and internships that he should apply for. I gave him some tips, and yes, he secured that job for summer. So therefore, this piece. I wanted to title this article – ‘What I did as a student to get the job I want‘. Then, I thought it sounded strange, and my mind shifted to drama serials where young employees sleep their way to the top. No no, this piece is not about that.

As someone who graduated from one of the three local universities in Singapore (barely got in lol), I have met some really motivated students. There were some who started with their entrepreneurship journey right during school, some who knew what they wanted to do with an undying passion, and those that went for 6 rounds of interview to score that high paying internship job. My route though, was a little more chill and this was what I did.

Here’s some advice for students in boosting your CV. A disclaimer though, this worked for me as a communications graduate / professional, if you are looking at things like an engineering or finance route, I guess only the general rules apply.

  1. Determine what you want to do, or at least have a general field that you want to pursue

I chose my first major through an article that I wrote to Cleo Magazine. It was a ‘Free Speech’ section where I submitted my thoughts to a lifestyle topic. I thought to myself at that time that if that article was published, I would choose Communications as my first major. My second major would then be Geography or maybe I would become an environmental journalist (very rare combination in 2009 though pretty common now).

Though this might sound very trivial, many people do not end up working in the field of what they studied. With a bachelor’s degree in the field that I want to work in, I now have at least the first ‘pass’ into the industry, or the ‘minimum requirements’.

2. Secure internships

I know, holidays are important, especially when you get 3-4 months off during the summer break! Well, I would say, take a break, but don’t waste your holidays slacking at home. How did I get my internships? Firstly, always check your university career office. I understand that some actually have bad reps in terms of their effectiveness but it is always somewhere to start. The next step will be to google these internships – you never know what you will find because there are things out there that you do not know exist!

For me, as I was saying, Geography and communications have always been my interests so I checked out Asian Geographic Magazine. There were no job vacancies at that time so I emailed them directly. Guess what, I secured one! Dream internship alert! That was my first experience in communications – editorial, covering events, social media management, I even published my first few articles there!

My other internships came from the Career Office (through email) and another one through their listings. Though I was not selected for a job but they called me back for another – Mediacorp Market Research! It was cool working there and having lunch stargazing. Oh, I loved their fashion sales too where they had yard sales to sell clothes that celebrities wore for shows. I was lucky I was really skinny then (haha).

3. Build your network and portfolio

Through my internships I met all kinds of people from different nationalities. This exposed me to different cultures and also my first freelance writing jobs that I could add to my growing portfolio of work. Never ever treat anyone badly and always be sincere to others because you never know when you will cross paths with them again. It wouldn’t hurt too if these ex-colleagues / friends you make write testimonials for your first real job.

4. Go for exchange if you can

Although not easy in this COVID-19 climate, go for an international exchange if you can. It is an experience where you grow up (I am partially ashamed and also amused that I first learnt how to iron my clothes at the age of 22 and I can remember my friend who taught me that!), build stories of your own that you can share with future friends or colleagues, and understand how other countries work. For a communications person – it means easier understanding for intercultural communications, for an editorial person it means broadening your horizons to stories and ideas. For me, I did an exchange programme in Hong Kong and Copenhagen. It was in Copenhagen that I understood that life is not only about working, shopping but so much more (okay I also attended a talk by a nobel prize IPCC person and also their parliament so very impressed)! In Hong Kong, I built the best long-lasting friendships and probably had the most fun partying experience in Lan Kwai Fong.

5. Capture this in your CV

All this stuff that you did, and all for nothing if you can’t capture it in a proper CV. I guess it depends on your industry – whether formal, creative, there are many tutorials and examples that you can look for online. Best of all, though I didn’t do that, make full use of your career services in school (you’re paying for it anyway through your school fees) to run through your CV and even interviews with you.

Hope this helps and all the best for your job search!

What playing competitive sports taught me

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Watching competitive sports always spurs something in me. Once upon a time I actually thought that it was a waste of time playing any sport recreationally. Why put in so much effort in something to do it for “fun”? And at that point I truly believed that I could excel in something that I liked.

It has been almost a decade since I played competitive netball and oh, those glorious days. We were such an awesome team in secondary school, going through all the tough training camps and drills together, we really shared literally blood sweat and tears. I think I was physically suited to play netball, being tall and I could run relatively quick at that time. Wow, those days when the whole school cheered for us during the finals and how we achieved 4th in the nationals for an unknown school, it was surreal. Best of all, I also made it to the age group national team. Those young, glorious days!

Fast forward to the present, exercise now has become an avenue to destress. I still think about some of the mind games and strategies I used to write down in this small little book that I had, and also the ‘mental strength’ course that I attended that taught me how to keep calm during critical moments.

Playing competitive sports taught me many things. Firstly, teamwork. Make full use of your strengths, your team mates’ strengths and complement each other when there are cracks or weaknesses. Though in a work context it is definitely difficult to trust your team mate completely, it will take some time, but it will definitely be a dream team!

Secondly, never give up and when you fail, appreciate the process. This to me applies most in a dating or love context when I was younger. There are times that you want to make sure you put in your best shot, but sometimes things don’t work out but you know you tried. When I grew up, I thought this applied to people who became ill, or even if health becomes an obstacle for me one day, I will abide to this.

Thirdly, have a goal and go for it. I honestly have not really done this to a 100% but I aspire to do this. The court is yours, the game is yours to play and how you want to play it. My high school and junior college coaches had totally different styles. The former being very “waterfall” (work has influenced me to use this term hahaha omg) and step by step where we execute the different tactics according to what she wanted us to do. The latter being very “agile” because at that time she was new to netball and had a basketball background. I felt that the combination of both made it really cool. I had a solid background and it was time to just play my own game. I never told anyone but on the bus to Kallang netball centre I would listen to “unbelievable” by Craig David, and then on court on my good days I would play it just for fun. Not that it’s just ‘for fun’, but I would see how I could just manipulate my opponent. Oh and my team mates were strong enough to depend on to execute whatever we wanted.

I guess this is the same for life. On one hand you got to put in the hard work, put in the basics, work on it, and then just, rule it. Haha of course, it is easier said than done and I haven’t really felt like that since I stepped on a netball court many many years ago. But I guess stemming from my competitive sports background, I truly believe in myself in most things that I do. (Very important when working because of terrible people that you’ll meet!)

Now let me leave you with a song that my netball teacher played on screen to hype us up:

May you SHINE in your own way!