2020 goals

  1. become stronger – make strength training part of my routine (know all about the different muscle groups and exercises)
  2. run a 10k! (continuously)
  3. sink into emotions instead of avoiding them (controlling the ego)
  4. think more – train myself to stop ignoring problems and start recognising inconveniences
  5. read deeply – 18 books a year, complete with thoughts surrounding each book (through goodreads)
  6. understand CPF – tax relief, insurance, how it all works and how to take advantage of it (make an excel)
  7. continue learning about investments (skillsfuture credits in investing)
  8. change my job (or get into a learning programme)
  9. public speaking/community – become a better speaker (join toastmasters?)
  10. stay connected to people – hw, marcus, matt, dad, mom, bro, ck, sc, ty

how to travel Melbourne with only 1000 SGD or less – budget breakdown, plane ticket, accommodation

This is Part 1 of 5 series of my budget Melbourne trip for 2 pax in Spring (End October). Please note this is not a backpacker’s trip recommendation, but is more well-suited for family-based trips, couples, groups who look for a little more comfort and is okay with spending a little bit more (but not a lot more).

  1. how to travel Melbourne with only 1000 SGD or less – budget breakdown, plane ticket, accommodation <part 1>
  2. how to travel Melbourne with only 1000 SGD or less – transport, insurance, visa, SIM card <part 2>
  3. how to travel Melbourne with only 1000 SGD or less – day 1, 2 and 3 itinerary <part 3>
  4. how to travel Melbourne with only 1000 SGD or less – day 4, 5 and 6 itinerary <part 4>
  5. how to travel Melbourne with only 1000 SGD or less – food, drink and activity, suggestions, notes, what we missed out on <part 5>

We visited Melbourne for 5 full days (22 PM – 27 AM October) and spent $1000 SGD per pax in total, including plane tickets, accommodation, transport, food and everything else all-in.

Breakdown of expenses (per pax)

  • Plane tickets (return) – S$304.31
  • Accommodation (5 nights) – S$238.37
  • Transport – S$98.72
  • Insurance – S$20.53
  • Visa – 18 AUD
  • SIM card (2 GB) – $5
  • Food, entertainment, shopping – $315.07 for 5 days ($63.04 per day)

Plane tickets

We got our plane tickets during Scoot’s promotion. We managed to get a good time slot on Tuesday (depart SGD at 1.20pm) and Sunday (return SGD at 6.45pm).

Accommodation

We stayed at the following places:

All Nations Hostel Melbourne ($26.05/pax)Melbourne CBD

We stayed in the twin room (with 2 bunk beds) which is more expensive than the share dorms (for 8 / 10 pax). There can be further cost savings here but we prioritised our privacy over the price.

Location is convenient, just about 5-10 minutes walk down from Southern Cross Station and the shared bathroom is clean enough with warm water available and toiletries and towel given to you as well. Bed was comfortable enough. Room was also clean. The hostel looks youthful in design and also has free pancakes for breakfast daily for about 2 hours in the morning. Free wifi is also available.

Some things to note is that as it is near Southern Cross Station it is prone to some noise when the trains pass by. But they do provide earplugs for free at the reception. Another thing is that there’s a need to climb 2-3 flights of stairs to get to your room, which may not be convenient for those with heavy luggages or travel with families.

Verdict: I’d come back and stay again, in tolerable seasons like summer, early autumn, and late spring (as the bathroom is shared, and there’s no heating) outside of the rooms.

Motel Marengo ($50.85/pax) – Apollo Bay

http://www.motelmarengo.com.au/

This was my favourite place to stay during our trip. The bed was huge with good heating. There were free board games available to rent as well. The toilet was very clean, the whole place was very clean. Apollo Bay is also a super chill place to be in. The place we rented was actually suitable for 4 pax as there was a double bed and 2 single beds. So we could have shaved off half the cost to $25.43 per pax!

Verdict: If I ever do Great Ocean Road trip again I’d definitely consider this place again!

Summers Rest Units Apartment ($53.35/pax) – Port Campbell

We had a difficult time finding affordable accommodation for under $50/pax/night in Port Campbell, largely because it’s a very touristy spot due to 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge. We managed to find a place here close to our budget. But design wise it was rather quaint, and there were flies everywhere! It was ok for 1 night’s stay, but probably not longer than that. Facilities wise it’s good, there’s a number of plates, cups like motel marengo. And a hot water kettle as well. Again the place we rented was actually suitable for 4 pax as there was a double bed and 2 single bunk beds. So we could have shaved off half the cost again!

Verdict: I might choose this place again if there were no better options in terms of cost and quality. I might pick someplace a little more expensive next time.

Brady Hotels Jones Lane ($54.06/pax) – Melbourne CBD

https://www.bradyhotels.com.au/jones-lane/

I am most impressed by this one. It’s obviously a brand new building and the facilities, room and everything was very clean. Apart from some glitches in the check in process at the counter due to possibly coding issues, the whole process was great. I’d definitely come back to stay again. Location was also very convenient, right in the heart of Melbourne CBD with lots of food, and very near Chinatown as well, which has a spread of relatively affordable food. The design of the place was really great. There’s also a free gym (basically filled with treadmills, stationary bikes).

Verdict: Would definitely stay here again!

Doing LASIK in Singapore – Costs, Procedure, Post-op Care

It has been 4 days since my LASIK procedure which I went for on an almost-whim even though I have been wanting to get rid of spectacles for many years now. The first time I wore specs was when I was 5 and I am 24 this year. So it has been nearly 2 decades. Contact lenses have never been satisfactory for me. No matter what brand I tried, they were uncomfortable to wear. After prolonged use of about a year or so, my eyes started getting vascularisation due to anoxia. It was also never as clear as spectacles. So I have stopped wearing contacts regularly since 2015 and only wear them on special occasions.

I chose Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) because I trusted in public healthcare’s patient management if things go awry. Being a national eye centre, I also trusted that it was the number one choice for the general public which parallels to having many procedures done there compared to many other private centres. I opted for Senior Consultant (I wanted a surgeon who had more experience/training than regular doctors, and also higher responsibility due to the title).

Costs

  • Pre-op eye examination ($200)
  • Lasik procedure ($3,300)
  • Prescription, consumables ($74)

Total estimated (inclusive pre-op exam, procedure, eye drops, post-lasik eye checks and GST): $3,800-4,000

Procedure

The pre-op eye exam involved doing the regular eye tests and also included giving you eye drops which increases your light sensitivity. This eye exam helps to determine whether you are suitable for LASIK, other procedures such as LASEK or ICL (implantable contact lenses, for those with high myopia, astigmatism).

For the actual procedure, you get local anaesthesia. The nurse will insert anaesthetic eye drops into your eyes and also clean up your eye region with iodine solution. There was also another eye drop, which I can’t remember what it was for.

The next few steps would probably be the most memorable. For LASIK, you will get your flap loosened, your eyes clamped to ensure they don’t move, and the actual procedure which you can see, but thankfully not feel – it will look as though the surgeon is scraping off parts of your eye, which isn’t really wrong because it involves removing thin layers of cells to improve your eyesight.

When you get your flap loosened you get a temporary bout of blindness which can be traumatising if you’re not prepared for it. However, I have been briefed in good detail by the nurse which helped me prepare for the procedures. Basically you see your vision start to go dark from one corner until the whole vision becomes dark. Then you get back your vision after a few seconds and woo! Now you got to repeat it for the other eye.

After that you head to another room to do the actual LASIK procedure. So for this you need to stare at the green light and not move while the surgeon and assistants start to do the work. You get liquid in your eyes, and other tools, some scraping (but because you can’t feel it, it looks like it’s just scraping through air instead of your eyes). It took about 10-20 seconds for each eye. Honestly i was really afraid of moving because I was scared of screwing up my eyes so i didn’t move for both procedures (flap loosening and actual LASIK). Because of that I also breathed really shallowly but I could smell something like burning, like what many others have said, but it didn’t bother me that much.

After that you are a little woozy and they bring you to take a picture with the surgeon. You get the actual pic through whatsapp and in hardcopy on the next day when you got back for your eye exam.

The next day I went back and my vision was 6/9. The surgeon also removed the bandage contact lenses.

For the first day, I needed to apply tear-substitute eye drops every 15 min. It drops to once every hour for a week, then 2 hours, 3 hours until 3 months later. The first week also involves you adding antibiotic eye drops (prevent infection) and steroid eye drops (promote cell growth) every 2 hours for the first day, then every 4 hours for the rest of the week.

I didn’t feel pain at all throughout and after which I am a little surprised by because people have said that it would hurt after the procedure. It really didn’t. I felt mild irritation, nothing dissimilar to wearing contacts to be honest. Only a mild pressure at the point my sight went dark a short while before the procedure. And that was it. The eye drops inserted thereafter (steroid, antibiotics) did sting a little, but nothing that can’t be handled.

At this point my vision is still not clear and I hope this isn’t permanent. My understanding is that it can take a few days to a week or more, like months, to sharpen the vision. Or that my eye is blur enough to qualify for supplemental procedure to refine, which is free for one-time up till a year.

I will update again on my LASIK procedure!

JB walking day trip (20 jul 2019)

marcus, hw and i went on a day trip to JB today.

since we lived in the same area, hw and i met up to take the bus together. 170/170a brings you directly to woodlands checkpoint. public transport (buses) is the cheapest way to get to JB.

we reached way early at around 8.30am thanks to smooth traffic (bless) – we originally decided on 9am to meet. to our surprise, there weren’t many people within woodlands checkpoint then as well.

while we waited for marcus to arrive, we observed the crowd picking up quickly after 9am. by the time we reached jb’s checkpoint, the crowd was pretty insane. it was basically bodies against bodies. we couldn’t even find an entry point into the queue because it was just that crowded. when we finally cleared immigration it was already 11am+. suggest to bring a book to read while clearing checkpoint in future.

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we got to our first stop at around 12pm (lol). Ya Wang is about 5-10 minutes walking distance from the checkpoint. there was a slight queue and we waited about 10-15 minutes before we were seated. the inside is aircon and a good respite from the deadly afternoon heat.

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I personally kind of got a shock at the prices lol they were higher than i had expected. i was also disappointed in the herbal duck. i heard many good reviews so i was really excited to come here, but it just wasn’t what i envisioned it to be? the meat was also quite tough. i’m not sure if it’s because we didn’t get the whole duck version but it shouldn’t make that big of a difference. i might not be heading back soon unless convinced otherwise. good charsiew and roast pork (RM20 for that – ouch), but not the best i’ve had. the best one i had was tucked in penang… that shall be my little secret 🙂 i got soy milk at Ya Wang at the drink, RM1.50 – ok even though slightly watery.

we went to our second stop – Shakespeare Milkshakes for some chill and board games, the next item on our itinerary.

the board games part, by Fullwolves 狼间道桌游 is in collaboration with the cafe. that section is on the second floor. you order your food and drinks on the first floor of the cafe and they deliver it up to you. it was such a photo-friendly location that i ended up snapping a few photos of the place.

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the prices run at RM8 / hour per pax, which is honestly fairly reasonable for what you get. if you’re a member, it is RM6 but we didn’t ask how to become a member, haha.

it has a modest selection of games but all the essentials are there. we spotted monopoly, cluedo, cards against humanity, limpeh says, bang, amongst other games.

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Avocado milkshake (RM18)

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Peach parfait (RM12)

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Idyllic hideout on a warm Saturday across the border

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Banana chocolate milkshake (RM18)

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Cluedo!

i enjoyed the avocado milkshake. it wasn’t too sweet. the chocolate banana is too heavy though. overall it’s quite pricey but the portion is decent. we spent about 2 hours in the cafe (till 3pm) before moving on.

our next stop was supposed to be Mid Valley Southkey, the new mall 10 minutes driving distance from JB Sentral. we saw online that there is a shuttle bus (MV2) which brings you from JB Sentral to Mid Valley Southkey at a current promo price of RM1, but we could not find a bus depot (we only saw the depot after walking back from R&F Mall, lol).

we gave up and looked around for R&F Mall, the new mall 8 minutes walk away from CIQ checkpoint that opened recently as well. we had a hard time finding it – tip is to just stay within CIQ to look for it. the walkway is not connected to City Square but CIQ. you need to cross a zebra crossing to get to the bridge.

some photos while trying to find the shuttle bus to mid valley and bridge to R&F mall:

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fit for r/biochemistrymemes

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went to watsons to stock up on toiletries and medication as well.

R&F mall was not fully open yet. we chilled at JB’s LiHo for a while before heading back to City Square for dinner.

Snapseed
LiHo at R&F Mall – Da Hong Pao Milk Tea with Black Sugar Pearls (RM10.80) – 30% Sugar, Less Ice (A little too sweet, will order 0% next time)

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GO Noodle House 有間麵館, JB Sentral – Pork Tendon Balls Soup with 米线 (RM10 excluding GST and service charge).

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Pretty designs

we booked the 8.15pm train back to SG through EasyBook one month ago. but we missed it as we reached too late and we didn’t know how to get to the train area. however, thankfully, the bus ride back to woodlands checkpoint was really smooth at that timing and i think there’s really no need to take the train back at that timing. the 5/6+pm crowd is insane though so if you plan on going back at that peak time, it would be better to pre-book the KTM train.

in summary, on saturdays, you should either book the KTM train to JB or reach early (before 8.30am). Also, if you plan on going back at peak hour (5/6pm+), you should book the KTM train back. Otherwise, if you head back at around 8.30pm, it’s okay to go via public bus route.

for the next JB trip, i will purchase a SIM card or get a 1 day roaming from my telcom company and head outside of the walkable areas of JB, such as the new mid valley southkey mall which is 10 min by car from JB Sentral, austin heights area, perhaps look out to get new specs and contacts, do my hair!

Top Free Things to do in Singapore (updated 11/03/2018)

Here’s a list of interesting places to visit in Singapore ABSOLUTELY FREE! Applies to Singaporeans.

Note: If you are a tourist, some places do charge particularly museums and galleries, but some are still free!

Do comment in this post if I missed out on anything good!

Museums and Galleries

Arts

These are NOT free but worth a mention:

Nature

Farms

Parks

  • Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
    • Migratory Season from September to March to catch seasonal birds
  • East Coast Park
  • Mount Faber Park
    • Highlights include Southern Ridges, Henderson Waves, Treetop Walk
  • Gardens By The Bay
  • Woodlands Waterfront Park
  • Admiralty Park
    • Park with the largest number of slides in Singapore
  • Punggol Waterway Park
  • Changi Park
  • Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
  • Coney Island Park

Music

  • Singapore Botanic Gardens
    • Classical music performances held at the Show Foundation Symphony Stage
    • Performances by Singapore Symphony Orchestra are popular
  • Esplanade
    • Free performances every evening at the outdoor stage

Others

  • Marina Barrage
    • Big open lush lawns, great for picnics, often see kites being flown here
  • Singapore River
    • Sit and chill by the river; accessible through Clarke Quay and Marina Bay
  • Explore Arab street & Haji lane
  • Explore Kampong Glam, Little India, Chinatown

Other interesting things to do that isn’t free

  • The Projector
    • Catch alternative film screenings
  • Explore Singapore’s islands
    • Kusu island, Lazarus island, Pulau ubin
  • Eat from famous hawker stalls