15 November 2015

Tokyo Dreams

So I spent a good 5 months in the land of the rising sun...

march-aug 2015

Tokyo is a place that many dream of travelling to, I am blessed to be able to live here for a couple of months and it has proven to be more than just a dream.

Just 5 months ago, I set foot on this seemingly foreign land of cherry blossoms. It was the annual hanami season where people go chasing sakuras, everything seems so magical and it's amazing how I can now call it my second home, a place that I have grown to live and to love. It was here, that I found another side of me (that I always had but probably never had a chance to surface). It was here, that I found joy in solitude. It was here, that I realised how I am able to be so independent by myself. It was here, that I travelled on many solo trips. It was here, that I met the nicest and most genuine people ever. It was here, that I have become more trusting of others (even strangers) restoring faith in humanity. It was here, I am become so comfortable with despite it all. All I can say is Japan, is a city, where twenty years down the road, I would be looking back and commending myself for being so adventurous, discovering the path less travelled or perhaps even little things like roaming the streets alone. 

Some things, you do it young, you don't want to live with regrets not doing eventually...

Nothing is ever a dream. I quote Disney, "If you can dream it, you can do it".

So with the experience of living abroad, here's a list of little things I want to tell my future self...
or for those going for an adventure to explore

1. Don't say you "Can't" even before trying
Many a times, people end up not doing something not because they don't have time or they don't want to. But rather, it's because they tell themselves "uh but that's not my cup of tea, that's not me, I can't do it... it's too tough/not beyond my means". YEAH, if that's what you think, YOU ARE NEVER EVER GONNA DO IT. Well, you see, the things is... how do you know you can't do it without even trying? I used to be a victim of this, but you know, that's why the word CHALLENGE exist. Challenge yourself, do something you wouldn't think of yourself doing. Okay enough said. I hiked up a mountain (well I wouldn't have thought of it because I'm not an adventurous person by nature) and if that's not challenging enough, I did it alone! Looking back, I'm glad I did it, now I have a motivating story to share. Believe in yourself, tell yourself you can do it. Even if you don't like it, at least you can say "I've done it", or rather "I've tried".

2. I can live by myself
Nope, I don't wanna sound like a loner. haha, many what I meant is, so long I have a bed, showing facilities, wifi, plug and food, I am able to survive well. Okay fine, after typing that, it sounded quite duh. But what I really meant is I proved my hypothesis of being rather independent to be true. Maybe cause I'm a well-trained only child, coming home to an empty house is something that I'm used to. I never had doubts or fears of staying by myself in a foreign land. So yes, after these few months, I confirmed this. Actually since young I've thought to myself that I'm happy to live by myself (okay fine, and hopefully with my future husband & cute little kids) in a studio loft apartment. These few months have made my dream come true, well, kinda...

3. Don't always depend on others when it comes to travelling
If you want to get something done, do it yourself. It depends on how much you really want it. For me, being the determined little girl I am, when I say I want to go to a place, I really get it done. I book my flight, my accommodation, do up a rough itinerary and travel. Easy. I don't want to be the type of person that just do the paper talk, "yeah I wanna visit this place that place..." but never does anything to make it happen. So you see, the problem about depending on others, especially when it comes to travelling in big groups and you only have a short-term stay in a country is that you have to go through the process of group-thinking, accommodate to everyone else's timetables and travelling needs. Sometimes, it's never going to happen, or by the time it happens, flight and hotel prices would have gone way up. So I've always done this - search for a flight, tell others you are booking it and invite others to join you. Then book it. Whether they come or not doesn't matter because I'm okay with doing solo trips.

4. Exchange of Cultures
On exchange and while travelling, you meet all sorts of people. Come out of your comfort zone, don't always stick with people you are familiar with. Some seniors gave me the advice of "Don't always stick with Singaporeans, go hang out with other exchange students". I took that with a pinch of salt, but I guess it's quite true. First of all, there are not many Singaporeans who chose Japan as their exchange destination, so I have a limited pool of Singaporean friends abroad with me. But that's not the point. I've met other international students in school through projects and working together with them always taught me that we have to be sensitive to each individual's culture, and working styles whether you like it or not. You cannot force others to be similar to you That, I guess, is the art of tolerance, not something that can be taught to you like ABCs or 123s, but through interactions and understanding (and the grace of God) of people overtime, you will learn to find beauty in different cultures coming together and eventually always see the good side of others when you meet someone new. Of course, others are learning to accept you too, so give everyone some time.

5. Taking Independence to a new high
For paying bills, rents, taking care of my expenses, food, administrative stuffs, making travelling plans, being comfortable with being yourself, having meals alone, etc. In times like that when you are alone, you face everyday with your own will, strength and independence, because you HAVE to. You cannot be blur, you just cannot afford to. You need to face everything smartly, think before you act or say. Don't make others clean up your mess after you. Like what my secondary school teacher once said "Don't make your carelessness my problem". Now, I truly understand. On this matter, probably nothing much changed, but indeed I proved myself right - that I am able to deal with all these things myself as a grown up young adult. Of course, my strength comes from God. All credits go to him!

 6. You have to stand up for yourself
Being alone in a foreign land, means you have to stand up for yourself. I remember my first day of school when I didn't get the module that I needed to do so that I can map it back to my home university. I was desperate because I had to do the particular module, therefore, I went up to my admin officer to tell her. But Japanese universities being Japanese, are very strict on rules and they will never bend them. She told me that she cannot change the module for me, even the lecturers were not on my side. I felt that there was no one would understood my desperate situation. But, they key is I never gave up! I bravely told them all that rules are rules and adding an extra student wouldn't make a difference in the class, well I mean, the lecturer still does his teachings as per normal right... eventually, after all that mess, the lecturer decided to take me in, and I am grateful to him.

Having said that, believe that there will be angels to help you, but when the world is against you, remember, you only have God. Pray, don't worry, always tell yourself that God will make a way.

7. Backpack travelling doesn't mean living like a "pauper"
For a few solo trips I made, I live out of a backpack. I'm not like a typical girl when it comes to bringing a lot of "crap" in my bag... my philosophy when travelling is to travel light. Be realistic, I'm petite I cannot carry too much things or too heavy things. So yup, I managed to survive out normal-sized bag packs, thank god. Anything that you missed out on bringing, you can always buy. whatever. Yup, backpack travelling is fun and many times, people who are on backpacking trips tend to live out of a tight budget. Budget is important, but it doesn't mean not spending on accommodation and food. Don't end up in super dirty budget hostels with weird strangers. That's just risking and like what my dad would say "penny wise, pound fully'. I'm not saying to splurge but spend smart and wisely. Also, don't save too much on travelling and on food. Like what my mum would say "spend so much money to come all the way here and you want to save on food?!?" haha thinking back on her words, true that, if you want to go on a trip, go on a good one. If you don't have the means to, then wait and save up first till you have the money to experience the full thing. "Want to do it something, do it to the best, if not don't do it" - that's my philosophy in life.

8. Alone Time is Essential
That is so true.
You need some time away from everything else, every one and every thing. I managed to get this when I'm abroad, being in my own "zone". I'm happy and I relish in taking walks to explore the neighbourhood, bringing my laptop to a nice quaint cafe to watch videos or do work over lunch or tea break. Wow, I really cannot emphasise how essential it is to have your alone times. Spend it with God, do something for yourself, brainwash yourself tell yourself everything will be fine.

9. Exchange is not only about travelling
Despite my constant desire to travel, I actually did make a conscious decision to not plan anymore big trips for awhile, yup, I actually do enjoy living like a local instead of a tourist. For the last one or two months in Tokyo, I take joy in staying home... maybe also because of the rain. But it was good while it lasted. Whether it's preparing breakfast food art, cooking meals or simply doing work on my laptop, moments like this can be rather therapeutic actually. It's not everyday that I find time to do this, it is rare, so I take joy in even the simplest of things like cleaning up my room or pouring myself a juice. Oh and besides, I took the initiative to google things I could do to help the community, and of course, it's back to my love of children. Yup, so I found a English camp that I could be useful for, and signed up as a volunteer. It was one of the break and most fruitful weekends I had, spending it with the little children and other like-minded volunteers, of whom are also very international.

10. Language is not a Barrier
k, in Japan, it probably is.
But, the point is, never let language barriers get you down! I can confidently tell you that I survived well in Japan even without knowing Japanese. Yes, I admit knowing the language will make life in Japan easier, but I guess just being here, things like asking for directions and all, it should be fine. People in Tokyo can speak some form of English, don't belittle them, haha and in terms of directions, they are so nice that they actually do walk me all the way to my destination. I am eternally grateful. Also, through interactions with other Japanese people around me, I've managed to pick up some conversational Japanese, but honestly, Japanese language (Nihongo) is without doubt, one of the most complicated languages. To learn in just a mere four to five months stay, it's really quite impossible, unless you have a flair for languages? There are like what, three forms of the language itself - kanji (those with Chinese characters), hiragana and katakana. Goshhh, I don't even know where to start learning from when I had the intention to learn. I would say, to be able to fluently and effectively communicate with someone, 3 to 5 years of intensive Japanese classes are necessary. And once you learnt it, it will be a very useful life-long skill.

11. Singapore is really Home
Being here, I read an article about "things you learn when you have been in Singapore for too long"  -dwayne's fb msg. I love Japan, I am able to stay here for a long period of time. Perhaps, Japan is rather like Singapore? I don't know, but anyways, being Singaporean, Singapore is still home to me. Never take for granted that you are Singaporean.

12. Remember this adventure you set out for
Everything happens for a reason. Everyone you met is not by chance. Learn from all your encounters, even the little ones - they may jollywell turn out to be the most amazing ones or at least, they would def prove to be useful in the many years to come.

13. If all else fails, there's always God!
I am thankful for the church community I have here in Tokyo. Though it was a short few months stay on my exchange, but they were more than welcoming and lovely towards me which made me feel at home every Sunday. I felt so belonged and it just felt like I was worshipping God in Singapore. Remember this, on nights you feel very lonely, God is always there for you. Take out your bible, read his word. Go to sleep. Tomorrow will definitely be a better day.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

08 November 2015

Job Search

deep thoughts...

musings of a job hunter

Job market isn't looking too ideal this year, especially in the year-end where little hiring takes place (and people are kinda in the holiday mood already). In this season of my life - job hunting phrase, I guess God wants me to be patient and to rely on him instead of myself, which includes whatever's written on my resume or how I fared during the interview. Not being proud or whatsoever but to be honest, if I were an employer, I would think my resume and what I can offer does stand out from other applicants. However, I know that God opposes the proud and shows favour to the humble. Ultimately, so what if I am good, so what if I have a lot to offer... if that job is not part of God's plan, he will not open that door for me no matter how much I want it. It's sad, but it's something I've learnt over these few months of tough job hunt.

I've got some ups and downs, opened yet closed doors. It's not a happy problem I'm facing. And really, sometimes, I think to myself, is graduating one sem earlier a bad choice or rather, a wrong choice? Should I have graduated the same time as my batch? Or, am I that bad that no one wants to employ me?

Most of my friends can get a job, why not me? God... why?

But deep down, I know that although it may take a longer time, I must have faith that God will eventual grant me the wishes of my heart and that his plans for me are higher than mine. So, I'm trusting my job search to him and I pray that he will open the right door for me. It may not be the best job in the world, but it's the best job for me.

 Sometimes in life we tend to focus more of the negative things in life because we always trying to improve and yearning for a better life. But they often forgot about the positive things in life and staying appreciative. 

18 October 2015

XNDO, your new meal buddy!


hello, my 2 weeks meal plan


I have always pass by the Xndo open concept store at Parkway, but never stopped to purchase because (thankfully) I do not really need to put myself on a strict low-carb diet. However, what caught my eye every time I walked pass was the interesting meal flavours! Like wow, how can you still eat yummy local delights such as Laksa and Chicken Rice, when on a diet? So when the kind folks at Xndo contacted me for a collaboration and I agreed! I wanted to know how it is cooked, and omg I was so excited to taste the meal flavours for myself - check it out! See if it is able to satisfy my palate and whether really works as a proper meal replacement.

I was put on a 2 weeks meal plan and was introduced to Xndo's my4 steps.
Here goes...

There are many flavoured meals to choose from. I was given a variation of noodle and rice meals, ranging from flavours like Seafood Tom Yum, Curry Chicken and Singapore Chicken Rice. These are your typical local favourites which contains lots of carbs, however with Xndo's meal replacement, which contains optimal amount of complex carbs, protein and fats that result in a complete meal that keeps you full for a longer period of time, you don't have to worry about calories and can to your heart's content without feeling guilty. It's definitely your healthier choice!


Xndo's meals are made from natural ingredients, specially designed for us. It's low in carbs though there's rice/noodles! Well, reason being Xndo's rice/noodles are made from a mix of premium quality Thai long-grained white rice with freshly ground Konjac root which is high in fibre. So essentially, Xndo focuses on a promoting a calorie-density meal instead of your normal low-calories meal

One thing good is the portion size. I am not a big eater and I find that Xndo's one package portion is suitable and healthy. I don't find myself too full neither do I find myself getting hungry too quickly after meal times too. 


To be honest, initially I thought the food in the package was raw and I would have to spend lots of time to cook it. But no, I was wrong! DID YOU KNOW, you could simply open up the package and eat it on the spot! WOW, that, I was amazed! Meaning you can put the package in your bag and open it to eat any time of the day, even when you are dining out with family or friends. Well, it's optional to heat it up, but normally when I'm home, I would cause I like my meals to be hot! heh! But the fact is, even if you are too lazy to do so, you CAN just eat it just as the state that it is packaged in.

Yup, basically, you can choose to eat it anytime and anywhere!!!

There are 2 ways of heating up the meal:
1. Microwave: Pour out the meal in a microwaveable bowl and heat in the microwave for 2-3 mins and it's done!

2. Heat in a Pot: I normally do this because yes I don't have a microwave at home. Besides, it's healthier this way! Same thing, just pour out the meal into the pot then warm it up for about 3mins or so, then put it into a bowl and you can eat it!


basically, it's faster than fast food, and thousand times healthier!


Okay truth is, obviously your very original laksa and other normal food has more flavour and taste. After all, we are all used to having a certain standard of how these local delights should taste like. A Xndo meal probably will not curb a food craving if you are having one. BUT, for health reasons or if one is going on a dieting without wanting to skip meals (and looking at the drastic difference in terms of the calories), I would definitely opt for a Xndo meal. Reason being, the meals are very edible and tasted better than I expected! I always have the concept that health foods taste bad but no, I am able to survive very well with the taste of Xndo meals without having to compromise on my health.

*P.S My favourites were the Black Pepper Fish and the Singapore Chicken Rice!


This helps me a lot when trying my best to stick to the 2 week meal plan!
Because it's not everyday that I can eat Xndo meals, and def not for all my 3 meals in a day. Therefore, times when I'm eating non-Xndo meals, I will take the drink to BLOCK carbo and fat from the other food I'm eating. I don't really feel the effects of the drink physically, but psychologically, yes I do feel like the drink helps to absorb all the unhealthiness of the food I consume.


It's very easy to consume this! All packs come in 5-8 sachets, so just pour a sachet into a cup or shaker bottle (even better) of cold water. Then, drink it all up! The best part? You can put just one sachet in your bag and you are good to leave home! In terms of tasted, personally, it was a little too sweet on my first gulp however the after taste became bitter. I don't know why, but I guess sometimes bitter things are good for health!

*P.S My favourites were the Grape and Apple flavour!

Step 3 and Step 4 were more important to me.
I was looking more to boost my metabolism and detox rather than to slim down totally. So yup, the box itself is really small yay, so I can even stuff them into my pouch and bring them around to share. Good to bring it to school or even offices!
Although I am not a coffee drinker in the morning, however I gave it a try and it tasted really good! It would definitely be a good coffee replacement for all you coffee drinkers out there!
*P.S My favourite was the Caramel Coffee!


I drank this every alternative nights, it's like a yakult drink to me, which helps in our digestive system. A good way to detox!

*P.S My favourite was the enzyme orange flavour!


All in all, just follow these my4 steps that Xndo promotes and you are on your way to a leaner and healthier looking you!

16 September 2015

The Underrated Tokyo Exchange


june 20th, 2015

It's been 3 months since I stepped foot into the land of the rising sun.
Looking back at my decision to choose Tokyo as the city for my student exchange, I have no regrets.

Tokyo has been labelled the Paris of Asia.
When I broke news that I'm applying (and subsequently being accepted by the university) to Tokyo, many people congratulated me and commented "Wow! You're definitely going to have lots of fun. Tokyo's so amazing! You'll love it!"

I know.
I've been here before.
I even came to Tokyo last year for a 'recee' trip to see if I would like living here for 5 months... hmmm...

Yes, for some people, visiting Japan is like a dream come true.
But the thing is, when people make comments on how amazing Tokyo is and how they loved it so much, I guess they are looking at it from a touristy point of view. I mean, Tokyo is definitely a great holiday destination, everyone wants to visit Japan especially during the cherry blossom seasons. I see many people on social media flocking here just to have a taste of the Sakura season. The ironic thing is however, Tokyo is such an underrated place for a student's exchange choice destination!

Making the Decision
I prepared my heart and prayed before making the choice to come here. I dare say, it wasn't a reckless decision or whatsoever. Many of my schoolmates, seniors, friends, choose to go to popular places like Europe and USA or slightly more exotic places like Mexico, Turkey, Israel. I understand why. It's the trip of a lifetime, semi-travelling the world and the best time to do so is during your university days before stepping into the corporate world. Therefore, before entering university (of which my aim was to use uni as a platform for travelling actually), I set my eyes to follow suit the typical path of choosing Europe for exchange, well, so that I can travel Europe, just like the many others who have done so. What a joyful and perfect plan it seemed back then. I couldn't wait! But honestly like I said, these places are good for travelling, but for living... hmmm... I actually don't think I would enjoy it :/

Perhaps, since Singapore is already part of Asia, thus other Asian countries in general wouldn't be an encouraging exchange choice for Singapore students. I mean, there's nothing much to travel besides probably the other neighbouring parts of Asia, right? I don't have an answer to that, neither do I need an answer for that.

But here's why, instead of following the footsteps of the typical path, you should consider Japan as your future choice for an exchange programme!

and the list goes on...

#1 Uniquely Japan!
When I first arrived in Tokyo, I wanted to try everything Japanese-related! In the sense that I wanna go for unique experiences that I probably would not be able to get anywhere else. From traditional tea ceremonies, to wearing an authentic kimono, buying quirky things that can only be found here, trying out all things kawaii... yes yes, basically making good progress with the Japanese experience thing!

So what does Japan have to offer?

Themed Cafes and Restaurants: It's so ironic that Tokyo doesn't have a Hello Kitty cafe considering it's the land of this kawaii feline kitty. I wonder why, but nevertheless, there are so so many other themed cafes that amazes me. There's Ninja cafe, Alice in Wonderland restaurants, bizarre Robot Cafes, Maid Cafes, Animal Cafes, you're bound to find something that you like! I'm not into the whole maid cafe concept but I wanted to dine there for the food! Not for the taste (actually it was surprisingly decent tasting) but for the cute shaped food that it serves!

Kimono Wearing Experience: I wanted to try wearing it at Kyoto so I could take pictures in it at the major tourist attractions like Bamboo Groves & Shrines, etc during the Cherry Blossom season. However, my reservations didn't go thru due to the peak season, thus I couldn't do it. But it's okay, because I did mine in Tokyo! Probably not as authentic but the shop that I went to was cheap and good! I did mine at Asakusa, there are many shops around there offering the Kimono experience. Hop into anyone and you're bound to get dressed pretty! The shopkeepers are really friendly, they will dress you up in a kimono which is really complicated... and if you are willing to pay more for the full kimono-experience (and to look good for your photos), there are menus available for hair and makeup.

Sumo Experience: yes, you can find them here... Head to Ryogoku, also known as the Sumo Town. There are some sumo shows that you can pay to enter and watch the sumo fights!

Geisha Experience: Probably higher chance of bumping into one in an alley of Kyoto, not so much in Tokyo, especially not in the city centre of Tokyo. In Kyoto, you can make reservations for trying to be a Geisha yourself! There are shops that help you with hair, makeup (yes the white ones like a Geisha...), and kimono wearing. Go check them out!

#2 Daiso / 100-yen shops!
My getaway heaven on earth! Get lost in one of these shops and you'll find something. Walk in without a shopping list, you'll find yourself out with a bag of things.. things that you don't even need. Happens to me, all the time. Gosh, but really, in Daiso and the 100-yen shops, they have an abundance of almost everything you need or want. From household items to beauty goods to DIY craft materials and cute scrapbooking stickers to snacks and many more, variety is the way to go... honestly, it's a great place to kill time.

#3 Basements of Supermarkets
Cute Snacks, Cheap Bentos, Fresh Sashimi
Enough said, I love cooking but here in Tokyo, honestly, I just don't have to cook... and clean after that. It's no culture like that in Singapore, we don't have stores selling cooked food within the supermarkets. Perhaps it's because food is accessible anywhere in Singapore and families tend to home cook food, in other words you won't go hungry in Singapore. But in Tokyo, takeout culture is sort of a lifestyle, perhaps mine. So I really enjoy living in the fact that supermarkets have cooked food, which I can just heat up when I'm home. I remember doing this when I was living in London too, hahaha and I'm quite used to this lifestyle cause in Singapore my family tend to eat out too. So yup I don't really miss home cooked food cause I don't get it anyways, sounds sad right but that's not the point, hahaha
#4 Creative Quirky Things
uh huh yes, all things quirky and bizarre comes from Japan right?
There are things here that you don't ever see elsewhere in the world! Ever! Especially, the cute things that make me go "OMG LOOK SO CUTE! How can I even eat this? How can I touch it? Gosh, these Japanese things are so kawaii nehhh!..."

#5 Fashion

I think I can officially say I belong here, in terms of height!!!
There are so many petite girls around! hahaha, how funny it sounds right, but I actually don't feel short here cause it seems like the average height of girls in Japan are shorter? I have no idea, but I feel rather average here. And because of that, there's a trend of girls here wearing heels, shoes with wedges. My favourite kind of footwear! hahaha, see it's good being a petite girl cause you can wear heels without feeling too tall. I'm just saying this cause I'm short... hahaha, but yeah you get the point. I love the fashion here, it's mainly catered to girls like me (lace dresses, crochet, floral prints, etc), and oh yes I love how they match cute shoes with shoes and even wedges. Interestingly cute! And brands even cater to the fashion sense of girls here, like how converse shoes in Japan have the special lace and ribbon version.

#6 Friendly, Kind, Courteous People
Yes. Everyone HELPS.

Because of my limited Japanese language and my bad map-reading skills, I tend to ask a local for directions whenever I need to locate a place. The amazing part is how random strangers don't just point where to go but they actually just decide to walk me to the place itself, even when they are not going the same way as me initially. I was so touched, and always am going to be touched. It's like restored faith in humanity you know! Oh, and there was once I asked a guy working in a store for directions, he said he didn't know, so I walked out. A few minutes later, he came out of the store chasing me and told me the way.. cause he actually google mapped it for me after I left. How nice of these people! Thank you every single soul who has helped me in any way possible, I really appreciate it! (:

In metro stations, people actually do line up properly while waiting for trains to arrive. No one rushes or pushes to board the train, even during peak seasons, it's not as bad as other countries like Hong Kong or Singapore (sometimes), so I really do appreciate that.

#7 Punctual Transportation
Speaking of trains, I learnt that public transport in Japan is always on time. They are never ever late. Only I am late... When a train is due to arrive at say 12pm, the clock strikes 12 sharp, there you see the train right in front of you. So don't ever miss your transport, cause it leaves on time just like how it arrives on time, haha especially important point to note while taking those long expensive shinkansen (bullet train) rides out of Tokyo. One thing I learnt is to always arrive early, so that you are the one waiting for the train, because the train never waits for you. Plus, it's good to be early because the platforms in major subway stations can be rather complicated and far to walk to so yeah be early! Japanese people are equally on time, so if you are meeting your Japanese friend, try to be punctual and don't keep others waiting!

#8 Sophisticated Toilet Seats
Heated! Comfort! Especially during the cold winter days... the warm heated toilet seats are just too comforting... what more do I have to say.

#9 Everything (Most) is Clean

It's comparable to Singapore, but even cleaner. Even the public toilets in the metros are decently clean and has a powder room for women to do make up in. The only downside is the lack of dustbins around, reason being, apparently you are encouraged to bring your thrash home to throw away. beats me? I don't know why such a rule. haha but yeah in general, people here don't litter so the streets are rather clean even in the alleyway. Train seats are clean too.

#10 Vending Machines
Lost in the world of vending machines...
Indeed, it is very true. There's bound to be a vending machine selling drinks at almost every street corner. Sometimes, not one but a whole row of them. hahaha, it's like everywhere! Don't worry that you will be thirsty or hungry on the streets, just pop your coins into any one of the machines and food/drinks come out almost immediately. The trouble is deciding what to get, and that's the dilemma I always find myself in - pacing back and forth up and down between 5 machines next to each other and eventually deciding on my good old fruit juice or water. 

#11 Convenience Stores
Because convenience stores in Japan are actually convenient. Yes, it lives up to its name alright.
I never have to worry not being able to find something I need nearby, because besides the vending machines, there are 7-11, Lawsons, Family Mart everywhere. In one street, it is not surprising to find all three convenient stores. I admit, sometimes I do convenience store hopping, just to see what each of them offers hahaha, it's quite therapeutic somehow... haha and it's cause sometimes I actually want to find my raisin bread k, so I go to all three and I'm quite sure one of them would have my raisin bread. oh and best of all? they are open 24hours a day! I thank god for the millions of convenience stores available almost everywhere in Japan. I relied on them quite a lot especially when I'm in a rush from place to place. And once, as sad as it sounds, I ate food from Family Mart 3 meals a day cause the island that I was on didn't really have stores open that day. Hahaha so when I saw family mart/7-11, I was like omg I need to go in! Morale of the story? Make the convenient stores your BFFs, you never know when you would need them! (:

#12 Eating Alone is OK
The popular Hakata ramen chain, Ichiran, has dividers in their restaurants, probably to encourage people to focus on the ramen that they are eating instead of talking to people around them. This also trains my independence in eating alone literally, and sometimes, I do enjoy having my me-time during meal times. Just me and my food, fullstop.

#13 Beautiful Sights and Scenic Roadtrips
Many people think there's nothing much to do in Japan, but there's a lot of sight-seeing and planning to be done in the region itself as well. Whether it's via domestic flights within cities or simply taking the Shinkansen (bullet train), you are bound to find yourself exploring a new city part of Japan. I've been to some and I find that they are of equivalent standards to European cities. Just not as famous, but equally magnificent.

#14 Easy to Navigate
Contratry to popular belief, actually I find that it is rather easy to navigate around. The subway maps may look super complicated and stressful, but hey after all the station names are in English and I got used to it initially by the line colours and the station code (eg. C10, G11, etc). I have the habit of looking at full train maps especially when I'm at a station platform waiting for the train, so yes it's rather easy to get directions around via trains. However, I must say that streets and buildings are harder to navigate whether it's on foot or driving, because they are numbered in a way that we are not used to. What do I do in such cases? ASK! People are generally friendly and they will help you, especially when I look like a small girl being oh-so-lost....

#15 People speak English
In the past, Japanese people do not really speak English. But living here made me realise that actually I can get by speaking in English and not knowing Japanese at all. Although English is not their first choice spoken language and obviously thus not widely spoken, BUT STILL, there are people who can speak and understand English! If you interact with more Japanese people, you will realise that they can understand you. And in school, because I'm from Keio University, students here can speak English! My Japanese friend told me that it's a pre-requisite for entering Keio (because Keio is quite a reputable university in Japan) and thus, most students must know English. Besides, there are many returnees in Keio, students who have lived abroad since young or for long-term for a few years before returning back to Japan for university studies, therefore, they definitely know English... well, some of them have better English pronunciation than me ok!

#16 It is actually very live-able
Having your exchange in an Asian country means you do not have to bring Asian food-related things, like Bak Kut Teh, Laksa or other Asian spices and pastes, nor do you have to bring a rice cooker etc to cook here. Food is available everywhere! I wanted to pack for them but I googled and found Singaporean restaurants in Tokyo so nahhh I didn't bring any over here. Also because I'm not someone who craves badly for Singaporean food so I'm fine, I can actually live in any part of the world, hahaha but having said that, if you put Singaporean food in front of me, then I will gooble up everything! hahaha okay that explains my point anyways, I'll introduce you some good Singaporean restaurants here in Tokyo, they are expensive (only if you compare it to our hawker standards of $3-5sgd per dish) but pretty reasonable for an eat-out day, probably around $12sgd per dish. Okay right!

#17 Tokyo is an affordable city
Many people I spoke to before applying for my exchange said that they were deterred from applying to Tokyo because they have this conception (or rather, misconception...) that it is an expensive city to live in. If high cost of living or travelling in Japan is the main issue setting you back from coming here, fret not! Truth is, Tokyo will not blow a hole in your pocket! Honestly, having lived here, I believe it's comparable to living standards in Singapore. 
How much you want to spend, how comfortable you want to live here, really depends on yourself. There are many ways to go budget here, there are places and things to splurge on, well, isn't it just the same as in Singapore? Back in Singapore, I tend to eat out very often. In Tokyo, I eat out too because it is very convenient and food is everywhere! I spend almost the same amount, sometimes, in Tokyo even cheaper than in Singapore. So if budget is an issue for you, don't worry because not all dining out meals cost more than $20. You can get affordable and very full meals too! Besides food cost, activities such as main tourist attractions like parks and shrines can be free! The only things that I find expensive are my beloved fruits (omg you don't know how much I save on food and spend on fruits....gosh!) and transport. On average, it costs about $2.50sgd per ride for 3 stations? Sometimes, I just end up walking if I know the direction - tapping the suica card in and out can be really expensive.... So yeah, besides all this, Tokyo is honestly not as expensive as what people imagine it to be.

 ♥  ♥  ♥

There are so many things to see in Japan, so much to explore, too many places to visit out of Tokyo.
Yet, so little time.

You definitely have to make more than a visit to fully cover the entire Japan. It is much bigger than you think it is. Therefore, this is why I am encouraging you to come Japan for an exchange programme, spend six months here and you would be able to cover more or less the whole Japan (okay not entirely, for sure, but more or less).

So you wanna enjoy all these?

I honestly think you shouldn't give it up coming here for an exchange, reason being the cost of living here isn't as high as we imagined it to be. It's not cheap for sure, but it's almost the same as Singapore. How much you want to spend, how comfortable you want to live here, really depends on yourself. There are many ways to go budget here, there are places and things to splurge on, well, isn't it just the same as in Singapore? So see! You have no excuse not to come to Japan.

Lastly, I hate the cold...
Coming to Japan for an exchange means school terms starts only in Spring! YAY, it's such a great to avoid the harsh winter season and most importantly, you arrive just in time for the Sakura blossoms. What can be better than that? Oh, and did I add... I still managed to see snow and enjoy it at a 16degrees, haha #legit, and cause I wasn't prepared to see snow, I was actually wearing shorts and stockings that day. So yup, see you get the best of both worlds!

29 August 2015

Forte Hotel Group // Taipei

August 2015

finally onboard EvaAir Hello Kitty Airlines!

In addition to my kitty dream come true, I was blessed with a 3d2n stay courtesy of Forte Hotel Group, Orange Hotel Kai Fong (:

It was a pleasant surprise when I received the sponsorship email confirmation as I had initially booked a flight to Taipei with the sole reason of wanting to take the new EvaAir's Hello Kitty plane. So yup in every way, I was really very blessed, and obviously I took up the sponsorship!

Thank you kind folks of Forte Hotel Group (:


Forte Hotel Group has many hotels across Taiwan and I chose the Xi Men branch however it was fully booked. Thus, my second choice was the Kai Fong branch, located walking distance from Taipei Main Station. One good thing is that all of their hotels are strategically located thus any one of them would be ideal! Plus, I would recommend that travellers stay near Taipei Main Station as it has 2 lines there making it more convenient for sightseeing and moving around Taipei by train.


This hotel was located about 5 mins walk from Taipei Main Station, walking distance to Xi Men Ding district and there are many good restaurants nearby. There's Family Mart directly next to the hotel and 7-11 across the street, making it very convenient to grab essentials you may need for the night. All else fails, theres always a 24hr McDonalds at the corner of the street! *cues supper*

It was not hard to locate the hotel considering the fact that it was night time. Upon arriving at Orange Hotel Kai Fong, we had to take a lift up to the main lobby. It wasn't a very grand lobby, just a decent service desk and cozy area, which felt more like a home than anything else. 


What impressed me was the professional service of front desk staff. Check-in was swift and smooth and we got our room keys very quickly. Couldn't wait to check out the room and just nua in bed, since it was so late already! Oh, another impt thing for most travellers, you will be happy to know that the hotel's wifi signal at the lobby and in the room itself was both very strong!

Oh! And just a note, there are drinks provided in the reception, as well as my favourite apples in the morning whereby guests can grab and go! Not forgetting the huge Mac that you see above. Yup, free for guest to use! (:


To me, what defines a good room is not how big the room is (Size of room was decent, in fact, bigger than I expected), but rather how clean the room is and how comfortable the bed is. I mean it's legit right, most of the time when you are in the room, you would be lying on the bed! Thus, bed is very important, haha, yes I'm that easy to please!


Anyways, I jumped onto the bed and I was immediately satisfied - so happy that it's the soft kind that I like!!! YAY!!!


Sadly, there was trouble with the toilet flushing system in our room, reason being the higher level rooms always have such problems. However, after our feedback, the reception staff changed our room without any hesitation. Though it was troublesome to move our luggages in and out of rooms, but it was their quick decision making skill of wanting to make my stay an enjoyable experience, that impressed me.

The next morning, I was expecting a buffet spread like how hotels normally do provide. But instead, breakfast was at Dante Cafe, within walking distance from the hotel, which was a good alternative as well (:

Xi Men Ding District!

All in all, it is a cozy hotel perfect for two, which I would definitely recommend to all visiting Taipei.