National University of Singapore

Cambodia & Thailand in 7 days

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

jing1.jpgDuring our recess week in late February (also called reading week because it is right before the midterms), we planned an exciting trip to Cambodia and Thailand. Our seven-day-trip was packed but enough to let us indulge ourselves in the local cultures and heritage.

I will give you a summary of what we did in Cambodia and Thailand. We spent our first day in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, and we visited the Killing Fields, the Royal Palace, the most famous temple in Phnom Penh, and watched a traditional puppet show. On the second day we took a bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, where we watched the sunset and sunrise at the Angkor Wat, tasted more delicious Khmer food, and bargained at the market. On the fourth day, we took a bus to Cambodian border and crossed over to Bangkok, Thailand. We had read bad reviews on crossing the Cambodian-Thai border on bus but thought things would be better now; we were wrong. I recommend you travel by air if you can afford it. But maybe we and all other foreigners on the bus were just out of luck and had a jing2.jpgno A/C bus where one of my friends had to sit in a plastic chair in the aisle, suffer the burning sunlight, and breathe in the flying dust from the mud road. Nonetheless, we arrived safely in Bangkok, where everything is very very inexpensive. We visited the extravagant and beautiful Royal Palace, visited temples, shopped, and had a nice dinner overlooking the Bangkok city. On the sixth day, we flew from Bangkok to Phuket. Phuket is a very touristy place; there are pubs and clubs everywhere. And finally on the eighth day, we flew back to Singapore and started studying for the midterms.

We read an article dated a year ago that said you could watch the sunset and the sunrise at the Angkor Wat and have the beautiful scene all to yourself, your tour guide, and some mosquitoes. But when we were there, we had to watch it with 300 other tourists who came with tour groups. But the other tourists leave for breakfast after the sunrise so you can enjoy a peaceful morning walking around Angkor Wat with just a few others. These amazingly beautiful sites in South East Asia attract a lot of tourists every year, so just try to avoid the peak seasons and go early, you won’t regret it.

Truly Asia!

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

dscf2807.JPGThere is only about a month left in my exchange, and I am getting busier with projects and studying for finals. Sometimes I walk on the streets here in Singapore and I would go, “Hey, I seriously AM in Asia!” I have tried speaking Singlish, had two days Chinese New Year holidays when I normally wouldn’t, explored the beautiful Angkor Wat, walked through the extravagant Royal Palace in Bangkok, paid an entrance fee to a temple in Phnom Penh that applies ONLY to foreigners, rode in Tuk-Tuks, and bargained yet still paid premium for taxis. I am so glad I bothered with the application process and everything (though it wasn’t all that tedious anyway), ‘cause I seriously AM in Asia and enjoying every minute of it!

By the way, in my previous post I mentioned that it doesn’t rain that much in Singapore. Right after I sent off that blog, it started and still is raining thunderstorms. I am talking about actual thunder, lightning, and heavy pouring rain!

dscf2791.JPGThis is a blog on my travel experiences in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand. My first formal tour of Singapore was when I just got to Singapore. I had a tour of the city with two other friends with the help of their local buddy. My second tour was back in late February, my friend Bob from Taiwan visited and we had the chance to tour around Singapore a little. Bob was an exchange student at UW and we met in Speech & Science class. We walked around Fort Canning Park and Clarke Quay, took pictures with the Merlion, and had Hai Nan Chicken Rice, a famous local dish. Singapore is really compact, it is a city state with everything inside neatly organized.

n122600077_38145074_6426267.jpgMy Malaysia trip, was really a short trip to Kuala Lumpur. One weekend back in February, my friends and I took a trip to KL. Flying around Asia can be really cheap with the budget airlines. They are strictly no-frills (meaning food, snack, and water are for sale only; yes, even water is not included in the ticket fare). We flew Tiger Airlines and stayed at Tune-Hotel.com, a budget hotel by another budget airline, Air Asia. Because we spend most of our times outside the hotel, staying budget is a great way to save money. It didn’t occur to us that Kuala Lumpur had much to see as we were not interested in spending time at museums. It is an urban city and the things to do are shopping, shopping, and more shopping.

I will stop here and continue my blog on traveling in Asia (Cambodia and Thailand trip that I took in March!) next time =)

Hello from Singapore!

Friday, February 27th, 2009

dscf2807.JPGIt has been a little over a month since my arrival here in Singapore. And I thought yeah why not let me write my blog on National University of Singapore. So here it goes!

My name is Jing Goh, and I am a sophomore at the Foster School of Business. I have chosen National University of Singapore because of its proximity to Malaysia, where I was born and where I will return to after graduating from UW. Since I will be returning to Malaysia, I thought it would really help me to build a network here in South East Asia and at the same time learn more about this region in general. And now I will tell you what I know about Singapore and NUS thus far.

Contrary to what little I knew about Singapore, it actually doesn’t rain much here. The weather is hot and humid in general. My dorm room, like most other dorm rooms on campus, offer only a ceiling fan, which only helps that much in cooling down the room. It is cooler in the hallways, so people usually leave their doors opened to let some air in. The individual floors are not co-eds but the buildings are. There are plenty of opportunities to meet other people in your dorm (or outside your dorm) as students here are very outgoing and friendly to newcomers, and there are a lot of student organized events.

dscf2791.JPGCourse load wise, most students here are taking 5 classes, even those on exchange. But I am taking only 3 classes because I figured if NUS really is harder than UW, I should not overload myself and instead try to do the best I can while taking the minimum required credits. I am currently taking BECON300, FIN350, and ACC225. My classes consist of a weekly 2 hour lecture and a quiz section, both meeting once a week. The professors and tutors (as they call the T.A.’s) here speak Singlish, even in lectures. Maybe some professors do have an American accents but the professors and tutors I have, don’t. Except for my Econ professor, who studied in America before and has an American accent. Sometimes the accent detracts me somewhat from paying attention in class, but it is bearable overall.

Food wise, breakfast and Dinner are included in the room & board fees at my dorm and lunch is usually settled at the faculty canteens (faculty here means schools. eg. Business Faculty = Business School). Food here is much cheaper than in the U.S. but they are mostly Chinese food. If you want a change of taste, it is not hard to find cheap & good food here at all because Singapore is best known for its food, as all other Asian countries are!

It seems to me that students here spend a lot of their time studying and doing extracurricular activities (they are very very active here). Of course, they party. The exchange students do, too. And there are always planned trips to Bali or other countries posted on the exchange student facebook group.

I myself have toured around Singapore and Malaysia a little. And I just came back from a week-long trip in Cambodia and Thailand! I shall write on a blog on travelling around SE Asia next time!

If you have any questions regarding exchange to NUS or Singapore in general, feel free to ask for my contact info from Ms. Andrea Gomes. I will be more than willing to answer your questions to the best of my knowledge =D !

Singapore

Monday, November 17th, 2008

singapore.JPGSingapore is a small but vibrant city. Perhaps it’s because I’m on exchange but almost every day is filled with something to do, and by contrast Seattle is a very boring place. The national pastime of Singapore is eating. The city is littered with food courts (AKA hawker centers) inside malls and out in the open. Speaking of malls, Singapore has an abundance of them despite its small size, and most of them combine shopping with dining and other activities such as movies and karaoke.

Being an international city, Singapore has many big international banks (pretty much none in Seattle), corporations, and perhaps too many foreigners. This is probably one of the reasons Singapore offers great nightlife. There are many hangout places all over Singapore and it has a big club scene. Many students (mostly exchange) go clubbing every Wednesday as it is the ladies’ night, meaning no cover charge for ladies at clubs and bars. Aside from partying many people also go to late night movie showings and sing karaoke until three in the morning. Singapore is also a very safe city, going home alone at late hours is probably no problem – a stark contrast from the crime infested University District. Entertainment in general is very expensive, especially on weekends or holidays. Singapore also has very high taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.

Food on the other hand is very cheap comparing to the States: a meal at a hawker center will cost around five Singapore dollars (around 3.5 USD). However restaurants are very expensive, a meal would often cost around thirty Singapore dollars. Transportation is also relatively cheap and public transit is very convenient (except during rush hours when they are like sardine packers). The MRT (light rail/subway) system covers almost the entire city and buses come very often and go to just about anywhere. If that’s not enough there are also many taxis, there is no need to call for one, simple walk down to any main street and you can flag one down very easily; they are also cheap compared to the States.

ndp.JPGDue to its small size, Singapore has relatively few tourist attractions; it is mostly a hub for traveling around Southeast Asia. Singapore heavily promotes the few attractions it has, such as the Night Safari, Bird Park, or holiday events such as the National Day Parade (NDP). It’s probably better to see them but don’t get your hopes up too high. For instance, the 2008 NDP was heavily promoted with signs, t-shirts, and all sorts of hype everywhere to make it seem like the biggest event of the year. We sat by the Singapore River next to the symbolic Merlion for three hours on that day and all we saw was a few jets flying by and less than fifteen minutes of fireworks. Getting in and out of the crowd took more time than the event itself.

National University of Singapore

Friday, November 14th, 2008

After about three months in Singapore it’s about time I write about the university I’m studying at. From my experience the student body is comprised of three main groups, the local students, students from Mainland China, and a large number of exchange students. For the most part it appears that students from each group tend to hang out with themselves, although as with every generalization, there are many exceptions. This is evident even within the exchange student body. In the 2008-2009 school year, there are more than a thousand exchange students from all over the world, but as time goes on, they tend to split into smaller groups based on their background: the Swedes, the Germans, the Indians, the Canadians, and even the Californians. That is not surprising since they tend to have similar interests and often travel together outside of Singapore.

outside-central-lib.JPGThe classes are conducted in a similar manner as they were at the UW. Lectures for upper level classes are taught in small classrooms (not as nice as BAEEC but much better than Balmer, they blast the AC and a jacket is necessary) of about 40 people, lower level classes are taught in lecture theatres (LT). The structure of the courses (modules) also resembles those back home: a syllabus on the first day, the grades usually consist of two exams, one project, and participation. I’m not sure about other concentrations, but the upper finance courses meet once a week for three hours straight. It’s recommended to fit your courses into a few days in the middle of the week in order to get extended weekends. The professors are also a diverse bunch; I only had one Singaporean professor out of the four classes.

prince-georges-park-residences.JPGA lot of students live in halls on campus, but many also commute from outside. The morning commute is a nightmare, often you’ll see the bus driving by without stopping because there are people standing on the bottom step of the bus – it simply cannot pack another person in. The food on campus, however, is excellent. There are many cafeterias (called canteens) all around campus, packed with stalls offering a wide varieties of food, they are staffed with friendly (mostly) people who sometimes don’t speak English. The cost of food on campus is also cheap compared to outside, NUS subsidize (more…)

Vietnam

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

vietnam2.JPGAfter Cambodia I went to Vietnam. From Siem Reap it took about 12 hours by bus to get Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon. The first thing I did in Ho Chi Minh City was to get a taste of local cuisine. One person from our party had some relatives in Ho Chi Minh, and she took us to a popular local pho house. The pho was good, but I thought Pho Tran Brothers on the Ave back home is better.

vietnam1.JPGThe traffic is Ho Chi Minh is horrendous, once outside you are greeted by thousands of scooter bikes flowing down the street, which is impossible to cross. Good thing we didn’t stay long in Ho Chi Minh, the second morning I went to a charming little town about seven hours north of Ho Chi Minh called Dalat, capital of the Lam Dong province. After months in a tropical climate the coolness of this mountainous town was much appreciated. For the first time since I arrived in Singapore, I had to wear a sweater every time I went out.

Dalat is famous for its scenic waterfalls and beautiful French architecture from the colonial periods. This was a great contrast from the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh, and I enjoyed my stay very much.

Cambodia

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

cambodia1.JPGDuring the recess week I went to Cambodia to visit the world famous Angkor temples in Siem Reap. Mostly people probably have heard of Angkor Wat, which has been featured on every Cambodian flag since 1863, but the Angkor Archaeological Park contains much more than just Angkor Wat. Temples such as Angkor Thom and Bayon are also part of the huge complex that takes days to tour.

cambodia2.JPGI spent about three days in Siem Reap (the tourist hub and gateway to the temples) and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. I have seen the sunrise at Angkor Wat and breathtaking sunset on Tonlé Sap Lake (largest fresh water lake in SE Asia), where people live in floating villages. The local food somewhat resembles Thai cuisine and is excellent. Among all of the countries I have been to in SE Asia, Cambodia has been the most interesting and worthwhile place to visit.

Kuala Lumpur

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

kuala-lumpur.JPGSingapore is the gateway to Southeast Asia; from here many great tourist locations are within reach. Last weekend I had the chance to visit Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia with my new friends in Singapore.

We departed at 10PM on Friday and after 6 hours on the bus we arrived in KL at 4AM the next day. After a brief rest we headed to the famous Petronas Twin Towers, after waiting in line for about an hour we got the tickets to go on to the skybridge on the 41st floor. From there we got to see an overview of the city center.

Food in Malaysia is very similar to food found in Singapore; it’s a mix of Indian, Malay, and Chinese. Most people in Malaysia spoke either Chinese or English so we had no problems with communication. Besides a few landmark buildings and delicious food, KL is also a major shopping city. There are many malls around city center and the prices are often half of those in Singapore. And that’s what we did for the most part besides sightseeing.

Before Leaving

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Here are a few things to check out before leaving or deciding to exchange with the National University of Singapore:

University of Wisconsin has a very informative site regarding the exchange programs it offers, UW (University of Washington) should look here for inspiration:
General Information from University of Wisconsin
Student Feedback from University of Wisconsin

National University of Singapore also has some useful pages for reference:
Pre-departure checklist

When applying for housing, make sure to apply for PRINCE GEORGE’S PARK RESIDENCES, this is the hall mostly for international exchange students so the chances of getting accommodation is higher.

Some more random/useful facts:

  • Capital One credit cards don’t charge a forex fee.
  • Public transportation is convenient and taxis are inexpensive.
  • There are three local GSM carriers: SingTel, Starhub, and M1, I recommend Starhub for SMS, bring an unlocked phone and a SIM card can be purchased for S$18 (passport required).
  • Electric outlets are different in Singapore, but don’t buy overpriced adapters in the US, they are everywhere and very cheap in Singapore.

Time has flown by…

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Time has flown by and I can’t believe how long it has been since my last post. Finals just finished up in Singapore, and now 8.jpgit is time to head back home. School out here has been a unique experience out here all the way through finals (which take place in a giant gymnasium with about 800 other students). I really took advantage of being in a new place by venturing outside my comfort zone and trying some classes that had absolutely nothing to do with my major, and instead focused on topics like Singapore business law and Asian history.

Part of the reason why I chose to come to Singapore was the fact that I was going on my own, without knowing anyone before hand. While that made the first few days kind of rough, it was the best decision I could have made in choosing a study abroad location. The network of friends I have made around the world from being here for 5 months astonishes me, and I 7.jpgcan’t wait to visit many of them in the future.

As other blog posts have mentioned, one of the best parts of studying abroad is being able to experience other countries and traveling. South East Asia is an amazing culture shock for anyone who has never visited third world countries before. From Malaysia, to Thailand, to Indonesia, to the Philippines, and many many more, these places are where the real experiences of study abroad are made. I finished up my last bit of traveling by heading down to Bali for a few days. As is always the case when visiting a country for the first time, I had an amazing time. We managed to randomly run into about 15 other exchange students from NUS (National University of Singapore) and SMU (Singapore Management University) every time we turned around. It really was a perfect cap to an amazing semester. From the beaches to renting scooter bikes and exploring the island, there was always something to do. I am excited to give white rice a break and have a nice big sandwich, but I am definitely not looking forward to needing a jacket when I get back home.

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If any of you have any questions about Singapore or SE Asia in general, feel free to reach out and I would be more then happy to be of any assistance. See you back in Seattle.

Cheers,
Neal