singapore week 8.5: final days (07/29/19-07/31/19)

And the time has come to showcase the bittersweet ending to the best summer of my life. My final days in Singapore were spent exploring like usual, but with a bit of sadness at each step taken on the spotless streets and each view of another architectural marvel of a skyscraper. I was ready to leave, but also completely reluctant.

Here’s a recap of my last three days on the island. Not the end of my Singapore posts and definitely not an end to my adventures on this island (I’m looking at you, post-grad trip), but nonetheless a semicolon that concludes my SMURF experience. I will be back again one day, but nothing will be able to replicate Summer 2019.

After concluding work early in the afternoon with my final presentations, I headed to the National Museum of Singapore. It was medium-sized, almost completely empty, with several sets of galleries grouped by date and some pretty fascinating historical pieces.
Took a short walk around Fort Canning Park afterward. Never got to fully explore this place, unfortunately — perhaps something for next time.
A view of the sunset (and Malaysia!) from a coworker’s home in Punggol!
After the end of the second day of final presentations, I paid one last visit to the Botanic Gardens, and the views were just as gorgeous as before. I spent a lot of time admiring various bodies of water and snapping many photos.
Like seriously, everything is so aesthetically pleasing here!
Also paid a final visit to the Gardens by the Bay to purchase some highly-coveted postcards. I actually made it just in time for the light show. And of course, it was just as crowded as before.
Last day at CREATE, where we said our final goodbyes. 🙁
Another lunch out with Jocelyn: our farewell meal this time at the buffet at Park Royal Raffles. I was still suffering from the past week’s food poisoning so I could barely stomach much of the food, but these photos make for hunger-inducing moments looking back
Headed to the Singapore Gallery afterward — one of the few remaining places on my bucket list. Saw an interesting contemporary art exhibit called “Awakenings”, but sadly did not have enough time to explore further
My last meal in Singapore at the Old Airport Road Food Centre, one of the largest hawker centers on the island. We were generously treated to some of the most authentic Singaporean delicacies by our mentor and his wife, including char kway teow, satay, popiah, and cuttlefish.
And one final adventure before I left for the airport early next morning (also somewhat of a regretful experience). Decided to take a 50 minute MRT to the Jurong Lake Gardens (for some reason), but it was completely dark by the time I got there so I wasn’t able to see any of the sights. My phone was also out of data, so I couldn’t Grab back to Treetops. So I decided to wait by the road for any random bus that passed by and finally hopped on one that took me to the Westgate mall. There, I tried to connect to Starbuck’s free wifi to call a Grab but my old phone refused to load the internet popup… so I ended up still having to take the MRT once again. After four transfers and nearly an hour later, I arrived back at Orchard late at night still needing to pack up all my belongings for a 7am flight tomorrow (all while still feeling extremely sick from the food poisoning). So yeah… quite an adventure and probably not the best way to end my final night in SG.
And one final shot of the Treetops lobby before I left for the airport Thursday morning. Really miss this place (especially the breakfasts).
Finally, the photo (aka the title slide for my final presentation) to conclude my Singapore adventures and one that basically sums up my entire summer. This was the best summer I’ve ever had and probably the best I will ever have so thanks Singapore and hope to see you again soon :’)

“And we were there, with our hearts completely filled.” -Steve Kaetzel (So Alone)

the final full week (07/22/2019 – 07/28/2019)

Like the title says, this was my final full week in Singapore. By then, I had gotten over the anxiety surrounding my limited days and had accepted that I would be leaving soon. All the weeks of traveling and exploring, though fulfilling, had been exhausting, so I was ready to move on to my next destination (Beijing) and spend the rest of my summer doing a lot of nothing (how ironic that that’s exactly what I would be doing a full year later — for four whole months).

Nonetheless, I used these final days to visit some last places on my bucket list and try out some food items that I hadn’t been able to try before. And of course, take my final weekend trip — to Krabi, Thailand — our most relaxing trip yet, full of beautiful beaches, views, and a little bit of food poisoning. (I never did find the culprit, but I suspect it was the mango that I had purchased from Little India the week before. Remember that?)

After transiting through the Buona Vista station countless times on the way back from work, I finally got off the stop and wandered around the Star Vista, a nearby mall with a uniquely majestic layout. And saw my first Singapore rainbow. 🙂
After observing the long lines at ION Orchard for weeks, I finally tried Heytea (where I would frequent many more times in Beijing)! It was definitely top quality, from the creamy cheese foam to the fruity blend. Can’t wait to spill my wallet here again.
I decided to stop by the Ghim Moh Road Food Centre on the way to work to try the famous min jiang kuehs from a hawker stall called Granny’s Pancake (that had been featured on InsiderFood), and I crave the pancake to this day. Think of a super fluffy pancake with a slightly crispy exterior, layered with a generous serving of ground peanuts, butter, and sugar, and served with a warm cup of soymilk. Yum.
A meal from Ah Chiang’s congee, after an evening, walk around Tiong Bahru after work. The congee itself was honestly kind of mediocre (despite the popularity of the stall), but Tiong Bahru is a neighborhood that I would definitely visit again (perhaps during the day next time). Aside from cute bookstores and intricate architecture, its streets boasted some of the best bakeries in town. (I highly recommend anything from the Tiong Bahru Galicier bakery if you ever visit)
And voila, the product of 8 weeks of hard work, frustration, Googling, and sorting through hundreds of jumper wires. My project — an automated pressure system for microfluidics — is finally complete and assembled.
Hello Krabi! We arrived in Thailand Friday morning and immediately headed to the beach. This was taken on the boat ride to the Railay Beach (during which I puked for the second time), featuring some of the clearest waters ever.
A row of boats lined up on the Railay Beach, where we truly relaxed. I did nothing but sip on Thai tea, nap, and read for the entire afternoon.
Sunset on Ao Nang beach, closer to our hotel and more crowded, but just as picturesque.
A stall full of rambutans (which I consumed way too many of on that trip) at the KrabiTown Night Market, where I purchased an entire summer’s worth of souvenirs.
And more shots from our 4-Island Tour the next day. Still sad that I missed out on the snorkeling, but at least I got to thoroughly enjoy this view.
After getting back from Krabi Sunday evening, we headed to Chinatown for the 50 cent food festival, where vendors sold specialized dishes for only 50 cents. I had the Michelin-starred chicken rice from Hawker Chan but felt too sick afterward to try any of the 50 cent items. :/
Enjoy this amusing mural though!

singapore week 7: n a t u r e (07/15/2019 – 07/21/2019)

Can’t believe it’s already week 7! After an exhausting and exhilarating weekend in Bali, I was more than ready to be back in Singapore for a two-week travel hiatus. This was my final full weekend on the island, so I decided to do some additional exploring and hit up as many places left on my bucket list as possible. Yes, this was the weekend where I visited six parks in a single day and thoroughly immersed myself in the orderly kind of nature that Singapore seemed great at artificially erecting.

My first trip to Little India, where I got very excited at a fruit stand and purchased one of each kind of mangoes they offered. (one of which might have given me food poisoning. more on that later)
Visiting Haidilao Hotpot with coworkers! One of my favorite hotpot chains in China, every visit is an experience. Though pretty pricey even for hotpot, they offer some unique services such as manicures as you wait in line and a continuous stream of complimentary fruits and beverages.
A view of the CBD from the Singapore Flyer. I would honestly recommend riding this near sunset (or at least during the daytime), as my night vision was not so great. Still a stunning site though.
And almost the same view from Ce La Vi at the top of the Marina Bay Sands! Though the bar was very crowded because it was Wednesday night (aka Ladies’ Night), it gave us a taste of that bougie life that all the expats in Singapore seemed to enjoy.
A compass showing a timeline of Singapore’s history, taken at Fort Canning Park when we visited the Bicentennial Experience, an exhibition commemorating key moments from Singapore’s 700-year history.
More amazing desserts from Ah Chew’s during another visit to Bugis Dessert Street.
Destination #1 of my nature exploration: Bukit Batok Nature Reserve
Destination #2: Little Guilin, or Bukit Batok Town Park
Destination #3: Jurong Lake Gardens
Destination #4: Hort Park
Destination #5: The Southern Ridges
And finally, the view of the city from the Henderson Waves, a bridge that connects the Southern Ridges to Mount Faber Park (my final destination)
Finally tried Chili Crab! The meal nearly killed my wallet but was so good!
And ended my day with a trip to the Night Safari to take blurry photos of animals doing… basically nothing.
The next day, I FINALLY visited the Botanic Gardens even though it’s only a 10min walk away from Treetops. I can’t believe I didn’t visit sooner — this place is absolutely beautiful! The perfect arena for Instagram models and botany enthusiasts alike.

how many acai bowls is too many? singapore (and bali!) week 6 (07/07/19-07/14/19)

This was probably the most adventurous and picturesque week yet! I can dedicate an entire post to a single day in Bali (or food from a single day), but the photos are worth much more than the words I can string together, so here are just some highlights out of the 1000ish pics accumulated that week.

Evening views from Holland Village, where a friend and I managed to get seats at Nakhon Kitchen before the inevitable nighttime queue. Great vibes and great curry.
Roasted duck from Crystal Jade! (among other delicacies) Shoutout to Prof. Alm for taking us there and a very interesting conversation about education in America. I appreciated your takes almost as much as I appreciated the glaze and plum sauce 🙂
And we are finally in Bali! After a 5am flight, we started the day at Padang Padang beach, where my friends attended surfing lessons while I just napped under the shade of a rock. (Wish I had tried surfing as well, but my decision-making process was a little clouded by 4 hours of sleep. oops.)

Smoothie bowl #1, enjoyed at a nice cafe with an ocean view after a morning of beaching.
Beach #2: Nyang Nyang beach, a largely isolated strip that’s accessed through a stairway. Lots of cool rocks and shells on the sand, and a pretty good partial view of the sunset.
We drove up from Uluwatu to Ubud on our second day and stopped by the amazing Beji Guwang Hidden Canyon on the way. We enjoyed a full tour of the canyon, wading through the water several times (and even swinging across a channel on a vine once) and climbed along the curvature of the rocks. Definitely a hidden gem if you’re near Sukawati!
Smoothie bowl #2: Enjoyed in a nice yoga-studio-cafe-hybrid in Ubud after walking through the art market.
A Balinese house in Ubud!
Taken during our bike tour of the rice paddies. It was definitely interesting seeing these in person after working with rice for so many years in the lab!
And more picturesque views of the rice terraces! (did I mention all of our tour guides were basically Instagram boyfriends? they can get all the good angles)
Sampling a selection of coffee from a Luwak coffee plant (basically, coffee made from partially digested coffee cherries that have been eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet). Most of these were too sweet, though I recall some pretty exotic flavors (such as pandan, the green one)
Aaand day 3, featuring probably the most adventurous part of the trip with the most beautiful view yet: watching the sunrise from Mount Batur, an active volcano, after waking up at 2am for one of the most strenuous hikes of my life. The sore legs and freezing temperatures were well worth it.
More views from the top, clouds and all. It got pretty crowded right around sunrise, though I was kind of thankful because more people = more heat and it was still freezing.
And the view from the hot springs afterward — a very relaxing end to the hike down (not nearly as rough as the hike up, but the pound of dirt that got in my shoes did not help)
Smoothie bowl #3: Also from the streets of Ubud after we had acquired all of the needed souvenirs (including a cutting board)
Visited the Sukawati Hidden Waterfall on our drive back to the airport. A little too crowded for my tastes, but still very pretty of course.
Beach #3: (And the final stop before the airport): catching our last beach sunset in Bali! A perfect end to one of the most eventful weekends of my life.

singapore week 5: more city adventures yay (07/01/2019-07/07/2019)

Wow, we are already on week 5 of my Singapore adventures (and week 5 of my fruitless quarantine summer). This was another week of good food, city explorations, and a very strange award show-like celebration of SMART’s birthday. I’ll save most of the food for a later post, but enjoy some more random pics I guess.

Just a shot of the stage from SMART’s 12th birthday celebration. Held at another fancy Singaporean hotel, the event was a combination of an awards ceremony, a game show, and, surprisingly, a lot of dancing. Although the coordination was a little strange, the host a little cringey (and the SMURF performance kind of a disaster), good food and fancy clothes were enough to make it an enjoyable night.
The view from my walk at West Coast Park after work. Unlike East Coast Park, its western counterpart was a lot smaller, more industrial, and less tranquil (being near a major freeway), but I still enjoyed the nice view of the ocean and various ships docked nearby.
Sungei Road Laksa, a famous laksa joint that was recommended by the one and only Mike Chen. We waited thirty minutes in line for a delicately prepared bowl eaten with just a spoon. It was definitely a quality dish, though I personally was not a big fan of the strong seafood flavor from the oysters. Still worth a try though!
Some old Peranakan shophouses near Beach Road. This was definitely an older part of town, lacking the usual glass-paneled skyscrapers but charming nonetheless.
And after nearly five weeks in Singapore, I paid my first visit to Sentosa Island, a manmade island off the southern coast. Though the long strips of beaches and picturesque terrain had their appeals, I couldn’t say that I was a fan. The entire island seemed overly artificial and highly touristy, a little like the theme parks in the U.S.
The Merlion at Sentosa, one of seven in Singapore. While some have made it their bucket list to visit all seven, this was, unfortunately, the only one I caught a pic with.