faces and places (Oct – Dec ’15)

I had 3 free months between the end of my Masters programme and the start of work and I had quite a blast during this period of time. I travelled to one of the most remote places on earth with my cousin; I went home and spent time with lovely people whom I have not seen for a year; I went for intensive driving classes and got my license. 🙂 Homecoming can’t be sweeter. Next 3 months will definitely be very different from these 3 months but I hope that there will be many nice moments that I will treasure and remember.


I left London for Madrid with my cousin Amandas on a Saturday morning. We wanted to get to Bolivia and the cheapest option from Europe was a round-trip from Madrid to La Paz via Miami with Iberia (not the most organized airline out day). We flew quite a bit and the trip started off with a series of misadventures. To begin with, the Airbnb host in Madrid thought that 12 pm, which was our arrival time, meant 12 at night instead of 12 in the day and he was adamant that we were the ones who got the am/ pm mixed up. In the end, we cancelled the booking and hastily booked a room to stay in Madrid. We experienced another round of miscommunication when we went to a tapas bar for food after we checked in and we asked for the bill but the lady gave us a beer instead. What was really memorable was how we didn’t know we needed a US tourist visa to transit in Miami so we had a mad rush in the airport to get the visa as quickly as we could so as to catch our flight. Besides the hiccups, we had a pretty nice time in Madrid. We ate delicious yet sinful chocolate con churros, we visited two museums, we visited a few parks and we watched the Madrid football derby in a local bar. We were surprised to see Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple built in 200 BC, in Madrid. It was supposedly a gift from Egypt to Spain to thank the latter for saving the temples of Abu Simbel.



Bolivia was quite an interesting experience and somehow we managed by with very little knowledge of Spanish. La Paz is 3650 m above sea level and we found ourselves short of breath really quickly after walking a short distance. Our Airbnb host offered us some coca tea which allegedly helps to relieve altitude sickness. The active ingredient found in coca tea is cocaine but the concentration is so low that it will not make you high. La Paz has a fairly messy public transport system, the mini-buses stop wherever they want to pick up or drop passengers. What really amazes us is the urban cable car system. Cable cars are usually found in tourist spots but come to think of it, cable car is a fairly efficient mode of transport – no traffic congestion, it does not even stop for people to hop on and off!

We got to Copacabana from La Paz via a 4h bus ride. The bus journey took us through remote landscapes and at one point, the bus went through very rough terrain because the original road was closed. Copacabana is a town located next to Lake Titicaca which straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia in the Andes Mountains. The lake is one of South America’s largest lakes and the world’s highest navigable body of water at 3812 m. We stayed in an eco-lodge in Copacabana for 2 nights and we got to enjoy this beautiful scenery while lazing on the hammock! 🙂 We did a ~5 h hike on the sparsely populated Isla del Sol the following day and the views along the hike were simply incredible.



We took the bus back from Copacabana to La Paz and we visited Valle de la Luna which was ~30 min car ride away from the city. Valle de la Luna is the result of many years of erosion experienced by a mountain that is primarily made up of clay. We felt like we were on Mars!



We took a 5 day tour with Banjo Tour from La Paz to Salar de Uyuni via Sajama National Park. The tour was great and we had really awesome company with 15 other tourists from different countries. The only minus point was that the weather was simply brutal. In the day, it was really hot and at times so windy that the small stones hit your face. At night, it was really cold and thermal wear was definitely essential for us to get through the night. We saw many animals on the tour, such as llamas, alpacas, vicunas, flamingos and viscachas. I remember we had a hot spring inside the Sajama National Park in the evening and it was such a great experience.



The “highlight” of the tour was of course Salar de Uyuni which covers 11,000 square km (Singapore is only 714 square km by comparison!!!). We were lucky to see the salt flats both at sunrise as well as at sunset. In the day, we made multiple stops in the middle of nowhere in the salt flats and took many nice photos, below is one photo that I really like. 🙂 We also visited Incahuasi Island – an “island” surrounded by the salt flats which is covered by many cacti. Our guide Ben told us that a cactus grows at an average rate of 1 cm/ year so a 4 m tall cactus is ~ 400 years old!!!



I spent a few days in London to pack my stuff and meet some people before I finally flew back to Singapore. I am very happy to be finally home. 🙂 I met up with Weijie on a Friday night at ION Orchard. We ate xiaolongbaos (my favourite!) at Paradise Dynasty, walked down the shopping street and had peanuts bingsu at Nunsaram Korean Dessert Cafe in Orchard Central for dessert. He was really funny, he accidentally laughed while eating the bingsu and he claimed to have choked on the peanuts. We need to write a risk assessment for eating this delicious Korean dessert. XD



I spent Halloween with Singyee, it was so great to see her again after a year! We watched a free concert at Fort Canning Park and had dinner in a nice Japanese restaurant by the river at Boat Quay. Initially, we wanted to take part in the Halloween event at Asian Civilization Museum (ACM). Unfortunately, the event was targeting a younger audience and it was too childish for us. So we went back to Fort Canning Park for the music event, drank some beer while lazing on the grass. We even bumped into an old classmate Cheryl at the event! It was also through that event that I got to know INch who is a nice, stylish local artiste. Singyee and I went for her EP launch later in November and I especially like the part when the audience sang along to Dust that moves, “And all that survives is dust that moves, all that survives is not me not you…”



Dr Ang, my supervisor for my final year project in NUS, held his tenure party at NUSS Suntec City Guild House one Friday evening. I was really happy to see him as well as the other friends whom I have made in the lab. 🙂 After the dinner, some of us went for drinks at the fancy IndoChine restaurant at the Suntec City rooftop garden. Here’s a happy photo of his lab group in AY 13/14.



That was quite an intense day of meeting people for me. I started the day with a little gathering with Singyee, Xieyi and Kurinchi for brunch at PS Cafe. After that, we went to Isetan to get some free food samples (aunties-to-be) before we took the elevator to the sky garden at ION Orchard and enjoyed really good views of Singapore from a vantage point. 🙂  I met Valerie for tea in the afternoon and we attempted to craft her personal statement for her application to medical school. I hope she managed well! For dinner, I ate Korean food with the fellow chemistry teachers and it’s funny how our lives have diverged in just a year. Because everyone is teaching in different schools, they experience different things and have different takeaways. Some are at a different stage in life already – Guohui is getting married in December and Sabrina has already submitted her BTO application. I just hope that everyone is happy being where they are in their respective lives and we will continue to stay in touch. 🙂



Savethatpen organized a learning journey to Senoko Waste to Energy Plant in the Woodlands Industrial Park one Monday morning. Why waste to energy? What the plant does is that the heat generated from the burning of waste is used to heat water. The heating process converts water into steam which is channeled into steam turbines to generate electricity. Fun fact: the electricity generated through this process is all the plant needs to keep the plant running. Furthermore, Senoko Plant even sells some of the electricity back to the national grid. That is how much waste we generate, Singaporeans! We also learnt that some high-end consumer companies, such as Gucci, actually send their own disposal trucks to throw their merchandise from the previous season. How wasteful is that!



Weijie and I did ice-skating at Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay and I was still really bad at it but he was really nice and encouraging. After that little bit of exercise, we went to have nice pizzas before we headed over to Marina float and had a quick look at the Heart Map. “Home is where the heart is.” Indeed! ❤



I went for a short holiday with my family to Hong Kong in December. Hong Kong is still as busy as I have remembered it to be. What has changed since 2012 is an extension of the blue line – the line ends at Kennedy Town instead of Sheung Wan. We had a good mix of walking in the city, exploring the nature and trying out the different food that the city offers. Hong Kong is a charming city and I am beginning to see what sets it apart from other cities in Asia. In Asia, there is a general frenzy about modernizing the city and embracing changes to the way things are done. What makes Hong Kong different is how it manages to modernize itself but at the same time, it still embraces the old and traditional ways of doing things, e.g. the Star Ferry, old ways of making Wanton Noodles and the dingding trams. Here’s a happy picture of us at Lantau Island. It was foggy when we were there so that made the whole place feel even more mysterious!




We did a day trip to Macau while we were in Hong Kong. We took the ferry which was about an hour long to get to Macau from the ferry terminal in Hong Kong. It is a bit confusing initially because there are two ferry terminals in Macau and we were not so sure which terminal we wanted to go to. We walked around the old city before we visited the casino at the Venetian. The hotels are incredibly luxurious and they are mostly occupied by tourists from Mainland China. What we remember best about Macau is definitely the nice immigration officer at the ferry terminal in Macau. I forgot to take my passport back from the staff (how careless of me) after I have signed up for the Sands membership and I only realized that my passport was not with me at the immigration. The very nice immigration officer liaised with the hotel staff on my behalf and gave me the number of the person who found my passport. I went back to the hotel on my own to retrieve the passport. He even helped us to change all our ferry tickets to a later time.  I am a really lucky girl!



I ended the year with a Christmas party at Guohui’s new apartment by East Coast Park. What amazing views from the windows in his flat! We had pizza, drank Pimm’s and play games. We laughed a lot during the games, especially during Saboteur! I hope that in 2016, we will keep this attitude in mind – when life gives us lemons, we can make lemonade which can be used to make delicious Pimm’s. 🙂



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