The Straits Times

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


As a kid, I'd mail my essays and drawings to "1000 Toa Payoh North", handwriting every single envelope. A select few of my works will be published in either 大拇指 (Thumbs Up, a Chinese language newspaper catered to primary school kids) or in a section of 联合早报 (Lianhe Zaobao) on Sundays. No - I wasn't particularly great in Mandarin, but the English publications at Singapore Press Holdings didn't have a section that featured children's works.

They'd occasionally mail me royalties (amounting to $10, $15 or $20) for having my works published. I'd be delighted.

And being able to work at that same address as a journalist intern during the most recent summer break has been quite the dream.

Sure, it wasn't a bed of roses - one can probably imagine the sheer pressure of writing for Singapore's most widely circulated newspaper, having to ensure that you get all the facts right, not misquote anyone, and of course, accurately capture the news point. Yet, I can safely say that I enjoyed every single day I spent in The Straits Times newsroom, even the time when I worked for nineteen hours straight.

Now let's backtrack a little. I shall be completely honest in this post because I believe that my experiences can potentially help someone else make a more informed decision, and because I think a lot of the SPH internship experience blog posts floating around on the Internet are fairly outdated. 

So how did I end up working for SPH? I applied for their mid-term journalism scholarship, and after a writing test and an interview, they offered me an internship. I had initially planned on focusing on O'Week related stuff during the summer period, but I'm immensely thankful to my friends who  understood how important this was to me, and covered when I was gone at times. 

All that aside, the first time I stepped into the newsroom was surreal. I was greeted by framed newspaper articles of memorable events in history, huge print-outs of sections of the newspaper hanging from the wall, screens at the "hub" that flashed out breaking news, and the editors of the paper (okay - I'll admit, we were always the most excited to see Sumiko Tan in the flesh haha).  

Right from the start, expectations were laid out for us - see your supervisor before going for any assignment; always always bring your notebook along with you; ask the PR person for as much details first; keep asking questions - no question is ever stupid; email your story over to the online team 5 mins after the end of the event (important due to the emergence of social and online media); fact check fact check fact check, there's no way we can afford publishing something erroneous. 

I didn't expect it at all, but interns were treated like real journalists and given actual responsibilities in the company, which I was very thankful for. I was honestly quite surprised at the level of trust they had in us. We were assigned to cover events on our own without any guidance at all (my first assignment on my third day was a ministerial event, and I went there with a photographer colleague). Being constantly pushed out of my comfort zone allowed me to learn so much in the process. 

Every single day working there was exciting. Interns weren't assigned a beat, and covered every topic from transport, education and health, to community causes and human stories. I definitely can't encapsulate my experiences in a single blog post, but every single article I wrote (which you can read here) has a backstory behind the actual story itself.  

I shall list some of the more memorable moments of my internship here, mostly for my own archival purposes:
  • Waiting for wild boars to appear at Tuas bus interchange (the most ulu bus interchange in Singapore, I daresay). 
  • Going back to NUS Business School for an interview and trying to appear all professional and distant, only to have the school's PR representative ask me, "so which year are you in?" because they already did a search and knew that I am a student from the school.
  • Writing a full-page article for the Science column even though I failed my science subjects all through secondary school. 
  • Drinking the OG Singapore Sling on the job, because it was used during the shoot for my feature on Raffles Hotel. 
  • Staking out for six hours at Clarke Quay awaiting a corpse to emerge from the Singapore River (nothing emerged during my time there).
  • Camping at shopping mall car parks around the island waiting for eco-friendly cars to drive by. 
  • Having cute mini-vans that send all employees home safely if they are working after 11pm (yes, it's super cute - the drivers end up remembering where you stay after you take the transport once or twice) and knocking my head twice when boarding and exiting. 
There were many other intense experiences, but some of which deal with sensitive issues I shall not mention here. One particular day was pretty crazy for me though, where I worked from 6am till 1am the next day. It was Friday and I had three articles due for publication on Saturday, Sunday and Monday - and I didn't want to come back over the weekend to file them. 

One of these articles was a Sunday Times feature, and there was a lot of scheduling conflicts and unconfirmed details. To add on to it, no photographers were available for the shoot because it was Racial Harmony Day that day - so I told my editor, "I sometimes take photos as a hobby," which was a huge risk in itself. 

On Friday morning, I headed to the interviewee's house to take photos and videos of her, rushed off to a diary event of a mosque's reopening and went back to the office to file three stories (usually we file one a day). It was madness. The next day, my mosque article was published. On Sunday, I was greeted by my story and the photo I took on the front page of the Sunday Times. The story even gained viral attention online as well, with over three thousand shares. And on Monday, my other article on eco-friendly parking lots got to the second page of the Prime section. Worth it. 

It was undeniably an exhausting nine weeks, yet it's probably one of the most - if not the most - fulfilling experiences of my life and I seriously wish I got to do it for a longer time. I sorely miss chasing and writing stories. 

Sure, many Singaporeans may diss The Straits Times, its management and its supposed government ties (I have my own take on this, but you can ask me in real life for my opinion), but I personally felt that it was a pretty nurturing environment. Copyeditors were strict with our standard of English, yet offered praise when you turned in a great story, and editors who were concerned whenever you stayed in the office for too long - "go home please", "take half day off tomorrow", "come in later tomorrow", "go get dinner", they'd say. 

According to a copyeditor whom I bumped into and spoke to after my internship was over, the morale in the newsroom was a lot lower than it was say, 10 years ago. The emergence of online media outlets has put immense pressure on the management, and from my very limited perspective of the office, having to churn out daily content didn't leave much room or time for them to innovate and try new things - yet, they are still trying. 

Mainstream media in Singapore has much room to improve but I left the newsroom with a whole load of respect and appreciation for the people that make the paper.

As for me, what happened at the end of it all? The internship has affirmed what I already knew - that I love telling stories, and I really don't get sick of using writing as a medium to do so. Day in, day out, writing and writing and writing, yet I was always fueled by energy and enthusiasm. It was never boring. Never. 

In terms of the scholarship, I was given the opportunity to go for the final interview. But it was clear to everyone in the room, myself included, that I was and still am not ready at this point of my life to dedicate myself wholeheartedly to journalism, or more specifically to SPH as a company. There are many factors, but on a personal level my interests have also diversified after attending university and being exposed to other industries. Journalism remains a huge love and passion of mine, and it breaks my heart that the field isn't given enough room to flourish in Singapore. 

It would take more than one person to make a difference to the industry - for example, making a difference to media laws or revolutionizing the way stories are told in the current Internet landscape. When the time comes, hopefully I'll find myself doing what I believe I'm meant to do. 

I am definitely humbled to have gotten the chance to speak to the Editor-in-Chief though, and to have shared my thoughts about the future of the industry. Above all, the entire internship has been an amazing experience no less, and I'm grateful to have experienced everything first-hand. Seven-year-old Li Yin will surely be thrilled at this - why, even 20-year-old Li Yin is. 
Read More

Checking In

Saturday, November 18, 2017

No comments

Why, hello there.

It has been six months since I last updated this space, and I'm really quite disappointed with myself for not checking in here more often. I've essentially missed out on writing about how I spent my first summer break in university as well as the first semester of year two of university - two periods of time in a really long while that I found myself truly growing, and truly enjoying everything that's happening around me. 

But hey, I'll be clearing my backlog the moment finals are over, and hopefully everything stays fresh in my mind. For whom to read though, I'll never know. This blog has literally faded into obscurity (if you google my name - which I am guilty of doing quite often - it's no longer one of the top search results unlike in the past). That said, I will never let this blog die, it's so nice to have a place where I get to freely share my thoughts, and archive my memories, and open it up to anyone who's interested enough to stumble upon it. 

Plus, I've kept my winter relatively free (yes - no surprise internships, not many school commitments and no overseas trips) so I'll be on here more often. Truly can't wait to chill out, and write for writing's sake. 

Yes, I know, writing without a purpose sounds like a bad idea, but after spending my entire summer break writing for Singapore's largest broadsheet, I really just need to set aside time to write for myself. Borrowing the words of a medium article I chanced upon: 

"Many of us self-proclaimed writers often write because it feels good. It gives our brains a chance to catch up with the rest of our lives. It gives our minds a chance to make sense of the rest of our world. More importantly, it gives our feelings a chance to feel worth something." 

Beautifully encapsulated. I can't agree more.

Plus I do feel like my engine has been running on an overdrive ever since summer started (juggling internship with orientation responsibilities and a really long case competition) till now (overloading modules together with working as a marketing and communications assistant and handling CCA stuff). I really haven't had time to think about all the stuff I somehow piled onto my own plate. 

Thankfully I'm not burnt out yet - in fact everything's been pretty pleasant. Now I just need to survive finals and give myself a nice, slow-paced break this winter. 

For now, I'd just like to share that I feel like I'm in a really, really good place in terms of my emotional well-being. Going to school doesn't feel that much of a chore and I do look forward to every single day, possibly because many of the modules I chose this semester are topics I actually do fancy. 

Also, I don't feel unnecessarily stressed out by the highly-judgmental environment business school places us in anymore because I've come to realize that these judgements really don't matter (sure, it's cliche but it's true). I've learnt to focus on what's important, and the thought that I have complete control over how my future plays out is giving me a lot of adrenaline and drive to do well in the areas my heart desires. I've also become more open to the thought of meeting new people, it doesn't intimidate me anymore and I really like that. I think it's partly because I'm now a lot more comfortable in my own skin, and all the training I got as a pseudo journalist. 

I shall end this post with two terrible shots from my film roll (yes - not that Gudak stuff yo) this semester. I don't know what's up with this batch but these are the only acceptable ones, and even these are blurry. Oh well, I do quite like them still. Reminds us that there's beauty in mundane places. 

Sunset at UTown - I spent a whole load of my time here while preparing for my mid-term tests. And even stayed overnight here trying to complete two submissions (I stayed up for 45 hours straight, which was memorable but not advisable).

View from a route that takes me from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences to Business School, which I somehow found myself walking on a lot this semester. 
Read More

Past Three Months

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

No comments

It's been a while, it really has been. My unintended hiatus lasted for way too long, but I am indeed alive and well (and looking real happy in this most recent photo with some of the O'Week girls - it is summer, afterall). All of a sudden it feels foreign clicking to the Blogger dashboard and typing about casual and personal things, after a semester of churning out reports and research papers about topics I may not necessarily have genuine interest in, with the added pressure of having them graded. I have definitely missed this feeling of writing freely though. So very liberating.

In the span of time from my last post till now, there have been several developments in my life. I have discovered and been jamming to the timeless tunes of a K-pop group from the late 90s, realized that I much preferred baking bread as opposed to cakes, and found that I spend way too much time watching Buzzfeed videos than I care to admit. Oh, and I also concluded my first year in university.

University. It still feels slightly weird introducing myself as a university student. It isn't that I haven't assimilated properly into student life, but there's just something a tad unsettling about the independence that university provides. I don't feel like I'm doing enough "student" things to consider myself to be one.

That aside, my freshman year really has been one hell of a ride. It hasn't been all that enjoyable, but I definitely am blessed, as I always have been. Blessed with the company of friends, both new and old. I don't think I really understand how loved I am until milestones like birthdays happen... and then I realize how much people do care about me. I am so undeserving, but immensely thankful. Yes, I'm sorry - I am aware that my birthday happened a good three months ago, but it was one that I truly want to remember.

This is especially so because the transition into university was particularly rocky for me, as was making friends in Business School. Many of my close friends were overseas as well, and it was the first year we didn't have the convenience of school to celebrate birthdays for one another. I was thus so overwhelmed and shocked even, by all the love that poured in from everyone. I wasn't expecting anything and appreciate every single little well-wish that came in. I think that it is only as one gets older does one really understand the meaning of "it's the thought that counts".

Here are some people that I feel I really need to thank though, for all the effort they put into making me feel loved, as well as the difference they've made in my life this past year, or beyond.

Thank you O'Week for surprising me at Sentosa during Internal Dry Run in front of all the sub-comms with ice cream cakes! The blindfolding and having so many people I haven't gotten to know yet sing me a birthday song did not do well for my social awkwardness, but I'm really super touched. Joining you guys was definitely one of the best decisions I made in university. 

And O'Week again with another ice cream cake?! I really did not see this coming and I shouldn't have gone if I knew that you guys were going to get me another cake, sigh it's so expensive. Backstory was that we were going to support Roy at his acapella concert, and it actually fell on my actual birthday. Thank you so much masterminds Larry and Weiliang for going all the way to Seletar Mall to find me a mango flavoured ice cream cake, effort really off the charts. 

Thank you so much Huiting, Raenyse and Kaiwen for the lovely date at Suntec, and the immensely thoughtful gifts. You guys are too sweet. I don't think I would've survived this past semester without the three of you around giving me advice and encouragement. Even though I rarely reciprocate all the love you guys shower on me, please know that I treasure every single bit of it a lot. 

Thank you Ragini for the great dinner at Strangers' Reunion (my last dinner as a teenager!), and for being a constant in my life all the way from the tiny little secondary one schoolkids we were. I really can't express how much you mean to me, and I love how every single minute I spend with you is filled with loads of laughter. 

These hotcakes were bomb, but way too filling (and I'd consider myself a big eater). Definitely recommend sharing this portion among three people, and hopefully the chef doesn't take offence to my unclean plate. 

Thank you Emily for sticking by my side for eleven years now, and for following me to places that require lots of walking and blood-feeding mosquitoes (though not without complains). Being in your company is always fun, and I'm always thankful for someone who knows me inside-out and who's seen all sides of me - the ugly and the good. 

This french toast is hands-down the best one we've eaten (both of us agree). And thank you Boufe Cafe for the free birthday cake, even though I was slightly upset I didn't managed to get the unicorn one that I've been eyeing on Instagram because it was sold out by the time we got there. 

Thank you Chris for being a constant in my life as well, I appreciate your company so much. Even though you get embarrassed by all my weird antics, I know you secretly find it endearing. You definitely mean a lot to me, and you make studying at UTown a lot more fun. 

And special shoutout to Sarah for the amazing gift and card sent through airmail from London. I miss you so very much, and can't wait to see you soon. Thank you so much for keeping me in your thoughts even from six thousand miles away.  

And of course, the number one constant in my life - family! Mama Yap's pictured here - she took leave to spend time with me and fed me with all my favourite foods (think burgers and cakes). We also had a cozy dinner at home over the weekend before my birthday with the best of the best - fried chicken!

Thank you. 

And here's to a great summer ahead of creating even more memories!
Read More


Monday, February 27, 2017

No comments

Here I am, in all my being.

My twenty-year-old being.

I don't ever publicly post up photos of myself taken with my phone camera. For one, the picture quality is shit (Sony D5323, if you really must know). And second, I'd probably look terrible too. I mean, if it wasn't shot by my actual camera I probably didn't anticipate this photo being taken. Sure, I did set the timer and took it myself but I suppose I didn't prepare myself... explicitly for it as opposed to putting a bit more effort in my outfit when I go out knowing that photos would be taken. Yeah, I know... sigh... millennials and their attention-seeking habits. Anyway, this was more of a spur of the moment, "hey, guess I'm bored, why not take a selfie?" kind of thing.

And so explains my tousled hair, and wire-rimmed Harry Potter-esque glasses in all its glory. You can tell by my eyes that I really wasn't looking into the camera. I was more concerned with how I showed up on the screen. And since we're going into the details, let's go into the parts you can't actually see--I was sitting at the dining table in my home, my phone propped up by a half-filled can of A&W root beer. Not my top choice of beverage because of its sugar content, but a refreshing treat on a particularly sweltering day.

So here I am.

Posting this photo up on a public platform. Just because.

Nah, did you really think I'd leave you hanging? Just because what? Just because I like it. That's really all there is to it whenever someone posts up a picture of themselves, ain't it?

I like it because of my smile here. No usual toothy grin, but I think it captures my current sense of contentment pretty well. And I like it because it didn't look too bad after I slapped on a black and white filter--trust me when I say the colours were impossible to save. But I like it mostly because I've grown to accept and love this human bean pictured here.

This human bean is comfortable in her own skin. She's comfortable about having to wear glasses (though she'd willingly poke transparent plastic plates into her eyes at times), about the small red bumps that would sometimes appear on her face, and about her unkempt eyebrows because she's afraid of the pain of threading. She's also comfortable about wanting to look her best as much as possible. You can't see it here, but she has some of the lip tint she dabbed on this morning still left on her lips. She enjoys a subtle pop of colour, or really anything that would make her look less like a walking corpse.

This human bean is comfortable with her own thoughts. It took her a long time though, as she was always convinced that the only reason why people stayed by her side was because they couldn't read her toxic, inner thoughts. Borrowing the line from Watsky, "And I can't really tell if I'm a good person or I'm faking really well". Yet, being aware of this dichotomy between thought and action allowed her to better manage and control the two. She's still discovering the way her brain works, but she's getting better at it for sure.

This human bean is comfortable knowing that she is only human, and that she has so much more to learn. She's comfortable dealing with her moments of insecurities, her setbacks, her failures. And less dramatically, to pick herself up from the little awkward yet painful moments she might experience in her day-to-day life.

I'm honestly very proud of how much this human bean has grown for the past twenty years, and excited for her to continue living life.

And boy have I missed writing in this manner. It's always so fun dealing with repetition and not having a word limit that prevents me from over-describing things.
Read More

Taipei, Taiwan

Saturday, February 25, 2017

No comments

Way, way, overdue post. This has been sitting in my "drafts"folder for too long but here it is, finally!

"You must be crazy going overseas with a bunch of people you barely even know well," a concerned friend of mine advised, upon learning that I was going to go on a trip to Taiwan with the O'Week Comm.

Indeed, I was crazy, and the trip was crazy. By that I mean - crazy good.

To be honest, I was really apprehensive about the entire situation as well. Going overseas isn't something to be taken lightly - for one, it's a (fairly) big ticket "purchase", but more importantly, you'll be spending a significant amount of time with the same few people. This could probably go very well, or end terribly.  From experience, even when I head abroad with some of my closest friends, I'd be slightly withdrawn after a couple of days, probably caused by social fatigue. And that, isn't a side I'd be comfortable with exposing in front of those who don't know me well.

However, the most compelling reason that held me back was the fact that the previous and only other time I visited Taiwan was with a bunch of people of I barely knew /throwback to Dwen An in secondary four/ and it ended up being one of the longest, most difficult trips I had to live through. Sure, it wasn't all that bad (the country is beautiful, and the people are incredibly kind) and turned out to be a hilarious memory in hindsight but as a whole, I just never had a positive recollection of my experience there.

That said, after the five days spent (25-29 December 2016) in Taipei with O'Week, the impression I have of Taiwan is now an exceptional one. I'm so thankful it turned out this way.

Truly, I'm all set to work hard and to work tirelessly with this group of insanely talented and entertaining individuals in the year ahead. Here's hoping that we stay strong, energized, and supportive of one another. And of course, that we'd still be friends at the end of all this.

With that, I shall attempt to recap all the highlights from the trip, hopefully but probably not in chronological order.

Day One

Fu Hang Dou Jiang 阜杭豆漿

We landed in Taiwan on the morning of Christmas day, and headed straight for a really popular breakfast place - Fu Hang Dou Jiang (阜杭豆漿) - for a bite. The place serves traditional Taiwanese breakfast of you tiao (dough fritters) and dou jiang (soy bean milk), amongst other dough-based pastries. The queue was really long, with both tourists and locals alike. Having the latter is probably representative of how good the place is.

And guess who I saw when in the queue!

None other than Tiffany! It was such a great surprise, and we both laughed so much upon seeing each other. We did briefly mention on Whatsapp that we'd both be in Taiwan in December, but the dates we'd be there didn't seem to overlap and thus didn't think much about it. Who knew we'd both go to Fu Hang at the same time on the day I landed, which was the day she was supposed to leave. I was so heartened to see her, and even more so of all places in Taiwan because it is the place that our friendship started. 

When we finally reached the store, we all mostly got the typical combination of you tiao and dou jiang. For something so famous, it was reasonably priced yet at the same time, for something so famous, it didn't taste all that mind-blowing. Of course, I'm not mad at it - it's great comfort food for sure, and it's freshness definitely warmed up my tummy. 

Hi Phyloy!

Ximending Shopping District 西門町

Following our hearty breakfast, we headed to Ximending to do some shopping, and eat even more. We actually went to Ximending a couple of times over the next couple of days, but I've compiled most of what we did at this district here. 

Hi Weiliang and Xin Yu! 

Always wanted to try this kind of ice cream cones with a super high swirl - and I did! The chocolate-vanilla flavour was pretty disappointing though. Definitely bought it just for the photo opportunity.

The melon flavoured one that Larry bought was much better - and that's Xin Yu in the background.

Some dumplings Weiliang bought from a temporary push cart - these were so good. There were many illegal push carts selling food all around even though Ximending isn't a night market. It's more of an organized shopping district with proper shops and storefronts. We did witness the police coming, and all the push cart owners frantically trying to push their carts away. What a sight.  

The famed Taiwan beef cubes - simply seasoned, but heavenly.

Grilled mochi - which we went all over the place looking for.

Condensed milk and matcha flavoured!

Our Airbnb

After our little shopping trip, we went to check into our Airbnb, which was located within this commercial office-residential building. We booked three rooms, and I was on the 23rd floor with Roy, Eugene, Siska and Phyloy. We were very lucky to have gotten the biggest and nicest room, complete with a bathtub (not that we used it). 

Look at this - so gorgeous. Please ignore Roy in the background.


We headed to this pretty atas restaurant at Da'an District called 'Tasty 西堤牛排' for our Christmas dinner. Despite its dubious name, the restaurant offered very affordable 7-course Western meals (estimated damage per person was less than 30+SGD) in a semi-fine dining setting. I'd highly recommend this place for anyone heading to Taipei - although it does seem slightly off eating Western food in a country where you can get great authentic cuisine from the streets, the ambience, service and food here is truly worth a shot. 

We were so stuffed by the end of the meal. I can't remember exactly what I had, and didn't manage to take pictures of everything but from what I remember: fruit salad, pastry baked with beef (this was amazing), seafood soup, main course of roasted chicken (sorry, boring choice I know), macaron, dessert of matcha cake & chocolate covered grape with gummy candy and vanilla ice cream (I remember the name of this only because the name was ridiculously and hilariously long), and ended off everything with a drink of milk tea with popcorn. Oh, and halfway through the meal they gave us a shot of passionfruit ice-blended... which our table "da"-ed. Eeks. So worth it though - the food, not the gulping of the drink. 

Half macarons! 

The baked pastry with beef - love love love this. 

Cheesy mushrooms with toast - which I didn't order.

I think this was Eugene's main course.

And the "milk tea with popcorn" that we were so excited about. The popcorn didn't go well with the milk tea at all, and we all decided it was a placed there as a ploy to make the drink sound more enticing.

There was a bookstore across the restaurant and I sneakily took this family shot. 

After our dinner, we headed to a KTV to sing karaoke (of Chinese songs). We were supposed to play Secret Santa that night too, but were way too shagged to. What a day. 

Day Two

The Original Din Tai Fung 

Started the day with lunch at the original Din Tai Fung restaurant! The queue was mad long - I can't imagine working at this place, and having a crowd at the doorstep 24/7. 

Mad crowds.

And so, I spent my time taking shots of the photogenic main comm. 

Hi Jess!

Hi Roy!

Hi Jingwen! 

Hi Jiayi (and Siska and Jingwen in the background)!

Hi Eugene!

Hi Siska and Xin Yu!

"What should we order?"

"Isn't this the exact same as Singapore?"

Hi Yeekiat and David!

The restaurant spanned three storeys and we were seated on the third. It was so cramped, although service was top-notch.

Hi Zi Yang, Roy, Xin Yu and Larry!

Do xiao long baos taste nicer at the original restaurant? Maybe. 

Shida Night Market 師大夜市

After eating our fill, we headed to Shida Night Market which wasn't particularly eventful. Perhaps it was the timing which we went there - the afternoon - and a couple of shops weren't even open. I really liked the colours of the photos I took there though. 

Hello my friends. 

Couple love.

Hey look my three favourite OG mates.

My 23rd floor room-mates! 

I really like this photo - the two of them caught mid-laugh.

More streets. 

Check out David in the background. 

Elephant Mountain 象山

Following our little trip to Shida, we headed to Elephant Mountain to climb to the peak! I didn't expect the hike up to be so long - the flights of stairs seemed never-ending. Okay, maybe it isn't that bad but everyone was so fast and me and my unfit self was dying at the back.

I was really touched though, that Weiliang offered to carry my bag even though I insisted not for him to. When he took it, Larry said something along the lines of "now you know there's people who care about you" and I was so touched that I starting tearing up there and then (HAHA seriously doing physical activities make me a lot more emotional). Really thank you to the both of you - I think you guys are the ones who come closest to understanding how horrible an experience I had when university first started since you guys were there, and even though we weren't close then, thank you so much for accepting me and being my friend, really.

Climbing up gave us a lot of photo opportunities, and it was overall a good experience. I thought this was a meaningful group activity.

Yay group shot! 

So many things happening in this picture. 

Somehow all the photos I like are of Eugene and Yee Kiat - but maybe this photo would have worked better without Yee Kiat's silhouette since Eugene's one is so dynamic. 

One of the many people posing atop a rock. 

Taipei 101! It was slightly cloudy. 

A beautiful sight :-)

Sports King 2k16!!!

More group photos yay.

And more! 

Even getting down the mountain was quite tiring. Though of course, without gravity everything is better. 

Shilin Night Market 士林夜市

After our climb up Elephant Mountain, we rewarded ourselves by stuffing ourselves silly with the street food from the famed Shilin Market. In fact, I didn't even bother taking any photos throughout our time there - all I wanted to do was eat! My favourite was probably the fried milk balls, it was just amazing. And the vendor had such a calm demeanor. 

Being at Shilin Market brought back a lot of memories though, because the last time I was in Taiwan we actually stayed extremely near the market, and nothing has changed about the surroundings of the place. So nostalgic. 

Anyway, I ventured around the market with Larry and Weiliang mostly, and they are really hilarious and great company. Halfway through, they decided to go prawning just so we could sit on the stools that were available there. They ended up pretending not being able to catch the prawns so we could sit there for longer. 

Snorlax! Great game stall playing skills by Weiliang who managed to win this yay thank you!

Day Three 

Leofoo Village Theme Park 

Our day three itinerary consisted mostly of spending time at Leofoo Village Theme Park - and this was the day when the weather in Taiwan took a 180 degree turn. For the past two days we've been complaining how it felt so much like Singapore and that we brought all our jackets for nothing. However, it suddenly became insanely cold and there was also a slight drizzle.

Perhaps because of the weather, the theme park was really deserted - which was actually quite fun because we had the whole place to ourselves and could really go wild.

O'Week girls! 

Group shot yay. 

There, everyone was so excited to sit on the roller coasters, and even though I'm not a thrill seeker when it comes to amusement park rides, they managed to convince me to go on a couple of crazy ones that I wouldn't have gone for otherwise. One of them was long and draggy and I regretted every moment of it when I was hung upside down in the sky, but the feeling of accomplishment and relief upon touching ground is very comforting.   

Seeking warmth in a little cafe. 

Hi Siska! 

At the entrance of the park!

We ended the day with a heart and belly warming steamboat buffet, and if I remember correctly we played Secret Santa that night as well. Thank you Minhui for giving me a gift that really aligned with whatever I requested for HAHA I love it. 

Day Four

Leaving our Airbnb

We had to check out from our Airbnb that morning, which was quite sad because I absolutely loved staying there. It was such a convenient location and every morning, the 23rd floor girls (Siska, Phyloy and myself) would go and get breakfast from the nearby stalls. And on our final morning there, we decided to re-visit a breakfast place that we really enjoyed, together with Minhui who joined us. The food seems to be an East-West fusion - like its technically Western food on the menu like spaghetti and crepes and burgers, but it features extremely Chinese flavours. 

They sell these savoury ham and egg crepes. So, so good. 


We decided to visit this hipster coffee shop that we've been eyeing for the past couple of days, and I got my brother a box of drip coffee. Oh, and I also tried the "Apple Milk" from the convenience stall, it was surprisingly not repulsive. Singapore should bring in more creative flavours of milk. 

Before we left our Airbnb, we decided to take some 23rd floor group shots. 

"Everyone, look like beggars" - Eugene, 2016. 
Why would anyone think of posing like that? HAHA

Yay, thanks for being such fun people to live with. Special shoutout to the guys for always allowing the three of us to sleep. Initially, I thought that bunking with Eugene and Roy would mean that we wouldn't get any rest since both of them are always filled with energy, but we did.

Of course, we had to add to the wall of notes too.

Here's ours!

Modern Toilet Restaurant 

Before travelling to Jiu Fen, we made a stop at Ximending to visit the Modern Toilet Restaurant for lunch! While it's not exactly a novel concept anymore, it was still so fun to eat food shaped like poop. Plus, the food wasn't priced exorbitantly for a restaurant this popular. 

/insert poop emoji/


I really enjoyed the bread actually - the olive oil at the side was flavourful.

This one was the most realistic and off-putting dish. Especially when it's coupled with the curry sauce. I don't want to write explicitly what it resembles, since the visuals are already so explicit - but you get my drift.

Normal cheese sticks, that were a tad bit disappointing.

Jiayi and I didn't realize that we ordered two of these hella large shaved iced masterpieces... we thought we were ordering two single swirls of chocolate ice cream. So when they brought this to us we were in shock. This was the worst dish though, the shaved ice was extremely coarse and they didn't use high-quality chocolate sauce. 

Travelling to Jiu Fen 九份

We took the train to Ruifang District, where many of us slept. When we reached there, we had to travel to Jiu Fen and did so by cab. It was extremely cold but I think our moods were perked when we saw our accommodation for the night - it was a quaint little B&B, and we had the entire "floor" to ourselves. This time, we bunked with our cells - yay External plus Jingwen!

The people at Jiu Fen were personable and friendly, and we had dinner at a very homely place. I felt like we were guests at someone's home, rather than a restaurant. And the food served was truly comfort food at its finest. Sitting around a table digging into the dishes together with the rest of the O'Week girls felt so nice. My heart and belly was so full by the end of the meal. 

Ahh :") 

All the helpful hands hehe. 

That night, since it was our last night together, we stayed up till late talking through the night (although some of the guys stayed up way, way, later). 

Day Five

Jiufen Old Street 九份老街

When all of us finally managed to get out from bed, the breakfast timings at our B&B was already over. We then headed to Jiufen Old Street for some noms. 

We look so cute.

I don't know how I ended up with Roy, Ziyang and either Yee Kiat or David (I really can't remember much honestly, was way too tired on the last day) in some Xiao Long Bao restaurant for most of our time at the Jiufen Old Street. They were all almost dead by that time HAHA. 

Random fried food item on a stick that someone left on the ledge that I took a photo of. 

The view from Jiufen was gorgeous though.


Shifen Sky Lanterns 十分天燈

Following that, we cabbed to Shifen. I shared the cab with Yee Kiat and Roy, and we had the most reckless taxi driver who was watching strange cartoons while speeding along the roads. We could tell he was extremely skillful, but we probably escaped death close at least three times throughout the ride. Of course, we headed there to release sky lanterns. This is one of the tourist must-dos whenever anyone is in Taiwan, but it's quite hilarious because I'm not entire sure if the "wishes" I wrote on the lantern I released when I was there four years ago actually came true. For sure, some did - but there were things like "找一个好老公" that I am still waiting for heh heh. 

This time, we wrote mostly nonsense and O'Week related stuff. 

"O'Week Main Comm to stay bonded forever" in Jess' gorgeous handwriting. 

Raise your hands for class participation!

After releasing our lantern, we stayed and filmed a couple of music videos along the railway track. It was so much fun. 

And our final group shot!

We took the same cab to the Taoyuan International Airport, and we made the horrible decision to record a Carpool Karaoke to One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful". At first, I thought that Yee Kiat and Roy were enjoying it... and so I tried my best to smile throughout as well. But the moment the camera stopped recording we just died. It was so dizzy, tiring and stuffy at the back of the car. Roy even got the taxi driver (the same reckless one, may I add) to stop by the middle of the road so that he could get off and take the shotgun seat. 

At the airport, we grabbed dinner (I had Burger King) and spent the last of our Taiwan moolah. Our flight back was mostly smooth and I slept throughout. We made a transit at Kuala Lumpur though, where we grabbed some Malaysian McDonald's breakfast - and that journey from KL to SG was by far the shortest flight I've ever been on. The Captain said "prepare for landing" about five minutes after he prepared the crew for take-off. 

It was such a memorable trip. I had a lot of fun, and got the opportunity to get to know some of the people I'll be spending the bulk of my 2017 with better. Thank you so much Jing Wen and Roy (pictured above - I really like this shot) for organizing this trip. It was very well-planned, hats off to Jing Wen for taking such good care of all of us. 

A pity that Geraldine couldn't join us, but I'm really thankful that we got this chance to go on a trip together. It's amazing how sixteen vastly different individuals can come together and support each other in ways I never thought was possible. I only hope we'd be able to translate this positive energy into the planning and execution of O'Week and to make it the best one ever. I'm going to try my best at least. 
Read More