Stephen Young


Singapore - Getting Adjusted

As of yesterday I have been in Singapore for two weeks; it's been a mix of tropical excitement, school administration and sunburns. After arriving from Tokyo I met up with Andrew D'Souza and taxied over my school (Nanyang Technological University) on the far west side of Singapore island - from one end to the other it's about a 45min trip. We spent the next week or so we moved into residence, met roommates, and spent ohh so much effort trying to get classes, schedules and credits sorted out. My roommate (who has actually just moved) out is a local Chinese Singaporean who studies electronics engineering. Most of the other exchange students are paired with exchange roommates, but I figured I see what it was like living with someone else. I was a bit nervous, but he turned out to be a really nice guy, and although he's moving back home (hopefully not because of me...) I think since I was living with a local student it's helped me to meet other local students who live nearby.
Singapore, a country barely the size of Toronto, is easy enough to travel through and site see. In our two weeks here, Bernice, Drew, Phil and I have seen most of the recommended places on the island, except for Sentosa - a man made beach just off Singapore's "coast". We tried to make take a trip down but it was raining. Food is generally fantastically inexpensive - in our canteen on campus an average meal costs about $2.50 Singapore dollars ($1CDN = $1.3SGD) and is a reasonable portion. Once you venture off campus everything gets a little more expensive, but it depends on the neighborhood.

Last Thursday our hall (residence) organized a trip out to a local nightclub called Ministry and Sound. It was a good time, starting off with a fashion show of all things. Generally speaking I'm the tallest person anywhere I go... but there are certainly exceptions. Drinks at bars and clubs are incredible expensive, ranging from $8 - $15 for a glass, especially when compared to food. I think the idea is to feed the population, but keep the sober : )

This past weekend the UW NTU SYDE team (me, Phil, Bernice, Drew) plus Cat (a civil engineering at NUS) went on a weekend trip to Malaysia. We bused up from Singapore, crossing the bridge which connects the two countries. Malaysia stretches north from Singapore meeting up with Thailand above. Our first stop was in a southern city called Melaka - a classical port town which was the centre of a trading hub during the days of England's East Indian Trading Company. The city was a nice introduction to a nice country. We walked through most of the city, which seemed to be quite a popular tourist area. We visited one interesting themed museum full of everything the Malaysia custom officials have confiscated from people smuggling over the border.
The next day we left Melaka in search of a nearby beach town called Tanjung Kling. Apparently in the high season (non-rainy season) it is a popular tourist destination, full of beachside resorts and eateries. This weekend we had the whole place to ourselves - plus the pleasant, laid back locals who spend the hot afternoons relaxing around town.
The beaches, although virtually empty, we very pleasant and we enjoyed a sunset like no other I've seen. The next day we headed off for Kuala Lumpur (the capital city of Malaysia). Malaysia is an interesting blend of old and modern, with palm trees and villages bordering new age skyscrapers and a booming economy.
Particularly impressive are the Petronas Towers - the tallest twin towers in the world. We tried to get a tour on the skylink connecting them on te 42nd floor, but tickets were sold out.
Sunday night we went out for dinner (on what happened to be my birthday!) at a very nice Chinese restaurant. The service, food and atmosphere was fantastic... and all for a cost less than $10 per person - definitely our most expensive meal. Afterwards we boarded a bus back for Singapore, arriving around 4AM and spent two hours learning to play majong and waiting for the subway to start running.

That's all for now! Next weekend promises to be another exciting trip somewhere (and a long weekend... since we have no classes on friday!).



Leaving Tokyo

Today I leave Tokyo for Singapore! It's been an exciting three days wondering the streets and enjoying the sushi! Here's a quick summary of what I've been up to:

Thursday: Started the day off pretty early cause of jet lag. Left the hostel around 7Am wandered the streets in Asakusa for about 2 hours. There are two old style Buddist temples near our hostel which are popular visiting locations for both foreigners and Japanese.

When I was there in the morning people were burning incense outside the temple and bathing in the smoke. A tradition when visiting the temple.

After returning to the hostel I met up with Annie, Gary and Eugene and we went out for breakfast at a nearby restaurant. We went to an amazingly efficient little store which had machines in the front you ordered from before sitting down at the table where the cooks would take your ticket and bring you your food. The whole restaurant comfortable sat 25 people in a tiny little space.

After breakfast we visited the Imperial Palace and gardens in the heart of Tokyo. The palace is located outside Tokyo Station, which is the central subway/train station for the Tokyo system. The subway system is immense and complicated, but there is definitely a logic amidst the choas. The system uses a graduated fare, where you pay according to how far you want to travel from your starting station. There are about a dozen different lines and several of them are run by completely different companies. There is also a main rain system which forms a giant circle connecting all the key locations in Tokyo.

Afterwards we took the train just outside Tokyo to an area called Yokohoma, which is either the second largest city in Japan or a suburb of Tokyo, depending on who you talk to. We toured around the city, visited the "Landmark Tower" and enjoyed the view from the 69th floor observation deck. The view was amazing... a massive metropolis stretches out as far as the eye can see in every direction.

Friday: We woke up at 5AM to make it out to the famous Tokyo Fish Market, supposedly the largest in the world. Definitely a busy full of barely contained choas. Care must be taken to avoid being run over by the many motorized carts whipped around tranfering goods from here to there. Walking down the aisles we saw giant salmon, tuna, octopus, squid, everything imaginable and so many I couldn't identify.

In the later afternoon I explored the other neighbourhoods of Tokyo on my own. In Shibuya I saw "Tokyo Times Square" which is apparently the busiest intersection in the world. People cross in ever direction a literal see of bodies filling a giant square. I had never seen so many people at once. In the evening I met Jeff Wentworth for dinner and drinks at a good restaurant near Tokyo Station - the food was amazing. Jeff speaks Japanese so he was able to order the good stuff : )

Saturday: it's raining... and i'm going to the airport!




So I arrived last night in Tokyo where I'll be staying for a few days before heading off to Singapore on exchange. My flight arrived around 5PM local time over was my took a solid 13 hours and I managed to sleep for about 3, not bad I suppose, but considering I hadn't slept much the night before... in an effort to sleep more on the plane.... it wasn't great either. The whole flight I was worried I'd be exhausted when I arrived and end up getting lost someone inside Tokyo's massive and confusing subway / train system. Good guess....

Basically I had no idea where to go after leaving the airport, armed only with the name "Asakusa" and the direction west. After several wrong transfers and lots of confused conversations with locals, I bumped into a girl from Ontario who knew Tokyo and pointed me in the write direction. Around 8PM I finally arrived at the hostel I was aiming for in the Asakusa district, checked in and promptly fell asleep. Jet lag had definitely set in.

Asakusa is a nice area just on the outskirts of central Tokyo. It's has several famous temples and maintains an air of old Tokyo (or so I'm told). Today I plan on exploring this area, getting some food, practicing a little Japanese... and trying not to get lost.

Somewhat surprisingly, I found out Annie, Eugene and Gary (all from UW engineering and going to Singapore) are staying at the same hostel. We'll be travelling around together today as they're leaving tomorrow before me.