Sunday, February 5, 2012

Trip to the Botanic Garden and Random Musings

Singapore is a gardener's paradise. Yesterday we went to the Botanic Garden, which is absolutely amazing and huge! I will be going back soon to check out the orchid garden, which we didn't get to. We did, however, manage to stroll through the rainforest part, which contains some original trees from before modern-day Singapore was founded in 1819, as well as spiders the size of grapefruits! The Botanic Garden also contains some strange looking flowers, a very old tree that's featured on the S$5 bill, squirrels that look identical to those in the London parks (a British import?), very loud cricket type insects that sound like a car alarm going off, as well as the nicest toilet I have ever seen.

An unusual looking flower of which I do not know the name

A toilet at the Botanic Garden

On the way to the Botanic Garden we encountered an amusing sign in our apartment building that I just had to share with you all. Notice on the left the guy sleeping on the couch in the living room and the two men sleeping on bunk beds in the bedroom.

Here's a sign that's a little bit less funny, but to be honest, I haven't seen one mosquito yet here... and I hope it stays that way! (Update: After writing this yesterday I have discovered I have two mosquito bites! It's as if they heard me...)

Another strange thing about our apartment: We don't take our garbage out to a dumpster. Instead we have a garbage chute. We have no idea where it goes, but if you want to throw something away, you just put it in the chute. The building manager has reassured us that they separate the trash from the recycling, but I have my doubts.

Julius throwing some trash in the garbage chute

Interesting tid-bit: The most recently minted money of Singapore is made out of plastic, not cotton and linen like in the US. Although it's not as nice to handle, re-using plastic by making money from it is a very innovative idea.

Speaking of money, we've been facing some difficulties opening a Citibank account here as Julius has not yet received his Training Employment Pass (TEP) card. He has all the original paperwork that has been signed by the Ministry of Manpower (That's MOM for short!), but apparently that's not enough. I guess they're very by the books and lack a bit of flexibility or creativity when trying to find solutions to paperwork impasses. It's a bit frustrating to be quite honest.

We were however successful in getting a pre-paid sim card from M1. In Singapore the two big mobile carriers are M1 and SingTel. We went with M1 because we're hoping to get a three-month contract (which we also can't get yet without the TEP). With a three-month contract you can call three numbers for free, and as we only know about three people here, we hopefully won't have to pay for any calls! Important note: Make sure your mobile phone is unlocked before coming to Singapore as it will make your life so much easier.

Now that we have a Singaporean mobile number we were able to register for the free wi-fi that is provided by the government. In theory, all you have to do is provide your name, passport number, and Singaporean mobile number and you can register online. If you don't have a Singaporean mobile, you have to register in person and bring along your passport. However, I think this free public wi-fi thing is not something you should rely on because it seems that service is quite patchy and we haven't successfully connected to it yet. Maybe it only works in the downtown area?

Tomorrow Julius and I are going to Little India for dinner with colleagues from Imperial and NTU, so we're looking forward to that. Hope you've been having a nice weekend wherever you are, and thanks for reading!


  1. When I was a child in Paris we also had a garbage chute, round mouthed with a heavy rod iron lid. I once threw my report card from primary school because the teacher's comments complained about my handwiting! She used to punish me making me write in pencil when my classmates used pen and ink! Very humiliating...

    1. Haha that's a funny story. :) So rebellious of you, Laurence. hehe