Tag Archives: Tourist spot

Big in Japan: doing business in the Land of the Rising Sun

By Laura Melina Loeven, Nanyang Business School

At the prospect of spending one week on a business study mission in Tokyo, I felt slightly nervous about offending senior Japanese managers. Being European, the manifold unwritten rules of Japanese business culture were still a mystery to me.

Thankfully, prior to my departure for my first MBA study trip I got to attend a crash course on Japanese business culture and the ‘dos and don´ts’ of socialising, hosted by my fellow Japanese class mates.

For one evening, I was fully drawn into the Japanese lifestyle while enjoying sushi and sake, admiring a traditional Japanese dance, learning bowing ceremonies, practising the correct exchange of business cards and eventually pondering the acquisition of Jim Beam whisky by a Japanese beverage company.

After I learned never to decline an invitation to socialise, I glanced at the tremendous amounts of sake that businessmen consume and quickly became concerned about the bowing ceremonies that I had been introduced to previously. The trip to Japan promised to be exciting.

Thinking about the city life in Tokyo, I dreamed of sky-high office towers, large and flashy advertisement screens and hordes of Hello Kittys. Crowds of business people in black suits, glued to their smartphones, appeared in front of my inner eye.

Yet, finally arriving in Tokyo, the city presented a very different image of itself. While some parts of metropolitan Tokyo felt like travelling back to the 60s, others were truly modern and impressed with trendy, simplistic and cutting-edge architecture. The streets of the hip districts of Shibuya and Shinjuku were indeed glitzy, but did not provoke the sensory overload that I anticipated.

Before heading to Tokyo, my classmates had warned me that most Japanese tend to seek harmony at all cost. Meetings run without friction and most people shy away from challenging authority by whatever means. I expected somewhat dull sessions on non-debatable company facts and figures and was prepared to sit through long, presentations from high-ranked executives.

What I found was the exact opposite. The executives that entertained the challenging questions of this bunch of ambitious MBAs did not fear any confrontation but exhibited great vigor, flexibility and a solid sense of humour in presenting their work. Instead of counting the minutes during dusty standard presentations, I was deeply impressed with the creativity, resoluteness and sincerity of the hosts’ responses to even the trickiest interrogations.

I learnt about the various strategic plans, experienced different company cultures and discussed Japan´s growth plans from every angle during our trip. Never a dull moment on this business study mission!

Five days of back-to-back meetings with 12 Japan-based companies and their highly inspirational leaders allowed me to gain valuable insights into Japanese management styles and to develop a firm understanding for growth strategies and corporate development tactics.

Currently, many Japanese companies find themselves at an inflection point. As a result of “Abenomics”, structural and fiscal reforms introduced by prime minster Abe, the nominal GDP has grown by 2.2 per cent over the past year, the highest growth in 17 years. How well an organisation responds to the challenges that arise in periods of change will determine the share of the overall national growth that the company can enjoy in the future.

The most common issue pinpointed by all presenters, an aging society as well as an overall decreasing population, will significantly impact Japan´s competitiveness in global markets in the long run. Further, many Japanese do not have a professional command of English so that their employers are often confronted with major obstacles when doing business with overseas partners.

The programmes introduced to improve the command of English are a necessary investment to make Japanese firms more attractive for foreign investment as it will eventually facilitate collaboration across borders.

I was delighted to learn that Japanese companies attach ever more importance on people development and increasingly focus on hiring international talent. Many of the companies who hosted Q&A sessions with my MBA class emphasised that they experienced radical progress by selectively incentivising employees and revising their HR policies. Offering flexible work style solutions to attract more women to the corporate world, providing training and international exchange programmes as well as shaping an overall growth mindset, has proven effective to nurture business success.

All the leaders who welcomed me and my classmates to their office agreed in saying that heavy investments in research and development programmes are crucial to compete on an international scale. While attentively monitoring innovation cycles, the firms aim to stay on top of market trends and best tailor products to customer needs.

With limited talent pools and only little entrepreneurial spirit in their own country, Japanese businesses focus on expanding through investments beyond the saturated Japanese market by asset purchases, joint ventures and mergers and acquisitions.

Nikkei Inc., publisher of the largest Japanese financial newspaper, has recently announced the acquisition of the Financial Times to strengthen its global and digital growth profile. Suntory, a Japanese beverage distribution company group, has taken over the American whiskey brand Jim Beam to enhance its footprint beyond Japanese markets.

Even though Japan was not on my list of most intriguing business environments, the insights gained from the visits to companies have definitely put Japanese businesses on my radar as future employers.


published on: Financial Times – FT. com


Our initial weeks at Nanyang, improving English skills with new friends – what a great start!

By Nguyen Truong, Vietnamese and Yeh Ming-min, Taiwanese, with contributions from the rest of the Intensive English Class participants.

Our first impression about this course must be the friendliness of our classmates, professor, and MBA Office staff. Everyone smiles to welcome new students and considers others as close friends at the very beginning. Although below is our very first picture before the class (there were 18 of us, coming from 10 countries), we seem to know each other for a very long time.

Intensive English Class 2012 - Nanyang MBA

After that, Ms. Catherine, our professor, walked with us around Nanyang Business School (NBS), to introduce the school and for us to get familiar with the location. It was a long walk, going through many doors and stairs. The Nanyang campus is huge – we were told that the campus has a land area of 200 hectares and lots of greeneries!  With every door we go through, our classmates were waiting and kept doors open for others. It was so great for the first day!

Ms. Catherine is probably one of the nicest professors we have ever known. She prepared the course carefully that all we needed to do was just to relax and enjoy the class. Homework was really fun, too! We watched “Mind your language!” to learn about the possible dangers when  English is not used properly! Besides the reading and media assisting self-learning, the case studies were excellent chances for us to work together and understand our classmates.

Moreover, each week, we were given one case study to strengthen our analytical capabilities and business presentation skills. We believe that this was a great opportunity for all of us to brush up our English language skills as well as get to know each other before the real journey begins. Honestly, we learned a lot from this class!

Intensive English Class 2012
Taking a break while doing a case study with teammates from (left to right) Rita from China, Nguyen-that’s me! (Vietnam), Eric from Taiwan and Iwai from Japan
Another case study group - peers from China and Thailand
Another case study group - peers from China and Thailand

After our class, it was certainly a great time for sharing interests.

On weekends, the class would often meet for entertainment…
On weekends, the class would often meet for entertainment…


…at the Sky Lounge of the now famous Marina Bay Sands, Singapore (Me - Mimi or Ming-Min, in black, middle row,  3rd from left!)
…at the Sky Lounge of the famous Marina Bay Sands, Singapore (Me - Mimi or Ming-Min, in black, middle row, 3rd from left!)


…going to the bar to chill out…
…going to the bar to chill out…
…enjoying life with family…
…enjoying life with family…
…hanging around together with new friends…
…hanging around together with new friends…


…and doing what most gentlemen do…
…and doing what most gentlemen do…

Zhang Rui, Chinese, reminisces the experience. “Three weeks’ time is just like a blink of an eye. I have not been able to go around the whole campus even once, but I will say goodbye to our dearest Catherine, our intensive English class lecturer this coming Friday. I still remembered the first day I met our guys (the incoming cohort attending this preparatory English language class) in front of the MBA Office. I saw so many fresh faces, each with great joy and excitement for the coming new life in this beautiful green campus. I also remembered the first big smile from Catherine, a smile which melted all the strangeness between us. From that day on, we guys spent so many unforgettable moments together. We learnt how to do a professional presentation, we discussed for hours, how to do an analysis of a business case- we made progress every time we accepted a new challenge and we cheered for everyone’s improvement. Most happily, we received such precious friendship from each other. We also left our footprint on the Marina Bay Sands, that famous new integrated resort in SIngapore which is presently a main tourist attraction. Together, we enjoyed cuisine from around the world- yes in this food paradise called Singapore.”

Now, it is the last week of this course. Time passes so fast, especially when we are happy. Each of us actually gained many experiences and improved significantly in these two weeks. Waiting ahead is not only another  learning week or the assessment but also the last day of this program , and everything here become sweet memories about our first days at Nanyang… Zhang further adds, “when I look back to all I experienced, all I did and all I got in the past three weeks, I want to say “thank you” to our MBA programme, to Ms Catherine Cheng and to all our guys (my MBA peers). Thanks for the special arrangement of the MBA programme, I have this opportunity to come one month earlier to join the Intensive English Course. Thanks to Catherine, I have learnt so much from her well-designed course and her well-prepared learning materials. Thanks to our guys, with you, I feel so great now and raring to start my MBA journey at Nanyang next week.”

"Moon Festival" – Celebrating Chinese traditions

by Kabeer Chaudhary, Indian, Nanyang MBA Participant, Intake 2011

Diversity is key to create a great and memorable experience and we are fortunate that The NANYANG MBA fosters this and strive to have such for its students – we have 18 nationalities in our cohort! This diversity in nationalities gives us the opportunity to learn about other people’s culture without having to go that far. And we did – right here in Singapore!

The 2011 Student Executive Committee (Ex-Co) kick-started this year’s events for current students with the celebration of the ‘Mooncake Festival’ in September, also known as the ‘Mid-Autumn’ or ‘Moon Festival’ at the Chinese Gardens. The Chinese Gardens, also known as Jurong Gardens, is one of Singapore’s nature parks and is  built over 8 hectares in 1975 under the guidance of a well-known architect from Taiwan.  Twenty (20) of us, current MBA students, with our families and friends, walked through the gardens and were greeted by northern Chinese imperial style of architecture and landscaping. The place awed us with its colorful lanterns tied to ancient legends dotting the lake and the grounds and Chinese customs of the festival.

Mooncake or Moon Festival is a popular lunar harvest festival celebrated by the Chinese community all around the world. It falls on the 15th of the 8th month of the lunar calendar and it is one of the most important traditional events for the Chinese and even Vietnamese, just like Christmas and Thanksgiving for Westerners. There are many legends and folklore surrounding the festival from the Moon Goddess of Immortality to the overthrowing of Mongol Rule and to the Vietnamese legend of a wife who accidentally desecrated a sacred banyan tree and was transported to the heavens by the tree for doing so (the Vietnamese light lanterns to show her way down to earth)*. But it is also a favorable time to have a get together and enjoy one another’s company, eating mooncakes under a full moon (for us, we did at the Chinese Garden!). Of course, apart from the delicious mooncakes some of us brought, we were also delighted by mooncakes shared by gracious celebrants who were there to enjoy and celebrate the festivities.

Our Chinese classmates were excited and eager to share with us their culture specially that surround these festivities. Each of us was ‘welcomed’ with a traditional mooncake and our Chinese friends helped to differentiate between flavors such like walnut, lotus, pumpkin and red beans. , Dominic, our Swiss classmate, had a mooncake with a nut filling, and commented, “It was my first time at a Mooncake Festival. I’ve heard a lot about the famous mooncakes and I was excited to finally try them. After trying about every possible mooncake flavor, I can say that my favorite is the one with the nut filling.”

Mooncake Festival - Nanyang MBA
Some of our classmates from China (from left to right) – Zeng Cheng, Tan Yanning, Lu Zhongjie, and Wang Jie who were gracious to share with us their knowledge about the festival.

Continue reading "Moon Festival" – Celebrating Chinese traditions

An Underwater Escape to Pulau Redang

Author:  Jennifer Cheong, MBA Office

Sandy white beach of Pasir Panjang, Redang

Pulau Redang is one of the largest islands located off the east coast of Malaysia in the state of Terengganu.  The area is a conserved marine park ideal for snorkeling and scuba-diving activities.  Redang was used as the backdrop for a Hong Kong summer holiday movie – Xia Re Mo Mo Cha in 1999.  Ever since the movie was screened in Asia, the pristine warm white sandsand mesmerizing turquoise sea has beckoned many to the island.  From Singapore, the island is easily accessible via an affordable overnight coach ride.   

There is a wide range of accommodation from budget to four-star hotels. Most are located at Pasir Panjang beach and a handful at Teluk Kalong.  Only Berjaya Resort has its own private beach.  All the resorts in Redang offer all-inclusive package holidays which include boat transfers, accommodation, snorkeling or diving & meals.  These can be arranged directly with the resort of your choice.  Meals provided at the resorts are often local dishes served buffet style.  If these do not suit your taste, you can always try one of the restaurants at a neighboring resort for a western style burger or go for a more authentic taste of nasi goreng kampung (fried Malay rice with anchovies).   

Redang is a small tropical island good for a weekend getaway.  Most choose to spend their days idyllically napping away in a swaying hammock or revel under the sun for a nice golden tan.  You can also join one of the snorkeling trips organized by your resort.  However, you can also choose to just snorkel at the shallow reefs of Pasir Panjang which can already give you a glimpse of the rich ocean life of Redang.   

For the restless at heart, you can opt to try a Discover Scuba for non-divers during your trip.  This will be an instructor-guided dive where you will be introduced to the basics of diving and have a taste of the underwater world.  It is usually a short half day session and allows you a preview of the colourful tropic reefs.   

A resting stonefish
A curious clownfish
A colourful nudibranch




Those determined to add a PADI scuba-diving license on top of achieving a prestigious MBA degree  in Asia, an open-water course can be done with any of the dive centers in Redang.  The open-water course teaches you the foundations of diving with both theory and practical tests.  This can be done within 4 – 5 days at the resort dive center depending on the aptitude of the student.  Do note that an open water course (equipment rental inclusive) with full-board resort stay cost about SGD 500 – 800.   

What does the underwater world in Redang have to offer?  One can often spot reef sharks, beautiful corals, stingrays, barracudas and many fascinating ocean life in the Redang waters.  Occasionally, lucky divers may even get to spot whale sharks on their migratory routes!  Redang also has an important conservation site for turtles which include the Green Turtle and Hawksbill Turtle.  Turtle or wildlife lovers can even sign up at the conservation website to serve as a volunteer.  By the way, visit first Singapore’s world-renowned Underwater World at Sentosa too!  These two locations offer different experiences despite offering similar things!   

Meeting Nemo face to face can be an interesting encounter.  Watching a swift reef shark majestically gliding through the waters can be a humbling experience.  Weaving through a vibrant forest of corals can be a bewitching memory.  All these with just a bold plunge into a whole new world beneath the waters.  So head off to Redang in your next break and enrich your knowledge of a secret world hidden away.   

Redang Kalong Resort: A typical basic budget dive resort.

Getting There:   

Berjaya Air flies to Pulau Redang direct from Singapore.  (www.berjaya-air.com) Return airfare is   

as low as SGD 170 including taxes.  The flight takes only  1 hr 20 mins.   

For a more budget option, Konsortium and Five Star coaches can drop you at Merang Jetty (Note: not to be confused with Marang Jetty).  From the jetty, board the boat transfer arranged with the resort.  Return coach fare is as low as SGD 90.  About 12 hours ride overnight.   

For more information on Redang resorts:  http://redang.org/resorts.htm

A Day in Historical Malacca

Author: Jennifer Cheong, MBA Office

Malacca (or Melaka) is the third smallest state in Malaysia which had Dutch, Portuguese and British influences and earned its title as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. Just 2½ – 3 hours drive away, it’s easy to make a day trip from Singapore. Malacca is charming in her own way with her rich historical heritage and is also famous for her Baba-Nyonya food. It is a small city which can be easily explored on foot, taxis or for a more unique experience, trishaws.

Dutch Square (or Red Square) next to the Malacca River is a good starting point for visitors. The buildings around this area are painted red and especially prominent is Stadthuys & Christ Church believed to be the oldest Dutch building in the East. Visitors interested in taking trishaw rides can easily take a ride from here.

Another interest place to visit is A’Famosa Portuguese fort believed to be the oldest surviving European architecture in Asia. It was built by the Portuguese who saw Malacca as an important port in the spice route to China. The Portuguese also built St. Paul’s Church – another heritage site in Malacca. Climbing up a long flight of stairs up St. Paul’s Hill, you will be rewarded with the magnificent church ruins and a breath-taking view of the city.

Just across Dutch Square is Jonker Street, the heart of Malacca’s Chinatown. Here, you can spend a leisurely afternoon shopping and indulging in the best of Malacca’s food. Along Jonker Street, you can find interesting souvenir and crafts shops and Baba-Nyonya shops selling traditional snacks such as pineapple tarts, ondeh ondeh (coconut snack) and a variety of cookies. There’s also a great selection of restaurants and eateries to tease your palate. After a hot afternoon of shopping, drop by the Geographer Café for a cold beer and relax. And when the sun sets, the street transforms into a bustling street market. Watch as the local hawkers push their carts out and display their fares to curious visitors.

Street vendor selling popiah – a thin crepe roll of savory turnip, jicama & other fillings.

Delicious little pineapple tarts from Jonker Street (Madam Goh Pineapple Tarts)

Jonker 88 Desserts is housed in a traditional Malaccan shophouse

So what are some good Malacca restaurants to try? One of them is Hoe Kee Hainan Chicken Rice Ball restaurant. Located at the entrance of Jonker Street, they sell steamed chicken served alongside with steamed rice mixed with sesame oil and rolled into little balls. Walk a bit further down (opposite Geographer Café) is Jonker Desserts 88. Here, enjoy some traditional Nyonya desserts such as durian chendol (side photo), ice-kachang or a hot bowl of laksa (curry noodles). Venturing out of Jonker Street, you can try a traditional Nyonya restaurant serving tempting dishes such as Ayam Ponteh (chicken in bean paste gravy), Sambal Udang Petai (chili with prawns and petai beans), Cincalok Omelette (egg with preserved shrimps) and Jenak Goreng Chili (fried fish with chili). A good place to start is Restaurant Makko (located opposite Hotel Equatorial).

If you would like to spend a night in Malacca, you can try staying in one of their boutique hotels which offers you a room filled with the splendor of their rich history. One such example is Courtyard at Hereen which is an old shop house that is converted into a small, cosy hotel.

All in all, Malacca is an interesting historical city and definitely worth a visit. It is a quaint city that engages its visitors with its history, friendly locals and exotic flavours.

Malacca is only a short drive away from Singapore and you can easily spend a short weekend here lost in its culture, history and food. So why not organize something with your class and have a fun cultural experience together? Please remember to check on your visitor visa entry requirements into Malaysia though.

Getting There:

Grassland Coaches: http://www.grassland.com.sg/ (About SGD 18 one way)

Delima Coaches: http://www.busonlineticket.com/ (About SGD 25 one way)

Various Coach Companies: http://www.easibook.com/ (About SGD 35 – 20 one way)

Bali: Asia’s Little Paradise

Magnificent view at the cliffs of Uluwatu

Author:  Jennifer Cheong, MBA Office

Bali, an Indonesian island located between Lombok and Java, is one of Asia’s popular travel destinations.  Although there are many beach retreats in Asia, this paradise island is still worth a visit with its offerings of beautiful beaches & landscapes, sumptuous yet affordable food and friendly locals.  It is ranked as one of the top 5 best islands in the world by Travel & Leisure Magazine (the only island in Asia to make it to the top 5 list) while Lonely Planet’s Best of Travel 2010 ranked Bali second place among the world’s Top Regions.  What makes Bali so unique?  From pristine beaches, lush green rice paddy fields, gorgeous romantic sunset or a mysterious peek at the volcanic Mount Agung, Bali welcomes its visitors with its very best.  You can choose to seclude yourself for a peaceful recharge, party to a beautiful sunset or just enjoy the turquoise sea and the lively greens of Bali with your family & friends.  What’s more, this luxurious yet romantic oasis can be enjoyed at an extremely affordable price.


Private beach at Uluwatu

Bali is blessed with quite a few beautiful beaches with soft, powdery sand.  The beaches are usually popular with surfers and not all are safe for swimming with its big waves and strong currents.  Kuta beach is the most popular amongst tourists with availability of a multitude of restaurants, shops and pubs within walking distance.  However, the place can be rowdy and packed.  Sanur beach is more popular with families with children with its calmer waters.  Seminyak beach draws a more high-end crowd with its trendy shops, cafes and bars.  The beach has strong waves but is good for surfing and body-boarding.

Bali is also ideal for scuba-diving with its most popular season in August.  During this period, scuba-divers have a high chance of seeing the rare ocean sunfish or mola mola.  Macro-lovers can also enjoy Tulamben wreck and Secret Bay.  There is also spectacular wall diving at Menjangan known as one of the best diving spots in Bali.

Less adventurous travelers can head to Lovina beach for a dolphin watching cruise.

Lush green paddy fields in September


Bali is known for its rich green paddy fields which can be a sight to behold.  Tirta Gangga in central Bali is home to some of the most beautiful rice paddies in Bali.  Around this region, enthusiastic hikers can also arrange for a hike up Mount Batur (1,771 m) – a volcanic mountain in Bali with a beautiful view of the surroundings and Lake Batur.  The hike takes about four hours round-trip.  For those who are not hiking, you can arrange a day trip with a personal driver for your group to have lunch in Tirta Gangga while soaking in the enchanting views of the rice paddy fields or enjoy a cup of coffee at a café with a view of the volcano and the lake.  The drive can also the hilly region of Batur which has a multitude of small shops selling local crafts and furniture as well as some art galleries where you can obtain a large, beautiful oil painting for about SGD 100 or less.  Most will also include Ubud as part of their destination in the day trip where you can visit the Ubud Market, Monkey Forest or even head off for white-water rafting at the Ayung River!


Those seeking peace and quiet can find respite in Ubud – a mountainous area in Bali which has a few resorts offering yoga retreats.  Bali is also known for its spas which one can easily find in any hotels or tourist areas.  One can choose from a simple foot, head or shoulder massage or a full body treatment that includes a body wrap or scrub, bath and massage.  A good, luxurious full body treatment typically does not cost more than SGD 120.  Those on a budget can enjoy a 1.5 hour massage for SGD 20 at Cozy Spa – a simple and basic massage center popular with locals and backpackers. But for those who wish to indulge a little, a good place to visit is the Mango Tree Spa at the Kupu Kupu Barong resort in Ubud.  It is a unique experience where you can to enjoy your treatment on top of a tree inside a cosy bamboo tree-house whilst listening to the soothing rhythms of the Ayung River.  The two-hour Mango Tree treatment cost about SGD 200.  Do note that reservations are mandatory for any kind of spa visit to avoid disappointment.


Wide selection of fresh seafood for BBQ
Bali offers a wide variety of food options partly due to its foreign settlers from mainly Australia and a large community of Europeans.  One can choose to have a nice fine-dining experience (around SGD 80) or a rugged meal consisting of rice with mixed vegetables and meat at a local warung (eating house) for as low as SGD 2.  Some of the popular establishments with tourists are Made’s Warung (Indonesian food), Naughty Nuri’s (bbq ribs at Ubud), Ku De Ta (fusion) and Trattoria (Italian).  Made’s Warung offers mainly local Indonesian dishes among which Nasi Campur (above picture) and Nasi Goreng (fried rice) is especially popular.  Those wishing to enjoy a beautiful sunset, good western food and drinks can visit the swanky Ku De Ta which converts into a trendy club by night.

What you definitely should not miss is the sumptuous selection of fresh seafood available in Bali.  Jimbaran is an area synonymous with fresh seafood in Bali.  Here, there are many restaurants serving fresh seafood by the beach.  The setting is typically a romantic candlelit table on the beach.  Feel the soft sand on your feet while you feast on your grilled seafood.  Another place for fresh seafood is in Echo Beach, Canggu located on the south-west coast of Bali.  It’s a good idea to check with your hotel on the local sunset time before heading out.  This way, you can enjoy the sun painting the sky and the sea into a magnificent golden hue while having dinner.

A villa with own private pool and 4 bedrooms in Seminyak district


There are a variety of accommodation options available in Bali: from backpacker’s lodges, boutique inns, hotels to villas – a vast selection for travelers to pick from.  It really depends on the travelling group size, the activities you’re planning and of course your budget.  Bear in mind that even the most luxurious option of a villa may not always be the most expensive.  If you are travelling in a group of six or more, a villa may be an extremely feasible option.  These villas are self-contained with your own living, dining area, kitchen, 2 – 4 bedrooms and even your own private pool.  Search for online deals for villas in Bali and you may pay as low as SGD 40 – 50 per person a night!


It is fairly inexpensive to get around Bali.  One can easily rent a bike or car.  Taxis are extremely affordable.  A more popular way is to hire a driver which typically, for a group of eight, can cost about SGD 60 nett per vehicle for a full day of touring any destination of your choice.  Some resorts even offer free shuttle transport to popular tourist areas.

Getting to Bali

There are daily flights from Singapore to Bali daily.  The flight only takes 2½ hours.  Major airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Garuda Indonesia and Qatar Airways all fly direct to Bali.  For the cost conscious, budget airlines such as Jetstar and Air Asia flies direct from Singapore to Bali as well.  All-inclusive fares cost as low as SGD 128 for promotional fares offered by the airlines.

Remember, it’s not all about studies and gaining professional experience while in Singapore.  Take off during a long weekend and bask in the sun & sea of mythical Bali!  After all, it’s not every day one gets to earn a world-renowned MBA degree and yet have the opportunity to enjoy one of the world’s top 5 best islands at the same time.

Note: You may like to avoid the Nyepi – Balinese New Year in March to travel.  The Balinese calls this day the Day of Silence and the shops and restaurants will be closed.

The Lovely Bintan

Author: Yosuke S., Japan

Singapore is just a stone’s throw away from everywhere else. Which is why, most of us would travel together regularly to surrounding cities or islands for a relaxing weekend vacation.

Recently, a group of us decided to hit the shores of Bintan, Indonesia. Bintan is an island which is just an hour away from Singapore by ferry. Most of the shops, restaurants and hotels accept the Singapore currency too, so we don’t even need to bother about exchanging currencies.
It is a perfect getaway if you had a hectic week at school, and like me, only the sound of beach waves and the sight of bikini babes can relax me. We were kept busy with sea sports like banana boating, jet skiing, para gliding and just chilling on the upper deck of a small rented yatch.

In Japanese culture, we believe in a good life balance between work and relax. So, I am glad here in Singapore, I am able to have the same balance. Although the program is rigourous, whenever I think about these affordable short getaways to relax by the beautiful beaches, I have enough motivation to work hard during the week.

Some recommendations I have in Bintan, are the spa and seafood. Go to a reputable spa and spend a few hours enjoying a massage. I am beginning to like the Balinese style of massage a lot. Since Bintan is an island, there is plenty of seafood. I suggest going out of the hotel (as they can charge more) and heading downtown for a good seafood restaurant. If only they serve sashimi.

Let me share some pictures with you.

Our ferry is called Penguin 5. The upper deck feels less shaky in the waves.

My heart jumped for joy when I saw the peaceful water and simple way of life

The sight of a quiet sandy beach is so welcoming

You will see me if you look closely. I was trying not to fall off the boat!

The view from our rented yatch. All you need is a pair of shades and suntan lotion.

You can have your massage outdoors if you wish to

Some also like to snorkel but I’m not a fan of jellyfish

I wish this is the view from my room, but it is not. One day it will be.

This is the view from our hotel. Not bad too.

There were some couples enjoying their romantic dinners on the beach. Unfortunately my dinner partners were a bunch of MBA guys.

The sunset is absolutely beautiful. I have not seen anything like this before.

If you wish to go downtown for shopping in the night, these trishaws will bring you there very quickly.

A 3-day Getaway to Phuket!

Author: Adeline T., Singapore

Just a short 1 hour and 45 minutes’ flight away from Singapore, is Phuket, and island south of Thailand which is favoured by many beach bums like myself.

Cotton candy clouds en-route to Phuket

If you have 3 days to spare, do what I did!

I bought an air ticket from Jetstar Asia, 1 of the 3 budget carriers we have in Singapore (The other two are Tiger Airways and Air Asia). All 3 of them have regular promotions, so check often to get yourself a good deal!) And simply with a passport in a hand, and a small bag of clothes and necessities in another, I was off to a weekend of sun, sand and the sea!

Phuket is not like its metropolitan sister cities, neither is it steeped in rich history. But it has one of the nicest beaches I’ve ever seen, and unfortunately, even more beautiful, after the killer 2004 Tsunami that killed over 230,000 people in the region (recorded as one of history’s worst natural catastrophes) ravaged the great mass of low lands on the island. For a whole year, Phuket was hard at work, grieving and rebuilding everything that it lost, back to its former glory.

I checked myself into the Dusit Thani, Thailand’s premier hotel chain. I was showed to my cozy deluxe room with a balcony that overlooks the Indian Ocean, by the Bangtao Beach (a less rowdy part of Phuket as compared to the Patong Beach which is peppered with many pubs and bars and other joints not suitable for mention in this blog).

The calm, blue and alluring sea just steps away from my room

The river that links the Dusit Thani to the other hotels in the same Bangtao stretch

I hired a guide cum driver, who brought me to some really good spas in Phuket. Getting a simple massage in Phuket doesn’t come cheap, but because of how hospitable and skillful the Thai masseuses are, it is well worth the money.

This spa sits on the river bank.

Check out the amazing mountainous view!

In between spa-ing and vegetating under the sun all 3 days, I managed to squeeze in an hour of ATV Quad Biking near a swamp on an uneven terrain which proved to be the most daring activity I have ever attempted at. Steep inclines, sudden drops, into a mud pool, getting a wheel stuck in sand, both legs encrusted in mud stains…beats shopping any day if you asked me.

On the final night of my stay in Phuket, I did what every tourist in Phuket would do – I went to the Simon Cabaret! Performed by only ladyboys (transvestites), the show consisted of only lip-syncs to the latest pop songs in a few regional languages amidst elaborate and grandeur setting. The ladyboys were modelesque and had beautiful features (not without the help of a good plastic surgeon actually) but they did charm the pants off the male audiences (no pun intended). They all gather at the exit after the show, so that the audiences can take photos with them for a fee.

She looks gorgeous! I was truly mesmerised…

Check out her elaborate headgear with intricate details. Wow!

Three days was all I needed for a quick rejuvenation and it was a very well-deserving holiday for all the hard work I have put in for the past 2 trimesters!

Back to my studies for now!

New Kid On The Block in Sentosa!

We are all very excited…that Singapore has just become even more exciting, with its very first integrated resort, featuring a CASINO, the UNIVERSAL STUDIOS theme park and GRAND hotels and the largest OCEANARIUM in the world, within a mammoth area of 49 hectares of land!

Opened on Valentine’s Day this year, which is coincidentally the first day of the Lunar New Year, Resorts World is situated off the southern part of Singapore, in a conjoined island called SENTOSA.

We Singaporeans grew up with only Sentosa to escape to during the school holidays. (Remember, Singapore is land-scarce before the land reclaiming projects started!) Back then, the island was not well-developed with hotels or other forms of entertainment. So, apart from a fast food outlet and some historic sites to visit on a monorail that runs through the island, and ok, a musical fountain, there really weren’t much sights to devour like a tourist should.

So, Singapore has truly come a long way, to become a top tourist destination today. *beams with pride*

With the exams behind us now (they just ended last week), I am planning to visit Sentosa again! (Note to Victoria Secret’s fans: VS has opened its first Asian store here in Resorts World!!! *Ballistic with anticipation*)

Looking forward to the rides, the shopping, the dining, the blackjack table, the spas. I think I should just check myself in to Hard Rock Hotel for a 3 day staycation! WOOOHOOOO!!

Updates soon!

P/S: Meanwhile, I leave you with some pictures of Resorts World I’ve seen from other friends’ blogs. I can’t wait!

Hard Rock Hotel facade: I’ve always wanted to stay in one of these but never had the chance to

Entrance to the Casino, our very first!

The Crockfords Tower Hotel entrance. WOW.

I am never going on this thing. But it looks scary enough to excite some of my roller coaster fanatic friends.

Jesters on stilts on its opening day. Charming.

Now this is charming but where’s the floor vent?!?