Sunday, April 19, 2015

Trip To Gardens By The Bay, Singapore: Bay South Garden

Photo By: Elin Chow

Gardens By The Bay is undeniably one of my favorite attraction to visit while I was still in Singapore. I have visited the attraction thrice in a year before I left Singapore. The last time I was there, I was with my husband' family and that was about a year and a half ago.

Gardens By The Bay

Gardens By The Bay is one of the recent addition to Singapore's tourist attraction. Built on 101 hectares of reclaimed land in central of Singapore, Gardens By The Bay was officially opened to the public in 2012. The attraction consists of three distinctive waterfront gardens - Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden. Bay South Garden is known to be the largest among the three, spanning 54 hectares of land.

Operating Hours

The Garden By The Bay opens daily, from 5 am to 2 am. Access to the Bay South Outdoor Garden is free. You may wish to visit its official website for more information.

How To Get There

Getting to Gardens By The Bay is easy and convenient. You can do so by taking the train, bus or car.

By Train (Via the Circle/ Downtown Line)

Alight at Bayfront MRT (CE1) station and proceed to take Exit B. Follow the underground link way and exit into Marina Bay Sands. 

By Train & Bus (Via the North-South Line)

Alight at Marina Bay MRT (NS27/CE2) station and proceed to take Exit A. Hop onto bus service 400 and alight 4 stops later at the bus stop along Marina Garden Drive.

By Walking (From Marina Bay Sands)

The Gardens By The Bay is sitting right next to the Marina Bay Bay Sands integrated resort, with Bayfront MRT station located just below the hotel.

You can reach the Gardens by walking across the overhead bridge (Lions Bridge) (opens daily from 8am to 11pm) connecting the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Gardens By The Bay. Alternatively, you may also take the underground link via Bayfront MRT station.

For us, we chose to take the train, via the Circle Line. Unfortunately, the weather was rather gloomy and wet on that day when we visited. There was a heavy rain falling around that area before we arrived. But luckily, the rain has stopped by the time we arrived at the attraction.

The Singapore Flyer is visible from afar, which gave us a great opportunity to take some nice photographs.

From Marina Bay Sands, proceed to cross the Dragonfly Lake via the Dragonfly Bridge, leading into Gardens By The Bay.

Supertree Grove

One of the biggest attraction at the Gardens By The Bay will be the iconic tall and alien tree-looking structures sprouting out from visible distance. Named as the 'Supertrees', these 50m tall tree-like structures have large canopies that function as a temperature moderator, absorbing and dispensing heat, as well as providing shelter for visitors during the day.

There are a total of 18 Supertrees, all located within Bay South Garden at Gardens By The Bay. Among the 18, eleven of which are fitted with solar photvoltic system to generate solar energy, providing lighting for the two conservatories located within the attraction. Apart from that, its exposed funnel-shaped top also helps to collect and store rainwater for use in irrigation and waterfall display within the conservatories.

As night falls, be enchanted as the Supertrees come alive with a light and music show known as OCBC Garden Rhapsody, which takes place nightly at 7.45pm and 8.45pm.

OCBC Skyway

Take a stroll along the OCBC Skyway - a 128-metre long walkway with a height of 22-metres that connects two supertrees at the Supertree Grove. During the day, a stroll along the OCBC Skyway offers you a spectacular panoramic view of the Gardens against the Marina Bay skyline, with icons like Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer visible from atop this aerial walkway. 

The OCBC Skyway opens daily from 9am to 9pm. Unlike the Bay South Outdoor Garden, access to the OCBC Skyway is not free. Ticket to the OCBC Skyway can be purchased at the ticketing hub. Admission fee is SGD $5 for adult and SGD $3 for child (aged 3 - 12 years old). 

Please note the OCBC Skyway will be closed on a specific day each month for maintenance. Be sure to check out its maintenance schedule before you make a trip down to the Garden.

Heritage Garden

The Heritage Garden is a collection of four themed gardens - Chinese, Malay, Indian and Colonial gardens. Take a stroll through the four themed gardens and learn abput the links between plants and Singapore's history.

We took a quick stroll through the Heritage Garden as there was nothing interesting for us to see. Thus, I was not in the mood to take any photos while we were exploring the Heritage Garden, until I saw these beautiful Terracotta horse sculptures. For some unknown reasons, these horse sculptures just seem to fascinate me very much. After taking a quick photo of it, we strolled through the Heritage Garden and Supertree Grove to the Conservatories' visitor centre.


Located along the edge of Marina Reservoir, you will also find a conservatory complex which comprises two cooled conservatories - The Flower Dome and The Cloud Forest

Designed as the world's largest climate-controlled glasshouse in the world, the conservatories are fitted with advanced energetic, allowing it to replicate  the cool-dry climate of the Mediterranean, semi-arid sub tropical regions and cool-moist climate of the Tropical Montane regions. 

The visitor centre at the Conservatories has an open air concept with a number of eateries and cafes lining up the entire area. During weekends or public holidays, it is not a surprise to find the entire area crowded with visitors. Be prepared to expect very long queues at the ticketing counter for entrance tickets to the two conservatories. 

Before we entered the two conservatories, we went on to explore the park surrounding the glass domes.

Looking through the glass domes, we could see the beautiful garden that lies within. We decided to stop for a quick rest at one of the benches along the way and surprisingly, we just happened to chance upon that piece of glass panel that was set in place by Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for National Development. On that piece of glass panel, it wrote:

"On 15th February 2011, Minister for National Development, Mr Mah Bow Tan 
helped to secure the last glass panel of the Flower Dome in place, which marked the completion of the conservatory". 

From the park surrounding the domes, you can also get a unobstructed view of the Singapore Flyer.

Dragonfly & Kingfisher Lake

The Gardens By The Bay uses a lake system that encompasses two lakes - the Dragonfly Lake and Kingfisher Lake. Designed to be an extension of Marina Reservoir, the lake system incorporates key ecological processes and function as a living system, providing clean water by natural rainwater filtration techniques. Water run-off from within the Gardens is captured by the system and treated by filter beads of aquatic reeds before being discharged into reservoirs or used in the built-in irrigation system of the Gardens.

Apart from that, the lakes also provide an aquatic habitats for fishes and dragonflies, both of which help to control mosquito breeding. Take a stroll on the 440-meters boardwalk along Dragonfly Lake and discover more about the ecosystem.

Gardens By The Bay is a great place for families and friends to gather for picnics and spend some quality time together. Walking around the park will not cost you a cent unless you want to step inside the climate-controlled glass conservatories or walk through the elevated skyway amongst the Supertrees. 

Although it was a little bit expensive, we still went on to visit the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest as well. It was a very amazing and memorable experience. For those who are interested, please stay tuned as I will be covering my visit to the two conservatories in next upcoming post very soon. 

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Singaporean Living In Malaysia - My Response To The Naysayers

For everyone who had taken your time to read and comment on my previous post, "Why did I Left Singapore For Malaysia," first of all, thank you. The response has been overwhelming, so much more than what I have ever expected. But not surprisingly, my post has gathered both positive and negative comments which I initially did not intended to reply. But then, I realized that I could not. There has been too many misconceptions about me which I feel the need to clarify.

However, from the overwhelming responses and comments this post has received, one thing is clear. It is undeniable that I have brought up a topic that is worth debating.

Initially, I wrote this post with the intention to share my experiences in Malaysia. Numerous times, I have been asked by the many people whom I have met in Malaysia for the reasons of my relocation. Well, it is true that my husband was the greatest pull factor in my relocation to Malaysia. However, even if I have not met him, I might have plans to relocate elsewhere. It could be Australia, Canada or anywhere in the world.

My husband and I actually have the choice to choose between Singapore or Malaysia. For him, it was never a difficult decision to make. But for me, it took me lots of courage to make such a decision. Just like every Singaporeans, Malaysia was never the most ideal country for me to settle down and start a family. In fact, I was just like any other typical Singaporean who thought that Malaysia is just a country that is inferior to Singapore in every aspect.

After living here for a few months, my perception about this country changed. Malaysia was nothing like what I have read or heard from others. In fact, my dad is a Malaysian and I spent 1/3 of my life growing up in Malaysia, travelling to and fro between Johor and Singapore every day. Malaysia was just like my second home. I thought I have seen and knew Malaysia well, only to realize how wrong I am.

I am not ranting, not trying to justify. Everything I wrote is solely based on my personal experiences. If anyone of you still feel that I am ranting, I am fine with that. From the comments I read, I realized how much people can be blinded by anger, thus could not be bothered to read more deeply into my article.  I certainly do not need anyone to tell me how unsafe Malaysia is since I have already raised my concern on that issue in that previous article I wrote. If bringing this issue up again and again makes you feel better, then please continue.

Also, to Singaporeans, Malaysians are not foreign immigrants. I do not hate the Malaysians who are in Singapore to earn our stronger dollars. To me, Malaysia is not only a close neighbor, but also a family. It is known fact that a sizable number of Singaporeans and Malaysians have families or friends living on both sides of the border.

Furthermore, I did not specially relocate to Malaysia to work or to earn the weaker ringgit. Instead, I moved to the country for my Malaysian husband with the hope for a balanced and fulfilling life. Thus, I found it extremely offensive when I was compared to the Filipinos, Vietnamese or Chinese who specially came to Singapore for job.

For people who have supported, defended and encouraged me, I feel so utterly thankful. You might not be aware that your little words of encouragement gave me strength and courage to continue to strive for the better future. It was also because of you that I decided to speak up and defend myself. Do not worry. I am not affected by any of the negative comments left behind by some of the readers.

As for those who disagree with my opinions, I certainly do not take your negative comments to heart. Every individual has their right to express their opinions and it is impossible for me to please everyone. Furthermore, why should I please others? I should focus on making myself happy instead.

For those readers who happen to think that my article is shit, I am sorry that you actually feel that way. It's a shame that you have to leave such an offensive comment just to get your point across. However, the fact that you actually took your time to leave me a comment shows that my opinions have indeed stirred some kind of negative emotion in you. You actually felt something, but decided to deceive yourself. If this article of mine is really shit, I believe you would not even bothered to write me a comment.

However, if you still feel that what I wrote are just trash, please feel free to leave and never return to my blog again since I will probably not stop writing about my life in Malaysia.

Now to clarify some of the misconceptions of me.

1. Public transport system 

Undeniably, Singapore has one of the best transportation networks in the world, but we must admit that it is inadequate to cope with the current population in the country.

Due to the sudden population growth, service outrages are definitely not an exception anymore, but becoming a norm in Singapore. It is definitely not rare to wait more than 15 minutes to get on a bus, which often arrived with passengers packed like sardines.

As for affordability, I find it relatively cheaper to take the public transport in KL than in Singapore. I find public transportation in Singapore no longer reliable and punctual as the frequency of service disruptions increase in the recent years. Commuting on public transportation is no longer a pleasant experience when service disruptions become common.

To Mr Patrick who said that you do not quite buy my argument on public transport being better in KL than it is in Singapore, I afraid there is nothing I can do to convince you. Furthermore, I do not see the reason why I have to convince you since my argument is based on my personal experience.

Although public transportation system in Malaysia still lacks of integration and accessibility, I still find commuting a more pleasant experience in KL compared to Singapore. In terms of connectivity, Malaysia is rather well-connected by road, rail, sea and air too. You will find public transport by buses, trains, taxis and planes comfortable, efficient and relatively low in cost in Malaysia. If you dislike the idea of taking a public transport, you could also drive and travel around in your own car, which is available at an affordable price.

To me, cars are definitely NOT a luxury, but a necessity. Just like what this anonymous reader above, I could not imagine sending my child to school to school with public transports and then to work everyday. It is both mentally and physically draining to spend 3 or more hours just on travelling each day.

Without a car, grocery shopping will be a chore, even in Singapore. I could not imagine myself squeezing into a sardine-packed train or bus with my hands full of heavy grocery bags and not being able to get myself a seat.

Undoubtedly, owning a car in Singapore is a luxury due to the need to bid for a Certificate of Entitlement (COE).

The above shows the results of Singapore COE opening bidding exercise for April 2015. Paying SGD 67k for a piece of paper is just ridiculous. If the COE system does not exist, I believe you would want to buy in Singapore too.

Furthermore, I do not see the point of comparing the public transportation system in both countries. In Singapore, Singaporeans rely heavily on the public transport for commuting. Whereas in Malaysia, Malaysians generally rely on private vehicles to get around due to two factors:

1. Public transportation in Malaysia lacks reliability, punctuality and accessibility

2. Affordability of cars in Malaysia

When I commented and explained why I actually had better commuting experience in KL than in Singapore, Singaporeans just got extremely defensive. It makes me wonder why. Perhaps, Singaporeans are just too proud to accept critcism and admit to their weaker neighbour that there are indeed flaws in our 'world class' transportation systems.

Undoubtedly, the public transportation system in Malaysia is also flawed. However, it is obvious that the government has done a lot of hardwork to improve the national transportation system. Besides, Malaysia is about 478 times bigger than Singapore. Thus, we must understand that implementation of a sustainable and integrated transportation system could not be done in a short time.

2. Discrimination

The topic of discrimination can be a very sensitive one to discuss. Since some of the readers brought this up, I shall discuss on this topic briefly.

It is true government policies in Malaysia often favour the Malay majority and those with a Bumiputras status, particularly in areas such as housing, finance and education. However, the Chinese and Indians in Malaysia do not really view it as discrimination. Instead, the minority see it as preferential or special privileges given by the government to the majority Malays. Well, it may seems a little bit unfair and biased, but unfortunately, there is not much you can do about it.

Regarding the issue of Malay privileges, I would agree with what the anonymous reader above has said. If racial discrimination is really such a big issue in Malaysia, then most of the Malays in the country would be much more well-off than now. However, this is not the case in the country where a significant number of the race still live in poverty.

Personally, I feel that racism and discrimination exist everywhere in all levels of each society. Singapore is not an exception too. An example of this will be employment discrimination. It occurs when an employer posted an employment ad explicitly stating or suggesting preferred candidates for that job position. I believe many of you would have seen dozens of employment ads specifying a race, nationalities or language requirement for that job position on several online job portals in Singapore too.

3. Corruption

A number of the readers have brought up the problem of corruption in Malaysia. Well, corruption is actually another very sensitive topic which I do not wish to comment on, especially when I could not provide any supporting evidence to prove my point. However, has any of you wonder how Singapore managed to curb corruption to remain as the one of the least-corrupt country in the world? Well, I believe part of it is due to the excessively and ridiculously high salaries the country offers to its ministers.

It is a known fact that Singapore's cabinet ministers are, by far, the highest paid in the world. In fact, the prime minister of Singapore is paid 4 times more than the president of United States of Amercia.

Not surprisingly, these high salaries received backlash from the public, particularly from Singaporeans who are struggling in their everyday life. Despite public unhappiness, the government has justified that high salaries are necessary to attract the best talents into the government and to discourage political corruption in the country.

Now, let us look at what Malaysia actually pays its ministers. The figures shown below may be outdated, but this is all I could find on the internet.

Comparing to the high salaries offered in Singapore, the monthly salaries for Malaysian leaders are peanuts.

So, are high salaries necessary and efficient in discouraging corruption? I am not sure too. But I believe it is effective way to reduce corruption in the public sector. In my opinion, high salaries lower the high public officials' interest in accepting additional income from corruption. Even if they wanted to, these officials will probably never want to take the risk and get caught, thus losing their high-paying job.

Are high salaries the only way to curb corruption in a country? Probably not. Offering high salaries is good, but not at the expense of Singaporeans. Despite being an effective way to discourage corruption, unfortunately, the high salaries which Singapore offers has also attracted intense anger and unhappiness from the public.

3. Taxation 

The personal income tax rate in Singapore may be one of the lowest in world, but Singaporeans actually pay 3.5 times more into indirect tax than direct tax.

Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced on 1st April 1994, at a rate of 3% as to enable Singapore to shift its reliance from direct tax to indirect tax. The rate was later increased from 3% to 4% and up to 5% on 1st January 2004. It was later increased to the current GST rate of 7% on 1st January 2007.

As of Financial Year 2014, %The GST contribute the second largest portion, after corporate income taxes, making up about 16.5% of Singapore's total operating revenue.

Similarly, GST has been implemented at a rate of 6% in Malaysia with effect from 1st April 2015. With the implementation of GST in Malaysia, the high income tax rate in Malaysia has also been reduced by 1% to 2%.

GST is a form of indirect tax which tax on the consumption of goods and services in the country.

GST in Singapore vs GST in Malaysia

Singapore has adopted a comprehensive taxation approach, under which almost all goods and services are taxable at the current standard rate of 7%, except certain financial services, sale and lease of residential properties, sale and import of qualifying investment metals, which are exempted from GST. Only export of goods and international services are categorized as zero-rated.

Whereas, in Malaysia, basic necessities such as rice, sugar, flour, cooking oil, vegetables, poultry, water and utilities usage are categorized as zero-rated items. Private healthcare, education services and public transportation are also categorized as exempted items in Malaysia.

Income tax in Malaysia

To the anonymous reader above, I have not overlooked the high income tax rate in Malaysia. In fact, as a non-tax resident in Malaysia, I had paid 26% of my monthly income into taxation. But once I have become a tax resident in Malaysia, the high tax rates will no longer apply.

Besides, I have been working in KL for more than a year and I would say that not all companies in Malaysia make PCB deduction for their employees. Even they do, I believe most Malaysians do not really give a damn about it.

Do Singaporeans really pay the lowest tax in the world? Perhaps not.

4. Higher purchasing power ≠ Wealth ≠ Happiness

Can money buy happiness? It is always perceived that people with higher income are generally happier than those who constantly struggle to get by in life. Well, I must agree that money can indeed buy you some form of happiness.

However, earning a higher income and stronger currency does not necessary guarantee you a good and easy life. What matters more is how you manage you finances or spend your money.

Happiness cannot be measured by wealth, just like money can never buy you time. What is the point of earning and having lots of money in your bank when you do not even have the time to appreciate and enjoy life?

Furthermore, earning a weaker currency does not mean that Malaysians could not afford go on overseas holidays or buy imported branded products. Singaporeans might be proud that their stronger currency enables them to travel more often and buy more branded products than Malaysians, but at the end of the day, the happiness you get is just temporary.

The true advantage of earning SGD instead of RM comes only when you are spending it outside of the country.  But when it comes to settling down, starting a family or planning for your retirement in Singapore, you would realized that you actually have nothing to boast about.

However, whether you are rich or poor, the most important thing in life is to be happy. From what I have seen, most Malaysians are generally happier than Singaporeans, who are known to place a greater importance on family. Singaporeans, on the other hand, are more interested in monetary rewards than family. For me, it is family life.

5. Education & healthcare system

Education in Singapore adopt a system of meritocracy which recognizes and rewards individuals based on acheivement, merit and hard work. Unlike Malaysia, Singapore embraces an English- based billingual education system where English is used as the medium of instruction for all subjects in schools. The official Mother Tongue of each student - Mandarin for Chinese, Malay for Malays and Tamil for Tamil Indians - is taught as the second language.

English continues to be the dominant language in the business world and fluency in the language actually offers one a far wider choice of career prospects and the advantage to succeed globally. However, due to the strong emphasis placed on English language, many Singaporeans in Singapore today could not communicate fluently in their Mother Tongue.

Singapore's education system, despite being rated as one of the best in the world, has been heavily critcized for being heavy on memorization and light on critical thinking and creativity. It is also too competitive and rigid in nature where a strong emphasis is placed solely on academic results. In fact, Singaporeans are not learning in school. We do not study just because we wanted to learn, but rather, we memorized to pass our exams in school. There is a common misconception that the higher number of As indicates the person is smarter and will fare better in the job market. Is this really the case? I bet the answer is no.

Even having said that, I still prefer the education system in Singapore. But only to primary school levels. Why? The education system in Singapore, though rigid and exam-orientiated, is still efficient in developing a strong foundation in every individuals. It allows interaction across all different races and foster unity  among Singaporeans. The biggest problems I find in Malaysia's education system is the medium of instruction used to teach and the existence of vernacular schools.

Schools remain the best place to unite all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion. Without doubt, the existence of vernacular schools may have caused disunity in the country, especially when we have the chinese going to chinese schools and the Tamil going to the Tamil schools.

Even so, I wonder what actually makes the anonymous reader above assumed that my children are bound to have a hard life in Malaysia. If life is hard in Malaysia, every Malaysian will be suffering now. But why do I still see lots of successful Malaysia who are too, the product of Makaysia's education system?

The education system in Malaysia might not br the best, but I believe it is improving. If Singapore's education system is that good, why are Singapore's companies recuiting and hiring foreign talents? We should have the talents to fill in all those positions that are taken up by the foreign talents. But why are Singaporeans not hired?

Health care 

Singapore is known to have one of the best healthcare system in the world, but unfortunately, it comes with a hefty price tag.

There is a common saying in Singapore. "You can die, but you cannot fall sick in Singapore. if you fall sick, you might not be able to afford  to go for medical treatments, even with government susidiaries."

Unlike Singapore, the health care system in Malaysia is definitely not the best in the world, but at least, it has been heavily subsidized by the government. In fact, the medical and health charges imposed by the government hospitals and clinics are the cheapest in the world.

The above shows the charges of imposed by the government hospitals and clinics in Malaysia.

At government hospitals in Malaysia, a Malaysian will only need to pay RM 1 for a visit to outpatient clinics and RM 5 for consultation at a specialist clinic. Although foreigners are required to pay more, I still find the price pretty affordable when compared to Singapore.

So, to Ferli81, if you already feel stressed and cannot even afford to pay the medical bills in Malaysia, please keep yourself healthy and do not fall sick in Singapore. The cost of healthcare in Singapore will be so much more expensive than Malaysia. Also, I do not find the private services in Malaysia ridiculously expensive or unaffordable too.

Final Conclusion

After reading through all the comments, I can further confirm one thing - that Singaporeans are arrogant who love to brag and put others down. Why are Singaporeans always trying to put their neighbour down? Does it make them feel much better about themselves? No matter how many times I have stressed upon the importance of work-life balance, some people just remain too blinded to see. Between money and a balanced life, I have chosen the latter. For those who said that I have no right to rant, then what gives you the right to judge my decision.

Apart from that, I certainly do not understand why Malaysians have to compare KL to Penang or to any other state in Malaysia. To me, every state in Malaysia has its own speciality and uniqueness. Whether it is KL, Penang or any other states, as long as you are happy and satisfied with your life, anywhere, everywhere could be home.

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