How flying has been made harder due to COVID-19

COVID-19 has thrown the aviation industry into chaos and travelling during this period has changed a lot. Here’s my personal experience on just how hard flying is during this pandemic.

A very quiet Changi International Airport

Purchasing airplane tickets is a lot more difficult. A usual search on Skyscanner and Google Flights (prior to the pandemic) always showed many results – from direct flights or multi-stop flights with many options to choose from. However, for my flight to Taipei, only a single direct flight was available from Singapore on my specified date. This was never the case prior to COVID-19 – and even after the purchase, there was a chance that my flight could be cancelled at the last minute as well (I’ve seen many cases of cancelled flights during this period!)

Stricter border restrictions have also made flying a lot harder – especially if you’re going to a location where you are not a citizen. For me, I had obtained a special visa to enter Taiwan, and this visa had a validity of three months from the date of issue. In addition, separate entry documentation was also required at the check-in counter. I was surprised when the check-in staff told me that they were not able to proceed with the check-in till they received a confirmation from their Taiwan counterparts that my name was under the “approved-for-entry” list.

Quarantine, stay-home notice, increased health-screening at airports and more… if you’re travelling internationally, you are highly likely to face some of these measures. Before I could clear immigration in Taipei, I had to purchase a local SIM card and register my arrival online before proceeding further.

To date (on my fifth day of quarantine), I have had to record my temperature on LINE (messaging app) daily as well as respond to the SMS they send periodically – if you fail to respond to it, they will call you up to check on you!

All these health safety measures, while helpful in ensuring that COVID-19 cases are well-detected, are a huge deterrent for travellers. Fourteen days in quarantine is tough as it is both time-consuming and can be very costly, besides being claustrophobic.

Travelling is indeed challenging during this period, but if there’s one thing I enjoy, it is the amount of space each traveller has on flights now. With fewer travellers, coupled with the fact that safe-distancing measures have to be implemented within flights, there is really a lot of space an individual has during the flight. The nearest passenger to me was two rows in front of me, with the majority of rows of seats behind me left empty.

Each airline has its health safety policy. The airline I took, China Airlines, limited the number of passengers within each zone. It also gave each of us a disposable mask with a case upon boarding (I thought that was a very nice gesture!). All food served were in dedicated trays, and there was only one option they had for every passenger.

Travel will not be the same any time soon, but till then, let’s travel only if absolutely necessary. Let’s stay home, stay safe and stay healthy together!

Xiaomi MiJia Youth Projector: An incredible device

My family purchased the Xiaomi MiJia Youth projector during Phase 1 of Singapore’s circuit breaker as a form of entertainment in our living room.

After a solid three months of using it, here are some of the things I like about this projector and some minor complaints.

What thrilled me

  1. The projector is only slightly bigger than my hand. With a height of just 15cm, the projector weighs only 1.3 kg. That’s a projector and a speaker packed into one compact and mighty device.
  2. The throw is really good. Powered by a 500 ANSI lumens light source, it trumps the average 300 lumens projectors — it can fill my 100-inch projector screen nicely and looks bright and crisp at night (the colour’s a tad faint in the daytime due to the sunlight but that’s honestly acceptable). It supports 1080p resolution and in a small living room, the resolution is superb!
  3. The auto focusing is accurate. If the projector is shifted, the feature is triggered to re-focus the screen. Alternatively, you can also easily call the function from the remote control to deal with focus issues should you want to readjust it.
  4. The speaker is loud. While it doesn’t give a strong bass, it is loud and can fill the entire living room without an external speaker. One can also easily use the projector as a speaker.
  5. My MacBook Pro and iPad connects well with the in-built AirPlay. Hooked on the same WiFi network, my Apple devices connect fast and well with the Xiaomi MiJia Youth projector without any lag.

What could be better

Remote-control with AI Voice Search Function Available
  1. We got the China edition, which unlike the international version, does not provide Netflix or Chromecast-related features. The in-built MIUI TV does not run in Singapore and almost all content inside is paid content which cannot be accessed. All content is in Chinese too, and while switching it to English provides some English headers, the bulk of the content is still in Chinese.
  2. To get the throw you want, you’ve got to shift the projector manually. Unlike some other projectors on the market which allow one to shift the scale of the throw on the screen on the projector itself, the Xiaomi MiJia Youth projector needs to be manually shifted to get the exact throw you want. It works but is inconvenient.
  3. The fact that the version I got was the China edition also rendered a lot of the remote-control features useless for us. Apart from turning the projector on, changing the input source, volume, and dealing with the auto-focus, we do not get to make use of the AI-driven audio search function that’s available on the remote control. This doesn’t affect the overall use of the projector but would have been much better if we had been able to use it.

The Xiaomi MiJia Youth projector is an incredible projector. It costs less than a TV, is highly portable and can be connected to the Internet and a plethora of devices – Nintendo Switch, AirPlay, XiaoMi devices, and basically anything with a HDMI cable (even Google Chromecast). For the convenience and its price, getting this projector is hands-down a win for my family!

Rating: 5/5

You can find the product on Lazada or Shopee. Alternatively, you can head to XiaoMi’s flagship store in Funan (that’s where we first set our eyes on it!).

Missing Taiwan? Have the next best thing – A Taiwanese breakfast at Fong Sheng Hao

Joined the party a little late in discovering a (not-a-new-kid-on-the-block) Feng Sheng Hao – a Taiwanese Sandwich (Toast) joint located at Paya Lebar Quarters.

What started off as a sandwich stall in the famous Shihlin Night Market back in 2013 has evolved to a popular joint here in Singapore, where customers can indulge in Taiwanese-styled sandwiches.

Similar to Ah Seng (Hai Nam) Coffee Stall which prides itself in serving charcoal-grilled toasts, Fong Sheng Hao also goes ‘back-to-basics’ in creating the perfect (albeit rather pricey) sandwich which comprises of fillings that go beyond spreads.

Among the four of us, we ordered three types of sandwiches – Taiwan Special Pork Patty Sandwich, Spicy Pork, Egg and Cheese Sandwich as well as the Pork Floss Egg and Cheese Sandwich. Seen below are half the sandwiches of the Spicy Pork, Egg and Cheese Sandwichand the Pork Floss Egg and Cheese Sandwich.

The Taiwan Special Pork Patty Sandwich consists of a pork patty, cheese and egg. Compared to the Spicy Pork, Egg and Cheese Sandwich which boasts similar ingredients, the Taiwan Special Pork Patty Sandwich, the store’s signature item has a sweeter taste that’s a mix between a Chinese sausage and a Taiwanese sausage.

The Spicy Pork, Egg and Cheese Sandwich had a spicy sauce which had a rather good ‘kick’ – ain’t too spicy, yet it made the sandwich more flavourful. The patty was also on the saltier side. I’d say that this suits a typical Singaporean’s palette.

The Pork Floss Egg and Cheese Sandwich was the most memorable of the lot for me as I it brought back memories of when I had my first solid pork-floss with egg sandwich in Taiwan almost 12 years ago! Stuffed with pork floss, this sandwich has both the sweet and savoury elements to it. This sandwich doesn’t give the same bite as the previous two as it is more ‘airy’ and ‘springy’, which makes it exceptionally nice.

In all honesty, the toasted bread was not too much of a highlight for me, but it was pretty good!

Aside to the sandwiches, we also got the milk tea and a regular coffee. Taiwan’s food chains do serve milk tea on their regular breakfast menus. The breakfast milk tea, however, tastes pretty different to what we’re used to – customized bubble tea. Instead, it’s has a stronger creamer taste and tends to be on the sweeter side. The milk tea from Fong Sheng Hao definitely falls into the ‘breakfast chain-type of milk tea. The coffee was a typical Singapore-style coffee – not fancy, but decent!

Conclusion

This is definitely a nice place to hang out and to savour some Taiwanese toasts. With the limitations of air travel during this period, Fong Sheng Hao really gives the holiday vibes as you eat the Taiwanese breakfast! It is a bit on the pricey side, but I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys savoury breakfasts.

I’d give it a solid 4/5 for its sandwich.

Fun fact: Fong Sheng Hao has been listed Top 10 outstanding Singapore Food Masters in the East Zone by SPH.

Steps to get your passport-sized photos printed at an affordable price!

Need a passport sized photo but find that the price of it is just too high? 

I recently needed a passport-sized photo and wanted to do it the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way.

While there are many pop-up photo booths scattered across town, each charges a minimum of $7 which I deem too costly for a single passport size photo! 

Here are the steps to get your passport photo printed cheap, and of decent quality (of course). 

  1. Download the Photo for Passport mobile application
  2. Dress up and get ready to take your photo. Ensure that your eyes and eyebrows are not blocked by your hair. If you have dark coloured hair, you may want to put on a lighter coloured shirt to ensure that your hair does not blend in too much with your shirt (or vice versa)
  3. Search for a white/light grey (depending on the requirement) background around your house or neighbourhood. Ideally, lighting should be ample – natural lighting is best
  4. Launch the mobile application you download in Step 1
  5. Select “New Photo” and choose the country to which the photo will be used. The recommended sizing and requirements will be shown for easy selection.
  6. Once selected, you will be prompted to “take a new photo” or “select an image from the gallery”


  7. If you select “take a new photo”, follow the guidelines on the camera for easy reference.

  8. Once photo is taken, you can proceed to edit it to the actual size. You will be prompted to upgrade to the premium option, but if you’re not too particular, you can just select “continue with ads”

  9. You can then edit your photo by scaling the size of the rectangle around the face. A guideline will be shown on where the top of the head and chin should be within the photo. Once satisfied, select “Crop”.

  10. The application will then alert you if the photo size and background colour is okay. For this example, the background colour wasn’t accurate, and if I select “change”, I’d be prompted to upgrade to get the background eraser option. However, as this is just an example, I did not bother too much and proceeded to “Save”.

  11. You can then proceed to save your image, and you will have the option of saving the photo as multiple copies on a single 4R (or whatever size your print is).

  12. You can then save the image and proceed to a photo printing shop to print this single image. Most photo shops allow you to print images directly from photo printing stations. Even the most costly form would be $2 per photo print. $2 for 6 photos vs $7 for 4 photos? You choose!

There are other alternatives online, but this was the quickest, most straight-forward, and free way of getting my passport photo printed.

Hope these tips will help you as you take your passport-sized photos!

Safely Enter with SafeEntry!

The use of SafeEntry has been the norm ever since circuit breaker began in Singapore back in March. Here are three reasons on why I think that the developers of SafeEntry deserve a pat on the back!

  • SafeEntry makes contact tracing a lot easier for people, and it serves as a history of places visited. The Ministry of Health constantly releases a list of places that infectious COVID-19 patients have visited before they were diagnosed. When the list is released, many people who have been to these places often worry frantically on whether they were at the same place, at the same time, as these infectious individuals. The history function of SingPass’s SafeEntry thus provides a one-stop history tracker – after all, you’re unable to enter a shop or a mall if you do not show your pass!
Tracking history from SingPass mobile app – Shows the number of pax you’ve checked-in for too!
  • The SafeEntry security restrictions ensure that one must be nearby in order to use the GPS location search function. This allows one to be able to begin searching for the place to check-in, even before you reach the place! After months of using SafeEntry, one can still see groups of individuals outside shops, desperately trying to launch their SingPass applications to scan for entry to enter. If you’re nearby, and are walking to the place, you can simply launch the app and get-ready to check-in by selecting your venue via the location searching function. How’s that for simplicity!
  • The SafeEntry team continually improves on the functions and features of SafeEntry. Previously, every individual had to have their own SingPass to be able to use SafeEntry or use the conventional “IC-scanning” method to enter a location. However, one of the newer functions, the ability to check-in for others (ideally only family members) has proven to be time-saving and effective. When my family of four goes out for a meal, one of us can just help all four check-in, without worrying about whether each member’s SingPass app is working, or whether there’s data connectivity. It just makes things a lot faster.

The features of SafeEntry are getting better, but many, like myself, still find it a slight hassle to check-in at every single shop one enters. It makes window shopping tiring as the check-in and check-out feature, while fast, still takes time to load.

But for the sake of community health, and our health, let’s all continue to go out responsibly and do our part!

Just a quick list of some great shows!

Circuit breaker, Phase 1, and finally Phase 2. Singapore has evolved so much the past couple of months, and something I’m glad that I had throughout these few months is Netflix. 

Netflix has been really amazing, and here are some shows that I’d highly recommend to anyone who’s looking for exciting shows to watch. 

The Blacklist – A highly-sought after criminal unveils different criminals as he works closely with the FBI. Each episode has a pretty thrilling storyline, with an underlying suspense on his relationship with one of the FBI staff. This series that begun in 2013 just completed its seventh season, with the eighth slated to come in 2020.

I’d give it a solid 9/10 for its plot.

Fast and Furious 6, 7 and 8 – While the fast and furious series always has got to do with the crew capturing people or items while in their fast cars, each series highlights the significance of family, friends and relationships – which makes this series especially heart-warming at times.

I’d give it a 7.5/10 for its thrill and storyline, but the storyline is pretty much predictable so…

21 – Set in MIT, a student who needs $300,000 is tempted by his lecturer to join a team that spends their weekends at Vegas on.. taking chances. The story talks about how the humble student took the chance, made big bucks, lost two of his great friends due to his greed and how all the money got stolen from him. The plot really has many highs and lows, which makes it interesting, and at the same time, you could feel the emotions of the main character as you watched along.

I’d give it a 8/10 as it was an unusual story yet fun (most gambling-related movies are usually on adults, not so much on students!)

So here’s a quick brief on some of the hits I’ve found on Netflix this COVID-19 season. 

Hope everyone’s staying safe and well!

Too easy a buy from Ezbuy!

The circuit breaker period has just ended, and as we enter Phase 1, many shops and businesses have still not been given the green light to reopen. The lack of outdoor shopping, coupled with the fact that many of us are staying off, has resulted in, let’s say, many unnecessary online shopping sprees. I personally have started using Ezbuy once more for my shopping sprees and in today’s article, I’d like to discuss some of the pros and cons on getting items via this platform.

Fantastic prices on Ezbuy

Pros –

  1. It’s an English Taobao site! Taobao is known for its unbeatable deals, and while Ezbuy does not necessarily have the same kind of deals, it has quite frequent deals compared to the likes of Amazon.sg, Shopee and Qoo10 (all still good sites too). For the same chair I got on Qoo10 at $24.90, one can get the chair at $12 on Ezbuy. That’s half the price! I’ll talk about shipping cost later.
  2. Ezbuy Prime gives you the option of getting deliveries to Singapore for $2.99 per checked-out cart. Membership is $99 a year, but if you’re looking to buy big ticket items (sofas/cupboards/bed frames), a $99 shipping fee is honestly quite low. If you’re sharing the account with a family member, it is even more worth-it. Considering that shipment is from China, and Ezbuy staff consolidate and ship all your items together, the subsequent $2.99 is incredibly low.
  3. You are also able to buy items from local stores and from the US. Items that are not available in Singapore can be easily found on the US site as well. Looking for Oreo cereals? Try Ezbuy!
  4. Collection of items is easy as well, with the Ezbuy van frequently spotted around the estates across Singapore. Once your parcel has reached Singapore, you’ll be notified to arrange for delivery – and you can get your parcel as early as two days from the time it reaches Singapore. Do note that the Ezbuy van only comes at specific times, so be sure to be at the collection spot on time!

Cons –

  1. Duration of delivery can be long. When you purchase an item on Ezbuy, Ezbuy sends out the order to each of the merchants you buy from. All your items are then consolidated and sent over in a shipment – either air or sea. Lighter items tend to be flown in while bulkier items come in by sea (hence the longer delivery). I’ve had orders cancelled because of the lack of merchant response, and it was disappointing – but not something Ezbuy could handle.
  2. Quality check and returns are done by Ezbuy, but unobvious errors (like a small stain on a corner of a shirt) can go missed. An aftersales ticket can be created if returns are necessary – but you can imagine the long refund process considering that you’re going through a middleman.

If you’re looking for fantastic deals, and do are not worried about delivery duration, why not try Ezbuy! My experience with them is pretty good and I’ll gladly recommend this shopping platform. Just.. try not to buy too much 😉

Rating: 4/5

What? You burnt my cheesecake?

Burnt cheesecake – If you told me that a shop will be serving burnt cheesecake a couple of years ago, I’d wonder why the shop’s still in business. But truth be told, burnt cheesecake is a cheesecake that is toasted (not totally burnt) on the outside.

I was blessed with a Cat & the Fiddle Burnt Cheesecake for my birthday this year, and was surprised at how good it tasted.

Charred on the outside, the char forms a layer of ‘skin’ outside the cheesecake that provides a soft cakey texture on the outside. It does not leave a burnt after taste, and the texture’s pretty good.

This cheese cake is unique because it’s a mix of the jiggly Japanese cheesecake style, with the seemingly creamy texture like a New York cheesecake. The cheese filling has a tangy flavour – perhaps sour cream or lemon juice – which gives it a refreshing taste. The texture of the cake, coupled with the tangy and cheesy flavour makes this cake, delectable.

Interesting knife!

Aside from the cake, the other elements of the Cat & the Fiddle store is also really appealing. The cake is in a plastic container within the box – this ensures that the cake does not stick to the cardboard box, and is easy to store! The knife that came with the cake is of good quality, and bears a unique shape (still practical enough to cut the cake).

Apart from the burnt cheesecake, Cat & the Fiddle has many other flavours available. I’ve had the Milo, Durian, and Oreo cheesecakes (on separate occasions), and all were good. I highly recommend the Milo cheesecake as it is covered in Milo powder too!

If you’re looking for a cheesecake that’s rich, tangy, yet not too overpowering, Cat & the Fiddle’s cheesecakes are a must-try! You can take your time to enjoy the 18 cakes they serve.  Cat & the Fiddle has physical stores in Clarke Quay, Westgate and Junction 8.

MacBook Pro 13-inch 2020 – To buy or not to buy?

The MacBook Pro 13 inch 2020 was just released a couple of weeks ago and I received it as a gift. I got it with the following specs: 1.4GHz Quad-Core Processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz; 512 GB Storage; Touch Bar and Touch ID.

  • 1.4GHz quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645
  • 8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
  • 512GB SSD storage¹
  • 13-inch Retina display with True Tone
  • Magic Keyboard
  • Touch Bar and Touch ID
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports

I’ve since had to return it due to a faulty port but here are some of my thoughts on it –

  1. Keyboard was definitely the draw – I currently use the MacBook Pro 13 inch (Retina) and I was reluctant to move to another MacBook because of the previous keyboard. The keyboard of the new MacBook Pro has reverted to the ‘scissor-switch mechanism’ keyboard, which makes typing a lot more comfortable and convenient.
  2. The touch bar needed a bit of getting used to (used it for a week and didn’t get fully used to it). With my older MacBook having physical buttons for the function keys, the change was massive – and it also didn’t help that the touch bar was frequently warm to the touch. What I liked about the touch bar, though, is that it easily customisable. This allowed me to keep the bar to the button format, for easier access.
  3. The almost edge to edge display allowed a cleaner look and feel. This isn’t new from the previous model, but from my 2014 MacBook Pro, this is definitely a plus. Less border, more screen, why not? The true tone mode for the retina display (it’s an optional setting) detects the light of the environment from a sensor and changes the colour on the machine, making it less glaring for the eyes.
  4. The 2020 model is significantly lighter than my 2014 model. With fewer ports, and smaller chips and parts, the 2020 model is just slightly heavier than an older MacBook Air model, making the machine even more portable.

What needs getting used to –

Only two ports!
  1. Thunderbolt ports, and the lack of other ports. The model I bought came with two thunderbolt ports, and these ports are the only way for this machine to be connected to anything or device.

    This is honestly a huge drawback of the revised MacBook models. The dependence on dongle can be annoying, but many light-weight dongles are available online and are generally quite compatible with the machine.
  2. Machine heats up easily – but it could be due to the fact that I usually have quite a lot of applications running. The heat dissipates as fast as it goes, so I do not see it as a huge drawback.

Considering that the MacBook Pro hasn’t had a huge overhaul in recent years, skeptics are less than impressed with the new features, but the change of the keyboard has definitely drawn in the crowd (for users like me!).

All in all, the increase reliance on the dongle, and the lack of MagSafe needs getting used to, but the MacBook remains a powerful machine which I enjoy using because of the speed, and the operating system.

5 reasons why I choose Airbnb when travelling

COVID-19 has thrown the travel industry into chaos, and as companies worldwide look into cutting cost and planning for the future of travel, companies like Airbnb have begun making the difficult decision of laying off workers. It is a sad situation, especially for Airbnb which has seen been my main platform for accommodation booking since end 2014.

While I do not have any travel plans made for the remaining 2020, I’ve decided to list 5 reasons on why Airbnb is still my choice as an accommodation platform. Perhaps, some of these reasons will be useful for you in the near future!

One of my favourite Airbnbs of all time @ Grindelwald
  • Cost – For a family of four adults, Airbnb has proven to be more affordable as compared to hotels, especially in big cities. A hotel can cost $400 a night for two rooms in a three-star hotel in Seoul, and cost $250 for a night for an apartment. Even with booking fees included, Airbnb is considerably more affordable.
  • Photos – Unlike hotels that tends to put a couple of photos that seemingly represent every single room in its premise, photos posted in Airbnb are specifically for the apartment you’re booking itself, and tend to be truer to the pictures. Yes, photos will definitely be taken to make the place look ‘better than it is’, but in general, photos taken are specific to the room and tend to show you exactly what you’re in for. If you’re concerned about how true the pictures are, you can opt to stay in apartments with ‘verified’ photos from Airbnb.
  • Amenities – From washing machines, to television sets with Netflix and a full kitchen, there are many forms of apartments available on this platform. You may not need a kitchen when visiting cities like Bangkok and Taipei where food options are aplenty, but if you’re going to visit the outskirts with few food options, having a kitchen is definitely a plus! These are just some of the many amenities you can look out for when booking your apartment!
One of our cooking experiences @ our Airbnb
  • Location – Not many small establishments list their available rooms on platforms like booking.com, but they are more likely to list their available rooms on Airbnb because of, perhaps, easier onboarding. As such, when booking with Airbnb, you can expect locations that are not on usual areas where hotels are available. This is a good option if you enjoy road-tripping or if you simply like to ‘live like the locals do’, near locals.
  • Payment – This option has improved over the years, with payment being very straight-forward (refunds included). The ability to pay for the accommodation in two payments is also useful for individuals who aren’t keen on paying a lump sum. The refund policies are also upfront for the individual when making the payment, and the transparency of it all is just, pleasing.

However, here are some things to note when booking from Airbnb. Please do read the reviews carefully. Try not to be among the first few to stay at an accommodation. You may really not get what you’re expecting as new listings often ‘upsell their property’, and you may end up disappointed. Also, do look through the amenities and facilities thoroughly before making your booking – from stairs to air-conditioning and WiFi – what you assume the property has may not actually be true!

In his message, Brian Chesky, CEO and co-founder of Airbnb, highlighted two key hard truths of the travel industry. Firstly, no one knows when travel will return, and secondly, when it does, travel isn’t going to be the same again. However, a part of me still believes that Airbnb will thrive yet again once this season passes.