Of course I must visit Universal Studios before I leave Singapore! I forced asked my friends to go with me on a Saturday which costs $72, very expensive. Because their hit attraction Battlestar Galactica was closed for tweaking, they gave us $10 meal voucher and $5 retail voucher :(
The people from Yamato Kuroneko came down to pick up my luggage in the afternoon, fully prepared with weighing scale, carton boxes, forms, brochures, money and packing materials. Basically everything is taken care of! If you're also flying to Japan to study or work like me, here's what I did:
Call/email Yamato Transport to arrange for delivery of their boxes so you can start packing. Also arrange for the pick up date as well. Their boxes range from: Size A 92x46x22cm Size C
66x46x33cm Size D
Just stuff your things into the boxes but make sure each is less than 25kg and $2500 in value. No need to write anything on the boxes and leave them open in case you want to do any last minute re-arrangements. Insurance is included.
There will be a couple, one Japanese who will help you with the forms, and the other busy packing and writing on your boxes. They will weigh and give you a form for each box, then you list the items and declare the value.
While you're writing in English, the Japanese staff will do a translation to Japanese so that delivery in Japan will be smoother. Nice service isn't it! I don't think you can get translation service from other courier service :D
Finally after everything is filled and packed, you'll be given 2 customs declaration form. You'll need to pass both to the customs officer, then he'll chop and return 1 piece back to you. Take that stamped form to the Kuroneko counter at Narita Airport so that the customs can clear your unaccompanied baggage.
Payment is by cash or check at origin or destination.
Overall, the service was punctual and very thorough. Their staff were also very polite and organized. For 3 boxes weighing a total of 50kg, I spent SG$580. Not bad for door-to-door air freight service! Hopefully they'll reach me successfully a week plus later!
Sorry for the lack of comic updates! I've been busy playing packing and catching up with friends before I fly. You'll see a few more photo diary updates before I tuck my tablet into its box and ship it together with my other parcel.
Today I decided to pay a visit to MDA(Media Development Authority) to thank them for the Media Education Scheme (which they don't categorize as scholarship) as well as to inform them that my "commitment period" aka bond had finished.
The start of the conversation was unconventional. It was my rant of how difficult it was to reach the building. Firstly, Bouna Vista is not centrally located and the East-West bound trains are rather slow... Secondly, I had difficulty locating the shuttle bus stand. After waiting for 30-40mins, I ran out of patience and took a cab with another confused lady who was also heading to MDA. Apparently, the free shuttle buses stated on their website were non existent during off-peak times.
So finally we reached this "Fusionopolis" which is basically a rather large futuristic building. It looks impressive from far but...it's just a building, no "polis". And if you should make a trip down, you can also take bus 91 from Bouna Vista, it stops right outside the building and no, you don't need to wait for 40mins like I did.
Cancellation of many MDA iniatives for individuals
Today's errand is to go Bras Basah Complex to collect my 7 yr old watercolor painting of Clarke Quay. I originally copied it from an A4 print-out (as you can see in photo) as a practice in an Intermediate Watercolor class at Lasalle.
You'll find a few shops at the 2nd floor which does custom framing. I did mine at Pin Xuan Ge Art Gallery #02-31. An A3 custom framing service with their cheapest material and acrylic cover would be $30. I find it pretty well-done. Any cheaper would mean buying those plastic cover frames from Ikea.
You might have read about the Japanese culture of giving gifts, especially to people who would be helping you. So I was advised to buy some local gifts as well.
I recall bringing my pack of merlion bookmarks to USA which ended up never given away because nobody was exchanging souvenirs/gifts! They eventually landed in my roommate's hands, an unwilling party, and remarked that the bookmarks were rather useless, but what the heck...
Mustafa Centre ---------------------
It's located at Little India but the closest MRT is Farrer Park. Just locate exit A and cross the street to Serangoon Plaza with a linkway to Mustafa at level 3.
Serangoon Plaza sells souvenirs at the same level with the link-way. However there were little customers and lots of seemingly skiving sales people chit chatting among themselves. When asked on where to get certain souvenirs, they just told me to go Mustafa to get everything... ...
So I went to Mustafa level 2 and found a remarkable collection of souvenirs, along with lots of Merlion cookies, chocolates and yes, Hay Bee Hiam rolls which were made in Malaysia but labeled as Singapore Prawn Rolls. Uniquely Singapore.
They also had lots of Indian snacks and food which were really cheap if you're on budget like me. Staff at Mustafa were also more friendly and helpful than their neighbors.
Also along the North East Line (NEL) is Chinatown, which has more shops selling Chinese and S.E.Asian gifts. Just exit towards Pagoda Street and you'll find rows of shops selling just souvenirs.
I managed to find my nice big Merlion in original color for my "booth" which I'll be setting up in Japan to introduce Singapore. Unlike the skiving sales at Serangoon Plaza, the shop keepers were very enthusiastic in helping me choose my gifts and even offered me a bargain price.
Overall, I find shopping at Chinatown more pleasant and you can get cheaper deals through bargain when you purchase a lot, unlike fixed price items at Mustafa.
Apologies for the lack of comics and photos as my room and mind is in a bizarre state of packing up for my studies. Anyway, yes, JUGAS (Japanese University Graduates Association of Singapore) was very kind to invite me for lunch with the MEXT (Monbukagakusho aka Monbusho) Scholars who are also leaving in April this year.
Seniors and JUGAS committee members shared their valuable experiences in Japan and encouraged us to network with each other and join the association when we return. It was a nice orientation and I found out that there were quite a lot of MEXT scholars for undergraduate, probably 7-9 of them, and around 3 for postgraduate.
From what I heard, the MEXT undergraduate scholars have to study Japanese for a year in respective universities then pursue their 4-years studies. A total of 5 years fully paid for! Too bad I failed my MEXT Japanese paper last year so if you're interested in this scholarship, you do need at least JLPT2 to be safe. For postgraduate applicants like me, it seems that they would prefer that you already got connected with an university professor.
I learnt a lot about the MEXT scholarship from this lunch at the Japanese Association which was sponsored by the Japanese embassy. Unfortunately it was also confirmed that ASJA will no longer offer scholarships. I am the very last! So lucky... But there's also good news that JUGAS is raising an education fund to help Singaporean students who need the money to go further their studies in Japan. I'm not sure how many they'll choose, but it's certainly something to look forward to.
So I'd been watching the exchange rate recently and the Yen seems to be getting stronger (SGD/JPY forex chart). So I rushed down to change my money before I lose more.
The exchange rate was:
AMK Hub $15.7
Suntec City $15.48
As you can see, the heartland mall exchange rate is not very good. After checking the forex rates at Mustafa's website, I dashed down to do my exchange. But when I went to Suntec City to cut my hair, I found out that their rate was slightly better. I also heard that The Arcade's rate at Raffles Place area was the best. So now you know where to change your money!
Update 2011: People's Park Centre offers a better rate than Suntec!
I'm proud to say that I'd been living on a P4 machine with only 36GB hard disk and 512mb ram for 2 years of my civil service. I did request for a faster PC but I was always rejected by the same reason that there's no more machines around!?
Anyway it's a Windows XP and runs faster than my Dad's Windows Vista! I can run Photoshop and do small paintings but opening a 3D software(Maya) is like waiting for the tadpoles to become frogs.