Archive for January, 2012

MacRitchie Reservoir and TreeTop Walk

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

In the midst of the urban metropolis of Singapore lie areas that still contain jungle-like forests. This Sunday allowed for some time to visit one of them, the MacRitchie reservoir. The MacRitchie reservoir is Singapore’s oldest reservoir and thus one of the sources of Singapore’s fresh water. The forests have well-marked trails which are easily accessible by car or public transport: The forest literally starts directly behind some residental areas.

Walking through the forests is really beautiful and peaceful: The temperature and climate is a bit less exhausting in the cool shade of the trees than in the concrete jungle, and you can hear all kinds of forest animals such as birds and loudly chirping insects. The forest also houses wild monkeys, which are quite tame and were sitting, jumping and climbing through the trees by the trail, and also squirrels that were jumping through the trees. In addition, there were many butterflies and huge ants (3-4 cm in length!).

The MacRitchie reservoir area also contains the HSBC TreeTop Walk, which is a 250 meter long suspension bridge for pedestrians. It stretches over a valey full of forest, and at eye level with the tree tops you can see the reservoir lake and the forest in all directions, but also in the distance some highrises or factory chimneys.

Altogether, it is amazing how this modern, thriving city has managed to treasure and preserve these areas of nature, which make you feel as though you were in an altogether different place. A visit is definitely a recommendation for any Singapore tourist!

Some pictures follow.

Singapore Zoo and Night Safari

Friday, January 20th, 2012

The only free day in between two six-day weeks of classes, last Sunday allowed for a little time to explore Singapore, specifically the Zoo and the adjacent Night Safari. Singapore Zoo is really amazing, a large area located on a peninsula within the Upper Selatar Reservoir, one of the large artificial lakes in which Singapore catches rain water to fulfil the fresh water demand (even though Singapore still has to import most of its fresh water from Indonesia or Malaysia). The Zoo has many animals, especially those from warmer regions such as Asia, Africa, Australia or South America. The animals are roughly grouped by their respective regions, and you can easily spend a few hours strolling among the different enclosures.

The Night Safari is located just next to the Zoo and is the first one of its kind world wide. Open from 19:30, it allows seeing animals in more natural surroundings. The animals aloso live in (quite spacy) enclosures, but they are only dimly lit by lanterns, providing an entirely different atmosphere than that of a Zoo. Visitors quietly wander through the tranquil park or take the tram ride which takes about 30 minutes and during which quite interesting information about the animals and their respective habitats is provided. Before entering the Night Safari, I was actually recruited – more or less voluntary – to take part in a fire show that was displayed for the visitors. Most of the time I did not really know what to do, someone gave me a flare and then took it away again, told me to stand here or kneel there, and in the end they pretended that I actually put out the flare with my mouth. It was good fun 🙂

But enough of the writing, better see for yourself! Some pictures from the Zoo follow, in the Night Safari it was too dark to take good pictures.

My Accommodation in Singapore

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

I consider myself pretty lucky with the accommodation I have managed to obtain in Singapore, even though it is really expensive. Before I write about the apartment that I am living in and show some pictures, however, I want to share how I actually got it.

On the web site for MBA admits there is a large message board on which students also posted about free rooms in shared apartments. So already in October I started contacting pretty much everyone that offered a room, but mostly they were already gone even when I sometimes got in touch with the people very shortly after they had posted on the board. Thus, I did not have a room yet when I quit work and started travelling in the beginning of December. Only a few days later, however, when I was still in Thailand, one girl that was looking for someone to take over her room in an HDB flat contacted me to ask if I was willing to take over the room (HDB stands for Housing Development Board, meaning those are government subsidized buildings in which the main tenants can only be Singapore citizens). The offer sounded interesting and was also cheap compared to the privately owned condominiums which are in the proximity of INSEAD. So I told her that I would happily take the room, and she suggested me to the landlord. Since he was apparently away from Singapore at that time and I desperately wanted to get a room so that I could focus on travelling and not have to think about my housing in Singapore all the time, I even gave him a call and he said that he would be willing to take me and he would email me the details later. Needless to say, I was happy and excited about that. Only a day later, however, I received an email from him saying that he would not rent the room to me since he had found someone who was willing to pay more (in turn also making the room much less attractive due to the 25% higher rent). Luckily, however, only a few hours before that email I had received another email from a person that I had contacted a while before that in response to a board entry and whose primary applicant was no longer willing to take the room. I also had — with some amount of foresight — not immediately rejected this offer, so I could tell him that I was willing to move in. The formalities, including the international transfer of the deposit and the first rent, I then had to organize from Myanmar — which was not at all easy, given that Internet connectivity in Myanmar is rather shaky and mobile phone roaming is not possible.

The place that I ended up in is a condominium called Heritage View. By history, it is the place that the highest proportion of INSEAD students stays at. It is actually a quite luxurious place in comparison to the HDB apartments: It consists of three towers with ~20 storeys each and multiple apartments on each floor. In the middle between the towers there are multiple swimming pools (which are really good in the hot and humid weather!), and the condominium also provides a gym, tennis courts, and other amenities. What is best about living at Heritage View, however, is the boarding school feeling that it provides. Since there are so many of us INSEAD students staying here, you can easily meet someone from your class here or leave for or return from school or social events together. Returning from the first “unofficial” welcome party last week, I shared a cab with six other people, and everyone said goodnight and went up to their apartments — a great start to a year of MBA studies in which I will surely build a close relationship to many of the other students.

A few pictures follow. (more…)

Student Diversity

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Priding itself to be the “Business School for the World”, INSEAD really offers a level of diversity that is absolutely stunning. The six people in my designated study group, for example, are two girls from America and Bahrein and four guys from China, France, Canada/Bangladesh, plus me as a German. At the first inofficial welcome party yesterday, which was attended by ~100 of the 200-odd students starting in Singapore, I had the opportunity to get to know and talk to so many different fellow students, it was actually pretty overwhelming. First of all of course the students are diverse in terms of the nationalities, that cover pretty much all of the globe: I talked to students from the US and Canada, Brazil, various European countries, Israel, Lebanon, China, India, and Indonesia, among others. Also the backgrounds of the students vary in terms of their education and previous job. Of course there are many with an economic degree, but also many others such as engineers or former art students. In terms of previous jobs, there are obviously the usual suspects coming from investment banking or strategy consulting (I already met four people from my company alone, and many from the competitors), but I have also met project managers, an R&D guy, a girl who has worked in film production and wants to start her own production company, and others. I am really looking forward to working and learning together with all of these very different people, which as I am sure will enrich discussions and make everyone together achieve results that no single one would have been capable of on their own.

Besides that, the party yesterday was also really good and a preview of things to come: we started with pre-drinks at Heritage View, which is the condo that I and many of the other students are living at, and then headed for a rooftop bar in the city. I was really excited how many people actually turned out, considering that many arrived just a few days ago or even on the day of the party. When I went home and shared a cab with six other students also living at Heritage View, it was really a boarding school feeling: Everbody said good night and went up to their apartments. I am so looking forward to having this kind of community every day here over the course of the next year.

Tomorrow, the official part of the MBA program is going to start with registration and the opening ceremony, and then we are off to busy eight and a half weeks of the first period: every week is packed from Monday to Saturday, and there is only one two-day weekend (Monday 23 January is off due to Chinese New Year). I guess this year is going to be really intense in both a work and a social way, and I am really excited about that!

Getting Settled

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Yesterday, I arrived in Singapore from Malaysia. Still with only the backpack and no clean clothes after four and a half weeks of traveling, I was happy to have a clean room, a shower and a washing machine again! So far I have settled in quite okay. Today, I have also been able to pick up the parcel I sent to myself at the Singapore BCG office – with a certain amount of luck, it only finally got delivered yesterday (after more than four weeks on the road and in various Singapore post offices…). The parcel looked really battered, but all my stuff was still there and nothing broken. So now I am looking forward to starting at INSEAD next week!

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