Review – BlueSG Electric Car Sharing in Singapore

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[Update 7 Jan 2018] A few more suggestions I have for the BlueSG electric car sharing program:

  1. Install car cams in your electric cars. You’ve already paid tens of thousands of dollars for the COE, invest a little more money to keep your cars safer.
  2. Have a notification function in your app where you can notify users when there is a car available at a particular parking lot. This is especially so I don’t have to keep checking the app when a parking lot is empty.

 

I was pretty excited to hear that electric car sharing was coming to Singapore in the form of BlueSG. They’ve already been running in Paris and have now moved to Singapore. In addition, I was also one of the first few to get their 1-year Premium Membership for free (it’s still free to get the Premium membership from now till 31st March 2018). I also got their additional offer of free 2 hours rental every day until 31st January 2018, which is no longer available. The premium membership make the car rental price $0.33 per minute ($19.80/hr) compared to the $0.50 per minute ($30/hr) of the free weekly membership.

I’ll share some pictures and some thoughts on how to use the BlueSG car sharing properly and effectively.

Signing Up

Obviously, you need a Singapore driving license to sign up. Also a credit card for payments (no deposit is required).

  • TIP: Register using your EZ-Link card instead of getting a BlueSG card from them. It’s faster, and you will need your EZ-Link card to put in the car’s IU (in-car unit) to pay for parking and ERP (electronic road pricing) tolls anyway

Renting

You can reserve (a.k.a. “chope”) a rental car for 30 min while you get to the parking lot. Remember to get the car before 30 minutes or you will be charged a $5 late fee. 30 minutes is more than enough if you live near a parking lot. When you’re there, tap your EZ-Link card on the charging station, follow the instructions and you’ll be on the way.

  • TIP: If you can’t reach the car by 30 min for any reason, just cancel before the 30 min is up to avoid a late penalty. However, you won’t be able to make another reservation for 10 min, but if you’re already at the parking lot you can just get the car on the spot.

  • TIP: Green color on the charging station for a car means it’s available for use. Red means it’s not available for use (most likely it’s charging). Blue means it’s reserved for someone (hopefully you!)

  • TIP: Looks like the BlueSG car can only be rented when it has at least 50% battery

  • EDIT: TO PLUG OUT THE CHARGING CABLE, PRESS THE GREEN BUTTON ONCE. Once the green light stops blinking, it is safe to pull it out. Nowhere in their instructions do they say this, so remember to do this or you’ll be pulling mindlessly at the locked cable!
  • FEEDBACK: The first few times I rented BlueSG cars, the charging plug was EXTREMELY difficult to plug out of the car’s charging port. Either it is too tight for first usage, or there is a lock on the charging plug that takes very long before it unlocks. Over time this seems to have become better – maybe some software tweaks on their end. If the car plug doesn’t come out, either wait a while, or press the green button near the charging plug (or maybe I was supposed to press the green button to unlock the plug? I don’t know, but the instructions on the charging station only said to plug it out, not press any other buttons).
Tap your card at the driver side window to unlock the car
  • BUG: Once, I had the charging station say “System not available. Please try again later”. I couldn’t do anything to get the car, so I had to take public transport home šŸ™
  • BUG: A couple of times, I made a reservation for a car, tapped my card at the charging point and it bugged out at one of the screens, saying something like “{REDIST_USERNAME}, you have a reservation at time {REDIST_TIME)}”. Couldn’t get to the next screen, but I simply cancelled the reservation in my Android app and reserved the car on the spot.

Driving

About the car itself, it’s a 2 door car, so you’ll need to lower the driver or passenger seats to get to the back, which should comfortably sit another 2 people. I haven’t tried putting things in the boot, but it’s really really small – so don’t use this to move house!

  • The seat of the car is very high compare to what I’m usually used to, it’s almost as high as a van seat. It’s probably because the battery is at the bottom of the car. However, the advantage of that is that like the Tesla cars, having the heavy battery at the bottom makes the car more stable and easier to maneuver, especially since this car is pretty small.
  • BUG: The first 2 days that I rented the car, when going out of the HDB car park, I was actually charged for a parking fee! It must’ve been because the company hadn’t applied for season parking for that car yet. Anyway, the subsequent cars I rented were all OK, so they must have fixed this.

  • FEEDBACK: When you first turn the car on, by DEFAULT the aircon is OFF and the internal circulation is OFF. Please, this is Singapore — everyone uses the aircon in the car, and nobody wants to smell the fresh exhaust from the roads, so please BlueSG, just make the aircon and internal circulation DEFAULT ON.
  • The indicator lever is on the left and the wiper lever is on the right, like in continental cars. Opposite of Japanese cars, for those who drive Toyotas.

  • The electric car is actually much noisier than I thought. One of the main advantages that electric cars are supposed to have is a quieter ride, since you don’t have a petrol engine revving up to high RPMs. However, this wasn’t really the case here, since it’s a very small car and the soundproofing is pretty minimal. Don’t expect a Tesla Model S quality ride.
  • Also, different from petrol cars, the accelerator of this auto car is VERY hard to press. I read that it’s intentional, but it will need some getting used to. The good thing is, since the car uses regenerative braking and the accelerator is so stiff, I actually hardly press the brakes, and simply lifting my feet off the accelerator would slow the car down very quickly.
  • If the car’s battery level gets below 30%, there will be an audible “BEEP” and the battery icon will turn yellow. However, most of the time I’ve never used more than 25% battery in 2 hours, and you always get the car with at least 50% charge, so it’ll be fine for most people. I estimate that it uses about 25% battery for 50KM of driving, so the car has a range of about 200KM for full charge. More than enough to go round our tiny Singapore a couple of times.
  • Oh BTW, you can’t bring the car to Malaysia. Read the Terms & Conditions.

  • TIP: There’s a touchscreen display with navigation. You can locate and reserve an available parking lot nearby, and route to it with GPS as well.

  • FEEDBACK: I still have no idea how to unlock the passenger side door while I’m inside the car, other than reaching over all the way to the left to manually open the door. Usually in cars there’s a lock/unlock button somewhere, but not here.

 

Returning the Car

  • TIP: Before returning the car, I recommend using your mobile app to reserve a parking lot first. You can reserve for up to 45 minutes. That way, you won’t drive all the way to the parking lot just to find that it’s full.

  • Same as for renting the car, if you see a green light at an empty parking lot, it’s available. If it’s blue, that empty parking lot is reserved for someone.
  • FEEDBACK: the “Express Reservation – Car + Parking” doesn’t really work. You can’t reserve a car for 30 min and a parking lot somewhere else for 45min, and expect me to accomplish getting to the car, driving to the new parking lot and parking within 45 minutes. It’s too difficult.

 

Conclusion

I’ve been using the BlueSG electric car sharing for a few weeks already. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me! Overall, it’s a pretty interesting time, and I’m sure as they scale up and introduce more cars and parking lots, the using it will be much more convenient. At $20/hr, it’s actually almost as expensive as a taxi, but I can think of some niche use cases for it. For example, I’ve used it to run errands where I’ve had to travel to multiple locations in a short time, something that would be difficult with a taxi. Also, it can be pretty useful if your home and the place you want to get to both have a charging point. And of course, it’s an electric car, so it’s a good experience for people who want to check them out! After all, electric autonomous cars are the future šŸ™‚

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Best Brokerage For Buying Stocks in Singapore (Updated 2018)

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DBS_Vickers.PNG

Update: Promotion extended to 2018!

Currently, the best online brokerage for buying stocks in Singapore charges only 0.06% commission with a minimum of $5 (with the on-going promotion). I could give you a huge comparison table of all the cheapest brokerages in Singapore, but I’m just gonna tell you the answer immediately:

The lowest cost brokerage for buying stocks in Singapore currently is DBS Vickers Cash Upfront.

Why? Becuase of their current promotion from now until end of 2018. However, to get the 0.06% commission rate, you must read the terms and conditions of the promotion carefully:

  • TheĀ promotional commission rate of 0.12%, minimum S$10 is applicable to all cash upfront trades executed via DBS/POSB iBanking.
  • This is only applicable for Singapore stocks
  • Eligible clients are entitled to a SGD5 rebate per trade executed online. The Promotion is applicable to Singapore and foreign market trades executed online via www.dbsvickers.com, mobile trading and/or DBS/POSB iBanking.
  • This Promotion is applicable to cash and cash upfront accounts. Trades executed with CPF and/or SRS funds are eligible for this Promotion.

So, if you’ve read the above terms properly, you get the lowest 0.06% commission rate when you buy more than $8333.33 of stocks, generating a $10 commission and a $5 rebate for a net $5 in commission ($5/$8333.33 = 0.06%)!

However, take note of the following:

  • You must use your DBS VickersĀ CASH UPFRONT account, not the normal cash account. This means you have to deposit money to the Cash Upfront account through DBS/POSB, and however much money you deposit will be how much stocks you can buy.
  • The current DBS Vickers Cash Upfront user interface is NOT user-friendly. That account cannot be accessed using their mobile apps, and can only be accessed through DBS/POSB i-Banking.
  • One great thing I love about the Cash Upfront account is that unlike other “custodian”-type brokerages that charge fees for holding your stock, the Cash Upfront account deposits your stocks into your CDP (Central Depository) account, so that means you are still eligible to go for AGMs (Annual General Meetings)!
  • DBS Vickers Cash Upfront account can only be used to BUY stocks, not sell stocks (the only exception is contra, where you sell stocks within the 3-day settlement period since the stocks have not been deposited into your CDP account yet). This means that you will need to use the normal DBS Vickers Cash account (or any other broker that is linked to your CDP acocunt) to sell your stocks eventually. Currently the rate is 0.28% with a minimum of $25 for selling Singapore stocks.
  • Trades will automatically be amalgamated when the trades are of the same stock, currency, settlement mode and trade date as well as the same mode of trade.Ā This means that if you execute two buy orders of the same stock at $8333.33, the commission will be combined into $20 but you may only get one $5 rebate. So if you need to buy lots of stocks, do it on different days.

Happy trading!

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Investment Portfolio – March 2018

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Providing my monthly portfolio update.

All prices are in Singapore Dollar.

Investment Portfolio – March 2018 – TheAlphaLion

StockSharesMarket Value (in SGD)
TOTAL$134,998.08
STI ETF (SGX: ES3)18200$63,518.00
Ho Bee Land (SGX: H13)3600$9,180.00
Singpost (SGX: S08)7000$9,590.00
Sembcorp Industries (SGX: U96)2700$8,424.00
SIA Engineering (SGX: S59)2500$8,200.00
Yeo Hiap Seng (SGX: Y03)6000$7,020.00
Indofood Agri (SGX: 5JS)17200$5,848.00
Singtel (SGX: Z74)2400$8,040.00
UOL (SGX: U14)1000$8,480.00
iShares S&P 500 Growth (NYSE: IVW)30$6,282.13
Bitcoin<1$108.14
Ethereum<1$244.75
Litecoin<1$63.07

 

Let’s compare it to the previous month (below). Previous investment portfolio on 2 February 2018 was $121,639.77, which has increased by $13,358.31 toĀ $134,998.08. I bought more STI ETF and also initiated a new position in UOL. Excluding those 2 positions my portfolio would have been at $118,043.08 which would have been a loss of $3596.69, or a monthly change of -2.96%.

Is that a good result? The Straits Times Index benchmark was at 3529.82 on 2 February 2018, and is at 3479.20 on 3 March 2018, a change of -1.43%. So it looks like I underperformed the STI last month. Let’s hope for better results this month!

 

Investment Portfolio – February 2018 – TheAlphaLion

StockSharesMarket Value (in SGD)
TOTAL$121,639.77
STI ETF (SGX: ES3)15700$55,421.00
Ho Bee Land (SGX: H13)3600$9,360.00
Singpost (SGX: S08)7000$9,660.00
Sembcorp Industries (SGX: U96)2700$9,639.00
SIA Engineering (SGX: S59)2500$8,325.00
Yeo Hiap Seng (SGX: Y03)6000$7,440.00
Indofood Agri (SGX: 5JS)17200$6,708.00
Singtel (SGX: Z74)2400$8,376.00
iShares S&P 500 Growth (NYSE: IVW)30$6,335.49
Bitcoin<1$89.70
Ethereum<1$233.78
Litecoin<1$51.81

 

 

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Future Hawker Centre and Hospital at Choa Chu Kang

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As the Choa Chu Kang town becomes more developed, we can see more amenities being developed for it. Here, I will discuss two future amenities in Choa Chu Kang. The hawker centre is definitely coming by 2027 (probably earlier) according to this news article. The possible future hospital in Choa Chu Kang has never been announced before but clues can be found online.

 

Future Hawker Centre at Choa Chu Kang

As I said earlier, one hawker centre is being planned for Choa Chu Kang. Although Choa Chu Kang already has many coffee shops, planning only one hawker centre for it is pretty little, considering that the smaller neighboring town of Bukit Panjang already has one and has another one being built by year 2021. Where could it be? After all, the CCK town is already full of HDB flats and condos, with very little empty space left for a hawker centre. To find clues to where it could be, we look at the URA’s 2014 Masterplan.

Yellow rectangles represent “Reserve Sites”, and are my best guess for where the hawker centre could be located. I’ve labelled them from 1-8 in priority of which I think is most likely to be the site for the hawker centre:

Sites 1 and 2 are currently empty and are also located near highly dense HDB flats to provide food use of the food centre to nearby residents. Site 1 is more likely since it’s bigger than Site 2. Site 3,4,5 are less likely because they are currently occupied by open-air car parks. Site 6,7,8 are highly unlikely since these sites are more likely reserved for the future Jurong Region Line MRT and the Integrated Transport Hub at Choa Chu Kang.

 

Future Hospital at Choa Chu Kang

Another more interesting finding is that it is highly possible that there will be a future hospital (or “health campus”) in Choa Chu Kang! According to the URA Masterplan 2014 again, there is a huge plot of land at the corner of Bukit Batok Road and Brickland Road that is designated for “Health & Medical Care”.

Location of future Choa Chu Kang hospital

The size of that plot of land is approximately the same sizeĀ (see the comparison map below, all in the same scale) as the Ng Teng Fong Hospital in Jurong (top right), the upcoming Woodlands Health Campus in WoodlandsĀ (bottom left), andĀ  the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun (bottom right). Considering that there is a lack of a single hospital, either public or private, in the North-Western part of Singapore, I think this hospital in the future would be very useful and serve many people well, especially since it is well-connected to the new Tengah town in the west, and along major roads like Bukit Batok Road (leading to the Pan-Island Expressway) and Brickland Road (leading to the Kranji Expressway).

 

Comparison of different hospital sizes

 

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Investment Portfolio – February 2018

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Providing my monthly portfolio update.

All prices are in Singapore Dollar.

Investment Portfolio – February 2018 – TheAlphaLion

StockSharesMarket Value (in SGD)
TOTAL$121,639.77
STI ETF (SGX: ES3)15700$55,421.00
Ho Bee Land (SGX: H13)3600$9,360.00
Singpost (SGX: S08)7000$9,660.00
Sembcorp Industries (SGX: U96)2700$9,639.00
SIA Engineering (SGX: S59)2500$8,325.00
Yeo Hiap Seng (SGX: Y03)6000$7,440.00
Indofood Agri (SGX: 5JS)17200$6,708.00
Singtel (SGX: Z74)2400$8,376.00
iShares S&P 500 Growth (NYSE: IVW)30$6,335.49
Bitcoin<1$89.70
Ethereum<1$233.78
Litecoin<1$51.81

 

Let’s compare it to the previous month (below). Previous investment portfolio on 1 January 2018 was $108,654.78, which has increased by $12,984.99. toĀ $121,639.77 But since I’ve added a new position of Singtel (Z74) currently valued at $8,376.00, the actual “paper profits” increase from the previous month is $4608.99. Is that a good result? The Straits Times Index benchmark was at 3402.92 on 1 January 2018, and is at 3529.82 on 2 February 2018, an increase of 3.73%. My gains from last month (excluding the Singtel i bought recently) is 4.24%, so it beat the STI this time by a little bit. Nice!

The cryptocurrencies that I hold a little for fun has actually decreased with the recent cryptocurrency crash.

 

Investment Portfolio – January 2018 – TheAlphaLion

StockSharesMarket Value (in SGD)
TOTAL$108,654.78
STI ETF (SGX: ES3)15700$54,165.00
Ho Bee Land (SGX: H13)3600$8,856.00
Singpost (SGX: S08)7000$8,680.00
Sembcorp Industries (SGX: U96)2700$8,181.00
SIA Engineering (SGX: S59)2500$7,825.00
Yeo Hiap Seng (SGX: Y03)6000$7,560.00
Indofood Agri (SGX: 5JS)17200$6,708.00
iShares S&P 500 Growth (NYSE: IVW)30$6,098.10
Bitcoin<1$149.77
Ethereum<1$359.07
Litecoin<1$72.84

 

 

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Disappointing purchase – Nook & Cranny’s Seattle Queen Bed

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A few months after moving into my new flat, most of my furniture have been excellent buys, such as the Castlery Tana Sofa that sits in my living room. However, my most disappointing purchase yet has to be the Seattle Queen Bed by Nook & Cranny.

We visited their showroom to see the bed, and it looked and felt good, with colors that matched our wooden palette, so we bought it. However, we would later find out that the extremely unprofessional installation would spoil this nice bed.

On the installation date, the delivery workers were late: I even called them and they told me they were on the way to me, only for me to wait another 2 hours, even on a sunny traffic-jam free day. By then, I think my bed was probably their last delivery of the day, or they were behind schedule, because they were extremely rushed. There were two delivery workers: the young man was nicer and took the time to explain the intricacies of the bed, though when he told me that “if the bed frame slants (like a parallelogram), just push it back”, it really didn’t inspire any confidence in me. However, the other old guy picked up the different pieces of wood that made up the bed, and proceeded to drill the wooden planks into the bed. He did extremely hastily with a power screwdriver, and with a utterly black face like he couldn’t stand being here any second longer. Thud, thud, thud. Each plank went in without any precision, and the entire bed was in fact slightly slanted when he screwed each plank in. I told him to stop so I could straighten the bed – he ignored me. Hence, in less than a minute, the bed was assembled and the workers hastily told me to sign a delivery slip and left.

Oh, how I regret signing it without checking the bed. In any case, my mattress hadn’t come yet, so I couldn’t really test it. However, once my mattress came, I came to realize that the poorly screwed bed slats were a huge problem. When I lay on my mattress the entire bed was squeaky. So I took the mattress off and took a look at the wooden slats. They were all not even aligned properly – no wonder my bed could become slanted! The wooden slats were not flushed to the edge of the bed – see the horrendous picture below:

What’s worse, because the unprofessional older worker (sorry, not discriminating against older workers but just trying to differentiate between the two workers) used power screwdriver and didn’t drill hard enough into the wood, I only now realized that some of the wooden slats were LOOSE – you could literally lift them up with your finger even though it’s supposed to be screwed down. It’s because when you use a power screwdriver incorrectly AND you don’t use a rubber adapter, the screw just continues to turn at the end of the track and utterly destroys the track. Nothing I can do to fix it now. Furthermore, the screws on the slats don’t fit nicely into any hole in the sideboard, they’re just drilled directly into the wood, which means that if I ever wanted to move and unscrewed the slats, I would probably not be able to screw the slats back because the screw track would probably be destroyed when I remove the screw. See what I mean in the video below:

I wished I hadn’t signed that delivery slip. Furthermore, since I had to wait for my mattress to come, it’s past 30 days to use the “Lemon Law” in Singapore to return this. I’ll try to reach out to Nook and Cranny, but I don’t have high hopes.

In the meantime, my recommendation to everyone is NOT to buy Nook & Cranny beds until their workers can install them professionally.

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Investment Portfolio – January 2018

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I got inspired by financial independence sites likeĀ My 15 Hour Work Week, so I’m posting my investment portfolio at the beginning of each month. This includes investments of both my wife and I. By my calculations in Excel based on investment returns of 8% per year including dividends (that’s the average return of the STI), we should be able to achieve financial independence at about year 2035 (long way to go!). My budget estimation in Excel into the far future includes lots of variables like inflation, investment returns, salary increment, bank/CPF/mortgage interest, but is not a perfect model – I’m constantly tweaking it to be more accurate.

Market value is as of 1 Jan 2018 or earlier closing date. U.S. stock market values are converted to SGD using prevailing exchange rate. Cryptocurrencies market value is an estimate since I take it at the point of writing and cryptocurrencies are traded 24/7 and highly volatile in price.

Investment Portfolio -January 2018 – TheAlphaLion

StockSharesMarket Value (in SGD)
TOTAL$108,654.78
STI ETF (SGX: ES3)15700$54,165.00
Ho Bee Land (SGX: H13)3600$8,856.00
Singpost (SGX: S08)7000$8,680.00
Sembcorp Industries (SGX: U96)2700$8,181.00
SIA Engineering (SGX: S59)2500$7,825.00
Yeo Hiap Seng (SGX: Y03)6000$7,560.00
Indofood Agri (SGX: 5JS)17200$6,708.00
iShares S&P 500 Growth (NYSE: IVW)30$6,098.10
Bitcoin<1$149.77
Ethereum<1$359.07
Litecoin<1$72.84

 

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Review: Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay King Studio

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After seeing the Lamborghini, Ferarri and Rolls Royce parked outside the Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay, I took the elevator up to the 4th floor hotel lobby. In the elevator, I asked the concierge: “Is the ‘1880’ on the 3rd floor a hotel restaurant?”

“No sir, it’s a private club”. That pretty much gave me a good idea of what to expect at this hotel, even before I stepped into the hotel lobby decked with marble floor and walls with glossy black accents. Unlike its sister hotel the heritage-oriented Intercontinental Singapore at Bugis, the IC at Robertson Quay is all about being upscale and classy.

20171021_145809.jpg
You’ll see a lot of marble in this hotel

 

Hotel Location

As its name suggests, this Intercontinental is located along Robertson Quay along the Singapore river. Newly opened on 12th October 2017, it is a complete remodel of the previous Gallery Hotel. It’s about a short 10 minute walk from the Fort Canning Station of the newly-opened Downtown Line MRT train line, and pretty inaccessible by bus, though I expect most visitors to this 5-star hotel, in an area with more expatriates than locals, would be taking a taxi/cab (Get some free credits to use for the taxi/cab apps in Singapore here!). Along the quay there are plenty of bars and restaurants, and in the morning you would be spoiled for choices for western-style breakfast and at night, the quay lights up and revs up with the sound of sports matches being shown on the large-screen TVs in the numerous bars.

20171021_145930.jpg
The lobby lounge

It’s also a walk away from Fort Canning Park, one of the bigger parks in the downtown of Singapore, and also a walk away from Clarke Quay, where another group of nightlife bars and clubs are located.

 

20171021_151536.jpg
You’ll see mirrors everywhere too. Everywhere.

 

Room

20171021_154337.jpgLeather, leather, leather. It was on the handle bars in the elevator, and now it’s everywhere in the room. The lounge chair is leather (there’s no office table/chair), the room service menu is leather-bound, the tissue box is leather-bound, the toiletries drawer is leather-bound, the…. you get the idea. Also, mirrors. Almost every surface in the hotel lobby, corridor and room has either a mirror or a shiny finish on it, probably to make the space look bigger.

20171021_152215.jpg
Yes, even the tissue box is leather-bound

The room has a modern elegant interior design, with lots of glossy black panels and wood laminates. As I’ve mentioned there’s no office table or chair, in lieu of a leather bench built into the wall. The sole circular table has a glossy top that unfortunately doesn’t work with laptop mice. Otherwise, it’s a pretty small but cozy room, though the interior designer has managed to squeeze a lot of functionality into the room. The room is definitely smaller than at the Intercontinental Singapore at Bugis, and the toilet and shower are two separate rooms. By the way, the toilet door has no lock, and the shower door is translucent (half-mirrored, I think).

20171021_152018
Mirror, mirror, on my bathroom door…
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IHG Connect is an excellent way of connecting to in-room wifi

The Wifi in the room is very fast at about 25mbps, and has a new design where you only need to enter your email or IHG member number, instead of needing to log in with your room number. Very handy, as it will connect instantly the next visit without having to re-enter login details. The welcome amenity of 600 points posted quickly for me by that night.

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Welcome amenity, and a welcome postcard with scribbly handwriting šŸ™‚

When I arrived my Ambassador amenity was already on the table, a plate of fruits and a tin of Gryphon tea. Speaking of which, the concierge was very keen to highlight to me that they used Gryphon tea unlike the TWG tea used in the other Singapore IHG hotels. Gryphon tea, I was informed, is almost 100 years old (under parent company Lim Lam Thye), unlike TWG which launched in 2008 (even though it seemingly uses the year ‘1837’ in all its branding). The Gryphon tea in the room was of the “Monogram” series, which I can supposedly mix-and-match two different tea bags to make interesting blends. Another interesting addition to this hotel is a cocktail mixer along with ready-made cocktail blends, which I was told is made fresh from the hotel’s Marcello bar.

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Fancy making cocktails in your room? (Yes, again, the box is leather-bound)

The towels, blankets and bedsheets were all very soft and extremely comfortable (maybe it’s because I’m the first one to use them?), and the soundproofing is sufficient except for the occasional time when I could hear the neighbor’s phone ringing. As is becoming standard, the room has a large flat-screen LCD TV, but unfortunately I couldn’t connect my laptop to the LG TV because it didn’t support wireless display and its HDMI port was pretty inaccessible – it’s times like this that I like Hyatt’s Plug Panel. Sound is provided nicely by a Bose soundbar. Shades and blinds are controlled electronically by a switch at the bedside, and there’s a USB (type A) port too. For tourists, there’s also a ‘Handy’ phone which provides information on toursit attractions and has free calls too.

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Food and Facilities

This time, I didn’t opt for club access. However, I did manage to take some photos of the club lounge on the 4th floor, which I’m told has a seating capacity of 70. As usual, there’s tea time, happy hour and breakfast at the lounge. While the Publicio restaurant is not open yet (though it looks almost ready), the Publicio Deli is open for western-style breakfast and deli food (read a review about it here).Ā There’s also a Marcello bar on the first floor, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse (which I’ve come to realize is not the same as Wolfgang Puck’s Cut restaurant at Marina Bay Sands – read a review here), Ishi Dining & Bar and Plum & Toro on the second floor.

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Club lounge seats up to 70
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Food during tea time
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Fancy chess board

The pool is located on the 4th floor beside the lounge, and is good for leisurely swims as it’s not that big. However, I personally thought it would have been better as a rooftop pool. Currently, I’m told that there are some renovations planned for the rooftop, and when I went up to take a look, the rooftop offered panoramic views of the Robertson Quay area and I could even see the Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Sands, so it seemed quite a waste that there was nothing on the rooftop for now. I can’t wait to see what they plan to build on top.

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The rather empty rooftop
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Panoramic view from the rooftop

 

Final Impressions

I think the Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay appeals to a very specific type of traveller – someone who values classy and cozy accomodation, excellent service (everyone at the hotel were very courteous and helpful), and an expat-like life along Robertson Quay. It’s great as a home away from home.

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Pool beside the hotel lobby
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Review – Intercontinental Singapore Deluxe Room

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Intercontinental Singapore is the highest-tier luxury hotel of the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) in Singapore, and has two types of rooms: classic elegance and heritage-style rooms that overlook Bugis street market. The hotel was recently renovated in 2016. I recently stayed at at the Deluxe Room in IC Singapore on my first stay as a Platinum Ambassador elite member, and earned more than 45,000 IHG points as part of the Accelerate promotionĀ and the Book Direct promotion. With IHG points valued at about 0.6 U.S. cents per point, that’s about US$270 worth of points that I earned and makes this stay almost free.

Hotel Location

The IC-SG is integrated with Bugis Junction at 80 Middle Road, and hence is also linked via a fully-airconditioned route to the Bugis MRT, which is easy accessible by the green East-West train line from Changi Airport. It is near popular cultural attractions like Bugis, Bras Basah and Arab street, while other tourist attractions like Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay are only a couple of MRT stations (or a short taxi ride) away from the hotel. Click here to check out some freebies like free taxi rides that you can get while traveling in Singapore.

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Check-in area at Intercontinental Singapore

 

Room

In addition to the one-category upgrade that I received as an Ambassador member, I was also given a “business package” that included free breakfast for two and two free laundry washes, which I very much appreciated. I was given an Ambassador amenity (an Intercontinental Singapore keychain), and also offered either 600 points amenity or a drinks voucher.

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My room on the 15th floor was bright, comfy and overlooked the Bugis area. I could even see the Andaz Singapore (opening on 5th December 2017. Maybe future stay?) from my room. The room had a 42 inch LCD TV with HDMI ports, while the work desk and bedside had USB connectors to charge my mobile phone and accessories. The room itself sports a classic elegant design, with decorative pillars, gold trims on the ceiling and marble flooring.

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Room with a view

I also got two bottles of water and a plate of fruits in the room. Tap water in Singapore is perfectly portable and drinkable, but the Evian water is nice. There’s also coffee and TWG-branded tea in room.

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Fruit platter and 2 bottles of water for Ambassador members
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Ambassador amenity – a specially designed IC Singapore keychain

The bathroom was large with separate areas for the bathtub and shower. Bathroom soap was of the Agraria brand which I last saw at the Intercontinental Sydney.Ā The premium internet provided was decent with 10mbps upload/download speeds.

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Food

Like most 5-star hotels, the IC Singapore has a pool and fitness facilities. Of course, I skipped all those and went ahead to dine at Ash & Elm, their award-winning restaurant. By the way, hotel guests get 20% off dining at their restaurants. The restaurant has a concept of three different types of food preparation (culinary theatres, as they call it): the Charcuterie and Cheese room (which you can experience during breakfast here), the Wood-fired Oven, and the Open Kitchen grill. I’d recommend everyone to try one from each category. As part of dinner, they serve bread from the Wood-fired oven, and the pork steak from their open kitchen grill is also delectable, as I watched them prepare it from their open kitchen.

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In the morning, the same restaurant transforms into a buffet-style breakfast dining area, with fresh foods, an omelette station and lots of local foods ranging from Chinese Dim Sum to Indian rice, alongside the usual Western food options. The croissants are delicious, as are the smoked salmon and ham. There is also bottles of freshly squeezed juice, of which I’d recommend the carrot juice šŸ™‚

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The Intercontinental Singapore also has a Chinese restaurant Man Fu Yuan, the Lobby Lounge, the Victoria Bar, and the Japanese restaurant Chikuyotei.

 

Final Impressions

You can’t go wrong staying with the Intercontinental Singapore, which is in central Singapore near many tourist attractions. If you’re looking to shop, probaby a hotel in Orchard would be better, but for cultural attractions and the newer sightseeing places like Gardens by the Bay, this is a good hotel to be at.

If you’re booking an IHG hotel, remember to use the Shopback (for Singaporeans) or TopCashBack cashback portals to get extra cashback on your hotel booking!

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Future HDB Site: Rail Corridor at Choa Chu Kang

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I’m starting a new series on potential future HDB (Housing & Development Board) property sites, for fun, and I’m starting with future property sites near the Rail Corridor.

 

The Singapore Rail Corridor

The Rail Corridor was built in 1903 and was used for the KTM Railway line that extended from Tanjong Pagar in Singapore to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. From 1st July 2011, most of the Rail Corridor was closed, leaving only the Woodlands checkpoint as the only KTM station in Singapore.

In 2015, the URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) unveiled plans to redevelop the rail corridor as a “green corridor”, to preserve the flora & fauna while connecting people to the green space.

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Source: URA

Integrated Housing Precinct at Choa Chu Kang

The section that is beside Choa Chu Kang has a plan for an Integrated Housing Precint, and the concept plan was won by MKPL.

In their own words, “The Choa Chu Kang section of the Rail Corridor is envisioned as a pilot ground for a truly integrated development, combining the design and planning of parks and open space, landscape, infrastructure and housing. With intensive and creative use of land, the barren rail corridor and existing concrete drain is transformed into key landscape elements, returning more green open space to the community.” It appears that there will be HDB blocks that will be 30-40 storeys high, with multiple sky gardens at different levels similar to the award-winning Dawson and Pinnacle@Duxton public housing projects. Furthermore, the current tall trees at the Rail Corridor will be kept, allowing the housing blocks to “float” above the tree canopies.

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Sky gardens similar to Dawson and Pinnacle@Duxton

Furthermore, if we look at the site where this housing estate will be, it’s only 250 meters away from the Bukit Panjang MRT, right beside Junction 10, and walking distance to the Hillion Mall and the Bukit Panjang Plaza mall.

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250m from Bukit Panjang MRT

Also, judging by the concept plan, the nearby Pang Sua canal will also be naturalized at that section to become a green part of the estate (instead of just a concrete drainage canal), similar to what was done to the Bishan-AMK Park.

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Naturalized Canal from MKPL concept art
Bishan-AMK Park. Source:Ā Ramboll

Among the amenities proposed at this site in the concept plan are: town center, library, supermarkets & shops, and childcare/education/elderly centers. This housing project and its proposed amenities would also benefit nearby HDB flats at Jln Teck Whye and Senja Road.

Overall, this looks like a really exciting public housing project if the concept plan is ever carried out, and would be an amazing premium housing project in Choa Chu Kang! More pictures from MKPL concept plan below. If you want me to review any other future HDB sites in Singapore, let me know in the comments!

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