A Trip around the (too-)Sunny Island: Exploring NUS like a tourist Pt. 1



Image Credits: Jolie Er


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And it’s probably because I am, pretty much, like a tourist. Like many other students, I was caught up in the sweep to online classes, and was deprived of a relatively normal university experience. Yet, as a Year 3 (going on 4), I’m not quite complaining about my university experience. I enjoyed a good full-year before the cataclysmic shifts to online studying, which meant that I enjoyed orientation (full-time Rag was a job), and was able to gain some competency in navigating my home faculty (FASS). I even managed to conduct a full taste-test of the food at the Deck and UTown before I was woefully booted back home.

That being said, NUS has undergone some pretty massive upheavals since work-from-home has been made the default. Back then, the Deck was the main go-to for many students and staff, particularly as the other faculties had food courts that were under construction. Now that they’re back in-business, and after hearing about how good some of the food choices were (e.g., Techno Edge), I felt a pressing need to try some of the food before my graduation was due. Plus, I haven’t quite gone around NUS. I mean, imagine having to tell people you don’t actually know where the School of Computing (SOC) is (I REALLY don’t know where it is), or that you haven’t explored the museum despite the fact that it’s free for NUS students. Also, does Engineering even exist?

But I’m also confident that given the online modes of classes, most of us are probably in the same boat. So let me share my itinerary for a self-embarked trip around our wonderful sunny island: NUS. However, as NUS is a gigantic, hill-y land, I could only do so much in one day (hence the title ‘part 1’). 

So, –cue drumroll-. This is for my non-hall friends like me! Are you ready for the most pointless article ever?

First stop: The new Central Library

I hadn’t properly explored the newly renovated Central Library. My memories of it stretch as far back as the times when CLB’s basement was a fully decked-out study area, and when the entrance was on the fourth floor.

Stepping into the library’s first-floor entrance, I was met with a wonderful gust of cool air. However, I was also confronted with the typical problem of having to show my NUS green pass, which had me standing around trying to connect to the NUS wi-fi.

As I got in, I found that the place had changed quite drastically! The second floor is this closed stacks area that has antique books lined up from end-to-end. (I was so close to breaking that glass, man.)

As for the upper-floors, most of them are open-space areas for discussions, group work, and studying. As compared to the past, the revamp has definitely provided many more studying areas, so I encourage anyone who’s thinking of going to NUS to study, to try out the upper-floors (—if I’m not wrong, level 3 or 4).

Random thoughts about this pit-stop

  1. I opened a random book from the History section, and the stamp on the front said ‘1954.’ Pretty cool, because books like those shutter me back to a past that I have not and will never belong to.
  2. The library has posters all around the stairs that tell you to ‘take the stairs, burn some calories.’ (As far as my memory recalls.) That, however, does not logically follow, because if you want to encourage people to take the stairs, you should put it in lifts, not on staircase flights where people are already taking the stairs.

Second stop: Lunch time! @ Techno Edge

Colour me ignorant, but I’ve never actually set foot into Engineering before. In fact, I wasn’t privy to its location until I planned to write this article, and up till that point, I was perfectly comfortable being situated in my home faculty (FASS). All that Engineering was was a mystical and nebulous cloud kingdom that was premised *somewhere* in NUS. I shamefully admit this in spite of the fact that I have several friends in Engineering.

But as we all know, NUS loves to send out emails to us about food deals, clothing deals, CO-OP deals, etc. After being bombed with so many emails about Techno Edge, I finally decided that it was high time to head on down to try some food. I also heard some good things from my friends, especially about the mala. 

Setting out at around 2:45 PM, my friends and I went to Techno-Edge. It was surprisingly accessible, and after going down a (very) long flight of stairs, we were greeted with a rather quiet and calm canteen. It was bare, save for six to ten tables being occupied.

After putting our stuff down, we went to look at the stalls. While I like mala, I wasn’t quite in the mood for it that day. So instead, I opted for some nasi lemak, which cost a mere $2.20! (As I am writing this, I am faced with the oppressive fate of graduation and expensive food prices.) I also paired this with teh bing (iced tea), which cost $1.10. So if you’re looking for a cheap foodspot, this is certainly the place to get it! The makcik was very nice, and the food was quite filling and yummy. (I have pretty arbitrary standards for food though, so don’t quote me.)

I didn’t have a picture because I’m not a huge photographer in general. But this is my friend’s somewhat similar order. (Thanks, Charlotte).
This is Charlotte’s iced milo, but for the appeal of pictures, here you go. Let’s pretend it’s my teh bing.

Random thoughts about this pit-stop

  1. My friend found it puzzling that Techno Edge was called the way it was, and I agree with her sentiments. Calling it Techno Edge makes it sound more like a cutting-edge research centre than a food court (c.f. Biopolis—but then again, Biopolis has pretty good food too).
  2. Post-reflection: Time to do my postgraduate studies to get these student prices again.
  3. Teh bing rating: 6/10. The milk thinned out with the ice.

Third (and same) stop: Engineering

We ate and lounged around until 4:00 PM, before proceeding to explore Engineering.

Let. Me. Tell. You. I thought the stairs in FASS were bad. Well, it’s absolutely atrocious in Engineering. (Seems ironic, doesn’t it?)

Winding up-and-down and left-to-right, Engineering is a pretty confusing faculty to navigate. We didn’t have a coherent itinerary either, so we were just exploring and looking around. Interestingly, Engineering has many open-air spaces for people to study in. Here are some examples.

Credits (again): Charlotte
There was a model at the centre of this open-floor-plan-place, but without a plaque, I can’t quite enlighten you on what it is.

Generally speaking, my friend and I agree that FoE is quite pretty, especially for the newly-renovated parts. We saw some views of the sea, and there were even beautifully-paved flower beds at some places.

Credits: Charlotte
The view looks good from Engineering.

At one point, my friend lamented that it was ‘actual discrimination.’ Even their LiHO looks like it was set up to look like a cafe. Still, FASS is pretty darn good in its own right.

Credits: Charlotte
This LiHO outlet has a full-fledged set-up of chairs?

At least now I can confidently state that I know how to get around FoE without any (major) guidance or assistance.

Credits: Charlotte
I can’t tell if it’s bias against my faculty at this point, but even the sunlight looked better?
Credits: Charlotte (thank you for the candids!)
See? The sunlight does look better. Am also pretty sure that the sea view I’m looking at is similar to the one at The Deck @ FASS.

Random thoughts about this pit-stop

  1. I thought that Information Technology was linked to the School of Computing (SOC). It is not (hah…). SOC is behind my home faculty (FASS).
  2. I’m so amazed by this fact, but did you know that if you follow the yellow ceilings in the faculties, it will take you to other faculties? We tried it at Engineering and ended up finding the Information Technology bus stop, which is across CLB and near YIH.
Credits: ME! Finally.
Follow. the yellow-paved ceiling~
  1. There’s a randomly preserved spot of hill-and-rocks in Engineering. It’s a little ways off the stairs leading down to the Information Technology bus stop, and is at the linked pathway to Yusof-Ishak House. This is just…so hilarious to me; for how random it is, and for how it so accurately reflects the mountainous and rocky nature of FoE’s stairs. According to my friend, she says that the rocks previously had some life and colour to them; but these were unceremoniously scraped for some reason.
This is SO funny to me. I can’t even put it into words.
  1. Exploring FoE made me think of a joke my friend made about getting a boyfriend; that she would camp at FoE and that we could set up a QR code for people to scan our dating profile. (Fixing the imbalanced gender-ratio, one step at a time.)
  2. E7 is so pretty and shiny and new! Too bad Huggs coffee was closed when we went in.
  3. I wonder how Engineering students feel about this Elon Musk quote being painted with big, bright strokes? Generally, what do you guys think of Mr Musk?
Elon Musk is everywhere. You cannot escape.

Journey from Engineering-to-YIH-to-University Hall-to-Science-to-Medicine

Note: Here, I collapsed all the locations into one heading because we didn’t explore it as thoroughly as the other faculties. 

First off, we walked all the way! Not recommended: My feet felt like they went through the grinder. Then again, the other option is to take the earthquake-simulator (i.e. the internal NUS shuttle).

So. Many. Hills.

Second, it was very, very fun! It took a while, but I finally got around to seeing stuff about NUS that I had always been curious about, but had no real reason to explore. Some highlights of the experience were University Hall, which has a beautiful water feature by Chong Fah Cheong. My friend pointed out to me that it was the same artist who did the People of the River statues, with his most popular one being the one where children jump off the bridge.

I’ve never stepped into University Hall before.
The water feature by Chong Fah Cheong.
The description of Chong Fah Cheong’s piece.

It also has this pretty spiral staircase that leads up to a dark, dingy corridor (with no human life detected). In the most pretentious way possible, it felt like the set of a black-and-white noir film.

The worst possible framing from someone who clearly doesn’t want to drop her phone. Yes, it started raining.
We walked to the end and it was a surreal scene of sofas piled on top of one another, with a single source of light pouring its weak rays over a man’s silhouette. Just kidding, it was too dark to see and the lights weren’t on.

Sadly, I bring bad news to you: I still don’t know what the people who work in University Hall do. I never see people go in either, so…

Moving on, we went through Science. One lingering comment: Wow, why is the Physics department so big?

We went through a stretch of the Physics offices, and
came out the other side to more Physics offices.

Many of their offices also put up complete research papers on the board, in case you feel like standing there for 30 minutes to catch a quick academic vibe. I even caught a glimpse of the Graphene Lab (of which I have no idea of its significance, but how can one miss out on such intriguing and sophisticated machinery?).

In case you want to take a break from reading papers, head on down to Science and read more papers.

I also found out that Science’s canteen (Frontier) has Nine Fresh!

Anyone who spots the NineFresh in the picture will get a treat from me.

Generally, Science is very industrial, except for the link to Tahir Foundation and Medicine.

Science’s bare-pipe, industrial designs make me think of many malls which leave their ceilings open.
Link to Tahir Foundation and Medicine.

What I thought was cool was the unmanned, self-checkout Cheers outlet, which is situated next to the air-conditioned part of Frontier canteen. By simply scanning a QR code on the door, you can download an app to enter the shop. From there, you can check things out yourself. Apart from being cool, it’s nice that there’s enough generalised social trust to put this in-place. Perhaps the transparent wall to the Frontier canteen also encourages surveillance and prevents theft.

Once you download the Cheers Shop It Yourself app, you can enter the store.

We then moved on to Medicine, but only briefly.

MD6 is their main building.
Medicine has an extremely pretty lawn. The #NUS reminds me of UCC’s ‘I was here.’

Fun fact: I’ve been to MD6 (Medicine) several times, but every time you go in, you need to flash your matriculation card and tell the security guard which part of the building you’re going to. I forgot this, and when I entered MD6, the security guard asked us where we were going; to which I panicked and said that we were just cutting through the building. He laughed at us and waved us through. (Sad face.) We never got to see MD6, after all.

Random thoughts about this pit-stop

  1. This is a rather blasé comment, but along the way, my friend pointed out that Lecture Theatre numbers don’t repeat on themselves. For instance, LT3 is at Engineering, and LT42 is at Sciences. The reason why this is so mind-blowing to me is because FASS has LT8, 9, 10, etc., which gave me the impression that every faculty had their own set of such similar numbers. Inversely, if I were in FoS, the fact that the LTs went up to 42, this fact would’ve been evident to me. Either way, I’m stupid.
  2. Try out Spinelli Coffee at University Hall! It’s tucked away in a cosy corner next to the water feature. Sadly, it was closed when my friend and I went, but its menu looked inviting.

OVERALL REVIEW: NUS Tripadvisor

Honestly, a painful reminder I got from this trip was that NUS is really hill-y. It’s just earthly undulations all around campus, and in needing to move from one location to another, my palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy. Overall review: 4 stars. Too many unforgiving bumps here and there.

That being said, exploring NUS like I was an outsider, rather than a student, gave me a new insight into NUS as a school. Sincerely speaking, it was far more enjoyable than I expected, and I even found out new things about NUS that I had not known before! While I may have been forced to rescind my SEP offer, that doesn’t mean I cannot create tourism opportunities for myself. Hmph.

Concluding remarks

  1. I will now register NUS on Tripadvisor.
  2. After some scouting, I realised that the bubble tea outlets like LiHO and GongCha are always present on campus, but likely, for some budgetary reason, are constantly switching up the location of their outlets. (Which makes my initial mourning of their disappearance absolutely pointless.) Currently, LiHO is at Engineering, and GongCha is at UTown’s Food Clique (not Fine Foods, which is the one opposite Hwang’s.)
  3. NUS has too many Starbucks (I counted four so far), and not enough McDonald’s. Bring McDonald’s back, now! >:(
  4. I’m excited to explore SOC, Business, and the NUS Museums.