[Review] Holiday Inn Express Singapore Katong


Holiday Inn Express Katong is probably the most affordable HIEx franchise in Singapore. It's near Changi airport and is located at a quiet neighborhood. The hotel is clean, modern, and everything is well maintained. Here's a quick tour of the hotel, our room, its amenities, and everything else!
The Lobby
The lobby is located at the 7th floor so you have to take the lift from the ground level of Katong Square. 


Alighting from the elevator, you'll be greeted by the reception counter. Check-in was a breeze. Everything I requested from my Agoda booking was granted (high floor, orange room, early check-in) and it didn't take 10 minutes for me to get a room. 


I was even able to request for a Handy mobile which made me love the hotel even more! According to the staff, only certain queen rooms have Handy mobile included. As long as you're checked in you can bring this around with you outside, it has unlimited 4G data and free international call to certain countries.


If you need to surf the internet, there's a small nook at the side of the reception counter with two computer machines. There's also some travel guides and a Forex machine too.

Queen Standard Room

Our room is located on the 15th floor. From the lobby at 7th floor, you have to take another lift to go the rooms. It's not too bad having to transfer lifts, I'm not sure why some reviewers complain about it. Being an express hotel, everything is kinda self-service. Even the extra things you want to request for your room, you have to pick up at the reception. So don't expect luggage assistance when you get here. :)


The room we got is a decent sized one. At 19sqm I was kinda hesitant about the space but when we got in, it actually looks spacious. Thanks to the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the peaceful Katong district and the overall smart space design.




The bed is super comfy and the pillows are marked soft and firm haha. I don't know but it seemed more like soft and super soft. I was expecting the firm pillows are as firm as the throw pillows haha.



The bathroom is simple and has some very practical features. I like the use of liquid soap dispensers for handwash, shampoo/bodywash. I also think it's smart that the shower door and bathroom door act as one. When you open the shower door, it will close the bathroom. So when you're taking a shower, the bathroom is open. Basta ganon hahahaha. It saves a lot of space. 


The closet area isn't that big, but it's enough to store our luggage and put out our clothes. There's a safe, iron, and ironing board as well.


For tourists like us, I appreciate the presence of universal sockets, USB ports, and Handy Mobile. There's also a bluetooth speaker/alarm/radio you can use. And for your entertainment, the room is equipped with a Samsung Smart TV which has Radio, Youtube, and Miracast. Let me warn you though that the Youtube feature is pretty useless because there are fixed categories and there's no option to search for a video.


If you want to watch Netflix, I suggest you bring your own laptop and HDMI cable. That's what we did! There's free and fast wifi anyway. :)


There's complimentary bottled water, coffee and tea. Faucet water is potable too (by WHO standard guys) so no need to worry about it!

Express Start Breakfast


Every day from 6:30 to 10:30am, breakfast is served at the 7th floor. There's a modest selection of bread, muffins, ham, sausage, salad, fruits, and cereals, and there's also coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and a variety of fruit juices. Apart from the intercontinental breakfast spread, there are also some local Asian dishes like congee, dry noodles, dal, and so on. It's not much but it's enough to fill you up!




The only thing important to me is coffee. And they have 3 coffee machines spread out across the hall. Love it. There are a lot of seating areas and also an outdoor space for guests who smoke. 



When you're done with your food, you can place this card to inform the cleaners that your table is ready to get tidied up. And when you're not yet finished, you can flip it over! Isn't that neat?


If you're on the go, you can grab some coffee and pick up some muffins near the reception counter instead. They provide take-away cups and paper bags for that purpose. I think this is a really thoughtful touch targeting their business class guests.

Housekeeping

I have no qualms about their housekeeping. They would visit us everyday around 1pm to take out the trash, restock our bottled water, coffee and tea, refill the shampoo and hand wash dispensers, vacuum the carpet, and replace our towels. And get this, when they're done cleaning the room, they would dial something on our phone that would indicate that our room has been visited by housekeeping already. Ang high tech! This third world bitch is shookt.

24-hour gym

Outside the breakfast hall is a small gym you can use if you find the need for a quick workout. Jeckie and I was able to try it one night and found it pretty cool. It's small but it's enough. 


There are two treadmills, an elliptical cross-trainer, and a stationary bike inside. On the open area outside is a rower, a bench, a rack of dumbbells, and two exercise balls. Also provided are face towels, drinking water, and wet wipes for you to clean the equipment after sweating on it. I love how obsessed this city is with cleanliness, urgh. 

Note that there's no swimming pool here!

24-hour self-service laundry

I just love how Holiday Inn Express enables you to be productive everyday lol. Yes , you can do your laundry here. There's also an area where you can fold and iron your clothes. Just be ready to shell out $7 per load. So that's $14 for a wash and dry combo. 

Transportation

When we planned for this trip I didn't care about where the hotel is located because I know getting around Singapore is easy. And indeed! We didn't have any problems getting around. Thanks to the Handy mobile, we have data everywhere we go so it's easy to navigate around.

The nearest bus stop is Roxy Sq. and it's around 30-40 minutes away from the CBD.

Overall

I'm impressed at how incredibly feature-packed this hotel is. It's not a place for guests wanting to be pampered with 5-star service, but they provide everything you need with a high standard to enable you to mind your own business comfortably. I love it. It's the first time I've experienced such concept and it's pretty neat. 5 nights well spent!
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I'm not ready

What a beautiful dawn

I feel like I'm chasing at the wrong thing right now. So remember how I was stressing about studying for the exam and the technical assessment, I think most of it was because I didn't want to waste the almost 50k we spent on flights and accommodation. 
But after reading the entire foundation level syllabus, I realized that there's still soooo little I know in the testing industry, and that everything I've learned so far, I'm excited to apply at work. Not elsewhere, but here, where I am. Heck I'm actually concerned about my job, that's new.

I'm at a great place and I'm doing good. I can see the value in my work, and I feel valued too. I have never felt this way in my entire career. I feel like I've found THE company I want to grow old with. Nevermind that corporations are really just being fake concerned about its people, what's important is that there's synergy between us, and that I'm getting paid right.

So anyway. I guess this is just me saying I'll do the best I can to go as far as possible in the recruitment process. Not really my goal to move out, but we'll see where God takes me in this journey! :)
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Today

Is another day I'm late for work. Aaarghh.

Which is why I finally bought a weekly planner, so that I can log my daily goals like no lates, no rice, drink water, exercise daily, etc. It's just something to push me to become more accountable. I'm never a planner person but we'll see if this method works hahaha.

Also, I'm so out of hope with the frkn exam. I read something in the forums that immensely validated the impending doom I'm about to plummet into. I have to frkn code. On paper. Oh this is Nokia all over again, which I failed twice. And I accept that, 'cos I know I'm not that smart. But wth if the type of analysts they want to get are R&D level testers, I'm sooooo out of the game.

And that kinda made me feel better. At least I don't have to try too hard. I mean I'm so sure I'm no good when there's coding involved argh.

Looking forward to tomorrow's Holiday. I already informed my client that I won't be taking any writing tasks for the next two weeks so I'm pretty free right now! :D
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This week

Finally booked a hotel accommodation for our Singapore trip
We're staying at Holiday Inn Express Katong, East Coast area, and I'm very excited about it. I've spent days comparing hotel rates, room sizes, and neighborhoods and I figured this one has the best value for money considering how arte I am about certain thinks like room size, interior design, presence of windows, hotel ambiance, and so on.

Purchased a car insurance policy
Little by little we're trying to take over managing the car since it's been in our possession for almost a year now. Two weeks ago we took care of maintenance, now we're shouldering insurance. Our current policy with Sterling is expiring this month, and we're switching to FPG via iChoose.ph.

I thought it was gonna be hard to get this insurance thing set up but would you believe, I got an insurance policy in a matter of hours just by chatting with an agent online. I can't believe how fast and easy it was. I sent over the OR and CR via chat, and transferred a partial payment via online banking. Man, I love technology.

Now I'm just waiting for the policy to arrive at our doorstep, and they're also forwarding a copy to our loaning bank. I know it sounds all too scammy but I got the reco from a car group so I guess we're in good hands?

Received more info about the recruitment roadshow
Urgh. More things to stress about. I received more details about the roadshow. After the exam on Monday, I'm already lined up for a face to face interview and hands-on technical assessment on Thursday. I stopped being excited about this whole recruitment thing when I realized I'm not even halfway reading the foundation level syllabus which would be helpful for the exam. I was ready to fail and already conditioned myself to go on vacation mode. But then the interview schedule was a glimmer of hope. Does it mean it doesn't matter if I fail the exam? I'm still gonna get a shot during the interviews? But then there's a technical test, a 90-minute hands-on assessment of my coding and scripting kills like wtf. I'm not ready for this! I haven't scripted from scratch in a long while my goodness. This kindof kills the vacation mood you know.

I need to reduce my activities
I've been meaning to tell my writing client (I still don't know how to call it lol) to stop giving me tasks for now because I have to review for an exam. But for some reason, nanghihinayang ako hahaha. I mean, I typically can squeeze an hour or so to write one article. So I'm thinking if I spend that hour reviewing instead, I could be closer to finishing the damn syllabus by now. But who am I kidding, I'm not getting paid to review lol.

I did decline two design opportunites (from my old) client because I know it's going to be overwhelming for me at this point. My goodness, I need to breathe. This whole anticipiation is killing my nervous system.

To fast or not to fast
Our APE results just came out and guess what! I have hypercholesterolemia, something our resident doctor refuse to believe because she thinks our APE vendor isn't reliable on account of almost half the population being diagnosed with the same. I was advised to get re-checked to confirm the state of my blood chem. It's optional but if I do that it means I have to fast for 10-12 hours and damn I don't think I'm ready for that.

I'm also overweight, of course.

Anyway
Off to make a wedding invite while my automated script is running!
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[Review] Aroma Naturale Essential Oils Diffuser

If you're new to essential oils and want to try it out first without shelling out too much, then this product is for you. I'll cut to the chase and say that this essential oils diffuser is probably the best starter kit for EO newbies like myself. It's only ₱899 if you buy the diffuser and 5 essential oils as a bundle. Individually it's around ₱500 for the oils set and ₱600 for the diffuser. Just look around Shopee for Aroma Naturale diffuser.

Move over, Muji.


There's a similar diffuser from Muji that sells at a ridiculous price of ₱3,500. It would've been okay if it's bigger or something but what the heck, IT'S EXACLTY THE SAME. Same size, same light and mist settings, same buttons, same everything, except for the bottom part. What a shame right? So don't let yourself be scammed.



I know there are tons of other diffusers out there but I chose this one majorly because it's cheap, looks simple and classic, and the branding is cute. Other diffusers have ugly light settings, lakas maka-cheap sorry haha, this one only has warm light in two modes. I know you can turn off the light but wala lang ayoko yung iba-iba yung kulay ew hahaha.

Moving on...


The Premium Essential Oils set has 5 scents: Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Lavender, and Lemongrass. They're 10ml each bottle. Again if you're starting out, this set is a good choice. EVERYTHING SMELLS SOOO GOOD.


If you want the specifics on this product, Muji can cover that for you here. Seriously hahaha I think they got the same Chinese manufacturer. Grabe the power of branding no? Anyway,

  • Capacity is 100ml
  • Good for small rooms only like the bathroom or if your bedroom is between 9-12sqm.
  • Has 4 timer settings: 30, 60, 120, 180mins (then it will auto-off)
  • Has 2 light settings: a dim and bright warm white
  • It's not rechargeable so you have to keep it hooked to a power source
  • Power source input: DC to USB

Here's how the water tank looks like


 And this is how the underside looks like


Like any diffuser, be cautious when using it. There's a manual in the box that tells you of basic do's and don'ts to preserve the quality of the product. Important things to note are:
  • Do not open the tank when it's running (I did this once and it's a mess)
  • Do not turn on the diffuser if the water level is below minimum
  • Careful about water drops entering the side of the tank as it could reach the circuit
  • Do not put too much oil drops, recommended is 4 drops per full tank (I don't follow this though, I put ~10 drops most of the time and the product is still okay? haha)

That's pretty much it! It's a great product, I've been using it for more than a month and so far so good. I'm only in for the aromatherapy for now and not much for the ~healing~ properties of the oil but yeah maybe we'll get there someday? This tita is new to the EO realm.

Where to get one?

I bought mine at Shopee, just search for 'Aroma Naturale diffuser'. There's also a store in Greenbelt 1 called Technopop that sells this (found them through Shopee), but you have to inquire if they have stock. :)
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Perfect Party Snacks

Photo from Pixabay

Preparing food for a party has never been easier. Thanks to the hundreds of recipes online and the catering options in your local supermarket your options are incredibly broad. So what options are there for making your own party food to give your event a little bit of a personal twist. Here we are going to take a look at some of the ways you can develop your party food to have your own touch.

Dips
Now, one of the things that has happened over the past few years with an improved selection of dips in supermarkets is that it has become easier to get lazy with our dips. A collection of store bought selections can sit on the table, but there is nothing special about any of them. However, you can make a dip relatively easily and it will give your guests a little talking point around one of the supplementary foods on the table. A popular choice for a party dip is Nomad's Marketplace recipe for hummus because it is straightforward to make and can also be served with pitta bread for an authentic feel. Hummus has become very popular in the past decade or so and will go down great with your guests when they learn that you have handmade it.

Photo from Pixabay

Sausage Rolls
Once again there is a tendency to rely on the supermarket when it comes to sausage rolls. That might mean the frozen cocktail variety or some from the butcher. The difference between making your own sausage rolls and relying on the store is night and day for this staple of the party food genre. The options that open up in front of you when you decide to make your own sausage rolls means that you can add all sorts of different flavors to make them extra special. Try making these sausage, bacon and cheese pastries from Nigella Lawson and give your guests the gift of flavor. You can even make vegetarian rolls as well to make sure you cater to everyone’s needs.
Party Food
The most important thing when you are arranging party food is to make sure there is a broad selection so that all of your guests are satisfied. That doesn’t mean you have to make everything on the table, that might not be entirely practical. But you can explore the options that are out there for you to get making your own food and making it part of the fun of a party. You will be surprised at the warm response you get to some of the savoury items that you make when you are hosting. And you should always be prepared to bake cakes and cookies when you have guests coming over, there is nothing better than homemade desserts.

Just make sure you prepare well in advance and make enough time to create your party food masterpieces. After all, you deserve to let your hair down and have a good time as well.
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Life Lately

I can't begin to express how stressed I'm feeling lately.

For sale

First, and I don't know if I've already mentioned this: we lost almost 300k worth of investments after the business owner (who was my ninang and a close family friend too) died unexpectedly last December 31. The impact it made to me and my husband is pretty big, as the money we invested in there was meant to generate a monthly profit enough to pay for our car's amortization. Now we have to re-budget and allocate whatever extra we have to pay for the car for the next two years. Also, we placed our entire 13th month pay in there, so it's frkn depressing. Don't ask me about the black and white of this whole thing, there weren't any written contracts. We only have hand written "receipts" of the cash we put in. God knows how much fighting chance we have with that. Especially that we don't know what's left of my ninang's estate. But thank God we're not totally broke. Since my salary adjustment last year, we've been getting a pretty decent amount of extra money which, quite coincidentally, is just enough to cover for the car's monthly amort. How cool is that. But then that puts us at a break even phase right now, where everything we earn gets zeroed out in minutes. Hay.

And theeeeen. I already feel bad that we lost money, but I feel worse for my parents who lost much more. My family has been investing with her since 2007 and never did my ninang fail to return any profit. That long history of trust and reliance made them pretty dependent with her business. Putting in a lot of money, and looking forward to the monthly return. They even loaned an amount from their credit card, and invested it to further her business operations. My ninang never failed to pay the monthly dues. But now that she's gone, the liabilities all fell on my parent's shoulders. And they're paying close to 100k every month for that loan, which isn't ending til March next year. Jsqlrd.

It pains me to watch my parents struggling right when they're supposed to be planning for their retirement already. I wish I was earning a hell lot to cushion these kinds of unfortunate events, but I can only thank God we're not left empty handed. There's still hope, we just have to work harder.

And now, an unexpected trip to Singapore threatens to empty our savings. We could've opted not to push through with the trip but we didn't think that far ahead. Late last year my husband and I applied for a software testing role at New Zealand / Australia. I passed the initial steps and was invited for an exam at Singapore, hence the unexpected trip. With ticket prices soaring and Airbnb banned in Singapore, our budget has to be at least 60k in order for us to survive the week. And that's not something we're at a liberty to burn.

So another stress point apart from all our financial hulabaloos is reviewing for the technical exam, which will make or break my application. The exam, according to some tips I found online will test our knowledge of testing fundamentals, so I'm kindof cramming reviewing the entire ISTQB Foundation Level Syllabus. Why the heck am I not certified for this?! I'm not expecting to pass the test, to be honest, but I gotta try at least.

My fear is that everything goes to waste, specially our hard earned money. It's bad enough we're letting this trip eat up a big chunk of our savings, and what's worse is that I may actually fail the exam and not proceed to the next steps. Silver lining, we get to explore SG. Also, I get to read about Testing Fundamentals, which is a freaking eye opener. I'm learning a lot here.

If anything I think we're kinda rushing it. I should've waited for the next recruitment roadshow, and let my husband try again. Who knows he might get in this time, and then we can both take the exam together. That's the ideal scenario. But what have you, I already bought tickets before I realized that. I also didn't think they'd re-consider me for the next roadshow if I can't make it this time. Oh well. I'm like setting up myself for failure argh and also wasting money. Jusko babatukan ako ng manager ko if he gets wind of this. There's no harm in trying though!

My parents have been thinking of selling the house because of this whole mess. We can only hope to recover some of our money, but if I were to choose I hope they'd pay back my parents at least for the loan she made on my ninang's behalf. My parents need it more. They don't deserve this. Hay Lord.

Oh Lord, here's to hoping everything falls according to you will.

Lessons learned.
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What a nightmare

This is so stressful. Today I made a 30k deposit at one BPI Cash Accepting Machine around 1:24am. Up to now the money has not been credited yet. I already reported the complaint to 89100, emailed bpiexpressonline about my problem, and went to the BPI branch it happened to personally file a complaint.

This isn't the first time it happened. But this is the longest I'm waiting for it to get resolved. I wonder what gives.

The terminal didn't show any error messages. The transaction completed, it was unable to print a receipt but I continued anyway, which was my bad. But still, the transaction seemed to went through but when I checked the app the balance didn't change.

My fear is that the money in the machine would not be found and that they cannot find my transaction logged in the CAM. Or that the machine didn't take my money and the next depositor found it on the tray and took it. Is that possible? That money is intended for our Singapore trip in 2 weeks. And I couldn't sleep properly because of it. So much that I literally had a nightmare, not related to it, but a nightmare nonetheless.

In my dream my husband and I were walking along EDSA guadalupe area in what seemed to be a post-apocalyptic scene, the atmosphere was grim, the world is in Sepia. We were headed to our car which was parked along the road, when we passed by this man who was wailing about his son who got killed in a freak motor accident. The body is still on the ground. Head to chest he was sliced perfectly. And get this, the bust is trying to walk. The father was crying and walking along with him. As we went ahead of them I said sorry. Then I cried afterwards to my husband.

Really hope to get my money back as soon as possible. :(

UPDATE (Jan 26, 5:24am): I got my money back! Thank you Lord!
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