The first half of 2020 saw S$102 million lost to scams, according to the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC). The frauds were of various natures, such as e-commerce, internet love scams, as well as SMS or phone call scams.
Despite the efforts of the Do Not Call (DNC) registry, scam calls and texts are as persistent as ever. The registry works through blocking telemarketing messages through text message and phone call. However, it can only work if you register your number with the registry. It is free and does not expire, but if you change your phone number, you would have to register again. In addition, scammers can also continue to send texts if they can bypass the system.
Phishing scam cases are also prevalent, and they can be convincing, posing a threat to the elderly or under-informed. Texts or emails purportedly sent from a company are sent to unsuspecting victims, posing as a company or organisation they know and trust. Such texts have been sent under the guise of known companies such as Netflix, Spotify, and even trade unions like NTUC.
These phishing scams typically come with a link to enter your credit card information and One Time Pin. Users are only aware that they have been scammed after having unauthorised transactions on their account.
With so many threats, the DNC registry may not be a one-stop solution. The ScamShield app, on the other hand, is able to block incoming scam calls and texts. The app will flag suspicious SMS texts and block scam calls. It is developed by the NCPC and the Open Government Products team (OGP) at the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) and SPF.
When can I download it?
The app was launched on 20 November, but it is only available on iOS devices at the moment. An Android version is in the works; however there’s no launch date yet.
How it works
The app works by filtering incoming calls and messages. ScamShield identifies a scam call or text by comparing the incoming call against a list maintained by the Singapore Police Force to recognise if the number has been used for illegal purposes, and blocks it.
As for incoming texts from an unknown contact, the app will identify the source of the text by using an on-device algorithm and filters the message to a junk SMS filter.
Scam texts will be sent to NCPC and SPF for archival purposes and to update their database, which helps to keep the app up-to-date, and will also protect others from scam calls and messages.
How to use it
To block scam callers, users can open settings on their phone, tap into “phone”, followed by “call blocking and identification”, and enable ScamShield.
To enable the auto spam SMS filter, users can open settings, tap into “Messages”, followed by “Unknown & Spam”, and enable ScamShield.
Find out more
If you’re interested in downloading the app and wish to find out more, you can visit their website here.
With easy to use mobile apps, zero-fee brokerages, and investment opportunities aplenty after the coronavirus stock market crash, there has been a swell of traders and investors. While many have made their riches from the market volatility, some have lost more than just their money. What should first-time retail investors be wary of and how can they get started safely?
Record high trading
The pandemic devastated the global economy, leaving many unemployed while lockdowns trapped them in their homes. With spare time on their hands, more are looking for alternate revenue streams. As the stock market faced a record fast crash in March, the low buy-in costs have attracted traders and investors in search of huge returns in the ensuing rebound.
Lured in by zero-fee commissions, new traders have flocked to online brokerages like Robinhood. In the first quarter of 2020, the app saw an influx of 3 million new accounts.
This pattern has mirrored in Singapore, where the Singapore Exchange (SGX) faced a surge in Central Depository (CDP) account openings. According to the Straits Times, from February to July, the number of CDP account openings was more than 2.5 times that in the same period last year.
Benefiting from the higher market activity, DBS Brokerage commissions rose by 25% in the first half of the year compared to 2019. Meanwhile, trading volumes at Standard Chartered Bank increased threefold.
Starting out young
The new generation of investors are also starting at a younger age. Nigel Ng, 21, an independent investor who shares his investment knowledge through his online alias, investwithnigel, said, “In the past, account opening was much more tedious, not to mention the really high commission costs. But now, such procedures are greatly simplified, and cost has also come down quite a bit. Especially for the younger crowd who tend to have smaller capital, this removes a big barrier.”
But this simplicity is a double-edged sword. As the lower barrier to entry attracts younger users, novice traders must be wary of the risks they are taking on before diving headfirst into the markets.
Yvonne Yuen, centre head and psychotherapist at WE CARE said, “Most of our clients who gamble in financial markets tend to be younger, typically in their 20s to their 40s. They also tend to be professionals, are tech-savvy, and usually higher-educated.”
The heavy risk
Not being knowledgeable of the financial instruments that you are trading with can sometimes cost you more than your capital. In June, a 20-year-old American student, Alexander Kearns, committed suicide after seeing a negative balance of over USD$730,000 while trading options on the Robinhood app. This was just a temporary balance before his assigned options were settled into his account. Unfortunately, Kearns was not aware of that.
“How was a 20 year old with no income able to get assigned almost a million dollars worth of leverage?” wrote Kearns in his final note. “I also have no clue what I was doing now in hindsight.”
Investing or gambling?
Robinhood is under fire with a class action suit against it for luring inexperienced traders with its “game-like interface”. However, trading is no game and has real-world consequences that can wipe out your savings and load you with considerable debt. Trading or investing without a strategy treads a thin line between speculating and gambling.
Said Yvonne: “If you recognise that you are constantly monitoring the market, hoping to recoup losses, or praying for a windfall to salvage your debts, you may be at risk of developing a problem in stock market speculation. It is recommended that you reach out for help, either to the National Council for Problem Gambling (NCPG) or to WE CARE.”
While brokerages have a responsibility to ensure accurate and timely information is easily accessible, we are responsible for trading within our means. We need to be aware of our appetite for risk and have a deep understanding of each trading instrument that we adopt.
When starting on your investment education you may come across exorbitant courses and seminars — promising you trade secrets that guarantee huge returns within a short timeframe with little to no risk. Just loading a YouTube advertisement reveals yet another ‘expert’ who will share with you the insider secrets on how to make extreme wealth ‘with little to no money down’.
“The key mistake most first-time traders/investors make is wanting to make huge amounts of money in the shortest possible time,” said Nigel. “No thanks to tons of ads and ‘gurus’ these days that promise ‘quick riches’. That just doesn’t exist in the real world. Investing/trading can definitely make you money, but like any skills out there, it takes time to learn and master.”
Five minutes before midnight on the 11 November, I have multiple windows open on both my laptop and phone for various shopping apps and websites. In the days leading up to it, myself (and I’m sure many others) have spent time poring over websites to find the best deals and redeem time-limited vouchers to get the best deals on this day.
The floodgates opened at midnight on 11.11 as myself, and millions of other shoppers, hit ‘check out’ on their shopping cart. After depleting my bank account, I wait in anticipation over the next few weeks for my packages to arrive.
And arrive they do. It feels like Christmas has arrived early as package after package reaches my doorstep over a couple of weeks. They come wrapped in polymailers, bubble wrap, encased within cardboard boxes, sealed with tape — in any form of packaging you could think of.
Therein lies the issue — the boom of the e-commerce sector is accompanied by a similar spike in packaging waste. Since Chinese company Alibaba first started holding 11.11 sales in 2009, sales revenue across e-commerce platforms have grown year-on-year. The Western equivalent — Black Friday — is set to see similar spikes in e-commerce sales, and will undoubtedly also come with an accumulation of plastic and packaging waste.
Boom of the e-commerce industry
According to Today Online, in just 35 minutes, Lazada Singapore’s sales figures for this year surpassed numbers that had taken two hours to reach in the year prior. Within the first 11 minutes, the e-commerce giant had sold more than 180,000 items, equating to more than 16,000 items each minute.
Similar results were replicated in Shopee, which also witnessed outstanding sales performance that surpassed 2019’s figures in a “record-breaking time” of under an hour. On the day of 11 November, Shopee recorded sales of 200 million items, a stark jump from the 70 million items sold in 2019.
In pandemic times, it seems that everyone has taken to e-commerce for a bout of retail therapy.
As the piles of cash grow to record highs in this year’s 11.11 sales (despite most of the world being in a recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic), as do the mounts of plastic waste generated. In 2018, Alibaba recorded a staggering 1.3 billion delivery orders; each one of these orders will have to come in some form of packaging. This problem is only exacerbated by copycat events that have gained popularity in recent years: 9.9, 10.10, and 12.12 are all reasons for everyday consumers to buy more, and buy more often.
A few days a year of mega sales already generates a copious amount of waste, but the e-commerce industry is a well-oiled machine that never stops running, and the amount of waste produced has been steadily increasing even as it continues to grow.
In 2018, the volume of packaging material used by the e-commerce and express delivery sector hit 9.4 billion kilograms. By 2025, the number is set to quadruple. Worse still, less than 10% of packaging waste was reported to be recycled in China, the largest consumer market in the world. In Singapore, the figures are no better. While there isn’t a specific breakdown on how much packaging material is recycled here, the recycling rate for plastic is only 4% according to the National Environment Agency.
There’s no question that the plastic crisis is real, but the e-commerce industry doesn’t have to be part of the problem. Instead, they are in a prime position to spearhead the solutions we need to tackle this crisis, and some organisations are already stepping up to do their part.
Efforts of the e-commerce industry
As part of their sustainability efforts, Alibaba has set up 40,000 recycling stations for unwanted shipping boxes and bags across China, with their express-courier partners hosting another 35,000, helping to recycle an estimated 100 million boxes annually. The e-commerce giant has also established 20 November as “National Cardboard Recycling Day” in China, and will roll out flash recycling drives across 220 neighbourhoods in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou on that day.
To complement this recycling initiative, Alibaba has created a program to incentivise recycling amongst their consumers. For every box recycled at these stations, consumers can collate “green energy” points on Alipay’s mini-program Ant Forest. These points can then be redeemed to plant real trees in China’s most arid areas.
They will also be introducing new innovations in packaging and encouraging the adoption of clean delivery vehicles and the use of analytics to optimise resources.
Another major Chinese online retailer, JD.com, has also announced that it will reduce the use of adhesive tape and paper used at its warehouses and adopt more recyclable materials.
In Singapore, however, it seems that e-commerce platforms have yet to hop aboard sustainability efforts. In fact, the author of this Channel News Asia article suggested that Singaporeans in particular seem to value items that are well-packaged, with many reviews complimenting sellers when an item was packaged well. Sellers have also taken to ensuring that items have securely packaged, often in bubble wrap or multiple layers, to ensure it does not get damaged during transportation.
Forbes proposes that what e-commerce players are sorely lacking is a solution to “the first mile” (how products are returned or recycled after use). A solution to this will allow us to create a circular economy within the industry, where materials can be recycled or reused after being delivered.
Food delivery services are already rolling out initiatives for first-mile solutions. Local company Foodpanda has teamed up with barePack to launch a packaging reuse program, where food will be delivered in reusable containers that consumers can then return to selected locations islandwide.
As the touchpoint between consumers and brands, Forbes suggests that e-commerce players are in the prime position to spearhead sustainable initiatives that are currently absent in the conversation about circular economy and plastic pollution. The resources and solutions already exist. As part of efforts to curb plastic pollution, World Wildlife Fund Singapore (WWF) launched Plastic Action (PACT) to help businesses across all sectors to eliminate plastic packaging and create a circular economy for plastics. Perhaps it is time for e-commerce businesses to join the PACT to make a change.
Doing our part
On a consumer level, we too have a responsibility to hold the industry accountable. Popular consumer opinion has already seen Fairprice extending their plastic bag charge, it can similarly push local e-commerce players into taking action if consumers call for it. Green groups in the Philippines have already been pushing for e-commerce players Lazada and Shopee to take responsibility for the packaging waste they are producing.
When it comes to the plastic crisis, we all have shared responsibility. Even as we call on industry players to do their part, we too have to examine and reassess our own consumption habits and preferences.
Opt for less packaging, buy in bulk to reduce the carbon footprint that comes with multiple deliveries, learn how to recycle packaging materials properly, and reuse them whenever possible. The many small actions we take can culminate to create a large positive impact.
The allure of e-commerce is undeniable — unparalleled convenience, economical prices, and an unprecedented variety of options — right at our fingertips.
However, this convenience comes at a cost, one that is quickly rising. The account I shared at the beginning of this article about awaiting my many parcels? That was me a couple of years back.
These days, I find myself being content with less, knowing that there is value in holding back. There’s nothing wrong with shopping, and scoring great deals still excites me, but for the sake of our planet (and our wallets!), it is perhaps wise to be more conscious of what we purchase and how often we do so.
Who’s up for some retail therapy? 11.11 has just breezed past us; and for those that didn’t manage to satisfy that shopping itch, not all is lost. Say hello to Black Friday, another day that’s dedicated to a mega shopping extravaganza!
Falling each year on the Friday following Thanksgiving (this year, it’s 27 November), Black Friday is heralded to be the start of the Christmas shopping season in the United States. This is a tradition that has persevered since 1952 – think: heavily slashed prices, discounted bundle deals, and more. In fact, some stores even extend their sales to Cyber Monday, which falls on the Monday after Black Friday.
And with the festive season just around the corner, what better time is there to stock up on gifts for friends, family, and even yourself? Here’s a round-up of our favourite deals:
Beauty and fashion
Sephora’s getting the party started early with a massive sale happening from 26 to 27 November. Whether it be in-store or online, shoppers can enjoy 15% off all goods. A minimum spending of $150 will even get you 20% off all your items!
In addition, the first 200 shoppers at each retail store, as well as the first 500 shoppers online, will receive $20 worth of vouchers each day. This consists of $10 retail vouchers, and $10 vouchers to be used at their physical stores – eligible for those that cart out only after 10am on 26th November.
Fans of online shopping will also be delighted with up to 70% off pieces from Zalora (25-30 November) and ASOS (27-30 November). Cotton On has already started their sale, which slashes 30% off all their items!
Home and electronics
Gain City is pulling out all the stops from 23 to 27 November; expect massive discounts such as $500 off a Samsung washer/dryer, $200 off Smart TVs (with additional discounts upon check-out), as well as a whopping $1,000 off entire dining sets. Every $500 spent will also earn you $50 worth of grocery vouchers.
The sales start (and end!) early at Harvey Norman, seeing up to 67% off TVs and 70% off Audio items until 26 November. Courts is also giving 18% off storewide with no minimum spend, on top of a range of Surprise Boxes that will give you a bang for your buck.
At Takashimaya, you’ll be able to enjoy up to 40% off selected regular-priced items on 27 November, followed by up to 70% off selected sale items from 28 to 29 November! And if you’re a fan of Dyson products, you’ll receive a $100 voucher with every (heavily-discounted) purchase.
Coffee lovers can snag up to 50% off selected Nespresso machines and accessories. Pamper yourself with a plush chair from Secretlab, which has rolled out a whole bunch of promotions. Enjoy up to $30 off selected pre-order chairs, $115 off selected in-stock models, as well as $150 off all Secretlab 2020 Series NAPA models.
Missing Japan? Hold onto these adorable sushi pouches from kāi to tide you through your withdrawal symptoms. From 27-30 November, slash up to 20% off all items storewide, excluding bundled products.
Grab anything and everything from e-commerce giants such as Shopee, Lazada, Amazon, and Qoo10. Be the first to snap up various 1-for-1 promotions on Qoo10, check out Amazon’s early bird deals, enjoy up to $15 off on Lazada, and be wowed by up to 90% off items sold during Shopee’s midnight brand flash sale!
Brighten up your – or someone else’s! – day with up to 60% off a gorgeous bouquet from Far East Flora. Otherwise, treat yourselves to a staycation with Millennium Hotels and Resorts, you can enjoy up to 30% off available room rates, with an additional 10% off for My Millennium members. Book your stay by 27 November to enjoy these discounts, on top of complimentary room upgrades, dining discounts, double member points and more!
You can also immortalise your memories with Photobook Singapore’s sale, with up to a staggering 90% off selected items.
With so many ongoing and upcoming deals, what are you waiting for? Get out your wallets and start shopping!
The announcement of the travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore was met with both celebration and skepticism by Singaporeans. The bubble was originally scheduled to start on Sunday, 22 November, and would allow quarantine-free travel between both cities. However, this was on the condition that untraced COVID-19 infections in either city would not exceed a rolling average of five.
On the eve of the Sunday that the travel bubble was set to begin, Hong Kong reported a rolling average of 5.29 cases, breaching the agreement that officials between both countries had reached. Initial reportssaid that the bubble would be suspended for two weeks, but according to Edward Yau, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, the two governments will make an announcement in early December as to when the flights will resume.
Hong Kong’s tally, before and after
Prior to the planned commencement of the travel bubble, Hong Kong’s moving average for COVID-19 cases was only 2.14, on Friday, 20 November. It was the number of cases on Saturday that would determine whether the country’s threshold of five would be crossed. The case number shooting up to 43 (36 local and including 13 untraceable) on Saturday turned the tides of the travel bubble, bringing Hong Kong’s total tallyup to 5,560 cases and 108 deaths.
This is the fourth wave of infections that the country is dealing with. Mr Yau remarked that the agreement to delay plans for the bubble was mutually reached, to allow “for the Hong Kong (Covid-19) wave to settle a bit”. He also voiced that this would be a responsible action, which also adhered to the nature of the agreement.
According to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst James Teo, “the travel bubble will eventually be resumed, although whether it will be in two weeks’ time is hard to say as it depends on how quickly the virus situation in Hong Kong improves.”
Disappointment for travellers and families
The announcement of the travel bubble resulted in weeks’ worth of flights being fully booked by travellers in an instant, through airline Cathay Pacific. It’s no surprise, given that the travel bubble was a pandemic-first for the entire world. A bulk of passengers remain people who have been unable to gain physical access to their families, scattered across both Singapore and Hong Kong.
One such individual isMs Tan Lay Hoon, whose husband is based in Hong Kong. She has not seen her husband since the implementation of quarantine measures and the circuit breaker beginning in February 2020. Another individual is Fairoza Mansor, a content marketing executive who was set to fly back to Hong Kong from Singapore without needing to undergo quarantine.
“Being in this limbo has made travel plans challenging especially since travel rules in Hong Kong and Singapore are constantly changing. Inevitable given the pandemic, of course, but still frustrating,” Ms Mansor told the Straits Times.
The travel route has been estimated by analysts to be worth $93 million to the Cathay Pacific airline, which had revealed strong performance in a closed-door investor meeting on the Friday before the travel bubble was postponed. This was amid a performance report timed with the year drawing to a close.
Ronald Lam Siu-por, Cathay’s executive director said, “The demand on our Singapore travel bubble flights is overwhelming.” He added, “In the next few weeks our flights are pretty much full. There is also a quota of 200 passengers per flight due to the limited capacity and high demand, our flights are pretty much sold out in the next few weeks.”
How many passengers would have flown?
According to Cathay Pacific’stravel bubble FAQ page, there was supposed to be one bubble flight each day on 24, 26 and 28 November, as well as 1 and 3 December. After which, the airline would step up to daily flights between 5 and 31 December. Based on the 200-passenger-per-flight quota, that’s at least 6,400 people who’d be making use of the special air route.
The Cathay Pacific airline had also released a string of articles andresources for travellers and passengers, helping them assess their suitability for the travel bubble. There were also accompanying articles about thesights and food that travellers could experience when in Hong Kong.
Since the postponement of the travel bubble was announced, the airline released an update on their website dated 21 November. The message reads to visit the Hong Kong Tourism Commission website for up-to-date information, and also to check the airline’s FAQs for more information on how travellers who had already booked tickets could obtain refunds.
Local media has reported that Cathay Pacific is offering refunds and rebooking options to passengers at no cost.
Matters uncertain, COVID-19 remains
In a Facebook post, Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung wrote that he understood the frustration of travellers but spoke in interest of public health.
“This is a sober reminder that the Covid-19 virus is still with us, and even as we fight to regain our normal lives, the journey will be full of ups and downs. But we will press on and look forward to when we can safely launch”, he said.
And if you’re an affected traveller, hang in there.
Through an online event on 24 November, POCO Global (created by Xiaomi) announced its independence alongside the launch of its brand new entry-level smartphone, the POCO M3.
The POCO M3 is the brand’s first foray into the entry-level smartphone market after its initial success competing with top-of-the-line flagships with its F-series, and the impact it made with its X series in the mid-range category. Adhering to the POCO philosophy of “Everything you need, nothing you don’t”, the POCO M3 was created with specifications and quality that are “more than you expect” from an entry-level smartphone.
POCO’s brand independence
POCO Global was born out of Xiaomi corporation back in 2018. Since its first smartphone launch of the POCO F1, it has quickly gained popularity among technology enthusiasts and media. Since then, there have been over 6 million POCO phones sold worldwide from its flagship F-series and mid-range X series.
With the support of its fans, POCO has announced its position as an independent brand and will continue to pursue its philosophy of providing “everything you need, nothing you don’t” — delivering quality products without additional frills.
Launch of POCO M3
POCO’s inception as an independent brand comes alongside its break into the entry-level smartphone market with the POCO M3.
With a 48MP triple camera setup, 6,000 mAh battery, stunning FHD+ display and a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 662 chipset, the POCO M3 is set to be the new big thing in the entry level smartphone market while still maintaining affordable prices.
Superb battery life
The POCO M3 comes with the largest battery capacity in its class — a whopping 6,000mAh high charge cycle battery. With its large battery capacity, the phone can last roughly 1.5 days with heavy usage and over 5 days on a light usage. Better yet, the battery is as durable as it is long-lasting, and is able to withstand high temperatures for nearly 2.5 years of usage without notable degradation, ensuring the longevity of your smartphone experience.
The stellar battery life is complemented by a faster and more consistent charging speed with its MIUI ultra battery saving mode and 18W fast charge. For the ultimate convenience, the phone will come with a 22.5W in-box charger and supports reverse wired charging to ensure all your devices are powered up on the go.
Stunning camera quality
To take your photography to the next level, POCO has included a 48MP triple camera set-up in this entry-level smartphone. On top of the main 48MP sensory, the POCO M3 is supported by a 2MP macro camera and 2MP depth sensor. Meanwhile, the front is mounted with a 8MP front camera to keep your selfie game on point!
On top of hardware, POCO is also including creative new software offerings in the POCO M3. To help you unleash your creativity, the POCO M3 will come with a Movie frame feature to give your photos a cinematic flair, as well as Colour focus to make specific tones pop. Other features include the classic Time-lapse function and Night Mode, all of which will work together to ensure your social media feed has never looked better.
Speaking of looks, the POCO M3 also sports a 6.53” FHD+ Dot Drop display with 2340×1080 high resolution for your viewing pleasure. Resembling other mid-range to high-end phones on the market, the POCO M3 has thin bezels and a 90.34% screen-to-body ratio for an immersive edge-to-edge viewing experience.
The front screen is made from Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3, offering ample protection against drops and scratches. Moreover, it is TÜV Rheinland Low Blue Light-certified, meaning users can watch hours of content with minimal eye strain. Additionally, it has a dual speaker system with dust blaster, ensuring a superior sound with powerful bass for an immersive indoor entertainment experience.
The entry-level smartphone features the new Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 662 processor for a smooth gaming and video experience never before seen in this price tier. Its 11nm processor delivers better performance, lower heat production, and lower power consumption.
The POCO M3 also comes with UFS storage for higher performance, speed, and multitasking capabilities. Additionally, the MIUI Game Booster allows for easy tracking of CPU and GPU usage in real time to ensure your gameplay is always at its peak performance. As an extra perk, the phone also comes with a voice changer included and the ability to cast your screen onto an external monitor.
Up to 512GB of expandable storage is available with the POCO M3 with its 2+1 SIM Card tray that holds a dual 4G SIM and a dedicated microSD card slot.
Clocking in at a mere 198g, the POCO M3 brings to users a stylish design that doesn’t weigh you down. The new smartphone will be available in three colours: Power Black, Cool Blue, and POCO Yellow.
POCO has also thoughtfully designed the phone with an anti-fingerprint textured back as well as a tiny camera bump of less than 1mm to deliver a sleek finish even without a phone case.
For user convenience, the fingerprint sensor will be mounted on the side of the phone. The POCO M3 will also come with the 3.5mm headphone jack and IR blaster included to ensure all your existing accessories are compatible with this new launch.
Price and availability
Starting from 27 November, the POCO M3 will be available in Singapore in two variants – 4GB+64GB and 4GB+128GB, in Cool Blue and Power Black.
The availability of POCO Yellow will only be announced at a later date.
Both variants of the POCO M3 can be purchased online exclusively on Xiaomi Official Store Global on Lazada at a price of SGD 199 and SGD 219 respectively.
In line with Black Friday, consumers who purchase the device early are entitled to early bird prices of SGD 179 and SGD 199 for the 4GB RAM + 64GB Storage variant and 4GB RAM +128GB Storage variant respectively, while stocks last.
In addition, those who purchase the POCO M3 on the day of its launch in-stores (27 November) will receive a free gift of the Mi In-ear Headphones Basic Piston Earphone, while stocks last.
“This is going to hurt just a little bit,” my doctor says, brandishing a needle and a syringe.
I brace myself, squeezing my thumb to divert some attention from the incoming pain, as she pricks my skin. There is some pressure and discomfort, as she squeezes the syringe to dispense hyaluronic acid to fill in the sunken space under my eye.
She pulls back, and I let out the breath I have been holding. She holds up a handheld mirror for me to check out my face. The fillers I have just gotten have smoothed out my eye bags. I look more awake and a little more alive.
“Looks good, yeah,” my doctor tells me. “Not so sleepy-looking anymore.”
I agree, then pay and leave.
In-and-out in under an hour
From the minute I walk through the door to having a quick consultation, going through with the procedure, and paying, the entire process takes 45 minutes. I still have just enough time – 15 minutes – to grab a bite to eat before my lunch hour is over and I head back to the office to carry on working.
This is just one of the appeals of lunchtime procedures, so called because these are aesthetic procedures that do not take more than a usual lunch hour (give or take 1-2 hours), and require no downtime or recovery period away from the office.
For me, I can start the day off an average looking woman, but by the end of lunch, I am maybe (a humbling) five per cent more appealing, just in time for a date or an important event like a birthday celebration.
Another appeal of lunchtime procedures is the sheer number of aesthetic treatments that can be done within a lunch hour, says Dr Low Chai Ling, founder of SW1 Clinic in Paragon. But, some of the more popular ones at her clinic include Botox fixes and no downtime laser treatments like her BBL Forever Young, which brightens skin instantly, while helping to reduce blemishes and dark spots over time.
Fillers and thread lifts are also popular treatments that can help alter and enhance appearances within a one- to two-hour timeslot. However, these are usually temporary, but can be a plus point for the many women who go for them.
For example, Singapore’s top female DJ, Jade Rasif, said in an online talk show that “[since] it is all temporary fillers, I don’t have to commit…. It makes me feel happy that I can change my appearance, but if I don’t like it, I can always go back”.
It’s not just for women
And it isn’t just women who are going for such procedures. While SW1 Clinic does see a majority women clientele, Dr Low says its 20 per cent male segment has been growing steadily year on year.
Brian, for example, is one such male who has been getting lunchtime procedures in the past year. The 32-year-old started going for basic facials at the recommendation of his girlfriend, but then moved on to laser treatments at a medical aesthetics clinic to fix issues that needed treating from deep within the dermis layer.
“My girlfriend commented that I was getting some dark spots, and I haven’t been happy with the texture of my skin because of some acne scarring,” he said.
And, Brian does not plan on stopping at just laser treatments. “I’m quite sure I will need some sort of Botox in the future; it is only a matter of time.”
Brian does not feel that going for such treatments is in any way emasculating. “It is acceptable for men to put in effort for their looks now, so I can see why there is a growing increase in men going for these treatments,” he said.
Beauty standards by way of social media
Is it acceptable now because of changing beauty standards? It seems so, as social media overtakes how we consume information. It does not add to the cause that the standards of beauty on social media have been warped through the likes of beautifying apps that contort face and body into highly idealistic and unrealistic proportions.
But oddly enough, media and advertising have been pushing out messages of body positivity as well. It started out with the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004, then other brands started taking on the same messaging when promoting their products geared at enhancing beauty.
Lyvian Dao, a graphic design artist in Las Vegas, commented that the polarising messages feed on insecurities, which could be a driving factor for many to take on plastic surgery – lunchtime procedure or otherwise.
“It’s like we’re all stuck in a strange purgatory halfway between body positivity and body dysmorphia,” she said.
She clarifies that she is not against plastic surgery, however. She herself has gotten breast augmentation in addition to fillers and thread lifts twice a year. But where she does feel strongly is the way beauty standards have been pushed out to the masses.
“What I do think is wrong is a society that incessantly pushes the feminine beauty ideal and purposely distorts the way people view themselves,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “I love my new boobs, but I need to remember that I would have been just as beautiful without them.”
Positivity for both body and aesthetic treatments
Even Dr Low understands that it can be hard to reconcile being body positive while also promoting aesthetic procedures. “I always say the most important thing is loving yourself and accepting certain things about your face and body that you cannot change, like your height for example,” she said.
“As for the things you can change, then you should be empowered enough to make that decision for yourself. With that balanced mindset, you will achieve your own brand of beauty without sacrificing your identity.”
As an extension of that, Dr Low does review the procedures patients ask for before making her recommendations and asks for them to be realistic in their expectations. “When patients have unrealistic expectations of what a procedure can achieve, we usually turn them down,” she explained.
In one case, Dr Low had to turn down a patient who expected to look 40 years younger within a single laser session, even after explaining that it was not a realistic expectation. The clinic decided they would rather not treat her than to underdeliver on her expectations.
The unrealistic expectations can be dangerous and could point towards a deeper psychological issue like body dysmorphic disorder. Dr Low says there is a difference in seeking to enhance your appearance and wanting to be a completely different person. “If you are seeking to drastically alter your entire appearance or if the pursuit of beauty has taken over your entire life, then it is time to step back and re-evaluate your priorities,” she said.
As with everything in life, what is most important is understanding what motivates you. In this case, what is motivating you to go for an aesthetic procedure? In the pursuit of beauty, Dr Low encourages her patients to remember the sacredness of their face and body.
“By having this mindset, you will be guided to make decisions that impact your beauty in a positive manner, she said. “There is nothing wrong with being empowered to becoming the best versions of yourselves.”
If you’re the rare few who still haven’t been to Jewel Changi Airport yet, you can satiate your wanderlust with a short film featuring the beauty of the airport.
Safdie Architects has documented their architectural masterpiece in a short cinematic film together with Helen Han Creative, which was recently released in celebration of Jewel’s first year anniversary. The building has become such a recognisable icon of Singapore and its airport that it’s hard to believe that Jewel has only been around for a year.
An architectural wonder
Centered on the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, the four minute short film draws viewers into the heart of the airport to the beat of calming, therapeutic music. Having recently retained its title as the ‘World’s Best Airport’ for the eighth year in the row, Jewel more than lives up to its shining reputation.
Wide-angle views and the lush greenery of the entire interior makes you feel like you’re actually there – you can almost hear the rushing sounds of the waterfall and feel the spray of the water. Whether you’re a tourist going through, a visitor dropping by for a meal, or a local resident who just wants to check out the indoor garden, the airport has become a place where people can build connections to each other, nature, and aviation.
Jewel also doubles as a physical connection between the different terminals of Changi Airport, with a direct connection to Terminal 1, and pedestrian walkways to Terminal 2 and 3. Gateway gardens placed at the four different directions of north, south, east, and west as a visual motif to link Jewel and the other buildings.
Experience the vibrant and uplifting nature from anywhere
Going to the airport can be very taxing emotionally and physically. But Jewel manages to seamlessly weave the idea of nature and a marketplace, with a forest valley that spans four storeys and filled with thousands of plants and trees. Recreational facilities such as climbable sky nets, a hedge maze, and a series of slides provides entertainment for families and couples.
They don’t call Singapore the city in the garden for nothing!
Han, who’s also an architectural designer and instructor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, explains how she hopes to reach those who watch her film, “I recognize the privilege to be able to study and be exposed to the profession of architecture. I offer my work as a shared lens, to expose and expand people’s critical comprehension to the role of architecture in shaping the global environment.”
And even if you can’t travel to Singapore just yet, the video feature will trigger the #wanderlust to make you look forward to the reopening of the skies.
Since recent news citing a possibility of travelling again, it feels as though we might have a chance of escaping our shores for a much-needed respite from our cooped up WFH situations.
With Hong Kong already on the radar, travellers might be eagerly waiting for more destinations to open up their borders. And within our sights is neighbouring country, Malaysia — close enough for a weekend getaway, far enough to feel like a legit vacation.
Beachside retreat close to home
While we’re dreaming of your next vacation, consider Desaru Coast — just a 90-minute drive, or 30-minute ferry and a short car ride from Singapore — it offers a seamless holiday experience for travellers who don’t want to venture too far from home. Nestled against 17km of pristine beachfront and home to four globally renowned hotels, two world-class golf courses and a fun-filled adventure waterpark, it is the region’s newest destination resort boasting relaxing, wide-open spaces and an abundance of curated activities and experiences.
Luxury accommodations for all ages
With over 800 rooms, Desaru Coast’s portfolio of five-star hotels provides luxurious accommodation and offers the perfect oasis for a worry-free getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life.
There’s something for everyone: for families, book a stay at Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast that has direct access to one of the world’s largest waterparks making it a family-friendly option, or try the Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villa, a luxury, family-oriented resort, providing an experience inspired by local culture and history. For couples looking for a cosy and intimate stay, the One&Only Desaru Coast offers a luxurious break with beachfront suites and villas. If gorgeous views of the sea is your thing, The Westin Desaru Coast Resort sits in the heart of the resort, alongside an adjoining conference centre.
Wherever you choose, each of the hotels carries an exceptional array of dining and beverage experiences with expertly curated menus inspired by local flavours and ingredients so you get an authentic taste of Malaysia’s finest foods.
Activities to unwind
As you bask in the comfort of your accommodation, there is a plethora of amenities and activities that can be easily accessed and booked using the resorts’ Destination Concierge service. With something for everyone, guests can immerse themselves in curated activities to suit every taste and style.
From unwinding on the unspoiled beach to mangrove cruising and even trekking in the Panti Forest, the destination offers everything from outdoor activities, curated wellness programmes, non-contact sporting activities and edutainment programmes that includes nature-based activities ranging from a visit to the fruit farm and an individual ATV experience.
A golfer’s paradise
Golfers will rejoice to hear that at the heart of Desaru Coast sits The Els Club Desaru, a 45-hole course. Pick from two clubs — Ocean Course, a 27-hole course designed by Ernie Els and Valley Course, and a 18-hole golf course designed in collaboration with major champion, Vijay Singh — and play a game or two against the backdrop of attractive coastal vistas.
Not an avid golfer but looking to try it out? You’ll have the opportunity to learn at The Els Performance Golf Academy, the first academy of its kind in Asia for juniors and adults.
Fun for the kids at adventure waterpark
Children are sure to look forward to this getaway with one of the largest waterparks in the world within reach. The Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark boasts over 20 slides and a wave pool big enough for surfing. The adventure park also has the region’s first water coaster, as well as a host of ‘dry’ rides. Whether guests are hurtling down rafts, braving the Riptide twister or floating down the 350-meter Penawar lazy river, the park is a haven for thrill-seekers.
In tune with travellers’ concerns, the resort is stepping up precautionary measures to ensure guests can enjoy their holiday with a peace of mind. A key initiative is its Stay Well @ Desaru Coast programme which prioritises heightened sanitisation, security and safety measures going above and beyond SOPs set by the government, such as conducting temperature and health screenings, as well as regular briefings and training for staff. On top of that, hotels in Desaru Coast are adopting contactless check-in and room entry options, as well as contactless menus in their restaurants.
Roslina Arbak, CEO of Desaru Coast shares: “With anticipation for travel building, ensuring the safety and comfort of our guests is of utmost importance to us. As we embrace the ‘new norm’, our guests can be assured of a worry-free, safe and relaxing stay.”
Over the last weekend (21 and 22 November), EatRoamLive held the second iteration of the Singapore Vegan Festival (SVF). The two-day event saw the Singapore vegan community coming together to shop amazing deals on vegan products and services, attend workshops and talks, learn from one another, and share their journeys and experiences.
As someone who has always been curious about the vegan lifestyle, I went into the festival with an open mind to learn more about this community here in Singapore and beyond. Admittedly, there were some assumptions I held about veganism prior to this which had held me back from adopting a vegan lifestyle; some of these were that veganism is a difficult diet to maintain, that I would be heavily restricting my food options, and that I’ll have to take supplements to ensure my nutritional needs are met.
However, all these myths and misconceptions were quickly debunked during the festival! Do read on to learn more about what was shared during the festival, and how it has completely changed my perspective on a vegan lifestyle.
Vegan food is boring
It didn’t take me long to realise that vegan food is anything but just salads and greens.
SVF brought together local shops and restaurants offering amazing vegan delicacies throughout the two-day festival. The SVF marketplace saw a wide array of vegan food products including energy balls, baked goods, vegan cheese, plant-based milk, and more!
As part of SVF, EatRoamLive also partnered with restaurants islandwide to bring vegan-friendly menus for an entire week (ending 29 November). These menus covered multiple cuisines including Italian, Chinese, Indian, and more, truly showcasing the versatility that is available in vegan eating.
During the panel discussions, panelists and speakers also introduced the amazing food that they enjoy while vegan. From vegan iterations of local delights like Nasi Lemak and Rendang, to wholesome meals like Quinoa bowls, the sky seems to be the limit as to what a vegan diet can look like.
Vegan lifestyle blogger Nicole (@_findingnicole) shared that in recent years, vegan options here in Singapore have exploded. Today, you can easily find vegan ingredients and food like plant-based ice cream and meat substitutes in supermarkets islandwide.
If you’re still not convinced, just take a look at Nicole’s Instagram for inspiration! Her fellow panelists (Joy @morethanveggies and Hero @whynotplant) are also vegan food bloggers. I’m not sure about you, but one look at their Instagram pages was enough to make me drool!
In fact, it’s possible that being on a vegan diet means more versatility in food rather than less since eliminating meat from your diet forces you to think out of the box and be more creative with meals!
A vegan diet doesn’t allow for enough proteins and nutrients
It’s common knowledge that in a normal diet, we get most of our proteins from meat. But what about on a vegan diet?
There are some who believe that a vegan diet is “not natural” or unsustainable as it means that an individual will have to take supplements to meet their nutritional needs. However, this couldn’t be more untrue!
In the SVF panel, The Eternal Debate: Can we Get Enough Protein on a Vegan Diet? Join World Class Athletes as they shatter myths and records!, we got to sit down with professional athletes leading a vegan lifestyle to hear their side of the story.
The panel consisted of mountaineer Kuntal Joisher, professional bodybuilder Pamela Christie, and stuntman and actor Jack Jagodka. If their credentials alone aren’t enough to convince you that a vegan diet can be healthy and sufficient for your body’s needs, their physique sure will.
Jack, in particular, highlighted that he did full health check-ups at regular intervals during his transition to a vegan diet to ensure that his body was still getting the nutrition it needed. He had moved from a typical meat-eating diet to a pescatarian one (just plant-based foods and seafood) before going vegetarian, and finally, vegan. After the long period of transition, he found that his body was in fact at its healthiest on a vegan diet; his blood pressure which had always been on the high side had fallen to normal range, and he reported feeling much more energetic overall.
Similar sentiments were shared by professional bodybuilder Pamela and food blogger, Nicole (in a different talk), whose physical and mental well-being all benefited from a transition into a vegan diet.
The three athletes shared openly about how they ensure their body functions at peak performance for their demanding careers. Repeatedly, they emphasised the need of eating everything in moderation, suggesting that you “put rainbow colours on your plate” to ensure that you’re getting a good array of micronutrients in your daily meals.
Jack swears by Dr Gregor’s Daily Dozen to get a healthy diet consisting of all the macronutrients and micronutrients your body needs, and often gets his proteins from a variety of beans. Meanwhile, Kuntal and Pamela also love exploring different ingredients to meet their protein needs including oats, seeds, nut butters, and more!
At the end of the day, they suggest that getting a balanced diet on a vegan diet isn’t so different from that of a meat-inclusive one. All it requires is a good mix of foods in moderation.
Being vegan is troublesome
This is definitely a belief I held when I went into the festival. After all, being vegan means a limited amount of eateries to choose from when eating out, and in many places that do offer vegan options, the menu options are extremely limited.
While these concerns weren’t fully dispelled after the festival, I did feel like they were somewhat assuaged. Specifically, Jack suggested that more foods are vegan than we realise. For instance, while many mains on a menu might not be vegan, sides often are (such as french fries)!
He suggested that when eating out, diners can ask restaurants if they are willing to mix up certain elements of their existing dishes to create a vegan dish. Otherwise, he suggests eating before meeting up with friends if that is not an option.
While these options can indeed be inconvenient, it’s only going to get better from here. With increasing interest in veganism, more vegan-friendly restaurants are popping up islandwide, and there are many restaurants that are introducing vegan-friendly items into their menus as well!
For home chefs, vegan ingredients such as meat substitutes and vegan dairy products are also becoming increasingly accessible. With more conversations about veganism sparking, it seems that this positive trend is set to continue, making veganism more accessible and convenient for all.
Being vegan is expensive
Some might argue that eating a vegan diet is expensive. This might be true if you’re primarily eating meat substitutes or eating out in vegan cafes and restaurants (since cheap vegan food options don’t seem to be widely available as of yet). Food blogger, Joy, shared this concern as a vegan, where she found that vegan food outside is either expensive (specialty cafes or restaurants) or unhealthy (economical bee hoon or rice at hawker centres).
As a result, Joy turned to cooking her own food and even published a cookbook recently on traditional Asian and Asian-fusion recipes made vegan!
By cooking at home, the cost of eating vegan is largely mitigated since vegetables are by and large cheaper than meat products. The bulk of a vegan’s diet is also often made up of beans, legumes, rice, pasta, and vegetables — all of which are some of the cheapest ingredients available.
Going vegan is difficult
There’s no doubt that leading a vegan lifestyle will be a transition, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one.
When Jack decided to become vegan, he did so out of curiosity and a passion for avoiding animal cruelty. He spent nearly two years transiting into a vegan diet, spending six months eating a pescatarian diet (consuming only plant-based foods and seafood), then vegetarian, and finally, full vegan. Similarly, lifestyle influencer Nicole made the slow transition in her mission to return to a healthier physical and mental state after suffering from an eating disorder.
Ultimately, all the speakers who went vegan did so because of their conviction to ethical and sustainable living, and they remained vegan because it benefited them physically, mentally, and psychologically.
To them, it wasn’t a challenge as the benefits outweigh the cons. After all, if you’re eating food that makes you feel good, then surely the overall process is one that’s enjoyable rather than dreary.
Veganism is only about food
The seminar has also made me realise that veganism is not just about the food that we consume but an entire lifestyle.
Some of the speakers like Kuntal and Joy were raised vegetarian, but later transited into a vegan lifestyle after realising the implications of what they were wearing and using as well. While eliminating meat is a large step in the right direction, the beauty and fashion industry is still fraught with many ethical concerns when it comes to animal cruelty.
Most, if not all, the speakers who spoke at SVF revealed that the more research they did, the more they realized that animal products can be found in everything — leather belts, make-up, skincare, down coats, and so on. The knowledge they gleaned from research eventually convinced them to switch into a full vegan lifestyle as they wished to do their part in promoting ethical and sustainable living.
By the end of the two-day festival, I was inspired to make an adjustment to my own lifestyle habits as well. While I might not go full-on vegan from the onset, I’ll most definitely be taking steps to move to a more plant-based diet and be more conscious about what I am wearing and using in my daily life.
If you’re interested to learn more about leading a vegan lifestyle, you can check out EatRoamLive’s website for resources and also shop their marketplace for vegan products to get you started.