Archive for the Daily life Category

Bank matters

Posted in Daily life on February 26, 2009 by fonglh

I’ll be going up to Abisko and Kiruna over the weekend so there won’t be any posts for some time. Before leaving it’s time to complain about POSB.

Like most sg kids, I’ve had a POSB account for don’t know how many donkey years. Some time ago they were taken over by DBS, so it’s basically one and the same now. Sometimes I’m confused since the webpages point to each other.

Anyway, for some reason I couldn’t withdraw any cash from ATMs. Maybe I didn’t key in the PIN correctly or something, but having tried a few times at a few ATMs it didn’t seem likely. I decided to email them about the matter.

A few days later, there was still no reply, but the exchange rate had become really favourable so I was anxious to get some cash changed. It still wouldn’t work so I called their customer service number, the one printed on the back of the card.

After trying very long without any success to get pass the automatic machines, I finally got to speak to a real person, who transferred me to the debit card department. Thus I was put on hold. I didn’t have to wait too long. The call was cut off after a few seconds. I checked my phone balance and realised that the 90+ SEK I had started with had just become 9 SEK. Plus I had just topped up the card and it was supposed to last me a month. So after 90 SEK I still hadn’t spoken to anyone who could even make an attempt at solving my problem.

My brother was online so I asked him to call the toll free number in Singapore. After some time, he told me that DBS would not divulge any information to a third party and suggested that I call the overseas number myself. They even helpfully provided the number which I had just spent 90SEK on. When asked if they accept reverse charge calls, the customer service guy could only sound apologetic and say no. If you’re wondering how I could know how he sounded, it was because my brother told me.

Ok, now for the engineering solution. Skype can actually be used to call overseas numbers for some low cost, but I hadn’t bought their credits because I didn’t think I would need them. So I decided to Skype home and get my family to call POSB and put it on speakerphone. After my brother woke up everyone in the house, they managed to connect some speakers and get the volume levels right. My mom then dialled the number and chose the Chinese option as she is more comfortable speaking in Chinese.

As if having to pay a hefty charge because they don’t accept reverse charge calls wasn’t enough, the customer service officer who answered asked if he could use English. That kind of defeats the purpose of choosing the Chinese option. I wonder what it’s there for. We were put on hold to wait for someone who could speak Chinese.

My mom explained the situation to the guy then I explained the whole story again in English. At least he’s bilingual and I didn’t have to be transferrred to someone else. The connection worked very well and we could hear each other very clearly. His final diagnosis: “You must have forgotten your PIN. You can request for a new card and we’ll send it to the address you registered with the bank. Then you’ll have to activate it by signing the form and sending it back to us. Maybe you can try your PIN number again.”

Right…. Very helpful. Thanks… However, it does prove that Skype and a speakerphone can be used for relaying voice calls.

Anyway, I did try the PIN again the next day, pressing the numbers very carefully. This time it worked. And the exchange rate was even higher. But I’ve essentially spent the difference calling POSB.

So the moral of the story is, don’t lose your card, or you’ll spend a bomb trying to report its loss. Also, get another card from another bank. I notice that the UOB card says to call collect the number. I haven’t actually tried it, but at least it looks like their customers won’t be left in the lurch.

Both customer service officers suggested email, which I had already tried. I did get a reply a few days later. Here is what it says.

We apologise that we cannot reveal account information to you, as
e-mails are not deemed secured mode of communication. We seek your kind
understanding on this matter as this is to safeguard the banking
interests of our account holders.

May we refer you to call our 24-hour Customer Service Hotline at 1800
111-1111 or (+65) 6327-2265 (from overseas) for immediate assistance on
the account-related matters.

Thank you for writing to us.

It’s like being sent around in a spiral with the customer service hotline in the middle. Not that they could do much anyway. In fact the whole matter is quite comical. While I do understand the need for strict security procedures, the very least they could do is to accept reverse charge calls. It would be much appreciated by people who find it urgent enough to call their banks from overseas.

Contrast this with ting’s experience with a Canadian bank. I find that level of service very impressive. It’s personal and sincere. Read about it here.


Lappis Forest

Posted in Daily life, Sightseeing on February 25, 2009 by fonglh

The forest around Lappis is a beautiful place, especially when it is covered in snow and the sun is out with a beautiful blue sky. It’s a nice place to go for a walk.


Through the reeds

A narrow path through the reeds. I’m quite sure that it’s the frozen lake below the snow.


Walking on water (frozen) is simply irresistible. Clearly I’m not the only one to think so. Those footprints are all from others.


A lone horse grazing in a snowy field. It has a blanket too.


A bird hopping along the ground.


There are some goats around too.


The view of the later afternoon sun from my corridor window.


One of my favourite pictures. Taken at the hill behind Forskarbacken.

Food Glorious Food

Posted in Daily life on February 13, 2009 by fonglh

Mom has been under the unfortunate and most incorrect impression that I’ve been eating nothing but quick microwavable TV dinners. While they’re certainly wonderfully convenient, they don’t taste all that good and they’re not that cheap either. So this post should put to rest once and for all the notion that I can’t cook.

Ok I admit it. I can’t really cook, but it’s enough to survive, heh 🙂

I don’t really like taking pictures of food, so there aren’t that many. Usually I cook with 2 other fellow NUS students. By the time we’re done we’re so hungry we want to start eating, so we don’t usually take pictures. Before that we’re usually all busy washing, defrosting, doing the actual cooking and wondering what we’re going to do with that slab of half frozen meat on the plate. Plus I don’t have the habit of bringing a camera around to cook and eat.

Sometimes, there are exceptions, like those huge 9-10 people cooking sessions where there are more people than things to do. This frees some people to document the rare sight of a young Singaporean who actually has to cook. For some of them, it’s still a novelty and they do take pictures of themselves cooking so they can show their families and friends.

Mass cooking session

Mass cooking session

Here’s an example of one of those mass cooking sessions. Every person you see in the picture is one of our group.

Bacon with egg

Bacon with egg

Curry Chicken!!

Curry Chicken!!

Using some curry powder brought over from SG.

The picture below was when zq and yh came over from Linköping. Eating out is expensive, so we decided to cook.

Fried onion, egg, lettuce

Fried onion, egg, lettuce



Here’s what we had for dinner, there will be more on their visit in another post. Still have a backlog of posts to write.

A more recent picture. SY tried her hand at making bread. I admit I played no part in this because of a homework assignment due the next day.

Homemade bread

Homemade bread

Very good for a first attempt.

Now for some pictures of my solo efforts at cooking.



Mashed potatoes, onion omelette, meatballs with cheese and lettuce. The lettuce is really nice. I’ve been buying quite a lot of it. We figured out how to make mashed potatoes previously so I just used the same method. Cooking the potatoes took longer than expected though. Tried to melt cheese onto the meatballs by microwaving them but it didn’t turn out too well. Think I left it on high heat for too long.



Here’s a picture of dinner I just cooked. Just a simple meal of spaghetti, more meatballs, lettuce which is not really visible, and you can see the corner of an egg sticking out in the bottom left hand corner.

The reason there have been so many meatballs in recent meals is because we have to finish 1 kg of them before they expire on Sunday. A lot of stuff here have short expiry dates so we need to share to finish it. Like 500g blocks of butter and 5 kg bags of potatoes. We used to split bread too, but I realised that if I eat 4 slices a day, it’s possible to finish it.

Finally some Swedish food, the semla. More information can be found at the ever helpful wikipedia.



If you think it looks like a large bun stuffed full of cream and covered with sugar, it’s because that’s more or less what it is. I bought a box of 2 at a convenience store to try it out. It tastes like a bun stuffed with cream, no surprises there. I didn’t really like the taste of the almond paste hidden somewhere under the cream.

This period I’ve been quite fortunate as  I have long breaks between lessons, so I can go back and cook something for lunch. Since eating out costs so much, how do the locals do it?

The answer is that there are kitchens in school. I was fortunate enough to be invited to one after a lab report discussion. They cooked something simple, pasta with mushrooms and minced beef, all thrown into the sauce. Very filling. It’s also where I found out where to buy semlas.

I don’t think everyone gets access to that kitchen, but there are microwaves available elsewhere. People bring their packed lunches and just microwave them to heat them up. The many boxes from Ikea which JJ left for me are most useful.

Ahh I miss the engineering canteen with S$2.80 meals and S$1.80 yong tau fu. Here S$6 for kebab and bread is considered cheap.

So see mom, we’re all eating very well here, there’s no need to worry 🙂