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On The Pitch: ONE Championship Lightweight MMA Fighter Amir Khan

Fill Me In

In this edition of On The Pitch, TheHomeGround Asia had the opportunity to have a Zoom interview with professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Amir Khan, about his thoughts before his fight with fellow lightweight contender Park Dae Sung, as well as about the future of MMA in Singapore.

 ONE Championship

Amir, 26, was originally due to go up against Park during the ONE: Collision Course event on 18 December. However, due to changes in the fight card because of the pandemic, Amir will now meet Park in the octagon in the second installment of ONE: Collision Course, scheduled to air on 25 December.

Like most fighters, Amir has been training specifically to fight his opponent. “We’ve created a good game plan that we think will most likely work on him and we ramped up the intensity, volume initially, but towards the fight we’ve tapered down.”

Despite the delay, however, Amir remains unfazed, as he says that he’s been preparing well for the fight. “We’ve been training towards the fight, so nothing much has changed, really. It’s all psychological now, so I’ll just show up on that day.”

More than just physical training

Besides physical training, Amir also reveals that there is a psychological aspect in his preparation. “I do visualisations, and I do breathing exercises to try and calm myself down; I visualise myself in the cage, and all the emotions that I’m feeling, so I just replay that in my mind. I think it just compounded over the two months, so on that day my mind is ready for it.”

He is the third Singaporean professional fighter on the Evolve fight team, alongside the likes of Angela Lee and Linus Lau. Originally a Muay Thai fighter, he also holds a Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and is currently one of the top contenders for the lightweight ONE championship belt.

When asked about his strategy for winning the belt, Amir says that he intends to take it one fight at a time. “The plan is to try and take things one step at a time, so I have to finish this fight [against Park], and dominate the next guy, and the next one; slowly but surely I’ll reach there by next year.”

Void deck fighter turned MMA fighter

His confidence about attaining his goal isn’t unfounded. Amir has been training since the tender age of 13. Amir’s foray into the world of Muay Thai resulted from brawls that he would have after school with his classmates, who made fun of him because of his Tourettes’ Syndrome – a neurological condition that causes a person to twitch involuntarily.

Now that he’s managed to achieve substantial success for himself as a fighter, Amir hopes to be able to inspire the young with his craft, starting with his year-old son. “[So far] he seems pretty keen when I show him how to kick and punch… he [also] likes to jump on me and bite me, I guess you can say he’s got some animal instincts! We’ll see how it goes from there.”

In his capacity as an Assistant Coach at Evolve, he’s also been doling out useful advice to aspiring young fighters. “[When] kids come up to me and ask for advice, I’ll share my experiences and knowledge with them, stuff that I’ve acquired from my past experience, and try to help them in any way possible. Mostly it’s to help steer them in the right direction, and to help [clarify] their thoughts.”

He also bases his advice from past coaches, as well as his background in sports science. “I’ve been through good and bad training, so I know what’s good for an individual. I’m also studying sports science, [so] I have the knowledge to back it up as well. So with all that added knowledge, I try not to give advice that is too challenging. I like to be as specific as possible, without telling them what to do.”

Even though he respects each individual’s choice, he maintains that there are certain qualities that a fighter should embody. “[Apart from things like] discipline [and] hard work, I also feel like relentlessness and perseverance [are important]. When you fall, you need to get back up and keep on believing in yourself. Not only when times are good but especially when times are bad, you have to have that self belief.”

What future does MMA have in Singapore?

As a fighter cum assistant coach, Amir sees huge potential in the MMA scene here in Singapore. “I think it’s gonna be big. The sport is definitely catching up, and a lot of people are into it. I see a lot of young fighters training and they want to be professional fighters. It takes time, because now they’re young, so it will take time for them to build an amateur status and get opportunities. I think in 10 years there will be many more Singaporean fighters, and it will be [considered] normal.”

Knowing that MMA has had a reputation for being a violent and gory sport, Amir is also keenly aware of some of the misconceptions that people have about MMA. “I feel like fighting should be just like any sport, like golf or basketball. It should be a legitimate sport. People choose to fight because it’s their passion, not because they’re gangsters. I think I’m a nice person, I’m quiet and all, but you wouldn’t think that of a fighter.”

“Amir’s done it, so can I” 

To round up the interview, we asked Amir what he would like to be remembered for, as one of the pioneer professional MMA fighters in Singapore, and as an assistant coach.

“[Up till now], there’s never been a ONE Champion produced locally in Singapore, so I would like to achieve that, so that people can look up to me and say, if he can do it, so can I. Because right now maybe there’s not much belief in it because no one has done it, and it’s almost like an impossible task, so I would like to do it, and I feel a lot of people will follow after that.”

To aspiring fighters, he says that success is possible if one has passion. “I believe with passion, there’s always a way if you want to succeed in anything, no matter how old. Obviously for sports, [if] you start at 30, you will have a disadvantage. But still it’s never too late to experience it. I would say try [MMA] if you’re curious; after a few competitions, you’ll know if it’s for you. You don’t want to be old and [have regrets]. Just commit to it and don’t look back.”

 MMAsucka.com

Want to see Amir in action? Watch him go head to head with Park Dae Sung live on ONE: Collision Course II this Friday, 25 December on ONE Championship’s YouTube page, or on the ONE Super App!

 

Join the conversations on THG’s Facebook and Instagram, and get the latest updates via Telegram.

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Asia Culture Culture Entertainment International Lifestyle Local Popular Review Singapore Sports THG Youth

Mythbusters: Unravelling the Vegan Lifestyle at Singapore Vegan Festival

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

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Asia Culture Culture Entertainment International Lifestyle Local Review Singapore Sports THG Youth Uncategorized@#

Mythbusters: Unravelling the Vegan Lifestyle at Singapore Vegan Festival

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

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Asia Highlights International Japan News Popular

Japanese Prime Minister’s Resignation: A Walkthrough of Shinzo Abe’s Legacy

Japan’s longest serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, announced his departure from office last Friday, citing his health as the main problem. His abrupt resignation sent shock waves throughout the world, especially Japan as they ponder about the great strides Japan has taken since Abe’s presidency. Throughout the 8 years in power, this premier has rendered a paradigm shift in the Japanese society through its economic, political and social reforms.

Commentators have noted that his loss of popularity as a prime minister in recent months was also the prime reason he is deciding to leave after serving Japan for many years. Despite having steady support from its citizens for seven years, Abe saw a steady decrease in support for his cabinet in 2020.

When the pandemic swept in, Abe was criticised for the way he handled the whole situation.

Who is Shinzo Abe?

Abe, 65 was initially elected to Parliament in 1993 after the death of his father, who was a foreign minister. However, he only started serving as a prime minister in 2006, but stepped down the following year after a scandal broke out.

In 2012, Abe became the country’s leader once again where he made key promises such as fixing the besieged Japanese economy and also amending Japan’s pacifist constitution, which will allow for a full-fledged military.

Abe first exited the office in 2007, after nearly serving for eight years due to his ailing health — a relapse of a bowel disease.

Throughout his time at office, Abe’s presence has definitely left an indelible mark on Japan’s defence policies and economy. Not only that, he also managed to maintain high profile relationships with foreign allies from all over the world.

However, Abe has said that he will continue to serve as a prime minster until his successor is chosen.

Here is a walk-through of Shinzo Abe’s prominent legacy.

International Policy

Since coming into power for the second time, Abe has changed its international affairs approach. The highly contested Yasukuni Shrine which was dedicated towards war casualties ruffled the feathers of regional countries like China and South Korea. Although Abe visited the shrine in 2013, which created much public outcry, he has thoroughly refrained from visiting the shrine, knowing all too well that it will sour the relationship with South Korea — a huge departure from his predecessors. Similarly, Abe has radically changed the interpretation of Article 9 constitution, which originally renounced the right to go to war. Instead, the reinterpretation of Article 9 allowed Japanese forces to fight alongside overseas allies, drawing condemnation from China and South Korea while simultaneously receives blessings from U.S. This move has allowed U.S. to continue developing good relationships with Japan.

While regional countries like China continue to drive a wedge with the hegemon U.S., Japan under Abe has made great investments in forging closer relationship with President Donald Trump to benefit from economic investments such as trade. For example, Abe has hosted President Donald trump in high-profile summits in Japan. Their intimate relationship, as seen in their close interactions through 32 phone calls and 5 rounds of golf, has allowed Abe to pursue Japan’s interests such as keeping the Trans-Pacific Partnership alive even after America’s withdrawal.

Domestic Policy

Aside from international or political affairs, Abe has also managed to move Japan’s society towards an inclusive and diverse one with an open market that embraces migration into Japan. He has reformed unproductive corporate culture by creating a new form of corporate governance code and investor stewardship code that aims to increase shareholder control and profitability. Meanwhile, the power of the traditionalist managers weakens. Additionally, Abe has also sought to punish the toxic corporate culture where workers had to endure unproductive overtime hours. Of particular importance, while his party had long resisted Japan’s movement towards gender equality and immigration, Abe has nudged companies to hire more women and minimise gender inequality through the provision of funded daycare centers, encouraging more men to take paternity leave as well as provide companies incentives if they hire women.

Economic policy

Abe will leave behind his biggest legacy, Abenomics, which was aimed to curb the threats of deflation and an aging work force through fiscal spending, corporate deregulation, and cheap cash.

Abenomics delivered great results in the early years of Abe’s term which lifted Japan’s economy immensely and at the same time, lifting Abe’s profile as a prime minister. However, in 2019, the steady growth suffered due to the trade war between United States and China. It then took a further downfall when the pandemic hit Japan, causing its economy to hit a slump.

Who will take over Abe? 

Certainly, Abe has done pretty well in his political and public policy approach during his 8-year long term. However, Abe has not groomed a successor during this time, and this creates anxiety for Japan; some scholars have argued that with Abe stepping down, Abe’s rival, Shigeru Ishiba who is the most popular politician will take over. What lays ahead for Japan and its society? It would be tough for the next prime minister to match Abe’s legacy on economic, political, and social policies where he brought the country out of recession and diversified Japan’s labour force.

Ishiba will have a tough challenge ahead as it tries to win the support of its party members as well as Abe’s party who regards him as a political foe. With this tussle ahead of him, one wonders his plans for the future and if he is able to charismatically deliver policies despite the constant tension within the cabinet.

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Adventure & travel Asia Destinations Lifestyle Singapore

Undiscovered Hiking Trails in Singapore for Your Next Weekend Adventure

What plans do you have for the upcoming weekend? If, like us, you’ve spent most of the week in an office chair in front of a computer screen, there’s no better time to stretch your legs and enjoy some fresh air.

Hiking has become one of the most popular things to do in Singapore, with some hotspots seeing high footfall over the weekends. If you’re looking for something a little quieter, head to these undiscovered trails in Singapore for some well-deserved nature lovin’ — sans the crowds! 

1. Kranji Marshes 

Kranji Marshes is Singapore’s largest freshwater marshland, containing 57 hectares worth of natural and green habitats. Home to three unique biomes, the area is home to 170 species of birds, 54 types of butterflies, and more. You might also chance upon an estuarine crocodile or monitor lizard along the way!

Head up the Raptor Tower for a panoramic view of the area. Bird enthusiasts will also be delighted to discover species like the Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Purple Heron and Changeable Hawk Eagle. If you’d like to learn more, join the free ‘Evening Chorus at Kranji Marshes’ guided tour through the core conservation area, which is usually not open to the public.

How to get there: Take the Kranji Express Bus from Kranji MRT Station to the D’Kranji Farm Resort, followed by a short walk to Kranji Gate.

2. Bukit Batok Nature Park

Witness a slice of history at Bukit Batok Nature Park, which was developed on an abandoned quarry back in 1988. During the Japanese invasion, one of the most vehement battles took place at the Bukit Timah area. Bukit Batok Nature Park is home to a hill that overlooks the battleground; a WWII memorial was hence constructed on this very hilltop to commemorate the lives lost during the battle.

In addition, the park offers multiple hiking trails that offer magnificent views of the lakes and granite quarry. 

How to get there: Take buses 61, 66, 157, 178, 852 and 985 to Bukit Batok East Avenue 6.

3. Tampines Eco Green

Hidden away between the Tampines Expressway, Tampines Avenue 12, and Sungei Tampines, Tampines Eco Green is a secret park that pays homage to all things natural. True to its theme, the park has no lights or pavements. It doesn’t even have a flushing toilet; instead, its toilet is a compost-based one! The park’s signboards and benches are also made from recycled and environmentally-friendly materials.

Take your pick from three trails — Diversity Trail, Forest Trail and Marsh Trail — through secondary forests, vegetated swales, and more. Keep your eyes peeled for any of the park’s 75 species of birds and 35 species of butterflies! The park is also home to the Hanguana Rubinea, a native flower that’s found only in Singapore.

How to get there: 20-minute walk from Tampines MRT Station.

4. Thomson Nature Park

Be spoilt for choice at Thomson Nature Park, which boasts five trails that span a total of 3.8 kilometres. Previously a Hainan Village, bits of its heritage have been preserved in the form of old village houses, old street signs and the remains of a rambutan plantation.

Check out the Run and Figs Trail, as well as the Stream and Ferns Trail. If you’re lucky, you might even chance upon a Raffles’ Banded Langur, an endangered primate; or the Sunda Pangolin and Malayan Porcupine, both of which are highly elusive.

How to get there: Take buses 138, 138A, 167, 169, 860 and 980 to Upper Thomson Road.

5. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Comprising the first ASEAN Heritage Park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is a haven for nature and wildlife lovers. Home to some of the island’s richest biodiversity, the swamps of Sungei Buloh are home to 140 species of birds, mudskippers, tree-climbing crabs, mud lobsters monkeys, otter, civet cats, monitor lizards, and even the occasional estuarine crocodile! 

The Migratory Bird Walk’s Aerie Tower is a prime spot for bird-watching, especially during the migratory season. To find out more, there are free guided walks available every Saturday at 9.30am.

How to get there: Take Bus 925 from Kranji MRT Station to Kranji Reservoir Carpark B.

If you’re raring for an adventure of bigger proportions, tackle the Coast to Coast Trail, a mega 36-kilometre route that stretches all the way from Coney Island to Jurong Lake Gardens. Along the way, you’ll also pass through Punggol Waterway Park, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Macritchie Reservoir Park, the Rail Corridor, and Bukit Batok Nature Park. 

Alternatively, the North Eastern Riverine Loop is a 26-kilometre trail that runs through Buangkok, Sengkang and Punggol — including Punggol Promenade and Lorong Halus Wetland. This trail is also suitable for cycling if you don’t wish to go entirely on foot! Another option is the Western Adventure Loop, which connects the five parks of Bukit Batok Nature Park, Jurong Lake Park, Zhenghua Park Dairy Farm Nature Park, and Choa Chu Kang Park.

That’s exactly what we love about Singapore — it may be a metropolitan city but, look close enough, and you’ll find little pockets of green space scattered all around that are the perfect escape from all that hustle and bustle.

So, which of these hiking trails will you explore first?

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Asia Local News Singapore

Singapore Will Not Return to Pre-COVID days

In a press conference held on Tuesday (11 Aug), Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing announced that Singapore needs to move in another direction, after describing the nations “worst quarterly performance on record”.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) now expect a year-on-year contraction of 5% and 7%, compared to the initial 4% to 7% projection. 

Private economists’ predicted a downward drop of 12.9%. However, the nation’s quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 13.2% year on year in April through June, a sharp 0.3% decrease from the first quarter. The MTI informed that “the outlook for the Singapore economy has weakened slightly since May”.

The anticipated return to the old normal is hoped for by many. Unfortunately, quick recovery and return to the ways of the past are gone. The “painful truth” is that “we are not returning to a pre-COVID-19 world” and that recovery will be slow and unlikely to be smooth sailing. 

“We can expect recurring waves of infection and disruptions,” he said. 

Mr Chan also highlighted a few global changes that Singapore has to anticipate. The geopolitical landscape that provided Singapore with the opportunity to grow and thrive in the last five decades has changed, due to tensions amongst the major powers. He highlighted that Singapore has to avoid being between the conflicts of major powers. 

“We must avoid being caught between the conflicts of major powers or be stranded in a fragmenting world of trade relations and technological standards,” he added.

The global landscape has changed irrevocably, with global companies reorganising their production and supply chains. Some companies are also reviewing the need for regional hubs and the way their operations are organised to serve different markets. New investments will be making its way to Singapore, but some existing ones may seek to diversify elsewhere. 

Mr Chan also added that “It is a fluid landscape and we must do everything we can to defend our capabilities and capacities.” 

The nature of jobs has also changed, with remote working becoming the norm, allowing for more global job opportunities to be available for Singaporeans. Still, the nature of remote working will also let other workers in other countries do the same jobs from their homes. Some job posts have advertised openings with the opportunity to work in Singapore or remotely, which affects many PMET jobs, as such work can be done virtually or through automation and AI. 

Changes in the economy will also result in more societal frictions and tensions, as those who have more and those with less will contend, and issues such as foreign and local employment, and citizenship, will also arise. 

“We will need to better take care of those affected by job and business losses. We have and will continue to do these in a sustainable way that is not divisive, affirm the dignity of work and strengthen our social fabric. These tensions, unless well managed, can divide our society,” he said.

The way forward for Singapore is muddled, but staying still is not an option. The fluidity of the entire situation means that every factor and circumstance is fast evolving. However, the government regularly update the people on the economy and job situation, sector by sector. 

Three principles were outlined for Singapore’s moving forward. 

Firstly, the country will open for business safely and sustainably. Mr Chan said that “it will not be a binary option of open or close. It can be done. We must stay open while isolating the impacted clusters quickly and tightly.” 

Secondly, the government will extend help to businesses and workers, helping them adapt to the new normal. Firms with opportunities will be provided with a boost for growth, as this creates more job opportunities for workers. Examples of such firms include those in info-communications technology, biopharma, supply chains, and precision engineering. Companies experiencing a drop in demand now but have the potential to recover will have their core capabilities preserved so that they can come out of this stronger. Companies will also receive help in cash-flow, from schemes such as Jobs Support Scheme to rental relief scheme. Assistance is extended to companies whose industries have gone in another direction due to reinvention and adaptation. 

The last principle includes supporting businesses through establishing the “right macro conditions,”, Mr Chan said. The government will strengthen connections with the world for markets, supplies, technology and talent, to preserve Singapore’s competitiveness. 

In a novel move, Singapore will engage in digital free trade agreements to open more markets for businesses, while maintaining existing access to conventional markets. 

The future may be unpredictable, and it may be challenging to pull through. However, the minister assured that the government is still committed to every Singaporean, mentioning that instead of waiting for the situation to calm down, they will start preparations now. 

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Asia Lifestyle Relaxation Taiwan

Hot Springs in Beitou, Taiwan: A Perfect Relaxation Getaway for Weary Travellers

Known for their street food and night markets, Taiwan is also famous for their hot springs, which are said to have a plethora of health benefits — such as raising one’s energy levels, and treating chronic fatigue, eczema, and arthritis. 

Hot springs have been a large part of Taiwanese culture since the 1800s, when Taiwan was under Japanese rule. During their rule, the government in charge developed the hot springs on the peninsula, with many influences from the Japanese onsen culture. The first hot spring hotel was opened in Taiwan in 1896, by Hirado Gengo; this paved the way for the development of hot spring culture. Fast forward to today, Taiwan now has more than 100 hot springs — one of the most in the world. Additionally, it has also been dubbed the “Hot Spring Kingdom”, and is ranked among the top 15 hot spring destinations in the world. 

The most accessible hot spring from Taipei City would be Beitou, which is easily accessible via MRT, with a journey that takes approximately an hour. Since the 1970s and 1980s, many hotels and resorts have been developed in the area as well. 

Here’s how to get to Beitou: 

  1. Take the Red Line to Beitou Station 
  2. At Beitou Station, transfer to the pink line and alight at Xinbeitou Station 

The hot springs and other interesting tourist attractions are a mere 5 minute walk away from the MRT station, so there’s no worry of getting lost. Alternatively, visitors may also opt to take a taxi, which would take about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on traffic conditions. 

Beitou not only has many hot spring resorts that cater to various price points, but is also home to a Hot Spring Museum, which provides visitors the origins of hot spring culture in Taiwan. What’s interesting about the museum is that the building is a restored Japanese colonial-era bathhouse which gives visitors a comprehensive introduction to hot springs in Beitou — a perfect way to learn about hot springs before (or after) experiencing it! 

At Beitou, the dormant Datun volcano provides Beitou with an infinite supply of thermal waters, and the area is surrounded with resorts across all price points to suit tourists’ varying budgets. First time visitors usually opt for the well-known public hot spring, located near the Hot Spring Museum.


In Beitou, there are three main types of hot springs: 

Green Sulfur Hot Spring

This type of hot spring has a high concentration of sulfur, and its colour is reminiscent of jade. It is the hottest out of the three, with temperatures ranging from 50 to 75 degree celsius. What makes this particular type of hot spring so highly sought after is its rarity—it can only be found in Beitou and Akita, Japan! Many believe that the green sulfur hot spring is useful in treating skin diseases, gout, rheumatism, and fatigue.

Red Iron (Ferrous) Hot Spring

Unlike the green sulfur, this hot spring’s water is clear, and has a slightly lower temperature of between 40 to 60 degrees Celsius. It is believed to relieve nerve strain and inflammation. 

White Sulfur Hot Spring

Do not be fooled by this hot spring’s creamy and milky appearance — the hydrogen sulfide in it gives off an extremely strong odour, similar to that of rotten eggs! It is also extremely rare, as it is only available in Beitou and the Kansai Region in Japan. Its temperature is the lowest out of the three, at approximately 45°C. This hot spring is typically used to treat ulcers, chronic skin diseases, liver diseases and diabetes. 

The most affordable option in Beitou would be the Millennium Hot Spring Bathhouse, which costs NT$40 per entry. Run by the government, this bathhouse has a variety of hot spring pools for visitors to experience a hot spring for themselves. However, a possible downside for some would be the restrictions at the bathhouse. As this is a shared public facility, visitors are required to be dressed in bathing suits. Hot Spring attendants are also constantly walking around the area, which might cause some unease. 

For those who would like to have a hot spring experience in private, there are quite a few privately-owned resort establishments in the area. One of the most reputable ones is the Yitsun Hotel, which was built in 1901. Its original name was Xin Nai Tang, but was later changed to its current name in honour or Dr Sun Yat Sen’s given name — Sun Yi Xian — who was believed to have visited this hotel and was impressed by the quality of the hot springs. 

Many of the guestrooms at Yitsun are decorated Japanese-style, in honour of Japanese influence on Taiwan’s hot spring culture. The baths are separated by gender — one for males and one for females — and are set in grey slate stone, and are about 60 °C, making them perfect for long dips. 

Being one of the hallmarks of Taiwanese tourism, and with such a rich history, Beitou is definitely a destination to add to your travel bucket list!

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Asia Destinations Europe France Lifestyle Relaxation Singapore Spain United Kingdom

The Best Places to Relax in Any City (Other Than the Spa)

Did you know? National Relaxation Day is an internationally celebrated annual event, held every August 15th. The day was first founded in 1985, by an American fourth-grader, Sean Moeller. The intention is simple — to take a day off for yourself to refresh and rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit.

Most of us live in a fast-paced, constant state of ‘doing’, but as the founder of this day suggests, it is important to find ways to relax and unwind from a busy lifestyle. So, in honour of National Relaxation Day, take a moment for yourself and explore the following places to let your hair down:

The park

With dozens of shades of green, fresh air, and a sense of expansion, parks top the list in terms of being ideal places for relaxation. Research has shown time and time again that there is a strong link between nature therapy and a decrease in physiological stress and immune function levels — because of our evolutionary history, it is thought that we are essentially adaptive to nature.

A recent study supports this, and shows that these stress-relieving benefits can easily be achieved in as little as 10-minutes. If you live in a concrete jungle, opt to take a stroll through the nearest park or spend a lazy afternoon picnicking with friends and family for the ultimate rejuvenation.

Hot picks

Some of the biggest cities in the world also feature the most stunning pockets of green —  from Hyde Park in London to Central Park in New York City. Indulge in an urban oasis — your body will thank you for it.

best-places-to-relax-city
Pixabay

The beach

If parks are not your thing, the beach is a fantastic alternative for outdoors relaxation. There’s a reason tropical vacations are in vogue — the mere visualisation of aquamarine waters and powder soft beaches can have a calming effect on the body.

Because beaches are often not centrally located, they’re best for the days you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. With no shortage of relaxation activities — ranging from getting that Vitamin D with friends to swimming and walking along the beachfront — it is easy to spend a whole day at this invigorating location.

Hot picks

While the Mediterranean cities in Europe (think Spain and Portugal) offer some of the coolest beaches in the world, Singapore comes a close second. Check out Sentosa Island in Singapore, for some of the island’s prettiest beaches.

The museum

Beyond being educational institutions of the arts, museums are also restorative sanctuaries of the mind and body. The beneficial effects of art on human health and well-being have long been documented, and art therapy is very much a trend.

A fascinating article by Psychology Today makes a strong case for museums as healing places, arguing that museums can provide the same revitalising effect as spending time in nature by offering the same characteristics that enable one to shift mental gears, and refocus attention in a less effortful way. Findings from a 2008 study showed that museum goers have reported benefits like restored attention, tranquility, and reflection, further corroborating the association between museum visits for leisure and stress reduction.

Hot picks

Home to the Renaissance, Europe is the best continent to visit for some of the most spectacular masterpieces of the world. Other than Le Louvre in France, check out The British Museum in England or The Uffizi Gallery in Italy for national collections that have withstood the test of time.

The library

Given that reading a book can help provide a welcome escape from routine and everyday demands, it makes sense to head to the one place where books are the ‘cells of life’. And in a world filled with distractions and white noise, the library provides a safe haven for those seeking absolute peace and quiet.

Cosy nooks offer the passing traveller comfortable corners to while away the afternoon, while a cornucopia of resources promise to entertain and inform. Individuals will face little difficulty in finding a new world to lose themselves in with columns of books and magazines to choose from. According to a 2009 study conducted by the University of Sussex, reading can reduce up to 68% of stress, and just 6-minutes of reading can reduce your heart rate and improve your overall state of being.

Hot picks

As with museums, Europe showcases some of the most beautiful libraries in the world due to the rebirth of the literary arts during the Renaissance. Trinity College Old Library in Ireland is one of the most magnificent of the lot, with dark mahogany arches and millions of rare manuscripts collated since 1712.

best-places-to-relax-city
Unsplash

A café

Often cosy and well-lit, cafés are great places to chill out in a city, be it for brunch or a mid-day break. For a lazy afternoon, bring along a book to read, or have an intimate setting with a couple of close friends or your date. If you run out of things to do, take up people watching — you’ll find that the conversations and interactions around you can be disarmingly familiar and pretty funny, usually unintentionally.

Hot picks

Korea and Japan feature some of the quirkiest and most Instagram-worthy cafés in Asia. Settle in with a cup of coffee or tea, and relish in a quiet afternoon amid a comfortable, affable ambience.

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Asia Local News Singapore

The Foreign Worker Situation in Singapore Post-Circuit Breaker

The initial wave of COVID-19 in Singapore came in the form of dormitory clusters, bringing the number of cases up to the thousands daily in its peak. More than 300,000 migrant workers living in dormitories went under lockdown since April. The infectious spread travelled fast and wide, with signs of slowing down only in August.

Workers had to live in fear of catching the virus. Some of them spoke up about their experience in the dorms during quarantine, such as Pugal, who caught the virus in a dorm and had to be moved in an isolation ward. Now, as the cases dwindle and migrant workers shift their focus to employability after the lockdown has been lifted, their worries are not dashed. Instead, they remain, perhaps even more amplified due to fear of a loss of income.

There seems to be a spike in the number of migrant worker suicides in the recent weeks, following reports of unnatural deaths. Questions on the conditions of the workers’ mental health ensued, along with concerns on how the government is handling it. 

In May, a 27-year-old migrant worker hailing from Bangladesh was found motionless at a dormitory in Kranji. A few weeks before that, a 46-year-old Indian national died from his injuries after lying motionless at a staircase landing at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. On July 24, a 37-year-old Indian worker was found dead at 512 Old Chua Chu Kang Road. His case is still being investigated. Amidst the official reports, there have been videos circulating on social media, showing some workers standing dangerously close to the edges of rooftops and high ledges. 

One particular video posted around July 22 showed a worker on the edge of a ledge at PPT Lodge 1B dormitory in Seletar. MOM has addressed this particular case in a Facebook post and mentioned that the worker had bought a flight ticket home on his own accord, but it was not approved. A dispute occurred as he did not discuss with his employer his attention to return home, causing him to react in such a drastic manner. 

On August 2, another worker harmed himself by slitting his throat. He was found on lying in his blood on a stairwell in his dormitory at Sungei Kadut. He has since been brought to the hospital and is now in a stable condition. 

The recent incidents have highlighted how the confinement has severely hit the mental health of these workers. Stuck in prolonged confinement, along with uncertainties surrounding their health and jobs, have affected the state of many migrant workers’ mental health. 

In an interview with CNA, Mr Justin Paul, non-profit organisation HealthServe’s mental health programme manager, mentioned that there have been more cases of workers either attempting to harm themselves or having such thoughts due to the stressful situation. More workers have been utilising their mental health services, with 71 workers reaching out to HealthServe in April. The organisation saw 244 workers in June, and 207 in July. HealthServe has received about 750 queries from workers so far in total. 

The situation escalated and worsened right after the circuit breaker ended, as many of the workers were hoping to go back to work after being isolated for two months. When they realised they couldn’t, their stress accumulated and started to manifest in several ways. 

Help from NGOs and employers are available for foreign workers. The COVID-19 Migrant Support Coalition has been providing goods like coffee, tea and shavers to the workers since the circuit breaker, with more than a million of these provisions distributed. The volunteers have also been providing social support, such as programmes to befriend workers and cutting their hair. 

Employers like Ms Calsia Lee, director of interior design firm Collective Designs, have provided moral support through calling their workers at least once a week and sending them cakes occasionally. Workers are also included in a Whatsapp chat group to reach out anytime. 

MOM has been attempting to ease some of the migrant worker’s worries through keeping them updated on COVID-19 news via daily messages, and materials in their languages to promote mental health and well-being. The articles are educational and help them identify symptoms of distress, encourage them to look out for each other, and provide outlets for them to reach out for help. Moving forward, MOM has also allowed time-scheduled breaks for foreign workers to leave their rooms and access common areas.