Cycling, Cloud-gazing & Other Things I Cherish :)

Written by Sitinur (2SB4)

Back-to-back examinations. Almost-daily deadlines. Constant commitments.

All of these are inextricable parts of my life which I cannot run away from so when I get the chance to unwind, even just for a little bit, I make sure to take full advantage of it.

Cycling is my go-to remedy for a rejuvenated mind. I would make sure to wake up extra early to catch the sunrise and beat the scorching afternoon heat. Apart from from the heat, the main difference between cycling in the morning and the afternoon is the amount of space available. Having such an enormous open space to explore and ride freely is is a privilege one can enjoy only in the morning. Along with the usual morning runners, I get to have the entire neighbourhood to myself. Cycling around empty parks and sidewalks under a deep blue sky that switches to purple and then pink and then orange as the sun rises is simply stunning.

Credits: Shutterstock

Taking a step back to enjoy the pockets of nature in my neighbourhood is immensely refreshing. Common sights include leaves dotted with morning dew, friendly bees buzzing on vibrant flowers, animated squirrels climbing trees and evergreen bushes.

But my absolute favourite is the enchanting smell of rich soil after rain – a unique but rare scent in sunny Singapore that I can never get enough of. These delightful sights and smells coupled with the light chirping of the birds and gentle breeze help to clear my mind and remove all the weight off my shoulders. Such an escapade really helps to break the monotony of my usual school which includes sitting at my desk for hours, concentrated on completing one task after another. Going for a ride leaves me feeling reposeful and at peace, ready to conquer anything with a refreshed mind, body and soul.

In the afternoons, I enjoy cloud-gazing. All one needs is a blanket, a curious set of eyes and a wild imagination. I usually bring my six-year-old brother along, a fellow cloud-gazing enthusiasts. It serves as a golden opportunity for me to bond with my little brother and also look at the world through the innocent lenses of a child again. Laying on the lush green grass is already therapeutic enough, but the breathtaking view takes it to another level.

The clouds, fluffy and white, are so simple yet there is still so much room to explore. The clouds magically morph into different shapes and sizes as they gracefully shift across the sky. I absolutely adore hearing my brother’s interesting perspective of what lies up there. He thinks clouds are just large pieces of cotton candy filled with skittles and chocolates inside. A shape-shifting creature at the same time that can turn from a ‘firetruck’ into a ‘flower’. As of now, I do not intend on correcting him nor do I wish to bore him with advanced Geography.

I treasure the laughs and smiles I share with him as we picture another scene in the sky. I will never get tired of how certain he is about his own ‘cloud beliefs’. Cloud-gazing reminds me not to take life so seriously. To always leave room for laughter and joy; to slow down when everything seems to be going too fast. These cotton-like clouds scattered across the serene sky leave me awestruck at such delicate beauty every single time.

Carefree conversations over a cup of coffee. The sweet rich smell of roasted beans and the light chatter around the dimly lit cafe. That is my cure for most rough days; good company. Sometimes it is nice to be alone and bask in my own comfortable silence. But sometimes, all I need is to be around people who know how to pull out the most hideous laughs out of me. Being around people makes me feel alive the most. The delicate human desire to form connections and the need to belong seeps through. It reminds me of how there is so much more to life than to worry about things I cannot control and that I should not let temporary obstacles take control of my entire being. There should always be something to smile about.

Most importantly, these activities I so dearly cherish remind me to enjoy the little things. They keep me grounded even when times are tough and nothing seems to be going my way.

The forgotten paradise of Maya Bay: Does tourism enhance beauty or slowly eradicate it?

Written by: Sitinur (2SB4)

Have you ever heard of Maya Bay? It is a beautiful bay located on the small island of Koh Phi Phi Leh in Thailand’s Andaman Sea. Surrounded by towering limestone cliffs covered in lush green vegetation, the bay features crystal clear turquoise waters and a stretch of soft white sand. 

The water in the bay is shallow and calm, making it perfect for swimming, snorkelling, and kayaking. In addition to the natural beauty of the bay, Maya Bay is home to a wide array of marine life, including colourful fish, sea turtles, and coral reefs. The bay’s natural beauty and peaceful atmosphere makes it a perfect travel destination. However, I must pop your bubble before you plan your next vacation there as this pristine paradise is no longer available to us and we only have ourselves to blame.

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Leh Island, Andaman Sea, Thailand. Image: CNN Travel

The bay became famous after it was featured in the 2000 movie ‘The Beach’, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie’s success put Maya Bay on the map and attracted a massive influx of tourists to the area. The increased tourism had a significant impact on the bay’s delicate ecosystem. The large number of visitors led to pollution, damage to coral reefs, and depletion of marine life. As such, the Thai government had no choice but to close the bay to visitors in 2018, to save the beach and give the environment time to recover.

State of environmental pollution on Maya Bay due to influx of tourists. Image: The Phuket News

The closure of Maya Bay had a significant impact on the local tourism industry, as many businesses that relied on the bay for income were forced to shut down. However, the closure was necessary to protect the fragile ecosystem and prevent further damage. Since then, the Thai government has been working on a plan to reopen Maya Bay to visitors while ensuring that the environmental impact is minimised. The plan includes limiting the number of visitors allowed in the bay, restricting boat access, and implementing measures to manage waste and prevent damage to the coral reefs.

Maya Bay reef restoration project. Image: Lifestyle Asia

Depending on how it is managed, increasing tourism can both propel a country forward as well as hinder its progress. We cannot afford to lose the substantial benefit tourism can bring to a country, from economic to social to cultural prosperity, nor can we neglect the possible irreversible damage to our environment. It is crucial for a country to manage tourism in a responsible way by treading carefully between these two extreme ends for a sustainable future.

A signboard on a beach to remind people to not litter. Image: Sterling TT

Rain or Shine, We Excel: RunAC 2023

The past few years have been like no other with the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this year comes with an equally new experience of getting to return to some semblance of normalcy as we open up to fewer and fewer restrictions. So finally after a long three-year hiatus, RunAC, ACJC’s annual cross-country event, is back in full swing!

Through the annual General House Meeting arranged by the House Committee prior to RunAC, students were able raise their House spirit by bonding and making new friends from their own Houses. They learnt about their respective House history and House cheers, preparing themselves for the big day.

Annual General House Meeting [Credits: Photography Society]

The day soon arrived as students entered West Coast Park in their vibrant and colourful shirts with a big smile plastered on their faces. Colours of the rainbow could be seen speckled everywhere as many students explored West Coast Park, eagerly waiting for the event to start. Many even relived their childhood with the many sand pits, playgrounds and swings dotted all over West Coast Park.

Unfortunately, the skies of West Coast Park did not stay clear for long as dark heavy clouds started to loom. What seemed like a light drizzle at first quickly became a heavy downpour as students rushed for shelter. Luckily, there was no lightning alert so all the runs could continue to take place. Once the rain cleared a little, the races officially began with the Boys’ Race (3.2km) first followed by the Girls’ Race (2.4km), then Staff Race and lastly the Mass Race (2.2km).

Students getting ready for the Mass Run [Credits: Photography Society]

Students remained determined and resilient even with the wet weather, not letting their spirits to be dampened although the same could not be said about their shoes. They pressed on and completed the runs with power and gusto, pushing themselves to their limits to represent the best version of themselves for their respective houses.

After the races, the prize-giving ceremony started, awarding the top finalists for each run. Cross-country members easily clinched the top finalist awards with Mervyn Ong, 2SB7, representing LSG House winning the Boys’ Champion and Gemma Ford, 2SA3, representing Oldham House winning the Girls’ Champion. Students patiently anticipated for the overall House Champion results, all hoping their House would be the one called. After calculating the points cumulated by each House, it was a close call between Thoburn and Oldham House but the overall Champion for RunAC 2023 went to Thoburn House!

House Captains Leading RunAC 2023 [Credits: Photography Society]

Various CCAs and student volunteers helped to ensure RunAC went as smoothly as possible. Media Resource Crew were stationed at the stage to help to set up the technical equipment and set the mood with their upbeat and hype music playlist. Photography Society stationed themselves to capture key moments for the day with their cameras. Red Cross members were stationed at multiple checkpoints so that help was always a close call away if anyone was hurt. They also set up water cups for the runners to grab to stay hydrated. Many student officials helped to set up the area, recording booths and token stations. There is no doubt that a lot of effort was gone into making RunAC an enjoyable event for all. Through the hard work of teachers and students, ACJC was finally able to experience a true RunAC again.

Student Officials stationed at the finish line

We remain grateful for what we have and look forward to more fun events in the future that define the real AC experience!

Cathartic Chinatown

Busy walkways. An array of aromas. People from all walks of life. Everyone was walking with purpose. Be it visiting the temple, buying freshly baked egg tarts, scrutinising gem collections or bargaining down prices. Each store was playing their favourite Chinese ballads or instrumentals. It was quite the experience to walk down the long stretches, hearing each stall’s music and conversations slowly drifting in and out. Lanterns were up, in bright orange, yellow, red hues, in an assortment of sizes. Some as small as my palm and some stretching a few stories high on platforms. The place is none other than Chinatown, well-known for always bustling with activity and its amalgamation of new and old. One can find temples, traditional medicinal halls as well as new bars and lifestyle shops, all along the same road. This interesting mix of food joints, places of worship and fascinating heritage buildings attract many to spend their day in Chinatown.

Mid-Autumn Festival 2022 @Chinatown

China Town is filled with a plethora of traditional stores! One of the most riveting stores we visited was a Wedding Trinket store. They offered a variety of ornaments and ang paos (ang pows are chinese envelopes used to give others money). It was nice to see many Singaporeans visit the store as this shows many Singaporeans are connected to their heritage and culture. We even saw an engaged couple purchasing authentic Chinese ornaments for their wedding! In a world where western culture is ubiquitous, it is essential we remain connected to our roots!

The busy trinket store in Chinatown

Singapore you are the brightest star.

Special. There is no one like you Singapore. Even in countries far, far, away you will not be forgotten. As long as I hear ‘Lah’, my head will turn to meet my fellow Singaporean. There is nothing more distinctive to Singapore than Singlish. The beauty of having a myriad of languages living together is our beautiful creation, something that truly makes us who we are today.

‘Singlish’ – A true Singaporean’s voice

Inspiring. A country that stays united and strong even when times get tough and the future is uncertain. Friends who are there and neighbours who care. We look after each other like one big family, reaching out with open arms to help uplift others. Everyone working towards a common goal for a better future. Singapore never fails to inspire me to make a difference and spread kindness.

Nostalgic. Nothing beats the aroma of hissing smoke from spiced grilled meat filling the air around a satay stall. Or the ringing bells of the rolling ice cream cart when it finally reaches my neighbourhood. Rushing down with spare change in hand just in time before Uncle leaves. Having the same bursting excitement when the Milo Van arrives during Sports Carnival, and I remember something about that Milo tasting extra good each time. Ice gem biscuits, white rabbit candy, fish murukku chips, haw flakes, marbles and country erasers – teleport me back to simpler times.

Traditional Ice Cream Cart

Resilient. Times were not always easy. British colonisation. Japanese rule. Separation from Malaysia. Racial riots. But we never gave up, and never stopped till we achieved our dreams of freedom and peace. We fought endlessly for our rights and built ourselves a foundation for generations to come. We did all of that so one day we could look back and know that every ounce of effort was worth it.

Singapore’s separation from Malaysia

Ambitious. Our dreams soared high and were slowly turned to reality. We would not settle for less and strived to be the best we could. First in Asia for quality of living. Second safest city worldwide. Second most powerful passport worldwide. An urban but garden city with 50,000 trees planted in Singapore every year to which she owes this vision to our first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore had no one and was stranded alone. She was able to pick herself up and turn the impossible to possible.

Singapore the ‘Garden City’

Proud. Words do not do justice to how far we came as a country. The obstacles we faced and overcame each time. Obstacles keep coming but we jump over them higher each time. Nothing warms my heart more than seeing the bright smiles and warmest cheers on 9th August, everyone feeling the same way. We are proud Singaporeans and are proud of how much we achieved.

NDP 2022

Singapore you have been everything and I could not have asked for anything more.

Thank you.