Monday, February 29, 2016

Forward or Trailing Twelve Months (TTM) PE Ratio?


Do you use forward PE? Because, you know, since analysts are soooooo good at predicting the future.

Or do you use TTM PE? Because, you know, that was like what REALLY happened.

Personally, I use TTM PE, or even MRQ (most recent quarter) PE sometimes.

It goes without saying that 295 TTM PE is absolutely insane. And the S&P500 at 22 TTM PE with declining earnings is not that pretty either.

#justsayin

Saturday, February 27, 2016

About All That Trashing Trump Talk

I have deliberated over writing a short political commentary on Donald Trump. Not because I don't want to, but rather I feel that a lot of people on our side of the world have a very negative view on Donald Trump and his run for Presidency and I would get some blowback. Guess what? I decided that I don't care even if I do. The issue I'm raising should be pointed out by somebody.


Sure, he makes racist and bigoted comments. But if he gets the majority of the vote, that makes him President, whether you subscribe or support his views on certain issues or not. In fact, Trump couldn't give a damn whether you approved or not. Because you're not American. And he doesn't care about your vote. Because you can't vote.

A nation doesn't exist because it prescribes to some sort of universally accepted code of social and moral rules. Can a nation of bigots exisit, and can they elect a bigoted President and have bigoted laws? Yes, that can exist. Just because he doesn't make YOU happy, that doesn't mean that he doesn't make the majority of Americans happy.

He's not running for the most popular man in international media. He's running for President of the USA.

I was reading this article about Hungary's call for referendum to vote on the migrant crisis issue (or you can read the ZH version), and then it suddenly hit me. Hungary doesn't give 2 shits about whatever the hell Merkel or the rest of the EU project wants, which is for all member to be very "European", humanitarian and welcoming to migrants. Hungary only cares what its people want, and as of now, they do not want migrants to come to their country.

Yes, even Norway of Scandinavia, which is apparently everybody's favourite country to use as a contrast example about hippie things like "freedom" and "equality" is unhappy with this migrant situation. They are setting up contingency plans that is being brought to their parliament to secure the border with Sweden specifically to keep migrants from coming in (or you can read the ZH version). Broad support is expected.

As a democracy, if the majority of the people in Hungary or the people's representatives in Norway are against offering refugee assistance, they could (and Hungary has) build a wall around themselves and kick out migrants. Is it the "right" thing to do as human beings? Probably not. But can they do it if they want to? Yes, absolutely. Why not? If Hungary and Norway want to be nations that doesn't want to accept migrants, so be it. What does it have to do with other people? It's their own country, it's their own choice. The problem now comes from them being part of the EU and the EU forcing it down their throats (for Hungary, not Norway).

It might not be the "right" thing to do.
It might not be nice of them to do that.
But they have every right to do that.

I repeat, it's their own country, it's their own choice.

Would Singapore refuse refugees? Not only can we do it, we have done it. Multiple times.

Let's be clear: I'm not against migration, I actually think it's an important thing for Singapore otherwise we'll be in a situation like Japan where they just lost a million citizens. Migration just happens to be the topic, but the real issue is that people in democracies can vote for what they want.

And that parallel brings me back to Donald Trump. He might not be the perfect specimen of a morale and awesome human being, but guess what? That's not what he's running for. He's running to be the President of America, and if America has enough people who are okay with him making such non-PC comments about this and that as President, then so be it.

In all honesty, while a lot of people criticize Trump, everybody misses out how completely crap his opponents are. Perhaps another reason why Trump is popular isn't because people like him. It's because people think that the rest of the candidates are even bigger idiots than him. I would not disagree. Jeb is so weak. Cruz is so slimey. Carson is surprisingly dumb for a doctor. Hilary is twice as slimey as Cruz. Sanders is a socialist that needs to relearn math. Rand Paul was alright, Rubio is pretty okay too, but he just isn't that popular.

Trump might not be a "nice" person.
Trump might not always be politically correct.
Trump might not even have any good policies that makes sense.
But Trump could jolly well be President without being "nice", PC or smart policy maker.

I repeat, it's their own country, it's their own choice.

I don't know what other people see about Barack Obama. He might be a really swell guy, has a nice and funny personality, but he has namesaked Obamacare is one of the worst policies ever in the history of government programmes. In fact, Obamacare is one of the things that make me happy that I live in Singapore and not in the USA. There were many pressing problems in America that he did not address. Just watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and then tell me how many things Obama has addressed. Episode after episode after episode shows the absolutely ridiculous problems that America is STILL riddled with. As you can tell, I am not a fan of Obama's policies and lack of action to clearly visible problems. To me, all he did was smile and wave a lot, and then played golf. A lot of golf.

So as cute as it is to see so many of my friends come out on FB and slam Donald Trump for being a bigot and showing their ultra-modern views, tolerance and hippie love for all, it does close to nothing other than show people that yes, you accept gay people, and yes, you are not a racist. Congratulations. But there's still at least a billion people in the world that don't prescribe to your world view. Other than that, focusing on his actual Presidency, what are your views on his policy stands? Oh you don't know because it doesn't matter? Because hairstyles are more important than policies for a President? Right...


The very simple answer to this question that doesn't make massive assumptions on his intelligence or policies is that: people simply prefer him over all the other bigger idiots running against him. They are picking the the lesser of 2 evils.

Just to be clear, I don't feel comfortable with quite a number of Trump's comments and his oversimplification of certain issues (I have my own personal opinions on certain social issues), but can the man be President? He can, and he actually might be in the future.

If he does become President, then that's because that's what Americans voted for. There's your democracy for ya.

You don't need a famous figure of a foreign country with similar views as yours to win an election just so that you can feel self-assured about your own personal beliefs.

#justsayin

Friday, February 26, 2016

I Ain't Buying It



The US markets are up on gawd knows what reasons with economic indicators flashing red and GAAP earnings falling.


Like in the Truman show, we are all being taken for a ride. We are being pushed to the edge and being asked to look at this false wall and believe that it is the sky.

People are going to realize that we're fast approaching, if not already, at the limits of this fantasy.

I've doubled down my shorts. Risky? Stupid? Naive? Maybe. We'll really have to see.

I believe that we are past the question of "if". Now it's only a matter of "when".

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Little "Hot" Down Under?


"Insane. That's the best word to describe the Australian housing market."

I just saw this video and it's crazy. I knew housing in Australia was crazy when I first heard about the interest-only mortgages, but I didn't know that 50% of all new mortgages were interest-only!

If you read the recent 12th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, you will see that surprisingly (at least to me), Australia is considered more expensive than Singapore, with Syndey coming in as the 2nd most expensive city just behind Hong Kong.

Watching this clip reminded me a lot of all the financial movies that I've seen. People being oblivious to risk and just partying as if the good times will roll on forever.

The question isn't "if" the Australian mortgage bubble will burst, the question is "when?".

11.52: "It's not a bad house. It's a bad price."

Personally, I think that the US equity markets are in a similar mania with people being almost completely and totally disassociated between liking the company for their services and products, and then making a fallacious link that that means their stock prices would sky rocket as well.

I don't think the Singapore property market is in such a similar mania. If the government hadn't stepped in with cooling measures like they did until 2013, the peak we saw in mid 2014 could have extended all the way until now, where you see property markets, especially the big ones like Hong Kong started to stall.

HDB has just launched its first exercise of the year and we're looking at 20% more units this year compared to last year, which had the "bumper crop".

With more supply coming on and volumes drying up, I doubt the housing market is going to pick up any time soon. Honestly, with things chugging on so slowly, by the time I want to buy a house I'll be 35 and eligible to buy an HDB already, haha!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Singapore Savings Bond: Feb 2015 Review, Apr 2016 Preview

Hey everybody, here's my monthly post on the SSB closing and the forecast for next month. I'm trying to streamline my posts to make them more condensed and info-packed in a regular structure, so it's both easier for readers to quickly digest the article and for me to pump them out on a regular basis.

I have made a similar posts in previous months, and I think I will stick with this format.

First up is update of the subscription of the previous issue. As previously mentioned, the SSB will probably have $300 million available to be issued every month of 2016. While it is a HUGE drop from the $1,200 million that they were offering in 2015, the SSB take up rate has been... pathetic, so it makes sense to cut down on the total offer to boost up the fill rate. It looks a look less sad now.


For the February 2016 SSB, a just as pathetic take up rate of just over $28 million was done. That's almost 9% of the issue. Demand for SSBs look low to actually even decreasing in the future. By just looking at the absolute amount, you can see that demand is falling. Is it due to rates being too low that they aren't attractive? I personally think it's due to lack of awareness and also a huge inertia by people to apply for a CDP account and figure out how to buy them.


This month, the MAS has played nicely and given us a tight variance of the actual SSB compared to interest rates of the benchmarks, nothing more than 1% off the expected values. However, the next month might not be so, please read on.

Moving onto the next SSB, we use the same old-fashioned method of looking up the data from MAS and constructing the table below. As a refresher, the current month's rates are used as a proxy for the issue in 2 months time (For example: Feb 2016 rates are used for the Apr 2016 issue). Also, if you are in the first 3/4 of the current month, you application this month is for the bond that is too be issued on the 1st of next month (For example: Feb 2016 applicants will receive the Mar 2016 issue). I hope this clears up some of the confusion people have regarding the names of the issues.


With 15 out of 19 data points available for this estimate, I think that this is quite reasonably accurate. I would hazard a guess of 1.05 / 1.05 / 1.82 / 2.15 as the final yields.

One thing that you might notice is that we have the average rate of the 1 year being higher than the 2 year. At Central Banking 101 classes, they will tell you that this should NEVER happen (since yield inversion signals a broken / breaking credit market). So, just like how we saw the Dec issue be manually adjusted to limit the 1 year yield against the 2 year yield, I am expecting the exact same kind of market manipulation for the Mar 2016 issue yields.

This upcoming issue looks set to be the weakest SSB issue since it has started. The current month's issue is definitely better than next month's issue, if your decision were really that simple and binary.

I would not be applying for this month's issue, and I'm 99% I will not be applying for next month's one as well.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Guess The Chart


The watermark in the bottom left hand corner is a dead giveaway.

This is the 20 year chart of GOLD, in AUD.

You may infer whatever you want.

#justsayin

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mystery Financial Product Revealed: Credit Co-Op!


Congrats to Alex, the answer to the mystery financial product that I mentioned was actually the savings plan of a credit coop!

To be more specific, it is the Share Capital and Subscription Savings offered by the Police Co-Op.

In Singapore, there are actually 25 credit coops (full list of co-ops here) that offer something similar. They all pretty much have a simple saving scheme and offer loans to their members, which is actually a pretty nice and nifty alternative to the traditional banking system that we are all so familiar with. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if many people don't even know about credit co-ops because I also only recently found out about it at the end of 2015!

Personally, I quite like the idea of credit co-ops. It is an alternative to banks, your money is sorta "out of the system", getting loans looks much cheaper and easier (which would make sense since they are holding some collateral of yours) and it feels like you are in a cool and exclusive club.

And to be clear, it is pretty exclusive. Most credit co-ops have a specific membership requirement, so they aren't really open to the members of the general public. The criteria for joining as a member of the Police Co-op is pretty specific (I will not reveal my membership qualification). Another good example is the Teacher's Co-Op. Do you think just anyone can join?


The good news is that with the wide number of credit co-ops available, it is pretty likely that you or someone close to you would be eligible as a member, especially as a civil servant! However, like I said, I don't think it's something that most people know about or talk about. I have talked to a few friends who are teachers and only 1 of them have heard about the Teacher's Co-op (3.08% interest on savings and 8% dividends on share capital!), so that's the basis of my input.

Personally, I see the savings plan with the Police Co-Op as like a cash, semi-CPF portion of my savings. It gives me CPF-esque returns, but with the added flexibility of taking a loan from myself, or even withdrawing the amount if I really need it. It's like emergency cash that generates a pretty decent return for me. In all honesty, I would want to contribute even more than $200 a month if I could. However the $200 a month is a pretty good amount that doesn't feel like a hit to my disposable income, yet it is an amount that will quite nicely snowball and have a sizable impact in the future.

It's almost like a super risk-adverse way of the POSB Invest-Saver plan, since a fixed dollar amount is deducted from your account for long term investing. In fact, I would think that combining these 2 products could give you a nice stock/"bond" exposure (eg. $300 in POSB Invest Saver, $200 to your co-op). At my age, socking away $500 a month for retirement, but with the flexibility option to dip into it during emergencies or opportunities.... I think it is a pretty good all-round solution. Even estimating a slightly conservative 5% average portfolio returns, I'm looking at $392k when I'm 55 and a whopping $719k if I continue it until 65. Would I be able to retire on this humble $500 a month contribution? Yes, I would.


Of course, I am trying to save more than that and I am not pairing it up with the POSB Invest Saver, so my path would be quite different. Probably more rocky, but also more rewarding.

Opportunities are aplenty if you look hard enough, and with the stock market trading at it's current valuations (but even if it wasn't, which just a while ago, it wasn't), there are plenty of places that have strong potential returns for your money in the long run.

However, planning and executing for the long run is not the strong point of most people. I happily sleep with 30% drawdowns knowing that I've done my homework and there are pretty good odds that this is just a temporary drawdown, but I know people who would lose their shit if their investment goes down negative by 1%. As with all things in life, you should know what you're doing before you stick your thing into it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mystery Financial Product: Would You Buy This?


Processing Fee (One-time): $20
Minimum Initial Investment Amount: $150
Subsequent Recurring Investment: $40 - $200 (monthly GIRO)
Annual Dividends: Cash payout, variable between 3.50% - 4%

Investment Duration: Indefinite
Investment Pause / Deferment: Not possible

Unique Feature: Loan from your own contributions, except must leave a minimum $500 balance.
- Short Term Loan (1-6 months): Interest charged at a flat 0.25% of loan value per month.
- Long Term Loan (1-5 years): Interest charged at flat 3% of loan value per annum.

Full Withdrawal with Termination of the product (Surrender Value): Receive back all contributions with no penalty, only loss of processing fee. Can be done at any time.

This product participates in a master fund that invests in a variety of investments to generate its returns.

About 50% of it is invested in "safe" investments, such as SGS bonds, bonds issued by Singapore Stat Boards and fixed deposits in MAS approved financial institutions.

The remainder of the funds are invested in a variety of investments, such as SGX shares, corporate bonds, investments properties, joint ventures, units trust, etc.

Based on the last published financials, taking into account all the liabilities, the fund currently has $1.36 for each $1 that would be redeemed in the future. Is a 36% buffer enough for you?


So, what do you think about it? Interested? Anyone care to guess the product?

Feel free to ask me more questions about this product. By the way, I'm not selling this, just in case anyone was interested. I'll post the answer to the product if someone guesses it right or if no one gives a shit after a few days.

Recent Rally: Time For Bull Market Now?

No, I don't think so.


At least, not in my opinion.

The S&P when from 1807 to 1894 and that's a gain of about 4.8% in a relatively quick amount of time. 

I cashed in some profits when the S&P was near the 1800 level, and I have since put back on my shorts and increased my position littered around the 1875-1888 level.

With the EUR sinking because of Mr. Mario, things are playing out as I expected, with the USD bouncing, which would go on to sink gold back down into March. That might then might create a higher low and be a confirmation for a trend reversal.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Some Ugly Ducklings


I took a look this morning at some of the stocks that I have on my watchlist. Boy, are some of them down a lot! Actually, I find that many stocks are underperforming the STI by a lot, so if you ask me, value is APLENTY in the Singapore market.

Now, can cheap can cheaper? Of course it can.

However, would you rather buy things when they are cheap or expensive?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

About Them Recent Gold Moves

Wow, gold is back to the $12xx eh? I thought we were going to crash through the $1000 support level and eventually head to $0 since we've got a barbaric useless piece of shiny shit on our hands?


In about the span of a month, my gold miners position went from being a very sad -32% to a -9% now. My precious metals portfolio (those available-for-sale) went from from being about -7% to a positive 4% now. In relative terms, that's about a 20% and 10% gain in each respective portfolio!

FYI, my gold related positions are way way larger than my small and humble SGX portfolio. 

This is pretty heartening considering that gold miners usually lag the physical stuff coming out of a bull market and will have a leveraged performance relative to the physicals. I'm honestly holding on and looking for returns in the hundreds of %. Yeah, I'm a bit crazy.

The physical stuff itself has gold sitting at $1237 and silver at $15.65 now. I still think that there is plenty and plenty more upside left in these horrendous shiny paper weights.

The move out of the doldrums have been pretty explosive, so I would expect a retracement now, or after a short cycle high that should occur within the next 2 weeks, which basically is anytime soon. Calling the exact numbers and timeframe isn't easy as it's just as much voodoo and guessing as it is about technical analysis skills.

I'm looking for some indecision throughout the rest of February, followed by a pullback into early March which possibly goes back to almost the 1100 level. That would be my signal to back up the truck for the last call before the ship leaves the port. I would probably split my allocation between the miners and more physicals and then just sit back and continue relaxing. If we go lower, guess what I'll do? Yes, I will buy more. I am that crazy captain who's prepared to go down with his ship.


Gold. Lego. Pokemon cards. Wine. Watches. Some dirt and a pile of rocks (property). It's all the same, isn't it? As long as it has some history of appreciating in value, why are some people so adverse to the fact that people invest in gold?

In fact, compared to most things, gold has a pretty darn good historical track record of being worth something, especially compared to those floppy pieces of fiat currency, which incidentally has a seen hundreds, if not thousands of currencies come and go. And yet people still diss on the gold.

Interesting to note is that the USD looks to me like it has finally topped out. It might bounce since it has been dropping, but I doubt moving forward we see a stronger USD. Yes, it's me against all the bank analysts. Woohoo.

Well, I guess that's why people these days buy into magical-hocus-pocus-"tech"-growth stocks like Twitter (negative earnings), Amazon (500 PE) and the likes of the other fairy forever-growth stocks out there.

Nothing makes sense anymore, but I think some people are slowly starting to realize that.

Friday, February 12, 2016

GMGH's Holiday To Tokyo, Japan!

(I'm going to try to follow the format I did for my last NZ trip!)

Like I mentioned last week, I went for a nice vacation over the long Chinese New Year holiday this year. I'm now back in Singapore and I'm missing the lovely cool winter weather. The mystery destination this time was... Japan!


Airfare

Right of the bat, the first thing that pushed me to select Japan was the crazy, unbelievably good priced tickets that I managed to snag.

Actually, I was all prepared to fly budget to Japan, considering how I heard that normal tickets on the regular airlines that fly to Japan average around $800-900. For those people who "can only fly on SQ because all other airlines service sucks balls and they sure crash", tickets on SQ average around $1.2k and go up to $1.7k on the popular dates. On economy. (just talking about regular tickets, I don't know about those random promotions they have)

I booked my tickets 6 weeks in advance and I managed to get a return flight on United Airlines, direct to Narita Airport (not Haneda Airport) with 2 free check-in baggage included for a bargain basement price of... $454.80. Yup, that's right. Dirt cheap? I think so, especially since it's a freaking 7 hour flight there and then again back!


I found my ticket using Skyscanner as usual and I booked through Expedia. I almost never go directly to airline websites these days because they almost never give the best price. I think of the last 10 flights I've booked, I've only booked directly with the airlines maybe... twice?

Accommodation

Usually when I travel, I do not stay in hotels. For me, I don't like paying a premium for a room which I'm barely going to be in to enjoy at all. Therefore, I usually prefer to stay in cheaper options, like hostels. However, the hostels in Japan were NOT cheap at all. All the hostels that had decent locations were very pricey and they were huge (in a bad way). Like... 120-beds mixed dorm capsule style. Not only is it expensive, but it would not have been very secure or private at all. Rooms were all pushing past $40 a night for a coffin experience with rowdy gaijin tourists. Not my style.

After exhausting my search options for reasonable accommodations, I decided to finally turn to Airbnb. I've had several friends use it before, I have friends working for the company and I understand how the whole company works and all, but I had yet to use it. After searching around and finding a few options that cost slightly more than a hostel, I decided to contact a host and request a stay.

The host accepted my request and gave me plenty of good answers to my questions regarding the accommodation, as well as general Tokyo tips. The apartment was very well located just 20 mins walk from the JR Yamonote line, and being a 5 minute walk from the nearest metro station. Basically, this means that even if I had a late night out, I can catch the later train on the Yamonote line instead of cutting my night short and rushing for my metro, or worse, end up with a 5000 yen ($60 SGD) late night cab ride back! It was nice, clean, with a heater, my own small balcony with a fantastic view, heated toilet seats and nice hot water in the shower.

And I managed all of this for just $348 SGD for 6N7D, or $58 a night!


Transportation

To me, Tokyo felt like NYC. Actually, Tokyo felt a way way lot bigger than NYC. However, it is similar in the sense that the metro network is very dense, normal people don't drive cars and pretty much everybody walked and took the subway to get to anywhere that they wanted to go.

I got myself a PASMO card (the SUICA would work as well) and throughout my entire 7 day trip, I spent 5800 JPY ($70 SGD) on all metro travelling, which works out to about $10 a day. This isn't too bad, considering that pretty much every time you hop on the metro it is $2 if you don't change line operators (and there are plenty of different line operators in Tokyo, so it's pretty common to hit $4 on a one-way trip). I think in my short time there, I've ridden on the JR, Toei, Metro, TX and the TWR operated lines.

The most expensive bit of my transportation was actually going out and getting back into Narita. I pretty much took the most complicated and expensive ($25 each way), but fastest way to get to my destination, which is by the NEX Skyliner. From the central Tokyo area, it takes less than 45 minutes to get to Narita, which is pretty darn quick, but it does involve jumping around platforms and buying special tickets. Not recommended for people that have no clue about what they are doing. Recommended only for people on a tight schedule willing to squeeze out time with money.

A more relaxed alternative is a limousine bus which costs about the same, but requires close to zero effort on your part. You just buy your ticket, then wait at the bus stop, sit in comfy seats and finally alight at your destination. It is about the same price as the Skyliner, but the journey does take longer because it travels on the roads. The cheapest alternative is actually the regular Keisei line and then switching to the normal metro system ($13) but that requires some skill in navigating the train lines and of course, seating is not guaranteed. This takes about 2 hours. (I would probably do this option next time since I actually prefer not to rush, though I didn't really have a choice in the matter this time around)

I spent A LOT of time walking when I was in Tokyo. I walked a total of 130km over the course of 7 days, which works out to about 18.5km a day. Like I said, taking cabs are insanely expensive, buses are a complete mystery and the metro isn't that particularly cheap at all. In the end, I ended up walking a lot, especially if I could save a trip (less than 4 stations) or cut down on a rail operator transfer (walk to the nearest station on the transfer line instead). I strongly advise a pair of good walking shoes and proper socks. To the ladies, please don't wear heels.

Sightseeing / Activities

When I told people that I would be in Tokyo for 7 days, they all told me that it was way too long and I should travel out to the other cities and do my sightseeing. All these people were wrong because I was doing things in Tokyo every single day and I still have things that I didn't manage to see or do, don't even talk about eat!

One thing that I refused to do was to go up to the Tokyo Skytree. Although it is a pretty famous observatory (at least for tourists), I think that it is really expensive and crowded. Instead, I skipped that and went to 3 other observatories to get my fix of city views. 2 of them was totally free, while 1 of them included a nice museum exhibition about architecture (which would have been my major in university if I had decided to "follow my passion"). I was a bit worried that I couldn't fill up my days, but there are really plenty of things to do in this mega city!

Although I did travel to Tokyo alone, I managed to make friends with people there - other travellers and also expats living there. I had a fun time every single day and I was never bored. Tokyo was actually one of my more fun solo trips that I've taken! 

 Meiji Shrine

Takeshita Dori

 The view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Building

Memory Lane

 Mori Art Museum Exhibition

The view from the Tokyo City View Sky Deck

Tsujiki Market

Outside Tsujiki Market

Kabuki Theatre

Famous Ginza shot

Odaiba Gundam

Ueno Park Zoo

Akihabara Arcade

Akihabara Streets

Shibuya Crosswalk 1

Shibuya Crosswalk 2

Sensoji Temple

My secret (free) Tokyo observatory
 The night view

Pretending to be a Japanese salaryman at Shinagawa during the morning rush

Shinjuku Gyoen Park 1

Shinjuku Gyoen Park 2

Food and Drinks

Of course, what kind of shit Singaporean would I be if I didn't go over to other countries and raided their food supplies?

Okay, but here's the cold hard truth. As "authentic" as it is eating Japanese food in Japan, I can't say that it is significantly better in Japan. It's nice, no doubt, but queues were long and the food wasn't particularly cheap (except the curry!). There's plenty of good Japanese food options available in Singapore, and although their menus might contain some non-traditional stuff, the quality in Singapore is almost on par while the prices here also aren't that bad.

Where Japan shines in the food department comes to getting food that you CAN'T get in Singapore. Many people would hate to hear it, but the best meal that I had in Japan is Shake Shack, which is American hamburgers. In Japan. Yeah. Then again, considering the queue and the quality, I've now come to terms that Omakase in Singapore is a pretty good, slightly inferior quality Shake Shack-esque burger that is readily available for me if I need a burger fix. I also had more exotic things, such as horse meat shabu shabu and horse sashimi. I was going to go and eat a whole meal of fugu, but I decided to do it on my next trip to Japan instead (I was actually running out of money)! I also had to take a rain check on frog sashimi (yes, it's that same place you probably saw a gross youtube video about) because the restaurant was full and I tried to make a reservation too last minute.

I was constantly eating in Tokyo. Although I managed to skip all the CNY tidbit eating, I probably still ended up putting on weight from all the meals I had in Tokyo! Many of the below foods need no introduction, so here you go!



McDonald's Chocolate Fries?









Horse / Pork Shabu Shabu

Horse Sashimi


I actually have some other food photos too, but the uploading is being weird for me, so I'll try to upload it another time maybe.

My Bill

Airfare: $454.80
Accommodation: $348
Transport (Airport Transfer): 4,670 ¥ ($56.60)
Transport (Intra City): 5,800 ¥ ($70)
Food: 26,210 ¥ ($320)
Attractions, Entertainment, Drinks, Misc: 11,800 ¥ ($143)

Total: $1,392.40

Wow! I did a 7 day trip to Japan, had tons of fun, ate tons of food and I managed to keep my entire trip at around the price of a return SQ ticket, haha!

All in all, I'm glad that I finally made my 1st journey to Japan. It was really very eye opening to see this entirely new and unique culture first hand. I actually had never met a native Japanese person before until I went on this trip. I also spoke to some expats who are living in Japan and they also gave me an interesting perspective on Japanese culture. I will most definitely do an after-thought post regarding Japan and how I felt everything was on the ground.

I was a bit worried about a language barrier initially, but having knowledge in Mandarin helped since the Japanese Kanji script uses Chinese characters. Actually, to someone who doesn't know any better, if you showed them the map of the Japanese train network, they would think that they are somewhere in China until they read the smaller (and newer) train stations that have their names in Katagana or Hiragana. I do regret not learning more basic Japanese before I went because that would've enhanced my trip a lot, but before I make my next trip to Japan (probably not anytime too soon, maybe 2 years away?), I would definitely go for a basic Japanese class and at least get down the alphabet and also the basic phrases!

It was a really great trip that I had, and because I went over the long Chinese New Year holiday, it also felt like I had barely left to the people around me, so that's pretty good! Anyway, I'm probably not going to be taking any more major holidays for the rest of 2016 (maybe just 1 or 2 lazy beach getaways?). I will be planning my 2017 CNY getaway soon though, haha!