New Zealand imposes mandatory 14-day quarantine on all international passengers

When I read that headline, I was relieved.

Let me tell you why.

Back in December sometime during Christmas, there was talk with my travel buddies to plan for another road trip. They wanted to go somewhere, anywhere, for a road trip during the first half of 2020. I tentatively agreed to the idea at first despite an anticipated busy work schedule in the first 4 months of 2020, especially April. I suggested May, but it was a little too late for some of them. We then agreed on end of March, since I had a small window of opportunity to go for a road trip, before a flurry of activity awaited in the office upon coming back from the holiday leading to the month of April.

We were discussing where to go and I suggested New Zealand, which none of them had gone to, except me. I was not overly enthusiastic about going there again, but I didn’t mind at all, since New Zealand is such a beautiful country and enjoying the sights and nature will definitely do me more good than harm by getting away from work and allows me de-stress a little before April arrives.

At that point in December, nothing was set in stone yet as we couldn’t nail down the exact dates where all of us could take time off to embark on a road trip to New Zealand. We then agreed to confirm and meet again to plan our itinerary sometime right after Chinese New Year, toward the end of January.

At that point in time, news of the Coronavirus hadn’t caught on yet (despite the fact that the earliest infections recorded could have been as early as November 2019, but no one new that it was a novel Coronavirus). It was the week leading up to Chinese New Year, when multiple news agencies picked up various reports coming from China that a mysterious new virus has been seen spreading in Hubei province. The news caught on like wildfire, with the situation in China rapidly changing on a daily basis.

I remember at that time, China moved swiftly to impose travel restrictions around the country and began imposing total lockdown in various parts of Hubei province. The authorities in China were serious. They knew something serious and bad was happening in Wuhan. The situation wasn’t any better when it took place during the Chinese New Year period, where the movement of people is at its maximum throughout China. Soon, Singapore and the surrounding region in close proximity to China received confirmation that the virus has arrived in the countries from people arriving from China.

When that happened I had the gut feeling that this was going to get worse. It was a new, unknown virus. We don’t know how easily it can spread, its mortality rate and the symptoms one can get when one is infected. A lot of unknowns were hung up in the air, as thousands get infected every day in China. I had to be the party pooper and told my friends that I no longer felt safe to travel during this period because of the developments in China. I told them to wait and see and put our trip on hold.

Fast forward roughly two months from the moment I backed out from the planned trip, and we are now seeing over 160 000 infections all around the world. Europe is the new epicentre in the virus spread and part of the second wave of infections after China successfully managed to contain the spread from within their borders. Now the number of infected worldwide is increasing again at an exponential rate. Countries all over the world are imposing travel restrictions against one another and Singapore and New Zealand are no exception. Despite the fact that Singapore has largely been successful in containing the outbreak and minimising local transmissions and that New Zealand has only detect 8 people with the virus, given that the disease is now a pandemic, it is natural that New Zealand needs to protect itself from import cases coming from places like China, South Korea, the EU and the USA. So they impose mandatory quarantine on all international travellers.

Looking back, I was right in following my gut feeling in not moving ahead with the itinerary planning and all the flight and hotel bookings bookings, as the trip would have been impossible given the travel restriction New Zealand has just imposed today on all international travellers. I feel relieved that I did not have to go through high levels of anxiety regarding my upcoming trip to New Zealand, if all our accommodations and flight arrangements been made back in January.

Ordered my second Ethnotek bag!

I received an email from Ethnotek advertising for last minute holiday gift shopping. As I read it, they were promoting 40% off the price of certain bags and items sold from the online store. And lo and behold, I saw one of the most beautiful Thread designs from Ethnotek bags.

I bought my first bag from Ethnotek while I was in Korea for a vacation. Thinking that I needed a new bag to switch from time to time from my current Herschel ‘Parker’ backpack, I came across Ethnotek. I have never heard of that brand before. But the design from Guatemala was striking. I also learned (from the description of the tags) that the designs directly sourced from local communities around the world. They would buy the designs and incorporate it into their bags. In return, they would ensure that they are local people who labored in manufacturing these pieces of intricately woven fabric for Ethnotek are paid fairly, and that their lives are tangibly improved through this direct buying and selling scheme. The rainbow hued thread design that covered most of the front portion of the bag I bought was created in exquisite detail. Every band of differing colors were meticulously sewn and threaded together. There were practically no stray threads that bleeds to the other colored bands. I told myself that is one quality product.

Ethnotek Setia bag.
Ethnotek Setia bag.

The price was quite steep for me, especially for a medium sized bag. Costing just over SGD 200, I was quite hesitant in purchasing it at first. But I was in Korea. I was on holiday. And on holidays you tend to spend, liberally. So I took a gamble and bought it, never using it till I went back home after the holidays were over.

I never regretted that decision. One of the best bags I have ever used. For daily usage, this is perfect. The size is just enough to put everything you need to get through the day. Laptop, notebook, chargers, cables, cardigans, umbrella, water bottle, books. This bag does it all. And it looks better when you pack more things in it. As it fills up the space in the bag, the bag takes on a rectangular shape and there is where you can truly showcase the design of the bag.

After using it for close to three months now, I have yet to find any discernible wear and tear due to daily usage. This bag is built to last. I used this bag for my New Zealand trip, which was shortly after my holiday in Korea. I used it to pack a thick jacket, an extra cardigan, water bottles, and carried where ever I go, even hiking, rain or shine. This bag is hardy. The best part; it comes with its own poncho. So I don’t have to worry about inclement weather ruining the stuff in the bag or the beautiful handcrafted design. Ethnotek, I am sold.

Which is why, when I saw this last chance offer, I pounced on the opportunity to get another one. I was not intending to get one that soon as a matter of fact. But as I was browsing, I saw another exquisite design, one that came from Ghana. Blue, white and brown, in striking linear patterns that overlaps one another, as if the patterns were almost three dimensional. I was smitten. Within 10 minutes I was on the paypal page, making my purchase.

Wayu Bag
Ethnotek Wayu Bag

This is a simpler bag, one which is designed with a more general purpose use in mind. Unlike the Setia model, which featured a drawstring, the Wayu bag sports a more traditional all-around zip around the circumference of the bag for general access to your things. I am not too sure about the exact size and volume of this bag, since it wasn’t clearly mentioned, and its hard to measure it with a ruler even the dimensions were revealed. I assumed this to be a medium sized bag, similar to the Setia, if not a little bit bigger, based on the pictures I have seen of people carrying it on their back. This bag has additional pockets in the main compartment, in addition to the default, padded compartment for laptops. Unlike the Setia model, which acts more like a haversack, the Wayu on the other hand allows greater flexibility in using those additional pockets at your own discretion, depending on what you carry.

I cannot wait for this bag. It is, personally to me, stunning. I wouldn’t mind making the effort in switching back and forth between the Setia and the Wayu bags, while retiring my Herschel “Parker” bag for good.

Am I going to South Korea?

Looks like it! My friends just asked me if you would like to go to Korea for a short one week vacation sometime in October. Of course I’d say yes, so long as it’s within budget. And anyways, I am going to New Zealand for another vacation with my parents in November. And it’s gonna be 14 days. considering that I have 4 days of leave left, it would be just nice to apply them all for my Korea and New Zealand trip! Two overseas trip in one! Happy!