I spent 14 days at a quarantine facility in Singapore. Actually I’m still in the facility as I’m writing this. I still have about 1.5 hours before I’m released I check out. Here’s a brief recount of my experience, which was pretty good, all things considered.

Context

I’m a Singaporean. My family and relatives are all settled in Singapore, while I currently work in Tokyo. Every year I try to go back to celebrate Chinese New Year with them, and even though COVID-19 brought about travel complications, I still decided to return home this year as well.

Narita airport

I flew out of Tokyo through Narita airport. It was a bizarre, post-apocalyptic type of experience because the airport was bare. Whether it was check-in, walking to the terminal gates, security, or immigration, there was always more staff than customers. Oftentimes I was the only customer in sight. The lady at check-in told me that there’ll be 20 passengers scheduled for this flight, but it seemed more like ten passengers when I boarded. As another example, security screening at Narita was a non-affair. Typically, after my baggage comes through the scanner, I’d feel the sense of urgency to pack my things quickly and move on, because there’ll be other customers after me. On that day however, I just took my sweet ass time because there were zero people behind me.

COVID-19 testing (a.k.a. swab test, PCR test)

The procedures in Singapore change constantly, but in my case, folks from ICA (Singapore’s immigration authority) did a swab test on me twice. Once was on arrival at Singapore’s Changi airport, and once was on my 13th day in quarantine. The first swab test was uneventful. The lady dabbed my tongue with a cotton bud, and she also gently inserted a cotton bud into both my nostrils. It was painless, although I did tear a little as an automatic bodily response.

The second swab test however, was a different matter. I was a little surprised by how uncomfortable it was, mostly because my first experience was relatively pleasant. After inserting the cotton bud in my nostril, he left it there for 5 seconds, and then rotated it slowly for another 5 seconds. I know how long it took because as he was dealing out his punishment on me, he was counting out loud, “one thousand, two thousand, …”. I think he was trying to scrape the bottom of my skull, like my skull was a tasty Chinese claypot. Either that or he wanted to collect a sample of my brain matter. Whatever it was, it hurt, and I didn’t appreciate his zeal.

Work

I continued to work remotely from my hotel room during my quarantine. My room didn’t have a standing desk, unsurprisingly. But it did have a work desk of decent size. I brought with me a 17” portable USB-C monitor, my 13” MacBook Pro, and a laptop stand. To work from a standing position, I propped up my laptop stand with a cardboard box of mineral water that the hotel provided. I put the external monitor on an ironing board. Basically I could stand with my laptop screen at about eye-level, and the external monitor above my laptop screen. When I was tired of standing, I’d just move my laptop and the monitor down to the level of the work desk, with the monitor propped by a small trash can, so that I maintain the set-up of vertically stacked screens. #thuglife

Hotel stay - what was bad

I was allocated the Grand Hyatt as my quarantine facility. It’s a pretty nice hotel, so I’m pretty lucky. No, you don’t get to choose your quarantine facility, or Stay-home-notice (SHN) facilty, as they say in Singapore.

I had a few minor inconveniences in quarantine which were surprising considering I was in a 5-star hotel.

• They didn’t have the cables that I wanted. The hotel pamphlet mentioned that I could ask Guest Services for cables, and I asked for a USB-c-to-USB-c cable as an extra cable for charging my phone, and also a USB-c-to-HDMI cable so that I could watch Internet shows on the room TV via my MacBook Pro. They didn’t have either one.
• The food was often cold on arrival. The way meals work is that someone calls in the afternoon every day to ask for your orders for the three meals the next day. They’ll then place the meal at your doorstep.
• Sofa pillows kind of smelled. Coming from my 10 m2 apartment in Tokyo, just having a sofa was already pretty fantastic, but as I laid on the sofa I couldn’t help but notice that the pillows had a bit of the stench of sweat. My guess is that the hotel is more concerned with disinfecting the room than they are with the standard clean-up, so they didn’t bother cleaning or swapping out the pillows after the previous guest. I moved the pillows to the other end of the sofa to avoid the smell.

Hotel stay - the good

Like I mentioned at the start, all-in-all my experience was pretty fantastic. You have a large room to yourself. The surroundings are pretty quiet, so I can concentrate on whatever I’m doing. You have a large (king-sized?) bed. The bathroom alone was probably larger than my apartment in Tokyo. My room had a view from the back of the hotel. I could see the back alley and swimming pool, which isn’t a terrific view but it sure beats not seeing the outside world for 14 days.

The food was in general pretty good, aside from being room temperature. I had a bunch of local dishes like roti prata, nasi lemak, and fried rice. Most of the menu was steered towards a western audience though, which I’m guessing is because most of the guests tend to be westerners. It was alright to me. I got the chance to eat the Beyond Meat burger, which sort of tasted like real meat. I also had a vegetable strudel for the first time, which is when I learnt that a vegetable strudel is very different from a McDonald’s apple strudel.

Costs

The first swab test cost S$160, the second one cost S$125, and the hotel stay costs S$2000, inclusive of three meal a day but excludes laundry. Laundry is S$35 for 5 pieces of clothing which is exorbitant. I handwashed my clothes.

Wrap-up

I now have about 25 min left before my check-out time at 1 PM. I quite liked my quarantine. I’ll miss my hotel room.