#MCODiaries: Model Janice Low’s dramatic trip back from Singapore, and her hotel quarantine life
A day in the life
We’re sure you’ve read stories on life in hotel quarantine across the globe—some of the countries that have enforced this new rule for all arrivals include Taiwan, Australia, Singapore, India, and South Africa, and as you all know, Malaysia is also one of them too. Local model Janice Low—who was recently featured in our Chanel Coco Crush campaign—was one of the “travellers” who returned from abroad (Singapore, to be exact) and was forced to undergo the mandatory isolation in a hotel for 14 days.
Below, she gives us an insight into her trip back to JB from Singapore—by foot, FYI—and a day in her life under quarantine:
Why were you in Singapore, and what made you decide to come back?
I was in Singapore for a few modelling jobs, but since COVID-19 has affected all the plans, choosing to stay means that I have to pay for my living expenses without any income. I decided to stay put for a bit as I was planning to apply for a China visa to fly to Shenzhen in May—we’ve been told that the coronavirus situation there has stabilised and it’s safe for me to travel and work there.
But right after I got the documents I needed from the Shenzhen agency, the Chinese Visa Application Service Center in Singapore announced its temporary closure until further notice, so my only reason to remain in Singapore is no longer valid. Since we all don't know when will this end, I figured it’s best if I go home. I miss my family and I want to be with them during this difficult time.
Why did you end up walking across the SG-JB bridge? What was the experience like?
I drove down from KL previously and my car was parked at my friend’s house in JB, so I have to use the same way back. But there’s no other way for me to cross the border as all the flight and bus services were suspended. As for the ride-hailing services, they could only drive us to the Woodlands checkpoint. So I’m left with no choice but to walk across the Johor-Singapore Causeway!
I had to go to a clinic for a basic medical checkup to get a fit-to-travel letter before I rushed home to pack and make my way to the checkpoint. It was a very odd experience as for the first time ever, the customs—which are always packed—were totally empty. After I’ve cleared immigration, my 40 minutes of walking across the bridge starts. I had a 30kg luggage, a heavy backpack, and a huge tote for my shoes, so while the distance was manageable, the load that I was carrying made the journey super tough. On top of that, there were many flights of stairs I had to conquer too!
I was lucky to meet a couple who offered help along the way, and I’m super grateful for that. By the time I arrived at the JB customs, the sun has set, my sweat has soaked through my clothes, and I had a broken luggage wheel.
What happened after?
After I’ve reached JB and cleared customs, a bus brought us (only 15 passengers were allowed in one bus) to a public school, where we had to wait before getting transported to our final destination. It was agonising—I waited from 8pm to 1am before they finally called my name, and not knowing when and where I’ll be going the whole time made me feel extremely anxious.
At 1.30am, I finally boarded the bus to Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour, where I’ll be staying for the next 14 days. After the authorities briefed us on the rules and regulations we have to adhere to throughout our stay, we registered ourselves and went to our respective rooms. I immediately took a shower and ended up having my “dinner”—a lunch box that I made before leaving Singapore—at 3am before I went to bed.
Janice Low's #MCODiaries
My window faces the east and I get a view of the harbour, which means I get the chance to catch the sunrise every morning. It’s honestly one of the best moments during this two-week stay—waking up slowly and enjoying the beautiful golden hour. I’ll have my daily vitamin drink while reading an e-book on my iPad at this time.
I stretch every morning, and I made it a point to do so while I’m here too. Along with a friend (whom I may or may not have coerced to join), we’ll look for a video we like on Youtube and workout together via Zoom. After that, I’ll get into my morning skincare routine before having my breakfast.
I’ve been enjoying my stay here as this is the only time I don’t have time to think about what to have for breakfast. It may not be the best diet for a model to stay healthy and fit (case in point: nasi lemak), but I’m never one to waste food, especially when some people are struggling to put food on the table. I usually read and listen to music while I eat, and I’m currently obsessed with the WeChat eBook app that allows me to read and jot down notes at the same time.
The thing I've been dreading the most is happening. We’re informed (by the radio in our rooms) that we have to do a swab test.
They knocked on my door and told us to get dressed before we head down to the hotel lobby in a queue. Along the way, I saw the medical frontliners in full protective gear, and caught a glimpse of those who took off their masks to catch a breather. Working under the 35-degree Celsius heat is not easy, and the only thing I could do is to be cooperative and to thank them after.
When it was my turn, the nurse asked me to breathe while poking a swab (that looks like an extra-long cotton bud) into both of my nostrils, before pushing it to the back of my throat. It’s super uncomfortable and it made me tear up, but thankfully the whole process was quick.
Home sweet home Room sweet room! Time to hop in the shower and sanitise everything that I’ve touched.
We usually have dishes with rice, fruits, and the occasional dessert for lunch, and today, it’s curry chicken and two vegetable dishes with rice, and kuih for dessert. I like eating alone, but today, I video-called my cousin to catch up.
I’ve been receiving a lot of questions about my hotel quarantine life on Instagram, so I’ve been spending my time replying to all the messages and posting regularly to keep my followers updated.
After my lunch, I usually make myself a cup of tea and watch something on Netflix.
Taking a 30-minute power nap before my daily workout.
Today is butt-and-thigh day! I exercise six days a week (except Sunday), and after meeting my workout buddies via video-call, we’ll follow the routine from videos we’ve selected for the day before ending the 45-minute session with a simple stretch. After cooling down, I’ll hop into a hot shower.
Dinner time! I understand that single-use plastic containers have to be used to avoid contamination, and I’ve been told that they’re not allowed to recycle our waste because we are not cleared of the virus yet. So I’ve been collecting and keeping all of them in my room (after washing and drying them, of course), and once I’m tested negative at the end of my stay, I will let the hotel staff know to recycle everything.
To reduce waste, I've also been making a conscious effort to always bring my own cutlery wherever I go—I believe that using your favourite cutlery will also give you a better eating experience.
Before I go to bed, I usually listen to some music or watch the news to get updated with the latest MCO regulations. I’ve also been watching a lot of cartoons to uplift my mood.
How do you feel about this experience, now that it has ended?
I feel great and blessed because I was treated really well during these 14 days, and I managed to use this time to just focus on myself—enrich myself by reflecting, reading, and learning. But I’m also happy that this is finally over.
What are your thoughts on how the government has been handling the quarantine situation?
I think that they're doing their best in making sure that we are safe, and have a comfortable and clean environment to stay for 14 days. There are imperfections, for sure, but it’s not easy when they have to manage so many people, which is why I feel that we need to be more patient and understanding during this time.
For more #MCODiaries, click here.