By Hsiao Jia Ying (23A01C), Natalie Tan (23A01B), and Tay Yu Ning (23S06E)
When asked about how they spend their free time, the average RI student would probably respond with: “I play video games!”, “I listen to music!”, or even the very sad, “I’m behind on lectures so I have no free time”. But for Randall Neo (23A01E), his hobby is collecting vinyls. Every once in a while, he goes down to the vinyl store to flip through their vinyls, before picking out just one or two that he likes.
Randall is but one of several students in RI who have the uncommon hobby of collecting unconventional items.
From empty bubble tea cups to bus memorabilia and twentieth-century-pressed vinyls, these students’ hobbies have allowed them to discover a new side to themselves as well as connect with others having similar interests.
Randall Neo (23A01E): Collecting Vinyls
While technological advancement has led many of us to rely on apps like Spotify and Apple Music for our daily fix of music, for Randall Neo, it’s instead led him to realise the beauty of analog music.
As a national team swimmer who spends a large portion of his time training, Randall has always relied on music to fill the silence. “Music is very important to me,” he says. “When I’m swimming, it’s very monotonous just staring at a black line, so I engage myself by thinking of music.”
Hence, an unexpected offer from his mother to buy him a vinyl player towards the end of 2021 was enough to intrigue him into starting his own vinyl record collection with a used copy of the Dire Straits’ LP Making Movies.
Eight months later, his collection has now grown to include twenty-seven vinyls, with the oldest (Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii) having been pressed in the 1960s. Apart from the standard vinyl player, his set-up also includes an additional amplifier and speakers for even better audio projection and quality.
Given the wide range of vinyls and audio-equipment available, Randall admits that his biggest challenge has been learning to not over-buy. “When you’re at the store, you see so many nice albums, and then you’re like, wah I wanna get this too…and then you just can’t decide what to get.”
Having learnt from this, his advice for others would be to visit the record store with a vinyl already in mind, instead of only starting the search when there. “You should also listen to the album on Spotify before you buy it just to make sure you actually like the album,” Randall shares with a solemnity that tells of previously wasted money. “My rule of thumb is that if I don’t like 70% of the songs [on the vinyl], I won’t buy it.”
Still, despite such learning curves, vinyl-collecting has become an integral part of Randall’s life. In the evenings, he finds solace in the simple luxury of sitting down to listen to his vinyls, whether alone or with his father. To him, this is a “special moment” where he can listen to the songs in their original quality and glory, instead of their often more muddled digital versions available on Spotify.
Each of his vinyls are also of great sentimental value to him, though his favourites are the used, second-hand vinyls which often have the most “charisma”. For Randall, “each vinyl is unique and plays differently, especially the older ones,” which explains his preference for used vinyls over new vinyls.
As for the future, Randall hopes that he doesn’t “buy too many” vinyls, and wants to take it slow to avoid any possible burn-out. After all, “it’s a hobby you can have for basically your whole life, so pace yourself, don’t rush into it, and enjoy the music.”
Regina Ng (23S06H): Collecting Bubble Tea Cups
When most people finish their cup of bubble tea from Koi or LiHo, it often goes into the trash without a second thought. That’s not the case for Regina Ng, who started collecting empty bubble tea cups back in 2019.
“I saw a picture of someone who had a pyramid of bubble tea cups and I wanted to do that too,” she explains. “But I also wanted to be able to look back years later at a collection that I gathered and realise, ‘oh wow, I did this!’”
Regina usually tries the signature drinks from each bubble tea brand, then cleans the empty cups and stores them in a cupboard at home. She has accumulated cups from 46 different bubble tea brands, and “60 to 70-something?” different cups in total.
“It’s encouraged me to expand my taste,” she says. Trying this many drinks has also had the added effect of teaching her which brands use more milk and which use more tea, as well as the differences between the flavours of tea that different brands offer.
She considers her rarest “cup” to be a can from Artea (because no other brand serves their drinks in a can), while her favourite drink is the green tea with mousse from Chi Cha San Chen, or any drink with cheese foam from Sharetea.
Collecting these cups can add up to be a more expensive hobby than one would expect, considering that one large drink with multiple toppings can cost up to 8 dollars. “And I drink a lot of bubble tea, so…” she explains sheepishly.
From Regina’s perspective, collecting mundane objects like this isn’t a rare hobby at all. “It’s not that special!” she exclaims. “It’s just a cupboard full of bubble tea cups.”
Despite that, her proudest memory of this hobby is during one of the Orientation icebreakers this year that required OGLings to name as many of a certain item as they could. She reeled off more than 20 bubble tea brands off the top of her head.
“I realised it actually seemed kind of cool to other people,” she recalls.
Alas, her bubble tea adventures remain undocumented. She only thought about starting a blog to record the drinks she’d tried after two years of collecting. “By that point, it was too late to retry all of the drinks I had already tried just for the sake of a blog,” she says.
As for the future, Regina doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon. “I was going to stop when I had enough cups to build a whole pyramid like the original pic,” Regina admits. “But nowadays I don’t know if I even have an end point anymore — I’m committed to doing this already.”
There are also many brands she wants to try but hasn’t yet, chief among them being Jenjudan: “I’ve walked past their outlet 5 times, but all 5 times I passed by I happened to be so full that I couldn’t stomach any bubble tea,” she explains, laughing.
Yee Shao Hua (23S02A): Collecting Bus Photographs and Merchandise
Known to his friends as a “bus fanatic”, Yee Shao Hua (23S02A)’s hobby is the collection of bus photographs. He has been fascinated with buses since childhood and runs the bus-centred Instagram account @smb5888h.jpg.
Other than taking photographs of buses, Shao Hua also engages in other bus-related passions — he shared that when he was first starting out, he used to check the Bus Deployments page on SG Wiki to see which bus models are deployed to which services.
He also collects bus memorabilia such as hangers and bus service guides, which he keeps safely in a box to prevent them from getting lost. “My goal is to collect an item from every single service in Singapore!”, he said.
Although Shao Hua had been interested in buses since young, he actually only began taking photographs of buses in secondary school. “When I finally got my mobile phone, I realised it had a camera! I thought it would be a good opportunity to use the camera to take photos to document all the buses from different eras,” he said.
He later upgraded from his mobile phone to his current more professional Nikon D5600 Camera in Year 3, and joined Raffles Photographic Society (RPS) in Year 5 to improve his photography skills.
Shao Hua’s proudest experience as a bus photographer came in 2020. He managed to snap a photograph of an extremely rare Volvo B10TL Super Olympian — the only one in Singapore with a ComfortDelgro bodywork— serving the local Rafflesian bus route 410W, which it typically does not serve.
He shared: “This [specific bus] has never been to Bishan before, so that one time I spotted it on 410W, I went crazy!”
I was so excited that I even boarded the bus to take one round on 410W!Yee Shao Hua (23S02A)
Can Press Writers Take Bus Photographs?
In order to test how difficult it is to take photographs of buses, we followed Shao Hua onto the bridge adjacent to Raffles Girls’ School to see if our amateur photographs could be of a similar standard to his.
These were the end results:
As can be seen, the quality of the two Press writers’ photographs were compromised by cropping due to poor usage of camera zoom. The Press writers also took a long time to take the photographs, with many buses (sadly) travelling away before the writers could even click on the shutter button. On the other hand, Shao Hua’s photograph was textbook perfect.
However, the Press writers’ photographs were still of a decent standard. Shao Hua attributes this to the quality of his camera. He advises aspiring bus photographers: “If you want to do this in the long run, you definitely have to invest in a good camera.”
With how stressful and busy school life can sometimes be, it is certainly quite rare to see students pursue their interests to the extents that these three have gone to. These three students have shown that it is definitely possible to balance school commitments with personal interests.
Do you also have an interesting collection hobby? Feel free to comment below and share your passions with the rest of the school!