'Happy problem' for winner of ST's grand draw

As the final winner of The Straits Times lucky draw, Mr Phua and one lucky companion will be treated to a trip for two to any destination in the world.
As the final winner of The Straits Times lucky draw, Mr Phua and one lucky companion will be treated to a trip for two to any destination in the world.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Avid traveller elated with win, but torn between going to Iceland and New York

A flight to Iceland to see the Northern Lights, or a trip halfway around the world for a chance to stroll down Wall Street?

The decision is a difficult one for Mr Phua Yong Shian, 45, the final winner of The Straits Times lucky draw. An avid reader of The Straits Times since he was in secondary school, Mr Phua, a senior bank manager for a foreign bank, spotted an advertisement for the lucky draw in the paper and decided it was worth a try.

In the weeks that followed, he entered a passcode every day, hoping persistence would pay off. It did.

As the winner of the grand draw, he and one lucky companion will be treated to a trip for two to any destination in the world. The trip, which includes a 10-night hotel stay capped at $250 per night, is the last and top prize in a five-week giveaway targeting print readers.

Previous prizes included VIP tickets to Beerfest Asia and a four-month wine subscription by a three Michelin-starred sommelier.

Interest in the competition slowly built over the weeks, with a surge in entries in the week leading up to the grand draw. By the time Mr Phua's lucky passcode was drawn yesterday, the number of entries had reached 108,200.

For Mr Phua, winning the grand prize is an opportunity to strike one more destination off his bucket list.

"I enjoy travelling," he said. "I have been travelling regularly for seven to 10 years now."

His love of travel began in 1999, while he was working with a local bank. As an internal auditor, he went overseas often and, over time, developed a deep desire to see the world.

Fast forward 17 years and Mr Phua has visited over 20 countries, participating in a range of activities from the adventurous, such as white-water rafting, to the more conventional, like sightseeing.

His extensive list of holiday destinations includes exotic locations such as Thailand, Switzerland, Mongolia and Alaska.

Still, Iceland and New York have eluded him, and choosing between the two is proving difficult.

A trip to New York would provide Mr Phua with plenty of opportunity to go sightseeing - one of his favourite holiday activities. While the average tourist might be drawn to the city by the iconic Statue of Liberty, the main attraction for him is a certain street in Lower Manhattan.

"Because I work in the banking industry, it would be worthwhile to visit Wall Street," he said.

"I hope I also end up in transit in Tokyo on the way there," he laughed. "It would give me a chance to enjoy the food."

However, seeing the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, would be particularly special.

"When you go to Iceland, you won't necessarily see the Northern Lights," he explained. "You need clear skies and low light to see it."

Although elated with his win, Mr Phua was slightly disappointed to learn that the prize was non-transferable.

A generous man, he had hoped to send his retired parents on a trip to Switzerland.

"It would have been their first time in Europe," he said.

When asked who he plans to take instead, Mr Phua, who is single, let on that he hopes to take a female travelling companion whom he has known for the past 10 years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2016, with the headline ''Happy problem' for winner of ST's grand draw'. Print Edition | Subscribe