'I felt dirty, breathless'

SINGAPORE - As the PSI hit 290 at 9pm on Thursday, I took a walk to and from my office in Toa Payoh North to the nearest MRT station, Braddell, to see what it was like.

The last time the haze reached such levels was in 1997, when I was three years old, and I have no recollection of what it was like.

And it certainly did not prepare me for what I was about to face.

The first thing that hit me as I opened the glass door was what smelt like burning paper combined with exhaust fumes.

But soon, the smell was the least of my worries.

As I passed the turnstiles that led out onto the road, I found the back of my nose beginning to feel itchy and I could no longer stop myself from sneezing.

The walk to the station up the slope was a 1km route I took several times a day, every day.

This time, it seemed to take much longer than usual. The colleague who was walking with me was wearing contact lenses, and she complained that her eyes were watering. Usually, we would be chatting non-stop as we walked. But this time, the walk was largely silent, as I could not bear to speak. I was feeling breathless and trying to ignore the itch in my throat.

Face masks

Along the way, we passed by several groups of people, many of whom were covering their mouths and noses - some with tissue, some with surgical masks. We even saw some girls at a bus stop with cutely decorated face masks.

By the time we began walking back, I was beginning to feel like there was a layer of dust on my skin.

My face started feeling itchy and uncomfortable. I began to feel slightly light-headed and much more tired than I usually would taking the same walk, as I was taking deeper breaths.

The walk back and forth, which probably took slightly more than 10 minutes, left me feeling like I'd just run the distance - dirty, breathless and with a slight headache.

I don't think I've ever been so happy to return to the air-conditioned comfort of the office. On returning, I immediately wanted to wash the layer of dust off my face.

But even back in the comfort of my chair, the haze continued to haunt me, the disgusting smokey smell lingering on my skin and clothes.

Life-threatening, maybe not. Uncomfortable, definitely.

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