Sunday, July 04, 2010

My xbox360 still works!

Wow.. I plugged in my xbox360 and turned it on for the first time in probably 2 years... and it still works! I am very impressed! Have just finished updating the firmware and creating my new avatar. Not too impressed with the Live Arcade games. As usual, Asia website has the least stuff. Yawn. At least for Playstation Network, it's easy for me to log on to other regions and buy games/download demos. Wonder if I will it be another 2 years before I play my xbox360 again. LOL.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Singapore River Heritage Cruise

I was invited to go for a Heritage Cruise on the Singapore River tonight. I've done the river cruise before but decided to see what this Heritage Cruise was all about.

Basically, they had a pair of actors bringing us on a journey along the Singapore River. I must admit that it was quite enjoyable. The two of them were quite funny. However, I did start to lose a little interest 30mins into the 'act'.

It was also a good chance for me to try out the twilight handheld mode on my Sony Nex. Generally, must say I quite like the modes available on the camera though on closer inspection, the pictures do appear quite noisy. I guess it's like they said, the Sony Nex is really a camera in between a compact and a dslr. And for now, that suits me really nicely. I do like the night shots and the thing is, they were taken without a tripod. :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Really nice video with the AT-AT like a puppy! Wonder how he did the animation....

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Marina Bay Sands Sky Park

Not sure what attracted me to the Marina Bay Sands Sky Park but when I heard that the official opening was 24 June, I somehow decided almost immediately to buy tickets for the opening... I didn't even do that when the Singapore Flyer opened. haha..

Well, I think a large part of the reason was that I wanted to try out my new Sony Nex. So below are some shots. I really enjoyed the sweep panaroma! It's so convenient that it's hard to imagine how I could live without having it in my older cameras! I know photography purists would probably be appalled that I'm using it so much, but I don't really care.... I think as long as it works well.. why not!?

The Skypark was nice, but there was one major disappointment. From the news reports, it almost appeared as if you would be able to explore the whole rooftop and look over the horizon swimming pool. But the reality was all we were allowed to explore was the rounded area sticking out (as seen from the first pic below). We were not allowed to go anywhere beyond that. Lame.

However, I'm glad to say the view was really quite worth it. A pity it was a little cloudy/hazy. But I think I managed to get some nice test shots using the sweep panorama. One criticism is that the pictures appear a little dark. Wonder if I am able to adjust the aperture setting so that the pics can be brighter when I do the panorama... hmm..
Bottom view of the Sky Park Observation Deck

Panorama of CBD (edited for brightness)

View of the floating platform and the really cool lotus shaped roof of the coming museum

The Singapore Flyer on the left with th Marina Barrage.

View of Singapore Flyer and East Coast (unedited)

View of Singapore Flyer and East Coast (after autocorrect)

Inside the Marina Bay Sands mall

Monday, June 21, 2010

More Pics with my Nex 5

Went on another photo-taking spree to try and exhaust the battery. In the end, the battery charge lasted me about 360 shots. I'm having lots of fun with the Sweep Panaroma mode and the Handheld Twilight mode. So far so good! Not regretting my purchase. :)

Sweep Panaroma

Black & White Mode (1.6sec exposure)

Twilight Handheld Mode

Normal Auto Mode

Sunset Mode

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My New Camera - The Sony NEX 5

My Canon 1000D DSLR has been laid to rest. I tried sending it in for repairs but was told it would cost almost $390 to get it repaired as the internal parts were corroded. :( Since a brand new 1000D costs less than $800, I decided it really wasn't worth repairing it.

After a few days of consideration, I finally decided to get myself the new Sony NEX-5, a micro four-thirds camera... basically, a compact camera with interchangeable lenses and apparently, it uses the Sony DSLR CCD, so it's literally a DSLR in a compact camera body.

So today, I decided to go around trying out my camera. Started off first at the Sim Lim Square area then ended up walking around Chinatown. I really like the close-ups and the twilight mode is quite nice (See the playground pics below). Also tried the sweep panaroma but didn't manage to get any nice pics worth putting up here.

So what do you think of the pics below?


twilight mode

playing with the sunset scene mode

Long-Distance Cycling (approx 58km in 4hrs)

Yesterday was the last Saturday which I would be free before the term starts as next Saturday will pretty much be spent preparing for the start of the new term. So, I decided to try cycling all the way to the East Coast and back. Actually, my original intention was to hit East Coast and then turn back, which is approx about 30km. However, as things turned out, I ended up cycling close to 60km in about 4 hours.

Below is a map of the route I took.

When I reached East Coast, I just decided to cycle towards the airport to see if I could actually reach it. If you look at the map, on the right side, there is this long straight stretch. Well, basically, when I reached that stretch, it turned out to be a point of no return.. haha.. I couldn't turn back (coz it was a really long retracing of my route) and so I had to go forward towards Changi Village. So I ended up cycling past Bedok, Tampines then back to Bishan. It was quite an adventure really, cycling on both the Park Connectors as well as the main roads. One discovery I made was that the area between East Coast and Changi Village is pretty rustic and quiet. It's quite a difference from the busy-ness and crowds at the East Coast.

Also realised the new Bedok Jetty is quite nicely done up (yes, it's been a long time since I visited Bedok Jetty...)

picture at Bedok Jetty

At the end, my thighs were aching and I could barely walk. lol.. quite an experience, cycling for more than 4hrs.

It was quite fun so now, I'm making plans to cycle to the other corners of Singapore. Probably gonna try cycling to Sembawang next. :) Must make full use of my bike, no?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Truth about Taiwan (Taichung only actually...)

Ok, enough hating.

It's been about a week since I've returned from my visit to Taichung, Taiwan. It was really a whirlwind visit and I think my main regret is that we weren't able to get better flights so that our trip could be a couple days more.

This was my first visit to Taiwan and I spent all of it in Taichung, never stepping into Taipei other than arriving and departing from the airport. Don't think it's a huge loss coz I can alway do Taipei any time on my own, but going on an exchange visit to Taichung is another experience altogether.

What they say is true. Taiwan is really famous for her 'small eats' or 小吃. From my previous blog posts, you can see the interesting variety of local snacks. I really wonder how the taiwanese can keep slim and fit, given their easy access to such yummy stuff. But, for me, although the snacks were really delicious, I think that Singapore definitely has better variety when it comes to snacks from different races. One of the nice benefits of being a multi-cultural place. Taiwan however has the huge advantage of still having lots of character. When it comes to food, there's always a famous shop to go to or a 老招牌to visit. In Singapore, all our food starts looking the same and there are branches of popular foods everywhere so everything feels really mass-
produced. For example, Old Chang Kee used to be a 老招牌 in Singapore. If memory serves me right, it was always a treat to travel all the way to Rex theatre with my parents to grab an Old Chang Kee Curry Puff. Nowadays, Old Chang Kee is at every corner and mall basement and they probably manufacture the curry puffs in some mega food factory. Talk about a loss of character.

The Taiwanese are a very interesting people. To me, they are somewhere in between the mainland Chinese and the Japanese. Two examples come to mind. When we landed, I went to 7-11 and was elated to find that they served Oden, just like in Japan! And at half the price! Unless I'm very wrong, Oden is a pretty Japanese thing. The other surprise came when I was at a mall until closing time. All the sales staff stood at the escalators and thanked (in unison) everyone who walked past them on the way out of the mall
. Again, this was really reminiscent of what I've seen in Japan.

As far as tourist sights are concerned, I really didn't get to see much. Other than shopping and visiting Lu Kang (kinda like a conserved old street market), I didn't go to any other tourist spots so I guess I can't say much about this. I'll leave
that for my next trip to Taipei. However, I did manage an overnight visit to the mountains to stay at a chalet run by the indigenous people. It was a nice experience, complete with a campfire and traditional dance. Also got a chance to pound sticky rice in to make traditional mua chee! nice!

I definitely don't think this will be last trip to Taiwan. With this taster, I am sure I will be back again, probably soonish.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

More Reasons Why I HATE Taiwan - Lukang

After the morning cycling, my host brought us to Lu Kang, kinda like a historic district near his house. It was really quite interesting walking through the streets. The shops were really trying to bring back the old toys/activities of old.

And well, I've discovered more reasons to hate Taiwan. I tried many other weird and interesting food today. Sigh. No cycling tomorrow. Really curious to see how many million pounds are gonna be added when I go home.

Anywhere, here are the pics...

Lu Kang Street
Old games - pinball of sorts. Basically, if you win anything, you are supposed to ring the gong to let the owner of the shop know so that he/she can give you the prize. :S

Here's another old favourite, throwing rings at objects. I know we have it in pasar malams in Singapore. But the difference is... look at the details! Look at the way everything is arranged so neatly!

Old lamps in one of the old temples (Ah Ma Temple)

They call this 'Zhuang Yuan Gao' or Scholar Cakes Dunno why, but they taste really good!
This I didn't dare try... little snails/shellfish.... eeewww.....

Another old favourite! Tikam Tikam! Not sure how many of you remember this, you simply pay.. choose a paper... open it up and see if you've won anything! lol.

More food streets...
Some sweet bean/yam buns... hated (really heated) the filling.. tasted like Stinky Toufu...

This is what Taichung is supposed to be famous for... Oyster Omelettes. The texture is quite nice, less chewy than Singapore's version. But they were really generous with the oysters.

These interesting buns were actually made out of strips of yam with some meat fillings inside.
And here I am enjoying the yam bum thingy...

Really liked the canopy of lanterns leading to the temple. Very reminiscent of the old Chinese Ghost Story movies.

I didn't dare try these. Essentially, deep fried shrimps. I think they call them 'prawn monkeys'...

One of the yummier biscuits... Cow's Tongue Biscuit. Not real cow's tongues of course. Just the shape I guess.

I also didn't dare eat these. Goose eggs. HUGE!

And last (though wasn't really the last snack for the day, more like the last snack at Lu Kang) but not least, here's the milk ice cream with coffee flavoured chocolates and other stuff.

Sigh. I'm so dead.

Cycling in the Countryside to the Beach

My Taiwan host stays on a farm that's not very far from the beach. So this morning, while he was away on an appointment, he got his younger brother to bring us cycling. Before that, he decided to let us try riding his scooter. According to him, every taiwanese knows how to ride a scooter from a very young age so it shouldn't be difficult for us to learn... he couldn't be more wrong. lol.

So, after a few near death moments... (joking...) we decided to go cycling instead. It was really enjoyable cycling through the farmlands towards the beach. The terrain was flat and there were very few cars. I was riding an old mountain bike. How I wish I had my Gary Fisher with me.

Saw some duck farms. The duck pools were always paired with a pool breeding shellfish (like mollusks). Reason being, the dirty shitty water produced by the ducks', uh, shit... made excellent food for the mollusks which ultimately made excellent dishes for us humans. Yucks.

It's the season for watermelons and there were a few fields still waiting to be harvested. Learnt about distinguishing between red-meat watermelons and yellow-meat ones from my host's brother (the former having a lighter skin, like the one in the pic, and the latter being usually darker skinned with the typical watermelon stripes.

The experience of cycling along the breakwater and paths at the beach was even more memorable! Here's the concrete path constructed by the fishery owners so they can drive out to inspect the pools and of course, harvest them when ready. This breakwater extended easily more than 100m from the shore!

I don't think I'll ever have the experience of cycling 'on water' again. It was quite exciting. Some spots were covered with sand, making it really hard to cross and some spots which were still concrete had a layer of moss on it, making it very slippery. All said, it was still a very memorable experience.

Here's a small fisherman's hut Standing near the end of the concrete track.
I couldn't resist a pic at the top of the ladder.

My colleague and our host's brother, digging for tiny crabs in the sand.

We were seriously thinking about cycling all the way to the wind powered generators you should be able to see in the middle of the pic. Unfortunately, we only realised later that there was no path leading there. From our conrete path, it was just sand rocks. So we had to give up on our idea.

On the way back, my biked slipped at one of sections of the concrete path which was under some water. While I only had some minor bruises and scratched, my dear camera died. What you see above is the smashed-up UV filter. Unfortunately, my main camera is also dead for now.. can't see to get it to power up. Looks like it might be time to get a new DSLR.... Heh.