Sunday, August 12, 2018

NDP National Day 2018 Big Yawn & Other Fun Stuff

A funny moment caught on National TV.  See the video below.



Of course, who can forget the heartwarming moment.


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Goals! Home United Football Club beats Ceres Negros (Philippines) to win AFC ASEAN Championship!

Goal!  Home United Football Club (HUFC), a Singapore S-League Team beats Ceres Negros 2-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium to be crowned the AFC ASEAN Champions! This was the 2nd leg of the Finals, with the 1st leg held in the Philippines a week ago, where the teams drew 1-1.

Playing with an away goal advantage, and also on the eve of Singapore's 53rd National Day, the Home United Football Team knew that they had every reason to go for a win.  In fact, last year, they lost to the same team in the Finals, so it was also time for revenge!

Here is a video of the 2 teams doing their warmups, before kick-off, which was 7:30pm.


The first half was a bit dicey for Home United, as Ceres Negro looked to be the more confident side, creating multiple chances.  Thankfully for Home United, they couldn't convert.   Second half was far more exciting, with Home United going all out to get the first goal.  After some chances, but still no goals, the 3,000+ strong crowd was chanting "we want goal, we want goal" and we finally got it!

HUFC Shakir Hamzah scored with a beautiful header in the 62nd minute.  The ball was floated in perfectly from a corner kick.  A delight to watch and the entire stadium erupted.

The second goal came just 12 minutes later, again a header, this time by Song Ui-Young in the 72nd minute.  With 2 goals up and 18 minutes to go, the game looked to be settled, though Ceres Negros did have a couple of decent chances.

The match was over and Home United celebrate as AFC ASEAN champions!  The entire stadium broke out in singing National Day Song 'HOME'.  Brilliant.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

New Sony RX 100 VI (Mark 6) Videos and Pictures

Bought a brand new Sony RX 100 VI.  This compact camera is a very well known camera, for its quality and compactness.  I owned a Sony RX 100 II and used it for many years.  But in recent times, I used other cameras, until the RX 100 VI came out and I decided to jump back in!

I will put some of the videos and photos I have taken on this blog page, to give readers a sense of the capability of this camera.  Bear in mind, it is after all a compact camera (albeit an expensive one), so you can't expect it to perform wonders.  But I like it precisely because it is compact.

This video, taken in the Buona Vista area, shows you the zoom capability.  The RX 100 VI comes with 70mm to 200mm zoom, which is about 8.3X optical zoom.


NO ZOOM, 70mm
Here are some photos to show you the extent of the zoom.

FULL ZOOM
Zoom fully deployed at 200mm.  Pretty cool isn't it?

NO ZOOM
Another test of the zoom.  NTU club in the distance
 '
FULL ZOOM
Zoom fully deployed 200mm.  You can clearly see the NTU Alumni Club signage.

Ghim Moh Market Zoom Zoom
National Day was around the corner, check out the any Singapore flags!

Singapore Flyer and Marina Mandarin.
Here are more videos of the zoom capability.


SONY RX 100 VI in low light.


Unboxing the Sony RX 100 VI


Thanks for watching!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Durian and more Durian! Let us FEAST on the King of Fruit

Let us feast on the King of Fruit! Durian season is here again. In 2018, there is a bumper crop from Malaysia.  Plentiful durian supply, and hence the price has come down.  At this store in Clementi Town Centre, the Mao Shan Wang durians were selling for $12/kg.

Here are 2 videos taken on consecutive weekends.  Business was brisk.  There were many onlookers too. Watch the guys expertly opening the durian.  Onlookers were salivating.


Another video of the same store in Clementi.


Do I eat durians?  Well, yes, but I don't buy them.  I just eat them when my fellowship group decides to do a durian party.


Yet another Durian party, this time from 2015. How time flies, we have durian parties every year! (Since durian season comes every year.)


Enjoy!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Day 4 - Transfer to Shanghai Marriott City Center, and the Bund!

Day 0 - Depart Singapore to Hangzhou (Scoot Airlines), Arr. Hangzhou 2135hrs
Day 1 - Hangzhou, got a driver, tour the city, including West Lake and Ling Yin Temple
Day 2 - Depart from Hangzhou to Wu Zhen (water town), and then transfer to Shanghai Courtyard Marriot near Disneyland
Day 3 - Shanghai Disneyland! (One full day)
Day 4 - Transfer to Shanghai Marriott City Center, the Bund and Hai Di Lao Dinner!
Day 5 - Private day tour to SuZhou
Day 6 - Shanghai Free & Easy
Day 7 - Home sweet Home - Shanghai to Singapore on Singapore Airlines (Business Class)

Day 4 of our 2018 China trip. After a fun day at Disneyland, and a good stay at the Shanghai Courtyard International Tourism and Resorts Zone, it was time to head to central Shanghai for the last segment of our holiday.

We hailed a taxi using the Didi app, to take us from Courtyard Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone to Marriott Shanghai City Center.  The distance was about 30km and it took us about 45 minutes to get there.  Fortunately, the highways were quite clear, though there was minor congestion closer to the City center.

Multiple Mobile Phone Array
A highlight of the journey was the taxi driver's array of mobile phones.  He had 4 facing him, plus an additional phone in this pocket!  He told me that in the past, he had 8.  Why so many?  To access all the various ride hailing apps, to snatch for business as fast as he could.   He also told me that the Apple iOS phones were a tad faster than the Android ones.  His apple phones got the notification about 1 second earlier than Andriod phones, so he used old Apple phones to snatch business.  Fascinating. In the video below, you will hear me trying to converse with the driver in my poor Mandarin.  At least he understood most of what I said, and could tell us long stories about Shanghai.

The video also shows you some of the scenes from our ride into Shanghai City Center.


Here is a picture of the driver looking at one of his phones.  This being China, the taxi drivers won't speak English.  You need know some Mandarin to be able to communicate with them.  We went by the metered fare, and the total fare came up to around 150RMB, or 23USD for a 30km ride.  Already, taxi fares in Shanghai are considered the most expensive in all of China.  For those of us who are used to taxi fares in Western countries, such a fare is still very reasonable for the distance travelled.

Shanghai Marriott Hotel City Center
We chose this hotel because of its location, near Nanjing Road.  Also, the reviews were excellent.  While not exactly the cheapest, the hotel offered a Family Suite, and we could add an additional pull-away bed so that all of us had proper bedding.   And we certainly had no regrets!  The Family Suite was awesome, as shown in the video below.  The suite had a separate living and bedroom area.  The living area could take 2 super singles, and still have room to walk around.


More pictures below of the lobby area.  It was a grand lobby.  It was also a bustling lobby.  Very busy at times, especially during the peak check-in hours.

They had 5-6 general counters opened. The line could get long, but things moved along fine.  Efficient service.

Internal water feature, next to the bar area, which served drinks and food.  Welcome to Marriott Shanghai City Center!

Walk to Huang He Road 黄河路 for Lunch
After putting our bags and washing up, we decided to take a short walk to Huang He Lu (黄河路), literal translation is Yellow River Road.  It was about a 5 minutes walk (500M) and there was plenty of local food on this street.  We headed to a famous chain called Yang’s Dumplings 小杨生煎
(http://www.xysjg.com/), as we had read a lot of about it.


Pan-fried pork buns (生煎包)
The patrons were largely local.  Most were eating the Pan-fried pork buns (生煎包) Tasty, moist pork wrapped with half-soft, half-crispy dough, Shanghai pan-fried pork buns, traditionally served as breakfast, make a great party food.

Some food pictures.

57 RMB for Our Lunch (4 pax)
Here was the bill.  The total was 57RMB (or 9 USD) for 2 servings of Pan-fried pork buns (生煎包), 2 bowls of soup noodles, one bowl of soup and one Pepsi Cola.  That's quite a lot of food for under USD 10.  Each serving of 生煎包 came with 4 pieces and only cost 8RMB.

Dessert at McDonald's
It was a good lunch.  After that, we took a walk back to the hotel, and beside the hotel there was a McDonald's!  Time for some dessert.  We had two Sundaes which came with Fried Dough Sticks, a layered cake, and some coffee.  The fried dough sticks looked like Churros.  Well, maybe they were!  Certainly they were fried, and made of dough.  Dip it into the ice-cream, and the dessert became very filling! 


Nanjing Road Shanghai 南京路
It was time to do some walking!  It turned out that Nanjing Road was just a stone's throw away, 3 minute walk max.  Wow.  This shows you how centrally located this hotel was.  We would try to walk all the way to the Bund.   It was a very pleasant walk, and the street wasn't very crowded during this time of the day.  Very nice.


Shanghai Bund
It didn't take us very long to get to the Bund.  The viewing area was awesome!  Check it out! There was a couple taking wedding photos.  Happy marriage!For a century, the Bund has been one of the most recognizable symbols and the pride of Shanghai. The architecture along the Bund is a living museum of the colonial history of the 1800s. You've never been to Shanghai if you haven’t seen the Bund.


We took the touristy tram back, on a one-way ride, along Nanjing Road.  The cost was 5RMB per person.  Saved us a lot of walking!  Let's go!


Later that evening, we had dinner at Hai Di Lao. I spotted the restaurant by chance as we were heading back to the hotel from the Bund.  This was my first time at Hai Di Lao.  This chain has also expanded to Singapore.  Thanks for following along!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

St Regis Formal Dinner Exquisite Occasions John Jacob Ballroom

Had a couple of nice dinners at St Regis Hotel (yes, this is where Chairman Kim of North Korea stayed), in the John Jacob Ballroom.  This is a 6 star hotel.  It is not a very large property, but the finishings are all very nice indeed.

Awesome dinner banquet at St Regis Hotel, Singapore.  Exquisite Occasions!


The menu served:
1. Trio of appetizers (Fried Prawn, Crispy Pork, Drunken Chicken)
2. Double-Boiled Superior Soup with Fish Maw, American Top Shell, Dried Scallop, Bamboo Pith and Cordycep Flower
3. Braised Baby Abalone with Flower Mushroom and Broccoli
4. Oven-Baked Cod Fillet with Japanese Miso Sauce
5. Oven-Bake Kurobuta Pork with Black Pepper Sauce
6. Stir-Fried Mee Sua with Seafood in XO Sauce
7. Chilled Lemongrass Jelly with Aloe Vera and Yuzu Sherbet

Taste Of St Regis Formal Dinner 2018 Three Treasures Combination
Had a wonderful dinner at the St Regis Ballroom (called the John Jacob Ballroom).  Good food!  This was the menu:

1. Three Treasures Combination: a) Pan-seared Hokkaido Scallop with Green Mango, Pan-fried Foie Gras, Chilled Lobster Salad
2. Doubled-boiled Superior Broth, Fish Maw, Conpoy, Bamboo Pith with Chinese Ham
3. Braised Six Head Abalone, Sea Cucumber with Flower Mushroom and Seasonal Greens
4. Oven-baked Cod Fillet with Japanese Miso Sauce
5. Herbal Chicken with Red Dates
6. Braised Mee Pok with Assorted Seafood in X.O. Sauce
7. Chilled Bird's Nest Soup with Rock Sugar in Thai Young Coconut

Good food, even better company!  Enjoy.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Day 3 - Shanghai Disneyland! The Happiest Place in China

Day 0 - Depart Singapore to Hangzhou (Scoot Airlines), Arr. Hangzhou 2135hrs
Day 1 - Hangzhou, got a driver, tour the city, including West Lake and Ling Yin Temple
Day 2 - Depart from Hangzhou to Wu Zhen (water town), and then transfer to Shanghai Courtyard Marriot near Disneyland
Day 3 - Shanghai Disneyland! (One full day)
Day 4 - Transfer to Shanghai Marriott City Center and the Bund
Day 5 - Private day tour to SuZhou
Day 6 - Shanghai Free & Easy
Day 7 - Home sweet Home - Shanghai to Singapore on Singapore Airlines (Business Class)

Day 3 - Today is Shanghai Disneyland! 
We woke up late.  Ha.  All very tried.  But, that's fine.  We were on holiday, and the whole idea was not meant to rush.  Once up, we made our way to DisneyTown for breakfast.  Our room rate didn't come with breakfast, so we figured it would be more cost effective to head straight to DisneyTown and have breakfast there, before entering the park. BreadTalk and ToastBox opened at 0800hrs.



ENTERING THE PARK
By the time we entered the park, it was close to 1000hrs. (Ok, as I said, we woke up late). The video below shows you the barricades, and we entered the park!


Download the DISNEY APP and buy your tickets before you arrive.
In case you missed it in the video above, this is what the ticketing booth looked like at close to 1000hrs a park day. COMPLETELY CLOSED.  It wasn't just a reduced ticketing system, it was closed.  I was taken aback.  It looked like that was NO WAY to buy a ticket from the ticketing counters, and I didn't see any self-service machines either!

Bought Our Tickets Months Before
Just how did we get our tickets?  My dear wife (have read all the reviews) had alerted me some months ago that we needed to get our tickets sorted out.  So I downloaded the app and bought our tickets.  I was also reminded that I will need my phone to be fully powered for the entire day, which meant I needed to bring batteries to charge my phone.  I brought two.

You Need Data
Wait a second, for the app to work, you need WiFi or data connection.  Does Shanghai Disney provide?  Not that I was aware. There was no free WIFI.  So, another cruicial tip - make sure you got a good reliable data connection!  I was using data roaming with my Singapore SIM Card, so no issues on that front for me.  Remember, no data, the app won't work either!

See this short video clip below of how the app looks like.  When you buy tickets, you have to give a document number (in our case it would be our passport).  At the entrance gate, the staff asked to see the original document (so you have to bring your passports along).  Once she verified the document against my electronic ticket (on the App), she proceeded to issue 4 paper tickets.  After that, I had to scan the paper tickets issued  using the app, to group them together so that you can get FastPasses via the App!   We had to keep the paper tickets because that is what they used to scan at the entry and exit gates when we left the park (to DisneyTown to get food) and entered again. Sounds confusing?  Yeah, it was slightly so.


FASTPASS Selection
What about Fastpasses?  Get them through the app too.  Once you are in the park and tickets are linked, you can see which Fast Passes are available.  See the screenshot below.  At 1011AM, the first First Pass I could get was for TRON Lightcycle Power Run, to enter between 2:10PM - 3:10PM.  I could only make another FastPass selection at 12:11PM.



Pirates of the Caribbean
Anyway, once in, we consulted the App for wait times, and decided to head towards Pirates of the Caribbean!  Guests can be any height, and the ride was suitable for all ages.  It was a very impressive ride indeed, with great effects, as you ride a boat around.

A picture of the line.  The queues were orderly and there was palpable excitement in the air.  This was Disneyland, after all.

Even though the app said the wait was 40 minutes, it certainly didn't felt that long.  We probably waited around 20 minutes. I left my iPhone 8 Plus running as I enjoyed the ride. Unfortunately, this phone isn't great in such low light conditions, so the video is very dark.  The ride was beautifully done.  Amazing use of technology. But you get an idea.  This ride is definitely worth it.


Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Roller Coaster of sorts)
From pirates, we head to dwarves - the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Fantasyland.  It is supposedly a roller-coaster.  Guests must be 97 cm or taller, so we figured it couldn't be too hard on the stomach. The waiting time was long, but we decided to try the Single Rider method.  We had read about it.  See the sign below, which made clear that you will be seated separately from travelling companions/friends.

SINGLE RIDER LINE - Only Waited 20 Minutes
We ended up waiting only 20 minutes for our turn to ride.  Indeed, we rode separately.  I went the last, and for some strange reason, I had a cart to myself.  (It is 2 person per car).  I was in the very last car. Here is the ENTIRE RIDE filmed with my GoPro.  Thank God I didn't drop the camera.


Disney Castle
After that, we were headed to another ride in the direction of Tron.  Here is a video of us walking towards the castle.


Once Upon a Time Adventure
At the base of the castle, we saw this attraction called 'Once Upon a Time Adventure'.  Since the waiting time wasn't that long, we decided to check it out. According to the website, we are to step through the Magic Mirror portal and enter an enchanted dimension of wonder: Snow White’s fairy-tale world.

Asian Cinderella Singing in Mandarin
It ended up being a walk-through of the Cinderella story, completely in mandarin of course.  Didn't take very long.  What struck me was an Asian (Yellow-Skinned, Chinese) Cinderella singing to a well in Mandarin.  That was cool.  What was she singing?  Based on my limited mandarin, she was asking to meet her Prince Charming.


BUZZ LIGHTYEAR! 
Next, we headed to the Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue Arcade Ride. Blast away at Emperor Zurg’s abominable bot army in an all-out battle to save Planet Pepperonia! Go from zero to Space Ranger hero—join Buzz on an interactive galactic adventure to stop Star Command’s most wanted! Ready to wreak cosmic chaos, evil Emperor Zurg has returned to demolish the Space Aliens’ planet with a crystal-powered Superblaster. It’s up to you to infiltrate Zurg’s secret lair, neutralize his army of underlings and eliminate the weapon of “mass alien destruction” before it’s too late! [Source]

Guests can be any height and all ages (I saw babies). According reviews, this was the best Buzzlight Year ride on the planet, and it certainly didn't disappoint!  The waiting time was very short, hardly anybody, as you can see in the video below.



Why was it so empty? It was close to noon, and all the crowds were lined up along the streets of Disney, waiting for the noon parade!

TRON LIGHTCYCLE RIDE
Immediately after Buzz Lightyear, and given our realisation that 99% of the people in the park were happily watching the parade, we decided to try TRON, since it was just next door to Buzz LightYear. Take note, there was only one parade a day at noon.  Yes, we missed the parade.  In life, we have to make choices.

Got this from the Shanghai Disneyland website:

Sync the pedal to moto-metal while twisting, turning and riding for your life in the cyber-fi world of TRON! The Ultimate Competition Experience high-speed thrills and chills as the Grid comes alive in a heart-pounding race for survival. Created as a friendly way for “Programs” and “Users” to interact, the Power Run pits team against team in the quintessential quest to capture 8 Energy Gates and triumph over opponents. Prepare for digitization after entering the portal—this is your access into the energy, lights and excitement of TRON’s high-tech universe. As you leave the real world behind, you’ll proceed to the games as a member of Team Blue, ready to compete against some of the Grid’s most menacing Programs.  Guest must be 122 cm or taller.

I was not a roller coaster type of person, but I read that this ride was very good, and more importantly, we didn't go upside down.  So, we decided to go for it, before lunch!  True enough, the lines were very short, and we were in line no more than 10 minutes.  Beautiful dark/twilight waiting areas inside.  The video below shows some of the waiting, but I didn't take any footage of the actual ride.


BAG DEPOSIT
They had bag deposit machines outside the ride, but we observed many people entering the ride with backpacks, which we did.  Take note, we had to deposit our backpacks in a large bin  just before we got on the ride, and retrieved our bag when the ride was completed again.  I was a bit worried because there was no guarantee that our bagpacks would still be there when we returned, or more likely another park visitor could take our bagpack, even if not deliberately, it could be by mistake.  Thank God all our bags were as we left them.

I found this TRON Coaster Ride-Through, which gives you an awesome view of what the ride looks like.  The ride was rather short, thankfully.  I'm not that amenable to such rides.  Felt a bit woozy after that.


LUNCH TIME! 
So, it was 12 something, we just took TRON, and it was time for some lunch! We decided to head to the restaurants at DisneyTown for a proper lunch.  There was a side entrance/exit into DisneyTown too (we had observed that when we were walking around DisneyTown the night before), so that certainly helped.  It took no more than 10 minutes to walk from the TRON ride to the restaurant at DisneyTown. They had 2 manned security gates (including X-ray machine).  You needed to use your paper tickets to get in and out.

We ended up eating both our lunch and dinner at this Chinese restaurant called Nan Xiao Dian.  At this restaurant, you had to order and pay up before they served you food.  They do have paper menus, but it was quicker to order and pay online!  See the screeshots below of the bill. Very advanced, China.  Our meal cost RMB 202, or 32USD.  Pretty reasonable to fill 4 stomachs.



Here is the video of the food!  I even a Tsingtao Beer, for 18RMB. Good food!  Very tasty.


VOYAGE TO THE CRYSTAL GROTTO
After lunch, and after consulting wait times, we decided to go for the Crystal Grotto Ride. Journey deep into a cavern where favorite Disney tales come alive in a dazzling display of music, light and wonder!  What about the Fastpass for TRON?  We gave that up too, since we already had done TRON.  And there were no more FastPasses available too (based on the app).

This time, the lines were rather long, but orderly.  In total, we probably waited 30-40 minutes for this ride.  It got a bit warm. Pity the parents who had to carry their kids.  It probably felt very claustrophic if you were short. No fun.

It is a typical boat ride.  Suitable for all ages.  Video below shows you the line and the entire boat ride.  The ride itself was about 8 minutes. Enjoy!


TARZAN SHOW
Next, we wanted to catch a show at the Pirates Cove but we were too late, and they had already closed the gates.  So we had to wait a bit to catch the final Tarzan show of the day.  The theatre was very large.  The queue lines were opened 1/2 hour before the show, and already long queues had formed by the time we got to the queue, about 30 minutes before.

TARZAN SHOW
In the video clip below, you will see the final minutes of the show.  We weren't seated that near the stage, but we were in the best block for viewing.  Video is a bit dark, but you will be able to make out the acrobatics etc.


After the Tarzan show, we had wanted to go for another famous ride, but the wait times were just too long.  So we adjourned to the Starbucks instead. Starbucks was located in DisneyTown.  We wanted to get some coffee.  We were all getting a tad tired.  See the video.


The queue length for Soaring over the Horizon never dropped below 120 minutes. So, we decided to give it a miss.  We didn't feel like queueing for 2 hours.  Instead, we went back to the same place we had lunch, to have dinner!  Yes, we liked it so much.  And then, we made our way to watch the fireworks display at around 7:20pm.  We thought we were early, but by the time we made it to the area to watch the fireworks display, it was completely full!

So, we didn't have much of a choice, and had to choose another vantage point which was slightly blocked, and rather far from the castle. Here it is.

Just 5 minutes before 8pm, there was an announcement to say that there would be NO FIREWORKS tonight, due to the air quality. ARGH! What a mega disappointment.  You could almost hear the collective grown.  Anyway, since nobody was going to get any refunds, we decided to stay on to see the light show.  Well, to be fair, the light show was still pretty impressive.  Here is the entire show that I managed to record using my iPhone on a Gimbal.  My hand felt a bit sore after that.


The light show took a good 20 minutes.  It was that long. I'm sure it would have been much, much better with fireworks.  It was soon over, and time to leave!
Hordes of park go-ers would make their way out of the park at the same time, and it was certainly a sight to watch.  See from 3:08 of the video below.

People and more people.  This is China.

We let the crowds go past, as we wanted to get some Breadtalk bread for our breakfast tomorrow.  The sales at Breadtalk after the light show had ended were very good.  There were lines to get bread.  We headed to the taxi stand, expecting to see a long queue, but it turned out that there were very few people at the taxi stand.  I concluded that most park-goers didn't take taxis.  Buses perhaps? Anyway, we took a taxi back to our hotel, costing us around 20RMB.

And that concludes our day in Shanghai Disneyland. Tomorrow, we take a taxi to central Shanghai, where we will be staying at the Marriott Shanghai City Center.  Stay tuned!