Flyover – The World’s Tallest Bronze Goddess of Mercy (Tsz Shan Monastery, Hong Kong)

Newly opened 5 days ago on 15th April 2015, this is the world’s tallest bronze Goddess of Mercy (觀音). Located at Tsz Shan Monastery (慈山寺) at Universal Gate Road (普門路), Tai Po District, Hong Kong, this is a mega-project funded by Hong Kong’s very own tycoon, Li Ka-Shing.

Standing at 76m, the statue stands on a lush tranquil hillside at the foot of 純陽峰, overlooking Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣). The $193 million monastery took 5 years to complete. To maintain the peacefulness and tranquility of the attraction, daily visitorship is kept at 400. Admission is free but visitors must make reservation online (http://booking.tszshan.org/) one week to a month in advance to visit this monastery. Visitors must also be 18 and above and they are not allowed to bring joss sticks, meat and alcohol into the compound.

As we didn’t know that we have to make reservation beforehand, my dad, Uncle Bok and I travelled a long way to Tai Po this evening. Fortunately, I had my DJI Inspire 1 drone with me and we managed to take a quick 5-minute overhead cruise 100m around the attraction. Despite the low lighting condition (as the sun was setting), I managed to capture a beautiful aerial footage of the monastery and the reservoir. Thanks to the possibility of the drone, I was able to capture the view where the Goddess of Mercy was facing. It was simply mesmerising. Enjoy the video.

Droning over mountains, over clouds at Alishan (阿里山)

What an unusual and awesome Easter break! My usual travel mates, Harshad and Tracy went on their own separate travel without me. Tracy went on a 12-day European tour alone and Harshad flew to Japan for business. Since I had a couple of meetings lined up in Taiwan, I decided to plan a short trip to Alishan over the long Easter-Ching Ming weekend.

While doing my travel research on Alishan (阿里山), I was so intrigued by its scenic natural beauty. A day before my trip, I bought a semi-professional aerial camera (DJI Inspire 1) to capture Alishan’s beauty. (Just one week after I bought the DJI Inspire 1, DJI launched its new Phantom 3 at 1/3 the cost!) I admit it was a costly impulse purchase. Boy, I didn’t expect the quadcopter to be that heavy and bulky. I never like the idea to check in any photographic equipments but the quadcopter is too big to carry onboard with its original case. In the end, I was charged a couple of hundred extra for overweight luggage and I was also stopped by the Hong Kong custom officers for carrying so many odd-looking oversized batteries. Thankfully, I managed to clear custom without any problem. The quadcopter was well-protected in its case and arrived without any defect.

I took a 1.5-hour speed-train from Taipei to Chiayi (嘉義). Thanks to my friend Chen, he fetched me all the way to the mountain resort at Alishan National Scenic Area (阿里山國家風景區). It was an amazing 2-hour winding-mountainous drive. The resort is located high up in the mountain at 2,500m. Temperature fell drastically from 32°C to 14°C. At some point, we were driving through thick fog and light rain.

As it was still early, we made a short detour to the tallest mountain of Taiwan, the Yushan (玉山). There, Chen made a short stopover for me to fly the drone. While setting up the drone, a couple of mountain-campers walked over and gathered around me. They were avid photographers and were so curious about the device. They even posed with the drone. As it was my 2nd flight, I was nervous to crash the drone in front of them. That would be loss of face. Thankfully, inspire 1 lives up to its name and price tag. It is extremely easy to control, very powerful and sturdy. Despite the strong air current at the mountain top, taking off and landing was a breeze for me. I flew a few hundred meters over the valleys and levitate the device over the clouds. It was magnificent! I managed to capture one of the best sunsets ever!

Chen left after sunset and I checked in at Alishan House (阿里山賓館). It was an expensive hotel that was highly overrated and hyped (its buffet meals are really bad). Anyway, all I need was an accommodation for my next agenda – that was to shoot the famed Alishan sunrise at Jhushan (祝山). All tickets were sold out by the time I arrived at the hotel. The only way was to hike 4km up to the scenic point at wee hours before the sunrise.

It was my first wee-hour hike since army days. The hotel staff discouraged me to take the hike as he said I might be lost in the dark. With no orientation of the surrounding, I followed a couple of hikers at 3am up the mountain. It was an extremely tiring uphill hike as I had too many heavy gears on my back (drone, camera, drink). At mid-point, I was all alone in the dark and was thinking to give up. GPS was useless as I didn’t know how much further I need to walk. Still, I walked on.

Hiking alone in the dark was one valuable experience for me. I was too tired to think about any supernatural phenomena. I was more worried about being stranded and lost than anything else. While the hike was very chilly and foggy, all I wanted was to get out of the forest and find a safe spot to rest. It was this sense of urgency that propelled me forward.

Finally, I arrived at my destination way ahead of the other tourists (who arrived in buses and train). I found a nice spot for me to setup the drone and took off! For that few seconds, I became the key attention of that morning. Many photographers were snapping at me and the drone instead of the sunrise. I made small chat with at least 5 people. It was an awkward moment for me to attract all these attention. True enough, a policeman came shortly and disrupted my flight. He warned me not to fly over the military base (which I didn’t know earlier). I told him I was just shooting the sunrise and he monitored my flight from a distant. After I landed the drone, he approached me again. Surprisingly, he came to offer me some other good and “safer scenic spots” to fly my drone.

It was a fulfilling morning flight. The air was so fresh and good. It was only 6:15am. It seemed like a long long day of adventure. I hiked downhill back to Alishan National Scenic Area, took the famous (and once fatal) Alishan Forest Railway (阿里山森林鐵路) to Sacred Tree Station (神木) and visited a couple of scenic spots – Giant Trees Trail, Two Sisters Pond (姊妹潭), Shoujhen Temple (受鎮宮). I didn’t see any pretty 阿里山的姑娘 and I was a little late for cherry blossom. Fortunately, I was blessed with great sunny weather during my stay. The monsoon came right after I left the mountain resort.

I made my way back to Taipei and did a short trip up in the north at Jiufen and Shifen. I wanted to fly my drone there but it was pouring heavily. Back in the hotel, I downloaded all the footages and photos from the memory card. To see Alishan from so many different angles, heights and perspectives, it was truly stunning. It is after all, my best impulse purchase ever! Enjoy the video below (watch it in 1080p).

Ride the Glorious Rainbow – Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

It is a very gloomy day for Singapore today. Just like the rain, our hearts are heavy and sad.

Watching the live telecast on CNA from Hong Kong, the love and unity of our people touches me greatly. Young and old, braving the heavy downpour in red, black and white, line up along the streets, carrying state flag and umbrellas, bidding their last farewell to Lee Kuan Yew. It will be a very emotional day for all us and we will remember this historic moment.

If only Lee gets to witness all these. How the world leaders respect him and how his people adore him, standing in the heavy downpour, waving the national flag, chanting his name in unity. It is a very very touching sight.

I just want to remember this very moment and say thank you. It is an irony that many of us only get to read so much more about you after your passing. Like many Singaporeans aboard, I started to appreciate Singapore much more when I was overseas. The people I met overseas, from taxi drivers to businessmen spoke so highly of you. Even the young people who never know you were so curious about your life story.

Thank you for giving us a home, a great education, a priceless identity and a world-class reputation. Singapore has earned the mark of integrity, efficiency, transparency, consistency and resourcefulness. More than a stern Father, you are Singapore’s greatest ambassador. Your bravery, vision, wisdom and kindness pillared this strong nation of immigrants. I am truly proud of our identity and the Singapore brand.

Even after your death, you gave Singapore the best parting gift on the eve of our SG50 Celebration. A nation not in grief but in unity. A nation’s worth not measured in size but in its true greatness.

So goodbye our Great Lion, Chief Gardener, Founding Father and the world’s greatest Leader. You will be fondly missed eternally in history. There is no need to erect a statue or name a street to honour your greatness. We shall continue your legacy and be your greatest Monument. The sun will shine once more and we shall ride the glorious rainbow you showered and go forth bravely in the spirit of adventure, everlasting peace, purity, equality to be the brightest.

Magic with Jeff Teo (Magic at the Fringe, Hong Kong)

What an extraordinary magical night! Big thanks to Hong Kong’s Celebrity Magician, Jeff Teo who gave me an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime, money-cannot-buy experience!

“Magic at the Fringe” was sold as the only live magic cabaret in Hong Kong. Featuring some of the region’s top promising magicians, the 90-minute show delivered tons of humour, surprises and magical moments! Last night, Chowpo, Tracy and I attended its inaugural performance at Fringe Club, Lan Kwai Fong. It was full-house packed with 60 people. Some of the audience were well-known magicians themselves!

Thanks to the kindness of the Teo Family who invited us, we got the best seats in the hall. Hosted by a well-known international (and humble) magician, Harry Wong (aka Harry Gor Gor), the show exceeded all our expectations. Harry was a great host, he energised the crowd with tons of “suggestive” jokes! He was extremely funny, candid and very spontaneous! I thought I was attending a standup comedy show instead!

Harry did an excellent job to introduce and showcase 4 young and very promising magicians. They were Fung Ip, Harry Harrius, Jeff Teo and Armando Cheung. These magicians wooed the audience with their captivating performance.

I was invited by one of the magicians, Jeff Teo, to go onto the stage. I was reluctant to do so but he insisted on a “gentleman”. Once on the stage, I was told to perform a magic trick. I was very nervous as I have no idea what he wanted me to do. Just when I was getting really uncomfortable standing in the spotlight facing the crowd, magic happened! Within that short timeframe of 5 minutes, Jeff successfully transformed me into the world’s “2nd best magician”.

Thanks to Jeff’s act, my first 5-minute fame wasn’t that bad afterall. I guess I do have some good showmanship. My only regret was I should come in my pretty suit and pant! Enjoy the video clip below! I am looking forward to their next show next month!


CNY Reunion at Kukup

Wow, how time flies! It is March already! It has been exactly 2 months since I last blogged. The past 2 months were incredibly hectic for me. Thankfully, CNY arrived early this year and I spent 10 good days with my family back in Singapore.

This CNY, the family picked Kukup (a mangrove fishing town) as the family’s reunion destination (and the reunion grew from 16 to 20 – thanks to the new company of Uncle Peter and Lita’s family). Kukup is a short 1.5hr drive away from Singapore. Compared with our last CNY reunions at Desaru and Sentosa, I must say this is the most relaxing family retreat. We stayed at a brand new 3-bedroom chalet. Each bedroom houses up to 9 beds! We were its first occupants, everything inside the chalet was brand new!

Unlike our last dining nightmares at Desaru, food at Kukup were delicious! The chalet provided 4 meals a day! We had lots of steamed fish and prawns every day. Life at Kukup was slow, quiet and breezy. There was basically nothing much to do here except sleeping, eating and fishing. The fully air-conditioned chalet was equipped with its own karaoke system and mahjong tables. This was exactly what I needed – a long carefree, lazy afternoon nap. The space here was so big that there was ample space for everyone to sink in. The adults were playing mahjong and the children were running around the compound. My cousins and I were sharing the latest gadgets (I finally got to try on the Google Glass!). And I successfully managed to teach Felicia how to scoot!

On our 2nd day, we planned a small tour around the small town. There is a mangrove nature reserve opposite our chalet. We took a ferry out ($5/adult) to visit the mangrove nature reserve and a nearby kelong.

Sunset by the Malacca Straits was calm and beautiful. By nightfall, big fireworks and sky-lanterns lighted up the quiet skies. Suddenly, the sleepy mangrove town came alive. Felicia, Elkan and I flew our first sky-lantern. This was a short but relaxing reunion and I am looking forward to next year CNY already!

Blissful Festive Reunion

I never like counting down to New Year. It is the day when I bid farewell to my loved ones.

After spending 8 days of home-quarantine, I finally get to spend some quality time with my parents, wife and child. Having chicken pox at 40 was a dreadful experience. It was a good test of one’s character and endurance. For me, the timing was just bad. My sickness coincided with our Christmas family trip. I wasted one good week at home. Fortunately, I was thankful that I managed to recover in time before their departure.

Every gloomy cloud has a silver lining. Auntie Amy, Joanne and Scott were in town too! I was so excited to receive them on my first day of freedom! Tracy and I went to the airport to welcome Auntie Amy and Joanne & family!

With Auntie Amy and Joanne & family in town, the gathering got merrier and noisier! Both my Aunt and mum started their nagging rituals on poor Elkan. I managed to avoid the old ladies’ bombardments by joining Joanne, Felicia and Tracy. Dad was happily chatting with Joanne’s dad who was also his ex-colleague.

There were 2 days when Auntie Amy and Joanne & family went away. Auntie Amy flew to Xiamen on 28th Dec to surprise her son and Joanne brought her parents to Macau and Zhuhai. I didn’t plan anything special for my family. My old folks didn’t want to travel far. Mum and Dad weren’t feeling well as they weren’t used to the cold weather. So, we spent a lot of time dining and shopping around Central and Soho areas.

Felicia and Elkan fell ill during their last 2 days in Hong Kong. Felicia was having the same symptoms as what I experienced (Felicia went to A&E and was diagnosed with chicken pox on New Year’s Day). She lost her appetite and her body was unwell. During both their absence, Auntie Amy and Joanne & family returned to Hong Kong. Chowpo volunteered to drive my family and friends around Hong Kong on 29th and 30th of Dec. We had lunch at Stanley Market and sight-seeing at Sai Kung. Later in the evening, we had farewell dinner at Central.

Felicia, Elkan, Auntie Amy and my parents left Hong Kong on the eve of 2015. Joanne & family, Harshad, Tracy and another Hong Kong auntie came to IFC to send them off. It was another teary farewell at the airport express station. Separation makes us cherish every reunion. Elkan kept reminding himself not to cry but he eventually broke down just seconds before he boarded the train. He was suppressing his sadness the entire morning and when he broke down, I gave him a tight hug and told him it was okay. Departure was never easy for anyone of us. That is why I am always so hasten to say goodbye.

I was blessed with the company of good friends. Tracy, Chowpo and Harshad were there for me at every farewell. And this new year’s eve, I had the company of Joanne & family. We welcomed the first minute of 2015 on a rooftop watching fireworks over Victoria Harbour.

On New Day’s morning, Joanne & family joined me to welcome the first sunrise at the Peak. The weather was fantastic, we walked a total of 10km that morning! By 1pm, Joanne’s parents were so tired that they went back to the hotel to take an afternoon nap! It was also this trip when Joanne bumped into friends on the street. Amazingly, she bumped into 3 different friends in Hong Kong! It is just unbelievable how small the world is!

Finally, I bid farewell to my last visitors yesterday. Joanne and parents flew back to Singapore last evening. I started to miss all of them (my parents, wife, son, auntie and friends) already! As I walked past their hotels this afternoon, I could feel their presence. Guess it will take me quite a while to get back to my usual working pace.

Thank you all for being there with me this Christmas and New Year (in sickness and in health). Thanks for everything! See you soon my loved ones!

Christmas Without the Polkadot Man

It is great to see my loved ones enjoying themselves during my “chicken pox” absence (19th – 27th Dec) this festive season. Thanks to Felicia, Tracy and Chowpo for taking such good care of my old folks and boy. Here are the photos and blogs by Felicia. Enjoy!

BLOG BY FELICIA (20th Dec – 23rd Dec)

Harbin Ice Exhibition & Lychee Valley (21st Dec)

A bright sunny day was the perfect day out for us to enjoy the cool weather! To make it cooler, we took the MTR and headed to the Harbin Ice Exhibition at Yuen Long.

The exhibition site was quite crowded with lots of carnival booths. Elkan was excited about the cold while the old folks were worried if the huge ice cage would be too cold for them. This is my father and mother in-law’s first experience of -10ºC. We were each handed a thick down jacket to keep warm just before we enter the exhibition. 

Although temperature wasn’t as cold as it was at the real Harbin Ice Festival in China, Heilongjiang, but it was cold for us as we didn’t have the proper winter wear. There wasn’t many sculpture pieces inside. Some nice ones are the igloos and the slides. Elkan took his grand parents to the slides. They had fun like little kids!We quickly swept through the rest of the sculptures and headed for the exit. It was great to be back at the outdoor of 16ºC.Elkan and me decided to have a short race on the paddle go kart and it was really fun going for a few rounds on the race tracks. Not easy keeping up with Elkan’s speed now!

Next we headed to a nearby organic park, the Lychee Valley. A small park with kids playground and lots of fruits farms. Unfortunately it wasn’t the season for most of the fruits. Maybe another trip again soon!

Lantau Island, Tai O & A Surprise Sammi Concert! (22nd Dec)

Thanks to Chowpo who accompany us to Lantau and visit the Big Buddha. It was also a meaningful day to visit there as it was the 冬至(Winter Festival).

The fun of the day was the cable car trip up the hill. Apparently, my father in-law was afraid of the ride but he went along with us and bravely stepped into a crystal cable car, which is a glass-bottom cable car! Bravo!!

After a healthy vegetarian lunch, we headed downhill to Tai O. Took a short boat ride out to the sea, but we didn’t have much luck to spot any pink dolphin. At least the sea breeze was enjoyable.

The day ended with a sweet surprise! A Sammi concert for me with Tracy!

A spectacular performance with lots of gunfire, hot dance and special guest, Eason Chan! We were amazed with how the stage transforms, changing the whole dimension of the centre stage, not just once but a few times. And creating a stage within the stage! Eye-opening for me!

Dine by The Peak & Shopping at Central (23rd Dec)

Chowpo brought us to a nice restaurant with a great view for Dim Sum the next morning. It was pleasant and relaxing lunch. The food was great!

After lunch we took a short ride up the the peak garden. The higher peak which most tourist would give it a pass. The air was fresh but the wind was chilling.

We spent the afternoon shopping along the streets near our hotel. And visiting nice christmas decorations in the shopping malls. Hong Kong malls never fails to surprise us with beautiful decorations.

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