Camping at Wan Tsai (西貢灣仔)

It has been almost 20 years since I last camped outdoor. Thanks to my colleagues (Sean and Wing) who invited us, Felicia, Elkan, Tracy and I had our first family camping experience last Saturday. When I told my friends that I will be camping at Wan Tsai, many of them assumed I will be occupying Central on the highway. Unknown to many, there is really a campsite by the name of Wan Tsai (not Wanchai) and it is located at the far northeast of Sai Kung. It was a long ride from our apartment in Central. First, we took a cab to Wong Shek Terminus at Sai Kung Country Park. From there, we then took a 20min-ferry to the campsite.

The Wan Tsai campsite is a good site for beginners. It is located just right beside the pier, so we need not to walk very far with the heavy gears. There are lavatory and shower facilities around the campsite and they are very clean! There were many other campers around so we felt very safe.  Felicia, Tracy and I were so inexperienced and unprepared for the trip (we brought all the outdoor toys, snacks and bottled drinks but not the basic survival gears!). Lucky for our more camping-savvy friends, they came with the right tools and gears. The weather wasn’t that good. It was misty cold (at about 10-12°C) and it rained in the wee hours. We managed to survive the long cold wet night with some really good warm supper and breakfast. I never expect a cozy night sleep (the tent we bought was too short for my body length) and this was a very good experience for all of us. With better cool days coming ahead, I am sure we be doing more outdoor camping in the next few weeks!

Coincidentally Taipei

This was one amazing trip of fateful coincidences. Tracy and I were supposed to use these discounted air tickets to meet Lionnel and Joey in Taipei. Due to a Super Typhoon, we had to cancel our September trip at the last minute. Without any plan in mind, we picked a random date in mid November to exhaust the tickets.

It seemed that Fate had other plans for us. Coincidentally, 2 weeks before our November trip, I was informed that two of my best buddies in office (Chowpo and Vanliza) will be flying to Taipei for business on the same travel dates as ours. We were so happy to know that as Tracy and I didn’t have any special plan for our postponed trip. I changed my hotel booking so we can all stay around the same vicinity.

Since we were part of the same business unit, Tracy and I decided to lend Chowpo and Vanliza some help on Friday evening. We accompanied them to the client’s office to move some props. There, at the lift lobby, another delightful coincidence occurred! I bumped into an old client-friend, Mandy! She was so excited and surprised to see us! What a small world! We started chatting non-stop outside the lift door. We haven’t seen each other for almost 4 years! It was great bumping into her!

The next morning (Saturday), we were supposed to make a trip to visit another friend at Taizhong. At 7am, I received a surprise text message from my Cousin Bin! His family and he were all in Taipei! I supposed to join them for breakfast but one thing led to another. Coincidentally, Cousin Bin was staying at the same hotel I originally booked (but I changed another hotel to be closer to my colleagues). He was planning a 1-day tour along the northern coastal towns of Taipei. I checked with the ladies and we decided to tag along!

It was an awesome gathering! I was so happy to meet Cousin Bin and family! It was so unreal! The excitement was indescribable. Perhaps all these were fated! Cousin Bin booked 2 cabs for us. We went to visit Yehliu Geopark (野柳), had lunch at Jiufen Old Town (九份), hiked across a suspension bridge at Shifen Waterfalls (十分大瀑布), and released sky lanterns (天燈) at Shifen Old Street (十分老街). It was an extraordinary day with so many delightful moments! I was so glad that my friends and cousin enjoyed themselves.

Surely, no any other pre-trip planning can match what I experienced this trip. Tracy and I weren’t expecting anything special after our disappointing cancellation last September. This postponed trip was simply amazing and fulfilling! Fate certainly has its own unique way to connect people. Thanks God (and the power of social media) for this wonderful arrangement. This is indeed one of my best Taiwanese visits ever! And yes, life is beautiful. May all our wishes (on the sky lanterns) come true. Enjoy the photos! 

Kodak gives the world a brand new Moment – PIXPRO SP360

Kodak could be on its way back from the brim of extinction. This week, Kodak beats its competitors to launch the world’s first single-lens 360° camera. Introducing the new Kodak PIXPRO SP360 Action Cam  – a multi-function action camera that allows the user to capture 360° videos and photographs in full HD format!

The Kodak PIXPRO SP360 Action Cam is the first player in this brand category of 360° action cam. 2015 marks the year of 360° digital action photography. I strongly advise those who are interested to buy a 360 action cam to wait for more releases and reviews. Panono, Bublcam and 360Fly are the 3 spherical cameras to watch for in 2015. Until then, the Kodak PS360 is one of the lightest and cheapest 360 cameras today. We aren’t too far from more major launches – just wait for another 2-3 months.

(See 360Fly and Bubl videos below).

Built to handle the most rough action, the PIXPRO SP360’s water-&-dust-resistant body can handle drop-fall up to 2 meters and extreme temperature as low as -10°C. Weighing at only 103g (and smaller than the 35mm film box), the portable SP360 captures stunning 360° HD panoramic/spherical images and video footages. With an impressive ultra-wide F2.8 lens,its 16-megapixel-CMOS sensor captures photographs at 10 megapixels and 120fps video at 848 x 480 resolution. For those of you who prefer the traditional wide frontal view, this camera captures a wide angle up to 212°. It also comes with other useful features like self-timer, timelapse, motion-detection and 10fps multi-burst shooting.

Watch PIXPRO SP360 Video (Underwater Diving & Skydiving):

One of the biggest plus points is the long battery life – an impressive 160 minutes for video or 350 still shots. During my 1-hour time-lapse trial, there is no battery overheating issue like GoPro. This is a major plus point for me. My previous GoPro 3 lasted barely 40 minutes.

Another big plus point is its Kit Accessories. Unlike Gopro which is often stingy on accessories, the Kodak Extreme Kit (HKD2,970) comes with many generous accessories like bar mount for multiple mounting options such as handle-bars; flat adhesive mount for skate or paddle board; curved adhesive mount head strap; helmet mounts; surfboard adhesive mount; suction cup mount; extended arms; quick clip; tethers; clear standard mount housing and clear waterproof housing.

I played with the SP360 for 2 days. I enjoy its lightness and fast WIFI connectivity. Time-lapse is so easy to use. There is hardly any video-lagging in the live-viewing on the iPhone App (as the live-view is a lower-res compressed version). File saving and processing time is reasonably fast. Microphone is decent. Video and photo quality in the daytime is great (though I feel the colour in Sony Action Cam is much more vibrant and brighter). One of the best things I like about this camera is its tripod hole. I can attached the camera directly to any tripod without an adapter.

The great thing about having a 360° camera it captures the people behind and in front of the lenses! You not only be able to see the 1st-person’s perspective, you also get to pan anywhere you like during the video – side, top and back! Imagine putting this camera in the middle of a round dinning table or inside a F1 car – you get to see the excitement inside out and all around! The possibilities are endless! And with the growth of VR headsets (like Oculus Rift + Nimble Sense and Google Cardboard), this will change the way we view content in the future.

Watch Nimble Sense Video:

Of course, there are some flaws with this. One of the key negative points about SP360 is the lack of an universal interactive 360° video / photo player. Kodak should lead and launch a new video standard for its 360° content. Currently, all my trial videos and photos are all in this odd spherical format (unless I use the PIXPRO software to unwrap them on my Mac). Right now, the easiest and sharpest way to enjoy the 360° content is viewing them through its unstable mobile app. The amateurs will find it difficult to edit and share (the sharing bit is the most important factor to success!). The current extraction software is very inferior. The HD content, after extraction, looks low quality and terrible. Hopefully the developer improves the extraction/sharing software.

At this novelty stage, new viewers may find these 360° spherical formats unique, but in the long run, no one wants to edit and watch a dizzy spherical 360° video. Without allow viewers to interact or empowering them to pan the screen on popular platforms like Youtube or Vimeo, this hardware will be just a fad. This is the reason why I think 360Fly or Bublcam (two other 360° cam brands) may win over Kodak as their file conversion is more user-friendly and sharable.

Another negative point is the location of its tripod hole. While attaching to the tripod, it captures part of the tripod in the recording. Also, it is located at the side of the camera and not at the base. I foresee users may need to buy 3rd party tripod adapters to overcome this minor imperfection. The last negative point is its poor performance in low-lighting environment. Like most action cameras, Kodak’s performance is average (feels like a GoPro 2) and loses out to GoPro 3.

Despite some flaws, it is an awesome great first experience! Welcome to the new age of virtual reality and this will only get better! Maybe in the near future, all mobile phones will come with 360° camera. Right now, I am looking forward to use this for my end-year adventure trip.

The Umbrella Movement – Day 14

Today marks the 14th Day of the Umbrella Movement. The week went by without any violence and drama. The students are still out there occupying the streets but things have normalised. Shops, schools and government offices have reopened. Even the stock markets are doing just fine.

Highway-walking is my new weekend activity. Psychologically, it is quite a joy to stroll on the empty highway without the cars. The occupied streets have underwent a lot of transformation since my last visit a week ago. From the increasing numbers of tents, beds, supply-stalls and make-shift shower shelters, it seems that the demonstrators are determined to settle here for a long time. With the cooling good weather, I believe more and more people will turn up to occupy Central.

Despite the inconvenience caused by this occupation, the Umbrella Movement has given Hong Kong a new breath of life. Ground Zero has transformed the cold concrete city center into a never-seen-before haven of peace, unity, love and freedom. Here, air is fresher and people are a lot nicer. There is no need to worry about food, water and shelter. People are super nice, considerate and thoughtful. It is almost surreal. This occupation creates a brand new state of mind and freedom. There is art, passion and zen everywhere. It is so peaceful and relaxing here. Travellers who decided to skip Hong Kong may be in for a loss. Instead, I encourage them to come to Hong Kong to enjoy this “money-cannot-buy” experience.

Perhaps this is what every one needs now. A good break and ample space for every one to rediscover their life priorities and sense-of-purposes. It may not be a bad thing for a city to slow down a little for every one to connect their minds and souls. I see this more than just an occupied highway. I see Hope, Unity, Kindness and Greatness of Hong Kong people. Welcome to the new Freedom Highway – where all great things begin.

The Umbrella Movement – Day 7

It must end today, warned the Hong Kong government. Today marks the 7th Day of the Umbrella Revolution Movement. It is more appropriate to call this a “movement” than irresponsibly sensationalise it as a revolution, said my good friend. It has been a very dramatic week. From a peaceful protest, the first tear gas against unarmed students erupted into this large scale of civil disobedience. Social harmony was eroded when the pro-Beijing and triads arrived. Overnight, the city witnessed many episodes of petty violence. The Hong Kong Police was criticised again for its slow response to the violent attacks against the unarmed students. And many pointed fingers towards the police for orchestrating these violence.

There have been many discussions and advises about the outcome of this movement given by political experts and observers circulated on the internet. Many took sides with the students but urged for a more realistic demand. Every one knows Beijing will not give in for the sake of China’s social peace. To give in to Hong Kong would sparked off unrest in other troubled lands like Tibet and Xinjiang and possibly Taiwan. Sitting and occupying the streets will not move Beijing or get rid of the current Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Instead, it is going to divide Hong Kong and put China in a very bad position. If this continues for another one week, I am afraid the students will lose their public support and more external forces will implicate the current social-balance. Already, there are many evil propagators online trying to fuel this into a more dangerous protest. No surprise, some syndicates will do anything to disrupt China – even at the expense of misusing an international city like Hong Kong.

This is going to be a long battle and the students should know they cannot achieve the impossible by sitting on the streets for another week or month. Political reform is a long road and the best way to change things may be from the inside. It is disturbing to let Hong Kong youth of this generation to shoulder all these. What the students need to do is to conserve their energy, withdraw with dignity and plot another strategy to engage with the government. This occupation has already sent a strong signal to Beijing that Hong Kong youth are passionate and serious about their voting rights. Now, the important steps are to stay free/alive (and not detained), win all Hong Kong people to continue the fight on another effective platform. (See live feed by Apple Daily TV below)

Beijing leaders should recognise the world is changing and they must take the initiative to hold talk with the students and compromise for a win-win outcome. Beijing shouldn’t be afraid of negotiating with her Hong Kong people. CY Leung should gracefully take the exit as he is partially to blame for the escalation of this crisis. If he is capable enough to unite and win Hong Kongers’ heart, Hong Kong won’t be in this state today. That’s the problem with Hong Kong – it lacks of a credible Hong Kong Leader to succeed CY Leung - one who is popular, fair and tough enough to meet eye to eye with Beijing. In fact, there is none! The succession planning of Hong Kong’s future leaders is apathy. The opposition parties behave like thugs and overly-emotionally-unstable individuals. The influential tycoons who are respected by both sides aren’t interested to be embroiled into this political mess and chose to do nothing. I don’t see another suitable male leader clearing this mess. Hong Kong needs a compassionate and hardliner female leader like Margaret Thatcher to bring balance to the table. Someone who is willing to listen, make swift decision and has the balls to handle Beijing. Perhaps number 2, Anson Chan can fit this role.

The only good news is more roads have opened up since Friday. The students gave up many key occupied areas to give way to the community and congregated at Admiralty. For me, it was a refreshing 10km to and fro the demonstration sites. I took a 2-hour walk from Central to Causeway Bay yesterday afternoon. It was such a different sight. The main streets around Lippo Center and Bank of China were so quiet and empty. Less than 10 students stationed at the barricades. Business around Wanchai and Causeway Bay was badly affected. I visited Wanchai Computer Center, there were hardly more than 30 shoppers!

Just before the police arrive to reclaim and cleans up the streets, I went to capture some of remaining “street voices” marked by the demonstrators. A good historic mementoes for tomorrow’s generations. And I sincerely pray for Hong Kong’s unity and sanity.

The Umbrella Revolution (雨傘革命) – Day and Night

Oct 1st – Today is China’s National Day and it marks the 4th day of the Umbrella Revolution. The riot police has long left the scene. Ground Zero (at Admiralty) has been very peaceful for the past 3 days. It is a totally different atmosphere compared to last Sunday’s violent crackdown against the demonstrators. On the contrary, it is very difficult to find any policeman within the occupied zone. The occupied zone has since expanded from Admiralty to Wanchai and Causeway Bay. Over at Kowloon, demonstrators have also occupied key shopping streets at Mongkok and Nathan Road.

It is national public holiday today, Tracy and I decided to take a stroll from Causeway Bay to Central. As most of the main roads are occupied, we took the subway to Causeway Bay station. The train ride wasn’t as crowded as I have expected. In fact, things looked very normal underground!

The occupants at Causeway Bay are extremely friendly, peaceful and considerate. The demonstrators kept a wide walking lane for the pedestrians. It was a breeze to walk from Sogo to Times Square. Usually we would need to wait for the traffic light crossing, now with the roadblocks, traffic flow seemed smoother for the pedestrians. Shops were open and crowded with shoppers.

It is such a rare sight to see Hong Kong without cars. The pace is slow, quiet and very peaceful. The air seems fresher too! We saw many people walking on the main highway. Demonstrators, tourists and even families with children! Many came dressed in black with a yellow bow to support the movement.

Along our way to Ground Zero, we saw and learnt many great things. It totally changed my perception of a cold, commerical-minded, self-centered and vain Hong Kong. I salute those who stood there day and night, rain and shine. From distributing free drink and food to collecting trash, every one has a part to play. Already, the world has been writing amazing reports about Hong Kong demonstrators. There is a sense of strong integrity within this occupation. Demonstrators are wise and alert not to tip over the scale of this movement. They are watchful for suspicious commotions and undesirable intentions to unbalance this peaceful protest. There is no fear or panic, just smiles and love for the city. What we witnessed is the unity, the gracefulness, the calmness, the maturity, the bravery and the selfless spirit of Hong Kong.

The same spirit of solidarity can be witnessed online too. There have been dangerous voices for independence and the demonstrators rebuked those calls. Hong Kong students still recognise and respect China’s sovereignty. Many even asked western powers not to intervene as it will only invite more complications and slow down the progress of the negotiations. What the people want is true Universal Suffrage so they can have a say for their future. The demonstrators stay focused and united against all external distractions and interruptions.

This movement has bring Hong Kong people (overseas and local) together. And it will make them stronger than before. I am proud to witness this priceless historic moment. And very proud of Hong Kong people! You are clearly the world’s most polite, helpful, friendly, caring, disciplined, responsible and peace-loving demonstrators!

The day when Hong Kong Police betrayed its own people

Hong Kong is a different city today. 

After so many years of peaceful demonstrations, protests and rallies, 28-Sept marked the day when Hong Kong Police betrayed its own people. Instead of keeping order and protecting its people from harm, unarmed students and peaceful demonstrators were attacked by the police’s tear gas and pepper sprays continuously. Time after time, the demonstrators came back in force. These senseless attacks only fuelled the anger of Hong Kongers. It showed the weakness of Hong Kong government and its police force. No matter what happens in next few hours, the Hong Kong government and police may even win tonight’s battle but they have already lost the world’s respect.

I was shopping at IFC Mall this afternoon and there was a big crowd surrounding an electronic shop. On the big TV screens, I saw the tensions between the demonstrators and the police. Outside the mall, there were students holding cards asking the public to go to Admiralty to support their fight for true universal suffrage. Tracy and I decided to walk over to take a look.

Admiralty Hong Kong was in total chaos today. The demonstrators sat on key highways, locking down the financial district. Long queue of cars, buses and trams were forced to a complete standstill. Amazing, no one in the vehicles horn. At around 4pm, the first tear-gas was fired into the crowd. Tracy and I were standing about 800m away when thousands of people retreated towards our direction. I was wondering what caused the panic retreat. Just before I was about to go nearer to the conflict zone, the tear gas stung my eyes and throat. It was unbearable! We weren’t prepared for this.

The gas forced the crowd to retreat to Lippo Center. There, I witnessed a small tussle between the policemen and a large group of demonstrators. The policemen were violent and used their batons against the unarmed demonstrators. In the end, the demonstrators won and drove the policemen away. They managed to seal off another main road and a volunteer was seen maintaining the traffic.

Throughout the entire demonstration, the people maintained their cool and refrained from any violence against the policemen. A couple of volunteers were seen picking up trash on the streets and some were distributing drinks and food to fellow demonstrators. The demonstrators cheered one another and encouraged one another to stay united and strong. Together, they stood bravely against the senseless attacks. I was touched by their unity and passion. This is the never-say-die Spirit of Hong Kong!

I believe this is just the beginning of a long road to achieve true universal suffrage. And thanks for the calls and messages from my friends and loved ones from Singapore, we are perfectly safe and well sheltered. I am blessed to witness this historic moment and may God bless Hong Kong. My prayers are with all the young and brave students (and reporters) who sacrifice their time and safety to safeguard the future of Hong Kong people. Hang on, you are not alone, the world is here with you. You have made history today.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people, said Alan Moore from V for Vendetta”. Hong Kong Police, did you hear your people sing? Time to remove your masks and gears and embrace your people. History has taught us that only peace, wisdom and love can win this war. Never violence and bloodshed. Stop attacking your own people and let peace opens a way for meaningful settlement.

Watch the live feed below:


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