A Little Sweet Mid Autumn Reunion Treat

September school holidays are here and my darlings are with me for 10 good days! I was hoping to get the attractive deal on Cathay Fanfare but I couldn’t get the tickets to Maldives or Perth. The other destinations were either too expensive or the timing was just not ideal. With limited options left, I decided to plan “a little sweet treat” for them in Macau.

Elkan was a little disappointment when he found out that we were heading to Macau for the weekend. He never liked the City of Sins as there’re little things for him to do. He begged me a couple of times to stay in Hong Kong so we can play soccer and hike the mountains together. In order not to spoil the surprise of the “special place”, I acted cold and indifferent to his pleas. I lied to him that we will be shopping and nothing else. Elkan was grumbly throughout the journey. (See some of his photos, he didn’t even want to smile!) To divert his disappointment, I added a short outdoor hike (at Monte Fort) in the itinerary at the last minute. Felicia sensed something amiss with my “unusual poor planning” . She asked me quietly in a mischievous tone, “mmm, what are you planning?” I replied with a straight cold answer “Nothing to do leh, maybe catch a movie later.”

You see, I was buying time to keep them occupied till 3pm as that was the check-in time for my “little sweet surprise” at the legendary Banyan Tree Macau. Famed for its luxurious suite featuring a spacious living area and an indoor private relaxation pool, Banyan Tree Macau is infamous for its unavailability and exorbitant price!  The room I wanted was often fully-booked many months ahead. Thanks to Mid Autumn Festival, the occupancy during this festive holiday was surprisingly low. I was extremely lucky to secure the room one week ago at a very special price!

The moment Felicia and Elkan walked into the suite, both of them were delightfully dazed! I love watching their priceless expressions! None of them expected this! Felicia gave me that stern “I-knew-you-had-something-up-in-your-sleeve” stare and Elkan’s eyes were watery. My boy felt guilty for all the bad feelings towards me during the trip. Knowing he was overly touched, I went to give my silly boy a big hug!

This is Elkan’s dream playroom - a 100sqm space with luxurious bedroom, expansive living area complete with spacious 3m wide relaxation pool and custom 2-person wooden bathtub complementing an opulently furbished bathroom!  The pool was constantly kept at a perfect water temperature between 27°C-30°C overseeing unparalleled views of the Cotai City. All thanks to the simple and great space design, the room was so indulging that we stayed indoor most of the time. We spent our Mid Autumn Festival watching TV, selfies in the pool, face-timing my parents, niece and nephew back home.

I am so glad that I didn’t disappoint them. What an unique and memorable experience for the family! When it was time to leave, Elkan asked me to bring him back to Macau in Nov and he promised he won’t be grumpy anymore. Hahah, my silly happy boy.

Remote Control Paperplane by PowerUp 3.0

Thanks to the advancement of smartphones and remote-control devices, there are more and more flying objects in the air. I am not talking about drones. Recently, I got an unique gadget from a Kickstarter initiative. Introducing the PowerUp 3.0 Smartphone Controlled Paper Airplane – now we can remote control via bluetooth and extend flight time of our very own home-folded paper plane.

It is a very small and durable device. It is a stick with an aero-head and a propeller attached on the other end. Simply attach the paper plane to the aero-head and use the smartphone to navigate its flight. Like most remote control drones, the only dissatisfaction is the short flight time, each full charge lasted only 15 minutes.

This afternoon, Elkan and I took turns to test the flights at Victoria Park. It wasn’t difficult to master and we managed to keep the plane slightly more than 10 secs in the air. Some of the passersby stopped as they thought it was an unusual flying paper plane. As the device was so small, it was difficult to notice that it was a battery-operated plane.

For USD49, it promises many hours of fun and explorations. Time to be creative and test different foldings for the most optimal flight. Enjoy our little video.

4 Divas, 1 Great Cause – WAO Charity Concert Hong Kong

For one rare chance, I got to meet four Great Divas (A-mei, Tanya Chua, Sandy Lam and Na Ying) of Mandarin Pop at the WAO (Women As One) Charity Concert at Hong Kong’s AsiaWorld-Arena. The proceeds of the night will benefit the “End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation”.

This was the 2nd leg of the WAO Charity Concert (the first leg kick-started in Taipei on 20th April 2014). I was here specially to meet my idol A-mei. Judging from the audience’s screams and applauds, A-mei was definitely the most popular diva of the night. Another great treat was seeing legendary Na Ning upfront. I have been watching Na Ning on The Voice of China reality program over the past 2 years so it was great to hear her sing live! Sandy Lam was gorgeous and charming! I couldn’t recognise her at the first glance! And yes, it was good to have Tanya standing amongst the 4 Divas ~ she made Singapore proud!

What an extraordinary night to see all 4 legends came together to perform for such a meaningful movement. No fancy costumes and special effects, it was simply pure and elegant. The divas touched our hearts with their powerful performance.

I hope WAO Charity Concert makes its way to Singapore and other Chinese cities. And I hope to see more local talents taking part in this movement to bring people together to contribute for a greater cause through the power of music.

Enjoy 360° DIY VR for less than 10 bucks!

Move aside Oculus Drift, Samsung VR Gear and Sony HMZ VR, Google just made VR an affordable gear for everyone. 2014 marks the year of limitless virtual reality!

A few months ago, Google launched a DIY VR headgear made of corrugated paperboard. Introducing the Google Cardboard, it is an open platform that allows anyone to create their own virtual reality headgear. For a production cost less than USD5, this will be one amazing marketing tool for new brand engagement and experience.

I managed to get my hands on one last week via eBay. Just like those given out during the Google I/O conference, the Google Cardboard was delivered to me flatten. Looking at the low-grade paper materials and plastic lenses, I was skeptical about the virtual experience. It took me about 2 minutes to form the box. Once I turned on the Google Cupboard app, inserted the smartphone into the slot and looked through the lenses, the VR experience was indescribable amazing! Using the phone’s gyroscopic sensors, I was teleported into a different world. The perfect combination of smartphone’s gyroscope and 360 imagery technology opens up a brand new world of possibilities in virtual entertainment. It is a big leap for virtual reality. This simple DIY device put all the expensive VR gears and brands to shame.

The possibilities are simply endless! Forget about watching 3D/4D movie on a flat screen. Just imagine watching a movie right inside the scene itself. Pan your head around and you can choose where to see or walk alongside with the characters. Try imagine diving with the National Geographic documentary crew in the dark abyss or watch a magic performance live right beside a close-up magician. For hardcore gamers, imagine playing soccer on the pitch or taking cover in a cross-fire battle in the street.

The only setback is the imperfect phone-screen pixels and the limited iOS VR apps. With newer and more high-definition screen resolution, this can only get better! It is difficult to express the level of excitement. Seeing is believing. Go try it to experience!

Create Your Very Own Personalised Russian Nesting Dolls (aka Matryoshka Dolls)

When Felicia gave me a handmade doll-house last Christmas, it was a cozy lovely house. It was a gift of craftsmanship and love, every thing was created to the finest details. But there was one problem, it was an empty house. Over the past six months, I have been thinking how to fill this beautiful empty home with our own personalised characters. Finally an idea came to my mind! I planned to surprise and cheer Felicia and Elkan up with a very special gift on their last day in Hong Kong since I expected it will be another heart-breaking farewell.

Thanks to my colleague who recommended me to “Etsy – a wonderful e-commerce website that focused on handmade or unique-manufactured items. At Etsy, I found 2 talented artists who helped me to personalised my first very own Russian nesting dolls! (As I couldn’t made up my mind on what I prefer, I ordered 2 different painting styles for the dolls – The Graphic Dolls were produced by Shiny in Hong Kong and the Still-life Painting Dolls, produced by Julia in Russia). Special thanks to Shiny (the artist who helped me with the Graphic Dolls!) What a small world, Shiny is also a friend to my ex-poly school mates, Eric and Dorothy! I sent Shiny a cartoon sketch of what I wanted and attached photographs of the attire and props, she quickly sent back the work-in-progress. The production was so smooth and easy! Shiny managed to paint my “favourite Superwhite Tees!” for me too! I personally like the Graphic Dolls more as it is timeless and neater. It is a personal preference. There is a always risk if the Still-Life Dolls don’t turn up to be as accurate as the real photos. Both dolls of mine are great!!! (Here is Shiny’s shop link: https://www.etsy.com/people/shinykins and this is Julia’s shop linkhttps://www.etsy.com/people/bakalnchik1)

It took about 2-3 weeks (plus a few days for overseas delivery) for the artists to produce the dolls. The gifts arrived just in time! I decided to surprise them this morning. They loved the gifts! Felicia was in tears when she saw the dolls! There are 5 nesting dolls, the first 3 characters are predictable – Me, Felicia and Elkan. What Elkan didn’t know was about the “Marriage Proposal Robot” and Felicia’s favourite bear! There are a lot of details in the dolls. I was holding a SX70 Polaroid camera, wearing my favourite Superwhite attire. Felicia was wearing her favourite crystal necklace and carrying a heart-shaped bread toast (which she made last year!) and she was in the beach attire that she wore in Bintan. Elkan was in the attire he wore at X-Box360 Dance Event 2 years ago and was accompanied by his addictive Minecraft character. The Robot was holding a bouquet of white lilies and a proposal ring and the Forever Friends Bear marked the date of our anniversary!

I am so happy to see the smiles on their faces. These are very meaningful and priceless gifts! What’s more, it is collapsible and doesn’t take up much space at home! We have plans to carry the dolls to all our future travel destinations as a photo marker!

Most importantly, the doll-house is no longer empty now! Home sweet home!

Wahbiang @ Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, Hengqin Zhuhai

After 18 months and many unsuccessful attempts to organise the Wahbiang Tour this June holidays, a small group of us managed to find time for a small gathering in Hong Kong last weekend. Juliana and Karen flew in with their boys and joined us for an arduous trip to the new Chimelong Ocean Kingdom at Zhuhai Hengqin (横琴长隆海洋王国).

This was quite an unusual and unique travel group combination. It was an interesting traveling experience with the company of four tough women and three very mischievous boys. I was the only man in the group. I know how chaotic it can be whenever you travel with a group of naughty kids and tiger-mums. Knowing we have to take multiple transports and cross 2 cities to the final destination, I was prepared for the worst travel experience but this group proved me wrong. Everything was very smooth. Everyone was on time and there was no delay. The pace was fantastic and it was pretty enjoyable! Best of all, I got to know the kids and mothers better!

How to go to Zhuhai Chimelong Ocean Kingdom from Hong Kong / Macau – Heading out to the new attraction can be challenging. There was no direct ferry connecting Hong Kong to Zhuhai Hengqin Port (珠海横琴口岸). The most direct route would be taking a 75-min ferry (cost about HKD220/adult) from Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal (港澳碼頭) to Zhuhai Jiuzhou Port (珠海九洲港). From Zhuhai Jiuzhou Port, take a 40-minute taxi (cost around RMB65-75) to Chimelong Ocean Kingdom. Using this route, the total cost for each pax is about HKD300. The whole journey takes about 115 minute.

We took a cheaper and slightly shorter route. However, this route took us a total of 5 transfers, compared with only 2 transfers in the earlier option. First, we took a 60-minute ferry (cost about HKD185/adult) from Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal to Macau. From there, we took a free 15-minute shuttle bus to Venetian Hotel where we transferred to another free 5-minute shuttle bus to Lotus Port (莲花口岸). There was no queue at all at this Macau-Zhuhai border. The distance between these two border-checkpoints is about 1km and we paid HKD3/pax for a 5-minute border shuttle bus. At Zhuhai Hengqin Port (珠海横琴口岸), we took a 7-minute hotel bus (free if you have the hotel vouchers or if not it will cost only RMB8/pax) to the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom Hotel. There were taxis outside Zhuhai Hengqin Port and it cost RMB30/ride to the hotel. Using this route, the total cost for each pax is only HKD225. The whole journey takes about 100 minute.

At the Zhuhai Hengqin Bay Hotel (横琴湾酒店), China’s largest ocean ecological theme hotel lobby intrigued us with its gigantic spectacular dolphin pillars. Houses over 1,800 spacious and luxurious suites and 4 big swimming pools, the hotel is connected to the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom by a 1,000m water canal. Visitors can take a private cruise from the hotel to the theme park.

Despite the grand interiors, services and hotel standard, in my opinion, was only so-so. Check-in queue was long and it took me over 30 minutes to get my room cards. Food charges were rather costly and the quality was satisfactory. There were a couple of convenient shops in the hotel but the prices were 200-300% more than usual. There was little signage around the premise to guide you to the key locations in the hotel but the hotel staffs were at every turn to guide you. Swimming pools closed at 8:30pm and it was quite a distance to our rooms. The only thing we liked was the hotel room. It was really spacious, clean and the beds were very comfortable.

We decided to watch the Hengqin Chimelong International Circus (横琴长隆国际大马戏) on Saturday evening and visit the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom on Sunday morning. During our free time, I brought the ladies and boys to Gongbei Port (拱北口岸地下商场) for lunch and shopping. We bought so many things! Both ladies and kids loved it!

Comparing with the Guangzhou’s Chimelong International Circus and Macau’s House of Dancing Water, the Hengqin Chimelong International Circus was appalling. Some of the acts were out-dated (even the kids were able to see through the magic shows), there were only 2-3 worthy acts. Judging from the overall applauds, only the Duo Golden Men Slow-Mo Act was astounding. There was no high point in the show, it was flat from the beginning to the end. It was not worth to pay RMB680/adult for the VIP seat. In fact, if you have watched any of the other 2 circus in Guangzhou or Macau, you can simple skip this and save some money. (Check the photos, I only captured those acts that were worthy.)

The next morning, it was pouring cats and dogs. We were at the theme park entrance 10 minutes after its opening hour at 930am. Despite the heavy downpour, there were thousands of visitors at the park!

At the entrance, we were greeted by a gigantic “Manta Ray” LCD roof canopy. It was massively impressive! Officially opened in March 2014, the RMB20-billion 132-hectare theme park houses 8 different zones. (Loop starting from the right: Ocean Main Street, Dolphin Cove, Amazing Amazon, Ocean Wonders, Polar Adventure, Colourful World, Mount Walrus and Hengqin Sea). Zoned in a circular format, it was very easy to navigate around the theme park – even without a map.

At Dolphin Cove, we came face to face with bottle-nose dolphins in its underwater enclosures.

Next stop at Amazing Amazon, Karen and Tracy took the park’s most scary roller-coaster ride, the Parrot Coaster. At a height of 50m, it is the third tallest ride in the world. Running at a distance of 1,278m, this is also the world’s longest and fastest “wing coaster” ride with a top speed of 108km/h. The girls didn’t know about all this fact before they queued up for it. All we knew was Tracy sprained her neck during the ride.

The Ocean Wonders is majestic and record-breaking! Here lies the world’s largest aquarium (yes, it topples the Singapore Sentosa’s record). Boasting a total water volume of 12.87 million gallons, the attraction holds another 4 new world records for “Largest Underwater Viewing Dome, Largest Aquarium Tank, Largest Aquarium Window and Largest Acrylic Panel”! Impressive marvels!

Here, we took a kid-friendly Deep Sea Odyssey ride. It is an unique 2-seater capsule ride that goes inside the aquarium and volcanic land.

At Polar Adventure, temperature was at 10-14 degree Celsius. We were soaking wet and cold from the rain and we didn’t stay long in this enclosure. Here, we saw the beautiful Beluga whales and the polar bears. At 11am, we went to the Polar Theatre to catch the talented Beluga performance! Like dolphins and orcas, the Beluga whales are very talented with an IQ of 6-year-old. After the show, most of us felt sad for these peaceful mammals as they should be freed and belong in the wild. While it is a good enclosure for the kids to learn more about these magnificent creatures, there should be more sustainable model to house and protect the animals.

Our last stop was at Mount Walrus (we skipped the Colourful World and Hengqin Sea). By then, the adults were fairly drenched and tired. We contemplated at the Walrus Ride and in the end, we all decided to give this a miss. At 3pm, we left the theme park and made our way back to Macau for dinner and a few rounds at the casino.

Like all Wahbiang gatherings, the trip with Karen and Juliana was an enjoyable one. After spending 2 solid days with the kids, I discovered new things about the kids. Zechariah isn’t a shy and gentle boy, he can be a very cheeky, active and adoring child. Alston and Elkan become good travel buddies and they share their toys and iPads. There weren’t any fighting among the kids, just the usual “catch and play” sessions. The ladies took turns to watch over the kids during the travel and shared parenting tips with one another. While the rest of the Wahbiang clan weren’t here, we talked a lot about them throughout the trip.

This trip opened my eyes on future Wahbiang trips. As long as the parents are able to manage their own children and be very discipline in the timing, it is highly feasible to plan a trip with kids and adults. While it might be difficult for every adults and kids to bond with everyone, it is still a wholesome get-together session for the clan – as long as we know how to manage ourselves and learn to divide and conquer.

Let’s plan for the next Wahbiang Trip soon. Looking back, the Perth trip is certainly ambitious but it is still possible. Let’s start with something small. Thanks Karen and Juliana (and kids) for the reunion and all the happy moments! Bet you ladies are well “China-trained” now!

A Birthday Reunion Surprise

I never forget all the birthday surprises. Wendy did it in 2005, Juliana in 2007, Duuk in 2008, SuperRace Teams in 2010, Chester and Auntie Amy in 2012, Sister & family in 2013 and mum and Auntie Amy did it again in 2014! Really, no matter how many times I went through these surprises every birthday, I am always deeply touched by the effort and presence of my loved ones. It never fails to put a smile on my face.

This year, the surprise arrived in the most unexpected way. My wife collaborated and instigated with Tracy and Chowpo. Knowing my meeting schedules, they planted a surprise right outside my client’s office!

Chowpo and I just finished a meeting at IFC and I wanted to go to the loo. I had 2 more meetings at the office and I wanted to finish the day early so I can spend some time with my boy at home. Just when I was walking towards the toilet, in that spilt-second, I thought I saw Elkan ran around a corner. I didn’t see Felicia around and I was wondering why my boy was alone at IFC. Just when I was about to chase after my boy, I saw Auntie Amy standing right there in my path! It was one of those twisted moments when my mind was fighting furiously against my logic to register the sudden reality. Shocked, surprised and extremely delighted, it took me a couple of seconds to register what’s going on. My eyes roved back to Chowpo and I knew instantly she was one of the accomplices. Then, I saw Felicia and Elkan holding 2 travel trolleys. They tricked me that Cousin Chester was hiding outside the mall. I went out and got my second and biggest surprise! It was my dear mum who was hiding behind the column! Double surprises!

I never expect to see them here in Hong Kong! I am very grateful to Auntie Amy and my sister for getting my mum to Hong Kong. (Auntie Amy was here for the past 3 birthdays!) Thanks to their well-deployed plan, I never expect to see them right outside my client’s doorstep! Superb timing and acting!

This was the best weekend ever! The timing was perfect! I have just finished a 8-week work marathon and this was the first weekend when I did not need to work! On Saturday, I decided to bring the family to Macau to watch the House of Dancing Water, and visited a couple of new casinos. On Sunday, I arranged a small birthday-cum-father-day brunch at Soho and invited Cousin Mike along. Dinner was at a scenic Chinese restaurant at iSquare building with 2 other lovely Hong Kong relatives. Auntie Amy and mum were a lot more active this trip. They were bold to explore the streets around Central by themselves! Despite the hot stuffy weather, they shopped tirelessly and bought many things! Mum even played an Augmented Reality Robot Fighting Game with Elkan at the Transformers Exhibition! (Wow, my mum is so high-tech now!)

This was a very short trip for both of them. Mum has to fly back to take care of the grandchildren. I tried to extend their stay for one more week but mum was unable to. This afternoon, Chowpo specially drove all of us to the airport and arranged a sumptuous dim-sum farewell lunch for Auntie Amy and mum.

When it was time to say goodbye at the departure gate, mum’s eyes were teary as she hugged us goodbye. This was the first time I saw mum weeping at the airport. My heart was broken. Her tears infected all of us. I saw Auntie Amy walked away with teary eyes. It was indeed a very blissful and eventful weekend! I miss their presence so much and I wish they can stay a day or two longer. Guess Elkan and I inherited mum’s genes, we are sentimental. Putting on a brave front, I went to give her a big warm hug and pat her on her head. I told her to take care and come back soon, hopefully during the next school vacations in Sept and Nov.

Thank you Auntie Amy and mum for making my birthday weekend so special and memorable. Please come back soon and do stay a little longer. Big hugs and smiles!

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