July 17, 2016 1 Comment
July 17, 2016 Leave a comment
Our monthly gatherings for Wahbiang birthday buddies has always been a great get-together and catching up with everyone in the clan. It gets tougher each month as we are constantly looking for suitable venues. From a small group of secondary school friends, we have multiplied to a big clan!! At the moment, we have about 17 kids and one more on the way, coming in Sep!
In the good days, hangouts were often at the coffee shops along East Coast Rd, Dunman food center or prata along Changi Rd. As we all settled down and started our families, our Eunos flat eventually become and weekly gathering venue. Simple activities of potluck dinners, gaming, mahjong session and most of our guest also stayed overnight on our sofa! That’s how eventually we called our flat, Hotel 25 (our block number). The good old times!
After we moved out of our flat, we catch up more often outside our homes. This month, since our flat was empty, being our usual haunt way back almost 20 years ago, I tot would be a great place for the Wahbiang clan and the kids too! Thanks Joanne for kick-starting and helping to organize July’s birthday gathering! The date was set, venue picked and food delivery ordered and the party starts!!
Elkan and me were excited about the party and that we were staying over for a night! It’s like a staycation for Elkan. He gathered some toys, clothes and his sleeping bag while I prepared the cutleries, snacks and toiletries. All packed in a luggage and off we head to Hotel 25!
With the convenience of online food delivery, everything happens in a click! We had DIY popiah and kueh pie tee, laksa, the famous Golden Pillow and side dishes. The clan came and the whole house was blasted with activities! Our kids were running around, lots of laughter, petty quarrels among them and our strict Auntie Karen at the top of her voice to keep the kids well behaved! Guess Hotel 25 is too small for the kids to play.
Good to have Erny to join us. We have occasional guests who often due to work or taking care of the younger kids, couldn’t make it to our gatherings. She mentioned that the last time she came, I was just pregnant with Elkan! How time flies! We were boys and girls, turned man and woman and now daddies and mummies.
Goodbyes at the end of the party was reluctant for Elkan. As we walked out with Lionnel & Joey, Duuk & Juliana, and the kids, he was looking a little upset. At the carpark, he kept sneaking into Duuk’s car so that he could hold up a few more minutes and play with the boys.
It was a great evening and a big thank you to all that came and made our home so cozy and filled with life and energy again!
Happy Birthday to the July babes, Juliana, Joey and Edelynn (MC’s younger girl)! Joanne, we missed you!!
July 16, 2016 Leave a comment
Most of my past experiences with 360-video-cameras were rather disappointing. I was one of the first users of Kodak SP360 and Ricoh Theta, the low video resolution was unforgivable.
When Samsung launched the new Gear 360 camera 2 weeks ago, I was skeptical about the visual quality. After battling many days of considerations, I gave in to temptation to try it. Thankfully, I have a spare Samsung Note 5. If not, this would be a very heavy investment for anyone who wants to own it.
The Samsung Gear 360 is very easy to use. Just turn on the spheric camera and the operation comes intuitively. I was so excited to test the camera that I forgot to bring my Samsung phone out. The phone acts as a remote viewfinder and controller for the 360-camera. Fortunately, the Gear 360 worked just fine without the phone.
Battery life was pretty decent. The camera was switched on continuously for about 90 minutes. I shot over 20 photographs, 4 time-lapse videos and 10-minute footages. By the time I reached home, there was still 60% battery power remaining in the camera.
Shooting 360 was a breeze but it took additional steps to share the video on social media. Before I can share any video or photo, I have to stitch & save both images and footages via the Samsung Gear 360 app.
The original uncompressed picture, video and audio quality was surprisingly promising (viewing on the smart phone and computer). It exceeded my expectation. However, the final viewing quality on Facebook & Youtube underwent heavy compression and the final result was less than satisfactory. Also, there is a minor flaw in the stitching. Often I can spot the stitch line on the video and photo. Hopefully Samsung releases a new firmware or app to solve this.
The biggest difficulty I encountered was transferring the files and editing the videos via a Mac. Samsung Gear 360 App allows individual file-sharing to Youtube or Facebook. However, I wanted to edit all the 360 media files into one single vlog. I realised I cannot edit and publish these 360 files via iMovie. Also, Samsung 360 Director software file is only for Windows user. It is a frustrating experience to download, edit and publish Samsung Gear 360 files using a Mac.
Like many Mac users, I checked many websites and Youtube videos to learn how to export the Samsung 360 files. After 2 days of exploration and many failed testings, I finally found the simpliest way.
This is exactly what I did:
1) First, I have to install “Samsung SmartSwitch” (file transfer app) to download the stitched 360-files from the Samsung device to my Mac.
2) Once I have downloaded the stitched files (photos and videos) onto my Mac, I downloaded Adobe Premiere Pro. At this moment, Adobe Premiere Elements doesn’t support any VR video editing or exporting.
3) Import all the stitched videos (in monoscopic format) into Adobe Premiere Pro
4) Edit as per normal like any video editor
5) During exporting, enable VR Video (monoscopic) and select H.264 video format. It is important so the video will be exported in the same ratio
6) The video will be saved in your designated folder. Upload the video file (in MP4) to Youtube or Facebook
7) Youtube and Facebook will detect the video and automatically stream 360. Do exercise patience. It takes about 15-30 minutes for the 360 video to be live. Hang on there!
That’s it! I finally got my first 360 Vlog up and running! If only this 360 cam can be integrated on the Osmo and Phantom 4, it will be perfect! Who knows, maybe DJI has something in their sleeves now!
June 20, 2016 2 Comments
I am supposed to complete this blog in Perth 2 days ago but I have decided to spend the rest of free time with them at night. It takes a lot of time and effort to vlog and blog. I only do that during the wee-hours of the night when the family is asleep. Reunion time is precious to us and I try to stay away from my computer as much as I can.
Day 8 – After a night at the creepy foggy town at Hyden, we embarked our longest drive back to Perth City. It was super foggy and visibility was at only 100m. Unfamiliar with such road condition, Felicia took the wheel and drove cautiously.
We made a 20km detour to visit the Mulka Cave (thanks to Floyd’s recommendation) where we explored a tiny cave with many cave paintings. Elkan led the exploration and guided me to the top of the cave where we saw an enchanted forested garden. It was like walking on the surface of the moon except it was textured with colourful emerald and amber moss and with numerous sparkling pot-holes. The cold air and foggy forest mist made this place so refreshing calm. If we weren’t rushing for time, I would sit here for hours.
The drive to Perth took us 5 hours. Just outside the town Corrigin, we stopped by another unusual attraction – a cemetery solely for men’s best friends, dogs! It all started back in 1975 when a man by the name Paddy Wright buried his dog here. Soon after, more dog lovers came here to bury their deceased dogs. A cemetery care-taker by the name of Alan Henderson erected tombstones and decorated the site for a fee. This dog cemetery has then became the town’s most unusual tourist attraction.
Our final pitstop was at Fremantle where we rested for 2 days. I booked a 3-storey terrace house right at the doorstep of Fremantle Marina. It was our best stay in Western Australia so far. We had 2 really big balcony overseeing the marina and a 2-bedder attic on the top floor! Elkan was at first thrilled with such a big house but he has developed this fear for attic after 5 days of horror-movie watching on the road trip. He refused to sleep in the attic no matter how we hard we tried.
We spent the last 2 days (Day 9 – Day 10) walking around Fremantle. At Fremantle Markets, Felicia even bumped into her old friend whom we last met 20 years ago! What a small world indeed!
The weather was fantastic and I flew my drone around Fremantle Railway Station, the Round House, Fremantle Prison and Cottesloe Beach.
Later in the night, we visited the Fremantle Prison. This was Elkan’s most favourite activity of the entire trip. Geared with only a small torchlight, we followed a small group of tourists and explored the 161-year-old prison. The night tour was filled with lots of suspense and haunted tales. During the tour, Elkan was selected by the tour guide to lead the group into a small dark cell. Thankfully, he was brave and he did not panic. If not, his cries and mental breakdown will be too much for the poor tour guide to handle.
Just before we headed to the airport hotel, we met up with another old friend, Lambert and family. We spend a short afternoon with this fabulous family at their newly-built bungalow (where I took an aerial shot of his home!). Tracy and I had an embarrassing moment when we convinced Lambert that we spotted penguins along Mill Point Road. Despite being doubtful, Lambert was kind to lead us to the area where we had our sighting. The two families drove to that specific spot and we walked for 15 minutes before we realised our mistake. From the highway, it sure looked like penguins. From my super-zoom camera, those were normal birds (the colours and postures resembled the penguins) resting on a rock. What a laugh!
11 days and 12 nights of adventure finally ended yesterday. Time to wrap up all these happy moments and head back to office tomorrow. It is a short June reunion but full and complete.
Perth is indeed a very special place for both Felicia and I. It was in my first trip in Perth when I decided that Felicia was the one I wanted to marry. Felicia and I came back to Perth the second time to have our honeymoon and now we brought our son along to trace back the same route we took before 14 years ago. Who knows what happen in our 4th trip back in Perth?
Early Sunday morning, we took 2 separate flights out and we planned the departure time close to one another. Their flight was 30 minutes before ours. It was difficult to say goodbye, especially after so many days of intense fun, noise, chaos and love. At the departure gate, Elkan held back his tears and waved us goodbye. It was dawn and the sky glowed beautiful.
Distance and separation do bring us closer as a family. We treasure every reunion time.
I hope my son remembers and cherish all these adventures. He is becoming a teenager soon and by then, he won’t enjoy going out with his old folks. For me, my memory is fading off slowly but I have a rich vault of blogs and vlogs for us to enjoy later.
Time to plan our next reunion.
June 16, 2016 1 Comment
On the 7th Day of our tour, I celebrated my birthday at one of Australian’s most iconic natural landmarks – the Wave Rock. We left Albany early this morning and drove over 350km to Hyden, a distance equivalent between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Thankfully, I was blessed with blue sky sunny day! Finally, I can fly my drone once more!
Wave Rock is situated at one of the most remote corners in Western Australia, in a small town call Hyden. It is pretty far from the nearest tourist-friendly town. Basically, Hyden is like a small ghost town. There isn’t much to explore or see here except the legendary Wave Rock. Since I have never been to the Wave Rock (and Felicia mentioned many times it doesn’t worth the effort to visit this over-publicized landmark), I decided to detour and cross this check box off my list of “must-visit” places.
Is it worth it? It is no doubt one unique and majestic odd-looking rock formation. Considering we spent only 1 hour at the Wave Rock and over 8 hours making the detour, the numbers may not make much sense to many. However, this is a new experience for us. Elkan and Tracy walked on top of the 14m-tall ancient rock while I flew my drone over it; I am certain it does worth every second of our time to be here.
The other highlight of the day was our accommodation at the local motel. It may be the low-peak travel season and we couldn’t find other traveler-occupants here. Thanks to the successful cult-horror-movie, Psycho, I have a phobia staying in a motel; especially one that is remote and quiet. For a good 15 minutes, we walked around the compound and couldn’t find anyone. The brick-walled hallway and muddy driveway looked old and creepy. After watching 3 nights of horror movies, we spooked ourselves unnecessarily.
Other than the old scary outlook, I must say the Wave Rock Motel was distinctively new, clean and very well furnished! It was very comfortable and warm. Once inside the room, we forgot about the fear. Still, we met less than 2 souls around the big empty compound.
Just when I was going to spend the last 2 hours of my birthday writing this vlog and blog, my 3 darlings gave me another surprise! They walked into the room with a bigger cake and real birthday candles! I was so surprised!
What moved me so deeply wasn’t the surprise cake, it was the song they sang and played. Knowing I like listening to live piano, Elkan spent 2 months taking piano lessons and he played one of my favourite scores “Over the Rainbow” on his iPad keyboards. Felicia composed a new lyric narrating our journey; and Tracy and her sang along. I stood there, moved deeply by their performance and love. Trying to conceal my emotion, I broke into laughter and gave all of them a big hug and kiss.
As always, their presence is my greatest birthday gift. And there is no gift greater than to see us smile together. Thank you for giving me another priceless “handmade” gift. I will remember this piece forever in my heart. Love you all.
June 15, 2016 2 Comments
It rained continuously for 3 days. Life was pretty gloomy and cold out here in Albany. The temperamental storm came and went every few minutes. The bad weather slowed down our journey as the heavy rain decreased visibility on the roads. My drone was grounded for 3 days and most of my camera equipments were wet. I had a difficult time to capture videos for my vlog as the raindrops kept blurring my lenses.
The ladies took turns to drive from Margaret River to Albany. It was a long 400km drive and we made 2 stops to visit the giant trees. Elkan and I were planning to climb up the 52m-tall Gloucester Tree. However, the wet slippery tree rods were too dangerous and risky for my little boy. Elkan was disappointed when I decided to call off the climb at mid-point. Safety is more important than fun.
Thankfully, the rain stopped when we arrived at the Valley of the Giant Trees. We ascent to the top of the giant trees by walking up a gentle 40m-tall ramped bridge. It was an eye-opener for Elkan and Tracy. At least, this was much easier (and safer) than climbing vertically up the Gloucester Tree. As the sun was setting, we quickly made our way down to Albany. We didn’t want to drive into the night, especially when the weather was so foggy and wet.
We arrived in Albany just in time before dusk. Tracy bought a vege-meal at Hungry Jack while the rest of us dined at Red Rooster. It was pouring all night and we went back to our cottage and watch the classic Matrix Trilogy via my protector. (Yes, I brought a protector along just in case I couldn’t connect my iPad with the TV).
Day 6 – It was still pouring and we lazed in the cottage until late morning. Most of the attractions were just 20km away. Despite the heavy downpour, we went ahead to visit the Wind Farm, the Gap, the Natural Bridge, the BlowHole and the Wildlife Park. The wind was so strong along the coastal tracks. We struggled with our steps at the top of the ocean cliffs. It was one terrifying and exciting experience.
When we were exploring the massive rock-formations, we witnessed another magical natural wonder – double rainbows arching out in the stormy sea! It was such a rare beautiful sight!
We came back early to pack for tomorrow’s long drive to Hyden (WaveRock). At midnight, I foiled Elkan and Tracy’s surprise birthday attempt! They tried to surprise me but I was always one step faster than them! Can’t blame them for failing, I am the Master of Pranks at home. Nonetheless, they tried again and succeeded in luring me to the kitchen in the name of “supper”. There, I blew a digital candle (via Tracy’s iPad) and four of us shared a very very small chocolate cake. Thanks for the surprise but daddy is just too witty for all of you. Hahaha.
Speaking about birthday – I wish I will not lose a drone tomorrow. Last year’s loss was too painful for me. Before I end this blog, I want to convey a big big THANK YOU to all my lovely family and friends who sent their greetings via Wechat and Facebook! Thanks for all your warm birthday wishes and blessings! And yes, I live, I laugh, I love and I am truly very very happy! Thanks for all your love, friendship and kinship!
June 13, 2016 Leave a comment
Taking a road trip with our son, Elkan, and reenacting some of those familiar 2002-shots with our boy standing in front of us was quite a surreal experience. After all, Felicia and I just got married 14 years ago when we had our belated honeymoon in Perth. While many of these attractions remain unchanged, our 12-year-old boy reminds us the passing of time. While age takes a slow toll on my appearance and body, I still feel like 25 deep inside.
Yesterday afternoon, we arrived safely at our 3rd pitstop – Margaret River. It was like a Little Singapore, there were so many Singaporean-travelers here! We bumped into them everywhere – from chocolate factory to caves to Coles supermarket! Singapore should open an embassy here!
We stayed 2 nights at a big cozy 2-bedroom cottage at Margaret River. It consisted of 2 warm bedrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen and a very spacious living room. It was very well-maintained, warm and comfortable.
Day 1 – we visited the wineries and local-food (chocolate, nuts and nougat) “factories” yesterday. Do not expect to see any food production in those “factory” or “farm”, they are actually tourist retail outlets where shoppers get to enjoy lots of generous samplings. Too bad, all of us aren’t wine lovers. Most of these factories closed at 5pm. The sun set early in winter and by 530pm, it was nightfall. The only place to loiter after 5pm was at Coles Supermarket (our favourite evening hangout place) where we bought groceries for our meals.
By 8pm, we finished dinner and we got nothing to do. We were so bored that we played hide-and-seek in complete darkness. The cottage was only big enough for us to play 5 rounds. By 9pm, I worked on my vlog and blog while the three of them watched a horror movie via the large LCD TV through my iPad Netflix.
Day 2 – We decided to drive down south to Augusta and Leeuwin to visit the cape and caves. It started drizzling the minute we arrived at the Leeuwin Lighthouse.
We did so much stairs-climbing today. We took 176 steps x 2 up and down the lighthouse at Leeuwin, 500 steps at Western Australia’s largest cave, Jewel Cave and 320-step staircase x 2 at majestic Lake Cave. Thankfully, all these attractions are naturally indoor. The rain didn’t really dampen our tour.
It will be another 4-hour long drive tomorrow. We will be heading to our 4th pitstop, Albany. The weather forecast doesn’t look very good for now. Hopefully we get sunny weather tomorrow as all the attractions are outdoor. Rain or shine, it will be a wonderful and relaxing road trip for all of us.
Enjoy the vlog and photos.