Wahbiang Vlog 2016/09 – Hate going to the airport

Last day in Singapore. Hate waking up early to say goodbye to my son at the bus-stop. Hate packing and moving. Hate messaging goodbye-notes on Wechat. Hate SQ for for not overbooking their flights. Hate pandan-cake trafficking. And really really hate going to our world-class Changi airport for all the wrong reasons. 24 days in Singapore – This is my longest home-cum-working trip ever! And it is without doubt, the best!

CNY Reunion in Bintan – Can’t believe my old dame did it!

The Wong/Cheng/Chua Family CNY tradition continues. From Sentosa to Desaru to Kukup, this is our 4th CNY staycation tour. Despite organising this 4 months ahead, we had the smallest turnout. Due to the bad timing, Uncle Asty and my sister’s family couldn’t make it.

The weather was terrible. It was cold, stormy and windy throughout our 3-day stay. What a waste, we booked 2 big villas by the pool and beach! It was impossible to do any sea sport, the waves were huge and choppy!

The ferry ride from Singapore to Bintan was quite an adventure. The sea condition was really bad. Just 15 minutes into the ride, things got chaotic pretty quickly. The ferry rocked violently and many passengers vomited. A Chinese man who sat beside me went berserk. Frantically, he unlocked the emergency door and went out to the open deck. He was spotted by other passengers who alerted the captain.

Stranded inside the villa, there wasn’t much to do. Everything was exorbitantly expensive here – food, shopping and activities. We came well-prepared with lots of food and booze. For some strange reasons, UnionPay Debit Card holders at the resort enjoyed 30% discount! That was quite a substantial saving! Thankfully, cousin Leon from Xiamen has his China card with him! We enjoyed a very sumptuous CNY dinner at the Kelong!

Bored and grounded indoor, I flew my drone out to take some aerial footage of our villas. The wind was too strong for the DJI Phantom but I managed to control the drone within range. However, there were 2 gigantic broadcasting towers beside our resort. Out of the sudden, I lost all transmission to the drone and it drifted away. The wind took it higher and further. It was horrific to see my drone drifting away and I couldn’t do anything about it. Somehow, the towers interfered and blocked my signals. For a good 20 minutes, I lost total contact with the drone!

Elkan and I ran out to search for the drone. Chester saw us running out of the villa and joined us. Thankfully, I managed to reconnect with the drone. From the live view on my iPad, I piloted the drone back to us just minutes before its battery ran out. What a scary nightmare!

On the second day, we went out to the Activity Centre. We had so much unexpected fun! We did archery and air-rifle shooting. Felicia and Elkan were sharp-shooters. It was Felicia’s first attempt on the air-rifle and she hit the target!

The highlight of the day was my mother. While we were leaving the Activity Centre, we saw a couple of kids soaring down the flying-fox. Surprisingly, my 70-year-old mother wanted to try it! (Even my timid boy wanted to play too!) The staff thought we were joking when we bought the ticket for my mum. They said my mum could be their oldest customer ever! They were expecting my mum to back out at the last minute but my old dame proved them wrong. She leaped and soared! What a joy to see her doing the flying-fox. We were very impressed! My mum rocks and she has balls!

What an unusual CNY reunion! No sun but we had so much fun together! It was a great break for me, to be away from work and having quantity time with my relatives, parents, wife and our little monkey! Enjoy the photos and Vlog below:

The annual Chinese Feasting Festival is back!

I am finally off for Chinese New Year! No more work and meeting, just having great reunion time with my family and good friends in Singapore! This year is a little bit special, I get to stay in Singapore for over 20 days!

Fate has been very kind to me too. Over the last 3 days, I bumped into 2 very old friends – Stella and Rosline (aka Baoxuan) who were coincidently my secondary school friends! I also managed to gather all my dear Katong friends for a small reunion breakfast at my favourite joint. I really miss the old days when we ran our small boutique agency. Time flies, Caffeine has been in Katong for over 1 decade! Amazing!

I would like to thank Karen and Charlie for hosting such a wonderful Wahbiang Gathering! It was nice to meet a couple of friends who I haven’t seen for over a year – Duuk, Yifu, Charlie, Ivy and Kalinda! It was a great party but the reunion time was too short for me to connect with every single one of you! We miss the presence of Lusia & Sam (who are now recovering in USA), Mannc, Joey, Lilian, Serene, Tracy (in KL with family) and Joanne! Despite the heavy downpour, we had a great time! The kids were pretty well-behaved too!

While I enjoy all the reunion with my families and friends, I don’t really like the ritual of eating/drinking at every CNY meeting. It does seem awkward and rude if we do not offer or accept any food/drinks during the gathering. It is really difficult to keep my weight down during this fattening feasting season. Perhaps I should just restrict myself to 3 gatherings per day. It is not even CNY yet and I felt my tummy bloated already!

I wonder, how many more Yusheng (鱼生) I have to consume before the end of this feasting season?

Enjoy the Vlog below:

Tracy ruined my surprise! (Trip to Singapore)

Tracy did it again! My secret surprise trip to Singapore has been leaked out by her unintentionally. Urghhh… I got a big surprise when I received my son’s text message minutes before I boarded my flight to Singapore. Elkan knew! Urghhh…

Luckily, I managed to save the nice surprise for my old folks, nephew and niece. Surprise costs little money (but lots of effort) and never fails to tickle the hearts. It is a gesture that runs deep in family. That’s why we never disclose our travel plans to any family member. Occasionally, a loved one appeared right where one least expected. That spark of surprise is an indescribable and priceless feeling. And I remember them all no matter how cheesy they were.

It will be a packed week of meetings all the way before CNY. I had 4 short days in Singapore before I flew off to Myanmar. I managed to balance a great schedule between work, friends and family time. Had lunch with Joanne and Juliana, meeting with Jimmy, Desmond & gang and dinner+dessert with Lionnel. I woke up early in the morning at 5am to catch sunrise with Felicia by the barrage. And Elkan and I spent the last 2 nights fixing up a new Wall·E Lego (with electrical accessories) that I bought specially for him!

Time to pack and leave for Yangon. Enjoy the Vlog video below.

Short Weekend Vacation at Melaka (Blog by Felicia)

One week ago, we just returned from Hong Kong and Elkan, my mom, my sister (Chups) and me headed to Melaka this weekend! It was a last minute decision for a short trip to visit my relatives and attend my uncle’s 82nd birthday celebration! At 82, he still drives, writes good Chinese calligraphy, and tends to his own business that was hand down by his father. It’s been a while since our last visit to Melaka, my mom’s hometown.

Online coach ticketing is so convenient and efficient. We managed to get a coach that departs from Marine Parade straight to Melaka. In the past, we had to make a trip down to Lavender Bus Terminal to purchase the tickets few days before departure day.

We got onto a very spacious and comfortable 21-seater coach on Friday afternoon after I picked Elkan from school. He was excited when he spotted free wifi was provided on board! After a short 3 and a half hour drive and we arrived at Melaka.

We checked into our hotel and quickly walked over to visit my uncle and relatives. I kinda miss the shophouse where I used to come here every school holiday during my primary school days and played with my cousins. Now we are all grown up and living in different cities so far apart, we hardly meet up. The old folks chatted and my eldest aunt spoke about the old days when they were still kids running up and down the wooden staircases, making a lot of noise and getting into trouble so often. Fond old memories.

Just two days before we left for Melaka, Joanne mentioned that she’s heading to Melaka for a short weekend trip with their family of 12 pax! So we planned to meet her and Sherane for dinner on Friday night. Elkan spotted them across the street when we were heading to Jonker’s Street. It was always good to see familiar faces when you are overseas.

The evening was hot and humid. As we stroll along Jonker’s Street, there were food stalls, souvenirs, handicrafts, toys, and many more. It is much more bustling than it used to be many years ago. There were also cruise by the river. At some point, the street was filled with the stinky toufu smell! For a moment, I tot I was in Hong Kong! Some of the locals speaks Cantonese too.

Finally we managed to get some seats and had local Chinese food for dinner. But our main course was actually the chendol! Unfortunately it was sold out by evening…. Such a disappointment. We had gula meleka with sago & shaved ice instead. Not too bad too! Then I spotted a guy stuffing a cake hand mixer into a small water melon! He was making instant watermelon juice right in the melon itself! So interesting! Perfect for the hot weather.

At the end of the street, it was lit up with many fancy cartoon decorated rickshaws! Hello Kitty, Doraemon, Frozen, Minions, etc. These are not cheap rides. Almost the same price as taxi rides.

It was great to catch up with the gals. The evening ended with happy tummies and Elkan was happy with his new bow and arrow toy!

The next day was a just indoor air-con shopping. We simply couldn’t stand the outdoor heat. The malls are similar like ours with all the familiar brands. Best part is you pay in ringgit!

We were looking forward to the birthday dinner where we met more relatives. It was a karaoke cum dinner session. The old folks were enjoying themselves, singing Mandarin and Cantonese oldies. They were good sport and sang heartily! The food was great and people were greater. I did not know many of my uncle’s friends but they were all very friendly.

Elkan and me were trigger happy snapping many candid shots with our nieces, nephews, cousins and the other folks!

阿Q, 生日快乐! May you be healthy and happy! 

Sparkling Surprise at Gloomy Farewell

Just like the foggy weather today, we had a gloomy farewell at the airport. Even though we have been expecting (and mentally-prepared for) this farewell 1-2 weeks ago, tears still welled in our eyes when it was time to say goodbye.

Harshad, Tracy and I planned a little surprise for Felicia at our farewell lunch. Her birthday is just around the corner and we gave her an early birthday celebration. Thanks to Harshad who bought and hid the cake well.

It was difficult for me to shop/buy/hide the present when Felicia and Elkan were 24/7 tailgating me throughout the past 14 days. In the end, I had to disguise the present as my sister’s Christmas gift to avoid Felicia’s suspicion. Luckily, it worked.

Felicia was pleasantly surprised when we brought out the cake and the presents. At least, there were some happy moments to cheer all of us up today.

When it was time to go, Elkan broke into tears. Unlike we adults, a child never hides his true emotion and love. And that’s the beauty of being childlike and pure. Just like those meaningful lines in the story of the Little Prince, “Never lose that childish ability to see what’s really important in life. Sometimes, a silent look or a hug is enough. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” 

I hope my son grows up like the Little Prince. Never forgets the little pure heart inside.

Farewell marks another new countdown to our next happy reunion. Big smile and hugs. See you two very very soon.

Warm Farewell, Lucky Find & Joyful Ride into 2016

No countdown or staying late for the fireworks, I slept very early on New Year Eve. Mum and dad flew back early this morning. Felicia and I woke up at 6am to send them off.

While many others were still in their beds after last night’s countdown celebrations, Felicia and I were blessed to catch the first ray of dawn on New Year Day. We felt very refreshed and energised. It felt really good.

Mum and dad were already waiting at the entrance of the hotel by the time we arrived. They woke up earlier than both of us. We took a cab to Hong Kong Airport Express at IFC where they checked in their bags.

While waiting for them outside the check-in counters, I went to a nearby bin to spit out the awful phlegm that was irritating my throat (I am still down with this nasty cough and flu). Just before I was about to spit, I spotted something familiar inside the bin.

I recognised the rim of the wheel. It was a hoverboard!

Why was there a hoverboard inside a bin at IFC Airport Express in the early New Year morning? I looked around to check for its owner. No one seemed to be paying any attention to the bin. I was the only one beside it.

Curiously, I took the entire hoverboard out of the bin. It was wrapped in a white cloth. It looked very new and clean except for some slight scratches. Some one had deliberately dumped this. Possibly just minutes before I came by.

I turned it on and stood on it. It worked perfectly! A pity to leave it inside the bin. Well, finders keepers! I will most likely keep this in the office.

When my parents and wife saw me standing on the hoverboard, they were extremely surprised. My dad immediately warned “Later, it will explode!” 

I suspected the owner planned to check the hoverboard onboard the plane but was rejected as all airlines forbid any electric-vehicles/hoverboard on flight (due to the danger of large lithium-ion batteries). There have been more than 10 cases of hoverboards explosions and fires. It must be a very heart-breaking dump for the owner, especially when the hoverboard was well-protected by a bag (and it looked so new and clean). I felt really bad for him/her to discard something like that on New Year Day.

If my logic is right, then there will be many new hoverboards or segways being discarded at the check-in counters. The airport may be a good place to start hunting for discarded goods. (There are already many expensive lighters, perfumes, liquors being thrashed at custom check-in every day. I wonder what happened to these discarded items?) Maybe someone should start a “Cash-convertor” stores at all customs.

It was a quick and warm farewell. Mum’s teary but she hid it well. And I spotted it, ha! Sigh, I will rerun the same heavy-hearted farewell 2 days later when Felicia and Elkan are flying back to Singapore. Damn, I really dislike farewell.

Felicia and I came back home before 9am. I decided to surprise my son with my new find. It worked! His expression was priceless! (See video below)

Since it was New Year Day, we decided to do something different, new and healthy! We spent the rest of our day cycling from Tai Po Waterfront Park (大埔海濱公園) to Shatin. The weather was fantastic! It was sunny and cooling! Believe it or not, this is our first time cycling together in Hong Kong! This is a great place! I love the scenery and the cycling route. I never expect Tai Po Waterfront Park to be this beautiful!

In total, we cycled close to 20km (3 hours). It was very crowded this afternoon, there were a few near-accidents due to those reckless overtaking bikers.

What an unusual New Year Day for me! Previously, the house would be very empty, cold and quiet by now as Felicia and Elkan used to depart before the new year. This is the first time in 10 years my entire family is with me on New Year Day!

Summing it up – A warm reunion and farewell, a lucky find and a very very happy, sunny ride! Guess 2016 will be a lucky, smooth and joyful year for me! Happy New Year to all!

 

Back to our roots (金門-寻根之旅)

This may not be the most beautiful beach but it is one dearest to me.

Since young, I heard so many stories from my late Ah Mah about her life in Kinmen (金門). Even at the final days of her life when most memory failed her, she kept reciting about the beach where she and grandpa went to collect oysters every morning. The beach must have left her with such a deep memory, even at the final days of her life, she couldn’t remember me or her loved ones, she kept reciting the same old story time after time.

When she passed away in 1999, I promised myself that one day I must visit this particular beach where Ah Mah and Ah Gong used to live. With my loved ones and family.

I never forget this promise. It takes me 16 years to fulfil this promise.

This is the one and only reason why we come to Kinmen. To find back our roots. It will be a meaningful trip for my parents and my son. For me, I have been dreaming about this “beach” Ah Mah often mentioned, I want to be at the spot she mentioned in all her stories.

Thanks to my cousins Xuejun and Chee Bin who directed me to the right local contact, we managed to locate the address of our late grandparents’ old home. The old house sits opposite the beach in a very small district of Yangshan (21,22 洋山).

An old distant relative and some neighbours came out to welcome us and brought us to the old abandoned sealed house. It was very very old. A government seal was pasted on its wall. It stated the owner of the building (my deceased Ah Gong) and it was under the protection of the government. The exterior walls looked clean and intact but the building’s interior was occupied by dense vegetation. It was impossible to enter the compound.

There were a lot of empty oyster shells littered around the compound. I asked the neighbour about the beach. They told us it’s a short walking distant right across the road. Before we left the compound, we took a 3-generation photo (my dad, son and me) at the entrance of the old house and headed out to the beach. It was only a short 3-minute walk away.

“Look opposite and you see Xiamen” the old neighbour pointed to us.

The seashore is unlike the sandy beach my Ah Mah described, it is now bunkered by concrete stabs to prevent erosion of the shoreline. A road separated the house and the beach. I was a little disappointed when I saw it. It was just so different from what I had imagined.

“So this is where Ah Gong and you harvested oysters” I thought to myself. “And this is the sea view you see every day before you came to Singapore. Too bad, this place has been urbanised, there is no more oyster.”

By some divine intervention or the old neighbour was able to read my thoughts, she said “Look beyond the shoreline at the shallow water, there are a lot of oysters there. If you come early, we can go down and grab a few!”

I was surprised and delighted to hear that and took out my camera to capture the areas she pointed. The neighbour then brought us to another house where we saw a middle aged lady extracting oysters from the shells.

“This is how we do it here. We put sticks or nets in the water for the oysters to grow. One year later, we draw them out and extract the meats” she explained. “This is tough work, only the old folks are doing this today. The young ones left home for better jobs outside Kinmen.”

Just before we left, I went back to the old house to take more shots. At the back of the house, I bumped into a very old lady who sternly questioned (in Hokkien) about my presence (you might be able to spot her in the video below). I told her I was taking photo of my late Ah Mah’s house. To my surprise, she said she knew the occupants of the house but that was so long ago. Before we left, she smiled at Elkan and me with these parting words, “Yes, they (deceased ancestors) will know that you are back. Young people should come back to revisit their roots. This is your home after all.” 

On the way back to our cab, I took one last look at the sea and the rocky sandy beach, I can finally put a good closure to the missing part of my 16-year vision of the story my late-Ah Mah shared.

It is nothing but beautiful. Miss you so much again, Ah Mah.

Droning on Christmas Day (over Fujian Tulou)

I always like to blog or vlog on the actual day so I can extract the most from my memory. It is also mentally exhausting for me to go through 2-3 days of content.

However, after 3 late nights of video editing and blogging, I fell sick on Christmas Day. I was down with a very bad painful sore throat and fever. I totally lost my voice. My parents and wife were worried about me and I promised them that I will rest more. So, no blogging or video-editing until the end of the trip.

On Christmas Day, Leon and Qiaoqiao made special transport arrangement for me to visit an UNESCO World Heritage Site, the legendary Fujian Tulou. Built between the 12th-20th century, the Tulou is famed for its large, circular fortified earth structure. It is like a Royal castle with thick defensive outer walls and upper-deck gun holes (to fight against armed bandits), except these unique buildings were built for a large family or clan. Despite using very basic materials, the oldest Tulou stands for over 700 years. Each Tulou comes equipped with its own water wells, ceremonial hall, bedrooms and bathrooms.

Due to its unique shape and uncanny outlook, the Tulou were once mistaken for missile silos by the Americans during the Cold War.

We took an hour train from Xiamen to Longyan City (龙岩市) and from there, we travelled for another 40 minutes to Hongkeng village. There are a total of 46 Tulou listed by the UNESCO and the driver took us to the “Prince of Tulou”, 振成楼. Completed in 1912, the Prince of Tulou is a double-ring structure, consists of 184 rooms.

The weather was bad. It was foggy and gloomy. It wasn’t the ideal condition for photography. Nevertheless, Leon and I took the drone out and prepared for flight. Drone pilots often attracted many curious onlookers. Even before the flight, there were already a couple of onlookers waiting beside us. The drone flight was delayed by damn DJI as its app alerted us that we have to upgrade the new firmware which I did a few days ago. Anyway, we wasted a good-10-minute battery life for the completion of upgrading. It was kind of worrying as it is never good to do remote upgrading just minutes before flight time.

The drone took off successfully and the view from above was spectacular! A few local villagers stood beside me to peep at the screen. They were excited as this was the first time they saw their homeland from above. They were surprised how beautiful and big it looked.

Leon and Elkan took turns to operate their first solo flight. Leon was impressed how user-friendly and powerful the drone was. (I was trying to persuade him to join the drone club!) Elkan was super excited and happy that he managed the landing unassisted.

I wished we have more time to drone over more Tulou. However, we have a farewell dinner to attend and we have to rush back to Xiamen. Well, I got what I came here for. All good and beautiful. Time to pack and head back to Xiamen.

The impregnable Golden Gate(金门之旅)

Kinmen (金门), the Golden Gate of the East is a small island with only 50,000 residents. Today, over 100,000 Kinmen descendants are residing in southeast Asia. It is rich in its war history and was the place where the last China-Taiwan war was fought. Thanks to American’s intervention (with a serious threat to nuke China if Kinmen is ever invaded), it miraculously survived 2 Chinese invasion attempts and over 500,000 bombardments.

Other than its historic war monuments, Kinmen is also famed for its white spirit (金门高粱酒), knives (金门菜刀) and herbs (一条根). Surprisingly, not many people know how close Kinmen is to China, it takes only 30 minutes on ferry to get across between these 2 countries. Due to the passenger volume, there is a ferry every 30 minutes.

Kinmen is relatively a green and clean island, life on the island is slow and peaceful. Local islanders are extremely warm and friendly, everywhere is peaceful, safe, spacious and quiet. Air is fresh, there is almost no pollutant here. Greenery is aplenty and very well-maintained. Drivers give way to one another and strangers make small talk along the way. The main road is mostly empty and there is no major shopping street or night market. By 9pm, the island sleeps. It reminds me of Australian and New Zealand towns. (Perfect for me as I slept early due to my bad flu.)

It is very tourist-friendly as over 90% of the attractions do not require any entrance fee. At the custom, I saw many tourists from China, mainland Taiwan and Hong Kong.

We stayed at a cozy local B&B hotel where it is named after the owner’s Dalmatian dog, Dingding 叮叮. The owner volunteered to pick us up at the ferry terminal (which was extremely helpful as we have 6 pax and many big luggage). Breakfast were provided daily and they were very tasty. (As Tracy is vegetarian, they went out to buy her breakfast!) Our rooms faced a very small man-made lake which was amazingly clean with fishes and ducks. And broadband was surprisingly fast too!

Getting around Kinmen is easy. There are a lot of yellow cabs around and the bus drivers are friendly to guide us around. Private car rental is at NT500/hour and most attractions are located within 5-10 minutes ride away.

As it was a trip to visit our old house, we didn’t make any pre-holiday planning. We relied on the local’s recommendation and travellers’ reviews on TripAdvisor. Too bad, the weather was wet and we didn’t get to cycle around the island. We visited many free attractions – underground bunkers (dug manually during the war), old traditional residence, Kinmen cultural museum, underground navy base and the original Kinmen Liquor Company (it is cheaper to get the liquor here than at duty free stores at the ferry terminal). At night, we dined at Asia’s largest duty free shopping complex, Everrich Downtown Duty Free.

It was a short relaxing 2D2N trip, the main purpose is to visit our old house. This morning, we left Kinmen and returned to Xiamen to catch our train back to Shenzhen. Leon came to pick us up at the ferry terminal and had lunch with us.

The year end family vacation is coming to an end. Next stop Hong Kong, with my old folks.

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