Who needs Santa when you have Mermaids for Christmas!

I only slept for 3 hours last night. We have a wonderful Christmas Eve. I took tons of footage and photographs. By the time we finished our little Christmas countdown and video-edit, it was already 4am! Tiring but every second is priceless!

This is the first time I celebrate Christmas with my parents and Auntie Amy’s family overseas (outside Hong Kong to be exact). It is certainly great to have them around during this festive seasons. Our usual end year travel becomes noisier with joyful chattering, laughers and lots of blissful nagging.

As there is no public holiday in China during Christmas, Leon took 2 days off to accompany us. I felt guilty as he was working in between during our visit (and he paid for all our expenses!). Qiaoqiao and him planned a special Christmas Eve dinner for all of us. Knowing I am an avid blogger, he promised it will be a “spectacular” dining venue for me. I really appreciate their kind thoughtfulness and love.

We set off to the one-and-only-must-visit tourist attraction of Xiamen, Gulangyu Island (鼓浪屿). The island is only 2km2 and is home to about 20,000 residents. Gulangyu is famed for its mishmash of architecture and alleys of local eateries and souvenir shops.

The 20-minute 3-deck ferry from Xiamen was all packed with visitors. My first impression of the island reminded of Taipei Jiufen. Rustic with lots of sweet surprises at every turn. The old colonial buildings and confusing narrow lanes, Gulangyu is like a mini Venice of the East. There are just so many things to see and explore. We saw many Taiwanese eateries and souvenir shops. Price was surprisingly reasonable and we could bargain with the shop-keepers too.

Leon’s princess Zhuzhu was the star/spice of the day. She won our hearts with all her comical poses, little pranks and mischievous tantrums. Annoyingly adorable!

Thanks to our great hosts Leon and Qiaoqiao, we had the most unusual Christmas Eve countdown at a very unique restaurant. The dining place they booked exceeded our expectation. Surrounded by full-height glass- walled aquarium with many fishes, it was like dining under the sea. The buffet hall is incredibly huge with a wide range of dishes! I covered less than 50% of the spread. (Cost: RMB395/adult)

In my opinion, it wasn’t the wide selection of food that attracted the big crowd. I believe it was the magical enchantment of the restaurant’s resident-mermaids that lured everyone here. It was certainly very distracting to dine beside an aquatic stage filled with sensual aquatic dancers from Russia. The mermaids performed many graceful routines that drew almost 80% of the diners to the tank. They were eye candies and I have deep respect for them. One thing is for sure, this is not an easy job, especially performing in such a tight space. These mermaids are professional! Who needs Santa when you have Mermaids for Christmas!

What an eye-opening and mouth-watering treat from my dear cousins! Certainly, this will be one unforgettable Christmas Eve family dinner ever! We had the best of everything – great food, great dining concept and most importantly, with the presence of great company of family and friends.

This blog is dedicated to Leon and Qiaoqiao for being such a wonderful and thoughtful hosts! Thanks for the generosity and time! 

Road to Xiamen

What a dramatic and rocky start of the day.

First, we hijacked someone’s transport unintentionally (at the Shenzhen hotel) and we had issues with our train tickets. We nearly couldn’t make it to Xiamen (not again!!!). It was a close call and almost a deja vu. 2 years ago, Tracy and I were didn’t make it to Xiamen and we ended up in Xian! For a moment, I thought fate was replaying itself when the ticket officer told us they couldn’t issue the tickets due to a typo. Luckily for us, we managed to replace the invalid tickets with 2 “standing-tickets” and boarded the train just in time. What a frustrating morning at the train station. Not to mention a terrible driver who smoked and talked on the phone when driving.

The train from Shenzhen North Station to Xiamen North Station took about 3.5 hours (1st Class Seat: RMB181/adult). Traveling at a top speed of 215km/h, the ride was extremely comfortable, clean and smooth but don’t expect any in-train entertainment or fine dining. My only complain is the frequent ear-pressure that can be very uncomfortable. The train crossed many wetlands, streams, hills, farms and gigantic electrical towers.

This was supposed to be another “surprise visit” masterminded by Auntie Amy. We wanted to surprise my cousin Leon and family but my auntie accidentally let the cat out of the bag 2 weeks ago (and she thought her son was dumb enough not to see through her trick). Last week, my cousin Leon revealed to me that he knew about the surprise and asked me to carry on with the act. Now, this is getting quite complicated and confusing. To surprise or not to surprise?

Leon picked us up at the train station. My parents were so delighted and surprised to see him. We spent a couple hours back in the hotel to unpack/chat/rest/recharge and the grannies started their chattering and nagging ritual the moment I flashed my gears & toys. Usually when I travel, my hotel room is always empty. It is so good to see my room packed with lots of people. It was chaotic, noisy but full of family love and warmth. For a second, I thought it was CNY (and not Christmas)!

We didn’t spend much time touring Xiamen today. It was purely family gathering and dining. Leon treated us an awesome/sumptuous dinner with many “never-seen-before” dish decoration. In total, we had 20 over dishes! Thanks bro for the wonderful hospitality and generosity!

There is something unusual with the weather. Winter isn’t that cold in Xiamen. At a cozy 24°C, there is no need for us to wear any thick winter clothing. The weather is just perfect for me! Hopefully the haze clear up by tomorrow so I can start flying my drone and explore this small dynamic island of Xiamen.

What a tiring and eventful day. I am looking forward to a great and relaxing Christmas Eve tomorrow!

Oh dear, his grannies are in town

Today is an exciting day for the family. My mum and dad flew in for Christmas! Today is also the Winter Solstice (冬至), a festive day when Chinese family get together to eat glutinous rice balls (汤圆) that symbolise reunion. We will all meet in Hong Kong airport and then make our way to Xiamen via a 3-hour train from Shenzhen the next morning.

Elkan is nervous meeting the grannies. Being the only child in the travel group, he gets all the nagging from the old folks. I can understand his fear (whenever Elkan isn’t around, the grannies will start to nag at me!). He calls my dad “creepy grandpa” after our last vacation in Maldives 2 years ago. Both sharing the same room, my dad kept talking to him late into the night. Couldn’t understand the dialogue, Elkan wasn’t sure if my dad was talking to him or talking to himself. Elkan totally freaked himself that night.

Thanks to my massive gadgets (projector and speakers – I’ll explain later) and gears (drone and cameras), we had a difficult time getting a cab to the airport. Luckily for us, we met a cab driver who excels in “brick-game”. With a little tweaking, the cabbie managed to pack all our luggage into the cab. Oops…Due to this slight delay, my parents were at the arrival gate 20 minutes before our cab arrived. (And I arrived even later as I was “replenishing” more gears at the airport DJI-pop-up store.)

After a quick (and heavy) dim sum lunch at the airport, we departed for Shenzhen. We will be staying one night in Shenzhen as we will be taking a morning train to Xiamen the following day.

Thanks to an invitation and recommendation by a friend who is working at DJI, I brought the entire family to visit a new city attraction, the Shenzhen OCT Harbour (欢乐海岸). Located within the Hongshulin Mangrove Forest, the 1.2m-sqm OCT Harbour hosts many China’s firsts – China’s first international waterfront shopping, first 5-star cinema, first multimedia water theatre and eco-tourism exhibition complex. With such a cool foggy weather and so many glittering structures, the OCT Harbour is so beautiful and magical at night. I am surprise to find such a place in Shenzhen.

DJI just opened its first flagship store 2 days ago here at the OCT Harbour and that is main reason why I am here tonight. It is housed in an iconic building and the showroom is huge. Thankfully, it wasn’t as crowded and crazy like its opening day. There wasn’t a lot of people tonight. I had all the space to myself to browse and interact with the friendly shop staffs.

I spent close to 45 minutes in the store and bought a couple of accessories and shared an informal retail-audit report with my friend. Overall experience: B+. It looks good but the instore engagements aren’t interactive enough to trigger purchase. There are little product demos that allow users to test the drones or the cameras. In short, it isn’t very “experiential and interactive”. It looks like a pretty modern showroom with lots of repetitive drones. I guess this place is more for new users than regulars like myself. All the shop staffs were extremely friendly but the first two staffs who I engaged separately couldn’t offer me deeper technical advices. Only one shop staff was impressive and he took an effort to fetch me an item that was out of stock.

We had our Winter Solstice dinner at a Taiwanese hotpot restaurant and glutinous rice balls desserts at our favourite Hong Kong Honeymoon Dessert. Elkan got himself totally drenched playing at the water fountain. We had a great cozy evening at the harbour. Love the weather and the lovely company!

Tomorrow will be another long day of traveling. Tracy and Elkan are now in my room waiting for me to setup the projector to screen our favourite Singapore TV drama. Yes, now you know why I bring along a portable projector and speakers.

No more work till 2016!

Today marks the first day of my year-end vacation! This is the day Elkan has been looking forward to for the past 5 weeks in Hong Kong. Days waiting for dad to come home after work were dreadful and disappointing. Often I came back home exhausted and late, leaving very little bonding time with him.

So both son and dad are going to give poor mummy a free day to do her own things today. Finally, Felicia is free to do her shopping without baby-sitting my grown-up prankster. Like most boys at his age, Elkan hates shopping. I can understand that. Even at my age, I am not so sure if I have the same stamina to company any lady to shop. It is not about the waiting, it is the endless fruitless walking and browsing.

Late last night, Elkan and I planned to wake up at 6am this morning to jog around Victoria Harbour. We both played games until 1am and all of us overslept. Yes, we are simply too lazy. No excuse at all, we decided to go for a late jog and do some household chores for mummy.

10 minutes into our journey, I changed my mind. I told Elkan that I have a better idea than jogging. He was worried.

“Huh?” he sighed. “Don’t tell me you are going to shop again?”

“No,” I quickly comforted him. “Daddy is going to bring you to a new place!”

“But I still want to jog!” he insisted. “And I am hungry.”

We took a long walk to IFC and walked towards the Central Pier. There, I pointed to the Ferris Wheel and winked at him with an “evil, sly” smile. His face brighten up immediately and nodded!

“Yes, yes! Now, that’s a good idea daddy!” Elkan exclaimed in excitement!

We hopped on the Ferris Wheel and had the entire gondola to ourselves! It went 3 rounds before we alighted. While on the Ferris Wheel, we saw the AIA Christmas Carnival. I told Elkan we can do some sports inside the carnival. The weather was excellent and there wasn’t any crowd at all! What a perfect day to go to the carnival!

We spent an hour inside the carnival. We ran around freely and there wasn’t any queue at all. The rides are pretty expensive but we had great fun! Both of us love the bummer-car a lot. When I suggested to play one more round, Elkan rejected me. He said it’s too expensive and we should just skip it. Aw…he is always so thoughtful and lovely!

We decided to keep our little getaway a secret. We came back home and didn’t tell Felicia anything about our little adventure. She only found out when she saw the video I posted on Facebook. See below.

Later the evening, Felicia planned a little Christmas Surprise for everyone. She invited all of Elkan’s favourite aunties and uncle – Harshad, Chowpo and Tracy to a little Christmas Game at Causeway Bay – LASER-WARS!

We have no idea what’s going to happen. I thought it was the “Escape Room” game that we have played 2 years ago. When we were told the game only lasted 12 minutes per session, we were quite disappointed at the short length of time. We were very wrong. Thankfully, it is only 12 minutes. I certainly wished for much shorter game play.

This game is super intense and chaotic! I totally underestimated the toughness of this point-&-shoot laser sport. I was already breathless just 5 minutes into the game. It was super-tiring and back-breaking.

Unfortunately, Felicia booked 2 games for all of us. By the end of the first session, Elkan topped the chart with the highest score. Chowpo was awarded with “Trigger-Happy” title while Felicia won the “Sharp-Shooter” award. We took a 15-minute break before re-entering the war-zone again.

What a happening and exciting first day of vacation! Tomorrow is another big day for me! My mum and dad arrives in Hong Kong and we will be heading to our old ancestral home at Taiwan, Jinmen Island. It will be another one week of excitement and adventure with the old folks.

The tears behind his debut TV drama (Updated)

“Is that Elkan on TV?” 

Since the sequel of the Dream Makers aired on Singapore TV 2 weeks ago, Felicia and I received many messages from our friends and relatives asking if our son acted in the drama. Yes, that is indeed our little prankster, Elkan.

The story began almost 7 months ago (May 2015) when Elkan was attending a 30-week acting course for children. Thanks to his teacher, he was invited to an audition for a MediaCorp Channel 8 drama. Felicia and I had no idea what role Elkan was auditing for. All we wanted was some new experience for our son. Nothing more.

The next day, I received a note from Felicia that Elkan was selected for the role. I was delighted and asked about the role. She said the crew was looking for a child to act in several crying scenes for the drama and Elkan passed the test.

“Wow, how did he convince the casting panel?” I asked.

“He cried. Really cried, real tears,” Felicia answered.

“Wow…amazing, how did he do that? It must really difficult to get him crying in front of the strangers,” I exclaimed. “Did they ask him to use the eye-drop?”

“Not really, it was you,” she said.

“Me?” I laughed aloud. “Must be one of those episodes when I was scolding and yelling at that naught boy, right? Oh dear, the crew must be thinking what a cruel dad I was!”

“No. I told the crew to ask Elkan to think about you. Especially those sad farewell moments at the airport. He cried immediately the second they asked him about you.” Felicia said. “He misses you a lot.”

My heart sank instantly and guilt filled my soul. Tears blurred my vision. I couldn’t carry on the conversation. I remembered vividly the scene outside the moving taxi. It was making an U-turn outside Times Square, heading towards Central.

Felicia’s words rewinded in my mind for many days. I never knew the impact I had on my boy. It was really bad.

Like the old Chinese proverb “人生如戏 戏如人生”,Elkan’s character in the show mimics our situation. In the show, Elkan’s mum (played by Huang Biren) left the family to pursue her career. In our case, I park my wife and kid in Singapore while I pursue my career in Hong Kong. The difference is we meet as much as we can and we treasure all the time together. Absence doesn’t divide us, it bonds us stronger and closer.

That summer holiday, we had one of our happiest holidays in New Zealand! Felicia and Elkan had to fly back to Singapore 1 week earlier for the shoot. As the show required Elkan to cry in a couple of scenes, I was worried about his mental state. Thankfully, the crew and his teacher were very kind and encouraging. He managed to finish all 7-8 scenes in 12 hours. We were told to catch his debut in December.

Being abroad for so many years, I have not watched any Singapore Channel 8 for the past decade. It was only 3 weeks ago when I read about the drama “The Dream Makers II (志在四方II)“, I realised Elkan was indeed very lucky to act alongside Singapore’s veteran actor/King of Caldecott Hill, Li Nanxing (李南星) and actress/Meryl Streep of MediaCorp, Huang Biren (黄碧仁).

Thanks to my son. I fell in love with Singapore Chinese drama once more. I have been watching Hollywood and Hong Kong dramas and realised Singapore drama has improved so much! It is indeed a very emotional and powerful show. I love the characters played by Jeanette Aw, Zoe Tay and Rui En. Just so addictive.

Certainly, Elkan is less excited than his old dad and mum. Afterall, he isn’t from our era. Elkan was more interested in the camera equipments than his old folks’ idols. And “fame-chasing” isn’t something in his mind. All he wants is to have fun and experience new things. He is more worried about facing his school mates when school reopens in the next 2 weeks.

So, here’s me – a very proud dad, sharing my son’s debut (and maybe his last) reel! Enjoy! I am sure his grandparents will be thrilled! I remember my first school holiday job working in my dad’s timber factory. This is certainly a more meaningful one for my boy! While there is both sweat and tears in his work, I hold his emotion dearest to my heart.

This blog is dedicated to Elkan’s best friend, Harshad who sees the rockstar in my boy since the first day they met. Harshad is also one of the reasons why we sent him to the acting school. And big thanks to his teacher for giving him this priceless experience! And big hugs to mummy for enduring 30 weeks and 12 hours of companionship.

A Little Pinky Birthday Prank on Elkan (Updated – Hovering with the family!)

Elkan celebrated his 11th birthday 4 days ago. I got 2 nice birthday gifts for Elkan but they were in transit from two different parts of the world. As the gifts won’t arrive on time and not disappointed him, Felicia drew a couple of clue cards and left them beside his bed.

As usual, my little prankster was hyper-excited and too impatient to wait for the arrival of his gifts. Over Facetime, he kept pestering me about the gifts. I told him I will reveal one of them to him. (Of course, I didn’t reveal the real answer.) When I told him I got him a very nice skateboard, he was super happy. However, the second he saw the photograph of a pink Hello Kitty skateboard, he was dumbfounded! Yes, you know, it was the “WTH-YouGottaBeJoking” expression. What a priceless hilarious moment!

Of course, he tried very hard to conceal his disappointment as I saw his “grateful-but-puzzling” expression. Both Felicia and I continued with our act, trying to convince him that Hello Kitty was the next big thing for man. Of course, he wasn’t very convinced but accepted this cruel fact that his daddy got him a limited edition Hello Kitty skateboard from Japan. He must be wondering inside “my god, what a big generation gap!” or more likely, “WTH my parents were thinking?”

I love my boy so much! And I glad he accepted the gesture prank with grace.

3 days later – the shipment finally arrived from Hong Kong. Elkan was so excited to unwrap his gift! There isn’t any pink Hello Kitty skateboard. It is what he is wishing for – a mini electric 2-wheel balance-board (aka mini segway, e-cruiser, 风火轮, 電動雙輪平衡車, hoverboard, airwheels, hoverwheels, Smart wheels, phunkeeduck and 20 other names)! I was about to give Elkan a short tutorial over Facetime but he mastered the board within seconds! He is such a natural!

This afternoon, Auntie Bay Bay made a surprise appearance at his house with another pink-wrapped gift! Both of them went wheeling at the void deck (the other mini Hoverwheels is a gift for my cute nephew, Didi!). Of course, they attracted lots of attention. Even Felicia gave it a try!

Later in the evening, Felicia and Elkan brought Didi’s hoverwheels to my mum’s birthday dinner! What a special day (Back to the Future) to get the whole family to experience the joy of hovering! After the dinner, the children and old folks tried on the wheels. I must say they were doing extremely well! Happy to see the folks at home having so much fun together! Wish I can be there with them today! Enjoy and I will see you folks very soon!

I know my boy is a rockstar, but I never knew his mum can dance! (Updated!)

Peak season is back! Last week, I had a couple of long and stressful meetings. To cheer me up, my boy and wife sent me a short video clip over Wechat and I laughed instantly! (I was having a dinner meeting and I nearly choked laughing while eating!) Thanks for this surprising amazing clip! Like what my wife said on Facebook – All she wanted was to catch up with my boy and showed him that he has a useful skill that even mummy can learn from him too!

古墓袭击者之旅 (吴哥窟) – Tomb Raiding at the Angkor Wat

The Angkor is uniquely enigmatic and truly charming. We fall in love with this ancient kingdom. Why didn’t we visit this place earlier when it is just 2 hours away from our doorstep?

September school term break is here. Like so many unplanned adventures before, I booked an impromptu surprise trip for the family to 2015’s newly awarded World’s Best Tourist Site (Read: 2015 Best Tourist Attraction) – the majestic Angkor Wat (吴哥窟). I saw a promotion on Cathay Fanfare website and bought the tickets 3 days before. Felicia and Elkan didn’t know where they were heading until we arrived at the Hong Kong airport. Felicia noticed something was amiss on the highway and remarked that the taxi was heading the wrong way. I lied to them early that morning that we were going for a 2-day hiking trip at nearby Shenzhen. However, I did left a little hint the night before our trip. I played the movie “Tomb Raider” starring Angelina Jolie. Elkan loves the movie as he is a fan of the playstation game (which he completed with Harshad back in June).

Keeping the suspense right until the immigration counter, Felicia thought we were heading to Bali. Elkan had little patience and kept pestering us for the destination. The moment the boarding passes were issued, Elkan snatched them from the counter. Despite having the answer in his hand, he remained clueless where Siem Reap was. The expressions on their faces were priceless! And of course, Felicia finally knew the answer and she connected all the dots!

This was a short 2D3N weekend vacation. Thanks to my lovely colleague Olivia (who was there a few days before us), she recommended a very new and beautiful boutique Cambodian-French hotel to us – The Viroth Hotel. Centrally located 15-minute drive to Angkor Wat and a short 10-minute walk to the popular Pub Street and Old Market, the hotel provides a very clean, spacious, quiet, stylish and comfortable stay. I love the decor of our rooms and its extremely friendly, warm staffs.

Before our trip, I was quite worried about the rainy weather. September is Cambodia’s wettest and most humid season. This is also the country’s lull travel season, that was why the air tickets were on sale.

Thankfully, we were blessed with great sunny blue-sky weather throughout our trip. Best of all, we hired an amazing, friendly, honest and sincere local English-speaking tour guide, Piseth, who brought us to all the “must-see” sites! He is such a brilliant guide who knows where and when to go in order to avoid the bus-loads of noisy Chinese tour groups. I can understand why the peaceful Thai people dislike the Chinese tour groups. In big groups, they can be annoyingly rowdy and disturbing. I encountered a few rowdy Chinese tourists who climbed on restricted structure ignoring warning by the local park rangers.  Nevertheless, the local turn a blind as the Chinese do bring in a lot of economical value for the country.

Traveling around Siem Reap is a breeze. There are many tuk-tuks waiting outside hotels and key shopping areas. Traveling from city center to the Angkor Archaeological Park takes less than an hour. A tuk-tuk can be rented as low as USD2/hour and we saw many tourists commuting on them. Shamelessly, we were pampered tourists (with a lot of photographic gears) who need aircon and skipped the more traditional tuk-tuk. We got ourselves a big 4-wheel drive car with lots of leg-room (cost us an average USD40/day). The weather was extremely humid and Piseth prepared umbrella, cold drinks and disposable towels for us at every attraction.

Here are the Top 11 Moments of our 2-day temple run.

Piseth was very helpful to help us plan a well-balanced tour. Enjoy the photos and short stories of our little adventure!


We were surprised and humbled by the sheer size of the Angkor Archaeological Park. Spanning over 400km2 , the 700-year old ancient site is amazingly huge! UNESCO World Heritage rated this as one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. It is impossible to visit the entire heritage site in just 1-2 days. Each site took us more than an hour to explore. Misinformed by popular belief, we were under the false impression that there was only one giant heritage structure by the name of Angkor Wat (like the “Forbidden City of Beijing”). On the contrary, Angkor Wat means “capital temple”. There are over 1,000 magnificent structures (temples, shrines, tombs) littered around this massive site. To enjoy all the key sites meaningfully, it takes about 3-7 days! This is the reason why there are 1-day or multiple-day tickets. A day pass cost us USD20 each and children under 12 is free (they are strict and they need to see the passport to verify the age).

It was challenging to wake up at 4am in the morning to catch this magnificent sight. The sun rises early in September and we almost miss the most important moment. By the time we got there, there were hundreds of shutterbugs by the lotus moat waiting for the first ray of sun. Considering this was the lull travel season, I cannot imagine how crowded this space will be during the peak travel season from November to February.

Was it worth waking up that early? Certainly, 100% yes! Afterall, this is the heart of the world’s largest city in the 12th century with thousands of carvings and countless sculptural decorations. And it’s much cooler to visit the temples early in the morning before the blazing sun and crowd.


Located just 2km away from the Angkor Wat Temple, the real adventure began right inside the ancient walled city, Angkor Thom (meaning “Great City”). To enter, we crossed a bridge with mystical statues flanked on both sides. The Bayon Temple sits in the center of Angkor Thom. Housing 37 towers and 216 giant walls of smiling Bodhisattva (some historians argued that the faces could be someone else), the Bayon Temple is one of the “must-visit” distinctive sites around Angkor.


The Pink Temple or the Banteay Srei is a small temple but it housed some of the most well-preserved intricate carvings and sculptured wall murals around the area. Carved using red sandstone, the temple glows vibrantly in pinkish red colour under the sun.


Made popular by Hollywood’s action movie, Tomb Raider – the The Ta Prohm Temple is an ancient ruined site with very distinctive character. Slowly consumed by the jungle, the temple has been intentionally left in the same condition when it was originally found. Its founder decided Ta Prohm to be left alone, as a “concession to the general taste for the picturesque.” Simply eerily enchanting, this is indeed an explorer and photographer’s haven!


After temple-running exhaustively for over 6 hours, we went onboard a relaxing 90-minute “Sunset Boat” (USD20/person, we had a boat to ourselves) and sailed out into the vast lake. At first, we thought this was the sea but our guide corrected us. Commonly known as the “Great Lake”, the Tonie Sap Lake has been an important source of livelihood for both the ancient and present city of Siem Reap. Covering an area from 2,500 kmduring the dry season to over 16,000 kmduring the wet season, this is the largest lake in Southeast Asia. There, we saw many floating houses and shops where you can buy local souvenirs and food. What a great place to end the long tiring day! (Note: Go only during a clear day. The boat ride can be rocky and this may not be suitable for those who has motion-sickness)


Only discovered in 1969 on the valley of Phnom Kulen National Park, the river consists of strange ancient stone carvings (Lingas -a very complex symbol of Hinduism representing energy and strength) in sandstone formations carved deep into the river bed and banks. Built by the kings in the early 11th century, it is believed that these scared Lingas will bless the water flowing into Angkor. It is amazing that the water erosion didn’t fade off these ancient markings. The Phnom Kulen National Park is located about 50km from Siem Reap and it is considered as a scared mountain by the local people. The National Park charges USD20/adult for entry.


Visitors must remove their shoes before they climb up the shrine to see the reclining “Sleeping Rock Buddha”. On the way up to the shrine, we saw a lot of shops selling “Cambodian notes”. At first, I thought those stacks of money were paper-money that we burn to offer the dead. I was told that those real notes are for visitors to offer to the young, weak and old. For less than 3USD, we got a stack of notes which we distributed to the local people sitting by the sides of the stairs. A very strange ritual indeed.


This is certainly one of the key highlights of our trip – 2 waterfalls at Phnom Kulen! Definitely a first for us – our first swim under the waterfall (15m tall)! It was extremely refreshing to relax and cool our warm bodies after 2 long days of walking! There are makeshift changing rooms and lockers for visitors to lock up their valuables while they are in the pool. Water is about 1-2m deep and visibility is so so. Just be careful of the uneven rocks below, it can be slippery and sharp. Remember to bring a waterproof camera along!


Located 70km away from Siem Reap, the Beng Mealea Temple is another “must-visit” temple. Entry ticket is charged at USD5/pax. Built to the same floorplan as Angkor Wat, this is a very photogenic site with lots of dense vegetations covering the structures. Similar to Ta Prohm Temple, it is heavily consumed by large trees, vines and moss. We felt so small under its rubbles. I had some of my very best shots here. On the way out of the ruins, we have to walk through a dark narrow chamber. Yes, in true Tomb Raider style!


On our way to the temples, we drove past many street stalls. Piseth made a couple of stops and offered us these yummy local street goodies (palm sweets, red bananas, lotus seeds and bamboo rice).


For tourists who want to bring home a souvenir from Cambodia, this is the place to go. There are a lot of souvenir shops and restaurants here. Many close at around midnight. I was not really impressed with the old market and pub street. Many of the items here are overpriced and the variety is so so. Shopping here can be tiring as you never know the true price. You can easily bargain off up to 70% off the initial price. Comparing with Vietnam and Thailand, Siem Reap isn’t a shopping haven for bargain-hunters like us. Many shops do not take in old torn US dollar too.

Overall, the Angkor is truly an amazing ancient city for travellers!
 Although many of its attractions are in ruins and buried, the city has so much more treasures and stories for us to discover. Every site is different and it takes time for one to fully absorb its rich history. It truly deserves its Number One spot as 2015 Lonely Planet Attraction!

With our very experienced tour guide, Piseth, we managed to visit many key sites during our 2-day stay. It was an eye-opening and meaningful trip for all of us. There is so much history, soul and character in this place that make it special. There are so much for us to learn from. Even for my son, he learnt the meaning of poverty and empathised with the child-labourers/hawkers working on the streets. It was a humbling experience for all of us. For certain, the city is growing and changing by the day. I encourage all of you to come by before commercialisation ruins its authenticity and dilute its culture. 

For those who want to tour around Siem Reap, you may contact our young and friendly English-speaking local guide, Piseth directly (photo above) at npisethnp@yahoo.com or call him at +855 96-5454-999. One of the great things we like about Piseth is there is no hidden cost and he will share any cost with us before we arrive at the destination. Also, he was so helpful in guiding us what to see and spot during our tours. Thanks to his guidance, I managed to get many great shots! As the Angkor area is so big, it is good if you chat with Piseth on your plans before you make the trip. Travel safe and enjoy Cambodia!

Road to Middle Earth Part II – Hobbiton, Mount Doom and A Missing Drone! (Updated)

We left the City of Sails and began our journey deeper into Middle Earth. This marked the beginning of our 10-day adventure. I prepared a simple map (see below) to help us navigate our journey. I am not a hardcore fan of the Lord of the Rings series but since we were in Middle Earth, we made special stops at two of the most significant LOTR shooting locations (Hobbiton and Mount Doom!).

In total, we travelled 1200km over 10 days, making 5 pitstops at Auckland City Center, Hamilton, Taupo Lake, Rotorua and Magere. Since Gandalf didn’t prepare any magical “Eagles of Manwë” for us, we relied on Felicia and our most trustworthy GPS device. I played “vehicle commander” to help Felicia to read maps and watch out for nasty obstacles on the road. On the contrary, I was the disruptive one. Many times, I interrupted the journey whenever there was a spectacular view or an interesting road sign. Thankfully, the roads were mostly empty and Felicia was a very calm and steady driver. In the end, we went to places that we didn’t even planned. That’s the spirit of an adventure. Keep exploring and you never know what gems you will find at the end of the road.

On 15th June, I had an eventful and unforgettable “Big 40” celebration at Hamilton. That was the day when I lost my “precious” (drone) to Middle Earth. On our way to Mount Doom (yes, the infamous mountain where Frodo discarded the ring – aka Mount Ngauruhoe at Tongariro National Park), dark forces stole my beloved drone. I was making my first Middle Earth flight over a beautiful valley (see picture below) when my drone suddenly took off in another direction. For some strange and unknown reasons, I was unable to gain any control of my drone. It flew beyond the valleys and forests and within seconds, the drone vanished! I tried frantically to recall it back but nothing happened. I even climbed over the fences and trespassed the privately owned valleys and forests to search for it. The drone simply vanished without a trace. (At this moment, I have submitted the flight log files and awaiting DJI to investigate into this matter.)

Many good friends sent me sympathy messages about the unfortunate loss of my precious drone. Amazingly, there wasn’t a single tint of sadness in me. In fact, I was more worried about my runaway drone hurting someone. I was relatively in good spirits and enjoyed the rest of the trip happily with my family. After all, a drone is replaceable anytime but precious moments with Felicia and Elkan are rare and priceless.

Our journey was glittered with countless rainbows, starry nights and sunny blue skies. I love the colours of nature and the pace of life here. It was a good soul-searching trip for me. I realised one simple truth – Extravagance can never refill the emptiness of city dwellers. It is not what we carry that define us, it is what’s inside that matters. Simple truth but how many people really adopt such state of mind. Here, people live and enjoy life simply in their own meaningful way. There aren’t many big branded boutiques, gadgets or posh vehicles to pollute the minds of the people. Here boasts an abundance of big natural, quiet spaces and ample time for one to pause, reflect and rethink about their own lives. Environment does play such a huge influence of our body, mind and soul.

Enough of my rattling, here are the top highlights of our 2nd to 5th Pitstops! Enjoy the photos!

We stayed at Hamilton Ibis Hotel. It is located just beside the scenic Waikato River and a short 5-min stroll to the town’s main shopping center and food street. Hotel offers valet parking for NZD20/night. 

– This should be one of the most visited man-made attractions around Hamilton since the mega success and popularity of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Hidden in the heart of a privately owned farm estate, the Hobbiton was completely recreated during the filming of the Hobbit Trilogies as a long term tourist attraction. We had a fascinating two-hour guided tour into The Shire. The guide gave us such an insightful story about how Peter Jackson found this place and the great details he took to create The Shire. If you have watched the LOTR movies, you will be able to identify some of the sites. Photo-taking can be a challenge as there will be many tourists around. Still, I managed to capture a couple of isolated shots of this magical village. (Official Website: http://www.hobbitontours.com/). For visitors, you can park your car at the ticket office and take the tour bus into the estate. No private vehicle can enter The Shire. 

 – Located a short hour drive away from Hamilton city is this spectacular 55m-tall waterfall. Unlike other waterfalls that require a long hiking distance, the Bridal Veil Falls is only a 10-min walk away from the carpark. There are 3 spots you can see the waterfall (up-close, far-side and bottom opposite). Address: Bridal Veil Falls, Kawhia Road, Makomako 3895, New Zealand


We stayed at a double-storey 2-bedroom motel, Le Chalet Suisse, owned by a Malaysian couple, Karen and Kenny who just moved here less than 2 years ago. It is located opposite Lake Taupo and right beside the key shopping streets and food outlets. The motel was newly refurbished. It is very spacious, clean and comfortable. It comes with a kitchen with full set of cooking utensils. There are 2 supermarkets 5-min drive away. We bought fresh food and cooked our meals inside the motel. For booking, email Karen or Kenny at: stay@lechaletsuisse.co.nz or visit their website at http://www.lechaletsuisse.co.nz

– First discovered 500 years ago, the Ruakuri Cave is a very well preserved cave that spiral down 60m deep underground with narrowing tunnels, underground rivers and glowworms! At 90 minutes, it is New Zealand’s longest guided underground cave tour and certainly much bigger than those of Western Australia. The operator limits no more than 18 people per tour so there are lots of space for you to enjoy the cave quietly at your own pace! The cave is located 75-min drive from Taupo Lake. Address: 585 Waitomo Caves Rd. Website: http://www.waitomo.com/ruakuri-cave/Pages/default.aspx

– Located just 2km beside the Ruakuri Cave, this is possible the world’s best place to see the glowworms! It boasts an underground river system where we saw millions of glittering glowworms in pure darkness. It is a must visit if you are around town. To protect the glowworms and also the tour experience, no photography is allowed at all. Address: 39 Waitomo Caves Rd. Website: http://www.waitomo.com/Waitomo-Glowworm-Caves/Pages/default.aspx

3.3) TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING, “MOUNT DOOM” (7-HOUR HIKE) – This is New Zealand’s oldest national site with dual World Heritage Site titles. Located 60min-drive away from Taupo City Center, we arrived at an infamous volcano of this century – Mount Doom. The Tongariro National Park houses 2 active volcanoes where Mount Doom of LOTR was shot. The sign at the entrance said the full 19km-hike takes over 6-7 hours. Based on my experience, it can easily take an novice hiker over 10 hours to compete the trail. The hike takes place over many active volcanic areas. There are many warning signs about falling rocks and slippery unstable tracks. From the base (1,120m) to mid levels (at 1,350m) to the crater (at 1,886m), temperature changes drastically so it is important to come well-prepared and fully equipped. It is strongly advised to come in 2 cars where you start from one carpark at Mangatepopo Carpark and ends at the other at Ketetahi Carpark (so there is no need for you to track back to the starting point). We could not finish the hike as the tracks were very slippery due to the icy condition.

– Located only 10-min drive away from Taupo town center, this is New Zealand’s most convenient and visited natural attraction. It takes less than 5 minutes to walk from the carpark to the falls. Every second, up to 220,000 litres of water gushes through the 20m-gorge and as it crosses a narrow 15m volcanic channel, it forms a spectacular visual feast of powerful falls and rapids.


After hiking and traveling for so many days, I decided to pick a motel with private spa pool. After all, we are in Sulphur City where it is surrounded by numerous active geothermal spots. I managed to find a highly-rated motel by the name of Sport of the Kings. Its owners were extremely friendly and helpful. The rooms are clean and spacious. Most importantly, we have our own private hot spa pool to relax our tired bodies after a long day of walking.

Located 10km away from Taupo Lake and 50-min drive away from Rotorua, this is one of the smallest (and more affordable) geothermal attractions around this region. It houses lots of small steaming active craters, blowholes (fumaroles) and a small boiling mud-pool. If you have visited other major geothermal parks like the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, you can simply skip this. Website: http://www.cratersofthemoon.co.nz/

The Lonely Planet cited this as “arguably the best thermal area left in New Zealand”, the Orakei Korako Geothermal Attraction houses one of the two geothermal caves in the world and the largest geyser-fields in New Zealand. Do take precaution whenever you are visiting one of these thermal areas as the zones can be highly unpredictable and dangerous. Always stay on the boardwalks and away from the boiling steam. The Orakei Korako Geothermal Attraction is located just 40-min drive away from Rotorua. It is certainly worth a visit if you are driving through the area. Website: http://www.orakeikorako.co.nz/

– Having visited 4 geothermal attractions, in my opinion, the Wai-O-Tapu is the most colourful and spectacular geothermal site. Located 20-min drive away from Rotorua, it houses big deep craters, mudpools and luminous thermal lakes. The entrance tickets cost a little more than the rest but it is a must-visit destination for those who come to New Zealand!  Website: http://www.waiotapu.co.nz/

– The Lonely Planet rated this as one of the world’s top 5 geysers and it is the world’s most reliable and predictable geyser. Shooting up to 30m high, the Pohutu Geyser is nature’s most spectacular fountain! Best of all, it is located within 5min-drive from Rotorua city center! A 100% must visit destination! Be prepared for lots of steam! When we were here, the geyser was shooting non-stop for over 30 minutes! It was amazing! There is a guided tour every hour or you can simply take a self-guided walk. Website: http://www.tepuia.com/new-zealand/

4.5) A-MAZE-ME (15MIN – 60MIN) 
– There are a lot of activities for kids and family along Paradise Valley Road, Rotorua (which is only 15min drive away from the town center). This is Elkan’s first giant maze experience! Three of us ran into the maze and guess who won! Elkan arrived at the center of the maze first! He took only 15 minutes to crack the maze. Poor Felicia and me took much much longer! Website: http://www.amazeme.co.nz/

Our 10-day Middle Earth adventure ended here. We parked ourselves at Holiday Inn Auckland Airport Hotel a day before our flight so we avoided taking a 3-hour long morning drive from Rotorua back to Auckland. We needed a good rest before the long 11-hour flight back to Hong Kong. Our hotel was only 5-min drive away from the airport.

5.1) KIWI 360 (45MIN VISIT)
– On our way from Rotorua to Auckland, we made a short detour at a Kiwi Fruit Plantation (located 51km from Rotorua). It was an enjoyable visit where we learnt so many new things about this amazing fruit! For the first time in our life, we learnt that Kiwi Fruit isn’t a native fruit of New Zealand. It is in fact a native fruit from China! Yes, China! It was only introduced to New Zealand in the early 1900s and it was originally named “Chinese Gooseberry”. However, that didn’t sound very convincing and the New Zealanders had a difficult time to export “grow-in-New-Zealand-Chinese-Gooseberry” overseas. A remarkable marketing rebranding by a California-based importer changed its fate. As the brown furry fruit resembled the native bird Kiwi, the California important renamed the fruit from “Chinese Gooseberry” to “Kiwi Fruit”. Soon, its fame grew and by 1980s, New Zealand was known as the Kiwi Fruit Capital. We learnt so much more about the fruit at the farm. The tour guide was extremely insightful and friendly. We got to see 16 other fruit trees including the Mānuka flowers and the Macadamia Nut trees (that looks like a lime trees). Elkan even got a rare opportunity to pluck a couple of kiwi fruits to bring home! Do also grab other exclusive Kiwi products at the gift shop! The Kiwi Whisky is just so smooth and sweet! Website: http://www.kiwi360.com/

It has been a wonderful, fulfilling holiday with Felicia and Elkan. For some strange reasons, it felt like a month vacation when we only spent 10 nights in New Zealand. My only regret is I should have planned a 18-day vacation instead of 10. An additional 8 days would be enough for us to fly south to visit more scenic sites. The Kiwis have been extraordinary kind to us. New Zealand left us with so many priceless moments and memories. What I left behind was my missing drone. Hopefully, it finds itself a good master so it can soar once again, over this incredible beautiful land.

We will certainly be back for the southern Middle Earth tour – with more drivers and buddies! And yes, I will bring in my new drone to defeat the dark lords! Haere rā, Middle Earth! Hope you enjoy this blog.

And it so good to be back home with a birthday surprise for me – Thanks Tracy for the cake and gift!

Road to Middle Earth Part I – City of Sails

This June holiday, we travelled forward in time to visit a new world down south. This is the world’s last landmass ever discovered and populated.The earliest immigrants named it Aotearoa. And some refer it as the Middle Earth. After an amazing long 11-hour redeye flight (smoothest flight ever with no turbulance at all) from Hong Kong, Felicia, Elkan and I touched down at the world’s largest Polynesian city. The city too, comes in many different names – Tamaki Makaurau, City of Sails or simply Auckland.

This is our 2nd vacation without the great company of Auntie Baybay and Uncle Harshad. And it was our 2nd overseas vacation trip during the June holiday. Usually, we would explore new places during the Nov-Dec Christmas season. Last Dec was an unfortunate exception as the entire family was infected by Chicken pox. Considering this as a “holiday compensation”, I gave them a surprise trip down at Middle Earth.

Like all times, I wanted to keep this as a surprise until they arrived in Hong Kong. However, there were a couple of things that I would need Felicia to prepare – their winter clothing and driving classes. Yes, driving classes. You see, I cannot drive (Thanks God how many lives I spared by not having a driving licence) so we may have a problem in New Zealand. Therefore, I told Felicia about this surprise trip and got her to take up driving-refresher’s course. It was almost 16 years ago when Felicia and I last travelled on wheels alone (and that was in Western Australia in 1999). Felicia was nervous at first when I broke the news to her. She took 3 driving classes and regained her confidence. Anyway, I have plotted a very driver-friendly route. We kept it to maximum 2-hour of driving per day. This is a 10-day tour with 5 stop overs.  Due to this careful planning, I have decided to shelf the Southern Island trip to our next vacation. And hopefully, I can rally more driver-buddies to come with us.

Elkan was extremely excited the moment we touched down at Auckland Airport. He always wanted to see his mum driving. This must be an unforgettable moment for him. I saw the sparks in his eyes the moment Felicia started the engine. Felicia did a test-drive around the carpark and off we went! GPS was working superbly and in no time, we arrived at our hotel.

This is the first time we travel together on wheels. There is no need to catch a taxi or a train. We can go and stop wherever and whenever we want. It is such a fantastic feeling, just like the old times we had when we were in Australia.

Auckland is a very small city with little attractions. The highlight of Auckland is seeing Felicia on wheels. We explored Auckland’s key shopping district Queen’s Street on our first day. We are impressed by the city’s cleanliness and its warm people. We love the suburbs and the beautiful big houses. There were a lot of Asians residents (Chinese, Hong Kongers, Japanese, Koreans and Indians) on the streets. Most shops close at 5pm and the city wind down. It reminded me of a mini Sydney.

The next morning, we took a 30min-ferry out to Waiheke Island for a half-day tour. A big island with many expensive beach-facing villas, vineyards, farms, novelty shops, beach cafes, seafood restaurants and powdery white bays. It is a lovely island with very friendly islanders. Unluckily for us, the weather was very unpredictable today. One minute, it was clear blue sky and the next, grey clouds with drizzle. This crazy cycle of sunshine and rain repeated itself numerously throughout the day. It was frustrating for me as I was handling the photographic gears. I wanted to fly the drone but the weather was just too windy and unpredictable.

We ended our short 2-day city stay on the summit of Auckland’s tallest dormant volcano, Mount Eden. Standing at 196m tall, on the rim of its green leafy volcanic crater, the sunset view of the city was spectacularly stunning.

Next stop, Hamilton. Yes, we are going to visit the most-popular-touristic village of Middle Earth – The Hobbiton Village.

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