Finding Bobo (宝岛寻宝记)

Screenshot 2019-05-28 at 11.15.29 AM

It has been a long time since Felicia last traveled alone. It is something she always wanted to do. 2 months ago, she told me that she was planning a 6-day solo trip to Taiwan. I was feeling very excited and also worried about her solo trip. Felicia planned a very comprehensive and detailed travel itinerary, even outlining the bus routes and travel time down to the very minute.

Deep inside me, I have been asking myself if I should hijack her solo trip. So, a few nights before her trip, I asked Felicia if she was expecting me to come along. She said she would love to but she understands my hectic schedules.  The sensible part of me told me not to intrude her solo trip but the other mischievous part of me urged me to give her another memorable surprise.

Of course, with the posting of this blog, it means I have listened to the mischievous inner voice. The truth is, it was a very difficult decision to make. Thanks to 3 great friends – Tracy, Chen, and Chowpo who persuaded and convinced me to take the leap. Felicia was already on the 2nd day of her 6-day trip, it wasn’t too late to surprise her, they said. Without much hesitation, I booked a last-minute air ticket to Taipei.

Taiwan (10-13th May 2019)

Taking a flight to Taipei was easy. To track Felicia down was a little tricky. She was constantly on the move and it was difficult to pinpoint a location to “ambush” her. After studying her itinerary meticulously 36 hours before, I figured out the best location to surprise her was at Taichung’s Sun Moon Lake (日月潭). I took a 1-hour bullet train from Taipei to Taichung where Chen picked me up and drove another hour to the destination.

Screen Caps5Screen CapsTaiwan (10-13th May 2019)2

Sun Moon Lake is massively big! Thankfully, I have my good pal Chen, a local resident in Taichung, who was extremely familiar with the tour route around Sun Moon Lake. We took a gamble and arrived at one of the stopovers 30 minutes before Felicia’s estimated arrival time.

It was the biggest and most ambitious “catching game” I ever played. It was so fun and exciting. Like 2 overgrown old boys, Chen and I hid at strategic locations to spy on every tourist. The second when we spotted Felicia, the adrenaline in us peaked! It was exhilarating!

Taiwan (10-13th May 2019)1Screen Caps1

We followed Felicia for a good 15 minutes. She was walking around, taking photos. We were so afraid to be spotted by her. I have no idea when or where to make the “appearance”. We just have to tail Felicia to find the best moment to surprise her.

Watching Felicia from a distance, knowing she was traveling alone, showed me a new side of her that I have never seen. Felicia is more independent, braver than I thought. I could have just watched and followed her quietly from a distance. Seeing her enjoying her solo travel experience, I felt a deep sense of relief that she made the right decision. It is often me who tied her down, always worrying for her. At that moment, I just realized my wife is more independent and stronger than me.

Screen Caps6Screen Caps2Screen Caps3Screen Caps4

I will never forget the seconds leading to the moment when I surprised her. I approached her from behind, placed my palm softly on her shoulder. She didn’t react violently or in shock. She turned around calmly and saw my mischievous face. Those few seconds lasted like a lifetime. It was like the old days when I surprised her in Perth or when she surprised me outside my bedroom. We had countless surprises for one another, and every surprise never fails to bring a smile to our face.

Of course, being me, I acted cool. Felicia, like always, was speechless with my behaviors.

“Hey, so coincident to bump into you here? Chen and I were walking around nearby. What are you doing here?” I said. “Okay, got to go, bye!”

It is a priceless precious moment. One that we will remember for life. And fortunately, we have a nice video to replay this beautiful memory.

Taiwan (10-13th May 2019)3Taiwan (10-13th May 2019)13

Thanks to Tracy, Chen, and Chowpo for convincing to make this trip. I am truly glad I did. If not, it is something that I will regret for a long long time.

Taiwan (10-13th May 2019)5

Felicia and I spent the remaining 3 days in Taipei. I tried not to impose too much change to her travel plans. The only complain – she didn’t expect me to come so we squeezed ourselves in a tight cozy tiny backpacker hostel room.

Taiwan (10-13th May 2019)11Taiwan (10-13th May 2019)12Taiwan (10-13th May 2019)10Taiwan (10-13th May 2019)4Taiwan (10-13th May 2019)7Taiwan (10-13th May 2019)8Taiwan (10-13th May 2019)9Taiwan (10-13th May 2019)6

Enjoy the video. 

Valleys of Wonders (Part II – Death Valley)

death valley8

Las Vegas McCarran International Airport never fails to delight me with its unique fanfare of bright and chirpy whimsical slot machines. The sounds of play companied by vibrant visuals of promised payouts create a celebratory atmosphere of winning. Lining right outside the connecting airbridge, these visually stimulating slot machines are the first and last things travelers see when they visit Las Vegas. Never underestimate these harmless-looking game machines, they are built with deep psychology insights to lure and keep you coming back.

las vegas4

I love CES! More than just an expo of the latest tech offering, it is a big trove of everything! I get to touch and experience some of the latest and most interesting gadgets. Best of all, I get to ask all the questions I need to know about the magic behind the tech. The effort to put together such a great show requires infinite resources and millions of hours of creativity, research and development, production and planning. It is worth every cent, effort and time just to be here.

ces7

ces6

ces8

This year, we were much more mentally and physically prepared. We knew where to go to look for the kinds of stuff we needed. We actually walked lesser and covered more grounds. We paced ourselves pretty well.

2019 is going to be another exciting year with many AI-aided innovations. From smart watches to autonomous electric-vehicles, every smart gear that you have will only be smarter as AI is taking over most of the control. The presence of powerful optic, audio, and atmospheric sensors enable AI-engines to be faster and even more precise. You don’t even need to give any vocal command to Google or Alexa, predictive patterns and AI-analytic models are going to remember your movement, preference and anticipate what you need. When technology is being put to good, sustainable purposeful applications, it fulfills mankind with A Better Life, A Better World (echoing the core aspiration and value of CES).

ces4

ces2

ces

ces1

ces3

ces5

las vegas5

What’s delightful to know was despite the advancement of better tech-offering, many suppliers are keen to keep retail prices at an affordable range. A 3D-printing-cum-laser machine used to cost around USD2,000 is now priced at USD800. It is something Apple must learn to avert its falling sales.

This trip, I didn’t visit any casino (other than the exhibition halls at Venetian Sands) or any naughty joints. Some cheeky friends texted me to visit Playboy’s Mansion. Guess they didn’t know that the infamous joint closed down for many years.

las vegas2

las vegas1

las vegas6

Instead, I went to have a drink at a pretty well-known bar, Tipsy Robot Bar. It is the world’s most famous unmanned theatric robotic bar that is capable to mix a cocktail in less than 90 seconds. Ordering is easy via a tablet, just pick and pay with a credit card. The robotic hand picks up a cup and start to draw different blends of mixers from the ceiling. It then shakes the concoction in true robotic style before pouring the mixture into the cup. Just before the cocktail is being served, the robotic arm gives a final touch with decorative garnishes. I paid USD15 for the drink. It was fresh and rich in taste! And yes, no tips required.

las vegas3

Just before we fly out of Las Vegas, I wanted to make a quick visit to another world’s famous valley, the Death Valley. Not sure what kind of terrain we will be encountering, we rented a 4-wheel-drive Jeep. The Death Valley was a 3-hour drive away from Las Vegas City. The entire journey will take us about 8 hours to and fro the valley.

las vegas

We were blessed with terrific weather. It was clear sunny blue sky! Due to the recent US government shutdown, we drove to our first destination with uncertainty. True enough, we were unable to proceed to our first destination as the road was closed due to the federal shutdown. Thankfully, we were able to visit the other attractions as there were friendly park rangers working without pay.

img_20190111_160847_031

death valley

death valley1

death valley2

Death Valley is full of wonders. It is certainly not a dead place but a big gallery of timeless canvases of colors, textures, and formations. Crafted by the forces of nature and time, each canvas is sculptured vibrantly with unique depth and style. Here, we don’t just see the art, we literally live and breathe in the art. Walking through the gigantic terrains and deepest point (85m below sea-level) of USA, we get to see its artistic form in various different dimension, lighting, and perspective. Feeling so small in its majestic presence, it is a humbling and awakening experience for both of us.

It is, after all, a mystically deadly and beautiful place.

death valley3death valley4death valley7death valley6death valley5

Valleys of Wonders (Part I – Silicon Valley)

silicon valley1

After last year’s bad traveling arrangement, we needed more time to adjust the uncomfortable jetlags, this year, we began our annual pilgrimage to the Mecca of Gizmos (CES 2019) 3 days before the opening of the event. And it was the wisest decision ever!

This year, we also decided not to transit at the City of Angels. Instead, we made a short 3-day stopover at the City by the Bay, San Francisco to visit one of the world’s most famous valleys – the Silicon Valley. It is the birthplace of many new start-ups and home to 3 global technology giants – Apple, Facebook, and Google.

san francisco1

While Chowpo enjoyed her business class status, I was extremely “lucky” to have an upgraded “SSSS” status on my boarding pass. Trust me, it is a special privilege you won’t want when flying to the USA. It stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection. According to a UK news website, it says travelers who are given the SSSS code are on an FBI counter-terrorism watchlist and there are others who are assigned this code at random. For some strange reasons, TSA viewed me as a high-risk traveler. (Nope, I didn’t fly or crash any drone in the USA last year!) Due to this, I couldn’t check in my luggage at the downtown airport express. Prior to boarding the plane, I had to go through another “special body massage” and had my bag scanned and checked.

Other than this special treatment at the airport, I had the best long-haul red-eye flight ever. It was so smooth and gentle compared with last year’s violent rocky ride to Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, the dreadful rain spell followed me from Taiwan to San Francisco. Luckily, we arrived one day before the big storm which resulted in the cancellation of over 300 flights. I slept through the storm and adjusted my sleep cycle.

san francisco

San Francisco’s steep slopes are scary and challenging even for an experienced driver like Chowpo. It was so rare and unreal to see fearless Chowpo driving in anxiety. I can’t blame her. Some of these roads are visually impossible to drive. Some of the steepest roads are at only 17.5°. Now, that’s insane!  Imagine doing parallel parking on such crazy steepness (under heavy rain and strong wind), our logic and senses simply couldn’t compute.

We had our worst nightmare while crossing the Oakland Bay Bridge at the peak of the storm, confronting the unexpected gales. I panicked when Chowpo told me that she was unable to control the vehicle straight. We literally crawled through the ferocious gales. Our cheap light Japanese car was just too weak to handle such weather condition. Thankfully, I had a very skillful and fearless driver.

We didn’t do much in San Francisco. Despite the driving nightmares, I asked Chowpo to drive me down the world’s crookedest road at Lombard Street. We visited the San Francisco Cable-Car Museum, Chinatown and dined along the Fisherman’s Wharf. We actually wanted to pay a visit to one of the world’s most famous cages, Alcatraz but it was closed over the weekend.

san francisco10san francisco14san francisco13san francisco12san francisco11san francisco8san francisco7san francisco5san francisco6san francisco4san francisco2san francisco3

Finally, on our last day, the sun was out and we made our way to the Golden Gate and a speedy tour around Silicon Valley. On our way to the new Apple Park and Google Campus, we paid our homage to the late Steve Jobs at his old garage.

san francisco9silicon valley7

Most of these tech campuses looked old and lifeless on the outside. The endless rows of short flatted factories reminded me of Singapore’s old industry parks in the 90s. The new Apple Park Visitor Center was pretty disappointing. Over 70% of the visitor center was the usual Apple Retail Store. There were many expensive exclusive items for Apple Fans (like T-shirts, mugs, and pens) but many of those limited editions were produced in China. We couldn’t enter the UFO-shaped complex. Visitors were given an iPad to view the building through an interactive AR app. Yawn… What’s the point of traveling all the way there just to play with an iPad?

silicon valley6silicon valley4silicon valley5

Google Campus was slightly more colorful and fun. The Android Statues Park is home to many giant Android-sugary-characters. Made of soft foam, it is a harmless joyous sugary playground for all adults and kids, even for the diabetics! There is a Google Store next to the park where we bought a few Google Exclusive toys and t-shirts (all made in China too!). I got a Google Home Hub which cost 50% cheaper than the ones in Hong Kong. What a sweet deal!

silicon valleysilicon valley2silicon valley3

We left Silicon Valley and made our way to the airport. Next stop – Sin City, Las Vegas!

 

Nipper’s Master Voice No More

Last of HMV

The day finally came. Faced with lawsuits over unpaid rentals, HMV closed its last 3 outlets in Hong Kong after 25 years of operation.

It is sad to see my favorite stores gone. After all, I grew up with HMV since my young adulthood. It has been a reliable source for all my gadgets, tech magazines, pop t-shirts, games, movies, and music albums. I bought my first PlayStation, PSP, drone (Parrot), first blue ray and many other “firsts” at HMV. Despite the rise of music and movie app stores, HMV was always a great weekend hang-out place for me.

I always knew this day would come. And HMV saw it coming too. They really tried to rejuvenate their retail offering. In recent years, HMV Hong Kong revamped their stores at Causeway Bay and Central, added other new categories (cafe, restaurant, event space, movie collectibles, computers, toys, audio accessories, designer fashion, and accessories, Kickstarter gismos and more!). They even tried to duplicate Ikea’s grab-&-go hotdog guns at a very attractive price of HKD5! Despite all these efforts and changes to attract a new generation of shoppers, HMV succumbed to its final cessation.

Last of HMV1

What HMV did right was the new creation of the loft-themed retail space at Causeway Bay. However, the segmentation of categories (toys, games, gadgets, music, movie, fashion, accessories, electronics) was not well-curated and linked. The gaming zone and toys were placed separately on 2 different floors.

It is the lack of differentiation and high-selling price that led HMV to its final downfall. HMV is unable to compete with the convenience and lower pricing of iTunes offerings. While it tried to offer and introduced new categories into its store, HMV did not have any advantage in terms of pricing or varieties. Just like the downfall of BestBuy in China, shoppers went in to browse and experience the products but chose to purchase elsewhere online where the price was much lower than the physical retail outlets. With the emergence of Taobao (and the convenience of home delivery provided by SF Express), shoppers are spoilt for choices and lured by lower pricing.

Another failure of HMV was their slow and weak efforts to invest in their online APP and CRM program. For years, HMV VIP Program and APP failed to lock and incentified loyal shoppers. Instead of moving forward, HMV introduced the old “collect a stamp” card which shoppers can redeem cash rebates after a full collection of stamps. Their online web store was poorly designed and not user-friendly. Poor UIUX wasted the company’s investment.

Last of HMV2

Really… it is a great brand with a rich heritage and a beautiful story. We visited the island stores over the weekend for one last time before it closed for good. Most of its suppliers and brands have taken back their stocks, leaving the store raw and empty. I felt sorry for the remaining staffs. It is never a good time to wind down, especially when Christmas is just around the corner. I sincerely hope the brand HMV will be revived to fit tomorrow’s demand.

2018 is the year of the Dog and sadly, it did not bring HMV the luck it needed to survive. Really wish to adopt Nipper for he will be homeless with the silence of his master’s voice. (Let’s hope Hong Kong HMV sells me Nipper).

Seasons of Joyful Reunions

Joe @ Singapore (4-8th Nov 2018)5

As one age, time flies faster.
And we find ourselves keep saying this “Wow, another year has passed”. Yes, we are winding down to another unusual and dramatic year when World War III erupted quietly (trade & cyberspace), Neymar’s superb acting at the World Cup should have won him several awards at the Golden Globe, Singapore’s very very old nemesis returned with his former nemesis, cash notes fell from the sky in Hong Kong, bitcoin crashed, 50% of Avengers vapourised and a horde of infamous people mysteriously disappeared and reappeared in the land of the dragon. So just before we say “another year has passed”, I say, this isn’t just “another year”. In fact, it has been quite a strange year not just for the Crazy Rich Asians but also for the bromance between Rocket Boy and Dotard too. 

Finally, this crazy year is winding down. November and December are my favorite months of the year. There is always something lovely in the air and the cooling weather brings out the best in people. Streets are decorated with colorful Christmas lightings and every dimension filled with delightful jingles. I see more smiles and happy photos on social media. It is no doubt the Season of Love and the Season of Joyful Reunions. 

I had many wonderful reunions with my family and friends over the past 6 weeks. I was in Singapore early November to pay an overdue respect to my late beloved cousin Yei who passed away in Tokyo suddenly late September. There wasn’t any sadness or tears, just our joyful, deepest last respect to Yei who loved and enjoyed life to the fullest. And we were all so happy to see Qian again after almost a decade. 

Joe @ Singapore (4-8th Nov 2018)

It was a very tight hectic 4-day work/personal trip (with Harshad and CP) to Singapore. I managed to meet up with all my old friends and relatives. Thanks to my childhood buddy, Joakim who spent a lot of time and effort to help organize a primary school reunion dinner. There were friends (Weifen, Shanbin, Huili) whom I haven’t met in person for over a decade! Just for all these friends, I have decided to re-activate my old Whatsapp account. (Yes, you heard it, I am finally back into Whatsapp after banning it for more than 7 years!). 

Joe @ Singapore (4-8th Nov 2018)4

I will never leave Singapore without meeting my closest Wahbiang Clan friends and dearest family. It was at the family dining dinner (Confession: I arrived at the family dinner tipsy after 1.5 hours of aggressive drinks with some “I-cannot-reveal” friends) when sister and I made the most incredible decision! Thanks to the young talented Didi, my sister and I decided a last-minute family trip to Ho Chi Minh in December!

Joe @ Singapore (4-8th Nov 2018)1Joe @ Singapore (4-8th Nov 2018)2Joe @ Singapore (4-8th Nov 2018)3

Sigh… I put on another 3kg when I was in Singapore. Thanks for spoiling me with so much local high-carbs delicacies, liquors, and the very very sinful durians! I should have done up this blog a long time ago but I wasn’t in the right mood. Perhaps I was just plain lazy or busily (putting on more weight) indulging in the sinful yummy durians. The truth is I have been procrastinating on my personal stuff. It is time to put the priorities back on track. These (family, friends and loved ones) matter more than anything else. 

Enjoy the magic of the Season while it lasts before we start the new year with another list of “self-justified-&-feel-good” resolutions/goals/targets/ambitions that occupy our lives with meaningless missions. Not forgetting a new dramatic crazy year when 50% of Avengers will be miraculously revived, more disappearance of infamous characters and the return of the White Walkers. Sadly, we won’t get to see Neymar at the Oscars in 2019.

Joe @ Singapore (4-8th Nov 2018)6
(Thanks Kalinda for another beautiful handmade Christmas gift!)

The Last Entry

Screenshot 2018-12-09 at 10.54.54 AM

Ever since I have embarked my hectic start-up adventure, I have very little time for blogging and vlogging. Looking at the declining number of postings for the past 2 years, my blog has been quiet for a while. Haha, I am still well alive and kicking. It is just that I have little time (and too lazy) to sort out the weekly photos and videos. (Again, never a good excuse not to record all those beautiful and precious moments.)

This morning, I was couch/bed-surfing when I bumped into Jeanette Aw’s latest post on Instagram. It was an awakening reminder that dragged me out of the bed to relook at the important people and things that I may have forgotten or neglected.

 

Based on many true stories, Jeanette Aw’s 25-minute short film, The Last Entry narrates the relationship between a loving mother who was suffering from Alzheimer and her doting daughter, and the bonds that will not break under the most trying of conditions. Simple and beautiful with little dialogues between the mother and daughter, The Last Entry is a very meaningful and touching short film. And it is very real.

This story unlocked something very deep inside my heart – my relationship with my late Ah Mah who lost her remembrance of those around her during her final days. It was 1999, I left Perth for a 2-month holiday. Before I left, Ah Mah chatted with me and asked me to come back soon. When I returned 2 months later, she has completely forgotten me.

Despite suffering from dementia (and forgotten everyone), my granny kept reciting a small trace of memory of her young adulthood days on Kinmen Island where she and grandfather dug clams by the beach house. I did not know why she only remembered this particular memory and not the rest. Was it love or was it her happiest moment that etched so deeply that can’t be erased?

Losing Ah Mah plays out a very important chapter of my life and it taught me to place family above all. Nothing else matters. That’s why I have been spending all my time and money to bring families and friends together. And that’s the reason why I started blogging in the first place – to record every precious and important moment. There will be times in life when we may get distracted and lost in our pursuit of monetary goals, statuses or love. This blog is my memory vault, an important anchor that prevents me from drifting too far away from those that matters to me. And I should start filling it with more colorful and personal stories before I forgotten all.

Cherish those who love you. Life is short, don’t wait. 珍惜眼前人。

Thanks Jeanette for producing and directing this beautiful film. A good timely reminder. Go watch and support this wonderful film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2WwjhDie0w

Eulogy – 金煜良言 (1973-2018)

Yei Book

Yei Book1

Phone Pixs.jpg

Titled “Just Do Yei – 金煜良言” – This book is dedicated to Qianqian and all who love Yei. 5 weeks ago, I lost a very dear and annoying brother, Yei (煜). Extracted faithfully, unadulterated from his Wechat Moments, this memorial book comprises of all Yei’s moments and words of wisdom. While combing through all the materials on Yei’s microblog, I saw a very different side of him. He was a good photographer, a good life-preacher and someone who lived life to the fullest.

Thanks brother Leslie and friends for all their contribution and help to make this book possible. This book is printed in USA, traveled to meet Yei’s loved ones in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and finally Singapore. This is Yei (pun intended). His journeys, his words, his moments.

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

SHENZHENI was on a train back from a long day of work when I heard the shocking news. I have been looking for you for days and I knew something was wrong. But never expect you left us so suddenly.

I was very pissed because you left without saying goodbye. I was very heartbroken because I have one person lesser to share my brotherly tales and secrets.

Yei, I just want to say Thank You. You have been a great big brother. Annoying at times but no doubt, a very very caring one.

I saw a big positive and remarkable change in you after the passing of your dad. You were more relaxed and benevolent in your way of life. Your days in Japan opened up your life. You started your microblog on WeChat Moments and filled it with so many colorful moments of good food and travel.

“Live & leave life with no regrets” – That’s your mantra. Family comes first, anything else comes second. Since the day we spoke about the fragility of life, I cherish every single moment I had with my family and loved ones. Over the past 12 years, I had many priceless, wonderful and memorable moments with them, including the one with you in Tokyo last year. Looking back, that was an awesome “bromance” trip!

It is still so unreal Yei, losing you. It is going to take me a long while to get used to your absence and silence. No more wee hours WeChatting or karaoke.

I always knew you are ready to leave. Cos you told me so many times about this day. You said when it is your time to go, you will leave with no regrets… After all, the greatness of one’s life can never be measured by its length but by its volume.

Life is short. Don’t wait. Just do Yei (pun intended).
I love you, bro. And we will always miss you.

– Peng. 25th September 2018

%d bloggers like this: