Work Play Fun ~ Bali

We have been talking about it for years and we finally made it to Bali for our company trip! I am extremely blessed to be part of this winning team. I still remember those lonely months when we first started in 2008. We had less than 7 people in the team and now we have grown to nearly 40 people! I am proud to celebrate another key milestone with my lovely team mates here in Bali. Also, I haven’t been to Bali since my last visit 14 years ago! It is one place I love to visit again!

Unfortunately, 8 hours before our flight, news agencies around the world flashed headline-warnings on possible terrorist attack in Bali. Apparently, the Indonesian government received a warning letter that Bali will be the next target after Jakarta bombings. I have also received multiple messages from different friends about this news. The timing was terribly bad and I felt extremely unsettled on my way to Bali.

Thanks GOD, everything turned out just fine for my company and me. Weather was good and we were safe throughout the 4D3N stay. However, the first 2 days in Bali were not so great for me. Many of us stayed up late preparing for the workshop. I was up till 5am working on my team’s presentation. By the 2nd night, my body shut down early due to exhaustion. Guess I could not keep up with the young ones.

What I disliked most was the resort – Club Med Bali. The staffs were friendly and nice but the facilities were pathetic! The room I had was old and dirty. The resort was overcrowded with tourists. Pool wasn’t big enough for everyone. WIFI was very slow and I mistaken the 19-inch TV as a computer monitor! The bathroom was full of ants and the air-con wasn’t cold at all! It felt like those old NTUC Chalets in Singapore. Worst of all, toothpaste wasn’t provided in the room (unless you asked for it) and shopping at the resort was just as inconvenient! For cash payment, I have to pay at the resort reception instead at the shop. In short, it is certainly not worth our money and I will never come back here again.

Despite all the whining, I had a great workshop (Tracy won the top prize to Singapore!) and accomplished 2 new firsts with my lovely team mates – white-water rafting (over a 4m ripple drop) and para-sailing! They are perfect antidotes to heal the “terrorism-anxiety” in me. Just when I was about to enjoy myself, it was time to leave for Hong Kong. There were many other things to discover and experience in Bali. Definitely, 4D3N was never enough for all of us.

Enough said, hope you enjoy the photos and the long 13-min VLOG below! (Shot by DJI Osmo, Phantom 3 Professional, HTC RE, Canon EMOS 3 and iPhone 6s! Now you know why I need to pack so many things!)

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.

Droning over Hong Kong’s Wetlands

I have to admit, I developed a phobia for drone-flying after the last unpleasant incident in New Zealand. I used to have so much faith in drone-technology that I flew a drone out of Marina Bay Sand hotel room and back! Looking back, I consider myself extremely blessed and lucky that none of those previous flights I flew in Taiwan and Singapore ended up badly.

DJI’s new firmwares in June were full of bugs. That was the reason my drones were giving me problems. There were too many bugs in the system and I didn’t want to risk losing another drone. I have since grounded my drone for the past 2 months. I am too afraid to fly in the city and over water.

I have received my new replacement drone but kept it grounded until DJI released the new firmwares 4 weeks ago. I have been bugging Chowpo to find me a big open space to test the new firmwares. Yesterday was a one-time off bonus public holiday (to mark the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender in the second world war) and we had a free day to fly! Chowpo offered to drive me (and Tracy) to the most remote corner of Hong Kong to test my drone. I love traveling and aerial photography so it is very important for me to gain back my flight-confidence.

At the northern part of Hong Kong lies a huge plot of wetlands. I was very surprised to know there are such rural areas in concrete Hong Kong city. There was hardly anyone, tall buildings and vehicles there. Despite the gloomy and windy weather, I felt extremely safe to practice my flight. I was still a little bit rusty but I managed to gain good control of the drone.

We spent over 3 hours at 3 different sites. I exhausted all the 7 batteries. Finally, I am getting a good sense of control of the drone. With more practice-opportunities ahead, I am sure I will be able to soar and capture more amazing footages for my next trip! Yes, Pilot Wahbiang is back! Enjoy the video below!

Flyover – The World’s Tallest Bronze Goddess of Mercy (Tsz Shan Monastery, Hong Kong)

Newly opened 5 days ago on 15th April 2015, this is the world’s tallest bronze Goddess of Mercy (觀音). Located at Tsz Shan Monastery (慈山寺) at Universal Gate Road (普門路), Tai Po District, Hong Kong, this is a mega-project funded by Hong Kong’s very own tycoon, Li Ka-Shing.

Standing at 76m, the statue stands on a lush tranquil hillside at the foot of 純陽峰, overlooking Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣). The $193 million monastery took 5 years to complete. To maintain the peacefulness and tranquility of the attraction, daily visitorship is kept at 400. Admission is free but visitors must make reservation online ( one week to a month in advance to visit this monastery. Visitors must also be 18 and above and they are not allowed to bring joss sticks, meat and alcohol into the compound.

As we didn’t know that we have to make reservation beforehand, my dad, Uncle Bok and I travelled a long way to Tai Po this evening. Fortunately, I had my DJI Inspire 1 drone with me and we managed to take a quick 5-minute overhead cruise 100m around the attraction. Despite the low lighting condition (as the sun was setting), I managed to capture a beautiful aerial footage of the monastery and the reservoir. Thanks to the possibility of the drone, I was able to capture the view where the Goddess of Mercy was facing. It was simply mesmerising. Enjoy the video.

Droning over mountains, over clouds at Alishan (阿里山)

What an unusual and awesome Easter break! My usual travel mates, Harshad and Tracy went on their own separate travel without me. Tracy went on a 12-day European tour alone and Harshad flew to Japan for business. Since I had a couple of meetings lined up in Taiwan, I decided to plan a short trip to Alishan over the long Easter-Ching Ming weekend.

While doing my travel research on Alishan (阿里山), I was so intrigued by its scenic natural beauty. A day before my trip, I bought a semi-professional aerial camera (DJI Inspire 1) to capture Alishan’s beauty. (Just one week after I bought the DJI Inspire 1, DJI launched its new Phantom 3 at 1/3 the cost!) I admit it was a costly impulse purchase. Boy, I didn’t expect the quadcopter to be that heavy and bulky. I never like the idea to check in any photographic equipments but the quadcopter is too big to carry onboard with its original case. In the end, I was charged a couple of hundred extra for overweight luggage and I was also stopped by the Hong Kong custom officers for carrying so many odd-looking oversized batteries. Thankfully, I managed to clear custom without any problem. The quadcopter was well-protected in its case and arrived without any defect.

I took a 1.5-hour speed-train from Taipei to Chiayi (嘉義). Thanks to my friend Chen, he fetched me all the way to the mountain resort at Alishan National Scenic Area (阿里山國家風景區). It was an amazing 2-hour winding-mountainous drive. The resort is located high up in the mountain at 2,500m. Temperature fell drastically from 32°C to 14°C. At some point, we were driving through thick fog and light rain.

As it was still early, we made a short detour to the tallest mountain of Taiwan, the Yushan (玉山). There, Chen made a short stopover for me to fly the drone. While setting up the drone, a couple of mountain-campers walked over and gathered around me. They were avid photographers and were so curious about the device. They even posed with the drone. As it was my 2nd flight, I was nervous to crash the drone in front of them. That would be loss of face. Thankfully, inspire 1 lives up to its name and price tag. It is extremely easy to control, very powerful and sturdy. Despite the strong air current at the mountain top, taking off and landing was a breeze for me. I flew a few hundred meters over the valleys and levitate the device over the clouds. It was magnificent! I managed to capture one of the best sunsets ever!

Chen left after sunset and I checked in at Alishan House (阿里山賓館). It was an expensive hotel that was highly overrated and hyped (its buffet meals are really bad). Anyway, all I need was an accommodation for my next agenda – that was to shoot the famed Alishan sunrise at Jhushan (祝山). All tickets were sold out by the time I arrived at the hotel. The only way was to hike 4km up to the scenic point at wee hours before the sunrise.

It was my first wee-hour hike since army days. The hotel staff discouraged me to take the hike as he said I might be lost in the dark. With no orientation of the surrounding, I followed a couple of hikers at 3am up the mountain. It was an extremely tiring uphill hike as I had too many heavy gears on my back (drone, camera, drink). At mid-point, I was all alone in the dark and was thinking to give up. GPS was useless as I didn’t know how much further I need to walk. Still, I walked on.

Hiking alone in the dark was one valuable experience for me. I was too tired to think about any supernatural phenomena. I was more worried about being stranded and lost than anything else. While the hike was very chilly and foggy, all I wanted was to get out of the forest and find a safe spot to rest. It was this sense of urgency that propelled me forward.

Finally, I arrived at my destination way ahead of the other tourists (who arrived in buses and train). I found a nice spot for me to setup the drone and took off! For that few seconds, I became the key attention of that morning. Many photographers were snapping at me and the drone instead of the sunrise. I made small chat with at least 5 people. It was an awkward moment for me to attract all these attention. True enough, a policeman came shortly and disrupted my flight. He warned me not to fly over the military base (which I didn’t know earlier). I told him I was just shooting the sunrise and he monitored my flight from a distant. After I landed the drone, he approached me again. Surprisingly, he came to offer me some other good and “safer scenic spots” to fly my drone.

It was a fulfilling morning flight. The air was so fresh and good. It was only 6:15am. It seemed like a long long day of adventure. I hiked downhill back to Alishan National Scenic Area, took the famous (and once fatal) Alishan Forest Railway (阿里山森林鐵路) to Sacred Tree Station (神木) and visited a couple of scenic spots – Giant Trees Trail, Two Sisters Pond (姊妹潭), Shoujhen Temple (受鎮宮). I didn’t see any pretty 阿里山的姑娘 and I was a little late for cherry blossom. Fortunately, I was blessed with great sunny weather during my stay. The monsoon came right after I left the mountain resort.

I made my way back to Taipei and did a short trip up in the north at Jiufen and Shifen. I wanted to fly my drone there but it was pouring heavily. Back in the hotel, I downloaded all the footages and photos from the memory card. To see Alishan from so many different angles, heights and perspectives, it was truly stunning. It is after all, my best impulse purchase ever! Enjoy the video below (watch it in 1080p).

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