Help…Someone broke into our house!

There was a loud bang and Tracy screamed in the next room. Instinctively, I jolted out of my sleep instantly! “What’s going on?” I shouted across the hall.

“Joe! Someone is trying to break into our house!” Tracy yelled back. I sat on my bed and listened. There wasn’t anyone in the apartment. Tracy insisted I take a look at the door.

I grabbed my phone and prepared to call the police. As I walked towards the door, it was extremely silent. I looked at the clock. Damn, it was Sunday 8am! Tracy was leaving the house for her driving-refresher lesson when she claimed some one opened and banged our door. If this was some stupid joke of hers, I will surely torch her a**!

Fully prepared for a swift counter-attack, I swang the door wide open and saw my 2 darlings standing outside!

“Good morning and surprise!” Felicia and Elkan laughed. What a shocking surprise! I didn’t expect to see them in Hong Kong until September! In fact, I just saw them a week ago in Singapore. I was actually expecting my mother and auntie (who are flying in this week too!).

It was a very last-minute decision. Felicia and Elkan flew in to process some immigration documents. Felicia bought the air tickets at 11pm the night before and took the 2am-flight to Hong Kong. It was a very short 2-day trip as Elkan needed to fly back for school.

With no time to lose, Elkan wanted to play with his buddy, Harshad. He dragged the whole family to Wanchai to hunt for the new PS4 game, Unchartered 4. The duo spent 2 very productive days at home, completing 80% of the game. While the 2 boys were playing at home, Felicia, Tracy, Chowpo and I spent good time with another impromptu Singapore visitor, Ms Soo, at the local eatery.

This morning, we sent Felicia and Elkan to the Airport Express. It felt so unreal! They came with a bang and suddenly they left with a void of silence. It was such a short but a sweet reunion. In fact, I don’t mind having them flying in every weekend! After all, it is just only a 3-hour ride away!

What a great blog entry after a 7-week dry spell! Counting down to our next adventure!

Wahbiang Vlog 2016/09 – Hate going to the airport

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

Drone-unfriendly Yangon

“DRONE!” an airport staff yelled out. Within seconds, I was surrounded by a group of hostile-looking airport custom officers. This ritual repeated itself from the very first hour I landed in Yangon to the last minute I left the country. The Burmese authorities take drone very seriously. It was as dramatic as having a bag load of drugs or explosives.

I wasn’t alone. While I was debating with the custom officers about their laws on drone (which there isn’t any official law on drone), I was shown a list of drones that were detained by the Burmese custom office over the past 1 month! There were at least 10 DJI drones being detained inside Yangon International Airport right now. I do not blame Yangon for being so strict on drone-flying. There are indeed some black sheep in the drone community who are either dumb or just simply irresponsible.

Honestly, I wasn’t too worried about the detention of my drone. I was only frustrated by the way they handled my case. You see, there were 5 security checkpoints (airport entrance, custom office, departure hall, immigration counter, departure gate) on the way to the departure gate. And at every check point, I had to endure and repeat the same unpleasant tussle. Each officer gave a different reason to detain my drone (detain for investigation, no permit for leaving the country with drone etc). Thankfully, I kept the official release letter from the custom office and I was able to walk away from all these senseless confrontation. Trust me, getting the drone out of the country was 10 times more stressful than getting it detained in the first place.

Despite the ugly episode at the airport, Myanmar left me with many good impressions. This is a working trip, Chowpo and I flew in a day earlier to explore the City of Gold. Thanks to the friendly hotel staff who helped us to plan our short 1-day tour, we managed to visit most of the city’s key recommended attractions – the Shwedagon Pagoda, Bogyoke Aung San Market, Aung San Suu Kyi house, National Museum, Chaukhtatgyi Temple.

Myanmar is a buzzing country with lots to discover. It was unlike anything I had imagined about this place, Yangon is definitely a city in motion. With so many hardworking local and international talents, I have no doubt that Yangon will progress and grow through time. I saw so many Singapore home-grown brands well established here (Charles and Keith, Ya Kun, Fish & Co, Popular Books). There are just so many untapped golden opportunities and best of all, beautiful wonders to discover. I wished I had two more weeks to explore the other parts of Myanmar.

Check out more photos and vlog below:

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.

The impregnable Golden Gate(金门之旅)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DJI OSMO Review – Promising but is it worth the switch? (Updated)

After 10 months of eager anticipation, I finally got the new DJI Osmo handheld gimbal camera last Friday evening! When it was announced 3 weeks ago, I was impressed by the numerous positive reviews given by established sites and forums. All the videos from DJI channel were promising and I set a pretty good level of expectation about this. So the big question is: For those who owns a Gopro 4, is it worth the switch to Osmo? 

By now, you would have guessed that I am not going to sing praises about DJI’s latest gadget. Despite owning the impressive DJI Inspire 1 and the Phantom P3 Professional drones, I must say this is not as satisfying as the drones. After all, this is DJI’s first attempt in handheld action cam. The gimbal works great but there are other things that are rather disappointing.

29 Oct – This is another updated blog. After posting a rather negative first review 4 days ago, I have done more tests against Gopro 4 on Feiyutech 3G and read a couple more readers’ comments. They are all very good discussion and debates. Here are my final assessment: 

On a fairer note, there are indeed many good points about the DJI Osmo that I didn’t mentioned in my earlier blog as those features are very well-covered by other reviewers. 

1) Integrated body. Its sexy design and lightweight body. The overall packaging is very well-protected. The case really comes in handy! Osmo (422g) is slightly heavier than GoPro 4 + Feiyutech G4S (348g) but you can’t feel the difference.

2) The gimbal is superbly smooth and the camera captures more details in the background too!

3) It is a blessing to be able to change the exposure settings easily on the phone. This helps a lot during the recording!

4) It offers bigger screen-play on the phone! This is important as it is very difficult to see how the camera pans on a small Gopro 4 silver screen.

5) The refresh rate is much better than the Gopro. During a trial in my office, we can’t see any flickering light from the ceiling fluorescent tubes. Unfortunately, the flickering appeared on our Gopro 4.

6) At the widest angle, there is no distortion on the Osmo. The Gopro 4 offers a wider angle but it does have the spherical distortion at both ends. So, it is really down to preference

Here is a video shot by another user (Helipal). From the test video, it seems that the Osmo is more vibrant, stable and sharper in the video. It is a great comparison video for those who are thinking if they want to switch or not.

There are many imperfection about the new DJI Osmo that I want to share with the readers. I am a little surprised that these flaws weren’t commented by other reviewers. Here are some of issues that I would like to share:

1) Osmo Camera cannot be used on Inspire 1 Drone
It is already written under the FAQ section of DJI’s website, you cannot use the Osmo camera on the Inspire 1. However, you can use the Inspire 1 camera on the handheld gimbal.

2) Poor Average camera performance in indoor-lighting condition (Standard ZenMuse X3 Camera)
The image quality is pretty average in semi-bright indoor condition. When I zoomed in at 100%, it is quite noisy and not very sharp. (See photos at 100% cropped). To be fair, GoPro 4 performance just as bad in dim conditions.

3) Tilt-issue after short panning 
Like most handheld gimbals, after panning for a while, the camera will tilt slightly (the horizon will not be leveled). I have to press the button to level the camera. It is quite disruptive to re-level the horizon during a video shoot.

4) Poor microphone recording
Of all the bad points, I feel this is the worst. It is of unacceptable quality. The Osmo in-built microphone is really soft! Recording is low and very muffled. You might want to add an external microphone to capture the sound.

5) Poorer Battery Life 
I have used for only 20 minutes and the battery life is already 50%! Understand that the Osmo battery has to power both gimbal and camera (plus wifi to the phone), the power-hungry Osmo is not going to be a good travel camera to bring along with unless I carry extra batteries. Unlike the Osmo, the GoPro 4 and Feiyutech gimbal has its own battery – that’s why the gimbal lasts longer than Osmo.

Battery compartment is also poorly design – DJI has to include a tape at the end of the battery so user can pull out the battery. The spring inside doesn’t seem to work to push the battery out.

6) Panning motor noise captured in the video
Osmo allows user to pan the camera via a joystick. However, the panning motor noise is also captured in the video. It is so loud that the motor sound was also being captured by the GoPro 4. Come on! Seriously?

7) Tight Handphone Grip (only on the iPhone 6+)
If you are using iPhone 6 Plus and you have the official iPhone cover on, you might find it extremely tight to fit the iPhone 6 Plus onto the metal grip. There is very little allowance for a iPhone cover. The metal fits perfectly with the iPhone 6 Plus so you might need remove the cover if you want to grip both corners of the phone. What I did was grip the phone by the side.

So the question is: Should you buy it? 

I say a big YES, if you don’t have a Gopro 4 and are looking for a gimbal+cam, this is the perfect gear for you (provided you are not using the camera for underwater diving or extreme sports. Osmo is not weather-proof!) You will find this very smooth and easy to use! The camera X3 performs slightly better than Gopro 4 in some of our tests. However do note that the microphone is way way more inferior than the Gopro 4.

For those who have a Gopro 4 and are not sure if they should fork out USD649 for the Osmo, my take is the improvements on Osmo may not justify the price difference. For that, you might consider buying the new Feiyutech G4S at RMB2,100 (about USD330). Also, do note that you may need to fork out extra $$$ to attach an external microphone on the Osmo (if audio is important for your shoot),

Overall verdict – Osmo is promising (it is afterall DJI’s first attempt in handheld camera) but don’t expect it to be at professional grade as some of the videos you saw on Youtube were shot by the higher end X5. It is a new category and isn’t here to replace Gopro in the extreme sports segment. Osmo has its issues but it is no doubt a great traveling and vlogging video-recording tool.

And yes, I hate it when someone call this a high-tech selfie stick. It is 100% more than that!

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