Sex and the City (of bikes, cheeses, weeds and clogs)

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My new start-up life is hectic, no doubt, but I am enjoying the freedom and satisfaction in the remarkable pursuit of creating tomorrow’s innovation. My team and I were indeed very lucky that our product generated so much interests and demands. Since July, I was on the road to numerous cities, meeting new people and making countless presentations.  It was indeed time-consuming and I didn’t even have a decent break when my dad, mum and family were here.

A few months ago, I had a few business invitations to demo our new innovation to a couple of potential partners and clients in London. Suffering from aero-phobia, I never look forward to any long-haul flight. I was hesitant to go. Knowing a couple of close business friends will also be there in London during this “post-summer-holiday” seasons, I dragged myself on board a very bumpy 12-hour long flight.

Escaped from the endless violent typhoons and heat waves in Hong Kong, I had a marvellous and rewarding time in London. It was unreal to dine with my old friends  (Ricky, Olivia, Vicky & Cynthia) from Hong Kong (who have now moved to reside in London) in the unusual cold weather of London. Christy, Chowpo and Bianca also joined us for some light city-touring and dining. This was Chowpo’s first taste of Europe and I extended 4 more days to show her around.

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While in London, I was contemplating a short 3-day trip to Iceland to fly my drone. After checking with Olivia, a 3-day trip was a little too short. Also, there wasn’t any return air-ticket. Just when I was about to book a train ride up north to visit the distilleries at the Highlands, there was a failed bombing incident in London subway and another fire incident that disrupted the key railroad to Scotland.

In the end, I decided to take a train to Amsterdam (a city I intended to visit during our last family trip to the Artic Circle).

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Amsterdam is an unique and intriguing city. At the first glance, it was like a giant Venice with bigger canals, wider alleys and killer bikes. However, Amsterdam is more than just the “Venice of the North”, in my opinion, it is the unofficial “Sex and the City” or the “City of Weeds, Cheese & Bikes”!  Frankly, it was the infamous Red Lights Districts that enticed me to this city. Certainly not the power of Van Gogh or Anne Frank. And 100% not the windmills and Dutch Lady in heavy wooden clogs..

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For 4 days, Chowpo and I explored Amsterdam on foot. We walked nearly 100,000 steps (average 25K steps a day) – an incredible personal record and feat for both of us. We experienced all kind of weathers throughout our short stay – sunny blue sky, grey raining cloudy and even white foggy mist!

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First stop, we went window-shopping along the infamous Red Light Districts and visited its sex-themed museums. Wow! Big eye openers indeed! Many of these brothels are just located right beside a holy church! No wonder there are so many confession rooms in the church. On a serious note, the Dutch society is very liberal, after all, they are the first nation that legalised gay-marriage. There is nothing shameful or taboo about sex. It may be such openness that most Dutch households don’t close their curtains even when there is no one at home. It was quite an unique experience walking by and peeping into their beautiful homes.

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This is definitely a big Disneyland for the adults. There are so many sex-themed shops and coffee joints (selling weeds, space cakes and magic mushrooms)! Unfortunately, to the disappointment of many, we didn’t try the dope at all. Not even a puff. Why? At first I was tempted but after I listened to the horrific tale of Christy and Jeff that I lost all interests in those “magic tonics”. Maybe next time with my brothers-in-crime, I might.

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With only 800K residents, Amsterdam is certainly a big tourists magnet. Despite its kinky and naughty reputation, this city of slanting and crooked buildings charmed me deeply. We saw people chilling out by the edge of the canals and sun-tanning on the decks of their boat houses. What a pleasant and relaxing lifestyle! Unlike the stereotypes I heard about Dutch people, the people we encountered were generally warm, chatty and very humorous!

Here are some of the attractions we visited during our short stay. 

1) The Heineken Experience Tour

Like most Amsterdam’s tourist attractions, this place was overwhelmed with crowd. Beware of the crazy long queue and it is important to get a “quick-pass” to enter. For Heineken fans, this will be a great place to discover the heritage and brewing process of the world’s most favourite beer. There were so many interesting digital engagements and not forgetting 2 big bars for you to enjoy the beers! Remember to create your own “Personalised Beer Bottle” on the way out.

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2) WindMill, Cheese & Clog Factories (Zannse Shans, Volendam & Marken)

We joined a big group of tourists (50 of us) and explored the country-side of Amsterdam. Just a short 1-hour bus-ride away lies the famous Zaanse Shans windmills, the quaint fishing villages of Volendam and Marken’s Dutch cheese farm. Despite the big travel group, it was actually very enjoyable and relaxing. The tour guide was so chatty and fun to hang out with. The entire tour took about 4.5 hours. It was basically a touch-&-go tour, with little time to explore more at every stop.

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3) Canal Cruise (60-min Relaxing Ride)

There were many canal cruise operators. We got ours free when we signed up for the Windmill Tour at “Grab-You-Guide.Com”. The cruise comes with an open glass top ceiling. One important tip for the shutter-bugs – DO NOT BOARD THE CRUISE WHEN IT IS 80% PACKED. The next cruise is just 15 minutes away, board the next cruise so that you get a good window seat to snap the photographs.

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4) Sex Museum 

Located near Central Station, the Sex Museum is worth a visit. In my opinion, there are so much more to see here than the Museum of Prostitution. For a low price of Euros 5 bucks, it is worth every sense.

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5) Van Gogh Museum 

Having seen one of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery in London, I wanted to see the other version here at Amsterdam. In the end, I was so drawn into the sad tales of this extraordinary artist. This is another star attraction with a long queue. The Van Gogh Museum is worth a visit. With over 200 paintings, 500 drawings and more than 750 letters to discover, the museum reveals the colourful life of one of the world’s most iconic and misunderstood artists of our time. (No photography and bags allowed in this museum).

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6) Amsterdam Duck Store 

If you like the giant floating Rubber Duck by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, you will like the rubber collections at Amsterdam Duck Store. With so many duck characters to choose from, I couldn’t resist my shopping addiction. In the end, I walked away with 2 DuckVaders and I am now thinking if I should get a “Donald Duck Trump” to expand this rubbery dust-collection hobby.

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So, this is it! A short European “Eat, Play, Work” trip. Back to work and presenting more demos. Haven’t blogged for almost 5 months, I am getting rusty with my vlog and blog. This time, it took me more a week to put all the photos, videos and stories together.
This was more than just a business-vacation. This trip brought out the happy vlogger and excitement in me. Finally, I am back on the road once more, with my Osmo and Mavic Pro.  More happy trips ahead!

She booked me a wrong trip – to Vietnam!

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It has been an exceptional hectic year, I was working till the final hour before Christmas Eve. Felicia and Elkan flew back last week and I had no plan for Christmas holidays. Originally, I wanted to surprise the Wahbiang clan in Malacca but the dates were too tight for me. Since I was overwhelmed with work and had no time to check with the tour agency, I asked Tracy to book us a short weekend trip to ZhangJiaJie City (张家界) at Hunan. I always wanted to visit this scenic place where the movie Avatar was filmed. It will be a fantastic location to hike and fly my new drones.


Knowing Tracy, she is always unpredictable and full of surprises.
Of course, I didn’t share with her my full intention of a “droning tour”. She totally disregarded my initial instruction to book a pair of train tickets to Hunan, she got us two air tickets to Ho Chi Minh City instead! When I found out, it was too late to make any changes. I had been to Ho Chi Minh so many times and it wasn’t my ideal destination for a short break. Worse, this city is notorious with confusing regulations for drone pilots like myself. I feared another Yangon deja vu. Will my drone be confiscated at the custom?

With less than 18 hours to flight time, I decided to take a risk. Instead of bringing the new DJI Phantom 4P+, I packed the smaller DJI Mavic Pro (without the propellers to avoid custom hassle) into my large suitcase. With my past experience in Yangon, it was much safer to check in than to hand-carry the drone. I was stopped previously in Yangon because of the odd-looking drone backpack. It is always wise to blend in with the crowd.

It was a nerve-wreaking 2-hour flight from Hong Kong to Vietnam. I was mentally prepared for the worst-case scenario. Reading other travelers’ experiences on the internet didn’t help a bit. Vietnam is still a communist country and drone is a highly controlled item. Losing a drone is nothing new for me. I have lost an Inspire 1 on my birthday 2 years ago. I was prepared to give away a free Mavic Pro to the custom on Christmas Day.

Moment of truth! My decision to bring a smaller drone was wise! The custom officer at Ho Chi Minh airport didn’t stop me at the X-ray checkpoint. The large suitcase went through the X-ray machine without activating any alerts. It worked! What a great relief and joy! Truly merry Christmas! (On my way out, I was stopped and questioned about the large sized Mavic Pro batteries. I told them those were camera batteries. As I put the batteries in Li-po safe bags, the strict custom officers at Ho Chi Minh allowed me to bring them on board)

We parked ourselves at a very small boutique hotel (Fusion Suites) with very zen-and woody decorated interior. I love the hotel settings and its warm friendly staffs. The best thing about this hotel was their daily complimentary breakfast and oil-massage for all hotel guests. I tried the 60-min oil-massage and it was terrific!

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Ho Chi Minh City changed quite a bit since my last visit in 2013. There are many more malls (Saigon Center, Takashimaya) sprouting across different districts. There are a lot of new condos and offices constructions. It is no longer the sleepy city of yesterday. It seems like a city in transformation.

I visited my buddy, Kevin (a Singaporean friend I met in HCM back in 2007)Strange but true, we have never met each other in Singapore. All our last meetings were in Hong Kong and Vietnam. I visited his beautiful new office and he bought us delicious local delicacies for lunch.

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Tracy and I spent the next 3 days shopping, eating and exploring different districts. It was planned to be a “recharging and relaxing” retreat for my super-exhausted mind and body. We didn’t pack this trip with any crazy itinerary.  It was just a simple, quiet and lazy holiday. We did the usual touristy stuffs and explored the city mainly on foot. There are so many new and beautiful retail shops and cafes around.

Ben Thanh Market was a huge disappointment, the vendors were greedy and aggressive. They offered the same things I saw 3-10 years ago, nothing new and more expensive. It was becoming a tourist trap for first time visitors. With more competitions, Ben Thanh should reinvent itself, if not be replaced and lose its glory over time.

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This city is best to be explored on foot than from the air. I didn’t spend a lot of time flying the drone. There isn’t much landmark or natural scenery to capture. No doubt, Vietnam has many beautiful scenic places for drone-pilots, HCM isn’t the right spot. The city was way too congested and I didn’t feel safe flying. In fact, I had a difficult time trying to find a quiet and safe spot to launch the drone. The narrow streets and walkways were packed with scooters and people. There were too many hanging electrical cables, roof-top satellites and lamp-posts obstructing the drone. After 2 days of serious considerations, I decided to climb up the hotel’s rooftop for a short drone flight.

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The drone flight took less than 3 minutes in total. There were strong signal interference everywhere. Ascending to the rooftop was much more exciting and fun than flying the drone. Tracy and I were trying to figure our way up to the top without being caught by the hotel’s security cameras or staffs. Just a little thrill and fun to spice up the quiet day.

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Fully recharged and geared to face another uncertain new year. For sure, I be back to Vietnam very soon for my next drone flight. Stay tuned.

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Mid Autumn Reunion with my darlings!

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I have been away from my blog for almost 2 months. Work has been hectic and my personal life has nothing worthy or special to blog (except for Aaron Kwok’s super fancy and spectacular concert!). Time flies and it is already September! My mum, wife and son arrived separately for short mid-autumn reunion.


I took 2-week leave to accompany my family.
Unfortunately, my mum and me fell ill during the first 2 days of our vacation. The change of season and the awful wet weather worsen our sickness. I decided to postpone the original trip (to Guilin) and settled for something cozy nearby. I booked 2 very spacious and special accommodations for the family at Macau and Shenzhen.

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The weather was gloomy and it poured heavily everyday.
We stayed mostly indoor throughout the trip. We didn’t do a lot of shopping in Macau and Shenzhen. Couldn’t resist the temptation, Tracy and I bought the latest mobile-gimbal gadgets at DJI’s first Flagship Store located just right beside our villa. Mum wasn’t feeling well and slept throughout the vacation. (Guess she misses the company of Auntie Amy.) Thankfully, Tracy and Elkan lightened up the villas with their endless jokes and laughers.

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The rain finally stopped for a few hours and we resumed our “violent play” out by the private pool. Poor “Clumsy Tracy” slipped and took a nasty, painful fall into the cold water when she tried to kick water at us. It was such a comical and scary sight that got my sick mum up from her bed! Despite the gloomy and wet weather, we had so much fun playing by the pool (playing a new game Elkan taught us ~ Bottle Flip). Nothing fancy, this was a simply lazy, relaxing bonding trip.

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It was a very short 4N3D reunion for Felicia, Elkan and I.
 Felicia and Elkan flew back to Singapore this evening. Harshad came by to finish the 3 chapters of the Uncharted 4 game with Elkan. No teary goodbye at the airport station this afternoon – now that’s a first! My boy is finally a grown-up! Tracy and mum will be flying back to Singapore tomorrow too. My Dad will fly in to Hong Kong this Wednesday to fill up the void. For the least, I won’t be lonely this mid Autumn Festival. I pray for mum’s speedy recovery and hope for sunny weather when dad arrives.

Enjoy my vlog and photos. Till we meet again in the next 6 weeks!

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How to export Samsung Gear 360 Video from Mac to Youtube and Facebook

Most of my past experiences with 360-video-cameras were rather disappointing. I was one of the first users of Kodak SP360 and Ricoh Theta, the low video resolution was unforgivable.

When Samsung launched the new Gear 360 camera 2 weeks ago, I was skeptical about the visual quality. After battling many days of considerations, I gave in to temptation to try it. Thankfully, I have a spare Samsung Note 5. If not, this would be a very heavy investment for anyone who wants to own it.

The Samsung Gear 360 is very easy to use. Just turn on the spheric camera and the operation comes intuitively. I was so excited to test the camera that I forgot to bring my Samsung phone out. The phone acts as a remote viewfinder and controller for the 360-camera. Fortunately, the Gear 360 worked just fine without the phone.

Battery life was pretty decent. The camera was switched on continuously for about 90 minutes. I shot over 20 photographs, 4 time-lapse videos and 10-minute footages. By the time I reached home, there was still 60% battery power remaining in the camera.

Shooting 360 was a breeze but it took additional steps to share the video on social media. Before I can share any video or photo, I have to stitch & save both images and footages via the Samsung Gear 360 app.

The original uncompressed picture, video and audio quality was surprisingly promising  (viewing on the smart phone and computer). It exceeded my expectation. However, the final viewing quality on Facebook & Youtube underwent heavy compression and the final result was less than satisfactory. Also, there is a minor flaw in the stitching. Often I can spot the stitch line on the video and photo. Hopefully Samsung releases a new firmware or app to solve this.

The biggest difficulty I encountered was transferring the files and editing the videos via a Mac. Samsung Gear 360 App allows individual file-sharing to Youtube or Facebook. However, I wanted to edit all the 360 media files into one single vlog. I realised I cannot edit and publish these 360 files via iMovie. Also, Samsung 360 Director software file is only for Windows user. It is a frustrating experience to download, edit and publish Samsung Gear 360 files using a Mac.

Like many Mac users, I checked many websites and Youtube videos to learn how to export the Samsung 360 files. After 2 days of exploration and many failed testings, I finally found the simpliest way.

This is exactly what I did:

1) First, I have to install “Samsung SmartSwitch” (file transfer app) to download the stitched 360-files from the Samsung device to my Mac.

2) Once I have downloaded the stitched files (photos and videos) onto my Mac, I downloaded Adobe Premiere Pro. At this moment, Adobe Premiere Elements doesn’t support any VR video editing or exporting.

3) Import all the stitched videos (in monoscopic format) into Adobe Premiere Pro

4) Edit as per normal like any video editor

5) During exporting, enable VR Video (monoscopic) and select H.264 video format. It is important so the video will be exported in the same ratio

6) The video will be saved in your designated folder. Upload the video file (in MP4) to Youtube or Facebook

7) Youtube and Facebook will detect the video and automatically stream 360. Do exercise patience. It takes about 15-30 minutes for the 360 video to be live. Hang on there!

That’s it! I finally got my first 360 Vlog up and running! If only this 360 cam can be integrated on the Osmo and Phantom 4, it will be perfect! Who knows, maybe DJI has something in their sleeves now!

Creepy Birthday Motel Surprise – V/VI (Wave Rock)

On the 7th Day of our tour, I celebrated my birthday at one of Australian’s most iconic natural landmarks – the Wave Rock. We left Albany early this morning and drove over 350km to Hyden, a distance equivalent between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Thankfully, I was blessed with blue sky sunny day! Finally, I can fly my drone once more!

Wave Rock is situated at one of the most remote corners in Western Australia, in a small town call Hyden. It is pretty far from the nearest tourist-friendly town. Basically, Hyden is like a small ghost town. There isn’t much to explore or see here except the legendary Wave Rock. Since I have never been to the Wave Rock (and Felicia mentioned many times it doesn’t worth the effort to visit this over-publicized landmark), I decided to detour and cross this check box off my list of “must-visit” places.

Is it worth it? It is no doubt one unique and majestic odd-looking rock formation. Considering we spent only 1 hour at the Wave Rock and over 8 hours making the detour, the numbers may not make much sense to many. However, this is a new experience for us. Elkan and Tracy walked on top of the 14m-tall ancient rock while I flew my drone over it; I am certain it does worth every second of our time to be here.

The other highlight of the day was our accommodation at the local motel. It may be the low-peak travel season and we couldn’t find other traveler-occupants here. Thanks to the successful cult-horror-movie, Psycho, I have a phobia staying in a motel; especially one that is remote and quiet. For a good 15 minutes, we walked around the compound and couldn’t find anyone. The brick-walled hallway and muddy driveway looked old and creepy. After watching 3 nights of horror movies, we spooked ourselves unnecessarily.

Other than the old scary outlook, I must say the Wave Rock Motel was distinctively new, clean and very well furnished! It was very comfortable and warm. Once inside the room, we forgot about the fear. Still, we met less than 2 souls around the big empty compound.

Just when I was going to spend the last 2 hours of my birthday writing this vlog and blog, my 3 darlings gave me another surprise! They walked into the room with a bigger cake and real birthday candles! I was so surprised!

What moved me so deeply wasn’t the surprise cake, it was the song they sang and played. Knowing I like listening to live piano, Elkan spent 2 months taking piano lessons and he played one of my favourite scores “Over the Rainbow” on his iPad keyboards. Felicia composed a new lyric narrating our journey; and Tracy and her sang along. I stood there, moved deeply by their performance and love. Trying to conceal my emotion, I broke into laughter and gave all of them a big hug and kiss.

As always, their presence is my greatest birthday gift. And there is no gift greater than to see us smile together. Thank you for giving me another priceless “handmade” gift. I will remember this piece forever in my heart. Love you all.

Raindrops keep falling on our heads – Part IV/VI (Albany WA)

It rained continuously for 3 days. Life was pretty gloomy and cold out here in Albany. The temperamental storm came and went every few minutes. The bad weather slowed down our journey as the heavy rain decreased visibility on the roads. My drone was grounded for 3 days and most of my camera equipments were wet. I had a difficult time to capture videos for my vlog as the raindrops kept blurring my lenses.

The ladies took turns to drive from Margaret River to Albany. It was a long 400km drive and we made 2 stops to visit the giant trees. Elkan and I were planning to climb up the 52m-tall Gloucester Tree. However, the wet slippery tree rods were too dangerous and risky for my little boy. Elkan was disappointed when I decided to call off the climb at mid-point. Safety is more important than fun.

Thankfully, the rain stopped when we arrived at the Valley of the Giant Trees. We ascent to the top of the giant trees by walking up a gentle 40m-tall ramped bridge. It was an eye-opener for Elkan and Tracy. At least, this was much easier (and safer) than climbing vertically up the Gloucester Tree. As the sun was setting, we quickly made our way down to Albany. We didn’t want to drive into the night, especially when the weather was so foggy and wet.

We arrived in Albany just in time before dusk. Tracy bought a vege-meal at Hungry Jack while the rest of us dined at Red Rooster. It was pouring all night and we went back to our cottage and watch the classic Matrix Trilogy via my protector. (Yes, I brought a protector along just in case I couldn’t connect my iPad with the TV). 

Day 6 – It was still pouring and we lazed in the cottage until late morning. Most of the attractions were just 20km away. Despite the heavy downpour, we went ahead to visit the Wind Farm, the Gap, the Natural Bridge, the BlowHole and the Wildlife Park. The wind was so strong along the coastal tracks. We struggled with our steps at the top of the ocean cliffs. It was one terrifying and exciting experience.

When we were exploring the massive rock-formations, we witnessed another magical natural wonderdouble rainbows arching out in the stormy sea! It was such a rare beautiful sight!

We came back early to pack for tomorrow’s long drive to Hyden (WaveRock). At midnight, I foiled Elkan and Tracy’s surprise birthday attempt! They tried to surprise me but I was always one step faster than them! Can’t blame them for failing, I am the Master of Pranks at home. Nonetheless, they tried again and succeeded in luring me to the kitchen in the name of “supper”.  There, I blew a digital candle (via Tracy’s iPad) and four of us shared a very very small chocolate cake. Thanks for the surprise but daddy is just too witty for all of you. Hahaha.

Speaking about birthdayI wish I will not lose a drone tomorrow. Last year’s loss was too painful for me. Before I end this blog, I want to convey a big big THANK YOU to all my lovely family and friends who sent their greetings via Wechat and Facebook! Thanks for all your warm birthday wishes and blessings! And yes, I live, I laugh, I love and I am truly very very happy! Thanks for all your love, friendship and kinship!

 

Wine, Chocolate & Caves – Part III/VI (Margaret River)

Taking a road trip with our son, Elkan, and reenacting some of those familiar 2002-shots with our boy standing in front of us was quite a surreal experience. After all, Felicia and I just got married 14 years ago when we had our belated honeymoon in Perth. While many of these attractions remain unchanged, our 12-year-old boy reminds us the passing of time. While age takes a slow toll on my appearance and body, I still feel like 25 deep inside.

Yesterday afternoon, we arrived safely at our 3rd pitstop – Margaret River. It was like a Little Singapore, there were so many Singaporean-travelers here! We bumped into them everywhere – from chocolate factory to caves to Coles supermarket! Singapore should open an embassy here!

We stayed 2 nights at a big cozy 2-bedroom cottage at Margaret River. It consisted of 2 warm bedrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen and a very spacious living room. It was very well-maintained, warm and comfortable.

Day 1 – we visited the wineries and local-food (chocolate, nuts and nougat) “factories” yesterday. Do not expect to see any food production in those “factory” or “farm”, they are actually tourist retail outlets where shoppers get to enjoy lots of generous samplings. Too bad, all of us aren’t wine lovers. Most of these factories closed at 5pm. The sun set early in winter and by 530pm, it was nightfall. The only place to loiter after 5pm was at Coles Supermarket (our favourite evening hangout place) where we bought groceries for our meals.

By 8pm, we finished dinner and we got nothing to do. We were so bored that we played hide-and-seek in complete darkness. The cottage was only big enough for us to play 5 rounds. By 9pm, I worked on my vlog and blog while the three of them watched a horror movie via the large LCD TV through my iPad Netflix.

Day 2 – We decided to drive down south to Augusta and Leeuwin to visit the cape and caves. It started drizzling the minute we arrived at the Leeuwin Lighthouse.

We did so much stairs-climbing today. We took 176 steps x 2 up and down the lighthouse at Leeuwin, 500 steps at Western Australia’s largest cave, Jewel Cave and 320-step staircase x 2 at majestic Lake Cave. Thankfully, all these attractions are naturally indoor. The rain didn’t really dampen our tour.

It will be another 4-hour long drive tomorrow. We will be heading to our 4th pitstop, Albany. The weather forecast doesn’t look very good for now. Hopefully we get sunny weather tomorrow as all the attractions are outdoor. Rain or shine, it will be a wonderful and relaxing road trip for all of us.

Enjoy the vlog and photos. 

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