Saturday, October 14, 2017

Canon G7x Mark II

For someone like me who blogs and loves to travel, the one thing that is really essential to me would be a camera. I have to admit that nowadays majority of the photos you see on this blog and on my instagram are all taken by my iPhone 7+ and edited using VSCO app (This is like the most efficient combi ever, LOL) But hey, if i didn't tell you guys, would you have realise it or notice the difference in photo quality? Probably not. The iPhone camera quality is so good nowadays that most of us would just chuck our expensive camera at home and rely on our iPhone. Don't get me started on the portrait mode. It's insane. 

But still. 

I still feel that when traveling, i still would want good quality photos, additional toggle functions etc. That perfect camera was the Canon G7x. Compact, amazing quality, flip screen, WIFI transfer. When i first heard the news of this camera, i knew i had to get it. (In fact, i called in to those sim lim square shop to ask when will their first shipment arrive, haha) It's like the ultimate dream camera any blogger can think of. 

Used it for about 2 years before it started becoming cranky. Touchscreen not working, on/off button not functioning etc. Brought it to the Canon hospital for servicing for about 3 times. First time was under warranty, 2nd time no warranty so i paid about $100+ because i felt it was worth saving and the third time was the last straw. Motherboard spoil, need to pay like $400 to replace it. FREAKIN' 400 BUCKS. I was like no.

It's time to get a new one. 

I thought maybe i should consider upgrading to a semi-pro/ mirrorless camera to get better quality photos so i did my research and narrowed down to a few choices - Sony A6000, Lumix GF9 and Canon EOS M10/3. Then i realised i would also want to get the “pancake” lens to do those chio bokeh portrait shots. Calculated the total price and it was like erm, close to $1000? 

Part of me want to upgrade, but the other part think the camera is so gonna be under utilised and i probably would be too lazy to bring it out. (Read iPhone + VSCO) In the end, i went for the G7x Mark II at $655 after the “privilege program”, basically a nicer way to say trade in. 

So here’s my new camera. Upgraded version of my previous G7x.


Did i regret getting this instead of the mirrorless camera? The answer is no.


Ready for Japan,                        

Sunday, September 17, 2017

7D6N Taiwan Travelogue: Yehliu - Ximending

This is the last post of my Taiwan travelogue. I’m so glad i managed to complete it before my Japan trip! (Japan is gonna be a 2 weeks trip and i have no idea how am i going to finish writing about it, LOL) I know my Taiwan trip is 7D6N and with this post, there is only a total of 5 post. Well… that’s because there was one day i didn’t do much except for going to the hot spring (Beitou i think) and for the last day, it was just basically checking out of Orange Hotel and flying back to SG, which leaves a good 5 days to blog about!  
For the last full day at Taiwan, i planned a trip to Yeliu Geopark (野柳地質公園) since i have not visit the place before. Did my prior research and realised the place isn’t exactly very near to main Taipei. Most people go there to see the natural rock formations including the iconic "Queen's Head" (女王頭) 
The easiest way to get to Yeliu Geopark would be to go to Taipei West bus station Terminal A, go to Kuokuang window and purchase a ticket to Yehliu Geopark OR via ZhongXiao DunHua MRT station exit 4, take bus 1815 to Yehliu. The whole journey will take about 1.5 hours and cost around NT96 (S$4.30) per pax. 
Entrance ticket into the park will cost you NT80 (S$3.50) 
As Yeliu geopark is a famous tourist attraction, there are 2 things you will see when you enter the park - people and rock formations. It’s almost impossible to take a photo without any tourist in it so you either have to wait patiently for the right opportunity to get your golden shot or live with having people in your photo. 
Managed to get a shot, heng. LOL  
The iconic "Queen's Head" (女王頭) which we have to queue to take a photo with it. There is even a security guard there to manage the queue. Remember what i say earlier about having tourist in your shot? This is one good example, LOL There is also another synthetic "Queen's Head" at the entrance of the park for those who just wants a photo with it, HAHAHA We spent a good 2 hours exploring the park, enjoying the scenery and sea breeze. Not really my kind of thing but it’s good to at least visit once to know what’s the hype all about this place. Guess it’s more for the older folks and tour groups who enjoys nature. 
Yeliu Geopark is actually located at northern Taiwan which explained the long bus journey. Right beside the park is the Yehliu Ocean World (野柳海洋世界), an oceanarium which you can consider visiting after the geopark to make your trip more worth it. Took the return bus back to Taipei and continue to explore ximending area since it’s our last night here. Time to do some last minute shopping and also to visit the toilet themed restaurant! 
My favourite street muah chee which i mentioned a few times throughout this travelogue! This is the cart where you have to hunt for it because it’s not stationary and can be anywhere. Super soft and delicious. Just go for the original peanut one, good enough! One portion cost NT30 (S$1.30) or you can get a bigger portion in a box for NT50 (S$2.20).
Definitely a must try and it makes a really good street snack. I think some of them even put a bit of the peanut shavings in the middle of each muah chee, so it’s double the goodness! 
Modern Toilet Restaurant 
2F, No 7,Ln 50,Xining S. Rd., Taipei City  

It’s actually my second time here (i came during my first Taiwan trip) but since it’s kelvin first time to Taipei, i thought it would be nice to bring him to a themed restaurant.
In case for whatever reason you have not heard about this modern toilet restaurant, it’s basically a toilet themed restaurant where everything is modelled like a toilet. The seats are toilet bowl, the drinks are served in urinal shaped flask etc. It’s quite a novelty if you haven’t been to a place like this. The price of the food is quite reasonable, taste wise not amazing but it’s best to get a set which comes with the soup, drink and dessert for the whole experience. 
Even the dessert is a chocolate soft serve ice cream in a shape of a poop, LOL  
Spent the rest of the night exploring Ximending. The feel of ximending is like myeondong in Korea. A lot of food, fashion, facial products and people. For souvenirs, most people usually get snacks like pineapple tarts and nougat biscuit or products like face masks which can be really cheap if you get it in bulk. 
Don’t forget to try the famous Ay Chung Rice Noodles 阿宗麵線 which is apparently the no.1 must have street food in ximending. I’m not gonna elaborate on what this mee sua is about because you probably know or heard about it. Good to at least try once. Not my kind of food though. 
That’s all i have for my 7D6N Taiwan travelogue! Phew. I finally finished it. I went Taiwan in January and now is already September, LOL BUT i’m still glad i completed it. Oh no, i still have my Yogyakarta trip to write about and i’m heading to Japan next month! Did i mentioned i bought tickets to Hong Kong for next march because there’s an SQ 2-to-go promo ongoing right now? My blog is seriously becoming like a travel blog, LOL For those who have been following or chanced upon this travelogue while planning for your trip, hope this post helped! Once again, hope you enjoyed this Taiwan travelogue and do follow my adventures on instagram @andystorm for updates! :)

Signing off,                        

Sunday, August 27, 2017

7D6N Taiwan Travelogue: Shifen - Jiufen - Taipei

This is probably gonna be the second last post of my Taiwan trip (Phew! I’m almost done!) Since i’m only covering the highlights of my trip, the number of posts will not tally with the number of days i spent in Taiwan. For this post, i will be covering on my trip to Shifen and Jiufen which is slightly out of Taipei. Just like the Taipei 101, i would say your first time to Taiwan won’t be complete if you did not make at least a day trip down to Shifen and Jiufen! 
Getting to the Pingxi area from Taipei will take some time and effort but it’s not that difficult. Firstly you have to get tickets (NT$59) from Taipei main station, take a northbound train towards Ruifang. Do take note of the cabin (in this case, car) number and also your seat number as seats are assigned when purchasing. Make sure it's indicated.
Headed to the 7-11 to get some bites for breakfast and chanced upon the famous 純萃喝 bottled milk tea. Not a fan of coffee or tea so it didn’t matter to me when it first came to SG but what i didn’t know is there is so many different varieties. Decided to randomly try the “Sumiyaki” iced coffee (or is it mocha?) and oh my tians, i love it! Too bad it’s not available in SG. Even if it is, it’s still overpriced compared to the price in TW. 
At Ruifang (瑞芳) station, there will be another counter where you have to purchase transfer ticket to the Pingxi line (平溪線) for NT$80. If you are in luck, you won’t have to wait long for the transfer train, if not the next train might be probably an hour later. 
Here comes the colourful train that bring us to our first stop - Shifen (十分) 
Shifen is famous for their one activity, which is the release of sky lantern (天灯) Everyday tourist flock there just to release one of these lanterns where they write their wishes on it. It’s like a must do when you are there. 

There is like 2 pricing, 1 for the ones with only 2 colours, and the other with 4 colours. Each colour represent something so most people tend to go for the 4 colours one which cost NT200 ($9). They have like luck, wealth, career, love etc so you just write your wishes according on each side. At the end, the store keeper will ask you to stand in the middle of the tracks and take photos before releasing the lantern into the sky. The photos usually turn out amazing and well composed. Highly trained since they do it every single day, LOL 
One of many stray (but cute) cats that we spotted at Shifen. 
One thing you will notice at the Shifen is the long queue for this famous stuffed chicken wings which they grill on the spot. Basically it’s chicken wings stuffed with rice. We decided to join in the queue to see what the hype is all about and ended up queuing for at least 30 mins. 
FINALLY AND IT WAS SO GOOD OMG. Should have gotten more than one. LOL 
The iconic bridge which i think leads you to the famous Shifen waterfall (十分大瀑布) but most people will just take the opportunity to take nice #OOTDs and group photos on the bridge. 
Something like this. HAHAHAHA 

I have never been to the Shifen waterfall before because i heard it’s quite a distance away on foot but in the end we decided to rent a scooter (NT200) I was quite skeptical at first because it’s literally a motorbike and we will be on actual road with cars but kelvin was quite confident of riding it so yea, #yolo. The journey took us about 10 mins on bike, followed by another 10 mins on foot, so much faster. 
The spectacular Shifen waterfall (十分大瀑布) which i read that it will create a rainbow as it splashes into the lake and it’s widely regarded as the most scenic in all of Taiwan. Did i see a rainbow that day? Can’t really remember. Probably not then. 
Selfie with the waterfall since it’s my first time there. We had the train timings on hand so we had to rushed all the way back, returned the bike and catch the train. So glad we made it for the train or else we had to wait another hour for the next one. 
Sotong balls anyone? 
It was getting late but we still decided to head to Jiufen since it’s Kelvin’s first time to Taiwan and i really like Jiufen (九份) because of the view and the food. From Shifen, we took the train back to Ruifang. Right outside the station is a taxi stand where they offer rides up to Jiufen at NT200, journey time - 15 mins. 
The famous Peanut ice cream roll which i missed so much! It’s so freaking good omg. 2 scoops of ice cream (taro or pineapple), grounded peanut candy and cilantro in popiah skin. Every bite into this roll is just so tasty, all the ingredients blended so well together. This snack is so famous that they even prepared a “sample” plate for tourist to take photos, HAHHAA 
I opt for the pineapple ice cream filling and every mouth was so refreshing! 
Came across this pastry cake with different fillings and i bought the pineapple one. Really good and not very sweet. Good to get a box or two back as souvenir. 
A couple years ago i came across this stall selling Taiwan sausage and the store owner herself, the auntie is the mascot of her store. Very comical with her huge wig and huge glasses. Not only that, the Taiwan sausages at her stall were very authentic and delicious. Definitely must try! 
Last but no least, Jiu Fen Taro Balls (九份芋圓) It’s like our blackball in Singapore but not as fancy. Homemade taro balls in warm ginger soup. Very comforting especially during cold weather. Very chewy and easy to eat. 
It was pretty late when we finish exploring the streets of Jiufen. We returned back to Ruifang station via public bus and got tickets back to Taipei (NT49) The train was pretty crowded as most tourists will visit Pingxi area for a day trip and return back to Taipei at the same timing, not to say the journey was pretty long as well. This marks the end of a long day out at Shifen and Jiufen. 


One more post to go,                           



Saturday, August 19, 2017

7D6N: Taipei 101 - Raohe - Danshui - Shilin Night Market

After 2 days out of Taipei, it was time to head to the city for the next couple of days! Day 3 started in Taichung where we stayed over at Hotel Cube for the night to explore the famous Fengjia night market 逢甲夜市. Had breakfast and got the reception to get a cab for us to HSR station to catch the next train to Taipei. Taking a cab is so much faster and not so expensive in the day. If you remember the previous day’s post, we took almost an hour on public transport to get from the bus interchange to the hotel, and cab was super expensive at night because of the predicted jam. The cab fare in the day costed us TW340 ($15), not exactly cheap but it was the fastest and convienent way to the HSR station.  
By the time we had our breakfast, checked out of the hotel and traveled to the HSR station, it was already noon.  

Similar to what i did for Day 1, i got the HSR tickets prior to the trip from KKday! High Speed Rail train is the fastest way to travel from one city to another and getting the tickets on KKday means i get to save at least 20% in terms of fare and also save time since i don’t have to queue and get the tickets over the counter like everyone else! You should totally consider KKday when traveling and they cater deals in many countries such as Japan, Korea and even New York.  
As we had some time before the next train (and the breakfast at the hotel wasn’t amazing) we decided to grab Bento sets at the station and have them on the train! These bento sets above looked so much better than the ones we had on the first day! The journey from TaiChung to Taipei took us 40 mins.
Orange Hotel 
No. 166-2, Section 1, Zhonghua Road, Wanhua District, 108 Taipei, Taiwan 

Headed straight to Ximending to drop our luggage at Orange Hotel where we will be spending the rest of the nights at. My stay at Orange Hotel was really a pleasant one. Read my review - http://www.imandystorm.com/2017/02/my-stay-at-orange-hotel-ximen.html. Once again, thank you Orange Hotel for sponsoring our stay for this Taiwan trip. If you are looking for a cool and chic place to stay in Taiwan, do checkout their official website: http://www.orangehotels.com.tw for the locations of their hotels in Taiwan.  
Wasted no time unpacking since it was already afternoon when we arrived at Taipei. We headed out to our first attraction which is the Taipei 101 where we get to go all the way up and get a bird’s eye view of the city! Going to Taipei 101 should definitely be a must visit in everyone’s itinerary when traveling to Taipei.  Directions to Taipei 101: Blue Line to Taipei City Hall Station   

Once again, i got my tickets beforehand on KKday and saved 15% of the regular ticket price. All i had to do was purchase and print the voucher before heading to Taipei and when i arrived at the place, i simply presented the voucher at the counter and skipped the regular queue! Fuss free and easy. The main highlight of Taipei 101 is the view from the 89th floor and also the elevator which brings you up in just 37 seconds.  
A photo with the mascot which is modelled after the damper. In case you don’t know, Taipei 101 is stabilized by a huge 730-tonne damper a few floors below the observation deck.  
Located at Taipei 101 building is the famous Din Tai Fung which obviously we didn’t queue because we felt it was a waste of time. I heard about the food being nicer than the ones we have in Singapore but nah, it’s not worth the time imo. The place was so noisy and crowded, basically filled with tourists.  
As the night falls, we decided to head to Raohe Night Market 饒河夜市 to have dinner! Directions to Raohe night market: Green Line to Songshan Station, exit 5. The night market is just to the right across the street next to the temple. Raohe is actually one of my favourite night market in Taipei because there is 2 systematic rows to complete walking the entire market. Just go in from one way and u-turn back and come out from the same entrance. Of course not only that but also the street food this night market has to offer!  
The famous pepper bun (胡椒餅) which contains a scary amount of spring onions. I remember the previous time i came few years back there was a long queue and there is still a long queue for this bun now! Not a fan of spring onion so i didn’t try the previous time. Well, this time we braved the rain and queued for about 20 mins. The taste is surprisingly good and definitely very comforting in such a cold weather.
Other items we tried includes the above! Grilled mochi was not bad, the mini $1 braised pork rice was as good as how i remembered it as i tried few years back but… the flame grilled beef cubes was quite disappointing. I’m not someone who usually takes beef (personal preference) and i thought this highly raved street food will not disappoint but it was just meh. Not really melt in the mouth, slightly chewy and definitely not worth the price. Oh wells… 
As the night was still young, we decided to take a train down to Danshui 淡水老街 to take a walk and see if we can find anything interesting. We haven’t exactly had dinner so we definitely had room for more food. LOL Directions to Danshui: Red line to Tamsui Station, exit turn left and walk along the waterfront.  
I haven’t been to Danshui in the night but it’s definitely more bustling compared to the day. Danshui is famous for their “iron egg” 铁蛋 which is this black flavourful quail egg. We found a porter store along the way and since it’s much cheaper in Taiwan compared to SG, we got ourselves a porter bagpack each. Hehe  
One of my favourite street food in Taiwan - Peanut muah chee! These are not available everywhere and they are usually sold on carts which means they can be anywhere. Like one day the cart can be here and the next day you returned, they are somewhere else. These muah chee are so soft and chewy, each piece coated with thin layer of peanut powder. Oh my tians, i can eat it every day. Literally.
Other food we came across includes Fried Milk and Fried Quail Eggs. I love love love eating quail eggs, and the ones in Taipei are so simple yet delicious. We typically have it boiled but in taiwan, they dropped it into these little mould and fry them, still retaining their egg shape. Most of the time you get to self service flavour it yourself by “painting” the special sauce and pepper. Then again, as much as i love quail eggs, one cannot eat too much of it. Got high cholesterol. Zzz  
Another of Danshui’s famous food item, the sponge cake (现烤蛋糕) These highly popular sponge cake are baked on the spot and comes in either the original or cheese flavour. They are so popular that you usually have to wait for the new batch to be out of the oven. Then you see the chef use their long knifes to cut them into equal pieces before packing it into boxes for sale.  
We just decided that it was still early so we headed over to Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) Directions: Red Line to Jiantan Station, exit 1. Diagonally across the street to the left to enter the night market. What an eventful first day at Taipei hor? LOL 
I will not touch so much on what we did at Shilin Night Market since everyone should be quite familiar with the place or at least heard of the place plus i think i probably mention the place again in the next few post but what always interest me in this market are…  
…the games stalls. LOL 

You will definitely not miss the game stores because the interior is always decorated with all sorts of prizes and some of the prizes are really huge and expensive (which i think can never be won unless you spend a bomb) They have different games like prawn fishing which they will barbecue it right away if you manage to catch one, air gun balloon shooting, and the famous “mahjong-bingo” game which i think is the most interesting (it makes you think that you might win but it’s seem rather impossible, LOL

That pretty much sums up my third day in Taiwan and first day in Taipei! Pretty eventful isn’t it? 3 more posts to go for my Taiwan travelogue. As you are reading this, i’m actually counting down to my Japan trip in October! I’m currently still in the midst of planning the 2 weeks itinerary (which is giving me a headache and this is the reason why i have never start planning for Japan until now :|) 

Alrighty, till the next post!