Aquarium @ Resorts World Sentosa

The best thing about the trip to the Aquarium was that we could use the SAFRA vouchers. Remember that you’re only allowed to redeem your own vouchers, so you have to present your IC!

We opted to go tour the Aquarium only, although there are packages for Adventure Cove too.

Photos here are taken with the Canon S95

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First view of things to come.

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Our tickets!

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The entrance tunnel.

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The 2 of us looking green in the underwater tunnel.

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There are fish everywhere. Even the floor you’re walking on is the ceiling of a small enclosure sometimes.

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Vertical fish! I can’t remember the names of all the fish, but this exhibit photographed very nicely.

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Some of the enclosures have magnifying glasses built into the glass, like this sea horse enclosure.

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A huge tube of fish. one of the most colourful, and it stretches a few floors if i’m not wrong.

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A happy yellow ray.

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I found this creepy… It’s like magnified blackheads in someone’s nose…

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A fish that looks like a pelican!

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Nautilus! I’ve always found these interesting. It’s like a sotong in a shell.

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HUGE crabs.

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Jelly fish! The 4 circular things in the jelly head are apparently their sexual organs…

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I sort of felt sorry for these… their tentacles are all tangled up in each other and they’re like forced to float around together in a great ball of strings…

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A smaller ball of balls and strings.

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A very big ray. You can see how big it is, cos there are 2 divers for comparison.

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The largest viewing tank. There’s a great big angry looking grouper in here. It was a nice experience to just sit infront of this and watch everything swim by… don’t sit too close though… the glass makes you feel abit vertigo-ish.

Somehow I still feel that this place is still more awesome though… and I intend to visit it one day.

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This tank was very pretty… the fish were so vibrant… and so many.

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There are grumpy looking fish…

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Stupid looking puffers that wanna give you a kiss…

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Aggro looking prawns…

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And at one part of the Aquarium, you look up, and you see all manner of sharks swimming above you.
I was reading somewhere about how being below a predator in the ocean is a position of power, because those above expose their tender bellies to those below.

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And a scary looking girl trying to tear a starfish apart…

I enjoy looking at fish, and I like sea stuff a lot, so I really did enjoy this trip. if you have SAFRA vouchers to spend, just use them here! It’s worth the trip! Just go on a day when it’s least likely to be flooded with kids and tourists…

Universal Studios Singapore

I’m probably one of the few Singaporeans who hadn’t made a trip to USS yet. So, after the E2Max L33t Championships or ELC (you can read about the ELC here) when pinkle asked if we would like to go with MiTH Trust, I said yes.

I went to DisneyLand and Universal Studios in L.A. when I was still quite a young kid, and I’ve been harbouring a huge ball of dissatisfaction and unhappiness since then. You see, only people of a certain height or age could take the most exciting rides… and I was very underage and very under-height. And I guess, things that you can’t have are always nicer. So I’ve been living with this childhood hangup of not being able to take all those fun rides for a long time. It really wasn’t fun for me, I was sitting on random swing rides and in teacups meant for babies whilst my sister was exploring magic mountain with my parents.

The trip started at around 11am, when Hong picked me up. It was a bright and sunny day (as all the essays and compositions start) and we made our way there, enjoying the views of the Singapore Flyer that travelling on the Benjamin Shears Bridge afforded, and laughing at all the poor adults stuck in their skyscrapers working their asses off.

We met the rest at Vivo City and had a brunch of Jia Xiang Mian.

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3 guys from MiTH Trust with LOTS of coke.

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Mary and Phua discussing something with Ruth.

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Ruth with a qian bian face. And Mary, whose V I chopped off with my bad framing.

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Nic (xfreedom) strolling across the carpark exit (have no idea why???) wearing Hong’s douchey sunglasses. All 5 of these people, including Hong and I were squashed into Hong’s car.
Left to right (excluding Nic) : Petrina, Ruth, Mary, Phua

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At the rotating Universal Ball with the Thai guys and pinkle.

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What else is more iconic than this. The Merlion. You can climb up it, but well, we didn’t.

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and… more merlion! This one looks like a stained glass installation.

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The ticket which we queued 15 minutes to get. There was a promotion, so we paid $54 per ticket. There’s also a MasterCard buy 3 get 1 free promo, but the cashier told us that the $54 per ticket promo was more worth it.

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Old car pretending to be parked outside a diner.

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The street to the public library. Later on in the evening, there were dinner tables set up along this street. Apparently someone rented the location for their wedding dinner.

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One of the rides that I did not take. I think its modelled after Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. You try to save the spaghetti world or something.

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Sesamee Street School Bus! Selling all kinds of merchandise, including hairbands with eyes on top.

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Big Bird. I always feel like kicking these things over. And a guy sitting on the lion statue… He think’s he’s Priestess of the Moon.

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Cookie Monster?

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The garbage bin monster. Can’t remember his name. I never watched TV when I was a kid… But I really liked the green of his fur. The shade is perfect for bedsheets or a carpet… or a sofa… Should skin him and lay him out on my floor.

We decided to take the first recommended ride (we had, among us, friends who visited USS before) that we walked by. Transformers!

The queue time was estimated to be 40minutes, and we headed in to join the queue. At this point, just let me say, SORRY for the overexposed pics. I know I could have edited this with software, but well, I didn’t. I need to learn to look at the histogram instead of the LCD when taking pics I guess!

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This isn’t even HALF of the queue.

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Random control panels with buttons that you can poke at. Quite a nice touch, it keeps you entertained on the 40minute wait.

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The shard that we have to protect.

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Queueing (un)happily. It was really a long wait, and as we were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, there was an announcement telling us that there were technical difficulties and that it would be closed in definitely. We were welcome to wait in the queue, but there was no estimated time that it would reopen. So we left in search of more exciting exploits.

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This was HUGE. And very elaborate.

The idea of something more exciting than a 1 hour wait at an attraction that breaks down was this. More known as the red and blue rollercoaster, it’s the most exciting rollercoaster ride in the whole park. If you visited and had time for only one ride, it would be this.

After locking your bags and loose items in a locker (the system is also super messy, and half the stations were broken down. Everyone is cutting queue and later when you try to get your bag out, the system never opens and you need to get the staff to manually override it to open it for you.) you proceed to make a choice between taking the red or the blue rollercoaster. They have different queues and different entrances. The blue is the cyclon and the red is human. I think the story is that both sides are supposed to be at war with each other and are being deployed on space ships to fight each other.

There’s this pms-y woman on the broadcast videos who keeps snapping at all of us and she gets irritating after you listen to her over and over for 30 minutes or so as you queue.

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As much of the course as I could capture.

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A portion of the course. The tracks of the 2 rides intertwine and you can see the other cart go by you sometimes. Both start at the same time and end roughly at the same time.
The twist on the blue here is one of the most exciting because you go 360 degrees.

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The blue ride is a sort of swing seat, so your legs are hanging in mid air. I regret not taking the blue!! But the thought of queueing 40mins – 1 hr for a 30second? ride was just… overwhelming.

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This is the red ride, we took this. Everyone is seated, and you leave your slippers and hats at the side before going on this one. They also snap a picture of you which you can view after the ride on a TV screen. On the first drop, I actually left the seat, so I spent the rest of the ride clutching the restrainer hoping I wouldn’t fly off.

Next up, we decided to go for the Mummy ride, because the wait time was 30minutes. This was a rollercoaster ride in the dark, with voice overs and special effects. I was quite alarmed when I realised that the fire and heat was real. Also, there’s a section where the cart goes backwards suddenly, so be prepared for that and don’t get whiplash! The ending was sort of anti-climatic, and it felt super short. But I’d say it’s one of the better rides around.

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They really went through quite a lot of trouble to make it feel like we were in ancient Egypt. I think I’m about as high as his index finger.

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More massive statues marking the entrance of the Mummy zone, complete with inscriptions.

In between Mummy and Far Far Away is The Lost World. When I visit the park again, I will try both the rides here – there’s one where you are suspended in a swing like cart of 4 people, and another is a water ride. The wait time was an insane 80minutes, so there was no way we were queueing for that one.

We stopped by the Public Library to mingle with the Sesame Street characters and to grab a bite. We also had an ice cream and coffee at the Transformers cafe, both of which I do not recommend. The ice cream was a cup full of tiny frozen balls, which I didn’t enjoy, and the coffee was weak. There’s a Ben and Jerrys somewhere around in the park if you want ice cream, so that’s where you should go instead. I’d try the diner with the antique car parked outside too.

After our snack break, we headed back to queue for Transformers. It was actually a pretty good ride, and we all enjoyed this one quite a bit. I was curious as to how they were doing all the movements, and I took my 3D glasses off halfway to peek at my surroundings. After the cart moves off, we’re parked in a capsule shaped movie theatre so the video is playing on the walls all around you. Then, the cart is sort of suspended in this capsule and moved around. Most of the movement is convincing, but some feels a little off. But the effects with 3D were quite good. They even threw in heating when a bomb supposedly flew towards us.

It was getting late-ish and we decided to quickly visit Shrek’s Land.

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The castle of Princess Fiona beyond the entrance gates.

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The castle. There’s a cafe alley on the right side which you might like to explore. But we went straight to the castle because a show was starting soon.

The show is in 3D and the chairs are special. They move and spray water and there’s mechanical bits which reach out and tickle you too. All in all it was entertaining enough. But the water spraying on you in an aircon room = COLD.

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This has got to be my favourite character in Shrek. GINGY!!!

After the 3D show at the castle, we went opposite to catch the last ride. We sat in pink dragon (I think it’s supposed to be the Shrek dragon) and it’s adorned with baby donkey/dragons. They let you take your bags and stuff on with you for this ride, so I wasn’t expecting to be alarmed by it.

After the first drop, I was forced to clutch hurriedly at my bag which was merely resting on top of my lap. The turns are done at quite a high speed and although there were no 360 degree upside down twists, the ride surprisingly managed to get our adrenaline going. Just remember to hang on to your bags and stuff!

We popped by some shops on our way out and got some souvenirs and sweets. Then we made the trek back to the car.

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The statue with a nice butt. The Thinker. Somewhere in RWS.

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The Merlion at night. It changes colour! Reminds me of the colour scheme that I just set my Alien FX to on my x51 yesterday.

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This seemed to be a really nice hotel. Movenpick Heritage.
It looked nice all lit up at night, so I took a pic on the trot back to our car.
***
Well, I have to say that the rides were decent, but to make your money spent worth it, you should pick a day when there are no people. CHECK THE CALENDAR!!! We went on Youth Day, so the park was overcrowded and we totally didn’t enjoy the queues and waiting time.
The fact that the first ride we queued for broke down was also sorta turn off, and the fact that the locker system leaves much to be desired also made us feel like the admission fee was more than reasonable. Admittedly they did station staff to help out, but if everything worked properly, there shouldn’t be a need for staff there.
If I do go back, I will take the Lost World rides as well as the blue rollercoaster. I’ll also catch the Water World show, and eat at the diner.
Just set aside one whole day to explore it thoroughly, bring plenty of water unless you’re willing to spend on drinks there. I guess it felt like a greedy MMO. The kind of MMO where you have to pay to buy the game, then a monthly subscription and an ingame shop. USS is one of those.

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E2MAX L33T Championships 7 July 2013

The E2Max L33t Championships finally concluded their month long run with a regional Grand Finals.
16 teams were to fight for a 10,000SGD grand prize, but if I’m not wrong, there were 14 in the end. I arrived after a long lunch, and by then, they were playing the quarter finals.

[for the more complete gallery, pop by my FB fan page Album ]

Format : 16 Team Single Elimination (8 teams from local qualifiers, 8 regional teams invited)
Prize Structure : 1st $10,000, 2nd $2,000, 3rd $1,000
Location : E2Max Cathay Cineleisure

Local Teams

Zenith
Duskbin
MyonMyon
iSg.Vindicate
Ipod2
Netolic.SG
Insidious Idol
AMGD.First Departure

Regional Teams

Invasion.MUFC
Mineski
Joenet
Orange
Ultimate
Lowyat
MitH

I don’t really intend to do any lengthy write up to cover the event, I’m pretty sure you can get that anywhere. I’m just going to post up some pics for your viewing pleasure!
Mostly, I’m just glad that Zenith won 1st place. =)

[apparently the pics taken by me are not blur. If it’s blur, its not taken by me!]

[Framing kinda sucks, was mostly playing with settings on my OMD EM5. It’s dimmer than it seems there.]

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Zenith drafting, with Orange eSports in the background.

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xy on the extreme left, facing MiTH from Thailand. (facing as in direction, not PKing.)

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End game score vs Joenet

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Me, Mary and Pinkle. The purple tint is making me miss my dyed hair…

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Ginny happened to pop by, so we added her in on the extreme left.

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Yamateh, Ice and xfreedom PKing orange.

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MiTH Trust guys playing Left4Dead after their games were over. Zenith being stressed in the backgound.

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Game 2 picks!

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xfreedom and xy having a showdown after the game. NOT.
Just kidding. Just having the usual post game discussion.

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iceiceice trying to change out of his pink slippers for the prize giving ceremony. Dress code was SHOES and LONG PANTS. Maybe we’ll see him in pink slippers and boxers at TI3.

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Zenith with Orange, post prize giving ceremony.

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All the prize winners huddled together for the photo taking.

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post compy dinner at Ippudo, Mandarin Gallery.

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me, iceiceice, xy.

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The other dinner companion on my right.

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And the dinner companion opposite me.

[TRAVEL] Boracay 13-16 May 2013

After NCCL and PGF Summer Assembly in Quezon City, some of us headed over to Boracay to catch some sun and sea. I can safely say that I haven’t had such an enjoyable beach holiday in AGES.

I didn’t take as many pictures as I wish I could have because there’s no one to look after your belongings when you’re floundering in the ocean. After the first day or two, we chanced bringing our phones out, but we only really brought our cameras with us when we went to Ariel’s point.

I can’t say the food is any better than in Quezon/Manila, the lack of selection is one of the few things about the trip that was unenjoyable.

Some quick tips before I begin, if you’re planning to visit Boracay –
1. Don’t bother with the other beaches other than white beach. Puka shell beach has coarse sand and strong currents, the boats also pass by very near. So it’s not suitable for paddling and floating around.
2. To enjoy white beach best, get a beach side apartment. But expect it to be noisy because all the partying happens there. At night.
3. Make sure your connecting flight is a LARGE number of hours after the landing time. Our flight from Boracay to Manila was delayed by about 2 hours.
4. Make sure you’re prepared to tip the porters on the boat, OR just don’t hand over your bags to them.
5. Don’t bring a suitcase, if possible. Best would be a backpacker’s bag. Also, we practically lived in our swim wear all day. So pack light!

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Our flight tickets from Manila NAIA to Caticlan. We booked a later flight, but the counter allowed us to change it for a flight that was an hour earlier. Which was absolutely fantastic, cos that meant we didn’t need to hang around NAIA longer than we had to. Philippines Airlines also has check-in baggage included in the ticket price. We would have taken Cebu Pacific, but this was somehow cheaper. Look out for promo fares on Cebu Pacific though, I’ve heard they can go as low as 99Pesos.

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The little propeller plane! This is your ticket to happiness and sunshine.

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Trotting to the terminal from the tarmac. It’s a really small no frills airport.
From the airport, cross the street and get a tricycle. REMEMBER. TRICYCLES ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND FROM HERE ON. There will be people who will try to scam you into paying more than you should for transport to the ferry terminal + ferry ticket. Just do it yourself, you’ll save a lot.

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3 things that you’ll need to pay for at the ferry terminal : the Boarding pass, Terminal Fee, and Envorinmental Fee.
It won’t cost much… a couple hundred pesos if I remember correctly.
By the way, you need to take the ferry from Caticlan airport to Boracay island, because there’s no airport that you can fly to on Boracay! (at least, none that I noticed)

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Peeping out from the ferry terminal. That’s the boat we took to Boracay. They all have skiffs.

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A RORO ferry. This one was going to Cebu I think. You can drive your vehicles onto it.

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And that is my suitcase making it’s way across the gangplank to the top of the boat. This is why I said it’s better to just bring a backpack you can handle yourself. This means you don’t need to tip people to carry it for you. It’s also more convenient to carry it on your back than roll it around here.
And yes, we all trooped across that plank to the boat.

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Hotel Soffia. It’s a really nice hotel, with a small pool out front. This is the reception where we were all presented with a necklace of shells and a drink. Clean and modern decor and furnishings. It’s a good, quiet hotel, if you’re ok with being about 10 minutes by tricycle to the beach. The do provide an hourly shuttle bus service to the department store and back, but if you miss it, you’ll have to wait for the next one. I think we only managed to catch one back from the department store… throughout the entire trip. Which is why tricycles are your best friend. They’re cheap and efficient. And they can take 7 passengers, if you’re not too large.

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The room. Spacious and well lit. Also with parquet floor. Which i really liked. The king bed is actually 2 single beds shoved together, and there are 2 separate comforters.
The toilet has a bath tub as well as a shower stand, if anyone is interested in this detail.

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The streets of Boracay, around Ariel’s House. Eliza and I were trotting around looking for sunblock to buy.

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Willy’s Rock. I think. That’s what I was told. I wouldnt be surprised if I was being trolled. There’s a catholic (I think) altar of some sorts on it, with steps leading up from the water. We preferred to admire it from a distance, but you can trot around on it.

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A typical day there. The reclining beach chairs belong to Obama’s, where we ate on the final day. They serve seafood, and shakes. In general, these beach front shops restrict the beachside seating to their customers. So, further down at Boat station 1(I think) we just bought some Haagen Daaz drinks and put all our towels, shirts, slippers etc at their chairs.

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Ariel’s Point, a MUST go for all travellers to Boracay. Just tell the tricycle to go to Ariel’s House, and be there around 10-11 am. They don’t take advanced bookings, so you have to be there early to pay and register to ensure you have a slot. Registrations close around 1130-noon if I remember correctly, and everyone will then troop off to board a boat there. Ariel’s point is about an hour’s boat journey out.

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That’s our boat!

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And that’s us and everyone wading out to the boat, which is parked a way out from the beach because it can’t come in to shallow waters. The water goes about chest high for me, so whatever bag and stuff that you’re carrying (slippers too) has to be kept on your shoulder or on your head, unless it’s waterproofed. IF you slip… well I don’t know. We didn’t slip.

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Our boat mates, ordering drinks from the boat guy. They offer free flow of drinks, lunch at Ariel’s point, and snacks. And yes, that’s my bag, and my pink slippers right in front of the camera.

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Our first look at Ariel’s point from the sea.

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And this is Ariel’s Point, once you’ve made it up from the landing cave. The cliff side has been carved into numerous little nooks and made to look really nice. Each clique settles into a nook of their choice, some forming larger ones as they socialise and get to know each other.

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A one man cosy corner..

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This is where we set up. There’s lots of insects and stuff around, so if you’re squeamish, I can’t help you. I spent my childhood catching creepy crawlies, so they didn’t bother me.

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And this is the 6 metre plank (high, not long) which is right below our cosy corner. Very few poeple took this jump, because the hand rail is broken off, so you sorta just have to walk out into the blue without holding anything. Also, it’s a long way to swim to the stairs back up, or the kayaking station. About 40metres maybe? I was cheated into doing this jump… The person who cheated me chickened out and left me to swim to the kayak station on my own.

From here on, I didn’t take that many pictures of the jumping etc, because I was too busy jumping and I didn’t want to be laden with my camera etc.

Basically, there are a few platforms you can jump from, 15m, 8m, 6m, 5m and the stairs platforms which are about 2-3m and 4m. I did the 5, 6 and stairs platform jumps. Keeping the 15 and 8 for the next time I go there. =)

There will ALWAYS be someone who will walk to the edge then be too scared to take that final step down. The worst thing that could happen though, is that you get salt water into your nose. Which is quite unpleasant, but you’ll get a good nasal irrigation. There were quite a few people who went in flat on their stomach, on their backs, head first etc. And none of them were injured. They did sqwak and exclaim, but other than some discomfort, they were fine. There are life guards in the water as well as on the platforms to watch over you.

After I got cheated into the jump, I went to the kayak station and a lifeguard there came along with me for a short paddling session. We paddled round the other side of Ariel’s Point, where the water was about 2 metres deep, and so crystal clear I could count the number of Sea Urchins and Starfish on the ocean bed.
Another tip here, be friendly with the locals! Especially the lifeguards. I struck up a conversation with him and he offered to bring up some Sea Urchin for us to eat. FRESH. (and yes, RAW.) Sea Urchin roe is one of the Japanese dishes I enjoy, so I was only too pleased to accept.

He delivered me back to shore, and told me to return after lunch. They suspend all activities during lunch time.

And yet another tip : If you want to rent snorkeling gear, do it IMMEDIATELY upon arriving at Ariel’s point, or there will be none left for you. If you do rent it, make sure you don’t lose it, or you’ll be fined. I brought goggles, so I was ok without the gear, even though a breathing pipe would have been welcome.

So, we returned after lunch and he brought us to a secluded corner with a raffia gunny sack, a long pair of tongs and a spoon. He dove down and plucked the Sea Urchins up with the tongs and placed them all in the gunny sack. After he brought them up, we boated off to a platform where he proceeded to roll them around in the gunny sack. This made all their spines snap off to more manageable lengths, since the sharp points got stuck in the fabric and snapped off as they were forcibly rolled.

When they were satisfactorily de-spiked, he tumbled them onto the hull of the kayak and started sorta.. pressing them open with his fingers. Apprarently, you don’t need to press very hard. And if you do get poked, it’ll only hurt for… oh… about 2 weeks. After washing away the unwanted stuff, he scooped out the orange roe and portioned it out for us to eat. Yum.

We gave him a tip of about 10 USD for his efforts.

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This was the other boat. It was full of ang mohs on alcohol, so they were dancing and singing on the roof merrily on the way back.

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We passed by some para-sailers on our way back. They are launched from boats which have a flat open back. As the boat picks up speed and catches more wind, the parachute is let out to fly, with 2 people dangling at the end. It’s quite expensive though.

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And… back to Manila on a delayed flight… with the same propeller plane.

Just some random pics which I took. None of the pictures here except the one of the 6m plank was edited at all.

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This is a shot as we were walking through this cave tunnel to reach white beach

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It was elections day when we arrived. So there was activity everywhere, and lots of traffic.

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An island I saw enroute from Manila to Boracay. I WANT IT!!

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Evening at White Beach. The activity picks up around 3pm in the afternoon. Before that, it’s pretty empty. There were passing showers when we were there, but nothing that spoilt an entire day.

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Some cool looking drinks. The green one looks like Eliza’s swimming costume. Didn’t try them though…

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Every day after swimming around in the sea for about 7 hours, we came back to the hotel and soaked the salt off in the pool and splashed around looking at the sun set for another few more hours. In total, we spent an average of 10 hours a day in water. My fingers were peeling when I got home. Also, this is where we spotted the Lizards. Capital L. The Lizards here are ginormous, they’re about the size of squirrels. NO KIDDING.

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I think this hotel is called Friday’s. Looked pretty upmarket. I intend to reseach a little more, because the next time I visit, I intend to stay in an apartment along the beach!

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The expanse of white sand, which is what gives the beach it’s name I guess. Thunder clouds passing by to reveal clear blue skies, much like what a good exfolliation does for your face.

All photos here were taken with my Panasonic Lumix LX 3 or LG Optimus G.

 

[TRAVEL] Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – PART II

If you do want to take a tour out to the nearby places, like beaches for scuba diving, or boat trips up the river, I’d suggest NOT going to the tour agency or booking through your hotel. These places charge a premium, and you’ll end up paying USD 60 when you could have paid around USD 9.

Drop by the backpackers street (that’s where we went for the SPA incidentally, if you read Part I of my HCMC post) and head into one of the travel agencies located there for a good price.

CU CHI TUNNELS

We decided on exploring the tunnels made by the Viet Cong, and it was after a pretty long bus ride that we finally reached them because the bus picks up many passengers on the way so for an hour or so it makes its way around town before finally hitting the road.

It was here, when faced with the decision of whether to crawl through a dark tunnel, through which I had to stoop and duckwalk, that I realised I’m sorta claustraphobic. The first few metres are lit, but after that it’s pitch dark and I had the irrational fear that I wouldn’t be able to breathe or start choking and throw up. I mean, if I had to, I would be able to creep through those tunnels, but since it wasn’t a matter of life and death, I decided to chicken out and stress myself a little less. It’s strange though, I didn’t feel this way cliff diving at Ariel’s Point in Boracay, so I guess I have more of an issue with small dark places than I do with heights.

The Rest Stop along the way is a sort of welfare house for those affected by Agent Orange.
Here you’ll find the natives hard at work, creating souvenirs and furniture.
There’s also a small coffeeshop with food and drinks for you to replenish your energy.

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a very skinny cow.

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Some of the weapons used during the Vietnam War.

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gun barrels

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the outside of the gun gallery.

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Cyn shooting an AK47 which is strapped to the railing. The recoil is minimised, but the sound can be FELT through out your body… all the way into your bones. This is probably the highlight of the excursion to Cu Chi tunnels.

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different bombs used during the Vietnam war

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American Tank that was left behind during the war.

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These are peep holes, not the actual tunnels themselves, from which the Viet Cong emerge to check location as they travel in the tunnels..

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A larger guy than the one above fitting himself inside.

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booby traps with sharpened bambo spikes at the bottom.

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They might look like motorbikes, but they actually aren’t. They’re some sort of tricycle wheelchair which is hand operated and the disabled workers get around in these.

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FRENCH FOOD
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g293925-d2034882-Reviews-La_Villa_French_Restaurant-Ho_Chi_Minh_City.html

Vietnam being an ex-French colony and all, we decided to try out what their colonial masters added to the local Vietnamese culture, cuisine-wise.
And we weren’t disappointed.

For something like 40USD per head, we had a full course French dinner, complete with the Chef coming out to greet us. It’s a really good deal, and the quality of the food is pretty good. The presentation is lovingly done, and whilst the serving staff might not be very good with English, you can always speak to the maitre d instead.

La Villa is located slightly out of the main city area, but your cab fare will probably still be under 10USD.
It’s a bungalow in one of the housing estates, and it might look dark and uninhabited from the outside, but once your cab stops at the gate, someone will pop out to greet you.

All in all, the experience was good, but they do take their time to serve their courses, just like a proper French restaurant would, so be prepared to spend a good long relaxing evening there.

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Inside the restaurant

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Part of the menu

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Candied cherry tomatoes with vegetable mousse and some kind of mushroom paste on biscuits.

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I know some people don’t take Foie gras because they don’t approve of how the animals are treated. But… This was yummy.

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French Onion Soup

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Scallop Risotto.

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Salted Black Cod

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Lamb

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Steak, complete with a sprig of fresh peppercorns. And those roasted looking things are actually brussel sprouts, not potatoes.

 

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More Foie Gras, with Steak.

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The cheese tray!

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Mille feuille, which was a little too sweet for my liking.

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Dark Chocolate Mousse cake

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First look at the entrance.

 

NOTRE DAME, DIAMOND AND POST OFFICE

These 3 buildings are pretty close to each other – the post office and notre dame are right across the road from each other, and Diamond is across a road from Notre Dame.

Having visited the Notre Dame in Paris, I was having a sort of identity crisis seeing the architecture juxtaposed with tropical palm trees.

Also, if I was feeling more hardworking, I would have visited Notre Dame in the morning, because the sunlight would be hitting it from the direction of the 2 towers. However, I’m LAZY, so the earliest I managed to get there was 3pm. The first time I popped by, it was in the evening around 5pm and the sun was coming from behind the building. So my shots aren’t that fantastic.

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taken from the side opposite the post office

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taken from the side of Diamond.

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Evening sun from behind the 2 towers as I elaborated on earlier.
This shot taken with the statue of Mother Mary (I think), holding something that looks like a… bomb.

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Evening sun coming from the back of the building. Took the chance to photograph from the rear.

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The post office. This area seems to be some kind of hot spot for wedding photography. I took the picture in B/W because the colours of the building are, in my opinion a little… clashing. It has teal highlights against peach walls.

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You can see some of the colour scheme in this picture.
This is just inside the main entrance.

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Souvenir shops along both sides of the entrance.
Didn’t buy anything here, but you might want to pick up one of those pointy hats on the bottom left side of the picture.

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So colourful… so pretty… it’s like being in some alternate reality like… wonderland or something. I was terrified that my large unwieldy bag would knock something down.

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ATM’s housed in wooden “phone booths” showing the different timezones.P1060630

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Diamond shopping centre

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The inside of Diamond, on the first floor. Pretty much is what you’d expect in any normal department store.
Korean stuff seems pretty hot here too, and they carry a premium brand of cosmetics and skin care http://www.whoo.co.kr/ which you might like to check out.

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They didn’t let me on to the roof. So this was taken from behind a glass door, with my zoom on max.

 

PARTING SHOTS

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The currency in HCMC!

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Ho Chi Minh himself. Well, his bust, at least.