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The Money Cowrie in Chinese Characters

The entire Chinese culture is IN the Chinese characters. As I dig deeper into them, I get more fascinated each day because I uncover all that make up who I am, what I’ve been taught in my childhood by the people around me, the festivals I have celebrated all my life without really knowing how they came about and why on earth certain things were said and done and why they are explicitly not done.

The Chinese people, and by this, I encompass the Chinese race, are very good at maths, accounts, counting & calculating. Without a doubt, they do very well in any trade. As a race, they keep records and also records of wrongdoings as they make an example of what not to follow in the ?? (idioms in 4 characters) that best describes them. I for one, don’t like Maths, hate accounts even more and can’t for the life of me, keep record of what others have borrowed or what I’ve spent on. (More on idioms in my next article. I had spent countless hours trying to rebuild my website that got hacked several weeks back in the midst of my studies and assignments so please bear with me.)

Then I discovered the word and radical ?(bèi) which means shellfish or cowrie and currency. In ancient times, money cowrie (Cypraea moneta) was used as a trading currency (money) in the shipping trade routes from Tarshish all along the way to China. So no surprise there that any word that has to do with buying/selling or monies and any association with it, had a ? in it! Look at the word ? – buy, ? – sell, ? – fees, ? – resources, ? – price, ? – shopping, ? – luck, fortune, ? – goods, supplies, ? – to bear/shoulder, ? – debt, ? – responsibility, ? – precious, ? – expensive, ? – substance, ? – trade, ? – reward/award, ? – loan, borrow/lend, ? – profit/gain, earn, ? – greed and many more. Of the words listed, the character for debt, contains a person and responsibility, denoting the debt comes with the obvious burden of the inflicted self! Even substance and greed stems from this ‘money!’

While I love the idea of ?? (shopping) being described, what resonates with me is the word ? (reward, award) that comes with ?? (bearing the burden). I see how God had kept the generations recorded through the characters that were formed long before there were these sophisticated words. And He is teaching me about the origins of finances and the burden of life through this money cowrie (mollusc/shell) that I can identify with being someone who has carved out a profession working in the ocean. Each of these discoveries make me want to learn more and I hope it inspires you to take up Chinese so that we can do this discovery together! The next time I see a money cowrie when I go diving, I am going to call it ????????- my Lord’s precious education! #Taiwan #Mandarin501 #Chinese #characters #nolongerbanana #nowmango #?????

Fortress of Seoul

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An ancient map of Seoul.

When dynasties once ruled the empire of Goryeo (what Korea was named once), kings were born & thrones were fought for. King Taejo Yi Seonggye declared a new dynasty in 1392 under the name of Joseon, thus reviving an older dynasty also known as Joseon that was founded four thousand years previously and renamed it to “Kingdom of Great Joseon”. He established himself a palace, known as Gyeongbokgung which served as the main palace for successor Kings of the Joseon dynasty and their households until it was systematically destroyed & burnt to ruins during the Japanese invasion. Restoration & reconstruction work began after it was left derelict for centuries & it stands as the most beautiful & the grandest of all five palaces in Korea today.

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Walking alongside the fortress.

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The old & new stone blocks as part of the restoration process.

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Taejo’ is a temple name, a posthumous title used for Chinese, Korean & Vietnamese royalty. Chosen to reflect the circumstances of the emperor’s reign, it means ‘ancestors.’ In Korea, temple names are used to refer to Kings in the Goryeo & Joseon dynasties.

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One of Gyeongbokgung’s grand entrances.

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The palace was not the only grand structure he built. The foresight of King Taejo who was once a General of the army of the dynasty he overthrew, knew the grandeurs of a kingdom should be demarcated by a structure around the city he ruled. He wanted to build a fortress. He decreed & enlisted the service of one hundred ninety seven thousand four hundred (197,400) young men around the country over two years to participate in the erection of an 18 kilometre fortress with four main gates and four auxiliary gates that fell in line with the Chinese cardinal directions of East, South, West, North. They are Heunginjimun (East Gate), Sungnyemun (South Gate), Donuimun (West Gate) and Sukjeongmun (North Gate) with the East & the South gates being designated as National Treasures today. The fortress took 30 years to complete.                 
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Gyeonghoeru was constructed in 1412, the 12th year of the reign of King Taejong, Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, is a hall used to hold important and special state banquets during the Joseon Dynasty.

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The Throne Room.

King Taejo designated an auspicious day for the groundbreaking ceremony on 1 January 1396. The fortress was completed in 98 days after the war along the mountains of Bugaksan, Naksan, Namsan, and Inwangsan. The wall contained eight gates, all of which were originally constructed between 1396 and 1398. He ordered for the stones to be inscribed with the names of the county and prefecture responsible for constructing a given wall section, as well as the name of that section, while in the mid-Joseon, they were marked with the names of the supervisors and lead technicians, and the construction date. The inscribed stone blocks in the photo below, can be seen outside the wall, at the end section of the Naksan Trail.

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Mayor Park arriving at the start of the tour.

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Mayor Park elaborates on the history of the Fortress.

There are six walking courses or trails you can do, the Baegaksan/Bugaksan Trail, the Naksan Trail, the Namsan Trail, the Inwangsan Trail, Heunginjimun Trail & Sungnyemun Trail. We were taken on a journey along the Naksan Trail by the Mayor himself, Mr. Park Won Soon, who’s fondly loved by the people of Seoul for his candour & spontaneity. We walked along the path parallel to the section of the wall that cordoned off Ihwa Mural Village from the ‘’outer city’, marvelling at the artists who painted the stairways & walls of this village with vibrant murals, thus enlivening the place. We passed these colourful expressions either adorned with paint or mosaic-plastered on the riser of the staircase making the vertical hike not so challenging. This village was once left out in the urbanisation process, used to be seen as a backward neighbourhood but a collaboration between the public, cultural artists, the metropolitan government and the residents turned Ihwa-dong into a vibrant art village.

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Despite the fact that he overthrew the dynasty of Goryeo, and purged officials who remained loyal to the old regime, King Taejo Yi Seonggye was very much regarded as a revolutionary and a decisive ruler who deposed the inept, obsolete and crippled governing system to save the nation from many foreign forces and conflicts. His sons of different wives, fought & killed each other in a preemptive move after the death of his beloved second Queen (wife). While he was still mourning, he crowned his second son to be king but 2 years later, this King voluntarily abdicated it to his brother, Yi BangWon, who became King Taejong, the one who rightfully deserved the throne as he had demonstrated the best potential of a good ruler even during his father’s reign.

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An artisan in the village who specialises in tie-dye artwork.

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The artisan explains the colouring process.

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The Joseon period has left an indelible mark on modern Korean etiquette, cultural norms, societal attitudes towards current issues. A substantial legacy was left to the Koreans of today, with much of the modern Korean language and its dialects derived from the culture and traditions of Joseon.

This fortress, even with some parts of it torn down in the city’s development process, significant parts had been preserved as a historical reminder of the dynasty that influenced the culture of Koreans today. It has in the running to be listed as UNESCO’s World Heritage Site by 2017.

What else can you do in Seoul? Gwangjang Market food experience, silver ring smithing & kimchi making workshop in the next post as I bring you other hidden treasures!

For more information, go to Seoul Tourism’s official page of the Fortress here and download your guide book! http://bit.ly/1gc6iJl
To download the English version, you need to view the site in Korean to get to the download section because the English section of the guide book doesn’t work. I’ve simplified the process for you by including the direct download link here:- http://bit.ly/1IuQ88R

Full resolution pictures can be see in my Flickr album

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Where Every Grain Matters

In Daocheng county, Sichuan, China, the people farm wheat as the climate doesn’t allow them to plant other staple foods like rice. They can only harvest once, at most, twice per year. Stopping for a scenic take of the autumn trees, the workers clearing the wheat chaff on the land attracted my attention to cross the busy road plied by tourists buses using that route to head to Yading. They were constantly bent over, picking & plucking, occasionally rising to toss the little bundles into a woven basket that a boy was carrying. At the scene was an elderly lady with a baby strapped to her back. She seemed happy to converse with the workers. Looking at Andy Phua snapping away, I joined him & watched a scene in the daily lives of this Tibetan tribe.

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A view that leaves you speechless.

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The elderly lady with the baby.

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Back-breaking labour, pulling chaff to prepare the ground for winter before planting again.

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A panoramic view of the stream in Daocheng.

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A scruffy boy I met there.

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A sun-kissed toddler I’ve had the privilege of giving treats to.

Travelling further inward into the country, I caught sight of another group of farmers separating wheat grains using a blower, still manual work of hoisting the basket & pouring the contents into the wind, it was a fascinating experience for me. Learning how hard it is to get so little grain and yet this is all they have got.

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Wrapped my head in Buff™ & with my Cocoons sunglasses and hood, I approached the flying chaff onward to give you an insight of this hard labour.

The World Didn’t End, It Has Just Begun.

What 2012 had been was a year of drama, excitement, elation, grief, distress, mourning all at once. The year passed so quickly. With the blink of an eye, I’d been to several countries & back. Some of my involvement with social work has been enlightening too. Being one of the country’s representative for The Access Initiative (TAI) with Jeffrey Phang, I was able to learn what others pay top dollars to do so. Returning from our regional meeting in Bangkok, we were able to put our knowledge to work. Mom passed away just before the trip & I missed my flight but I knew it was important for me to be there. As part of the initiative, we are to advocate access to information, access to public participation in matters concerning the environment that would affect people & access to justice. We are now in the process of getting a club to adopt the hardcore poor homes by sponsoring food stuff. They are also keen to have the kids from the Drum Circle perform on their annual dinner event. More about that in time to come. Meetings with these wonderful ladies from the club is so heartening. With the passing of a life, another event begins.

On the animal welfare front, we have gained good ground by working with the first local council in Malaysia to celebrate & honour World Animal Day 2012. All thanks to Anthony T, who spearheaded & founded CAT (Canine Advisory Team, a panel in which I sit in) in MBPJ as a councillor since 2008, we will soon have a dog park to let our dogs be paw-loose & fancy-free! Listen to his speech at the launch of the day in the video below.

So much work set in motion by Sabrina Yeap, who also passed away this year, contributed to this effort of councils & organisations getting together. There are those who think that they are a contributing factor while they clamour for her stature but no one have the guts & gall that Sabrina had to have spent her life dedicated to making life worth living for the animals. Hardly surprising because those who deem themselves important have so many personalities uprising from their virtue of stunning others with incorrigible behaviour & expletives incontinence. And their little squadron of likeminded individuals, usually personalities playing up from not following doctor’s orders, would start to fire at anyone & everyone who has never known of such vocabulary. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, the pen writes or the keyboard types. When these keyboard warriors go on a rampage, they can only fool some of the people, some of the time. When some of these individuals stopped making sense years ago, I’ve pretty much disregarded their significance in the world of rescue. They have only themselves to rescue out of the pit they have dug & fallen into some time ago. I pray that they would find peace amidst the turmoil they face within.
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Later on in the year, I was featured on a full page of a Chinese daily & Szee Cshieng, the journalist from Kwong Wah Yit Poh contacted me a month ahead to set an appointment for the feature. We met in 2007 at the LIMA exhibition in Langkawi. Since then, she had been following my pursuits on FB. Thank you for the compliments in the 7 roles that you reprised of me but I see myself as an adventurer more than as a star. If God has given us skills & talents, then we must use them to bless others. Even if it’s just to teach a new skill, impart a knowledge or to share responsibilities. In doing this, my life is enriched. In living life to the fullest, I am able to create pieces that thrills from having lived that journey of getting to wherever or whatever. This came shortly after my interview with Cars, Bikes & Trucks section of New Straits Times & a feature done by Grace Chen.

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A directive from the top had me moving out of the city & into the beautiful countryside. My move is all done now & settling into my new place is easy. It’s the unpacking & organising of my stuff that’s daunting. Taking for granted of my ever present kitchen for the last 7 years, I didn’t know how much I missed not having one so I fitted in a brand new stainless steel kitchen & got myself a full-fledged/featured microwave oven that grills, bakes, steams & microwaves! Rufus took about 10 days to resign to his new home & he’s loving it here too. And my cousin Lisa gave me an infrared gas stove as a house-warming gift and guess who has been dropping in for meals ever since??? My beloved guest from Italy & the Scotsman living opposite my place! Hahahaha! Thanks, Lisa! I love the stove! I got a chicken timer for Christmas too & a pack of drink stirrers in addition to some birthday presents (gadgets & a locket). They also loved the DOM Benedictine that’s been evaporating from my non-consumption of it & topping it with Bulla’s Caramel Toffee Ice Cream, it seemed to have made these men happy! Not to mention, we even had a go at my rice wine meant for cooking…….. Time to stock up my freezer & pantry!

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When packing to move, I found my stash of yarn. It was then that I decided to pick up my first love of crochet & made a pair of gloves, a cowl for my winter trips, two boleros and now starting on my another pair of gloves. I ordered more yarn & am enjoying church service so much more!

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Making full use of fill-in time like getting caught in traffic jams, in between appointments & travelling transits, I was able to make all that. Imagine if I had more time on my hands! I’d be attempting to make those pretty tunics & dresses! If you like crochet, follow my crochet boards on Pinterest to get patterns & inspiration!

So the world didn’t end. Even after Chien died, mom died, Chien’s mom died, Sabrina died, Maxine died. I choose to think that my chapter with them has ended. And they would want me to write new books & chart new paths with other people too. And my world, the one that God has blessed me with, has just begun. Thank you, Lord, for a remarkable 2012.

Doggone Good in CAT

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The Canine Advisory Team (CAT) meeting started with a minute of silence in honour of our departed friend, Sabrina Yeap, who had demonstrated love & compassion towards abandoned & unwanted dogs & cats in her 22 years of service in animal welfare organisations. The team is chaired by Anthony Thanasayan, the councillor in MBPJ who champions causes for the disabled community as well as founding an animal welfare group to train dogs for animal-assisted therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association.

32 members of the team were invited to attend the meeting from all over Selangor on Monday 23 July, at 2:30pm, comprising of councillors from various municipalities, DVS (Department of Veterinary Services) and non-governmental organisations such as SPCA, MIAR (Malaysian Independent Animal Rescue), MKA, MSAVA (Malaysian Small Animals Veterinary Association) & Pet Positive. The chairperson set the tone for the session that followed by giving every party an opportunity to air their views including objections.

We addressed issues of gazetting dog parks in existing parks to enable dog owners to have recreation time with their beloved animals. Noting that almost all public parks are off-limits to dogs, the team endeavoured to look into the sensitivities of other cultures such as the majority of Muslims in the country who are averse to dogs & how best to educate the public in responsibly managing their pets when outdoors. Dr. Fazillah of DVS was very supportive of the proposed plan & even noted that she grew up with 8 dogs when her father was managing an estate then. She is now a veterinarian & she’s a Muslim. Her input has enlightened many who were present at the meeting & everything had to start with awareness & education.

Another effort the team is looking into is the setting up of spay clinics with subsidised rates for spaying/neutering of strays brought in by the public. We even discussed the possibilities of involving the public in adopting strays in their community, a classification of stray dogs that Dr. Fazillah calls, ”˜community dogs.’ Being all for the idea of ”˜catch, neuter & release,’ the team was made to understand that when dogs are removed from a place, other strays dogs will come in to occupy the void. Better to have dogs you know & are familiar with than dogs you don’t know/are not familiar with. The purpose is to help curb the stray population & prevent unnecessary proliferation of strays.

The team also addressed campaigns to promote responsible ownership of dogs & recognising independent rescuers from the public to work with. The meeting gained momentum when all NGO’s gave their views in support of ideas proposed. We came away knowing what we can look forward to achieving.

I am optimistic that we will finally get somewhere with Anthony being at the helm as soon as he was reinstated after an irrational, multiple personalities newswoman abused her position to campaign for his removal from the council. To think that this monumental effort of CAT that started in 2008 by Anthony himself was suspended, halted & possibly ended just so that one person gets her revenge is absolutely unthinkable. God has restored his authority & I hope he gets vindicated too. By the way, Anthony is a disabled person & his optimism & focus is not on himself but on how he can be of assistance to those who need it.

Unfortunately in this country, in the world of dogs & their fanatical lovers, there is no reasoning, rationale, logic nor sensibility when they resort to hounding & harassment of individuals who are opposed to certain practices or those who have the discernment & knowledge to unearth their dirty tactics of appealing to public’s sympathies in their endeavour to get funding. In their desperation to defend their territories like dogs who pee to mark their boundaries, they will go on a rampage like rabid dogs to discredit & disparage anyone who exposes them. There is no vaccine for people with behavioural issues & they can only go as far as their bark. I certainly hope they seek professional help before they spread their contagious convulsions to their ignorant pack of sidekicks.

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Swearing-In ceremony with Menteri Besar

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Anthony taking a snapshot with me.

Lifestyle Change Begins With A Foldie!

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Folding Bike shop.

The recent craze for folding bikes, fondly known as foldies, has hit town & people are realising the sheer simplicity of packing it & tucking it in the car to go anywhere & ride. I was given a rundown by Andrew Sia, the Chief Reporter of The Star daily, for the kinds of foldies there are in the market. My first encounter with an ultra cool foldie, was in front of a hardware shop in Bangsar, where a Brompton bike was parked. I was gawking at it so much so that the owner came out to demonstrate how it’s folded & unfolded. The conversion of the rear rack to a little wheeled trolley won me over. This owner whose name I didn’t manage to get as I was so engrossed in his description of the usability of the bike, has been all over Europe cycling & recently got back from China. I was totally impressed! The bike had only 16inch wheels! When he told me of the price, I thought, wow, would someone actually spend RM6,000 on a foldie??? Well, I was so taken up by it, I started doing my own research & recalled that Andrew had one so I deluged him with questions & midnight calls because I was very eager to have one.

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ORi C8 Classic

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Top view of the bike when folded.

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Andrew taught me a lot on how to search for one that suited what I’d want in a bike. Aesthetics was important too. Above it all, functionality & foldability.

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I went around town searching for the perfect bike. I found that most bikes with good components start at RM1,000 & above. Most importantly, I wanted something close to a Brompton but not the price. When I found Folding Bike Trading, I was so ecstatic to see a similar designed model but much more compact than a Brompton bike. When I got to the shop, a beautiful lady by the name of Well Tan, greeted me & served me a cup of tea before she proceeded to ask me about what kind of cycling I would want to do. I told her I was thinking of touring & maybe just for daily fitness. She recommended me the ORi bike.

The ORiBikes are designed by the award winning designer Jon Whyte, a former Formula 1 engineer from the U.K. Stylish and functional, ORi folding bikes bring an unprecedented experience of performance and practicality. I especially liked the C8 Classic model where the saddle & handlebar wraps are made of leather. The way it folds matched what I saw in a Brompton bike & for the price of RM2,699 for a C8 Eco series, it’s less than half the price of a Brompton. The Instant Rebound Catch (IRC) mechanism enables ORi to fold up in seconds and easy to carry and store. The brilliant idea was inspired by the simple and intuitive operation of airplane safety belt. IRC also works as a reliable hinge locking the bike together when unfolding. Thanks to IRC, the safety and convenience are perfectly connected together. It even has an easy rolling kit to commute to & fro the LRT!

Well taught me more about foldies & how I should go about owning one. A far cry from a few shops that I had been to in town whose main business is selling & servicing roadies (road bikes/racers) or mountain bikers. Her knowledgable guidance convinced me that owning the right bike is to be done pridefully & no one should rush you into a buying decision. She answered every doubt that I might have & went on to serve me more tea. Then she explained the difference between mainstream bikes & foldies, that the purpose is totally different. A foldie is used for commuting & touring with ease of being able to bring your bike anywhere & everywhere with you. It sounded perfect for my lifestyle! And it wasn’t about competition.

The thing with conventional bike shops is, you always feel pressured into conforming to the norms of cyclists, what they should wear when cycling, what kind of accessories you must buy etc. but with a foldie, YOU ARE YOUR OWN STYLE. I will come up with some fashion bits advice for the ladies who wish to embark on this journey with me. Do let me know what your preferences are & I will detail what the change that the cycling scene needs.

With that, I took a forthnight to mull over it & after My Selangor Story 2011, I took home the ORi C8 Classic foldie! Well is giving a very special deal on the ORi bikes & if you tell her that you saw this on Pummkin’s Pitch, she would give you a 5% discount + a bike cover bag with a further RM30 off on selected helmets to help you get started!

I’ve decided to form an all-girl cycling group to get fit & have since recruited several ladies to join me in my pursuit. Will be organising more photo trips on foldies too so get into gear, guys! Do get your foldie from Well as she can explain in detail what you ought to get & what will save you money in the long run. I will detail with more pictures once I get to ride on my new foldie soon!

Meanwhile, check out her shop at:-

Folding Bike Trading
G 10, Emerald Plaza East,
Jalan PJU 8/3, Damansara Perdana,
47820 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor,
Malaysia.

Tel: +603 771 33 888
Mobile: +6016 393 2229 ( Well )
Fax: +603 771 33 222
Email: foldingbiketrading (at) gmail (dot) com

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The frontal black bag holds the bike cover inside.

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Groovy helmet to protect your main asset….

Never Miss A Shot with Pentax – My Selangor Story 2011

I was eager to swim & soak away the aches so I took the opportunity to take the Pentax Optio WS80 with me. The thing that intrigues me is the amphibious nature of this model that I got supplied with during the contest duration to shoot with. I took it down to 1.5metres in the pool & it worked perfect. I could think of the many times that I have needed a small, waterproof, rugged camera with me & I will detail them here.
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Why You Would Need A Waterproof Camera:-

If you were an underwater photographer/videographer (like me), you need a backup camera. With the usual clunk that I carry, my underwater housing, strobes, lights, arms, tray, batteries/chargers weigh a ton. I simply cannot afford to carry another nor would I be able to purchase another set. When I shoot till the batteries dead, there is almost always a whale shark, a manta ray, an eagle ray or a happy squid BECKONING ME to shoot it. Somehow, Murphy’s Law would only apply then, ‘Anything That Can Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong.’ It is absolutely wrong NOT to be able to document any NatGeo moment that I encounter. The Pentax Optio WS80 or Pentax Optio WG1 would sit perfectly inside my BC pocket.

  • When you have a pool party, you almost always get thrown into the pool. Everything else can be replaced but definitely not the pixels recorded in your memory card if you don’t have a waterproof camera.
  • When you go jungle trekking & have to cross rivers with rocky terrain, the last thing you need is to drop your camera while balancing on these ultra slippery rocks. And you are like me, you want to take the breathtaking shots as you trek……
  • You teach swimming & scuba diving like me & want something to record your student’s progress. They can’t see how they perform themselves if you don’t have a waterproof camera that can shoot videos of them with. It is great for perfecting their strokes (swimming) and correcting their finning method (diving). Maybe you can get your friend to record your performance too.
  • You love tide pools after the tide go out & want to document life in these tiny pools that hold a myriad of life. It’s impossible to submerge a bulky, housed camera & a small, handhold, amphibious camera would be great for this task. Another NatGeo opportunity that you wouldn’t want to miss.
  • You’re one of those who like taking pictures of yourself in the bath……no, I’m not that type so WIPE THAT IMAGE OF ME DOING THAT IN YOUR HEAD.
  • You just want to don on your rain jacket & play in the rain & what better way to shoot in these circumstances than to have a waterproof camera with you at all times???
  • Still not convinced? Well, I spent a hour in the pool at Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort to convince myself why I SHOULD BE GETTING A WATERPROOF CAMERA next & it wasn’t very hard to convince myself after looking at the videos. These videos are super clear & have already been resized.

The beautiful landscaped garden at the hotel, has a man-made waterfall cascading into a concrete pool. The garden is bordered by a walled fence beside the golf course thus, a serene & tranquil environment for guests.

The kids playing merrily in the pool made great subjects to film underwater. Here are the videos taken with it:-

The camera is perfect for travellers who want a fuss-free, waterproof model to take snapshots in situations where they wouldn’t want normal cameras to function in, such as at beaches, waterfalls, lakes, swimming pools. It serves as a good back up camera with HD movie capability in the event that your primary camera refuse to work for whatever reason.

As soon as I got out of the pool to relax on on of the deck chairs, the pool attendant walked over with a beach towel & handed it to me. I am impressed with the level of service rendered even at the recreational level where guest are expected to take it easy. Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort has definitely got it right with impeccable service!

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Picture taken with the Pentax WS80

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Picture taken with the Pentax WS80

 

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Picture taken with the Pentax WS80

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Picture taken with the Pentax WS80

 

If you think this entry deserves a vote, please cast your vote for me HERE!

Day 5 – Pure Joy of Relaxation at Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort – My Selangor Story 2011

Retiring to a comfortable room when you are travelling, makes all the difference in your stay. My room had twin beds, which I share with Olyvia, a software engineer from Jakarta. The bathroom was spacious & had all the amenities you’d find in a five star resort & the soap was what I loved most. Soaps with a higher content of glycerin makes it super luxurious on your skin & did I enjoy my bath time in the bath tub! The room even had its own steam iron & ironing board, not every hotel equips the room with such & it enabled me to iron my dress in the quickest time possible without having to wait for the delivery by the housekeeping department if it was the conventional way.

The thermostat of the air conditioning can be turned down to 10?C should you wish to fully utilise the efficacy of the comforter provided but we set it at a comfortable 22?C.

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Our bedroom

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The bathroom!

As this was our final day of the tour, we made our farewells & vowed to keep in touch to journey with each other through our blogs. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the sponsors & organiser of My Selangor Story 2011 for making this possible. My stay with each one of the resorts has opened my eyes to many possibilities within my profession to promote Selangor when I go overseas as an ambassador for ISO Standards in Diving Services for Malaysia. I thank you for making me feel important as a guest & may the contest be a platform for me to pitch my skills as a writer & producer for the assignments that I will embark on hereon!


This best sums up the 5-day journey of mine.

I would be so grateful if you could vote for this entry HERE. <—- There are links at the bottom of each post that require a click on the many hearts that you see! Thank you!

Here are our sponsors who made our 5-day tour splendid!
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Sumptuous Offer at The Mix, Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie – My Selangor Story 2011

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Zynchro, the resident band.

Now we see why we need a holiday to recuperate from one & thankfully as we headed down to Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort,, there were no other physical challenges ahead apart from chilling out. The closing dinner was held at The Mix, our official restaurant for My Selangor Story 2011 & the chefs whipped up a storm! I particularly enjoyed the Mesclun Salad & the Apple Potatoes Salad with Toasted Nuts topped with a generous helping of balsamic & garlic sauce. I had 5 helpings before going for the main dishes which were superbly done. The presentation of the food in circular bowls served on covered heated pans ensures the food stays warm no matter how many times you go back for second helpings.

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Mesclun Salad & the Apple Potatoes Salad with Toasted Nuts

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The offering at the dinner!

The Mix has a bar downstairs & a restaurant upstairs. As you enter the premise, the kitchen is in full view of the patrons, watching the chefs cook will whet your appetite as you look through the menu for what to eat. Ladies Nite is on every Wednesday AND Saturday where we ladies are entitled to selected cocktails & spirits all night long. There is a private dining room for patrons wishing to have a space away from others & a rack of fine wine for the connoisseur.

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Chef at the grill!

The dinner marked the closing of the 5 day tour & a celebration of the coming together of so many brilliant young minds for the chance of contesting in such challenging circumstances. Sagina Manandhar, Marketing Communications Manager of Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort, gave the closing speech as a welcome to having us stay with them & to congratulate everyone for surviving the challenges! En. Fazly Razally, the Event & Marketing Manager of Tourism Selangor, arrived later to join us for the after dinner celebrations with the house band!

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Zynchro, the resident band that performs nightly at The Mix, entertained us with a great rendition of current hits & hot favourites. Before long, the crowd was dancing to their upbeat numbers. Dian organised a surprise birthday cake for Amelia, the organiser, as she celebrates her birthday that evening with us. She obliged to sing again at the popular request by all of us & was she good!

We said our goodbyes to the Indonesian bloggers who would be on the first flight out the next morning. It was rather sad to let them go & it would have been so good to be perpetually on holiday but with modern technology of the internet, we will never be far from each other.

Watch for my next post on the 5th day of my tour! And please vote for me HERE! <—- Every blogpost is an entry so please vote on every link that you find at the end of my entries! Thank you!

The Cube – My Companion for My Selangor Story 2011

The Cube is an amazing multimedia channel created to fulfil the need of young people today, to access content on any device while on the move. Upon landing on the main page at www.thecube.my, a library of hit songs are available or purchase & download. Considering the price that you pay for an album, RM0.99 per song is a bargain. We were each sponsored with an Xpax prepaid number with a total of RM55 credit to enable us to access unlimited data for RM6 per day. This is a new portal with a library of multimedia for download. Thank you, The Cube, for internet access wherever we go!

The Cube offers the latest top hits as ringtones that can be downloaded to replace your standard ring tones. For phones that can customise each contact’s ringtones, you would be able to identify who’s calling straight away.

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Screenshot of what’s available on their website.

Under Musicube, there are Malay & Chinese songs apart from English songs, for download. There’s even a selection of Korean songs under Others’ tab. There could be a long queue for the dentist or at the post office where you are bored off your skull. Browse the collection & listen to a new song to perk yourself up before you go nuts. Or download a game & pit yourself against the game to score your personal best.

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Screenshot of what’s available on their website.

For those who need constant action, games are ready for download under PlayCube.

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Screenshot of what’s available on their website.


Just for fun, Fun Cube offers screensavers that you can download to jazz up your screen, skins & graphics to make your phone be set apart from others. You even have comics of action, drama, humour, fantasy, romance, science fiction delivered in the form of MMS to your phone.

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And in FrenCube, with just RM1 weekly, you can have unlimited usage of Facebook & Twitter via sms. With many personalising features, expand your network or get updates from friends while you share yours.

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Screenshot of what’s available on their website.

Riding on the the Celcom network, The Cube can be accessed anywhere within the country, having the widest coverage in Malaysia. So if you are hard pressed to have a different ring in your life, check out the numerous ringtones to brighten up your day & poke your friends on Facebook whenever you feel like it!

Note: This is part of the My Selangor Story contest. Please vote for this entry HERE!

Day 3 – The Soil Beneath The Clouds at Awana Genting Highlands Golf & Country Resort – My Selangor Story 2011

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At the entrance of Golden Palm Tree Resort & Spa for the farewell.

Bidding farewell to such a wondrous place in Selangor seemed a bit morose, with all the feasting & the merry-making over the last 2 nights. It was also our dreaded time to face the oncoming unknown challenges in the jungles of Genting Highlands. The General Manager, Mr. Pascal Prigent, saw us off in style & sat with us to have a group shot for the record! Thank you for having us rock your resort & terrorise your bell-hops with requests to go to London, Mars & Venus. It made my stay ever more universal. ?

Like an entourage accompanying the mission, we bade farewell to the resort management, got onto the bus & possibly slept all the way to Awana Genting Highlands (minus the zippy washroom stopover) to make up for the eventuality of any (gruelling) exercises. We were briefed of the day’s itinerary the night before & anticipate it, we did not. Added to the challenge of not knowing the itinerary prior to the tour, the mention of an obstacle course was enough to unnerve the (un)fit, (un)prepared, (un)abled & (under)trained in us. *Gulp*….I wouldn’t like the thought of my hip falling out of socket in any of the challenges & to think that in my hey days, I was training to be a part of the Eco Challenge team & rock climbing was a weekly affair….then.

We had a grand welcome with all the managers lined up to greet us like VIP! It was great! We were ushered into the lounge where the launch of My Selangor Story 2011 for Awana Genting Highlands Golf & Country Resort took place. YB Elizabeth Wong was present again to grace the event & the Senior Vice President of PR Communications Genting Malaysia Berhad, Dato’ Anthony Loke, gave us an introduction of the property that Awana Genting Longhouse is a part of. The area had been gazetted as an IBA – Important Bird Area as of last year, marking the recognition of birds that live in the area requiring protection & conservation of their habitat. This is great news for me as a birder as I come up to this area to photograph birds & protection might hopefully gain them in numbers thus, increasing our chances of spotting them. He also cited the uniqueness of the longhouse experience, one that can only be had in Sarawak. He stressed that conservation to the surroundings have produced great interest amongst photographers who then participated in a contest to have their entries made into a coffee table book! The flora & fauna will be showcased in the book that is about to be launched soon. I’ve known about the conservation efforts in Cameron Highlands & Fraser’s Hill but this is the first time I’m hearing about the efforts in Genting Highlands. If indeed, this will be of great interest to bird & nature photographers to make more frequent trips up to document the fauna & spreading the awareness of species. I will organise my group to explore & expedite the appreciation of the place once I find out what there is to be done! It was evident that Dato’ Anthony showed a deep appreciation for the environment that built his career, even more, his love for the life that it contains. He spoke without a formal written speech & was probably assisted by only points in his note. As it’s paramount for the property on its stewardship, the steward would be the one to steer the wheels in motion for the rest in his charge. It made me forget that I was dreading the drill factor in the first place & made me want to go out to meet nature right there & then!

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Dato’ Anthony Loke during his speech.

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A basket of Phalaenopsis sp Orchid was presented to YB Elizabeth Wong for gracing the occasion!

After a video demonstration from the resort of what to expect of this journey at Awana Genting Highlands Golf & Country Resort, tea & snacks were served to prep us up for the abseil challenge. Najib, the founder of Fun & Adventure company that arranges the outdoor & team building activities for Awana Genting Highlands Golf & Country Resort, briefed us about the do’s & don’t’s when entering the jungle. He introduced Mohd Zul Fahmie, as the person in charge of leading us through the challenges that followed. With an amazing portfolio as an outdoor & obstacle course trainer, what we were to experience with Zul would be forever imprinted in our minds……and bodies (ouch!). He reiterated that there are several practices that they adhere to when entering the jungle & that is, not to call on each other’s names (how do we call for help then??). We were told not to take anything that does not belong to us & to generously donate blood to those who require it……aka leeches. Yikes! I will detail all that we did in the next posting.

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The hike up to the Abseiling grounds had such a pleasant sight. Beautifully landscaped pond with fringing jungle.

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The side of the Longhouse.

Everyone put on their harness as they had to be secured to Figure of 8 with a carabiner. Hiking up the hill to the top, many had to conquer their fear of heights. Once they got the hang of coming down with the support of the rope & the belayer, many of them went back uphill to descend down the rope again!

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We were put on the greatest challenge of our lives. Don’t miss my next post.

After dinner, we proceeded to walk a few hundred metres to a trail. It was dark. We were told to form two lines according to our two groupings. And we were to sit on the ground. Zul briefed us of the activity to follow. We were to do this trail BLINDFOLDED & SOLO. I had turned my GPS on, tucked away in my cargo pants pocket & was prepared in the event that I do get lost in the jungle, at least I would know how to navigate my way back. Not that the organisers would let us get lost, but as a sense of safety & precaution built into me, I would always carry at least 2 GPS devices when I go anywhere near a jungle. (There was a time that both failed on me but that’s another story!) All our escape plans that we had secretly formed had to be abandoned upon them telling us we were to go solo & the trail would be 2 hours long. And to think that so many trusted my escape plans in the first place! Aha! I can’t tell you what we had planned lest you make us go through it once again! Hahaha!

Assisted by a rope tied on sticks that formed the route, we were blindfolded & had to place our trust into the marshals hands. The wait in complete silence except for the sound of crickets & nocturnal squeaks accompanied us as the marshal took us to the route one by one. We were getting used to the darkness. Unbeknown to us, Tian Chad was assigned to take our photos & what a hilarious moment it must have been for him to see us crawl/duck walk/bent over & groping in the dark!!! As soon as I saw the pictures below, I was rolling on the floor laughing my heart out.

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All Blind Trail pictures are courtesy of Tian Chad.

I was one of the first few who got taken to the trail. I felt my nose & ears being tickled by some feather-like substance & had to learn to use my other senses to feel my way through. Along the way, I was anticipating drops in the terrain or uneven ground when suddenly, a hand grabbed my forearm & a voice said, “Lebih baik kamu jalan di sebelah tali,” (Best if you could walk on this side of the rope) which I retorted, “Kenapa???” (Why???) and the voice said, “Nanti kamu jatuh kalau kamu berada di sebelah itu. Saya bagi you tips. I help you!” (You will fall otherwise. I’m giving you tips. I’m helping you!) And the hand released its grasp. Ohmygawd! I got helped! So straight away I climbed over the rope & continued with one outstretched hand, groping in the dark. Almost towards the end, somebody bumped into me & I realised it was Helga. And Siti was behind him. We got led to where we sat down to remove our blindfolds & found the first few bloggers sitting & sniggering away! We’ve been had! It wasn’t 2 hours but 20 minutes!

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Upon downloading the tracks from my GPS unit, this is the screenshot of the trail that we took, coloured in dark orange above.

Watch this video!

The marshals & organiser had planned for a birthday surprise for Nigel Low, who had to be tricked to do the trail last. By then, we got ready & sang him a birthday song when he removed his blindfold! Many happy returns, Nigel!

We spent the night in 4 dormitories within the longhouse. Very basic accommodation with mattresses on the floor, pillows & thick woollen blankets for everyone. I guess team building starts with sharing your space with everyone else. Bathrooms & toilets were outside of the longhouse. We had to sleep early as there would be a 6:30am wake up call next morning to accept our challenges ahead.

Note: This is a contest entry & I would appreciate your vote for me HERE! <—- Thanks again!

Up in Awana, gluttony took on a new meaning. Read about the storm the chefs cooked up here!

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The Awana Genting Longhouse – communal living with nature!

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Ascending the stairs to the Longhouse.

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Comfortable mattresses & pillows.

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Communal area outside the dormitories in the Longhouse.

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Awana Genting Longhouse dormitories.

 


Day 2 – Wining & Dining at Golden Palm Tree, My Selangor Story 2011

As every discerning traveller needs to refuel, the Pummkin needs to be fed well to perform the activities to follow. Breakfast started with getting to know one another through food. The Malaysian way has always been about thinking & talking about the next meal while you are having your present meal. At the heart of Golden Palm Tree, lies the buffet spread that spills over from Bila Bila to Buloh Bar. I had my fill of fresh salad & cherry tomatoes topped off with 2 tubs of yoghurt with berries before having my bacon, bangers & eggs. The spread & variety were good but somehow, something was lacking but I couldn’t place a finger on it.

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Part of my diet consists of yoghurt, fruits, salad & bread……before my indulgence in bacon, bangers & egg!

Our assigned dining area for lunch & dinner was at the alfresco rotunda, Sepoi Sepoi cafe at the beachfront, serving a delectable array of Malaysian snacks, noodles & local delights. I managed to savour 3 kinds of dishes, mainly the Hainanese Steamed Chicken Rice, the Mee Goreng Mamak Style & the all-time favourite Nasi Lemak. The portion was huge & chefs were at hand to whip-up the dishes as you order them. A great stopover for anyone returning from Smiley Beach to get into the lobby, which is at the base of the ‘trunk of the palm tree.’

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Mee Goreng Mamak, Nasi Lemak & Hainanese Steamed Chicken Rice!

Celebration Dinner.

The most pleasant surprise came in the form of an invitation from Golden Palm Tree’s management to join the Malaysian Night dinner that evening, which was to be held at the grand ballroom with a capacity of 1,400 pax. A cultural performance of tribal dance entertained the diners with their Bornean Bamboo Trap & was skilfully executed by natives from Sabah & Sarawak. The dancers went on to invite guests onto the stage to teach them how to dance to the beat of the drums, averting the bamboo stick knocks. Foreign guests were so thrilled with this participation & soon the crowd was cheering them on.

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The terrace of the ballroom was decked with a row of hawker stalls. The buffet spread that lined these stalls were filled with trays of Malaysian cuisine ranging from Beef Rendang to barbecued seafood. There were a bevy of chefs standing by a wok of stir-fried shellfish that made my mouth water just by looking at the varied kinds of clams in there, a wok filled with curry chicken & a wok filled with fried chicken. There were about 20 different kinds of dishes synonymous with Malaysian cooking & there was a bar counter serving alcoholic beverages in the form of beer, red & white whine. I had one glass of white wine to go with the seafood that was generously dished out by the chef. What pleased me further was the dessert island counter decorated with trays of sugary bakes, chocolate mouse, puddings, jellies, tarts & puffs! I had to convince myself that dieting starts (again) the week after MSS 2011! Heaven! And separate counters for ice-cream & other delightful servings of sweets. I like this version of Malaysian Night but I don’t know how my waistline (or the absence of it) would be able to take it after a week.

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Terrace outside the ballroom.

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The wok of mussels.

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My plate of clams, prawns & mussels!

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The selection of goodies for after-dinner!

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Trays of jellies, puffs, mousse & tarts!

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Goblets of sago

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More tarts!

Though there were 24 bloggers in total plus another dozen from the official support crew & organiser, the ballroom was one big party of happy guests celebrating a triumphant year with the most lavish dinner buffet ever. For a luxury resort, anything less would not live up to its name. We were entertained by the spontaneity of those who were called to the stage to happily jive away. If this Malaysian Night is not a regular feature yet, then it would go very well becoming one. The management could even suggest a batik themed night to go with it & have professional photographers take pictures of them to be printed on the spot & presented to them as a souvenir. The resort could very well start selling some exquisite batik dresses & shirts to complement the gala night. After all, people who go on holiday are prepared to spend & what better way to spend on than to buy wearables? You might even want to hire make-up artists for the night to make them look like a princess for the evening! You may even spark their spouse’s interest to give their relationship a boost & have them come back for this specific event annually. If they are having the time of their lives, wouldn’t you feel good to have been a part of it? It would be a night to remember for the chefs who will delight in seeing empty trays, waiters who will get tipped & managers who will receive the compliments first. It would be a night of wine & dine for the whole resort to celebrate in, only at Golden Palm Tree……

Note: If you think my post deserves a mention, please vote for me HERE. Your hearts given will ensure that I stay in practice to pitch my skills & test my endurance in bringing you the adventure! If you want to read about what I did that warranted for so much food, the day’s activities are detailed here.

Our next destination was a challenge. See what we went up to the mountains for on the 3rd day….

Living It Up At The Golden Palm Tree – My Selangor Story 2011

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The palm tree layout of the resort.

Upon arrival, the stunning facade of the entrance to a 1km stretch of villas straight out into the sea conferred me a grand reception. The spacious lobby was designed to accept a huge number of guests lounging around in the breezy, circular structure with a conical roof that forms as the ”˜base’ of the palm tree layout of the resort’s property. From the inside, the conical ceiling was formed by bamboo sticks creating an optical illusion to the beholder. Another part of the lobby’s ceiling hangs the chandelier giving a warm glow to the place.

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Golden Palm Tree was influenced by Polynesian & Maldivian-style villas built on ”˜stilts’ (large concrete pillars) with high, thatched roof, the interior is quite a treat with holiday makers who like space. I can safely attest to this having been to Maldives 3 times, staying in one of the most expensive resorts in the atoll.

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The warm & inviting lobby lounge!

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Bamboo ceiling.

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Chandeliered ceiling.

We were given our key card & meal card & was briefed on the mode of transport to get to our rooms. The buggies operating in 5-minute intervals were great as we soon got acquainted with every bell-hop who ferried us up & down the ”˜trunk’ of the palm tree, I began to make requests to go to ”˜London, to see the Queen,’ or to ”˜Mars’ & ”˜Venus’ to the delight of the bell-hop who entertained me by bringing me to ”˜London,’ ”˜Mars’ or ”˜Venus’ which is just down the lane to the heart of the palm tree or back to the lobby. As we were told of the itinerary for the following day, I sort of got my mind set on the watersports & cycling! I couldn’t wait to get to my room to see what these villas were like!

The villa that was assigned to me was at the 5th branch of the palm tree by the sea. With two bedrooms within the villa, I was to share a room with a blogger who had to pull out due to health reason while Zarah & Olyvia took the other bedroom with twin beds. The Canary Palm Villa not only has two rooms, it also has two bathrooms, two verandahs & a lounge, fully equipped with amenities such as a mini bar, TV, hair dryer, coffee & tea making facilities, safe deposit box & bathroom essentials. My room has a bathtub like what I have at home (but bigger & not cluttered with rubber duckies & whales) & a shower cubicle, everything designed to let me enjoy being in the bath for one whole hour. This probably also set me on a dreamy mode for the rest of my stay here as I imagined what it would be like if I was here with Prince Charming instead. I also wondered if I were here alone, would I find my Prince Charming?

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My princely villa! I had the bed all to myself!

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Photo courtesy of Golden Palm Tree.

At the heart of the palm tree is where the Bila Bila Restaurant sits & where we had our daily breakfast. Aptly named, Bila Bila means ”˜anytime’ or ”˜whenever’ in Malay, denoting the availability of all day & all night dining for the guests of Golden Palm Tree. Situated right by the Infinity Pool, Bila Bila serves international & local fare, even poolside food & snacks. Catering to the tastebuds of the East & West, Golden Palm Tree receives a majority of guests from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong & Caucasians from western countries who loved hanging out by the pool. I only want to be in it. ?

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Infinity Pool

In the two nights that I spent here, I had imagined what it would be like for couples wanting a quiet & romantic getaway. Though we didn’t get to experience the rest of the other F&B outlets, I thought the ambience throughout the resort at night was awesome but the resort management ought to do something about mood-control in the day time. If I were to spend the kind of money to lavish on a romantic getaway, the last thing I want to experience is a noisy crowd who doesn’t know how to respect the peace & tranquil of place. Perhaps the management could come out with a notice to guests on proper behaviour & decibel levels upon check-in so that they would read & sign to commit to respect the peace & privacy of other guests wishing to laze by the pool or anywhere else. I was having my moment in the pool at the edge that drops off to a ledge by the sea & was jolted by the shouts of other foreign guests while they laughed out loud posing for their snapshots. While this may be acceptable for guest of other hotels by any other standards, it wasn’t by mine & neither should it be for Golden Palm Tree if it is to be pitched as a reputable, luxurious resort. I shudder to think if this behaviour would be tolerated in the ultra romantic settings of Perahu. Preferably, a separate pool be built for those wishing to have a quieter setting, leaving the infinity pool by the Buloh Bar to those who want to freak out into some fancies in the sun.

Guest services were prompt & though my only contact with the resort staff was kept to having my luggage delivered & picked up as well as asking for directions to the Smiley Beach, I was pleased with the level of services rendered.

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Night scene at trunk of Golden Palm Tree with buggy zipping by, captured by a slow shutter speed.

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One of the palm branching out to sea!

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Evening by the infinity pool.

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Sunset just outside the verandah of my bedroom!

If you are thinking of taking your loved one for a short romantic getaway, Golden Palm Tree might just be what you need. Prepare to wine & dine in the sunset or take any of the tours provided by the resort. This resort is all about living it up & living it well.

As I prepare to write about the culinary efforts & the activities I had experienced in my following blogpost, please cast your vote for me HERE!

Read about my 2nd day’s activities here!

Day 1 – Setting The Mood for My Selangor Story 2011 Tour

The anticipation didn’t wear off on the day of the launch. It magnified the moment I managed to shut my luggage. Packing for a ”˜blind trip’ was a mixture of anxiety & angst with a dash of ingenuity generated by the fear of not being equipped for the journey. What the 5 days beheld, we weren’t told but bringing a pair of sneakers was compulsory. So I brought everything. Setting my GPS for Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort, I arrived at the hotel at 3:30pm.

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Map of Holiday Inn Glenmarie from my Garmin Roadtrip.

All thanks to our generous sponsors, the press conference to kick off the event was held at The Mix restaurant & bar, within the property of Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort. The chefs were on hand to ensure the layout of the trays of canapés would look as appetising as they were. The beautiful Marketing Communications Manager, Sagina Manandhar, greeted us with all smiles & welcome, making me feel that my holiday has just started from that point on! It’s amazing how the hospitality of one person can set the mood for the rest of one’s stay but we were not to stay there yet.

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Raw Salmon with Caviar Canapés & Turkey with Tomato & Diced Mango Canapés!

The General Manager, Mr. Anil Pathak, arrived to usher in & welcome YB Elizabeth Wong, the EXCO for Tourism, Environment & Consumer Affairs for Selangor. An introduction speech was made by Amelia Tan, the Organiser of My Selangor Story 2011 from Horizon Communications, who was the brainchild behind the event since the first inception in 2010. She called on Dian Azura, who was last year’s grand prize winner, to give her take on what My Selangor Story had been for her. Immediately after winning the title, she was offered the position of a Social Media Specialist for Tourism Selangor, a 1-year contract in which she tweets & updates the organisation’s Facebook page with her resourcefulness in bringing events come to life. Her engagement with social media had proven to be successful by the number of followers Tourism Selangor had acquired. In a span of a few short months, the number had grown to 3,177 to date, inspired a lot more people to explore & experience Selangor no matter what time of year it is! She detailed how one’s passion for travel should not be quenched & that everyone should follow their dream & attain to get somewhere, wherever that may be. She reiterated that winning last year’s contest was just the start of her adventure.

And aptly so, when YB Elizabeth Wong took to the rostrum, she echoed the same sentiments telling us how she used to blog ever so often before taking office as an EXCO. Being extremely pleased to see a great number of our neighbours from Indonesia & Singapore flown in specially for this occasion with VIP treatment by Firefly, she extended a warm welcome to them & told them to make use of the 5 days to experience as much as they could. How I wished Firefly could fly me from the Sg Besi old airport to Subang Skypark just so that I can experience the VIP service from them! It’s always a pleasure to fly a different class! Setting the event for the 2nd year running, she thanked Amelia for her team’s monumental effort in bringing people together, Tourism Selangor, our tourism board, for extending logistic support & all the sponsors who had graciously given to the event.

The Golden Palm Tree Resort & Spa located in Sepang Gold Goast, Bagan Lalang, is our official resort & spa whilst Resorts World Genting is our official resort. Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort is our official hotel & The Mix is our official restaurant. Pentax is our prizes sponsor apart from being the official camera for the duration of the tour as they would be supplying us each with a camera to shoot with. The official airline is of course, Firefly, who will fly everyone home when the tour is over. We wouldn’t be complete without phone & data coverage kindly sponsored by The Cube, who provided us with pre-registered SIM cards.

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The officials, organisers & sponsors of the event.

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Travel bloggers roaring to go!

Soon after the YB Elizabeth launched the event, we had to board the coach for the journey to our first resort destination to begin our tour! What did I do in a 5 star resort? Find out in my next instalment, still on Day 1 – My Selangor Story 2011…..

 

Next,  see how I lived it up at Golden Palm Tree Resort!

And please remember to vote for me HERE! <— THANK YOU!

Our sponsors:-

Organiser Official Tourism Board Official Airline

Official Hotel Official Resort & Spa Official Resort

I'm on The Cube, are you? Official RestaurantOfficial Camera

Samsung’s Galaxy of Boundless Possibilities

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Samsung has outdone its opponent this time, in a largely worthier, slimmer & sexier Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread contender, the Samsung Galaxy S II. If you think the way people clamour for Adam’s phone & acquiring it is a cult, I will show you THE religion. After this review, you will never look at another phone the same way again. Mobile phones have revolutionised the way people communicate & connect with the world by incorporating electronic standards & infusing information technology over-the-air, something Android was made to thrive on. Samsung has taken this platform & further inspired it with an unprecedented technology of Super AMOLED(Super Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) Plus screen in the Galaxy S II, resulting in a brighter, more vibrant-rich screen that has a lower power consumption compared to its predecessor, AMOLED screen.

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The technical specifications to many people, are just that, technical. For anyone to understand what these specifications do, I will give you a personal insight to what it did, what it will do for me & what you can do with this ultra-slim beauty. The deciding factor of a powerful phone for me, has to lie in its processor speed, OS (operating system), camera/video, GPS (global positioning system), internet connectivity, wifi, storage & RAM (Random Access Memory). If you are a traveller, photographer, blogger, journalist, reporter, naturalist, scientist, environmentalist or fashionista, pay special attention here because I will describe the usage that would greatly benefit your profession! Even if you don’t fall into any of the aforementioned categories, after going through this review, hopefully you will be inspired to get the Galaxy S II & start a blog right away!

Samsung has a Social Hub app that aggregates your social network updates in one. It integrates your e-mail, text messages, calendars, and social networking feeds into a steady stream of communication. This means, my LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace (I don’t use this though), Microsoft Exchange Server, Windows Live Messenger, GTalk, Yahoo, Hotmail & Gmail can now be fed to a single hub. On top of Android’s native Market for applications download, Samsung also has its own SamsungApps featuring some pretty cool applications such as access to full English dictionaries for FREE.

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Screenshots of the Samsung Apps.

The TouchWiz UI (user interface) puts forward your most-accessed apps & content in 7 customisable pages of widgets & apps.

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Screenshots of TouchWiz UI customised with my choice of Milky Way wallpaper.

Coveting Speedy Gonzales.
After Samsung provided a unit for me to review, I realise how other phones I have used suffer significant lag in comparison. With a dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, applications fly! There’s almost no lag in the launching of apps & what’s noticeable is the constant speed no matter how much you multi-task. Thanks to the 1Gb RAM where most of the apps’ resources sit while apps run in the foreground. Imagine not too long ago, laptops launched with 1Gb RAM as a standard spec! I could be running 10 apps concurrently, switching between them & still, suffer no lag. This is great! Believe me when I tell you it’s fast. I have owned 7 laptops & 14 mobile phones in the last 12 years, 5 of these phones were pda/smartphones. Mobile phones have definitely caught up with technology & Samsung is on the cutting edge.

Contact Management
People need a phone to stay in constant touch with what goes on around them. It’s no longer just a communication tool, it’s almost a mini computer at your fingertips. Your contacts are your most precious resource & heaven forbid, if you ever lose your phone, you can still retrieve your contacts if you have it in cloud storage. (Cloud storage is online storage using third party servers). If you have a large number of contacts, it would be a nightmare to restore. I synchronised (synced) my contacts with Google in Gmail & with the connectivity in Android OS, when I signed into Google with the Samsung Galaxy S II all my 5,000+ contacts were transferred/restored to the phone within 20minutes via the telco’s 3G network. At the touch of a button, you can also delete/wipe out all data on your phone if it ever gets stolen (heaven forbid, again)! Brilliant feature as I wouldn’t want anyone gaining access to my personal contacts built over the years!

Photo/Data Management for Bloggers/Photobugs/Journalists/Anybody
Take a snapshot with the 8 megapixel built-in camera (and LED flash) & never lose a precious moment ever. With 16Gb of internal storage space & a further add-on should you wish to utilise the Micro SD card slot, space will never be an issue again. You may want to upload it into your Dropbox for easy accessibility across the platforms of devices & computers if you own more than one. (If you have a desktop, a laptop & a Netbook, it would be good to sync your calendar, email & contacts with Google so that every one of your devices gets updated automatically.) You may also use Kies Air app to sync your Galaxy S II with your computer over wifi by enabling both devices to pair-up using the IP address.

There’s an option to share your snapshot via social media network or upload it into your photo album in Picasa or Flickr depending upon the apps you already have onboard. The options pop-up the moment you select ”˜Share via.’ A pretty neat option if you constantly share your mealtime pictures with your salivating friends on the other side of the network. I do it all the time. How can anyone not record the cleverly, concocted culinary art? Even if just a sprig of parsley or a dash of fried minced garlic is added to the food. Have I mentioned how fast the Galaxy S II is???

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Screenshot of Gallery & sharing options.

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Food pictures taken with the Galaxy S II & uploaded to Twitter/FB/Gowalla/Foursquare.

With the available filters & various options, you can take a self-portrait or cartoonify your subjects as what I’ve done here:-

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My entourage & I have been cartoonified by the Samsung Galaxy S II!

Practical Uses of Camera – Documenting Statements
Since the introduction of thermal imaging in points-of-sale machines, receipts have been fading faster than the technology itself. By the time you want to tally your credit card receipts with your monthly statement, it’s almost illegible & worse if you have to submit an official claim to get a reimbursement. Fret not, the camera records & the OS enables you to make use of the apps to store a PERMANENT COPY that helps you retain the much needed information for use later. I use Dropbox. The phone doubles up as a scanner, taking shots of documents & whatever else that you need minus the bulk or fear of losing the information. Plus, it stops the forests from being cut down by eliminating the use of paper.

Snap copies of your certificates so that they are easily accessible when you meet headhunters who can pair you with the right employers.

I keep a snapshot of my passport, ID, driver’s license, all my cards, insurance info & whatever else I need online, a copy in my email & another in my Dropbox, to verify my identity should I lose my travel documents when I’m travelling (heaven forbid, NO!). Now with the Samsung Galaxy S II’s insurmountable storage for critical documents like these, it has become a standard in book-keeping. Again, the speed in which you access them in a slim package is just amazing. If you turn on the GPS, you would even have geotagged your pictures with latitude & longitude! Perfect for you to find where you have taken those shots if you have forgotten where you have taken them at. Did I tell you that I love the 1.2Ghz dual core engine???

Broadcast & Watch Videos Live for Journalists/Aspiring Film-makers/Spielberg Wannabes
Apart from the superb picture-taking ability, the Galaxy S II also records HD (high definition) videos in 1080p at 30fps (frames per second). Which means, all you need to do is plugin to a HDTV with a HDMI cable, and you’d be able to enjoy high definition documentaries you have taken (or taken from elsewhere)! If you find yourself in the thick of things & want to whip out your phone to quickly record incidents to broadcast live on the internet, the Galaxy S II is the perfect tool for you. Accessing the UStream app (downloaded from Market) is swift but the only limitation is the connection speed of the 3G network you subscribe to. Once you hit ”˜Go Live,’ your video will be tweeted over Twitter & your followers (and literally, the world) will be watching with you! Perfect for demonstrators (and live demonstrations!) who want to show how-tos for product launches or for naturalists to stalk nature aka NatGeo-style! (I’m absolutely speaking from experience, such as times when I wait for my lifer (rare bird) on the field. If the Galaxy S II could dive, even better. I’m hoping technology would advance to the point where an underwater housing would be made available & 3G network can penetrate through the ocean, I’d be offering myself to test it!) Meanwhile, if you are an armchair naturalist like me when I’m not doing anything NatGeo, you can watch live videos of Stork or Macaw nestings on UStream…..The S-AMOLED Plus screen makes the subjects in the movie pop-up with clarity & vibrance!

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Screenshots of UStream app & list of live streams.

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Screenshot of live video of stork nests!

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Screenshot of live video of Macaw nest!

Making Your Own Videos – Videomaker App
The native app called Videomaker enables you to assemble media into a movie which you can upload & share with your friends. Here, I selected several pictures of my new camera bag & a pre-recorded video earlier to make THIS video:-


The video sequence ended very abruptly & it would have taken longer for me to edit it on the computer which defeats my purpose of showing you what can be done with the phone. The engines so fast, you can create movies & showcase them immediately once you share on YouTube. This file is only less than 3mb.

You can take videos of virtually anything, your pet or anyone doing something funny (not BLUE), and play it back to wow your friends with the HD resolution. Amongst other things, relive memories as you laugh at recorded moments. Another feature of the Galaxy S II allows you to have video conferencing with the 2 megapixel front-facing camera. If you are not into videos, the camera mode has a setting in which you can indulge in narcissism & constitute evidence of it.

FM Radio
You can listen to your favourite station using the Galaxy S II as it streams radio over the radio waves using RDS (radia data system) & the headphones plugged into the 3.5mm jack acts as an antenna so that you would not miss your favourite programs again while at work.

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Screenshot of FM Radio app.

Whatsapp
With an unlimited internet connection over my 3G network, I am able to connect with other Android users as well as iPhone, BlackBerry & Symbian OS (Nokia) users in my contact list using Whatsapp, an instant messenger that aggregates your contacts’ phone numbers rather than requesting for PINs, email addresses & such. Instant text messaging is FREE over the wifi/3G network where previously we had to rely on SMS which is chargeable on each send. Using Whatsapp on the Galaxy S II can reduce significant spending on staying in touch!

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Blogging
I don’t want to tell the world what I’m doing all the time but had this phone been available at the time when I was involved in a major rescue operation, it would have saved me from great pains of collating info from 4 different gadgets, namely my Netbook, USB modem, camera & GPS. I had to keep all the supporters updated with the progress of saving 400+ dogs dumped on Pulau Selat Kering, a (mis)deed committed by the Pulau Ketam residents & Klang Municipal Council, putting Malaysia into the spotlight for the wrong reasons again. If you ever get into this kind of situation requiring you to blog on-the-fly, pinpoint your location, snap pictures to report a situation & connect to the internet at the same time, then the Samsung Galaxy S II has everything that can do it all for you:-

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I use WordPress & here’s the app downloaded from Market with the login page.

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Once you set perimeters & include pictures that you have taken for your report/blogpost, you are ready to publish straightaway.

Using GPS to Pinpoint Your Location, GIve Directions & Rescue Somebody, If Not Be Rescued Yourself
The GPS is one gadget that I use a lot given that I’m always out at sea & navigating through the country to get here & there for diving & getting to remote dive sites. A good GPS locks onto satellites fast, giving you the edge to assist in a rescue as time & accuracy to obtain coordinates & navigating to the incident, can increase the success rate of a rescue. The Samsung Galaxy S II uses the SiRFstarIV chip to power the GPS & uses only five percent as much power as its competitive set, thus increases sensitivity & accuracy & won’t drain your battery as fast as its predecessor.

Give Directions & Get Rescued – This is quick & simple way once you get to know the steps. Using the native Maps by Google, you can find any place by keying in the road name, building, landmark or place of interest & select ”˜Get Directions’ to get a preset route’s precise directions to your destination. If you are lost, you can zoom in on your location to send the coordinates to your friend to let them come to you (provided they are equipped with a GPS/phone too)

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Screenshots of directions given in Maps & the map of the direction.

Use Places app (if Non Life-Threatening) – If you travel like me, you would probably be searching for points of interest near where you are. You might also want to search for eateries or places to eat (recommendations) on top of adding your own opinions. Perfect to kill time in a foreign place by checking out local museums, cottage industries & the local keropok-maker or basket-weaver. The Galaxy S II’s GPS enables me to venture into towns & beyond to get more out of my travels than a regular travel guide can give me.

Rescue Somebody – In September 2010, a boat capsized off Tenggol Island, causing 16 people to drift in the treacherous sea for more than 18 hours. While effecting the rescue from the ground, I alerted the Maritime Coastguard & coordinated with relevant authorities to eventually send helicopters & a ship to the scene. Rescue carried on till next morning when all 16 were found alive. What could have been useful was that if any of the passengers had their phones in a waterproof clear-bag, they could’ve sent a signal to triangulate their position using communication towers for the rescuers to find them. Having a GPS chip in the phone & not just A-GPS, you can navigate while in offline mode independent of network coverage to log your location & send via SMS once there is coverage. My account of the rescue operation can be found here. In short, you could be using your phone to save somebody (or 16 people) if you could navigate to them (or send others) to render assistance in time. All coordination was done in our various positions in KL, Dungun, Tenggol, Tioman & Terengganu via the mobile phone so it pays to have a GPS phone that works when you need it to! (More on the GPS in other postings.)

Using Location-Based-Services – Gowalla & Foursquare – Don’t look down or disdainfully at these apps no matter how annoyed you get seeing your social media networks’ timeline filled with everyone’s check-ins. These services can be a boon to business if you subscribe to it, as the application can send out notification of offers, discounts, specials to anyone who is in close proximity to your business premises. The more people there are in the vicinity, the more people your business gets to reach. One such place was an outlet in Perth which offered a free glass of wine on first visit which prompted me to check them out. Not only did I get my free glass of fine wine, I spent AU$20 on cakes & cheeses to go with it! Clever marketing! I would have preferred to have walked in showing the swanky Galaxy S II in my stride but a month in Australia with numerous check-ins almost left me broke. Almost. I make exceptions for gadgets & bags. 😀

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Screenshots of Foursquare’s trendy places & profile page of Gowalla.

Disaster/Earthquake Notifications
Having a phone that can verify sources of disaster quickly, is very handy & there are apps in Market that would give you quickest access to it. Again, the speed of access to applications is crucial when we want to verify breaking news like today’s (14 June 2011) earthquake in Sumatra that reverberated the region. Both Disaster Alert & Earthquake Alert are apps that you can download free from Market.

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Screenshot of location & details of the earthquake given real-time in a combination of images.

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The possibilities are endless with a souped-up smartphone, there is absolutely no other reason to not stay in touch. The 1650mAH battery powered the phone for more than 12hours of usage, including making 3 calls, replying messages, accessing apps & downloading them. Absolutely impressive. I left out the technical bits to the technically-inclined & picked-out the bits that would work for people like you & me to illustrate what Samsung can do for you. I can tell you how slim, how beautiful, how sleek the phone is but the power of the phone is realised when you see productivity go up by leaps & bounds (you get your tasks completed faster & fuss-free).

While waiting for the launch on the 22 June 2011, I will go back to stalking nature in my free time, aspiring to be Jane Cousteau when I’m ocean-bound & pitch my next story to Asian Diver & National Geographic Traveler magazine to detail my adventure to you. Any which way, the moment I laid hands on the Galaxy S II, I was pretty much sold.

Ahem….by the way, it just so happens that Samsung supplies a lot of components to the maker of Adam’s phones & it takes no rocket science to see Samsung’s winning edge in the Galaxy S II.