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iPhone 5 Launching in Malaysia!

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The grapevine is finally bearing fruit. i-Aficionados would be elated to know that they would be getting their hands on the much awaited iPhone 5 with just RM200 deposit to pre-order a unit & get invited to the launch to be one of the firsts in Malaysia to own it! Running on the latest iOS 6 and A6 chip, you can experience performance and graphics up to twice as fast. With improved battery life, the wide 4” Retina display is set to fix your gaze on colours you never knew existed and with an 8MP camera in your pocket/handbag/man-bag/fuzzy-cosy, you will never miss any action in any situation again! Your own personal mobile assistant, SIRI would probably tell you to interact as much as you can with the 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of storage space for your content, so you can leave the good trusty laptop at home.

Only with Celcom, the largest mobile network coverage in Malaysia, would you get an enhanced full experience of the coveted iPhone 5. Time is of essence so head on over to BlueCube to secure yourself a unit now!

Istanbul Aku Datang!

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Attending the gala premiere of the movie Istanbul Aku Datang on the night of the 24 October under the invitation of Tourism Turkey, I truly enjoyed the performance of our homegrown actors, Harris (Beto Kusyairy), Dian (Lisa Surihani) & Azad (Tomok). The entire movie was shot in Istanbul, Turkey, a place that I will be visiting next year. The stars were mingling about while I said my hellos to my host, Ali Gulen & the people from the embassy. What thrilled me in the movie was how this idealistic blogger, Dian, who makes her journey to Istanbul a trigger to all her emotions, in a plan to get her boyfriend to propose marriage. She was confronted with the harsh realities of travel (and life) when she had to struggle with her many bags, (something that I too, have to manage), her hope for her love, her fear of cats and the unexpected circumstances that came her way. Thinking she had it all planned, she enrolled in a language course to stick around for 3 months, a period that was to encompass the fairy tale proposal.

On her second day, she was reminded to get a place of her own as her boyfriend, Azad, didn’t want her to be seen living with 3 blokes. Each night, she would blog & plot her moves with her readers giving her sound advice as she signs off with XOXO, D & publishes the blog. Her house-hunting became another nightmare. She ended up in an apartment without knowing it was already tenanted. The conflict starts when the rightful tenant, Harris, whom she antagonistically calls Awak (You) & her intrude into one another’s private space, especially while in the bathroom. Director Bernard Chauly, cleverly depicted the surprise reaction, when Harris stood in front of the water closet, he jumped & ”˜misfired’ the entire bathroom. There were other hilarious moments that had me in a fit. I was glad to note that I wasn’t the only one laughing so hard. There was a ”˜Maggi moment,’ which I could identify with, causing a stir to know how close to home we are when we have such familiarities. Harris starts out as an unrelenting, rightfully assertive, gay housemate…..until he received his Maggi Assam Laksa replacement in a box with an apology. His role as Harris is the man any woman would want while Azad’s act showed the unpleasantness of a man-in-want. Dian’s portrayal will ring true for any girl who has gone to the other side of the world to look for love. I will not give the plot away because watching this movie will stir you into a fury of emotions as their characters unfold. I can’t wait to get my DVD copy to get stirred up again. The movie has English sub-titles & when they converse in English, sub-titles would be in Malay.

        
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Tomok when singing on stage at the launch.

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Beto being interviewed.

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The actors & the host in a lighthearted moment before the movie which will debut on 8 November 2012 in local cinemas.

Set in Istanbul, you should plan your holidays to Turkey after watching this movie because if the romanticism doesn’t make you want to go, the beautiful architecture would.

Butter Coffee & Drunken Noodles in Banting

Banting is a town near Port Klang that bridges coastal areas like Morib & Tanjung Sepat. On our way to Tanjung Sepat, one stopover that you should not miss is the Banting Butter Brew coffee & Rice Wine Mee Sua, situated side by side at a row of government-owned shoplot. The coffee brew has a legacy of 60 years, left behind by the keeper’s father of Hainanese descent. The specialty black coffee is brewed & then a dollop of butter is added to give it a creamy taste. They serve the usual fare of toast with kaya (coconut & egg jam) & butter & half boiled eggs throughout the day.

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Beside this shop is Wo Jia Restaurant & I ordered their special Rice Wine Mee Sua, vermicelli noodles in rice wine soup served with an egg poached inside. It was absolutely divine as the wine in the hot soup brought out the flavour of the vermicelli & egg. My friend ordered a Pumpkin Pan Mee, hand-pinched noodle with pumpkin in soup.

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This row of shoplot is located near the bus stop & parallel to a huge monsoon drain. Perhaps the authorities should look into beautifying the area that hosts delectable street food along this entire row of shops. The outdoor seating beneath the big trees is quite a pleasant experience. We forget that when we live in & around concrete jungles. I got the shopkeeper to relate his thoughts to my friend who could speak Mandarin so if you speak the language too, do watch the video!!!
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Banting Butter Brew is in a shoplot called Sin Guan Huat & right beside it is Wo Jia Restaurant. My entire meal for two only costs less than RM15.00. Unbelievable but true. You have got to try it yourself to see what value you are getting. You can find them on Foursquare or at the coordinates here:- N2.810275, E101.502419. Make this your definite stopover as the trade of his butter brew is dying since his son has indicated no interest in continuing his business. The very few heritage trades of Hainanese left in Selangor”¦”¦

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Exotic Combination For Ramadhan Celebration 2012

It’s fasting month! What a way to enjoy your food after a day of reflection! Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie is offering patrons an array of delectable international cuisines ranging from Mughal to Chinese-Muslim, from Arabian to authentic Malaysian. For the entire month of Ramadhan commencing 18th July to 18 August 2012, over 150 local and international dishes featured at the hotel’s Kites Restaurant will whet your appetite for the breaking of fast.

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A group of guest chefs from across the globe has been flown in for their wealth of experience in their specialty. Chef Ebrahim Mohd brings 25 years of experience in Arabic delicacies all the way from Damascus, Syria. He will whip up Middle Eastern foo, which is a complex and spice driven cuisine, using black pepper, garlic, cinnamon, clove, cumin and coriander to create a delightful mix of meat based dishes, with lamb and mutton being the most popular. He’s preparing a selection of his specialty grilled meats, kebabs, and koftas throughout the celebration along with another Middle Eastern favourite, Hummus, a dip or spread eaten with pita bread made from cooked and mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic which origins date back to ancient Egypt.

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Chef Ebrahim

Our Indian guest chef is Santosh Chaniyal who hails from Nainitaal, India and specialises in Mughlai cooking, a cuisine with a rich history dating back to the 16th century kitchens of the Mughal Emperors who occupied Northern India. Influenced by a mixture of Indian, Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine, Mughlai cuisine uses ingredients like exotic aromatic spices, nuts, raisins, cream, yoghurt and milk to create rich and spicy dishes with a unique aroma. With a considerable influence from Muslim cooking, this cuisine is absolutely not to be missed. It’s almost like bringing India to Malaysia & is my personal favourite.

Chef Santosh will be bringing a collection of his favourite recipes to town for our special guests to enjoy; for a special and unique taste, try the Kashmiri Rogan Josh made with goat or lamb meat cooked with intensely fragrant spices that deliver a mild and rewarding curry. Another dish that should not be missed is the Chicken Biryani. This dish is particularly known for its many layers of flavours and is cooked over a longer period of time to allow the flavours to blend together. The spices used in making the dish are typically not used in everyday cooking, making it a very special dish for guests of Kites Restaurant to sample. Another must try item will be the Jhinga Til Tinka; King prawns marinated with fresh aromatic spices, dipped in a butter made from eggs, green chillies, ginger, garlic & cardamom and cooked with breadcrumbs and sesame seeds. Dum Ka Murgh is another special and popular dish, generally eaten with roti or paratha that uses yoghurt and exotic spices to create a rich and complex meal.

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Chef Santosh

Vegetarians will love to try Quasar-E-Pukhtan, otherwise known as Shahi Paneer. With the name embodying royalty, this dish is fit for kings and is made with the richest of ingredients available. One should not miss out on other vegetarian dishes such as Tarkari Tawa Masala, Dal Bukhar, Dal Dhabe Wali. Other items on the Mughlai menu are Biryani (Gosht ,Murgh , Jhinga), Qurma-E-Firdaus (Hyderabadi Muttom qurma), Khade Masale Ka Gosht, Mahi Sarsom Wali, Tawa-E-Jalpari, and Avadhi Gulnar pari.

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One of the other delights that one can expect at the Ramadhan feast is brought to you by Chef Charles Huang from Zhengzhou, China. His special talent, to prepare hand pulled noodle is a complex craft that produces a wonderful spectacle, and just as importantly, incredible noodles. Made from plain dough that requires incredible dexterity to transform them into beautiful noodles, they are fascinating to watch being created by our food artist Chef Charles Huang as he works feverishly to twist the dough then stretches them delicately by waving the arms and body. Next, the dough is untwisted, looped to double the strands, and then repeated. When stretching, these highly skilled chefs coordinate waving their torso and arms to increase the potential length of the noodle beyond that of the puller’s arm span.

Chef Huang is bringing other Chinese Muslim cuisine delicacies such as mutton noodles, mushroom and chicken noodles, homemade mutton soup, steamed buns and pan-fried egg dumplings during the Puasa month.

Apart from the specialties on offer from our three special guest chefs, Kites restaurant will be maintaining the many popular dishes that were so well received last year. Some of the popular dishes making a comeback this year will be Gearbox Soup – braised beef knee together with a traditional mix of spices, served with condiments such as fried shallots and fresh lime. When mentioning the hot and popular dishes from last year we must mention the Kambing Mamak, a spicy and fragrant lamb curry. This special (and secret!) recipe is one that you won’t get any other day as Executive Chef, Francis Lau has kept this dish only for the Ramadhan celebration.
If you have any room left, why not try our resident Malay Cuisine expert Chef Haniff’s signature dish ”“ Udang Galah Masak Kalio, king prawns cooked in coconut milk with chili padi (chili), lemon grass and turmeric leaves.

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Chef Haniff

Other Specialty Dishes:

Gulai Ikan Sembilang Tempoyak
Catfish braised with fermented durian paste which is then cooked using turmeric leaves and other spices. The specialty of the states of Pahang and Perak.

Tulang Rawan Masak Lemak Cili Api
Short rib braised with turmeric leaves chili and coconut milk

Other items include Mutton Varuve, Udang Galah Masak Kalio, Pucuk Paku Masak Lemak, Kum Heong Fried Squid, Daging Rendang, Kambing Kurma, Ayam Percik Sri Menanti, Minced Chicken Patties with Scallops Sambal, along with authentic Malay desserts to complete your dining experience.

This year our remarkable buffet will be extended to the poolside and Gazebo, adjacent to Kites Restaurant which will be decorated into a setting of a conventional Ramadhan feast combined with a contemporary backdrop. At Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie you can break your fast under the evening sky, decorated with black canopies and a myriad of food stalls. There will be areas designated for the Mughlai, the Arabic and the Chinese-Muslim cuisines alongside the lavish Malay buffet inside the Kites Restaurant.

The buffet dinner at Kites is priced at RM 94++ for adults while for children and senior citizens it is priced at RM 55++. There is a special price from 18th ”“ 24th July where the buffet dinner is priced at RM 84++ for adults and RM 45++ for children and senior citizens.

The hotel also accepts group or company bookings for ”˜Buka Puasa’. Surau facilities with an ”˜Imam’ for ”˜Sembahyang’ are available at the hotel.

Book early before 10 July for substantial discounts – terms and conditions apply.
For booking and reservations please call +603- 7802 524 (9am ”“ 5pm) and +603- 7802 5200 (after 5 pm) or email them at ramadhan@holidayinnkl.com.my

Samsung Galaxy S3 for the Movers & Shakers

Samsung has outdone itself again by introducing the next in line to the flagship of Galaxy ”˜super phones’ after the incredible success of Galaxy S2 & the magnificent Galaxy Note, both having their own class of cult following. Getting my hands on this sleek & slim beauty during the launch at One World Hotel, the Galaxy S3 comes moulded with super smooth Corning Gorilla Glass, that sticking a screen protector would not do justice to it. The seamless screen seems to blend into the frame of the phone. Noticeably, the Super AMOLED 4.8” screen gives an eye-catching real estate with the 16 million colours that it emanates.  It causes the icons to virtually pop out. Dazzling & life-like photo display.

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Who are the movers & shakers of the world, you think? Mothers, photojournalists, bloggers, movie-makers, scientists, captains of merchant ships, CEOs of banks & think tanks, ministry officials, rulers & leaders, of course! Not to mention those engineers who service aeroplanes & pilots who fly them. And professional builders & architects responsible for drawing up the city & beautifying landscapes! Yes, you are whom I’m writing for today & I hope it would assist your field as much as the phone has assisted mine.

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The moment I powered up the phone, the Android intelligence prompted me to key in my Google credentials & before long, all the apps that I have ever owned in my current devices came flooding in without me having to fuss over the reinstallation of apps that I’m so used to on my current Android devices. The 1.4 GHz quad-core Cortex-A9 processor excelled the operation of any app including the most important function for me, which is the Camera. Virtually no shutter lag. Great for mothers wanting to snapshot fidgety kids at their most active moments or travellers who want to take mementoes of street performers on their tours without worrying if the camera’s settings are appropriate or designers wanting a snapshot of their work for reference to share with friends on Google+ & Facebook. The possibilities with the inbuilt camera are endless. You can be as trigger-happy as you want. With the industry’s standard of 1GB of RAM, the S3 runs on Ice Cream Sandwich version 4.0.3.

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With the inception of S-Voice, you can use natural language commands and dictation to instruct the phone to wake up, effect a sentence & direct it to purpose a call or start an app or send a message to any one of your social media networking apps such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn & so on. First, you have to train the app to recognise your voice & your diction. You can choose to start S-Voice with ”˜Hi Galaxy’ or any other phrase you think is appropriate.  Use it to start any app or Google Navigation (when you are outside of Malaysia) by saying, ”˜Navigate to – <your destination>’ and a notice would pop up to turn GPS fix on followed by another saying that Google Navigation is not available in your country. Upon selecting ”˜start Google Maps,’ you will be presented with a list of plausible locations that match your chosen destination. Selecting on one will prompt it to give visual & written turn by turn directions from where you are to the place of your choice. Apart from this, there’s a very good reason for you to get to know this feature well & perfect it for self-protection. With the increase of crime towards women, rampant abduction & robbery, it would be good for you to command the phone to call an emergency number for help in the event you get into such situations. Program the phrase to something less likely to be suspicious, like ”˜I’m hungry’ in replacement of ”˜Hi Galaxy’ & ”˜Call for what?’ to dial an emergency number of a friend. If you ever get tied up & phone is in your pocket or handbag, this would be the situation to use it. What is technology for? This is truly a smartphone! Get one for yourself, your wife/girlfriend, your sister & your teenage daughter. You can send the women to me for classes on how to use the phone later.

Exploring further, the S-Suggest app does what is says, suggests apps for any kind of task. Here are the screenshots of suggestions given. I liked it for the Angry Birds Space that it suggested. How smart. It knows I’m a fan.

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It took me awhile before I found out how to do a screenshot on the S3. By clenching your hand into a fist, use the base of the fist to run it along the screen to capture the screen, doing away with the previous method of pressing the power button & home button simultaneously on the S2. Taking videos & photos can be stored onto an external card in the MicroSD slot, memory can be expanded to 64Gb. Again, having a super fast processor cause everything to run with ease. Watching a HD movie is a breeze! You can even multitask to check your web browser or answer an incoming SMS without having to leave the movie! It supports playback for these formats:- MP4, DivX, XviD, WMV, H.264 & H.263. Playing music goes without saying. Standard fare for MP3, WAV, eAAC+, AC3 & FLAC for as long as you have enough juice to power your journey.

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The virtual keyboard though small, is very responsive once you touch & type. The intelligent typing auto-corrects your spelling mistakes & lets you select the right word. Always check though. You wouldn’t want to be caught typing something else that’s not intended while communicating with your client as I have done in the past. With the removable 2,100mAH battery, you can spares or get a powerbank to charge your phone after a heavy day’s usage. The battery life is quite standard, with my apps running in the background such as 4 email accounts, Plume for Twitter, My Data Manager, News Republic & Facebook, a day’s work include updates to these apps & reply of emails on top of what the phone is designed for, accumulating to about 14 hours of life. As battery ages & have shorter life span, consider getting one spare & one powerbank.

I downloaded My Story from Samsung Apps & had fun writing stuff to send to friends with pictures appended to the ”˜letter-like’ note. For those who are expressive, this app is for you.

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With Wifi Direct, you can transfer files wirelessly between devices with the same feature. I use it to beam pictures to my Asus Transformer 3G tablet or Macbook Pro for backup & if you have an On-The-Go USB cable, you can plug in a flash drive to transfer your files directly. Especially large video files. Here’s a sample that’s uploaded in high definition when I watched Alfred Ho in action. A blind singer, his immense talent in unparalleled & he’s available for engagement at dinners & corporate functions. You can reach him at +6016-6359800 & alfredho.music@gmail.com.

The downside is that it uses a micro SIM card which require you to cut your current SIM & keep an adapter handy should you wish to swap cards/phones. I’m skipping all technical jargon because it means very little to movers & shakers like yourselves as I prefer to bring your attention to what the phone is capable of. You can read through other bloggers’ reviews if you wish to get to know the technical bits of the Samsung Galaxy S3 a little bit more but I’d suggest you go to your favourite dealer & swipe that credit card of yours now to personalise what it can do for you. Happy gadgeting!

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Photo taken by Jaz Khai at the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S3 on 24 May 2012.

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

 

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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….

Day 2 – High Tide, Low Tide & My Ride – My Selangor Story 2011

Rising to a high tide is awesome! Apart from hearing the sound of water beneath my villa, it was also indicative of how much time we could spend in the water. The ripples generated by the wind was another visual clue that I ought to be in the water as soon as I can! Got ready in record time, slathered a layer of sunblock, put on my fun visor & I was ready to rock & roll. It would be a great day to be outdoors.

Right after we breakfast, the congregation of bloggers marched to the Smiley Beach for some fun in the sun & for me to launch the windsurf. Dragging the board out to waist deep water, I only managed to sail within the confines of the buoyed perimeters as it was rather choppy & I was out of practice for over a year. Nevertheless, it was very fun to fall into the water each time the sail did not want to cooperate with me & the wind! The other bloggers took on a more physical challenge by taking the sailboat or the kayak out. Rowing in tandem, they had a field day manoevring the kayak before aggregating for a game of beach volleyball. I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked to simply because I spent most of my time in the water or on the board but I kid you not. It was more times in the water than on the windsurf board. Such is life!

As we weren’t the only guests, many people turned up to hire bicycles for a ride about the village & it was quite chaotic to get onto some other activity within the place. Cycling was something that we eventually got to do in the afternoon. At 2pm. I was already thinking about bringing my collapsible umbrella out, to the horror of others who then suggested I should have an umbrella holder on the bike. Hahaha! If only that was possible for my mini collapsible brolly! I may love the sun, but I don’t like the effect that it brings so I try to stay covered up whenever I’m outside.

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Photo of Watersports Centre at Smiley Beach courtesy of Golden Palm Tree.

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At Smiley Beach

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Dwi Andi & Ridha on the board posing for the camera!

So we set off on a journey around the village roads to satisfy the adventurous in us, hoping to see wildlife but the only thing that went wild was us. The cycling leader told us to stay in a single file but almost everyone defied that because it was more fun to group up & terrorise other road users! I was expecting to see cows & chickens but the route we took was purportedly ”˜the beginner’s track,’ which lasted approximately half an hour. The squeaking of the bike as I cycled was such a funny noise to hear. Given so, having withstood the salty breeze & splashes, the bikes were fairly well maintained. I chose one with a front basket for me to place my bag & other gadgets in it. I kept hollering to Nigel who was in front of me to ask him if he can hear this funny squeak but he turned around & said, “Mine’s squeaking too!” @_@

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Bloggers cycling

It would have been more fun if we had a purpose or if there’s a specific object to acquire like food! I know of a ”˜keropok’ (crackers) shop in the village that sells great tasting crackers & what a boon it would be to the economy if all 24 of us went there & bought 3 packets each to have something to boast about when we get back. I was expecting to see some cottage industries or maybe even farming methods in the remote of Bagan Lalang but I had to keep up with the group who was going too fast for the tour. I wish I had brought my umbrella then, even if I were to get lost, I would be identifiable by looking ridiculous on the road. Surely there were streams which we could explore? Perhaps get down to look for shrimps & such. I’ve made up my mind to bring MY BICYCLE & a troupe of likeminded friends with theirs to come back & look for that cow, chicken & keropok.

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Returning to the watersports centre, we were greeted with ice-lollies & ice-cream, treated by Tourism Selangor! What a refreshing appetiser! Thank you, Tourism Selangor, for the little stuff that matters. We embarked straight away on the Low Tide Tour, an activity where you walk in the tidal flats to discover life within, very much like the exercises I do with my students at tidal zones too. So Rosie, our nature guide, gave us a run down on what we could expect to see. Going barefoot, we trotted to the mud flats where the sea was but had gone out with the tide, we found ourselves walking in to the underside of the resort! Rosie taught us how to find ”˜pephahat,’ (bamboo mussel), which are buried in the mud. Any attempt to take the animal out was forbidden as we were there to observe & conserve. A myriad of snails were seen actively crawling about & the army of Soldier Crabs were invading our territory. I was delighted to stalk them! What did they look like? Well, watch the video to find out!

I would have loved to do the other nature tours such as the Mangrove Tour but time was limited & we had prepare ourselves for dinner at the ballroom! More on food in my next blogpost!

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Please vote for me HERE! <= Just give me as many hearts as you think it’s worth once you get in!

And whats special about wining & dining in this resort??? Read all about it here.

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!

Visiting The Mah Meri Weavers & Woodcarvers of Carey Island

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Carey Island is the home of one of Malaysia’s many indigenous tribe (Orang Asli) called Mah-Meri in the state of Selangor. With a legacy of wood-carving & pandanus leave weaving skills, the Mah-Meri had been in their settlement in Kg. Sungai Bumbun since the beginning of time. Now the island has been taken over by oil-palm conglomerates & the place has been converted into a huge oil palm estate, with the exception of this settlement that is still untouched. Passing a golf club on the right, we came to a junction with an indicative signboard to enter the village.

I was really intrigued by their craft using the pandanus leaves that’s been dyed in colour & delicately handwoven to make beautiful purses, wallets, mats & baskets. I got to hear about them through Reita, who was manning the Gerai OA at the Museum during a showcase of indigenous people’s crafts. We set out in the morning of 23 July, in a convoy of two cars, Soon’s 4WD & my Pammobile. Making a quick pit stop for nasi lemak along the way, Carey Island is only a mere 48km from Kuala Lumpur.

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Arriving at the entry point junction of the settlement, it started to rain. There were tell-tale signs that this community is into animism. The woven decorative leaves that hangs from a tall, bamboo pole that droops at the roadside, marks the entrance to their place of residence. Shrines are built from all natural materials, offering atonement to their ancestors for divine protection. We soon got familiar when we asked whoever we could apprehend in the rain, to tell us how to get to the weavers & the carvers. And we got there just in time to hijack Samri, a Mah Meri woodcarver, who was on his way out to fish in the nearby river when the rain stopped.

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Samri’s shed & woodcarvings.

As he demonstrated the craft, he showed us his works & photo albums of the places he had been around the world to showcase this art form. He sometimes receives commissions to do statues & idols which he takes his time to finish. Samri told us the tales that were told to him by his forefathers about the mysticism of the knives that their ancestors used to defend themselves against monsters & dragons in the jungle. Presumably, they must’ve encountered territorial spirits. He elaborated with such drama, that I began filming him to record his account. It should be uploaded with links here in the next few days. He learnt the craft from his father, who learnt the craft from his forefathers. A skill handed down the generations, Samri work can be commissioned & can be contacted at +6013-2286045.

Going pass his hut to another similar thatched roofed hut, we found the weavers whom we had come for. The ladies were sitting on the raised platform with basketful of dyed pandanus leaves that were ready to weave.

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Colourful leaves for the weaving.

Asking permission to photograph them, we soon got into a lively conversation with them. SoonCM, then took the opportunity to address his curiosity:-

SoonCM: “Macamana dapat warna seperti ini ah?” (How do you get these colours? – pointed to the weaving)
Orang Asli Lady: “Belilah! Dari China! Apa warna pun ada!” (Buy lah! From China! Whatever colours are available!)

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Colourful unfinished woven basket.

Stunned, SoonCM was undeterred. He wanted to know how the leaves are dyed in the colours they are now. Not how the colours were obtained. Nevertheless, he continued the conversation while I laughed.

SoonCM: “Dari mana datangnya daun ini? Mana boleh dapat?” (Where do these leaves grow? Where can you find them?)

Orang Asli Lady: “Daun ini datang dari pokok Pandanus, terdapat di dalam hutan.” (These leaves are from the Pandanus tree from the jungle.)

SoonCM: “Oh, bila kamu akan masuk hutan lagi ah? Saya nak ikut boleh?” (Oh, when are you going into the jungle again? Can I come along?)

Orang Asli Lady: “Sini mana ada hutan? Gorf kors adalah. Semua ladang kelapa sawit. Mana ada hutan?” (Where got jungle here? Golf course got lah. Everything here is oil palm estate. Where got jungle?)

By which time, I was hysterical, trying not to shake to take my pictures. I was quite certain the lady thought we were genuine city slickers, yet I couldn’t stop SoonCM from having that conversation with them. Still adamant, he went on to enquire about festivals & celebrations.

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Orang Asli Mah Meri weaver lady.

SoonCM: “Di sini ada musim perayaan ah? Saya mau datang tangkap gambar lah.” (Are there any celebrations/festivals here? I want to take pictures.)

Orang Asli Lady: “Ada. Perayaan sembah moyang. Datanglah nanti. Ada makan minum.” (Got. Festival to honour our ancestors. Come then. Got food & drinks.)

SoonCM: “Bila ah? Bulan depan ah?” (When? Next month?)

Orang Asli Lady: “Tahun depan. Tahun ini sudah lepas.” (Next year. This year’s has passed.)

SoonCM: “Di sini bila orang mati, ada perayaan untuk mereka tak?” (Here, when people die, are there any celebrations for them?)

Orang Asli Lady: “Orang mati mana ada perayaan? Kalau sudah mati, mati lah. Mana ada perayaan lagi?” (Where got celebration for dead people? If they die, they die lah. Where got celebrations?)

SoonCM: “Oh, tapi saya dengar di suatu tempat bila orang mati ada perayaan punya….” (Oh, but I heard in some villages when a person dies, there’s a celebration.)

SoonCM: “Macamana kita nak tahu bila? Kamu ada nombor kontak ah?” (How do we get to know when? Do you have a contact number?)

Orang Asli Lady: “Ada. Kat Facebook.” (Got. On Facebook.)

By then, even the Orang Asli ladies were laughing their heads off, at the visibly stunned & blissfully ignorant city slickers like all of us who have had little or no interaction with the indigenous people in the country, much less with rituals for the dead. Surely in his conversation, he never meant to be offensive but instead of calling it upacara, (ceremony), he used perayaan (celebrations) instead. Being quite the sport as he is, he thanked the ladies for their time & entertainment & vowed to come back for those photos he came for.

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Nearly finished wallet woven by the Mah Meri ladies.

We explored the rest of the village & found many edible fruits from the mature trees. The sun was already high above our heads & the nearest eatery is about 10km away. One old pakcik (uncle) came out to ask us what we were doing & I replied that we are from the city coming here for some fresh air & pictures! He then told us the fruits are ripe & we can eat them if we wanted to…….and we did!

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One such tree was the blossoming Rose Apple tree, with juicy, succulent, sweet Rose Apples hanging like bells off them. Then my subject disappeared. “Soon! Where’s my subject?!?” “Errr….I ate them. I thought you’d finished taking pictures..???” *Face palm!* Then Aziz spotted the fruiting Rambutan tree, with a little hesitation, we discussed about how we could get our hands on those hairy fruit. SoonCM’s 4WD came in really handy & naturally, he got the honours of tending & feeding the troupe! Aziz snapped off some branches for him to jostle the bunches while Edmund scoured the area for other fruiting trees. I realised that only hunger can bring out the hoarding instincts in us as we began to ravish any kind of edible fruit found! And no, we didn’t touch Pakcik’s prized red pineapple. 🙂

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SoonCM, our hero!

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Compromising positions???

The village is filled with nature’s surprises & naturally, a photographers delight as we trailed all the way to the end of the road. We were even treated to Man-Faced Bugs mating!

And what was I shooting wrapped in a windscreen shield?

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Flowers.

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Bee on flower.

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Mating Man-Faced Bugs!

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Pod.

Wrapping the trip with a seafood lunch, we headed back feeling liberated by the Orang Asli giving us an insight to their lives, marvelling at their skill that would have been lost if not for programme that helps them sell their goods to receive 100% of the profits thereof. Do help them keep the craft alive! They can be found on Facebook (really!) here:- http://on.fb.me/ojtEWm

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.

Transforming My Travel Expressions!

As a photojournalist, my primary concern is to get photo right. Getting the shot may be one in a million chance when I am covering an event or a festival, obtaining the essence of the jubilant moment. This takes precedence over the time-consuming step of using Photoshop to crop things out or to adjust the cloudy skies. I’ve had pictures that looked great from ground up but not from heavens down. Why? The contrast factor & the metering that can’t measure it as accurately as I would like. When I started processing some of them, I thought it would be great if these could be HDR-ed, High Dynamic Range imaging. HDR photos are produced by using three different exposures of the same photo, which you take using the ”˜bracketing’ mode on your camera, however, when I took my travel photos, I never thought of HDR. What can I do with one image? After searching on the internet, I found a fantastic program for Mac-users to achieve HDR pictures with just ONE image. That’s right. If you have ever wanted to experiment on HDR for your great looking photos, get the HDRtist Pro. No complicated steps, no hard-to-comprehend instructions that deter you from even trying.

The HDRtist Pro is a great fun & easier method to add mood to my travel pictures. Let me show you what I did to my photo of Gunung Batur in Kintamani, Bali.

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This is an unmodified, straight off the camera shot I took at the caldera of Kintamani. HDRtist Pro helped me to achieve a high dynamic range of this photo with just one click of a button & no hassles with different shots even though it could & would be better with 3 photos of different exposures combined. This is a screenshot of the process. It renders the picture into a combination of a tonal range that is the closest to the original.

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After cropping part of the land & the result is a pleasing transformation of Gunung Batur by the lake of Kintamani!

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I wanted to experiment with another photo & the results were stunning. Here is a padi field in the countryside of Ubud, central Bali where the pace here is easy as arty people congregate to find inspiration for their next masterpiece or to take some home. I stayed in a guesthouse called Kunang-Kunang & woke up to sounds of ducks in the morning!

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This photo looked quite ordinary after looking at what I did with HDRtist Pro. Once again, I applied the magic motion of a few sliders on the Adjustments tab here:-

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…..and was greeted with a picture that I could not recognise was the place I woke up to for 4 days!

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If you are a blogger, a photographer, an enthusiast, an illustrator or just someone who wants to tell a story through your photos, get HDRtist Pro to enhance your expression. For a fraction of what you would pay for Photoshop, you can get a superb application with great results every time, transforming your pictures into art.

Footnote:- I will experiment on Funtastic Photos after this & give you a run-down on what I think soon!

High Fashion Shopping Online

Shopping has taken a new turn since the new breed of emerging techno-preneurs have taken the fashion business to the internet. Anything & everything is available at the click of the mouse & the press of a few buttons on your keyboard without the hassle of getting through crowds to get to the sale where the whole world & his brother would be attending. No frustration of not finding a carpark space too. I’ve joined an exclusive club to get offers from international brands as well as from local designers & the sale is ONLINE! Hishop offers hand-picked boutique brands & authentic items at a great discount!

As a member, Hishop notifies me of an upcoming sale two weeks prior to the items being displayed. Everything comes with a 100% authenticity guarantee! What you get is the real deal.

Browsing through the collections, there are goods for both men & women.

Here’s a sneak peek:-

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Calvin Klein bags but not at CK prices!

For him:-

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Shoes that make his feet sing!

From cosmetics, watches to dresses & bags, fine items like these would hardly be available in one place if not for Hishop’s concept of exclusive online shopping! Sign up for your access to the sale previews here!

Watch the video to see why you would prefer to shop exclusively in the privacy of your own space!

How to Get Paid As A Writer – Start By Blogging Properly

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It won’t make you rich but it would enrich you to create masterpieces that editors will call you when they know you have what they want – articles that would astound your readers, selling the magazines & making their advertisers happy. So have you got what it takes to become a writer? Here are tips to make you one even if you don’t think you are cut out for it:-

  • You are deemed a writer the moment you document your thoughts in a readable manner but what sets you apart as a good writer is how well you engage your readers, making up what I call ”˜your audience,’ to keep them glued to read what you have to say. Capturing their attention means you have gotten their interest & you have only so much time to keep them attentive. Once you understand the basic principles of engagement, you are on your way to becoming a better writer & get paid for it.
  • Make blogging your tool. This is what I would encourage you to do to hone your skills if you are a budding journalist or a poetic-scribbles aspirant. A full-fledged writer is one who can sell the art of literary creation to media, publications or portals.

Be an author of your subject.
If you want your blog to count for anything, then be an author of your chosen subject. This subject matter does not cover politics so if your niche is in spinning propaganda, the information detailed below does not apply to you because you are probably paid as a ghostwriter for spinning already. Get your friends who aspires to get published, to read this article.

What is writing?
Writing is not scribbles on paper or random thoughts on your word processor. It is a process of fact-finding, collating, research, documenting & deciphering the information at hand to create your own expression of that work. Sure, it’s not easy but it should not be difficult if you have passion for the subject. Blogging is a good way to stay in practice. It’s also a showcase of your work & personality. It’s an extension of your opinion on the world wide web. It’s to let your audience understand what you represent, who you are & what you stand for. What you put in your blog will determine the impression people will form about you, be it good or bad. The instance they do, you would be branded immediately so be aware of what you put on your blog so that it wouldn’t create the wrong impression if you seriously want to be considered as a writer. When you write for a publication, you represent the image of that company or establishment. To be held in high regard, your work has got to reflect that you are worthy of carrying that regard too. Companies wouldn’t pay you to represent them if you possess a blog that spews out profane references to anatomical parts of anyone’s mother or make any carnal suggestions to send someone somewhere. You are what you create & you can only spew out what you are full of.

Developing character, not ABCs….
Do you have enough respect for yourself to remain honourable & presentable as a creator of your literature? A good tree produces good fruits but a bad tree can’t. Neither can a good tree produce bad fruits. In my experience of being a writer & eventually an editor & publisher, I find the most desirable trait of a writer is his/her passion. Other than that, the most important aspect a writer should develop is themselves. What can you write when all you do in real life is maliciously slander, curse, criticise & judge others? The true nature of a person is found in the mental & moral qualities that they exude. Everything else is secondary because writing communicates your thoughts & even emotions to your readers if you care to be creatively expressive enough. If you haven’t learnt qualities of others in articles & findings that you read, then you should really be questioning yourself if you have anything that others would like to read about your work. There are writers, however, who thrive on writing criticisms & cynicisms but if you want to paid as a serious writer in publications, forget about these exceptions because they are not the rule.

How to write?
Since I’ve substituted the pen with the computer, I can hardly write singlehandedly with it. I use a magnificent journalling application called MacJournal. For today only, you get a 50% discount if you click on the banner on the right to purchase it at US$19.99. I got mine when it was US$39.99. Plan your article. Write your ideas down. Collate information. Build your plot. Stick to facts & accurate information. Accredit the right people with correct spelling of their names. Read & re-read your article many times & make sure it makes sense to you. Learn to edit yourself. Editors are anal. It takes one to know one. If you have to read tons of manuscripts each day & you catch grammatical mistakes in 9 out of 10 of them, you would be anal too!

The body of your article would have to be the meat that your audience have to chew on. How tasty it is in their mouths would depend on how creatively you put it. The stroke of the pen (keyboard, in my case) should wave electrical synapses to zap them with emotions & give them a reaction that you want. Otherwise, why would you spend your time writing if you are not going to have fun with them???

Develop Your Own Style
Your flair would come as you put your thoughts down naturally. This is why blogging will help you set the stage for it. How you express yourself, describe situations & define your characters will be indicative of the kind of writing that you have passion for. Be creative with words. I coin terms off the cuff to describe things not-yet-found in the dictionary, which I term, Pummkinology. My aim is to wowify (pummkinology) my audience with humour as I lead them through a voyage as if they were living it themselves. Develop substance. Keep your audience entertained. Even dumb blondes have an interesting perspective of life worthy to be told in their blogs.

Connect with your readers. Write as if you are writing to ONE person, irregardless of how many are reading it at the same time. Am I addressing you as a crowd? Or do I speak to you as if you are the only one here? You lose connection the moment you start your article/blog with ”˜Hi Everybody!” unless you are writing an email addressed to several people at once.

How to get published.
There’s nothing wrong with blogging as long as you keep your profession separate. Blogging tends to be informal & lighthearted, sort of like an insight to one’s life & thoughts through personal logs. To a writer, blogging cripples the use of Queen’s English, unless you choose to use it all the time, which means, strict adherence to proper grammar, punctuation, spelling & define all colloquial & slang. You would want your article to be understood across genres, generations & cultures of an English-speaking audience not just a select few. Notice I seldom write informally because I have audience from the world over stopping by to see what I’m up to & what marine creatures I’ve managed to haul up in my camera. Be remembered for something in your life.

Send your articles with a caveat to editors. Include pictures. There are dozens of writers who produce articles but what would make yours standout would be what I had described in paragraph one. The attention-grabber. And lots of pretty pictures. You skip that & you would have lost your pitch.

Mainstream media have editors who are twice your age, have worked through thousands of articles in their decades of experience & will not tolerate improper usage of the language. If you don’t capture their attention in the first 30 seconds, you are as good as gone. What is mainstream media? Not just the daily newspapers but the magazines that have been around from your mother’s time. These are success stories in the publishing world so if you want to carve a niche in any area, start with writing what your audience want to read about & get to know your editor’s style. I have several editors who would call on me (whatever time of day & night) whenever they need a story on a given area of my expertise. Develop that relationship. It helps you get ahead as a freelancer later.

Identify & Select Your Publications

  • Determine the type of publication – cars, fashion, business trends, travel, men’s, women’s, lifestyle, entertainment, luxury etc.
  • Read through them before you decide on which one you want your articles to be published in. If it’s a magazine with lousy English, your association with them will bring you ill repute too.
  • Understanding your audience – look through the publication & identify the style & theme. Gauge your audience’s genre. Identify with their needs. Connect.
  • Plan your pitch.
  • Write to the editor & send teaser shots of the subject you would like to submit. When they reply, send your pitch & then follow up.

Points to keep in mind

Editors may or may not read your email. I received an average of 100 emails per day, half of those I needed to reply immediately, with manuscripts, plans & projects under my nose to read, edit & send back for rewrites, just to give you an idea of what goes on in a publication. There’s no guarantee what you had sent will be accepted so be prepared to send to other publications too.

There are copyright issues to note & what you submit may not entitle you to publish in other publications or media. That’s why a blog is important to establish yourself & to document the work that you do.

The rewards are not measured by how much or how little you make as a writer but by how others see your work in print & recognise you for it. No matter what you write, as long as you stick to the principles of staying noble & true, you will impact lives.

Footnote:- I am in the midst of pitching my travels to magazines & writing advertorials for my sponsors, which is great & this article breaks my monotony of writing on the same subject. It’s my way of staying relevant in the business. Next in the pipeline, is how to overcome writer’s block.

Loopbag Backpacks for Laptops

Travelling & going on expeditions subject bags to rigorous testing, not to mention, the hazard of having your items damaged by the infamous airport baggage-handlers. Checking in your laptop is definitely NOT an option but carrying it need not be burdensome. Before I continue my journey to showcase the most exciting part of my exploration of Exmouth, Western Australia, I would like to recommend a laptop bag for you. Being a chronic bag-user, when it comes to computer bags, price is the 2nd last factor to determine my choice. Choosing to invest in a functional & well-cushioned bag to protect your investment safeguards your RM5K – RM7K Macbook Pro especially when you tend to subject it to knocks & bounces as you move around. It doesn’t make sense to put it in a bag that’s not made well for it. Being functional means a bag would have to have 3 main criteria, COMFORT, CAPACITY, CARRY-IT-OFF Factor. I have bought & used many kinds of computer bags, from Samsonite to Crumpler. Here’s one that I favour the most, the Loopbag Backpack.

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Comfort
Straps are broad, ergonomic & cushioned with nylon – patented shock-absorbing padding. It sits on the small of your back & not weigh your shoulders down. Bag is firm & well-padded. Stays close to your back unlike certain backpacks that hang away.

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Loopbagbag 13-inch Laptop Backpack Anth Lilac Olive

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Loopbagbag 13-inch Laptop Backpack Sand Azure Lime

Capacity
The 14” Loopbag Backpack can carry the 13” Macbook, power adaptor, multiple cables, Mighty Mouse, collapsible umbrella (in the event you park outside the building you are entering & it pours), a mini speaker, iPod Classic & headphones, 2.5” external hard disk, documents, computer cable-lock, snacks & computer stand. Not bad for a bag that looks so compact! Zips & bag material are water resistant (Loopbag Vanguard) too. The award winning design of the bag, enables you to unzip the top flap all the way to the bottom of the back, giving you easy access to all your peripherals.

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Loopbagbag 13-inch Laptop Backpack Sand Orange purple

Carry-It-Off Factor.
Some laptop backpacks look as if you are gearing for war. Some look dysfunctional while some look too business-like so if your wardrobe consists of mainly beachwear, pareos, sundresses, bikinis & boardshorts like mine, then you would need a bag that looks good no matter what you decide to put on, even If on days, you wear a power suit (carrying your laptop in a backpack that screams the laptop manufacturer or the sponsor of the lucky draw just wouldn’t cut it) the award-winning Loopbag backpack is the laptop bag for you. Comes in stylish black & red trim, olive & lilac, sand & orange, sand & azure, whatever your style, Loopbag complements it!

Get FREE shipping worldwide when you click here or on the pictures above!

There are messenger bags & iPad bags too:-


Loopbag Transit iPad Case Anth | Anth | Green


Loopbag 13-inch Laptop Messenger Sand Orange Purple