Friday, August 29, 2014

The Best Surface Yet

Confession of a geek: I'm a total sucker when it comes to PRACTICAL and cool looking new gadgets. When Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 3, I had been following very closely to the development and specs of this machine. After all, I use the Surface Pro 1 and never been happier after switching from tablets.  For me, tablets are just another marketing gimmick to milk more money from people. Tablets are just an oversized phone running kiddy apps. Sure you can watch movies and play games on an oversized phone but when it comes to productivity, it's just a waste of money owning such device. There are many limitations to what a tablet can do especially desktop computer oriented tasks and even simple desktop web tasks.

It was a gamble for me to switch to Surface Pro 1. I'm glad I made that decision. It opened up a whole new world to me in terms of mobility. In the past, even if you own a tablet, you need to run to the desktop computer or laptop once in a while for heavy tasks which tablets cannot do. With the Surface, I broke free from the shackles of desktop and laptop when I'm travelling. I travel in style by carrying a desktop powered device in the form of a tablet. Sure the first version of Surface is not perfect. The battery life suffers because the chipset used was not advanced and matured back then.

Now with the Surface Pro 3, I would say Microsoft finally perfected the art of hybrid PC. With an 11 inch screen, thinner and lighter form, and more than 8 hours of battery life, this is the best Surface yet. Packing in a Core i7 and 8GB RAM into the machine, this is even more powerful than desktops built for gaming. This is really a revolutionary device that can replace a desktop and laptop. Forget about MacBook Airs. Those are ancient with chunky keyboard attached. It's like carrying bricks. Forget about tablets and ipads. Those are only look cool devices running kiddy apps and cannot do simple task like running Flash player in a web browser. Worse still, many websites are broken or even inaccessible when viewed on a tablet.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Hague, Scheveningen and Madurodam

I had a brief preview of The Hague when the tour I joined last time passed by this city. I was enchanted by this beautiful city and vowed to come back again in the future on my own free time and schedule. The Hague (Den Haag in Dutch) is the capital of justice where the Palace of Justice housing the International Court of Justice, Court of Arbitration and many other international courts are located. While Amsterdam enchants visitors with its canals, red light district and "coffee shops", The Hague has its own charms and flavours. This beautiful city is very much laid back with wide streets and avenues, big parks, and nice buildings. Of course it is also home to one of the most beautiful beach in Holland, the Scheveningen area. This beach resort cum casino area reminds me of the Gold Coast of Australia. In the middle between the city and beach is the big natural park and Madurodam; where the whole of Netherlands has been miniaturized so visitors can see the whole country in just one day.

Starting off from Amsterdam central train station, you can buy a day return train ticket for just 21.40. It is a direct train from Amsterdam to The Hague. Journey time takes about 50 minutes. You will alight at the last stop which is The Hague Central Train station. The train station is in the city so you can just walk around the city right after you get off the train. I suggest you start off from the Tourist Information at the main library which is only about 300m from the train station. You can get detailed map of the city and suggestions of places of interest by the friendly staffs. While the city is not too big and walkable, you should buy a day tram ticket from the Tourist Information if you plan to explore further till the Palace of Justice, Scheveningen and Madurodam. It only costs 7.70 and you can go anywhere you like on any trams and buses..

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Friday, August 22, 2014

SEA Aquarium, Sentosa

SEA Aquarium in Sentosa is truly an amazing feat. One of the best underwater aquarium with many fish species and themes. At the entrance, the informative maritime expo greets visitors. One can learn maritime history of the world with many great displays and artworks. The maritime expo will lead visitors all the way to the aquarium. A word of advice to visitors: try to avoid peak periods like school holidays and weekends if you plan to visit. During peak periods, the crowd is just too big. Your experience may be impacted by the huge crowd in front of every display. You either need to wait patiently for your turn to get to the front of the aquarium display or you may need to be rude to squeeze your way to the front if you encounter groups that refuse to budge.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Mini Travel Log: Munich, Germany (5)

On a lovely summer afternoon, I walked to the town center for some pork knuckles and beer. I normally do not take pictures on a short trip like this. And I will also not bring along my camera. But on a beautiful day like this, I just had to take some. It's just a photographer's instinct. And so my Nokia Lumia 1020 was given the real field test. I had this phone for quite a while already and finally this phone had a chance to step up to the plate to impress me. It didn't fail me. Shots taken at 41 MP are rich in details, very close to DSLR quality. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

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Related link: Mini Travel Log: Munich, Germany (4)
Related link: Mini Travel Log: Munich, Germany (3)
Related link: Mini Travel Log: Munich, Germany (2)
Related link: Mini Travel Log: Munich, Germany (1)
Related link: Mini Travel Log: Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Friday, April 04, 2014

Stonehenge and Salisbury

Stonehenge is a well known UNESCO world heritage site. Mention the name Stonehenge and many people will associate it with druids in robes doing sacrificial ceremonies in this complex. But the true nature and purpose of this standing stones are still a mystery. The oldest stones date back to almost 5000 years ago. Some theories point out this stones were used for some astrology and time calculations. While others point it to a ceremonial building of some sorts. Whatever the purpose, you should visit this mysterious stones and be mystified.

I traveled from London by train to the nearby town Salisbury. Same day return ticket costs 37.40 pounds. From Salisbury train station, there is only one bus operator to Stonehenge. The bus ride which includes entrance to Stonehenge costs 26 pounds. Total is 63.40 pounds which is very expensive, but the only advantage is the tour bus will bring you back to Salisbury town which you can spend the rest of the afternoon. There is a cheaper option to visit Stonehenge direct from London. Many tour bus operators in London offer Stonehenge tour with entrance for just 40+ pounds.

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Salisbury is a very beautiful medieval town which you can spend the whole afternoon. The main attraction is the Salisbury Cathedral. The town itself offers vibrant shopping places, eateries and pubs. Many buildings are preserved from the medieval times which adds to the charm of this town.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre (pronounced as cheenkwe tehrre) is a collective of  5 beautiful villages recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site that were built on rugged cliffs overlooking the Ligurian Sea, part of  the bigger Mediterranean Sea. These villages started as fishing villages. Over time, people from outer region discovered the beautiful landscape and soon this place became a major tourist point. Starting from the north, the five villages in order are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

I started my trip from Milan by train which took slightly over 3 hours. There are many ways to get here by train from Milan, which runs frequently and hourly. Just visit trenitalia.com and input your departure and destination (any five villages) and it will return with multiple train choices. You can buy ticket in advance for super low fares from the website but I didn't know how to create an account. Therefore I bought the standard fare from the train station. You are advised to reach at least 30 minutes earlier because the queue at the ticket counter can be quite long.

The villages are quite small comprising of only few streets from the cliff top down to the sea. One day affair should be sufficient for tourists short on time. However, I recommend a night stay in any of the villages so you can take in the sights and sound. You can buy a local train ticket for just 4 euro that is valid for multiple travels for 8 hours. Then you can start hopping around the villages. Boat rides are available but only during summer period.

If you are the adventurous type, you can hike from the first to the last village. As the cliffs are very rugged, it will be quite strenuous and it will take whole day. Some paths are closed during winter so again, it is best to plan your trip there during summer.

If you find yourself left with too much time after done exploring Cinque Terre, you can consider hopping on the train down south to La Spezia which is just a stop from Riomaggiore. From this town, find a connecting train to Pisa which is just few stops away and you can visit the leaning tower of Pisa.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Mini Travel Log: Hamilton Gardens, New Zealand

Hamilton is a small beautiful town just 1 hour drive away from Auckland metropolitan. One of the main attraction of this town is the Hamilton Gardens. It is truly world class. It has gardens from different eras and parts of the world. The most beautiful ones I've seen are the Italian and Indian themed gardens. The best part is that entrance is free and you can also enjoy picnic on beautiful rolling hills and grass by the beautiful lake.

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Baby Damien

For frequent visitors of this blog, hello again. This blog is still alive. Just that I was very busy with the arrival of a new member to the family. Here, Baby Damien would like to say hello to all visitors. Happy New Year 2014 and may you have a fruitful year ahead.