Saturday, October 27, 2012

Great Wall of China

If you are wondering how does the Great Wall of China look like from the air, well here are some pictures. It was a lucky day for me to fly on a rare unpolluted clear day in Beijing. Somehow I think the Chinese controller knew this too and gave us an opportunity to fly above their Great Wall to impress us. Instead of the usual early turn, they asked us to fly straight into the mountain range. I managed to see the magnificent Great Wall that stretches far from the East to the West clearly. Nothing can beat this rare experience.

Click on the image for picture gallery

Monday, October 08, 2012

Mini Travel Log: Munich, Germany (4)

After this time, I can proudly say that I have seen Munich in four different seasons. This latest trip in summer allowed me to see Munich with its beautiful flowers and blue skies. Although I did not take many pictures this time, I experimented with new processing techniques. Thus I managed to create some interesting effects and also bring out a wider dynamic range in the outdoor shots. In such a bright summer sky, I brought back the otherwise over-exposed skies back to life without the need of tedious HDR shots and processing techniques. I also shot a few pictures with my new Galaxy S3 phone. Let's see if you can identify those pictures.

Click on the image for picture gallery

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

The Sound of Music: Austria

My last visit to Salzburg was during winter. I didn't get to see much because of the cold and many attractions were closed or covered up. I promised to return during summer to see the full bloom of beautiful flowers and to relive the full version of the Sound of Music.

While many thought that the Sound of Music film was shot entirely in Salzburg town itself, they were wrong. Only the Mirabell palace and gardens were featured in the film, while the rest were shot around the Salzkammergut region between upper Austria, Salzburg and Styria. So on my visit this time, I spent less time in the town while more time touring the green hills overlooking the beautiful lake of Wolfgangsee. The finale of this tour was the boat ride on Wolfgangsee from the beautiful town of St. Wolfgang to St. Gilgen. From there, I continued on the bus to Mondsee to see the church by the lake where Maria and von Trapp were married.

Click on the image for picture gallery

Related link: Mini Travel Log: Salzburg, Austria (1)

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Home Sweet Home: Final Part

About one and a half months ago, renovation started at my new home. I have blogged about the designing and planning stage which I also promised to tell the final story when the renovation is completed. This will include reviews of the designer firm which I have engaged and the workmanship.

When the renovation started, hacking was very quick which was completed in just 2 days. However when tiling works start, the nightmare began. It took forever to complete as only one guy was working. Sometimes, no work has been done for a week. The usual excuse given was wrong shipment of tiles and need to wait for a new shipment; where in fact on my few days of visit, the tiles were already delivered but left on the ground floor public area without anyone coming to collect and start work. It became very stressful as days passed on and seeing no progress at all. I have planned my leave, delivery and moving dates according to the given works schedule. But with delays, it will disrupt all my plans as I will waste my leave while having to move house when I need to work.

Coming to the middle point of works schedule, it has already been delayed for 2 weeks. At this point, I gave my ultimatum that no matter how is the progress, I will move in on the last day. That sent a sense of urgency to the designer to speed things up. At one point, there were more than 10 people working till late for few days to catch up on the schedule. However, on the date of my moving, they could not complete. It was so inconvenient to move things in when it's like a war zone inside, cramped and dusts everywhere. Eventually, we had to do all the cleaning by ourselves till late night. For the following week, the workers came back everyday to fix all the minor leftovers which was inconvenient for us to be at home at all times.

When the dusts settled 2 weeks after we moved in, we finally have some peace and enjoy the new home. We are happy that we designed and created the house to the exact of what we wanted. Like I said in the earlier post, I recommend that you go for a designer firm instead of contractor if you plan to renovate your first house. Our house came out almost identical to how we designed and drew it in the 3D drawings. Overall, the workmanship for the carpentry works is almost top notch. For tiling works, I'd give a thumbs down for the delays and also mediocre jobs on the workmanship. Some tile gaps were not filled up properly and the tiler threw all his cement waste into the drainage hole causing massive drainage blockage. Plumbing and electrical works are to standard as I was there most of the time to instruct the workers of my intended layout and locations. Finally the review on the designer firm: For the price of their quotation and the end result, I think it is very reasonably priced. After some initial first week problem of drainage blockages, we had been staying in a trouble free house so far. My friends were quite impressed with the design, layout and quality too. So I'd have to say workmanship is very good except for the tiling. The only area this designer firm could do better is time and people management. They wasted few weeks without anyone doing any work and on the last minute, they gathered so many people to work at the same time. If they spread out the work evenly and monitor their workers more closely, I'm sure it will be less stressful for both the house owners and also the workers.

There are some other useful information which I would like to share here after my experience with house renovation. I was very lucky that the nature of my job allows me a lot of free time. I would also recommend you to spare some time if possible during certain periods of important schedules so you can be there. During the whole renovation period, I was there almost daily to inspect on the progress. I picked up many hidden surprises which couldn't be possibly shown in the drawings. Things like drainage pipes, beam and column locations. Because of all these, I quickly made on-site changes to suit the conditions. If I wasn't there and the workers make according to drawing, it would turn out to be a disaster as some places would be totally out of place. I also picked up errors in the renovation works early so I highlighted and had them rectified early before too late. For important schedules like electrical and plumbing works, I think it is important for every house owners to be there. This is because you will decide where to place your electrical points and toiletry wares; how to run the wiring, and how many/which type of electrical points you want to place. With everything planned out, I'm staying in such a stress free home now because I have everything within reach wherever I am.

Furnishings can cost a bomb up to tens of thousands. Again I was very lucky as I got some of my furniture from expo at a cheaper price. Almost every month, there are electrical and home furnishing exhibitions held at the various expo centers in Singapore. Do check out all these expos so you can see more choices and buy cheaper instead of going to the shops. Certain mega stores like the Courts are also worth checking out because some items carry member promotional price. I got my mattress for $500 cheaper compared to retailers outside. For electrical like ceiling fans and aircons, it is worth checking the neighborhood shops in the HDB area. They normally carry these items cheaper.

That pretty much sums up my experience of house renovation. I hope my share of thoughts here can help you in your future dream house. And finally, I present to you some pictures of my humble home after the renovation.

Click on the image for picture gallery

Related link: Home Sweet Home: Part 1