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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Florence Trip

Snippets of Florence – a two part video series I created about my 5 day holiday in Florence earlier this year in January (for my birthday). Enjoy. πŸ™‚

Part 1

Part 2

[Edit: Wed 18 April]
If you wanna see complete versions of the opera singing.. go here and here.

more » Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2007 | 6 Comments »

Found some Venice photos

So I was digging around trying to organise all my various photos and videos from the past year – I’m generating quite a large collection and there are so many photos I haven’t touched or shared with anyone or even looked at from past holidays. Like my big week-long drive around Italy in September last year, or my Florence trip from January, or even my visit back to Sydney last March (thats a year ago!!) There are literally thousands of photos that myself and Kwai have taken that are untouched. Small wonder I’ve been putting off attempting to go through, sort and pick out the good ones and photoshop them to decent size. Ack.

Well the other night I decided to make attempt at a small chunk of photos (about 500 or so) taken in just Venice during our 7 day drive around Italy last September. Hopefully I’ll get around to doing the rest eventually. But for now, here are a couple of good ones I picked out. πŸ™‚

(And yes I know I still have yet to finish my Italy series of travel vlogs. Three vids in and we hadn’t even reached Venice!)

more » Posted on Tuesday, April 10th, 2007 | 3 Comments »

Italy Trip : Part 3

Enjoy. πŸ™‚

more » Posted on Wednesday, November 1st, 2006 | No Comments »

Italy Trip 2006 : Part 2

And the saga continues with Part 2 – arrival in Milano! Enjoy. πŸ™‚


So I haven’t really blogged any real updates in a while. Life has been busily chugging along. The biggest news of the moment (that I think I only hinted at before) is that I’ve resigned my current job (about 2 weeks ago) because I had a job offer with a very cool creative digital agency. Yep, I finally got that greatly pursued job at a digital agency, after many interviews (and many knock-backs) for many months, at many different digital agencies. For those who have no clue what on earth a digital agency is, and what the fuss is about. Here’s a quoted explanation from the Brand Republic website, which is kinda a news and information hub in the digital agency industry:

“Before defining what a new-media [or creative digital / interactive media] agency is, you really need to distinguish between agency and consultancy. At its most basic, you could say that an agency does things for you Γ‚β€” such as build you a website according to your specifications Γ‚β€” while a consultancy advises you on the right way to go about something, ie whether you should have a website in the first place. A good analogy comes from the analogue world, where the advertising agency occupies the space between the clientÂ’s business and the clientÂ’s consumers. Selling superior knowledge of the consumer, the client and the immediate competitive environment in which they exist, an ad agency aims to deliver appropriate messaging through appropriate channels. The new-media marketplace has bred a new business model. It is a model that is essentially a fusion between consultancy services, marketing services and production output. ….[New-media agencies] undertake to facilitate and mediate the entire business process, from the conception of an idea or product, to the launch of a digital property (which may be a website) and its appropriate support services. ….There are a myriad of specialisms that the new-media consultancies must embrace and each requires its own set of skills, from business consulting and database management, through to building online brands and website construction.”

So hopefully that is an accurate description of the industry I’m entering into. It is a highly sort after industry for web designers & developers because the type of work is very client project based and highly creative (since we are usually dealing with brands and advertising in the online world). And the environment at these type of companies is always fun, casual, highly energetic and close-knit (totally different from the banking industry, which is usually quite boring for a designer/developer, tho you do get paid more in banking). But there are usually heaps of cool perks like more holidays (eg 24 days), private health insurance, annual bonuses – some agencies I’ve seen do things like company breakfasts or lunches.. free donuts.. massages.. onsite gym.. onsite xbox 360 or pool table or similar fun activity.. onsite subsidised bar.. day off for your birthday.. etc. But they are also usually fairly demanding jobs because they deal with clients.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to this new role – hopefully it’ll be good and I’ll fit in well with the company (it’s a really really small company of only about 13 people.. so far)! It’s kinda a senior web developer role in asp.Net (as well as some front end stuff) – so it’s not a front-end-only role which I’d been going for in all my other interviews. I’m a bit nervous about it because asp.Net is not my strongest skill and I’m not that experienced in it. The interview was kinda funny actually, I only had one interview with them, which kinda went like:

Me: “Honestly, I’m not sure if my asp.Net skills are good enough for this role”

CEO: “Well I think they are”

Me: “Oh.. er ok then”

They are planning on expanding with more permanent staff, and less contractors – so hopefully they’ll bring in more (better) asp.Net developers than me, so I can perhaps concentrate on more front-end stuff.. we’ll see how things go. (Strangely they don’t have a dedicated front-end developers team like all the other agencies seem to – the designer also does the html/css which is rare I’ve found). Anyway I will also be able to have client interaction, which is a big bonus for me because I want to gain experience in that side of things. Perhaps even move to that side, away from technical. We’ll see if I’m good at it first! The only down point is that they’re not located in London.. they are down in Edenbridge, just outside the M25 – which is like, in Kent!!! From Croydon, its not too bad, only abt 1/2 hour train (with only 2 trains an hour). But to get to central london takes full hour train journey.. ouch. Oh well, I think it’s worth it with higher salary, more perks/holidays and less working hours!! (9 – 5:30pm.. woohoo!)

Ok enough about work! Ooh I went shopping on the weekend. I pretty much spent my entire winter clothes budget on a beeeeautiful cream autumn/winter coat from Mango and 3 autumn/winter skirts from Topshop. Pics to come. πŸ™‚

My official statement on MySpace

In response to the exploded phenomenon of myspace – with every pop artist, band, model, actress, actor, man, woman, child and their dog now having a myspace page:

“Myspace sucks. From a web developers viewpoint (and myspace member since early 2004) myspace is a poorly designed site (who on earth came up with their page designs??) with little functional benefit and runs at a snails pace. It’s full of noobs who Γ‚β€œpimp” their profile pages with extremely poorly designed hacked code that will crash ones browser at any given time (way too much power in the wrong hands). ItÂ’s a pure waste of web space and an eye sore to look at most of the time. If you want a blog, use blogger or other similar sites. If you want a web site, make your own (it’s really not that hard). If you want a photo gallery, use Flickr. If you want a video host, use Youtube. The community thing doesnÂ’t work either – everyone has about a 1000 friends, most of whom are scanity clad members of the opposite sex. So in summary.. the functionality sucks, the design sucks (both profile and admin pages), and the community sucks. Did I leave anything out?”

TheWineKone sums it up nicely in this amusing video blog. πŸ˜€

Current listening :: “Milestones” – Miles Davis

more » Posted on Monday, October 16th, 2006 | 3 Comments »

Italy Trip 2006 : Part 1

Enjoy. πŸ™‚ This is literally my first go at using Adobe Premiere Elements – so am still learning and getting the hang of it, but it definitely kicks Windows Movie Maker. For one, it doesn’t crash every 5 mins or so! And many apologies for the bad shaky camera work (it’s worse for me, trust me, I’ve made myself feel nauseous just watching/sorting through all the footage). Tis not easy walking and filming.. and it was all filmed using my Sony Ericsson w900.

more » Posted on Monday, October 2nd, 2006 | 2 Comments »

Back in soddy london

So I’m back from Italy. It was an absolutely fantastic holiday. I love Italia. It is such an amazingly beautiful country. We took about a 1000 (literally, around one thousand) pictures on kwai’s digital SLR. And about 1 gig worth of video on my sony w900. Did someone say “Asian Tourists”? πŸ˜› I’m sick now unfortunately.. got a bad cold on the last day in italy. Have spent the weekend recovering. Kwai is sick too with a bad stomach bug. Ugh what a way to end a holiday! But it was worth it.. and now to finish the last half of our holiday summary… (WARNING: SUPER-LONG POST!)

After we left Rome on a very warm and sunny Sunday morning, we had a lovely drive into Tuscany to the coastal town of Orbetello and the Port Ercole. It was gorgeous. We only had time to have a quick drive through and take a few quick pics and videos before having to rush off to our next destination in Tuscany – Saturnia. This is Kwai’s favourite destination. And ranks up there as one of mine too. Its a beautiful quiet little country town in south tuscany. The main attraction of the area is the naturally formed hot springs nearby, over which a spa retreat is built. Another great thing is the food. We had our best meal in Italy in saturnia.. at a ristorante called Enoteca Due Cippi da Alessandro. It was our most expensive meal too, but worth every cent. Seems Saturnia is a bit of a gastronomical delight. Lots of good eating to be found.. we are definitely going back! πŸ™‚

After a long and very filling lunch, we quickly zipped over to my long-awaited destination of the saturnia natural hot springs waterfall/pools. We got rather lost on the way as the dirt road that leads to this place wasn’t even on our GPS. We had to stop and ask a few locals for directions. But finally we found this little hidden locals delight. And it was definitely worth the effort. At nearly 5pm it was still packed with local italians soaking up the natural 37 degree thermal water in small totally naturally formed rock pools. Kwai chose not to take a dip, but I wasn’t gonna let this opportunity pass by. And it was just wonderful. Forget man-made jet spas. The force of a naturally formed waterfall massaging your back whilst you precariously perch (them waterfalls are strong!) on a slippery mossy rock out in natures fresh air and sunlight is unforgettable. And the warm thermal water is just wonderful… very good for your skin with many healing properties. And as Kwai can attest to, my skin felt sooo velvety soft afterwards. Pity I stunk like rotten eggs. Heheh. πŸ˜›

So regretfully, we had to leave before the sun started to set as we had another 2 or so hours of winding tuscan hillside roads to traverse before making it to our “Castle” accomodations for the night at Castello Di Grotti, just south of Siena. It was pretty crazy driving through tuscany at night. The hair pin turns on tiny little narrow roads up steep hillsides.. with those crazy Italian nutters who overtake each other on 1 lane blind corners in pitch black darkness. Staying at Grotti was cool and we got to see a real Olive tree farm. Afterwards we tried to see Siena but got so fed up and pissed off after an hour of circling round in crazy traffic trying to find parking… that we decided to leave Siena in the dust of our wheels and headed straight to Firenze (Florence).

What a great decision that was. Firenze is just beautiful. Driving in was pretty easy too. It is definitely my favourite destination in Italy. I love it there. (Aileen, you were right!) Its just so beautiful.. not a sky scraper or modern style building in sight. Its like the whole city has been carefully preserved to keep the rennaisance beauty of the buildings alive. I love the whole feel of the city.. the laidbackness.. the friendly culture. The food was excellent too. And there was a pretty decent locals to tourists ratio. Unlike other cities such as Venice or Rome. Maybe it was the time of year that we were there. But it wasn’t very crowded with tourists. I am definitely going back to Florence to see it properly. We only had 1 day/1 night there. Like everywhere else… we inhaled florence in a whirlwind of activity. But, I do have to stop and mention the BEST STEAK I HAVE EVER HAD. Fiorentina beef (Bistecca alla Fiorentina). If you have never tried it.. you must!!! It is the best steak ever!!!! And thats saying a lot, coz I have eaten A LOT of really good steak before.. even Wagyu beef. Ok maybe wagyu or a really well cooked fillet is more melt-in-the-mouth soft. But the TASTE of Fiorentina blows every other steak out of the water. It needs no sauce of any kind. It is just sooooooo tasty.. my first bite of the melt-in-the-mouth T-Bone steak was an explosion of taste. Seriously. It. Was. That. Good. *drooooools*

Well I’m probably going back to Firenze for my birthday next year – for a longer, more relaxing trip. Hee. Maybe this time we can go see the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries. But we did get to see the Santa Maria Duomo (cathedral), which was just beautiful. And we even went up into the Cupola – 436 steps to the very top of the cathedral with absolutely amazing views of Florence. Awesome. I also liked Michalengelo’s David statue (even if it was a replica) in the piazza. Anyway the morning before leaving we hit the San Lorenzo street markets and the Marcato Centrale food hall. Not really meaning to purchase too much stuff, other than some scrumptious tuscan herbs and, of course, olive oil, we walked away with: a new choc brown leather jacket for me, 2 pairs of leather gloves in choc brown (cashmere lined) and pink for me, 1 black leather driving gloves for Kwai, a new choc brown leather wallet for Kwai, 3 cashmere pashimina scarfs (beige, blue and pink) for me. And from the food hall: a bottle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Chianti wine, a plethora of italian herbs, some fine dry pasta from Napoli, mediteranean sea salt, and some crostina toasted bread things. Phew. Well Florence is certainly good for its leather. My jacket and gloves are sooooo soft and smooth. Very nice indeed. πŸ™‚ The pure cashmere pashiminas are very nice too. And all at a fraction of the price this stuff would have cost in London. Gotta love getting things locally. πŸ™‚

Ok next stop was the Cinque Terre (5 Lands)… we almost didn’t make it coz we were tempted to stay in Florence the whole day. But luckily Kwai pulled me away and off we whizzed to Cinque Terre. Unfortunately for us, it decided to rain and storm that day. Dark clouds ominously loomed closer and closer as we zoomed down the autostrada in our convertible… with the roof down! Luckily we pulled just in time to a service station to put the roof back up. After we got back on the autostrada it started pissin down rain. Still resolute to go to the coastal and beach towns of the Cinque Terre.. we pressed on. And I have to say… the Cinque Terre is truly beautiful. As we headed north from Firenze we entered Alps territory. Not just mountains.. but the full blown Italian alps. They are absolutely amazing. Sooo enormously huge. (Italy sure has a variety of terrains!!) And these towns are nestled within the mountains along the coastline with huge steep cliffs that plunge straight into the ocean. Its a truly amazing place.. and incredibly old.. even before the Romans.. they were built by the Etruscans. Some of these towns look like they’re carved out of the cliff face. We didn’t have much time to spend here unfortunately, so we took a ferry trip across the 5 towns of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. A nice way to view the incredible scenery. I also had the pleasure of taking a dip in the Mediterranean sea when we got off at Riomaggiore. *sigh* I can still picture the magnificent cliffs looming above me as I floated in the very salty, gently cool waters of the Mediteranean, with only a handful of bathers on the small enclosed rocky beach. Simply another amazing and unforgettable experience.

So with heavy heart we left Cinque Terre. We didn’t even have enough time to walk the Via dell’Amore (Lovers Way) between Riomaggiore and Manarola. πŸ™ Next time.. as we have said too many times at other places. But I mean it.. I will come back to spend some quality time at the Cinque Terre. Its so beautiful. Now our last stop – Milano. Here our holiday turns a bit sour. Firstly, we drove with the top down at 200km/hour along the autostrada at 21 deg night temps. Not the smartest idea. I caught a cold by the time we reached Milan (but we did see some pretty amazing mountains surrounding Genova along the way). I woke up the next morning with my throat on fire and feeling decidedly ill. Yep, I was most definitely sick. Noooooo.. my only day in Milan! πŸ™ Well, I took the morning easy and made it out to Milan center by noon. They certainly have a magnificent duomo – very gothic looking and huuuge. Like all the other cities – they sure knew how to build their cathedrals in Italy!!! We didn’t do too much shopping in Milan… I was feeling too ill and we didn’t have much time. We did however wander the very fine streets of Via Montenapoleone and Via Della Spiga – the streets of designer heaven (Hey Shirley – you should come to Milan some day.. you would love it. πŸ˜›). The 3-story Armani flagship store… Gucci, Prada, YSL, Cavalli, Louis Vuitton etc etc the list goes on and on. There were sooooo many designer stores. And they were all INCREDIBLY expensive. Hey we even passed a Jimmy Choos store. I had a quick sneak peak to see how much a Jimmy Choos shoe cost. I quickly put the shoe back down and beat a hasty retreat out the store and back onto the relatively cheaper safety of the street. πŸ˜›

So what did I buy? Well.. I found the cheaper shopping street with your regular stores such as H&M, Zara etc. And what did I buy? About 10 pairs of socks from this funky sock shop. Hehe. Socks ranged from 1 euro to about 6 euros. Cheap and funky socks! I even bought myself a few knee high socks in funky colours coz its hip now. Haha. I also bought a suitcase from the main department store, La Rinascente. It was quite cheap but well made and 30% off! We needed it to put all our shopping additions from the trip to take back to London. Heheh. Oh and I also found my favourite underwear store – Tezemis. Its an Italian made lingerie store from Verona. They also sell basic tshirts, singlet tops and long sleeves. And they’re really good quality basics – I bought a few simple plain tees in white, black, pink and blue. Plus 2 long sleeves in white and black. Plus some new bras coz it was all so cheap. Kwai also bought himself some rather stylish looking plain black and white long sleeve turtlenecks. πŸ™‚ So thats all for my shopping expedition in designer heaven of milan – cheap socks, suitcase and underwear! Heheheh. Very classy.

Oh yeh I almost forgot to mention, we didn’t manage to get our Nissan Micra C+C. We instead were upgraded for free to the Renault Megane convertible!! A 1.9L beauty. A larger, roomier car with a hell of a fine-tuned engine. Kwai had lotsa fun driving. πŸ™‚

*PHEW* Wow this is an essay of a post. Hope you managed to trawl your way through it all. Congrats if you did! I promise there will be pics to come. And vids. πŸ™‚ Once I am able to trawl through the 1000 odd photos we took, and hours of video footage. But hey, its not like I have money to go out for the next month or so after that holiday. So stay tuned! πŸ™‚

more » Posted on Sunday, September 17th, 2006 | 3 Comments »

Buongiorno from Italia

Hello from Rome! Actually I’m in a B&B in Palestrina, just outside Rome. Its been great so far. In quick summary we’ve been to Venice, which was just beautiful – its so so different from any other city in the world…. Bologna for some traditional bolognese which was very yummy… the drive from Bologna to Rome was long and difficult.. the italians drive like maniacs (they have their own definition of “drifting” – thats drifting between lanes!!).. but we passed through some very nice scenery, mountains and the hills of tuscany. Rome was grand and huge and very tiring. Very touristy too. We had a whirlwind of a day starting with the Vatican City – St Peters square, Basilica and the pope tombs.. then had lunch at a little local place out in a quiet corner of rome. Then onto the Roman Forum, Colosseum.. then to the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and finally the Spanish Steps. I was totally exhausted by then, and in some pain from all the walking – my feet, stomach and lower back all hurt! We had dinner at a popular local pizzeria ristorante out in the middle of nowhere again – I have this thing for going out of my way to not eat at touristy restuarants where the food is crap and the prices ridiculous. I like to find the places where locals go to eat, and where not much english is spoken.. but the food is bellissimo and the prices cheap!!

So now we head into Tuscany and then Florence and finally Milan. Ciao e arrivedercci.

more » Posted on Sunday, September 10th, 2006 | 3 Comments »

Italia.. here we come!

W00t!! Almost finished my last day at work for a week! This time tomorrow, I’ll be at the airport checking in all my hand luggage. Hehe. Gotta remember to pack light!

So excited… can’t wait! Squeee! πŸ˜€

more » Posted on Tuesday, September 5th, 2006 | 7 Comments »

Days gone by

Found some old photos from Frankfurt taken last year. *sigh* Makes me miss Frankfurt and the continental life. Anyway, these photos were all taken by Kwai with his digital SLR.. thats why they’re so nice. πŸ™‚

Only thing I can claim is the new functionality I’ve implemented on this weblog. Notice anything new? (Hint: click on the photo thumbnails). Yep I implemented a rather fancy web 2.0 lightbox script which uses the prototype javascript library. (Ok, so I didn’t program this script, but it’s still cool – I’m trying to learn how it works.. hopefully I’ll be able to program some fancy js and even ajax soon using this cool, albeit slightly bloated, prototype js library). I’m also in the process of cleaning up this old web site of mine, in an effort to try bring my code up to scratch, make it “W3C standards” compliant and use it as more of a learning playground… perhaps even making a portfolio worthy of being added to my CV.

Anyways, enjoy the pics. Mouseover the right or left of the photo to navigate through the pics. Full gallery here. πŸ™‚

Anyway, we have a long weekend this weekend! Woohoo!! Plans include Kwai’s birthday bash on Sat (he turned the big two five on Wed), lots of rest and relaxation, church, and the Notting Hill Carnival. πŸ˜€

more » Posted on Friday, August 25th, 2006 | 1 Comment »

Swimmingly cold

I went swimming again last night coz I haven’t been in over a week and my tense shoulders really needed the release. The weather hasn’t been very warm over the past few weeks (15 – 20ish degs with a fair bit of rain too) and it was probably around 17/18 degs when I went swimming last night – so I was prepared for it to be a bit chilly, but it wouldn’t be too bad. So I thought.

So I arrived, and I noticed there were only about 10 people in the pool. Then I went in… and I realised why there were only 10 people there. It. Was. Frikkin. FREEZING!!! I burst into some speedy freestyle completing a lap in record time in the effort to warm my body up. When I finished the lap, it was still freezing and my muscles had gone numb from the cold. It was so cold, I found it a little difficult to breathe. But I endured. And I warmed up slightly by about the 4th lap. The water still felt cold though. And it was cold throughout the 11 laps (1km) I stubbornly managed to complete. Proud I am.

After my swim, I took an extremely nice hot shower (thank God they have hot showers!) I literally felt my body slowly thaw out, with that tingly feeling, like in winter when your hands have been out in the cold too long and you warm them under a hot tap.

So I guess my swimming days are almost over. πŸ™ They close to the public from Oct onwards, and from Sept are open to only members in the evenings (after 5pm). Damn that gives me 9 days left of swimming after work. *sigh* This makes me wish I was back in Oz. I’m gonna miss swimming.

Voglio parlare Italiano con lei

(Translation: I want to speak Italian with you). Yep, I’m learning Italian! Slowly! Tis not an easy task going from absolutely zero knowledge of italian to a functional & useful conversational level in just a few weeks! I’ve been using the acclaimed Michel Thomas course, listening to it on my ipod at every spare moment. I must look strange muttering to myself on trains, buses etc. He’s supposed to have a very unique method of teaching languages based on understanding rather than memorisation, which enables you to learn a new language very quickly, with no homework necessary! I just hope all the reviews are true, coz this trip is coming up soon and I’m only at the end of cd 1 (there are 6 cds)! But its been fun so far.. I’m enjoying the experience of learning a new language, especially with the goal of actually using it in Italy.

Mi dispiace ma non posso parlare italiano molto buono adesso.

more » Posted on Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006 | 2 Comments »