Relook – MVNO Mobile Services Singapore 1st Quarter 2021

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

This post comes about because I have a friend who is asking me about recontracting without a phone. And so I took this opportunity to look at my history with my telco providers – Circles Life and Grid Mobile – in particular, and a few thoughts about the market in general.

Circles Life (Since 2017)

Circles Life is a company I have to give much respect for. They took a market long dominated by the 3 telcos and really churn the market up. Now our telco market is giving data as though it is the only way to attract people and definitely CL has a hand in doing that.

CL is also the first company that puts my Telco plans in an app and makes it possible to change aspects of my telco needs on the go. Need more data for the day? Just go to the app to add more data. It is very convenient.

During CL’s 4 years anniversary celebration, I was given 10GB of data so long I stay with Circles Life. So in total, I have 35.8GB of data for $18 which has a $10 Lifelong Discount for Loyal Customers. This is the main reason why I did not cut this line because it is so affordable to maintain and using it for phone reviews that I do with Techgoondu.

This is where CL is different from the other Telcos. Just by staying with them for a longer time, you will have more savings and data over the long run rather than switching to providers as and when they give you more data for a fixed time, usually 12 months. So that means in the long run, you gain more.

This is something that Circles Life should trumpet more instead of doing the same churn as the other Telcos. Remember, there will be a segment of people who don’t mind staying with the Telco because they don’t want the hassle to change Telco every 2 years. More about that later.

If you are looking to switch to Circles Life please use >>BOOSTER<< as the code to gain 3 months free data.

Grid Mobile (Since 2019)

The change to Grid Mobile is largely due to a friend who has issues with Circles Life. As her work area is not well served by M1 (it is Changi Business Park) and has spotty connection, I helped her find an alternative to M1 network. I was left with Starhub and Singtel and opted for the later.

There are plenty of MVNOs (mobile virtual network operator) from Singtel such as GOMO (Singtel’s own), Vivifi, Zero1 and Grid Mobile.

There are promotions galore and on first glance GOMO gives a lot of data (60GB for only $30) or $0.50 per GB. It feels cheap. Actually it is cheap but do you really need that much data in the first place? How to check? Just look at your past bills and it will give you an idea how much data was used.

Out of the options Grid Mobile is the only one that has some sort of loyalty program. After 1 year with them below is my bill for the last 6 months. Do note that there are people who have used my code to gain some benefits when switching to Grid Mobile so that helps to lower my bills.

I am on the 40Gb for $24.90 plan.

Apr – $14.20
Mar – $8.85
Feb – $12.06 (birthday month bonus)
Jan – -$2.39 (Grid re-embursed)
Dec 2020- -$4.53 (Grid re-embursed)
Nov – $5.64
Oct – -$7.20 (Grid re-embursed)

So the total amount of data is (7 months x 40GB) and my total bill cost is $26.63 or $0.05/GB or 10 times cheaper than GOMO. This is to me the most effective loyalty program I have seen thus far.

If you are looking to switch to Grid Mobile please use >>WILZGRID<< as the code to gain Grid Points that you can use to defray your monthly bills. More information about the loyalty program can be found here.

Photo by Askar Abayev on Pexels.com

Family Plans

The only MVNOs that I know of that has family plans are VIVIFI and Circles Life. CL has yet to launch their family plan and unlike Vivifi, their family plan does not restrict to biological family. That means you can group with your friends to subscribe and share data that way.

Is that a wise move remains to be seen. Only a small fraction of BFFs lasted a lifetime and if you ask me, use that as a second SIM connection rather than the mainline.

The Thing About Being Loyal

The one thing about being a loyal customer is that you are not shown that you are cherised especially by the big 3 Telcos. I was on the Starhub Hubber program but the things you can redeem with those measly points is nothing to shout about and for that matter, nothing to help customers of these Telcos to share with friends and families, like what I am doing here through conversations and blog posts.

The lack of a loyalty program leads to a price war because customers are basing their worth through the marketing churning rather than making effort to keep them. Time and again there are studies that shows the cost of keeping a customer is way lower than winning new ones.

One such page shows the following statistics:

  • Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer.
  • Increasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits from 25-95%.
  • The success rate of selling to a customer you already have is 60-70%, while the success rate of selling to a new customer is 5-20%.
  • Loyal customers are 5x as likely to repurchase, 5x as likely to forgive, 4x as likely to refer, and 7x as likely to try a new offering.
  • U.S. companies lose $136.8 billion per year due to avoidable consumer switching.
  • American Express found 33% of customers will consider switching companies after just one instance of poor customer service.

But the above are lost with most Telcos and MVNOs. Even Vivifi and Zero1.sg has no new strategies to grow their customer base judging from the lack of marketing on the webpages.

And the lack of a good loyalty program leads to this…

The Big Read: Consumers similing as prices tumble but is that all there is to greater Telco Competition?

The articles on Channel News Asia website is an interesting read (the link to read is here). When your only strategy is to churn new customers as your only Key Performance Index (KPI) all the efforts are put in to draw customers into your company.

That is also the reason why contracts are so highly valued by these Telcos as it solidify their margins at least for 2 years. A loyalty rewards program did not see much fruits in retention is because the marketing department is fully focused on getting new leads and not keeping customers.

A simple monthly and quarterly message to the customers to tell them how much they save with their Telco makes it so easy for people to retain the mindshare of the company just like what Grid Mobile and Circles Life has done.

What’s more they make it easier to share the good news about the savings, more data or interesting customer experiences and events. I was given a simple Instagram share button by CL to tell my friends and followers about the 10GB data lifetime given to me on their 4th Anniversary event.

This does two things for the company

  • It gives me a positive impression about the company I support
  • Such gestures allow me to talk about the company (like now) easily because of the benefits I have received. This is free marketing and we all know word-of-mouth marketing is still the best. Even Forbes agree with me.

The article has quoted Assoc. Prof. Nitin Pangarkar (NUS Business School) as saying ““It is very difficult to predict how a market will evolve when you liberalise it. You can’t have affordable low prices and also have innovation and quality customer service. Something has got to give.”

The thing is this. Companies can still earn so long it meets the need of consumers. If the companies keep piling on data after data, to a point it is not a great marketing tool.

I am good with 30GB based on my monthly usage but right now I have a total of 76GB with maximum cost of $43 (much lesser with Grid’s discounts. Lowest cost was $11 for 66GB and with two lines). After this glut of data, I am not looking forward to switching because it makes no sense.

So the only way forward (again as I reiterated this for the last 4 years), is to come out with a good customer loyalty program so people will not switch even if they have good reasons to do so. That way, Telco can start earning money again, rather than sacrificing so much data that does nothing but to make it untenable for all the players involved.

And since I am on this, time to delink phone purchase with your contracts. There are more savings over the long run (up to a few hundred dollars for every 2 years) than grouping the phone purchase with mobile contracts. You can read how I compare the numbers on this page. Yes, it is written back in 2017 but the way to calculate is the same.

You may also want to read another article that may work if you decided to sell the phone but with the caveat that you will be in a contract. Remember that if you break the contract, there is a hefty fine and the money from the phone you sold is used elsewhere. And also note in Option B, the article did not take into account the minimum data that a user needs and once your data requirement is over 15GB, you have to choose a plan with a higher data allowance.


News About Huawei circa Early-2021

The Huawei Mate 40 Pro was launched late last year and truth to be told, the launch was very muted as compared to yesteryears. Cannot blame Huawei for it because the Chinese firm has suffered greatly suffered from the clampdown enforced by the Trump administration a year ago and the Mate 30 series was the first to feel the pinch.

Things have developed since then and I have written a piece for Techgoondu.com and you can read it here.

I definitely have no issues hardware wise with Huawei. I count it as my go-to phone when I need to do good quality smartphone shots in a pinch and has graduated to shooting video for clients with it to for social media posts and websites. My Mate 30 Pro is so good I don’t miss using the P40 as much.

But it is still an uphill battle for those who have relied on Google Mobile Services or GMS. A lot of apps uses parts of the GMS, like Grab and Google Maps, to create a service for the users. For some time, Singaporeans have no way to use TraceTogether with their Huawei phones until recently. That shows Huawei is actively trying to get important apps into the HMS app stores which is a good sign. Is the adoption rate high enough to make people feel less anxiety about losing GMS? That question can only be answered by each individual.

While Huawei’s predicament is seen as something quite unfair to the Chinese firm, the ill-will towards the country it comes from and on the firm, in particular, is not built overnight. The Chinese as a whole is seen as a place with no regards to copyright ownership infringement and Huawei themselves are also involved in questionable activities in the past including the famous Cisco switches copying.

I myself have seen magnetic charging cables being sold on Kickstarter only to see the same thing being sold on Chinese E-Commerce websites. Herein lies the problem of Chinese being the factory of the world and all the inventors and creators have no choice but to use them only for their designs to be misused. It also doesn’t help when legit Chinese manufacturers gave the impression that they used foreign actors to hawk their stuff online too leading one to think the actors are the real inventors.

All in despite the good that the Chinese have done in the past decade in leading innovations in the previous decade, the bad image they have amassed themselves does not help. Looking at how they have built an island in the middle of South China seas and ignore International Conventions and treated the WHO investigators badly who went to Wuhan to understand the COVID situation just does not create a better image overseas. The question of how Hong Kong was treated is also a point of contention.

With such a baggage, Huawei is basically put in a difficult position because the International views about China is not helping the company. And it was proven right when other Chinese firms such as Hikvision and DJI were also included in the entity list.

It is not far to conclude that it is not just aiming at Chinese companies but China as a whole and the Chinese communist government in particular. So anything the Chinese companies are doing to circumvent the restrictions may be working in the short term but long term prospects are still at best unknown. I look at the formation of Honor Devices with interest, hoping for the best and yet guarded when it comes to its long term prospects. Would the US and Europe see the linkage between Huawei and Honor and decided they are equally ‘dangerous’?

Like it or not trade issues will always have the undercurrent of geopolitical considerations being pegged to it. While the Chinese government can do whatever it wants, the Western powers and other democratic entities will make sure it cannot have the cake and eat it with impunity (at least in their eyes). That includes access to technologies and know-how.

It is also because of their fear Huawei, ZTE and other companies have the laser focus to be at the fore-front of 5G connection technologies and they have succeeded. Huawei, OnePlus, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and scores of Chinese phones are also making a mark in the overseas market.

How long this Trump strategy can work remains to be seen. However, I do not see it working in the next decade when the US lost its cutting edge knowledge if the Chinese consortium of 89 companies banded together to create their own semiconductor sector. While chips from Mediatek and Samsung Exynos are still not seen as good as the equivalent Qualcomm Snapdragons, looking at how the Chinese have leapfrogged in terms of 5G technology, to replicate the same success in silicon is not far-fetched either.

By then the Western world will lose its bargaining power if they continue to decouple. The only way forward is to integrate everyone to the point the relationship is so important, that it is hard to break. Just like the banks. They are too big to fail. As of now, the Chinese are not losing much at all. I actually felt that the Americans has pulled the trigger too early.


2021 Imaging Trends

The Nikon Df

I have just completed the article on the imaging trends for the upcoming year and you can read more in Techgoondu.com. In it, I have discussed the three main imaging tools in use today from beginners to professionals.

The first contact with photography amongst the youngsters was the smartphone, and it is tough not to see why. The smartphone is with us most of the time and modern parents are using their phones as a way to distract their kids while working from home.

The adults are relying more on their smartphones rather than the big and bulky cameras such as the DSLRs. In fact, the mirrorless is comparatively big too. Part of the blame why cameras are getting rarer goes to the manufacturers that promise a smaller camera alluding that the mirror box in the DSLR took up a chunk of the space when even an old Nikon FM, even with its mirror, is still smaller than the modern DSLR. But when more mirrorless cameras are introduced over the past few years, they are nowhere smaller than the DSLR when there’s a lens in front.

Ergonomics plays a part in how a camera is handled and the big chunkiness of the camera is to help in that area and is especially important when there’s a big lens in front. This is one point that doesn’t sit well with users who just want to shoot something quickly and is easy to carry around. They make this worse when the lenses that go with the new systems are anything by dainty. In fact, the mirrorless is the new DSLR in terms of overall size with its own pros and cons.

With lesser people printing their photos these days, the need for such high-quality images is rare these days amongst consumers.

Hence the smartphone camera gets our focus (pun intended) when Huawei launched the P9 with help from Leica. Manufacturers of smartphones took up the challenge to improve the image quality using social media consumption as the basis of comparison. They are good enough, professional-looking even when viewing through apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but is not up to par with professional standards. With lesser people printing their photos these days, the need for such high-quality images is rare these days amongst consumers.

The Sony RX100 Compact Camera

In the middle of crossfire, the compact camera is the first victim of sorts. They do not have the same computational photography of the smartphones that improves on images from small sensors and yet the raw image quality is not on par with the bigger cameras.

It is getting expensive too. The latest RX100 Mark 7 is priced at S$1649 and the ZV-1 starts from S$999. This is the effect of very low economies of scale. Sony is appealing to a consumer base that is paying a lot more for their smartphones too, making it a tough sell. An average consumer will buy a smartphone more readily than a camera if given a choice.

If it is of any indication, the serious camera market is going through the same curve too. The number of people buying such cameras is shrinking and out of those numbers, more will be buying mirrorless cameras. I foresee the DSLR camera will be a niche market for action and wildlife photographers soon. When lesser people can buy lenses for their systems, the cost of R&D and manufacturing will increase exponentially. No wonder Nikon shifted most of its camera production to Thailand since the 90s and Olympus has sold its camera business to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP).

It will be a tough road ahead for camera manufacturers as we expect more consolidation with Sony, Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon and Panasonic serving lesser users in the coming years.

The DJI Mini 2

DJI has been dominating the consumer drone market for quite sometime now but I am glad they are not resting on their laurels. I own a Spark before buying the Parrot Anafi because of the later’s ability to fly longer. Problem is both of them are bad at flying over long distances, a problem when using using normal WiFi signals to control the drone.

Mini 2 improved with longer flight time than the Spark and yet has the same communication system as its bigger sibblings. This is one drone that can fly longer and further without breaking its video feed. I also feel the drone is the recipient of the recent advancement in small sensor image capture. Its night time photo and video has improved to the point I can use it for social media.

The drone market is now seeing a new competitor in the Sony Airpeak. The Sony offering does not have a gimbal camera but one that allows content creators to latch a A7 mirrorless camera unto the drone. It is by no means a consumer drone but this space needs more competitors to make it vibrant.


What I Bring to Shoot the Landscape Night Sky

A shot I did last year at Mount Bromo, Indonesia. It is a blend with 2 images. One is a short exposure for the foreground and Mount Bromo, the other is the 5 minutes exposure for the celestial objects. Can see how clear the stars are.

I wrote this article in anticipation of a workshop I will be doing with Astrotourism WA (Western Australia) group sometime this year. Having heard of them from friends in Australia, I feel it is a worthwhile efforts by the local communities to band together and give us information on where and how to enjoy the night skies of WA.

The Camera + on-camera Accessories

These days most cameras, including entry level ones will do the trick so long they have the following functions within the camera.

The common modes. We will use the “M” or manual mode for night sky shooting.
  • There are differing views about MFT and astrophotography but I prefer to use a larger sensor, at the minimum APS-C.
  • Full Manual Mode. This is the most basic requirement so even the entry-level DSLR/Mirrorless should be able to have. But this is just the first requirement.
  • Second step is the ability to use BULB mode. This mode is to allow you to shoot longer than the 30 seconds. It may sound excessive especially when you heard about the 500 rule. More on that later.
  • A wired remote trigger. While some may say using a timer is good enough, it is still not the most precise if you are planning to blend 2-3 images into one image.

The Lens

I usually would love to shoot landscape with the night sky and hence do not really use a telephoto/zoom lens for my Astro shots. Hence I go primarily with ultra wide-angle lens. On top of wide-angle lens, having the widest aperture gave me more options while on in the field.

The Samyang Rokinon 12mm f2 for Fuji.

Using an f4 lens maybe cheaper but that would mean another 2 stops of more in terms of exposure time or increase of ISO both of which are not that helpful

  • Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 for APS-C (equivalent to 17- 24mm Full Frame)
  • Samyang/Rokinon 12mm f2.8 for APS-C (equivalent to 18mm Full Frame)
  • 7Artisan 7.5mm fish-eye f2.8 for APS-C (equivalent to 12mm Full Frame). My review here
  • Venus Optics Laowa 12mm f2.8 for all sensors (equivalent to 18mm Full Frame)
  • Canon/Nikon/Sony/Fujifilm ultra-wide at f2.8 usually have no problems. Above are the cheaper alternatives.
7Artisans 7.5mm Fisheye Lens.

If you are purchasing any of the lens you can check them out with this link

Please use code “WILZGEAR” to support my site

The 500 Rule

There is a basic rule called the “500” rule is to calculate the maximum exposure time you will need for the camera to use when using a particular lens without the starlight trails being recorded because the Earth is always rotating.

Below are some examples of the calculation based on say the Laowa 12mm f2.8 lens

  • Full frame = 500 / Focal Length = 500/12 = 41 seconds
  • Nikon/Fuji/Sony APS-C (1.5x crop factor) = 500/12/1.5 = 27 seconds
  • Canon APS-C (1.6x crop factor) = 500/12/1.6 = 26 seconds
  • Olympus/Panasonic Micro Four Thirds (2x crop factor) = 500/12/2 = 20 seconds

Simply put, the smaller the sensor, the short the exposure time and that will also mean needing an even wider ultra-wide angle lens.

The limitation of the 500 Rule

In night photography, especially very dark night sky elements, the longer the camera can expose the better it is. However, due to the fact that the earth moves as well, the amount of time the camera can expose is severely limited if you want to avoid light trails from the stars.

That means if you have had a full-frame camera, coupled with a fisheye lens of 7.5mm the maximum exposure you can go is (500/7.5=) 66 seconds or 1 minute. That is not a lot of time.

I would also want to use an ISO value in the low hundreds so as to avoid as little unwanted colour dots in my images as well. Yes, I can get the colours but sharpening the images later will result in more dots than I like.

The Star Tracker: Breaking the 500 Rule Limitations

I want to use low ISO and expose the camera for more than a minute or more, than I would need to use a Star tracker.

What the star tracker does is to track the star and ensuring the star stays in one place in the image. It does that by countering or moving in opposite direction of the earth’s rotation.

The advantages of having a star tracker:

  • the star trail is kept to the minimum or none at all if the tracker is set up accurately
  • with very little movement from the stars, that means my exposure time with the camera can be drastically increased, from 25 seconds to more than 2 minutes. My longest was around 5 minutes to avoid the sensor from overheating
  • because I can do very long exposure right now, my sensor can be desensitised further using the low ISO values. That would mean I need not buy the more expensive full frame sensors too. On top of that, there is lesser ISO noise I need to edit away in editing.
The MSM set. This is the digital interface version. Not only it does star tracking, you can use it for time lapse shoots as well.

Usually such star trackers are expensive and cumbersome but I chanced upon a firm called Move Shoot Move that produces value for money trackers without the bulk. It can support camera+lens of up to 3KG so Mirrorless with light fisheye or ulta-wide angle lens is not an issue.

You can buy the MSM Star Tracker with the link here

Do remember to use the Discount Code “SPIN” for a 5% discount!

Tripods + Tripod Heads

Most of the tripod heads are workable but I find ball head tripod heads are a bit tougher to control when you are trying to find the northern and southern points in the sky.

I highly recommend getting a 2-way Pan/Tilt tripod head. It allows TWO 360 rotation for the camera as well as for the whole head and camera. I am now using the Andoer VH-10R where I mount the tracker and then a ball head to the tracker for the camera.

Future Workshops in 2020

I will be working with Western Australia Astrotourism to visit their back country, or what they call Outback to gaze the night sky. As Western Australia’s capital city Perth is situated between the green oasis to the South and the desert landscape to the North and East, there is very little light pollution once you go to the outback.

The workshop is slated to be either in mid-June or mid-July. The workshop/gathering is mainly to organise a shooting session with all the enthusiasts/learners and if time permits, showing how I do my quick edits with Lightroom and Photoshop.

If you are interested to join me, you can follow me at https://www.facebook.com/WilzWorkz or email me at wilswong@wilzworkz.com so I can keep you informed.

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About Wilson Wong
Founder of the 10500+ members Singapore Photography Interest Network photography group, avid gadget lover and budget wanderluster. He also writes for Techgoondu.com a tech website for the non-techies about the latest trends in personal tech. His wish is to help people get the right stuff and enjoy life without cutting off limbs to do so.


Travel Thru’ The Lens: Letung, Jemaja Island, Anambas

Travel Thru’ The Lens: Letung, Jemaja, Anambas!

If you have seen numerous photos of pristine waters and beaches and think that it will cost a bomb or spend lots of time to visit well I have some good news. Nestled just south of the South China Sea is this enclave of islands called the Anambas and it is just a few hours away

The Anamabas Islands or Anambas Islands Regency is a group of Islands that is part of the Riau Islands Province. Yes, despite the location, it is managed together with Batam and Bintan (and other islands south of Batam)

Anambas Sunset

Why Travel To Anambas: Get back to Nature!

If you do have a penchant to get away from it all (as in Internet and Smartphone detox), I would highly recommend Anambas. The place is so beautiful and serene to do other more active things rather than experiencing the place is just unforgivable.

Take a book and read while lazing on a hammock or walk around Letung town and experience a bit of local life. Or do a bit of yoga at a secluded beach.

Why Travel to Anambas: Photography

For me personally, Island life is not as dazzling as the city and hence you do get the perfect night sky with very little light pollution. The sunrise and sunset are superb owning to very little air pollution as well.

Here are some nice locations for photographers.

Location 1: Letung Village

Letung village is one place where you have the locals congregate. There are schools, clinic, masjid, scooter repair shop, small convenience stalls that are frequented by the locals so you can have a good range of subjects to shoot for street portrait photography. Besides, the locals are super friendly despite not speaking a word of English (tip: download Bahasa Indonesia into your Google Translator app as the internet is patchy)

Letung Village at Night Fall

Location 2: Padang Melang (Sunrise Beach)

This is Padang Melang. It is facing East and so will have beautiful sunrises here.
Padang Melang from the Air

Padang Melang is the main beach of the whole Island. This is also the place where the locals gather for the annual Festival Padang Melang (FDM). In its 4th year, the FDM is sort of a party for the locals to enjoy a day out with friends and family and also for tourists to enjoy what Anambas has to offer.

Festival Padang Melang is into its 4th year.

There are market stalls just like a Sunday market. A few food stalls that sell local food fare and strategically placed facing the sea. There is also some fun fair activities for the kids and shopping for the adults.

Seaside dining anyone?
Sate…sate…cooked with coconut husk and charcoal.

During the festival, there are a lot of activities for the locals to like their 5KM colour run, photography competition etc. Come nightfall, a beach party with live performances by famous Indonesian celebrities bring delight to the locals.

These days everyone is hanging umbrellas but is a nice backdrop!
The Padang Melang Pier. One of the locations you can shoot with the Milkyway.
If East Coast Park is this clean…
Milkyway with the Pier (shot with P30 Pro)
Beach Party Live Performance
There are famous celebrity performing and look at the crowd!

The vast Padang Melang beach is definitely beautiful. Stay the night at the local Homestay and enjoy the sunrise too! There are also small huts along the beach so you can set up a hammock to sleep too!

During the months of April till June, the Milkyway will appear after sunset too.

Location 3: Pantai Kusik (Sunset Beach)

For Sunsets the place to be is Pantai (Beach) Kusik that lies west to the Island. With a very long wooden jetty, it lends a good visual element that guides the eyes towards the setting sun.

Pantai Kusik
From the air.

Location 4: Ulu Maras / Air Tejun Neraja (water long exposure/Action shot)

The triple layer waterfall Neraja of Letung is at Ulu Maras and it takes about 50 minutes by scooter from Letung to Ulu Maras. Like most freshwater waterfall in the islands, the water is extremely cold but refreshing.

Neraja Waterfall.
The waterfall from the air.

Location 5: Jemaja Natural Sea Resort / Ferry Pier (Milkyway)

This location is where we stayed for a night and because it is quite a distance away from the village, the night sky is definitely much cleaner and brighter. Walk another 10 minutes or so towards the pier and you have the wide-open sea and super clear night sky (minus the moon of course)

This is part of the gate that welcomes visitors to Letung from the Ferry Pier.
The Milkyway at the Ferry Pier.

Why Travel to Anambas: Fresh Foods

Being in the south of the South China Sea seafood food will be in abundance and Anambas will not disappoint. Although the seafood goes without saying is great because it is so fresh, the highlight for me for this trip is the Letung Durian. Super creamy, sweet, a bit XO with a hint of mango after taste, you won’t get this durian anywhere else. Highly recommended if you are on the Island in July.

We went Durian hunting!
So many durians…will be gone in a flash!
That face of Bae says it all~

Travel to Jemaja Island

Taking the French made ATR 72-500 Propellar Plane. Look out of the window to see pristine sea waters!

Jemaja Island can be reached via french made aeroplane ATR 72-500 with Wings Air Indonesia operated by Lion Air that will take you about an hour and cost anywhere from 150-200 SGD depending on the season. You could go the slow route, taking a 7-hour ferry ride from Batam Island itself.

Jemaja from the Pier.
This ferry takes 7 hours to reach Letung.

My suggestion is less travel, more time on the island so the flight is what I will recommend. However do note, put aside 40SGD for your check-in luggage (both ways) so the total cost is around 200-250 SGD.

Staying in Letung

There are two main places to stay at Letung. Hotel Miranti is the largest establishment on the island with a few rooms, including a 2 level building. Room wise it is basic but is kept clean. It has a nice view out to the open sea (north facing) and is a great place to enjoy the sea breeze.

View from Hotel Miranti
Hotel Miranti faces the sea you will have a great view while dining. This perspective is also good for star trail.

If you like something a bit upmarket, the Jemaja Natural Sea Resort is the place to be and my current favourite. With a good team of cooks, comfortable rooms and located just at the edge of a reef, you got pristine white beaches right at its doorstep on one side, and deep-sea next to its platform that you can dive into.

Jemaja Natural Sea Resort. How not to love this place? (Shot with Oppo Reno)
Jemaja Natural Sea Resort. The Sunrise Panorama
My bedroom and the Hammock I slept in. Yes…need the blanket.
From the air.


Many thanks to Anambas Tourism Office and Bawah Reserve for inviting me to the Annual Festival Padang Melang to really enjoy Anambas!

My Gear for the Trip

  • Huawei P30 Pro Smartphone and Content Creation Center
  • Oppo Reno (standard) My go-to panorama camera.
  • Nikon D500 DSLR with Laowa 12mm f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8
  • Parrot ANAFI Drone
  • Insta360 Action Camera
  • GoPro 7 Black Edition Action Camera

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About Wilson Wong
Founder of the 10000+ members Singapore Photography Interest Network photography group, avid gadget lover and budget wanderluster. He also writes for Techgoondu.com a tech website for the non-techies about the latest trends in personal tech. His wish is to help people get the right stuff and enjoy life without cutting off limbs to do so.


Travel Thru’ The Lens – Misugi (Mie), Miyama (Kyoto) & Kyotango (Kyoto)

Everyone knows Kansai region but most will travel to Kyoto and Osaka through the Kansai International airport. My trip this time is really to go beyond the tried and tested and look at other places that most tourists will not venture out because of time constraints especially with Singaporean’s very limited amount of leaves they can muster.

So in 10 days, we tried to be a bit different and yet get an experience that I hope my family will remember better than your typical tour+shop types of trip. With some help from Khamisah of Xtrekkers we decided to venture to Misugi, Miyama and Kyotango in March.

Ready to Go!
Going to the Land of the Rising Sun
Always nice to be back in Japan.

MISUGI (MIE Prefecture)

Nestled in a valley full of forest trees Misugi is a place where locals like to go for a nice dip of the onsen, definitely welcomed after a long flight from Singapore.

To reach Misugi, we bought the Kintetsu pass from the airport and make our way through Namba station to Sakakibara-onsenguchi Station. From there a shuttle bus from the hotel picked us up. Do make prior arrangements with the staff at the hotel.

Once you reach Sakakibara-onsenguchi, you are right in the heart of the Japanese countryside with greenery and fresh air. Perfect!

We stayed over at Misugi Resort Hotel Annex that is perched on the side of the valley overlooking the area. They have various types of accommodation including log houses and chalets but we took the Japanese tatami styled rooms.

On the way to Misugi
After a very long journey over air, great to reach destination.
The bus picked us up at the station.
I always love tatami mat. That fragrant straw always gives me a homely feel.
The Misugi Valley.

We got hungry from all the travelling and decided to do a bit of trekking to see the surrounding area too. We went to the river bed and chanced upon a local eatery that provides the local venison and river fish called “Amago”.

Yamazato. Sometimes the exterior does not show the gems within.
The interior is so localised it is a fresh experience. The deer antlers are displayed prominently inside and this eatery is visited by quite a number of Japanese celebrities too.
Restaurant Yamazato
Hotplate Venison being served
Venison Donburi. Yum! Sometimes being simple, is the best way to show how fresh and delicious the food is.
Because we are in the valley, cannot really see the sunset but the clouds gave an indication how beautiful it is.
The plum flowers and sakuras are starting to bloom.
All ready for the Kaiseki Dinner.
Not sure how fresh is the produce? Look at the fish itself. LOL!
If you are into King Crabs, then this trip is well worth it. There will be more so do read on.

MIYAMA (Kyoto Prefecture)

Most of those who are thinking of going to Japan, the thatched roofs of farmhouses of Shirakawago are always in the minds of the planners. Being a UNESCO heritage site this is almost a given that a lot of people will visit just like the Taj Mahal of India, Borobudur of Indonesia or Ankor Wat of Cambodia.

The bad news is also the number of tourists visiting such sites and Miyama, more famous amongst Japanese tourists but doesn’t feature much for International Visitors is definitely a quieter alternative.

Miyama is rural area in the mountains some 30km from Kyoto. Like Shirakawago, they also have a thatched roof (Kayabuki) farmhouses village nestled in the valley of Miyama. The best part is that the locals still live and work in the village so even though tourists came and visit, it still does not overwhelm and lends it an air of authenticity.

To reach there we took a train to Hiyoshi Station from Kyoto main station. From there we take a bus into Miyama.

Hiyoshi Station
The bus to the mountains.
The bus stop. It was raining while we waited for our ride.
Tautasya. Slow Food and Accommodations. Highly recommended for the adventurous.
Yup. We are officially away from civilisation.

The place where we stayed is called Tautasya Farm. Situated right next to the forested area and a stream, it can be called an educational farm akin to an adventure camp. They have pretty interesting activities from agriculture to hunting deers.

In the compound they have 3 log cottages that is at once rustic and yet very comfortable. Inside each cottage can sleep 8 people and it is heated with an iron stove. With snow this place reminds me of the log cabins up in the mountains (though we are in the mountains and it is a log cottage).

In terms of food it cannot get any better. We had venison stew filled with self grown organic vegetables and the whole pot will cost an arm and a leg. It was delicious, filling and fresh. Best ‘normal’ food I have had in years.

Up in the mountains where the air was crisp and the peaceful surrounding envelops you.
It does reminds me a bit of the army barracks but it is really comfortable.
This is the iron wood stove and heater. That’s the miso soup for our breakfast.
They actually have English explainers telling you what they are serving and how to enjoy your meal. You will also have an idea why they raise ducks that is a source of food and also pest control as well.
That’s our first night’s dinner Duck Meat Hotpot. Simply delicious and healthy thanks to the self-grown organic vegetables and duck.
The dining hall felt very homely too. Great place to sit around and chit chat or get immersed with a book.
This is the Venison Stew with seasonal vegetables. The potatoes and carrots together makes the stew sweet. The venison is cooked to perfection. No wonder Isaac loved it so much he can easily give his blessings away to Jacob that readily.
Wife approved.
The beauty of Japanese wilderness.
Was raining on and off and nice to have the sun streaming through the trees.
One of the dogs of Tautasya. Heard they help with the hunting of deers in the area.
The rice fields in the valley
One of my favourite photos showing the resilience of the local elderlies doing their morning walk with their own wheelchair! And she has walked passed me to reach the foot of the hill and come back up again! Contrast this with the PMD users at home. No wonder Japan can bounce back from WWII destruction so fast.
The Lim Family + 1
The Wongs
The local map of the village
It was a wet day
Wet days create puddles of water for that more dramatic shots such as reflections…
…and water droplets.
The Sakuras are blooming!
A more dramatic view of the thatched roof with decades-old moss giving the roof its distinctive look.
If you are at Miyama, do have this bowl of Soba made with locally produced wheat in a restaurant opposite the village. Simply delicious with the local fish.
The river is so clean here!

KYOTANGO (Kyoto Prefecture)

The next part of our journey is to the seaside town of Kyotango. The local tourism office labelled Kyotango as Kyoto by the sea. Pretty interesting way to describe the place actually.

Like I said, Kyotango is by the sea, Sea of Japan actually so that means a few things. Super fresh seafood, beautiful sunset and mesmerising coastal area. That means great food, landscape and more landscapes.

Well this time is a bit different. With some arrangements made with Xtrekkers, I prepared a kimono shoot session for my wife.

Kyotango from the air.

I got to make it a point to thank 女将 IKEDA-san, who runs the Totoya Inn is just right next to the iconic Tateiwa Rock on the coast of Totoya. If you are an avid photographer, it is within walking distance to a few choice locations for beautiful sunsets, sandy landscapes and a cliff for some great photography too.

And I seriously need to mention their food quality is impeccable. The King Crab is out of this world. Highly recommend this place if you choose to visit Kyotango.

I didn’t know 8 Days and Today (same content as 8 Days) were invited to Kyotango last year too. Judging by the photos and the report I can say they have not scratched the surface for this area.

The special Kyotango train
Top tip. Go to the end of the train and there’s this special lounge area where you can sit down, have your bento and drink while looking at the world pass you by outside the window.
It doesn’t look much but this cafe has a great view and a fantastic bowl of Udon.
Look at that! What a view!
When we reached Kyotango, it was way pass lunch time and so we have one of the nicest bowl of Udon at Blue Tango (since vacated as the building it is in is marked unsafe as it is not earthquake protected).
This is the reception area of Totoya. Good vibes!
This is Totoya early in the morning. Our rooms at in the building on the right. Right in front is the rice padi field. You can imagine this place during harvest time.
Preparing for the shoot.
Wifey with Tateiwa Rock. Lethal Combination.
Nearby Tateiwa is this wooden bridge that gives that a certain feel of a bygone era. I can imagine a few more cosplay shoot with this place.
Come sunset, the golden glow gives another dimension to a portraiture shot. I switched on the Mate 20 Pro’s swirly bokeh mode to achieve this shot.
After a bit of poster designing.
Now the food here is not going to disappoint. Sashimi of the highest quality
Salmon cheek well BBQ with crispy skin and soft tender meat.
This is the product of our shabu shabu broth mixed with beaten eggs and rice and we have this. I still miss this!
Our breakfast! Exquisite!
The appetiser!
Just before we cook the King Crab. The red is just so enticing.

The beach just behind Totoya is also another trove of possible locations for the avid landscape photographer. With Tateiwa and wooden bridge it allows multiple possibilities to shoot landscapes, including start studded nightscapes.

The Lady Shizuka statue provides a good foreground to the beautiful sunset in the area…
…and also the starry skies at night. Lady Shizuka (静)is a famous court dancer in 12th century Japan. She is the subject of Japanese Noh plays. The statue features her and the son of her lover, Yoshitsune who was killed by an enemy general, Yoritomo.
This bridge has a East-West orientation that is perfect for milkyway shots. Too bad we reached here during the full moon period.
Tateiwa just after the sun sets.
Tateiwa from the air.
While in the area, you can visit Ine no Funaya, a seaside fishing village that is now selected as an protected area of traditional buildings.
You can take a short cruise around the bay of Ine no Funaya but the highlight has got to be the Japanese Black Kite trying to get some food. And the snack of choice? Calbee Prawn crackers.
One the Black Kites about to grab the prawn cracker.
Not just the Kites, but the sea gulls are into the action too.
You can visit Amanohashidate. Take the cable car up to the theme park at the top of the mount and take in the view of Amanohashidate that meanders like a dragon and I think it is called Bridge in Heaven is the fact it can look like a bridge with reflected clouds and blue skies off the sea surface.
Obviously very happy to win a posh toy in the theme park.
We actually made our own souvenirs that intrigued Ikeda-san she took a photo.
It was Mathias’ birthday and what better way to celebrate than using the Strawberry Swiss roll from the local bakery. Yes the strawberries came from local farms as well.
A very great end to a great trip!

My Gear for the Trip

  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro Smartphone and Content Creation Center
  • Nikon D500 with Laowa 12mm f2.8 DSLR
  • Parrot ANAFI Drone

DSC_0061 (Small)

About Wilson Wong
Founder of the 10000+ members Singapore Photography Interest Network photography group, avid gadget lover and budget wanderluster. He also writes for Techgoondu.com a tech website for the non-techies about the latest trends in personal tech. His wish is to help people get the right stuff and enjoy life without cutting off limbs to do so.

About X-Trekkers

X-Trekkers Adventure Consultant Pte Ltd (“X-Trekkers”) is a leading pioneer in the area of adventure travel and we take pride in bringing regular people to the farthest places on our wild and intricate planet. You can contact them via email at japan@x-trekkers.com


Travel Thru’ The Lens: Vana Nava

Vana Nava
Holiday Inn Hua Hin

Hua Hin, the Royal Resort

Thailand is not just a land of smiles but a land of islands and mountains. For travellers who are time strapped, getting to places of natural beauty is not tough too.

Of course one could get to places such as Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui but that would require flights out of Bangkok. Nearer to Bangkok, Pattaya comes to mind but not exactly family friendly and that usually leave only Hua Hin as the easier option for families.

This is actually the Royal waiting area for the train going back to Bangkok.

The area is popularised by King Prajadhipok in the 1920s and become a Royal Resort with the completion of tthe Klai Kangwon Palace, named so that he can be far from worries and domestic palace politics I supposed.

Hua Hin’s Layout

Hua Hin is fronted by 5km worth of beach front so you can image how long is the beach. Just to help things along, we can use Hilton Hotel as the center of the whole area to navigate the around the place.

The Main Hua Hin Area

The area between the Railway Station towards Sofitel Central and Hilton is where most of the activities are from restaurants to bars. There is a nice night market as well that is noticeably cleaner and drier than equivalent markets in Thailand. Less rowdy than the ones we see in the cities and it is really a nice walk through the area at night.

The Holiday Inn Vana Nava where I will be staying is located South of this area, around 15 minutes car ride from the Clock Tower which is in the middle of Hua Hin town.

The Hua Hin Train Station sign post has another copy at the night market.
There are various entrances. This is from the clock tower in the middle of the town.
The usual tourism souvenior wares.
This is definitely a shop to bring back Thai tit bits
There are definitely artists shops in but not as much as the markets in Thailand
The Hulk made of recyclables.
The fish spa still quite popular. Squirmish much?

How to Go to Hua Hin (Singapore)

Option 1 – Depature from Bangkok City

There are numerous ways to get to Hua Hin from small passenger vans beside the Victory monument to comfortable tourist buses. I personally like to take the tourist bus so that I do have the space to stretch out during the 4 hour ride.

To buy tickets, you can search online for “Sombat Tour” and buy a ticket from the terminal itself or you can get the hotel concierge to help you. If you are planning to go back to Bangkok you can get tickets at the bus terminal South of Hilton Hotel. You do need to get a taxi to get you there.

The weblink: https://www.sombattour.com/

Option 2 – Departure from Suvarnabhumi Airport

If you are going straight to Hua Hin from the airport, do make it a point to go to Sukhumvit rather than Don Muang airport. DM may be cheaper but the extra hassle of going into town to catch a tourist bus just add more money and time spent to the whole trip. 

There is a direct bus from Suvarnabhumi  Airport and it is not expensive (by Singaporean standards that is) and it is a much better option overall. Just go to the bus counter inside the terminal and board the scheduled bus.

I have used this bus to get to Suvarnabhumi Airport with no hassle at all. They have a terminal at Hua Hin, North of Hilton Hotel. You do need a taxi to get you there.

The weblink: http://www.airporthuahinbus.com/V2/

Getting Around Hua Hin

There is really no way around it. Unless you rent a car from Bangkok, you are at the mercy of the horrendously expensive taxi services in Hua Hin. A one way trip easily cost me 200 THB (S$8) even for such a short distance trip.

Hence this is the top tip – make full use of the Holiday Inn Vana Nava Resort’s bus services.  I will provide a recommended itinerary for your use.

The typical tut tut transport. Not cheap at all. The pictures above shows the places you can visit. I suggest rent a driver for the whole day is a better.
Vana Nava at night. Taken from the breathtaking glass balcony of the hotel roof top bar.

About Vana Nava

Most people would ask why is it so troublesome to call the resort Vana Nava Holiday Inn Resort Hua Hin when Holiday Inn Hua Hin is sufficient. 

Well, the main reason is the Vana Nava Water Jungle. If you have been to Singapore’s Downtown East Wild Wild Wet, you’ll get the idea. Because of the water theme park and the rides, the Holiday Inn Resort is more of a family vacation destination that I think will be sufficient for a 4 day 3 night stay. If you are cramped for time, a 3 day 2 night stay is also possible.

Same water theme park rides you can find in Singapore but less crowded.
The Abyss. You will feel as though you are going down the toilet…LOL!

More about the Water Jungle. There are quite a few rides stretched out between two towers in the park and if you are the adrenalin junkie like me I can straight away recommend the few rides according to adrenalin level.

  • Freefall 
  • Aqualoop – you load into a chamber before you free fall and travel 60km/h through the slide. 
  • Master Blaster – a 45km/h ride through hair raising drops. It is basically a roller coaster ride on water.
  • The Abyss – 6 people share a tube and drops down 28 meters at 45 km/h into a huge funnel

There are of course more kids friendly rides where you share the tubes with a group of people or you partner up. There are big areas of water playground that the kids won’t be bored at all. Parents? you can just lepak by the pool side or float around in the infinity pool or the lazy river.

Holiday Inn from Vana Nava

Holiday Inn Hua Hin

I believe that Holiday Inn is a brand name everyone knows. For Holiday Inn Hua Hin, they have the exact same standards as the other Holiday Inn Hotels that I have experienced.

Throughout the stay the experience was comfortably laid back. I love the fact that this resort hotel is a bit of a distance from the hustle and bustle of Hua Hin Town and is quite self contained should you choose to hole yourself in during the whole stay.

The check in is at the upper floors.
The lobby is very welcoming.
If you need a quiet corner to catch up on some work or having a small party with friends, they have nice cozy corner to hide away from the public. This is my favourite corner.
You got a welcome pack. Unique about this place is the access chip that you can wear like a watch so you can gain access to Vana Nava and pay for your food with it. Truly cashless experience.
Got the room. Pretty upbeat colour.
I have one too many complaints about my sleeping pillows and here I got just enough of firmness by putting the soft and film pillow together.
My balcony looks out to the sea and also the railway track that leads to the Hua Hin train station. Just beyond the track is the Cicada Art Market/Village.

When you checked in, the staff will hand you a folder with all the information for you to understand and go around the resort. On top of the standard key cards, you will be given silicon straps with an access chip. That means I can go down to Vana Nava have some fun without worrying about where to put my access card.

Not only that, you can pay for your food and make use of lockers just presenting the access chip. 

The glass balcony of Van Nava Sky. Hair raising indeed.
The Vana Nava Sky from my 360 camera.
This is Thyme is Sunny, Vana Nava own house-infused chrysanthemum and saffron gin double-shaken with lime, basil & thyme syrup and egg white. Topped it off with soda and presented with ice. You can check the menu here: https://www.facebook.com/Vananavasky/menu/

There are a few things that is special to the resort. There is Vana Nava Sky, the tallest bar in the whole of Hua Hin and you can literally see across the seas and land of the area. What’s more they have a see-through balcony that will make your heart pump a bit faster while in take in the sights.

If you want some peace and quiet, the pool is definitely a bit better than the Theme Park.

Just below the bar is the infinity pool. I definitely prefer this pool over the one at the theme park. It is more relaxed and you get to enjoy the cool breeze coming in from the sea.

For more relaxation, I opted for the excellent 2 hour massage at the Spa. Granted the price is definitely more expensive than the massage shops down at the streets but at least, it is more spacious and clean. Totally feel relaxed during the session thanks to my masseur.

The Spa at the hotel is quite huge and I got quite a good massage. A bit expensive than those found in Hua Hin town but it is at least professional.
The kids won’t trouble you as much when you are here.

You can also ‘parked’ your kids at the child care center. Pretty big place where the little ones can roam and play to their hearts content.

When it comes to holidays, food is utmost in our minds and the resort’s main dining restaurant, the Plamong, can dish out pretty delicious food.

Suggested Itinerary for Holiday Inn Hua Hin (3D2N)

Day 1: Check in early só you can get to the water theme park and play for the whole day until dinner time.  Remember to book your massage so that you can get that well deserved rub down.

Remember to indulge in a SPA treatment!
Havê breakfast at Plamong.
Prepare a day to enjoy the beach at Le Colonial Beach House. You can take the shuttle bus from the hotel so check with the concierge when you arrive.
Beautiful Beach Front at the Le Colonial.
Indulge in some babe watch while sipping a cocktail.

Day 2: Have your breakfast at Plamong and then pack for a day out to beach. Take the shuttle bus to Holiday Inn’s Le Colonial Beach Club where there is a beautiful infinity pool you can dip in and take a nice little nap or drink inside the refurbished 100 year old house.

For lunch I can suggest making a trip down to the market village which is just a stone throw away from the Le Colonial. 

Once you hit the late afternoon, you can visit the Hua Hin Train Station and visit the Night Market in the area. You can visit the bar area just next to Hilton Hotel OR take the shuttle bus back to Holiday Inn and enjoy the night breeze at the glass platform with your complimentary drink.

You can visit Blue Port for some shopping and have a very special lunch here.
I highly recommend that you take up the Bluport supermarket’s offer to buy the ingredients and allow the chef to cook up a storm for you.
As a Wagyu fan I cannot afford to miss this. This is sourced from Korat (known as Nakhon Ratchasima a city North East of Bangkok) The price? A mere S$25.
Expertly done medium-rare.
Woooo….the natural juice from the beef and the chef’s own spicy sauce. Perfect match made in heaven.

Day 3: You can take a day tour around the area where I did not have the chance to do it. Do visit Bluport for lunch after you check out. It is a fairly large shopping mall but its highlight is the small eatery right inside the super market. 

You can actually buy produce from the supermarket and there are chefs around to take your ingredients and whip out a nice lunch before you take the bus back to Bangkok or Airport.

My Gear for the Trip

  • Huawei P20 Pro Smartphone and Content Creation Center

DSC_0061 (Small)

About Wilson Wong
Founder of the 10000+ members Singapore Photography Interest Network photography group, avid gadget lover and budget wanderluster. He also writes for Techgoondu.com a tech website for the non-techies about the latest trends in personal tech. His wish is to help people get the right stuff and enjoy life without cutting off limbs to do so.


Travel Thru’ The Lens: Qingjing, Taiwan 2018

After a full year traversing Japan (and a short visit for National Duties last year), this time I was ‘suggested’ to go to Taipei. Cut long story short, July-August is the hottest months for countries in the region and so I was not exactly that excited until someone pique the idea of going to Qing Jing.

I have saw quite alot of advertisements from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau on my transit through the MRT stations so yes I am one of the successful KPI from that campaign. I would say Qingjing is also a to-do list after friends did mention about the place quite a lot of times on Facebook.

經過整整一年的日本之旅(以及去年的國家職責短暫訪問),這次我”被建議”去台北。 長話短說,七月到八月是該地區各國最熱的月份,我这个人又怕热,直到有人给了去清境的建议。

我在新加坡看到了很多關於清境廣告。 也有朋友們在Facebook多次提到這個地方也就决定去一趟看看。

Carton King Creativity Park

On the way up the mountains we passed by Taichung for late breakfast, early lunch and then make our way up to the mountains. Along the way Xiaowei said something about a cardboard paper theme park that got a bit of curiousity piqued.

Image a theme park made entirely up of paper and you have a very whacky place to visit. The Carton King is located in various places and for convenience, you can just pop by the small outlet at Qing Jin but the main one is at Da Keng. There is a restaurant made entirely of cardboard paper and yes you can safely sit on it since it can handle me pretty easily.


想像一個完全由紙製成的主題公園。 Carton King(纸箱王)有很多家分店,為了方便起見,您可以去清境的小店走走。但主店在大坑,所以路过就来看一看。

Location: https://goo.gl/maps/EtRiG41M7ix

Qing Jing (or Cing Jing) 清境

Qing Jing, in Chinese meant A Place of Tranquility because the word Qing means clean or clear. Established in 1961 by the Veterans Affairs Council to house retired servicemen and their family, it has become a tourist destination for the young and old. It has sort of becoming a grassland for sheep, and the first thing that comes to mind is Switzerland and the highlands. Add to the fact there are a few hotels and accommodations that are built with facades of European architecture it just add that bit of illusion.

There are also sheep shearing and horse riding show on the grounds. The kids can also take a ride on the horses and the adults can just relax at numerous viewing spots throughout the grounds.

What I felt is that the best part of the place is to actually shoot the night skies. Too bad July is a bit wet and should visit around the September-October period.

清境,中文意思是一個寧靜的境界吧,因為清一詞意味著清潔或清晰。 退伍軍人事務委員會於1961年成立,為退休軍人及其家人提供住宿,已成為年輕人和老年人的旅遊目的地。 它有點像草原,首先想到的是瑞士和高地。 此外,還有一些酒店和住宿建築採用歐洲建築立面,增加了一點點去了欧洲的幻覺。

酒店內還設有羊剪毛和騎馬錶演。 孩子們也可以騎馬,成年人可以在整個場地的眾多觀景點放鬆身心。

我覺得這個地方最好的部分是拍攝夜空。 九月至十月期間可以拍到云海和星河。

If you have been to the highlands then Qingjing basically is what Genting used to be like before the whole place is turned into a shopping center in the skies. The air is fresh, the grass is green, the sky supposed to be blue but is full of clouds. But anything just to escape the pressuring heat in the city. Singapore is hot enough and coming to a temperate country‘s summer is definitely not my favourite season of the year.

To say this is a ‘farm’ is not exactly correct. It is more like a playground that happens to have sheep roaming the grounds. Good thing the area is enjoyable helped by the cool breeze.

清境有如80年代的云顶。 空氣清新,草原又綠,蓝天白云,帮我逃避了城市壓力。 新加坡已经夠熱了,来到这里真是够凉爽。

說這是一個“農場”並不完全正確。 它更像是一個正好讓綿羊在地上漫遊的遊樂場。

Só this is the general layout of the whole place. If you want some local food you can go to the middle where the carpark location is and enjoy some street side food. It is not exactly a small place but also not that big it became daunting. I personally like the pasture area but the iconic windmill is at the south park.

這是整個清境农场的總體佈局。 如果你想要一些當地街边美食,你可以去中央的停車場所,享受一些街頭小吃。 它不是一個小地方,但也不是大得那麼难走。我個人喜歡青青草原,但風車部署在南方观山牧区。



The iconic windmill of Qingjing.

That’s the horse riding trail that the kids would love but it is quite short.

The view is pretty nice and a good respite from the Taipei heat.

There are such nice trails around the farm. Just take the lesser road used by the tourists and explore a bit.

Wu Ling and He Huan Mountain

I do have a plan to at least stay quite late at night at He Huan Shan for milkyway and sunrise so you do need to get transportation to and from the drop off point. This is a must go if you are at Qingjing and do make the effort for the sunrise if weather permits. I don’t have that luck unfortunately as a typhoon was forming and the whole place is full of clouds. But it was a nice drive up the mountain and see the view.

我確實有一個計劃,至少在何歡山度過深夜。 如果你在清境,如果天氣允許的話,可以去看日出,這是必須的。 不幸的是,由於颱風正在形成,整個地方到處都是雲,所以我沒有那麼幸運。



During winter months the top of the mountain will have snow and provides ample reasons to visit here again to enjoy a White Christmas.





What We Ate

Because the place is so touristy, getting things to eat is not an issue. If you want to go budget, there are 7-11 shops around and there are roadside stall at the South Entrance of the Farm. There is one notable place to really spend the afternoon and it is The Old English Manor High Tea set. It is about $30 per person and the Tudor setting is really posh to the point I felt underdressed in t-shirts and shorts. Nevertheless we did enjoy the stay and food when the mountain is pouring with heavy rain.

Of course, we can’t do without the local dishes and Qing Jing has a lot of options as well. The usual suspects are the stew pork rice and noodles and if you are on top of the mountain, try their roast chicken as well. For a chicken lover like me, I am in heaven while in heaven.

因為這個地方非常適合旅遊,所以吃東西不是問題。 如果为了省省钱,周圍有多家7-11便利商店。農場南入口處有路邊攤位。 下午有一個值得一去的地方,那就是The Old English Manor下午茶套餐。 每個人只需付約30星元就可以享受高档生活。

當然,我們離不開當地的菜餚,清境也有很多選擇。 台湾卤肉飯和麵條都能找到。如果你在山頂,也可以試試他們的烤雞。

This is the taro ball or yam ball. We all know about yam paste so basically it is yam paste and ball in a big paper bowl. This is the antidote to the Taiwan heat.

My guide Xiaowei introduced us to this coffee place. Their ice drop coffee is really tasteful. Smooth and full of flavour. Totally love it after a hot day in Taiwan. This is one of those local spots you wouldn’t know if you travel alone.

The Old England Manor 

I would say having High Tea at The Old England Manor is actually a highlight in itself. Furthermore there was torrential rain when we arrived so I was pretty glad to escape the drenching. To say that this is not a hotel I feel it is unfair since it is really a minsu. The mish mash of the interior did give a bit of that English vibe and having high tea feel…English Victorian style.

The food is quite alright but I think the lunch, albeit expensive, can be a better option. Then again, High Tea is about sweets and cakes and all things that go well with English tea and for a mere S$30 is pretty affordable just to experience the interior of this quirky pseudo European environment.

Welcome to my home!LOL!

At the back of Old England Manor there’s a small cottage that serves coffee and cakes too. So if you think the high tea is a bit too much, this is a great alternative though I didn’t get to try.


My accommodation is actually a souped up container box. However that doesn’t mean it is not comfortable. Far from that it is pretty homely and the wash room is quite well equipped. There were towels for us to use to, and disposable toothbrush and toothpaste. Although it is a ryokan, mingsu, it is to me as good as a 1-star hotel. I have travelled a lot of places and have been to worse so this is certainly more than acceptable so long it is clean, well maintained and has a toilet that works well.

我的住宿實際上是一个装修过的貨運集裝箱。 然而,這並不意味著它不舒服。 遠非如此,它非常舒适,洗手間設備齊全。 有毛巾供我們使用,還有一次性牙刷和牙膏。 雖然這是一家民俗,但它對我來說就像一家一星級酒店一樣好。 我已經走了很多地方並且情況更糟,所以這肯定是可以接受的,

This view is just outside my cabin. This is unedited and you can see very clearly the milkyway core up in the skies. Imagine this being a cloudless night!


For transportation to Qing Jing, one can get the tourist bus from Taichung or the High Speed Railway Station. I opted for a full package with accommodation and transport.

There are few advantages. First of all, the Farm is quite scattered. There are definitely more thing to see around the area including He Huan Mountain. If you do want to do trekking, transport is also needed to drop you at a spot before you climb the mountains or trekking.

If you are travelling alone then it gets a bit expensive. The budget way would be the shuttle bus and walk/trek the whole area.

If you want me to answer some personal questions, please comment below or send an email to wilswong@wilzworkz.com. I will help you as much as I can.





My Gear for the Trip

  • Huawei P20 Pro Smartphone and Content Creation Center
  • Nikon D500 with Laowa 12mm f2.8 DSLR
  • Canon M50 Mirrorless Compact
  • Sony RX100 Mark 6 Compact Camera
  • Insta360 ONE 360 camera
  • DJI Spark Drone

DSC_0061 (Small)

About Wilson Wong
Founder of the 10000+ members Singapore Photography Interest Network photography group, avid gadget lover and budget wanderluster. He also writes for Techgoondu.com a tech website for the non-techies about the latest trends in personal tech. His wish is to help people get the right stuff and enjoy life without cutting off limbs to do so.





Budget = Crap Phones? Phones Camera = DSLRs?

Just this week I was invited to do an interview segment with Channel 5’s Talking Point. During the recording, a student from our local Polytechnic send a message to me through some serious CSI and wanted to ask me about smartphone and photography. And before the recording, someone also asked me about budget phones that can play games.

So with that in mind and the number of phones I have with me to do a bit of review work as all the new mid-range to budget phones are launched or available for review this week, somehow everything just comes together nicely. I don’t believe in coincidences but label them as God assisted co-occurrences.

This is not a review for the phones but really an overview of what I felt when I put all these phones together. If you are keen to know what are the individual reviews for the phone, do access Techgoondu.com as and when the reviews are done. It will be a very busy weekend ahead while I am away to Malaysia to get some me time and attempt to shoot Milkyway or star trails with these mobile phones (seriously I really pushing these phones to the limit).

Here are the phones that I have. I will update the links as and when the full review articles are out on Techgoondu.com

There are phones that are used for Talking Point but not on my review list

To make things a bit simple, I put all the specification in a table here.

Brand Model Processor RAM Storage MicroSD Earphone Jack Display Res. Display Type Camera M/2/F Water Battery Distinct Feature Price Range
Apple iPhone X A11 3GB 256GB No No 5.8-inch Full HD AMOLED 12/12/7 IP67 2716 Face ID 1888 Crazy Premium
Samsung N8 SD 835 6GB 64GB Yes Yes 6.3-inch QHD AMOLED 12/12/8 IP68 3300 Stylus 1398 Ultra Premium
Samsung S9 SD 845 4GB 64GB Yes Yes 5.8-inch QHD AMOLED 12/12/7 IP68 3000 Slow Mo/AR Emoji 1198 Ultra Premium
Oppo R15 Pro SD 660 6GB 128GB Yes Yes 6-inch Full HD OLED 16/20/20 3430 899 High
Honor 10 Kirin 970 4GB 128GB No Yes 5.84-inch Full HD LCD 16/24/24 3400 Face ID 579 Mid
Vivo X21 SD 660 6GB 128GB Yes Yes 6.28-inch FHD AMOLED 12/5/12 3200 In-Screen Fingerprint Scanner 748 High
Nokia 7+ SD 660 4GB 64GB Yes Yes 6-inch FHD LCD 12/13/16 3800 Android One/Ceramic Cover 599 Mid
ASUS Zenfone 5 SD 636 4GB 64GB Yes Yes 6.2-inch FHD LCD 12/5/8 3300 Ultra Wide Angle Camera 488 Budget
Xiaomi A1 SD 625 4GB 32GB Yes Yes 5.5-inch FHD LTPS LCD 12/12/5 3080 Android One 300 Budget

ASUS Zenfone 5

Question 1: Because the cost involved in making a budget phone is much less, are they not able to offer some features?

When it comes to a pragmatic consumer, the key consideration is not about offering features, but to offer FUNCTIONS that can do the minimally necessary without paying a much higher price to do the same.

For example, can the most expensive do calls, write messages via WhatsApp/WeChat, update Facebook, share photo on Instagram? They can. So can the cheapest phone do the same? Definitely and so why I need to pay so much to do the same?

Goes to show, having the most expensive phone doesn’t necessary means you can do the SAME THINGS better. In fact, I can safely say the budget phone can do the same without having the user tear their hair out while using the phone.

And so, my stand is that so long the phone has 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage that allows expandable storage space via MicroSD card and a mid-range processor such as the Snapdragon (SD), one can do a lot of stuff on their phone.

If the phone is under the Android ONE program, it is actually a plus point for me.

Why? The Android ONE program provides the Android OS in its purest form and so it doesn’t require as many resources to run badly written manufacturers’ in-house apps since these apps are not installed in the first place.

Secondly, Google supports the Android ONE program by updating the OS as and when it is needed. That means it will have the latest security patches for the OS AND the user will get to use the latest OS when it is launched. It also frees the manufacturer to focus on the hardware more rather than maintaining their customised OS.

Vivo X21

Question 2: Where do companies compromise when it comes to budget phones?

An easier question to ask is this. What did companies such as Samsung, Huawei, and Apple offer over and above the most basic functions to make themselves different and charge a higher price or premium for their particular model?

TL;DR version: When it comes to basic functions, ALL smartphones can do the basics. The main thing that manufacturers used to distinguish themselves now (and is applicable to most of us) and charge a premium for – aesthetics, stylus, and CAMERA. For me, an avid photographer, the camera is a good differentiator for me.

a. The use of Stylus. The Stylus is actually very useful for users who relies on pictures are called logograms. Chinese, Korean, Arabic are considered Logograms. Logograms needed to be written out and hence uses a more complex method of character input unlike English or Bahasa Malayu or Bahasa Indonesia where a simple English Keyboard is enough. However, there are complex keyboards that can type of Logograms pretty easily too. Even Chinese language can use Hanyu Pinyin to type out Chinese Characters quickly.

Then again some people do like to draw or write out their thoughts and it is definitely something that can differentiate the phone and create a higher price point. For this the Samsung Note 8 has their own set of fans especially for those who are in the creative industry and also architects and engineers.

b. The use of a better screen technology. For the longest time, Samsung is one of the few companies that make use of AMOLED screen technology to differentiate themselves. Yes on paper it is better than LCD screens plus it can bend (that’s where you get the Samsung curve screen but lately Lower Temperative PolySilicon (LTPS) LCD is making a comeback.

Long story short, whether you use an AMOLED and LTPS LCD screen, both are enough to allow you to screen under the sun and both do provide good colours too although AMOLED tends to win colour reproduction.

However, AMOLED screens are the one that can be bent to allow manufacturers to come out with more design but was never made full use of. Even so, some people, like me, prefer a flat screen so we no need to struggle when reading things closer to the edges. I have issues controlling my drone using such curve screens so a flat screen is definitely my go-to choice.

I have no issues with FHD LCD screens. Yes it might not be as good as AMOLED screens but it does the job and does it well enough not for me to complain.

Oppo R15 Pro

c. The use of better processors and more RAM memory. This really depends on what you do on the phone. i.e. user dependent and app dependent. If an app is going to be resource hungry, then getting a faster processor with higher RAM will be a better bet.

Using Avast (a security company) blog as my source, the highest common apps I see most people using are Facebook, Spotify, LINE, Google Map, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger (the website is more US-centric by the way). Snapchat is quite predominantly used by the young in Singapore I heard but I have no way to verify that.

Even when I use all the apps above in one day (Spotify while in transit. Facebook/Instagram updates, FB Messenger/WhatsApp as and when I need to reply messages), my phones, even the budget ones I am testing did not hang so what does that say? The budget/mid-tier phone’s processor and RAM combo is definitely enough for most users.

However, I must say, kudos to Huawei AI Processor Kirin 960, my 1.5-year-old Mate 9 works as well as the day I had it. The AI Processor actually actively manage the processing resources so that it won’t slow down the whole system. Even when the phone has an old processor and technically speaking, slower than the latest chips, it still can manage to ‘survive’ newer and more resource hungry apps. From the looks of it, it can survive another year or so pretty easily.

d. Battery capacity. This point is related to point c too. As processors and RAM get more efficient, usage of battery power to run apps will also reduce subsequently. Even when I am heavily using my Huawei P20 Pro to do photography and videography, it can last at least 10 hours with its 4000mAh battery. And must remember, the imaging processing done by the P20 Pro is actually quite heavy when compared with other competitors and yet it can last the day easily.

e. Aesthetics. A lot of things that manufacturers can do to differentiate is using aesthetics to grab the attention of would-be buyers. The fact of the matter is this – after the phone is protected by elaborate phone cases, we can’t see the special glass or coating anyway. Why put so much emphasis on aesthetics since it is covered? We must remember the main aim of the manufacturers is to SELL the phone at the point of purchase. And at the point of purchase, the aesthetics plays a huge part in the buying decision.

The fact of the matter is this – after the phone is protected by elaborate phone cases, we can’t see the special glass or coating anyway. Why put so much emphasis on aesthetics since it is covered?

So for the logical buyer, aesthetics shouldn’t be that high in the list of ‘must have’ but sometimes, that is something we as reviewers are guilty of as well. So long the phone looks great, holds great (ergonomics), doesn’t slip and is easy to maintain without me wiping off my fingerprints every other minute of using it with my oily hands, I am definitely okay with it. What interests me more is the insides. Can it do the work I need the smartphone to do on a daily basis?

f. Gaming. This is pretty big subject actually because playing a MMORPG or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game is not just about the phone but also the internet connection quality to the gaming server. So how the server that the phone connects to is able to provide the support the phone is crucial. So for that, I won’t comment as much.

For simple, single player games with a bit of 3D rendering, it is perfectly fine for most phones here. I played a 3D rendered dart game and Marvel’s Strike Force and the test phones did well. 2D games generally will have no issues.

g. The Camera. When all things even when there are numerical difference (battery capacity Huawei P20 Pro 4000mAh versus Zenfone 5 3300mAh example) doesn’t really make a huge practical difference any more thanks to more streamlined Operating System and Apps. In the end, the manufacturers have to go back to the camera

Quite honestly, the cameras from budget to mid-tier to high-end when given sufficient light can produce pretty good results for most users. And how to differentiate the camera feature? By convincing the experienced photographers (Advanced Amateurs and Professionals).

So what that means is that the differences are now about image quality such as the ability to expose correctly complex scenes with different lighting conditions, sharpness when zooming into a scene, colour accuracy and ability to focus correctly.

These are definitely very subjective, again, only those who are trained to look out for such things will know what they prefer that vast majority of the users out there couldn’t really care less unless they want to shoot better photos.

With that said, the selfie camera up till now is still quite bad for all the Android phones. Only iPhone has done a much better colour management for their selfie camera. I will espouse more about the Camera next.

Question 3: How has phone cameras evolved to have comparable high standards as DSLR/Mirrorless cameras?

In actual fact, with the ultra-small sensor in the phone cameras, the absolute quality of the images coming out of the phones is not going to win the image quality competition with pit against DSLR/Mirrorless cameras.

The simple fact remains is that the lens used by the smartphones is nowhere near the clarity afforded by lens used with larger sensors.

One aspect that DSLRs will still win any smartphones is in the area of Bokeh or the blur background portrait photographers used to focus on the subject matter. Due to the extremely small size of the sensor, having bokeh is definitely possible, but not at the aesthetic level of a bigger camera.

For that, phone manufacturers rely on fake bokeh to create such effects and it may be quite good for most people, it is still not as nice as an image taken with a DSLR.

In the end, it is not how best a photo is but what is the ‘good enough’ that you can get away with based on the medium the image is used on. These days, smartphone camera does enough for me to get away with certain things without lugging heavy equipment around since most of my photos are used on Facebook, WordPress and Instagram.

In the end, it is not about how best a photo is technically but what is the ‘good enough’ that you can get away with, based on the medium the image is used on.

Question 4: In your opinion, what about your personal camera that you are using right now that makes it better than a mirrorless / DSLR camera?

With the understanding of the answer with regards to Question 3, I will still say, in strictly technical terms, I will still use my DSLR for professional work where image quality is of utmost importance. Professionals need the sharpness, clarity in the picture but also the data when it comes to colour management accuracy.

However, for my travel blogs where I was invited to stay and document my experiences, most of the time my smartphone camera’s image quality is good enough for blogs and online consumption. Besides, my drone shots are taken with small sensors as well which is more than enough for most uses.

I would say, when you give a good photographer a smartphone camera, he/she still can shoot exception photos and likewise, an untrained person who has the most expensive camera will not shoot well.

Photography is not just the tool, but also the skills and knowledge in using the tool. Hence photography is not strictly science but is an art form that uses science to produce images that can be art through image manipulation or be the arbiter of truth through photojournalism.

In short, I use the tools that is ‘good enough’ for certain work and when it isn’t, I choose a better tool that matches the requirements. So there is no ‘better’ camera but it really depends on how you use the tool and what is the tool used for.

My answer:

Huawei P20 Pro for day to day shoot. Sometimes using it to hone my composition skills. Nikon D500 for events/sports. Nikon D700 for portraiture/Studio work. Fuji XE1 and Smartphone for Travel Work.

Question 5: So why make so much effort to improve the smartphone camera?

The most obvious answer is that most users now use their cameras to update Facebook and Instagram. Truth be told, the consumption of these photos is not about how well the photo is taken but what is in the photo. So long it is sharp and exposure is correct and viewers can see what is shot, most people couldn’t care less about composition and the ‘beauty’ of the picture.

Unfortunately, phone manufacturers really do not have anything more to improve and distinguish themselves. We now have curved screens, glass covered phone, in-screen fingerprint sensor, stylus, face recognition security, and wireless charging.

But the camera is the only most viable and most visible way that makes a significant differentiator amongst close competitors.

The only way to make people feel good about buying a certain brand’s phone is to ensure that the picture that is shot by the phone is significantly better and that can be seen and shared very quickly out to the social media thereby providing a very quick marketing tool for the brand. Besides, who doesn’t like a couple a hundred more ‘likes’ on Facebook and Instagram thanks to a better camera?

Question 6: Phone cameras have become so developed and high tech that they have many similar features like DSLRs? Do you think that because of this, we will see a decline in demand for Mirrorless/DSLRs?

On the surface, some smartphone cameras are doing a very good job for most snapshots and will give the illusion that it can replace a DSLR easily. But can it totally replace the DSLR?

One thing I do love about Huawei P20 Pro is their night shoot function that takes multiple shots are various brightness settings so it can extract details out from all these shots and combine them into one complete image all within 4 seconds without any vibration even when handheld. If this is done with a DSLR, it requires the use of a tripod and also a bit of post-processing in front of the computer with a photo editing software that will take up a lot more effort and time.

The smartphone may have the same features with a DSLR apart from a non-changeable aperture control, it doesn’t mean that it is easier to shoot with a smartphone.

Photos that need extensive preparation to shoot like setting up studio strobe lights for creative shots or in need of good zoom lens and quick reaction, such as sports and wildlife photography, the smartphone is NOT able to shoot well or unable to support.

I will definitely see a decline in demand for Mirrorless/DSLRs when it comes to taking snapshots. However, those who are serious about photography as a hobby will still like to have a proper camera and full set of lens that provides more shooting opportunities that a smartphone cannot provide.

Decline in demand in numbers as a percentage? Yes. A total eradication of DSLRs/Mirrorless cameras? No.

There will be a market for professional imaging tools IF the market for talents in this area is able to sustain the livelihoods of professional photographers and videographers.

Question 7: What are some functions you think that a DSLR will never be able to be incorporated in the phone camera? (something that will continuously stand out for DSLRs)

Sports/Wildlife photography

  • requires a good set of telephoto (zoom) lens
  • quick and accurate autofocus
  • Triggering/Shuttering accuracy to capture the moment is important
  • Better ergonomics (a shutter trigger is definitely better than screen button, holding an actual camera is better than holding a phone for long periods of time)


  • Need super wide lens
  • Need very sensitive sensor that can output good image quality shots
  • Good ISO performance

Studio Photography

  • Need to communicate with all the lighting equipment. The flash must fire when the phone is taking the shot.
  • Triggering/Shuttering accuracy to capture the moment is important especially for moving subjects
  • Autofocus accuracy

Event Photography

  • Need to use flash
  • Need to use various types of lenses
  • Shuttering accuracy to capture the moment
  • Autofocus accuracy

Question 8: How are each type of camera or phone companies perhaps helping each other / or being different so as not to potentially become extinct?

For smartphones, it is getting tougher to differentiate themselves because most of the things we need the phone to do well, they are doing extremely well even for budget phones. Only when a certain app is poorly written then more powerful phones are needed to run it.

For cameras, like cars, certain design and way a camera works will have their own fans. For example, Nikon users appreciate how their Nikon camera works because of the placement of certain buttons or settings are changed is more preferred that no Canon users can live with. Same with phones, some iOS users just cannot accept Android OS and vice versa.

There is nothing wrong with that. Everyone is wired differently and have different tastes and so the tools, smartphones, and cameras, are designed differently and that in itself will ensure the company can survive unless the companies themselves produce products that are not competitive.

Question 9: With the rise of phone cameras could it possibly blur the lines between a professional photographer and an amateur because camera functions allow even amateurs to take “professionally good photos”?

A quick analogy. Did automatic gear change maketh a professional driver? Do we find amateur drivers in F1 race?

No. A tool can only be as good as the user that is using it. Even if the smartphone camera is able to aa good a shot as a DSLR, it still cannot replace the brain and creative vision of the user. No matter how good Artificial Intelligence can become, it can only apply ‘filters’ and ‘settings’ but how good a photo can be, solely depends on where and when the photographer point the camera at.

However, that doesn’t mean the tool cannot improve. When the tool improves, the photographer can also improve along with it and be inspired by the new possibilities of what can be captured.

And when people who are good at taking photos are able to show what the tool can achieve, it creates the desire for people to improve themselves using the same tools too.

That is where the smartphone manufacturers, or at least the very motivated ones, are keen to keep certain users from switching phone brand by providing very good photographic tool and use it as a marketing tool as well.

A good photo doesn’t just depend on the tool one is using, but also the vision of the photographer and the skills and knowledge of the photographer to capture the shot.

If a dish is delicious, do you thank the plate, kitchen utensils, ingredients and pot for making the dish?

If a good smartphone and camera can shoot good pictures by themselves, then we don’t need the photographer already yes? Then again, we need someone to press the shutter.

So for a smartphone/camera brand to say the smartphone can shoot professionally good photos, then the smartphone brand better train their customers well to make full use of their smartphone/camera

If you want to know more about Smartphones versus Camera, here’s a link to infographics pertaining to this subject.

Question 10: You talk too much liao lah! So in the end, the phones you compared this week, which is the best budget phone money can buy based on paper comparison (or after you have done all the reviews)?

I choose the Nokia 7 for these reasons (just paper comparison)

  • The price is definitely very agreeable at $599
  • The processor and RAM is capable enough to do most tasks I do on a daily basis
  • Earphone Jack and Expandable MicroSD card slot (sacrifice one SIM card slot is okay!). The reason why we get Android Phones (I missed removable batteries but we have huge 3800mAh battery pack in return)
  • The camera backed by Zeiss seems to be quite good (based on my test shots, will share in the actual review). More tests needed definitely.
  • It has 64GB and storage is expandable. This is the key reason why we buy Android phones in the first place. Not to be held hostage by Apple and charge exorbitantly higher for bigger storage options in their phone range.
  • The LCD screen is good enough. No need AMOLED. No need QHD.
  • The phone is under the Android ONE program thereby giving me access to latest security updates and new OS as and when it is available to download. Also free online storage for my pictures in high resolution (not full resolution).
  • It has an aesthetic design that doesn’t look cheap at all. In fact, it looks more expensive than it really is.

Singtel, Credit Cards, M1 and Huawei – Feb 2021

Singtel Shows IT AND Payment Still have some ways to go in Singapore

Singtel has suffered a major breach of data this month and was lauded by Alfred Siew of Techgoondu. While there are lessons to be learnt, what is painfully obvious is that the data is still relevant, especially credit cards, even after a period of time has lapsed. Just take a look at your card’s expiry date and the see how long the card is in circulation. We don’t change the cards often enough to at least deter the data from being misused.

And there is also the question about overseas usage. Most of us would assume the credit cards can be locked away from transactions that are done overseas to prevent fraud. To that end I have only allowed two credit cards to be used overseas and charges in foreign currencies shouldn’t be allowed. At least that is a normal consumer understanding.

However, it seems to my knowledge all bets are off if you add the cards to Apple Pay where all the controls set by the banks can be circumvented very easily. If a card, added through fraud or by the legal owner of the card, can go around the locks set by the customers just by using Apple Pay or Google Pay, then why are the banks or credit card companies giving us a false sense of security by saying a card is locked up from overseas transactions? That is simply not acceptable.

How many times do you see shopping sites such as Shopee, Qoo10 and Lazada approving purchases without requiring the use of the 2nd factor authentication? I have lost count and have decided to use a debit card to make my purchases now.

The way I see it, despite the government push to improve our IT industry even to the point of importing more IT workers from a particular country, our collective reputation as a IT hub especially in Security, did not have a stellar record.

The unfortunate part of it all is that the security of our financial services depends on two governmental entities – the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority. If an international payment system such as Wirecard can still operate in Singapore after it was shut down in Europe, it just shows there is a gap between these two governmental agencies.

M1 Comes with New Phone Plan But Is It Enough?

Techgoondu has reported that M1’s new management has introduced new plans to attract customers. It was only in 1997 that M1 was introduced to be a competitor to Singtel using the new CDMA network. Starhub also joined the fray soon after. I remember how M1 literally caused some stir and those who are pissed with Singtel, immediately changed to them.

I can be considered one of the pioneer customers while studying for my degree in NTU. That number has been with me since and is now parked with Circles Life, who is the catalyst for more consumer friendly changes in the last few years.

Thanks to Circles Life, having 40GB of data at just $24.95 is now the norm and does not cause as much sensation as a couple of years ago. While many will think more is merry, how many of us are struggling to use up the data by the end of the month when we have Wi-Fi access when working from home? The pull of giving more data is not as strong as before, and it is maintaining status quo at best.

As a consumer advocate myself, I do feel that the best person who will actually help you as a consumer to save, is to save up for a particular phone and pay it either with a credit card instalment plan or in cash while using a non-contractual mobile plan. In my last calculation, one can save anywhere between $200-600 over 2 years depending on what phone you want to get.

But still kudos to M1 for allowing their customers to customise their repayment plan. But still, asking customers to pay more for 5G, in my humble opinion, is a waste of money. Yes, we have 5G handsets and also a hybrid non-standalone 5G network that is available right now. Only when Standalone 5G networks are up, utilising Millimetre-wave communication, will you see a huge uptick in data transfer speed.

Besides there are no apps that are maximising 5G speeds at the moment as well. I don’t think waiting a few seconds more will deny you from an enjoyable video streaming experience simply because such apps does not need such speed. Unless you are competing in a global online game competition that requires a super quick internet speed, we won’t see much use for this “5G”.

I will still go back to the same old question – “What are you doing to convince your customers to stay with you?” The days of churning by giving good deals to only new customers are over. I will stay with my provider so long it gives me good discount towards my monthly bills

Who is my provider? Grid Mobile who uses their marketing budget to reward customers who stays with them. And best of all, the network they used is Singtel, arguably the most stable amongst the telcos. In the past 7 months since Aug 2020, I have paid an average of $4.60 per month, giving me a huge discount over a $24.90 monthly bill.

Do use code “WILZGRID” to give you more Grid Mobile points towards bill discounts and share amongst friends to earn more rebates when you sign up.

Huawei Fighting Hard without Google Services

Huawei has just launched a new DigiX Lab in Singapore to support developers in using Huawei AppGallery as their platform to distribute and monetise apps. The Lab is also tasked to provide technical support to write programs and services for the Huawei Mobile Services such as speakers, smartwatches and other household items.

All good and dandy. Huawei is pushing more apps into their AppGallery. However it is still not enough.

To date, I just don’t feel AppGallery is the best place to hunt for Apps. It is too China-centric to the point doing an App search resulted in non-related apps being shown to me. Huawei tried to plug that gap by using another app called “Petal Search” so that it can help you hunt down your apps in AppGallery, other App Stores and the direct download of the .APK files from certain Websites. I managed to install Facebook this way.

But I just felt that the experience is not great because I have to use so many Apps just to get what I needed. AppGallery simply need an overhaul to appeal to the global audience and that includes improving its App searching capabilities.

It also needs to give more motivation to get non-Huawei phone owners to install AppGallery in their phones. Reward them with actual gifts or give them free Premium Apps.

If done well, people will gravitate towards using AppGallery and more developers will join the fray since that’s where all the monies are.

In the meantime if you are tech-savvy enough, I did manage to get all the apps now without using Google Play Store except for SingPass app which will come by the middle of this year. Once that arrives, I would say it is much easier for me to recommend Huawei phones to Singaporeans.

Challenge. To take a 1/43 scale #porsche911 GT3 model and make it as real as possible. Still fine tuning. How you guys like it.

Challenge. To take a 1/43 scale #porsche911 GT3 model and make it as real as possible.

Still fine tuning. How you guys like it.

Dongpo pork (traditional Chinese: 東坡肉; simplified Chinese: 东坡肉; pinyin: dōngpōròu) is a Hangzhou dish which is made by pan-frying and then red cooking pork belly. The pork is cut thick, about five centimetres square, and should consist equally of fat and lean meat. The skin is left on. The mouthfeel is oily but not greasy and the dish is fragrant with wine. The dish is named after the Song Dynasty poet and gastronome Su Dongpo. This is the version by Noodle Man and it goes well with their hands pulled noodle 拉麵 or Ramen. #eatzbywilzworkz #wilzworkz #sgprojectmuse #projectmusesg #projectmuse #吃の摄会 #吃的摄会 #攝朗影食 #meetupshooteat #meetupshooteatsg

I just to say. This special hot sauce by Noodle Man is definitely different. It uses Mala oil Sambal oil and lemon grass as base that gave a nice kick to the dumplings. Even my wife even says it’s better than the famous brands in Singapore and I agree wholeheartedly. I will be doing a special menu set dinner this coming Tuesday 23rd Feb with Chef Wong @noodlemansg with all the favorites including the Red Chilli Oil Dumplings. Do comment below for me to pass you the details. #eatzbywilzworkz #wilzworkz #sgprojectmuse #projectmusesg #projectmuse #吃の摄会 #吃的摄会 #攝朗影食 #meetupshooteat #meetupshooteatsg

Missing travel and on site photoshoot in far away places. Before that why don’t you practice at home first? The process is simple. Shoot the backdrop by underexposing it. If you want the background to be blurred, then shoot between f1.8 – f2.8. Taking note that the shutter speed do not go over 1/200 second as the flash is not fast enough to cover the whole body if the shutter speed is too fast (unless you have a flash system that has fast sync feature) Adjust the ISO and the flash power (M Mode) accordingly since shutter speed and aperture are fixed. Note: the shutter speed should be above 125 to make sure camera shake does not happen. Camera: Nikon D500 Lens: 50mm f1.4 Flash: SB800 naked and no softbox.

Have a blessed Golden ox year everyone. May your endeavors be successful and your health is as though you are still in your youth. Go into Shalom Peace!

The problem with soup dumplings is that the precious soup filled with flavourful pork fat will spill out for those who are chopsticks challenged. And so he put them in small saucers instead. Thanks Chef Wong @noodlemansg sg #eatzbywilzworkz #wilzworkz #sgprojectmuse #projectmusesg #projectmuse #吃の摄会 #吃的摄会 #攝朗影食 #meetupshooteat #meetupshooteatsg

I found another place to get my soup dumplings(小籠湯包). Outside they say Lanzhou la mien so I did not try. Thanks to an introduction we get to eat the fabulous this hidden treasure. The soup is clear and flavourful. The small ball of pork brings out the fat and infused into the soup. I will be back. #amazing #delicious #delish #eat #food #foodpic #foodporn #hungry #instafood #yummy #sedap #oiishi #wilzworkz #eatzbywilzworkz #foodstagram #asia #Singapore #foodlovers #sgfoodporn #sgfoodies #sgprojectmuse #projectmusesg #projectmuse #吃の摄会 #吃的摄会 #meetupshooteat #meetupshooteatsg #thatwilsonlor

I found another place to get my soup dumplings(小籠湯包). Outside they say Lanzhou la mien so I did not try. Thanks to an introduction we get to eat the fabulous this hidden treasure.

The soup is clear and flavourful. The small ball of pork brings out the fat and infused into the soup.

I will be back.

#amazing #delicious #delish #eat #food #foodpic #foodporn #hungry #instafood #yummy #sedap #oiishi #wilzworkz #eatzbywilzworkz #foodstagram #asia #Singapore #foodlovers #sgfoodporn #sgfoodies #sgprojectmuse #projectmusesg #projectmuse #吃の摄会 #吃的摄会
#meetupshooteat #meetupshooteatsg #thatwilsonlor

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