June 30, 2009 09:59 by Adrian

Hey hey!

           Ok.. there is no way that I can not talk about the food in Phuket.. especially sea food! so is it true that the sea food there is cheap and fresh? well.. how can I put it midly.. DAMN YES! oops..  my bad.. Cool

           Hehehe.. so yes, one should sample the lobsters and prawns.. the fish over there is somewhat comparative to Malaysia.. probably due to the fact that in Malaysia we import lobsters and large prawns while fish we have plenty..

           So below is the first dinner I had at a restaurant along Song Roy Pee Road (the road just behind the road along the beach).. 100gm of lobster and prawn costs about RM15 which includes the price of cooking..  so we had 2 of the largest prawns I ever saw, one BBQ and the other steamed.. I advice going for the steam version as the meat is much more tender and sweet, the BBQ although different in taste, can get quite hard easily when it gets colder as most of its moisture is drawn out from the meat by the fire. 

 

Close up of that large prawn.. damn this these ought to have a mandatory chollesterol check..  

And of course being in Thailand.. one needs to have the ever so famous and authentic tom yum thai style.. yuuumm... tho unfortunately been down spiced as most foreigners can't take the authentic spicy version.. even when requested to be most spicy, it came out just so-so..  

The above, tho looks like a novel way of serving tom yum.. its quite bad in terms of design as the ladel provided was slightly too large to effectively scoop out the soup..  

Ah.. then came the king of all... the lobster.. steamed with garlic.. wheeeeeeee  my god its large and full of meat..  there was once I've taken lobster back in Malaysia only to find out that the shell is huge but the abdomen where the meat is contained is small in comparison.. but this is obviously not the case.. 

On the 2nd night, we went slightly further down the road, just past the bangla road intersection and found those open air restaurants.. this place charges even cheaper.. at RM10 per 100gm.. the seafood selection is further in the shop where you get to pick your selection of yummilicious and chollesterol laden crustacean to fill your tummy.. 

I find that this place better than the first night's dinner.. the only downside is that there isn't any air-con option but there are tons of big fans to keep you cool.. 

This time around we skipped the prawns and substituted with 2 crabs instead.. notice how long that lobster whisker is?  As for me, the green curry isn't so yummy and ended up being isolated while the other dishes get clean off the plate..

So in the end, don't go to the restaurants facing the beaches (costs about RM 20 per 100 gm) but rather the road before that.. walk past Bang La Road for even more value for money sea food at RM10 per 100gm.. 

There's a few more pics left in this Phuket trip of ours.. till then..

Cheers,

Adrian Y. 


June 26, 2009 06:09 by Adrian
Hey hey!
 
        This is part 4 of our trip to Phuket.. this time around we are going Island hopping via speed boat via Andaman Leisure Phuket.. Its a full day tour.. Click Here for the itinerary.. as a short run through, we'll be going to Maya Bay, Loh Sa Ma Bay, Viking Cave, Hin Klang Reef, Monkey Beach and Khai Island..
 
        There are a few benefits in choosing this tour via speedboat from this company.. :-
 
  1. Their boats are new with Honda latest and highest spec V-Tec 3.5 liter V6 (4 stroke SOHC) generating 225bhp x 3 engines (675bhp- Get there faster, more time for you to enjoy at those key locations.. other tours may use only 2 engines or some even opt for the large tour cruisers.. whatever it is, you can save money but end up spending most of the time wasted on the boat travelling.. If you can spend the money to come to Phuket, you'd prefer saving a few bucks and waste precious vacation time bobbing down on the waves? 
  2. They depart from the hotel at 9am where as other tours start at 8am.. at least you can party to a reasonable hour the night before.. the last thing you want is to go back and sleep at 11pm for the tour the next day.. 9am, enough time to wake up and eat breakfast.. yum.. time to munch and chew too!
  3. Because they depart an hour later and faster speed of travel.. we end up reaching key locations at 'odd hours'.. usually before or after the crowd has left.. 
  4. We get to depart from the Royal Phuket Marina and not the Phuket Harbor.. which is much closer to Phi Phi Island, closer to Patong Beach and with lesser crowd and hassle.. plus helluva view of all the expensive yachts
So in the end, we get to wake up late and spend more time at key locations when the crowd is low.. for a price of course..  Anyway.. below are the series of images of the tour..  
 
First up at 9am.. we got pick up by one Mr. Sopol in a 10 seater van.. below is the first image of the series that shows us travelling from Patong beach towards the Royal Phuket Marina.. 

 
Ahhh.. reaching the Royal Phuket Marina.. How I wish to have gone here at night.. notice the black bands in the middle of each coconut trees.. those are spot lights aimed up and down the tree trunk.. if one would have driven this road towards the Marina at night, he/she will be guided by lighted coconut trees on both side of the road right up to the Marina..  romantic and beautifully landscaped.. best of all, clean and tidy.. 
 
 
Once reaching the Marina, all of us were tagged and given a specific number.. mine was 4.. this was later to help the organizers identify and guide towards the specific boat / tour that we are suppose to go.. no mix matches on this trip.. unless one swap numbers with someone else..  
 
 
Above picture is the view from the drop off point.. right infront of the Andaman Leisure Phuket main office.. Royal Phuket Marina is a small resort in its own right specifically catered for the rich people who park their boats / yachts / multi-million dollar floating babe magnet at the marina..  
 
 
 
So once entering the HQ of Andaman Leisure Phuket.. there's free coffee, tea and even sea-sick meds all ready for your morning consumption.. the sea-sick meds is new for me as all my usual sea tours, you are on your own as far as meds are concerned.. but this place gives you plenty..  And oh yeah, this is also where you make your wallet lighter.. the payment counter is located here as well..  
 
A walk around the Marina will yield the following views..
 
 

 
 
The above is the centre resort courtyard .. each building has their own specific key card access..  
 
Below is the view of the marina.. beeautiful..
 
I'm just happy that the skies are all nice and blue as the first day reaching Phuket, it was raining and has been apparently the few days prior to that.. luckly it stopped when I'm around.. hehehe thank you weather! 
 
 
 
So close to 10am, we are all gathered up for our briefing of where we'll go and what to expect.. our expedition briefing is broken down to two groups, one group which is briefed by another fella in Russian for the Russion speaking no english crowd and the other which is led by Mr Cooper (the guy in torquise shirt, showing us the map of Phi Phi Island).. this fella is very hillarious more so because of the way he speaks English.. he's been doing this for 8 years..   
 
 
 
Soon after we all took photos for insurance purpose.. which we get the option of buying the photo at the end of the tour.. sounds fishy but its a tourist thing anyway.. after snappy snapp, we walked down to the pier and towards the boat named 'Banjamas' .. which stands for.. like hell I know.. hehehe.. 
 
 
 
See those lovely high performance outboard motors?  
 
 
 
 
As a tip for those boarding such boats, its best to sit on the side of the boat rather than sit right infront of the motors.. due to the rough sea, people sitting there get the most splashes of water.. so unless you like to get splash with sea water, try sitting deeper in, I sat just behind the captain's chair..  
 
 
The above view is what you'll get zipping past islands as we travel 40+ km towards Phi Phi Island.. a trip that lasts about 1 hour.. if you can imagine 1 hour on a speedboat such as this, anything else would have taken twice as long.. we've zoomed past many boats with 2 engines..
 
Oh yeah another plus point of going around on a speedboat is that even due to the large waves during this time of year, its not a big problem as speedboats are meant to go through the waves and not up and over.. even so the journey is akin to a roller coaster bobbinb up and down as each wave hurl the boat over the water.. and also the waves slow the journey down as well.. for every 5 meters going forward, the wave will push you back 1 meter (as an example) ..  
 
 
 
Yep.. the each of the 3 engines are revved up to 4.5 thousand revs per minute or RPM..  this picture was taken with the 18-200mm lens zoomed in between the captain and the throttle control while bouncing up and down on the rough seas.. part of being a photographer is patience as it all bores down to timing..  there will be a time when the jostling up and down on the boat is at its lowest point, that is when you take the picture.. on this picture, unlike the usual leaning against the wall to get increased stability, this situation doesn't have any 'stable' place to lean on as the entire boat is the one moving about.. in such situations, keep your body away from leaning and just rely on using your body to 'go with the flow' .. kinda like doing a panning shot while moving up and down instead of side to side..  
 
Below is the view of the wake generated by the boat.. as earlier mentioned, try not to sit where the small kid is sitting.. those poor chaps all got soaking wet even before reaching the first stop.. we were the only asians on tour.. mostly from Russia and America..
 
 
The first stop is the Viking Cave.. waters around this area is calm as its protected by the island.. 
 
 
 
 
Our tour guide Cooper threw in some bread into the water and to our amusement saw a shoal of fishes going at it.. 
  
 
Zoomed in at 150mm, this close up of the fish was taken amid slight movement of the boat.. no biggie for us.. the below picture was taken seconds before the piece of bread disappeared entirely..  luckly these fishies weren't phiranas.. 
 
 
 
The view after the Viking Cave.. notice how shallow the waters are.. its low tide..  the water is absolutely beautiful.. and if you gone with a bigger boat, there's no way that the boat can go to these shallow parts..
 
 
 
We later saw some old fashion boats.. its mainly for small groups, usually couples.. kinda like the gondolas you get in Venice.. but not quite there.. 
 
 
Soon after, we reached the ever so famous Maya Bay where the movie 'The Beach' with Leonardo DiCaprio stared in was filmed..  
 
 
 
Maya beach is very popular as you can see by the number of boats parked.. the beaches are absolutely lovely.. clean white sand.. clear waters that doesn't smell (unlike the ones found in certain places in Malaysia) .. here situates only a ranger station which provides the only non nature lavatory.. Cool
 

 
The picture on top and below are quite good for wall papers which I'll provide at the end of this multi part article.. but just to highlight how subtle changes to composition can greatly alter the 'feel' of the picture.. take the above picture, everything looks balanced right? now look at the picture below.. the only difference is that I moved the image slightly towards the right which removed the hills on the left of the image..
 
All of a sudden, the image looks 'unbalanced' as if its right side heavy? although the boat is in the basic photography 1/3 rule.. balance is also required.. I purposely taken the picture below as an example.. this same rule applies when taking group photos, I've seen photos that are one side empty.. the photographer would give an excuse that it's 'different angle' but its all bullshit.. an image must be balance for it to look good.. that's what we human look for..
 
Now you know.. Wink 
 
 
After relaxing at Maya bay for I think 30 minutes or so, we moved on towards Monkey beach.. in all seriousness, Monkey beach is as the word is, a beach filled with monkeys.. I've never figured what's so special about this place.. just find an island, dump some monkeys and poof.. you get a tourist destination? damn you white folks..
 
Anyway, Cooper informed us that the monkeys kinda attacked the tourist on 2 recent tours there and adviced that we took shots only without getting off the boat.. nothing special except we noticed one interesting monkey drinking cola..  

 
 
The time saved by not hanging around Monkey beach, we ended up spending more time snorkling at Hin Klang big reef..  the waters are clear and corals are beautiful.. below is the only shot we took as we are about to leave.. heheh we spent all the time we could snorkling and enjoying one of nature's wonders..  the picture below clearly shows how shallow the reef is and how crystal clear the waters are.. simply beautiful..
 
This reef is the great reef of Phi Phi Island.. there are other reefs but none as large nor as beautiful as this one..  the other best thing is that we are the only boat there! talk about enjoying nature's beauty without the crowd.. for such a popular spot, I found it strange but then again that's why I paid this tour for..  
 
 
After that, we headed to the next destination Phi Phi Island natural resort for lunch..  below is the Tsunami warning signs.. a grim reminder of what transpired on December of 2004..  
 
 
We had a simple buffet lunch while taking in the beautiful open ocean below..  
 
 
Now the final stop after lunch.. Khai Island, also known as Egg Island due to its shape.. its on the way back to the Marina actually so we didn't need to rush back.. we had over an hour enjoying this lovely island until 5pm.. the crowd left before 4pm to rush back to Phuket Harbor..
 
Below is the view from the middle of Khai Island towards where we landed our boat..  
 
 
and below is what you'll see when you turn around..  
 
 
 
Yep.. from one end to the other, its all SAND! and not just any sand..  
 
 
 
I'm talking extremely fine powdery sand..  
 
 
The feeling is just so amazing.. you got to go there to believe it..
 
Actually one funny thing happened, upon reaching Khai Island, there will be a photographer snapping your picture and then selling it back to you I think for bht 200 ... but strangely he didn't take mine or Jacky's.. I wonder why.. could it be that we are carrying big dSLRs? hey.. we photographers also want our pictures taken you know.. dammit.. no luck  Frown
 
Below is the view standing at the other end of the beach.. you can snorkle as well but ended up being too tired and decided to just hang back and enjoy the scenery and cool clear waters.. 
 
 
 
Cheeky us.. you know those wedding photographers that love to take couples at the beach? seriously, its nothing we can't handle or do.. its just really expensive to bring a married couple along with the dress and make up to these exotic locations for a shoot.. I mean you got the money, we can arrange.. no problem Cool
 
Below is our lovely Jacky posing for a typical pre-wedding shoot.. just replace her with the couple jumping up in the air .. and of course minus those fellas in the background.. Tongue out
 
 
Then while taking the above shot, we noticed some things moving around the rocks..  crabs! walking on rocks.. wheee..  

 
 
 
Although we are photographers, it is still our holiday.. so we drowned coconuts! as typical Malaysian, we had to request for spoons to eat the coconut flesh inside.. I guess the white folks don't know about it and just toss it aside after drinking it.. what a waste as its really sweet and refreshing.. and cheap..
 
While relaxing around, our eyes are always scanning for some really good shots.. tho not as hardworking as we would be on project, but still doing it never the less..
 
Below is one of my favourite shots.. the umbrella I was sitting in was the perfect candidate for my shot.. it had a range of interesting colors of set by a bright blue sky and light brown sand.. basically it stands out really well..
 
I took the risk in using the sun as a back light.. no problem for us as we use manual all the time anyway, semi-automatic modes such as Shutter / Aperture priority will usually underexpose the shot, manual we get what we want all the time.. 
 
I propsely exposed what I wanted and through experience resorted to an external flash to further brighten up and bring some color back to the umbrella.. below is the one and only shot taken.. not bad for one shot one kill.. Cool 
 
 
Below is another attempt at a different angle.. same concept apply..
 
 
At about 5pm, we had to leave this lovely paradise and head for the marina.. to be really honest, all of the beaches we went to today were amazing, Khai Island sand is way finer than Maya beach.. tho there is one negative point.. due to the 2004 Tsunami, that huge wave destroyed a lot of corals and most of which ended up washing up inland.. 
 
Tho the sand are all nice and fine.. there are dead coral fragments here and there.. this is the only unfortunate thing and in time, these will improve but its understandable.. at least all the places we went to were all clean of man made litter..
 
 
 
 
The above shots are the one taken on the way back from the boat towards the Andaman Leisure Tours HQ for some drinks and ice cream.. there also you can purchase a coral framed picture taken earlier for bht 200.. 
 
After finishing up, we said our good byes to Cooper and headed back towards the van that will take us back to our hotel..
 
All in all, the money that we paid for.. well we didn't feel short changed, that's for sure.. then again this is our personal experience that we are sharing with all of you.. if budget is a concern, then do feel free to go for the other tours.. I'm sure some of the tours focus on certain places rather than our island hopping trip..
 
Our trip is coming to an end soon.. tho there is still part 5 and 6 which should contain all the downloadable wall papers..
 
Catch all of you guys and gals soon.. take good care ya..
 
Cheers,
Adrian Y. 
 
 

June 25, 2009 10:24 by Adrian

Hey guys and gals!

        Ok Part 3.. On the very same day we reached the hotel, we had like about 1 hour to settle our things and then get picked up by the Fantasea transport service.. Fantasea which is the ultimate nighttime cultural theme park in Phuket.. the number 1 attraction there.. you can visit their website here . You can reserve the tickets online and pay when you reach the park.. 

        You really have to take your hats of to the Thais.. they even decorate their transport vans.. there were 2 vans, each with their list of passangers to pick up.. we got the one with the nifty elephant.. did you notice that they also semi tinted the side windows so as to make the elephant look complete? I only wish Malaysians would go to that extent to do the job right rather than just 'sufficient'..  in the end, its all about impressions or preceptions.. and me as a foreign tourist appreciates all these small things that all adds up to the big WOW factor..  

The trip is about 40 minutes and soon after you'll reach the Fantasea theme park..  where you take your reservation to the counter for payment.. in the mean time outside the theme park you get the view below..  

The walkway towards the left is the entrance to the theme park.. 

Ok on the right of the above image, is where the bus will stop and you get to depart.. actually someone will open the van door for you and will do a brief introductory of what to do and where to go especially where to go after the Fantasea show ends..  

The whole system is very well done.. from the moment you complete your payment, each ticket is a square card about 2.5 inch on each side.. on it has a sticker which you stick on your clothes for easier identification..  that one single ticket contains information from your buffet table number to the show seat number down to the transport back to the hotel.. all in easy to read mini squares.. very informative and concise.. brilliant design I must add.. to top it off, behind of the ticket has the map of the entire theme park!

All in all, the whole place is so geared to making our lives as tourists so much easier and less confusion..  

Some of the great views just outside the theme park gate.. those koi fishes are really plentiful and the image right above on the right is where you buy fish food for the koi..  

Do note that in the entire place, its all clean! no litter what so ever..  and look, there is even a recycle bin for different types just next to the fish food stand..

There are plenty of games and things to buy.. this is of course a theme park after all.. one of the main attractions is the white tiger show..  and no.. its not that type of 'tiger' show.. and not by a 'white' kwai lo lady..  ok fine, only in Thailand must I actually clarify that..  hehehehe all you perverts! Cool 

Once entering the white tiger exhibit, its rather a multiple exhibit with the white tiger at the end of the exhibit.. the first part is quite dark, which was meant to showcase snakes.. the image below was taken with the flash of and exposed on the brightest spot which was the eyes of the snake (red).. this will create a matching scene with what I saw with my naked eyes..  anything other will just destroy the ambience..  

Although its dark, the walkway is lit lightly on the ground, especially on corners..  

The above is another exhibit.. I didn't take any up close shot as I felt its pretty pointless.. first of all, I'm behind a glass.. of course its for my own safety but in a photographic point of view, it just gets in the way..  like in the image above, just below the dancing stature lit in purple light, has a snake..  I can't use my flash as it'll just bounce off the glass causing a nasty white bright reflection..  nor if I used without a flash, I'll get purple colored snakes..  and besides, snakes isn't anything special so I decided not to waste time and moved on..  

Upon walking further, the above signage was found..  

Its a white peacock exhibit.. the gal in white is really pretty.. Smile the whole places glows and dims in random.. this is purposely done to bring out the white peacock feathers.. as you can imagine,if the white back lighting dims, the white feather of the peacock stands out more..  I took some pictures but due to the white peacock in front of a white background = insufficient contrast to bring out the subject.. unless I post process like crazy..  maybe on a later entry when I have the time.. 

The white peacock exhibit is shared with the white parrot.. noisy buggers.. but both are just so beautiful in its own right.. strangely both birds aren't tied down and aren't caged.. very well behaved!  

Soon after the bright exhibits, we enter the dark walkway.. the red dots on top are bats like design with the red dots being their eyes..  I purposely exposed the above image in such ways to bring out the fire at the end of the walk way..  by making the overall picture brighter, the fire at the end loses contrast with the background (as its now lighter) thus changes the feel of the image..  with this exposure, its dark and mysterious and the fire stands out prominently as if you are in a cave lit only lightly by fire.. such creative and detailed workmanship has gone into creating this side attraction.. can't imagine what the main attraction will look like..

Soon after we are back outside.. the opposite side of the main entrance.. check the photos at the very beginning of this post, we are  at where those statues are.. soon after we'll reach the main white tiger exhibit.. not before being shocked by something... hehehe I'll keep this a secret, you got to go and find out yourself.. 

Again this picture was taken with a glass partition..   this case is different then the above snake case.. well this exhibit is properly lit with white light of sufficient brightness.. which means I can take a picture without flash and with the subject in its correct color.. 

There are two white tigers, one majestically laying at the center of the exhibit.. graceful but yet intimidating..  

I couldn't get one to stare me at the lens.. so this is the best shot I can get.. I guess these tigers are smart enough not to look straight at the tourist in fear of being blinded by those compact camera flashes.. seriously these tigers are huge! its about 4+ feet in height.. if it stands up on its hind legs, its sure to reach 10 feet easily.. but to see these creatures walk, beautiful, graceful and elegant.. and also fearsome.. 

The above is the write up of the white tiger exhibit..

At the end of the theme park is the main attraction..   

Yep.. its called the Palace of the Elephants.. 

This is where the wide angle lens comes in handy..  true that wide angle distorts but if you know that it distorts, you can always find ways to make use of it.. such as the image above.. due to the distortion, I aim to create a in your face type of image.. hence the image of an elephant which almost pops out at you.. 

The above doesn't require popping out.. its all real.. one thing to note is that these elphants doesn't smell! none at all! unlike the ones found in the Malaysian Zoo.. jeez frankly I thought all elephants smell.. I got my picture taken next to the elephant and nope.. nothing.. no smell what so ever.. on any of the elephants.. damn you Malaysian Zoo.. for gods sake take those elephant of yours to the car wash.. or shall I say elephant wash? get em washed! period!  

Ah.. the above image.. can you imagine that's the entrance to the buffet! the design is so beautifully done and so well maintained!  but the bigger surprise is inside..

 

The above 3 pictures is the interior of the buffet hall.. a 4000 pax buffet hall! best of which is that every group is assigned their own table.. no fighting for tables! if this was in Malaysia, we'll have to camp and wait like vultures for a table to empty.. but here? no worries at all.. 

 

Even statues are sa wa di kap ing us...  

One of the lovely ladies that will greet you and show you to your assigned tables..

At about 7.45pm, there will be Bangkok Carnival Village special show..  

Yes the above ladies are.. 'special' ladies.. ahem.. 

No idea what human butterflies got to do with Bangkok but its nice.. 

Ok.. Tiger men! heheh 2 of the tigers got fit abs.. the other 2 got a bit flab.. which flapped around... hehehhe.. times like these I thank god that I didn't bring my 18-200mm lens.. sure the lens will crack.. hehehe 

The above picture is on one of the bars near the buffet hall... 

Ok as night falls, the above is the night lighting of the buffet hall.. 

and of course this is the main hall.. now lit in all its beauty.. I didn't take much as I got caught off guard and had to rush in..

Oh by the way, there were no shots in the main hall as all cameras and phones will be confiscated and you'll be given a colored numbered tag.. you'll just have to give the tag on your way out to collect back your cameras.. the whole place is very well secured so no worries..

The show is simply awesome.. with live elephants, a huge stage, indoor rain and pyro technics.. one of the coollest thing everyone talked about afterwards was the chickens! yes, the Thais have successfully trained chickens! if this doesn't make them gods I sure hell don't know what will..  they trained the chickens to walk from one end of the stage to the next when surrounding them were plenty of distractions and sounds..  

Ok.. when I say chickens.. I mean the livestock versions ok.. the other naughty versions doesn't seem that impressive.. Wink 

Ok.. this is the 10th year aniversary of Fantasea.. by the look at it, it doesn't feel old, nothing is discolored or falling off.. everything is clean and brand new! kudos to the maintainance culture..

Now.. for Part IV.. trip to Phi Phi Island..  

Cheers,

Adrian Y. 


June 25, 2009 04:49 by Adrian
Hey everyone!
 
          Ok now part 2 of our Phuket trip..  A good friend of Ardent, recommended for us to stay in Holiday Inn Phuket which is located in the map below marked in a red outline..  There are two parts of Holiday Inn, first is the Main Wing which is where we are staying, the entrance is located with a green X .. the other section is the Busakorn wing (colored yellow within the red outline)  which was under renovation, scheduled to be open on 31st August 2009.. its entrance faces the main road, marked in tourquise X .
 
 
There are some nifty location benefits in staying at this hotel, such as : -
 
  • It is located on one of a few roads leading straight to the beach, no more walking with sandy slippers.
  • Has a private access to the beach for hotel guests.
  • Security will stop traffic for you when you want to cross the road towards the beach!
but its further away from Bangla Road.. so if you plan to party more then a nearer hotel would be better..  but these are just benefits from where the hotel is located.. 
 
We soon arrived at the hotel and below is the view of the hotel Main Wing reception..   
  
 
Its not particularly huge but the wavy wall inprint behind the reception creates an illusion of space.. the above picture was taken to expose the wall correctly.. the lobby isn't lit as brightly as the wall, so to bring your attention towards the wall.. 
 
 
The above exposure shows the main lobby, all I can say is that the lobby has a welcoming feel with earth tones rather than those bright marble floored hotel lobbies which although feels grand but lacking soul.. 
 
Check-In process was done pretty smoothly, just a print out reservation, passports and credit card.. the lady that attended to us was amazingly friendly and attractive at that.. One of the things that strikes me was her overwhelming enthusiasm when she answered 'We are the number 1 hotel in Patong beach' to a question I posted to her.. Such passion, most people I know in Malaysia just work for the money... but here? its just different..
 
Another thing that caught me off was the hospitality.. it feels so genuine.. not the robotic 'Thank you please come again' kinda expression.. but rather the warm welcoming feel of a warm blanket on a cold night.. 
 
Usually the guy who brings up the luggage also shows you to your room.. but in Thailand, that lovely reception lady personally took us up to the room, walked in and gave us a brief introductory tour of the room.. all while giving a warm genuine smile.. I can't imagine she doing this multiple times a day and yet treat each guest like its her favourite.. simply lost for words.. 
 
Below are the pictures of the hotel room that I got..
 
 
 
 
Below are shots a day or two later after housekeeping..  
 
 
 
Its not overly bright, if you want brighter just open the curtain.. the above 2 shots are taken with the curtains closed.. there's sufficient light needed if you need to read the book by the bed (2 tiny but bright spot light for each side of the bed, controlled separately.. good design as it allows one party to read without disturbing the other) .. the whole room has an extremely cozy homely ambience..  
 
Heheehe.. normally hotels I've stayed in will only give you a few pillows but here? my god.. there are plenty, even a boaster.. I didn't even bother with the spare pillow in the closet.. bed is of good quality as well.. not the springy type but firm.. you can roll around without disturbing the person or persons.. Cool
 
The washroom is not particularly huge, yet neatly designed with practicality in mind.. I do love the top shower head.. feels like rain Laughing .. that's in addition to the normal hand held shower head..  
 
 
Yep.. Red Earth shampoos, conditioner, bath gel, hand soap and body soap.. in Malaysia, you get Red Earth only at Sasa retail shops.. its so nice to finally know what I'm getting.. rather than the tiny bottles which can be filled with god knows what..  trust me, this tubes aren't refillable.. 
 
Do notice that there is a vertical light next to the mirror.. actually there is one on each side of the mirror.. this is a godsend if you ever needed to shave in the morning with half opened eyes.. I so hate the top lighting which doesn't help at all..  
 
Another thing, all the tissue paper including the spare toilet paper rolls, all the ends are folded in a flower design..  you can see the tissue box flower design just next to the watermark below.. such attention to detail.. awesome!  
 
 
Oh yeah, the rooms at Holiday Inn all have their own balcony .. to sit in, enjoy the view.. or just a place to dry your swimming gear.. up to you..  I didn't get the room with the sea view, which costs like double of what I paid for my room..  
 
 
Yeah I got the 7-11 view opposite the hotel.. along the road to the beach.. below the balcony is the children's pool area.. 
 
So how about the breakfast? well the breakfast is at the SeaBreeze restaurant..  with a serving of fried rice, fried mee, congee to cereals, bacon, roasted lamb, scrambled eggs and a whole lots more... yum..  the sauces such as tomato and chilli are all from Heinz.. and best of all, 2 coffee making machines..  

 
Cappuccino anyone? maybe a macchiato instead? or maybe cafe latte? also provides expresso and regular coffee.. and best of all, there is an option of 2x Expresso and 2x Regular Coffee..  that will really give you a kick for the day.. more like a lightning jolt.. perfect machine to have in the office .. Cool
 
A must thing in Thailand is indulge in their fruits.. everything is sweet and heavenly..  
 
 
Each day, they rotate the menu from Fish, Pork and Chicken and I guess repeat again... the fried mee is just superb.. can't imagine going to Thailand to compliment them down to their fried mee.. their congee is also damn yummy..
 
Just outside the restaurant is the main pool.. below is the shot from the pool facing into the restaurant and hotel..  
 
 
 
The rest of the shots are those of the pool area.. of course it being early in the morning, the umbrellas aren't out in force yet.. 
 
 
 

 
 
 
And while taking quick snaps of the pool area.. encountered Mr Slug.. 
 
 
All hard at work going god knows where.. I wanted to take a shot that depicts Mr Slug travelling from some place far.. the wide angle lens allowed me to create much depth into the image thus having the illusion of Mr Slug travelling.. the low angle shot gives a unique view.. flash was used to bring out Mr Slug.. 
 
 
 
 
Heading from the pool to the hotel from a side walkway.. 
 
 
Ok, I stayed on the 3rd floor of the main wing.. and this is my view in the centre courtyard.. 
 
 
 
 
The images above is half of the courtyard.. the garden you see above is on the 2nd floor.. below the garden should be a bunch of meeting rooms at the ground floor.. talk about a great use of space.. 
 
The picture below shows the 2nd part of the courtyard which extends all the way down to the ground floor that houses seating places for the lounge..
 
 
 
Ok.. now the view from the 2nd floor garden.. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And below is the view from the ground floor lounge..  
 
 
 
 
 
Ok.. now as a guest of Holiday Inn, despite staying at the main wing, we are allowed to chill out at the busakorn pool..  tho we have to walk a short distance towards the busakorn wing first.. below is the view towards the pool area...  

 

and finally you'll be greeted by the below images of the lovely busakorn pool...   
 
 
 
 
Some of the things to note is that the pool water is pure blue.. no editing of the above pictures..  this is because the pool is exceptionally clean even without using the oh-so-the-common chlorine found in Malaysian pools.. the view while swimming in the pool is simply beautiful.. I've never seen water so clear and blue.. and the best part, the water doesn't smell nor does it frizz up your hair.. 
 
 
So with all that, its no wonder that this is Holiday Inn's throphy case! they certainly worked really hard down to the itty bitty small things.. Its never easy maintaining high standards, as every small little items count.. this hotel really takes care of their guests down to how the ends of toilet paper is presented to us.. this is their level of dedication towards excellence.. something that Malaysians should learn from and for go the typical 'tidak apa' slacker's attitude..
 
I've also taken plenty of beautiful flowers at the hotel which I'll show case in a separate part .. those would make lovely wall papers.. 
 
Coming soon.. Part 3.. [Fantasea Show]
 
Cheers,
Adrian Y. 

June 24, 2009 10:42 by Adrian

Hey everyone!

          Jacky and I decided to take advantage of the low season just before the starting of summer for US and European countries to visit Phuket Thailand.. this will be the first article of a few that will bring you to the journey that we had.. Ever since starting Ardent, Jacky and I realized that we never actually taken any Ardent inspired holiday and decided what better than Phuket, not only to relax and enjoy but also to test drive the Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8 lens.. Cool

          So with that, lets begin the journey... Below is a picture of the Air Asia KL Sentral to LCCT bus, which takes about an hour to reach.. quite comfy..        

 

All one needs is just the online printout of your plane ticket and bus fair (that is if you buy it at the same time as your ticket), if not then you'll have to pay to one of the other bus companies that offer transport to LCCT for about RM 9 / 10..  Below is my Air Asia online travel itinerary and bus ticket.. 

About 45 minutes into the journey depending on the traffic, you'll reach upon the Sepang F1 Circuit.. 's signboard.. 

and a few moments later, the actual circuit.. Tongue out

This is our first time to LCCT, which is like on the other side of KL International Airport.. so between Sepang and LCCT, we had to encircle KLIA.. waste of petrol and time.. Why can't KLIA provide a cheaper satellite building for Air Asia and save on all the hassle? go figure.. this is Malaysia.. 

Its Low Cost Carrier Terminal.. or in Bahasa Malaysia, Terminal LCC.. TLCC? Tender Loving Care Carrier? 

Anyway, from the bus stop to the check in is a good 100m walk.. do remind yourself to bypass the local flights and head on straight further down to the international flights check in, where your bags are x-rayed, radiated and glowing.. then proceed to the Air Asia counter.. show the lady the online itinerary and all of the necessary passports.. and once done, check in your baggage and off you go.. 

Then you check yourself in.. mineral water or anything larger than 100ml containers will be  disallowed entry to the departure hall.. so everyone gets to fork our RM 2 for RO water which Hypermarkets sell for 50 cents.. 

Frankly I didn't expect the kiasuism during my trip and was caught off guard.. by the time the counter open for check-in, the queue was this long..  

Can you see that tiny monitor at the end of the line? jeez.. I still don't get it as Air Asia already predetermined our seat numbers.. so its not like the first one gets 'the best sardin can seat' in the house..

Anyway, below is that monitor up close..  

After checking in, all of us had the joy and fun in walking on the tarmac.. seriously if this terminal was made any cheaper, we'll probably have a barn instead and live stock all around us... the up side to this is I get to see the plane.. Cool

The wide angle lens is really amazing.. tho very tricky.. as with all wide angle lenses, it tend to distort and a slight angle up or down changes the composition greatly.. but when done correctly, it brings out the subject towards the viewer.. the in your face kinda view..  if done wrongly, it'll be the my head is bigger than my legs kinda view which is perfect if you are a hobbit and best friend to Frodo Baggins.. for a human? not so much..

Going closer to the plane.. clear blue skies.. lovely!  

Just had a split second to do an instinctive composed shot.. the shot below was meant to give the viewer a sense of going up towards the plane.. well experience does help greatly especially with the shot below as it was taken without seeing the view finder or LCD.. 

If you are scared of planes, now the shot below will be the last deep breath before entering the plane..   maybe if the plane used Shell V-Power, we could have cut like 30 minutes off the original 1 hour and 10 minutes flight.. Cool

Yep.. that's the view from my seat.. a MAS Kargo plane awaiting take off.. for the uninitiated, the LCCT terminal is next to MAS Kargo.. I feel that cheap..

Below is the view of the take off runway.. just before the plane turns towards it.. the images won't be as nice or sharp as its taken through the 2 layers of plastic protecting the cabin..  

The view from the plane as it passes some coastline.. no idea where.. 

Once landed in Phuket.. it was actually raining and dreaded the thought of starting our holiday by walking on wet tarmac under the rain.. but to my surprise, Phuket Airport didn't actually treat us cheap skates like the outcast son, and gave us a bridge connection from the plane directly to the Phuket International Airport.. wheeeee! Thailand 1, Malaysia 0 ..

So fast forwarding all the checks, we gotten ourselves a taxi for BHT900 to Holiday Inn Phuket which is located at famous Patong Beach.. Just be warned, these taxi drivers earn side income by driving you to their affiliated tour company to get their sales pitch.. the excuse they gave me was that the driver needs to go to the office to sign out.. soon after the driver leaves, 2 ladies will open the door and 'entice' you to just drop in and see what tours they had to offer.. 

I smelt a rat when they pushed me to sign up packages even when I informed them that I'm rushing to check-in the hotel as I had an event planned soon after.. I even went as far as to tell them that I'll give them a call if I am interested.. anyway I just got hold of the driver and we bolted off..

The final few KM towards Patong beach.. you'll be going up steep hills and slopes.. I mean really steep.. rivalling those found in Genting.. below is just a quick shot of the windy road going down towards Patong beach.. 

The picture above was set on manual mode with a slighter longer delay to give the impression of speed while delicately not over doing it with too slow a shutter speed which will cause too much motion blur, bluring important elements such as the road and skyline.. its made worse since the road is curved and not straight..  

More to come.... Continued..

Cheers,

Adrian & Jacky 


June 9, 2009 04:33 by Adrian

Hey guys and gals!

       I hope everyone's doing great as we are over here.. man how do we love our new baby lens Cool actually its more like a big big baby.. my d300 + 14-24mm f/2.8 + SB-800 will weigh easily 2.5kg..  one helluva workout especially when carrying for 4+ hours straight during assignments..  that's why I wonder why would anyone buy a battery grip? my single battery can last way above 600 shots with my 18-200mm with VR on.. seriously adding weight isn't something I plan to do..  maybe the grip is used for portriat photography? well I'm more than capable of taking portriats at ease and of stability without the grip.. 

        So unless you plan to have larger forearms.. I suggest splurging RM888 for the battery grip for the d300.. or alternatively eat RM888 worth of spinach! Smile

         Anyway.. this coming sunday, we are commissioned to cover the opening of Twins Sports Badminton Hall USJ 19.. designed personally by former World No 5 Doubles Champion Mr Yap Yee Hup.. the courts is designed through his 11 years coaching and playing experiance to give the best playing experiance possible at affordable rates.. such as rubberized (not those yucky sticky type rubber courts), green cloth partition to prevent stray light from other sections and proper grand stand style seating! only 3 rows but good enough to do a mexican wave if one needs to.. Cool 

         Not to mention a well designed and ventilated shower/changing room, CCTV/security guard service in the evening and a whole lot more refinements that goes into creating the best badminton hall one can get..  Mr Yap is similar to Ardent's passion in giving the best first, profits second.. other halls, is the other way around.. more courts I can squeeze = more money.. Never quite liked playing in a sardin can.. do you? for the same price? why suffer?

          Below is a picture of the centre section of the hall.. taken with of course with our new baby 14-24mm..  there's a link for the full size version if you really need to zoom into the farthest end to see how sharp this lens is.. I have.. Cool 

DSC_6696Large.JPG (2.09 mb)

        Next week Ardent will be off Malaysia for some R&R.. expect more beautiful scenery/landscape pictures.. Wink  till then, I'll leave you with a picture of suction bear all geared up for swimming! I'll also post my experiences on this lens once I get the time..   


 
                Till then.. take good care and have a great day ahead..
 
Cheers,
Adrian Y. 

June 5, 2009 11:04 by Adrian

Hey everyone!

       Its already in mid June..  and in conjunction to giving the best to our clients.. Ardent just invested on a new baby.. the Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8 ED N .. the best ultrawide lens from Nikon, launched along with the D3.. both was awarded the EISA 2008-2009 Best Camera and Lens for its superior image quality.. 

    

 

Hopefully in the next few weeks I can find some time to do some photo comparison tests..  To be really honest, this lens is HUGE! there is no filter but rather a dedicated lens hood to protect that buldging front element..  so far the pictures are simply awesome..  anyway below is just a test shot of what it can do.. will post more pictures later ya.. Cool

 
Original full sized file.. DSC_6624 2a.jpg (3.09 mb)
 
Anyway.. the above picture is taken 1/10s and f/8 at 14mm..  blurred the people in the photo and added a nifty red colored box which I've cropped out without any change in image size.. below..  
 
 
This is seriously crazy sharp.. everything on the picture especially the edges are all sharp and not soft.. you can zoom as much as you like and all you'll find are edges and lines ala krispy! yum.. more updates soon!
 
Cheers,
Adrian Y.