Back to Koh Samui in Feb After More Than a Decade

Koh Samui in Thailand was one of the tourist destinations we visited right after our wedding. Back then, there weren’t that many cars or roads or shops. There were hotels along the beach (still do). There were mostly westerners (mostly do today). And there were only a few roads that connected to various part of town. We didn’t need a map back then. Now, you could get lost easily in Koh Samui.

PS. This trip was made back in February 2019.

You can view the photographs on this page.

In the past, we would pick up a jeep from the hotel in order to travel around town. Now we rented a car online to through rentalcars.com. It was a bad idea. I would advise renting direct. We couldn’t find the Europcar contact at the airport. There was no way to contact rentalcars.com. There was no Europcar counter at the airport (as they were the newcomer). In the end, we managed to locate the contact. What an experience.

The hotel was of good value. That’s why my wife picked it. It was not next to a beach but the hotel has teamed up with another one to provide guests access to the beach. The location was fine. Next to a chicken farm and a Thai boxing arena. Easy access to food (yummy) and spa (did not visit). A short drive to the city center (which has a Hard Rock Cafe). In the morning, the hotel serves breakfast. The hall has a very strong smell of … how shall I described … cooked blood or intestines if that makes sense to you.

During our trip, the weather was very warm. We visited temples and beaches. Even hiked whereby in retrospect, we may have taken a wrong route. The road was extremely unpaved. Many times I thought we would have been stranded in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, we didn’t.

Compared to more than a decade ago, Koh Samui has a lot more restaurants and bars, especially the Western ones. All in all, it was a good trip. Probably not a place I would revisit in the near future. Too commercialized.

Grand Finale: Cambridge, London & Windsor Castle / Day 10-12 of 2019 UK Holiday

This set of blog entry has broken my personal records in a few ways. I often took a much longer time to process the photographs. Mainly because it is an artistic journey. You simply cannot hurry art. In addition, I have managed to post the relevant journals thanks to my wife’s geotagging her Instagram pictures during the trip (seriously, why doesn’t a state-of-an-art Nikon Z6 camera has such function #mindboggling). Lastly, I have to work with a new camera setup – first time using a mirrorless camera as well as a fixed lens – and a new photo processing workflow using DXO. And I managed to wrap everything up within a week. I am pleased with the results. I hope you do too.

Click here to view the final album.

As an Oxford graduate – and I could be bias – I don’t think Cambridge has the soul as Oxford does. Nevertheless, there are places within Cambridge that are very pretty. The weather was great. I have no complaint.

The main reason why we picked Cambridge was that the trip from the Lake District to London was rather long. We wanted to break our trip into two portions. It was a good decision. Taking Oxford out of the equation, Cambridge is still a very impressive town.

Personally speaking, I don’t like London. It is a big city. A very expensive city. Sure there are some good tourist attractions. But to me, most of them are commercialized. Because of the high parking cost (and the rain), we spent a lot of time driving through the streets and bridges of London – which wasn’t too bad of an idea. We got to stay dry while touring different parts of London. On the record, the commercial buildings in London are very impressive though. As someone who was born in Hong Kong and now living in Singapore, that means something.

The highlight of my visit to London was the National History Museum. When my wife planned that into our agenda, I wasn’t sure why but I didn’t ask. Both of us love art. But we are not that into history. Until she mentioned the magic word … dinosaur.

A good number of years ago, I vividly remember reading a magazine covering a story of dinosaur in London. It was this very museum. I am a HUGE fan of dinosaurs. Their era fascinates me. And my wife knows that. I am so happy to visit the National History Museum. Admission is free but parking wasn’t (duh!).

We have also visited the London Eye (and nearly watched a musical if it wasn’t for kids). I still cannot figure out if the London Eye is bigger than Singapore Flyer or they are roughly the same. Both structures are by the water. Personally, I prefer the Singapore Flyer. There is a multistories mall within it.

On the last day of our stay, we had a few options. Stay in London (expensive!). Visit Stonehenge (seems pretty far and one British colleague of mine told me that the stones are not worth the visit). Or visit Windsor Castle.

Windsor Castle and I have a history. As mentioned in the previous entry, I have cycled from Oxford to Edinburgh in the year I have graduated. My friend T and I would camp along the way and hence, we needed not only to carry around 10kg of payload but also cover a good distance each day. To train up for our expedition, we cycled to Windsor castle from Oxford during the weekend. It was a day visit and we didn’t get to visit the castle (typical student life).

Now that I can afford the admission fee, I am very happy to look inside the castle. It is a beautiful castle. It may not be as large as Versailles in France (not sure why I put the two castles in comparison). I would prefer Windsor Castle.

Right now, I am not sure if and when we will visit the UK again. What I do know is that my wife has already started planning our year-end holiday. I may get a different lens for the trip #staytuned.

I Have Always Wanted to Revisit York (Not Just for the Puddings) / Day 9 of 2019 UK Holiday

Twenty-four years ago, my friend T and I cycled from Oxford to Edinburgh. Looking back, we weren’t really a pair of compatible travel partners. Midway through our journey, T had an injury. I then proposed to stop at York for a day so that T could rest up. York was the turning point for two things. T got better and hence we could continue instead of abandoning our mission. Second, T and I got closer to each other after our York visit. We hadn’t spoken since then. At times I wonder where he is, what he is doing.

To view the photo album of York, click here. The camera I have used was Nikon Z6 with 35mm f/1.8 Z lens.

York is a beautiful city. It was my request to visit York. Unfortunately, the crazy weather of England continued to spice up our holiday. At times, it rained. At times, it was a blue sky. We just have to adjust accordingly.

Point to note though. I took my wife to visit the Jorvik Viking Center. The queue was long and the exhibition – a mechanical ride through the Viking history – while wowed me in the past seemed rather dull in today standard. I guess because this sort of exhibition has become common for the rest of the world. I wouldn’t recommend a visit unless … it rained.

Lake District Part 2: Yet Another Wet Hike – Day 8 of 2019 UK Holiday

By now, my wife and I are used to the wet weather of the UK. As Catholics, my wife was keen to attend a Mass on a Sunday. I was less keen as Catholicism is not really that popular in the UK. We arrived at a local church half an hour early. Right before 10.30am, a Polish tourist arrived followed by a very old couple – also tourists. We waited for 10 minutes. The priest did not turn up. We parted our separate ways. My point stands.

To view the photo album for the second part of our Lake District visit, click here. The camera I used was Nikon Z6. The lens was 35mm f/1.8 Z.

Our first stop was Tarn Hows trail, which has a man-made lake. It was an easy route. And there was another one that took us to the waterfall. Due to the rain, the track was wet. Cynthia preferred to stay out. Armed with my camera, I braved the treacherous trail!

It wasn’t that dramatic. Plenty of waterfalls though. For lunch, we headed back to Amberside to hunt for Sunday Roast. We had giant Yorkshire puddings at the friendly club.

After our lunch, we went for yet another trail called White Moss Walks. It was a lovely walk around the lake.

One of Cynthia’s friend has recommended us to visit a town called Barrow-in-Furness. Unfortunately, when we arrived, it was pretty late. All the shops were closed. We did not stay late before we headed back to Ulverston. It was a good old fish-and-chips meal, which can be summarized in three words: salt, vinegar, and oil.

Lake District: There is No Lake When There is No Rain / Day 6-7 of 2019 UK Holiday

I guess it is true. There is no lake when there is no rain. We have visited the Lake District in the UK and during our visit, most of the time, it rained. Some hiking plan we proceeded. Others, we abandoned. Hiking in the rain is fine except it inevitable wets our shoes.

Click here to view the part one of our Lake District tours. The camera was Nikon Z6. Lens was 35mm f/1.8 Z.

Day 6 we left Snowdonia and we had our breakfast in a charming little town called Betws-y-Coed. We had vegetarian/vegan breakfast with soy latte whereby in retrospective, we should have ordered a normal breakfast (with meat and dairy product, etc.).

The first lake we visited, we have encountered a young couple. It was only the four of us. All of a sudden, they took off their clothes and jumped into the lake in their swimming attire. I screamed at them from the shore, “Isn’t that cold”? They replied affirmatively. Both of them looked happy though. They took a selfie once out of water. Young love is made of this.

We spent a fair bit of time in a town called Amberside. It is a lovely town. Plenty of shops selling hiking gears.

Later on, we headed to another town called Windermere. The town is beautiful. We parked our car next to the railway station and hiked to Orrest Head – a good vantage point to the surroundings of Windermere. Throughout the day, it was raining on and off. We had dinner in Windermere, an Italian restaurant on the second floor. Seat outdoor with heating above us. The ambiance was romantic.