A Must-Visit Place in Adelaide – Adelaide Central Market

Established since 1869, the Adelaide Central Market is touted as one of the largest under cover market in the Southern Hemisphere, attracting over 8 million visitors annually.

Travel photographer, Jensen Chua rated the Central Market as a must visit place in Adelaide. What he enjoyed the most was the feel and dynamism of the locals that you usually get when you visit the city or town main market of a country.

Read more on his blog

Australia’s Oldest Surviving German Village – Hahndorf

Hahndorf is a small town in the Adelaide Hills within South Australia. This place is accessible within an easy 30min drive via the South Eastern Freeway from Adelaide. The German influence in Hahndorf noticeable and is seen in the traditional fachwerk architecture of the original surviving buildings.

Jensen Chua recently explored the restaurants and shops in the town serving German cuisine. He also visited the German migration museum, where he got to learn about stories behind the artefacts.

Read his blog

 

Swim with Tuna at Victor Harbour, South Australia

Oceanic Victor is an Australian privately owned company established by Mick Dyer and his wife, Yasmin and their business partner and friend, Tony Santic. Their objective is to provide others the opportunity to experience and understand the diverse marine environment that we lived in.

Those who are curious to know what to expect should read this story written by Jensen Chua. He shares his photographs from experience of feeding the tuna underwater. Thanks to his profound skills, you can get a glimpse of how the fastest fish in the ocean, Southern Bluefin Tuna looks like.

 

Read his story

Escape to Paradise.. In Fiji Islands

This ‘Escape to Paradise in Fiji Islands’ travelogue touches on the island of South Viti Levu, Sigatoka town and Kuata island, is a continuation from my earlier article on my Fiji Islands adventure, where I explore the town of Savusavu in North Fiji, which many considered to be Fiji Islands’ best-kept secret. The beauty of Fiji Islands has a timeless and natural beauty quite unlike anywhere else in the world. Any vacationers, particularly those with interest in photography, will doubly enjoy the exotic and picture perfect islands.

SOUTH VITI LEVU ISLAND

Pure Fuji

My 1st stop on arriving on the island was Pure Fiji, a local manufacturer of natural earth-friendly and organic body care products. As the headquarter, the price here is the lowest anywhere in Fiji Islands. Locals and even tourists throng the place, buying their products in bulk. I had the chance to use their products during an earlier stay at Koro Sun Resort after which I became a fan of their hand-made soap and body lotion.

 

Read more on Jensen’s Blog

 

 

 

Encountering Vivid Sydney, NSW in Winter

Ever wondered how to maximize your holiday in Sydney & Surrounds in Winter? Curious what’s the fuss about with Vivid Sydney? Through this story, you will get to know about a rustic adventure in this destination that’s regularly voted the best world’s city for its natural beauty, iconic artsy landmarks and spectacular harbor! Stay ahead knowing what to do in Sydney & Surrounds during winter and witness their unique combination of cosmopolitan and coastal lifestyle over a span of one week or check out our 4-Nights Vivid Sydney Special package, starting from SGD695*!

 

Day 1: Flight Departure

On the day of departure, I scurried along to spent some of my free time touring around Qantas Singapore Lounge before boarding my flight to Sydney with Qantas at 11.50pm.

Situated at Terminal 1, I found their dining experience very intriguing topped with excellency in service set in a local vibrant scene. You’ll have that luxury space in designated lounge area that allows you to relax before or after dining!

Say and bid goodbye to Singapore and boarded QF6! The flight from Singapore to Sydney takes approx. 8 hours. But my flight hours does seem shorter because if you’re flying with Qantas, regardless of seat class, your flight comes with food, drinks, generous luggage allowance and entertainment. So have no worries you’d be bored!

You’ll be spoilt for choices the moment you realize their “International Inflight Entertainment” offers vast selection of over 1500 entertainment options. From top and new releases movies, TV Programs, Music options, radio channels and even latest news!

Day 2: Black Star Pastry, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney Tower Buffet & Vivid Sydney

This bakery features a contemporary yet innovative design of seating where it fits well either if you just want to have a quick catch up with friends, outing with families or even for a meeting appointment!

For coffee lovers, don't worry! Cos they offers amazing coffee and other choice of drinks as well from ice tea to milkshake.

Toast and breads are served too!

Freshly prepared tarts

Other than the must try Strawberry Melon Cake, we also ordered Raspberry & Lychee Cake. The taste? It's refreshing and decadent at the same time!

Fully satisfied with the Eclaire. So soft and the chocolate filling is just perfect.

Pistachio Lemon Zen Cake! The sweetness of the top layer of pistachio is balanced out with the lemon layer in the middle.

But still the Strawberry Melon Cake is my most favourite! The layered is very fresh, creamy and is not sweetness overload. This is definetely the winner! <3

Upon reaching Sydney around 10am, I made a transfer to our coach and adjourned to our first lunch stop at Black Star Pastry, Roseberry Branch! This bakery has two more branches: one at Newtown and one at George Street. So, let’s start lunching! Did you know that this bakery’s signature cake ‘Strawberry Watermelon Cake’ is Sydney’s most instagramm-ed cake ever? Enough said, we must try it and let you know! Topped with rose sprinkles and layered with almond dacquoise, light cream and a slice of cool watermelon and juicy strawberries, the dessert tasted so good!

For those who don’t like sweet tasting food, try the savory delicacies from gluten-free bread to vegan option such as salads!

Sydney's winter street leading us to Sydney Opera House!

Sydney's winter street leading us to Sydney Opera House!

Sydney's winter street leading us to Sydney Opera House!
Sydney's winter street leading us to Sydney Opera House!
Sydney Harbour Bridge, another Sydney's iconic landmarks!

Sydney Harbour Bridge, another Sydney's iconic landmarks!

Sydney Harbour Bridge, another Sydney's iconic landmarks!
Stunning Architecture. Stands in the centre of Sydney's city is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney

Stunning Architecture. Stands in the centre of Sydney's city is the cathedral church of the Roman Ca

It is definitely a thrilling experience when you’re at Sydney, much like those you had watching a live performance instead of watching videos. At Sydney Opera House, you’ll find a lot of bars and restaurants surrounding the Sydney Opera House with beautiful people around and a very good ambiance and Sydney culture is always interesting, I spotted a Japanese street artist who was working on his skills to draw Sydney Opera House to perfection!

I also enjoyed the view of Sydney Harbour Bridge, another Sydney’s iconic landmarks! And not too far away, I caught a glimpse of a stunning architecture. This historical building stands in the centre of Sydney’s city, renowned as the St Mary’s Cathedral Church and is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.

Bidding farewell to the SOH, it was time for the enchanting Royal Botanic Garden Sydney – a tranquil oasis to visit on the foreshore of one of the world’s greatest natural harbours. You’ll enjoy the spectacular views and don’t forget to take memorable photographs of Sydney Harbour, Sydney Opera House, and Sydney Harbour Bridge and one of the best vantage points in Sydney, the Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

Some photos I took from Royal Botanic Garden Sydney:

It was time for dinner and i ventured to Sydney Tower Buffet at Sydney Tower– a revolving restaurant in dark mahogany famous for the delicious buffet or dinner with the sweeping 360° views of the city skyline!

1,000 feet (305m) high on the city’s tallest building, the restaurant slowly rotates to provide a 360-degree view of Sydney!

First time to try the kangaroo meat cooked with 9 spizes! Hmm... Not to my liking 🙁

American glazed bbq pork belly!

The restaurant is located approx. 1,000 feet (305m) high on the city’s tallest building and i was delighted to be served with more than 50 freshly-prepared dishes on the buffet line including fresh seafood, Australian, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Thai! It was also my first time to try the Kangaroo meat cooked in 9 spices! Although, well, it was not to my liking. But overall, the food was great, accompanied with the lovely ambience and of course, the glimpse of Vivid Lights from up high!

As the day was getting late, I checked into Rydges Sydney Central, my accommodation for the next 3 nights at Sydney. The exterior of the hotel was very pleasing and inviting. The room was clean, spacious and comfortable enough.

The view from my window! 

The view from my window! 

Nestled within walking distance to World Square and numerous restaurants and shops as well as a Coles Supermarket, this hotel is truly recommend for all age groups, whether is for group tours or free & easy travellers. And though the hotel is a bit far from The Rocks or Circular Quay, that’s the least to worry about because it is an easy walk to Central Station!

After a satisfying dinner, it was time for Vivid Sydney! For those who is new to Vivid Sydney, this spectacular event was held on 27 May – 18 June 2016. Widely known as the festival of lights, music and ideas, it was the largest event of its kind in Australia with a world-class line-up of light sculptures, concerts, idea exchanges and creative workshops and conferences.

At Vivid Sydney, I was mesmerized with the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, all lighted up with different light projections. Beautiful displays of art, colors and lights were also projected on the buildings align with this year’s theme ‘Paint the Town’ at Circular Quay. In addition to the awesome lights, there’s also musician randomly performing on the side of the streets!

Beautiful displays of art, colours and lights, projected on the buildings align with this year's theme 'Paint the Town' at Circular Quay!

Beautiful displays of art, colours and lights, projected on the buildings align with this year's the

The street lights. Awesome, right?

The street lights. Awesome, right?

The street lights. Awesome, right?
Stunning Sydney Harbour Bridge in Vivid Lights <3

Stunning Sydney Harbour Bridge in Vivid Lights <3

Stunning Sydney Harbour Bridge in Vivid Lights <3
In addition to the awesome lights, there's also musician randomly performing on the side of the streets

In addition to the awesome lights, there's also musician randomly performing on the side of the stre

Sydney's city lights

Sydney's city lights

I was like a small kid, jumping around, so excited to see all the beautiful lights and colours. Aesthetically pleasing and for the cost of $0, I experienced a night in wonderland! Lights off at 11pm and goes off for another year, but Vivid Sydney, you’ve been magical!

Day 3: Sydney HeliTours, Carriageworks Farmers Market, Darling Harbour, The Rocks Market & Taronga Zoo Sydney

Just when I thought nothing could surpass my expectation after last night, I ended up going for another type of Sydney experience – Sydney HeliTours!

I hop on the 7 seater helicopter and the staffs explained carefully in regards to the safety procedure before we took off. Lucky enough, I was seated next to the pilot!

Seconds after we fly off, i was amazed by the spectacular Sydney skyline! Had the privilege to see two Sydney’s most iconic landmarks: Sydney Opera House & Sydney Harbour Bridge, 1000ft above the ground! Which one of these would you pick as a postcard?

My first scenic heli-ride has been truly spectacular! It was an unforgettable 20 minutes ride over Sydney’s eastern coastline: Congee Beach, Bondi Beach and Manly Cove to Sydney’s iconic landmarks: aerial view of Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge! And if you’re lucky enough, you’ll be seeing humpback whales near Bondi Beach as a bonus!

Soon arriving over the Harbour Bridge!

Soon arriving over the Harbour Bridge!

Soon arriving over the Harbour Bridge!
Soon arriving over the Harbour Bridge!
Flying over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House

Flying over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House

Flying over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House
We even managed to see rainbow as well <3

We even managed to see rainbow as well <3

Friendly pilot and very knowledgeable, with a great guided tour of the city, also a bonus of seeing humpback whales near Bondi beach, if you’re lucky enough!

Friendly pilot and very knowledgeable, with a great guided tour of the city, also a bonus of seeing

Friendly pilot and very knowledgeable, with a great guided tour of the city, also a bonus of seeing humpback whales near Bondi beach, if you’re lucky enough!
Friendly pilot and very knowledgeable, with a great guided tour of the city, also a bonus of seeing humpback whales near Bondi beach, if you’re lucky enough!
Friendly pilot and very knowledgeable, with a great guided tour of the city, also a bonus of seeing humpback whales near Bondi beach, if you’re lucky enough!
Awesome ride! Big thanks to Sydney Heli Tours!

Awesome ride! Big thanks to Sydney Heli Tours!

The waiting room!

The waiting room!

After the exciting Heli Tours, i was overwhelmed with the amazing New South Wales’s produce at the award-winning, Carriage works Farmers Market. With bustling with mix of local, tourist crowds, friendly stallholders and the smell of great local produce wafting through the air from cheese, nuts, bread stalls and flowers, this market is a must to visit in Sydney! Don’t forget to taste the famous Billy Kwong’s sensational steamed pork buns, the “Steamed Pork Bun in House Chilli”!

Don't forget to try the famous Billy Kwong's "Steamed Pork Bun in House Chilli" at Carriageworks Farmers Market, #Sydney! 💋

Don't forget to try the famous Billy Kwong's "Steamed Pork Bun in House Chilli" at Carriageworks Far

Say hi to Billy Kwong's wonderful dumplings with gingers and vinegars at

Say hi to Billy Kwong's wonderful dumplings with gingers and vinegars at

Say hi to Billy Kwong's wonderful dumplings with gingers and vinegars at
Say hi to Billy Kwong's wonderful dumplings with gingers and vinegars at
From 8am to 1pm every Saturday, find the amazing NSW produce, directly from growers and producers, only @carriageworksfarmersmarket

From 8am to 1pm every Saturday, find the amazing NSW produce, directly from growers and producers, o

From 8am to 1pm every Saturday, find the amazing NSW produce, directly from growers and producers, only @carriageworksfarmersmarket
From 8am to 1pm every Saturday, find the amazing NSW produce, directly from growers and producers, only @carriageworksfarmersmarket
From 8am to 1pm every Saturday, find the amazing NSW produce, directly from growers and producers, only @carriageworksfarmersmarket
From 8am to 1pm every Saturday, find the amazing NSW produce, directly from growers and producers, only @carriageworksfarmersmarket
From 8am to 1pm every Saturday, find the amazing NSW produce, directly from growers and producers, only @carriageworksfarmersmarket
From 8am to 1pm every Saturday, find the amazing NSW produce, directly from growers and producers, only @carriageworksfarmersmarket
From 8am to 1pm every Saturday, find the amazing NSW produce, directly from growers and producers, only @carriageworksfarmersmarket
From 8am to 1pm every Saturday, find the amazing NSW produce, directly from growers and producers, only @carriageworksfarmersmarket

Then, I continued my day to Darling Harbour, an excellent place to visit and see the best of Sydney, Here’s a mandatory shot of Darling Harbour before visiting SEA Life Aquarium & Madame Tussauds Sydney.

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Darling Harbour

Madame Tussauds Sydney, SEA LIFE Sydney & Australian Wildlife are just located side by side at Darling Harbour. Due to time constraint, I only managed to visit Madame Tussauds and SEA LIFE Sydney. There’s so many exciting things to discover, yet there’s just too little time!

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Sea LIfe Aquarium Sydney

SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium is a great attraction to experience especially with kids. You will learn a lot of marine life while enjoying your time there. The display is lively, surreal and entertaining. You could also see hundreds of tiny fish, crabs and other sea creatures. Spot some pretty jellyfish in my photos? I had a joyful experience during my time spent indoor sheltered from the breeze for a while.

With life like figures and interactivity at every turn, you’ll meet world leaders, sports heroes, A-listers and music stars at the Madame Tussauds Sydney!

Let's run💃

Let's run💃

Taylor Swift!

Taylor Swift!

Life-size wax replicas of Rihanna!

Life-size wax replicas of Rihanna!

Be the queen for the day!

Be the queen for the day!

Be the queen for the day!

I then headed to Waterfront Restaurant at Circular Quay for lunch! Who doesn’t love comfort food with great atmosphere? You’ll see amazing Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House while having your lunch or dinner. See the DELICIOUS Seafood Platter! Bon appetite!

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Waterfront Restaurant, Circular Quay

After a satisfying meal, I walked to the charming The Rocks Markets! Opens every Saturday and Sunday and nestled only at the doorstep of the CBD, you’ll be genuinely surprised with the lovely atmosphere of the local pubs along with the colourful laneways and over 200 stalls of little street vendors selling dresses, bags, one-off jewellery to original artworks and prints.

I spent around 30 minutes strolling around, watching the street vendors showcasing their talents from paintings to handmade kangaroo souvenir made of quality wood. Keep a look out for Australian souvenirs to take home with you when you’re here!

The unique handmade jewellery!

The unique handmade jewellery!

The unique handmade jewellery!
The unique handmade jewellery!
Street vendors selling his authentic paintings.

Street vendors selling his authentic paintings.

Street vendors selling his authentic paintings.

If you’re craving for Asian comfort food, a visit to Fortune Village Chinese Restaurant is a must! Voted as TOP 20 Restaurants in Sydney by TripAdvisor, this restaurant serves fabulous and tasty Chinese food. Kudos to their brilliant service as well!

Brilliant service & fabulous food!

Brilliant service & fabulous food!

Brilliant service & fabulous food!
Appetizer consisting of Lamb, Chicken and Duck wrap

Appetizer consisting of Lamb, Chicken and Duck wrap

Later in the night, I made my way to Taronga Zoo Sydney as they were presenting “Be The Light for the Wild” at Taronga Zoo Sydney. This is the first year they has participated in Vivid, as part of the Zoo’s Centenary Celebrations. The zoo was transformed into a sparkling after-dark destination.

Who can resist this amazing lights? 💙

Who can resist this amazing lights? 💙

Who can resist this amazing lights? 💙
Who can resist this amazing lights? 💙
Who can resist this amazing lights? 💙
Who can resist this amazing lights? 💙
Who can resist this amazing lights? 💙
Who can resist this amazing lights? 💙
Who can resist this amazing lights? 💙
Who can resist this amazing lights? 💙
Who can resist this amazing lights? 💙

Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo Sydney includes ten giant animal multimedia light sculptures from elephant, spider, marine turtle to platypus. These animals represents the ten critical species from Australia and Sumatra that Taronga Zoo Sydney is committed to protecting. Here’s some photos, all lit-up for Vivid Sydney! Absolutely one of the best Vivid Experience for families!

Day 4: Australian Museums, Featherdale Wildlife Park, Blue Mountains, Bygone Beauty

Day 4 started with a stop to the oldest museum in Australia known as Australia National Museum after checking out from Rydges Sydney Central. The museum showcases some great exhibits of WILD PLANET where you can meet the nature’s giants with the likes of Asian Elephant and Giraffe. Dare yourself to come face-to-face with a Lion, Tiger and Bear! If you have soft spot for furry cuddly animals, see also the Australian Koala and be dazzled by massed displays of butterflies, beetles, and of course the dinosaurs, and it’s free admission for all year. Opens from 9am to 5pm, this museum appeals to adults and youngsters, definitely worth a visit of your time in Sydney!

Another historic attraction that is very popular is the Australian National Maritime Museum, also situated conveniently at Darling Harbour. You will retrace history of Australia’s navy when exploring a tall ship or submarine as this centre covers maritime collections, exhibitions, research and archaeology. You’ll appreciate the exhibits through story told from a local perspective, while enjoying hands-on experience of the submarine and destroyer!

Now that you’ve seen Australian history through artefacts and tours, you should watch the navy life in motion from cinematic to virtual reality tour. Known as Action Stations located at the Australian National Maritime Museum, this stop is an exciting new way to experience the navy’s history by watching a thrilling short film on a giant screen on the compelling history of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN)!

And have you been inside a submarine? I certainly have not until I got a chance to cross off my one of my bucket list in Sydney! Go on and fulfil your sense of curiosity, visit the secret world of submarine warfare brought exclusively to Australian National Maritime Museum. You can actually walk on board a real-life submarine, HMAS Onslow. Did you know this submarine was decommissioned in 1999, just weeks before coming to the museum?

Aboard a real-life submarine HMAS ONSLOW! We explore the secret world of submarine warfare. This submarine was decommissioned in 1999, just weeks before coming to the museum!

Aboard a real-life submarine HMAS ONSLOW! We explore the secret world of submarine warfare. This sub

Aboard a real-life submarine HMAS ONSLOW! We explore the secret world of submarine warfare. This submarine was decommissioned in 1999, just weeks before coming to the museum!

Later in the afternoon, I boarded our coach and Blue Mountains, here I come! I would spend my last 2 nights there. I was excited to see the breath-taking scenery of The Three Sisters and of course, to ride the Scenic Railway – the steepest railway in the world!

Blue Mountains is just an hour drive from Sydney city and an obvious stop to Featherdale Wildlife Park is an along your way to Blue Mountains is a must! After around 40 minutes’ drive, we stopped at Featherdale Wildlife Park. This park is the leading wildlife tourist attraction in Sydney which specialised in Australian native wildlife and birds! I spent few hours here, hand feeding a kangaroo, wallaby, emu and had a face-to-face encounter with the friendly cuddly koalas. I was treated to the sightings of birds too, from parrots, cockatoos to emu and even reptiles. It was worth every second of my time spent there!

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Entrance, Featherdale Wildlife Park

Met the adorable wallaby, the middle-sized marsupial mammals of the kangaroo family. They were so so so cute! Who could resist the cuteness of these little wallabies? For sure, I couldn’t! ????

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Wallaby, Featherdale Wildlife Park

You will get to meet different types of koalas on your visit to the wildlife park!

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Koalas, Featherdale Wildlife Park

 

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Sleeping Koalas, Featherdale Wildlife Park

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There are also penguins in the park too! I was surprised and pleased to know that the pens and cages were all very clean, meaning the wildlife animals here are always so healthy and in a good condition. This went above my average expectation!

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Penguins, Featherdale Wildlife Park
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Wombats, Featherdale Wildlife Park

Didn’t these kangaroos look like they were sun tanning?

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Kangaroos, Featherdale Wildlife Park

Friendly kangaroos at your knees! These two must be so hungry seeing how little grass there was during this winter season!

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You wouldn’t want to miss these large collection of birds as well! From parrots, cockatoos to emu.

There’s also reptiles as well, of course!

Next stop lined up is Three Sisters, an iconic formation in Blue Mountains, on the north of Jamison Valley where you have to visit at least once in your lifetime.

Aboriginal legend has it that there are three sisters named ‘Meehni’, ‘Wimlah’ and ‘Gunnedoo’ who fell in love with three brothers from a different tribe, however their marriage was forbidden by tribal law. The three bothers were unhappy and decided to capture the three sisters ensuing a battle that caused a powerful tribal elder to turn the sisters into stone to protect them. The elder was supposed to reverse the spell, but he was killed when the battle was over so no one could reverse the spell to return the sisters back. Thus, the sisters served as an eternal reminder of the battle until today.

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The Three Sisters, the Blue Mountains
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The view of the Three Sisters from Echo Point Lookout
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The pathway to Echo Point Lookout

Three Sisters Walk, in Katoomba, offers some of the most iconic views in Blue Mountains National Park, and takes you up close to the famous Three Sisters.

It was a close 400m walk to the Three Sisters from the Echo Point lookout. From here, you will spot a set of stairs that leads down to the Honeymoon Bridge. This is where you can actually walk into the first of the Three Sisters! The stairs down was a little challenging for me because it was pretty steep and narrow, but the view from the bridge is absolutely spectacular <3

After a good trekking, reward yourself with delicious lunch served at The Lookout, Echo Point!

You can still explore Sydney’s nature further while resting up in this next stop – Scenic World. Scenic World is a must when you visit Blue Mountains. Located just 90mins from Sydney, experience Blue Mountains in 4 ways, from Scenic Railway (the steepest railway in the world), a Skyway and Cableway (cable car tour), and Walkway (a long walk through the rainforest). Upon admission, you will go through wristband ticketing system, making this a pretty seamless tour!

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Scenic World, the Blue Mountains

First activity to you must try is the worlds steepest scenic railway! The Railway will descend 310 metres through a cliff-side tunnel, emerging into ancient rainforest at the Jamison Valley floor.

Did you know that passengers are allowed to choose their own adventures as the seats are adjustable up to 20degrees? From the adventurous ‘Cliffhanger’ ride at a steep 64 degree incline or for those seeking a relaxed journey select the ‘Laid Back’ option and of course, loyal fans can still ride the ‘Original’ at 52 degrees!

The view of the Three Sisters from the Jamison ValleyFrom Scenic Railyway, I continued my journey to Scenic Walkway, strolling along the 2.4 kilometer ancient rain forest! It was a lovely walks with natural beauty along with the wide array of local flora, the sweet chirping of the native birds and for sure, a breath of fresh air in the rain forest!

 

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Maurice Cooper OAM, the owner of the Bygone Beautys

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My most favourite one, the elephant tea pot!

Day 5: Jenolan Caves – the Diamond Cave Tour

Around one hour drive from our hotel – Hydro Majestic Hotel, we reached Jenolan Village to join the Jenolan Caves Tour! For this trip, we chose Jewels of Jenolan – the Diamond Cave Tour.

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The entrance to the Jenolan Caves

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Gearing up to climb all the steps!

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The Diamond Cave Tour took about 1.5hrs, covering 386 steps! Along the way, I was delighted with the wonderland of pure and sparkling white crystal from tiny ones to the delicate helictites to some of Jenolan’s largest features!

It’s a great adventure on a cold winters day. The tour guide through the cave was very educational. What I enjoyed the most was learning all the information and just being inside of something so majestic!

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The tour culminates at the ‘Gem of the West’, an astonishing crystal formation of helictites, stalactites, stalagmites, shawls and wave crystal!

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The sparkling crystal.

 

After the tour, we will visit the Cave House and the Award-winning Chisolm’s Restaurant for lunch.

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Pathway to Chisolm’s Restaurant in winter

Heritage Valley view room at Hydro Majestic Hotel for the next two nights!

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The Hydro Majestic Blue Mountains

Woke up to this view of the valley from my room’s window!

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Day 6: Sunrise at Evans Lookout & The Grounds Of Alexandria

While waiting for sunrise at Evans Lookout, I tried to pose for a photo although the weather was super duper cold!

evans-lookout
Sunrise, Evans Lookout

If you’re seeking incredible views, especially around sunrise or sunset, head to Evans Lookout at Blackheath!

evans-lookout2
7.05am, sunrise at Evans Lookout, Blackheath

Stunning view at sunrise

Overlooking the sandstone cliffs of the Grose River Valley

the views of Grose River Valley

Stunning sunrise!

For café lovers, no visit to Sydney would be complete without stepping into The Grounds Of Alexandria! Located in a former industrial precinct from the 1920s, The Grounds of Alexandria is a landmark coffee roastery, café and sustainable garden known for its abundance of fresh produce and hands-on experiences!

The Grounds Of Alexandria!
The Grounds Of Alexandria, Sydney

Potting Shed3

Thinking back about my trip to Sydney from Singapore, I felt like my childhood was revived. One takeaway tip is always make sure that you have a decent accommodation, so you are well rested before another day of exploration. You’ll also be better off knowing the attractions you’ll be heading earlier to, so that you will put on a suitable attire

This beautiful city has left me with a lot of good memories behind, before you realized it you are constantly jumping around, like a little kid so mesmerized by the beauty of lights and the multitude of colours. Truly, a night in wonderland! Till next year, Sydney!


Check out our 4N Vivid Sydney & Blue Mountains Drive from only SGD695 per person Plus receive PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP WITH CANON IMAGING ACADEMY! *Limited to first 15 redemptions*
Highlights of this trip includes a Sydney Opera House Tour where you will get to learn the history of the Sydney Opera House along with details of the unique architectural design, visit the major performance venues and witness the famous Vivid LIVE lighting of the Sails first handAnother highlight is an exclusive tour to Sydney Fish Market. Visit also the famous Blue Mountains, Bondi to Coogee Beach Coastal Walk or Royal Botanic Gardens  for nature photography opportunity! Click here for MORE DETAILS!

10 must-try Bangkok local food via BTS

Bangkok is widely visited for many things, especially for it’s food and shopping. Local food in this vibrant city provides convenient, delicious and pocket-friendly meals while being one of the best ways to connect with the local culture. But it can be bewildering especially for new or the infrequent visitors, when they chose to “go local” without a guide. That’s why I put together this guide to ten great eating spots easily accessible via the Bangkok Train System (BTS). The blog also comes with the shops facade picture and map link for easier reference

Bangkok BTS map

 

Prachak – Roasted duck and meat diner

Roast duck is commonly found throughout Bangkok, especially in the heavily Chinese influenced areas like Yaowarat (Bangkok’s Chinatown) and Bangrak. Prachak Pet Yang one of the most established (102 years old) and a famous Cantonese style roasted duck restaurant located along Charoen Krung Road, opposite Robinson’s department store.

The best time to dine here is during late morning or early afternoon, when the meats are freshly prepared

Staff at Prachak preparing diners orders

We got the meat combo, with 2 types of sausages, roasted duck and pork, which came as a decent portion sliced into bite sizes pieces on bed of gravy. The sauce was on the sweeter side but it balanced nicely with the salty meats and that slightly crispy melt-in-your-mouth duck skin. Along with small serving of cucumber and pink pickled ginger, this is my usual fave order with a plate of steamed white rice.

The food stall interior is overall sufficiently ventilated by fans so you do not get too warm.

Address : 1415 Thanon Charoen Krung, Silom, Bangrak.
Opening hours : 7.00am – 10.30pm (closed during Chinese New Year and Songkran)
Budget : 60-100 bht per person (approx.)
BTS : Saphan Taksin. After alighting, exit #3, walk in the direction (7-8 min walk) of Robinson Mall. The eatery is opposite side of the road. Watch out for the red awning with the duck logo.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/8QGmYG4mdK82

Jok Prince – Oriental Porridge

Joke Prince is more than 5o years old and well known for its porridge. But you may strolled by Jok Prince unknowingly, as the diner does not have a prominent signboard. It’s simply two rows of tables laid out in a rather nondescript covered alley between two shophouses that used to lead to an old movie theater called ‘Prince’. At the entrance, an iron cooking counter with various pots of bubbling porridge greet constant queue of customers ordering take-aways at meal hours while the tables are healthily occupied.

This is the shop frontage as you stroll down Charoen Krung Road. Always a hive of activities where the cook skillfully orchestrating various pots of bubbling hot porridge. Our porridge came with tasty generous sized minced-pork balls with cilantro and julienned gingers. The porridge is smooth, soft and have a lovely smoky flavor, due to use of a charcoal stove. I would recommend  Pa Tong Ko (Thai flour fritters (yu tiao in Chinese), to be added into the porridge. Other optional ingredients include egg (raw or fermented), deep fried pig intestines etc. Just remember to sprinkle white pepper before eating for an added kick.

Address : 1391, Charoen Krung Road, Silom, Bang Rak.
Opening hours :Daily: 6.00am – 12.00pm and 5.00pm – 11.00pm
Budget : 35bht per bowl onwards (approx.)
BTS : Saphan Taksin . After alighting, exit #3, walk in the direction (7-8 min walk) of Robinson Mall. The eatery is opposite side of the road, further down from Prachak.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/skR619CFd142

Charoen Saeng Silom – Braised pork leg and rice

Widely available at countless street food corners, food malls or food stalls, braised pork leg and rice (khao kha moo) is like a ‘torch bearer” of standard Thai street food dishes. However, there are some khao kha moo stalls that stand out among the crowd. In Bangkok, one of the best places (if not the best) is Charoen Saeng Silom, which has been packing in the crowd for around 50 years.

Customers orders being prepared by possibly the owner’s daughter. She was friendly and obliging despite being so busy.

You can order an individual portion of rice topped with tender braised pork leg and garnishing. But you’ll be delighted if you order the entire leg, which is like a huge drumstick with a big bone, surrounded by loads of juicy meat with a thick layer of gelatinous skin surrounding it. The dish was also served with some braised pickled mustard greens on the side and garnished with fresh cilantro. Best eat it with the vinegar based chili and garlic sauce provided. One order of pork leg should be sufficient for 2 person.

This is the lane leading to the eatery. You know you’re in the right place when you see loads of people and cars. .

Address : 1391, Charoen Krung Road, Silom, Bang Rak.
Opening hours : Daily 8.00am – 2.00pm (usually sold out by 2pm, best come at 9.30-11.00am, if possible). Closed on Chinese New Year and Songkran.
Budget : 250-350bht (for 2 person)
BTS : Saphan Taksin . After alighting, exit #3, walk in the direction (7-8 min walk) of Robinson Mall, to Lebua State Tower. With your back facing the Tower Club at Lebua entrance, you will see a boutique hotel Silk Suite across the road. Go straight into the lane,  just about 30 steps away, the shop is the right.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/6xCZDcbVNF62

 

Je Niao Boi Kia – Iced dessert

In a spacious shophouse at the corner of Charoen Krung and Si Wiang, just steps away from a streetside fried banana cart, is a stall selling iced multi-ingredients dessert. This dessert features glutinous rice flour strips and so many other things from cooked beans to water chestnuts to Chinese grass jelly to sweetened tubers to fresh jack fruit— all served in the same bowl with brown sugar syrup and crushed ice.

Looks inviting and the various ingredients excite you with it’s range of texture and sweetness. It’s like the Chinese version of Cheng Tng, found in Singapore dessert stalls

You can’t miss the stall frontage with many pictures of happy customers (possibly Thai celebrities) displayed all over the yellow signboard.

Address : 439 Khwaeng Silom, Khet Bang Rak
Opening hours :Open daily, 11.00 a.m.-9.00 p.m.
Budget : 30-40 bht per bowl (approx.)
BTS : Saphan Taksin . After alighting, exit #3, walk in the direction (7-8 min walk) of Robinson Mall. The eatery is opposite side of the road, further down from Prachak.  At corner of Charoen Krung Road and Si Wiang Road
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/SP5WdLg1YGn

 

Pranakorn Noodle Restaurant – Small bowl Noodles

One of the key food attractions at Victory Monument is “small bowl noodles”.  This is sort of  “concept dining” as they are fun to eat. This dish got their name from being originally served from boats floating in the city canals. While there are boat noodle vendors serving big bowls of the dish, the diners at Victory Monument stayed faithful to tradition by serving small bite sized servings – a practice that was formerly used to prevent the noodles from spilling out of the bowl on the choppy canal.

Staff at Pranakorn Noodle Restaurant, dishing out never ending bowls of noodles to diners out to “create” records who ate the most bowls.

Each bowl can be slurped up in just one mouthful. There are several types of noodles and noodles-mix variations combo to choose from. The rice noodles are quickly blanched in piping hot soup before being tossed into a bowl along with a few pieces of water morning glory, some slices of either pork or beef and a pork meatball. The bowls are served in brisk manner , so you just eat and stack it higher and higher as you dine.

The fun in eating boat noodles is to see your bowls stacked ever higher, like a foodie’s ‘trophy’. There is even a TV screen in the restaurant showing diners who stacked entire tables as they eat for the record.

The eatery facade viewed from the main road. There are a few other boat noodles restaurants further down the lane.

Address : Phahonyothin Alley Samsen Nai, Phaya Thai.
Opening hours : Daily 9.00am – 9.00pm
Budget : 12 bht per bowl. Average for 2 person (12 bowls, 1 side order plus 2 drinks) about 200bht .
BTS : Victory Monument. Exit the station and look for the canal, which where the restaurants are located.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/jDAmqsb2yXv

Hoi-Tod Chaw-Lae Restaurant – Oyster Omelette

This humble diner is famous for its phad thai, stir fried mussel and oyster omelette.  Judging by the numerous television show features as seen from the cut-outs on the wall, you are assured a great meal ahead. Although the phad thai and fried egg with seafood grills are priced higher than elsewhere in town but in upmarket Thong Lor, its still wallet friendly. The signature dish is their oyster omelette, which will please lovers of this dish.

You can see the restaurant staff frying the delicious oyster omelette on the hot-plate. Ingredients are placed over a bed of ice to maintain freshness.

Plumb oysters on a bed of ice. Handling of the ingredients gives diners confidence.

 

The oysters omelette batter are spread thin at the edge for that crispiness.

The restaurant facade as you strolled down the lane.

Address : Thong Lor, Sukhumvit Soi 55.
Opening hours : Mon-Sat 11.00am-8.00pm
Budget : 250-300bht (for a plate of phad thai and oyster omelette)
BTS : Thong Lo. After exiting station, exit via #3, look Soi 55 Sukhumvit and walk along the left side of the lane.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/zJrwq9G1o3S2

 

MaeVaree – Mango Sticky Rice

There are countless places in Bangkok selling Mango Sticky Rice. At every turn at food courts in major shopping centres, street stalls, restaurants, you may find this popular dessert being sold.  But if you settle for nothing but the best, there is only one place-  MaeVaree.

This shop has been in business for about 20 years and the mangoes used are of top quality which have the right sweetness and juiciness. The sticky rice are of best quality and coconut milk sourced from different provinces of Thailand. This gave the sticky rice a pleasant and smooth chewy texture. It is available in a variety of flavours using natural colours from Thai flowers and herbs. The accompanying crispy mung beans and slightly salty coconut cream, when drizzled on the mango, combine to give you a taste quite unlike any you have tasted before.

The shop frontage at Soi 55 Suhumvit. The only downside is that the shop does not offer dine-in so you buy it and eat it elsewhere or back in your hotel.

Address : 1, Soi Thong Lor Road, Sukhumvit Soi 55.
Opening hours : Daily: 6.00am – 11.00pm
Budget : 130bht (1 pack of sticky rice mango with 2 types of sticky rice flavours)
BTS : Thong Lo . After exiting station, exit via #3, look for Soi 55 Sukhumvit. The bustling shop is the first unit on the lane.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/mRJnstZcbDA2

 

Daniel Thaiger – Premium Hamburger

The amazing hamburger from this food truck is simply too good to be missed and warrants a mention here. The food truck’s owner is Californian Mark Falcioni, who first moved to Bangkok from Los Angeles in 2003. The food truck was opened in 2013 by him and his wife, Honey and named after their oldest son, Daniel Thai. The rest like they say, is history.

You can choose from either beef or pork patty and four burger style – Mr. Steve, Thaiger, Sumo Oats or Cowboy, each with it’s dressing and taste, with customizable option like extra cheese or patty etc. The hamburgers are cooked on order and will take slightly longer waiting time during peak hours.

Our Mr.Steve burger (180bht). Daniel Thaiger only use fresh beef and and the taste is definitely unlike any hamburger you have tasted. So juicy and tender, it just melts in your mouth. You will frown at the usual fast food joints burgers after this. I recommend the beef patty cooked medium and be accompanied by a bottle of icy Coke (20bht).

Their fries were smothered in a mixture of toppings that included fried onions, jalapeños, bacon pieces and lots of tangy thousand island style and their their own version of creamy dressing. They were pretty good but I recommend to eat them on the spot.

Address :Sukhumvit Soi 30/1, Bangkok
Opening hours : 4 pm – 9 pm from Tuesday – Sunday (closed on Mondays)
Budget : 150 – 200bht per burger, depending on option.
BTS : Phrom Phong / Thong Lo . Once exiting the station, go in the direction of the Philippines Embassy. The food truck is located at the side lane, close to main road. About 7-8 min walk.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/Xz5bvNtATxy

 

Centralworld Food Mall – Pan Asian Food

Gone are the days when visitors think of food malls being synonymous with MBK or Platinum Mall. This bright and sleek food mall with its wide range of restaurant-grade food at food court price will certainly bring a smile to diners who want the best of both world. A section of the food hall gives you a city view of Wat Pathumwanaram temple and Siam Paragon shopping mall in the distance.

This seventh floor 200-seat food court draws its inspiration from local food, serving a broad selection of pan-Asian foods at reasonable prices.  For once, there is no need to buy coupons for the food purchase. Simply get a bar coded card, scan by each food stall that you patronized and pay for what you ate on the way out. Easy .

Use the escalators to access the food hall, as the 2 lifts in the lobby takes a long time to come.

Address : 999/9 Rama 1 Road Khwaeng Pathum Wan
Opening hours10.00am –10.00pm
Budget : 70-150bht (depending on type of food)
BTS : Siam. Alight at this station and follow the station directional sign. About 10min walk from the station. Food Hall is at the 7th floor.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/8oyJsR3cAYx

Hokkaido Cheese Toast

The EmQuartier is one of the most gorgeous shopping malls in Bangkok. It was here that we make a chance discovery of Hokkaido Cheese Toast at the mall basement food hall. Not the cheese tarts that was the rave months ago but cheese toast. This outlet offers a variety of toasts and we tried the charcoal toast version . While not cheap at 120bht per piece, it’s certainly a novel experience to savour the crisp toast and chewy stringy ‘chiizu’.

Address695, 693 Tan Nuea, Watthana,
Opening hours :  10.00am–10.00pm
Budget :  120bht per piece.
BTS : Phrom Phong. Easily located at basement of EmQuartier
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/YAph2YbtVrS2

 

Conclusion

I hope readers find the article interesting and helpful should they be planning a food trip to Bangkok. All the food are paid for and not hosted by the food vendors. Please feel free to drop me a message should my assistance be needed.

P.S – All pictures used in this article are all rights reserved and copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Jetabout Holidays.

 

10 Breathtaking Locations Worth Driving For

During Australia’s spring season, Aussie Specialist, Cindy Loo and Jet Blogger, Jensen Chua headed for a self-drive trip around Sydney and Tasmania. Here are 10 amazing locations that have been shortlisted into this travel guide. Get to know which places in Australia they will recommended for anyone planning a Sydney or Tasmania roadtrip! Rev up your engines and get ready for an epic trip Down Under!

1. Tasmania Stop: Lake Pedder (Southern Lights)

Most people heard about Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, which are visible from places such as Norway, Iceland and Finland. But lucky for us in Asia, we need not go that far as there are the Southern Lights, also known as Aurora Australis. Tasmania is probably the best place to catch sight of the Southern Lights. To increase the probability of spotting this beautiful sight, it is recommended to stay as southerly as possible and Lake Pedder is one of the spots.

It was truly mesmerising to watch those vibrant colorful swirls of red, green, blue and purple dance across the skies. We were even lucky enough to catch sight of the Milky Way as well. Bucket list, checked!

2. Tasmania Stop: Mount Wellington, Hobart

Mt Wellington

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Hobart, Mount Wellington is a short 20 minutes’ drive away from the CBD. Boasting panoramic views of Hobart and the Derwent River below, it is certainly one of the most scenic spots in Tasmania. It felt as if we were floating among the clouds! During clear night skies, the Southern Lights can be spotted from here too. By the way, it’s much colder at the peak than at sea level, so make sure you bring along thick jackets.

3. Tasmania Stop: Curringa Farm, Hamilton

Curringa Farm Tasmania

Located one hour away from Hobart in Tasmania, Curringa Farm is an award winning 750 acre farm offering excellent accommodation, incredible forest trails and river views, as well as farm tour to see sheep shearing and adorable farm dogs working in the field! We had a sumptuous lunch at the farm as well – a delicious and juicy slab of Cape Grim Beef, which literally melted in our mouths with every bite. Also not to miss are the delicious freshly baked scones with home-made jam and cream! This experience was truly priceless – how we wished we never had to leave.

4. Tasmania Stop: Cradle Mountain Lake-St Clair National Park

Cradle Mountain Tasmania

We were pleasantly entranced by the rugged mountain, scenic landscapes, wealth of flora and fauna which greeted us when we entered the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. Cradle Mountain is also the starting point for the renowned Overland Track, a 6-day hike that will take you through captivating mountainous terrain for an epic  adventure, let us know if you’ve tried it! Cradle Mountain also have a conservation facility in the national park, where you can get up close and personal with Tasmanian devils, spot wallabies and wombats.

5. Tasmania Stop: Freycinet Marine Farm, Coles Bay

Freycinet Marine Farm

We drive for approximately 1.5 hours over 105km along the scenic highway overlooking the Tasman Sea to savour freshly shucked Pacific Oysters at Freycinet Marine Farm!  Oysters, scallops and abalones are some of the most favoured seafood that Freycinet Marine Farm offers and many visitors make a beeline for them. They are simply so fresh and reasonably priced, it’s a waste not to feast on them while in Tasmania!

6. Sydney, NSW Stop: Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach is one of the most visited tourist sites in Australia and needs no introduction; you probably had scrolled through countless pictures of it on Instagram or Facebook! With soft sand, aquamarine waters and dozens of cafes and restaurants all around, Bondi isn’t called the beach of capital for nothing. We recommend heading for a refreshing dip at the Bondi Iceberg Club swimming pool, which has been an iconic fixture of Bondi Beach for more than 100 years. It’s arguably the most photogenic spot at Bondi as well, so make sure to snap as many photos as you can!

7. Sydney, NSW Stop: Weekend Bondi Farmers Market

The Bondi Farmers Market is held every Saturday from 9am-1pm at Bondi  Beach Public School. At Bondi Farmers Market, you can buy fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, organically grown meat and poultry, freshly picked flowers, confectionery, homemade jams, farm-make cheeses and honey, seafood, herbs, spices and much more! You can also take your breakfast here as there is a wide range of food (including Asian food) and snacks for purchase. This is the perfect venue where a picnic mat will come in handy, as you can feast on your meals on the field at the venue!

8. Sydney, NSW Stop: Blue Mountains National Park

Next, we headed to the famous Blue Mountains National Park! Boasting a scenic railway, cableway, skyway and walkway, there were just too many ways to explore this beautiful park. We eventually decided on the Scenic Skyway and it was certainly a thrilling experience! With a see-through glass cabin floor, and panoramic views of Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters and Jamison Valley, we were indeed mesmerized by the amazing views.

Remember to get to Echo Point Lookout, which is the best location to take in the best view of The Three Sisters as well as the majestic vistas of the canyons and mountains. It was such an incredible humbling experience to enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature!

9. Sydney, NSW Stop: Lincoln’s Rock

Warning: Visiting the Lincoln’s Rock is definitely not for the faint-hearted. If the phrase butterflies in the stomach” sounds familiar to anyone, then looking over the cliff at the Lincoln’s Rock will certainly adds a new dimension. The highlight of this incredible lookout point is the leg-numbering ‘illusion’ of “Edge of the World” picture you can get as a travel “trophy”! When you look over the edge of the rock, you could see several burned car bodies ar down the base of the mountains (probably from movie stunts). As there are no safety barriers, visitors with little children are advised to fully supervise at ALL times.

10. Sydney, NSW Stop: Hunter Valley

Home to sprawling vineyards, gourmet foods, spa retreats and more, Hunter Valley redefined the meaning of true bliss for us. With only two hours’ drive from Sydney, we reached the family-owned wineries, feast at diners with gorgeous views and even had an opportunity to hop into a hot-air balloon for unique bird’s eye view  of the valley!

It was truly an eye-opening experience helping the pilot and his crew assemble and dissemble the hot-air balloon. We were completely in awe of the sunrise, where glorious sun rays lit the sky aglow with hues of red and orange. Witnessing the birth of a new day from a hot-air balloon followed by a champagne breakfast was definitely one of the best highlights of our road trip!

So there you go, top 10 destinations perfect for a self drive experience you can simply find in Australia. Be sure to look out for special offers to Australia at www.jetabout.com.sg!

Travel Itinerary – Sunshine Coast & Fraser Island

Recently, I had opportunity to travel to Sunshine Coast & Fraser Island for 5 days during spring (early October). This was a perfect choice to relax and cruise conveniently where crowded beaches and buildings were unheard of in Queensland’s naturally refreshing Sunshine Coast

Understanding how tricky it can be to plan your trip in Sunshine Coast, get inspired by reading Sunshine Coast & Fraser Island experience trip

Day 1:  Sunshine Coast (Australia Zoo & Dining Experience)

My flight to Gold Coast was a 7 hours flight on Scoot. I took this shot inside plane using a newly released Samsung phone.

sunshine-coast-departing

Ironically, this was the time when Note 7 before announcements of faulty batteries. Upon my flight arrival at Gold Coast airport the next morning, I left for Sunshine Coast which is approximately 2 hours of driving from the airport.

In case you’re wondering, Sunshine Coast is known for small beach towns and resort areas along the coast, situated approximately 100 kilometres north of Brisbane.

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I visited the Glasshouse Mountains Ecolodge, my tour was led bt Mystic Mountain Tours.  Our breakfast was a hosted morning tea close to nature environment. I was told that this accommodation comes from restored train carriages.

You’ll feel rest assured that they have a large variety of accommodation suitable for singles, couples and groups. This relaxed lodge is 6 km from the Glass House Mountains Lookout and 11 km from the Australia Zoo.

signhoard

Not only you will find funny puns like this signboard, you will also learn how unique this eco-friendly accommodation is from the moment you look out your terrace. Loving Aussie culture! Actually, that was when I realized I was being surrounded by rainforest right in the heart of the Glasshouse Mountains.

The remarkable Glasshouse Mountains are a series of steep sided volcanic plugs over 25 million years old. You can climb, walk around or simply gaze at them from the front entrance of the Ecolodge.

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From the lodge at noon, Con-X-ions gave us some local tips as they transferred us to Australia Zoo, one of the most popular attractions on the Sunshine Coast. This Australia Zoo, owned by Terri Irwin, the widow of Steve Irwin is by far not just another zoo compared to others where I had been to. Imagine what a great time you will have, you have super friendly staff throughout your tour and you can also see animals in their natural habitats set in a way that’s easy to spot & immediately spot the animal in it. You also have chance to get up close with several animals to interact with them by patting and taking some pictures with them. Here’s two for you if you’ve always longed to cuddle a koala

I really enjoyed my time here, this zoo has over 1,200 native and exotic animals, a line-up of interactive animal encounters, an action-packed 24-hour wildlife hospital and one amazingly adventurous zoo crew. There was never a dull moment at Australia Zoo. The croc show is a must see for anyone deciding to visit this zoo. Enjoy the Wildlife Warrior Show, where your staff swooped and perform jay snapping action such as provoking dangerous saltwater crocodiles in the Crocoseum! Lookout up above you as well, you will catch the thrilling free flight birds as they fly right over your head, this is just one of the free fascinating wildlife shows daily (1st & 2nd picture from left)

spicers-tamarind-retreat-2

My beef brisket in Korean sauce! Let’s EAT????

spicers-tamarind-retreat-1

This was the best dessert I ever had so far! Thai style sticky black rice, pumpkin ice cream, pandan sponge, coconut, pandan meringue and peanut butter crumb! IT WAS SUPERB! I’m pleased to be able to squeeze in a good dining place for afternoon lunch after exploring nature and wildlife side of Sunshine Coast.

So, where exactly is this? It’s set next to Gardners Waterfall in a stunning rain forest setting, just three kilometres east of Maleny on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland is Spicer Tamarind Retreat. This onsite restaurant specializes in innovative modern Asian cuisine, every dish has the harmonious balance of Thai flavors: sweet, sour and spicy – that will surely leave your mouth watering and your stomach begging for more! You’ll also appreciate the Tamarind’s ever-changing menu and perfectly matched wines, it make this a true gourmet destination for both in-house guests and the general public alike.

A very fulfilling meal and dessert.. Cheque, please!

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Our next transfer stop was Spicers Clovelly Estate for supper.  This restaurant was designed with luxurious comfort as top priority, resembling a subtle blend of the traditional and the modern, featuring elegant, contemporary French furnishings in harmony with entertainment technology. The food served was everything else!

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By the time it was evening I checked in to Newport Mooloolaba Apartments. and gosh! This was the view from my room (1st image – far left). I immediately fell in love with this ‘Golden Hours’ colours

This Newport Mooloolaba Apartments provide accommodation in 1, 2 & 3 bedroom self-contained apartments and studio suites. And because it is set in a high-rise building overlooking the Coral Sea, you’re just 2-minute walk from Underwater World SEA LIFE Mooloolaba and 9 minutes’ walk from Mantra Mooloolaba Beach! I spotted yet another spectacular sunset view from my room (2nd picture from left), and captured a different angle of landscape from another room looking out to the port (3rd picture from left)

newport-mooloolaba-apartments-4

By the way, this was the sunrise seen from my room before 5.30am!

Day 2: Sunshine Coast (Surf Culture & Noosa)

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I was all set to for my next destination at 7.15am. It was a short stroll passing by a a mall along the River Esplanade road to The Surf Club Mooloolaba for breakfast and surfing tour.

Being involved in this experience was both motivating and insightful, I was taken behind the scenes ‘Aussie Surf Culture Beach Tour’ with Live It Tours to learn important skills of Australian surf lifesaver. The team adapted their training to suit our group.  As a participant, I learned several crucial skills on the go such as surfing skills, heading towards rescue tower and simulating life rescue mission in action. There’s SEALIFE Mooloolaba closeby which is a 3-mins walk. where you get to enjoy over 14 talk feeds and presentations including three famous seal shows and unique experiences to get up close and personal with marine life.

At noon, I visited The Ginger Factory, that opens daily with free admission in quest of discovering story of ginger from paddock to plate and see how Buderim Ginger became the largest processor of ginger in the world. My next activity was exploring Noosa National Park with guided walk to Noosa Main Beach then. Noosa National Park encompasses an area of more than 4,000 hectares and it’s extremely important for nature conservation and is home to several rare and threatened species. It’s actually one of Australia’s favourite National parks and you can easily access by foot from local areas. No trip to Noosa is completed without a trip to Noosa National Park.

humpback-whale

I was busy whale watching here – until I realized it’s the Humpback Whale! I was so lucky to get a sight of them – about four humpback whales and it was 300 meters away from me (the secret to this shot: zoom lens). I checked in to Noosa Residences after that for overnight luxury accommodation, just a 3 minute walk from Hasthings Street, Nossa’s main beach and Languna Beach. These houses have been designed to capture the best of Queensland coastal living with rainforest, ocean and hinterland views.

I went for stroll to Noosa Jetty via Hastings Street during the evening. A good number of places to check out in this area! As one of Australia’s best loved eat-streets, Hastings Street promises year-round alfresco dining, leisurely surfside lunches, and innovative fare created by some of the country’s best chefs. No one is in a hurry here, the dress code is casual, day and night, and the warmth of the sun and gentle ocean breezes. You can say it’s a sort of place to relax, unwind and simply watch the world go by. Noosa Head, on the other hand is one of the world’s most sought-after holiday destinations, and with good reason: it combines all the finer things in life with stunning beaches offset by the beauty of Noosa National Park, all in one compact area you can explore by foot.

noosa-national-park-2

My personal favourite was enjoying a sunset cruise with The Noosa Ferry Cruise Co at Noosa National Park. I sat back and relaxed while we glided amongst the yachts of Woods Bay, past the fine waterfront homes of Noosa Sound before taking in the sunset view.

Yes, a paradise all of its own!

I alighted at Noosa River for dinner at Noosa Boathouse Bistro and Bar. Located directly above the Noosa River, this bistro offers an idyllic venue for anyone who wants to combine the beautiful surrounds with an extensive menu and attentive service. The waterfront setting ensures that dining here is the sort of relaxing experience that exemplifies the laidback Noosa lifestyle.

Accommodation: Noosa Residences

Day 3: Sunshine Coast (Great Beach Drive) 

I departed for Rainbow Beach with a private charter tour along the Great Beach Drive with Australian Sunset Safaris early in the morning. This Great Beach Drive is situated along Sunshine Coast & Fraser Island, a destination where you can escape the bitumen highway and drive along white sandy beach surrounded by the sparkling Pacific Ocean and Australian bushland.

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That was the four-wheel drive (4WD) by Australian Sunset Safari that I rode on in the afternoon. It took us along the pristine sandy beach from Noosa North Shore to Rainbow Beach.

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I managed to climbed up to this very spot for this breathtaking aerial view to the point I actually surprised myself! ???? It was a clear blue sky at about 11am. Simply fell in love the spectacular ocean view!  (1st picture from left) As you move closer to the beach, you can feel vibe of the Australian lifestyle  (2nd & 3rd picture from left). Spot laid back locals doing some fishing and walking their pet dogs by the beach. You’ll also experience animals and nature up close everywhere at Rainbow Beach!

Heads up, these pictures were taken using my reliable Panasonic Lumix underwater camera

kayak-1

Once the beach has warmed you up nicely, it’s a good time to experience the Dolphin View Kayak Tour

Very excitedly ready for mine, thanks to Epic Ocean Adventures! All the needed equipment and safety/instruction briefing were conveniently set up by the staff on the beach.

kayak-2

Here’s a sneak peek of guided kayak tour around the headland taking in nature views and local marine life. And if you are lucky, you will be able to spot large Bottlenose dolphin pods, Humpback whales, turtles, manta rays, sting rays or even soldier crabs!

rainbow-beach-sunset

I enjoyed a guided sunset walk to Carlo Sand blow with our Destination Gympie Region host in evening. This was the Carlo Sandblow Rainbow Beach just 2km away from rainbow beach. I snapped a picture of the sunset view, it was simply one of the best I have seen recently! ???? It was indeed a great spot to catch the sunrise or sunset. This unique Carlo sand blew “moonscape” sand mass, covering over 15 hectares while overlooking everything that lies ahead of the towering colored sands of Rainbow Beach!

The sight of the unspoiled beaches, towering coastal sand cliffs and coloured sands overlooking beautiful rolling surf was truly remarkable

Accommodation: Rainbow Ocean Palms resort

Day 4: Fraser Island (Pipis, Indian Head, Lake Mackenzie)

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It is about time to tell you about on Fraser Island – World Heritage Listed with the largest sand island in the world and the only place on the planet where rainforests grows on sand. From the Sunshine Coast you can catch a car ferry and explore the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island.

I got ready for departure to Fraser Island and had a wonderful morning experience on the way to Fraser Island. You will notice how people from all around the world travel to Fraser Island just to dip their toes into the crystal clear water and gorgeous white sand.

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First thing I did on Fraser island was to look for Pipis! We found oh so so many!

Pipis can be caught all year round, simply head down to the beach and dig away into the wet sand with your feet. Once you feel a bump in the sand (1st picture from left), you can dig out a pip just under the surface. The trick is to find a second pipi to easily crack it open. You’re all good remove the pipi from its shell after cracking it open. I tried it, the pipi tasted like ‘LALA’ (don’t they almost rhyme?) but it tasted fresher! And we ate it raw ???? 

There are two naturally occurring baits on Fraser Island, pipi’s which are easy to find and live beach worms which are a little trickier.

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After exotic food adventure, comes the real trekking adventure! I trekked my way up the Indian Head – a popular spot with a spectacular view of Fraser Island! No wonder it was marked as one of Fraser Island’s landmark It took me approximately 45 minutes trekking to the top of the cliff with some steep and rocky tracks to follow! It wasn’t easy as there were a lot of big rock slope, surprisingly I made it among the first few.

Just make sure to stay low when decending the and you should be fine like us!

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Photography tip / debate from this one? Having people in the picture is not too bad as it emphasizes mood of your picture

A very rewarding walk indeed! I was mesmerized with the amazing landscape from the 50meter cliffs below.

You also have opportunity to spot sea creatures from the view of the headland. Turtles, stingrays and sharks are seen daily and from August to November Humpback whales frolic around the headland!

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Lake Mackenzie, the most visited natural site on the Fraser Island, known to be a perched lake made up of pure rainwater sitting on top of compact sand and other organic matters. It is no surprise that this lake is one of the cleanest lakes in the world, where the only pollutant in the clear blue water is the sunscreen.

I enjoyed a dip at Lake McKenzie ???? Never have I felt skin so smooth now and I had a great time doing foot scrub as well

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So.. It might come to point where you get curious about ariel view of Fraser Islands. The best way to see an island – Fly over it! It’s an great opportunity to go on an scenic flight over Fraser Island (this island itself is actually 3 times the size of Singapore). My trip was made possible thanks to Air Fraser Island

You can see the view of Fraser Island’s airport in picture above!

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Our young yet professional pilot who made it all looked too easy!

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Truly spectacular view over Fraser Island! Spot butterfly lake, you can only see this little beauty only if you fly over the island!

We continued to fly over the largest sand island in the world with rainforest (that grows on sand), more than 100 freshwater lakes, sand blows and 120 kilometres of beach. One of the best scenic flights I’ve ever had. I say it’s quite a paradise for boating, fishing, swimming, bush walking, 4WD and simply enjoying the magnificent, natural beauty of this island

Accommodation: Kingfisher Bay Resort & Village, situated north of Sunshine Coast and is the gateway to Fraser Island

Day 5: Fraser Island (Kingfisher Bay & Mantra Hervey Bay.)

6.45am:

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Ooooo hooo… finally my mushroom breakfast ???????? always looking forward to this in any Australia trip ???? a simple mushroom feast will keep me happy the whole day.

I had my breakfast at Maheno restaurant in the resort, overlooking the main pook and natural window lakes.Transfer from resort to Kingfisher Bay Ferry for Mantra Hervey Bay!

Mantra Hervey Bay, Fraser Coast is one of the best places in Australia for whale watching. Enjoy sweeping views over the Marina and out to Fraser Island, or to get up close and personal with whale watching tours departing just outside the resort. A good opportunity to experience once in a lifetime watching these majestic creatures migrate north.

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I paid closer attention to Australia’s nature with Bush Tucker at Kingfisher Bay Resort & Village! Looking closer, I learned how the native Butchulla people survived and thrived on Fraser Island! On this guided walk, I discovered a variety of bush foods growing in the resort grounds.

You know what they say about grass being greener on the other side. You can discover abundance of iconic wildflowers and native birds and wildlife nesting and feeding in the bush just around the resort.

The Pandanus gemmifer – great if u want to detox (6th picture from left to right). Meanwhile, there’s one called a Banksia, an Australian wildflower that resembles flower spikes and fruiting “cones” and heads (4th picture from left to right)

Cafe Baleana for lunch, it was a walking distance from hotel

This Hervey Bay cafe caters for all tastes and all dietary requirements, offering selections from an extensive menu from the freshest to the finest ingredients that the Hervey Bay and the Fraser Coast has to offer.

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Spectacular whale watching begins in Hervey Bay!

I crossed the street to Great Sandy Straits Marina for whale watching experience

Each year between July and early November, have the opportunity to marvel at the mighty humpback whales Hervey Bay as they take time out from their annual migration for a bit of R&R in the protected waters of the region!

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At Hervey Bay – spotted view of spectacular jetty and also this ‘bird’ kingfisher ? Left me wondering if it was thinking or watching

I walked back to Mantra Hervey Bay to head back to hotelin the evening

I did a short walk to Smokey Joe’s Cafe for dinner at 6.45pm, an exciting entertainment concept started in USA back in early 1940s and 50s. This cafe was a diner frequented by recording executives and talent scouts, where upcoming hopefuls were always keen to take on the stage. This is to give an impromptu performance in hope that someone in the audience would ‘discover’ them.

As an audience, you will enjoy this ever-changing array of live entertainment never before offered in Hervey Bay in elegant atmosphere.

Day 6: Lady Elliot Island

I went back to Cafe Baleana to enjoy breakfast, surprisingly they open this early in the morning!

7.15am – Off we hop along being transferred to Fraser Coast Airport on a mission to explore Lady Elliot Island for a full day of adventures

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8am – Time to fly from Hervey Bay to Lady Elliot Island

Lady Elliot Island is known as a true coral cay island located at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef and just north of Fraser Island. In fact, this island is regarded as one of the best diving and snorkeling locations on the Great Barrier Reef. Mainly because it is famous for its unspoiled coral reef and amazing array of spectacular marine life.

I really love this island very much. To put it bluntly, it is great especially when you just want that “nature getaway”. Do note that network is not available here, so be prepared to be out of contact for some great moments

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Our glass-bottom boat heading out for snorkelling

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I was all geared up to do reef walking, discovering what’s beneath me while shooting pictures to show you some corals. I was happy to catch a live sea cucumber, a creature without a heart and brain ???????? It may not look attractive, but I’ve always love how it’s served in restaurants. I also found a shy octopus hiding inside corals

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Spotted different variety, forms and colors of beautiful corals as I snorkeled. As I went lower and digging in, I’m seeing more corals like these ones.

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You’ll see some variety kind of adorable birds, some loving couples cozying up to each other up in the branches!

I departed from Lady Elliott Island by evening and enjoyed a scenic flight to Gold Coast Airport. You can check out Burleigh Beach if you have some free time and catch sunset views. Dinner is recommended at Rick Shores for those who love Pan-Asian flavours & fresh locally sourced produce and looking to dine in one of Gold Coast’s most iconic locations.

Accommodation:  Oaks Calypso Coolangatta situated just across from the beach

Final Thoughts..

Sunshine Coast’s beaches were lovely, the wildlife experience was unique and buildings such as cafes and shopping were boutique style around Mooloolaba. Places like Noosa, Hervey Bay and Fraser Island and Lady Elliot Island were suitable to explore coastal side of things just when I thought I had already seen it all!

My experience was very unique because they emulates everything natural and each visit was spectacular in their own way. Complementing this view by going scenic flight with Air Fraser Island was simply perfect. Most importantly, this trip shaped my experience with gorgeous ladies and dedicated hosts all whom I had pleasure to traveled with. Even though you realized that your trip has ended, what’s left behind is the start of new friendship formed among everyone!

Check out our 5-Nights Best of Queensland Journey from only SGD1,380 per person Plus Receive FREE Australia Dining Vouchers (worth up to AUD150) AND Expandable Luggage for DBS/POSB Credit Cardholders! *Terms apply
Highlights of this trip includes a Scenic Flight – Great Barrier Reef Day Tour and Admission to Australia Zoo! Click here for MORE DETAILS!

Sunshine Coast Recommended Package

 

Fiji Islands Photo Adventure

The thought of visiting Fiji simply make anyone feels exhilarated and yes, that curiosity got the best of me! I decided to go for one week trip to Fiji to experience how it’s blessed with 333 tropical islands and home to some of the happiest people on Earth. Nothing prepared me for the charm and warmth of the Fijians, much less the gorgeous sights and sound of these truly spectacular islands located in the heart of the South Pacific.

In this article, I’ve put together brilliant places you could explore for your trip to Fiji so that you’ll learn how to make most of your time as a traveller and an avid photographer. My itinerary for Fiji includes island exploration – Savusavu, South Viti Levu Island, Sigotaka and Kuata Island

1. Savusavu

I boarded Fiji Airways on my way to Nadi, Fiji Islands. A great sunset greeted me as the Airbus A330-200 cruise eastward from our Lion City to the enchanting islands.

The beauty of visiting Fiji Islands starts even before we reach our destination, with a gorgeous sunset over the Soloman Sea, during a ten hours direct flight from Singapore to Nadi Airport, the main international airport of the Republic of Fiji . Trust me, you will want to trade that aisle seat for that window seat.

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To get here, you’ll need to take domestic flight from Nadi to Labasa via Fiji Links, then 1.5hrs scenic land journey towards Savusavu. The model of this plane is ATR42-600, a French built turbo-prop aircraft (about USD12-16mil each).

My paradise for the next 2 nights was Koro Sun Resort in Savusavu Island. Life felt great as I started to get into the Fijian vibe. I only wished my family was here to enjoy this moment with me.

Savusavu is also known as the “Hidden Paradise”. It’s unbelievable how breathtaking the view are and sound of the sea once you stepped into the room. You know you’re not on a typical holiday when you appreciate nature and its serenity without zero technology distractions- no TV and no Wifi.

Did you spot a white object near hammock? You’ll be left wondering why there’s a coconut here doing in front your bure. Since the bures in resort do not have telephone and wifi, you will have to use this coconut to request any service from the resort staff. All you need to do is to just place the coconut at front door of the bure. At anytime soon, you can expect the staff to pop by your bure. Interesting, isn’t it? It gives you that nostalgic feeling, travelling back in time when we communicated differently without today’s technology sophistication.

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I went to meet the resort guide/driver Romano to watch his work on Kava pounding. He showed a few of us the procedure of pounding dried kava in a “kava pounding shop”. He bought this kava (FD$10) to be presented to the village head where we will be visiting later, as a form of respect, as the waterfall is located within the village compound.

You have to try Fijian kava drink that brings people together when you’re in Fiji. It’s one of the core Fijian culture, where this drink is served during traditional ceremonies. I managed to witness this casual Kava ceremony and presentation at Koro Sun Resort after dinner led by the resort guest relations manager, Paul. My first experience of kava – checked!

My first meal at Koro Sun Resort was a deliciously healthy garden salad. The food was prepared fresh and most importantly, all are local organic produces. Fijians are very particular about using pesticides – 100% fresh produces. One thing led to another, I found myself enjoying my main course, which was Ham Quiche on Tomato Cuss.

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And led to yet another thing! I was treated to Koro Sun Resort Rainforest’s Spa signature – the Banana Leaf Wrap Spa. I was about to be wrapped like an Otah. Scrubbed with brown sugar, coconut oils. The natural Botanicals deeply penetrate vital minerals and nutrients into the skin. The Banana Leaf Wrap Spa will help to center the body after jet lag or stress, leaving us feeling balanced and renewed. I truly sunk into a deep sleep for the 1 hour spa session! Totally knocked out, lured by the natural stream soothing water lullaby, just beside the spa.

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I started exploring surroundings of the resort. This picture I’ve taken is the walkway path to my personal sea front villa – called Edgewater Bure (pronounced as Boo Ray). Bure is the Fijian word for a wood-and-straw hut, sometimes similar to a cabin. In its original sense, a bure is a structure built of anything that comes to hand. The components of a bure are either stacked together, tied together by rope, or a combination of both methods. Though, the bure here are the luxurious type, of course!

Here’s how I enjoy beautiful night in Fiji, looking at the stars and constellation right in front of you. The night skies of Fiji are famed for star gazing. However, during my time there, there were plenty of clouds and the full moon which complicated star trails photography. But it helped that the resort was photogenic and makes great foreground subject. 82 frames were used for this image which took about 1.5 hours to shoot.

Look up to sky at the resort and you’ll see these tall coconut trees. You see them everywhere along the coast as well. One of many reasons Fiji is favorable is because I simply love coconut trees and coconut based food. Otherwise, you will eventually develop liking for coconut if you haven’t appreciate it yet sooner or later

These dried pandanus leaves came into my sight! See it closer, these leaves are hung dry first before being woven into various arts form of handicrafts. You’ll see such handicrafts at the Fijian village. This was how pandanus leaf fan looks like. It’s inspiring to know most of Fijian arts and crafts are Earth friendly product.

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At the Urata village, there was a resident showing passerby how he communicate with others to gather all in the village for meeting, church, gathering, etc. He started to pound the hollowed wooden log that produces a knocking sound loud enough to be heard.

I met with a lovely mother accompanied by her two bubbly kids at Urata Village. This picture speaks a lot to me, Fijians may not live on much, but I feel their happiness. Perhaps that is the answer to a happy life.

The highlight of the 20min easy trekking through the Urata Village was the beautiful waterfall. Really soothing sight. Only a few of the hundreds of islands in Fiji were said to be sufficiently big enough to have waterfalls. The rest of the islands were primarily uninhabited atolls, isolated resorts, or more populated islands that still lack the topography necessary for waterfalls. But what they have were lovely.

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Look at this beautiful lookout point at Savusavu. The fast moving clouds mean neutral density (ND) filter and tripod are essential equipment for you to capture the feel of the moment.

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I caught a sunset that marks the end of a lovely day, beginning of an enchanting night. The natural beauty of Fiji Islands is round the clock. Fiji has a warm tropical climate. Normally, the best months for holidaying is late March through to early December, pertaining to weather.

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It’s hard to describe how thrilled I felt to attend Fiji World Coconut Day 2016! These coconuts play an important role in Fiji because they are a key produce in the Fiji Islands. Not only coconut is a major export for currency, its multitude uses for the versatile plant is very useful. That is why you notice how coconut is quite a daily necessity here in Fiji.

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Participants at the Coconut Fair were friendly bunch of people. They never shy from camera. One group of coconut farmers at the coconut fair requested a picture, so I was more than happy to oblige. Coconut, is the giver of life – it’s a symbol Food, Shelter and Life in Fiji. So, never underestimate the importance of this fruit! 🙂

My next adventure – Get to know Fiji marine life! It’s time explore the other side in Fiji, deeper into Fiji by going underwater ! I reached Copra Shed Marina, where I disembarked and headed towards the pearl farm.

I was greeted and got started crash-course introduction to pearl farming industry at the Justin Hunter Fiji Pearls. Meet this Japanese pearl culture expert from Mikimoto at the farm doing seeding procedure.

One can think of the Japanese pearl expert as a “oyster doctor”, deciding the eventual type and colour of pearl after the 18 months period. The Japanese pearl technician came from Mikimoto in Japan only in the months of April/May and October/November to conduct seeding work

You’ll be shown oyster larvaes holding tank. The sizes are so small , you need a microscope just to see them. The tank holds nylon nest for the larvaes to latch on and grow from there. Lesson does not stop there, you will also see a section of oysters ready for culturing.

The snorkeling trip at the pearl farm was aborted due to choppy water that afternoon. So I snorkelled at Namena Island instead, which features a Giant Clams (Tridacna) farm. It’s a rare treat to spot these clams because Tridacna gigas is considered one of the most endangered clam species in the world. Fortunately, this species of clam have an average lifespan in the wild of over 100 years.

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I rushed back just in time for the Lovo unearthing at the resort. A Lovo is a traditional form of cooking. This is the Fijian name for a feast cooked in the earth. The taste was like a BBQ, only a little more smoky and it’s an efficient way to cook large quantities of food at the same time. It was amazing seeing this unearthing for the 1st time and the smell wafting from the unearthing prepares you for the dinner ahead. No appetizer needed.

You have all food items wrapped in coconut leaves, except the taro (yam). On menu today was pumpkin, taro, fish, chicken. What a great feast ahead! Smoke were escaping and aroma from wrapped food smells really good. Every second felt like hours, I can’t wait to feast on the stuff hidden inside these leaves

My night continued with a twist of surprise – A Meke dance before dinner! The entire village turned out for this great session. You don’t need great sound system or pyrotehnics, just honest warm heart and great lung power. Their just honest warm heart and a great lung power worked brilliantly for this outperformed traditional style of dance. What I enjoyed from this Meke is this amazing vocal range from the villagers that forms a surreal experience! The most senior of the group was tirelessly exuberating a lot of energy and happiness. He kept going on, nothing hold him back. Everyone was united in this dance. People of Fiji including grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters all chipped in to the Meke dance. Feel the warm of the Fijians!

2. South Viti Levu Island

I adjourned to the next phase of Fijian adventure at South Viti Levu island. It was quite convenient for me to board domestic flight via Fiji Links transfer to Suva Airport..

Don’t forget to do a quick visit to the Pure Fiji HQ, where fantastic natural body care product are sold. This is where you can get the best price in Fiji! Even the locals buy here (in bulk!) It’s cheaper here and many Fijians and tourists throng the place…buying bags and bags of the product. After using the product, I can see why people like to choose these souvenirs back to Singapore.

You will love the hydrating lotion and the anti-mozzie spray, I have to say they’re very nice. I am sure other product are just as good as my pick of the day.

The sleek and zen styled Pearl Resort makes it challenge to leave your room. This resort is a perfect venue for couples and family, being a chic styled hotel. This was my second resort for the trip, how lovely…there is an old and new wing, each blessed with its own characters.

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The hotel casual dining venue was a fabulous one, it’s called Riveria Restaurant and Bar, just by the resort marina.

Windy picture perfect day! Can u see a wedding in progress at the chapel at the white structure? You can find chill out spot at the resort Wedding Chapel lounge nearby. The resorts on the islands are effortlessly beautiful. Makes great venue not just for couples, honeymooners but also families. There is something for everyone in Fiji.

Then it’s on to adventure… via Quadbike into mountain trail and a trek to a double waterfall within private forest in the Pacific Harbour. Haku was our quad bike driver and guide. His humour kept me entertained all the way, like a long time friend, making the 45min trek seem like 10min.

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I stopped by Terratrek private leased waterfall at the Pacific Harbour, had some shots taken. I came to understand that many locals not aware there’s a waterfall in their backyard, so it’l was worth checking out.

I found the kava plant that was used in Kava ceremony few days back. This plant may look ordinary to anyone. Its roots are the ones used to produce the kind of drink that is quite sedative and relaxing without disturbing clarity of the mind. Its active ingredients are called kavalactones

3. Sigotaka

 

On my fifth day in Fiji, I checked out early from The Pearl Resort and proceeded straight to Sigatoka River Safari.

The beauty of Fiji is more than beach-side resorts. At Sigatoka, a town in the island of Viti Levu, visitors get experience the inner beauty of Fiji by visiting villages located along the river of the same name. It is largest town and gateway to the Coral Coast, where golfing , beach life and scuba diving are the key attraction.

I was briefed by Sigatoka River Safari founder, Jay Whyte. He was a very nice guy who owns a very well-run company that brings business and revenue to the local economy and villages. Now I was prepared to get soaked and messy with this wild adventure!

A tight spin to get the cool spray … awesome! If excitement is what visitors craved for, skydiving, 4WDs safari, sports fishing and various other exciting adrenaline activities like jetboating is available, like this on the Sigatoka river . This is the part where your camera high frame per second comes in handy.

Our fabulous guide and boat captain is Josephine. She was the one who got us jetting down the Sigatoka River around 50-60km/h. The ride lasted for a total of 40min each way. The friendly villagers were always waving to us as we jet down the river. There were couple of local villagers taking horses out for walk. You can also see mountain goats resting by the river bank.

Nice shot, isn’t it? I was surprised my travel mate Cindy managed to capture shot while jetting by.

Glimpse of the Sigatoka town, a gateway to the Fiji Islands interior and the Coral Coast. Some modern vehicles you see on the road like this one here.

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Moving on, next up on list was visit to Koroua Village as part of the Sigatoka River Safari itinerary. You get to see some squatter settlement with availability of electricity made available to the villagers. This certainly help in their daily lives. Water are still being drawn from ground wells. A kava presentation ceremony ensues with the village head was presenting kava gift to village chief, on behalf of us. He did so as a gesture to seek permission for our visit and activity in the village. This ritual is a form of respect to the village chief and attendees are requested remain silent during the gift presentation. Village senior received kava gift and made us felt welcomed.

I watched as they proceeded with kava drink preparation. The kava powder is mixed with water and stirred constantly as the kava powder within the water settles quickly. After that, you sieve the kava powder through fine muslin cloth. Another village senior expressing appreciation for our visit with sincerity.

The 1st kava drink goes to the eldest in our group of visitors. Kava is a very mild narcotic and is known to make people feel relaxed. Fijian people are known to be some of the happiest on Earth. I cheekily wonder whether Kava may have something to do with that. It’s safe to drink a few cups, just that your tongue gets a bit “numb”.

When it’s your turn to drink a bowl, you can opt for “high tide” (or tsunami) or “low tide,” which stands for a full bowl or half a bowl. Before you drink, you’re supposed to clap once and yell “Bula!” drink it and shout Vinaka! It’ was an eye-opener on Fijian culture!

Kava presentation is cultural must-do when visiting Fiji. It is a ritual and an important social event. In our visit to the village, the kava presentation serves as a “get to know you” session as well as respect for the village head. Ladies and children seat behind the men in a kava presentation and required to wear a sulu (sarong) too. This ceremony is not just about Kava drink, everyone also get decorated with a floral garland including little ones.

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A village feast was prepared, where we sat on the floor beside and opposite of each other. There you go, a sneak peak of a village cuisine. You’ll noticed it’s not that oily and most of ingredients used are natural with produces like banana and casava (tapioca) being served. I joined in communal feast together with everyone else. My favourite dish was pancake with vegetables!

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Shortly after the hearty lunch, the villagers started playing music with their guitars and everyone had a spontaneous party. There’s no need for audio system, just great music from human.

Travel mate Cindy took a classic shot of this little girl with natural expression. I am sure she will this like this picture when she sees it in future when she grows up.

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Fijian kids were really following us around the village. When it’s time to say goodbye, the village head and some kids head out to bid us farewell. They’re totally not camera shy and I just love their spontaneity. I enjoyed capturing a slice of the local life, proving this world are without borders. I love what photography does. It melts borders and invites others into your world. It’s not about how sharp your pictures are or how good your gears are…it’s about capturing the moment. It’s about communication. It’s about life. Photography is a platform. Never a physical tool.

 

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I’ve finally reached Fiji Hideaway Resort, our last resort of the trip, after a long day. We were warmly greeted and welcomed by their singing and clapping of hands. It was a sensory overload beyond my expectation, everyone was just so friendly. The staff happily put on frangipani garland on us all. You’ll be left in awe meeting buffed up Fijian warriors, who turned out as friendly as the rest of the people here.

Next up, the resort resident chef Yunus showing us how the national dish..Kokoda, is being made… simple healthy dish. He was pouring coconut milk into the dish (Coconut, yes!!). Overall this is a colourful looking dish indeed. Not only this meal looked great, it tasted delicous too. Viola! time to eat. I am tempted to try this recipe out – http://www.bite.co.nz/recipe/10398/Kokoda/ Typically, Fiji’s traditional cuisine relies heavily on foods cultivated locally. As a result, their tasty dishes are usually made from seafood, coconuts and root vegetables. Many dishes use coconut milk, which adds a delicious and rich tropical flavor, such Kokoda (pronounced ko-kon-da). If sushi or sashimi is your favourite dishes, you must try kokoda in Fiji!

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As you explore around the resort, one of other treats was an open invitation to splicing coconut session. Two of resort warriors will be the ones conducting this demonstration. After sipping away fresh coconut drink, I joined cultural chief Suwani as he explained the various types of fruits and veggies of the Fijians, in a village known as Sekoula Village, within the resort compound.

As part of the activity, you’re shown how they do the cannibalism in the past.. He will demonstrate this process on you if you are game for it. You’ll hear his story about how different tools were used for different parts of the body. Our activity proceeded, I went for another kava presentation. This time around, I was appointed as the “chief” because I was eldest in our group. It felt like my first time watching kava presentation in this village, observing the kava being squeezed through the muslin cloth.

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Here’s what the kava looks like since you have not seen it earlier. During the kava presentation ceremony, the drink was presented to the eldest in the group of visitors and that’s me. I’d describe the flavour as not sweet, not salty and sort of “earthy” taste. Slightly bitter with a hint of mint and a little peppery. And after drinking, your tongue will feel slightly numb. An acquired taste indeed!

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This was my room for tonight – The Beachfront Villa at Fiji Hideaway Resort. Wonderful sleep quality and the bathroom experience was surreal, with indoor and outdoor shower under the stars, clouds, and coconut trees. The Fijians call them bure, I like to call them paradise huts !

Just look at these spectacular view. Would anyone still need more reasons to stay at the Hideaway Fiji?

4. Kuata Island

I boarded Yasawa Flyer, heading for Kuata Island where you can do Shark Snorkeling. The Yasawa Flyer departs Denarau at 8.30am, with check in at 8am at the South Sea Cruises. It’s good to advised that the cruises here operate on tight time schedule and are punctual to the minute. No “Fiji time” here.

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Here’s a picture of the cruiser Yasawa Flyer II and a sneak peek inside the Captain’s Lounge. Wifi, free flow of drinks, chips, fruits, aircon sum up a perfect experience. Look at blue skies, doesn’t it feels like going to paradise saying “Heaven is an island on the South Pacific”? I have been taking some photography shot on my way to the barefoot Kuata Island from the cruiser top tier deck. The picture below is the picturesque islands are the the magnet that draws visitors from all over the world. Such as this atoll named Beachcomber Island. Great island to be marooned on.

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It caught my full attention to the extent that we missed the 1st transfer boat. Consequences? Our names were announced on the intercom and the boat came back for us thankfully…

You can see how laidback life is here. I spotted local villagers selling souvenirs from likes of handcrafted bracelet, looking very comfortable as if she’s also enjoying “Fiji time”. I was welcomed by resort captain. He made us feel relaxed and briefed us about our stay. You can feel soft sands and see how the wooden chair that shaped like “the flintstones”, feeling comfortable with few sips of drinks decorated with flowers.

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The surrounding of resort was beautiful. You’ll hear the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, while you walk through the stone path in garden like beach area. There’s this mini hut looking sitting area behind a stretch of beach chairs. Nearby, you have a fresh water pool although the best pool is out there in the sea. Just imagine yourself facing the sea that has different shades of blue in this serenity. I spent my time watching and taking photos of Pacific reef heron and shy looking hermit crab at the reef. Even the seagulls were enjoying “Fijitime” ! since there are abundance of food here.

My experience snorkeling with sharks at Morea Reef, Kuata Island was undescribable. The divemaster, Simon Chen from Hong Kong from my snorkeling trip did a free diving to the reef bottom to attract and photograph the sharks. Can you spot one of the sharks at the bottom left ?

You will be amazed how close you’d be with a few of white tip reef shark at Moorea reef. Relax, there’s only just 4-5 of them and human beings are not on their diet plan.

Well, they say all good things must come to an end. This amazing photographic trip was organised by Jetabout Holidays, in partnership with Fiji Airways and Fiji Tourism Board

What remains for sure is no one leaves Fiji Islands without being captivated by the locals’ warmth or entranced by the beauty of the picture perfect islands.. Bula ! (Welcome !) and Vinaka (Thank you!) are two Fijian words that will forever be etched on your mind when you think of the beautiful country with it’s friendly people.

Jensen Chua is a Canon EOS World Council Member and an invited writer at TheSmartlocal.com . All pictures used in this article are copyrighted to Fiji Airways, Fiji Tourism Board and Jetabout Holidays Singapore.

 

Mekong Delta Photo Adventure

Mekong Delta, the very mention of this exotic location evokes a sense of adventure and mysteries that is reminiscence of an old world charm, quietly waiting for all its visitors to uncover and discover her secrets.  And what better way to explore this amazing “Rice Bowl” of Vietnam other than with a photography trip?

Cruise boats at Mekong River

A trip to the Mekong Delta invariably involves a cruise on the Mekong River in one of the traditional riverboats made from native bamboo, wood and rattan. Boats like these are an essential mode of transport in swampy areas and rural roads to access the isolated river communities spread out along the expansive delta. To enhance this picture of the boats and the background, I used a polariser filter to accentuate the clouds in the skies and remove reflection from the water surface.

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Boats are one of the interesting features on the Mekong Delta which makes it comes alive. The picture above shows a group of dry goods transporter, with “nose” as painted anchor and eyes painted on the bow to “watch out” for river traffic. As the Mekong Delta is a wide expanse of water and boats being far away, a telephoto zoom lens would be ideal to capture the details. I used my Canon EF70-200mm L IS in this instance. As the boat ride can be choppy, a high shutter speed is advised to avoid blurred pictures from camera shake.

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One of the Mekong Delta highlights is the floating market such as Phong Dien that can be found in Can Tho, the largest city in the Mekong Delta. Nothing can quite prepare travellers for this visual treat filled with frenzied activities. This river shows you the most unique slice of life at the break of dawn. You will get to experience what it is like being transported right into a National Geographical documentary. To give a “layered” feel to the scene I have described above, I used my Canon EF300mm F4L IS lens at maximum aperture for shallower depth of field.

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To get different angles of the floating market, having a better vantage point is very important. A photography session on the roof deck of a pineapple vendors’ boat is ideal! This can be arranged by tour guide and usually includes a taste of the vendor’s freshly cut pineapple. To capture a bird-eye’s view of the floating market in relation to the surrounding banks of the Can Tho river, I used my Canon EFS 10-18mm STM lens (It would be good to wait for passing boat to fill the frame for a more balance picture).

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Different types of photography such as street, journalistic and people can be explored at the Cai Rang market in Can Tho. This market is just a short ride from the floating market known to be the largest wholesale market on the Mekong Delta. Photographers will have bountiful photography opportunities at every turn. My favourite subject is the female vendors wearing Non La, a Vietnamese palm leaf conical hat. Canon EF300mm F4L IS, at full aperture for the bokeh quality is perfect for better emphasis on one single subject. One challenge of shooting from far using long telephoto lens is that you will encounter people intruding in the frame unknowingly. To increase chances of getting good shots in such sticky situation, station yourself at a spot without traffic obstruction around you. Stay focus and be quick to capture your shot at the right moment.

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In Vietnam, the local stall vendors are known to be hardy people and their accumulative activities contribute a big part to the local economies. They are generally very focused as they go about conducting their business. As such, I minimized distracting them by using my long lens – Canon EF300mm F4 L IS to capture their expression from a comfortable distance. Set your camera frames per second to its highest to capture that moment.

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You get to see things in Vietnamese market that may not be available at your home country. Apart from that, discovering new sights are especially stimulating to a photographer. Like the tray of fruits which I initially thought to be “mini tomatoes” are in fact Vietnamese cherries. A long lens (Canon EF300mm F4L IS) maximum aperture and tight framing helps to focus on the subject. I also used high shutter speed to avoid having blurred pictures caused by movements from subject, camera shake or unsteady hands. As the subject in my case was still, I chose to use Single AF-Point on my EOS80D for better control.

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Cottage industries along the river-land towns in the Mekong Delta present great photo opportunities. You can observe “human-paced” manufacturing and hand-made products (like Banh Cuon, wet rice paper, pic above) in this trip. To convey the laid-back rustic feel with ambiance light, the use of high ISO in the range of 1600-3200, which negate the need for flashlight, is recommended in this situation.

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The local cultural heartland in Vietnam is situated in Tra Vinh, where you can find over 141 Khmer temples, Buddhism is the way of life here. It is not surprising that boys between ages of 15-20 set aside a few months to live as monks (although they may decide on the length of religious rites on their own). Two interesting facts I learn is they can eat meat but cannot kill animals. Secondly they subsist on only two meals daily. It made me realize that we did not see any overweight monks throughout the trip. It’s certainly a great place to shoot some of “Steve McCurry” inspired pictures. Do keep a look out for background details and colours for a more interesting composition.

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Nature also presents itself in some colourful ways in the temples at Tra Vinh. I spotted a group of Monarch butterflies, its saffron coloured wings were just like the monks’ robes. A macro lens or telephoto lens with close focusing distance would render nature in its true glory. I used a Canon EF70-200mm F4L IS in this instance.

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The farming scene in the Mekong Delta, while increasing being modernised, is still very much human labour intensive. Being Vietnam’s main source of income, this is an agricultural miracle that pumps out more than a third of the country’s annual food crop from just ten percent of its total arable land mass. The farmers toiling in the fields are generally friendly and this make capturing their images a more pleasant experience. A long telephoto lens would be ideal to capture farmers as you may have to shoot from a distance while a wide angled zoom is perfect for rendering lines and repeated pattern of the cultivated fields.

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It was a pleasure to pick up tips from Alvin Foo, The Principal of Canon Imaging Academy Singapore, during the trip. With like-minded passionate people on the trip, the scorching 37-38’C afternoon sun was never a hindrance in our quest for that special angle.

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The busy traffic in Vietnam as is known to be a scene filled with hordes of motorbikes. This makes it excellent for panning shots opportunities and other ways of conveying the “mayhem”. There is certainly method in her madness and so let your creativity runs wild. Just be safe and position yourself at right spot for that special shot. Either telephoto or wide angled zooms can be used depending where you position yourself and the pictures you want to capture.

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I like to conclude this article with a long exposure shot  of the famous Ben Thanh roundabout. This million-dollar view literally cost us a “million dollar”  (in Vietnam Dong) as it was the amount required to gain access to this vantage point. I like to think it was money well- spent though. What’s your opinion?

This photography exploration trip was organised by Jetabout Holidays in collaboration with Canon Imaging Academy. Alvin Food , The Principal of Canon Imaging Academy Singapore , will be leading this 3D2N photography trip in November 2016. Details available here.

The author : Jensen Chua is a CanonEOSWorld Council Member and an freelance travel writer/photographer.