My last 2 pairs of running shoes were from New Balance and I had my Hanzo S for close to 4 years. I went for my IPPT recently and I was sitting on the bench while waiting for my turn to run the 2.4km, I noticed that the sole of my Hanzo S is starting to fall apart. It was a sign to get a new pair of shoes once I receive the money for clearing my IPPT.
Over the weekend I went online to look for something similar to the Hanzo S. I managed to streamline my options to the Hanzo S v2, the On Cloudflash, and the Asics Sortiemagic RP 6. The Hanzo S v2 has been released close to 3 years now and there is no way for me to get them anywhere in Singapore. I have heard rumours of a Hanso S v3 flying around but that would probably only be the later part of this year. Running Lab sold the On Cloudflash for a while but they stopped restocking due to low demands. I could take a gamble and order a pair directly from their website since they allowed free returns, but the price was a big turn off since Running Lab sold them for much cheaper previously.
That left me with not much of a choice but to head down to Asics at Jewel to take a look. They told me they didn’t carry the Sortiemagic and recommended me to head down to IMM or Suntec instead. I drove down to IMM since it was much closer to home and they didn’t have the size that I wanted. I needed a US8 but they only had US7.5. Undeterred, I then drove down to Suntec and found the Sortiemagic available in both the new colours. The blue/green colourway seemed rather dull so I went for the flashier option.
(Asics has discounts, promo codes and credit card tie-ups for both their online and retail stores. Check what discounts you can apply and make sure you don’t pay the full retail price!)
I have worn Asics a long, long time ago when I first started running. I can’t remember the model of the first pair I had but it came with the Duomax sole. The other pair I had was the Gel Kayano. Both models I previously had were more for stability running and so this is the first time I am trying out their racing flats.
First impression, it is significantly lighter than all the shoes I have had before. The US8 weighs just 132g compared to the Hanzo S at 185g. Almost 50 grams and I could see why.
The mesh is so thin it is almost transparent. The top and sides are just like a layer of skin. Wear a pair of socks and put on the shoes, you could literally see through the shoe and look at the colour of your socks.
The Asics salesperson was quite nice to emphasize that this pair of shoes is recommended only for track use. I told him that I have always worn racing flats and use them mostly for track and road. He told me that road use will cause a lot of wear and tear to the sole. So far, my New Balance experience seemed pretty durable even for road use, but this is my first pair of Asics racers so let’s see how they run.
When I first shared my boarding pass on social media, a lot of my friends couldn’t believe my choice of vacation destination. They initially thought that I was flying to India for work, but I clarified that I am actually on holiday. I must admit that India wasn’t my first choice either, and I also did not know what to expect for the trip. I packed my luggages with zero expectations but a heart ready for adventure.
We arrived at Delhi Airport and went for a quick meal in the city, before heading back to the airport for a domestic flight.
This is my first time to India and I have never heard of Leh Ladakh, but after a quick research before my trip, I learnt that Ladakh is actually quite close to the Himalayas and most of it is situated on an altitude of 3000m and therefore, is not covered by my travel insurance.
During the trip, I realized that there was a strong military presence and my guide explained to me that Ladakh used to be a disputed region between India, Pakistan and China. There were a few landmarks and schools that used to be under Pakistan but are now run by the Indian army.
We were given a strict itinerary and sleep schedule to follow. We were told that this helps us to acclimatize, especially when we flew in directly from Delhi (low altitude) to Leh (high altitude). The places that we were heading to, are of even higher altitudes (4000 to 5000m and above).
Hence we spent the first 2 nights in the city, exploring local monasteries and markets. I came here with zero expectations, so I just followed through whatever was planned. Some monasteries required a lot of climbing up slopes and stairs, which I honestly wasn’t prepared for, so we had to pause every now and then to catch our breaths. It took extra effort because the weather was chilly and breezes were cold.
As we explored out of the city area, most of what you see in Ladakh are just mountains and deserts and long roads. The drive from one place to another can take 4 to 6 hours, sometimes even longer if weather is bad or when there is a risk of landslide or falling rocks.
I won’t say that my guide is the best and knows everything, because there were some places where he didn’t really explain the history or significance and we had to find out on the internet by ourselves, but I highly recommend him just due to the fact that he is an excellent driver. Some roads are literally just beside the edge of cliffs, and I am glad we made it back thanks to his good driving skills.
We took this on Khardung La, which is one of the world’s highest motorable road at 5400m. It is the same height as Everest base camp. The air here is very thin and it was ultra exhausting to climb up to the peak. You can’t see the wind from the photo but it was so cold we were chilled to the bone.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip was when we went to Pangong Lake. I never knew nature could be so beautiful. The scenery was majestic.
The only thing here was that the altitude was 4200m and temperature at night dropped to about 10 degrees celcius. I thought I could manage but I overestimated myself. Woke up the next day with a really bad headache and feeling very nauseous. Was sent to the village hospital and prescribed pills for high altitude sickness, before I was allowed to continue the rest of the trip.
I must admit that we underestimated the climate and altitude. My jacket was evidently insufficient for the cold weather, some nights I ended up wearing 2 shirts so I could have an additional layer.
Perhaps due to the fact that I came here with zero expectations, the trip definitely turned out much better than I thought. It was a great adventure with amazing scenery, and I survived Leh Ladakh.
It has been exactly 2 years since I was last in Thailand and now I finally got my chance to be back. I half expected the entire travel process to be inconvenient and troublesome, but it turned out to be much easier than I thought. Here is my first hand experience of how to travel to Bangkok in 2022 (details as of 05 March 2022).
For your Thai pass to be approved, these are what you need:
Air ticket (I got my ticket from Singapore Airlines for $291. Remember to select the VTL flight when you return from Thailand back to Singapore because not all flights are VTL flights.) [There are no more VTL flights into Singapore from 1 April 2022.]
Test and Go Day 1 hotel package. Almost all hotels provide airport pick up service and also your compulsory post-arrival PCR test. My hotel of choice is Salil Hotel Sukhumvit 57. You can book with them via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and they will send you the payment link and hotel confirmation. I personally feel it is a good hotel for your first day because you can’t head out until your PCR results are out, which may take the entire day. (My PCR results were out at 11.30pm even though I arrived early at 9am.) Hotel staff will send you the 3 standard meals, but should you choose to order any food delivery, the hotel staff will also help to send food to your door. The room has a fridge and microwave and bowls and plates and utensils and also a separate basin for you to wash your used crockery, so you don’t have to use the same tap that you wash your face from.
So with all these documents, you can proceed to submit your application on the Thai pass website. Approval is supposedly within 7 working days but I got mine approved within 2 working days. The Thai pass itself is a page with a big QR code.
I printed everything out and trust me it pays to do so, because it is so much more convenient. You will need to take these documents out numerous times.
[Pre-departure PCR test is no longer requiredas of 1 April 2022] For my pre-departure PCR, I got mine done at Swab Station (https://www.swabstation.sg/). They have different locations all over Singapore and costs only $98. You need to enter your passport number during booking and also bring along your passport when you head down for your PCR test. This needs to be done within 72 hours before your flight.
Come the actual day for your flight, for your pre-departure check-in at the airport, the counter staff will go through all your documents including your PCR result and your Test & Go hotel booking confirmation. This is the first of numerous times that you need to take your documents out.
During your flight, you will be given the standard Thailand arrival card as well as a covid declaration slip. They are quite straightforward to fill in. You can keep them together with your printed documents.
Upon arrival at Suvarnabhumi Airport, as soon as you disembark from the aircraft, you will see a long stretch of chairs. Let’s just call this the “Thai pass queue.” Here you have to once again hand over all the documents and they will scan the big QR code. This is before you step into the immigration hall, so once you are done here, you can then proceed to the actual immigration arrival queue to get your passport stamped. I was asked to provide my proof of accommodation after the Day 1 Test and Go, (i.e. where you will be staying for the rest of your trip) so you need to provide an actual address. I just showed my hotel bookings from Agoda (Yes, I printed these out too).
After immigration, you will see the baggage carousel. There is a small DTAC booth here so you can purchase your SIM card if you wish to do so, but otherwise just collect your baggage and walk past the customs to head out to the arrival pickup area. There will be a lot of different booths for all the different hotels. Everyone who has just arrived will also be looking and waiting for their Test and Go hotel pick up, so it can get quite crowded and messy here, so just find your hotel’s booth and the staff will show you to your transport.
Arriving at the hotel, checking-in requires you to once again produce all your documents. I saw the hotel concierge staff sanitizing my luggages. I am not sure if they do it at every hotel. Different hotels might have different processes, but at Salil, after I have checked-in at the lobby, there was a nurse to do my post-arrival PCR test at the hotel lobby itself. They will then send your swab test sample to the hospital/clinic. In the meantime, you will be sent to your hotel room and stay inside until your PCR test results are out. You can still order Grab food and in Bangkok I am quite certain that you will be spoilt for choice. Another reason why I highly recommend Salil is because if you order street food from Grab, most of the time the restaurant will send it to you in a plastic bag tied with a rubber band, so in Salil, at least you have proper crockery to eat them with.
I was hoping that my PCR results would be out earlier but unfortunately it was only at 11.30pm that I was notified via a phone call to my hotel room that my results were negative. From this point, I was free to roam anywhere.
Entry to malls in Bangkok is quite similar to Singapore, there is a QR code for you to check-in and also a temperature scanner. The only difference is that there is nobody sitting there to make sure you scan, so it is the norm that most people just walk right through.
Dining out, some restaurants require you to produce proof of vaccination or a negative PCR/ART test result, so you can just screenshot and show from your phone, or you can also produce the hardcopy which you have printed out. While most bars operate as usual, they require you to purchase and perform an ART test prior to entry.
I have heard good reviews of Akira Back for quite some time now but haven’t got a chance to try because in Singapore, we are really spoilt for choices. There are really so many places to go.
For my birthday this year, I decided to pop by and try what’s on their menu.
Due to the latest safe distancing measures, we managed to get a good table. The seating was wide and located in a spacious and quiet corner. I am quite sure this table would have been used for bigger parties like 5-6 people during pre-covid times.
The most popular appetizer on the menu is the cold pizza. I was caught in 2 minds whether to order the mushroom or the tuna version, so we ordered half of each. I personally preferred the mushroom one as it packed more flavour including a hint of truffle. The tuna pizza on the other hand wasn’t anything outstanding.
We gave the salmon carpaccio a try but it wasn’t spectacular. It is quite safe to just give this a miss.
Our server for the evening was Evelyn, who was very friendly and hospitable. She takes good photos as well. One of her recommendations was the Brother from another Mother. Yes, that’s the actual name of the dish. It’s basically a unagi handroll topped with foie gras. I enjoyed this a lot. The ponzo mayo gave the dish a sweet and refreshing touch.
Now we also had the atlantic black cod. If you were to ask me, this was the most filling dish. The fillets were fresh and huge. This was also served as an appetizer but I would say this could easily go as one of the mains. It came with some yuzu foam at the side which looks almost like hand soap, but you just coat a little foam on the fillet and put it in your mouth.
The main dish was actually the signature short ribs. The meat was really soft and the fats melt easily. You can feel the juices from all the fat just breaking down under your palette. It was good on its own so no sauces required. The serving size felt much smaller than the cod, so we ordered some extra sashimi and sushi, but those were nothing special.
I am not some Michelin star expert or professional food reviewer but this meal was good enough for me, and I enjoyed my dinner thoroughly. Good food makes me happy, but the company I eat with matters more.
My friend Robin from Busybody SG recently started a new self-photography studio at Henderson Road called Insaeng Selca and I decided to check it out over the weekend.
The concept is very simple. It is a small studio space with 2 cameras. One camera allows the standard monochrome (black and white) shots and another camera is for double exposure shots. You are handed a small remote to activate the shutter and there is a small screen for you to preview each shot you have taken. There are no limits to the number of shots that you can take, as long as it is within your 15-minute photo-taking timeframe.
Once you are done with the photoshoot, there is a monitor beside the counter for you to choose your prints. We selected 3 of our favourite shots to be printed in 6R size.
From personal experience, I arrived at the studio without much ideas for the poses so my advice is to get inspiration for your poses before actually heading down for your shoot. Otherwise you may end up wasting precious time during your 15-minute photo-taking session thinking of what poses to do next. I also recommend wearing contrasting colours so that the photos will look better in monochrome.
The double exposure shots are entirely up to your own creativity. It took a couple of test shots before we managed to figure out how to get the best out of the double exposure effect and this was our masterpiece.
It has been more than a year since we were last allowed to travel and I am slowly running out of things to do in Singapore. Having explored the great outdoors, from hiking in Sungei Buloh, to riding the Amazon River Quest in River Safari, to kayaking in the Kallang basin, it is time to start hiding indoors and I started by signing myself up for the Essential Coffee Knowledge class conducted by Common Man Coffee Roasters.
The class is not conducted anywhere near their cafes, but rather they actually have a classroom-styled space tucked in the old aging HDB estate at Chin Swee Road. The place is not difficult to find, just a very short walk from Chinatown MRT, past the State Courts premises.
The class starts early, at 8:30am in the morning. I was the first to arrive and was offered a cup of coffee while we waited for the other 3 participants. (There is a cap of only 4 participants for each class due to safe distancing measures.)
I had the pleasure to share this class together with a much older couple and that played a part in making this class more interesting. The older gentleman was asking a lot of questions, so the instructor couldn’t just read off the powerpoint slides. The instructor had a bit more explanations, and at the same time we got to sniff and sample the different kinds of beans.
The academy offers quite a number of different topics and courses, so I foresee myself coming back soon.
Every guitarist, at some point of his or her life, would have dreamt of owning a Taylor.
And I am going to be honest, when I am moody or down or discouraged, I cheer myself up by buying things I like.
So, one thing led to another, and one day I got the order confirmation from Swee Lee, and the next moment I had this huge box sent to my room.
Packed in a standard aerocase, with a solid sitka spruce top and Indian rosewood body, the sound is bright and warm and offers enough projection.
I would think that any Taylor out of the factory would have been well or fully setup in terms of playability, but I spent just 30 minutes on it today before my fingers started to hurt. I realized by default it comes in .13 strings which is a gauge too heavy even for elephant-skinned fingers, so I am intending to bring it down slightly to .12, and overall it still feels rather stiff so I am gonna sending it for some additional touch ups.
I have previously engaged my friend Jarvis from The Guitar Spa some time back for my previous gutiars, and he has also improved tremendously over the past few years so I will be entrusting my Taylor to him to complete the setup.