请停

Dragonfly-KL

Something fleeting against something enduring… An Orthemis dragonfly parked in front of Kuala Lumpur’s magnificent Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

蜻蜓,请停,好让我慢慢的习赏。

缘份,请留,允许时间细细喜尝。

Dragonfly, please stay, the appreciation of you takes practice and time.

Love, don’t go, the joyful flavours of fate is made up of both bitter and sweet moments.

Vietnamese Steamed Clams with Lemongrass and Basil (Nghêu Hấp)

Since falling in love with Nghêu Hấp (Vietnamese steamed clams with lemongrass and basil) in Da Nang, I’ve been eager to replicate that delicious memory at home.

steamed-clams-01_zpso81s4o8i

“Nghêu” means shellfish and “Hấp” means steamed. I had my first taste of this delightful dish at Tucana Restaurant and it was sooooo delicious, we went back for a pot every day throughout our 4D3N stay in Da Nang.

So here’s my first attempt at Nghêu Hấp and I’m posting my recipe here because, not to toot my own horn, it turned out really well. I fell off my chair at how good it tasted!

INGREDIENTS

500g Fresh Clams (also known as “lala” in Singapore)

50g Ginger (sliced)

3 Stalks of Lemongrass

150ml Coconut Water

150ml Water

2 Green Chillies

2 Cloves of Garlic

1 Tablespoon of Fish Sauce

Dash of Pepper

Basil and Mint (amount according to preference)

steamed-clams-02_zpskp8tlamg

Fresh clams, lemongrass, small green chilli, garlic and ginger surrounded by a profusion of sweet basil and mint leaves.

PREPARATION & COOKING

1. Wash clams in clean water and soak them in the water for about 30 minutes.

2. Rinse the lemongrass, peel the garlic, slice and de-seed the green chillies, and peel and slice a small nose of ginger.

3. Split / crush the lemongrass, garlic and chilli by smashing them with the flat side of a cleaver. I don’t have a cleaver so I split them with a knife sharpening block.

steamed-clams-03_zps3knlirve

Lemongrass, garlic, and green chilli all smashed up with slices of ginger placed at the bottom of a medium-sized ceramic pot. Ceramic or otherwise, the pot must be suitable for cooking with direct fire. Add coconut water and water (about 300ml) to just cover all the base ingredients and bring to a boil.

4. Line the crushed items (lemongrass, garlic and chillies) and ginger at the base of a pot.

5. Pour in the coconut water and water (total of 300ml) into the pot, cover it and bring to a boil for 15 minutes.

6. Add in the tablespoon of fish sauce and dash of pepper.

7. Add in the clams and turn to low fire. Cover the lid and simmer. Although the dish says “steamed clams”, it is actually boiled clams.

8. Boil the clams for about eight minutes and turn off the fire. Then open the lid of the pot and add the basil and mint leaves. Cover the pot with the lid again and wait for about 3 minutes.

9. The clams would absorb the aroma of the base ingredients while getting infused with the fragrance of the herbs.

10. Now, open the lid and serve.

steamed-clams-04_zpslkzr4aif

My home-cooked version of the Vietnamese Steamed Clams (Nghêu Hấp). Total preparation and cooking time is about 30 minutes. The outcome may not be Instagram perfect, but it is super yums nonetheless. Success! 🙂

Nghêu Hấp has a delicate flavor where the steamed clams hint lightly of a fresh sea’s harvest with a refreshing note of earthy herbs. The light broth steeped with the essence of all the ingredients is where the magic is embodied in this dish.

Leave no drop un-savoured!

Reading Between the Light

myannmar-bunny-studying

Knowledge illuminates the dark of ignorance.

In between the intermittent blackouts in the small township of Nyaungshwe at Inle Lake (Myanmar, Nov 2014), I came across this ‘bunny’ by the candlelight, squinting her eyes over what looked like a math workbook. My Myanmar trip was almost 2 years ago but this image stuck with me all this time.

Her burning desire to learn was admirable. It made me think about how easily I would give up when the conditions weren’t right or conducive to pursue a dream. I succumb to the environment and do what was natural in that circumstance. If there was a blackout, it was time to sleep, not read. If blackouts happened every night, I would’ve slept those hours away, dreaming about my dreams. Dreaming is easier than doing.

So I was struck by this little girl before me who let what she wanted to accomplish light up the situation… and let not reality smother her plight.

Being a Puppet Ain’t So Bad

Pinocchio-Syndrome

Sometimes, we need someone to pull our strings to get us moving.

Don’t we all want to be the masters of our own destiny? Disgruntled at being nothing more than mere pawns of our bosses and puppets of manipulative colleagues, friends, family and lovers?

But before learning how to cut the strings, learn to be used. When we are used so often that the person using us could no longer do without us, that’s when the puppet becomes the master. Being a puppet ain’t so bad even if it means we only come to life through others. It beats being a puppet that never get to live at all.

Until one day, we are enlightened and are no longer controlled by the strings of fate.

Tracing Traditions at Luang Prabang

Luang-Prabang-Monks-Alms

Follow the flow to grow.

成长基于尊长。

An Encounter with Serenity on Luang Prabang’s Bamboo Bridge

Monk-Bamboo-Bridge

Without worry, there’s no hurry.

放下杂念,脚步轻便。

命运的傀儡

我们是命运的傀儡还是动画幕后的遥控师?

The future is in our hands or the predestined outcome of destiny? I feel like a puppet of fate no matter how much I try to cut the invisible strings.

Photo shot on 1 December 2014 at a weekend market on Inle Lake, Myanmar.

Shot this while visiting Yangon’s religious heart, Shwedagon Pagoda, on 5th December 2014.

I was taken by the contrast of the scene where the foreigners are consulting the maps to make sense of where they are while the local is seeking guidance on his path ahead.

We are constantly on a journey to either make sense of our physical world, or to grapple with our spiritual landscape.

When we search, hopefully we’ll find. Sometimes the answers are obvious, but more often than not, they are dubious.

I’ve been to many places. But I’ve never been more lost than before.

You Are Richest When You Smile

笑,是你最富有的时刻。

首次游访高雄,在高铁站旁,远远的看到了这对卖手工香皂的残疾人士。因为是午饭时间,男的喂着女的吃泡面,一口接一口,虽然他的右手残扭,但还是贴心的挣扎着把面递到伴侣的唇前。女的两手弯残,提不起东西。

目睹了感人的这一段感人的《喂饭录》,喜与泪在我怀中交加,万分感动。于是我走向前要求拍下他们的合照,把他们俩互顾互维,残而不废的精神记下来。

我把手机举起,他们立即就对着镜头展露了笑颜。一般的人身其他们的处境,往往很难拥有笑的理由。但这对伴笑得非常豪爽,灿烂。

拍完照后,我买了两块香皂,虽然不便宜(小小一块大概要新币S$5.00)不过这是我为他们打气的小心意,感谢他们给了我真诚的笑容。

简单的一笑却是我收到的一份珍贵礼物。我每次看到这张照片,总是觉得很温心、安慰、快乐。他们不自觉的给了我很多。

During my first visit to Kaohsiung, by the side of the city’s High Speed Rail station, I saw this disabled pair who were selling handmade sopas from afar. As it was lunch time, the man was feeding instant noodles to the woman. Mouthful by mouthful he fed her, struggling with getting the stringy noodles onto a spoon with his left hand as his right was deformed. Both the woman’s hand were crippled.

Witnessing this touching display of one handicap taking care of another, my heart cried and smiled at the same time. I wanted to capture how touched they made me felt and their indomitable spirit so I went up to them to request for a portrait shot.

When I raised my mobile phone, they broke into a smile immediately. Most people in their situation would probably have very little reasons to smile. But they smiled freely and brilliantly.

After taking their photo, I bought two pieces of soap. Costing about S$5.00 for each small piece, they weren’t exactly cheap but it was my little way of showing them support. To thank them for their generous smiles.

A simple smile became a precious gift I received on this trip. Each time I look at this photo, my heart is filled with warmth, comfort and joy. They may not have a lot going for them, but unbeknownst to them, they had given me a lot.

Fake Happiness VS. Real Joy

假开心与真快乐。

某天游台北时,闲步来到了西门町。商杂区内有许多优秀的音乐达人与表演者。毫无目地的逛着,耳边在众多的旋律中,熟悉了一首陈芬兰的《月亮代表我的心》。于是便跟着歌声来到了Watsons 店旁,遇上了这位献声的视障街艺。

他的歌声算不上是能出耳油的那一种,但带有一股真实的诚恳。看他演唱时常会露出笑容,自我陶醉,似乎很快乐。

顿时我视觉到了他背后的橱窗海报。漂亮的女郎笑得很开心灿烂,虽然发自内心,但难免虚假。

相比之下,拥有一切的美女与欠福的盲人;反而少了一点的,却多了一份真心的快乐。

一笑能化少为多。

While on a vacay in Taipei, my aimless footsteps brought me to Ximending with record-grade musicians and excellent street performers entertaining shoppers. As I wandered through the labyrinth of sounds, shops and smells, my ears picked up a familiar Chen Fen Lan tune “The Moon Represents My Heart”.  The vocals brought me to the side of a Watsons shop where I met this blind singer.

His voice wasn’t spectacular but there’s a timbre of vulnerable honesty. I was rooted to his performance not so much by the music, but by the smiles be broke into while singing. He seemed genuinely lost in the enjoyment of what he was doing.

At some point, I became aware of the window poster behind him. The pretty girl has a brilliant smile, it seems to come from her heart, but nevertheless faked for her job as a model.

In comparison between the girl who has everything going with the unfortunate blind, I felt that although he had ‘less’, he experienced ‘more’ of the simplicity in being joyful.

A grateful smile bridges us from ‘what little’ to ‘how much’ we have 🙂

Same Road, Different Load

同样的路,不同样的苦。

某次游高雄市旗津岛时,在路上遇见了这一幕。看着足败的中年残疾推着轮椅苦步,重行车、货车、摩托车、脚踏车则从身旁匆匆奔过,不经想起了在人生的旅途,大家都处同一条路上,但速度却不同。要到达的目的地不同,承担的苦也不同。

工作的苦、念书的苦 、疾病的苦,我们多为责任,欲望与希望受苦。那如果哪里都不去,什么都不做,那就不苦了吗?但,一场毫无成就与贡献的空白人生,何尝不是一种精神上的折磨 ?

人活着,总需要觉得有意义。了解了这一点,其实苦不再是苦,而是自我肯定和伸展的挑战。因此,哪怕路再难行,负担再重,步伐比人家慢,推着轮椅,我们也会往前走。

加油,志昂的轮椅先生!

While visiting Qijin, an island off Taiwan’s Kaohsiung city, I came across this scene of a man with infirmities pushing his wheelchair. Next to him, trucks, vans, motorcycles and bicycles whizzed by. This scene got me thinking about life’s journey… our road is shared but our speeds and destinations are different. Hence, the load we carry is also different.

Work load, academic pursuits, struggles with diseases, we suffer for our responsibilities, ambitions and the hope that things will get better. So what if we don’t aspire to get anywhere or do anything, won’t life be that much easier? However, isn’t an existence empty of personal achievements and contributions a mental torture?

Being alive, there needs to be a sense of self-worth and purpose. Realising this need for self-actualisation, suffering ceases to be a pain, but a rite of affirmation for one’s abilities and growth. There is no need to fear a tough road ahead, or a heavy load, or if our pace is much slower than others, even when being bounded by a wheelchair, we’ll get where we want to be so long as we keep going.

Ganbatte, Mr Willpower! 🙂

Wearable Muscles

Dropped by Hua Hin, Thailand, for a short escapade last week and although my bod wasn’t beach ready, I found a lifesaver at the local night market…

For 250bht (bargained from 279bht), I became an instant hunk… and hung too in front of Hua Hin Hilton Hotel!

When you cannot make it, fake it… until it becomes real. Heh heh.

What if washboard pecs and abs can happen instantly without sweating buckets in the gym? To me, it is not about wearing a nice bod, having rippling muscles and all but the ultimate reward of a healthier physiological system in earning those solid humps through regular bodybuilding exercises (provided the gains are not drugs-induced).

Oh-la-la… if only my real buns look that good in G-string, I would clap with my butt cheeks instead of hands!

I was in Hua Hin and Bangkok for about a week and vacations usually disrupt an exercise routine. Wandi was supposed to devised a set of strength training exercises for me to do in the hotel room but he was still recovering from a flu and took medical leave so I didn’t get to have a personal training session before I leave.

But instead of relying on somebody else and letting the holiday be an excuse to skive, I worked on my stamina and endurance by jogging on the beach.

It wasn’t easy fighting the drowsiness and sightseeing plans to make time for exercise. It was so much easier to sleep in than wake up to burn at the hotel’s gym or a jog. That’s when the t-shirt became a motivation rather than just a piece of hilarious fashion. I want that bod printed on it. Front and back.

Since I tend to overeat on vacations (I think I’m not the only one), jogging on the beach is a great cardio workout to melt those excess calories. Compared to jogging on a treadmill, stadium or paved trails, running on the beach definitely presented more challenges for the body due to the uneven ground and shifting sand.

Jogging on the beach works the calf, shin and thigh muscles harder than the aforementioned running surfaces and it also strengthens the rotary tendons and tissues around the ankle to tackle challenging terrains.

If you’re training for a marathon such as the Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon, consider incorporating jogging sessions on the beach to build up your leg muscles to run longer and go further during the race!

Fab by 40 – Adding a Little Adventure

As my personal training sessions with SAFRA EnergyOne starts shifting into high gear, I begin to feel the limitations of a stamina deficit. Breath recovery in-between sets lasts an ice age and my fortitude to tahan the lactic burn is in the pits.

As we engage in strenuous exercises, lactic acid builds up in the muscles and causes a burning sensation (known as lactic acidosis). This condition is caused by muscles receiving too little oxygen when being worked and one of the ways to minimize lactic acidosis is to increase oxygen flow to the muscles through regular cardiovascular activities such as jogging, cycling and swimming.

Having a spin at SAFRA Toa Payoh’s EnergyOne gym has the added advantage of looking out to a beautiful pool. For the purpose of strength training, adjust the bicycle’s seat such that it is lower than the handle bar. This way, your legs won’t be extended fully during each downward paddle and that keeps the quadriceps constantly engaged. It also works the lower abs at the same time. Hopefully I can wave goodbye to my chicken legs and get ripped abs soon!

Hence, the better our endurance, the less pain our muscles will feel during workouts; which means we can lift longer and heavier! Being able to lift heavier weights more frequently equates to bigger muscles so don’t neglect the importance of improving endurance while bodybuilding.

So in a bid to spice up my fitness routine and increase my endurance, I went on a long distance cycling trip over the weekend to add a little adventure. The bicycle tour starts from Sungai Rengit (a seaside village in the Johorian township of Pengerang) all the way to Desaru and back. A total distance of about 70km!

I attempted this cycling ‘feat’ earlier in March but failed to reach Desaru (you can read about it here) and I’ve been itching to try it again ever since. So for 2 days, I left the gym behind for the great outdoors and pushed the limits of my endurance and will.

But will I succeed in reaching my intended destination this time round?

After an hour’s bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal, we arrived at Pengerang via Tanjong Pengelih Ferry Terminal. I’m ready to conquer the seemingly endless road from Sungai Rengit to Desaru!

Car fuels up with petrol, bicycle fuels up with Red Bull! Love the newly launched reduced sugar Red Bull as it has the same flavor but not so sweet.

The long ride cuts through the countryside lined with acres upon acres of plantations. There’s something meditative about facing the endless road with just my thoughts. That is until I come to an upslope. Then the tranquil frame of mind becomes clogged with swear words. But the tiresome uphill paddles provide a really good workout to pump those legs… It’s a love-hate thing.

Although traffic is sparse, a moment’s carelessness can be fatal. Stationary cycling in a gym doesn’t feel so boring after all.

My ride was entertained by a changing backdrop of the scenic countryside.

One of the rewards on the road trip was close encounters with animals we have to pay money to see back in Singapore.

I was thrilled to come across these two ponies grazing by the road side. This fella even allowed me to pet its snout! I shall name it Seabiscuit! LOL.

Then there was this docile cow at a small fishing village along the coast. It must feel that I’m such a 牛sance following it around with my phone camera. Heh heh.

The great thing with a bicycle tour is that I can stop wherever that catches my eye and whenever I want. Discovered this interesting gallery of rocks at Batu Layar while exploring a trail off the beaten track.

Finally, after almost 5 hours of cycling, I made it to Desaru this time! This beach is in front of Desaru Damai Beach Resort where I spent a night before cycling back to Sungai Rengit the next day. The hotel room cost RM130 a night but it felt ready to fall apart.

Mission accomplished! The cycling duration took much longer than expected and by the end of it, my legs felt like jelly. However, this second attempt didn’t feel as draining as the first. Maybe the gym sessions with Wandi are helping!

Endurance is one of the key indicators of one’s fitness level and cycling is a great way to build it up. Outdoor cycling is not as monotonous as doing laps in a pool and has a lower impact on the knees and ankles compared to running.

If you’re taking part in a marathon such as the upcoming Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon, cycling is a good complement in training for the run. Cycling is low impact so it doesn’t place too much stress on the joints if you haven’t been running for a while. It also helps to strengthen muscles surrounding the knees, which supports  ligaments in that area and minimize injuries during prolonged running.

After conquering 70km, I look forward to go further and perhaps even tour another country on bicycle! That will take quite a bit of research and planning. For now, I’ll train up with my favourite stationary bike at EnergyOne Toa Payoh!

Getting fit need not be boring. With a sense of adventure and making your body work during your next holiday, you just might arrive at your destination stronger than before!

Related Posts :

A Cycling Tour from Sungai Rengit to Desaru (March 2013)

2nd Attempt at Bicycle Tour from Sungai Rengit to Desaru (July 2013)

Time-Lapse Photography of Taichung Sunset

Following my first attempt at time-lapse photography of a sunrise over Mount Kinabalu, I tried the technique again but with a sunset this time.

A click of the camera’s remote control every 10 seconds for 2 hours resulted in this…



While compiling the over 400 shots into the above video, I noticed flickering caused by certain photos being brighter than the rest in the series. As I shot in Aperture-priority (Av) mode to tackle the vastly changing lighting conditions, the camera automatically adjusts exposure length and flickering occurred when some photos got a longer exposure time that caused them to be brighter.

While there are a couple of ways to minimize time-lapse flicker when shooting a sunset such as using a specialized post-processing software or playing a game of guess-the-settings with manual shooting mode, I find it easier to just remove the ‘offending’ photos during compilation. I simply deleted the bright photos that seemed odd in the sequence.

Time-lapse purists may condemn me for cheating but this method is much easier and the gaps in the time-lapse left by the missing photos are hardly noticeable!

Here are my camera settings to shoot this time-lapse sunset over Taichung (shot on location at Rollin Leisure Farm 若茵休闲农场):

– Camera lens in Manual Focus (MF) and set to infinity

– Shoot in Aperture-priority (Av) at F13

– ISO at 200

– Turn on camera’s remote control mode (or use a cable release)

Perched 1,100m above sea level on the face of a mountain, Rollin Leisure Farm offers a spectacular aerial view of Taichung city and is the best spot to catch a bewitching sunset. Between fall and winter (September – February), a blanket of fog hangs over the valley basin to create the magical natural wonder known as the sea of clouds. Instant heaven!

I hope this sharing of experience gave you a simple and quick alternative method to solve time-lapse flicker. Happy shooting!

Time-Lapse Photography of Sunrise Over Mount Kinabalu

Structures materializing from nothingness, a flower unfolding its petals through the night, a butterfly’s metamorphosis from pupa to adult stage, the sky changing its hues while the sun rises and sets… where it is not feasible to run a video camera for a long period of time to capture these defining moments, there’s time-lapse photography.

I’ve always found this photographic technique fascinating for the photo-video it produces but have never found the motivation to try it until a stay at the beautiful Gaya Island Resort. Located on Pulau Gaya, the largest of 5 islets sitting off the northwestern coast of Kota Kinabalu City, the resort’s hillside villas offer a jaw-dropping view overlooking the South China Sea with the horizon rimmed by Kinabalu’s mountainous range. This awe-inspiring setting was the perfect muse to coax my first attempt at time-lapse photography because I wanted my first time to be special!

In this post, I’ll share my experience and tips on time-lapsing a sunrise in the hope that the information will be useful for anyone attempting this technique for the first time.

Equipment and Necessities :

– DSLR camera (ensure that your battery is fully charged)

– Tripod

– Cable release or remote control

– Torch light, drinking water, towel and insect repellent (if photographing close to nature)

Time-lapse photography involves 2 steps… The first step is acquiring the images and the second step is combining the photos to form a video clip.

Step 1 : Acquiring the Images

Before embarking on a time-lapse photography session, always find out what time is sunrise at the locale you are shooting and be there an hour early to recce, set up equipment and frame the shot. In Singapore, I am used to daybreak happening at around 6.15am but at Kota Kinabalu, the sky starts brightening from 5.30am!

4:30am. It’s pitch black during the wee hours so a torchlight is essential for knowing you are putting all the parts in the right places.

As it was very dark, it was hard to frame the scene and get the horizon straight. I used the city lights in the distance to gauge and frame my shot.

Camera Settings :

– Switch the camera’s lens focus to Manual and set it to infinity

– Use Aperture (‘A’) mode for the shoot and set F-number to 16 (F16)

– Set ISO to the minimal (the lowest for my DSLR is 200)

– Turn on remote control shooting mode (if you use a cable release to control your shutter, this step is not necessary)

– Switch on your patience if your DSLR doesn’t come with a built-in interval timer like Nikon D7000 (I’m using Nikon D90 so I stood by my camera the whole time to click the remote control to shoot)

My time-lapse photos were taken from Gaya Island Resort’s Kinabalu Villa number 852 from 5:00am to 7:00am.

5:41am. Witnessing the arrival of dawn is truly magical. The highest peak in the distance is Mount Kinabalu. Awesome!

Pano view of the scene in front of me at daybreak.

Timing the Time-Lapse Intervals

Math and I are eternal enemies so my mind went into screensaver mode the instant I tried understanding how to calculate my number of shots. Basically, you have to first determine how long you want your time-lapse video to be and decide on how many shots you want per second of your video.

For example, if I want a 10-second video with 24 photos per second, I’ll have to shoot 240 images. Shooting from 5 – 7am (7,200 seconds), the interval between my shots would be 30 seconds. Which means I’ll take 1 photo and 30 seconds later, take another. The shots continue until I reach 240 shots.

That’s a lot of calculating to do!

So I simplify. I just made it a point to take a shot every 15 seconds from 5-7am. It didn’t matter how many photos I got, I just combined them all into the time-lapse video. I wasn’t concerned with how long the video lasted either. I ended up with about 365 shots and a sunrise segment that lasted 38 seconds on the video at the end of this post.

6:17am. The fiery disc popped out from the mountainous horizon.

I had it easy with this time-lapse shoot as the location was at the balcony of our villa. During the 2-hour shooting process, a Macaque Monkey came to visit and 2 Oriental Piped Hornbills flew by while countless birds serenaded the dawn. The entire experience was pure magic!

Such a sense of accomplishment for not sleeping in and miss the rare opportunity to time-lapse this incredibly scenic sunrise.

Step 2 : Creating a Time-Lapse Video

After capturing all the images, the next challenge is to combine them all into a video. There are quite a few options with Lightroom providing a pain-free way to do the job, but since I don’t have that program, I went with Photoshop to batch process the photos for a lower resolution and Windows Movie Maker to string the shots into a video.

It is necessary to batch process the photos first to shrink their file sizes before importing them into Windows Movie Maker to cut down on processing time. In Windows Movie Maker, I set the animation duration between photos to 0.07 seconds, add in a title, music, ending message and voila! I have my first time-lapse video! Hope you’ll enjoy it…

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