Samsung Note 5: my new smartphone

This is my problem. I am not willing to fork out the large sums required for the latest mobile smartphone model. To me it does not make sense as new models are way too expensive. I would rather hunt for models that are older as their original prices would take a dip and become real value for money.

So it happened with the Samsung Note 5 when I visited the Starhub shop. The salesman told me with the $50 voucher I have, the cost of a Note 5 is only $299.

I asked, Why is it so cheap? He replied, They are discontinuing production of the old model.

Note 7 had a problematic battery and had been recalled. There was no Note 6 as they were aligning the numbers for marketing purposes. So Note 5 was the best Note smartphone currently available on the market. Why not, after all, I loved the S Pen. I had been using the Samsung Tablet Note 10.1 for several years and found the Note 5 S pen even more sensitive, responsive and a pleasure to use. It will certainly be useful for recording  ideas that pop in my mind for sermons or blogposts or ministry. Its great for  To Do lists and reminders and quick jotting of numbers and addresses of people I bump into, and do great screenshots on which I can write instructions and draw arrows and circles. Its great for taking action notes in meetings.

So I am now a happy owner of a new smartphone with a better camera than my LG G3 and with a great capacity for note-taking. Loving it.

Using the phone on a hike at Bt Timah Hill
Testing out the close ups – some bokeh in the background.

Visiting Toowomba and Brisbane

This was a trip my wife and I looked forward to. April 2016 would mark about six months since my son Matt, his wife Juyoung, and our granddaughter Chloe headed Down Under because of work. Of course they had looked forward to it and were excited. We weren’t for we knew we would miss Chloe. She stole everyone’s hearts.

It has been a long time since we were last in the eastern coast of Australia. The last time we were there, our children were primary school age. We went to Brisbane, the Gold Coast and its theme parks, and we visited Sydney and the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Camden. So it was good to make a visit to those parts again.

We enjoyed our time thoroughly. We stayed with family and it was good to catch up with them and play and read with Chloe. They brought us around Toowomba and the Mooloolaba Beach and Brisbane. I returned with fresh impressions:

  1. Australia is a big and beautiful country.
  2. Chloe grew up fast: taller, smarter, more agile, able to converse intelligently with her mother in Korean, but less so in English.
  3. Small churches in small towns struggle. Although I made a decision not to preach outside of my church in 2016 I felt I had to accept an invitation from a small Korean church that my son’s family attends. He gets relieved from preaching for one Sunday.
  4. I met a few skilled workers (mechanics, photographers, etc) who were trying to obtain or who had already obtained permanent residency. It was never an easy process.
  5. The rate was reasonable but staying in an apartment under Airbnb felt awkward as the owners’ clothes were hanging in the wardrobes, the bicycles and golf clubs, the magazines and books, the food in the refrigerator and their family photographs on the wall. Here is a slideshow of our trip:

Chinese New Year in Bangkok: the great escape

The unblocked view from the airport
The unblocked view from the balcony
A tiny lake sits outside the pool
A tiny lake sits outside the pool
Breakfast next to the breezy balcony
Breakfast next to the breezy balcony

The seven day rest was sweet. They were days of eating well. We were in Bangkok, in my wife’s sister’s home. Breakfasts were leisurely and we had homemade chwee kueh and carrot cake besides the great walnut bread and Thai avocado. Lunch was mostly in the shopping malls. We enjoyed the Thai meals at Banana Leaf. And there were many Japanese restaurants but we liked Fuji Japanese restaurant. Dinner was mostly at family run restaurants located at or near the condo.

At a shopping mall at outskirts of Bangkok
At a shopping mall at outskirts of Bangkok
Welcome meal at Fuji Japanese restaurant
Welcome meal at Fuji Japanese restaurant

The weather was lovely and refreshing, from 18 to 25 degrees centigrade. The cool breeze flowed into the home through the open balcony while we had breakfast. At night the cold air passed through the mosquito mesh and chilled the bedroom. During a day trip to the Bangsean Beach at Chon Buri, we had to wear windbreakers. If these temperatures prevailed through the year Bangkok would be a delightful and inexpensive place to live in.

Walkway along Bangsean Beach a local haunt about two hours drive from the airport near Chon Buri
Walkway along Bangsean Beach a local haunt about two hours drive from the airport near Chon Buri
They serve horseshoe crab eaten mainly for its roe.
They serve horseshoe crab eaten mainly for its roe.
Seafood in abundance
Seafood in abundance
You have to pay for the seats in four hours segment
You have to pay for the seats in four hours segment
Simeon Poh enjoying the coconut juice
Simeon Poh enjoying the coconut juice
Leg massage on the spot
Leg massage on the spot
The beach was tempting but it was 18 degree centigrade
The beach was tempting but it was 18 degree centigrade
Lunch at a local seafood restaurant
Lunch at a local seafood restaurant
Jack, Michelle, Elaine
Jack, Michelle, Elaine
Chinese restaurant owner's offerings for Lunar Chinese New Year.
Chinese restaurant owner’s offerings for Lunar Chinese New Year.

I was tired and it was good to get into a rhythm of sleep and eat and shop. The shopping malls were similar to what we have in Singapore. Some local brands like BreadTalk and Charles and Keith and all the usual international brands were represented. Imported products were not any cheaper than what you had to pay in Singapore. The MacBook Air sold at the same price as in Singapore. However there were some sales going on and we took full advantage of that.

Reunion dinner at MK branch later in the evening at shopping mall
Reunion dinner at MK branch later in the evening at shopping mall
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At the entrance of the 180 years old Thai market
By locals for locals - dried fish with orange roe
By locals for locals – dried fish with orange roe
Shopkeepers of sundry goods and decorative stuff
Shopkeepers of sundry goods and decorative stuff
Cute colourful tiffin carriers
Cute colourful tiffin carriers
Fortune teller service
Fortune teller service
Taking a breather
Taking a breather
A coconut themed ice cream dessert
A coconut themed ice cream dessert
Elaine taking a good CNY break
Elaine taking a good CNY break

Chinese New Year is not celebrated in Thailand. There are no public holidays given. In Singapore, we have two public holidays on Monday and Tuesday. Over in Bangkok these were working days for everyone. So it’s a good place to have your “escape” from the stress of Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore. All the shops and restaurants were open. There were no long queues outside popular restaurants. In fact we had steamboat at MK for the reunion dinner. It was like any other day – business as usual.

Two books for spiritual nourishment
Two books for spiritual nourishment

I brought two books along Unfolding His Story by Georgie Lee and Galven Lee and Preaching by Timothy Keller. I finished the former by day three and was three quarters through reading the latter. Both were good books and I hope to share my reflections on them in this blog.

Jack and Baby
Jack and Baby

My wife’s sister Baby showed great and attentive hospitality and we were greatly blessed by the attention to detail and her constant thoughtfulness and patience. She did the bargaining in the 180 year old market and in the shopping malls, and in getting information from Thai vendors. She has lived in Bangkok for over two decades and speaks Thai with ease (which makes her tri-lingual!).

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Saying goodbye to the lovely balcony view in the morning
Useful macro of Olympus TG Tough compact
Useful macro of Olympus TG Tough compact
Another macro shot of cactus on the balcony
Another macro shot of cactus on the balcony
A local fruit sold at the market
A local fruit sold at the market – another macro TG tough shot.

Near the end it became stressful because our shopping booty was more than the luggage weight we purchased. We had to buy additional weight to bring all our shopping home. Besides this minor glitch, we had a great escape indeed: great rest, food, shopping, reading and unwinding from all the strains of Singapore life. I returned refreshed.