Leather Backpack

Last April, I went to the Coach flagship store in Manhattan. I was thrilled to be able to purchase the Metropolitan Briefcase. I was eyeing that briefcase many months before my highly anticipated trip to New York. It was significantly cheaper to buy Coach leather goods from the USA than it is to buy in Singapore. My bag cost 30% less than what it would have cost me, if I were to buy the same exact bag in Singapore. I was glad that I patiently held off on my purchase in Singapore, counting the days until my vacation to New York would officially begin.

I am still in love with this bag.

Fast forward 10 months, and the Metropolitan Briefcase is still my every day bag that I carry to work. I am still in love with this bag. The leather is rich and supple, made even more supple, now that I have been using this bag daily. The bag has been moulded to a particular shape based on how I used it, evolving into a unique look in addition to my daily work outfit. Essentially, the bag has its own personality and I am loving it.

I am very impressed by its overall craftsmanship that goes into making this bag. I have great respect to the Coach brand. Truly, the leather used is top notch, using refined pebble leather with excellent stitching with no discernible flaws. The bag is able to handle just about anything I throw at it, even in inclement weather. After using a leather bag this long, I finally understood the appeal of carrying a full leather bag such as a messenger, briefcase or backpack. If you have a good quality leather bag, it is pretty much guaranteed, that with proper basic care, the bag is going to last you a very long time. And I can see myself using this bag on a near daily basis for many years to come.

Lately though, I have been eyeing another type of leather bag. This time it is a backpack. I decided to get a backpack not because I am getting tired of using the Coach Metropolitan Briefcase, but because I want variety in how I carry my stuff to work everyday. There were moments where I realised how I wished I could carry my stuff around on both my shoulders rather than gripping with one hand (a briefcase) or slinging the strap over one of my shoulder (a messenger). I had several backpacks over the years that I used previously like the Aer backpack. I still have that backpack in my cupboard and it is still useful for outdoor activities. But for a workbag, I needed something more formal but not too formal. Classy, yet not too pretentious. Imperceptible, and not too loud, and yet be able to showcase to a discernible crowd. Knowing that a good leather bag could potentially serve you well for many years to come, I decided that my next backpack for work purposes would be a good quality leather backpack.

So over several months, I casually explored my options, taking my time to look at a variety of leather backpacks from all sorts of brand names.

It was only recently that one backpack suddenly caught my attention: the Dunhill Belgrave Backpack from their Belgrave collection.

Dunhill leather backpack from the Belgrave collection.

It initially caught my attention, that is true, but I wasn’t thrilled with the price at first. For such a simple looking bag, the price was beyond my budget range. But the longer I looked at it, the longer it was calling out for me. Like the Coach briefcase that I currently own, along side the Fujifilm X-Pro 3 that I recently purchased, these are things that I did not regret buying for one simple fact: It resonated strongly within me. These are the things that I come across that upon looking at it, I knew from deep inside my heart, that I just had to get it. And mind you, this is after the fact that I called for a downtime and to deliberately my purchase, for a couple of weeks, just to make sure that my purchasing decisions were simply not impulse buy that I will regret buying later. I made deliberate, slow decisions before taking the plunge. I used delay tactics, distraction tactics, logical tactics to make my case on whether something (especially big ticket items) was worth buying.

The briefcase, I still love using it till this day. I love the feel of the leather when I brush my fingers across the surface of the bag. The Fujifilm camera, I have been going out on photo shoots every now and then and every snapshot I took and every photo I edit thus far, I enjoyed every moment of it. These were right decisions.

The Dunhill Belgrave Backpack is made of supple small-grain leather and the buckle is engraved using Engine Turn engraving. It comes in black and brown, but I prefer the black. This bag is calling out to me. The price is a stickler. S$2600 for a backpack. That is honestly excessive. But then again, this is Dunhill, a brand from London, with the leather goods made in Italy. I have not applied my delay tactic just yet. If I were to get it, I will probably get it in a couple of weeks time. Delay tactic, distraction tactic, I am going to use all manner to tactics and strategies to not think about the bag for a while and revisit it again in a few weeks to see if my purchasing decision was simply just an impulse buy (just because something looks shiny and new) or this is a genuine buy for me. This is a purchasing decision that cannot be made lightly, because of the huge investments needed just to get a backpack. But it’s calling out for me every single day.

Merlion park in times of coronavirus outbreak

As you know, Singapore is in a midst of the Coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak with over 70 people infected as of today. While the spread of the virus is not as severe or far reaching as that of China, Singapore has imposed travel limitations to anyone coming to Singapore from China. This has terrible consequences to the tourism industry in Singapore.

I was at the Merlion Park one weekend to gauge for myself how severely impacted Singapore is to the effects of the Coronavirus, especially the number of tourists visiting Singapore this part month or so. Because of the travel limitations imposed, there is definitely a significant decrease in tourism arrivals, especially when Chinese tourists make up the bulk of visits to Singapore as a holiday destination.

I took pictures of the Merlion Park with my new X-Pro 3 and noted the drop in the number of visitors in the areas. It was a blessing for me, as I was able to take pictures of the Merlion without much interference. It was overall, a pleasant picture-taking experience. Although I must add, that the Merlion, if it was a real creature, would have been sad to see so few visitors coming to Singapore to take pictures with him in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Vancouver Adventure 2017 Part 2

Stawamus Chief

When I was planning my itinerary, one of the top things I wanted to do was to explore the beautiful nature on the outskirts of Vancouver. There were many many hiking trials in and around Vancouver while I was doing my research. In the end, one of the hiking trails that I chose to do, would take me to the summit of Stawamus Chief. Stawamus Chief is basically a 700m granite rock that jutted from the ground in the town of Squamish. There are several hiking trails that took me to the summit of Stawamus Chief. There are three summits that are accessible to visitors. However, I only visited the first two summits.

Up the gruelling trail. It was much steeper than I expected!

The hike was challenging. I severely underestimated the sheer degree of vertical climb I had to take in such a short distance. Immediately upon starting the hike up the trail, I was met with hundreds of stone steps, some so steep, that I had to be on all fours just to climb up on some of them. I went there early in the morning after renting a car in the city. About an hour later I reached the trail. I remembered the weather being cool and crisp. But within 30 minutes of hiking, I was sweating profusely and my legs were already aching badly. It took me more than 2 hours to reach the second summit.

Taking a break at the first summit.

At one point, I almost got lost, as the trail disappeared among the tangle of trees and dead-fall. I had to wait a round a little until a another fellow hiking came to point me in the right direction. Apparently I had missed a marker that pointed me to series of metal chains fixed along the base of a sheer cliff. The markers were sometimes had to spot, as it those are merely small colored pieces of metal nailed on the trees to indicate the path ahead. Miss them and you could potentially get lost.

I made a friend at the top!

The chains were there to aid hikers to pull themselves up along the cliff with a narrow footpath. And when I say narrow, it is extremely narrow, only wide enough for a single person to either go up, or go down, but never at the same time. Thus, there were moments of human traffic jams, as several hikers were trying to either go up or down the summit and had to wait their turn before they can grab the chains to hoist them up or down and walk along the narrow path. As I cleared the chains and made my way up, I reached the second summit of Stawamus Chief.

The view on top of Stawamus Chief is to die for!

Despite the difficulties and the challenges, I made it up to the second summit and I was greeted with an incredible view of the surrounding lands below. The view was worth the trip up and I was grateful to embark on this hiking trail. I will never forget the view. I sat right at the edge of the granite rock at the summit, dangling my foot over the ledge. It was dangerous, because there is literally nothing below to save you from falling, but it was exhilarating to be able to do that. The weather was great day, beautiful sunshine, clear blue skies and the occasional squirrel, approaching me begging for food, as I sat there munching on the energy bar to replenish all those calories lost climbing up the steep trail at the beginning of the hike.

All in all, it took me 4 hours to go up and then down to the base of Stawamus Chief.

The next day, I was met with a hell of a muscle ache from both my legs. I knew then and there that I got bit more than I could chew when I embarked on that hike.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

From then on, my legs were aching throughout the trip. I was completely unprepared for the Stawamus Chief hike. I was deterred in seeing other beautiful sights of Vancouver and beyond. One of them that was at the top of the list was the Capilano Suspension Bridge. A simple bridge, about 140 meters long suspended 70 meters above the river. The bridge was kinda wobbly, but the view was beautiful. I was one of the first few to arrive at the attraction and for a short moment I had the whole place to myself. I boarded the first bus of the day in the morning and arrived in time to enjoy the bridge without too many people on it as well as the beautiful greenery and nature around the area. It remembered the place as being serene, quiet with fresh frosty air of the morning still hung in the air. The attraction also had a tree top walk as well as a cliff edge trail was was thrilling to walk on. A trail that hung on the edge of a sheer cliff with nothing but the river below you, it was a walk to remember.

Amazing bridge above the river and into the forests beyond!
One of the many tree top walks.
The cliff-edge walk. Quite exhilarating!

Sea to Sky Gondola

The Sea to Sky Gondola was another attraction that I truly enjoyed. Located about 45 minutes outside of Vancouver, I took a 10-minute ride on a cable car or gondola to the top of the summit lodge. From there, I was greeted with spectacular views, even more spectacular than from the summit of Stawamus Chief, overlooking the blue waters of Howe Sound. The summit also offered awesome views of various mountain peaks nearby. My favourite part of this summit is that there were a lot of benches places along strategic vantage points throughout the trails all around the summit, allowing you to take in the breathtaking view. I love this place specifically because it was not very crowded when I was there. I was even able to admire Stawamus Chief and its three peaks in all its glory. I could barely make out the hikers at the top of the peaks, especially the second one, which was there hiking previously till make leg muscles ache badly.

One of my favourites spots. It has an amazing view of the mountains as well as the lands below.
Sea to sky highway down below, the direct link to Vancouver beyond.
I spotted a bunch of kids and their teacher, showing the mountains beyond and the name of the mountain. I can no longer remember the name of that mountain.

Stanley Park

I cycled around Stanley park twice on rented bicycle. Twice because I was gobsmacked by how beautiful and big the park was. It borders the Vancouver downtown proper and mostly surrounded by water. It was easy getting to the park as it is just located north and west of Vancouver downtown. There were numerous rental bike shops nearby and I just went to the first one that I saw. I rented the bike for about 3 hours, which was more than sufficient time to circumnavigate the park at least once, stopping numerous times along the way, admiring the beautiful waters, passing underneath the Lion’s Gate Bridge as well as seeing other locals and tourists alike walking, running or cycling like me around the park. I was lucky because I went to Vancouver in late spring and the outside temperatures were perfect for outdoor activities like cycling. After cycling, I remembered returning the bike and then setting off on foot to explore the various forest trails that the park had to offer. It was peaceful walking on one of those trails, seeing the pristine forests well preserved even after marking the spot as a city park.

Resting underneath the Lion’s Gate bridge at Stanley Park.

Granville Island

I remember taking one of the shuttle ferry boats to Granville Island. The island is basically a small peninsula and shopping district. Yaletown had a stop for one of the shuttle ferry boats and I boarded one before stopping at Granville Island. It was an interested ride. Like taking the subway with its various stops, but instead, you take a ferry boat that takes you to places along the shores of False Creek, one of them happens to be Granville Island. I cannot remember the price of the ferry ride, but I remembered it was pretty decent, and most of all super convenient, especially when there is a ferry stop close to where I was staying in Yaletown.

The old industrial area in Granville Island.
Lots of food, farmer’s market, and more.
Just by the waters, the ferry I took to reach Granville.

Granville Island was an interesting place. It used to be an industrial manufacturing area. But now, the place has been transformed to be a premier destination for tourists looking for food and entertainment. The place is packed full of cafes, restaurants, breweries, and shops selling all kinds of Knick knacks, like a carnival market made permanent. The history of the place is not lost. You can still see evidence of the island as being a former industrial area. Warehouses with zinc roofs, cement factories and silos still stand and dotted all over the island. The Granville Island Public Market is to me, the most interesting part of the island. It is where local farmers and other food vendors sell their fresh produce such as vegetables, meat, seafood, cheese and many many other products. It was a feast for my senses. The food vendors especially, I was so spoiled for choice, I had difficulty choosing what I wanted to eat. And the coffee. So many coffee shops and cafes to try and experience. In the end, I could only truly experience just a tiny fraction of what the island had to offer me. But I was glad that I spent the entire day without any regrets.

Downtown

Downtown Vancouver has lots of other interesting locations that I visited, like the Coal Harbour, Port of Vancouver (which had a gigantic cruise ship docked while I was there), the famous Gastown with little cafes, rustic looking restaurants and pubs, as well as West End, Davie Village, Robson Square and others. I like the fact that the downtown core is small enough that you can practically explore the city just by walking. Sure there is a lot of walking to do, but with such amazing weather and loads of cafes that you can just stop by to rest and have a great cup of coffee, walking is the way to go in exploring Vancouver.

The public library.
The Olympic Cauldron.
Vancouver Harbour Flight Center.
The science center.
Gastown.

Fujinon 35mm f2.0 lens

I saw a pretty good deal on a second-hand lens on Carousell. someone was selling their year-old prime lens, the 35mm f2.0 lens for S$350. It was a good deal. I was in the market for a second prime lens to be part of my budding Fujifilm line of lenses and to pair it with my X-Pro 3 every now and then. However, I wasn’t too keen in shelling out top dollar for a brand new one. I was mulling over the idea that since I prefer sticking to just one lens for most of my photography, having a second lens would add versatility to my shots. I decided on getting the 35mm lens just in case I need it for portrait shoots, or if I am taking portraits of people more often than my usual street shoots. So while I may not use the 35mm extensively, having one just in case would be a good idea. So what better way to just get a second-hand lens, since I will not be using all the time.

And it just so happens that someone was selling their Fujifilm lens, the 35mm f2.0 lens. From the pictures posted by the seller, it still looked pristine. The only major flaw was that the lens hood has significant signifying heavy usage of the lens at one point. It was a cosmetic flaw, but a significant one, as it was very noticeable. I was very hesitant in getting the lens at first (it sells at S$700 retail for a brand new lens), but I rationalized my decision, thinking this is an offer that doesn’t come very often. Apparently the owner is selling his Fujifilm lens because he has become invested Sony’s camera ecosystem. So it makes sense for him to offload and sell whatever Fujifilm gear he might still have. And one of them was the 35mm f2.0 lens which I have been eyeing for quite a while.

I am collecting the lens from him sometime this week. I don’t think testing the lens is necessary. For some reason I trust him that the lens will work as intended. From then on I will have two prime lenses for my X-Pro 3. The 35mm lens will be used primarily for portrait shots. S$350 for used prime lens is great deal, especially when you know you aren’t going to use it extensively, but would like to have it just in case.

Vancouver Adventure 2017 Part 1

Nearly 2 years ago, I embarked on the furthest solo trip ever. To Vancouver and Seattle. A 12,800km journey from home. I can no longer remember what motivated me to go on a solo trip so far away from home. And looking back at my blog, I don’t recall blogging about it, much less posting pictures about my experiences solo trippin’ in Vancouver.

So now I need to make up for my lack of posts regarding my experience solo trippin’ in Vancouver and Seattle.

Food Poisoning!

Two years have passed and I have probably forgotten all the little things that happened while I was there. But one major thing happened prior to my trip that I will never forget. I remembered having food poisoning just a few days before my departure to Vancouver, Canada. It got so bad, that I almost cancelled my trip at the very last minute. Even at the gate, I was on the road to recovery and I was afraid that I might not be able to make it through my 12-hour long flight (via Guangzhou) with dignity (if you know what I mean). But for some odd reason, I persevered and told myself, screw this, I paid so much for this trip and I have been looking forward to this trip for so long. I was not about to let a mere food poisoning derail my plans for an epic holiday alone. I boarded the flight, drowned myself in probiotic pills, in the hopes of jump starting my intestinal microflora while in the air and hope to make a quick recovery upon landing.

Miraculously, I recovered. I was totally fine when I arrived in Vancouver. My body was hydrated, and my stomach felt really calm to the point where I could take in solids again. I ate the food on the plane and nothing bad happened to me. When I landed in Vancouver, it was as if nothing happened in the first place.

Yaletown

At Vancouver International Airport, after I wen through customs, I went looking for the train to the city. It was an easy trip from the airport to downtown, which I really appreciate. After that I remembered transferring to a subway train to Yaletown, where I would be living for the next few days in an Airbnb accommodation. I made a great choice. Yaletown is fantastic. Full of modern skyscrapers of concrete, glass and steel. I booked a room shared with the owner of the condominium in Yaletown and I remembered it was in the upper floors of the building. My window had sweeping views of the Vancouver and the neighbouring skyscrapers nearby. It was truly a sight to behold, day or night. I remembered a couple of times, where I just stayed in my room and just stared out of the window, enjoying the majestic view of the beautiful city.

My first selfie upon arrival in Vancouver. I made my way to Yaletown, reached my accommodation. After settling down and putting my luggage, I headed out and started exploring the place. My first impression of Vancouver: Beautiful.

I remembered having my first meal in Vancouver, and it was sushi that I bought at a nearby grocery store. I was hungry and I wasn’t particularly choosy in deciding anything special to eat. The sushi was probably the first real solid food, aside from the airplane food, that I had after the entire food poisoning episode. The sushi was pretty good. The meal wasn’t heavy and it was just the right amount, especially for someone who is just recovering from food poisoning hours ago. I was so thankful that I was able to hold down solid food and that my stomach didn’t give me any embarrassing problems along the way en route to Vancouver, Canada.

The view from my airbnb. Look at the mountains in the background.

It was a sunny afternoon upon arrival. A great day to walk about the city. I didn’t sleep much while in the plane. I was feeling jet-lagged but energized that the same time, knowing that I have arrived at my destination and I am completely ready to start exploring the city.

Yaletown. Beautiful weather upon arrival.

I remembered exploring Yaletown, trying to get my bearings right, reading the subway maps and where it could take me, and just enjoying the views of the harbour nearby. It truly is a beautiful part of the city. No doubt, the condominium and private apartments would have cost a ton to buy, much less rent.

I can see the stadium from where I stayed. The BC stadium I believe.
It was late spring when I travelled to Vancouver. Cherry blossoms were still in bloom.
The Vancouver Skyline.

Chingay 2020

Chingay is an annual street parade that is celebrated in Singapore and Malaysia. It is in celebration of the various birthdays of the Chinese deities or the procession of the Goddess of Mercy. In recent times, the annual street parade consists of floats and processions from various communities in Singapore and abroad. This year is my first time that I actually attended the parade with a ticket. Previous years, I would usually watch the performance on TV, which is broadcast live.

The Chingay performance was a dazzle of lights, colour and music, with numerous floats representing the various Chinese deities, social groups in Singapore, associations and even foreign delegates from various countries around the world. The performance took place at the F1 pit and I was lucky to be seated relatively close to the action. I brought my camera along to capture some of the action. Despite only owning a 23mm f2.0 lens on my newly acquired Fujifilm X-Pro 3 camera, I still managed to get some great shots of the various floats and performances during the parade.

The parade was better than expected, partly due to the sound and lights that nicely complemented with the performance. Aside from that, there were the occasional fireworks, laser light shows and drone performances. Everything was tightly coordinated. The highlight of the entire parade was the 100 meter long dragon that floated and drifted along the length of the F1 pit. It was truly impressive to see it in person.

Seats filling up just before the parade starts.
The start of the procession. It was truly colourful and lively with great music and light shows that accompanied the entire performance.
They even did some interesting stunt on top of the usual dragon dance routine.
The god of wealth (I think) sitting on a flamingo, distributing wealth.
Lightsaber action!
The various floats on display, this one the famous squirrel of POSB bank.
The float from the People’s Association.
Representatives from Japan even took part in the parade!
Behold the dragon! Making its way along the parade. It’s more than 100 meters in length and the head is supported by a helium balloon and steered by a couple of guys on the ground.
Nodding and starring at us while it makes its away along the parade. It was spectacular!
The dragon blessing everyone with wealth and health before returning to its lair.