Friday, June 29, 2007

Medieval European Men's "Secrete" Revealed

Haha, I caught you. Not really a big secrete, but just a naughty entry. It will sure feed some ladies' curiosity about men. In medieval Europe, men wore those very tightly fit pants. Always wondered how they pee'ed? I found that answer during a recent visit to the Residence of Juliet (Casa di Giuliet) in Verona.

A Romeo's dress is on display in the museum. You can see very clearly there is an opening at the front, using strings to tighten. It takes quite some effort to unleash the strings and to relief yourself. The pants are really tight. I pity those men who had to endure the pain and trouble in those days, especially if you have a weak kidney. :D

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Residence Osoppo

We were invited by some colleagues from Shanghai to visit their residence - Residence Osoppo. It is located slightly further away from Gambara Metro station, about 10 mins walk. Diagonally opposite a big cathedral, along a busy street.

The rooms are twice as big as ours. The kitchen even has a microwave oven. Bedroom and living room, kitchen are seperated in some rooms. A long sofa in the living room. Furniture is new, the building is new, too. The cost is 1400 euros per month. It sounds like a steal, comparing with Residence Desenzano. The only minus point is there is no Wi-Fi.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Life is a transient

Buddha said nothing is permanent. The only constant in universe is change. I had heard of these saying hundreds of times, but understanding these sayings is no easy task. Nothing in this world is permanent. Photography is to capture "the moment", make the transient in life eternal. Easy said than done.

I like to photography buildings, landmarks, statues, sculptures. Why? Because they are "permanent". They don't change from this minute to the next. But do they? Look at the Duomo in Milan. It has been standing for more than 6 centuries, but is it always the same? No, it has been in constant change. Change of the architectural style, from Gothic, to late Gothic, to even Baroque. Generations of builders left their mark on this monumental structure. Has that change stopped? No. Change is still happening every single day on this monumental structure.

Life is a transient. Don't worry about tomorrow, don't regret about yesterday, because today is always the most beautiful day. :D

Sunday, June 24, 2007

THE Duomo - Milan

Duomo, the Italian word for cathedral, has now almost become THE Duomo, which refers to the Duomo in Milan.

The Duomo in Milan is the world's largest Gothic cathedral, 3rd largest cathedral. The construction started in 1386, and completed only 5 centuries later by Napoleone. Just when you think it is complete, it goes into perpetural restoration/repair/renovation, or whatever you call it. Two years ago, the facade was under repair/restoration, two years later, the restoration work is still in progress. Ok, ok, comparing with the 5 centuries that it took to complete the duomo, 2 years is really nothing.

Doubtlessly, the architecture of Duomo is magnificent. 135 spires decorate the roof, with a golden La Madonnina dominating the city skies at a height of 108.5m, 3400 statues of medieval motif-saints, animals and monsters protecting this holy place.

Climbing up to the roof terrace of Duomo should be one of the 1000 things you must do before you die. The view is splendid, the grandeur of the duomo is more enticing atop. You would wonder how those saints can stand on that tiny little pinnacle for a few hundred years, withstanding the heat, the cold, the gusting wind without falling down?

To climb up to the roof top, go to the right of Duomo (means your left, if you are facing Duomo). There are actually two entrances. One for people to climb up the steps themselves. The cost is 4 euros. Further up, there is another entrance, you can take the lift there, the cost is 6 euros.

Duomo has caused me quite a bit of depression. Facing such a nice creation, I am at a loss as how I can portrait it in my photographs to show its beauty. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Traveling on Public Transport in Milan

The public transport system in Milan is quite mature and efficient. Bus, tram and metro are all integrated. You can buy your tickets at any news stand for 1 euro. With this ticket, you can travel for 75 mins on bus or tram for as many changes as you wish, but you can only travel for 1 trip on Metro.

To save the hassle of buying a ticket every time you take a train or bus, you can also buy a 10-trip pass - a Carnet (pronounced as car-nay) at 9.20 euros. When you travel on train or bus or tram, just validate it by inserting it into the yellow box at the metro entrance or at the bus/tram stops. The time you travel on train/bus will be printed on the reverse of your carnet as a record. It serves as a souvenir for travelers, too.

Usually there is no conductor to check your ticket, but don't take chances, they do check! I encountered once when I traveled from Duomo to Central station. The station staff did come out to check other passengers' tickets.


1. A colleague just told me that I can actually get a season pass. The cost for making the pass is 10 euros. The cost for a one-year pass is 300 euros, for a one-month pass is 30 euros, for a one-week pass is 9 euros. This is a very economical way of traveling on Milan's public transport system. The season pass works the same as the ez-link card in Singapore. You tap it at the reader when you enter the Metro station. Upon exit, you just walk out, there is no need to tap your pass again.

2. I found out yesterday that if you use your carnet or ticket on a tram, it is valid for 75 mins. If you change from a bus/tram to a train within the 75 mins, you don't have to pay extra. Another way to save on transportation cost, it can be quite substantial if you have to transfer between trains and tram/bus.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Questura di Milano

For anyone staying in Italy for more than 1 week, you are supposed to get the residence permit from Questura (means immigration/police).

For Singaporeans, you need the following documents:

1. Passport + 1 photocopy of the information page & the page where you immigration stamp when you enter European Union is on
2. Original + 1 photocopy of your air ticket
3. 2 copies of the application forms. The application form is 100% in Italian. I couldn't figure out a thing what it is all about. Luckily there was a consultant engaged by the company to help out.

Questura di Milano is located at 26, Montebello. Take Metro and alight at Turati Station. There are many exits, just make sure when you come out of the Metro station, you see Oltre Caffe. The Questura is just 50m away. Follow the crowd, you will see many foreign looking people moving towards a certain direction.

Once you are there, you need to first queue up to get a queue number, or a ticket as it is called. Wait for your number to be called, submit your documents, and in 5 minutes, you will get a stamp on your application form. Voila, done. Simple as that.

Sounds very simple, isn't it? But the actual fact is it is a waiting game. We arrived at 11am to meet our consultant. Then we got into the Questura at around 11.30am. The number being served was #256. At 3.00pm, the number being served was #267!!! Then all of a sudden, from 3pm to 4pm, the number went from #268 all the way to #280! From 4pm to 4.22pm, the number went from #281 to #290! Finally, we got our documents done at 5pm!

We were just sitting there waiting and waiting. From time to time, you would see people being escorted by police officer to come in and go upstairs. We even saw a black guy come in with hands being handcuffed behind his back, and being escorted by two policemen.

There is a vending machine here selling bottled water. The price is reasonable, 35 euro cents per bottle, but the machine does not give out changes. I only had a 1 euro coin, so I ended up buying 3 bottles of water!

This is really an interesting experience.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Residence Desenzano

In Milan, I live in a service apartment called Residence Desenzano at Via Desenzano. It is in a residential area. Neighbouring are other service apartments and residential housing blocks. There are bars/pubs/pizza shops just around the corner. A small super market right at the exit of the nearest Metro station Gambara. Another bigger one is down San Gimignano. It is much further away, but it offers more stuff.

First Metro train to Duomo leaves at 6.25am at Gambara, reaching Duomo at 6.35am, reaching Milan Central Station at 6.45am.

The staff at Residence Desenzano are friendly. Since I checked in on Sat, I had bugged the receptionist Lorenzo quite a number of times, asking for this asking for that. He had been very helpful in providing information and assistance. And I didn't give him any tips! Probably I should do that later. I appreciate his service very much.

The rooms are quite small, look at the photo right below you will know what I mean.

The residence provides necessary cooking utencils for your use, including a wine opener! It comes in really handy when I need to open the bottle of 2005 Merlot I just bought today :D

The residence's website is here. According to Lorenzo the receptionist, this place is popular with model wannabe's, but so far I have not seen any.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Panic Run at Milan Central Station

This morning, I repeated the panic run that I had with Peiling two years ago. The difference was two years ago, the train was to depart in minutes, while we still didn't know how to buy the train ticket! This morning, the train was to depart in minutes, and I had the ticket on hand, but I didn't know how to find the platform! This time round, I must record down the 'proper' procedure to do all these crazy stuff.

Buying Train Tickets:

There are a few ways to buy train tickets, you can buy online, using the self-service machines located on the ground floor of Milan Central Station, or at the ticket office. If you use the self-service machine, you can choose different languages. Pick your destination, departure time, your seat and then pay by either cash or credit card. A train ticket will be issued to you immediately if instructed by you.

I also found that the price is the same whether you choose your own seat, or you let the system do it for you. Yet there is still a small difference. If you choose your own seat(s), most probably you will end up at the back of the train, say coach 12 or 2/3. The coach usually have very few people on a normal day (Not sure about peak seasons though). If you let the system do it for you, then you most probably will mix around with the locals.

Practical Information to board a train:

1. To find out which platform you are to board the train, check the departure information at the station displays. It is very straight forward if your destination is the same as the train's final destination. If it is not, then you have to figure it out by looking at the departure time, then go to the train staff who will ususally station at the entrance of the 1st class coach to find out. That was what I did. I was going to Firenze (Florence), but the train's final destination was Roma Termini (Rome).

2. Some useful Italian words:

Carrozza means Coach
Posti means Seat

3. If you are taking EuroStar, then it does not matter whether you validate your ticket at the yellow box before you board the train, but for TrienItalia trains, you have to validate it; otherwise, you may be imposed a big fine (said to be around 70 euros)

Updates: The train ticket for regional trains do not specify the train number, neither is there seating number, and it is valid for two months. That explains why if you don't validate your ticket when you board the train, you will get a heavy fine once caught.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Milan, in Summer

I had never expected the change of season can have such a big impact on my impression of Milan. Milan was just a dull, liveless industry hub of Italy when I first came to know this centuries-old city. With the arrival of summer, everything has changed. The city has transformed itself into a lively and beautiful European city of great history.

This transformation is most obvious at Sempione. There was nobody there, everything was just simply gloomy. Now that Summer has come, you see people having pinics with friends and family, sun-bathing/tanning under the lazy afternoon sun, children running around. What a typical lively summer afternoon!

And can you believe that I am writing this blog entry at 9pm local time, and the sun still has not fully set yet!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Splendid Yunnan Finale

This is the final part of the Splendid Yunnan series. I decided to write less, but post more photos. Enjoy the beautiful scenaries in this wonderful place on planet earth.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Better than a thousand hollow words
Is 1 word that brings peace.

Better than a thousand hollow verses
Is 1 verse that brings peace.

Better than a thousand hollow lines
Is 1 line of the law, bringing peace.

It is better to conquer 1-self
Than to win a thousand battles.

-Excerpts from "The Thousands" of the Dhammampada

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Buddha's Tooth Relic Temple - Gem of Singapore

Singapore just unveiled a gem - The Buddha's Tooth Relic Temple. Limited by space, instead of a traditional Chinese temple's flat layout, this temple goes vertical, different halls on different levels, with bell tower and drum tower integrated. It is a combination of the Buddhist Mandala and Chinese Tang Dyansty architecture.
What is most amazing about this place is the fine workmanship, the elegance of statues, the decorations. Magnificent!

Program Timings

Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic Stupa Curtain opening times:

9 – 11 am

2 – 3.30 pm

6.30 – 8 pm

Daily Maitreya Hall Service:

5 am Morning Chanting

11 am Buddha Offerings

4 pm Evening Chanting

8 pm Drum

8.15 pm Bell

8.45 pm Closing

Viewing of Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic

14-16th day of 1st lunar month (Chinese New Year & Birthday of Maitreya Buddha)

8-15th day of 4th lunar month (Vesak)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Venice, Italy

It is quite easy to travel from Milan to Venice (Venezia in Italian). There are 23 trains departing at the Milan Central Station everyday to Venice. The cost is 23 euros one way, travel time is 3 hours. You can check out the train schedule here. For ticket purchase, you can buy your ticket at the ticket office or from the auto ticket machines. Both are located on the basement level of the Central Station. The ticket machines are easy to use, with selections for instruction languages. This is definitely very helpful to people who do not have a clue about Italian :D

The train will bring you to Stazione di Santa Lucia at Venice. Come out of the station, voila, here is the drawing room of Europe, as Napoleon once described Venice. From here, you can decide either walk on your own, or take the vaporetti. Tickets are 5 euros for 90 mins unlimited travel. If you are in a hurry, it is easier to just take a vaporetti to San Marco square, then explore all the major attractions around the square.

San Marco square is the center of attractions in Venice. When I was there on 6 Apr 2005, I witnessed the rare scene of all flags flying half-mask, mourning the death of a great Pope, Pope John Paul II.

Venice is famous for mask making. Those masks are simply beautiful. A picture is worth a thousand words. Just see for yourself.

Friday, June 8, 2007


I am leaving for Milan, Italy in the evening of 15 Jun, 2007. The feeling is mixed. On the one hand, I am looking forward to the weekend tours that I might make during my two-month stay there; on the other hand, I am a bit worried about the amount of work, the great challenge awaiting me at our design centre there. The problem at hand is a hot potato nobody has come up with any sensible solutions yet.

Most probably I will just take it easy, enjoy my stay there, and the Italian wine. Italian wine has sweet after taste, lovely fragrance, one of my favourites. It will be a shame not to try the Italian wine when you are in Italy. As tax on wine is low or non-existent, the price is also good. One more reason you should try the Italian wine :P

Anyway, just stay tuned to my blog. I will have updates on my Italian stay whenever possible from my busy work and travel :D OMG, I still have not finished my travelogue on Yunnan, neither have I written anything about Angkor Wat and Southern Vietnam yet. That doesn't do justice to those two places. I promise, I will write about them asap.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Advertising: Seeing Doubles

Seeing doubles in advertising is definitely a no-no. But if you are using photos from a microstock site, that possibility can't be eliminated. Here is the much talk-about article in Wall Street Journal published on 28 Nov 2006, discussing how the same photos appearing in different advertising campaigns, causing embarrasements. You will be surprised how many such incidences happening in the advertising industry from time to time. I do not know when doubles do happen, what are the consequences and how the parties involved actually save their own asses.

Some may call it the fall of the professional photography, I view it as people's power. Everybody is an artist. Any average person has a chance to make their talents known. Professional photography is no longer limited to the rich and elite few in this digital and internet age. Opportunities are opening up to more people.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007




幸福不在山那边,幸福不在海那边,幸福就在你的身边。幸福可追,也可得到。遇到你的心上人,一颗心砰砰的跳,那是幸福在敲门;挽着恋人的手爬山涉水,再苦,再累,心中却是如喝了蜜糖一样,是甜甜的, 那是幸福来你家作客了。

幸福的人特别有冲劲,幸福的人特别有好运,因为他们有着不断的原动力, 要成功么?先找到那幸福的感觉吧!:D

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

US$3900 A Year

PDN published on May 31st, 2007, the preliminary results of a survey on the microstock industry. Details can be found here.

In a nutshell, 1882 photographers participated in the survey, 865 of them are microstock photographers, 229 of them distribute their works themselves (self-distribution).

On average, microstock photographers earned US$3900 in 2006, but 58% of them earned less than US$1000.

Mmmh, it doesn't sound too good erh, does it? If you are thinking of quitting your job and doing microstock full-time, think again. But then again, you must look at this finding in context. Many of the microstock photographers maybe are only hobbyists, amateurs, who do it for some pocket money, or just some financial return from their work to finance their expensive hobby, photographic equipment purchases. They are not taking it seriously as 'a business'.

Anyway, it is an interesting survey. It is also an evidence the microstock industry is getting more clouds.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Photoshop: Secret Selection Method Revealed

In microstock, isolated objects are your money spinners, but doing a decent isolating job in Photoshop is a pain in the back. It takes great patience & lots of lots of time. A kind microstock photographer Robert shared with us his secret selection method in Photoshop, which is a great help in making selections when we isolate an object.

His screencast can be found here.

Sunday, June 3, 2007 - A photojournalistic approach to blogging

Some time back Phoenix Satelite TV channel featured an interview with a blogger based in Beijing. His blog has gained huge popularity in China and overseas.

This blog adopts a journalistic approach through photography. Everyday, he would go out to snap around, about people, events happening around him. Not famous people, not big events, just ordinary people, daily life events, someone on the street, something trifle. The photos, at first glance, look amateurish and boring, but somehow, these photos manage to catch the essence of life. In a fast changing society, his photos faithfully records down someone's daily life, making 'the moment' eternal. There are virtually no words at his blog, other than his self-introduction. The rest of the blog has nothing but photos. Readers have to interpret what they see themselves.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Splendid Yunnan Part V - Lijiang Old Town (丽江古城)

You can't claim you have been to China if you have not visited the Great Wall, you can't claim you have been to Yunnan if you have not visited Lijing Old Town, a world heritage site.

Lijiang was once an important town along the trade route of horse & tea between China and the South Asia sub-continent. The horse and tea merchants stopped at this town to refill their supplies before embarking on a rough journey further ahead. This once prosperous old town withered after a new trade route was established in the 2nd half of the last century. Surrounded by mountains and without proper roads, this town was hard to access from the outside world. This inaccessability somehow helped preserve this charming old town its century-old beauty. Then an serious earthquake a few years ago brought this town to international fame and attention.

Why did I choose a water-mill photo to begin this blog entry? To answer that question, I must give you some background information. Lijiang old town, oddly doesn't have any city walls! The walls were not torn down to make way for the modern development. They simply were not there at all when the town was first built! In a place like Yunnan, where bandits frequently come to loot the merchants and law-abidding people, how can the residents of the Lijiang old town protect themselves in the old days? Obviously there is a reason. The family ruling the Lijiang old town in the old days was the Mu family, Mu (木) means Wood in Chinese. If the Mu family living within a wall, that is the Chinese character for imprisonment (困)! How can the Mu family let that happen?! Therefore, they decided not to have any city walls at all. How to defend the town from bandits? They built the whole town according to the BaGua formation (八卦阵). Only people who know the tricks can come into and go out of the town without losing his/her way. This BaGua formation still remains intact till this day. As a tourist, the locals would advise you to walk along the stream that powers the water mill. Walk in the same direction as the water flow when you go into the town, and walk against the water flow when you come out of the town. Now you understand the significance of the water mill? :D

There is a famous street in Lijiang old town, thanks to modernisation and its fame to the western world. It is called the bar street (酒吧街), or the YangRen street (洋人街), which means a westerners' street. As the name implies, there are bars after bars at this small little but long street hidden at one back alley of the old town. Water flowing past the front, willows swinging in the wind, red lanterns lighting up the night sky, everything looks so much like a Chinese painting. No wonder the westerners fall in love with this place.

When you are in Lijiang, you have to try the delicious Lijiang GuoQiaoMiXian (过桥米线), translated into English literally, it means "crossing the bridge rice noodle". It is rice noodle, served in a clay pot of thick chicken soup, with fresh vegies, ham, chicken drum stick, and many other fresh ingredients. For RMB30.00, you can get a big portion enough for two! It is value for money.