Italy

Rome

Rome was our entry point into Europe. It provided a great experience into what would become our great euro trip. We arrived and taxied to our hotel, which happen to be down the road from the Vatican City.

Rome is known for it’s rich history, and sites to see including: Vatican City, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon. Getting around involved lots of walking, and we tried not to overcrowd our days by only planning to see 1-2 sites a day, and freestyling the rest of the day. This allowed us to get infinite amounts of coffee, eat lots, and visit lots of shops.

Tuscany

We hired a car in Rome, and drove to a bed and breakfast in Tuscany. This was one of our most memorable experiences as we got a taste of what it was like to be “live” in Italy with home cooked meals to staying in a cottage. The owners had little to no english, but this made it more exciting, and you always seemed to work it! For the couple days we stayed here, we experienced great cakes for breakfast, and some of the best pasta for dinner. During the day we drove around the area, visiting the different cities and taking in the sites, and managed to squeeze in a bit of wine tasting.

Toscana Field Toscana Narrow Roads

Florence

We used our car to drive onwards to Florence. On the way to Florence, we stopped by a designer factory outlet. The fine good lovers will find this place to die for, with the endless supply of designer outlets including Prada, Gucci, Montblanc.

We finally returned the car in Florence, after endless loops around the city looking for the car hire place (which would result in a traffic ticket 12 months later for driving down an alley that was designated pedestrians – how could you even differentiate in a city like Florence lol?)

Florence allowed for more great food, and visiting of museums and sites such as the Spanish Steps (watch your wrists to not have a bracelet tied to it and be charged, and don’t take any roses).

We took a day trip out of Florence to visit Pisa and check out the the Leaning Tower of Pisa. What a famous attraction, with an endless number of tourists taking selfies.

Cinque Terra

The train from Florence took us to Cinque Terra, to visit the 5 little fishing cities. Each would be a little different to the other, and allowed for great photos that you always see on Instagram. This is where there are mountain trails for those who wish to hike a bit. It is definitely worth a stop, with lots of cheese, wine, and food to try. It’s a place where you can hang around and do “nothing” and be at peace at somewhere that feels left behind in todays ever hectic lifestyle.

Riomaggiore

Milan

The fashion capital as most people would call it, with lots of shops and people. It is more of a business city, so you can limit your time here a bit if you wish. Great place for shopping, but you may run out of other things to do. It was also the place where a gypsy stole a couple euro from me as the change dropped out at the ticket vending machine – TIP: use exact change, or just smile and walk away 🙂

Venice

I don’t think you will find anywhere else in the world quite like Venice. It has an impossible look about it when you first arrive – people live in houses where the streets are water?

Getting around Venice involves a lot of walking, but you can catch shuttle boats, Gondolas and Traghetto (shared gondolas that people use to cross the canals instead of find a bridge).

I really enjoyed my time in Venice, getting lost daily, finding shops, and eating. You’ll find famous attractions here as well including Piazza San Marco and Rialto Bridge. Make sure you try squid ink pasta, Bellini (alcochol), buy bread and prosciutto to picnic, and go on a Gondola. You will find that there are endless reviews on TripAdvisor with Gondola love and hate stories. I think you will find that investing a bit of your own time in walking around and talking to the Gondola owners will give you an idea as to whether you will like their personality instead of jumping onto the first one you see.

Ask questions, and see if they laugh or tell you to get stuffed (ie. do you sing?). When we found one we liked, we watched him take another couple out, and made sure he came back on or after the time allocated. After all, one of the biggest complaints on TripAdvisor is that people were short-changed for time. In our case, we observed another Gondola depart after ours but arrive back before!

Venice was the final leg of our visit to Italy, and it was one of our most memorable experiences. We spent almost 3 weeks here to really allow us to travel unrushed, as we are not the type of people that go on tours. We prefer to freestyle and encourage you to do the same!

Venice

Brazil 2014

I was fortunate enough this year to visit Brazil for a friend’s wedding. This was in March 2014, just months before the World Cup.

We visited Sao Paulo, Rio De Janeiro, and Bahia. The experience was something very different to anywhere I’ve been to previously, and it’ll probably be a while before I will be heading back to South America again – so it was even more compelling to visit!

First impressions of Brazil was that it was an extremely populated concrete jungle. Because we were travelling as a large group, safety concerns were somewhat lessened. Nonetheless, it’s best to be a wise tourist and not get into any situations that you will regret.

Sao Paulo is the capital, and is where the wedding was held. It was the most populated and dense out of the cities we visited. Rio De Janeiro is what most people associate Brazil with. The nice long beaches and people playing volleyball on the beach. Bahia is somewhat more isolated, and more culturally untouched.

We were here for Carnival season, and Rio has the biggest and most famous. These are what people see photos of on the Internet. We went to Carnival in Bahia, which is more about song and dance. All the famous musicians play here on floating stages, and spectators can choose to dance around the floats, stand on the circuit, or in the stands that surround the circuit.

I have attached some photos of my trip!

 

Hong Kong and Taiwan 2013

This year I revisited Hong Kong, and visited Taiwan for the first time.
I’ve been to Hong Kong before, but it was my first time to Taiwan.

Hong Kong was even more fascinating than the first time I visited back in 2006. It must’ve been a combination of traveling young, and also knowing more about what I wanted to do this time.

This trip consisted of a lot more shopping, finding good eats, and revisiting some of the touristy locations.

In terms of food, Hong Kong is Yum Cha paradise, with so many places to choose from, you just need to know where to find them. As ground floor shop space is  mostly retail, you’ll find a lot of Yum Cha places hidden on the upper floors of buildings (except big places like Din Tai Fung). Apps such as TripAdvisor and UrbanSpoon are very useful in hunting these places down. Don’t forget to check out the Michelin Star restaurants scattered throughout HK!

Shopping is also great, with lots of variety. Prices are ok, nothing bargain paradise. I think the USA is still the best for that.

This was my first time to Taiwan. It was very different to Hong Kong. Best described as somewhere between Hong Kong and Vietnam, Taiwan has some new buildings, but a lot of old run down buildings, motorbikes, and plenty of street food.

The people of Taiwan are some of the friendliest I’ve ever met. As there is little English spoken in Taiwan, you have to brush up on your Mandarin or improvisation. At one stage, I recall asking for instructions from someone on the street. He spoke almost no English, went inside to ask a shopkeeper, where the conversation was overheard by a female customer who happened to speak a bit of English. She came out and tried to explain the directions the best she could!

In terms of what there is to do, I think there is plenty if you venture out of Taipei. I had a week in Taipei, and I did struggle to find things to do after 4-5 days. However, for me having not much to do also meant I just had to relax – not a bad thing for a holiday.

Here’s a quick list of things to do:

  • Taipei 101
  • CBD for some shopping and food
  • Hunt down some Din Tai Fung
  • Night markets – there are plenty of them!
  • Pub food – try frog legs!
  • Monuments, memorials, and temples

Hamilton Island (The Great Barrier Reef) – QLD, Australia

It’s not often I decide to travel my own backyard. This was one of those rare cases. The thought came after seeing so many beautiful beaches around the world, and not realising that the Great Barrier Reef was only a few hours away by plane.

The mission was set, check out what I have been putting off for ages. For those outside of Australia – I should let you know that Australia is an expensive place to travel, especially to a resort such as Hamilton Island.

After a bit of research and obtaining a few quotes, it was booked. I was flying to Hamilton Island and staying at the Reef View Hotel for 7 nights. I also purchased a water-proof camera in anticipation (Sony Tx-10).

Hamilton Island itself is quite small (4 x 7km approx) and there are people that live on the island – but most people are tourists. There are close to no cars, and you either walk or drive around in golf buggies. There are plenty of pools to spend your days, and there is Cats-eye beach, where there is a reef with fish that you can practically walk out to during low-tide.

Most of the adventureous stuff requires travel – boat, helicopter, plane. Take your pick from the various tour operators. This includes snorkelling and diving in the middle of the reef. I would highly recommend this, as you will get much clearer waters and experience the reef in it’s full glory. You may get sea-sick travelling out to these locations (as I did), so medication for those affected is recommended.

Have a look at some of my photos below. You may find that a 7 nights is quite some time, so you can probably reduce it to 5 or less. Just keep in mind that food and general expenses can be quite steep on this island. I was quite happy to chill and do a whole lot of nothing most of the times.

Blood Parrot Eggs

Just noticed that my Blood Parrots were a lot brighter than usual the other day. I looked into the tank, and I noticed little white eggs on the pebbles they like to rest on.

I heard it is extremely hard to get these guys to breed, and their eggs are mostly infertile. I took some photos to post up here just in case anyone else was curious. The shots are a little blurry, so I’ll have to try again next time!

parroteggs1-1024x683parroteggs2-683x1024

iPhone End Call stuck issue

This is one of those problems that seems to have endless reports, but no clear solution. My phone is an iPhone 4S 64GB running iOS 5.0.1. My carrier is Optus in Australia.

Other problems that occur when the stuck End Call screen issue arises seem to be (for me anyway):

  • No incoming SMS
  • Can’t call out
  • People calling in hear a your number dialling, but your phone does not ring.

I will run through my troubleshooting steps.

Some people believe it is a carrier issue, and you perform a carrier update if one exists. To do so, go to the About screen on the iPhone. Provided you have some sort of data connection, if there is a carrier update available, a prompt will pop up asking you to update. This did not solve my problem after updating.

It can be an iOS issue, but again I am running the latest. You can always upgrade and see if it sorts your issue.

It can reportedly be an upgrade issue, where you have kept the same settings from upgrading phones (ie. you have migrated from a 3GS to 4 then to a 4S). This was not applicable in my case, as I started fresh. You can try to setup your phone from scratch or factory reset. I’m skeptical of this fix, because a factory reset seems to fix everything, but the problem will probably come back due to an underlying issue.

The fix for me was to turn on mobile data, and then turn it off again. I leave mobile data off at all times, because I like to control when and how my data is used. There seems to be a bug with iOS when the phone runs for prolonged amounts of time with no data capability.

Windows 7/2008 installer does not detect hard drives, BIOS does – hard drives from RAID?

Spent hours on this one thinking it was a motherboard issue. The fix only applies to a specific scenario.

If the hard drives were used in a RAID array (mine were from an Intel Matrix RAID), then the hard drives are formatted in a way that the Windows 7 installer can no understand.

You have two options:

  • Run an XP installation over the top of the hard drive (yes, XP will be able to install onto the hard drive). You do not need to go through with the full XP install. When files start to copy on the blue screen with the yellow bar, just reset the PC and install Windows 7/2008.
  • Format the hard drives in Linux or similar (put an ext3 filesystem on it). Putting the hard drive into an USB case and formatting it in Windows does not resolve the issue.

USA – San Francisco

The inner geek in me loved this place, probably because it is a the tech-hub of the world. Nonetheless, the atmosphere of San Franciso was great because it felt like LA (the people and culture, without being so geographically spreadout) and had the buzz of NYC (without being too busy and hectic). If I had to move to the USA, San Francisco would certainly be on my list.

Fisherman’s Wharf is a cool place to hang out, but it is very touristy. Parking is outrageous, with most places wanting US$45 or more a day. Try to park on the street or just use public transport. Some of the great things to do in San Francisco would be to check out the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, hop on a trolley tram, and visit Golden Gate Park (hop on a segway if you can!).