Category Archives: Travel stories

iPhone 5 ♦ Panorama Photos ♦ Gold Coast, Australia.

Like many others around the world I upgraded to the iPhone 5 when it was released late last year. One of the new features that it provided was the ability to take panorama photos. On my recent holiday to Queensland I gave it a bit of a whirl to see what the photos would turn out like. Here are some iPhone 5 panorama shots that I took.

The day that we checked in to our 28th floor apartment was the perfect opportunity to test out the power of the panorama feature. I think you’d have to agree, it was an awesome view.

IMG_0855

A couple of days after the panorama photo was taken a superstorm (ex Cyclone Oswald) roared into town and hung around for a few days.

Although I tried, I couldn’t get out onto the balcony long enough to take a panorama of the storm due to the constant torrential rain and high wind.

Here is a quick shot I managed showing the huge seas and missing beach.

Then, on the morning after the storm finally left us, this was the wonderful view with the sun rising above a still rough, but much calmer ocean. I like how the panorama feature doesn’t distort the horizon.

At Seaworld we entered the Antarctica penguin exhibit. This panorama tries to show the amazing ice environment, but bands of pink have spoilt the shot. I’m not sure what caused the bands, perhaps it was the type of lighting.

This is the wonderful lagoon used for the dolphin show at Seaworld on the Gold Coast. A very natural looking environment has been created. The panorama feature gives you the ability to capture a wider area.

The pool area where we stayed was amazing. It was surrounded by palms and grassed areas. There was even real beach sand on the its shores. This panorama shows only half of the pool. There is another similar section beyond the bridge.

We decided to head down to the beach after dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. This panorama is looking back towards the high-rise buildings. The beach is bathed in huge spotlights, making it feel like daytime. Due to the heat and the soaked ground from the storm the air was filled with an amazing mist.

Down on the beach looking out to the ocean. Erosion from the storm was clear, as was the long wobbling lines of foam created during the storm by the wild ocean swell. Some of the roads along the beach were filled to curb level with the sand that had blown and washed up from the beach.

So, what’s my opinion of the iPhone Panorama pics? ……… great !!! It’s so easy to use and the photos give you a richer and more amazing memory.

A Year at Disney

My family and I are such a Disney fans and we love the times that we have been able to visit the parks (even though they are a world away from where we live in Australia).

I was thrilled to stumble across this excellent video on YouTube and thought it would be great to share, Well done to the creator.

MARINA BAY SANDS HOTEL ♦ Singapore ♦ Part 2

One of the things that we just had to do while in Singapore was to visit the amazing Marina Bay Sands Hotel.   We even went one step further and decided to stay there. This hotel has only opened in the past couple of years and is an amazing building.  It consists of three towers of 55 floors which have the most extraordinary SkyPark across the top of them.  My rough calculations equate the length of this SkyPark to be about the same as the height of the Eiffel Tower – so imagine the Eiffel Tower laying across three buildings.

Marina Bay - Postcard

The three towers could best be described as a deck of cards. Imagine two cards leaning against each other and there you have a tower – repeat this three times and you have the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.  The inside of these towers is like an empty void as you look up.  The doors to the rooms line the walkways that look down into the void from above.

Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands - Our View
Marina Bay Sands – Our View

For an average family this is quite a pricey hotel but we found that’s normal in Singapore, so if you want to reduce the cost by booking cheaper rooms you can go for the lower floors (ie. Level 19 or lower).

Something great to note is that if you are staying there the hotel provides free bus transfers to/from the airport.

The hotel also has easy access to the SMRT underground transport and is linked to a Casino and huge shopping mall that has a wide range of shopping choices.

Marina Bay Sands - Our View
Marina Bay Sands – Our View

At night the towers become part of a spectacular show of colored lighting, lasers, music and movies projected on fountains and fans of water in the bay.  Our room was on the 43rd floor and on the bay side, so we had a great view of the people watching the free light show each night.

As mentioned in a previous post we also saw a flashmob in the hotel foyer one day which was a fun thing to experience.

Aside from the amazing design of this hotel, one of the most fantabulous reasons to stay here is the SkyPark.

Marina Bay Sands - Observation Deck - Bay side
Marina Bay Sands – Observation Deck – Bay side

This looks like a huge aircraft wing that sits across the three towers.  In addition to the pool, garden areas and a selection of restaurants there is a fantastic observation deck at one end of the the SkyPark that offers spectacular views –  This deck costs $$ for visitors but if you are a hotel guest it’s free.

Marina Bay Sands - SkyPark Pool
Marina Bay Sands – SkyPark Pool

Besides the magnificent view, the most breathtaking part of the SkyPark would have to be the pool.  It is probably over 100 metres long and has an invisible edge that gives you the feeling of swimming in the sky.  The pool is lined with lounges and waiters and is only available for hotel guests.  We swam in it at night as it was quieter than the day but it also meant that when the nightly laser light show started, we were right in the middle of it.  Swimming up to the pool’s edge we could look down at the flashing cameras around the bay as the lasers were bursting from the palm trees around us up into the sky.  This would have to be the most amazing pool I have ever been in.  It truly was like swimming in the sky.

Overall we were pleased with the hotel, we did have a bit of a problem when checking in (they gave us a room with only 2 twin beds – not ideal for a family of 4 that had pre-booked more suitable bedding) but that was ironed out the following day.  Even if you don’t stay ay Marina Bay Sands it’s worth a visit.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel – Singapore – Part 1 – Flashmob

Marina Bay - PostcardThis is just a quick post that I wanted to share with you all.  I’ve seen flashmobs on tv (eg. Modern Family) and thought they were awesome …. but until our recent visit to Singapore I had never actually seen one  in real life.

We were walking through the foyer of our hotel (Marina Bay Sands) – see pic on right – when the music suddenly started and the whole atmosphere around us changed ….. it was on ……. this is what we saw.

It was one of the coolest things I’ve seen.  The flashmob were so amazing and it had an almost magical effect on the crowd that watched.  Before it, everyone was just going about their day, taking little notice of much around them (except for the fantastic hotel), but after the flashmob everyone seemed invigorated with a magical burst of enthusiasm and seemed more aware of everyone around them. I hope you like the video.

Have any of you seen a real live flashmob? Comments welcome….

Resorts World Sentosa – Singapore

During our recent visit to Singapore, Universal Studios and Sentosa were high on our list of things to do.  I have already described our Universal Studios experiences in other posts so this one will be about Sentosa.

Sentosa is a small resort island just off the coast of Singapore which is just next to the cruise ship hub of Singapore.  The island is linked to the mainland by a causeway, boardwalk, monorail and a cable car.  This makes it very easy to get to from wherever you are staying in Singapore – the SMRT joins into the huge ViVo shopping mall on the mainland which is where you can catch the monorail or walk across to Sentosa itself.

A large part of the island is known as Resorts World Sentosa which includes a huge range of attractions.  This area is quite new and is the result of a major redevelopment by Genting over recent years.  Along with Universal Studios there are a number of resort hotels/condos etc.  Sentosa also has a lot of other attractions ranging from sandy beaches, to golf courses, to family activities.

Resorts World Sentosa - Festive Hotel

We stayed at the Festive Hotel (the L shaped building in the photo) which is located next to the Hard Rock Hotel (the circular building on the left in photo) and near the entrance to Universal Studios. This is a family friendly hotel which we found was a rarity in Singapore when we were looking for a place to stay.  The room style we had was a Family Room which had something that we had never seen in a hotel before. Although the room wasn’t huge it was split into two zones. One for the parents with a king bed and the other for the kids with a cool bunk bed and flip out sofa. This was loved by our kids and the view out over the pools from our balcony was fantastic. Be sure to ask for a monorail pass if you stay there as it gives you free monorail transport for the length of your stay.

Resorts World Sentosa - Lake of Dreams fountains
Resorts World Sentosa - Lake of Dreams fountains

With two kids who are less open to trying unfamiliar foods (ie. anything not western style) it was a bit difficult to find food that suited the fussy kids.  But if you look hard enough around there are some places in the vicinity of the hotels that were suitable. (eg. Hard Rock Cafe, Palio, KFC).

In our time there we were only able to sample some of Sentosa’s attractions and we have plenty more to explore the next time we go back for a visit.  There is so much to do on the island so be prepared to wear yourself out.

We chose to buy a special ticket that gave us a lot of attractions for a discount price, rather than paying for them individually – it’s a great way to save a bit of your holiday budget.

Skyline Luge Sentosa
Starting line

One of the attractions that we did was Skyline Luge Sentosa. At this attraction we caught a chairlift up the side of the island to the start of the luge track.  Now this is no ice luge, it’s actually small carts that are quite easy enough to learn to use.

The track winds like a race track from the top of the island down through the trees to the beach at the bottom – the cart is control by shifting your weight so it has the knack of knowing when to stop if needed. It was a great family activity that was way out of the ordinary – we would recommend it for families.

Skyline Luge Sentosa
Skyline Luge Sentosa - The track

View from Tiger Sky TowerThe Tiger Sky Tower was also a great experience.  It is best described as a very tall needle with a rotating viewing room.

You board at ground level and the whole room slowly rises up the needle to the very top (all the while it slowly rotates) and gives you a magnificent view of the island and surrounds across to the mainland – this is a ‘must do’.  It really gives you a perspective of where everything in the resort fits into your surroundings.

Nearby there were a couple large snakes that you could have draped over your shoulders for a photo – I chose not to do that one.

Resorts World Sentosa - Hotels & Universal Studios
Resorts World Sentosa - Hotels & Universal Studios
Resorts World Sentosa - Merlion at night
Resorts World Sentosa - Merlion at night from our room

The Merlion is a huge statue of Singapore’s mythical symbol – half lion half mermaid.  It has a central lift that takes you up to higher viewing levels.  There are great photo opportunities from the top and inside its mouth – great views as well. It also looks great at night when its is bathed with coloured lighting.

Another attraction that I wanted to do, but didn’t get the chance was iFly.  This is indoor skydiving where you get dressed up in a weird flying suit and hover above a giant fan – giving the feeling that you are skydiving.  It’s on my list for next visit. There are plenty of other attractions that we didn’t even get to look at so you can be sure that there is plenty to keep you occupied.

As we rode the Singapore Cable Car from Sentosa across to Mt Faber on the mainland and back we could see some construction was continuing on the island below.  They are building some great looking new condos etc and an excellent looking water park.

There are heaps of other things that I haven’t even mentioned. If you go to Singapore make sure that you set aside some time for Sentosa.

Universal Studios Singapore – Part 6 – Hollywood & New York

As you enter Universal Studios Singapore you are transported into the Hollywood zone.  This area is the equivalent of Main Street at Disneyland.

Universal Studios Singapore - Hollywood
Universal Studios Singapore - Hollywood

Hollywood is essentially a street of souvenir shops and restaurants and is where we do our last minute souvenir shopping on the way out of the park, rather than buying early and carrying it all day. An attraction in this zone is Monster Rock which is a stage show in which you are entertained by rock-n-roll monsters. The show is quite enjoyable and at one stage the performers come out into the audience – they high fived my daughter which she thought was exciting.  When hunger or thirst called we chose to eat at Mels’ Drive-in which is your classic 1950s style drive-in diner complete with retro booths and cars parked at the door.

The next zone is New York with aims to replicate the streets of, you guessed it, New York.

Universal Studios Singapore - New York
Universal Studios Singapore - New York
Universal Studios Singapore - New York
Universal Studios Singapore - New York

The detail in the buildings is great and there are many New Yorkish touches great for photos.  The main attraction here is Lights, Camera, Action in which Steven Spielberg hosts a show that lets you in on some of the secrets of movie effects as a hurricane hits New York city.

This zone also has a couple of great and tasty restaurants in which you can replenish your energy.

One of the great things about this park is that they have cleverly catered for the weather (which is humid and rainy – it only rained one day during our whole stay though).  The streets of Hollywood, New York and Sci-Fi City are all covered with a very high roof (see Hollywood photo) which keeps out the hot sun and the rain.  This clever design also reduces the temperature by about 5 degrees. It’s a very smart design.