Wednesday, June 22, 2016

5 Places In Aussie & NZ To See The Aurora Australis From Under $350

Meet Aurora Australis - The Lesser Known Sister

You don’t have to head north of the wall to see the aurora?! That’s right. You’ve probably caught wind of the news that the aurora borealis, or northern lights, is disappearing. Not forever, but it will be difficult to catch them after May 2016 for at least a decade. What nobody has told you is that the southern lights exist and you don’t have to travel far from Singapore to see it. 

What are the Southern Lights?

Aurora australis, or southern lights, is like the quiet sister of the popular girl - the less glamorous sibling who often goes unnoticed. But this is simply because she is far harder to get a glimpse of. When the spotlight does shine on her however, she transforms into a whole different person, dancing with pure grace. 
It’s been said that the colours of the southern lights are even more vibrant, with hues of orange, pink, purple and gold. While elusive, with a good deal of research and a stroke whole lot of luck, she's just as stunning.
Here’s curating a list of places down south, where you can marvel at the beauty of dancing lights in the night sky.

Where To Find Them

1. Tasmania, Australia

When people tell me about Tasmania, I blindly nod in agreement even though the entirety of my knowledge is limited to the Tasmanian Devil. Silly, but true. Just recently, I discovered that it is also home to one of the best places in the world to witness the magnificent southern lights. And it’s only a night’s sleep away? Count me in!
The lights can be seen throughout the year and all over the city with luck on your side. So whether you’re flying in from Hobart or Launceston, there are many convenient locations for viewing the aurora australis. 

Source Go all out and pitch a tent at Cradle Mountain to catch those lights!
Some favourite spots are Howrah, Seven Mile Beach, Dodges Ferry, Cockle Creek, Bridestowe Lavender Estate and Cradle Mountain. These places are all easily accessible by car, so don’t worry about having to travel miles across the country to see these babies. 
Getting there: 10 hour flight to Hobart or Launceston; roundtrip prices from $574
Best time to go:
 May to August

2. Victoria, Australia

Believe it or not, the aurora can be spotted in various parts of Victoria, home to the city of Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road. One such place is Ararat, just a 2.5 hour drive from Melbourne. I was beyond shocked when I found out, and wished someone had bothered to tell me earlier. By far the most accessible location to view the glimmering rainbow sky, it is also the rarest as it is further away from the South Pole.
I don’t know about you, but I still think it’s well worth the trip - or at least it’ll be a fun adventure trying to chase down them lights. Some even become obsessed with the chase, like these Aurora Chasers.
Getting there: 7 hour flight to Melbourne; roundtrip prices from $336
Best time to go:
 May to August

3. The Caitlins, New Zealand

At the very south of the mainland is the hidden gem of the Caitlins. I’ve never been there, but it’s been described as a rugged, natural beauty with endless coasts and towering green hills. Just imagine dancing atop hills to the soundtrack of The Sound of Music. 

The Waipapa Point Lighthouse is the most popular spot for seeing the southern lights - just check out the video above! It’s a short 1 hour drive from Invercargill, but many travellers prefer to take the 3 hour scenic drive from Queenstown - which is what I’d choose!
Getting there: 13 hour flight to Invercargill, stopover at Sydney or Christchurch; roundtrip prices from $972Best time to go: March to September

4. Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Source Lake Tekapo, a 3-hour drive from Christchurch
If there’s one thing you should know about auroras, it’s that you need pitch black darkness. No city lights and no moon light. That’s why Lake Tekapo makes it to this list. 
Part of the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, the darkness of its skies are unbeatable. There are restrictions to protect the sky surrounding the area from light pollution, so this makes viewing the southern lights that bit easier. With Mount John Observatory dedicated to appreciating the wonders of the night, you’ll be in good hands to capture that phantom sister of the North here. 
Getting there: 9 hour flight to Christchurch; roundtrip prices from $613
Best time to go:
 March to September

5. Stewart Island, New Zealand 

Source Stewart Island, a 15-minute flight from Invercargill or an hour's ferry from Bluff
Rounding up the list is Stewart Islands, which is where I’ll be heading. This is the closest you’ll get to the South Pole besides Antarctica. New Zealand’s third largest and southernmost island, Stewart Islands is known as Rakiura in Māori, which means “the land of glowing skies”. No prizes for guessing why - this place is incredibly remote, as such it’s where you can have the highest odds of sighting the elusive aurora in all its glory. 
Getting there: 13 hour flight to Invercargill, stopover at Sydney or Christchurch; roundtrip prices from $972
Best time to go:
 March to September

Aurora Australis - The view of a lifetime

Source Even if you miss the southern lights, a view like this ain’t so bad. 
Now you know, the southern lights exist! And you don’t have to venture across the world - it’s just around the corner in our neighbouring islands. 
Of course, I don’t want to bring your hopes up as it’s a difficult sight to catch and you’ll need luck on your side. One problem with the aurora is that it tends to be erratic and you’ll only get a 30 minute heads up before it appears. But maybe that’s part of the allure of the aurora australis - the mix of uncertainty and surprise makes for an exhilarating adventure to embark on for your next trip.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

DIY Film Digitisation Project

Check this out!!! Very cool. Will try this out someday.

Ever wondered which bird made this sound???

For years, I've been wondering which bird had been making this sound. Now I know. It's Asian Koel

The Asian koel is a large, long-tailed, cuckoo measuring 39–46 cm (15–18 in) and weighing 190–327 g (6.7–11.5 oz).[7][8] The male of the nominate race is glossy bluish-black, with a pale greenish grey bill, the iris is crimson, and it has grey legs and feet. The female of the nominate race is brownish on the crown and has rufous streaks on the head. The back, rump and wing coverts are dark brown with white and buff spots. The underparts are whitish, but is heavily striped. The other subspecies differ in colouration and size.[9] The upper plumage of young birds is more like that of the male and they have a black beak.[10] They are very vocal during the breeding season (March to August in the Indian Subcontinent), with a range of different calls. The familiar song of the male is a repeated koo-Ooo. The female makes a shrill kik-kik-kik... call. Calls vary across populations.[9]

The perfect way to cook a steak.

(Thanks ChefSteps for sharing. See more at

Always wondered why the Japanese takes very nice selfies?

Look no further... Check out the video. 3 tips...

Nice Food Pictures

Here are some very nice photos of cartoon characters made of rice that I've found on Facebook. I'm just reposting them for keepsake. Perhaps might even give me an idea of what to prepare for my kid's meal. Haha. Don't think I had the skills to do so. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

How Snoopy Ended Up on an Omega Speedmaster Dial

It is no secret that besides blogging about watches for, I also love to collect watches — especially iconic watches like the Rolex GMT-Master, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Rolex Datejust and, of course, the Omega Speedmaster Professional. I own several of the last model. Ever since I bought my first Speedmaster (more than 15 years ago) I have been hooked on this watch. Not only do I love the design of this chronograph (one of the most clean chronograph dials around); I also like its connection to the Apollo space program.

Silver Snoopy Award - front

As you know, Omega has produced quite a few limited editions based on the original Speedmaster Professional. Some like these limited editions, others don’t. However, the fact is that some of these limited editions do appreciate in market value quite well after a few years. One of these models is the Omega Speedmaster Professional “Snoopy Award.” My professional career started around the time this model was introduced (2003), so it was only a lack of funds that prevented me from buying Speedmaster Snoopy back then. Ever since, I have longed for one, but also noticed that over the years they became increasingly difficult to find, at least for a reasonable price. Recently, I decided to go for it despite the high price (compared to that of a standard Omega Speedmaster Professional). I justified the purchase by telling myself that the longer I’d wait, the more expensive it would get, anyway, right? You can read about the efforts I made to obtain the Speedmaster Snoopy here. After showing my precious new Speedmaster Professional with a Snoopy (turned into an astronaut) to some people, a number of them asked why I wanted a cartoon character on the dial of my watch. I was already aware that many people had this perception of the Speedmaster with the Snoopy dial, also given the fact that it was initially sold to a lot of women (women seem to love Snoopy a lot).
If you are a Speedmaster aficionado as well, and you know a thing or two about the Apollo missions, you probably are already familiar with the use of Snoopy by NASA. In 1968, NASA chose the famous beagle as an icon to act as a sort of “watchdog” over its missions. In the same year, NASA decided to use a sterling silver Snoopy pin as a sign of appreciation to NASA employees and contractors together with a commendation letter and a signed framed Snoopy certificate. Each of the sterling silver Snoopy label pins has been flown during a NASA mission. Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who created the “Peanuts” comic strip (featuring Snoopy and Charlie Brown) was a supporter of the NASA Apollo missions and agreed to let them use “Snoopy the astronaut” at no cost and even drew the Snoopy figure for the sterling silver label pin.
Silver Snoopy Award - pin

In May 1969, the Apollo 10 mission flew to the moon to do the final checks in order for the following mission, Apollo 11, to land on the Moon. The Apollo 10 mission required the LM (lunar module) to check the moon’s surface from nearby and “snoop around” to find a landing site for Apollo 11. Because of this, the Apollo 10 crew (Gene Cernan, John Young and Thomas Stafford) named the LM “Snoopy.” The Apollo CM (command module) was nicknamed “Charlie Brown.” Fast-forward to 1970. In the interim, humans had set foot on the moon and, about one year later, the Apollo 13 mission was meant to bring another team of NASA astronauts to the Moon (Lovell, Swigert and Haise). The mission’s objective was to explorer a certain area on the moon called the Fra Mauro formation. It didn’t get that far, as there was an explosion on board the service module at approximately 200,000 miles distance from Earth.
NASA’s ground control came up with a solution in the end, which required the astronauts to get creative with some materials on board their module. After fixes were made and all systems worked (more or less) again, the crew started their journey to Earth. This is the really quick version of the story of course; the entire adventure is depicted in the 1995 movie, Apollo 13, starringTom Hanks (an avid Speedmaster wearer himself, probably becoming one after his role in this movie). Now comes the part where the Speedmaster played an important role. The Apollo 13 crew needed the Omega Speedmaster watch, first to time ignition of the rockets to shorten the estimated length of the return to Earth, and secondly, to time the ignition of the rockets to decrease speed and raise the flight path angle for re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. This second operation was crucial, since any mistake in the timing could have led to an incorrect entry angle and, as a result, potential disaster for the crew. As explained before, NASA used the Snoopy award for special contributions and outstanding efforts from both NASA personnel and contractors. On October 5th, 1970, NASA gave the Omega Speedmaster a Snoopy award to acknowledge the crucial role the watch played during the Apollo 13 mission.
Silver Snoopy Award - caseback - caseback CU

In 2003, Omega introduced the Speedmaster Professional “Snoopy Award” to commemorate this 1970 milestone. Although the watch was a limited (and numbered) edition, Omega produced a whopping 5,441 pieces of the Speedmaster Snoopy. The number has to do with the 142 hours, 54 minutes and 41 seconds that the mission lasted. A bit of a stretch, in my opinion, but a nice idea. Omega’s reason for introducing this watch 33 years after the Apollo 13 mission, and being awarded with the Snoopy, is unknown to me. Based on the brand’s other limited editions, I would have expected such a release on a 30th or perhaps 35th anniversary rather than a 33rd. Despite the relative high number of Snoopy Speedmasters out there, you’ll have to search to find one at a decent price. Also, beware of Snoopy Speedmasters that had the dial and caseback fitted later on (Omega delivered them to service centers as spare parts). Always make sure you buy a Speedmaster Snoopy with the original anthracite (Snoopy) box, certificate of authenticity (with matching number on the caseback). There should also be a copy of the original Snoopy appreciation certificate with the watch.

Silver Snoopy Award - caseback
So now you know. When there is a Snoopy on an Omega Speedmaster dial, it actually means something. In the end, of course, one need not be versed in all this history to purchase and appreciate this watch; one may just be a fan of Snoopy. A review of the Omega Speedmaster Professional ‘Snoopy Award’ can be found here. More information about Omega Speedmasters in general can be found on the Speedy Tuesday page on Fratello Watches.
This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated.