Travel YouTubers in the Spotlight!

Travel YouTubers in the Spotlight!

Ever travelled and wondered where to start searching for content to plan your trip? In many of my other posts, I’ve often discussed travel and booking platforms, including tips which I gather from other traveller’s itineraries. However, there is a platform that I often look at – the good ol’ YouTube.

Content creators have made traveling a lot more visual. With more than just photos, these travel video logs (aka vlogs) provide tips and a good snapshot of a country or attraction that you intend to visit. 

Here are three of my must-watch YouTube channels –

Kyung6Film – Global Travel Vlogs

Kyung6Film’s YouTube Channel

A Korean content creator that create visually aesthetic videos and has amazing editing. It is evident that they do their homework before traveling to a place as they provide insights to some of the places that they head to. Not all their videos have English subtitles but many do not have voice-overs – just videos of the places. Here’s one of their videos which introduced Singapore – if I worked for the Singapore Tourism Board, I would certainly pay this vlogger for this wonderful feature!

欸你這週要幹嘛 (Ariel’s Travel Vlogs) – Global Travel Vlogs

欸你這週要幹嘛 ‘s YouTube Channel

A Taiwanese content creator, Ariel vlogs her trips with her friends and family and often provides many tips on the different places she visits. Her content is very family and friend-centric which exudes a friendly and positive vibe when watched – a warm, fuzzy feeling which many travel vlogs do not show. With a rise in popularity and of course, business opportunities, Ariel is upfront whenever a trip is sponsored or when she’s gifted something, which makes her seem very approachable as well. I’m often tickled by her honest opinions and enjoy her regular vlogs. Here’s one of her travel vlogs to Turkey! *Do note that her vlogs are in mandarin. 

KimDao – Japan Travel Vlogs

Kimdao’s YouTube Channel

An Australian content creator, KimDao is known for her Japan travel tips and shopping hauls. What caught my eye about this vlogger is that you can see the effort she takes in creating her list of recommended places. Take for example her 100 Things to do in TOKYO, JAPAN | Japan Travel Guide video. This video was filmed over a series of countless trips to Japan and is a very good guide for someone who is planning a trip there! Her latest video (NO TOKYO!) 100 THINGS You MUST DO in JAPAN 🇯🇵 | Japan Travel Guide also provides travelers a glimpse of a different Japan and a highlight of what you can see outside of the major cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. 

Did you know? It’s been said that it takes at least an hour (for a pretty experienced video editor) to edit a minute of video content so I really do appreciate the effort these content creators put in!

Now, which other YouTube channels would you recommend, and why?

Hunting for a notebook

Love the packaging

What do you look out for when you’re looking for a new notebook computer? Though I’m quite at home with technology and am an avid follower of the scene, this question still caused me to stop and think for a bit.

What exactly was I looking for? Taking a step back, I began with why I was searching for a new one in the first place.

My existing notebooks were a 17-inch gaming notebook which I used for the office and a 13-inch Apple MacBook Air for travelling. One’s powerful but too heavy to lug around while the other is light but runs on a different operating system.

The gaming notebook is great for working on spreadsheets (which I don’t fancy), watching movies and playing games. While it’s a few years old, it still packs enough grunt to get everything done fast. The only negative was it’s weight, making it highly unportable.

On the other hand, the MacBook Air provided the portability, which is especially useful for my travel. I bought it after feeling the strain of carrying another notebook while on trips to the US. The Apple device is not as fast (it was bought in 2011) as the Windows-based notebook (which is designed with power in mind) but it was enough to get things done.

Why change

Toggling between the two computers involved backing up and copying my Outlook file whenever I have to travel, which was about once a month.

This means that I use a Windows computer most of the time. While I have no issue with macOS, it does take a bit of getting reacquainted every few weeks.

Outlook and Word also works differently on both platforms. The functionalities are generally the same but the little differences began to take its toll, particularly the cut-and-paste between documents and Outlook.

Since June, I’ve had to spend more time out of the office so I’m using the Mac a little more but what’s worst is the constant copying and backing up of files.

What I need

Having identified my painpoints, I have an idea of what I need:

  1. Powerful
  2. Portable
  3. Window-based
  4. Affordable
  5. Reliable brand
  6. X-factor

The research took longer than expected as I could not find one that matched all my requirements. How brands named and positioned their product lines also made the search a little challenging. I also turned to a well-known editor for his advice.

This is it

Just when I thought that nothing could match my criteria, I read about an upcoming notebook.

Asus had announced earlier in the year that it was coming up with its 30th anniversary edition. After pouring through the known specs in detail, I was quite certain that this was what I wanted.

The limited-edition Asus ZenBook Edition 30 was supposed to be launched in conjunction with an IT show in September. A quick check with Asus a day before the show revealed that the notebook’s already available in the store.

I drove to the nearest Asus store but could not find it on the display shelf. When queried, the salesperson pointed to an empty space on the shelf and said that was where the new notebook will be placed. He added that he could furnish me with the specs if I was interested to find out more.

Before I could educate the young man, his colleague said that the unit’s in the storeroom and she could get it for me after she’s done with a customer.

Ten minutes later, I became the proud owner of a brand new notebook.

Why I like this

My purchase was no impulse decision. Here are why I picked this over dozens of others:

  1. Powerful enough: It sports an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8565U CPU supported by the NVIDIA GeForce MX250 GPU and 16GB of RAM — that’s enough horsepower for me.
  2. Portable enough: Weighing under 1.3kg, it comes with a 13.3-inch LED-backlit Full HD display with four-sided frameless NanoEdge design.
  3. Window-based: It runs of Windows 10 so I do not have to toggle between two operating sytems.
  4. Affordable enough: Priced at S$2,198, it’s a little ex for an average notebook but this is definitely not an average notebook.
  5. Reliable brand: HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Acer are some leading brands that I’ve used in the past. From my experience with my gaming notebook, Asus stands right up there with the best.
  6. X-factor: Now, this is where the Asus ZenBook Edition 30 is streets ahead of the rest. Imagine a notebook clad in pearl white leather and rose gold anodised diamond-cut edges and trim bar. The rose gold logo is futuristic and not so in-your-face. And it features a second screen on the mouse pad. While many have written this off as a gimick, I found it to be useful for viewing a messaging app or the Spotify playlist. Oh, the package also includes a matching mouse and leather notebook sleeve. Really nice touch.

After nearly three months of using the Asus ZenBook Edition 30, I simply love this. It’s everything I need and a little more.

VAT refund made easy in Italy

VAT refund made easy in Italy

Singaporeans spend around €1 billion in Europe annually but only 55 – 65% of tax refunds are generally received by tourists. However, this percentage can now be increased to up to 85% with the introduction of the UTU Direct application and service, a product of Singapore-based UTU, the only PCI certified VAT Refund operator in Europe. 

The application serves as a platform for shoppers to receive their VAT refund from the consolidation of purchases to the tracking of transactions and receipt of the refund.

In a press release from UTU, it says, “To use UTU Direct, tourists simply need to bring the tax refund form issued by any tax free shopping operator to UTU Customer Service Counters at airports, city centres or UTU’s lounge at via Montenapoleone in Milan – all of which can be easily located using the UTU Tax Free app. Using this service to consolidate all tax refund forms from various operators offers tourists convenience to go directly to Customs and skip the queues at tax refund booths at major Italian airports.“

Image taken from UTU Direct’s Website

This is great news for someone like me as I’ll be heading to Europe for a vacation soon. Getting a VAT refund is not the easiest thing, especially when there are many forms involved and the long queues at the airports (had a nasty experience in Bangkok). Keeping my fingers crossed that this process will benefit many tourists and that the utilization of the app and service will be a straight-forward and swift experience!

End of support for Adobe Acrobat and Reader 2015

It used to be that when we buy something, we own it for life and use it for as long as the thing works. Think television, radio, refrigerator, hair dryer, and car.

But technology is not only changing our life but the way we own products. Adobe today announced that support for Adobe Acrobat 2015 and Adobe Reader 2015 will end on April 7, 2020.

OK, hands up, Adobe is not the first to do this. Apple has done so, Microsoft as well, but somehow this move by Adobe got me ruffled a little and set me thinking more.

Still nicely wrapped up but no longer supported.

Admittedly, I don’t own either software — I own OLDER versions, including a couple of sets with shrinkwrap intact. Guess those are also no longer supported.

According to Adobe, end of support means that Adobe no longer provides technical support, including product and/or security updates, for all derivatives of a product or product version.

While it is understandable — to a certain degree — why software companies are doing so, as a product owner, one can feel shortchanged.

Technical support adds to cost for the vendor so that makes financial sense for them. But, what about letting users pay for that support, if needed. That way, users won’t feel that all is totally lost…

…unless the intention is to force users to migrate! Adobe has adopted a subscription model, like many software vendors, so that revenue is recurring rather than a one-off earning. But many users have invested heavily on the software, which incidentally is not cheap. And this move may just push them to consider using the many other Adobe compatible software out in the market.

More important that technical support for an existing user is security updates. This is one thing they really need. The digital space is rife with viruses and malware appearing in hordes daily so having updated security is a must.

Again, if Adobe feels that it cannot continue providing security patches, how about charging a subscription fee for such updates so that users can continue using their existing Adobe products?

Adobe is not the first and certainly won’t be the last to deliver the death knell to other versions of its products. But, if software companies continue to take this approach of ending support, which in Adobe’s case, is after five years, users may well start adding a longeivity criteria when evaluating future purchases.

Save more with ShopBack!

Save more with ShopBack!

If you are an avid online shopper, you may have heard of ShopBack which provides consumers like us a chance to save more money through cash back from purchases. I was pretty sceptical about how it worked initially but having used it for a couple of months, I have seen its benefits through the actual cash I’ve received. 

There are a couple of ways to use ShopBack – via ShopBack website (on desktop), the ShopBack mobile application or the ShopBack add-on on Google Chrome (on desktop). To use it, one must click on the desired merchant via the ShopBack website or mobile application in order for the transaction to be tracked. For the Chrome add-on option, if Chrome detects that you are at a merchant site that is part of the ShopBack program, it will notify you and you can activate the cash back tracking from there directly without having to click through the ShopBack website. 

ShopBack Add-On

Every merchant listed on ShopBack will have a different percentage of cash back (i.e. 5.5% for Klook transactions, 6% for Expedia hotel transactions) or a fixed value per transaction (i.e. $5 for Airbnb). Essentially, as long as your cash back is tracked via the mentioned methods above, you will get the cash back equivalent once the transaction is confirmed by the merchant. Do note, however, that transactions can take up to 90 days for confirmation by merchants (for hotel bookings, confirmation will only be done after your visit). 

ShopBack Merchants

So, I’ve covered the online shopping portion, but what about the other option, ShopBack Go? 

ShopBack Go works in a different way and also provides cash back for consumers. Once you have linked your desired credit card to your ShopBack account, it will automatically track your cash back for you should they detect that you’ve made a transaction with a partner merchant. I experienced it myself when ordering a cup of coffee from Spinelli and paid for it with the credit card I linked to ShopBack (I didn’t realize that Spinelli was a partner). Upon payment, I received a notification via the ShopBack mobile app to inform me that my transaction was tracked. While it was just a small amount, I still appreciated the savings I had! 

Shopback Go Merchants

Once you have more than $10 accumulated from your confirmed ShopBack transactions, you will be able to retrieve the amount by linking it to your local bank account. Cash withdrawal will take a couple of days, but fret not, the money does indeed come in. 

ShopBack Transactions Tracking

If you are still sceptical about it and wonder why such a site exists, you are not alone. I read up on how ShopBack and merchants benefited from this scheme and realized that merchants do not need to pay to get their site listed and will give ShopBack a cut of transactions. Through being listed under ShopBack, merchants will also gain publicity to consumers who use ShopBack. As such, it benefits both ShopBack and merchants, with consumers like us benefitting greatly from it.

So why not try it out? You can use my referral link here to get $5. 

The battle of Tau Sar Piahs

The battle of Tau Sar Piahs

If you frequent the Balestier area in Singapore, you would be aware that other than the many lighting shops in the area, there are two Tau Sar Piah shops along that stretch – Loong Fatt Tau Sar Piah and 603 Tau Sar Piah. 

Having tasted the Loong Fat Tau Ear Piah before, I was more than eager to make my purchase. A total of 15 salted tau sar piah pastries at a shot! As I walked down to the shop, at the end of a row shophouses, the aroma of the heavily buttered pastries was evident. The queue was short, perhaps because I went after the lunch crowd had subsided.   

603 Tau Sar Piah, on the other hand, was new to me. However, as it was equally affordable as the Loong Fast Tau Sar Piah, I decided to buy two salted tau tar piahs for a taste test. 

Size and density

About the same size, but 603’s Tau Sar Piah is slightly (only marginally) bigger. Loong Fatt’s Tau Sar Piah is less dense compared to 603’s.

Colour (Toastiness) 

Loong Fatt’s colour is less brown as compared to 603’s. Perhaps due to how dense 603’s is, it probably had to be toasted longer to ensure that the pastry is well-cooked. 

Pastry

Loong Fatt’s is very buttery, flakey and soft. On the other hand, 603’s is on the sturdier side and has fewer layers — more of a pineapple tart outer layer than a pastry. 

Filling

Loong Fatt’s salty tau sar piah was definitely on the sweet side. In fact, when I had the pastry the first few times, I often questioned whether the staff had given me the sweet pastry instead of the salty one. 603’s salty tau sar piah was less sweet, and had a similar filling to that of Penang’s famous tau sar piah.    

Verdict

For someone who loves sweet, flakey and buttery pastries, my choice would be Loong Fatt’s Salty Tau Sar Piah. However, if you enjoy the Penang tau sar piah, 603’s Salty Tau Sar Piah is definitely for you as it has a strong resemblance to it! 

If you’re keen on trying out the pastries, try visiting their stores at:

Loong Fatt 龍發豆沙餅
639 Balestier Rd, Singapore 329922
Opens 8.00am — 4.30pm (Closed on Sundays)

603 Tau Sar Piah 
603 Balestier Rd, Singapore 329904
Opens 8.00am — 6.30pm (Daily)

Pier 21 – A Food Haven

With many shopping malls popping up all around Thailand’s capital, one mall still draws a steady crowd despite having been around for quite a few number years. Terminal 21, a themed mall, is designed with every level within the building representing a specific country. While unique, this is not its main feature which stands out to me. What stands out is Pier 21.

Sixth Floor – San Francisco-themed

Situated on the sixth floor which is San Francisco-themed, Pier 21 is a food court in Terminal 21 that serves a wide variety of food – from local Thai food to international food like pasta. What’s most fascinating about the place is not the great quality of food but the prices of the food!

To give you a rough gauge of the prices of food there, a plate of fried rice noodles (kuay teow) with chicken/pork costs THB 28 (~ USD$1) and a bowl of fish maw soup costs THB 40 (USD $1.30). Portion-wise, the plate of rice noodles is good for one person while the bowl of soup can be shared among two people. If you have a seafood craving, you can try the oyster omelette at THB 60 (USD $2). Served on a bed of bean sprouts, the crispy-edged oyster omelette with oysters is definitely a must-eat for me – even better than the ones in Singapore and Taiwan!

The making of crispy pancakes!

For desserts, a plate of mango sticky rice costs THB 50 (USD $1.70) and the little crispy pancakes with shredded salted egg toppings costs THB 30 (USD $1) for 10. In the video above, you can see how fresh these little crispy pancakes are!

Served in an air-conditioned and modern setting, this food court is able to serve delectable food options at such a low cost as rent is not collected here. This allows cost-savings to be passed on to customers like ourselves!

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a place to eat reasonably priced and tasty local food, Pier 21 is definitely a must-go food haven. Apart from eating at Terminal 21, you can also explore the different levels (and toilets!) that are peppered with iconic structures in the country it represents.