It was my first time in China.
Our friends from Huawei flew us to Beijing as part of their media tour. After all the work was done, we were taken to some of the city’s most famous spots.
The HTC U11 used to have the highest-rated smartphone camera in the world — beating Google’s Pixel. But alas, the newer iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus proved to be more capable shooters and took the second and first spots, respectively. Ranking aside, join us as we take this handset’s camera for a spin.
Welcome to China as seen through the eyes of the HTC U11.
Tiananmen Square/Forbidden City
Our first stop was Tiananmen Square, which also leads to the famous Forbidden City. The area buzzed with tourists from different parts of the world; you see them walking, looking around, and taking selfies. To blend in, I switched to full-on tourist mode and quickly snapped one myself.
Thousands of tourists flock to the Square on a daily basis for its rich history — albeit with some unpleasant events. Being a communist country, surveillance around Beijing is tight. Hence, lampposts adorned with security cameras are a common sight around the city.
A few minutes of leisure walking led us to the entrance of the Forbidden City. For the unfamiliar, it was named as such since no one was allowed to enter or leave the place without the Emperor’s permission during the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century. This included the Emperor’s servants and wives.
China’s founding father Mao Zedong (aka Chairman Mao) has his photo mounted right smack in the middle of the entrance. Placards flank the photo with the words, “Long Live the People’s Republic of China” on the left and “Long Live the Great Unity of the World’s People” on the right. The above photo was taken using the phone’s panorama mode, hence the distortion.
The entire palace is made of exactly 980 buildings, all with a similar design exemplifying traditional Chinese palatial architecture. Structures are mostly painted in red with golden highlights, since yellow is the Emperor’s color. This combination of red and yellow brings a good contrast to the blue sky that the HTC U11 was able to distinctly capture.
The Chinese are keen on details which are truly evident when you wander inside the walls of the City. Every corner you see either has designs or symbolism embedded in them, like the tip of this roof with a dragon inside a circle. Apart from the craftsmanship and its significance, they are also good test subjects for our camera, as it’s able to bring out details and show a natural depth of field without any software assistance.
This photo shows good contrast between the highlights and shadows of the bronze artifact. You can see its ability to show details for the bright areas as well as the dark patches, meaning it can balance the exposure effectively even on Auto shooting mode.
It’s the same case for this beat-up motorcycle. Even with the subject sort of lit from behind, the U11 was able to maintain composure in the shadowy area of the front tire. Meanwhile, saturation on the Chinese flag stands out.
A good reference for color accuracy: Light colors and yellows maintain detail alongside neutral colors, shades of red are well represented, and cold blue sunglasses contrast the overall warm tone of the image.
The Great Wall
Our next stop was the Great Wall of China, which is about an hour bus ride out of the city. Like a dragon resting on the mountains, the Great Wall welcomed us with breathtaking views.
It was cloudy when we got there. The wind was blowing pretty strong, too. The gray sky created an overcast vibe and gloomy color, but thanks to the HDR feature of the U11, it was able to give the photo a livelier look by balancing the dark and light areas.
Again, there were lots of tourists taking in the sight of this Wonder of the World. Some of them were wearing brightly colored clothing that worked positively for our test shots, as they broke the prevalent green and brown color of the mountains.
Just a few minutes later, it started raining so we had to rush to one of the watchtowers for shelter. I quickly snapped this photo and the camera was able to show the contrasting areas with a fine gradient in between. The bricks also added an appreciated texture to the photo.
After the tour was over, we headed back to town to have a nice meal. It was also a good chance to shoot indoors with available lighting.
A natural bokeh effect was once again achieved by focusing on a close subject. Some digital noise can be seen here, but that’s understandable when shooting indoors with no extra lights.
With the camera’s large aperture (f/1.7), the U11 could achieve a natural-looking exposure with a shallow depth of field. This is why only selected parts of the flowers are in focus.
For me, balance in exposure and faithful color reproduction are the strong suits of HTC U11. During the time I used it for my trip, the handset’s camera was able to show details both in highlights and shadows without overcompensating. Colors were also rendered as you’d see them in real life. This could be a good or bad thing depending on the user, since some like the extra vibrance other phones apply to their photos.
Bottom line: The HTC U11 is a capable travel buddy that could replace your point-and-shoot camera for your out of town or international adventures.
[irp posts=”17685″ name=”HTC U11 Review: Better than the Pixel”]
24 Hours in Jakarta
Captured through the awesome camera of the Galaxy A71
When I hear Indonesia, Bali always comes to mind. Although I’ve never been there, I know it’s a dream destination for many because of its beaches, peaks, parks, temples, and terraces. It’s an escape out of the polluted and crowded cityscape.
Two hours away from Bali is the country’s capital, Jakarta. Its dense city structure further proves that it has been on a massive urban sprawl. Honestly, I had no idea where to go and what to do — but the internet exists for a reason. The only Indo things I’m aware of are mi goreng, nasi goreng, beef rendang, MONAS, Alfa Mart. That’s about it.
I flew all the way to Jakarta for Samsung’s Awesome Live Event with BLACKPINK where they introduced the Galaxy A51 and Galaxy A71. The day after the event, I finally had the phone on hand and tested its “awesome camera”, including the new ultra-wide lens.
Capturing the hotel view outside was the first thing I did with the phone. Not the best window view I had but the greenery added an ethereal escape against the sharp, tall slabs of concrete.
Going out of the room gives me another view. That large structure is the Tennis Indoor Senayan where Samsung held its live event. It’s also one of the venues of the 18th Asian Games and other K-Pop concerts. Seeing it from afar and up close made me realize how lucky I am.
Before heading out, I tried the hotel’s breakfast buffet. So far, so good. There was enough variety that I enjoyed eating. I spoiled myself by having more than five plates. Here’s a photo of the sweet food, for the wandering souls out there.
Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII)
I decided to go to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah as it’s located far from the skyline of Jakarta. Despite what the name suggests, this place isn’t “mini”. This museum is just one among the many parks you can see inside the TMII premises.
With limited time, I decided to push through — and I’m glad I did. It made me realize how similar Indonesians and Filipinos are, not just when it comes to appearance but also language. There are Bahasa and Tagalog words that both share the same meaning such as “selamat”, “datuk”, “kolintang”, “pintu”, “balik”, “lima”, “pula”, “kanan”, “anak”, and more. It’s truly fascinating.
These traditional art pieces show how rich and diverse Indonesia’s culture is. Some were hand-drawn, sculpted, weaved, or even painted, like the batik. They even have their own version of puppets called wayang.
After the three-story museum tour, I headed to a mini temple to rest and relax. Those who were caught off-guard by the claustrophobic dim spaces of the museum can enjoy the majestic pond outside.
National Monument (MONAS)
As mentioned earlier, I knew about MONAS. It’s Indonesia’s National Monument — and that’s because the city-building game I’m playing introduced me to it. I downloaded the landmark mod which made me recognize it’s one of Indonesia’s sought-after landmarks.
It’s erected right in the center of Jakarta. According to locals, you can see all of Jakarta if you go up — pretty much like a drone. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do that because of the flaming hot weather.
If you weren’t aware, Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch empire. Batavia was the old-day Jakarta. Thus, the “Old Batavia” they’re calling can be found here in Kota Tua.
What you see above is the Fatahillah Square which is the historical center of the old town. Beside it, there are museums pertaining to wayang, fine arts and ceramics, and even Jakarta’s history. During my visit, they were all closed.
If you are too lazy to walk around, there are these colorful bicycles you can rent.
The establishments here look nothing like modern-day Jakarta. A lot of cities saved much of their history through preservation of old buildings and Kota Tua is no exception.
After strolling for almost half an hour, I had my late lunch. Indonesian cuisine is known to be spicy. I teared up eating authentic mi goreng — its spice level is way too high for comfort. I love eating spicy food as long as they’re tolerable. Thankfully, Thai iced tea I ordered saved my tongue from burning.
I went to the night market early so I witnessed how vendors cooked their food before it got crowded. There are martabak and lumpia stalls although I didn’t get to try them.
The sun was setting so I hurried to see other establishments. There were a lot of shops that offer local kopi and indomie, while other stalls were selling phone cases and designer imitations. I didn’t find any souvenir shops around, although that might be because I was there before most shops opened.
Jakarta’s malls aren’t the biggest but they have exclusive shop offerings, like Plaza Senayan. It was surprising to see a bakery and a popular coffee shop inside the department store. It’s not something I’m used to, and I found it odd considering they were selling all sorts of cosmetic products within the vicinity.
I wasn’t too happy with the food choices at Plaza Senayan so I went to another mall near the hotel called FX Sudirman. I only had a few hours left before I had to leave so might as well enjoy what I can have.
As a Libra, being indecisive is part of my whole being. I roamed around and there were better food choices but I got tired so I chose to eat at an American burger joint instead. The Salted Egg Cheese Burger was good although the salted egg flavor was barely there.
When I went out I was greeted by these roller skaters going back and forth the sidewalk.
3-Star Airport (?)
I was surprised that the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport is only a 3-star airport. It’s not as fancy as Singapore’s Changi, but it’s clean, organized, and the architecture is modern and striking. My flight departed at midnight, so you can see how quiet and less crowded it gets off-peak hours.
Unlike other airports that offer 24-hour services, most shops and restaurants after immigration were already closed by the time I got there.
Too little time for a huge city
Moments before boarding the plane, I somehow wished I could’ve stayed longer. It would’ve also been more “awesome” if I met locals around. It’s hard to imagine how I managed to compress what I wanted to see in just 24 hours. It may not be long before they transfer the city capital crown to East Kalimantan in Borneo, so I’m hoping I can come back before that happens with a more well-thought out itinerary.
All photos were taken using the Samsung Galaxy A71.
24 hours in Mövenpick with the Honor 9X
I didn’t want to leave
I know you must feel strange to be hearing back from me writing another travel article when last time I tried, I preemptively said that I was horrible at writing about my adventures. Well, you guys might have to deal with reading my silly little travel psychobabble again because I went to Cebu for a weekend and I brought the Honor 9X with me.
Okay, this is technically not fair since Cebu is like home to me at this point. I luckily grew up visiting Cebu a lot. My older siblings were born there, so that’s not much of a surprise. On this trip though, my parents opted out of staying in a hotel in the middle of the bustling city. We decided to stay by the beach at Mövenpick. We have never been to Mövenpick before. So, it was going to be pretty interesting to explore the place.
The view was stunning. I didn’t even know what to capture first. It was that gorgeous. When we arrived, the staff were lovely enough to let us roam the area despite not having checked in yet. Mövenpick is pretty. The moment you get dropped off at the lobby, the place instantly assaults your senses with everything beach. It smells, sounds, and feels like you’re at the beach.
That’s obviously because a few steps farther, you’re already at the beach. The place is well designed to have the ocean breeze flow from the bayfront to the resort lobby. It’s open-spaced.
No such thing as fasting at breakfast
This is the only photo of food I managed to snag before inhaling it. I’m not going to apologize for being a little hangry considering I hadn’t had a meal for hours and I stayed up all night. This is Mövenpick’s poached egg breakfast. Was it good? Yes. I mean, look at it. How could it not be?
I think off the bat, that how the food tasted may have shifted a little considering I was zoning out because of the view. It’s really pretty and honestly, it testing my writing skills (if I have any) to try and find more synonyms to great, pretty, and lovely.
Dinner at the Ibiza
No, I didn’t take a pill in Ibiza. And yes I know, nobody asked. Mövenpick has this by-the-bay restaurant and bar called the Ibiza. They have live music and good food so if you’ve booked a room, this is the place to be at night. There’s food, an amazing view, and live music. Is there anything more I could have asked for? No. It was perfect.
The Ibiza is open in the morning too. If you want to have your breakfast there, you can soak in the early morning ocean breeze while eating.
Here come excuses
Alright, I didn’t take many photos while in Cebu, at least, not as many as I would like to. I wanted to savor every stunning moment there. I haven’t been back in ages and I’ve barely spent time at the beach. Not to mention, I rarely get to see my little nephew.
I guess as much as this article is about bringing the Honor 9X with me to show off how the phone is capable of capturing every lovely moment of your travels, it’s good to sometimes be in the moment. It isn’t on the Honor 9X for uncaptured moments. It’s totally on me for leaving it in my bag. Having said that, I think it was good to have eased off bringing the phone along every single second of the trip. I’m more than happy to have lived those quiet undocumented moments.
I’m not saying you should drop taking pictures altogether. It’s nice to have documented moments of a trip especially when it’s somewhere stunning. It’s nice to have something to look back on and to remind us of good times. I suppose it’s just nice to sometimes wean off of being so obsessive with what you can capture and instead, be in the moment.
All photos are taken with the Honor 9X
24 Hours in Busan
Through the lenses of Redmi Note 8 Pro
Alright, I’m not that great at writing about my adventures while travelling, so be gentle. Don’t come at me. I often journal about my day, but that’s to keep track of commissions and cookie orders.
Anyways, I went to Busan, South Korea for G-Star. If you guys don’t know, G-Star is one of Asia’s biggest video game expos. Knowing that I was pretty excited to fly to South Korea for it. There was going to be good food, lovely company, tons of skincare and video games — all the things I love. Of course, I was going to be pumped.
A warm welcome and stay
We were staying at Haeundae which is a nice chilly beach-side area in November. When we arrived, a kind soul lived in the area and was more than happy to drive us to our Airbnb. If mister Lim somehow stumbles upon this article, thank you so very much for your hospitality and kindness. You were relentlessly kind and there’s no amount of thanking I could do for what you did for us.
He drove us to our Airbnb and offered to take us all out to dinner. He took us to have some sashimi by the bay. It was amazing. I was at loss for words. One moment, we picked a fish; the next, it was skinned, deboned, and chopped up ready to eat.
Haeundae is a pretty touristy spot. Most locals rush here during the summer. Considering we were there mid-November, it was pretty windy and cold by the beach. This didn’t really change how stunningly scenic the place was though. From early morning walks by the beach to the hectic nightlife in the area, you can never go wrong by exploring the area.
When you’re close to the Haeundae beach, you need to wake up early to watch the sunrise. You cannot miss out on seeing the sunrise or sunset when you’re by any beach. That’s my rule of thumb.
If you’d like to explore the place at night, you’re in for a treat. The place is booming with lights and music. We dropped by a street market nearby that sold tons of fresh produce. If you’re daring enough, you can have fresh eel and squid. If there was ever a time I felt strangely lucky to be allergic to most kinds of seafood, it would be that day.
South Korea has amazing food
Before anything else, I just need to say: South Korea has amazing food. I don’t know where to even begin. Just an hour after landing at Busan and I had already fallen in love with the place. It may have been the Somaek talking, but still. There is a growing list of meals I’ve tried in Korea that I will forever miss until my wishful and hopeful return. I can’t even say which one was my favorite since all of them were pretty flipping good.
I already loved kimchi. I know it’s not necessarily a dish in and of itself, but I love kimchi so much I would cut someone for the last serving of kimchi. I’m kidding! Or am I?
Jokes aside, you need to try out sashimi when and if you find yourself in Haeundae. With people being so close to the sea, everything is super fresh. Have that with some soju and beer and you’ll be having the night of your life.
I didn’t get to take too many photos while I was at the convention center because it was so swamped! Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time roaming the expo. The booths were massive and everyone was so kind and approachable! I have Ywiser to thank for letting me join them on the trip.
G-Star 2019 was an intense trip. There were so many eye-catching booths everywhere. It didn’t help how every booth I passed were games I already play, games I have and haven’t played, and games I would kill to play. There were tons of people, left and right.
I would stare longingly at filled up loot bags from booths some people managed to rack up. I mean, as of writing, I’m staring at my loot bag that I didn’t get to fill to the brim with free merch from booths. As a completionist, my hands were itching to attain every achievement, but we ran out of time…
I’ll have to admit, Busan was a memorable trip. If anything, I’ve come back home seriously learning Korean. It was an unforgettable experience. I still wake up craving for some Seolleongtang and I’ve almost completely stopped drinking every night since the trip.
Most of the things I brought back were freebies from the expo, skincare, and a ton of fond memories I’d want to come back to on the next trip. I think, with the Redmi Note 8 Pro, I managed to capture some of the stunning scenery I obviously didn’t want to miss out on.
Busan was lovely and there were no brain-starving zombies. I didn’t get to take a good photo of the bridge where a scene in Black Panther was shot, but if you go, please do. Haeundae is such a scenic place. You can’t help but stop at your tracks and stare.
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