24 Hours Series

24 Hours in Taipei with the Redmi 4 Prime

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24 Hours is a series on GadgetMatch.com where we showcase our travels through a smartphone camera’s perspective. It’s also a documented guide on things to see and do in a city in case you happen to plan a trip there.

For someone whose priority in taking photos is to make sure they look good on Instagram, I rarely tinker with a phone camera’s manual settings to achieve more professional-looking shots. After all, Instagram is all about capturing life’s moments as they happen. Especially when you’re exploring a new city, there’s really not enough time to adjust your exposure and ISO, let alone fit everything you want to do in such a short period of time.

I took one of our favorite budget phones, the Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime, to a New Year’s Eve celebration in Taipei to see how the phone fares.

New Year’s Eve at Taipei 101

We watched the fireworks show at one of the hotels beside Taipei 101, and boy was it amazing! Although it was shorter than I expected, and navigating the crowd was quite difficult even hours before the countdown, the way it was designed to mix with lights coming out of the skyscraper’s windows left me in awe and wanting more.

Taipei 101, as millennials used to say in 2016, was lit af that night. I didn’t expect much from a phone that costs less than $200, so I was quite surprised at how the Redmi 4 Prime was able to capture these shots.

Spirited Away in Jiufen

This famous tea house in Jiufen, a 90-minute bus ride from Taipei, is said to be the inspiration for the bath house in the Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away. 

It’s picturesque no matter the time of day. I’ve been here at night on a previous trip, but seeing it against Taiwan’s blue skies is quite an experience, too. I turned HDR on to achieve said blue skies without making the tea house too dark.

It worked well on portraits, too!

Yehliu Geopark

Around 40 minutes away from Jiufen is Yehliu Geopark. I’ve seen plenty of gloomy photos taken here in the past, so I’d say we’re pretty #blessed to have great weather when we went there.

Sleeplessness did not stop us from taking photos that day. Here’s a selfie!

I’m still blown away by how this photo turned out! Props to my friend for looking like a professional model, but wow. Who’d believe an inexpensive phone can take a photo like this? The best part was we didn’t have to do multiple takes under that sunlight. I tapped the shutter way too early in the first shot, but nailed this fashion spread material on the second try.

teamLab exhibit at Huashan 1914 Creative Park

Huashan 1914 Creative Park is one of those things I wish we had in Manila. It’s a former winery restored and converted into an art space and is a good place to hang out with your friends, or even a date. Wink.

Of the six times I’ve been to Taipei, I visited Huashan three times, but never really paid so much attention to the exhibits and events. That day though, we were lucky enough to chance upon teamLab’s exhibit that I kept seeing on Instagram when my friends went to Tokyo a few months ago.

The exhibit was an immersive digital art jungle for kids and adults alike. While it was a lot of fun, it was here where I saw the Redmi 4 Prime struggle for the first time, since all the sections in the exhibit were dark so one can fully experience the colors and lights in the kaleidoscopic universe teamLab made. The phone had a hard time taking clear and sharp photos, especially with so much movement going on everywhere.

We tried to take a selfie inside, but with the help of my friend’s LuMee case.

We enjoyed the exhibit so much that we stayed there for almost three hours, but that was also partly because it became difficult to properly document the experience with the Redmi 4 Prime.

Chiang Kai-shek memorial

Our last stop was the Chiang Kai-shek memorial just a few hours before our flight. The results weren’t the best.

To say that I’m not a fan of how this turned out is an understatement.

Verdict

The Redmi 4 Prime set the bar so high during the day and left me disappointed come night time. The amazing photos it took made me proud and wonder how such a cheap device can make something look so good. But when it didn’t, reality hit me and reminded me that I needed to manage my expectations considering how much the phone costs.

Photos taken in daylight were consistently great, but those in low light were a hit or miss. When the trip is best enjoyed during daytime, say, the beach, the Redmi 4 Prime would be good for it. But for cities like Taipei, where some of the most exciting activities (read: night market) happen at night, you might want to look elsewhere.

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24 Hours Series

24 Hours in El Nido with the LG V40 ThinQ

No photos can do justice to its beauty

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El Nido is a tropical paradise I’ve always wanted to visit in Palawan, Philippines. Known for its unspoiled islands and limestone cliffs, it was always a top priority in my must-see list.

Getting to El Nido

From Manila, you need to hop on a plane bound to Puerto Princesa. I flew with AirAsia, a low-cost airline that offers discounts all year round. Upon arrival, you have to ride a van or bus (whichever you prefer) for a six-hour road trip to El Nido. If you’re crazy rich, you can fly with AirSwift which offers direct flights from Manila.

Seeing El Nido from above

Because of the erratic weather from a tropical depression, the coast guard believed it was best to halt all island-hopping tours. With that, we took the chance to hike the popular Taraw Cliff. We chose a safer alternative called Canopy Walk which included a harness to ensure safety.

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We were huffing and puffing as we climbed through a steep rock formation — even more so when we started climbing a steel ladder and treetop walkway. When we reached the top, it was breathtaking. In spite of the thick clouds, El Nido was still beautiful.

Seizing the day

Being on a tropical island means you can’t figure out what the weather will be like on a particular day. For us, it went from rain to clear skies within a couple of hours. Once clear enough, we rode a boat which held our buffet lunch, courtesy of our organizer.

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While the sun was on our side, we headed to Las Cabanas beach resort in Maramegmeg Beach, a popular sunset spot.

Off to find paradise…

Finally, the storm had passed and the sun was out. We went to the port and rode our boat, ready for another adventure!

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Our first stop was Paradise Beach in Cadlao Island. By its name, you already know what’s waiting: pristine white sand and crystal-clear water with varying hues of blue. It’s truly a paradise.

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Seven Commando Beach

Coconuts, cottages, and towering palm trees — Seven Commando Beach is ideal for those who want to spend summer on a tropical island. Since we found shade, we decided to take our buffet lunch here.

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Shimitzu Island and Secret Lagoon

Onto water activities, we snorkeled around Shimitzu Island. After that, we entered Secret Lagoon through a small gap in between limestone cliffs. Being the clumsy type, I had to keep my phone inside my waterproof bag and give up on taking photos, lest I let my phone end up at sea.

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Big Lagoon

The day was about to end and we capped off our tour in Big Lagoon, where tourists are encouraged to ride a kayak for PhP 300 (US$ 5) just so they can visit the attraction. The kayak is good for two people, but I had no one to share it with. 👀

The entrance to Big Lagoon

Home to beautiful sunsets

Corong-Corong Beach

We arrived back at the town proper during sunset. Since El Nido is situated on the northwestern tip of Palawan facing Bacuit Bay, it’s always a good place to watch fiery sunsets.

An adventure worth every penny

I’ve always taken pride in planning my own itinerary. Given that I only had a short time to explore El Nido, I booked an accredited travel organizer instead to handle everything — from van transfers, to finding accommodations, and preparing permits and island tours.

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All I had to do was make the most of my trip and capture memories with the LG V40 ThinQ. I definitely had fun playing with its ultra-wide-angle camera and taking photos of the most beautiful islands in the world.

And yet, no photos could do justice to El Nido’s beauty.


24 Hours is a series on GadgetMatch.com where we showcase our travels through a smartphone camera’s perspective. It’s also a documented guide on things to see and do in a city in case you happen to plan a trip there.

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24 Hours Series

24 Hours in Koh Samui with the GoPro Hero 7

Thailand’s second-largest island is to die for!

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Having been to Thailand on multiple occasions, I always thought I knew everything that the country had to offer — but that was until I met Koh Samui.

As Thailand’s second-largest island (right after the popular Phuket), it’s home to gorgeous beaches, lovely temples, and some of the most attractive resorts and spas this side of the coast.

My stay didn’t last long enough to cover all there is to see in Koh Samui, but I did get to take part in the more adventurous aspect of island — making the choice of using a GoPro Hero 7 to document the trip all the more fitting!

A selfie right in front of the beach is in order! My group’s very first activity was snorkeling south of Koh Samui. Boats are easy enough to rent from here, the size of which depends on how large your group is.

If you’re in a rush to enter the ocean, you’re better off going for a speed boat like this. At a speed of about 50 knots (or 92kph!), you’re sure to soak up lots of sea breeze — which I wholeheartedly appreciated. 👌

Near the coast of Tean Island, we snorkeled through reefs which weren’t that deep or had dangerous corals. I’d say it’s very beginner-friendly, especially for those who can’t swim that well or fear the deep blue sea, but want to see colorful fish in their natural habitat.

Since the sun was still high and we didn’t want to turn into fried seafood ourselves, we took shelter in a nearby island called Koh Mat Sum. It’s tiny in comparison to neighboring islands, and it’s inhabited by…

… these adorable pigs! Yes, the island is filled with them, and I saw more piggies than I did other animals. Not that I mind, but I wonder what their purpose is. 🐖👀

Koh Mat Sum is also home to well-formed sand bars with some of clearest, bluest water I’ve ever seen. It’s great to see such pristine beaches even in tourist hotspots — I can’t say the same for some islands I’ve been to in other countries. Please pick up your trash, folks!

I had to prove my existence on this splendid island, so I took a photo using the Hero 7’s ten-second timer. Not-so-fun fact: This is the brand’s first action camera to have the feature! Why did this take so long, GoPro?!

All good things to come to an end, but they also lead to more fun activities, like this off-road ATV adventure I was about to go on after riding these pickup trucks. Back in Koh Samui, the dense forests are home to not only unspoiled wildlife and lots of fruit, but tracks perfect for driving through, as well.

Out ATVs were provided by the fine people of Samui Quad Motor, which provides vehicles of all colors and sizes, depending on what you need most. I obviously went for the larger model, and I’m glad I did, because the river parts needed more ground clearance to get through.

Because we had a lot of beginners in the group — myself included — we took a lot of breaks in between to let everyone catch up and brace ourselves for each leg of the trail. Having completed the most difficult part (check out that river behind me), I had to take another selfie because reasons. 🤳

The entire day was admittedly tiring and not what I’m used to — I’m just a work-at-home editor, after all — so getting back to our resort was a godsend. The Renaissance Koh Samui Resort and Spa is a spectacular place to stay in, albeit a little pricey, but you definitely get what you pay for.

I had this little balcony outside of my room with space for two. Since I was alone, I used this outdoor spot to air-dry my clothes from the day’s escapades. But I still wish I had someone to share this with. 💔

Blue Leaf is one of the restaurants found within the resort. It’s the place to be in when you want a quick order of Pad Thai, spring rolls, fresh fruit, or Pad Thai — it’s so good it has to be mentioned twice!

Walking past the restaurant, you’ll find this vast pool facing the ocean. There are rarely any people here, because the beach right in front of it is what everyone actually wants to experience. Wait for it…

Here they are! This area is certainly the most Instagrammable part of the whole resort. This alone is worth the price of admission! So what exactly were these two models seeing in the background? Check this…

One of Koh Samui’s famous sunsets! I’ve seen tons of memorable sunsets all my life, but this definitely ranks high on my personal list. The way the light bounces off the rocks and glistens on the ocean is like no other. Makes me wish there were more than one sunset per day. 🤷‍♂️

It gets better, though. Find a good spot before night falls on the island, because the sky’s twilight is equally Instagram-worthy.

And here it is! I love how the water is shallow enough to walk on for long distances; gives the picture an even more surreal look. Blue on blue is something you rarely see unless you find a spot as serene as this.

But the night had just begun, and we found our way to a nearby night market. Like Bangkok and other cities in Thailand, Koh Samui hosts several of these with food and drinks at every corner. The one we went to was along Bophut Beach, which is on the northern tip of the island.

Dinner is… about to be served! We ate at Krua Bophut, which is — you guessed it — a Thai restaurant. I certainly didn’t mind since I have my fair share of Thai cuisine even when I’m not in their country. Actually, I’m craving some right now…

Like any trip, leaving is the hardest part. Fortunately, Koh Samui makes it a little less painful. This is the island’s sole airport, and it’s designed like an outdoor mall! Not once did I feel like I was at an actual airport. But alas, it was time to go home.

Koh Samui, despite its relatively small size, needs at least a week to truly appreciate. There are temples to be visited, more beaches to swim in, and lots more food to taste. This may be only the second-biggest island of Thailand, but it’s definitely number one in quality for me.

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24 Hours Series

24 Hours in Los Cabos, Mexico with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Time for margaritas!

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From the busy urban jungle that is Manila, I hopped on a plane to California for some quality time with the boyfriend (the #LDR life). From Los Angeles, we flew to Mexico for a much-needed vacation and some bonding time with the boyfriend’s family. My first time in Mexico was filled with fun times by the beach, a lot of margaritas, and as many tacos as I could eat! Here’s a day in Cabo, Mexico, as seen through the Samsung Galaxy Note 9’s cameras.

Touchdown, Mexico!

Cabo San Lucas is a mere four-hour flight from Los Angeles. Finally arriving in Mexico was exciting and familiar for me — it had the same hot and humid climate! The first thing we did when we touched down? Local beers!

Cheers! The boyfriend Joshua got himself an amber ale and I ordered the raspberry ale which was sweet and fruity — I loved it! The beers were from Baja Brewery, a local craft brewery from Los Cabos. It was the perfect start to our vacation.

After leaving the airport and picking up the rental car, our first Mexican meal was in order. A short drive from the airport and on the way to the resort, we stopped for some snacks. Ordered seafood ceviche from a random Mexican restaurant and got to eating.

Served with a side of chips, salsa, and some guacamole, it was the first of many great meals we were to have in Mexico. Enjoyed best with more local beer or some margaritas.

Checking in

Next stop was San Jose Del Cabo which is one of Mexico’s resort cities. We were staying at Cabo Azul and let me tell you: It was beautiful. Our two-bedroom villa offered a beautiful view of the pool area.

There are a number of connected pools and even whirlpool bathtubs here — perfect for lazy afternoons in the sun.

The beachfront is right beside the pool area. Lounging chairs and umbrellas are set up here so you could actually choose to spend your day here relaxing, listening to the waves crash in. You can also get a massage by the beach or even go horseback riding to through this scene.

Unfortunately, there’s no swimming in the ocean because the waves are just too dangerous, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the beach. Time for some IG photos!

Yep, nailed it. 😂

The hotel bar is also right by the pool area and it offers a stunning view. They serve refreshing cocktails and even have a BOGO cocktail promo every afternoon — we definitely took advantage of that!

Visiting El Arco

We drove to Cabo San Lucas which is another city destination in Baja California. Together with San Jose del Cabo, this whole area is known as Los Cabos. More busy and bustling than the laid-back San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas offers tourists a number of bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops.

The port is the jump-off point for a lot of water activities here, including snorkeling, scuba diving, and even parasailing which we wanted to do but couldn’t because of the windy weather.

Instead, we ended up doing a 45-minute boat ride to see Cabo’s famous arch formation, locally known as El Arco. Bright skies and amazing views made up a great afternoon adventure.

What’s any vacation without a trip to a souvenir store? Like I said earlier, there are countless shops here and some even offer tequila-tasting activities!

All smiles after an afternoon in a boat. Selfie with the Note 9’s S Pen remote!

Unfortunately, we saved the shots for another day. But, that doesn’t mean we didn’t get our tequila fix…

Back to San Jose del Cabo

A ten-minute drive from Cabo Azul is a plaza filled with restaurants and shops that we wanted to explore. Coincidentally, we were there on Mexican Independence Day and though we weren’t there for the festivities the night before, the party that happened was apparent from the decors.

Walking around this colorful area is fun — if you can stand the heat! The area is also home to a number of art galleries and interesting establishments.

Of course, our walking around made us thirsty, and you know what that means: margaritas! We drove to Las Guacamayas which is a taqueria that serves giant strawberry margaritas. Just what I needed!

Of course, the great salsa selection, guacamole, and tacos aren’t to be outdone. It was a hearty Mexican meal after a long day of exploring.

The evening was spent back at the resort, by the pool as the sun set on Mexico.

It was a great first day in Cabo. I spent four more glorious days living on tacos, margaritas, and this view. It was a good life.


24 Hours is a series on GadgetMatch.com where we showcase our travels through a smartphone camera’s perspective. It’s also a documented guide on things to see and do in a city in case you happen to plan a trip there.

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