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.

[irp posts=”8339″ name=”Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime review”]

24 Hours Series

24 Hours in Corregidor Island

Capturing the beauty of the ruins with the iPhone XS

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Shot on iPhone XS by @vincenzlee

Back when I was a kid, I only knew of Corregidor Island as part of Philippine History textbooks. Most (if not all) Filipinos would think of the place as a “haunted island” due to the number of casualties during the World War II.

To those who are unfamiliar, Corregidor Island is located several kilometers away from Manila. The ferry trip took about two hours before we reached the port. Despite being near the shore of Bataan, don’t be confused as this island is part of the province of Cavite.

 

If you look at the museum diorama above, the island’s shape reminds us of a “tadpole” — but I thought of something else entirely. 👀

I’m not here to bore you with the specific bits and pieces of the island’s history. Rather, I want to show you the hidden beauty of the land that was once devastated.

Corregidor’s one and only hotel

Shot on iPhone XS by @vincenzlee

After we reached the port, we were greeted by several trams and headed straight to Corregidor Inn. If you’re planning to stay for a night or two, it’s the only place in the island that accepts accommodation.

The inn is spacious and comfortable that you wouldn’t actually think you’re in an isolated island. Just keep in mind that there’s no Wi-Fi connection — a perfect place for social media detoxification. I don’t advise anyone to do this but if it’s an emergency and you can’t keep your phone in your pocket, turn on your mobile data as the signal reception works well in this area.

Other than breakfast meals, they also offer lunch and dinner buffet — something you would want in a place that shows the majestic view of the sea. If you’re in need of “Vitamin Sea”, you can go to the nearest swimming pool outside (which feels better when you swim during the night). If you’re not satisfied, you can go to a beach meters away which I’ll talk about more later.

Ruins, ruins everywhere

Shot on iPhone XS by @vincenzlee

The things that crossed my mind the moment I knew I’d be visiting this island were destroyed concrete slabs and cannon bombs — and I wasn’t wrong. You will find ruins such as the Mile-long barracks, laterals in Malinta Tunnel, and more.

Just because these buildings were ruined, it doesn’t mean they’re worthless. In fact, I recall how the tour guide pointed out that there was zero vegetation during the catastrophic bombing but these landmarks show how they survived and managed to keep their overall structure, just without glass windows and wooden walls.

A haven for thrill-seekers, hell for lost souls

Shot on iPhone XS by @vincenzlee

I may not be someone who can sense (or see) ghosts, but conceptions about the island being surrounded by wandering souls might actually be true. Not to creep you out but during our Malinta Tunnel visit, someone hurriedly went out of the tunnel’s lateral as she sensed a roaming spirit. It made sense as the tour guide told us that the bombing completely wiped out everyone — including Filipinos, Japanese and even the Americans.

With the hard work exerted by the “prisoners of war”, Malinta Tunnel was successfully built for 10 years. It has managed to keep its structure even after what happened.

Meanwhile, the narrow Japanese tunnels were built with a different story in mind as Japanese troops built it for hideouts against the American soldiers. We had a short hike around the area and the hardest part is climbing all the way up with a steep stairway in between. Thankfully, the rope helped us along the way.

Although it may not be a big deal for me, this part of the trip is not for the faint-hearted. It’d still be a great experience though. You just need to stick with your group in order for you to not feel scared and alone.

There’s no such thing as “accident prone” roads

Early in the morning, I went out for a short jog. It eventually became a long walk as I can’t keep up with my low stamina. As I enjoyed the shore, there’s an uphill and curvy road where there are no vehicles passing by. If you have a companion, you can pose around and have your picture taken in the middle of the road — something you can’t freely do in most parts of the Philippines.

When we headed towards the Kindley Field, it’s a sight I enjoyed looking at. At first, I thought it’s the usual long road but it was just an illusion since it’s already a dead-end. It used to be a landing strip of war planes.

It’s a (hidden) paradise

Shot on iPhone XS by @vincenzlee

As mentioned earlier, there’s a beach near the inn where you can spend your day by chilling with the sight of sparkling water. Even at night, you can enjoy the sound of sea waves while grilling your favorite food by the bonfire.

Other than the South Dock, there’s also the Corregidor Island Lighthouse which gives you a spectacular view of the island from the “topside” or the island’s peak.

You get splendid views whether you’re facing the Manila Bay or West Philippine Sea. Sunrise, mid-day, sunset — they all look breathtaking. On the “tailside” part of the island, you’ll see the Tadpole’s Tail with another smaller island called “Caballo Island”.

If you’re a huge fan of astronomy (like me), you will enjoy the island’s lack of light pollution as it shows stars and planets scattered around the pitch black sky. Constellations appeared right in front of my eyes as if I’m in a planetarium.

The unexpected surprise

In line with Power Mac Center’s #PMCProjectBayani, they held a special workshop in Corregidor Island with selected participants who specifically use iPhones.

There was a special contest for both participants and media by showing off everyone’s best iPhone shot with the theme “Capture the old glory of Corregidor in modern times“. It was my first time on the island so I just looked around and captured unusual perspectives and subjects that attracted my eyes.

What’s the surprise? My shot won first place — something I never expected at all. I can remember how I got pressured deciding what would be the title of the shot I submitted.

During the awarding, I ran out of words especially after hearing the comments of the talented visual storyteller Mr. JC Gellidon and Mr. Joey Alvarez, PMC’s Director of Marketing and Product Management.

Many thanks to our friends from Power Mac Center and Sun Cruises who made this trip possible. Seeing an unfamiliar place while meeting new people, it’s honestly a wonderful weekend experience I would never forget. If you ask me, I would go back to Corregidor Island if I have another chance.

All shots were taken using the iPhone XS.

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24 Hours Series

24 Hours in Jakarta

Captured through the awesome camera of the Galaxy A71

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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.

Cozy stay

 

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.

Kota Tua

 

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, the 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 because of my limited time.

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.

Malls galore

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.

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24 Hours Series

24 hours in Mövenpick with the Honor 9X

I didn’t want to leave

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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.

Feeling beachy

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

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