Features

I took photos of North Korea using my iPhone

The part the government doesn’t show

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North Korea is one of those countries you can barely call a tourist destination. Our idea of it is limited to the picture painted by words of people who have been to Pyongyang, and the photos sanctioned by its own government.

Tours are mostly restricted to the capital, and can only be done through state-owned travel agencies. What many people don’t know is there are ways to see at least three more North Korean cities — the parts the North Korean government doesn’t want tourists to see.


The Gear

Using my iPhone 7 Plus and the Ztylus Revolver M Series Lens Kit, I got to peak at and capture Sinuiju, Uiju, and Chongsu in North Korea by going along the border city Dandong, as well as the Yalu River, the body of water that separates the two countries.

The 6-in-1 lens system offers the following combos: wide-angle + telephoto, fisheye + telephoto, and macro + super macro. Just to get it out of the way: I don’t find the macro and super macro lenses to be as useful since the phone needs to be pointed at subjects really close — less than one inch away — for the camera to focus.

The best I could do were these small flowers and insects from around Dandong that don’t really say much about the place. The bokeh on these photos is cool, but I’d much prefer a portrait lens especially when traveling.

The wide-angle + telephoto and fisheye + telephoto combos are great though, especially because the telephoto lenses provide up to 4x zoom without losing quality, while the wide-angle and fisheye capture so much more than the iPhone 7 Plus’ main lens.

The Bridge

View of Sinuiju, North Korea and the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge

Three bridges connect China to North Korea but only the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge is being used. Majority of North Korea’s international trade is done between Dandong and Sinuiju through this bridge.

Beside it is this pedestrian bridge that any tourist can use but ends in the middle of the river. Both bridges were bombed during the war, but this one was never repaired. On the other side of the river is a ferris wheel, water slide, and people playing basketball.

The Mountain

Dandong is where the Great Wall of China starts in the east and it sits across a mountain called Hushan.

When climbing to the top, there are a few of these passageways that you can use as resting points.

From one of the windows you can see the remainder of the wall that you need to climb.

Getting to the top is no easy feat but it’s worth it since you get a good view of Uiji county.

Here’s Dandong, China on the left, and Uiji, North Korea on the right.

You can go down through the other side so you can get a closer look at agricultural land and some houses in Uiji.

At the foot of the mountain are signs prohibiting people from crossing the border…

… as well as some North Korean products like ginseng, tiger bone liquor, and soap you can buy as souvenirs. They’re also selling North Korean Won, but they’re most likely counterfeit.

The River

Another way to see North Korea is by taking a van further up Dandong. Speedboats cross the Yalu River past this broken bridge, and bring you to an area that’s already North Korean territory.

Up close you can see houses and buildings in Chongsu, North Korea that look abandoned.

But as you go along the river you’ll find signs of life: cows, farmers walking around, and occasionally, their pet dogs. I even saw a lady doing her laundry along the river.

This is what most of the houses I’ve seen look like. Unlike Pyongyang that has plenty of signs of urban development, this part of North Korea remains mostly rural, with agriculture as one of the main sources of living.

Before the boat turns around, you’ll see this bridge that locals use to cross to another part of North Korea. I saw some kids swimming in this area, and a few people on their bikes wearing clothes that look like they’re from the 1980s.

On the way back, the Chinese guide will try to sell you a North Korean bill, which, again, is probably fake.

Apart from the usual North Korean souvenirs I’ve seen in other shops, the ones sold at the wharf include Matryoshka dolls, plush keychains, and selfie sticks.

These photos don’t tell the whole story, just like a Pyongyang tour isn’t a definitive representation of North Korea. For sure there’s a lot more I didn’t see, both good and bad, beyond these border cities; but seeing North Korea through a different lens, no pun intended, without the state-organized tours is one of those life experiences money can never buy.

Before this trip, I thought I’d see heavily barricaded cities with soldiers constantly patrolling the border. Instead, what I saw were North Koreans living their lives as normally as possible, enjoying the outdoors, looking up and not down on screens like the rest of the world.

Automotive

What Mazda promises with the new Mazda 3

Still going for a great driving experience

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The new Mazda 3 has just been introduced to the local market by Bermaz Auto Philippines. We’ve caught a glimpse of it before and got a general concept of what to expect. Although now that we have the Philippine-spec units and prices to go along with it, what does the Japanese company promise with this new vehicle? Let’s take a look at some of its features.

Styling

Mazda still stays true to its KODO or “Soul of Motion” design that gives life to the exterior by playing with curves and how light uniquely bounces off its panels. In short, it offers fresh styling that stands out and begs to be noticed. It has that minimalist but artistic approach and it certainly works for the Mazda 3.


Step inside and the simplicity continues. There’s nothing too fancy to see here except for the driver-centric layout which exudes a premium feel thanks to the materials used.

Its cabin has also been designed with superior acoustics in mind. The company claims they were able to achieve a natural and rich-sounding cabin by strategically positioning its 12 speakers and cutting down on sound reflection. We haven’t experienced it first-hand, but that’s kind of a bold claim from the company if they couldn’t back it up.

These, coupled with the company’s “Jinba Ittai” concept of machine and man as one, ensure that the ergonomics inside serve its driver well to further enjoy the driving experience and create that bond between each other. This also brings us to our next point.

Comfort

In order for the car to feel like an extension of your body, the interior has to be comfortable.

With the previously mentioned concept, one of the ideas is for the car to support wherever your body leans. This simply means the vehicle’s structure and interior provide comfort, especially during long drives.

Additionally, the company made sure that they give ample attention to dampening vibrations and reducing noise seeping into the cabin. By using new sound-absorbing upholstery that supposedly traps sound, a quieter cabin and overall smoother drive is what the passengers experience with the new Mazda 3.

It also tends to spoil the modern driver with its lineup of creature comforts. Things like auto brake hold come into play during heavy traffic, power-folding side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, and auto-dimming rearview mirror are just some to mention.

Performance

The Philippine-specific Mazda 3 doesn’t come with the new Skyactiv-X engine that Europe has. Instead, the local market gets Skyactiv-G inline-4 engine options mated to a six-speed automatic. The naturally aspirated engine outputs up to 152hp and 200Nm which should be enough for everyday drives plus some room for its legs to stretch when the road ahead clears up.

It also comes with G-Vectoring Control Plus that should be able to refine steering and make the vehicle safer and more stable overall. By calculating data while driving on a curb, for example, the system applies input that complements the task at hand and helps the driver gain control while coming out of said turn.

As a quick recap, the new Mazda 3 aims to tick the boxes for a capable car in the city but promises a number of features and innovations to further enjoy the ride experience. It’s styled skilfully inside and out, aims to ensure comfort throughout drives, provides high-quality entertainment, packs a capable engine, and prioritizes safety.

It comes in five variants in the Philippines with the following price points:

  • Mazda 3 1.5-liter Sedan Elite  — PhP 1,295,000
  • Mazda 3 1.5-liter Sportback Elite — PhP 1,320,000
  • Mazda 3 2.0-liter Sedan Premium — PhP 1,495,000
  • Mazda 3 2.0-liter Sportback Premium — PhP 1,510,000
  • Mazda 3 2.0-liter Sportback Speed — PhP 1,590,000

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Apps

8 career lessons I learned while playing Mobile Legends

The ingredients to winning in-game and in life

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This is the first of a three-part series. Watch out for the next two articles.

When people say games have nothing to contribute in your life, I honestly believe they’re wrong. Playing Mobile Legends isn’t something I do mindlessly. I think, strategize, and find a way to win. Throughout the whole match, I’m invested in my game. I focus up, even though to some, it’s just a “game.”


In between defeats and victories, I realized a lot of lessons along the way. Here’s what I learned that’s also applicable in your work and career:

People are the key to success

To rise through the ranks — just like in life — we need to deal with people no matter how much we hate it. If you know how to lead, follow, and go with the flow, you’ll succeed. Mobile Legends taught me that it can’t always be just you. To succeed in this world (and in team fights), we need to work and band together. One man’s failure is our failure, and one man’s success is everyone’s success. We just need to fight and bring each other up to victory.

You don’t always get to retaliate

During my defeats, I learned that life doesn’t give us a fair chance to fight back. Some circumstances in life tell us to just stop and accept defeat and take the lesson learned into improving the next fight. However…

You can still flip things around

If opportunities arise, you can retaliate and strike back. As long as you keep fighting and keep your people together, you can turn the tables and win. Life may throw us lemons, but we can always make lemonade out of it and drink it while we’re on our way to victory.

There are a lot of selfish people in the world

People will leave the match unexpectedly, do things on their own and refuse to cooperate or steal your buffs and kills. You will encounter a lot of greedy and selfish people not just in games, but also in life. It’s frustrating and annoying, but we always have a choice to outsmart them, to try to include them, talk them out of it, or just be kind, try to understand, and accept that some people are just selfish at their very core.

Not all battles are worth fighting for

When you’re running on data, every minute and every fight should be worth it. Just like in life, our time, energy, and resources are limited. A former mentor always tells me to pick my battles, and I find it accurate especially as I am getting older and taking on more responsibilities.

We can’t always win our fights, and when we see we’re on the losing end, we can always retreat. There is no shame in admitting that you lost. Humility goes a long way.

Don’t be arrogant and belittle people

Some people are just starting, and they won’t hit as hard as you do. However, life happens and people gain a lot of experience where they grow stronger and smarter. You’ll never know who will be a worthy competition or an important ally in the end game (or later in life). Choose to be kind, it doesn’t even cost a cent to do so.

We all have our own pace and potential

Some people shine early. They get promoted, recognized, and get awards early in their careers. Heroes like Cyclops, Selena, and Angela are always strong during the first part. Other people (and heroes like Gusion, Claude, and Roger) shine in the middle as they rise through the ranks and the tables start turning around.

However, some shine in the late game. People (and heroes like Hanabi, Irithel, and Lesley) hits harder when they are at their peak condition. I guess what I’m saying is take your time because you’ll shine when the time is right. All you have to do is grind and work on yourself for now.

Communication is key

You can’t expect people to read what’s on your mind (especially when you’re playing a MOBA game). Like I said earlier, teamwork (read: people) is the key to success. If there’s a problem, tell people what’s wrong and how they can be better. Take the initiative to call for backup or ask everyone to retreat when they’re in danger. Lead them when opportunities arise for your team to advance and take down your opponents. The main ingredient in winning in life (and in everything else) is communication.

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Laptops

Lenovo ThinkBook 13S: Designed for today’s young workforce

Work in style

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Business-grade laptops, with its robust security features, tend to look a little too business-y. While it caters to the needs of the business, it almost completely neglects the needs of today’s workforce. That’s what Lenovo hopes to address with the Lenovo ThinkBook 13S.

Lenovo was kind enough to send us a unit in advance but they didn’t exactly make the unboxing easy.


To emphasize security, the box came with a lock. Knowing its key elements was key to unlocking. We’ll share all of it in a few.

The box came with some ThinkBook goodies like a mouse pad, and a laptop stand.

Here’s a better look at what’s inside: The Lenovo ThinkBook 13S, power adapter, laptop stand, and mouse pad.

Now, onto the main event — the ThinkBook 13S. Looks matter, and this laptop does not disappoint in that department.

The mineral gray tone complements its metallic finish

This laptop looks elegant and tough and it’s thank to these: the Aluminum A/C/D covers reduce the weight while also meeting durability standards. Magnesium also helps ensure that it remains light and portable without sacrificing strength.

The Zinc-alloy inside the hinge with powdered metal technology helps endure up to 25,000 open and close cycles. And then the Indium and Stannum-coated hinge enhances corrosion resistance

THAT HINGE THO

Here’s another look because why not.

The five-segment hinge allows it a 180º flat view.

It also has narrow bezels. A 78 percent screen-to-body ratio to be exact.

As mentioned before, security is a major business concern. The ThinkBook 13S didn’t skip on any steps.

The power button is also a fingerprint reader.

It helps provide a stronger authentication to secure online activity. Other security features include Vantage WiFi which performs local risk analysis of WiFi networks, dTPM 2.0 which encrypts and stores user credentials on a separate chip for added security, and for those concerned about web-cam spying issues, there’s the ThinkShutter that slides in to cover the camera.

An optional addition is the Lenovo Security Console. It’s the company’s own security suite that does everything from blocking compromised devices from accessing your data to preventing malware spread, among other things.

Business-grade support

Another reason to lobby for this laptop is its robust business support that include: Think Service and Support, longer warranty, Onsite next business day support, accidental damage protection, premier support option, and international coverage.

Powering today’s workforce

So, it’s secure and stylish, but what else can it really do? With its 8th Generation Intel chip that can be upgraded up to i7 Processor, along with up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and Discrete AMD Radeon™ 540X with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM or Integrated Intel® UHD 620 graphics on Unified Memory Architecture (UMA), as well as the following storage: M.2, PCIe SSD 128GB/256GB/512GB, M.2 SATA SSD 256GB — pretty much anything you need for your daily work.

Pricing and availability

The ThinkBook 13S will is available in two variants with the primary difference being the graphics card onboard. The model that comes with Discrete AMD Radeon™ 540X with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM starts at PhP 54,990 (roughly US$ 1050)while the other that comes with Integrated Intel® UHD 620 graphics on Unified Memory Architecture (UMA) starts at PhP 58,990 (roughly US$ 1126). It will be available in Lenovo Exclusive Stores located at SM North EDSA, SM Mall of Asia, and SM Megamall, as well as Thinking Tools SM City Cebu.

 

 

 

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