Saturday, October 24, 2015

A350 Flight Simulator Session at SIA Training Center

I just came back fresh from the Singapore Airlines Training Center to experience how it is to fly the newest Airbus plane, the A350. They actually had an Open House a few months ago, in celebration of SG50. But we were back in Europe for the summer holiday at the time. Luckily, hubby has a friend who is an ex-pilot who now works for SIA conducting the Trainings for the A350. And he invited us to try it out today, along with a couple of hubby's colleagues.

some items on display at the lobby -- old flight attendant uniform in the 50's

these are the Singapore Airlines First Class amenity kit contents. i think that Salvatore Ferragamo pochette is really nice. :)

Cute Boarding Pass invites to Oktoberfest Event

The Training Center was huge and impressive, and conveniently located right next to Changi Airport. It's not just a Training Center, they also have a Sports Club with a football field. Tonight, they're even holding a private Oktoberfest.

This is how the simulator looked from outside

On the way to the flight simulator, we passed by the server rooms and other Flight Simulators of different plane models that are in the same area as the A350 Simulator was.

Inside the simulator, there were the pilot seats and three passenger seats -- just enough seats for all five of us (with hubby's other colleagues) in the session. There were so many buttons on the console, I was itching to press all of them just to see what will happen. :D I was actually quite nervous before entering the simulator when the pilot explained what to do in cases of emergency power shut down or system malfunction. yikes!

those pink transparent mirror thingies display information controls, so the pilots do not need to remove their focus on where they are headed while controlling the plane's movements

all those graphs and buttons! whenever i see so many buttons like this, i get an overwhelming urge to press all of them to see what happens... curious lang! :D

The view from outside, which is supposed to be Hong Kong, looks so realistic

The view from the cockpit was so realistic. And when the plane takes off, turns, lands or experiences turbulence you can really feel it. I was not so good with the shift knob, there were two tiny circles on the pink glass panels in front of me that I have to merge together by controlling the shift knob so as to position the plane correctly. As always, my hand-eye coordination is terrible, terrible, terrible. If I were piloting in real life, we could've crashed twice already. :D Good thing, there was auto-pilot mode. And at least, I managed to land the plane safely despite the instructor simulating nasty turbulent zero-visibility weather.

that's me piloting in action with the overcast zero visibility simulation -- i wanted to scream, "MEGA THRUSTERS ARE GO!" LOL! anybody who finds this line familiar? 80's kids?

look ma, flying the plane with no hands! :D

hubby's turn! so serious, lah!

I got a little bit motion sick the first time we took off while sitting on the passenger seat. Although, I did not feel so sick when I was on the pilot seat! We only stayed inside the simulator for one and a half hours, with all four of us taking turns to man the plane. I couldn't imagine staying in the simulator for FOUR straight hours, which is the normal amount of time spent in training, according to our pilot instructor. Now, I'm really sure, I'm not cut out to be a pilot but it was quite an experience to try! The simulator was fantastic, it really felt like I was inside the plane (I still feel a bit jetlagged at the time of this writing), and that at some point, I was really in charge of it. :)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Iceland Trip Part 5: Reykjavik to Jokulsarlón

(please refrain from using my photos without permission)

as i have mentioned in my first three posts, i am writing about my trip to Iceland in reverse chronological order. and so in this last part of my series of blogs about Iceland, i shall be talking about the first part of the trip.

we were actually coming from Toulouse on the way to Iceland. and from Toulouse, we had to change planes in Amsterdam. we took Iceland Air from there. the flight was quite nice. we had some free snacks on board and there was an entertainment console on each seat, but you'd have to buy the ear phones, which i found weird.

We arrived around midnight and so were greeted by the midnight sunset above the Icelandic skies a few minutes before touchdown to Keflavik Airport. everything was bathed in blood-red outside. it was otherworldly. i've never really seen the sunset from the plane before, much less, a midnight one! it was splendid... like a portent of things to come.

the midnight sunset from the plane window, a few minutes before touchdown at Keflavik Airport

on the way out of Reykjavik, early in the morning

the very next day, we set out on the road early morning from our hotel on the way to the southeast to Jokusarlon. it's more than four hours' drive. outside Reykjavik, the roads start to get filled with endless bizarre-looking plains and the fjords. it was quite a sight to behold. my eyes were in for a treat -- such wide expanse of land and cliffs and clouds.

the clouds seem to always go out of their way to make the sky always look interesting. some of the time, it will be too low, making everything dark and the sky sombre and overcast. at times, it will be decorating the sky in strange, complicated and curious-looking patters. it's really too bad i did not have the luxury of time to stop and take better pictures of them.

Skógafoss -- too many people in the background

and so we decided to climb a certain height to be able to take photos without the annoying people in background


this looks easy and comfortable, but it wasn't! everything was slippery and the footpath was narrow... anything for a good picture! :)

our first stop was Skógafoss. we actually saw maybe hundreds of tiny waterfalls along the road. but we had to choose where we should stop. and most of them are inside private properties. Skógafoss is one of the most famous, so we definitely had to see it. i am totally crazy about waterfalls.

there were a couple of viewing sights which make you hike up a bit to the side of the waterfall. we climbed to the lower part. it was a bit tiring. at one point, we asked a stranger to take our pic with my SLR. he inched a bit backwards on the narrow path where we were all standing, and he almost fell. i was a bit scared... for my camera... kidding! :)

i was just thankful i wore the right shoes for this trip. and took some warm clothes, most importantly. it was summer but the warmest temperature we had was 20 degrees in Reykjavik. without the wind, it's nice. but out there in the countryside, it was always windy and drizzly at times, and definitely less than 20 degrees all the time. you really need to dress properly for this.

hubby enjoying the view

standing on very soft mounds of mossy lava land -- it was drizzling a bit but we didn't mind.

as we drove farther down south, we passed by several small villages by the sea. we would stop for gas or snacks from time to time. there aren't really a lot of shops or restaurants along the road, except for the ones that are in the center of the villages. 

the farther down south you go, the lesser the vegetation becomes. everything starts to look barren. the waterfalls and the fjords would be replaced by miles and miles of mossy lava land. we stopped by at some point to walk around a bit and stretch our legs. i was quite surprised to find that the ground was so soft to walk on. my husband was running all over the place like a crazy kid. i told him to be careful because i noticed that there are some huge holes in-between or underneath the mossy mounds we were walking on. and we might just step on a soft ground and fall into a giant hole or something, if we're not careful. i told my Icelandic friend about this fear i had when we met her in Reykjavik. and she told me that in fact, her great grandfather once fell into a deep hole like this and it took some time before somebody found him and helped him out. so, if you ever find yourself in Iceland walking on these mossy mounds, do be careful! ;)

Fjaðrárgljúfur -- wet and wild and slippery walk

there was a seemingly nice small farm restaurant just a few meters off Fjaðrárgljúfur but only the café was open and we hadn't had lunch yet

close to the lava land, we found an interesting walk which took about an hour or so to hike up and down. it was really beautiful -- the fjords and the waterfalls. it reminded me a bit of the setting for Jurassic Park.

but the most beautiful sight of all, and one of the most wonderful sights i've ever come to behold was the glacial lagoon at Jokulsarlón. the pictures below definitely don't do justice! and also, i've been too lazy to photoshop all the pictures.

my first glimpse of the glacier

unphotoshopped but still beautiful -- hubby threw a tiny pebble into the lagoon and a seal emerged from the calm waters. it went quickly out of everybody's sight and did not re-emerge. it was too quick for my camera, though.

some slow shutter, moody shot with an ND filter

The Ice in Iceland, taken with my phone cam-- seeing the ice melt makes me feel a bit sad about climate change and all that stuff

i was actually sleeping when hubby had a first sighting of the Glacial Lagoon. he woke me up to say we're stopping. by then, the glacial lagoon had been hidden by some hilly rocks. i asked him why we're stopping and he told me, it's a surprise. we stopped and climbed all the way up the rocks, and then i found myself gaping with amazement at the sight of huge floating pieces of ice on a lake.

we went crazy running around the place and started to take lots of pictures. it was the first time ever that i saw my husband taking a "selfie". :D

The Charming Hotel in Hali, right at the foot of the cloud-loving cliffs and a few meters off the sea

The Hali Hotel Reception, Restaurant and Museum

Langoustine for dinner at Hali Hotel

a few minutes down the road, we found our Hotel in Hali. it was beautiful. situated at the foot of the cliffs and right in front of the sea. everything around looked so calm and peaceful. it was almost dinner when we arrived. and so, we just rested a little bit and then went back to the hotel's restaurant, which also doubles as a museum of the Icelandic writer Þorbergur Þórðarson (the character Þ is pronouced like "th" in the English-speaking world), which exhibits his memorabilia.

we had a lovely dinner at the restaurant. i had an entire plate of langoustine all to myself! the hotel staff were really nice and friendly. and the guests get to enter for free at the museum.

after dinner, i really wanted to motivate myself to see the midnight sunset back at the glacial lagoon, but lethargy and fatigue took the better of me. i had a nice and restful sleep, though.

the Jokulsarlón Glacier that melts into the lagoon and straight out to the cold sea

beautiful cloud patterns -- Iceland is a cloudspotter's paradise!

we had lovely weather the next day as we set off towards Borgarnes. i was a bit reluctant to leave Jokulsarlón too early. if only we had planned our trip well, we could've stayed for a couple of days there instead to be able to enjoy the glacial lake more, or even do some hiking.

along the way we stopped by Reynisfjara. it's a black sand beach with some interesting volcanic rock formations along the shore that are shaped like tall pillars. they patterned the Hallgrimskirkja after these basalt rocks, as i have mentioned in my previous blog.

a smaller version of Reynisfjara that we passed by along the road

posing at the base of the rock formations

The beautiful basalt rock formations at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

the closer you get to them the more ominous and daunting they look, and for good reason -- you can hear tiny pieces of rocks from the top falling off bit by bit.

at the beach, there was a small café that sells sandwiches and soups. the lamb soup was really nice, especially with the cold windy weather. you will definitely need all the warmth you can get when you face the blast of the cold breeze from the sea. it really took some getting used to. i had to wear a bonnet for some time.

there were some interesting walks along the beach but again, unfortunately, we were pressed for time. we stayed a bit to take a few pics and sat on the pebbly black sand beach for a while to take in the view.

i am still glad, though, that i was able to visit Iceland during this time while its tourism is still being developed. all of the tourist sites, even the most famous ones are still free for entry. but my local friend says they're thinking about making people pay to enter these sites, or increase the airport tax or something. but as of this writing, everything in Iceland is already a bit pricey as a result of the influx of hordes of Chinese and French tourists crowding the more famous sites.

we also saw a lot of hotels being built around the city center in Reykjavik. and in Jokulsarlón, we can feel that it is really starting to get touristy.  as a matter of fact, i had a hard time taking a picture of the ice floe below that is shaped like an evil bunny because there was an annoying woman wearing a red coat standing right next to the bunny. i had to wait for some time for her to leave the frame so i could take this pic.

a cute evil bunny ice floe at Jokulsarlón Glacial Lagoon

Iceland is truly unforgettable and magical. i would even venture to say that it is my best trip to date. the vast and unobstructed view of nature all around, in all its untouched glory just gives off a very strong and overwhelming sense of infinite freedom. it is one of the very few places on earth, with its lovely lonely landscapes, that is refreshingly and extraordinarily beautiful, it can easily make you cry.

that's all for now, and i hope you enjoyed reading my four-part blog entries recounting my wonderful trip. all the best! :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Kung Ibig Mo Akong Makilala

Kung Ibig Mo Akong Makilala
Ni: Ruth Eleynia S. Mabanglo

Kung ibig mo akong makilala,
lampasan mo ang guhit ng mahugis na balat,
ang titig kong dagat –
yumayapos nang mahigpit sa bawat saglit
ng kahapon ko’t bukas.
Kung ibig mo akong makilala
sunduin mo ako sa himlayang dilim
at sa madlang pagsukol ng inunang hilahil,
ibangon ako at saka palayain.
Isang pag-ibig na lipos ng lingap,
tahanang malaya sa pangamba at sumbat
may suhay ng tuwa’t ang kaluwalhati’y
walang takda – ialay mo lahat ito sa akin
kung mahal mo ako’t ibig kilalanin.
Kung ibig mo akong kilalanin,
sisirin mo ako hanggang buto,
liparin mo ako hanggang utak,
umilanlang ka hanggang kaluluwa–
hubad ako roon: mula ulo hanggang paa.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Hazy Thoughts

ever since i can remember, there has always been the haze in Singapore but it has never been as worse as it has been these past weeks. it has affected everybody's health and mood. the skies looked so dark and bleak all the time. it reminded me a lot of winter when i was back in Europe. but without the cold, it just felt so eerie. sometimes, it even makes me think of being stuck in a stagnant sand storm. it's not a very good image to conjure, especially for somebody with a tendency to be claustrophobic, like myself.

just look at these harrowing images of the forest fires in Indonesia taken by a drone from Greenpeace:

i find it crazy how we felt like we were being poisoned little by little each day, but then, i thought about all the others that actually live in Indonesia in closer proximity to the haze. i read that some birds and even children would just drop dead. it made me feel concerned about my own daughter hearing about these things.

i think that more than the greed of the capitalists and the corruption of the people in their government, it's mostly mere heartlessness and lack of empathy that make people turn a blind eye on something so despicable like this. i read somewhere that there's nothing we can do about saving the planet now because it's already too late. but at least, we can still try to save our souls.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Iceland Trip, Part 4: Akureyri and the North

(please refrain from using my pictures without permission)

continuing from my last installment, we were in Borgarnes (the west). from there, we headed up North towards Akureyri, which was about four and half hours' drive. as usual, we drove along the coastal areas. the paths were long and winding. the clouds hovering low over the cliffs, still. there were times when the roads were really zigzagging and steep. it would get all foggy and cold one moment, and then all sunny and clear and warmer the next.

the small city of Akureyri in the North -- apparently, the second biggest in Iceland, next to Reykjavik

we had lunch at the City Center in a nice restaurant called Strikid, which has very good reviews and located a few meters from our hotel. i really enjoyed my seafood lunch.

the view of Akureyri as we cross the huge lake on the way to Myvatn

i would open the windshield from time to time to capture in stills the magnificent fjords with countless tall waterfalls trickling down the sides. it was beautiful and breath-taking.

we passed by an area that is apparently famous for seals. we didn't make a lot of stops this time as we wanted to just have a quick lunch at Akureyri city center and then head off to Myvatn to relax in the pools of hot water that it is famous for. apparently, they call it The Blue Lagoon of the North.

i wanted to visit The Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik at first. but upon reading the reviews and finding out how despicably touristic the area is, we felt it best to opt for the less crowded one. it was indeed less crowded, but still crowded for me.

the fog closing in on us as we leave behind Akureyri for Myvatn

first stop -- Godafoss in Bárðardalur, it was huge, magnificent and gorgeous!

we passed by this geothermal plant on the way to the baths... lots of interesting colors here. i just might make a painting out of this pic. :)

and this is how the pool looked like. it's bluer than it looks. this pic was taken with my husband's crappy blackberry phone.

we passed by this crater on the way back to Akureyri, which was a tempting two-hour hike. but we didn't have the time. they say it has a blue crater lake like Mt. Pinatubo. i forgot the name, though.

we settled for this short walk along a small pond with pseudo-craters... quite interesting.

at the Skútustaðir craters -- standing here on top of one of the pseudo-craters. it was so cold and windy. white birds far out in the background.

a short literature about the place

we stayed at the baths for about an hour. it was very nice and relaxing. the water was a bit stinky, though. but that was to be expected. there was no long queue to enter and the pool was not very crowded. but still too crowded for really good pictures. 

and then we started on the road again. there were a lot of interesting landscapes and rock formations and nature walks along the way but we didn't really have much time to do some of the long walks, unfortunately. along the way, we managed to find an interesting walk at Skútustaðir. we walked around a small pond surrounded by pseudo-craters. it was out-of-this-world! the pseudo-craters were like little versions of Taal volcano in the Philippines. except that they don't erupt... i think... the place was so windy and looked a bit lonely. and not at all touristy. it made my heart ache a bit looking around and seeing how beautiful everything is! it was the exact same feeling i was having while reading "Wuthering Heights" back in highschool.

some nice portrait graffiti that looks like my pretty friend (took this pic for her)  

some guy (probably drunk) took a dive right into the small playground... good thing no kids (or adults) were harmed

old and blue

we headed back to Akureyri to take a bit rest at the hotel, which is right at the middle of everything. and then off we were for a short walk again at the city center. after which, we decided to get dinner at the same nice restaurant where we were for lunch.

back at Strikid for apéro and dinner

hubby took the N° Iceland (top) and i took some strawberry-flavored cocktail, which was really good and refreshing.

having a cool drink and a nice simple dinner (the place was famous for burgers) was a really good way to cap off another tiring day on the road... but hang in there, dear readers. more adventure awaits... ;)