Another Dream Come True: My Trip to Japan! Days 3 and 4!

FINALLY! It only took over 3 months to completely post my Japan trip!

This post is dedicated to Days 3-4!

Again, this is a very word and photo heavy post!


DAY 3

Let’s Go!!!

Similar to Day 2, I packed the same gear and such, had the same big breakfast at the hotel, made my way to the station, but this time, the Kintetsu first class tickets were sold out and the earliest was 10:30AM departure, which isn’t entirely too bad, as the race will begin at 2PM and the dirvers’ parade, for which I missed the drivers’ parade in Singapore last year, is at 12PM, and calculating the travel time, I might just be able to make in time for the parade.

I would have opted for the non first class ticket, which I should have, if I really wanted to see the parade , but I guess I just wanted to have good seating for the trip back to the track.

Needless to say, I didn’t make it on time for the parade, since there were some unexpected slowdowns of the train ride, due to how busy that day is, so knowing that I missed yet another drivers’ parade, I opted to just rest up before the race that will start in a little over an hour and just eat.

Won’t really be exploring a lot before the race as I know there will much time for that after the race; it is nice to not as well that I have purchased a return ticket for the shuttle service this time around since I don’t plan on going as late as the day before, but that would be slightly my undoing, as we will get to that later.

Grabbed a bottle of water and Coke once again, this time bought a few more F1 tokens, but smaller compared to the day before, so lugging it to my designated seating area is not so bad this time. And there I went, through the same uphill and downhill walkabouts towards my seat before the race begins. With my exhaustion from the past two days catching up to me in record time, I really felt the fear that my right knee will just give way and I will be carried off by the medical staff around the track. Thankfully, my knee held up, but the day is still young, and it will be tested until I reached my hotel later this day. Well, then some, seeing I had a hard time walking when I got back to the Philippines for a week at least.

I got to my seat, panting like there was no tomorrow, but I had to hold it in and save face, as the day before, I forgot to mention, that I befriended a man from Australia, James, and I also befriended a family of 3 from the States, but for the life of me, I only remember 1 member of the family, their daughter, Taylor. Curiously, the day before, there was an empty seat between me and James, so I knew it will be occupied this day, and yes, I was right, and I made yet another friend, Wei-Ting, who resides in Taiwan.

I mentioned that Day 2 is probably the best day of the entire trip, and nothing can get better than going thru the pit lane and track, but establishing friendships is just as much of a highlight as those things that happened in Day 2.

I made friends as well in Singapore during the race, and it was great to meet new people that love the sport you do and are from different ethnicity and such, for when the time comes you visit their country, they will be more than happy to meet you up and show you around. Such is the case with Robert, from Hong Kong, whom I met during the Singapore Grand Prix, and when I went to Hong Kong last year, he went out of his way to meet me and my sister for dinner and talk about, none other, but F1!

And I, in turn, if they ever visit here in the Philippines, I will surely meet up with them!

Got a lot of better pictures this time around since the lighting was better than it was during Qualifying, so here are at least 1 per driver… Again, I will not bombard you will all the pictures.

Kimi Raikkonen, #7, Scuderia Ferrari, SF71H
Sebastian Vettel, #5, Scuderia Ferrari, SF71H
Lewis Hamilton, #44, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, W09
Valtteri Bottas, #77, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, W09
Daniel Ricciardo, #3, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, RB14
Max Verstappen, #33, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, RB14
Nico Hulkenberg, #27, Renault Sport F1, R.S.18
Carlos Sainz, Jr., #55, Renault Sport F1, R.S.18
Fernando Alonso, #14, McLaren F1 Team, MCL33
Stoffel Vandoorne, #2, McLaren F1 Team, MCL33
Charles Leclerc, #16, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, C37; notice the broken nosecone after colliding with Kevin Magnussen in the start/finish straight
Marcus Ericsson, #9, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, C37
Pierre Gasly, #10, Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, STR13
Brendon Hartley, #28, Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, STR13
Sergio Perez, #11, Racing Point Force India F1 Team, VJM11
Esteban Ocon, #31, Racing Point Force India F1 Team, VJM11
Kevin Magnussen, #20, Haas F1 Team, VF-18
Romain Grosjean, #8, Haas F1 Team, VF-18
Sergey Sirotkin, #35, Williams Martini Racing, FW41
Lance Stroll, #18, Williams Martini Racing, FW41

When the race was through, we just had to have a picture as new found friends. And exchanged social media information, then it was time to part ways and hope to meet each other again somewhere and some time in the future.

Panorama!
New found friends! Wei Ting from Taiwan and James from Austrailia!
New found friends! Taylor and her father, from the States!
Just had to ask Wei Ting to take a photo of me overlooking Turns 1 and 2!
Happy Hamilton Fans!

I wanted to reach my hotel by 7PM or 8PM at the most to buy some more souvenirs for my friends and maybe eat some more sushi nearby, so seeing as it wasn’t even 4PM, I wanted to photograph and get photographed in the places of interest I missed out the day before.

2018 Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13
2018 Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13
2018 Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13
2018 Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13 and me!

Since this is Japan, of course, Honda is the star, thus why Toro Rosso (whose engine supplier is Honda after the debacle with McLaren; and Honda will supply big sister, Red Bull, next season) is big during the race event. Also, Honda had a very successful run with McLaren in the late 80s and early 90s, with drivers like Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost manning the helm (yes, McLaren and Honda had a great run!). Also to note that Senna already had a history with Honda in the Lotus before he moved to McLaren and Honda also supplying McLaren from that point onward.

I say these, because since Honda is obviously a Japanese brand, they will showcase the Formula 1 cars that they powered!

So here are the more famous Honda powered cars!

1968 Honda RA301, famously driven by the 1964 Fq World Champion, John Surtees
1968 Honda RA301, famously driven by the 1964 Fq World Champion, John Surtees
2006 Honda RA106 as driven by Jenson Button, who would late with the F1 World Championship in 2009, where the Honda team was bought outright by Ross Brawn and became Brawn GP
2006 Honda RA106 as driven by Jenson Button, who would late with the F1 World Championship in 2009, where the Honda team was bought outright by Ross Brawn and became Brawn GP
1987 Lotus 99T driven by the legendary Ayrton Senna; this marked his last year in Lotus before switching to McLaren the following season
1987 Lotus 99T driven by the legendary Ayrton Senna; this marked his last year in Lotus before switching to McLaren the following season
1991 McLaren MP4-6, a car in which Ayrton Senna won his third F1 World Championship; McLaren also won the F1 Constructors Championship for the 4th consecutive season
1991 McLaren MP4-6, a car in which Ayrton Senna won his third F1 World Championship; McLaren also won the F1 Constructors Championship for the 4th consecutive season

After seeing this cars, I had a little more exploration, made more friends, that’s when I decided it was time, with a heavy heart, to leave for Nagoya, so I can buy more souvenirs and start packing for my flight the next day.

Closest I got to a grid girl the entire weekend lol
With The Ice Army of China! More Kimi Raikkonen fans!

Thank you Suzuka Circuit!

When I reached the main entrance, a big banner saying goodbye to us and that “always be together” is perfect; indeed, we may not really know each other, not all fans got the result they want for their team or driver, but we share one thing in common… the wonderful, magical, experience of a grand prix weekend… and it will be that common thing that will bring us together… always.

Worked my way back to where the shuttles were at, bypassing the ticket booth since I already bought my return ticket, and boy, the line… was… crazy. I think it took me over an hour to finally got on to a shuttle, and upon arriving in Shiriko Station, I just missed out on the Kintetsu first class ticket once again, and had to wait well past 9PM to avail for one, so I took the non first class ticket and went on my way.

It was at this point that I thought to myself that next time there is a shuttle service at the end of a grand prix event, that it is better to do what I did the night before and just use a taxi. Thought it may be expensive, at least it will be less hassle.

At first I thought I can just stand on the train ride back home, since there wasn’t that many seats available, but I was wrong in about 30 or so minutes time, my legs were giving way, so I asked if I can squeeze in between some nice fellows since my knees were dying.

I was a bit embarrassed to do so, but I just can’t stand any longer as my knees were really giving up on me. This is why a DSLR backpack trolley will be immensely useful in future travels.

I also made sure that if any of my seatmates left their seats, I will create a big space for anyone else that wants to use it.

I then reached Nagoya, but it isn’t over! I still had to walk to my hotel… But before that, I decided to buy the souvenirs just in case the shops will close.

After buying the souvenirs, I let in a deep breath and make my way to the hotel. I was very hungry… I was very thirsty… My knees were not cooperating… I was sweating profusely… I was just hoping to make it safely to my hotel. AND I DID!

I let out a triumphant cry in my hotel room!!

IT WAS A SUCCESSFUL DAY YET AGAIN!

Rested up my knees… drank a bottle of Coke I had in the fridge… and took some pain killers. I was recuperating.

Before I went out yet again to eat, preferably sushi, I had to once again reflect on this day, and the whole trip.

I said I learned a lot last year in the Singapore Grand Prix, and indeed, I took what I learned to the Japanese Grand Prix, and with what I learned in the Japanese Grand Prix, I can improve on that further and be even more prepared for the next Grand Prix weekend than I felt that I already was in Japan.

I will invest on a DSLR backpack/trolley; I will get one of those reusable grocery bags with a zipper for my drinks, towels, and whatnot, during the Grand Prix weekend; I will also buy a stadium cushion that can be used on bleachers or seats for extra comfort, while watching the race; and a monopod – even if my Nikon D7200, with a Nikon MB-D15, a Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM, and Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter, all combined, isn’t all too heavy for whole day hand held shooting, I feel I will have more stable shots consistently with a monopod. Just remember when you zoom in completely far out with a telephoto lens, that the minute movement makes it hard to keep a subject in place, so a monopod will keep me consistent in that regard.

Rested enough and my stomach begging for some sustenance, I went my way back out and went to a nice little sushi shop near the station.

You just gotta have sushi in Japan!

It was a perfect way to cap off my day and trip.

It was cozy for someone like me, and I loved it.

Explored a little bit more of the city, without a camera to take pics with, soaking in as much of Nagoya and Japan I can before heading back to the hotel and pack up.

Nothing like watching “Love Live! Sunshine!!” while packing!

Before I knew it, it was 2AM when I got done packing, and I plan to leave for the airport before 7AM, which thankfully, I bought a first class Meitetsu ticket after dinner.

Slept only an hour before I had to ready up myself and that is how I consider now it is Day 4… time to go home.


DAY 4

Thank you Nagoya, Japan! Stay awesome!

Went out to find a vending machine to get coffee and still soak in more of Japan before I check out and go to the station. It was, again, a surreal feeling. Being in the country I am so in love with, and having to watch the race in a track that I had dreamed of many times when I was a kid. All this, traveling alone, in a country I have never been to before, and only using my prior research of the place, and my lackluster Japanese phrases. I was really at the top of my game… I was really accomplished. The only thing left is to have enough energy and enough right knee left to make it back to the Philippines.

Check out in VIA INN was pretty awesome, just stick your key card in a machine, and you are good to go. Then I used their PC to print out my ticket, gave my thank you to the staff, and off I go to the station one more time in this trip.

The train ride, at 7AM, going through different areas of Japan, from Nagoya going all the way to Chubu Centrair International Airport, provided a nice, heartfelt “farewell, and see you later!” from Japan. The skies were so clear, the sun was happily out, caressing the beauty that is Japan. I was close to tears again at this point at what I just accomplished.

Having some more souvenir purchases inside the airport, maybe find anything else I want to buy for my camera since they have a BIC Camera inside as well, drowned in so much more coffee so I can use up my coins, but later found out I can just donate them in a box, and so I did.

Time to head back home…

Finally, it was time to board. And I just had to think to myself, “Arigatou, Japan! I will see you again real soon!”

Back home in the Philippines, as per usual, a wall of heat greeted me, telling me that I am indeed back in the Philippines. Met up with my mom and our driver, Rico, and we all drove back to Angeles City, a good 2 hours away from NAIA, and boy, I think my exhaustion caught up big time, and I got dizzy in the drive back home.

When I got back home, I gave my dad a hug, and greeted him a belated happy birthday since I was in Japan when it was his birthday, when straight to the bathroom, vomited because I was so dizzy from the drive back, went to my room without talking about the souvenirs I got for my family or that of my friends, didn’t change out of my clothes, and didn’t even bother going to my mattress that was already on the floor, and just decided to lay on the rug and I got knocked out for several hours.

Upon waking up, I was so eager to show my family my pictures I got from the trip. It was at this point, that my dream, indeed came true.

And with that!

My blog for the entire trip is done! Took only over 3 months to post!

Til’ next time!

PEACE!

P.S.

It is not easy attending a Grand Prix weekend! I got some bruises  from the event lol

Bruise on my right forearm
Bruise on my left hand
Wound on my right leg
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Another Dream Come True: My Trip to Japan! Day 2!

Continuing from my previous post of my trip to Japan!

This post is dedicated to Day 2!

Again, this is a very word and photo heavy post!


DAY 2

The night before, I packed up my gear that included Fancier DSLR Backpack (which funnily enough, I bought way back in 2011 when I only owned a Nikon D5000, kit lens, and a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens; I knew I would, one day or another, have more, bigger lenses, and DSLR… I was right):

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  •  Nikon D7200 with a Nikon MB-D15 battery grip
  • Nikon Speedlight SB-600 with Eneloop Batteries
  • Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM
  • Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM
  • Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG
  • 3x EN-EL15 batteries (2x Wasabi branded and 1x Nikon OEM)
  • 2x SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB SDHC, 1x SanDisk ULTRA 32GB SDHC (kept inside SD card case of course)
  • Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader (since my LYNCA card reader/card case swallowed a ton of water and buggered out), along with an OTG cable (The Nikon D7200 can be wirelessly tethered to my Android phone, but if you take more than 100 shots, it takes a long time to find those couple of photos to upload without post processing, thus an OTG cable with a card reader is much faster)
  • BlackRapid RS-Sport Version 2 Sling Strap
  • Joby GorillaPod (not used lol)
  • ND Filters (also not used lol)
  • DSLR Rain Cover (because I knew it would rain)
  • ROMOSS Solo 5 10,000mAh Power Bank

Then I also packed in a separate plastic bag:

  • LOTS of face towels
  • Umbrella (because of course)
  • Couple of bottled water (some tracks don’t allow you to bring outside drinks, so double check on the track you are visiting; of course the sell drinks track side, but sometimes it can get a bit pricey, so getting a couple of bottles will hold you off until the time you really need to buy from trackside)
  • Extra shirt
  • Alcohol (of the Isopropyl variety of course)

Ate a big breakfast at the hotel to keep me satisfied during the train ride to Suzuka as it takes at least an hour to reach Shiriko Station in Suzuka, and at least 30 mins to reach the track by way of shuttle service.

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I used the Kintetsu line to get to Suzuka, and much like the Meitetsu line, I opted for the first class tickets in order to enjoy the ride, and again, I usually spend a bit more to be comfortable during travels/commute because of my right knee, and boy was my right knee tested this whole trip and I learned new things to better prepare on my next travels to ease the pain on my right knee.

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The train ride was really comfortable and fast; great to see the scenery, but since this is a main train line between lots of cities and such, you don’t really see the country side, but there are some areas of pure green fields to marvel at. And not to turn down the city side view, as we all know, that Japan, and not limited to Tokyo, have beautiful cities that are well managed and well planned. So it still quite a beautiful sight!

Welcome to Suzuka!

Arriving at Shiriko Station at Suzuka, you can clearly see the signs to help you reach the shuttle service in order to reach the track since the track is not close to the station. You are certainly not alone, so you will see fellow fans locally or fellow foreigners, so if you can’t see the signs, just follow a fellow fan, and you will be all right.

After the shuttle parked up near Suzuka Circuit, it is at this moment where you have to purchase a ticket for the shuttle you used in order to enter the track, for 900 Yen; this is also where you can get a return ticket for the shuttle service – the combined price for the return ticket is 1700 Yen – also purchasing the return ticket now not only gives you a slight discount, but let’s you avoid queuing up at the ticket booth later in the day. At this day, I just got the 1 way ticket because I knew I will be going home late and will use the taxi services instead.

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First thing I noticed is that the Suzuka Circuit has a lot of uphill and downhill walkways; don’t get me wrong, they are made in a way that the average person can traverse to (well some walkways are REALLY steep, which I will get into later on), but having come from Singapore Grand Prix in the Marina Bay Street Circuit, being a street circuit, it was definitely more flat terrain that was far more easy for me to walk around the track in. Plus having to carry like 10lbs of camera gear may not sound a lot, but having to lug it around on a not so flat terrain for the majority of the day on a bad right knee, can certainly take its toll on me. This is one of the new lessons I learned in this Grand Prix weekend – that is to invest on one of those DSLR backpack that doubles as a trolley so I can just drag my gear around the circuits in the future.

After a couple of minutes walking from the shuttle stop to the main entrance, it was a sight that made me want to tear up.

Suzuka Circuit
Note: I already got my plastic ID ticket when I started having self portraits lol

Suzuka Circuit

I mentioned already that I have always dreamed of visiting Japan because of my numerous hobbies that are link to the culture of Japan, and being a F1 fan since 1996, Suzuka Circuit is one of those tracks I always dreamed of visiting on a Grand Prix weekend, but honestly never thought it can come true, yet, there I was… in Japan… And right in front of the famous main entrance for the famous Suzuka Circuit… God is great indeed!

My Happiest Place on Earth

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Inside the circuit premises, it is like home for a Formula 1 fan as you’d expect; I see everyone wearing their colors to support their team and/or driver… I see everyone interacting with strangers to talk about the sport we love, befriending them, and helping one another getting photos of each other or even together to mark a special weekend and keep for memories.

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You see all the booths much like I did in Singapore, selling what can be considered overpriced F1 gear if you haven’t already ordered some of the gear online elsewhere prior to the event. They also sell limited edition memorabilia, like the Kimi Raikkonen Suzuka Edition that was sold out minutes as soon as the shops open I heard, and thus, one of the special edition shirts I was so hell bent on purchasing was gone before I even got to the track that Saturday morning. F1 fans, I included, will pay a premium for any F1 gear we deem worth it… and Raikkonen is one of my all time favorite drivers, who is famous everywhere, but ever more so in Japan.

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Lots of places to eat and grab drinks as well. From your typical western style food, to the more local Japanese food.

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Since the track premises also house MOTOPIA, a themepark, there are numerous rides if you are into that sort of thing. Deeper within the track premises and ever closer to the actual track, you can also ride the famous Ferris wheel that is a fixture in the skies eavh time I watch the Japanese Grand Prix on TV. I was about to avail for the ride, but I did so much elsewhere around the track, and the queue was really getting long for that particular ride, that I thought to myself that this will give me another reason to return to Suzuka in the near future just to ride this Ferris wheel.

Kimi Fans United!

Many of my friends called me out for wearing Ferrari colors last year for the Singapore Grand Prix, calling me crazy spending on the gear (not gonna lie, the Formula 1 shirts, caps, and whatnot are pretty pricey indeed), as if they themselves don’t spend a lot on basketball jerseys or the like, but unlike Singapore, the fans here in Japan are all out! The fans in Singapore (plus the fans that traveled to Singapore) also showed their love and colors for the sport, but here in Japan (and again the fans that also traveled to Japan), the fans are not shy to show their love and passion for the sport! I mean, they aren’t shy to show their love for any hobbies they have, and that is one of the major reasons why I love Japan and its people.

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With Sebastian Vettel (Uhm, Close Enough!)

With My Hero, Kimi Raikkonen (Uhm, Close Enough!)

With Fernando Alonso (Uhm, Close Enough!)

With Sebastian Vettel (Uhm, Close Enough!)

You see people wear face tattoos, wearing racing overalls and helmet, you see them making big banners for their favorite team/driver, etc. This may not be a big deal for other sports like basketball, but unlike basketball, though F1 being famous, is just not as famous to my friends. So seeing other passionate people as I am gives me a warm fuzzy feeling that I finally belong somewhere.

It is also of note, that I still haven’t gotten my plastic ID ticket yet, since the pick up point is in the GP Square right next to the track that is a bit further from the main entrance.

Kimi for President!

Thus, walking towards the pickup point, I obviously took my time to look around the track, maybe buy a couple or more gear and such; meet new people, befriend them, and trade social media info; and of course, take a ton of photos of the life inside the event and have some self portraits for memories.

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I then got my ID ticket and felt more empowered… well it doesn’t really do much, but having to wear the ID around the track feels oh so good.

Suzuka Circuit

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Did a little more exploring, then grabbed a big bit to eat, stocked up on another bottle of water and Coke, then I headed towards my designated seating. The skies were also beginning to darken and hints of rain by way of a drizzle.

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This was the toughest part; I was already quite tired from my exploration before the Qualifying Session even started, but going to my seat entails going around Turns 1 and 2 which is also quite long, but having to go down a steep hill then up again was worrying me if my right knee can take it especially when I’m carrying a lot.

Eventually, luckily, and unbelievably, I made it to my seat, and a few minutes to spare before the Qualifying Session began, so I started to setup my Nikon D7200 by messing around with the settings that will be perfect for the current cloudy conditions and that with my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM and Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG, which with the teleconverter, loses 2 stop of light, so with the cloudy conditions, it really isn’t helpful if I want to shoot at a higher shutter speed. Thankfully, I still managed to find the sweet spot in order to get the shots I wanted.

So here are a few shots of each driver during the entirety of the Qualifying Session:

Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen, #7, Scuderia Ferrari, SF71H
Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel, #5, Scuderia Ferrari, SF71H
Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton, #44, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, W09
Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas, #77, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, W09
Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo, #3, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, RB14
Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen, #33, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, RB14
Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg, #27, Renault Sport F1, R.S.18
Carlos Sainz Jr
Carlos Sainz, Jr., #55, Renault Sport F1, R.S.18
Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso, #14, McLaren F1 Team, MCL33
Stoffel Vandoorne
Stoffel Vandoorne, #2, McLaren F1 Team, MCL33
Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc, #16, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, C37
Marcus Ericsson
Marcus Ericsson, #9, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, C37
Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly, #10, Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, STR13
Brendon Hartley
Brendon Hartley, #28, Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, STR13
Lance Stroll
Lance Stroll, #18, Williams Martini Racing, FW41
Sergey Sirotkin
Sergey Sirotkin, #35, Williams Martini Racing, FW41
Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez, #11, Racing Point Force India F1 Team, VJM11
Esteban Ocon
Esteban Ocon, #31, Racing Point Force India F1 Team, VJM11
Kevin Magnussen
Kevin Magnussen, #20, Haas F1 Team, VF-18
Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean, #8, Haas F1 Team, VF-18

Near the end, of the Qualifying Session, Qualifying 3 to be exact, the skies began to open up and it poured. Having my DSLR rain cover at the ready, my gear is certainly safe. I also had a rain cover for my back pack and learning from last year in Singapore, I also bought a rain poncho at trackside knowing that the rain may be coming.

Results wise, it wasn’t a good day for Ferrari, but experience wise, it was just perfect. No rain will dampen my parade for sure.

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When all was said and done, there was a special historical lap event for the past F1 cars; they will give an exhibition of sorts, but I decided to forego that and make my way back to the GP Square, because my ticket enabled me to have a pit lane walk and be close to the actual cars, albeit behind barriers, or so I thought… wink wink.

Knowing others will also take advantage, I quickly had another bottle of Coke, another bottle of water, and headed my way to to queue up for the pit lane walk.

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The Eye in the Suzuka Sky

It took an hour I think to queue up, but it was well worth it; to be in the pit lane, seeing and talking to some of the teams’ engineers, getting close enough to the cars to photograph, being right underneath the podium…

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IT WAS A MAGICAL. I thought to myself, I have been quite lucky in this trip so far… how can it get better than this!?

AND IT DID.

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Working my way up to Ferrari’s garage, knowing that much like other garages at that moment, it will be empty as per FIA mandate, all cars after the Qualifying Session must be parked up next to the Scrutineering Garage just to make sure that was no exploits to have gained an advantage in the session. But I felt I took enough photos of the Ferrari and that of the other cars while I past by the FIA garage where they are being scrutineered, so I still headed onward through other garages and that of Ferrari’s.

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

I chanced upon meeting two of Ferrari’s engineers and thought having a photo with them, because why not!? It was at this moment I wanted to shoot myself in the foot because I forgot to show them a video of me and my racing simulator playing F1 2018! Not saying they will be so impressed by my driving, but maybe at least be impressed by my set up… who knows, maybe they would have invited me inside to show their friends my set up. Sigh. But still, having a nice little chat and a picture with them was awesome.

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Finally made it to the Ferrari garage, just taking pictures of the heading, the equipment, the engineers, all inside the 2 empty garages, again, because the cars are being scrutineered at this moment, but all of a sudden, I was hearing so much commotion, I also heard some people speaking lots of Italian, and when I turned around, lo and behold! It was Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari SF71H car being hauled back into the garage! It was so close, I can taste it! Sadly, I wasn’t too close because I was caught off guard thus, others had a better vantage point than me, but I took a great garage photo of it, in my opinion. Just being that close to the Ferrari SF71H was beyond a dream come true!

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Knowing way better at this point, even if I was taking so many shots of Kimi’s car, that Sebastien Vettel’s Ferrari SF71H will also be hauled in soon. And it did. This time, I was at a better position, to the point that the car’s rear right tire was so close to my leg, so close to the point that if I ever tripped, I was would have scuffed up any part of the car and be sent to jail. It would have been worth it though. And I got a good enough garage photo of Seb’s car. But that is give and take: I got a great pics of Kimi’s car in the garage, yet so and so pics while it being hauled in; I got great pics of Seb’s car being hauled in, though I got so and so pics of his car in the garage. And that is like the cherry on top! I was so satisfied with my trip and my visit to the track… that I really can’t think of anything topping this. Everything else is just more cherry on top, and trust me, I ended up with lots of cherry upon the end of my trip.

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Another car that I was able to brush right up against was Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes AMG F1 Wo9 Power+ (Simply, the Mercedes W09) car; admittedly, I was never ever a Hamilton fan, but I respect him as a great driver, and amazed at all his accomplishments. Being a Ferrari fan since I started watching the sport, of course, my allegiance lies with the team and most of the drivers that either drove for us for a time, still drive for us, or left (Like Fernando Alonso, I never really liked him before, but became a fan when he drove for us, and since respected him until he eventually retired this year. Same goes for Kimi Raikkonen, didn’t like him at first, but when he drove for us and grabbed a title for us in 2007, I became a fan of his and he remains my number 1 current driver, even if he will return to Sauber next season).

In Control

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Suzuka Circuit Track Walk

My Dream Come True

Having my fix of the pit lane, I moved on to the start/finish straight, a sight that we all know too well when you are a racing fan… where obviously the starting grid is placed and the race starts, and ultimately ends with the chequered flag. I was really blessed to even just walk a few meters of the actual race track… I should have asked someone to photograph me pretending to kiss the tarmac, but I was so overwhelmed that I have forgotten to do so. Next time…

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After all that was said and done, I then worked my way back out the main entrance of the circuit and since it was pretty late and the shuttle service is over for that day, hence why I decided to just purchase a 1 way ticket earlier in the day and not the return ticket, so I waited in queue for a taxi; it took awhile, but it afforded me yet another few minutes to take a breather and just reflect on what I have achieved so far in this trip. It is surreal.

Got on a taxi eventually, was able to get the first class Kintetsu ticket, and soon enough, I made it back to the hotel, feeling so accomplished… so empowered… I was ecstatic.

I did a lot this day, but there are still more things to see the next day that I failed to do so this day, certainly more photos of the other points of interest around the track, and the weather forecast for the next day is clears skies with no chance of rain, so taking photos of the cars running laps will be so much better.

Capped off this amazing day with a random dinner and even more Coke…

Day 3 here we come!


Stay tuned for Day 3 post!

-o-

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Another Dream Come True: My Trip to Japan! Days 0-1!

WARNING:

VERY WORD HEAVY AND PHOTO HEAVY POST!

THIS WAS ORIGINALLY A SINGLE POST OF ALL THE DAYS OF MY TRIP, BUT I DECIDED TO DIVIDE IT TO THREE POSTS:

FIRST POST, THIS POST, WILL BE FOR THE INTRODUCTION AND DAYS 0-1 OF MY TRIP;

THE SECOND WILL BE DURING THE DAY 2 (FORMULA 1 QUALIFYING SESSION);

THE THIRD POST WILL BE FOR DAY 3 (FORMULA 1 RACEDAY), AND DAY 4, WHERE I AM GOING BACK HOME TO THE PHILIPPINES.

FINALLY, IF YOU STILL FIND EACH DAY A LONG READ, THEN TREAT EACH DAY AS A CHAPTER AND READ IN SPURTS.


Introduction

Talk about being late to a party… I traveled to Japan, specifically in Nagoya and Suzuka, for a short vacation and, of course, watch the FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix – a race that I have always wanted to attend since I was a kid, in a country I have always wanted to visit since I was a kid, last October 4-8, 2018, and I only, finally, have time to write about. Here’s hoping I still remember what I have done in those days…

First off, a lot of my friends, both close and otherwise, would know me as a guy, in spite of my age, is still into anime/manga, gaming, collecting, and a passionately weird guy… With that said, it is obvious that someone like me love the country of Japan and anything Japanese. Thus, having to go to Japan is already a dream come true.

Second off, I am a Formula 1 (hereafter, F1) fan for 22 years now, and the Suzuka Circuit that hosts the Japanese Grand Prix ranks as one of the highest on my bucket list of F1 racetracks to attend. And again, having to visit the track and attend the race weekend, is another dream come true.

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That moment I got my Formula 1 tickets!
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Comparison with last year’s Formula 1 package; if you are up to date with F1, you’d know they changed their logo from this year onward.
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No hard plastic/ID card ticket on the package; one must pick it up at the venue, unlike last year in Singapore.

Adding those 2 dreams together, this is like the perfect trip for me! And it was!

Seeing that it has been way over two months since I traveled to Japan alone (yes, another solo adventure, which is better anyway lol), let us go down memory lane together… starting with…


DAY 0

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Solo trip!

The plane ride to Japan was pretty standard, plus no annoyance or drama since I am traveling ALONE, so I can just concentrate on my own things, upon arriving however, it was immediately fun and adventurous as I had to take a train from Chubu Centrair International Airport to the heart of Nagoya in order to check into my hotel.

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Meitetsu μTicket

It was already a trip to ride this just to get to my hotel since Japan is really known for the transport system, and having to ride the metro/subway for the duration of my trip in Japan first hand, I can say they are well maintained. Sure there was one time I did get into the subway at the afternoon rush hour, but it was still minor hassle.

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My hotel, VIA INN, specifically VIA INN Nagoya Ekimae Tsubakicho, since there are actually 2 VIA INNs in close proximity, happens to be relatively close to the station, thus why I chose it, and I am glad I did, as it was seriously in the heart of the city so I can pretty much go anywhere interesting nearby, and since the station was also close by, I can pretty much go anywhere a bit farther.

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Since it was already past 9PM upon check in, and was quite tired from the flight, I decided just to limit my exploration in this DAY 0 and just head out to a Curry House CoCo for dinner.

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Immediately, my love for Japan has increased, because unlike other countries where they use celebrities or athletes in their ads, in Japan they use they beloved gaming characters or anime characters to advertise absolutely anything and everything.

Of course, there are JPOP Idols like AKB48 and such that also advertise things, and I also don’t mind that! I happen to like JPOP, the only pop songs I care to listen to… So in short, I feel right at home in Japan.

I happen to know a few Japanese phrases, and these came in handy the following days; it is nice to note, that unlike in Tokyo (though I have never been there yet), other cities in Japan, most people may not know a lot of English, so knowing simple phrases can help. Not saying they CAN’T speak English, they do, but there can still be a barrier when you need directions or buying things.

When I run out of Japanese phrases and English is not the way to go in communicating, I did resort to the offline mode of Google Translate, type in what I want to say, show it anyone, and they either reply to me in English directly or type their reply.

So if anyone goes to Japan outside the majors cities like Tokyo, Nagoya, etc., you may encounter more language barriers, thus knowing a phrases and/or using the offline mode of Google Translate will help you and keep you confident going around. PLUS! This is Japan! MOST EVERYONE IS HELPFUL! One of the safest countries to travel alone, which I did…

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Anyways, I used a mixture of my known phrases along with Google Translate to order my curry rice from Curry House CoCo, and if you are familiar with the curry rice from Japan, it isn’t the usual Indian style curry you’d expect, but both are very delicious.

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Having satisfied my hunger, I had to be taken aback for a moment to realize what I just achieved; now this isn’t the first time I traveled alone, that would have been last year when I went to Singapore, also for a F1 race, but still, having to travel to Japan for the first time, alone for that matter; having to rely on my prior research from getting from Point A to Point B around Japan; being so at home immediately in Japan; knowing I will also watch my all time favorite sport, F1, in my all time favorite country to ever visit, Japan… I really can’t think of a more perfect vacation, a more perfect race weekend.


DAY 1

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Ready to explore!

I considered the day before, the arrival day, as Day 0, because pretty much nothing really happened apart from me nearly crying at the fact I am in Japan… the country I absolutely adore… So the very next day is Day 1, officially vacation mode!

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My plan for the trip! I am OC like this… In fact, most of my trips anywhere, I make plans, but not as detailed as this LOL
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Vital files that were also transferred to my tablet and phone; every time I have a trip outside the country, I do this, but the detailed general plan is a first.

As mentioned in Day 0, I did make some research prior to going to Japan; since this is in fact my first time in Japan, and me traveling alone, I needed to research on how to use the metro/subway, how to get to here or there, what to see and do, etc., and I will just give a bit of a spoiler, my research and subsequent plan that I made for the trip worked perfectly! This goes to show that being obsessive compulsive about any minute detail can aid you in traveling to other countries you never visited before. Now I may just ask the locals, but like I mentioned above, sometimes, though they may understand and speak English, there are still a number of people in Japan that may have a barrier, but with that said, they will still be more than willing to help, despite the barrier.

When I went to Singapore, I wasn’t all too worried from getting from Point A to Point B, because it is relatively easier to navigate since it is smaller than Japan, but it is not like I walked from end to end in Singapore, what I mean is that, it is easier to get to the airport, the hotel, the track, other tourist spots, etc, than in Japan, specifically when I have to go to my hotel from the airport, or from my hotel to the track in Suzuka… Also, I have friends that live in Singapore, so if the going gets rough, I will just give them a call. My trip to Japan, I really only had myself to rely on. Just the way I like it. It forces me to be… dare I say it… an adult.

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Preordered a Sigma APO 1.4x Teleconverter EX DG, since the Sigma 2x APO Teleconverter EX DG was sold out, but was surprised when I got to the shop and they had the 2x Teleconverter after all!

Also prior to the trip to Japan, I was researching for any camera shop nearby (there were lots of anime/manga, toy/hobby, tech/gaming shops nearby, so I need not research to much on them lol), since I was considering purchasing a Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG to couple it with my Sigma 50-150mm APO EX DC OS HSM and my Nikon D7200.

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Went to the wrong Bic Camera at first; there are two Bic Cameras close to my hotel.
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The correct Bic Camera!

Lo and behold! I found a shopping complex near my hotel that has a floor specifically for cameras! Bic Camera allowed me to preorder the item online and pick it up at their Nagoya shop (but there are two, and I knew about that, but I still accidentally went to their other shop which was also nearby lol) and have it tax free, and so, a few days before heading out to Japan, I preordered my Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG. Or at least that was the plan; they said that the 2x Teleconverter is sold out in the any of Nagoya Bic Camera outlets and the one near my hotel only has the 1.4x Teleconverter, thus I said, alright, let’s just get that and confirmed my preorder.

Thus the first order of business is to pick up my item and not get to excited along the way and buy every anime/gaming/tech thing I see. And to my surprise, when I showed the paper for my preorder, they came out with a 2x Teleconverter! So I was very happily surprised!

Broketober 2018

It was a bit surreal purchasing a DSLR accessory in another country for me; I mean, sure it is almost like buying any sort of souvenir, but I always had a rule never to buy any electronic/tech gear outside my home country of the Philippines because of the simple fact that if it does fail or have problems later on, I can’t use the shop’s warranty, and let’s face it, the manufacturer’s warranty here in the Philippines can cause so much more hassle than it is worth – trust me, I have dealt with numerous RMA’s and it never ended well… actually, most of the time, it doesn’t even start well.

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Having purchased it without hassle since it was reserved for me prior to my flight, and the staff are very friendly, then add in the numerous, almost overwhelming amount of camera gear from Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc., it was like I am a kid at a candy store.

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Blurry. I know.

Also of note, just a few floors below are the action figures/hobby floor, and another is the gaming floor, and yet another floor is the PC floor. I can live here!

Another simple reason why I love Japan is that they don’t shy away from their interests and hobbies, be it gaming, anime, tech, anything! No matter how old they get, no matter if real life gets in the way, they still go back to their hobbies and are not afraid or shy to show it.

I for one, being a Filipino-American, I guess I am a little more comfortable than most people here in the Philippines to show his weird side… his sometimes, well most of the time, unbearable weird side, to others. But I don’t mind and I am not embarrassed to show my passion for my manga/anime, gaming, tech, Formula, photography, music, and action figure collecting hobbies. And to show it PASSIONATELY.

That is not to say there are no passionate people here in the Philippines with their hobbies. THERE ARE! And quite a lot! Which makes collecting easier nowadays since there are many hobby shops popping up now. Also, with the advent of the internet, ordering overseas for those rarer items are so much easier, too! But in terms of my close personal friends, I don’t have that many that are as crazy or passionate as me. I do have some, but they few and far in between.

Wait, I digress… this is supposed to be about my Day 1 shenanigans at Nagoya!

Keep Walkin'...

In The Art of the City

I had to dash back to the hotel to drop of my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM lens and newly bought Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG, then pack in my Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM and Sigma 30mm F/1.4 EX DC HSM lenses to explore more of Nagoya. And yes, I love my Sigma and Nikon combinations!

Next stop is at Nagoya Castle!

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I had to take the subway, and on the way, make one transfer until I reach the station just next to the castle. This is where my research and careful planning comes into play. And I felt triumphant, because my plan worked perfectly and not once did I feel that I got lost.

I made sure to go later than 8-9AM because of the rush hour, and being it my first time riding their subway, I need to make sure I get a seat to get used to it first.

Also, if in the rare event you do get lost or not sure where to go next, of course there are staff always ready to help you out. But it feels so much better doing things on your own, on your own (meaning, traveling alone and not relying so much on anyone but you yourself… like I did).

Another World

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With my friendly tour guides, Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san!

I decided, upon reaching the castle, I will take up the free English Tour Guide, so at least I won’t blindly go around the castle complex without knowing anything. That way I can learn about the history and just have a fun time with the tour guides.

And talk about lucky!

I was told by Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san, my wonderfully entertaining, knowledgeable, and friendly tour guides, that starting next year, they will start renovating the main keep and it won’t be as visible to the public. So, I visited on the right time. And as we continue with this post, you will see just how lucky I am this day visiting the castle premises.

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The golden kettle that was made from the original “shachi”

Looking at the scenery just around the castle, we also stopped by one of their tea houses and I was again lucky to see the golden kettle that is used for the tea ceremony; that golden kettle was made from the remains of the original golden “shachi” – A shachihoko or shachi is from Japanese folklore, where an animal has a head of a tiger and the body of a carp – and it usually hidden behind a glass casing, but during Fridays, the day I visited, they bring it out for the people to see, and they actually use it for customers that have tea.

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Moving on, I was learning a lot the history of the castle and that of my tour guides as persons as well. Of course, I will not give you a lesson on what I just learned from them in the history of the castle, you can always Google that, or preferably, if you ever visit Nagoya, grab a free tour guide (free English tour guides start at 1PM local time), so you can befriend and learn the history!

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Getting ever closer to the main castle keep, I was pointed towards the Hommaru Palace that was originally built in 1615 by the first Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, for his son, was actually under restoration for, if I remember correctly, for the past 10 years, and was just recently finished and opened for public viewing starting June 8 of this year. So I got lucky yet again!

I will not be posting any pictures from inside the palace, for it will add to the total picture count in the post, not to mention, more words, and it will ruin the magic… It is best to see it in person!

Nagoya Castle Main Keep

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Arigatou! Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san!

After the palace, and after seeing the main keep a lot closer, a few more chit chat with my tour guides, it was time to part ways. It was a free tour guide, since they were volunteers, but I wanted to at least give them something for snacks or drinks, but as expected, especially from the Japanese, they wholeheartedly declined my offer. I promised the next time I ever visit again, I will surely do my best to see them, granted they will still be volunteering. Nice people like them is hard to come by nowadays.

Parting ways didn’t mean I left the castle grounds immediately, I still enjoyed myself with snacks and drinks and to get a breather, since carrying 2 lenses, my DSLR, though not so heavy, does take a toll on me, especially with a bad right knee.

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I am welcomed a ninja clan!

I was entertained by a ninja performance, so it bought more time to rest, and of course, photo opportunity with one of the ninja!

@Nagoya

Aki

I then took a few more minutes to rest up, drink up some more, then head onto the city vis subway once more, this time to just explore anything and end up in Maidreamin Cafe! Yes, a maid cafe… because OF COURSE!!

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The Lines That We Cross

Road Rules

I was also supposed to go to Osu Shopping District to find nice souvenirs for my friends, and maybe some stuff for myself as well, but after going around the city, I knew I will just end the day in Maidreamin then head back to my hotel to recuperate and prepare for the F1 qualifying session the next day.

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I then reached Maidreamin Cafe, and well, it is what you would expect if you know anything about these cafe either from reading manga, watching anime, or generally being a weeb (which a lot of people call me, but I think I’m more of an otaku than a weeb). The maids are very friendly, though there was a bit of language barrier at first, in the end, I got what I ordered, and had a nice chat with a couple of the staff at hand.

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Believe it or not, visiting a maid cafe is one of my goals in this trip, and also have a Instax photo with one of the maid which is part of the bundle I ordered. I will say this now, out of all the photos I have taken in Japan, it was this photo of me, that wasn’t even taken with my phone or DSLR, as my stand out photo of the trip!

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Also in the bundle I ordered was the cat ears (you get to choose what animal ears you like, but since I love cats, it was a no-brainer to get the cat ears), and a maid uniform keychain. Overall, a great experience, and I am glad to tick this off my bucket list. Like I said to my friends, you know you made it in life if you tick off visiting a maid cafe off your bucket list.

After the maid cafe, thankfully there was a subway station just next to the cafe, so I made my way back to my hotel; truth be told, this station wasn’t part of the plan I made previously, but I was already familiar with using the subway and where to go, so even if this wasn’t part of the initial plan, I still made it to my hotel in the end with no hiccups… also of note, I did catch the subway during the afternoon rush hour, but usually the afternoon rush hour is not as bad at the morning rush hours.

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Reaching the hotel, rested up a bit, then had a quick dinner, and decided to sleep early to take a train to Suzuka and eventually the race track.

It is gonna be special!


Stay tuned for Day 2 post!

-o-

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Countdown ’til the Five Red Lights Go Out for the FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix!

Only a few more days and I get to visit the beautiful country of Japan, a country I have always dreamed of visiting since I was a kid; I have always been fascinated by the culture, the history, I love reading manga, watching anime, playing games, collecting action figures, and being overall weird, thus wanting to visit Japan shouldn’t come at a surprise.

I may only be visiting Nagoya and Suzuka this time around, because by the above photograph, it is obvious I am going to Japan for the FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix held at the legendary Suzuka Circuit; like the country of Japan, I have always dreamed of visiting the Suzuka Circuit ever since I was a kid, because of the memorable title deciders that took place there in 1998 and 2000, where we see Mika Hakkinen of McLaren Mercedes vs Michael Schumacher (arguably my favorite driver of all time, with Kimi Raikkonen a close second) of Ferrari (my favorite team of all time) duke it out in the 18 turns of the circuit. Even before that duel, we have duels of Alain Prost of McLaren Honda and later Ferrari vs Ayrton Senna of McLaren Honda during the 1988-1990 seasons being yet another title decider between the 2, obviously, I wasn’t able to watch this being born on 1989, so the former 2 seasons between Mika and Michael are the ones I remember from my childhood and instilled my dream to visit the track one day.

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Comparing last year’s Singapore Grand Prix tickets package (left) with this year’s Japanese Grand Prix tickets package

Truth be told, the Japanese Grand Prix was supposed to be the very first Formula 1 Grand Prix I will ever attend, but I chose Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit last year to become the actual first race I ever attended; this is largely due to the fact that early last year, there were plans not to renew the contract with Formula 1 to keep the event in the calendar. Upon arriving in Singapore, I was informed that they then arrived at an agreement to keep Singapore in the racing calendar.

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Last year for the Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit

It may sound that I wasn’t happy that the Singapore Grand Prix became my first grand prix ever attended, when in fact, I was ecstatic; I may have wanted Japan to be my first race to ever attend, but Singapore had this special atmosphere, and I surely enjoyed my visit to the country and race. I wouldn’t trade that feeling and experience for anything else.

Now that I will fulfill yet another childhood dream, albeit now being the second race I ever attended, I can’t help but feel blessed, happy, and excited.

Much like last year in Singapore, I know I will have a great time exploring, although only in the Nagoya and Suzuka area this time around; I will be more prepared for the race weekend since I learned so much from Singapore; and I am ready to meet fellow Formula 1 fans from different walks of life, either supporting the same team and driver or not, it is the sport that we are passionate about in the end that will forge friendships that will last – again much like last year where I made new friends that may not share the same love as me for Ferrari but do love Formula 1 and we knew from that point we will be great friends and still are in touch today.

The experience and friendships in the end will be the ultimate win for me if in the event Ferrari will pull the same unfortunate result in the last race I attended.

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This picture still stings; during the start of the Singapore Grand Prix last year. Here’s hoping we have a better result in Japan.

Til next time! PEACE!!!

-0-

Follow me here or on the following site1s!

•Follow me on Twitter!

•Follow me on Flickr!

•I’m also at Facebook!

•Perhaps Google+!

•Do you game? Add me on Steam!

Prelude to my Japan Trip!

Hey y’all! It sure has been awhile! Real life has kept me busy and to be honest, I was struck with the writer’s block… So it was tough to blog about anything like I used to.

I have recently ordered a mother lode of items that will be very useful for my upcoming trip to Japan, and to be precise, Nagoya and Suzuka areas are the places of interest I will be staying and visiting for the short duration I’m there.

Before I get into the items in question, for those who have been following me here and those with a keen eye would notice I mentioned that I will visit Suzuka, and why yes, I am going to Japan, for the first time by the way, to watch the FIA Formula 1Japanese Grand Prix held in the legendary Suzuka Circuit; I have always dreamed of visiting Japan in general since I love many Japanese things, from their culture, love for anime/gaming, and all the way down to their history – I simply love Japan. Add the fact that I love Formula 1 (hereafter F1) and the Suzuka Circuit hosted a lot of memorable races when I was growing up, most notably the title deciders from 1998 and 2000 seasons, Schumacher vs Hakkinen era (I was much too young to have watched Senna vs Prost the title deciders from 1988-1990 seasons). Thus, this trip will realize a couple of my all time dreams.

Now we got that out of the way, let us take a peek at the items I ordered for the trip, and well, these items will be also used in future trips, so it is a good investment in the long run.

1. Wasabi Power EN-EL15 batteries and dual charger

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The Nikon D7200 and it’s OEM EN-EL15 that came packaged with it is rated at 1900mAh, and while that is no slouch of a battery, I do notice that the D7200 does drain the battery quickly; not so quick that it will go from full charge to nothing in a whole days shooting, but I came awfully close a few times already. Knowing that I will be taking a lot more pictures than I did last year in the FIA F1 Singapore Grand Prix, I knew I should stock up on more EN-EL15 batteries.

Was looking at another Nikon OEM EN-EL15, but heard great thing about the Wasabi EN-EL15 batteries. The price of one Nikon OEM can fetch you a couple of Wasabi EN-EL15 batteries along with its dual charger. Thus I decided to try the Wasabi batteries.

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As you can see from the battery itself, they are rated at 2000mAh, not much larger than that of the Nikon OEM, but now that I have a total of 3 EN-EL15 batteries, I effectively have 5900mAh total power that will definitely keep me shooting for the whole day and then some.

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Overall build quality of the batteries are great in my opinion, I also like the slightly more matte feel and finish compared to the Nikon OEM variant. They also come with contact covers, which is always a good thing.

As to performance, I will give an update on this post once I truly put them through their paces in Japan. Same goes for the charger, though we will have a little overview on the charger now.

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The charger isn’t all that large, and when traveling, this is actually an advantage. It is quite light and honestly, really feels cheap. This charger came with a Micro-USB so as long as you have an adapter, a PC port, or a USB hub charger (like my Anker 5 port hub), that outputs 5V and 2A, then you can charge your batteries here. This isn’t limited to the Wasabi variants, but this can also be used with the Nikon OEM. But since I will once again truly test this out before I leave and majority when I am in Japan, I will still bring the Nikon MH-25 charger that was packaged with my D7200.

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Also looking at the output of the actual charger, it is really no surprise, but a bit of a disappointment, that the milliamps is 600 PER SLOT… it isn’t the 1200mAh per slot and that of the Nikon MH-25. Again, it is no surprise, but really is a bummer – just imagined if they slightly made the charger a bit bulkier and packed with more power to charge each slot at a rate of 1.2A, that would be a big seller to a lot of consumers and pros.

So with that, let us go to the next item.

2. SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB SDHC Cards

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Okay, I meant to say “items”, as I bought a pair of the SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB SDHC Cards. So these cards are SDHC, Class 10, UHS-1, U3, V10, with 32GB, 90MB/s write speed, 95MB/s read speed. One of these days I will make a rundown on what they all mean and their importance, but I got these to simply have a faster write speed in order to keep up with my D7200’s internal buffer when I’m going to shoot at continuous high for the Formula 1 qualifying and race. And well, anything in the future that needs a continuous shots. Will pop these open in Japan or at least a few days before the trip. I mean, you know what a SD card looks like anyways. Take note that this is not a UHS II so underneath doesn’t have the extra pins or contacts. Next item…

3. Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader

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If you read my review on the LYNCA Waterproof Memory Card Case with Built-In USB 3.0 Card Reader (Link to the review HERE), you will remember my complaint that the connection of the USB 3.0 MicroB 10pin is the only part that is supposedly not waterproof and defeats the purpose of the case and the card reader portion being waterproof, and thus, I had a trip with my friends to Bataan near the body of water gone on and read my review and took advantage of seeping into the 10pin connection and bathed the card reader part of the combo item. All my SD cards are safe, but the reader is no longer functioning properly. So my LYNCA card reader is now an over-glorified SD Card Case. But sadly, that’s how it is.

I thus ordered a Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader instead of buying another Lynca product; much cheaper and works like any other USB 3.0 Card Reader. So I’m happy with it. Probably more happy than when I had the Lynca as the card reader cos now I don’t need to finagle the wire; just connect this on a USB 3.0 port, that’s it.

Now let’s move on.

4. UnoMundo Universal Travel Adapter

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I doubt I really ever need this universal adapter when I go to Japan as I believe their plug and socket types are Type A or B with 100V (more info HERE), which is almost similar to the Philippines, where we have Types A, B, and C, with 100-220V.

With that said, why did I still purchase this? Well, ever since last year, upon traveling alone outside the country for the first time, I was bitten by the travel bug and for sure, knows that I will be traveling a lot in the future. Maybe not as much in the coming few years due to specialty training in Neurology (hopefully), but eventually, or sometime during training where I have vacation time, I will surely travel to different countries, and not only for Formula 1, but for the sake of adventure. So, this universal adapter will be handy for those countries.

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Like the previous 3 items, I will give an in depth review once I put this thru its paces, but for now, it sports to USB ports rated at 5V and 2.5A; it can receive all types of plugs and it can be connected all types of sockets (I mean obviously, that is its main purpose); you will see a fuse port and another port on the opposite side housing replacement fuses… haven’t opened to inspect them, cos honestly, I am having difficulty opening them. Sometime later maybe. What I don’t like is the soft touch rubber feel that in a country like the Philippines may wear down and get sticky in time. But let’s try to avoid that by storing it properly.

Moving on… (like our salty past relationships)

5. TYCKA DSLR Rain Cover

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Last year in Singapore, I was still sporting my D5000 and just used the kit lens instead of my telephoto lens since I felt from where I was sitting the kit lens will suffice (it did). IT started to rain before the start of the race, and wasn’t really to worried since me and my D5000 and kit lens have been thru worse, but now I am sporting a D7200 and bringing with me, this time around, my Sigma Trilogy of lenses (basically my favorite and expensive lenses. Expensive for me… I mean, pros can afford my lenses easily, but I am just a hobbyist photographer), and in most Japanese GP races, it does rain even if it is on October. Thus, I don’t want my DSLR and lenses to get wet if it does rain, I went ahead and got a rain cover. Again, this is an investment as I can use this locally when it rains or in future races I attend.

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It comes with a case for the rain cover and a few moisture absorbing cloths. The back monitor and top control panel can be seen thru the clear plastic quite well; the hood can accommodate my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM telephotolens (same length as a 70-200mm), and it is best to still use a lenshood to extend the rain cover hood and just tie it tightly on the lenshood; it can also accommodate an on shoe flash, but of course, I don’t think I will use a flash during the race, however it is there for future projects; you can still use a sling strap by opening the zippers on the bottom part ever so slightly for the sling strap to pass thru, but I would rather use a neck strap in this situation and there is a way to install a neck strap on the cover itself, and in turn, the cover connects to the camera inside (by the way, regardless if you will use a sling strap or a neck strap… or nothing at all… still connect the DSLR’s strap eyelets with that of the rain covers – it keeps it straight and true for the most part.

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Let’s just hope that I won’t actually use this, but it is just nice to have.

Next!

6. BAONA Accessories Bag

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You’re basic run of the mill accessories bag to keep your wires, chargers, batteries, etc, all in check. I am notorious for having many wires and chargers for most of my gadgets, but in spite of it all, I still get to keep my things organized. With that said however, I still wanted a better way to organize my wires and such, and this is where the BAONA bag comes in. DSC_0057DSC_0059

I like the double compartment, so on 1 compartment I get to keep the wires and batteries, and on the other, I get to keep much larger chargers, larger wires, and such.

Build quality is so and so… not the best and certainly not the worst I have seen, but I feel it won’t take a beating too long before it starts to break apart.

Let’s see how this survives my trip.

Let’s go on to the last item I got for this trip… but like all other items, still useful for future trips.

7. Lichao Travel Toiletry Pouch

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Yes, I am obsessive compulsive when it comes to organization and easing my quality of life. I have a small bag for traveling with my toiletries, but it is just not the right type of bag and it is more of a hassle than easy. Thus, much like the accessories bag, I finally got a proper toiletry pouch. This is also going to be quite useful for residency training in the hospital when I need to stay behind for 24-36hours per duty, and not just for travel. Would have loved a black color, but sadly it wasn’t available, but navy blue ain’t bad, seeing as blue is still my favorite color. It just bothers me that most of my travel bags aren’t black anymore. Sigh…

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It certainly is thinner than that of the photos, but hey, it is empty (like my heart), so once I start adding in my toiletries, it will sure get some heft to it. The material and build is much more solid as compared to my accessories bag, but like my accessories bag, only time will tell on  how much it will hold up.

And that’s it! For now?

Anything to make this and future travels an easier task and increase the fun. For most of the items I have indicated above, I will make a separate post of reviews once I have put them thru their paces as mentioned above.

Less than a week til my trip, and I’m excited to travel with these items! And of course, finally get to visit Japan, the country I have always dreamed of visiting, toss in the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, a circuit I always wanted to visit as well. Plus come on! This is Japan! I may not be Japanese but my hobbies, interests, and overall weirdness, is akin to a Japanese individual. I will be right at home. Also with my items above, I will be right at home indeed.

Til next time! PEACE!!

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Twenty Seventeen Going On Twenty Eighteen

Time for my annual look back on how the year has gone by, this time for 2017.

As always, every year has their ups and downs, and it is all for the better, for learning, and for growth. Certainly, 2017 is no different from the years past, but it is extra special due to the events I will highlight in this post.

As the year is ending, the way 2017 has been, I am certainly looking forward to 2018.

So before then, let us highlight what I consider are the best moments of 2017 for me.


Decisions. Decisions.

Since 2016, I have been toying with the idea of taking USMLE and possibly training in Neurology back in the States, now in 2017, I have cemented that idea and now I am nearing my exam date which is in March or June 2018.

This is a big leap of faith for me as I am already licensed here in the Philippines, but I also long to go back home in the States and outside my comfort zone of home and family to fully grow as an individual and to become the physician I have always dreamed of and that can inspire others to be a physician as well. More importantly, heal as many people as I can as a physician.

This decision came at a price as I didn’t renew my contract from my Alma mater as their university physician; I also resigned from my various teaching jobs; finally, I also lessened my clinic hours so I can have more time to rest and study. It means of course, I won’t be earning as much as I used to, but that is alright, as I need more time to study and relax, as by the time I do pass the USMLE and I start training, and eventually become a consultant, money won’t be so much of a factor. Plus, money isn’t everything. It is reaching the dreams that really count for me.

And I will relentlessly chase after my dreams…

“Do You Remember Love?”

Macross/Robotech still ranks as my number 1 anime series; I still follow the new Macross series to this day. It taught me the beauty of music, love, and the fact that anime need not always have action (which this series does have, by the way), but also story and characters play a big role. I was just 6 years old when I first watched Macross/Robotech and was making the mechs out of Lego or paper…

Years gone by and the original Macross series/Robotech series action figures of the F-14 inspired planes turning into robots were fast becoming rarer and more expensive.

Then I found that Toynami were making 1/100 scale models, and since I wasn’t a kid anymore per se, I didn’t care if they were not die cast metal, since I just display my figures by then.

Sadly, being in the Philippines, they were tough to come by, and I was still in high school by that time, so I didn’t have a credit card to order in Amazon or Ebay to be shipped here.

I did get one locally, the VF-1J of Max Jenius/Max Sterling… but after that model, the local shop never ordered the rest in the series.

I gave up on the hope of collecting them all… maybe someday, I said to myself, when I return to the States or something.

Then another local shop this year had the VF-1A of Max Jenius/Max Sterling, VF-1J of Miriya, VF-1J of Hikaru Ichijo/Rick Hunter, and the VF-1S of Roy Fokker, as a complete 4 set, and I didn’t care for the price they were asking, I bought them all.

Shortly after, I had this renewed hope of getting more of the figures from Toynami especially the special edition of Hikaru’s VF-1S from the movie “Macross: Do You Remember Love?”… that particular edition I recall seeing back in 2004 or 2005 in Manila, but I never bought it and regretted it since then as I never got to find it, until I saw it in Ebay and by this time, I have my own credit card, and had that model shipped here.

I also ordered super weapon sets and another special edition model, the VF-1D which was the trainer mech that Hikaru/Rick used in the early episodes of the original series.

Now I am 3 models away from completing the original series mechs, and will move to Macross Frontier and of course Macross Delta.

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Travel Bug Bit Me

I went to Singapore around March with my sister, and 2 of our friends/mentors. I was the first time I air traveled in more than 10 years. I didn’t travel a lot as I never really liked to travel; each time my sisters or any of my family member would travel out side the country for vacation or even go back to the States just to see how things are back home, I’d skip as much as possible and just stay at home.

But last March was different.

And with that, I suddenly had an urge to see the world more. It also helps that I am into photography, so seeing more things outside the country I am in gives me the opportunity to be more creative and see the beauty of the world.

This is also the point that me being a Formula One fan decided to watch my first ever race here.

My sister said while we were in Singapore “Why not watch the race? You deserve it…”

Thus, I decided to come back here, alone, later in September, to watch my first ever race.

And with that… I started to want to travel more. Anywhere.

Dreams Do Come True

I finally decided to watch my first ever Formula One race in person after being a fan for 21 years. And what’s more, I got to air travel on my own for the first time.

#F1NightRace

It was a an adventure! It was magical! Out of all the highlights this year, this has to be the best.

The 7 year old me always dreamt of watching a race in person, hoping it will be in Suzuka in Japan (Which I plan on watching on October 2018 instead), and to have that dream come true, was, honestly, I still can’t believe it. Sure, my favorite team, Ferrari, both crashed meters away from the start line, the first time ever that not a single Ferrari finished 1 lap in Formula One, would immediately spell disaster of a race weekend, but I still felt happy by the whole experience. I felt blessed. Meeting new friends who love the sport, in spite of race/ethnicity, political or spiritual differences, and the fact we support different teams/drivers, we all became friends. In fact one of the I befriended is a guy named Roberto, whom I got to catch with in Hong Kong where he was from later in November.

Here is a long post in Facebook I made when I arrived and just realized I am living out my dream:

This is going to be a long post… LOL

Twenty-one years in the making; the very first race I ever watched on television was the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix, where I saw a red car seemingly flying through Circuit de Catalunya on wet weather conditions. I then found out that that red car was the Ferrari F310 driven by the legendary Michael Schumacher. I became a fan of the team, the driver, and the sport ever since.

Other people would say my love for Formula One is an obsession, but I say it is PASSION. Unlike other sports, it was serendipity how I found out about Formula One; I didn’t have any external influences, thus I felt this was a sport that was mine. It was personal. Coupled the fact that I love cars prior and what kid never loved the red cars… the Ferrari.

Wanting to know more of the history of the sport, I delve deep into the lore dating back to the days of Juan Manuel Fangio; wanting to know the technology of the cars each year, that I can tell the era of the Formula One car and what makes them unique in that generation; trying my best not to miss a race each season since 1996, that I can always reference a race in my discussions with my other Formula One friends or forums.

So huge is my passion for the sport that I was that kid that would build Formula One cars out of Lego; I’d draw them on my notebooks; each time before going to bed, I’d imagine I was driving a Formula One car.

I was that kid that didn’t want to play arcade racing games like Need for Speed or Ridge Racer, rather I wanted to play racing games that deals more of the discipline and realism of the sport and cars. I was the one that learned how each component of the car needs to be tweaked in order to have the best balance just to shave of one thousandths of a second in Gran Turismo, F1 Career Challenge, rFactor, and other simulators (I am currently into Assetto Corsa and F1 2017).

And I was that kid that always dreamt of attending a race weekend in person.

Now that I am actually going to watch a Formula One race in person this weekend, I am looking forward to the actual spectacle of the sport, the rivalries in the race track, the finesse of each driver lap in and lap out for 61 laps, the camaraderie shared with strangers, throwing away political, racial, and spiritual differences, just to enjoy the sport we all love. And most of all, I am looking forward to fulfilling the dream of the 7-year-old me of watching a race in person.

The best part was all the messages, comments, and such, from all my friends, my relatives, and from my sisters’ close friends, saying how happy they are that I got to watch Formula One in person as they remember me always talking about it to them even if they are not interested in the sport.

Singapore Grand Prix: The Calm Before the Storm
The Sim Racer
#F1NightRace

Thank You, Singapore Grand Prix 2017

The other dream was for me to travel alone, without the stress of taking care of anyone else’s paper works and stuff (yes, I may be the youngest in the family, but I am in charge of everyone else’s travel documents and the like… stressful). Having to travel alone for my first time, and without sounding too boastful, I got every done right perfectly… and the sense of growing up, being mature, was definitely there.

What I found surprising is that a lot of my friends were sending me messages asking me how it was traveling alone and if it was difficult. To me, I thought most people coming to a certain age will be comfortable traveling alone out of the country, I guess I was wrong, and I felt great doing something that most other people didn’t do yet. This also shows I am not that kind of person that will just do things or go anywhere as long as I have my family or friends with; I can do things on my own, too. And I can do them well.

With that, my love for travel has been cemented.

I thought my next stop will be in Japan in October 2018 for the race and exploration, but I will be traveling for the 3rd time in less than a year later in November… I will talk about that somewhere below.

Of course, it wasn’t only the race I came to Singapore for…

Since this was the first time I will travel out of the country alone, I made plans to visit certain places in Singapore, like Gardens by the Bay, Merlion Park, and Sentosa.

Thankfully I got to visit all; wasn’t able to see everything in Gardens by the Bay since I went their late as I fell asleep after the trip in the hotel room and woke up past 5PM.

Merlion park was a long walk as I didn’t know that they had a entrance/exit to the track next to Merlion park and I left my Formula One tickets in the hotel room. I could have just gone inside the track and gone out to Merlion with out having to go all the way around. But it was serendipity as I got to see more of the city.

Finally, I got to see Sentosa thanks to my good friend and mentor, Dr. Noe, who now lives and works as a physician in Singapore.

The Gardens by the Bay OCBC Skyway
Marin at Dusk

Merlion

Formula One. Gardens by the Bay. Merlion Park. Sentosa. And I got hangout with Dr Noe.

Perfect trip. Perfect first trip out of the country alone. Just perfect.

Magical.

“Get your motor runnin'”

I have been a racing fan since 1996 when I was first discovered Formula One and since then I love playing sim racing games; of course, as a gamer, my number one genre is still Role Playing Games followed by shooters a close second, but racing/drivings games is also a close third.

I played Gran Turismo a lot when I was still a console gamer, but after going PC full time, I played many more simulators.

This year, I returned to full time sim racing when I bought a racing wheel and pedal set.

This isn’t the very first racing wheel and pedal set I ever owned; I got my first set way back in 2007, but it was like a Chinese off brand that I can’t even remember. No forcefeedback, just buttons for the paddle shifts, plastic pedals… it just wasn’t good at all.

Earlier this year, I bought the Logitech G920 set, and shortly after, I got the H-Shifter for it. I started playing Assetto Corsa and got back into Formula One racing with Codemasters’ F1 2017; last time I played a Formula One game was also from Codemasters: F1 2009; I didn’t enjoy that iteration to say the least, and that was the oldest memory I have when I started to deviate away from racing/driving games.

But racing is still in my blood.

And seeing a lot of the tech YouTubers that have their own racing simulators and the fact I still follow Inside Sim Racing, The Sim Pit, etc, kept on reminding me to return to sim racing.

And I did.

I then stumbled into 3DRap.it from Italy, that makes 3D printed parts for modding either a Thrustmaster or a Logitech wheel and pedal set. I purchased a couple of mods for my H-Shifter but also noticed they were selling parts for a Formula inspired racing rim that can be attached to either the Thrustmaster or Logitech wheelbase.

I know the basics of soldering and such, but I just didn’t have the time to build the rim while I am trying to study and still going to my clinic duties. But I know I sill eventually get around to buying the parts and building it myself… I just needed time.

Thankfully, I discovered that they started selling a built version of the Formula inspired rim, named the SMRF1 from Speed Max Racing, also from Italy, thus, I ordered from them and I won’t lie, it was very pricey, but once it arrived, it was well worth the price!

I also ordered an extra 4.3″ display, and they thought of everything, as the bottom part of the display is concave and it contours on the wheelbase (I just had to purchase some Velcro and mounted it easily)

I always said that when one is gaming, one has to do everything he or she can in order to be immersed as much as possible. This is why I add mods to some of my games to enhance the experience; it may take time to do so instead of immediately playing, but once I do, the immersion adds to the overall pleasure of playing. With that said, I wanted to be immersed in sim racing, particularly, open-wheel racing like Formula One. And with the total price of my sim racing rig, it was all worth it for the immersion.

SimRig 2017

Wednesday Drive

Get Your Motor Runnin'

Chasing the (Virtual) Chequered Flag

Chasing the (Virtual) Chequered Flag

Meeting Tracer Tong

That was a Deus Ex reference in case you missed it.

So for the third time this year, I traveled out of the country, for the first time to Hong Kong, and for the second time this year, with my sister.

I’ll be honest, traveling alone was so much more fun and less stressful. I love my sister, don’t get me wrong, but traveling with others that rely on you more often than not can really leave a bad taste in your mouth.

The best part of the trip was me seeing Roberto again, whom I mentioned above that I first met during the Singapore Grand Prix. He showed us around a bit and took us to a great dinner. This cements the fact that Formula One for us fans is more than just a sport… it also brings fans together and they can be great friends in spite of all the differences.

11-24-2017 Hong Kong Trip Day 1-2

My highlight of that trip, apart from seeing my sister present for the conference (oh yeah, that was the main reason we went to Hong Kong… there was a Cardiology conference where she was invited to present one of her cases), was getting to see my close friend Amanda again.

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11-25-2017 Hong Kong Day 3-7

I first met Amanda back when she was still in high school and I was already in college, because her brother Pio is also one of my close friends.

We got to hang out like old times, this time outside of the Philippines; it was like nothing ever changed… and yet there was still the sense we are not the same people we were when we were younger. It is that strange balance and it was just great.

She is also quite the model as she was showing me around the city and that made me fall in love with photography all over again.

Here are some of my favorite shots of the trip and of Amanda:

Those Hong Kong Lights

When You Shine Brighter

Take Me Somewhere I Belong

Return to the Gym

This year, I also decided to head back to gym. Thankfully the owners and the trainer still remembers me, and strangely, after my years of absence from the gym, again, like with Amanda, as if nothing has changed. In fact, we seem to be talking normally just like I never disappeared from gym.

Two and half months in gym, I am starting to see a difference in my body and an obvious difference in strength. And what’s more? My right knee is feeling better than it ever did before! I am getting more and more confident to start running or even jumping. Hopefully in 2018, I can do all that.

I am joined by my best friend, my brother from another mother, my confidant, and fellow B.S. Biology graduate and fellow physician, Lee.

We both are pursuing USMLE, so we thought of just gym together as well.

Mind and Body.

Recently, we are joined by our other close friend from college, Von, and now we are a trio at gym… 2018 in gym will be awesome! Will still bulk up a bit more before I start cutting. Overall, I never felt better in my life physically in years.

The Holy Trinity of Lenses

I first got into photography in 2010. The weight of my first year in medicine was getting to me and I wanted a new hobby. Photography was my choice of a new hobby, thus I got my first DSLR, the Nikon D5000.

The very next year, I got my first flash, the Yong Nuo YN465, and more importantly, my first lens that is not the kit lens that came with the DSLR. I got the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC. Together, I made lots of great shots and memories with that lens.

First shot using my new prime lens was that of my cat back then.

Kupo!

I dreamt of having the so called “Holy Trinity of Lenses”/”Hebrew Trinity of Lenses” which usually consists of a wide angle lens, a standard zoom lens, and a telephoto lens. They call this the Holy Trinity as these are the 3 lenses that can be versatile enough to tackle any situation. Of course there are other lenses that are well suited for other tasks like sports and for bird watching and such, but the Holy Trinity is what most photographers and enthusiasts find enough for most situations. Thus I wanted to complete a Holy Trinity of Sigma lenses.

In 2012 Sigma then released the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS and the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS lenses, which are of course a standard zoom lens and telephoto lens respectively. These were perfect to complete my Holy Trinity in spite of my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC being a prime lens and not a wide angle.

But being a medical student still and having my parents to rely on to give me money or get me the things I wanted, I didn’t really want to them bear the weight of spending for my hobbies again when they have done so too many times in the past and coupled the fact that medical school is very expensive, I just thought of getting the lenses, if they are still available, once I am a licensed physician.

Thus, one year after finally being licensed as a physician, I got to stumble upon the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS lens and with just little thought, I bought it in November.

First shot of the new telephoto lens is that of my mother; others have been posted above during my Hong Kong trip.

The

Around a month later, I found the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS lens, thus completing my Holy Trinity of Lenses and I can’t be more happier.

Holy Trinity of Sigma Lenses!

First shot using the new standard zoom is of my best friend, Lee.

Doc Lee

Nice to note that I then decided to order a Nikon D7200 (I know the D7500 just released, but I like the specs of the D7200 more) and hopefully it will arrive in the first week of the new year or so. I also bought the Nikon MB-D15 battery grip that will work perfectly with the Nikon D7200 as well as a Nikon SB-600 speedlite; both the Nikon MB-D15 and SB-600 were actually second hand products, but upon inspection by my obsessive compulsive-ness and my technical know-how, I was assured they are working well and are in fact original.

Can’t really fully test the battery grip without the new DSLR, but I was able to test the SB-600.

I am not a stranger to off shoe flash photography, so here is my first shot using the flash and showing my skills with off shoe flash photography.

Umbra

Looking forward in 2018 where I will explore more locally and of course, my trip to Japan and maybe in South Korea, where I can see the world with my DSLR and create more memories…

Summary

I actually spent so much in 2017 for my hobbies, trips, and whatnot; I always like saving more than spending, but I thought making this year an exception. I needed to reward myself for all those years I didn’t think of anything else but my studies. I needed to see some dreams come true for my dreams to be made and see then into fruition.

I look forward to 2018 with everything I learned and loved from 2017 and make even more dreams come true.

Thank you, 2017.


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“Meeting Tracer Tong”; My Trip to Hong Kong

My sister invited me to attend a medical convention with her as to keep her company and support her as she had a poster case presentation from November 24-27.

At first, I wasn’t really into the idea of going, but after her persuasion, along with my parents coercion, and the fact I get to meet 2 of my friends who live there, made me decide to go with her.

Day One



“Meeting Tracer Tong”

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Meeting Tracer Tong is a reference to one of my all time favorite PC games ever, Deus Ex. In there, there is a level in Hong Kong, specifically in Wan Chai streets, where one of the most iconic background music (in my opinion) plays as you find a character named Tracer Tong.

It so happened that the medical convention, the 11th Echo Hong Kong, was being held in Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, which is in Wan Chai, I couldn’t help but play “The Synapse” (the Hong Kong level background music in Deus Ex) on repeat while I was there.

Like my trip to Singapore alone last September (I also went to Singapore last March with company) I have always been ignored when it comes to “timing”; by this I mean, I was always told to leave the house for the airport way to early. I know that counters usually open 2-3 hours before the scheduled flight, and I do take into account the possible traffic and such, so I could usually calculate the best possible time including all the hindrances that can come from the travel to the airport. Alas, nope, we left the house at 7AM from Pampanga to the airport in Manila.

Now our flight is 2:20PM, take into the regular time it takes to make it to the airport which 2 hours, with a possible hour of traffic, we will be arriving at the airport at 10AM, for which we did, and had at least another hour of waiting before the counter to be opened for our flight… for which we did.

After all is said and done, I have always had something bad to say about Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the lack of efficiency and such, but that was in Terminal 3 that I was already complaining about, yet boy oh boy, Terminal 2 is a different beast altogether.

Lack of seats while waiting for a flight, only ONE opened public restroom at the time, lack of proper dissemination of information regarding changes in flights or gates (I know, I know, I traveled quite a lot when I was younger and more recently, so I know flights and gates are subject to change, but the lack of announcement thru PA or a sign showing there is a change, heck even a change in the monitor, can confuse those first timers who are traveling alone – doubt my sister would have noticed this if she traveled alone), and I can go on and on, but hey, let us save that for another post.

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Needless to say, we got on our flight, but didn’t take off until an hour and thirty minutes after stepping on board… another thing that ticked me off.

Anyways, overall, the flight in Philippine Airlines was fun, could have been better, but we got to Hong Kong safely, and that is all that matters.

Sixteen Degrees Celsius

My friend who lives and works in Shenzen tagged me in a post in Facebook showing the weather is quite cold; as low as 16 degrees Celsius she mentions. At first, I was like, darn it, time to pack in some thick jackets to keep me warm and stuff. Upon arrival and exit from the Hong Kong International Airport, I will admit, it was cold and had to put my jacket on, but after awhile, it reminded me of a regular day in America. It didn’t take me long to adapt to the weather and remove my jacket altogether.

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Finally got to play this officially!

The taxi fare from the airport to our hotel near the convention center in Wan Chai cost us like 50 bucks; it was nearly an hour’s travel from the airport to the hotel, so it wasn’t really that surprising, but nonetheless, still surprising.

Upon checking in, I got to meet up with my good friend, Roberto, whom I first met last September in Singapore during the Formula One race there… he decided to show us  around a bit and take us out to dinner.

Turning Chinese

After a brief tour around our block in Wan Chai and pointing us towards the convention center, he took us out to a nearby restaurant to try the local cuisine; not Chinese food is worldwide, you will always find a restaurant serving such dishes, but to try the AUTHENTIC food is really quite the feast.

We got to catch up, talk about Formula One, and get to talk about our personal lives more. Sadly, since me and my sister had a convention to attend to and Roberto had a flight to catch the next morning, we didn’t really spend the whole night hanging out.

But that is alright, as this proves that Formula One brings different people together, surely, in the future, be it in the States or here in the Philippines, dinner will be on me, Roberto! And we will hang out much longer then.

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Percolate the Mind

After having a delicious dinner courtesy of Roberto, my sister wanted coffee and thankfully, there is a nearby Starbucks right in front of our hotel and we got there for a couple of nice warm coffee; I was already editing some pictures we took with Roberto, and my sister was studying for her poster presentation on Sunday, which is 2 days from that point.

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It is known that there is a delay in my posting of photos since I started my hobby in photography in 2010, so my sister usually reminds me to post, and thank goodness, otherwise no one will see these pics for another week.

Thus, Day 1 ended, and onward to Day 2…

Day Two



Convention Day

This is considered the convention day for me and my sister; we got to the convention center early to prepare her poster and listen to a number of lectures.

The lectures reminded me that I still have a soft spot for my first love in medicine: Cardiology.

My sister took up Cardiology which was her second choice for subspecialization, where Neurology was her first love; my first love was Cardiology and my second is Neurology. As fate would have it, since she is like 7 years older than me, she got to study and train in medicine earlier than me, so she gets to choose her subspecialization first, naturally. She chose Cardiology.

I then targeted Neurology thinking I will still be ultimately training and practicing here in the Philippines, and it would be a nice tandem to have different fields of expertise than being both Cardiologists.

However, I decided to move back to the States, hoping to pass the USMLE for my license there. Now, knowing that, I can go back to Cardiology as my subspecialization, but I already love the thought of being a Neurologist. That still doesn’t stop me from enjoying the lectures as Cardiology was my first love.

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Exploration

After listening to a few lectures, we decided to head back to the hotel to take a nap and such, then explore once again, the nearby areas. This was also a good opportunity to take shots of ourselves using my new Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 lens that I recently got with the thought of using it for future photo projects and future Formula One races.

The Calm Before the Storm

Back in the hotel, my sister is hard at work studying for her presentation, whereas I was hard at work editing the photos earlier in the day and making sure our hotel room doesn’t end up too messy; my sister does not have obsessive compulsive personality disorder (there is a big difference between Obsessive Compulsive Disorder vs Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder… look it up), thus I like keeping things neat and orderly.

Knowing full well we need not wake up early the next day as her presentation is in the afternoon, I slept like a log. This was important as I was meeting one of my great college friends and a friend whom I consider very close, Amanda, right after the presentation. So I need to save up energy for that evening’s exploration and hang out.

Right Here, Waiting Smile, Sister
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Day Three


Meeting Amanda

Day Three, which is Day Two of the convention for us, went by without a hitch; my sister successfully presented her case and poster, and all the stress she had going in is finally gone, and all she can think about is shopping.

Thankfully, Amanda took that into account, so as we met up, she took us to an area where my sister can shop.

After a few strolling around together as a group, my sister wanted to shop more than have dinner, so she went shopping on her own, and Amanda and I had dinner and subsequently strolled the area some more.

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Falling in Love with Photography All Over Again

Amanda and I then strolled around the city and occasionally entered shops to, well what else? Shop. Along the way, laughing and enjoying every bit just like the times where she was still living here in the Philippines where without fail, we would hang out at school or anywhere after school. I missed those days and more importantly, I missed her, and it showed.

I would take pictures of her without knowing as that is usually my style in street photography or any event for that matter; I like taking pictures of people in their natural state… no faking smiles or whatnot. Of course, there are times I asked her to smile for me and I must say, she makes a great model! And I will admit, I have taken a lot of photos of people since 2010, both in regular events or in modeling, but when I saw the photos I took while I was editing, I can’t help but have my breath get taken away.

Maybe it is the fact I haven’t shot in the streets or people for a long time, apart from my trips to Singapore; maybe it is because I missed Amanda, and it was a pure pleasure taking her photos; maybe it was the nice city I was exploring; or maybe it was simply her smile in that one particular photo… but in the end, I am in love with photography again to the point I made a decision to finally upgrade my DSLR after 7 years.

It shows that even if I have a new lens, the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8, my previous lens that I bought 5 years ago is still just as good, the Sigma 30mm f/1.4. After getting an upgrade to my DSLR body, I hope to get a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 to complete MY version of the Holy Trinity of Lenses.

Enough of that, enjoy these photos:

When You Shine Brighter Looking Forward...
Take Me Somewhere I Belong

Day Four:


Last Minute Shopping

It is the day we will finally head back home to the Philippines, but my sister still wanted to explore a bit more and shop a bit more, so after making sure we packed everything we needed and checked out from the hotel, leaving our bags at the counter, we made our way to Causeway Bay nearby and shopped.

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In the end, I wasn’t able to get anything I really wanted, but I did stumble upon this cool plushie!

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And finally, after my sister got the stuff she wanted, it was time to head back to the hotel, pick our luggage, and head to the airport.

Til Next Time, Hong Kong!

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On the flight back home, me and my sister had separate seats as she got her plane tickets from a travel agency, whereas I ordered mine online; the flight to Hong Kong, we were lucky to be able to sit together, but alas, on the trip home, we are separated.

I sat next to a nice elderly lady, who was also Filipino, so we chat our way back to the Philippines.

I was also, apparently, labeled by two elderly Chinese couple as the “Go-To-Guy” for asking help when it came to using the inflight entertainment system. I found that very nice that even if they were sitting in the behind me in the aisle, they would reach out to my shoulder and ask me for help. Take note that they both seem to speak much English, but with enough simple sign language, I was able to understand what they wanted, and so I helped them get their inflight entertainment system play the music or the movies they wanted.

Then touch down in the Philippines, I said goodbye to my new found friends during the flight, and eventually, after an hour or two, me and my sister are back home.

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Overall, the trip to Hong Kong was awesome, but I would have loved to explore more of the area; seeing that we were really there for the convention, it was tough to have a vacation state of mind, however, during Day Three and Day Four right before we left, we were able to really appreciate Hong Kong and longed to stay a bit more to see everything else. Of course, there is always next time. And next time, I will go there without any other reason but to see everything else Hong Kong has to offer. So ’til next time, Hong Kong!

Those Hong Kong Lights


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