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-

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•Follow me on Twitter!

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•I’m also at Facebook!

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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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When Dreams Come True: My First Formula One Race Weekend in Person!

WARNING! THIS BLOG POST IS VERY PICTURE HEAVY!!

So it seems I wasn’t able to blog while I was in Singapore, but can you blame me? I was having way too much fun! I got to see Formula 1 (F1) in person after being a fan for 21 years! I got to travel to Singapore and explore the beautiful country all by myself!

Instead, I will make a long blog post to summarize my entire trip!

But in a word, my whole trip, the experience, was “magical”…

DAY ONE:


“…Fly me to the moon”

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I was tensed to say the least; I couldn’t, for the life of me, sleep the night before my flight due to simply being excited, but of course, being tensed as this is my first ever trip outside the country alone; I usually travel with family or friends outside the country, so this marks a very important point in my life… something to tick off the bucket list – to travel alone and feel in control of your entire trip.

It sounds typical on paper, something taken for granted especially for long travelers who travels alone frequently, but for me, it is a big deal; will I know where to go? Will I know what to say? Did I pack everything I need? Those questions loom inside my head as we inch ever closer to the airport.

Funny to note, that my dad told me, my mom, and our driver, to leave the house for the airport a tad too early; you see, I live in Angeles City, Pampanga, the airport is in the heart of Manila… going to Manila from my home is long enough, but having to weave our way inside to get to the airport is another thing entirely. Thus, the need to leave for the airport at an early time, but my dad told us to leave too early, that I managed to arrive at the airport at 3am, and my flight is still 7:40am, making the check in counters closed for my flight as of that moment.

Needlessly to say, after patiently waiting for the check in counters to open for my flight, thankfully I did the online check in and such for my specific ticket, that I was able to cut through most of the line as we have designated counters for those passengers that decided to purchase their tickets online and check in online.

Immigration was the longest part of the entire airport procedure, at least here anyways, in Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA); they really need to sort that out to be more efficient, as later on this post, I will talk about how I love the Changi International Airport in Singapore.

Finally, after going through immigration unscathed, I found my gate, and had a very quick breakfast before heading towards the aforementioned gate and play the waiting game.

Not long after waiting in the designated gate, it was time to board. See yah later, Philippines, and see yah in a bit, Singapore!

Touch Down, Singapore!

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Upon arriving at Changi International Airport, even technically this is my 3rd time here (1st when I 1st visited here last March and subsequently the 2nd time is when I came back here), I am still amazed at the efficiency; as soon as I arrived, got off the plane, I found myself done with immigration and picked up my carry on luggage without any hassle whatsoever. I then proceeded to get my taxi, had a great conversation on the way to my hotel, even joked how I brought the rain from the Philippines, because it started raining pretty hard while we were making our way to my hotel.

After getting dropped off, I then checked in to my room, thankfully my 1st time using Agoda was successful, however, I actually checked in a tad too early and had a surcharge on my check in payment. But I really didn’t care anymore, I was in Singapore! I managed to get here by myself, and I am now in my hotel room, resting up a bit, then plan to get lunch and then explore!

The Gardens by the Bay

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After a hearty meal, a quick nap, a nice warm shower, it was time to explore; I wanted to visit Gardens by the Bay and simply have dinner there in a place called Satay by the Bay, which is technically still a hawker area filled with a variety of food not just satay, but we will get into that later. Take note that F1 had 2 Free Practice Sessions, for which I decided to skip on both so I can see more of the city.

I wanted to have live updates on my Twitter and Facebook, but to my dismay, my roaming, for which I was ASSURED of being activated by my service provider, well, let’s just say Murphy got his way and I didn’t have roaming.

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That still didn’t stop me from taking photos with my phone, and heaven forbid, take selfies; I normally don’t take selfies, but hey, this is my 1st trip alone and I want to chronicle it as much as possible, even if it means me taking tons of selfies.

I arrived at the Gardens a little past 6PM and a bit of lack of foresight by me; I wanted to see 3 areas, namely, the Skyway, the Flower Dome, and the Cloud Forest. I went for the Skyway first as a I heard the queue is quite long, but what I should’ve done first was buy tickets for the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest before heading to the Skyway, as when I am thru with the Skyway, I can still visit the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest as those observatories are still open to a certain hour. Sadly, when I was thru on the Skyway, I headed straight to the ticket booths, but they were closed. Sad panda…

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The Gardens by the Bay OCBC Skyway at

The Gardens by the Bay OCBC Skyway

In Love; The Sky's the Limit

The Gardens by the Bay OCBC Skyway
The Gardens by the Bay OCBC Skyway
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But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy my time in the Gardens; I still had an absolute blast even without visiting the other 2 observatories. Plus it gives me a reason to visit the Gardens again when I am in Singapore in the future. In fact, while I was in queue for the Skyway, I was in prime position to watch the light show they usually display at that certain hour. It was fantastic. Heck, even when I was on the actual Skyway, the light show was still ongoing, so it was perfect timing in a way.

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I then thought it is time to have dinner, thus I followed the signs to Satay by the Bay. However, I am not kidding when I said the signs led me in circles! I was going around in circles at least 3 times until I decided to just forego the signs and look at the site map. After many more steps, this time towards the right direction, I made it to Satay by the Bay.

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Now, unlike any other hawker around Singapore, the prices here are a bit high. Makes sense as it is inside the Gardens area. I must say, it was a great way to cap off my 1st day back in Singapore: I got to make it here in one piece, got to go up the Skyway, see the famed light show in the Gardens, took lots of photos, and had a lovely, simple dinner, in a gorgeous area with a breathtaking backdrop. What more can I ask for?

DAY TWO:


Merlion and Beyond!

Merlion

Day Two started a bit slow for me; I woke up around 11AM… It didn’t help that I slept past 2AM due to sheer excitement and happiness. I got a quick lunch and then started to plan out how to go to Merlion Park.

My lack of foresight reared it’s ugly head once again! I forgot that my F1 tickets can allow me to use the trackside as a shortcut to Merlion Park! I hold tickets that can let me go in near the hotel where my taxi dropped me off, which Gate 3A, and then go towards Gate 6 inside the trackside, and then emerge at Merlion Park. No sweat!

But instead, I did sweat, a lot, just to reach Merlion Park, and boy was my face red when I found out Gate 6 was just in front of Merlion… Ah well.

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PUP-arazzi

Needless to say, I think it was great that I didn’t bring my F1 tickets at this time so I can see the other side of the city while making my way to Merlion Park. I wouldn’t have seen the everyday life in the city otherwise. So always look on the bright side of things, and indeed, in the end, I was thankful I didn’t use the shortcut.

Reaching Merlion Park and taking photos of the Marina Bay Sands and the actual Merlion itself, was worth the entire walk to reach the area. I was able to mingle with other tourists and, more importantly, fellow F1 fans who were more than happy to wear the colors supporting their teams and drivers.

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I wasn’t wearing my colors at this point in time as I am saving them for the qualifying session later that night and the race the very next night. But I still felt like one of the F1 fans, spending time looking at the beautiful Singapore and what if has to offer while waiting for the F1 sessions to begin. Bliss.

Marin at Dusk
Marina at Dusk
Marin at Dusk

“Making my dream come true!”

The Chequered Flag Waves

Finally, the moment arrived: I will watch my VERY FIRST F1 Qualifying Session after being a fan of this wonderful sport for 21 years. I was teary eyed. I can’t believe that it was happening. And now that it happened, I still can’t believe I was able to watch the F1 race weekend in person.

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In fact, the day before the Qualifying session, I even made a long post in Facebook, emphasizing how this is a dream come true:

“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.”

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Much like the day before for which I skipped the Free Practice Sessions, I decided to skip on Free Practice 3, but still arrived at the track early so I can see the attractions, take photos of the area, try some of the simulators and games and whatnot.

Upon arriving, it was… all I can ever have dreamed of and more! I tightly secured area, with very friendly and knowledgeable staff to usher us around, friendly fellow fans who are not afraid to where their colors in support of their teams and drivers and who are not shy to ask help to take photos of them and are more than happy to take photos of you…

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#F1NightRace

The attractions, both weird and F1 related, but is, what children nowadays say, “Instagram Worthy” – I don’t have Instagram, so I didn’t use that term in real life. Lots of merchandise booths for which I was able to buy an extra Kimi Raikkonen shirt to add along my 2 Scuderia Ferrari team shirts and a hat that I ordered prior to going to Singapore; F1 simulators, that to my chagrin, I wasn’t able to practice F1 2017 with my wheel and pedal set which were identical in the actual simulator on track – I was 10 seconds off the pace, I could have a better lap time if I practiced, were allowed to turn off both Traction Control and Anti Brake Lock System, and switched the Transmission to manual. But ah well.

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There are a lot of hawker style eateries all around the track in different zones, and I love the idea of very limited seats and tables which forces one to make new friends by asking if one can sit with them; I made many friends while getting a bite to eat that are fans of different teams and drivers, but we didn’t make it hard on ourselves and simply had a mature conversation about the sport we love.

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Unlike other F1 races, Singapore also has live concerts, but I was not there for that, I was there for the sport, thus I simply forego such concerts.

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Thus, the green light signals the start of the Qualifying Session; as the cars are now powered by a V6 hybrid engine, they don’t scream as much as the previous years when they still used V12, V10, or V8 engines, but get close enough to the track, they can pound on the ear drums. I didn’t use any ear plugs, as I was able to tolerate the sounds of the V6 hybrid engines.

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Singapore Grand Prix: The Calm Before the Storm

I was at awe, took some good shots, others not, but I wanted to concentrate on the session as much and lesser on taking photos. However, with that said, I did take enough to keep for memories. And my Day 3 below, you will notice that I have not taken a lot of shots during the race, except the end of the race, as I was really into the experience of watching my first ever race, plus an unfortunate event in the start of the race left a foul taste in my mouth that I just wanted to watch the rest of the race and not take too many pictures.

#Kimi7
Kimi Raikkonen, Scuderia Ferrari
Raikkonen #7
Kimi Raikkonen, Scuderia Ferrari
Raikkonen #7
Kimi Raikkonen, Scuderia Ferrari
#Seb5
Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari
Vettel #5
Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari
Vettel #5
Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari
Hamilton #44
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
Hamilton #44
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
Ricciardo #33
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
Verstappen #3
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
Alonso #14
Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Honda

As the session reached Qualifying 3 (Q3), I wasn’t really expecting Ferrari to do well since Red Bull seems so strong the entire weekend and the practice sessions. Raikkonen manged 4th position (P4), and that was actually a good thing after he was struggling to get into grips with his car during practice, but the best part was his team mate, Vettel, getting pole position (1st position/P1)! Now that is how we cap off our first ever F1 Qualifying Session in style! Seeing Ferrari and Vettel on top! I was in cloud nine!

Again, the maturity of the crowd made it easy to cheer for your favorite team, as no one will give you a hard time if you support their rivals. I can hear fellow Ferrari fans cheering and I can’t help but cheer with them as the Qualifying Session was ending, cheering (to no avail, since Vettel can’t hear us in the car) as he passes the grandstand we were all sitting in, and shouting in jubilation and in unison when Vettel was officially in pole position. Such bliss. Great feeling indeed. And a memory I will keep in my heart forever as this was my first Qualifying Session ever. There may be other races I will attend in the future, but this is my first. And will always be special.

The most difficult part was actually going back to the hotel; I was not to keen on using the metro in Singapore as I have never used it before, and I will not try something new in a different country, so I rather look for a taxi. My mistake was I decided to exit thru a different gate from where I entered and was far from the usual taxi stand. Needless to say, I walked a mile or so just to find a taxi, and thankfully, unlike the taxi drivers here in the Philippines, you feel very safe taking a taxi late at night in Singapore. And needless to say, I got home to my hotel safe.

I was too high on the experience that I had to calm down in order to sleep. I was to meet with my mentor and friend. Doc Noe, the next day before I head to the track for the race. But alas, I fell asleep 4AM, and as I will mention in the Day 3 section below, Doc Noe and I met in the afternoon, giving me time to sleep til 11AM. And then the race after my meeting with Doc Noe to cap off the day and my overall Singapore trip.

DAY THREE:


“One Good Day Comin’ Up!”

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Day started slow for me, waking up at 11AM; eventually had to take a warm bath, quick lunch, and meet up with my friend and mentor, Doc Noe.

We honestly had no idea what to do or where to go during our hangout, so Doc Noe decided to show me Sentosa, which in fact, is one of the 3 places I wanted to see so bad: 1. being Gardens by the Bay, 2. being Merlion Park, and 3. being Sentosa; having seen the 1st 2 places, without him knowing that it was my 3rd location I would want to visit, he took me there.

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I finally tried out the buses around Singapore, and technically, it isn’t difficult, but I always go by the rule: if I am unfamiliar with how one thing works or goes by, I won’t try it on my own just yet, especially if I am not from Singapore at all. Thus I didn’t try the bus or the metro around the city, only relying on taxis to get me to and from certain locations.

Upon arriving near Sentosa, we had a short stop at a local mall there to find some Ervin’s Salted Chips for my sister and some Old Town Coffee for my other friends. The former, according to Doc Noe, would usually be sold out, and lo and behold, it was! I am not interested in trying it, I was just buying it for my sister, but I was just wondering what in the world did they add in it to make it so addicting for other people? It will still be a mystery to me in the end.

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Having gotten what I needed, and looked around inside the mall, we then headed out to Sentosa by foot.

It was pouring at that time, and as a F1 fan, I was already thinking how will this affect the race. But until the race that night, I will just enjoy Sentosa as much as I can.

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Sadly, I didn’t get to see everything in Sentosa, because even if it is it’s own little island, it is still a large area to explore. I saw the interesting portions of Sentosa, thanks to Doc Noe, and was told that there are a lot more to see in Sentosa. This along with my failed attempt to see the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome in the Gardens by the Bay, may warrant another visit to this lovely country some time soon.

As we are making our way back to my hotel, we took the metro, which gives me another option after the race, since the night before, I had to go end to end to find a taxi stand. As mentioned above, I usually don’t try anything new without enough research or have someone guide me, such as the case of riding the bus in Singapore, and now in this case, riding the metro to my hotel.

After all that, had to say “see yah later” to my good friend and mentor, Doc Noe, as I needed to prepare for the race, hence we didn’t end the hangout with a meal or so. I had to rush, because I was one of the selected few to be interviewed by some F1 representatives on my current experience of the race weekend and what I think would be a welcome addition or change for future race weekends around the world. So the clock was definitely ticking on me.

“Rain on my Parade”

#F1NightRace

Upon arriving once again on the trackside, I can see what the earlier rain has done: the rubber on the track itself that was laid down by the cars, has been washed out; the hawker areas on the open grass fields have become muddy; and the chilly feeling that it would rain again later in the race, as opposed to clear skies the night before.

I mentioned that some F1 representatives wanted to interview us, the select few, but unfortunately, the rain made it hard for them to interview and record the interview. So, they informed us, instead, that they would send us questions vis email and we would still get our incentives. Yes, I was given a certain amount of Singapore Dollars thru PayPal. Talk about getting something in return for trying to improve the sport you love. All this, on my 1st ever race weekend. Wow.

Now that I had all that done, I was making my way to my seat in the Bay Area Grandstand, suddenly, the heavens opened up, and a downpour ensued. Is this a rain on my parade?

“Five Red Lights Off, Two Red Cars Off as Well”

Along the way to my seat, I was lucky enough as the downpour occurred, I was just near another merchandise shop, thus I ordered what they call “race weekend survival kits”, basically, it has a raincoat and some earplugs. I find it funny it being named survival kit when it only has those 2 items.

Wore it, and had a lot of strange looks, not because of a grown (figuratively) man wearing a clear raincoat, slightly oversized for him, but had a lot of strange looks, because they also needed it. Along the way, I was approached by males and females, all ages, from every walks of life, asking me where to get one, because apparently, they couldn’t find it, and like me, wouldn’t let the rain defeat them from enjoying the race. This is another example of the camaraderie within the race track amongst the fans. It wasn’t much, I just had to point out the proper booths, but to hear them sincerely saying thank you, was music to my ears and nearly in comparison to those times my patients say thank you.

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Thus! I finally reached my seat, waiting patiently for the race to start, hoping the rain wouldn’t get any worse that it was.

There it is… the screen in front of our grand stand seats showed the start/finish straight, and finally, 5 red lights illuminated one by one (well, there are 2 lights per column, so 10 red lights in total, but yeah, whatever, we usually say 5 red lights… deal with it.) and when of them lit up… and finally all of them turned off… signalling the start of the race!

As the 5 red lights turned off… I saw 2 red cars… crashing out.

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Copyright: Formula One

The worse case scenario for my 1st ever race weekend actually happened! A rare double DNF (Did not finish) for both Ferrari cars! And the first time in history, not a single Ferrari finished a lap. I was like. What. The. Hell.

But that is the nature of the sport I watch. You can’t always win them all, and in fact, both cars may not always be there when you actually go and watch a race in person. Just a fact of life. That didn’t stop me from enjoying the remainder of the race. I stayed behind to watch the whole thing, making friends again with strangers, and made a new buddy that I might meet up again in a future race! He was my seat mate, Robert is a Mercedes fan, but like every other F1 fan, we both respect each other’s support of opposing teams, and won’t say anything bad otherwise; again, this shows how it is easy to be in a F1 race, wearing your colors, and not be insulted for the team or driver you support.

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One of the main reasons why I chose the Bay Grandstand seats, even if it is technically slow part of the track (but hey, it makes it easy to take photos of the cars!), but the fact that it over looks the body of water and it is quite the show with fireworks as made evident by my photo I took.

Thank You, Singapore Grand Prix 2017

Finally… it was time to make my way back to the hotel and pack. For it was time for me to come back home to the Philippines in less than 12 hours from that point.

Arriving at the hotel, I had to lay down my F1 gear and just had to stand back and look at them. The result wasn’t what I wanted, but the experience… not just the race, but traveling alone, exploring Singapore alone… I didn’t think I would be able to do so.

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Then of course, the thought that I finally made the 7 year old me’s dream come true was and still is difficult to fathom. In fact, 2 weeks or more have passed, but I am still in pure shock and delight that I as finally able to watch the sport I love. Not that many people can really say that. Sure, there are season ticket holders for NBA, NFL, etc, but the majority still, just watch in the comfort of their own home. So this was really something for me.

Done packing up, making sure I didn’t leave anything important, double checked my booking and my passport, and finally took a good warm shower… It was time to sleep… Or so I thought…

Making the Most of my Trip

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I still went out, looking around the beautiful side of the city I was in, knowing that in a few hours, I will be leaving it again. I wanted to just make the most of this trip.

Went around and found a quaint little area for some dumplings with Coke of course, and then I was out on my feet again, looking at the rest of the city near my hotel.

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It was serene… calming… but at the same time, saddening knowing that this beautiful city and I will have to separate as I have to make my way home to the Philippines. But hey… I can always come back.

DAY FOUR:


“Thank You, Singapore…”

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Rough time trying to sleep after packing my stuff for the most part, double and triple checking my documents/passport for traveling back home, making sure I haven’t left anything,  I was, like the night or morning before, too high from the experience, albeit, seeing both Ferrari cars crashing out without even completing a lap.

Decided to head out of the hotel again just to get a quick snack and maybe just look around the area near my hotel as I am just hours away from going back home.

I fell asleep, back inside the hotel room of course, around 4AM and had to get up around 6AM so I can get breakfast and head to the airport really early. Again, like in NAIA, I rather be early and wait in Changi International Airport rather than rushing. Also, I needed to get my friends some souvenirs, thus I had to make a mad dash to get keychains.

Again, I am very impressed by the airport here, so efficient and I had no problems whatsoever checking in and getting through the immigration and security. As soon as I arrived in the airport, the sooner I was done with checking in and I found myself waiting beside my designated gate to open. And as soon as my gate was open, I found myself inside the plane as the waiting wasn’t all that long.

And as the plane was taking, I can only look at the nearest window (as I gotten older, I rather sit next to the aisle so I can easily go to the comfort room) and I can only say to myself… Thank you, Singapore. Thank you.

“10 HOME
20 SWEET
30 GO TO 10”

As I gotten home, or even on the way home, as my mother and our driver picked me up from the airport, I anticipated the traffic jams and everything else wrong here in the Philippines as opposed to the very regulated Singapore. The crazy bumper to bumper traffic jams, coupled with the heat that wasn’t helped by the little drizzle adding to the humidity, the ill maintained roads and buildings, the overall lack of cleanliness and pollution, and as I gotten home and switched on my PC only to find out the net is down… Everything is just the opposite of Singapore. But in spite of all those… you know what? It is still home. Philippines is still my home (Along with America, of course). And I’m happy to be back.


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I’m Going on an Adventure!

September 15, 2017: A day that I have been waiting since May of this year when I first ordered my Formula 1 (hereafter F1) tickets for the Singapore Grand Prix weekend. I always exclaimed that September 15 can never come sooner, and now it is just a few hours away and my flight to Singapore will take off.

Let’s recall up where this all began and up to this point where I am quite excited and tensed for my first ever trip outside the country alone (I have been out of the country, of course, but I was always with family or with friends).

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Original Photo: http://www.redbullracing.com/article/singapore-gp-track-essentials

“…you deserve it”

The words my sister and fellow physician, Debbie, told me when we first vacationed at Singapore last March 31, along with our other friends/colleagues from the medical world (Tidbit: they are her colleagues, I treat them as my mentors, because I’m still the youngest and I have yet to train for a specialization just yet. So they are far and away, more brilliant than I can ever aspire to be. But aspire I will), when I was contemplating whether I should visit the beautiful country of Singapore again, this time, for the race to add along the beauty of my visit. She uttered the words, “Why not, you deserve it”, referencing the fact I chose not to have a thanksgiving party after I passed my Physician Licensure Exam the year prior, nor did I ask for any real prize from my family. I didn’t even think of vacations as I was immediately hired, or asked to be hired (I was lucky to have a lot of sources and a lot of people endorsing me as a good physician and would be a perfect fit for their institution), by a number of Universities (both as their University Physician and Faculty in their School of Medicine), clinics as their general physician, teaching hospitals to hire me as their resident in various specialties; all that made me not think of vacations, prizes, etc., but immediately started to think about work and my future training.

So, when my sister said those words, I can’t help but seriously think of treating myself to a race, a plane to ticket too look around Singapore a second time around (trust me, Singapore should be visited many times… It is just beautiful), book a hotel room for my own, and just have the whole trip paid with my own hard earned cash, where no guilt is involved, and I can go to the places I want to go and that I missed in my first visit.

I was still at the cusp of deciding to go to Singapore again for the race, until it came to my attention that this year’s Singapore GP may be the last one held there for F1 in the foreseeable future. Thus, I decided to go back.

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                                         Original Photo: memecrunch.com                                           Copyright: Warner Brothers

“I’m going on an adventure!”

As metioned multiple times above, this isn’t my first time going to Singapore; I was there last March 31, because, apparently, my sister needed a chaperone, otherwise my parents won’t let her go (take note, she is older than me by 7 years – I am 28), so she can join her colleagues (my mentors) to watch Coldplay. I like Coldplay, I respect them as a band, and I love a lot of their songs, but I am not a fan enough of them to actually watch them in concert. Thus, while I became the chaperone, I told her, in exchange, I will explore the city while they all watch the concert; I don’t want to watch the concert. She agreed.

So, now I will be coming back for my version of their Coldplay concert: the Singapore GP!

I will also explore a lot more this time around, since I was only able to explore on my own last March 31, but the subsequent day, I was with the group and wasn’t able to decide on the places to visit. Now that I am alone on this trip, sure I might meet up with a couple of friends (1 of which is another fellow physician, whom I consider a mentor, Dr. Noe), but I will be checking places like Gardens by the Bay, Merlion Park, etc.; the places I failed to visit last time.

The main point of going here is the race, but like I said many times: Singapore is such a beautiful place, that it is a MUST to explore.

And this is my first time traveling out of the country all by myself. I am excited and tensed. But really looking forward to the overall experience.

Twenty-One Years in the Making

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Copyright: Formula 1

I first fell in love with F1 at 1996, where I saw Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari, seemingly flying through the Circuit de Catalunya in the Spanish GP in horrid wet weather condition.

I was enthralled by the overall discipline of the sport since then. The passion of speed and technology. And of course, I became a fan of Michael and Ferrari. Up to this day, I still support Ferrari, win or lose, I bleed red.

I have been a fan of this wonderful sport that literally changed my life for 21 years; I have religiously watched every season. Sure, later on in my life, especially during my medical school days, there are some races that I missed, but overall, each season, I am in the know.

Some people may call it obsession, but to me, it is just pure passion. I am that kid that didn’t understand the value of money, so my parents would trick me into thinking they can’t afford F1 toys and such, that I made one out of paper. Not the best as you can imagine, but I was satisfied as my imagination took care of the lack of details. I then started making F1 cars in Lego, and was proud of its accuracy (I use this word with caution as “accuracy” in basic Lego parts, is really not accurate, but I got close – I will provide a photo of that Lego build once I clean it) and still have it with me, never broken down since, proudly displayed with my actual die-cast F1 cars – why yes, as I finally gotten older, I was able to get my hands on F1 toys and merchandise.

My passion also sent into apparels, where each year from 2002-2007, I ordered Scuderia Ferrari hats to support the team (I have stopped ordering hats from 2008-2016 due to my supplier stopped selling F1 merchandise), and proudly wearing that hat while watching a race even if I was not in the actual stands.

Thanks to F1, I also got into cars in general, to the point where I am like most guys that love cars, that can tell the make, the model, the year, a particular car is.

Thanks to F1, I also became a fan of racing simulators, where my first taste of a “simulator” was Gran Turismo; this further fueled my love for F1 and now different types of racing disciplines. With Gran Turismo, and the other games I played in that series, I learned the parts of a car, and what different setups will cause the car to behave. And my passion for the sport shows as I have a racing simulator rig set up for games such as Assetto Corsa, Codemasters’ F1 series, etc.

As you can see, F1 opened a whole new world for me. It is more than a hobby; more than a sport I love; it is a PASSION.

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“…all my bags are packed…”

Yesterday, I started packing my things up, but not before my mom and I met each other at the local mall after my clinic duty to buy some more necessary travel accessories and maybe a new luggage for my own. Previously, I simply thought of borrowing my sister’s small luggage for the trip, but I thought of maybe buying my own, to call my own, for a relatively good price. The go-to luggage nowadays seem to be Samsonite, but I was always distraught with the price. Not to sound arrogant, but I can afford them, but the practical side of me thinks bags/clothes/shoes, should not be too expensive; for electronics, I don’t mind spending a premium, because I feel it is proper to have a more expensive prices for better quality electronics and such. But when I saw this one Samsonite luggage, it spoke to me. It is strange, but I treat my items as living objects, I take good care of them, and sometimes I talk to them; it is strange indeed, but this is how I get to keep most of my items in tip-top shape and last much longer than they are advertised to be. Thus, when this bag spoke to me, I didn’t care about the price and just bought it… well, with a little persistence from my mom to buy it. Otherwise, I would still be thinking about the purchase even if the luggage spoke to me.

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Impulse buy?

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Reppin’ the U.N. Spacy!

Since this bag is going to be checked-in, I decided to remove the Razer “Remove Before Fight” tag from my key chain and attached it to the bag. I also added some U.N. Spacy logos on the tag. Afterall, this Samsonite bag is not exclusive to me, someone out there, may be traveling to Singapore on the same flight with a similar bag, so I might as well place some stickers, tags, etc., to make it easily identifiable. I will not, however, copy what others are doing like printing a huge picture of themselves on the bag. Maybe next time…

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             Original Photo: http://www.carmag.co.za/singapore-f1-grand-prix-2017/               Copyright: Formula 1

“…and that is 5 red lights and away we go!”

Now, I am just waiting for tomorrow, September 15, 2017, for my flight. I will leave home around 2am, since Manila is unpredictable if there will be a traffic jam like last time we went to the airport. Plus, it is far better to wait in the airport, fully checked-in and such, rather than panicking trying to make the cut-off. This is afterall, my first trip overseas alone.

I am tensed, but excited. And I am sure this trip back to Singapore will be a wonderful experience that will supersede the previous visit as this is my first ever trip overseas alone, add the fact I will watch my first F1 race in person after being a fan for 21 years, this adventure will be a memorable one indeed.

Til my next post when I touch down in Singapore! PEACE!


 

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