fail

Fail

fail deux

Fail

pass

Pass

I only managed to get it right on the third shot and that’s coz I flipped the LCD screen 180 degrees so I could see myself and frame the shot. I was aiming for a dSLR look with a heavily defocused background. I’m really bad in self-portraits – I think the technical term for this is camwhoring. ;)

protestant church

That’s the most famous Protestant church in Dresden right there. I travel around quite a bit – I just came back from Germany and I went to Jakarta before that. I couldn’t make it to another one this month due to a conflicting date but I’ll be heading to Nepal and the Philippines next month.

bratwurst

I’m what the industry call a FIT (Free and Independent Traveler). Basically, what that means is that you’re the adventurous trailblazing type who tends to go backpacking alone. That perfectly describes my two previous trips to Europe. This is the third.

I’ve had no problems with people running away with my camera, not even in the slums of Sri Lanka (don’t ask) or going on a totally badass adventure in Georgia with strangers. You need someone to take your photos when you’re traveling alone and while I’m not a huge fan of camwhoring, I concede that it’s very useful sometimes.

sony

The picture above is of the Sony Center in Berlin – the only one that has a cinema which shows English movies without subtitles. I brought the Sony NEX-F3 to Germany. All the photos in this post was taken using that. I wanted to see if it would make me take better shots. I have a dSLR but I wanted a more compact camera that I can stuff into my windbreaker pocket. You can try that with a dSLR – but be prepared to get tackled by the London Metropolitan police. ;)

The Sony NEX-F3 uses a large, high performance Exmor APS CMOS sensor that allows it to capture dSLR quality photos even in low light. It has interchangeable lenses and it’s very easy to use.

Let me show you my awesome photos!

night

This is a view of Dresden late at night. I was surprised at the low noise and incredible detail. I used this as my Facebook cover photo. Heh.

retro

Old school cash register. Appropriately shot in Retro mode. I normally wouldn’t get a good photo in the lighting conditions of the restaurant but this turned out very well.

view hotel

Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski in Dresden – a view from my room. President Barrack Obama also stayed here when he visited. I doubt it’s the same room though.

defocus

I like how you can set manually adjust the Background Defocus, Brightness, Color (compensate for Warm or Cold), Vividness or just let it go on auto in Superior Auto mode. It usually gets it right.

There’s also scenes presets and settings inside to let you easily shoot in a wide range of picture effects with the full time continuous auto focus:

flowers

Pop color. Flowers in summer. It was unusually cold for the first few days, which was why I had a windbreaker on and just a shirt for the last few days.

These are all shot on the Autobahn from a fast moving vehicle to demonstrate:

red

Partial Color: Red

green

Partial Color: Green

blue

Partial Color. Blue

yellow

Partial Color: Yellow

backlight

Back-light auto compensation of a faux stained glass window. There’s also a built in flash that pops up if the scene is too dark! :)

Videos are shot in HD and you can use the modes available – this is shot using Retro mode. :)

Schloss Charlottenburg

Schloss Charlottenburg (Schloss means Palace) in Panoramic Mode. You can also do this in 3D (it saves in an MPO file) and display it on a 3D TV.

Automatic scene detection and Auto HDR makes skin tones amazingly natural. I literally shot this from the hip so you can get a sense of how fast the auto-detect works:

kids

Imagine the stuff you can do with this! There’s lot of customization possible. You can make the sky bluer for example.

Please…tell them, I am God. ;)

Do you want your very own Sony NEX-F3? Join The Ultimate F3 Photographer Contest and get a chance to win one of 3 cameras! It’s very simple – all you need to do is drop by any of the 10 participating Sony Outlets on a Saturday or Sunday, take your own photo using the Sony NEX-F3 and upload it (the promoters will assist you). Click on the link above for the Sony Outlet closest to you.

I love it! The Sony NEX-F3 makes me look like a better photographer than I really am. ;)

currywurst germany

You’ve gotta try this when you’re in Berlin! The word “curry” in currywurst might make it sound like it’s not an authentic German dish but it’s 100% from Berlin. It was invented in 1949 according to Wikipedia by a lady called Herta Heuwer.

The Volkwagen Autostadt in Wolfsburg produces it’s own currywurst but but we unfortunately did not manage to try it coz it was raining heavily and we had a train to catch.

organic currywurst

Thus, we had the one in Berlin – it’s a takeaway food and currywurst is made of pork sausages drowned in ketchup and a healthy sprinkling of curry powder before being cut into slices. The proprietor told me that the steamed currywurst originates from the former East Berlin while the currywurst that’s steamed, dipped in batter and fried are from the former West Berlin.

currywurst

I tried both and I preferred the ones without the skin. It’s delicious, I was really full from lunch but ate both types anyway and despite being a tad salty (which is really something coming from me), it was absolutely fabulous!

currywurst berlin

It’s one of those local snacks that you just have to try. It’s sweet, tangy and salty – the Germans make good sausages. The currywurst stand in Berlin that we went to serves organic pork sausages for 3.30 Euros. :)

lufthansa sign

This is quite a funny story. Not LOLOL funny but an interesting experience coz I like to take things in stride and things like this happen. I had a flight cancelled due to fog in Melbourne when I was in uni. Hey, it’s an adventure to me. :)

Our flight from Berlin to Frankfurt was delayed due to bad weather in Frankfurt. No flights were allowed to take off from Berlin. We all waited in the plane for ages. No flights were allowed to depart from Frankfurt too – all the planes there were grounded so we thought we could still make the connecting flight.

frankfurt delay

Everyone boarded an hour ago but we could not take off – at least we got updates from the Euro 2012 Germany-Italy semi-finals match from the pilot, sorry for your loss Deutschland, I supported your team…coz we were in your country and it’s a fine one. Heh.

Anyway, when we finally managed to get airborne, we ended up taxiing above Frankfurt coz there was a sudden influx of inbound and outbound air traffic. That’s when we knew we couldn’t make the connecting flight to Bangkok…and sure enough, we only landed way after that flight has departed.

sheraton frankfurt

Lufthansa issued us a free night’s stay at Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Hotel and 30 Euros in “credit” which turned out to be dinner. This is dinner:

lufthansa dinner

There were heaps of people trying to get on a flight – any flight – so one of the staff advised us to get some rest and come back the next day. There were over 200 people on the waiting list after midnight! Thanks for queuing up and checking Nigel!

german cigarettes

I had packed my cigarettes into my check-in baggage so I had to get another at the airport – it’s 5 Euros, which is almost double our price, but with a long flight ahead and no bookings yet, you gotta have that nicotine hit.

checkin line

We went to the hotel and found out that the queue there was quite impressive too. This is where all the cabin attendants stay – it’s connected to the airport so that was good. The queue was still there after we finished dinner. Mind, this is only the Business and First class people so imagine how many people in total which was affected.

sheraton frankfurt internet

I had my notebook and bought 24 hours of WiFi from Sheraton for 19 Euros (about RM 76) using my credit card. I didn’t know how long I would need to wait, and I ended up wasting it coz I crashed at 2 am and woke up at 4 am to go line up at the airport. Oh well.

frankfurt shower

It’s a good thing I had a souvenir t-shirt of the Berlin Wall so I could change my shirt at least before heading to the airport. I didn’t even unpack coz I fell asleep after the long flight delays.

lufthansa delay queue

This was the line this morning. I started queuing at 4 am and this is what it looks like at 7:37 am. (!)

I waited in line for hours before one of the Lufthansa staff saw my ticket and brought me down. I managed to get a confirmed ticket – a husband and wife team with us went through India at 12 pm and Nigel also managed to get the 3 pm flight that I was on.

(all times are GMT +2)

lufthansa breakfast

The reason for splitting up is due to the sheer amount of stranded passengers so we couldn’t stay together. There just wasn’t enough seats. The grounding of the Frankfurt airport really affected a lot of people – several thousand people stayed at the airport (Economy) or the Sheraton in Frankfurt (Business and First).

sheraton frankfurt airport

You know what the worst thing was? No one could retrieve their check-in baggage! There’s a rule that it has to stay at the airport or something to that effect. I’m pretty sure I’ve broken the record for wearing the same underwear, jeans, socks and shoes. I could only change my shirt. I can smell myself from 200 meters away. Heh.

I’m also staying awake on willpower and coffee alone. I’ve drank more than 15 cups in the past 24 hours. :x

I’ll have to wait for a while before I’ll know if my flight back to KL later is 100% confirmed. I’m the only one left here coz there were just too many people needing to fly to various parts of the world.

It’s a good thing the Thai Airways Royal Lounge in Bangkok has a shower room so I could use their fresh, fluffy, wrapped towels and brush my teeth and freshen up.

thai air lounge shower

Thanks for booking us on Business Class, Volkswagen Malaysia – that really helps when stuff like this happens. :D

I’m still wearing the same clothes from several days ago (except for the t-shirt) but that shower really freshened me up. I can semi-write coherently while being extremely sleep deprived. Heh.

Now, I shall go back and check if my outbound flight is confirmed. I need to go back today. I don’t even know what “50% confirmed” means. *shrugs*

bangkok shower

Oh well, it’s all good! Sawadee krap from Bangkok! :)

Posted: 11:33 am Bangkok time (GMT +7)

wolfsburg

I took a day trip down to Wolfsburg from Berlin today with the others. It’s about an hour by train.

wolfsburg rail tickets

We had first class tickets thanks to Volkswagen Malaysia – it’s 76 Euros each way. The train travels quite fast though, the display says 135 km/h so I reckon it’s about 135 km away from Berlin. ;)

autostadt

This is an interesting city primarily coz it won’t exist without the auto industry. The Autostadt (literally “auto city” in German) is the reason the city has prospered back in the day.

Interesting trivia: The roof area of the Autostadt is larger than the entire Principality of Monaco!

It was the bit of trivia that stuck the most to me. Heh.

autostadt cars

I collect facts like this coz I’m a bit of a general knowledge freak. Aud is like that too, I guess we’re just one of those people who absorbs the most random facts like a sponge.

Unlike her, I usually get it wrong when I regurgitate the facts though. Haha.

Anyway, the Volkswagen group owns nine brands – Volkswagen, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Audi, Bentley and several others. I was quite surprised by this. I didn’t know Lamborghini was owned by them.

ice cream

There are a lot of pavilions representing each car brand in Autostadt. The factory itself has its own doctors, restaurants, and stuff like that. There are several pavilions worth mentioning.

bugatti veyron

Bugatti. This beautiful and large (from the outside) pavilion only has one car. Yes, it’s the Bugatti Veyron.

Lamborghini also has a single car in their pavilion but what made it truly awesome is the intense hardstyle music playing with smoke and strobing lights. You gotta check out this video to experience what it feels like.

lambo

The car also flips to the outside, I didn’t know until after we went out and I took a photo of the car and asked Nigel to help take a photo of me with the car and the car flipped back inside, leaving a blank wall. Nifty.

Volkswagen has a pavilion that features two very interesting cars:

new beetle

The new Beetle. No, not the Beetle from the Das Auto show in Malaysia last year, this is the latest one that hasn’t hit our shores yet.

[Edit: My mistake, it's the same one that VW brought to Malaysia last year. It's still not for sale in Malaysia though.]

vw up

A custom Up! electric car.

up car

I reckon it looks a lot better than the stock version. :D

up usb

Up! also isn’t available in Malaysia yet, so I got a 4GB USB drive for 13.30 Euros (about RM 52). I collect thumb drives and I also tend to buy souvenir t shirts when I travel. I usually don’t wear them, I have a Stonehenge t shirt that I haven’t even opened from my backpacking trip to London a couple of years back.

email

Anyway, the Volkswagen pavilion also has an interactive screen where you can put in your name, email address and make a music video out of it and send it to yourself. It’s part of their Think Blue initiative.

german

I intentionally didn’t use English even though that option was available. I used German to muddle my way though. Heh.

Posted: 8:32 am Wolfsburg time (GMT +2)

hotgirls dresden

Dodgy.

hot maid

Dodgier.

hb statue

Dodgiest.

smirk

Posted: 11:53 pm Tuesday (26th June) Berlin time (GMT +2)

beer mcdonalds

I just came back from the Golden Arches in Dresden with where I had a beer for 1.99 Euros (about RM 8). I just wanted to go for the heck of it, Germany is the only place where you can grab a beer at McDonald’s. Heh.

mcdonalds germany

There’s also a bubble tea craze going on right now in Dresden. They’re selling it at McCafe for 2.69 Euros. Nigel had it and he commented that the bubbles isn’t the sago pearls usually found in bubble tea in Asia.

mcdonalds dresden

I tried it and sure enough, the “bubble tea” has been localized to an extent where there is no milk and and the pearls are made of something which pops in your mouth – it’s a sphere filled with liquid instead of being semi-solid.

mcrib

The popular McRib (where aficionados in the US have been known to drive hundreds of miles for) was alright but I was too full from dinner to fully enjoy it. It’s a flavorful pork sandwich slathered with BBQ sauce.

nigel

However, that’s not the point. The point is drinking beer at a McDonald’s. Heh. It comes in a 330 ml plastic cup and conforms to the German beer brewing purity law but to be honest it was nothing special.

mcdonalds beer germany

…but hey, I drank beer sold at a McDonald’s outlet! :D

Posted: 12:06 am Dresden time (GMT +2)

warsteiner beer

I just had a great German beer called Warsteiner Premium Verum on the flight here. I’m flying Business Class on Lufthansa Air – they have seats which converts into beds. It would be a sin not to sleep. Heh.

lufthansa business class

I managed to charge all my gadgets with the electricity port beside the seat while I slept. There’s even a USB charger!

frankfurt

(and a rather promising looking Ethernet port)

lufthansa

The next leg of the journey will be from Frankfurt to Dresden. Catch you on the flipside!

P/S – I’ll be updating more on my other social media sites so check out the sixthseal.com Facebook page and my Twitter account for more! :D

Posted: 11:30 am Frankfurt time (GMT +2)

kratom smartshop

This should probably go into castitas.com but I feel like writing on my main blog. Kratom (known as ketum in Malaysia) is a leaf with psychoactive properties. I have been searching for it for quite some time – it’s sold in certain parts of Malaysia (especially in the rural cultivation community) in bags of homemade prepared liquid kratom.

Unfortunately, the Malaysian government decided to ban ketum a few years back and the only ones available are highly dubious and sans quality control. Kratom is illegal in Malaysia.

It is rather ironic that I have to travel all the way to Amsterdam to experience a psychoactive plant that is indigenous to MY OWN COUNTRY.

kratom extract

Kratom (ketum) is available in most smartshops in Amsterdam for about Euro 15. This is not your garden variety kratom – much like salvia divinorum, it has been enhanced – this is a 5x extract of kratom. This means that the liquid concentrate is 5x more potent than what is naturally available.

kratom drink

I have to be honest here…I’m rather disappointed with the kratom/ketum experience. I had expected too much of an opiate high due to its properties. I was told to take half a bottle by the smartshops but I ingested the entire bottle on an empty stomach. I was expecting something like DHC (dihydrocodiene) or at least plain old codeine. Kratom is not like that at all.

kratom amsterdam

I started feeling the effects at T +0:30 (30 minutes after dosing for those unfamiliar with the nomenclature of trip reports) – a general feeling of well being and (surprisingly) serotonin release. It doesn’t feel like traditional opiates (e.g. the nodding off, itchiness and other miscellaneous properties) but more like certain opioid analogues.

It should be noted that the effects of kratom is VERY MILD. I shouldn’t have written that in caps (and bolded it to boot, FML) lest people get the wrong impression and think that it’s strong. It’s not. Go in without expectations, consume with an open mind and let the ketum experience wash over you.

…just don’t expect too much.

ketum extract

I can describe the feeling further to those who are familiar with recreational pharmaceuticals. It feels like 200 mg of tramadol. Tramadol is another substance in the happy opiate family but it produces none of the classic recreational opiate subjective feelings. It’s a bit of a stimulant combined with a general sense of well being.

…and that is essentially what kratom (ketum) gives you. It releases serotonin (which won’t go down well with fundamentalist opiate users) and gives you a happy sense of well being for about 4 hours. You’ll feel a significant bit of nausea while coming up and crashing but it’s nothing a bit of cannabis won’t fix.

ketum drink

I truthfully am more than a little disappointed with the kratom experience. What irks me the most is that I had to travel thousands of miles to consume a psychoactive plant that is native to my country. -_-

Additional info site:
The problem with getting used to taking opiates is that you will eventually experience opiate withdrawal symptoms once you stop abruptly.

Frens Haringhandel

Amsterdam is famous for a raw herring dish served with onions and pickles called Hollandse Nieuwe. The best ones are usually found in stalls scattered around the canals. The traditional way of eating herring (as related to me by a Dutch citizen who saw me eating it and asked me what I thought of it) is by taking the tail of the raw herring, slathering it with onions and eating it whole.

Hollandse Nieuwe

However, the way herring is served in Amsterdam is sans tail. The herring’s tail has been amputated somewhere during its voyage from the North Sea. Instead, it’s sliced into manageable pieces and sprinkled with raw onions and some pickles. You’re supposed to eat it with a toothpick – mine comes with a nice Dutch flag on it – this is the famous stall in Koningsplein where you can get herring and broodje haring.

herring amsterdam

The herring (spelled haring in Dutch) is fresh and this place has a very healthy turnover of customers craving for some raw sea produce. It costs Euro 2.70 (about RM 12) for a whole herring and you can add Euro 0.50 for a broodje haring.

Koningsplein herring

Broodje haring is basically an entire herring sandwiched between a bun. There are two types of buns in Frens Haringhandel – the traditional one is the soft bun. I would recommend eating just the herring but if you need a bit of carbohydrates to fill yourself up, the boodje hearing is a great option.

Broodje haring

Fresh raw herring in Amsterdam is divine – it’s surprisingly creamy, a word I wouldn’t expect to describe fish. The haring has been deboned and practically melts in your mouth. It’s also slightly salty and totally unlike sashimi – definitely a must try if you happen to go to Amsterdam.

me herring amsterdam

Just look for the Frens Haringhandel stall near the flower market in Amsterdam!

cannabis euro 5

Euro 5

magic mushrooms euro 15

Euro 15

sex euro 50

Euro 50

This is a reproduction of one of my favorite t-shirts in Amsterdam. I’m a huge fan of statement tees. It’s quite catchy except for some minor errors since it was printed. Euro 5 would only get you one of the more common strains of cannabis – Thai Skunk goes for Euro 3 while the perennial favorite (pictured above), the indica based White Widow goes for Euro 8 per gram. Popular strains and winners from the Cannabis Cup like the Cheese sativa strains will set you back upwards of Euro 10.

It should be noted that even the most basic strains in Amsterdam is MUCH stronger than the stuff you’ll probably get anywhere else. smirk

Magic mushrooms has been illegal for quite a while but smartshops get around it by selling magic truffles instead. It’s basically the same thing, with psilocybin and psilocin being the active compounds, but a legal loophole leaves commerce…unmolested.

Mushrooms are illegal but spores (for growing) and truffles (the underground bits of the mushroom for eating) is legal. It’s not Euro 15 anymore, but close enough for government work – the “stronger” fungi can cost up to Euro 20 per 15 gram dose box.

That’s it for Friday updates from sixthseal.com! Have a good weekend. <3

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