Archive for February, 2013

My thoughts on the 85th Academy Awards 2013’s results

Posted in Explosive News and Results with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2013 by vincentloy

The biggest awards presentation to honour the best in Hollywood films of the previous year; the 85th Annual Academy Awards 2013 was held successfully last night to a much predicted result. I didn’t manage to watch the show since it’s already morning in Malaysia and I was in the office working already. But I do get myself updated constantly with the result while the awards presentation progresses as I was eager to know the outcome of the awards this year.

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There were a total of 24 awards presented. Here below is the list of the winners for the 85th Annual Academy Awards 2013 that was held on 24th February 2013 at Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles. Then, what comes below in each categories is my personal opinion to the result. I am generally pleased with the result this year. Congratulation to all the winners! To those who didn’t make it, nevermind, at least you have been nominated (it’s also a great honour already), and that you can try again in years to come! Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is the biggest winner of the night, winning four awards out of 11 nominations. While on the other hand, Argo took the best picture, the most prestigious award of the show.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Paperman
John Kahrs

ANIMATED FEATURE
Brave
Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman

Comment: Very much expected that ‘Brave’ win. There isn’t any strong contenders in this category for year 2012. So, Brave which is a bit better took the prize eventhough for me, it’s just a typically good animated film.

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Claudio MirandaLife Of Pi

VISUAL EFFECTS
Life Of Pi
Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott

Comment: I was stunned by the incredible visual effects in ‘Life of Pi’. Looks fantastically great. Very much deserving for this film to win. And Malaysian team is involved in the visual effects of this film under the company of ‘Rhythm and Hues’. Yeay…

COSTUME DESIGN
Jacqueline DurranAnna Karenina

MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Les Misérables
Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
Curfew
Shawn Christensen

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Inocente
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Searching For Sugar Man
Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Amour (Austria)
Michael Haneke, director; Margaret Menegoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka and Michael Katz, Producers

SOUND MIXING
Les Misérables
Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes

Comment: It’s no strange to me that ‘Les Miserables’ win this. The movie is all about sound and made it perfectly right in sound mixing, one of the most important aspects for musical picture like ‘Les Miserables’. 

SOUND EDITING
(tie)
Zero Dark Thirty
Paul N.J. Ottosson

Skyfall
Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers

Comment: Ohh…I seldom see a tie. 

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Anne HathawayLes Misérables

Comment: A very much expected result. I like Anne Hathaway. She finally win an Oscar! Very happy for her. It’s time for her to excel to best actress category very soon.

FILM EDITING
Argo
William Goldenberg

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Lincoln
Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

ORIGINAL SCORE
Life Of Pi
Mychael Danna

ORIGINAL SONG
“Skyfall” from Skyfall
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

Comment: This is very much predicted. The famous singer, Adele with superb voice sang this lovely theme song to James Bond’s latest film. The song is great, unique and powerful. I like it. 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Chris TerrioArgo

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Quentin TarantinoDjango Unchained

DIRECTING
Ang LeeLife Of Pi

Comment: This is his second win on this category (first win for Brokeback Mountain). Brilliant! A breakthrough for an Asian director. Usually, the film that won best director would take the best picture award too, but this year is an exception. Anyway, Life of Pi had won quite a number already. 

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Jennifer LawrenceSilver Linings Playbook

Comment: Surprised that Jennifer Lawrence beats out most other much experienced nominees to win this coveted prize. Not surprised because she had been nominated several times already in this category even at such a young age. An actress with superb talent. Quite deserving. 

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Daniel Day-LewisLincoln

Comment: Very much expected. This win made Daniel Day-Lewis the three-time Oscar’s best actor in history. That’s out of the world, and it further cemented his position as one of the most professional actors of his generation.

BEST PICTURE
Argo
Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers

Comment: Argo had won many awards for best picture in other much earlier awards presentation. So, it is no surprising or disappointing that it took home Oscar for best picture also. But I have not watched it yet. Going to watch it soon then. 130225002702-affleck-best-picture-horizontal-galleryImage above showing one of the very last few moments of the awards’ night when the producers and director of Argo went on stage to receive the Best Picture award. 

 

(All images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

 

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Last day of CNY festival already? Couldn’t believe it.

Posted in Interesting Encounters on February 24, 2013 by vincentloy

Chinese New Year festival is celebrated on the first fifteen days of lunar year. And, today is the last day of this very joyful new year celebration. That means after this day, we would not be receiving any angpows anymore (so sad), no more yee sang to toss, and our new year mode would have to be officially turned off. Ahh….two weeks of Chinese New Year festival is gone! I couldn’t believe it. It’s too fast. I haven’t even watch a single lion dance performance this year.

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(Image source: http://www.cantonteaco.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/shutterstock_948318-SMALL.jpg)

But I know why I find it too fast. I had been outstation two days before Chinese New Year. Then, I only came back to Malaysia on the 9th day of Chinese New Year, which leaves me only another 6 days to celebrate (on the later part of this festival which isn’t anything festive already). Furthermore, there isn’t any more public holiday to enjoy and so we have to get back to work immediately. Hence, there isn’t any time for me to actually celebrate this major festival to the Chinese. I have not visited any relatives or neighbours, but still I do get some angpows (very little). It’s like there is no Chinese New Year for me at all!

It’s the last day of CNY festival, and so I wish everyone Happy Chap Goh Meh! Today is Sunday and everyone is free. Let’s enjoy this last day of CNY festival happily! If not, you have to wait for the next lunar new year in 2014 when year of horse arrives. For me, I’m feeling not very well these few days due to stomachache, nausea and diarrhea. So, I think on this Chap Goh Meh, I couldn’t enjoy it much also. Too bad. I already knew that this year of snake (2013) isn’t very good to those people born in year of goat (me), but I never predicted that it affects my health as early as this already.

Hope everything would be fine for me in the following days. I have also followed my family yesterday to involve in some kind of rituals to ‘change luck’, attended by over thousand of people. The ritual is fast, but it took us two hours to wait for all of the monks to arrive. Hope that the rituals work, eventhough I don’t really believe on such thing. I will just follow now and see. Happy Chap Goh Meh once again!

Movie review: Hansel and Gretel – Witch Hunters (2013)

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2013 by vincentloy

A movie about witch hunting. Looks interesting. It’s something interesting and darker than typical folk fairy tale and I’m certainly looking forward to this. Furthermore, this kind of theme has not been explored in films for many years already. Things should look new and fresh from this latest movie on such theme; Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. This is based on a German folk fairy tale and stars  Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton in the title roles of a brother-and-sister duo of professional witch hunters whom are seek to destroy a powerful dark witch (Famke Janssen) that kidnaps children to perform a ritual. 

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Looking from this kind of synopsis, it tells obviously that it’s an action horror dark fantasy film that we are talking about. Yes, this movie covers a lot of actions, which most are heart-stopping. The two orphaned sibling have to work very hard in each scenes to battle out with the deadly witch and her alliance. So, things get quite troubled but still both of them prevailed after a series of long exciting fights that got my attention all the way. The pace of the story went very fast, without any sign of slowing down, and that’s good. We get directly to the story, to the actions, and to the mission to destroy the evil witch. It’s like a thrilling journey watching this movie.

Well, this movie is not receiving favourable reviews due to its poor scripts and too much emphasize on unnecessary violence and gore. But for me and most of the other horror movie fans, this is widely acceptable. Instead, I’m very satisfied with how this movie is presented in such way as a mean to approach to teens and adults in much violent and darker direction. Forget about the scripts or other things that seems bad. What’s important for film like this is its actions definitely. And this movie had a lot of it. Good enough to keep audiences excited and eager to follow up on the story as it progresses.

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Jeremy Renner have appeared in many popular films recently, and his performance here is of the typically good ones. I have never seen Gemma Arterton before, but I find her cool and outstanding in this movie. She is quite pretty too. Haha…The acting overall by the casts are satisfying, and no one ruins the movie. And Famke Janssen is very convincing as the main villain in this movie. But I find she talks too much which always gives way to the hunters to fight back when they were in state of almost getting defeated. Nevertheless, this film is a great horror action flick. It would be good if a sequel is made to continue the story with Ben and Edward joining the team of ultimate witch hunters to face future much deadly villain. Out of 10 points, I would rate ‘Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters’ a total of 7.2. A thrilling and entertaining witch hunting movie in the beginning of the year.

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

HK drama review: Inbound Troubles (2013)

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2013 by vincentloy

This very much favourable Hong Kong drama had its finale two weeks ago, but I only managed to finish the whole series up just now since I’m off for a long break oversea during the Chinese New Year holiday. Now, it’s time to sum up on what my thought over this drama is. The series tells the story of a tour guide (Roger Kwok), whom had a travel company with his long-time girlfriend, and was in last few months in state of bankruptcy. He then encounters several issues, like betrayals from his best friend and his fiancee, meeting new friends and relatives, and problems in marriage and family.

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The drama starred Roger Kwok, Wong Cho Lam (first time as male lead too), Joey Meng, Ivana Wong, Angela Tong, Helena Law, Mimi Chu, and several others who are mostly new to most of us (which is good as we get to see new fresh faces with talents). Roger Kwok certainly did a usual good job in acting. For Cho Lam, this is his first role as a male lead here and I admire his effort in contribution to this drama. Besides than acting, he also contributed to the scriptwriting for parts of the story to make it much more creative, fresh and comedic. Yes, I can see it. The script is very well produced and he equally balanced out every character’s portion in this series without emphasizing too much on his own role too. For Joey Meng, it’s been a long time since her famous role in My Date with a Vampire, and I think she needs improvement, but still okay overall. Ivana Wong was seriously looking too fake in acting. She should go back to her singing path. Her crying and attitude of pretending to be cute is annoying sometimes as seen in this drama.

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The story introduces us to the tour guiding job by Roger with his best friend and his long time girlfriend. Then, as the series progresses, there is nothing much concerning their job anymore which I find a bit disappointing. It’s a waste. There can be a lot of potential for the development to the story that surrounds the tour leader job but they didn’t explore it. Instead, the story runs elsewhere to singing (to suit Ivana most probably), fashion (as obvious on Ivana’s former boyfriend), and others unnecessary stuff. Yes, this drama is very relaxing and sometime entertaining, but I find there isn’t any focus or strength it is going to. And then, there is nothing exciting I watched from every episodes of this drama. Well, there are some touching moments, but this series needs some climax, man.

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It goes plain all the way, only to be saved by Cho Lam’s comedic dialogues and appearance. But to be honest, I still don’t like him. I am still wondering how come this series obtained such positive and mostly favourable reviews from the audiences. Yes, it’s quite a good comedy drama, but I don’t see any reason this drama could get that much of praise. Anyway, it’s a light-hearted and peaceful 20-episodes long drama of family, love and friendship (as so usual in every dramas) added only with some great humors. That’s it. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘Inbound Troubles’ a total of 7.2.

(All images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

 

32nd Hong Kong Film Awards 2013 nomination list

Posted in Explosive News and Results with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2013 by vincentloy

The nomination list for the 32nd Hong Kong Film Awards 2013 had been announced a month ago. Usually, I didn’t catch up with this awards presentation that honours the best in Hong Kong film industry for the past year annually which is equivalent to US’ Academy Awards or UK’s BAFTA Awards. Usually, most of the nominated films are those much complex and are more into ‘artistic’ value which is always being perceived as boring. That wouldn’t be suitable for me. However, for this year’s nomination list, most of the films that made it are of action or thriller category. Something surprising.

Here’s below is the official nomination list for the 32nd Hong Kong Film Awards 2013 which would be held in April 2013. That is quite far from now, which allows a long time of speculation on who will win the top honours offered. Right after the list of each category, I would provide some of my brief comments. Some categories came with no comments. The Bullet Vanishes and Cold War lead the nominations (and I didn’t watch both).

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Best Picture
Vulgaria <低俗喜劇>
Motorway <車手>
The Bullet Vanishes <消失的子彈>
The Viral Factor <逆戰>
Cold War <寒戰>

Comment: Out of these five films, I have only watched ‘The Viral Factor’ since most of the film took place in my city, Kuala Lumpur. It’s a film full of action that stars Nicholas Tse from Hong Kong and Jay Chou from Taiwan, two very popular artists. But I don’t think it would win. Instead, I think movie like ‘Cold War’ would take this award.

Best Director
Cheang Pou Soi (Motorway)
Pang Ho Cheung (Love in the Buff)
Law Chi Leung (The Bullet Vanishes)
Dante Lam (The Viral Factor)
Longman Leung and Sunny Luk (Cold War)

Comment: Usually if the director of a particular film win this, then the film itself would grab the best picture. So, I vote for Longman Leung and Sunny Luk for Cold War. Actually, The Viral Factor’s director, Dante Lam deserves very much too due to his impressive directing effort in The Viral Factor.

Best Screenplay
Pang Ho Cheung, Luk Yee Sum, and Lam Chiu Wing (Vulgaria)
Pang Ho Cheung, Luk Yee Sum (Love in the Buff)
Law Chi Leung, Yeung Sin Ling (The Bullet Vanishes)
Longman Leung, Sunny Luk (Cold War)
Alan Mak and Felix Chong (The Silent War)

Best Actor
Nick Cheung (Nightfall)
Chapman To (Vulgaria)
Sean Lau (The Bullet Vanishes)
Tony Leung Ka Fai (Cold War)
Tony Leung Chiu Wai (The Silent War)

Comment: Out of these five nominees, four had won this award before respectively. Only Chapman To didn’t. He had contributed so many years to Hong Kong film industry but his effort is not much seen as he usually goes into comedic role. But I think now should be the time for him to win this. He totally deserved it. Sometimes, it’s not easy to portray a funny role. He did it brilliantly well.

Best Actress
Zhou Xun (The Great Magician)
Miriam Yeung (Love in the Buff)
Sammi Cheng (Romancing in Thin Air)
Elanne Kong (Love Lifting)
Zhou Xun (The Silent War)

Comment: Please give this to Sammi Cheng, one of my idols. She had been nominated for many times in previous years but didn’t make it eventhough she is so famous and had made much achievements in singing career. Eventhough Romancing in Thin Air is a boring film, but Sammi performed exceptionally amazing as a mostly sad character in this one. It’s time for her to get this. Zhou Xun is always a big competitor to Sammi (she won this award in the year when Sammi had high chance for her performance in Everlasting Regrets several years ago). What? Elanne Kong is in the nomination? What a big surprise.

Best Supporting Actor
Ronald Cheng (Vulgaria)
Liu Kai Chi (The Bullet Vanishes)
Gordon Lam (Cold War)
Chapman To (Diva)
Alex Man (The Bounty)

Comment: If Chapman To didn’t get best actor, then at least give this to him. His contribution should be credited. Other nominees should be looked down too.

Best Supporting Actress
Susan Shaw (Vulgaria)
Dada Chen (Vulgaria)
Jiang Yiyan (The Bullet Vanishes)
Elaine Jin (The Viral Factor)
Mavis Fan (The Silent War)

Best New Performer
Zhang Lanxin (CZ12)
Joyce Feng (The Last Tycoon)
Jayden Yuan (Tai Chi 0)
Alex Tsui (Cold War)
Sammy Shum (Lan Kwai Fong 2)

Comment: Out of these five, I find Sammy outshines the others. But Sammy’s nomination is a last minute call after June Lam is disqualified.

Best Cinematography
Andrew Lau and Jason Kwan (The Last Tycoon)
Chan Chi Ying (The Bullet Vanishes)
Kenny Tse (The Viral Factor)
Jason Kwan and Kenny Tse (Cold War)
Anthony Pun (The Silent War)

Best Editing
Yau Chi Wai (CZ12)
David Richardson and Allen Leung (Motorway)
Chung Wai Chiu (The Viral Factor)
Kwong Chi Leung and Ron Chan (The Bullet Vanishes)
Kwong Chi Leung and Wong Hoi (Cold War)

Best Art Direction
Yee Chung Man and Eric Lam (The Last Tycoon)
Yip Kam Tim (Tai Chi 0)
Lau Sai Wan (The Guillotines)
Silver Cheung and Lee Kin Wai (The Bullet Vanishes)
Man Lim Chung (The Silent War)

Best Costume Design and Make-Up
Yee Chung Man and Jessie Dai (The Great Magician)
Yip Kam Tim (Tai Chi 0)
Dora Ng (The Guillotines)
Stanley Cheung (The Bullet Vanishes)
Man Lim Chung (The Silent War)

Best Action Choreography
Jackie Chan and He Jun (Chinese Zodiac)
Sammo Hung (Tai Chi 0)
Chin Ka Lok and Wong Wai Fai, Ng Hoi Tong (Motorway)
Dante Lam, Chin Ka Lok, Wong Wai Fai, Ng Hoi Tong (The Viral Factor)
Chin Ka Lok and Wong Wai Fai (Cold War)

Comment: Obvious 100% vote to The Viral Factor. A film full of great action as I remembered.

Best Original Film Score
Chan Kwong Wing and Yu Peng (The Last Tycoon)
Teddy Robin and Tommy Wai (The Bullet Vanishes)
Peter Kam (Cold War)
Eman Lam and Veronica Lee (Diva)
Chan Kwong Wing (The Silent War)

Best Original Song
定風波 (from The Last Tycoon)
刀鋒偏冷 (from The Guillotines)
DoReMi (from Romancing in Thin Air)
戀無可戀 (from Lan Kwai Fong 2)
追風箏的風箏 (from Diva)

Comment: Sammi Cheng’s DoReMi won Golden Horse Awards last year for best original song. Hope she can continue her win here too. A very simple, little yet emotional song.

Best Sound Design
Kinson Tsang (The Guillotines)
Benny Chu and Steve Miller (Motorway)
Phyllis Cheng (The Bullet Vanishes)
Kinson Tsang (The Viral Factor)
Kinson Tsang (Cold War)

Best Visual Effects
Han Young Woo, Victor Wong, Patrick Chui, and Seong Ho Jang (CZ12)
Chas Chau, Kim Ho, Ng Yuen Fai, and A Law (Tai Chi 0)
Victor Wong (The Guillotines)
Law Wai Ho and Hellowing Cheung (Motorway)
Cecil Cheng (Cold War)

Best New Director
Chow Hin Yeung (Nightfall)
Brian Tse (McDull: The Pork of Music)
Fung Chih Chiang (The Bounty)

Best Film of Mainland and Taiwan
Back to 1942  <一九四二>
Gf*Bf <女朋友。男朋友>
Love is Not Blind  <失戀33天>
Painted Skin: The Resurrection <畫皮II>
Love <愛Love>

(Image and information in this post are from the following source: http://www.jaynestars.com/movies/2013-hong-kong-film-awards-cold-war-and-the-bullet-vanishes-lead-nominations/)

Movie review: Hotel Deluxe (2013)

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2013 by vincentloy

Today is a day of rest for me after I had just landed in KL from London yesterday’s night. Overall, my Chinese New Year break is over, but luckily, I took a day leave today for me to enjoy another day before turning my working mode on beginning tomorrow. So, I should watch a Chinese New Year movie today, and my first choice is ‘Hotel Deluxe’. We usually paid attention to Hong Kong CNY films, rather than Malaysia’s ‘Once Upon A Time’.

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Why ‘Hotel Deluxe’ is my first choice? It starred a great number of famous Hong Kong comedians like Ronald Cheng, Sandra Ng, and Chapman To. Other fellow casts are Raymond Wong, Fiona Sit, Teresa Mo, Michelle Ye, etc. With such a strong line-up of artists, this film is not to be missed. It tells the story of a hotel that is run by a group of incompetent staff and so a new harsh manager is appointed to match the five-star standard of the hotel operation. At the same time, a mysterious hotel detective is reported to have arrived to the hotel for inspection without the identity being known and on the other hand, a fake wedding is planned out and two popular artists have also came for stay at this hotel.

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The story is quite interesting as it sets on funny issues revolving on a hotel, which paves way for much potential to create jokes and laughters. I think this movie is some sort of a re-branding to the popular franchise of ‘All’s Well, Ends Well’ which didn’t perform better than ‘I Love Hong Kong’ franchise every previous year. But I think the ‘Hotel Deluxe’ this year performed very well. The production grabbed a number of heavyweight artists to join into this film, and I think it worked on attracting more movie-goers.  And the most important thing is that each cast performed their part brilliantly too. The most funny character this time should be from Teresa Mo. I don’t like Fiona Sit in this movie as her part had some sort of romance with Ronald that gets certain part of the movie boring.

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Overall, this movie is a very entertaining film. More laughters. There are some scenes that really made me laugh until tears coming out from my eyes. The dialogues are funny, the gestures and facial expressions are hilarious too. Well, that means this movie is very good as a comedy that ends with happy ending and greeting from the casts as expected. Very much recommended. No nonsense thing spotted too. Great. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘Hotel Deluxe’ a total of 7.8. Next on the list to watch should be ‘I Love Hong Kong 2013’. From then, I can only make little comparison.

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

My wonderful 10 days 8 nights CNY 2013 trip to Europe

Posted in Wonders and Places on February 18, 2013 by vincentloy

I’m back. I’m back. Back to Malaysia yesterday’s night. I miss my home, my bed, the food, and the weather here. Eventhough I’m exhausted after almost 14 hours of flight back to KL from London not long ago, but there is this excitement that drives me to write this post up as soon as possible. Great things come and go. Writing this post that highlights most of my trip brings back some of the wonderful memories I had during the 10 days 8 nights Chinese New Year trip to central Europe with my family which officially ended yesterday. It’s an exciting journey!

7th February 2013 (Thursday) and 8th February 2013 (Friday)

At night, we depart to KLIA for midnight flight to Dubai before a transfer flight to our final destination, Zurich. Total of time spent in plane: over 14 hours. Sitting in a plane for that much of time is really too much for me. Luckily, it’s not a direct flight. At least for now, I can drop by at Dubai airport for some walking, shopping and a chance to view Burj Khalifa (world’s tallest building) from far.

We reached Switzerland (first out of six countries to be visited) on Friday’s afternoon (already night in Malaysia). And the first thing we experienced; tiny little snow dropping from the sky. Ohh…lovely. On first day of tour, we visited the Lion Monument (said to be the most moving stone sculpture in the world, but I don’t find it that spectacular) and the Chapel Bridge in the beautiful serene city of Lucerne, nearby Swiss Alps.

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9th February 2013 (Saturday)

Today gave me the most freezing experience I have ever had in my life. Why? Today, we took three cable car rides (in different types, with one being the world’s first rotating cable car) to the top of Mount Titlis along the famous Swiss Alps. That’s over 3000m above, and the temperature was -22 degree celsius. The coldest I had ever been to. That is the reason some of our tour group members decided to give up on half way to ice flyer lift ride at the top of the mountain, including me and my family. We then visited the Glacier Cave. Shopping time in the afternoon that also gave us opportunity to witness the unusually happening street filled with parades celebrating a kind of festival. What’s famous in Swiss? Watches of course.

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10th February 2013 (Sunday)

Today we left Lucerne to Rhine Falls. It’s quite a beautiful sight overlooking to the waterfall, but that is not really outstanding. We then proceed to enter Germany (second out of six countries for visit) and passed by the famous Black Forest (it’s white forest in winter anyway, can’t feel the ‘black’ in it during this season). We arrived at a small beautiful town called Titisee with a frozen lake, and sojourned to the cuckoo clock workshop. We had fun enjoying the on-going festival with colourful parades and ‘threats’ by some of the performers. I had someone putting a huge chunk of snow into my body from the back. That’s fun, but painful too. At night, we stayed at Heidelberg, a picturesque town.

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11th February 2013 (Monday)

Today, we proceed to Rhine Valley for a visit to wine museum and of course wine tasting too. Then, we went to Cologne and viewed the magnificent Cologne Cathedral in the midst of the festival I mentioned earlier again. It’s so busy and packed at the plaza there and we left the place quick, giving me no chance to shop for souvenirs in Germany. Today, a lot of time was spent in bus to go from Germany to Netherlands (famously called as Holland too), the third out of six countries we are to visit.

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12th February 2013 (Tuesday)

At Amsterdam, we went to countryside to visit the cheese and clog workshop. There’s a very beautiful scenery over there, as many famous traditional windmills are present along with unique houses and lake. Next, we proceed to Volendam, a small fishing town and we had lunch over there by the sea. We get back to the beautiful city of Amsterdam and get on board the glass-doomed waterbus for a cruise along the many canals of the city before dropping by at a diamond factory (we spent too much time in there, waiting for others to buy). At night, we walked pass the famous red-light district (where prostitutes are, and they are performing by the windows to attract customers…prostitution is legal in Netherlands).

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13th February 2013 (Wednesday)

Today was also the day when most of the time was in the bus, going from Netherlands to Belgium (fourth country to visit) and later France (fifth country to visit). At Brussels, the capital of Belgium, we dropped by at the iconic Atomium (landmark built at World Expo held in the city over 50 years ago) and also at the famous Manneken Pis (a fountain with a small boy urinating…there is a lot of different stories behind its creation). What’s famous in Belgium? Chocolates. Shopping again. Before we left Brussels, we also visited the amazing Grand Place, a square surrounded by awesome buildings. Then, we arrived in Paris by evening and spotted the first time, the famous Eiffel Tower at night. Wow…cool.

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14th February 2013 (Thursday)

Paris! No doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Everything is beautiful there, especially for architecture lovers like me. After a morning shopping at La Fayette, we had city tour and got to see the huge Arch de Triomphe (a huge arch built to celebrate victory in war last time), Place de la Concorde (a historical square last time, now some of the area is a playground with a ferris wheel), Notre Dame Cathedral (no one would not know this cathedral), Paris Opera House (famous for Phantom of the Opera) and Louvre Museum (where we get to see the contemporary glass pyramid in the middle surrounded by classical museum building blocks). Mona Lisa painting is in there. We didn’t get to enter the museum as the price is too expensive.

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Then, we get to visit the second floor of the iconic Eiffel Tower (built at World Expo over a century ago, once the tallest structure in the world). Too bad, it’s a rainy day and that affects our outdoor viewing activities. Anyway, we still get to see the beautiful panorama of Paris. After that, we enjoyed a cruise along River Seine, where we got to see many beautiful buildings and bridges, the Eiffel Tower again and the smaller Statue of Liberty.

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15th February 2013 (Friday)

Today, we left France and arrived at London, United Kingdom (the last country to visit) after boarding the high-speed train, Eurostar that cross the Chanel Tunnel (a tunnel below the sea built many years ago and was an engineering breakthrough). London, another beautiful city. I’m really getting jealous of how their cities look like compared to my KL. We had lunch at the famous Chinatown. Saw the distinctive London bus (double-decker red bus), mailbox, taxi, red telephone booth which best represents London.

City tour started, and we got to view the famous Big Ben tower, Buckingham Palace (official residence of Queen Elizabeth II), Trafalgar Square (a square erected to commemorate victory in war again), No. 10 Downing Street (the house and office of Prime Minister), Westminster Abbey (a huge Gothic church where famous royal weddings took place including the recent marriage between Prince William and Catherine), Tower Bridge (famous bridge with the tallest building in UK, the Shard Tower nearby). Then, we took a ride at the famous London Eye, the current third tallest ferris wheel in the world. From there, amazing panorama view to London just like where we are at the Eiffel Tower overlooking Paris. There, we got to see a 4D show regarding the London Eye too.

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16th February 2013 (Saturday) and 17th February 2013 (Sunday)

After getting a full day pass for London Underground train, we went to Madame Tussauds, a famous wax museum displaying waxworks of historical and royal figures and celebrities. There are a lot of people in this three-storey building and it’s very hard for us to take nice pictures in there. I saw Marilyn Monroe, President Obama, UK’s royal family, Daniel Craig, David Beckham, Mahatma Gandhi, Leonardo di Caprio, Kate Winslet, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, and many more. There are also a mini-train ride, haunted house visit, 4D show on superheroes, and souvenir shop in the museum. After that, we went to Harrods for a quick shopping before the tour ends, and we arrived at the London Heathrow Airport by the afternoon (much early) to work out on tax refund and those usual airport procedures when boarding flight. Yes, we were in A380, the largest passenger plane in the world for flight from London to Dubai before transfering for another flight back to Kuala Lumpur. We reached KL by 10pm on Sunday.

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It’s a very long and amazing trip for me! Of course, I bought a number of souvenirs (magnets, key chains, watches, chocolates, model of Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and Burj Khalifa, shirt, etc) for myself and my colleagues. Things are very expensive there since their currency is much higher than us. But I will buy things also, but not those of expensive brands famous from Europe like LV, Gucci, Prada, Longchamp, etc. The trip came to an end, and I will have to resume my usual working days tomorrow (it’s a good decision that I took leave today also for me to get enough rest and for clearing up my luggage). I had a very great ten days in Europe.