Monday, March 31, 2014

The Malaysian Foldie: Issue 08, April 2014 is now live!

The Malaysian Foldie e-magazine, issue 08, April 2014 is out. You can read it here and in the April issue, we feature the Kuala Gandah Elephant sanctuary ride, Vanessa Cheah of Van's Urban Bicycle & Co. The second annual Tern Social Ride in Taipei, Taiwan, Biologic's new bicycle accessories and a tribute to the Legendary Dahon Speed P8.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Knockaround phones - Part 2

Raising the bar...

If you have around RM680 to boot, the choice for a travel smartphone would be a Motorola Moto G.
Practically-speaking, its one of the only phone of its class to offer a quad-core 1.2Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor.
Compared to cheaper phones, this one is much faster when it comes to running tasks.
It's quite an attractive package given the fact that it has a high-resolution 4.5" screen.

The Moto G
Superior Android OS

The Moto G come with the latest Android 4.3 Kit Kat OS.
These are found on Google's Nexus phones and tablets and is said to be really smooth.
Currently, very few smartphone manufacturers offers a KitKat phone under RM1,000.
And like its Nexus cousins, you can set up your Google account during start-up and you are in business.

Two SIMs are better than one...

Yeah, like the Nokia X, this baby has two SIM card slots.
This means that you can switch between "home" and "away" when it comes to getting connected with your loved ones.

The inner workings...

Motorola's Moto G comes in two versions.
You can have the 8GB or 16GB phones.
One word of caution is that when you load up the apps, it will eat into your phone's memory and there is no way you can externally expand it. 
The only downside about this phone is the fact that it does not have a MicroSD slot.
Files can be "pushed" to cloud based apps - but there is a catch. If you exceed the cloud storage space, you might have to pay for it.
As for camera, the Moto G's onboard camera is good enough to capture images in broad daylight.
I doubt that it would work well in low light.
But that is not my criteria. 
If I get this phone, its purely to get connected.
So, to sum it all up, the Moto G is regarded as phone with value for money and its quad core processor performance.

Knockaround phones - Part 1


I've been using a HTC One X+ and frankly, it's one of the best Android OS phones I've ever handled.
Prior to that, I was lugging around an LG Optimus 2x.
That one suffers from some serious lag-time when it comes to call-handling and due to wear and tear, I had to retire it.
Now, recently, there is a selection of decent smartphones at prices below RM500.
This is a benchmark for phones you can carry abroad for travel and use with foreign SIM cards.
I gave this much thought and narrowed down my search to Lenovo's A369i with an unbeatable price below RM300.
The phone was so hot, it was literally "cleaned" from the shelves.

The Nokia X
It's down to one choice and the winner is...

I saw a newspaper ad on Nokia's latest entry-level phone - the Nokia X.
This one has a 4-inch screen and its powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.0Ghz dual core processor.

In short, this little phone as more processing power than a 286 desktop computer of the 80s.
It's also one of Nokia's entry-level phone for those living in the third world who are not acquainted with the Android OS.
It has a retail price of RM399 and also features two ports for SIM cards.
I find this useful for travel across the border where data lines are offered as prepaid packages.
You can slip in a SIM Card, turn it on and get instant access to your emails on the go.
Since I don't want to remove the micro SIM card from my HTC One X+, the cheap Nokia X gives plenty of advantage as a "knockaround" phone for bicycle touring.
The Nokia X has a decent screen resolution.
This is much better than the Lenovo A369i.
But its nowhere compared to the defunct HTC One X+.

A lot of getting used to..

The Nokia X uses it's proprietary OS, which is the Nokia X platform.
I find the user interface a marriage between Windows phone and the Android.
What I like are the coloured bars where one can access email and social network apps.
But, there is a downside.
On the Nokia online store, it's impossible to get Whatsapp, let alone install it.

Instead, the We Chat apps came standard with the Nokia X.
I have yet to test the phone's WiFi hotspot capabilities as its able to host eight devices at any time.
So, the real testing is in Thailand next month.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Taipei - Part 2

The perils of cheap flight tickets...

"If you want to get around cheap, chances are: you will be made to fly at unGodly hours. Yeah, I said about it and my five-day whirlwind tour of Taipei is drawing to an end. I am looking forward to hit Kuala Lumpur, fill my lungs with suspended particles from the burnt peat swamp and endure the sweltering heat.
Truth to be told, I am not a big fan of the cold..." - Samo

Wet, wet, wet...

Taipei experienced constant showers throughout my stay.
Every day is a wet day and the cold temperature that sunk in didn't help.
I took time off to explore downtown Taipei and ended up at its Central Business District near the Taipei 101 tower.
This is a landmark which is a "must see" if you ever hit Taipei!
I made my way to the Taipei Central station to take an MRT ride to Taipei 101.
This was a straight-forward process and takes less than 15-minutes to get there.
I got off at the last station and walked in the rain and all I found was a tower covered with clouds.
Taipei 101 is like how we admire our Petronas Twin Towers. It's an architectural achievement and a symbol of a country's financial might.

Covered in cloud: The Taipei 101

A wet day in Taipei

A clearer day

Taipei's Central Business District
Easy card

If you can get hold of the Taiwan's Easy Card, do make it a point if you want to travel with bus and rail around the city.
This can be topped-up (minimum NT$100, max NT$5,000) at any MRT stations or at 7Eleven outlets.
I get around with the MRT and for the first three days, its from Ximending to Nangang Exhibition hall.
Savings is the key here as it costs much more for taxis.
To sum it up, the route is simple to follow and if you frequently use the subway, Taiwan's tube is a piece of cake.


I had a couple of things to look for.
Unfortunately, they did not appear on my radar.
High on my priority list: was a set of large wristbands for my fitbit flex. Na-da!
Then, Snowpeak camping gear. I wanted a stubby titanium spork. And I found out that the concept store is in Taichung. That's pretty far.
Prior to my visit to Taipei, I had no idea that the island republic is so large!
But, I did find something that caught my fancy.
I have been looking for a pair of New Balance shoes and ended up with a pair of black 990s.
These came in 4E width and is made in the USA.
For foreign customers, one can claim VAT refund (5%) and best of all, the sales person will help you claim.
That's strike one and I guess I'll have to look for the Fitbit stuff when I visit the US.

Walk, walk, walk..

The best way to see parts of Taipei is on foot.
I don't mind this and one of the requirements is having a pair of good footwear. And also make it waterproof!
On the average, I take about 3,000 steps a day. 
Here in Taipei, my daily steps is above 15,000 and my record was 21,000.
I measure with with an apps on my Android phone. Its called "Noom Walk".
If I had my Fitbit fitness monitor, it will do the same and vibrate to tell me that I have achieved my daily goal. 

Ximen's wet market

A variety of Tilapia found at the market
Good street food along Kunming street
Fair weather, at last!

Sunday was my last day in Taipei.
I plan to head off to the downtown area to score my shoes.
Then, the rest of the day was to round up some Chinese Ham for my double-boiled soup project at home.

I took a walk to the Ximen market which was just behind my homestay motel.
Its an interesting place and I spent some time there snapping away with my camera.
Seems that the sea fishes here are the same variety found in tropical waters. Only with the exception of farmed large-mouth bass.
Then, I found a stall and ate their "squid thick soup".
It turned out to be a delicious bowl of Lam Mee with sotong. 
Later, I set out to the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi department store to round up my gear.
When that was done, I went to the Far East Department store in Ximen and had late lunch at a Beef Noodles shop. 

Spicy chicken feet

Taiwan beer!
It seems that the Beef noodles shop is an award-winning food outlet and the fare was pretty good! 
I was amazed with the starter dishes: spicy chicken feet and smoked pig's ears. Totally awesome.
The beef noodles was tasty and the meat scallions that came with it was cooked to perfection.
After a good meal, I went shopping for some knick-knacks to bring home and made my way back to hotel to pack my stuff.
For a last sweep, I headed by to the Taipei City Mall to look around and ended up treating myself to a nice dinner at a steak house near the motel.
That was the highlight of my stay in Taipei.
Back at the motel, I try to catch some sleep and managed to squeeze in about two hours and how time flies.
By the time I woke up, it was already half-past midnight.
Since I can't get back to sleep, I updated this blog and completed the second and final installment of my Taipei trip.
It's time to head to Taoyuan airport, check-in and wait to board my flight back to Kuala Lumpur.
So, that's it! This Samo, signing off from Taipei...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Taipei - Part 1

(This is the journal of my stay in Taipei, Taiwan, where I attended the Taipei Cycle 2014 trade show and spent two extra days chilling out in this awesome city)

A planned trip...

Onboard the MAS 737-800 on the medium-haul journey to Taiwan

I hardly travel to international trade shows.
My last was a gun and knife show in Las Vegas, USA. That was back in 2009 where I spent two weeks in the US with my wife.
We toured the Grand Canyon as well as parts of Arizona and Nevada.
Some months back, Joshua Hon of Tern Bicycles invited me to the Tern Social Ride at the Nangang Exhibition Hall in Taipei and I thought that it was a great opportunity to catch up with the man behind one of the most respectable folding bike manufacturer on this planet.
So, I worked on trying to source for a cheap return flight from Kuala Lumpur.
On the average, a Malaysian Airlines ticket would cost between RM1,300 to RM1,900 depending on the day you depart.
There was an offer on the Taipei ticket and I managed to score a return ticket at RM950.
But, there is a price to pay for this.
You leave on unGodly hours.
Nevertheless, I've secured my ride to Taiwan and what that was left to do, is a place to crash.
I am used to budget travel - especially when I have to boot the expenses myself..
So, I combed the internet for the best rates and was told by my colleague that "homestays" in Taipei are pretty affordable.
I gave it a shot by signing-up with and found a cosy little place to bunk at the Ximending district.
This is said to be a lively place with food around the clock.
I booked a room for RM750 for five nights.
On the average, that's the price for a room for one night at any three-star hotel in Taipei.
With my airplane ticket and accommodation settled, its a matter of getting some pocket money and that was no real issue.
My flight departed from the KLIA on March 5 at 1:45am.
When I arrived at the Taoyuan international airport in Taipei, I was struggling with sleep deprivation.
The plane touched down safely at 06:15am and the slow process of reclaiming baggage and clearing Customs and Immigration begins to roll.
By 7am, I was on a bus bound for the Taipei City Terminal.

Sunrise over Taiwan
Rolling out from Taoyuan international airport
Lost in translation...

One of my biggest regret is not learning Mandarin.
That's the official language in Taiwan and it is a struggle for me to get about and around.
Lucky for me, my colleague Ng Kok Leong, The Star's Photo Editor helped out by getting me some brochures and an empty Easy Card for use with subway travel.
The rest was observing polite gestures and Taipei surprised me a lot. The people here are friendly and some do speak English.
I asked a train commuter on how to get to Ximending and was told to take the Bannan line and get out at the first station - Ximen.
From there, its locating the hostel that became another daunting task.
I walked around, trying to locate Xining Street. Nada.
Then, I asked a Taiwanese guy and was shown the right direction.
It took me about 20-minutes to locate the reception of the motel and once I got there, I was told that I could only check-in after 12-noon.

Loading up

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. 
In the aircraft, I had some noodles and chicken. That kept me full till the wee hours of the morning.
There's no shortage of food in Ximending.
Plenty of takeaway stalls and streetfood made this the perfect place to crash.
I found a shop selling Goose noodles and ordered a bowl.
The man who served me asked if I wanted to NT Dollar 100 or 200 serving.
I opted for a larger serving since it was my first meal of the day and when the noodles came, I was rather disappointed. 
It was a bowl of soup noodles with a piece of meat in it.
"200 bucks and only a piece of meat?", I thought out loud.
Then came a plate of Goose which was a relief. The meat was really salty and I guess you are supposed to dunk it into the noodle soup and down it. So, that was breakfast...

Goose for breakfast

Soup noodles with lots of beansprouts - just love it!
Apart from small eateries, you can find food at any convenience store.
They serve Oden (Japanese Yong Tau Foo) and a typical hot bowl costs around NT60 (four pieces of fishball, beancurd and so on..)
There's family mart, 7-Eleven and some homegrown companies offering food and essential items around the clock.
In Ximen, there's literally one 7Eleven at every corner of a building block.

Shopping, shopping, shopping...

We Malaysians and shopaholics.
If you go on a tour and omit shopping from the itinerary, you will end up with a riot.
That's a fact.
Ximending is a open pedestrian mall and for a dinosaur like me, I am lost.
Plenty of shops catering for the hipsters rather than an adventure nut like me.
So, I didn't bother much with the shopping bid.
But I did explore the street opposite Ximen where there is a row of shops selling cameras.
And most of the goods are similar to what we have in KL. No big deal.
But if you are into portable electronics, there are some surprises in store!

The lucky cat

Camera street
I didn't explore much of the sights and sounds in Ximending.
This is purely a food and shopping paradise.
My first three days in Taipei was focussed on the Cycle Taipei show and when it's over on my part, I managed to check out at the Taipei 101 tower...

Friday, March 7, 2014

Taipei Intl Cycle Show - Part 3

It's a wrap!

Today was my third day at the Taipei Cycle show and it was truly a humbling experience.
Most of the manufacturers were at the show with the exception of certain "big boys" in the bicycle manufacturing business.
But to me, all the important people in the folding bike circle was at the show. So, it's definitely worth the trip.
I spent the earlier part of the day cruising around mid-town Taipei and actually ended up at the Nangang exhibition hall around 2pm.
That was my plan right from the start as I've covered quite a bit of what I wanted to do at the show.

The Ximending district

MRT, my daily commute to Nangang Exhibition Hall
Networking: Meeting a fellow foldie and publisher..

I am a fan of Kris Gomeze's Bicycle United magazine, Thailand's first bi-lingual cycling magazine that also has an e-magazine edition.
Her work inspired me to publish The Malaysian Foldie and I must say that meeting up with Kris, even though its a brief moment, was really enlightening.
We shared our thoughts on folding bikes and for me, it's a learning curve.
The print-edition of Bicycle United is growing fast and its also a real good read. 
The digest-sized magazine retails at 80baht in Thailand.

Cool beans from Biologic

I was shown the new Biologic speed and cadence sensor that retails at USD$45.95 (RM150 excluding tax and freight). 
This new product can be linked to your smartphone (Android 4.3 and above) and the IOS for iphones.
What I find neat, is the fact that the sensor can be used on smaller folding bikes with a longer chainstay.

How it works..

An actual working model of the sensor
Biologic Pango Helmets for charity..

More than 150 white pango folding helmets were sold for charity.
These went for NT799 (RM85) with proceeds going to World Bicycle Relief. Truly a noble deed by Mobility Holdings! 

Going for a good cause: The white pangos
Coming your way soon: Tern's new bikes..

K2 Asia had announced their new bikes for 2014 and Tern bicycle enthusiasts can look forward to the Verge P9, P20 and Eclipse P18.
These are headed to Malaysia on a March/April release.

The Eclipse P18, folded on the bottom left, is expected soon in Malaysia
Friendly faces at the Tern boot at the 2014 Cycle Taipei show..
Signing off..

Well, there you have it, three days of live-feed from the Cycle Taipei show.
I will be on my break tomorrow till Sunday before I catch my early morning flight to Kuala Lumpur on Monday.
There's much to do when I hit KL and I am missing my wife who is in Texas, US, right now and my two kidz..
I will write about my travel in Taipei on another post. Till then, thanks for following me.. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

2014, 2nd Annual Tern Social Ride

A highly anticipated event.. 

I made my way to the Nangang exhibition hall late in the afternoon after updating my blog.
The timing was such, I don't have to wait long.
While I was hanging out at the lobby area, I met Danny Teo of Le Run Industries.
He is the man in charge of Schwalbe tires and we had a chat about what future collaborations can be made between The Malaysian Foldie e-magazine and Schwalbe.
Things are looking up at my end when we talked about giving our readers the best benefits.
Danny even bought me a Japanese Green Macha as a treat as we carried on with our conversation.

Hanging out with Danny Teo of Le Run Industries
Tern's outdoor demo booth at Nangang

A selection of bikes, some brought by owners being lined-up
A wet, wet, wet, evening...

I bumped into Eric Mah, the company's project manager (Consumer Marketing) who is also my key contact person at Tern Bicycles at the exit of the hall.
"You don't mind some moisture eh Samo?"
The weather forecast was right, chances of rain and temperatures dipping down to 16C at night.
Nevertheless, the show must go on! 
I was designated to a Tern Joe P24, a real interesting bike and perhaps one of the largest bike in the fold.
Staff and guests of Tern Bicycles were gathered at the registration area. 
I received a disposable poncho, a set of Biologic lights and a beer coupon for signing-up.
What kept my upper extremities dry was my Woolrich Elite tactical jacket. I haven't worn this in ages, and sure am glad to bring it along.
The destination was the former site of a floral expo some 15km away from Nangang.
I was told by Joshua Hon, the main man behind Tern Bicycles that during the ride that some cyclists complained about last year's social ride being too short  in terms of distance.
Well, this one's really interesting and despite a soaked butt, the cold, it was not tiring at all...

Terry Chen of Tern with her Verge X10

The one and only music machine being prepped for the ride

Josh (centre) sharing a light moment with one of the participants

The crowd, gathering at the outdoor demo booth
While waiting for the ride to beging, I met Terry Chen, Brand Manager (Marketing) for Tern Bicycles. 
She was setting up her Verge X10 which was fitted with a Bilogic Joule 3 Dynamo kit with a Valo 2 light.
Pretty neat rig and we talked a lot about touring and how I ended up riding a folding bike.
I recalled the Dahons that got me started and eventually ending up with a Tern Eclipse X20, the very first in Malaysia.. 
Then came Josh Hon and his neatly folded Eclipse X20.
He had the bike tricked out with dynamos to generate clean power and the Eclipse is his favourite bike.
There was another X20 at the scene and at least three Eclipse S18is on the ride.
Last year's turnout was more than 100 people and due to the rain, the 2nd Tern Social Ride had  just a quarter of the crowd. Nevertheless, the ride was on!
"Some people are "allergic" to rain, they keep indoors and cease all activities," Josh joked.
Taiwan's cycling paths are very well planned and its a real nice place to move about if you have a folding bike.
The group rallied up mid-point and took snapshots at a mural.

Re-grouping at the mid-way point

Taking snapshots

Cyclists and their bikes

A Hibiscus mural

Josh, chatting up with the cyclists
It wasn't that bad at all...

We reached the end-destination after covering a distance of 15km from Nangang.
The bikes were collected and placed on a truck to be sent back to Tern's office and we were ushered to our tables at a tavern at the floral expo site.
Beers were on the house and I had a bowl of Beef stew to line my stomach.
I was on a table with Tern's international customers and friends and we talked a bit about traveling in Thailand.
One of the guys from Peru was headed to Bangkok on a holiday.
The rest of the time, my mind was numb as it was cold.
An outdoor heater was the source of our warmth as we gathered around it..

Josh and Eric

Happy Campers!

The bikes being wheeled to a truck waiting nearby

Loading up the bikes..
One for the album with Josh and Eric
The warmth of friendship and fellowship of cyclists..

After the meals and beers, it was time to head back.
Eric Mah led the gang to the MRT station where I got off at the Taipei Central Station.
There, I was Uwe Weissflog who is in charge of marketing Tern Bicycles for the European Market. We chat a bit and parted ways at the Ximen station.
For me, my day ended with total satisfaction. Having met the Tern crew as well as cycle a short distance for some beers and food! That was awesome.
I look forward to the third edition of the Tern Social Ride if time permits..

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Taipei Intl Cycle Show - Part 2

Day two...

I caught up with my much-needed sleep and wandered around Ximending for some breakfast. 
Found a decent makan place and ordered a bowl of oyster mee-suah. Which was very decent and the gravy was blasted with garlic.
Made my way to the Nangang exhibition hall and took as many photos as I could.
The mandatory stops were at the Schwalbe booth.
This year, the tire company launched their Durano plus tire and I saw a 20" tire on display at their booth.
Later, I made my way to the Pacific Cycle booth and met Fei Lee of GW Cycles.
We chat a bit and I learned that he has been in Taipei since last Friday.
He will be leaving tomorrow afternoon for KL.
Lee also showed me a prototype Pacific Reach. 
Then, some bigwig from the company said the bike cannot be shown in postings and blogs as its not a production model.
Its also strange to learn that Lee has yet to sell any Pacific Reach in KL.
Another exciting new product was the Birdy Classic. 
This is based on its original Riese & Muller design and it's already catching up fast in KL.

GW Cycle's Lee at the Taipei Cycle show
At the Pacific Cycles booth

A Pacific Reach rigged for touring
While I was doing my rounds, I bumped into Mr Khoo from Funsportz, the guy in charge of GoPro cameras.
He was with his own entourage, we chat a bit, but the people whom he was leading seemed pretty stuck-up.
From the main exhibition area, I moved to the sixth floor where Dahon had launched their new product: the Dahon Clinch.
This is their flagship bike using a 10-speed SRAM Red drivetrain and is incorporated with some new technology for better handling.
The Clinch is previewed for the first time at the Taipei Cycle show.
I think this is an exciting new bike and it's got all the bells and whistles to flaunt.
At the reception, I also bumped into Henry Hon, one of the brothers who founded Dahon Bicycles. 

The Dahon Clinch

A sporty looking Dahon Visc

An orange Dahon Speed

A black/green Dahon Jetstream P8
Tern's trolley rack wins award..

The trolley rack that came standard with Tern Link D7i has won a design award at the Taipei Cycle show! 
Congrats to Josh and team Tern on this well-deserved award.
Well, that's all the time I have.. I am getting ready for the Tern social ride that is taking place later today at 5:30pm. 
More to come..