Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Singapore down pour

If it had rained like this on any of the three Grand Prix days it would have added considerable spice to the race. 10 minutes of tropical rain, then the sun was out again and the normal wonderful climate restored.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Race Day

From Race Day
So race day had arrived, not as hot as the previous two days - but more humid. My prediction of rain never materialised - but a glorious race did. After the support races completed, the bay stand filled with 32,000 people ready for the 800th Grand Prix - but the first under lights.
In a packed stand, the inability of my camera to see thought people wasn't going to be over come by the size of the lens I was using! The best opportunities for pictures of the cars at speed where on the previous days, with less people at the track and before the organisers had got wise to the unofficial places to observe the track from - such as under the stand as the track past below it!
Nelson Piquet walked away, eventually, from an impact right into the barriers in front of my stand. The exact timing of the resulting safety car would eventually lead to Alonso's victory. The fact that he was walking is a testament to the safety of the cars - for a while everyone in the stand was concerned something had punctured his safety cell.
Then the pit stop that ruined Massa's day/night and possibly his championship - all on the big screen right in front of me - like watching at home, but with added sound effects every few seconds!

The race continued to enthrall - another safety car put everyone back into a snake, with close racing to the end. Alonso's early pit stop immediately before the first safety car proved decisive as other dropped away in front of him - and a near perfect drive from 15th on the grid gained him a deserved win. Lewis drove conservatively to the points that come with 3rd - with both Ferraris out of the points pushing for more would have simply been greedy. 3 more races with 30 points up for grabs - if Lewis comes 2nd in every race he is champion by a point even if Massa wins every race.

Then they opened the track to smooth the journey home; and for lots of photo opportunities...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Qualifying over - now for the racing

From Qualifying
The atmosphere raised another level as the activity on the track had real significance - and the drivers didn't disappoint. Amazing how many Ferrari fans are in the stand! Given the number of times the cars came close to each other under practice and qualifying conditions - the action tomorrow should be great - the noise was also up a level as the team took more out of their engines for qualifying....
The pictures aren't that different from yesterday - and having taken 1,200 - 5.8GB worth, it will take me some time to find the good ones from those that are out of focus or blocked by some one standing up in front of me! The organisers had closed off some of the great positions I found on Friday - not surprising really - the barriers next to the track below the bay stand didn't look like they'd provide significant protection in the event of a crash - especially if any parts of the car few off - they could bounce in any direction....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Let the Night Racing begin

From Friday Practice
After a smooth journey on the MRT and a walk to find "gate 7" that included a welcome portion within a large air conditioned shopping centre I located my seat in the bay grandstand. The journey to and the surrounding backed the fact that this circuit is right in the centre of a city - traffic on a large packed flyover continued to creep past - a traffic jam within sight of the fastest motor sport!
Maybe it is a sign of me being 8 years older, but I'm sure that this generation of cars aren't anyway as noisy as those I saw roar around Silverstone - I distinctly remember struggling to be heard as v10s thundered past - the v8s braking into the tunnel before disappearing under the stand sound very rough - not an expected sound effect...

Today the serious racing begins with qualifying.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Food in Hong Kong

The best meal I had during my visit to Hong Kong, turned out to be a vegetarian Buddhist lunch during a coach tour. It was simple yet every item was tasty - the best of the selection was a bread like morsel. No meat or animal products where permitted, and even root vegetable excluded.

I experienced two full "Chinese" meals - one as part of a coach tour, the second in the "Internationally acclaimed" Yan Toh Heen. The first could have been in a typical Chinese restaurant in the UK - comforting that the Chinese "down the road" is authentic. The restaurant was full of locals - eating similar dishes, so I've no reason to suspect the style was overly influenced by "European" Chinese...

The meal in Yan Toh Heen was intriguing. I chose the chef's "best selection" set menu - 7 courses. Many interesting dishes - and I can now add Shark's Fin and Bird's nest to the list of delicacies I've eaten along side Dolphin in Iceland... The Shark's Fine soup was very tasty - but I have to admit I couldn't discern which taste in the Bird's nest course was the nest!

The last meal I'm going to include wasn't actually in Hong Kong, but at 35,000 feet between Hong Kong and Singapore. The Lobster Thermador I'd order seam to cause a stir amongst the cabin crew - given it was only a 3 hour flight I'd guess few people bother selecting from Singapore Air's extensive menu .... the lobster was very nice!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hong Kong almost over

Well, my time in Hong Kong is almost up - I've checked in to my flight to Singapore, repacked and booked a car to get me to the airport on time...

The Marriott Singapore has a lot to live up to - since I started the island bagging in earnest, the hotels I've stayed have all been great. Big Island and O Ľahu found me staying at the Sheraton Waikiki, who upgraded me to a suite, and provided wonderfully relaxed and lone traveller friendly experience. Inter Continental Hong Kong repeated the upgrade trick - replaced the beach view with an equally stunning, but different view, of the Hong Kong skyline, as I bagged Lantau and Hong Kong Islands - along with the continent of Asia in the form of Kowloon and the New Territories. Typhoon Hagupit put pay to me bagging some of the other out lying islands - a good reason for a return trip some time in the future.

Next stop Singapore....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Territories - The Land Between

A day pre-Typhoon Hagupit spent seeing the long history of Hong Kong, in an air conditioned coach. I don't think I've ever been so grateful for air conditioning before!
Hong Kong is a land of great contrasts - the extravagance of Hong Kong Island itself, the unexpected lush green areas, modern record holding high density accommodation and the traditional villages.
Splendid temples to contrast with the homes of most of the population. Those living in tiny homes - multiple stories built on the original foot print, express their wealth by owning four wheels - with all the taxes associated with them. The ample public transport makes them a luxury.
An very interesting day spend exploring the side of Hong Kong outside the air-conditioned offices and shopping complexes that dominate Kowloon and Hong Kong Island - and all within a few miles, and a small distance from real China.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hong Kong Bound

What a strange experience - flying backwards. I've always had a preference for travelling in a rear facing seats on trains. The fact that the club class window seats on a BA 747-400 face backwards, gave me a chance to try flying backwards! It was a very different experience - taking off you are pulled out of your seat, and landing pushed in to it... While the shutters are down, to allow people to sleep, it was hard to notice any motion at all - as it should be with no acceleration. But watching the impressive storm clouds pass under the plane, it was strange to be going backwards. Shows how much the eyes and brain are fooling you - the difference between not being able to sense motion with no external view and the impression watching the outside world was noticeable.

Arriving safely in Hong Kong, there was a second strange experience - landing on an airstrip built in the middle of the sea. Until very shortly before actually landing, there is nothing to land on! We skimmed over some of the many boats, small and large, trading round Hong Kong.
Then for the second holiday in a row the nice words "sir we've upgrade you to a suite" - in Hong Kong space is at such a premium that actually means to a room with enough room for a seating area, a desk, (and a bed) with a large dressing/bathroom - not three rooms in the less compact Hawaii! It does come with views to rival Waikiki as urban beauty rather than natural

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thames does Carnival

Carnival came to the Thames again and my annual challenge of low light photography occurred, this time with a new camera. And again a demonstraion of how hard it is and that I need more practice - but I got some good shots. In some it doesn't look like it was after sun down...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Madonna Rocks Wembley

She made everyone wait - but when she finally choose to join us an hour later than scheduled she put on a great show! Although I have to say I think Kyle retains the crown of the princess of pop - maybe Madonna is the queen of rock - as some of the best elements had her plucking an electric guitar.
The policy of allowing "small" cameras generated a star field like effect round the stadium as thousands of LCD faced out from the centre. I also think I've cracked my TZ5 - switching to spot metering and focusing worked a treat! Wembley being so much larger than the O2 meant I was much further from the stage than at the O2 despite being in the first section of seats - but still managed to get some identifiable pictures...

From Madonna - Wembley 2008
The new Wembley is a great improvement on the one they started knocking down as I left it 8 years ago... Good facilities and the small miracle that I left the concert without at any point having to stop to queue - a brisk walk straight on to a waiting Jubilee Line train. Now if they can get their pricing to match the O2 it would be great - but to be fair Kylie did multiple nights at the 02 - so Madonna tickets to a one off concert are bound to attract a premium - but not sure about £160 for the best seats rather than £40 was justified...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Round and Round the city

The Tour of Britain returned to London with a large amount of hype following the success of cycling in the Olympics.
From Tour of Britan 2008 - Stage 1
Having travelled to Paris for the last stage of the Tour de France for the past two years, it was a wonderful opportunity to have the race go by my front door! So I made my way out to find a good spot. Despite the hype of large crowds, there were very few people - much less than the London marathon attracts. So I managed to easily find a great spot - and for the first two laps I had a prime spot for taking pictures from a great angle. But that was ended by the officious marshals. "Are you an official photographer? We'll my supervisor has told me I have to move you from here...." - I was perfectly safe, behind a barrier on a under used crossing - presenting no risk to anyone... The marshals seam to spend the entire event moving people on from far less safe positions....

The good news is that the Singapore GP organisers have changed their minds and removed the 200mm limit on zoom lens and allowed tripods into their event.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Rugby Premiership season Opening Double Header

From London Double Header 2008
Thanks to Sun I made my way to the almost finished Twickenham for the opening Saturday of the Guinness Premiership - London Irish against last year's champions Wasps, followed by Saracens v Harlequins.
In an unexpected result the Irish ran out winners 26 to 14. The Wasps only seamed to get motivated once the clock reached zero, and they chased a final try to claim the point for not loosing by more than 7 - if they'd been equally motivated thought out the match it would have been a closer call!

The second match was a much closer affair - with some needle if the flying arms of some of the players was anything to go by! Internationals from 11 different countries lead to quality entertainment - with Harlequins running out winners by a very close 24-21. By the end of the day there was even a little blue sky to cheer the day.