Thursday, 31 October 2019

#siryweds - Qingdao Pre-Wedding Photoshoot (Part 1)

On 12th October 2019, finally, #siryweds
And also with me being on medical leave for the rest of the week due to a dental surgery, I decided, why not do a series of #siryweds posts? I know this sounds really ambitious, judging that I took nearly 1 year to finish my 10 days New Zealand road trip travelogue, but nevertheless it's still a memorable event, a milestone in my life, that I wish to document in words; albeit just briefly
So, just bear with me yeah?

And to all the brides-to-be reading this series of posts, hopefully this can give you a teeny weeny bit of help with your wedding preparations. :)

First up, let's touch on our PWS. 

The reason why I wanted to do an overseas PWS is simple. 
I WANTED TO AVOID THE HEAT IN SINGAPORE, and of course having pretty things you can't find in Singapore (like Cherry Blossoms) in my photographs will be awesome as well, but the main reason was to avoid the heat. 
Dragging a heavy bridal gown, with my face slathered in thick bridal make up, my hair so stiff with tons of hairspray and heavy with dangling accessories.... UNDER THE SCORCHING SUN?
No! No, no no. NO WAY. 

And so, through a close relative who happens to be working in Qingdao, we settled on a 2-days shoot package with REVIVAL新生.
Now, the thing with buying things (even PWS packages, yes) in China is that everything is very flexible, and so with my relative's amazing haggling skills, here's what we've got for just barely SGD $1300

Day 1
half day studio shoot + half day outdoor shoots 
4 Outfits & Makeup + Hair for Bride
3 Outfits + Hair for Groom

Day 2 
(YES, we had TWO days of photoshoot!)
full day outdoor shoot
couple's own casual wear
(but in the end the photographer though my outfits were way too casual and so he lent me a little white gown instead) 

40 edited shots with 2 albums
4 table frames
a 2.5 minutes photo slideshow
all softcopies (a friggin 640 shots) return 

And if you're still thinking, huh China ah? Their gowns and suits must be damn outdated and orbiang lor. But nope, I have to say that this bridal shoot industry in China is ridiculously big, and actually they've much prettier and atas (classy) looking gowns as compared to the local studio I've engaged for my Actual Day package (which I will touch on in a separate post). 

REVIVAL新生 is actually a photographer working at his own one-man-show photography studio, unlike a typical bridal studio that has their own team of photographers, make up artists and collection of gowns and suits. So he actually works with 杜娟婚纱 for my gowns, LOAFFER for the groom's suits and Star-Makeup for my make up and hair. 

REVIVAL新生 photography style is a more candid, natural feel. So while we had it easier with just standing and posing in the more formal studio shoot, we were dog-tired at the end of the day after the outdoor shoot, having to be constantly walking back and forth, running, jumping around etc. 

And so, here are some of my favourite shots from each of the 4 outfits. :) 


This mauvey, champagne gown was my mum's favourite and the bridal studio's staff also told her that it's one of their more expensive (and latest) collection, having only recently flown in from France. And of course because it's the more expensive range, it's better off staying in a safer environment of an indoor studio shoot. 








It came across to me that most Asian brides do not appreciate such simple satin gowns, but I LOVE IT! I love how it's so simple, yet classy and elegant. If only it weren't so heavy (satin gowns are damn heavy can!). Most of the time the entire gown was nearly slipping off my body as I walk, probably also because the bodice (waist) portion of the gown wasn't tight enough.





REVIVAL新生 wasn't very familiar with taking oriental style PWS, but I really wanted to wear a red 裙褂 (Kua). And I love how this piece is a mix of 龍鳳褂 (top) and 秀禾服 (bottom), which makes it a super pretty set! :) 
For BTBs who can't differentiate between the two, here's a detailed explanation to set you in the right direction. 





And this is my final gown worn for Day 1 of our photoshoot, which is also super pretty looking, ending our tiring day at Huang Dao (Golden Beach). 

And for Day 2, it was half a day of casual shoot at Lao Shan! 




I know we look very happy playing with water in the river but you know what, it was just 11 degrees Celsius and that water was icy cold. 
Not fun, people. NOT FUN AT ALL. 






So while getting a PWS package in China might be ridiculously affordable with amazing quality, do note that they will require you to pay a deposit upon confirmation, only via alipay or wechat pay, which requires you to have a China bank account in order to perform cash transfer transactions. 

Feel free to drop me a comment, email or DM me on my instagram if you wish to know more details. 

Read about my other PWS shoot with Milan Spring HERE

Till then,
Mia Foo

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

NZL Travelogue: Hamilton Gardens

Day 10 marks the shortest day spent in NZ on our itinerary, as it's the day of our flight back to SG! Although I've quite ambitiously planned 2 places (Hamilton Gardens + Cereal Killa Cafe) to get to during the trip planning stage, we ended up just settling our meals at Hamilton Gardens Cafe instead.

But first, here's the morning view at Tongaporutu Domain.




And after an approximately 2.5 hours' drive (173km), we arrived at the Hamilton Gardens, and headed straight for the cafe for brunch.


The cafe opens at 9am and overlooks the Turtle Lake, providing a simple lunch menu (which we didn't realise when ordering the cabinet food), coffee and cabinet food. There's also a gift shop connected to the cafe, which we didn't bother to check out.


After a quick brunch, we headed off to check out the different gardens, which supposedly has different opening hours ranging from as early as 730am to 10am.





Hamilton Gardens is open daily (FREE entry) from 730am - 10am, and parking available through Gate 1 and Gate 2.
For more information, visit their website HERE

And then, after leaving the gardens, it was another nearly 2 hours' drive back to Auckland Airport (smashing into a swarm of bees along the highway) and that's it!


This marks the end of my NZ travelogue! Coming up next will probably be a series of #siryweds (my wedding preparations) posts. So current BTBs, do stay tune!

Till then,
Mia Foo

Friday, 25 October 2019

NZL Travelogue: The Forgotten Highway, Whangamomona Hotel, Dawson Falls, Mt. Taranaki & Lake Mangamahoe

Day 9 of our NZ roadtrip was a rather "last minute" decision, planned (with some major re-routing, since I initially planned for us to head to the opposite direction of Napier and Hastings after Taupo) only after I chatted with R briefly on our planned meetup in Auckland (he brought up The Forgotten Highway) , and with Oyhz (she brought up Mt. Taranaki, which she chanced upon... somehow) a couple of weeks before our trip. 
It was a day of "mad rush" doing research on Google and then re-route planning on Google Map, and viola~

The Forgotten Highway, which is also part of the State Highway 43, starts from Taumaranui and takes you through Whangamomona to Stratford, with a total estimated (NON-STOP) travel time of 2 hours and 15 minutes.
And so with a FULL TANK (very important because there is NO petrol station along The Forgotten Highway), we started our Forgotten Highway drive towards Whangamomona Hotel, passing by Tangarakau Gorge, Moki Tunnel and Tahora Saddle along the 92 km drive.

We decided to skip Mount Damper Falls as it'll take us at least a 30 minutes detour after the gorge, plus probably another 20 - 30 minutes of walking to the falls' lookout.
-credits to wildtaranaki.co.nz-

The Tangarakau Gorge is supposed to offer a magnificent path through a dense forest that's unique to the area, making it a traditional New Zealand postcard picture spot.
I can't decide if I have set my expectation a little too high, or we actually didn't get to the exact picturesque spot along the gorge, but it was really nothing impressive to us.
Other travel blogs has mentioned that this will be the gravel road section of the highway, so I guess we did get to the correct spot though.
Anyway, the gravels were no joke, it was probably also around these extremely bumpy section of the gravel road that caused the crack in our water tanks.



Next up along the way was Moki Tunnel. Although brief, I quite liked Moki Tunnel and found it rather cute as there's a 'Hobbit Hole' signage put up above it. We could have hung around and took a few more shots, if not for the nasty Caucasian couple who got there before us and hogged the parking spot at the road shoulder area just beside the tunnel's entrance. They actually horned at us when we slowed down (there were NO CARS behind us) and tried to reverse the CV up into the side of the road beside their car.


It's kind of true that the spot could only fit 1 car comfortably But because there's hardly any cars along The Forgotten Highway, plus it's not as if we wanted to CAMP OVERNIGHT right there or what, we probably just need a 5 minutes quick stop and it shouldn't be an issue at all.
It was as if they own the road shoulder. TSK. 


So, after Moki Tunnel came the Tahora Saddle, which looked pretty scenic overall and there'll be "free spots" along the highway for you to stop your vehicles and take a few IG-worthy photographs.





And finally, we arrived at Whangamomona Hotel for lunch! 

The hotel not only provides accommodation, but it's also a classic New Zealand pub! And most importantly, and also the main reason why I planned the hotel into my itinerary, is that Whangamomona is actually a Republic, and you can get your passport stamped right here at the hotel with just a small adminstrative fee of NZD $2!




And there's the cute neighbourhood/resident cat that came for a visit. 


Food wise, you can find proper hot-cooked food and also some baked goods at the 'pub'.
The BF had their beef burger, which was pretty good according to him.
As for my Fish & Chips, it was not bad, but the marinate was pretty mild and fish had a distinctive "fishy" taste, which the mild marinate couldn't cover. It also didn't help that I will only take chili sauce as my choice of dips, and you won't get chili sauce anywhere when dining in New Zealand.


Anyway, after the hearty lunch, we hopped back onto our Jucy Chaser and it was another 64 km worth of driving to the Shakee Pear Cafe, located at the Taranaki Pioneer Village, passing by the Whangamomona Saddles, Pohokura Saddle and Strathmore Saddle along the way.

-credits to ketenewplymouth.peoplesnetworknz.info-

There's actually another tunnel, the Makahu Tunnel along this stretch of the highway, but we decided to skip it as it requires us to exit the highway and take another detour.



Both the Whangamomona and Pohokura Saddles were pretty mediocre in comparison to the other 2 saddles (there's a total of 4 saddles along the way) that we drove by along the highway. We even skipped taking photographs of the Wangamomona Saddle because it looks too.... normal.

The Strathmore Saddle has to be the most impressive of the four, but the sight that greeted us still fell short of my expectation by... a lot.


Hello, Mr. Rooster.



And I think I only have google images to blame for showing me tons of post-edited, ridiculously stunning shots of the saddle.
-credits to backpackerguide.nz-

Anyway, more camwhoring moments as we drove on towards the end of The Forgotten Highway...


 This has to be one of my favourite shot of the trip!


Finally, we arrived at the Taranaki Pioneer Village, which is actually a unique outdoor museum that consists of around 30 buildings that take you back in time when the pioneers first settled in New Zealand.

But since it closes at 4pm and the entire place seems eerily deserted (we weren't even sure if they're open when looking from the outside), we decided to just pop by Shakee Pear Cafe, located just beside the car park, for a quick rest.

Food choices here are pretty limited, and taste wise were mediocre at best. Highly suggest that you do not try their smoothies; it tasted really bland and the texture very watery and diluted. 

For more information of The Forgotten Highway and various places to drop by along the highway, visit HERE

After the short and not very satisfying (in terms of the food) pit stop at the cafe, we headed down to Dawson Falls, which is approximately half an hour's drive away.

But before that, see who we met along the way!
SHEEPS! So adorable!

According to travel sites, there's toilets, well-maintained picnic area, the DOC office and a cafe situated at the end of the road, about 3 minutes' walk from the big car park, but as it was a touch-and-go stop for us, we didn't get to explore that area. 


The walking trail from the carpark will start off as a downhill (meaning it'll all be uphill when you return) walk that'll take you 10 minutes to reach Manaia Road, where the entrance to the Dawson Falls will be. Hence, you can actually park your vehicle at Manaia Road (if you're lucky to snatch one of the very limited slots) to save up on the 10 minutes uphill walk during your return. 


The first part of the track starting from the forest will bring you to a junction within just 5 minutes, at this point which you can either choose to walk to the upper waterfall's lookout (5 minutes return) or go further down to the waterfall's base (5 - 10 minutes return). 


For us, we just took the track to get to the base and skip the additional 5 minutes' walk to the upper lookout. 

And right after Dawson Falls comes the 2nd major highlight of our day, Mt Taranaki!

First up, we headed for the Potaema Track, which was another half an hour's drive away from the Dawson Falls. 

This 30 minutes return track starts off from the Potaema picnic area, on the left side of Pembroke Road, and is supposed to be a well-maintained wheelchair accessible track. However, I will beg to differ, as not only some portions of the tracks aren't truly smooth and flat, some areas along the track will get pretty tight due to the growing trees, which I doubt a wheelchair can easily pass through. 

The track supposedly takes us through the lush lowland forest and eventually leads us to a large lowland bog that sustains a wide variety of flora and fauna. From here, at the viewing area, you can get magnificent views of the mountain across the swamp. 

But we couldn't, as the entire mountain was covered up by thick clouds. 

where is  my mountain?!

It was definitely a 30 minutes well wasted, as there's nothing for us to see along the track, and we ended up not seeing the mountain at the view area. :(
Highly suggest that you skip this if it was a particularly cloudy day on your visit. 

Well, no mountain views at Potaema Track? It's okay, because you can actually see the mountain peak along the road, nearly anywhere around this area. 



And of course, to get the famous view of Mt Taranaki over a lake, we need to get to Lake Mangamahoe!


Lake Mangamahoe has a well sign-posted 6km circuit that undulates around the lake shore. It passes radiata pine forest, mature ornamental tree plantings, pockets of regenerated native bush and some impressive viewpoints. Perhaps the best is a bit more than halfway along Lake Road, at a turn-around/car park point giving a view south, across the lake, to the mountain. Another vantage point is easily reached on a short walk beyond the northern end of Lake Road along a trail above the lake. Facilities abound – picnic areas, toilets, ample car parking, a mountain biking area and horse riding trails. -credits to wildernessmag.co.nz-



We stopped our Jucy Chaser by the turn-around point, where there's picnic tables and benches available by the lake. However, with A LOT of small flying insects (sandflies, again?) at some area near the bushes along the lake's perimeter. 


Nevertheless, we loved the place so much that we decided to cook up some food and have an early dinner complemented by the amazing view of Mt Taranaki and the sunset. 

The initial plan on my itinerary was to drop by New Plymouth Coastal Walkway and grab dinner at one of the cafes (probably Deluxe Diner or Elixir Cafe) along the way before heading to Seaview Holiday Park at Mokau, but since we've already had dinner, we decided to go for the free campsite (since it's still relatively early) at Tongaporutu Domain, which was roughly a 1.5 hours' drive away. 

There's absolutely NO FACILTIES here at this free campsite, but you do get pretty nice views of The Three Sisters from here, so do stay tune for my Day 10 (final day) travelogue for the morning views. 

Till then,
Mia Foo
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