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Sunday, 7 June 2015

Game review: The Sims 4 Get to Work

It's time to break the silence. Something came in the box today that got me really excited: a video game. Actually, it's an expansion pack for my favourite computer game, but it got me more excited than the time I got the 'vanilla' game (ie the original game without the expansions). So I thought of blogging about it since that's where most of my free time nowadays goes anyway. Behold, the rebirth of my blog as a game review blog.

Game title: The Sims 4
Expansion pack: Get to Work
Platform: Mac OS

I started playing The Sims a long, long time ago and have tried every series and almost all expansion and stuff packs. Not only did I play, but I also tried to mod my sims in The Sims 2. In The Sims 3, I created new buildings and neighbourhood lots and enjoyed that activity more than the gameplay itself. I started playing The Sims 4 only less than a month ago and despite its improved graphics and faster performance, I grew tired of it easily. Why? Because I couldn't do much. That is why I decided to get the Get to Work expansion pack despite its price tag at this time.

I had my own Heisenberg in The Sims 3

When I started to play The Sims 4, the first thing I noticed were the neighbourhoods. They were separated by sections, unlike the 'open world' neighbourhoods in The Sims 3. You could no longer explore the whole neighbourhood by driving, biking or jogging. There will be a loading screen even if you are just visiting your next-door neighbour. There are no cars or any type of vehicles anymore.

On the plus side, the sims' emotions are now more developed. Not only can they feel happy or sad, but they can also feel angry, focused, inspired, confident, energised, playful and flirty. They can act according to the level of their emotions and could gain achievements depending on their mood. Some objects in the game releases an 'aura' that enables these emotions.

Since I only started to play the Get to Work expansion pack, the only feature I tried is running my own retail business. You may remember the Open For Business expansion pack in The Sims 2, and running a business in Get to Work is similar to that. However, you cannot run a business in your own lot. You have to buy an empty lot in your neighbourhood or an empty store in Magnolia Promenade. My sim bought an empty lot next to her house and opened a shop that sells objects she created from the woodworking table, and stones, fossils and other objects she dug up from the earth. At first it was difficult to balance the finances but when she fired her only staff and did all the selling, restocking and cleaning herself, she earned a little profit. So far, I've had no problem with this feature. I will try the other features like the bakery, photography studio and other professions next time.

Want to try the game yourself? to get a copy of The Sims 4 today.



Monday, 1 September 2014

Hong Kong 'staycation': Gold Coast Hotel

Hong Kong Gold Coast Hotel is located at Tuen Mun in the north-west New Territories. Without any direct MTR access, we thought that it would be a good place to stay to get away from the usual Hong Kong crowd without leaving the SAR. Little did we know that despite its distance from the city, there is another type of crowd that we would be encountering since it is only 15 minutes away from mainland China. But since we booked during the weekday (Friday afternoon to Saturday morning), the crowd was still okay.

I took the afternoon off from work and travelled to Gold Coast from Central via Citybus route 962B. The trip took around 45 minutes. There were heavy rains in Hong Kong that time. We got off at stop number 33 (Hong Kong Gold Coast) outside the 'Gold Coast Marina Magic Shopping Mall'. The area looked nice, with a sort of resort feel, however the weather was so bad. There was also a boat show at the nearby yacht club that time but, again, it seemed not a good time to visit.

From the shopping mall, we walked to the hotel through a pathway where frogs were feasting on moths under the rain. Although the hotel doorman held the door open for us, we did not hear any greeting—in English, Cantonese, Mandarin or otherwise.

Checking in was okay but we were not shown to our room. In fact, we got a bit lost in finding it. The receptionist said that he 'upgraded' our room with one that has a balcony but I did not see anything special with it. I mean, why would we want a balcony if it's raining outside and there are moths waiting to get in? What would have been nice was a room with a view, but the view that we got was of the second-floor roof.

The 'view' from our hotel room balcony

The room was just the right size—not as small as other standard hotel rooms in Hong Kong. The bathroom was spacious and clean. However, we could hear the noise from the other guests. Not that the hotel's soundproofing wasn't good, but because those other guests were yelling in the hallway.

We would've had dinner at one of the restaurants in the hotel but we didn't want to dine in the company of ill-mannered guests. So instead, we went out to the nearby mall, had dinner there and bought snacks to bring with us to our hotel room. The following day, however, we had breakfast at the hotel and, again, we had a bit of trouble in finding the restaurant because there were no helpful staff around to ask. Good thing that the food was okay and the ill-mannered guests were not around.

After breakfast, the weather started to improve so we took a walk around the area. We went to Golden Beach then walked to the Gold Coast Dolphin Square, passing by views of the marina. Elderly tourists from the mainland were also walking with their groups. Residents were taking their morning jog.

Hong Kong Gold Coast Dolphin Square

When we came back to the hotel, we reserved seats for the shuttle that would take us to the city after we check out at 11 am. To our surprise, the hotel shuttle was not complimentary—we had to pay HKD10 each. The other choice was to take the public bus but we would have to walk for half a kilometre to the bus stop. Besides, the public bus might be a bit more expensive, depending on where you are going. We decided to just take the shuttle.

We just stayed at the hotel while waiting for the shuttle. Checking out was quick but the receptionist did not issue a receipt nor showed any hint of hospitality towards us and the other guests. There were no smiles nor thanks for staying at their hotel. Would we recommend this hotel to others? Let's just say that there are a lot of other better hotels in Hong Kong but if you're looking to stay at a resort specifically, Hong Kong is not really the place to go to.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Hiking in Hong Kong: Lion Rock

I never considered myself an outdoor kind of gal, but recently I discovered the enjoyment of nature trails. It must be the pleasant spring weather in Hong Kong these days, plus the relatively not-so-difficult paved trails, which make hiking in Hong Kong a fun activity even for a novice like me.

My first write-up under this topic is about Lion Rock, which is a hill in Kowloon that is shaped like a lion's head and has spectacular views of Hong Kong island, Kowloon peninsula and New Territories. It is a popular trail for locals and tourists alike, probably because of its accessibility. The hike starts at the Wong Tai Sin MTR station, right behind the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin temple.

Before you start your hike, make sure you are well prepared and equipped with the essentials: a bottle of water or energy drink, trail food, insect repellent and probably a hiking pole. Of course, hiking shoes with good traction work best for the up and down climbs.

To get to the lion's head, you must first endure an hour of uphill walk along Shatin Pass Road, a paved road where vehicles also pass. (Alternatively, you may also take a taxi on this road to take you to the entrance of the Lion Rock Country Park.) Once you reach the entrance to the country park, just follow the signs / path. After an hour, you will see a sign pointing towards the Lion Rock Peak. Follow that sign!

After about half an hour of strenuous climb, you will be rewarded with a view like this:

Now is the time to rest, take a deep breath and just soak in the views. It's up to you whether you'd like to continue on to the Lion Rock (the rock at the centre of the photo above).

To go back to 'civilisation', just keep going and follow the trail. Along the way, you might see monkeys – don't feed them, touch them or tease them ... you wouldn't want to get into trouble now that your adventure is about to end!

Keep following the paved path until you reach the entrance of Lion Rock Park. From there, make your way back to Wong Tai Sin station by following the sign to the MTR.

Congratulations, you just conquered Lion Rock!