Portugal – Spain 2020

Going Solo – 10 Days in Portugal and Spain

This the first part of a three-part series about my journey through Portugal and Spain.

Summary of Trip

  • Cities Visited: Porto, Seville, Cordoba and Lisbon
  • Airlines Used: Qatar Airways, TAP Air Portugal
  • Intercity Rail Service: CP – Combois de Portugal and Renfe
  • City Commute: Metro, Trams, Uber
  • Dates Travelled: 27th Jan 2020 to 7th Feb 2020
  • Cameras Used: Nikon D7000 and Apple iPhone 7 Plus

My Daily Travel Planner

You can download it here. Useful for keeping time and planning the trip logistics.

27th January 2020

I arrived at Changi Airport, Singapore, for an early check-in. The crowd was noticeably thinner at the airport, not entirely unexpected due to the ongoing debacle that is the coronavirus epidemic. I slapped on a surgical mask for good measure.

Jewel at Changi Airport, Singapore. Copyright LionelLam.com

28th January 2020

I arrived in Doha, Qatar for an hour-plus stopover before my connecting flight to Lisbon. After being cooped up in a pressurised metal cylinder for hours, it felt great to get the blood flowing in my legs again. Lovely airport by the way. Off I went with my connecting flight to Lisbon.

Seven gruelling hours later, I landed in Lisbon, and I found myself stuck at the tail-end of a snaking queue. By the end of it, I had probably wasted 3 hours of my life. Frequently stealing a glance at my watch, I wondered if I might miss my train to Porto. Lisboa Oriente station was just some 10 minutes car ride away though.

By some stroke of luck, I managed to reach Lisboa Oriente station just some 10 minutes shy from departure. I began my frantic search for the correct platform. In just the right moment, I boarded the train, and plonked down in my seat. I could now get some sleep, or so I thought. I decided instead to enjoy the passing landscapes. As the train neared Porto, the skies grew considerably more dreary.

It was raining on arrival in Porto. I was feeling slightly dazed and befuddled at CampanhĂŁ station, likely from the cold and fatigue from the long commute.

Campanha Station, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

I checked into my apartment, and was greeted by my host Miguel – a larger-than-life personality with a strong grip of a handshake. After exchanging pleasantries, he disappeared for a few minutes, and then reappeared with a new bottle of hand soap. Miguel’s da man! 🙂

My AirBnB Apartment, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

My AirBnB Apartment, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

I was dead tired and sore from the 20 plus hours of commute. As I sank into my bed, I could feel the sheets and pillows suck the life out of me.

29th January 2020

Then I woke up. I was craving for my daily dose of caffeine. My stomach, rumbling like it was nobody’s business.

It was 3.00am.

Jet lagged, I think? Off to work I went, planning ahead for the day to come.

I set out for breakfast at 9.00am to what was a drizzly and chilly morning.

Raining in Porto, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

Breakfast at Mercador Café, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

After breakfast, I set out to find the Porto Cathedral. Unfortunately due to the rain and wind, I had to briefly take refuge at the Tourism Office, which was just in front of the cathedral.

Porto Cathedral, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

The weather was indeed a letdown. Then again, it was not completely unexpected as it was indeed the rainy winter season. So off I returned to my apartment. Along the way, I stopped over at the LaVie Porto Baixa Shopping Center to stock up on supplies.

LaVie Porto Baixa Shopping Center, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

The rain subsided by around 3.00pm that afternoon. I took off again, this time to Vila Nova de Gaia situated on the opposite bank of the Douro River. It was a short ride by metro from Trindade station, which is some 10 minutes walk from my apartment. I used the Andante Tour Card (they have 24 and 72 hour variants), which I bought from Trindade Station’s Andante office. Nearest metro station to Vila Nova de Gaia is Jardim do Morro.

The Douro River, as Seen from Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

The Ribeira, as Seen from Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

The Ribeira, as Seen from Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

Nice. The day was not completely wasted.

30th January 2020

I woke up to a gloomy and wet morning (what’s new?). The outdoors had not been kind to me. So I’ll instead be spending more time indoors.

First stop for the day, the Bolsa Palace, which served as the stock exchange complex some years back. It has a somewhat mundane-looking exterior, but a gilded and ornate interior which was a work-in-progress for some six decades. Respect.

Admission charges is inclusive of a guided tour in English, Portuguese or Spanish.

The Bolsa Palace, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

The Bolsa Palace, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

The Arab Room, The Bolsa Palace, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

Lunch was a straightforward affair – just nearby is reputedly the “world’s most beautiful” McDonald’s restaurant, whose reputation is reinforced by the lovely Art Deco interior and chandeliers.

McDonald’s Imperial, Porto, Northern Portugal. Copyright LionelLam.com

With the weather worsening, I scuttled back to the apartment to plan for Seville and CĂłrdoba (to be continued in Part 2).

iPhoneography in Kuching

I made a return trip to Kuching just recently to once again savour the freshness of the air, and to soak up the quiet ambiance of my beloved hometown Kuching.

Kuching has changed a lot during my time in the Little Red Dot, and there were opportunities aplenty for taking great pictures. In this change, there was a part of me rooting for the familiar and comfortable facets of life in Kuching. Perhaps, it was my time away that cultivated in me a certain fondness for the mundane and simple. Distance does indeed make the heart grow fonder. I am back to my domain, and once again, the master of the house.

Below are some pictures taken with my iPhone 6, minor touch-ups in Adobe Lightroom CC.

If you are interested to see my other articles on iPhoneography, please see part 1 and part 2, linked at the bottom of this article.

Calm Before the Storm – Damai Beach, Kuching, Malaysia.

Damai Beach, Kuching, Malaysia.

India Street, Kuching, Malaysia.

TGV Cinemas, VivaCity Megamall, Kuching, Malaysia.

Also, see below for further reading:

iPhoneography Part 1 | iPhoneography Part 2

Kuala Lumpur 2016

Kuala Lumpur, more affectionately known as “KL”, is an urban potpourri of old and new, with a sprinkle of colonial landmarks and towers of glass and steel.

Below are some pictures taken from in and around KL during my walk-around with a dear friend.

A combination of Lightroom CC and Nik Collections were used for post-process of the images presented here.

Suria KLCC

I wanted to capture the beauty of the twin towers in the background against the expanse of the gardens in the surrounding vicinity. For that I had my Tokina 11-16 and the results were outstanding.


Lake Symphony at Suria KLCC

  • Lens Used: Tokina 11-16
  • Shutter: 1/40s
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • ISO: 1250

Suria KLCC Garden Entrance

  • Lens Used: Tokina 11-16
  • Shutter: 1/50s
  • Aperture: f/4.0
  • ISO: 1000

Old Kuala Lumpur Station

This station used to serve as the central railway hub for Kuala Lumpur. The old station may be well past it’s prime, but it certainly retains some of it’s charm and character.


Platforms (facing Central Market)

  • Lens Used: Tokina 11-16
  • Shutter: 1/125s
  • Aperture: f/6.3
  • ISO: 100

Station Platform Area

  • Lens Used: Tokina 11-16
  • Shutter: 1/60s
  • Aperture: f/4.0
  • ISO: 100

Batu Caves

Batu Caves is home to one of the largest Hindu temples outside India and plays host to the Thaipusam festival in Malaysia. An interesting place that warrants another visit, and I highly recommend making a trip there. You’ll have to first trek up a whopping total of 272 stair steps to reach the main cavern! Slightly daunting, but it is well worth the effort.


Main Entrance of Batu Caves

  • Lens Used: Nikkor 50mm f/1.8
  • Shutter: 1/250s
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • ISO: 200

Batu Caves Main Cavern

  • Lens Used: Tokina 11-16
  • Shutter: 1/30s
  • Aperture: f/4.0
  • ISO: 640

Devotees at Batu Caves

  • Lens Used: Nikkor 50mm f/1.8
  • Shutter: 1/50s
  • Aperture: f/2.2
  • ISO: 320

Old Government Complexes

Probably the creepiest entry in this list – and possibly the most interesting. It doesn’t look like these buildings will be in use anytime soon, but it does appear like conservation works are in progress. Hopefully, the buildings will be restored to their former glory.


Old Stairs

  • Lens Used: Nikkor 18-105
  • Shutter: 1/40s
  • Aperture: f/6.3
  • ISO: 200


Backing-up with Rsync and Robocopy

Disclaimer: With great power comes great responsibility –improper use of rsync and robocopy may result in irreversible data-loss. If working on your OS X terminal or Windows command prompt takes you too far out of your comfort zone, then you may be better off with a tried and tested off-the-shelf solution.

Face it – there is no “undo button” in real life. Maybe it was your hard drive that suddenly died on you. Your precious memories now forever consigned to the digital wasteland. This then followed by the cruel realisation that there isn’t a spare copy lying around. Yes – just like many “oh s**t” moments in life – you didn’t see it coming. You could have made a backup.

A “backup”, in this context, is a copy of your files that you can put aside for safekeeping. There are many other off-the-shelf solutions that offer a variety of functions and we hear terminology like “delta copy”, “disk imaging” getting thrown around frequently. However, in the strictest sense of the word, a backup is just a duplicate of your files.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive guide on rsync and robocopy. Rather, I intend to illustrate how a simple backup operation can be performed with these two terminal commands.

What You Will Need

  1. An external storage device – preferably a hard drive.
  2. A computer running Microsoft Windows Vista and above, or a Mac.
  3. Some patience and common sense (see Additional Notes at bottom of page).

Introducing rsync and robocopy

If you haven’t figured out already, rsync and robocopy are terminal commands that can be used to perform simple to fairly advanced synchronization of files between two folders.

There is risk associated with using rsync and robocopy, but in my opinion, for that it more than makes up for in a few ways:

  • It’s FREE (comes with your operating system).
  • It’s powerful – plenty of sync options available (beyond the scope of this guide).
  • It’s smart – can be configured to sync only files that have been changed/updated.

Rsync – “Remote Sync”, use this on UNIX-based systems (eg. Linux, Mac OS X etc.)

rsync -option --delete --progress [source path] [destination path]

Robocopy – “Robust File Copy”, use this on Windows Vista, Server 2008 and up

robocopy /MIR [source path] [destination path]    

I will provide more examples and a detailed breakdown of the options available.

It is possible to use both rsync and robocopy in conjunction with the Automator on OS X and the Task Scheduler for Windows, but that is a topic for a future blog post.


Syntax format for robocopy is:

robocopy /MIR [source path] [destination path]

Example usage:

robocopy /MIR C:\src C:\dest

Copy the above line of text and paste it in notepad. The under filename, key in “robocopy-example.bat”. Include the double quote marks to force notepad to save the file with a .bat extension.

You may save the .bat file to your desktop or anywhere that is convenient. Make sure there are two folders in drive C:\ called src and dest as the script won’t work if these folders are not created beforehand.

Copy some files or folders into the src folder and double-click the .bat file that you earlier created. Notice the files and folders getting synced over to the destination folder. Because we invoked the “/MIR”, or “mirror” switch, note that any files or folders deleted from the source folder will also be deleted from the destination. Consider yourself warned.

Do note that you can assign any folder path for the source and destination folders. Note that this is a one-direction sync; adding files only to the destination folder, then running the script will result in the files being deleted from the destination as they don’t exist in the source folder.


With rsync, things are a little less straighforward as you will need to configure file permissions in order to run your command script (more on this later). Notice that there are also more options. I’ll run through these one-by-one. Take note that rsync, like robocopy, syncs in one direction.

Syntax format is:

rsync -option --delete --progress [source path] [destination path]

The below example is what I am using to backup

rsync -av --progress --delete /Volumes/Seagate\ Backup\ Plus\ Drive/My\ Files/Photo\ Backups/2016/ /Volumes/Seagate\ FreeAgent/My\ Files/Photo\ Backups/2016

The -av option defines that the copying should preserve the file and folder attributes (eg. Date modified, created etc.) and that the copying process should output verbose logs. The –progress parameter indicates that rsync should output the progress of the copy process. And finally, –delete will remove any files or folders in the destination path that is not found in the source.

Note that the back slashes in the source and destination paths are used in conjunction with the spaces in the folder names.

Here’s a clearer picture:

Source: /Volumes/Seagate Backup Plus Drive/My Files/Photo Backups/2016/

Destination: /Volumes/Seagate FreeAgent/My Files/Photo Backups/2016

Note: The destination path is missing the terminating forward slash (/). This is intentional.

Save the above script in a text file with extension .command (example: rsync-sample.command). For simplicity, save this file to your desktop.

Now we’ll need to adjust the file permissions so we can execute the script in OS X via double-click.

In the OS X terminal, navigate to the desktop (or the location where the command script was placed) and enter the following:

chmod 775 rsync-sample.command

Then hit [Enter].

You should then be able to execute the file via double-click.

Additional Tips

  • Any files that are used by any open programs will not be synced. Make sure to close all applications before syncing.
  • Be careful when specifying the source and destination folders. Reversing the order may cause irreversible data loss.
  • The examples provided here are based on my usage and workflow. There are many other options switches available for rsync and robocopy.
  • I recommend doing a few practice runs before trying out rsync or robocopy on your actual data.

Cataracts at 29

“I’m afraid you’ve got a cataract in your left eye – right in the middle of the lens, which is why it’s bothering you. But it’s very treatable…”.

My heart sank when the diagnosis was read out to me. The doctor was reassuring, but at this point, my mind was already wandering. I was upset and clearly distraught, but at the same time slightly relieved that it wasn’t something worse. And I’m only 29 this year – a bit too young to be getting cataracts, the doctor added. Thankfully, my right eye was perfectly fine.

Earlier this year, I noticed my vision deteriorating in my left eye. It worsened dramatically around May and a quick visit to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital Eye Atrium cleared all doubt.

So I’ve got a cataracts – now what? This is my story of the events that led to the day of the surgery, the decisions I made, and how I am coping post-surgery.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is the clouding of the natural crystalline lens that you have in your eye. The result is cloudy and hazy vision. It normally develops in people over the age of 40 and is actually part of the aging process. Can it be prevented? Not really. What causes it? Exposure to UV light, use of steroid medication and injury to the eye, among others. In case, it was likely caused by years of topical steroid usage, to treat my eczema. The only way to treat a cataract is to replace the natural crystalline lens that we’re all born with, with a plastic lens implant. More on that later.

Fore more information, check out this link: http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/cataracts.htm

Living with cataracts

Looking through a cataract is like looking through a window smeared with Vaseline. As the cataracts worsened, so did my perception of depth. Staring head on into bright lights was unpleasant – headlights appeared as bright orbs of lights. Minor annoyances include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Difficult to use chopsticks
  • Mild disorientation
  • Losing track of the computer cursor/pointer
  • Misreading emails
  • Can’t look out through my DSLR’s viewfinder (yes, I use my left eye)

Bringing balance to the force

Getting a cataract in one eye – just one eye – which is uncommon but not rare – can be a tricky thing, if you’re wearing glasses. In my case, the question of what to do about the ‘good’ eye became a point of much contention and deliberation, and there were two possible outcomes in achieving balance in vision:

The ‘I want to continue wearing glasses’ way

I could decide not to ‘disturb’ the good eye and get a lens implant in my left eye that is slightly myopic (short-sighted). I’ll still need to wear glasses.

The ‘I want to be free from glasses’ way

I decided to take this route – and it involves implanting an artificial lens that has a diopter adjustment to correct my eyesight to perfect vision. To achieve balance in my other ‘good’ eye, I opted for LASIK. I had to have a barrage of tests done to my right eye to determine if I was a suitable candidate for LASIK. I was much relieved to know that I am a very good candidate. More about LASIK here.

The day of the eye-opening experience

I reported to the day surgery center at Tan Tock Seng hospital and was accompanied by my cousin, who kindly took her day off to see me through the day and to accompany me home (it’s a hospital requirement) and for whom I’m grateful for the emotional support. Not before long, I was dressed in the surgical gown and wheeled into the theater, had a heart monitor stuck to my chest and a tube inserted up my left hand to deliver some kind of intravenous muscle relaxant, I think.

“Nervous are we?”, smirked the anesthetist. “First surgery ever? Don’t worry, you’ll be fine!”. Good try doc – you really know how to calm my nerves.

I was then wheeled into the operating theater, this cold sterile room with bright lights (Ouch! More bright orbs of light!) that is more reminiscent of a morgue. After transferring over to the operating bed, and getting a sheet draped over me with just a hole for the eye, alarm bells started sounding off in my head. Obviously, I was nervous, so the good doctor instructed the anesthetist to up the dosage a wee bit more, and soon I was feeling alright again.

The sensation was that of having some sharp instrument poking into the side of eye, but I felt no pain, albeit very slight ‘prodding’ of something metallic into my eye and administering of additional drops of what I believe to be local anesthetics (they issued dilating drops much earlier – drops to dilate your pupils, hence making it easier for the surgeon to see into your eyeball). Not before long, the orbs of light were no more – in that they now appeared as random blobs of light with very little definition. I am guessing – and I may be wrong – that at this stage, the natural crystalline lens was either broken up via phacoemulsification (use of ultrasonic waves to break up the lens), or the lens was completely removed.

A bit of prodding here, and a bit of prodding there, and at some point, the intra-ocular lens implant was inserted into my eye. Then the surgery was over. For me, the 10 to 15 minutes it all took seemed like forever.


Recovery was fast – an hour after leaving the hospital, I could already see, albeit slightly our-of-focus. This is because my pupil was still dilated. I was given strict instructions – not to rub my eye, not to bend over (can’t have the lens implant sliding out of my eye, according to the nurse), and not to carry heavy objects. And of course, there was the usual medication, consisting of antibacterial and steroid drops, and an eye-shield to wear when I sleep (to prevent rubbing of eyes during sleep).


Post cataracts surgery, I had my LASIK surgery done slightly over a week later. It was a great relief, because before undergoing LASIK, I had to rely on just my left eye to see, which in the interim was pretty challenging because of the visual imbalance between the two eyes.

And to add on to an already burdensome situation, I was long-sighted in my left eye, and short-sighted in my right eye. In other words, I could only see something if it was either about three inches in front of me, or two meters away. I couldn’t see anything in between without the help of reading glasses.

LASIK brought back my near vision, but that was effectively only through one eye – my right eye. For reading and computer use, I am currently using a pair custom-made multifocals in place of my generic off-the-shelf uber ugly ‘old man glasses’. My left eye is ‘tuned’ permanently for distance vision – the lens implant is what some might call a ‘non-accommodating’ lens, because it doesn’t flex the same way our natural crystalline lens does when focusing. For everything else, I’m practically glasses-free.

My ‘old man’ reading glasses.

Vocational reading multifocals

Life is still good. 🙂



Creative Over-exposures

Much time is spent trying to get the ‘right’ exposure at every snap of the shutter. On the contrary, intentionally over-exposing a scene might produce some interesting results.

Aesthetically speaking, over-exposing creates a ‘washed-out’ look, which subtly washes away fine details and textures, and creates for a slightly more abstract look and feel.

The same image can be converted to monochrome to accentuate the thicker outlines.

Just a thought for the day.


Singapore CBD Nightscapes

There is nothing better than walking around a windy-breezy Singapore at night, with my camera in hand. Below are some nightscapes that I took. The poor dynamic range at night means that I had to turn to exposure stacking – just a fancy way of refering to ‘HDR’.

Photos are strictly for your viewing pleasure. If you wish to reuse them, please contact me first.

Singapore River Cruise and CBD
Number of Exposures: 3
Shorted Exposure: 5 seconds
Longest Exposure: 20 seconds
Aperture: f/9
ISO: 100

Singapore CBD
Number of Exposures: 4
Shorted Exposure: 4 seconds
Longest Exposure: 25 seconds
Aperture: f/9
ISO: 100

Art Science Museum
Number of Exposures: 4
Shorted Exposure: 2.5 seconds
Longest Exposure: 15 seconds
Aperture: f/9
ISO: 100

Louis Vuitton
Number of Exposures: 1 (Not an HDR)
Exposure: 3 seconds
Aperture: f/4.5
ISO: 100


The First Week of the New Year

The first week of the new year came and went quickly. I will be spending less time blogging about my personal affairs and will instead switch my focus to what I love the most; photography and technology. These two topics have become somewhat intertwined and inseparable in this digital era, so it’s only natural that the topics may criss-cross.

Here’s to an even better year than the previous year. Let us welcome the year of the horse!

The Chinese Gardens Mystery Model

For want of a better title, I decided that ‘model’ might be a more catchy term. I took the following photo during a visit to Chinese Gardens, Singapore. Smack in the middle of the gardens was this multi-storey (okay, I forgot to count) pagoda. Perfect observation post, I thought to myself.

After reaching the top landing of the stair well, a quick glance over the edge and after snapping a few photos of the spiral stairwell, out pops this fellow. A very lucky encounter with a mad photographer.


iWork for the Rest of Us

I had been an early adopter of Google’s online productivity suite, Google Docs (now Google Drive). Microsoft followed shortly after with their web version of their Office suite. And now, it seems that Apple has joined the bandwagon. Well, better late than never right?

iWork Beta. Now available for non-developers!

The iWork applications are still tagged as beta, and performance is sluggish at best, but it’s a bold move especially for a company that had for a long time been trying to crack into the web services niche, something that Google had mastered a number of years back. Let us sit back and wait for more news this 10th September.