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Bangkok Christmas Trip with Cousins 31 January, 2016

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Travel & Discovery.
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The cousins had been discussing about a trip together for several months without much progress. Finally, some time in mid Oct 2015, cousin family 2 decided that they will go ahead regardless and booked their flight and tickets. Cousin family 1 decided to join and booked their tickets too. Cousin family 3 decided not to go. Then, in end Oct, we decided to join the trip too, and so did brother. It would be our second overseas trip together with the cousins. The first was to Legoland Malaysia. This time, it would be a 8 adults 7 children 5 days 4 nights Christmas trip to Bangkok, Thailand.

The planning

Usually, we would not travel during the school holidays, much less the Christmas / New Year festive period, because the cost would be high and there would be more crowd then usual. However, some of the other cousin’s children were already in primary school, so they could only travel during the school holidays. Oh well, so be it, the fun memories of traveling with cousins would be a great addition to our life experience.

(There was another side consideration about traveling to Thailand due to a recent bombing incident there. After some thought, we decided that it would be endless to consider all the what-ifs. What we would do is to be alert during our trip and avoid crowded places if possible.)

We booked our air tickets with Cathay Pacific @ $1664.89 for 2 reasons. First, we had a superb experience with them before. Second, the departure time of 2pm was fantastic. All 3 families would be taking different flights (the others traveled by Thai Airways at a later departure time), so we would only meet up at the hotel lobby the following morning.

We booked our hotel at Centara Watergate Pavillion Hotel Bangkok @ $483.36. It was not for us to decide as the other families had already booked their rooms at this hotel. Since we were the last family to book our flights and hotel, our overall cost was a few hundred dollars more expensive than the rest.

As for the itinerary, we had expected the first family to confirm on the trip to take up the responsibility of planning the itinerary. Well, they did, sort of. The itinerary was very vague and the routes planned were not optimal as it involved traveling from mall to mall multiple times a day, and sometimes just for a meal at a normal restaurant that can also be found in Singapore. When reading the itinerary, it felt like they forgot about the fact that we are traveling with 7 children! Dear2 got involved in the planning and the final refined itinerary was definitely much better (but still not ideal).

The flight

For this trip, we would use the large 117L Lojel Vita that we had recently bought from Tangs using their 12% rebate promotion. It was the first time that we would travel with only 1 check in luggage for the whole family. Our worry was that it might be too big and bulky and heavy to manage. However, we hoped that traveling with 1 luggage would be much easier to handle compared to having multiple luggage. Multiple luggage meant that the adults’ hands would be occupied, leaving less hands and attention to take care of the kids.

Now that we are back, I can say that traveling with a single luggage was a good choice. It was indeed much less mentally exhausting to handle a single luggage, much easier to travel on escalators, lifts, tuk-tuks, taxis, etc.

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Baby2 was really excited about seeing the plane that we were going to board.

As for the flight, I think we will never travel on Cathay Pacific again. There were simply too many noncomplying Chinese passengers on board. Passengers standing up when seat belt sign was on. Going to the toilet during turbulence. Leaving food trays on the floor. One can literally hear the helplessness in the tone of the air crew when they try to deal with these noncomplying passengers. I, for one, do not feel safe when traveling with this kind of passengers on-board.

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Children’s meal on-board

At Suvarnabhumi Airport, we got the priority queue since we were traveling with young children, very nice service.

Day 1

Traveling by the airport rail link to our hotel was a breeze. Baby1 and Baby2 had fun with the coin like train tickets. After getting off at Rathchaprarop station, we walked about 10 minutes to our hotel. We checked in (brother would bunk in with us), then quickly got ready to go out for dinner.

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View from the Rathchaprarop station. The word Centara can be spotted near the top left corner.

We walked to this night market next to Baiyoke Hotel. We couldn’t find any suitable street food and ended up eating some simple Thai food at a cafe. After dinner, we went shopping at the night market. Brother recognized that he had been to that night market before and brought us to a stall where he had bought dresses for Baby1 3 years ago. There, we bought many more dresses for Baby1 and Baby2.

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Delicious fresh fish, soft and tender on the inside, not salty inside at all.

As we depart for our hotel, we bought a number of street food to eat back at our hotel. Although it was our first night, we shopped with the mentality at we will never see the same thing again during the trip, so it was then or never. And we were right, we really did not visit anymore night markets for the rest of our trip. That night, the soya bean milk, the salted steamed fish, the sweet corn, the pomegranate juice were all great. Yumz!

Day 2

The next day, we met up with the cousins early at the hotel lobby to begin our itinerary for the day. The first stop was the famous Pratunum Wanton Mee, and the queue was quite long. We ordered a mixture of wanton mee and the lor bak rice. Baby1 finished a bowl of wanton mee all by herself, and fast too. I suppose it was nice. I personally preferred the rice. Still, I felt it was a bit overrated.

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THE famous wanton mee stall

By the time we finished, it was already 11.25am, very late breakfast! We headed (on foot) to our next destination and our highlight of the day, Kidzania.

Kidzania Bangkok was very similar to Kidzania KL. Since we were traveling with the cousins, Baby1 went along with the bigger kids, and Dear2 would follow along to keep an eye on them. I would take Baby2 to play everything that was available to her, like the Firefighter, Artist, Interior Design, Disco, Clock Tower, Builder, Barber, and a few others. Meanwhile, the other adults escaped to do some shopping The Siam Paragon (same building as Kidzania). Baby2 took a short nap in Kidzania too.

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Kidzania fire engine. Hooray.

For the last activity before we left, Baby1 became a tomato sauce bottler and brought home a real life bottle of tomato sauce, which Dear2 just used to make tomato sauce rice this recent weekend. Yumz!

After that, it was more adult shopping at Naraya, before settling down for dinner at Swensen’s. Except that the Swensen’s served only ice cream and no main course. We had a quick dose of ice cream (cheap!) before switching restaurant to have some fusion Thai food.

Instead of taking a taxi back to hotel, the other family decided that we should walk back to hotel. Omg, it was a bad choice. It was Christmas Day and the streets were super super crowded with people despite it not being a public holiday in Thailand. We had to squeeze through the crowd at a snails pace while some of the children had to be carried for safety. At one point, we were so over stretched that the group nearly got separated. It was just an unpleasant walk, and it didn’t save much money either because public transport was really quite cheap.

Day 3

We woke up and got ready for our Damnoen Saduak Floating Market day trip. We had bought the day trip from Groupon @ $25 per pax prior to the trip. Before setting off, we went down to the streets around our hotel to hunt for breakfast. To me, the best food of the day is usually breakfast food, and local breakfast street food definitely beats any hotel breakfast.

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Street breakfast

Our bus picked us up on time at the hotel gates. The journey took around 2 hrs which was longer than expected. We arrived at the floating market and were instantly ushered to one of the boats. The boat took us along a very standard looking river route lined on both banks by never-ending stalls selling touristy stuff (e.g. hats, elephant idols, ornaments, magnets, etc). We bought a coconut from one of the boats but avoided the ice-cream due to hygiene considerations. Eventually, we bargained (achievement unlocked!) and bought a pair of floating market magnets to add to our collection. Otherwise, the floating market was disappointing, too touristy.

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Very touristy floating market

After the floating market, our driver brought us to what I thought was a boring temple. And after that, we asked the driver to drop us off at Ekkamai Mall where we had a very late Japanese Ramen lunch.

After lunch, we went to Snow Town within the same mall. I have not been to our own Snow City before but Dear2 said that they were very similar. The children had a lot of fun sleighing down the snow slopes and building small snowmans and making snowballs.

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Inside Snow Town. That’s about 50% of the entire place in the picture. It isn’t very big…

After that, it was dinner at Tim Ho Wan. After dinner, we decided that it was getting late and our family took a taxi back to hotel while the other 2 families continued shopping.

That night, after the kids went to bed, Dear2 and I sneaked out for a Thai massage nearby while brother helped to look after the kids. It was nice to go out for a walk, just the two of us. On the way back to hotel, we bought a stick of ice-cream from 7-Eleven. That would be the worst decision of our trip.

Day 4

By 3am, I was feeling sick. I knew that it would develop into stomach flu. It did. Dear2 started feeling sick in the morning, around 7am.

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Our medicine. Haiz… -_-

We call the hotel lobby and arranged to go to the hospital. At the hospital, the doctor gave us anti-flu and anti-biotics. We would both feel so sick that we slept in for the whole day. Thankfully, brother was there to help out with the kids.

Baby1 and Baby2 were so sweet and sensible to stay in room with us and played quietly on her own.

During the evening, brother brought Baby1 to meet up with the rest of the cousins as they went ice skating and dinner. Baby2 stayed in with us.

Day 5

Luckily, Dear2 and I felt well enough to travel by morning. We packed up and got ready to set off for the airport. We took a tuk-tuk to Rathchaprarop station and off we went to the airport. At the airport, we bought a packet of mango sticky rice and some fresh mangoes too. It was something we had wanted to try but had not seen throughout our trip. It was delicious.

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If the mango sticky rice at the airport tastes this good, I can only imagine how heavenly street food mango sticky rice would be.

We got home, unpacked, and continued resting to nurse of stomach flu. And that was the end of our trip.

After thoughts

It was really unfortunate that we fell sick during the trip. But it was not the first time it had happened either. I fell sick during our Hong Kong trip too. As always, we were covered by travel insurance, but nothing can bring back the lost travel time.

I suspected the ice-cream, but the time frame doesn’t quite fit. Because stomach flu required an incubation period, so it could be anything from several days earlier. But we shared most of the food with the children. Luckily, the children didn’t get the stomach flu! So, this is also a reminder of our food hygiene, and that we really shouldn’t be sharing food with the children. Prevention is better than cure.

I don’t know if I will want to travel with the cousins next time. The itinerary really wasn’t very interesting and wasn’t very optimal. Maybe if I do travel with them again, I should take up the responsibilities of being the trip planner.

Then there is the group dynamics. We tend towards street food but the others tend towards familiar well-known restaurants. Others want to spend a whole day on shopping while we prefer experiences. Furthermore, it was a little difficult at times to move as a large group and eat as a large group.

I guess I’m still happiest with we travel as our family of 4, just like our recently Cruise to Shanghai!

Our total spending was $1664.89 (air tickets) + $483.36 (hotel) + $712.68 (local spending) + $148.29 (prepaid day trip + travel insurance) = $3009.22. Or $752.305 per pax for 5D4N. Wow, not cheap. Oh well, forced by circumstances, not many avenues for optimization.

Overall, this trip fulfilled some goals for me. It was my first trip to Bangkok that I can remember. It was our first “special event day” (Christmas) spent overseas.

We discovered Baby2 has a tremendous liking for Kit-Kats!

-Dear1

Our Scooba 390 31 December, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Around the House, Consumer Electronics, Dear1.
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Mopping is a tiring task. We mop our floor once a month, on the first weekend of every month. To some, once a month is far too little. Some families mop once a week! And maybe that’s true. By the end of the month, the floor does feel a little sticky, even with Roomba vacuuming the floor every weekday.

It actually doesn’t take very long to mop our house. Our house can be easily divided into 4 zones – living room, adult bedroom, children bedroom, and kitchen. It takes about 1 pail of water to mop each room, so that’s 4 pails in total. The mopping of the whole house can be completed in 1 hour.

We started off with the traditional mop, the one where the operator has to wring the mop head dry each time. It was difficult to mop because of the numerous bending down. It was also difficult because the hands and palms will get wet each time.

Some time later, we bought the spin mop. The spin mop has the advantage that the wringing of the mop head is handle by the built in spinning mechanism, which can be operated standing upright. So that meant no more bending down and no more wet hands. It was definitely much easier.

However, to someone tall like me, mopping is still a back breaking task. I would always have to bend over to operate the mop. Once, I tried using a longer mop pole handle. It did help a little, but the long pole handle made it difficult to maneuver around our little house.

Ever since we bought our Roomba, we have always eyed the Scooba. But it was a little expensive. Several months ago, we made up our mind – yes, we will get a Scooba. It will save us a lot of energy, and a lot of time, so we can better spend this time and energy with our loved ones. We just have to wait for a sale.

And a sale did arrive for Christmas. We bought our Scooba 390 in December 2015 @ $758. Delivery was prompt and we received our Scooba the next day.

We eagerly set it up and let it run. It’s first run was in the kitchen. It was rather cool. Our floor was being mopped and we didn’t have to lift a finger. Well, sort of. We still have to load the detergent and clean water and unload the dirty water when it was done.

After the first run, I went to empty the dirty water. It was a very dark shade of gray. I was amazed, both at how dirty our kitchen was and how great Scooba was. The floor was just a bit damp and dried up quickly within the next 5-10 minutes.

Over the next few days, we let the Scooba run for many more times. The living rooms and bedrooms wasn’t quite as dirty. However, the kitchen took about 4 runs before the dirty water turn much less murky.

I boasted to Dear2, “I mopped the floor twice today! Wuahaha…”

We can definitely feel the difference with our feet. The floor feels more squeaky and clean. Now, we can afford to mop the floor weekly instead of monthly. Yeah… I think Scooba is a wonderful additional to our home.

  1. Saves time
  2. Saves energy
  3. Saves water (yes, it uses so little water)
  4. Cleaner floor, better hygiene
  5. No more backaches

We would still let Roomba run first to pick up all the hair and dust before letting Scooba scrub and mop the floor. I think robotic cleaners are matured enough as a household companion and I would definitely recommend every household to get one.

It is well worth the money.

-Dear1

Because Life is too short not to be Happy 13 November, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Slice of Life.
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Read a post on Facebook this morning and I thought that it’s very meaningful.  Here goes:

“Knowing that I won’t live forever, I try everyday, to do what I can while I still can.

Let every day be a dream I can touch, a love I can feel and a reason to smile, because life is too short not to be happy.

I want to live my life to the fullest.”

There are many things beyond my control – weather can be bad, MRT can break down, colleagues can be nasty, kids can be loud and noisy, hubby can be an idiot sometimes, rude salespeople, irritating relatives, a flu here and an ache there, etc etc etc, you do not have the control over what happens, but you do have the control to make a conscious effort to make the process and the outcome a more pleasant one, for yourself and the people around you.

<Inside Out> says you need Sadness to help you see Joy. I do not quite agree.  To me, life is too short not to be happy.  You don’t have to lose something before you can appreciate it.  I am grateful:

  • To Dear1.  Though makes me exasperated at times, but I am grateful for his love, and his unwavering support.
  • To Baby1 and Baby2.  2 very noisy kids, but their childlike naiveness and cuteness always melts my heart.
  • To my family. Quietly always there for me, a safe harbour I can always return to.
  • To my work. Makes me stressed and disappointed and disgusted at times, but I’m thankful for the stable income so that we do not have too much worries.
  • To my girl friends.  Thanks for having me as your friend in the past 21 years though I am so quiet and inactive.

I want to be a positive person, to be someone who everyone likes to be with, because I spread positivism; to be someone who is a positive influencer so that I bring meaning to lives.

I will not let anybody or anything get me down, because life is too short not to be happy.

-Dear2

Sheng Siong Lucky Draw is Real 31 October, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Dear2, Dollars & Cents, Shop till you drop, Slice of Life.
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Dear1 and Dear2 have been faithfully filling in the Lucky Draw slip for NTUC all these years.  Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali, whatever, whatever.  It seems that NTUC has some kind of lucky draw every now and then, and as NTUC is our favourite supermarket, we’d always filled this in every time whenever we get a slip.  But through out all these years, we’ve never ever won even once.

Recently, Dear1 and Dear2 liked going to this Sheng Siong at West Coast Market.  Big (it’s actually 2 stories high) so we can get almost everything that we need, and it’s near to a market so we can go grocery shop after our dinner on a weekday.  But NTUC is still our favourite supermarket as its fresh food is fresher.

One day, we received a letter from Sheng Siong informing us that we’ve won their Hari Raya Lucky Draw. It was a 6-piece Cornell set, woohoo!

Our lucky draw prize from Sheng Siong

Our lucky draw prize from Sheng Siong

We’ve probably participated in more than 100 NTUC Lucky Draws all these years, and maybe 20 for Sheng Siong, but we’ve never ever won anything from NTUC.  Some to think of it, those milk, or bread, or juice, or butter kind of Lucky Draws, are they even real too?

I’m not going to waste my effort filling in NTUC Lucky Draw slips again.  Hmm, maybe I’ll continue to do so, let’s see when will I actually win anything, if it’s even real.

Since we’re talking about lucky draws, let me try to recall the other times that we’ve been lucky and won something:

  1. A Shinco tablet at NUS ECE Family Day (2nd prize)
  2. A Coffee Bean voucher from a magazine contest at Bukit Batok CC
  3. A bean bag from a marriage magazine contest
  4. Twice Shop and Win lucky draw from Standard Chartered – we got reimbursed for a restaurant meal and a mobile phone
  5. Twice board game contest at BoardGameGeek – we won a board game each time
  6. A manicure voucher at company DnD
  7. Twice Royal Caribbean email contest – an overnight travel bag and a small hand luggage
  8. Baby1 won a game of Bingo during our recent cruise

-Dear1 & Dear2

4D3N Club Med @ Cherating 11 September, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Travel & Discovery.
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Our family went for an adventure again!

Baby1 and Baby2’s Childcare Centre was closed for 2.5 days for Staff Training and what-nots, so Dear1 and Dear2 took leave to take care of them.  Since we have to take leave, we might as well go on a holiday right?  And so happened that Club Med was offering “Kids go Free” sometime back, so we quickly planned our leave and made the booking!

Day 1 (Wed)

We woke up at 6 am as per our usual weekday morning, and set off from home by 7.30 am. Took PIE and Second Link customs which were slightly jammed (would have been smoother if we can reach Customs by 7.15 am).  Toilet break at Singapore Customs, and it was a 2.5 hour drive to Segamat Bak Kut Teh for lunch (reached at 12 noon exactly).  The eatery was clean and pretty empty, and the food was okayish and not too salty, sedap~

Taking our lunch break at Yeo's Bak Kut Teh at Segamat after a long morning drive.

Taking our lunch break at Yeo’s Bak Kut Teh at Segamat after a long morning drive.

The kids KO’ed immediately which gave us some peace and quiet during the 3 hour drive to Club Med Cherating. Except for some hiccups with the GPS not being to find the exact destination to Club Med, phew, we finally reached at 4 pm exactly.  And we only used up half a tank of petrol.

Did Check In.  Or rather, Check In was already done and we just had to listen to some briefings by the GO and off we went to our rooms.  Club Med only offers twin-sharing, max 3-sharing rooms, so we had 2 connecting rooms.  Considered very expensive for us since Baby2 sleeps with us anyway.  But we didn’t had a choice.  Well, at least the kids had fun running from room to room and we had plenty of space to leave our things lying around.

Check in to our room 2 connecting rooms

Check in to our room 2 connecting rooms

Swim -> bath -> dinner -> (Egyptian) Show Time

Relaxed and had a fun time with the kids waddling in the kids pool.

Dinner was at the Mutiara (main) restaurant since we couldn’t have possibly made reservations at the Rembulan Restaurant on our first day.  2 GOs came to dine with us and we learnt more about the Club Med culture from them.

Our first show at Club Med - Egyptian theme

Our first show at Club Med – Egyptian theme

The Show was put up by the GOs, who apparently have their roles in the day time, and become performers by night.  Baby1 had fun joining in the crazy signs dances at the end of the Show, and we had to pull her out from joining the human train to the Foam Party by the pool where the party continues and the music boomed until late night.  Luckily our room was far enough and the booming was only slightly irritating.

Day 2 (Thur)

After breakfast, Baby1 joined the Mini Club for flying trapeze at 9.15am.  At 11 am, a GO led us to the Turtle Sanctuary right outside the gates of Club Med, a 15 min walk away from the Main Area. We arranged with the uncle to go back for baby turtle release this evening at 6.30 pm, and returned to Club Med for lunch. But there would be no lunch and no food of any kind any where in Club Med until 12.15 pm! Unimaginable but true.

Baby1 joining Mini Club Med for their trapeze activity on days 2 and 3.

Baby1 joining Mini Club Med for their trapeze activity on days 2 and 3

Nap -> Mini Club (Boat Making) -> dinner (at Noodle Bar) -> back to beach at Turtle Sanctuary -> bath -> Mini Club Movie under the Stars -> Show Time (Lip Sync Competition)

Baby1 only had 1 hour nap, and we woke her up for the Mini Club Family Event at 4 pm while Baby2 continues her beauty nap in the room with Papa.  The kids at Mini Club lethargically made their boats using plastic bottles, and went to the pool for the competition.  It’s amazing that these kids (4 to 7 yo) can have a whole day’s of play with no nap and under the scorching sun (pool games at 11 am!?) and continues to have play with Mini Club for the whole day.

Releasing baby turtles into the sea

Releasing baby turtles into the sea

By 5pm, Baby2 was awake and had finished her milk.  We decided to have an early dinner at the Noodle Bar since Mutiara’s food was un-interesting anyway.  Interestingly, ‘Ramen’ at Noodle Bar is a choice of ‘yellow noodles, rice vermicelli, luk choo ban and kway teow’.  Same goes for any of the other noodles that you get to order here.

At the beach, we donated RM 50 to release fifteen 10-day old turtles into the sea. After that, the kids had fun making footprints and drawing with their fingers in the sand.

Mini Club watched movie under the stars in the sea breeze on a straw mat.

Movies under the stars at Mini Club Med

Movies under the stars at Mini Club Med

Day 3 (Fri)

Morning swim -> breakfast -> made reservations at Rembulan -> Mini Club Circus -> Mini Club (soccer) -> Karaoke -> lunch

Baby1 playing street soccer at Mini Club Med

Baby1 playing street soccer at Mini Club Med

We didn’t ask why Rembulan (beach restaurant) was not opened yesterday, but with only 3 dinners at Club Med, this was the only chance that we get to dine there.  And by 8.45 am (reservations start at 8.30 am), we were not able to get our preferred dining time.  The GO ‘kindly’ squeezed in a table for us because we ordered a lobster for dinner.

At Circus, Bungee Bounce was closing in 5 min’s time so Baby1 couldn’t get a go on it.

At Archery, we were told that “Family Archery” was only for kids 6 years and above.

At least Karaoke Room was vacant and we booked an hour’s session where the kids had their first karaoke experience.

Taking the shuttle train to Pantai Beach

Taking the shuttle train to Pantai Beach

Mini Club -> Beach -> Dinner at Rembulan -> bath -> Show Time (Halloween)

Woke Baby1 up to go costume-making at Mini Club at 4 pm.  The kids will be modeling the costumes on the stage at 8 pm tonight, but no way will we forsake our only evening to dine at Rembulan, leaving a very disappointed Baby1.  Luckily Baby1 and Baby2 had great fun collecting seashells with mummy on the beach.

The fine dining was fine, but just only so-so.   To sum up, all the food at Club Med was nice, only because the fruits and seafood were fresh.  Full stop.

We had our "Gala" dinner at Rembulan restaurant at Pantai Beach

We had our “Gala” dinner at Rembulan restaurant at Pantai Beach

Our self-proclaimed "Gala" dinner at Rembulan restaurant

Our self-proclaimed “Gala” dinner at Rembulan restaurant

Fri night’s Show was Halloween-theme, and the second event was a quiet Live Band.  Again, to sum up the Shows, kudos to the GOs for multi-tasking, but I’ll very much prefer more professional and better quality shows, thank you.

Day 4 (Sat)

After breakfast, we checked out and left Club Med at exactly 10 am for the 8 hour drive back.  The Roti Canai shop at Segamat was not opened, but we had a yummy lunch at the noodle shop besides it.

Great fragrant kopi at Segamat on our way home

Great fragrant kopi at Segamat on our way home

In total, this 4D3N trip costs $1622.78.  Not cheap, and over-rated I would say.

Why do people like to go out under the scorching sun?

With kids in tow, we couldn’t do any of the sailing, rock climbing, archery, zen pool.

Why do people want to have free flow beer, wine, cocktails, soft drinks all day round?

Food and drinks were not 24 hours.

Not that we eat a lot, but by second day lunch, Mutiara and Noodle Bar were looking very boring indeed.

I wouldn’t dare leave my 5 yo with Mini Club the whole day.  Running under the hot sun at 10 am, swimming at 11 am, there was another pool activity at 3 pm.  It’s a wonder that the kids don’t get heat stroke.

And for Petit Club (paid), I imagine that the activities would be largely outdoor too. A bit of sun is good, but under such intense UV??

The shows were very entertaining, and you get to hear the MCs introduce in English, Mandarin, Malay, Japanese, Korean, French.  For such a small audience, it was a chore to sit through all these introductions.  But the worse part is on the head scratching after almost all the nightly performances – catch no ball leh.

We’ve had a fun 4D3N with Club Med.  I’ll say, we are sooooooo looking forward to our next Royal Caribbean Cruise trip.

– Dear2

One Community Walk 2015 @ Jurong Central with kids 30 August, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Sports & Health.
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We visit Granny’s house at Jurong Central 3 times a week, on weekday evenings, to pick up Baby1 and Baby2. While waiting for the lift to Granny’s house, we often read the many publicity posters at the lift lobby. As a result, we participated in many event at Jurong Central although we aren’t the residents there. So far, we’ve participated in a Bazaar, outdoor Zumba classes, Night Cycling, and this time – One Community Walk 2015 @ Jurong Central.

It can be quite difficult to find an activity that our whole family can participate in due Baby2’s age (2yo). We’ve participated in Jurong Lake Run and Garfield Run with Baby1 but in both these events, Baby2 could only wait at the finish line.

One type of event that could accommodate the whole family including young kids would be a walking event. So when we noticed the poster for a 2km One Community Walk for $3 each, we decided to sign up. :D

The package included an event t-shirt, but there wasn’t any size for Baby1 and Baby2. We just got the smallest size available and it was still slightly big for Baby1.

On event morning, we arrived at the starting point at around 7.30am. After a nostalgic Great Singapore Workout warm up session, most of the participants gathered to form a Singapore Flag formation by holding up red and white umbrellas. This was followed by a welcome speech by the MP for Jurong Central and the official flag off.

The walk started from Blk 491, moving eastwards, making a right turn into Jurong Canal, then right turn into Boon Lay Way, making a round at Lakeshore, before walking back to Jurong Green CC via Jurong West St 41.

Along the way, Baby2 got tired and wanted to be carried. So, Dear2 and I took turns carrying Baby2. Meanwhile, Baby1 was beaming with energy as she ‘led’ our family most of the way. I tried carrying Baby2 high up on my shoulders as we walk. She clung on tight as she was a bit scared but I guess she still enjoyed herself.

Back at Jurong Green CC, we queued up for our goodie bags that contained a bottle of plain water, a roll of bread, and a paper fan. Then, we queued up to collect old school biscuits, and played many old school games such as five stone, eraser fighting (we get to keep the country flag erasers too), giant jenga, limbo rock, and chaptek, to collect stamps which we exchanged for an old school spinning top. Finally, we settled down for a late breakfast of bread and biscuits before heading home. We left at around 9.40am and didn’t stay for the lucky draw at 10.30am.

Overall, we enjoyed this event. There wasn’t too many participants as this was a local event, so it was never too crowded along the way. In terms of value, it was definitely worth the $3 participation fee. However, there were some areas for improvement as well. There were no ushers along the walking route, so if we lost visual contact with the people in front around a bend, then we wouldn’t know where to continue. There were no road marshals when we were crossing the road along the walking route. At one point, the walking crowd split to take 2 different routes, we didn’t know which was the right group to follow. At the end point, the queues were quite chaotic such that we didn’t know what each queue were for.

Despite these minor annoyances, we still had a fun family morning! :)

-Dear1

2015 Fly Cruise to Shanghai 31 July, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Dear2, Travel & Discovery.
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Let’s do a recap of this trip.  It’s the first ever trip that our family of four went on (previously, there was only Baby1, or we brought the grandparents along to help take care when Baby2 came along).  For Dear1 and Dear2, it was a test to see if traveling with a 2.5yo and 5yo by ourselves is do-able.  Gegege….

We had such great fun on board!

We had such great fun on board! Parades, shows, sports, or just chill out!

Let’s first talk about the routine for the first 8 days on the Mariner of the Seas, cruising days.  We’ll wake up at about 7+am (as usual, Baby2’s biological clock), both kids drink milk, head out for breakfast, have a morning activity, lunch at 12nn, nap from 1 to 4pm, bath, dinner at Top Hats and Tails at 5.45pm (first seating), walk around until Show time at 8.45pm, watch Show, bedtime around 10pm.  Very nice schedule!  For port days, we’ll usually head out after breakfast, tour the port (Vung Tau, Hong Kong and Xiamen) in the morning, and return to ship by mid afternoon for the kids’ nap.  The evening plan remains.  Nice again!

We visited Ho May Park at Vung Tau.

We visited Ho May Park at Vung Tau, and also bought some *very* aromatic coffee from the local supermarket.

As for what we did, we did lots!

Adventure Ocean: Baby1 was old enough to join the programme (for 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12) so we left her there on some days.  Baby2 was not toilet trained yet so we can’t smuggle her in for the 3-5 group.  :)  Baby1 had so much fun there.  She had superhero theme, made some snacks, pyjamas party, came in tops for standing board jump (she was disappointed that she didn’t win a prize for hula hoop, and strove to learn this properly!), made a bacteria house, etc. She even won the grand prize in Family Bingo! Adventure Ocean is really good; kids enjoy so much fun, and parents get to take a breather.  There were very few kids onboard the entire cruise, so Baby1 had lots of attention and lots of opportunities to play. We target to sail with Royal Caribbean again in 3 years time, when Baby1 is 8yo and Baby2 5yo, kekeke!

We visited Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery before settling for lunching at the 1 Michelin Star Lei Garden  Restaurant for lunch.

We visited Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery before settling for lunching at the 1 Michelin Star Lei Garden Restaurant for lunch.

Royal Tots: The last time, we couldn’t find the Royal Tots.  This time, there was a room with many toys, so Baby2 spent her mornings there playing while Jie Jie is at Adventure Ocean.  There were only a few toddlers onboard, the most we saw at Royal Tots was 2-3 other toddlers. So Baby2 had nearly all the toys to herself. And Dear1 and Dear2 just sat around and relax, hehehe…..

Shows: It was a nightly look-forward for us, the kids included, to the singing and dancing shows, piano show, music show, magic show, ice-skating show, entertainment show.  The kids may not understand or appreciate fully, but they do enjoyed them very much!

Spent half a day exploring Gulangyu Island (very touristy, felt somewhat like Sentosa of the yesteryears).

Spent half a day exploring Gulangyu Island (very touristy, felt somewhat like Sentosa of the yesteryears).

Food: As of any cruise, eating forms a very large part.  We had 3 full meals everyday; breakfast and lunch at Windjammer or Rhapsody Blue (ordered room service breakfast once and had hotdogs lunch another time), the nightly dinner at Top Hats and Tails, and the occasional snacks from the Royal Promenade (that’s too much eating!).  The spread was sumptuous, service people entertaining, Baby1 learnt to order her own dinner (she liked the congee so much that she ordered it almost everyday), and Baby2 tried to do magic – make the butter disappear (without success!).

Utterly pampered the the sumptuous food and our fantastic dinner crew.

Utterly pampered the the sumptuous food and our fantastic dinner crew.

Outdoor Activities:  Dear1 and Dear2 did rock-climbing, Baby1 tried ice-skating, we ‘swam’ in the hot tub, played a bit of basketball, did 2 rounds of Mini Golf  (Baby2 too!).  A pity we didn’t get the chance to play table tennis.  A note: We should have capitalised on those times when the ship was not cruising to do mini golf, else it’s too windy to play outdoors.  Hmm, plus the sun must not be too hot too.

Indoor Activities: We went for a Detox Seminar and an Art Seminar while Baby1 was at Adventure Ocean, and brought her to a towel-folding activity on the day when she had bad behavior and no Adventure Ocean as punishment.  She had so much fun folding turtle, swan, elephant, rabbit out of towels though!

Photos:  We bought the Photo Package on the first day and had the next 8 days going from one booth to the next.  We ended up with slightly over 200 photos in total.  So for USD 250 (usual price USD 349), each photo costs ~USD1.50 (usual price per piece is about USD 18), 1hr free internet too, plus a CD to take home, and lots of fun posing away!

What have we learnt?:

1) Fly-Cruise is definitely a Yes-Yes!  The Ship was at 65% capacity only, and about 90% of them Caucasians! We couldn’t figure out where did all these Caucasian retirees from all over the world came from, but it definitely means no crowd at all the physically active places (rock climbing, skating, arcade etc).  We even managed to get front row seats at the Savoy Theatre every time, and front row seats meant that our kids have unblocked view throughout the entire show!  And no kaisu Singaporeans nudging forward at meals; it was simply great. There was plenty of personal space for everyone and no one place was over-crowded. We never had difficulties getting a seat at Windjammer.

2) Adventure Ocean was great! It keeps the children fully occupied and engaged. Baby1 asked to attend Adventure Ocean every day.

3) We missed out on night activities such as disco parties, pool parties, late night outdoor movie screening, karaoke competitions, late night talk shows at the theatre because of the children’s bedtime. Perhaps we’ll be able to attend some of these activities on our next cruise while the children are older.

Just a quick description of our 3 days stay in Shanghai. We stayed at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel along Nanjing Road. We spent quite a bit of time exploring Nanjing Road throughout the day – searching for local breakfast food along the side streets, shopping for souvenirs in the malls, traveling up and down Nanjing Road on the pedestrian train! In addition, we also visited The Bund, Yu Garden, Shanghai Ocean Aquarium, People’s Square, and the district around the Oriental Pearl Tower. We didn’t go up to the observatory because it was covered in fog. Finally, we end off our trip with a “gala dinner” at 海底捞. The next morning, we took the Maglev train to the airport and flew back to home sweet home.

A glimpse of our itinerary in Shanghai

A glimpse of our itinerary in Shanghai

Food galore!

Food galore!

We had great fun travelling as a family! Looking forward to our next family trip!

-Dear1 & Dear2

Saving Every $ part 4 30 June, 2015

Posted by dear1dear2 in Uncategorized.
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We emptied our piggy banks again! :D

This time, we employed the help of Baby1 and Baby2 to sort and help to pack the 50 cents and 1 dollar coins. We counted a total of $1090. As usual, we exchanged the coins with my mummy so that she can bring it for use at her workplace.

Normally, we would deposit this savings into our designated savings account for it to start earning interests for us. However, since the saving of coins was to contribute towards our Baby Savings Plan, and we also have a plan to invest in gold coins for our kids, we decided to use this money to buy a gold coin instead. In addition, we topped up the total sum with Baby1’s POSB Kids Savings account (which wasn’t earning much interests at all) and bought a larger gold coin for the kids.

One thing we noticed about buying from UOB is that, for the same weight, a gold bar is cheaper than a bullion coin. See the price list here. We’ve already bought a bullion coin this time, but perhaps we should be buying a gold bar instead the next time.

-Dear1

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