It’s the school holidays!
Baby1 entered Primary One this year, so this year marks the first year when our family holidays have to be planned around the school holidays, groan…
2 weeks before the March school holidays, when we finally got Baby1’s ballet exam schedule, Dear1 and I started to brainstorm about a holiday trip.
Cruise – (Royal Caribbean) too expensive. Plus school holidays are even more expensive. Not to mention the (local) crowd.
Fly – Hmm, we can’t be flying every school holidays right!? That’ll mean March, June, September PLUS December. No budget lah. Also, we stay in Bukit Batok, and Changi Airport is in the East. Travelling across Singapore is not efficient leh.
Staycation – What about not going out of Singapore? That’ll mean staycations in hotels or chalets. But at minimum $200+ per night, just to go swimming and/or use the hotel/resort facilities which are usually not suitable for our young kids, it’s cheaper if we just go swimming at public swimming pools, or stay out late the whole day, and DRIVE home after that. I’m sure the total cost is much much cheaper than $200.
Boat – What about to the nearby island resorts, Batam or Bintan? But even though Indonesia, good and clean resorts are not any cheaper too, hmm….
Drive – That’ll mean to Malaysia. But after our 2015 Cherating self drive trip, I have a phobia of self drive in Malaysia; tail-gating brings a different meaning to distance on the Malaysian’s so-called highways. What about going on a tour package then? Baby1 and Baby2 are now 7yo and 4.5yo, so they should be better able tolerate long bus rides (I hope so)? So Dear1 and I looked up some tour packages to nearby Malaysia and Desaru looks near yet fun enough. But a 2D1N package including 1 night accommodation doesn’t come cheap, plus we’ll really be sleeping for the night, and bathing, so hotel facilities won’t really be used at all. What about a day trip then? Looks reasonable, except that we will have to be at Chinatown for pickup at 6.30am, and will reach Chinatown again at 11pm. It’ll be a challenge to reach Chinatown by 6.30am, and it’ll be a bigger nightmare to reach Chinatown at 11pm and take another 45min to reach our Bukit Batok home and bath the super cranky, tired kids. Hmm…
We happened to chance upon private hire cars, and that seemed like a brilliant arrangement, except that it’s more expensive than having 40 people on a coach. We decided to ask the gramps along too, and Ah Gong proposed to engage a Malaysian local private car company at SGD 350 for a 8-seater car. Deal.
On the day of our 1 Day Desaru Trip:
8.20am – The car picked up Ah Gong and Ah Ma at their block, and by 8.35am, our family climbed in too. It’s a comfortable 8-seater, and it’s a Chinese driver.
9.30am – Woohoo, we’ve cleared the Woodlands customs, kudos to Ah Gong’s time planning. He’d arranged for this pick up timing so that the Singapore to Malaysia customs should be fairly smooth at this time. But I suspect the driver probably had a long stuck when he entered Singapore earlier. Since the time was early, Ah Gong decided to bring us to the Kota Tinggi Waterfalls.
10.40am – Omg, it’s a pretty long drive here. But the waterfall is amazing! It’s the first time that myself and the kids come so close to a waterfall. There’s a little fall and 2 taller ones. We hiked up, listened to the water gushing down, and put our hands into the stream to feel the impact of the cold streaming water. Sensational!
11.30am – Okay, gotto move out. Ah Gong directed the driver to a famous Bak Kut Teh stall (强记肉骨茶), but alas it’s not opened! Next option, some nice Chinese zichar restaurant, so we drove back to the town centre near the waterfall. Alas, not opened too. We decided to just eat the Ah Boy Bak Kut Teh beside. But now, it’s already 12.30pm, and we had to wait for 3 tables to be served before us, groan…
2.05pm – We reached the Desaru fruit farm where the kids had a short nap in the car en-route here. We took the next tour bus which was at 2.30pm, and after a 2 min drive, the Guide brought us around the fruit farm and mini zoo where she walked and explained so quickly that most of us were just nodding and kept straining to see exactly where on the plant is she pointing to. Nonetheless, we saw pineapples, long beans, banana, papaya and many more fruits and vegetables, smelt basil in our palms, and chewed some leaf which was actually sweet! The kids had fun feeding the fish and goats too; RM 2 for a BIG packet of feed , you’ll not dare to go Farmart again for the SGD 5 small packet of feed.
3.45pm – Back into the shade, and we ate the fruit box which came included in the package. Baby1 had such fun enjoying and trying the various fruits in the box – watermelon, banana, honeydew, jackfruit, jumbu, passionfruit, guava. Great job Baby1! We like it that you are brave and adventurous to try all the different (unknown) fruits.
4.50pm – We reached the Ostrich Farm after a 30 min drive here. Wow, an ostrich egg is really huge and heavy, and an ostrich is really taller than Papa! The kids had fun taking turns standing on ostrich eggs, stroking the ostrich, and riding the world’s fastest bird. We also listened to Mandarin ah gong explained the uses and potency of ostrich, though Baby1 and Baby2 probably catch no ball throughout his whole Mandarin presentation. They had fun knocking ostrich eggs on their heads, and feeling the paper-thin ostrich eggs membrane though.
5.50pm – Opps, how time flies, and we hurriedly left the ostrich farm. There was a mis-communication and Ah Gong brought us to a seafood restaurant. But how on earth are we going to order, wait for the food to be cooked, eat, and travel to the resort’s firefly cruise in 1 hours’ time!? We quickly grabbed some Malaysian biscuits and went in search of fireflies.
7.15pm – OMG, the driver is absolutely clueless about the location! Throughout the whole day’s drive, we kinda realised that this driver is not at all familiar with JB. He took us to a blocked road which he was supposed to have come here a few weeks back. What the!? He quickly made lengthy inquiries with other drivers who pointed us to another location. Along the way, he even dared to suggest that we head back to Kota Tinggi firefly place. Super OMG. Luckily Dear1 had GPS on and we tried to steer ourselves towards the river.
7.40pm – The end of the small dark road led us to a restaurant. There’s 2 Singapore cars here, so we should probably be at the right place? We hurried in. Phew, this is indeed the correct place, and the first boat will leave at 8pm.
8pm – Each of us got seated comfortably on the large cruise boat, and admired the tiny twinkling lights as the boat sailed silently along the river. The boatmen occasionally splashed water at the trees to disturb the fireflies, and even caught 1 firefly for us. Another one landed on Baby1’s hair and palm, geez! Papa caught 1 too! It was an amazing 30 min experience.
9.50pm – We finished dinner at this restaurant. No more driving in search with this driver.
10.45pm – Reached Woodlands customs via one of the newer highway. Hmm, this highway is indeed faster. We exited the Malaysian custom fairly quickly, but omg, there’s a long queue of Singapore cars on the causeway entering the Singapore customs.
11.15pm – Finally cleared the customs.
11.30pm – Bukit Batok sweet Bukit Batok.
It was a fun-filled one day trip, short of not eating nicer foods, the driver being super inexperienced, and the dirty toilets.