# Kidzania Malaysia

Our second road trip in one month, to Kidzania KL!

Over the Hari Raya Haji long weekend, we headed on a road trip to KL. Got stuck on the Second Link for 1.5 hours (as expected, though the stuck could have reduced if we had reached the Tuas Customs before 8am as planned; what to do, it’s the long weekend, and Woodlands Customs recently imposed a toll…). Once cleared the customs, we got stuck in slow traffic twice (can you believe this!?) on the North-South Highway.

Stopped over at Machap for some lunch, and continued the drive to our KL apartment. It was 4.30pm by the time we reached the apartment, and because we didn’t check out the KLCC Aquarium’s opening hours before we came, we ended up just doing some groceries shopping (mainly for drinking water) at Ampang Mall and went back to the apartment to admire the KL view.

The great view from our apartment at Damai Vista

Next morning, following our Australia experience, we woke up at 6am, fed the kids milk, and rushed everybody out of the house. It was already 7.30am when we left the house though the plan was to finish breakfast and start on the drive to Kidzania by 8am. I had read a blog on Kidzania earlier, and the review was to reach earlier to buy the tickets and do the check in before the doors open at 10am.

Without GPS or any data plan, we tried to find the way using printed maps and instructions. We could have reached Kidzania at Petaling Jaya without a hitch, but we took an exit too early and veered off the path. Paid for a taxi to lead the way, and we were finally there.

Hmm… At 9.30am, the queue for online booking was pretty long, but for the regular walk-in queue, there was only 2 families in front of us. Quickly got in line, and saw the notice that says “counter open at 9.30am”. Hmm…. At 9.45am, we finally bought the tickets, put on the wristbands, and proceeded upstairs. As we were one of the first few families, the Check In process was fairly a breeze too.

The check in counter at Kidzania just before opening hours

First stop: Fire Station. It was said that this is one of the most popular station, so in order to minimize waiting time, this has be the first station to go to. The Fire Station is undoubtedly fun! The kids donned on their firefighter uniform and hat (Baby1 maintained a straight face throughout, and I think she was trying very hard not to let the hat drop!), and boarded the fire engine which went one round the premise to put out a fire at a burning Hotel. Cool!

The fire engine driving through the streets of Kidzania City

For public holidays, the opening hours are 10am to 3pm (first session) and 4pm to 9pm (afternoon session). For normal days, you get to play for 7 hours. So since we have to leave at 3pm, no time can be wasted here! Baby1 tried 13 other professions, including Cashier, Petrol Kiosk Attendent, Sushi Chef, Marybrown Attendant, Nurse, Vitagen Maker, Medic, Photographer, Optician, Painter and Policewoman. For the 3 food related industries, you get to bring back the food that you prepared too. The sushi, sandwich and burger became Baby1’s lunch for the day! And there was a bottle of Vitagen each for the kids, supposedly to be the one which they made earlier, haha!

Putting our fire at the hotel

As we did not buy a ticket for Baby2 (we under-declared her age and reported her as under 2yo though she just passed her 2 yo birthday a few days earlier), so she did not get to participate in any activities, poor Baby2. But even if she had a wristband, I doubt that she can participate much as most of the Level 1 stations have requirements of minimum 4 yo. There were a couple of rooms on Level 2 for babies to play, I mean really play with toys, so not so much of role-playing. Nevertheless, we managed to sneak in Baby2 to be role-play as a Patient when Baby1 was the Medic.

A sample of the activities available at one of the activity stations

There were a couple other stations which we didn’t get to do. We saw the Flight Simulator on Level 2 too late – there was a long queue for this. And the vitamin research looks fun too, but it was already nearing closing and that was already the last session for the day.

At 3pm, everything closed, so we went to redeem the Kidzos (monies) earned. We were handed a 50 Kidzo cheque when we first arrived, and at the end of the day, we were up to 90 Kidzo. Baby1 had a busy day doing so many professions and earning so much money, haha! We went to the Department Store but were told that most of the merchandise were more expensive (more than 100 Kidzos). There were cheaper stuff down at the Shopping Alley. We paid for a 70 Kidzos body tattoo for Baby1 which we requested the kind attendent to apply it for her on the spot.

We took 40min to reach Kidzania, and 20min to return to our apartment. Sure enough, both kids were KOed on the drive back, but totally rejected sleep when we reached the apartment. We headed for a swim in the pool before quickly heading back again as Baby2’s lips were turning purple from the cold. Brr…

Next morning, no rush, so we woke up at 7am, packed up everything, returned to the same place at Imbi for breakfast (KL roads are really very complicated, and since we do not want to risk getting lost again, familarity is best), and headed for the drive home. There were many rest stops along the road, but we stopped at Pagoh, another of the bigger stop for lunch, petrol, and some authentic otah to bring home. Dear1 and I had a Magnum each too – it cost only 4 Ringgit each!!

Reached Jurong at 3pm. As expected (heng ah), this timing was good so as to avoid all the returners who will come back in the later part of the day.

It was a really short holiday, but totally fun! As we stayed in the grandparents’ apartment for the trip, so accommodation cost was zero. No airfare, so only have to pay the petrol and toll which cost not more than 100 Ringgit. Food in Malaysia is cheaper too. The chicken rice we had in Pagoh cost only 4 Ringgit, and total Kidzania entrance fees for 4 adults 2 kids was only 255 Ringgit (about SGD100). A very value-for-money trip!

Will we return to Kidzania again? Yes, hmm, but maybe no. Kidzania is coming to Singapore (Sentosa) in June 2015, but I can’t imagine what kind of professions will be exibited. SIA Stewardess? Tiger Beer Manufactor? (ermm, maybe not). RWS Casino Operator? (ermm, surely not!) Seriously, in Singapore’s context, we have more white collar professions. Do you think Kidzania will be fun if there’s only Office Workers kind of professions? And also, it’s the staff that brings out the atmosphere. Even though adults are totally not allowed into the room when the activity is conducted, you can tell that the Staff are all putting their hearts into the interaction that they have with the kids. Kudos to them, when you have to role-play the same activity over and over and over again.

Hmm, but maybe we can consider Kidzania at other locations. We read afterwards that the Kidzos banked in can be used at your next visit. No wonder we saw many children queuing at the CIMB Bank at closing time.

Will we return to Malaysia again? Yes, road trip to Malaysia is fun! The drive to KL is probably too long (350km away!), but Malacca (halfway there) or even Desaru seems manageable!

– Dear2

# Western Australia Road Trip Sep 2014

Our very first real road trip ever~

Day 1

Took the 7.45am SQ flight from Singapore to Perth. No more overnight flights, thank you. While ascending, Baby2 had her milk, and Baby1 had some Ricola Pearls. As expected, Baby1 was kept entertained throughout the flight watching cartoons. Baby2 unexpectedly fell asleep halfway through (good for us), and we had about 2 hours of quiet and peace before reaching Perth.

Once landed, we quickly hailed a cab to the campervan rental office. Waited for quite a while as the staff forgot about our orders! We rented a 6 berth campervan because Dear1’s parents were along for the trip.  Once the campervan was retrieved, we raced down to nearby Belmont Forum to get lunch/dinner. :( Alas, by 4.30pm, all the shops were closing, and there wasn’t much edible food left. We had Japanese take aways. Mad rush to get a SIM card (to call the campervan park to confirm our late check in), get groceries and water, and dinner. We couldn’t get any SIM card. It was kinda a bad start to our holiday.

Dear1 started driving at 80km/h. But as the night and roads got darker, we were literally toring through the night at 100km/h. Finally after 2.5hrs of drive, we reach Koombana Bay Discovery Holiday Park. Luckily the Park left the keys in the “Late Check In” safe for us as agreed in our email. We drove to the designated lot with our ensuite toilet. Being our first night, in a windy rainy night, where the surroundings seemed void of anybody else, we quickly showered. Brr, the night was cold!

Our KEA KQ Series 6 Berth Campervan at our ensuite site at Koombana Bay Discovery Holiday Park

Throughout the night, our campervan kept swaying in the wind. Even after we turned off the lights for the night, I was really worried that our campervan might be blown away by the wind. Sleep was bad, being awaken constantly by the passing beating rain.

Day 2

Good to see some daylight. We drove to nearby The Happy Wife and had a sumptous breakfast. Nice! Did the Check In and Check Out, and off we drove over to next-door Dolphin Discovery Centre. The narration by the retired uncle was informative and interesting. If you leave the tank open, the octopus will just climb out. Can you believe that!? Dear1 was quite disappointed that we can’t waddle in to the sea to see dolphins. With that kind of cold and drizzle, we are better off staying in the warm indoors.

Great breakfast at The Happy Wife

Interesting octopus feeding session at Dolphin Discovery Centre

Some quick grocery shopping at a nearby supermarket before setting off again.

Busselton Jetty is the next stop. What strong winds! At the counter, we were told that the Train and Observatory was closed due to bad weather. Baby1 was very disappointed; she was so looking forward to take the train to the jetty. I was equally disappointed after realising that the Observatory that Dear1 mentioned was actually underwater. No wonder I don’t see any lighthouse. :p We bought a stamp and sent a postcard from the Interpretive Centre.

Busselton Jetty Underwater Observatory closed due to poor visibility

Lunch was at nearby Old Post Office Tea Rooms. It was a simple cafe, but the sandwiches were pretty not bad. After lunch, all of us headed back to the car first while Dear1 went to the washroom. And it started to rain again. Dear1 braved the rain back but got all soaked. The passing shower stopped completely barely 5 mins later. “Passing Showers” totally took on a new meaning for us…

Following the GPS, we headed on the route to the Margaret River Dairy Company. And we past by the sign that says Margaret River Dairy Company, though we were still a distance away from the exact location according to the GPS. Alas, the GPS was off!. Made a U-turn (not easy when our campervan is so huge, on a single lane dual carriage road). At the so-called facory, we didn’t see any machinery, though we had a sumptuous sampling of the various cheeses there. Bought a large tub of yogurt (since we can’t appreciate cheese!)

Next stop: Margaret River Chocolate Factory. We reached at 4.30pm, half an hour ahead of its closing time. But the main doors was already locked! We were literally locked out though happy satisfied shoppers were continually streaming out with their bags and bags of shopping. Angry!!

Headed off to Morris Anytime for our dinner. As a family friendly restuarant, they provided coloring paper and pencils for the kids to doodle while waiting for the food. But at AUD 38 for a main course, we thought that the serving was very un-Australian – smallish….

Baby1’s drawing while we had dinner at Morris Anytime

After dinner and it was check in at Sunflowers Animal Farm. Finally located the owner in the dark farm house, and finally looking forward to a proper shelter over our heads and some warm steady water for bath. But as soon as we unloaded our luggage and got the fire place burning (yes, real fire place, need to start your own fire, and load with real fire wood), there was a power outrage! It was pitch darkness and the only light source was the dancing fire lights. Luckily the power came back on about an hour later, but we were mindful that power might go off anytime soon so didn’t quite want to risk taking a shower…

First time using a real fireplace at Sunflowers Animal Farm

Day 3

Next morning, the weather seemed very fine. Still a bit chilly, but at least it wasn’t wet like the past 2 days. And indeed we were lucky to have good weather this morning. Toured the farm, had 2 bucketfuls of animal feed where we went around feeding all the farm animals. The kids had a chance to pick up little chicks with their hands, and ride a pony too.

The view right outside our doorstep at Sunflowers Animal Farm

After check out, we drove back to the Margaret River Chocolate Factory (this time with a vengeance) and sampled and bought chocolates. Lunch was at Cullen Wines, one of the many wineries in Margaret River. Again, it’s location was not accurately marked by the GPS, and we were really relieved to finally reach here for our sumptuous lunch. We also bought a bottle of wine to enjoy for the rest of our trip.

Chocolate tasting at Margaret River Chocolate Factory

Our campervan at Cullen Wines

On our way to our next destination, we stopped at Augusta to stock up on groceries.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse was next. As Baby2 was not allowed to go up the lighthouse, we got the grandparents to go up while we stayed on the ground with the paid audio tour. As usual, the kids had fun playing with the radios (which were meant as audio guides). Dear1 and I didn’t get to hear much of the audio from the radio, so the only explanations were what we could read from the numbered signs. Still an interesting experience for us both.

Walking up to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

As the wind was still cold, we headed back to the campervan while waiting for the grandparents. An opportune time to bring out the road trip presents – a Lego car and an Lego campervan, one each for the girls. Papa was more excited in assembling and ‘helped’ Baby2 complete the campervan toy. So much for being her present. :p

Taking the Caves Road, we reached Hamelin Holiday Park before night fall. No dinner tonight as when we reached Karridale Tavern, they were not serving dinner that night! Luckily we had instant noodles with us so dinner was a simple meal of instant noodles with sausages, cooked at the outdoor kitchen.

Maggie Mee dinner at Hamelin Holiday Park

Day 4

We were supposed to empty the toilet waste every other day, but as there wasn’t much waste on our first 2 days, we decided to only empty it today. Alas, we were told that we needed to go to a Shire in order to dispose ‘chemical waste’. Oh dear, means that we need to make another trip somewhere. Emptied the ‘gray Water’ (water from washing) nonetheless, and we set off to Lake Cave.

Morning walk at Hamelin Bay

Again, the GPS was not accurate and we had to locate the entrance of the Caves based on road signs. Once reached, the counter chap confidently told us that Baby2 has no problem going down to the cave, unlike the Lighthouse which we presume had difficult-to-climb steps. Nervous and full of anticipation, we descended into the cave, stopping now and then when it was time to listen to the Guide. There was a long flight of steps down, and I had to grip Baby1’s hand real tight. Dear1 carried Baby2 all the way down, and had to stoop and bend over a narrow and low part. “No problem into the cave, just that you’ll gain a lot of muscles!” we thought afterwards.

View from inside Lake Cave

Next, we went to Bootleg Brewery for lunch. Ordered this tray of 8 beers. A very interesting mix – first time trying coffee-flavoured beer. All the main course were very generous and yummy too. It’s the first time since arriving in Australia that we got a sense of the “Australian size” meal. Bought a bottle of beer to enjoy later too. After lunch, we sat by the lake enjoying the warm sunshine and view, and even watched a group play giant sized Jenga.

People playing Giant Jenga (right in the middle of the picture) at Bootleg Brewery

After the sumptuous lunch, we proceeded to Simmo’s Ice Creamery which was a short drive away. The ice cream scope was generous too. The adults ate ice cream while the kids played at the play ground.

By the time we reached Harvey, we were still feeling very full. Decided to order take aways from Trattoria Briscola (Italian restaurant) to bring to the Harvey Hills Farm Chalet to eat. The portion was generous too, but I was still too full to appreciate it. The fruit wine that we bought from Cullen Wines was surprisingly nice, which we drank out of wine glasses provided in our farm house.

Enjoy our wine at Harvey Hills Farm Chalet

In between transporting our barang barangs from the campervan to the house, Dear1 and I took the chance to admire the stars. The farm was really in the middle of no lights, so the sky view was really excellent.

Day 5

Woke up to a refreshing farm atmosphere. In the brightening morning light, the scenery was even more charming. Lush green pastures and clear open skies, in a cool light breeze. So fresh!

That’s our chalet in the middle of the picture

View from our balcony at Harvey Hills Farm Chalet

Today, the farm activities were entirely different from those in the first farm. The children got to hold a rabbit each in their lap, we went around scattering the feed to the chickens, fed the ducks out of our palms and had sheep nibble carrots out from our fingers. So very up close!

After check out, we went to Harvey Fresh. Wow, so many orange trees! Orange trees are not very tall in actual fact! And seeing so many brightly oranges on trees lifted our mood even more. We bought a packet of orange juice from the store and it was so orangey and nice too. Thumbs up!

First time at an orange orchard at Harvey Fresh

Before returning to the rental office to return the campervan, we had to empty the waste first. Along the way, we stopped by a Shire. Apparently you need to do it at a sullage point. Oh my. Finally found the place with directions from the lady at the Shire. It is basically just a hole in the ground, like the one where we emptied the black water. As socially responsible people, as with the Australian culture, we finally emptied the waste. Phew.

After we returned the campervan and got our 8-seater car from another car rental company, we proceeded to Cottesloe. We had to go to the office to retrieve the keys first. The staff there were very nice, and the lady assigned to show us on how to open up the sofa bed kindly agreed to lead the way and show us the sofa bed after we told them that we had to go off for a dinner appointment soon.

Our KIA Grand Carnival

Our bedroom at our Cottesloe Beach Apartment

Day 6

After a good night’s sleep and a nice warm bath (the apartment bathroom came with a warmer, and there were sufficient blankets for all of us, geez), we set off on foot for breakfast. But after walking for 15 min, the shops were still not in sight, though we clearly past by some resturants on our drive up from the office to our apartment yesterday. We decided to head back and finish up the remaining rations of bread, baked beans and noodles.

Today is Fremantle day, and we drove to Woolstore Shopping Centre to park the car first, after hearing that car park charges are pretty expensive here in Perth city. The parking coupon is only available for max 4 hours, so means that we’ll need to come back to top up the ticket later. Hmm…

Did some shopping at the Fremantle Market and proceeded for our Fish and Chips lunch. A friend had recommended Sweet Lips but we couldn’t find it (by this time, we were already very tired taking turns to carry Baby2, so didn’t want to explore further), so we headed to the popular Cicerellos. Ordered 2 fish and Chips, and a seafood platter. The fish and chips was considered okay for that price, but it’s not a taste that I’ll want to come back again. Also, Cicerellos as well as Fremantle, is the first place in Australia where I felt was very touristy – there was really a lot a lot of tourists everywhere!

Colours colours at Fremantle Market

Fish and Chips at the famous Cicerellos

Went to the Shipwreck Museum, found a cafe where we had drinks while Baby1 had her afternoon nap (finally).  It was supposed to be a relaxing day today, but the children’s naps completely drained my energy, so much so that we bought Chinese take aways for dinner (again!?).  We went back to the apartment, exhausted.

Baby1 enjoyed herself very much at the Shipwreck Museum

Enjoying the evening from our balcony at Cottesloe Beach Apartment

Day 7

Another good night of sleep. This morning, we were determined to locate a proper breakfast place. There was brochures in the folder that Cottesloe Beach Apartments provided, and we went along with Bluewaters.

After the yummy breakfast, we went to Caversham Wildlife Park. Dear1 had borrowed a GPS from his friend, and we had a bit of getting used to before we are familiar with this GPS (the one in the campervan was provided by Kea and had to be returned with the campervan; that device was more user friendly compared to this one). As Dear1’s friend had bought this about 6 years back, the Wildlife Park was not marked in this GPS. We can only key in the coordinates and try to locate its entrance using the road signs. At one point in time, we almost lost the way, but luckily we did not retreat. The wildlife Park is so fun! Baby1 held a real snake over her arms, we stroked some iguana and had a picture taken with a wombat. Also, Baby1 got into the kangaroos’ enclosure and went up close, and we all touched and had many photos taken with koalas up very close. Never before have we had such up close interactions with so many animals all in the same zoo.

Up close with sleeping Koalas at Caversham Wildlife Park

After trying to appreciate art in Western Australia Art Gallery, we went over to Murray Street Mall to people-watch. A busy shopping street, but as it’s quite hard to lug 2 toddlers for any shopping, we felt that it would be more fruitful to proceed to King’s Park for some quiet time. Alas, the Stickybeaks Cafe where we wanted to have our dinner closes at 4.30pm (we reached at 4pm), and that totally spoiled our dinner plan. With only a ground sheet and a drink, we had a little “picnic”. In actual fact, the kids spent all the time playing at the playground. The camera battery had to go flat at this time, and we forgot to pack spares in our day bag! No chance to take pictures of the brilliant sunset which we saw the previous day along the coastline where we stayed.

Since tonight’s dinner plan was thrown off, we found a restuarant, Barchetta, along Cottesloe facing the ocean on our way back to catch the sunset. The daylight got dimmer as we ate our dinner. Halfway through the food, we saw the sun disappear under the horizon. Wonder if Baby1 will remember this? (14 Oct 2014: Dear1 asked, Baby1 remembers.)

Day 8

Finally it’s time to go home. Packed up everything, put the keys to the apartment under the mat, and went back to Bluewaters for breakfast again. As we were early, we decided to do some last minute shopping at Belmont Forum which is near to the Airport. Alas, the shops only open at 11am!

Back at Bluewaters Cottesloe for a second time, their Crab and Chilli Scrambled Eggs is exquisite

Finally bought the nogurts (as requested by a relative) from the Airport, and it was home sweet home to Singapore.

Once out of Changi Airport, we smelled haze. Did we escaped any haze??  It turned out that the haze in Singapore had worsen that very day! Urgh!

– Dear2

# Courteous Driving

I’ve always been an advocate of courtesy on the roads. That meant I won’t cut other people’s lanes unless it is safe to do so. That meant giving way to others, both drivers and pedestrians alike. That meant being patient on the roads.

That said, I utterly hate discourteous drivers. These drivers are largely self centred and thinks that they own the roads. Yuck!

From both my personal traveling experience and talking to my foreign friends, I have made 2 main observations. First, Singaporean drivers drive too fast. They always seem to be rushing from place to place. Second, Singaporean drivers have bad road manners and don’t often give way. Of course, I’m stereotyping here. There are also nice drivers in Singapore.

I believe in reciprocity. If people are nice to me, I’ll be nice to them. If I want people to be nice to me, I’ll be nice to them first. And this brings me to my number one pet peeve on the roads. Signaling.

I always signal. Once in a blue moon, I may forget, but 99.9% of the time, I will always signal, even when there are no cars around. I believe it is basic road courtesy to let other road users know in advance what I plan to do in the next few seconds.

Therefore, it follows that I will always give way to a driver, if he signals in advance that he needs to turn into my lane.

It also follows that I will not give way to a driver if he didn’t signal in advance. I take a hard stand on this. If I see a driver intending to change lane but did not signal his intention, I will not slow down nor give sufficient space for him to do so. If he does try to force his way into my way, I will not hesitate to high beam and sound my horn at him. These people really need to learn the proper way to interact with other road users.

I had an encounter several days ago. My car was stopped at a junction and I was turning right. After the right turn, I will be turning left, so I positioned myself on the left lane, leaving the right lane empty. The space behind me was empty too. I was the only car at this junction at this time. A red taxi came. He stopped to my right, on the right lane. The traffic light turned green and we both moved off.

In the midst of the right turning maneuver, the red taxi started making attempts to cut into my lane in front of me. He was only a quarter car length ahead of me at this time. I checked, no signals. I didn’t give way. He sped up but still didn’t have sufficient space to enter my lane. Still no signal. I refuse to give way. If he had intended to be in my lane, he should have just lined up behind me before the traffic light, and not try to force his way in this manner.

He sped up further and cut into the lane in front of me. I sounded my horn to indicate dangerous driving on his part. Immediately, he started playing brakes. Talk about bad manners. He did all these while there was a passenger in his car. I ignored him and put some distance between our cars. Apparently, he had wanted to turn left after the right too. Later on, when our cars passed each other, he promptly showed his middle finger. Bad driving manners, bad service provider as a taxi driver, and bad personal conduct.

We can really do with less of this type of drivers on the road.

Just a short note here about pedestrians. Some pedestrians really do think they own the roads. Disclaimer, I am not racist, but I do observe that Indian pedestrians tend to cross the roads without due care. As always, I will signal my intention to turn into a carpark, and I have the right of way. Any pedestrians that chose to ignore my signal and cross the road anyway will earn a loud horn from me.

These are just a few examples. If everyone will just do their part. Drivers observe good driving habits. Pedestrians not putting themselves in danger. Then I think the roads will be a much better and safer place for everyone. Not to mention the traffic will be smoother too.

-Dear1

# A season parking lesson – Revisit

Today is 29 Feb, horray to the special day that occurs once every 4 years!

So, it’s the end of Feb. I recalled that I made a blunder in Feb last year by forgetting to cancel my season parking at my work place despite only being in office for 3.5 days for that month.

Well, this year I was aware of the potential problem and made sure it will not happen again.

My ICT, as usual, took place from end Jan to early Feb, 11 Feb to be exact. I will be extracting my wisdom tooth on 13 Feb, so hopefully my MC will cover me until 15 Feb. So that meant I should only apply for half month of season parking (i.e. 16-29 Feb) for this month. I know that some parking companies do not allow for pro-rated season parking applications. However, I also knew that the parking company at my work place does allow, because I had applied for half month parking when I started work here.

So, in late Dec, I started contacting the parking company to request for half month parking in Feb. First, I went to the parking booth at the basement carpark to enquire. The lady there told me I would need to contact the headquarters for such a request. And so I did.

I email the person in charge at the headquarters, let’s call her Miss A. Miss A informed me that pro-rated season parking was not allowed, even though I knew for a fact that it was allowed because I had done it before. Anyway, Miss A was willing to ask her manager, Mr G, about it.

About 2 weeks later, I received a reply from Mr G saying that pro-rated season parking was not allowed, and that I would have to pay for the full month.

Since they will not allow me to apply for half month parking in Feb, my last resort was to cancel my season parking entirely and reapply for one after I’m back from ICT. So, I visited my company secretary, Miss T, to request for a cancellation of season parking form.

It was there that I recite to Miss T my problem and my exchange with the parking company. Miss T promptly told me, “Half month parking? No problem, I’ll settle it for you.”

Within the hour, Miss T drafted an email to the parking company, addressed to… surprise surprise… Miss A.

5 days later, Miss A replied the email saying everything had been approved and I will be paying for half month season parking for the month of Feb.

Should I be happy about this exchange? Well, of course, because I save half month of parking charges. But at the same time, I have to say, WTF?!

Why the double standards? Why did Miss A not simply give me the green light in the first place? Why did Miss A’s manager Mr G expect me to cancel my season parking and reapply, to go through the motion of unnecessary admin? Why did Miss A response so swiftly and differently to Miss T? Why did it take 2 weeks to reject my initial request but only 5 days to approve of Miss T’s same request?

I am very disappointed with such service attitudes. This is a problem that plagues much of our service sector today, including the public service. People are not willing to move out of their comfort zone. When faced with unfamiliar situations, these people simply shut their doors and hide behind the protection of their company protocols and policies.

My simple advice to them, before resigning to “it cannot be done”, first ask yourself “Why not?”

-Dear1

# A season parking lesson

Most of us with cars will have 2 season parking commitments, one at home and one at work. And most of the time, the payment of the season parking is conveniently paid by GIRO so as to save the hassle of going to AXS machines or the parking vendor’s office to make payment every month. This is on the assumption that we will fully (or nearly fully) utilize the season parking each month. However, this is not a fail-proof assumption as we have learnt the hard way.

This incident happened for the month of February 2011 at my work place.

As usual, the payment of $90 for February’s season parking is deducted in late January via GIRO. I noticed it, but didn’t give it a second thought. It is a regular payment thing after all. February came and I went to work as usual on the 1st. [1] <- I’m keeping count of the number of days I physically parked my car at the office. Then followed by the 2nd which was a half day due to it being the eve of Chinese New Year. [1.5] The 3rd to the 6th was the Chinese New Year long weekend. Yeah… [1.5] <- It’s starting… Immediately after the public holidays, I attended my In Camp Training from the 7th to the 18th for a high key call up. [1.5] <- Half the month was already gone. Now, hourly parking is charged at$1/hr. Assuming that I parked my car from 8.30am to 6.30pm daily, that’s $10 per day if I do not purchase season parking. Put it another way, 9 full days of hourly parking is equivalent to a full month of season parking. That is, if I’m going to park 9 days or less in a given month, I’ll actually be better off just going by hourly rates. See where this is going? The 19th and 20th were weekends and so I went back to work on the 21st. [2.5] On the 22nd, I went to work as usual. Here’s where it gets worse. I applied for my entitled exam leave for the 28th and 25th, and further applied annual leave for 24th and 23rd in order to have more time to prepare for my upcoming exam! [3.5] <- Noticed that February has only 28 days so I’m not going to step into office anymore for the rest of Feb! Days passed… On the 1st of March, I stepped back into office thinking to myself, “Wow! Time really flies, it’s March already. Now, how much work have I done in February? 1st, 2nd, CNY, ICT, exam…” O_O Then why am I paying$90 for season parking when I’m only in office for just that few days? A quick calculation revealed that I would have paid just 3.5x$10=$35 by hourly parking. I have in fact overpaid by $55! Ouch! <- I could have bought another board game with this money. What a heavy price for pay for this oversight! Nevertheless, I did learn my lessons from this incident. Do not take regular payments for granted. Sometimes, it just isn’t worth it. Take season parking for example, one should really look ahead in the calendar and take into account travel plans (be it business or leisure), public holidays, block leave (although you should never take block leave), ICT, etc, and decide whether or not season parking is worthwhile in that time period. Similarly for other regular bills such as broadband and mobile phones, does one’s consumption patterns warrant such high bandwidth high priced plans? Time to re-examine our lifestyle and trim the excess fats. -Dear1 # OPC Calculations 3 We are now considering converting our OPC car to normal car. The purpose for this is to facilitate bringing Baby1 to her grandparents’ place during the daytime when Dear2’s maternity leave is over and needs to return to work. It would be rather inconvenient if we have to bring Baby1 out before 7am each day and only bring her home after 7pm each day. So now, we need to consider if it is worth forking out around$15000 in cash to convert our OPC to normal.

There are many factors that will affect our decision to convert or not. Some of the more intangible factors include the comfort and flexibility of driving, the availability of car seat in our car (versus taxi), and the need to transport baby equipment frequently. However, for today, I’ll just give an analysis on one of the more tangible factor – the value of the converted car. In other words, how much of the cash top up will depreciate and how much can be recovered eventually.

Let’s ask our buddy $\LaTeX$ to help us out. ;)

(This analysis builds upon some results from earlier in this series. See also OPC Calculations & OPC Calculations 2.)

Let $C$ be the COE of the car, $O$ be the OMV of the car, and $P$ be the PARF of the car. Let $t$ be the number of years passed before scrapping the car, and $n$ be the number of years passed before converting from OPC to normal plate. Hence, let $P_{n,t}$ denote the PARF of the car, which was converted after $n$ years, after $t$ years.

The amount of top up required to be paid to LTA can be express as $\frac{10-n}{10} \times 17000$. This will be apportioned to $C$ and $O$ in the same ratio that $C$ and $O$ was deducted initially. For example, assuming $C<17000$ and $C+O>17000$, then the amount apportioned to $C$ will be $\frac{C}{17000} \times \frac{10-n}{10}\times 17000$ and the amount apportioned to $O$ will be $\frac{17000-C}{17000} \times \frac{10-n}{10} \times 17000$.

Further, let $m=\left\{\begin{array}{c l} \frac{75}{100}&\quad\mbox{if }0

Now, we can formally define $P_{n,t}$.

$\begin{array}{rcl}P_{n,t}&=&(\frac{C}{17000}\times\frac{10-n}{10} \times 17000)\times \frac{10-t}{10}\\&&+m\times (O-(17000-C)+\frac{17000-C}{17000} \times \frac{10-n}{10} \times 17000)\\&=&C\frac{10-n}{10}\frac{10-t}{10}+m(O+C-17000+(17000-C)\frac{10-n}{10})\\&=&C\frac{10-n}{10}\frac{10-t}{10}+mO(1+\frac{C-17000}{O}+\frac{17000-C}{O}\frac{10-n}{10})\\&=&C\frac{10-n}{10}\frac{10-t}{10}+mO(1+(-1+\frac{10-n}{10})(\frac{17000-C}{O}))\\&=&C\frac{10-n}{10}\frac{10-t}{10}+mO(1-(1-\frac{10-n}{10})(\frac{17000-C}{O}))\end{array}$

Next, let us define the $P$ value of a normal car (i.e. $n=0$).

$\begin{array}{rcl}P_{0,t}&=&C\frac{10-0}{10}\frac{10-t}{10}+mO(1-(1-\frac{10-0}{10})(\frac{17000-C}{O}))\\&=&C\frac{10-t}{10}+mO\end{array}$

We substitute $P_{0,t}$ in $P_{n,t}$.

$\begin{array}{rcl}P_{n,t}&=&C\frac{10-n}{10}\frac{10-t}{10}+mO(1-(1-\frac{10-n}{10})(\frac{17000-C}{O}))\\&=&C\frac{10-t}{10}(1-1+\frac{10-n}{10})+mO-mO(1-\frac{10-n}{10})(\frac{17000-C}{O})\\&=&C\frac{10-t}{10}+mO\\&&-C\frac{10-t}{10}(1-\frac{10-n}{10})-m(1-\frac{10-n}{10})(17000-C)\\&=&P_{0,t}-(1-\frac{10-n}{10})(C\frac{10-t}{10}+m(17000-C))\end{array}$

Here, note that $C\frac{10-t}{10}+m(17000-C)$ is the residue value of the initial OPC rebate after $t$ years. Remember the assumption that $C<17000$, therefore $17000-C$ is the amount of $O$ deducted as part of the initial OPC rebate.

Notice that $(1-\frac{10-n}{10})(C\frac{10-t}{10}+m(17000-C))>0$, therefore $P_{n,t} < P_{0,t}$. That is, the PARF of an OPC car that is converted to normal is always less than that of an identical car that is normal from the beginning. Additionally, the PARF of the converted car at any time $t$ will be further reduced by a factor of $1-\frac{10-n}{10}$. That is, a factor of $1-\frac{10-n}{10}$ will permanently be lost from the PARF of the car, and this factor increases with $n$.

To visualize this, I have plotted the PARF of an OPC converted to normal with respect to $n$ and $t$.

Graph of PARF against $t$ at varying $n$.

I’ve used our car as an example in this diagram. “Converted at 0 year” refers to a normal car from the start. “Converted at 10 year” refers to an OPC that did not convert to normal. Notice the gap between the normal car and the OPC which converted to normal. This is what I refer to as unrecoverable loss. The pro-rated cash top up amount paid to LTA to convert an OPC to a normal car does not restore the car to its original value. So for people who are considering the convert, do keep this unrecoverable loss in mind.

Where does this bring us? Well, from the percentage of loss point of view, it makes sense to convert as early as possible. But from the absolute amount of loss point of view, later is better. So, to convert or not to convert? There is really no straightforward answer. But now, at least, we know that we must be prepared to bear some immediate losses from the minute of the conversion.

-Dear1

# OPC Calculations 2

Oh, it’s $\LaTeX$ equations day again. Haha…

In my last post, I mentioned that high COE is more ‘beneficial’ for OPC owners from the savings point of view. But of course, it is often more practical to discuss actual spendings instead as savings can be very misleading. So I’ll try to formulate some equations now to calculate what is the actual amount spent for low and high COE. Let’s use this very simplified equation to calculate amount spent $S$.

$S=\mbox{downpayment}+\mbox{principal loan}+\mbox{interest}-\mbox{scrap value}$

Let $C$ be the COE of the car, $O$ be the OMV of the car, and $M$ be the price of the car without COE. Hence, we assume the actual selling price of the car to be $C+M$. Also assume $C+O>17000$.

Let us further assume that we will scrap the car at the end of the 10 year COE period. Let $D$ be the downpayment paid and we assume that $D$ is a fixed value becos the buyer only has $D$ amount of available cash. Let $I$ be the interest rate, and $T$ be the loan period.

First, we consider the case that person $A17$ bought an OPC at $C=17000$.

$\begin{array}{rcl}S_{A17}&=&D+(C+M-17000-D)\\&&+(C+M-17000-D)\times I\times T-0.5\times O\\&=&M+(M-D)IT-0.5O\end{array}$

Next, we consider the case that person $B0$ bought an OPC at $C=0$.

$\begin{array}{rcl}S_{B0}&=&D+(C+M-17000-D)\\&&+(C+M-17000-D)\times I\times T\\&&-0.5\times(O-17000)\\&=&(M-17000)+(M-17000-D)IT-0.5O+8500\\&=&M+(M-D)IT-0.5O-17000IT-8500\\S_{B0}&=&S_{A17}-(17000IT+8500)\end{array}$

Since both $I$ and $T$ are positive values, therefore $17000IT+8500>0$. Hence, we arrive at the following result.

$S_{B0}

In other words, all else equal, the actual amount spent by person $B0$ is lesser than that by person $A17$. In fact, the difference in amount spent takes the form of $17000IT+8500$. That is, the interest incurred by person $A17$ in borrowing the extra 17000 from the bank, and an additional 8500. This additional 8500 can be interpreted as person $A17$ spending 17000 more than person $B0$ on COE and recovering back 8500 more than person $B0$ (due to person $A17$ having higher OMV) at the end of 10 years.

It is interesting to note that this result is independent of the amount of downpayment, price of the car (without COE), and the OMV of the car. Also, the amount of extra money spent by person $A17$ is determined by the interest rate and the period of loan. At best, even if we assume both persons may have sufficient cash for full downpayment such that $D=C+M-17000$, then $I=T=0$, and person $A17$ is still worse off by 8500.

There you have it. It is more practical to buy an OPC when COE is low becos the actual amount spent is lesser. :)

-Dear1