Taiwan Trip (Sept 2017)

So the family came back from a week-long trip to Taiwan during the September school holidays. It was refreshing and I must say that I personally enjoyed the trip. We didn’t have a very full itinerary, preferring to have pockets of time for the kids and the adults to rest. After all, it was supposed to be a vacation in which the family could bond and rest before the start of another school term.

I have always loved Taiwan, having been there thrice. Over the past few years, we have also befriended Taiwanese friends and their hospitality, genuine love for friends and lovable personalities continue to impress me. I have also heard that Taiwan is a great place to bring the kids to have fun so the decision to have a holiday there as a family is an easy one.

I have penned down our memories of our trip on Dayre and won’t be updating much here (I don’t have the capacity to do that currently!). So here goes!

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We reached Taoyuan airport in the evening after an uneventful flight. Our adventure was about to begin! Read more here.

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Day 2 of our trip saw us spending time at Leofoo Resort. I love this place! So much to do and experience!

We spent the morning at Leofoo Resort where Faith had the opportunity to feed the lemurs; she loved it! We adjourned to our next destination – Flying Cow Ranch – after having lunch and stinky toufu (yay!). Read more here.

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Day 4. Departed from Flying Cow Ranch and started our mountainous ride up to CingJing.

I love this day and technically, you could just move on to another place by mid afternoon but we decided to stay in CingJing for another night. No rush. Just enjoy.

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This day saw us heading back to Taipei City. We spent some time at Sun Moon Lake and I must say the highlight was our short rest at Lavender Cottage. Everything here was just so kawaii. Recommended.

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This was us at Taipei 101. A family that travels together stays together (hehe). There is so much more to explore in Taiwan. The food’s awesome and the people are so hospitable. I truly love TW! Maybe we should make this destination a yearly one. ;p

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Family trip to WA (March 2017)

Our family came back from a week long trip to Western Australia (WA) during the one week school holidays and boy, was it fun and memorable. Okay, I have to be honest. Initially, I didn’t think the trip would work well. We have travellers spanning from 17 months old to 70 + years old and with such a diverse age group comes differing travellng styles and preferences. Thankfully, the family members are very accommodating which made the trip a pleasurable one.

We chose Western Australia because we thought it would be a nice place for families to rest and relax. It’s not too far from tropical Singapore and that means a shorter flight so if the toddler fusses, it would still be tolerable for all. WA has definitely much to offer, from the scenic view to farm stay to wonderful fresh crops for us to savour to wonderful shopping experience. How not to love it?

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This is our itinerary and this post is a summary of the trip, lest I procrastinate (again) and fail to record.

11 March | Day 0 | Flight to Perth

We boarded an afternoon flight and reached Perth around 6pm. The boy was fussy during the flight and he tired us out. Upon reaching the airport, we were told that the 12-seater van that we booked was damaged from the previous rental but they could offer us an 8-seater and we need not pay for the car seat, extra driver and we need not return the vehicle with a full tank of petrol. We took up the offer.

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By the time we reached our accommodation, the cousin and auntie-in-law who had arrived a few hours earlier, prepared dinner for us. Friends came back to pass us some food stuff to tide us for the evening and morning the next day. We just need to eat and sleep. 😉

12 March | Day 1 | Perth -> Bunbury -> Margaret River / Prevelly

We drove south to Margaret River and stopped by Lake Clifton Winery (none too interesting) and eventually had lunch at Bunbury Farmers Market. Goodness, I feel so happy just by looking at the fresh produce! After the lunch break, we continued our way to Prevelly where our accommodation was situated.

13 March | Day 2 | Margaret River Region

We started our day at Surfers Point, took some family pictures and headed towards Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. The girl didn’t really understand what a lighthouse is until that day. And oh, what a wonderful feeling that was as you stood at the site where the two oceans meet.

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We proceeded to Jewel Cave and was mesmerised by it. I would love to visit the Mammoth cave but I think it would be too much for the older folks to handle. Had Fish and Chips at Augusta before heading back to our accommodation. Since the weather turned for the better, we took the opportunity to take a walk at the Prevelly Beach.

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14 March | Day 3 | Margaret River Region > Farmstay

The family headed out to amaze’n maze for some fun and run. We purposely chose this place for the kids. There were many activities (both indoors and outdoors) for the family to enjoy! However, the weather was rather gloomy and it started to rain, thwarting our plan to have a morning of family fun. Thankfully, there were indoor games in the cafeteria which could occupy both adults and kids.

We proceeded to Berry Farm because we thought we could pick some fruits. Alas, I got the information wrong but I heard the tea (scones and jam) was good and we settled for lunch at the cafe. The kids had a bit of outdoor fun at this space too.

There are many wineries in the Margaret River region but our family was not too keen to visit any (we are not wine connoisseur). We ended up at Leeuwin Estate Winery because it’s on the way to our next destination – Sunflowers Animal Farm & Farmstay!

What can I say about this farm? Fun for all!

15 March | Day 4 | Morning at the farm > Busselton > Perth city

We spent the morning feeding the farm animals, having a pony ride and riding on the tractor. Will write more on this.

We had to check out of the farmstay at 10am and head back to Perth city today. On our way, we stopped by Busselton Jetty to take a break before heading back.

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Back to the city and it’s time to do the grocery and shopping at Chemist Warehouse. During this trip, we cooked quite a fair bit to save cost and why wouldn’t we, really? The produce is so fresh!

16 March | Day 5 | Swan Valley

It’s a packed day today as we headed towards Swan Valley. First stop was Caversham Wildlife Park which is a must-go if you have kids. We spent the whole morning interacting with kangaroos, wombat, koalas, etc and watched an hour-long farm animal show. Got to milk the cow too!

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After lunch, it was driving from place to place – Margaret River Chocolate Company, Providore for jam tasting, Yahava to have our caffeine fix, The Grape Place to bring back some to munch and then it’s basically back to grocery shopping. We were dead beat!

17 March | Day 6 | Fremantle | Crawley Edge Boatshed | Kings Park Botanical Gardens

Fremantle to take a tour at the market and to dine at the famous Fish & Chip restaurants at the Fishing Boat Harbour. We chose Cicerello’s because a friend recommended it.

We didn’t really make any plans for today. Free and easy, that’s the way we like it. Someone suggested Kings Park and on our way, we stopped by Crawley Edge Boatshed to take a picture with it. Tourists, that’s what we are!

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And oh, Kings Park & Botanical Garden! We should have scheduled a morning for it. It’s sooooo beautiful and because it was mid-afternoon by the time we reached there and with the folks being tired, we didn’t get to do the Tree Top Walk in the end. What a pity! We did spend some time relaxing at the lawn and I contributed to the economy by spending on picture books available at Aspects of Kings Park.

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18 March | Day 7 | Hiding at the malls, departure day

We had wanted to return to Kings Park in the morning. Alas, it rained and the next best thing to do is to seek shelter at the malls – Watertown Brand Outlet Centre and Belmont Forum Shopping Centre since it is near the airport.

It was a good trip although it could get tiring especially for the little boy and the older folks. Many times, the boy was extremely clingy and cranky but thankfully, we had the family members to help out. We are blessed to have good cooks (my aunt and cousin-in-law) in our midst so we could still enjoy homecooked food even though we were on vacation. 😉

So where’s next?

Been quiet these days…

We’ve been rather quiet on this space. That’s because we have been travelling during the one-week school hols. So many things have happened and life has been pretty busy and interesting.

We just came back from a week-long vacation in Perth, Western Australia and there are so many things to update. First, let me catch some winks. 😉

Melbourne | Puffing Billy

Melbourne Day 2 (Part 1)
Puffing Billy | Yarra Valley Chocolaterie | Costco Wholesale

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It was a slow morning. We woke up late and took our own sweet time to have our breakfast. Faith entertained herself with the box of Lego bricks in the living room of the host and subsequently offered to ‘look after’ the baby in the house. She missed her Papa and little brother and counted down to the day when she could meet them again (though we had barely arrived!).

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By the time we set off for Belgrave Station, it was past 11am and we reached the station at 12 noon. Drizzling, Faith and I bade goodbye to J and P and dashed off to the ticketing office to purchase the 12.30pm tickets to Emerald which is a 50-minutes ride (see timetable here). Since it was a weekday on a non-holiday, that means it’s quite likely that there would still be available tickets.

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We bought a one-way tix to Emerald since we would be meeting the other two ladies at that station. Once you have purchased the tix, do take time to capture some pictures for memories’ sake!

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As you can see, there are many tourists taking pics with the steam train. Photo bomb everywhere!

img_1127An obliging girl

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I got the very relunctant Faith to sit with her legs dangling on the side of the carriage and this is perhaps the only time that she did so because shortly after this shot was taken, she asked to get down.

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All getting ready for the ride!

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Mandatory mother-daughter shot

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You can read up the history of the train on the carriage. And with the advice of many travel guides and blogs such as this, we took our seats on the right side of the train.

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Off we went! Always be prepared to get your camera ready to take some awesome shots. Faith saw the smoke from a train for the first time and that look on her face was truly priceless.

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Fascinated by the temperate rainforest

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20 minutes into the ride, she was bored (sigh, young kids!) and asked to go to the toilet. I was exasperated no doubt but quickly remembered that I have got snacks in my bag. Seeing the biscuits, the little girl soon forgot about the urge to pee. So, pls remember to pack snacks in your bag at all times when you are on the go. ;p

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First stop – Menzies Creek – and we got down to take some pics (what else?). You could visit the toilet but the train only stops for 5 minutes and I reckoned we wouldn’t make it in time and abandoned the idea.

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We continued with our journey…

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We’ve reached! And like most enthusiastic tourists, I wanted to take pics of the train and asked the girl to pose in front of it. She, was NOT interested. Grrrr..

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Reached and we visited the toilet. We took our own sweet time, only to realise that the train master was waiting for us. How nice of him. When he realised we would not be continuing the journey, he just exclaimed a “Oh!” and moved on.

We met up with the ladies and checked into a cafe for our lunch before moving on to Yarra Valley Chocolaterie.

Melbourne | Chesterfield Farm

Melbourne 2016
1st day | Chesterfield Farm

Our flight was at 1.20am. Not a very ideal timing I must say. I was worried that the girl would be cranky with lack of sleep. Thankfully she slept a few hours before we headed to the airport and slept on the plane for a good few hours. As anticipated, she got bored along the way and I had to take out the Usborne sticker book and get her to work on it. The book is on airport and I chose it so that she could connect her experience with the task at hand.

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We cleared the custom at Melbourne airport rather quickly and by the time we settled some stuff, it was past noon. Chesterfield Farm was on my itinerary and we only realised that it closes at 3pm then. We wasted no time and Pauline, my host, sent me to the farm. This farm was recommended by Jenn and boy, was I glad that I chose to visit it.

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This is the sight that greeted us when we arrived and to be honest, I wasn’t impressed. However, once you go in through the cafe cum ticketing counter, you will realise that the farm is big!

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There is a list of things to do on the farm -tractor rides, shearing of sheep, milking of cow, feeding of the animals, etc – and one could devote a few hours visiting it. There are specific timings of course so it would be good to read up a little on its website. Faith and I had only one hour in the farm but we were really thrilled by the farm animals.

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Cows

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Camel!!!

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Goats

The girl was truly fascinated by the kangaroo. The mom too!

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This space is truly big, quite different from Collingwood Children’s Farm and it has a bigger range of farm animals, much to our delight. Because we had only one hour before the farm closed for the day, we had to literally race through the various sections. We didn’t even purchase any feed for the animals; I thought it would be a good experience for the kiddo. I think one could possibly spend a good 2 to 3 hours on the farm.

It was a wonderful experience for both of us and we love the close encounter that we could have with the animals. Worth a visit!

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Faith has often read about farm animals and that day, the animals came alive and you should have seen her excitement and fascination with them.

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We had a wonderful mother-and-daughter bonding time too as we talked about the farm animals and taking turns to take pictures of them. It pays to bring along a good camera to capture all those beautiful memories and I’m glad to be equipped with Canon’s EOS M10 during this trip.

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Next stop, Puffing Billy & the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie!

Back from Melbourne

It was an impulsive act.

It happened about two months ago.

I was sleep-deprived because the boy woke up every hour and sometimes, every half an hour during the night for feed. Caffeine was my best friend and I dreaded evenings. By 6pm, both the kids would show symptoms of tiredness, especially the boy, and gave me a hard time. I couldn’t cook in peace and there would often be tension at the dinner table.

And I found myself screaming at them (the girl) more often.

I didn’t want to be a mad mom.

And I toyed with the idea of buying a pair of air tickets for Faith and me so that we could spend some much needed mother-daughter bonding time. The proposal got approved very quickly by the CFO in the family and I was very blessed to be invited by a friend to stay with her (she has close friends who are residents in the country). I just needed to buy the air tickets. And I need not worry too much about accommodation and research of the place.

So I bought the tickets and then realised … I was still breastfeeding Dan.

The past one month saw us getting Dan adjusted to formula milk and changing his sleep arrangement. It went fabulously smooth and things got so much better. He could sleep and eat better and both Da man and I could get some decent sleep. Since everything was turning out well, I shouldn’t be leaving him behind right?

Guilt set in. What a horrible mom I am. I had wanted to give up on the trip but friends told me to make good of the decision we have made and to spend some quality time with the girl.

And we did.

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Faith and I came back from Melbourne yesterday evening.
It happened to be our wedding anniversary and there is no better gift than to be with my family.

Blessed.

Faith and I had a fabulous time in Melbourne; the trip far exceeded my expectations.

I couldn’t thank Jenn and the host enough. They made the trip a very pleasant one indeed.

Will be recording some of the trip’s highlights soon.

Melbourne museum

I know this post is way too late. It’s been more than a year since we came back from Melbourne but I thought I had better record these wonderful memories on my electronic diary lest it be gone forever.

That morning, we had a slow breakfast at Queen Victoria Market before strolling to get onto the tram to get to the museum. Before that, we stopped in our tracks to have some workout and fun at the playground. This is one thing (of a lot of many others) that I appreciate about Melbourne – wide open space for playground.

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I didn’t expect Faith to be interested in visiting museums. She was, after all, just 19 months then but we still went ahead since we have heard good stuff about the museum.

And we were stuck in the Children’s Gallery for more than an hour. It wasn’t a big space and there weren’t a lot of exhibits but there are certainly interesting stuff that engaged the toddler.

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The area leading up to the Children’s Gallery has quite a few activities for children to work on such as puzzles, colouring paper, puppet show, blocks of different civilisations and books to read.

20140610_102644Just outside the area are some activities to engage the children physically. Look at these gigantic Lego rubber pieces!

Play is a way of learning…

20140610_110843Let’s enter the Children’s Gallery!

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One could learn much about nature here!

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To me, the exhibits are well designed and get the children to use their senses in exploring them. I guess if Faith was older then, we might have to be stuck in there for more than an hour.

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Faith has shown keen interest in building blocks at a very young age but then again, this applies to a lot of children eh?

20140610_105855One of the many quotes that I love…

20140610_124054The little girl finally fell asleep after I strapped her in the carrier and it’s time for the adults to view the other exhibits. We spent a good time at the other levels and eventually rested at the cafe.

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The food was nothing to boast about but we were glad to have a rest after all that walking.

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Oh, how I love the fall season.

20140610_134112On our way back, the hubs and I were just strolling with Faith following us behind. As we turned around, she was running towards us and then fell into the big pile of fallen leaves.

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Oops!

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But she got amazed by them and continued to play. This picture reminds me to allow her to explore and not restrict her no matter how dirty she might end up. ;p But I think the story will end up differently if there are lots of ants underneath the leaves.

To-pack list for travelling with a toddler

What would you pack if you are going on a trip WITH a 2YO toddler?

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Apart from the essentials like clothing, diapers (not toilet-trained yet!) and the like, there are some other stuff that I would specially pack for a trip. Those are items to {hopefully} engage a toddler who might get bored on a trip.

1. Storybooks

IMG_20141206_091203 One of the activities that Faith likes is reading and some routines should still remain no matter where we go. For every trip, we will bring along a few books and here’s one which I personally like. It’s a Bible storybook with puzzles for each story. Faith is still very much into puzzles and apart from reading, she can busy herself with fixing these puzzles.

2. Puzzles

IMG_20141206_095113These puzzles can get the little one to stay focused for a good while. Since she is learning about transportation at the moment, I brought along these few pieces which I borrowed from fellow mummies.

3. Busy bag

IMG_20141206_095510This is my busy bag which is always able to engage the little one for a slightly longer period of time. There are quite a few items in this bag even though it remains light and compact with all its contents.

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:: Stickers and sticker books which Faith loves and she could spend a great amount of time with them.

:: Colour pencils which she could use for the Christmas Joys activity book.

:: Balloons when she’s absolutely bored. So we could inflate one for her and play some games with it.

:: Paper clips which she could use to connect each one of them, something which she’s still trying to figure out.

:: Clothes pegs to practise her pincers grip (and she’s still frustrated by them)

:: Coloured shapes which she could use to make vehicles! Good for reinforcing colours and shapes.

:: Sponge animals in capsules, random stuff which I bought from Daiso.

4. Snacks

IMG_20141206_101420Who doesn’t love snacks? These stay in my carry-on bag because I need to give Faith something to chew when the plane ascends or descends. I have repacked them into smaller quantity because if you know the little girl, she could finish one big pack in a very short amount of time. I always get nervous when the plane is taxiing on the runway. Sometimes, the plane has to wait for an awfully long time (when the air traffic is heavy) before it’s able to take off and that’s when I have to dish out another bag for Faith since she would already have finished the previous bag.

I sealed the bags with tapes so that Faith could practise her grip when she’s removing them. The plastic bag seal clip is good as a tool to engage her too. 😉

5. Random toys

IMG_20141206_171447I don’t know when this happened but recently, Faith would want to hold some toys in her hands whenever we go out. So I thought these puppets, toy bus and animals would entertain her a bit. Good for pretend play too!

There you have it. These are my 5 main items to pack when travelling with a toddler. What’s yours?

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Melbourne : Royal Botanic Gardens

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Life has been so busy lately with playdates, baking and family outings that I couldn’t catch up with reminiscing the days in Melbourne through blog posts. I resolve to do that today!

The Royal Botanic Gardens is founded in 1846 and comprises 38 hectares of garden beds, lakes and lawns. A relaxing walk through the gardens can be rather uplifting to the soul especially with the cool weather in Melbourne. If you are into botany, you would be excited to know that the gardens is home to 52000 individual plants representing more than 10000 species from around the world.

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The hubs and I had a good time chatting as we strolled with Faith. The little one was running all over the place and her excitement was evident as she spotted some unique birds and their chirping. The Terrace, a cafe overlooking the Ornamental Lake to Government House, was our pit stop for the much needed caffeine fix.

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To be honest, the main reason for visiting the gardens is for Faith to explore the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden. When you travel with kid(s), it’s not all about the adults anymore, is it? ;p

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The Children’s Garden is good for kids of all ages and they get to discover the various plants at the kitchen garden and explore the vegetation of the rainforest ruin.

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I must say I find it delightful to explore the Children’s Garden but that’s just me. I know that as compared to the farm, Faith was more interested in animals than the plants but we did have a good walk around it.

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And you bet we made use of those moments to teach Faith about the fruits and vegetables found in this small garden. We don’t have the luxury of space to grow our own fruits or vegetables, so this is an opportunity not to be missed.

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We spent about an hour in this Children’s Garden, taking the time to explore and having Faith play at the water features. Generally it was fun and educational though I think older kids would enjoy it more. I didn’t dare to have Faith play with the soil; I don’t think she liked to do that too. We stopped by The Gardens Shop and purchased a book and some toys for the little one.

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Besides The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden, there are also the Dinosaur gardens, educational programmes that are offered throughout the year from kindergarten to tertiary level and a checklist of 50 things to do at the Royal Botanic Gardens that one can get from the Visitor Centre. I have a copy of it and let’s just see if we can adapt some of them at our own Botanic Gardens! 😉

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Aww…writing this post makes me miss Melbourne and the lovely weather in June.

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😉

Melbourne : Philip Island day tour

Friends whom I have asked to recommend places to visit in Melbourne will definitely point me to Philip Island to watch the Penguin Parade. We put it down on our to-visit list and book a day tour when we were in Melbourne. Yup, that’s how we travel – very last minute, I know.

We booked the tour via this tour operator and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We had a mini bus to ourselves with about 20 people on board. We were picked up from our hotel and they also sent us back to our accommodation. I like such a service!

We travelled through the Gippsland region directly to Phillip Island and made our first stop at the Rhyll Trout & Bush Tucker Farm where we had our lunch and enjoyed a guided bush tucker tour.

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Then we meet the koalas at the Koala Conservation Centre. There were not a lot of koalas though but we were still ecstatic when we spotted those few. One bad thing about joining a tour group is that one might not be able to spend sufficient time in one attraction spot since the itinerary can be tight. I would very much love to read more about this marsupial via the gallery but we had to move on!

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Can you spot the koala?

To the delightful Phillip Island Winery where Faith had an awesome time chasing the older kids (she invited herself to the group) and the adults had a few sips of the wine.

Lovely green!

Lovely green!

Waiting for the wine sipping session!

Waiting for the wine sipping session!

Mother and daughter

Mother and daughter

We also made a stop at Point Grant and The Nobbies where we enjoyed views over Westernport Bay and Bass Strait, including Seal Rocks, home to Australia’s largest population of fur seals. It’s very windy here so we were clad in our down jackets.

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Lastly, it’s to the main attraction where we got up close to enjoy the Penguin Parade. It’s an amazing feeling, I assure you! We paid a little more to be on the viewing gallery that brings us closer to the penguins but it’s worth it. They came ashore at around 5.45pm that day and the parade lasted for about an hour. Faith slept through the first part because she was too tired from the tour but when she woke up, she was jumping with pure joy! Bliss!

We can’t take pics of the penguins but these count too?

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It was a long day indeed and we basically K.O. once we reached our hotel. But we really enjoyed this day tour. We missed the chocolate factory though so if you are going to do this on your own, visit on our behalf?

😉

Thursday Travels is a weekly column featuring sights and experiences from my wanderlust adventures, including staycations. These sweet memories need to be stored sand shared. 

Melbourne : Collingwood Children’s Farm

One of the goals for our recent Melbourne trip is to visit farms. There are a few that we have shortlisted – Bundoora, Collingwood and Laurimar Glen farmstay. In the end, we settled for Collingwood Children’s Farm and we are glad that we did so!

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Collingwood Children’s Farm is an attraction spot that one has to visit if you are travelling with kids. It’s a taste of the country in the city and is accessible via the train (the farm is only 4km away from the city!)

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After alighting from the Collingwood station, the hubs used the GPS which led us to the farm after about a 20 minutes’ walk along the trail of the Yarra River. The farm is nestled in a bend of the the river, amongst the river red gum and paperbark trees and it was really delightful to be greeted by cyclists, runners and sheep (!) as we made our way to the farm.

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By the time we reached our destination,  our stomachs called out for food. Thankfully, there’s the Farm Cafe which serves really decent and healthy food. I had Green Eggs which is made of Broccoli and almond pesto, spinach, quinoa, herbs, poached eggs, parsley aioli and crispy
fried onions. The hubs had the Farmer’s Breakfast which is a sizable portion and no doubt delicious. We ordered the babyccino (made up of froth with chocolate powder on top) for Faith but she obviously didn’t want to even taste it! Grrrr!

Love these dishes and this experience has inspired me to make hearty breakfast when I get back home!

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It’s crowded that day and we had to wait for about 20 minutes for our meals and caffeine fix. Since we were not in any rush, it’s a great time to chill and people-watch and have fun with the kiddo! The farm seems like a hit with families with young children and the place is stroller-friendly too!

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You can get up close and personal with the typical farmyard animals and there are pony rides, tractor rides and cuddling of the guinea pigs, just to name a few activities. Every second Saturday of the month, the farm organises a farmer’s market selling fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables, free range meat, ice-cream, honey, just to name a few. Aren’t you excited already? We didn’t get to enjoy it since we went on the first Saturday. ;(

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We spent some awesome few hours on the farm and the little one was intrigued by the farm animals.

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Near to the farm is The Abbotsford Convent where you will find more choices for food and drinks. There is also a garden nearby if you intend to have a picnic.

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And guess what we did when we returned to the hotel at the end of the day? Debrief Faith on the animals that she had seen on the farm! This is an educational trip no less! Hah!

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😉

Melbourne: Things to do (for family)

Hi there! Our family just came back from cool Melbourne and I thought it would be useful to pen down some of the places we went and those that were recommended by friends who have been there.

It was the beginning of Winter in Melbourne (June) and we packed in warm clothing like down jackets (for Philip island), boots, and lots of heat tech tops from Uniqlo since we are often advised to layer and I don’t want myself to look like a penguin after all those layers. My Ugg boots still survived after these few years of being kept in the storeroom since we came back from Boston. Talk about quality! I regretted not bringing the stroller; this place is stroller-friendly! Nonetheless, we had an awesome time in Melbourne!

In planning the places to visit, we take into account the distance and whether our little bug would enjoy. We couldn’t cover as many places as I would love to but oh well…

1. Queen Victoria Market

How could you not visit this lovely market when you are in Melbourne? This is in fact our first stop upon arriving in Melbourne. After dropping our luggage at the hotel (too early to check in anyway), we walked to the market to have a cup of latte and a bratwurst from The Bratwurst Shop as recommended by friends. Yummy, I say! And I’m so jealous that the locals could enjoy such fresh produce! Just looking at the colouful fruits and veggies makes me happy! >> Spend a whole morning touring this large market and enjoy the many foods available! Note the opening hours.

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2. Visit a farm!

We visited the Collingwood Children’s Farm which is located within the city. Part of my goal for this trip is to get Faith to be close to the nature and the farmyard animals since she has often been reading about them at home. This one is great fun! Do take a break at the farm cafe as it provides healthy delicious food! Spend half a day here.

3img1402280408657. Philip island

You have to take a day trip out to Philip island because it is really worth visiting the penguins! The hubs and I booked a last minute day tour from this tour operator and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We travelled through the Gippsland region directly to Phillip Island and made our first stop at the Rhyll Trout & Bush Tucker Farm where we enjoyed a guided bush tucker tour and had our lunch. Then we meet the koalas at the Koala Conservation Centre before we proceeded to the delightful Phillip Island Winery. We also made a stop at Point Grant and The Nobbies where we enjoyed views over Westernport Bay and Bass Strait, including Seal Rocks, home to Australia’s largest population of fur seals. Lastly, it’s to the main attraction where we got up close to enjoy the Penguin Parade. It’s an amazing feeling, I assure you!

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4. Melbourne museum

This museum has stuff to cater to all age groups. We spent almost the whole day there, slowly savouring every bit of information that is on display. There is a children’s gallery for young kids and our little girl was just so entertained by every station. We had to drag her out of the gallery just so that we could continue with the rest of the exhibits. It’s truly a world-class museum, IMOH.

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5. Great Ocean Road

One has to visit the Great Ocean Road when in Melbourne, no? We took a one day tour for this but was told it would be easier and more relaxing if we could spend a night at one of the towns. Take it easy and enjoy the magnificent sight. It was a tad too packed an itinerary for us and we found ourselves fighting fatigue and couldn’t really enjoy the grandeur of the rock formation along the coastline.

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6. Royal Botanic Gardens

We love to get close to the nature and we have heard that this large garden is very well-kept. Even if we are not serious botanists, we found ourselves enjoying the slow walk among the fauna flora. A plus point is that there is a children’s garden too. Continue the walk through Alexandra Gardens and Queen Victoria Gardens and you will reach Federation Square in the end.

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7. City tour via the free city circle tram (route 35)

Melbourne is known for the maze of laneways that wind through the city. Start the day with a coffee at one of the many cafes hidden in Degraves Street and Flinders Lane. (Here is a list of lingo for ordering your favourite caffeine fix). Head to Bourke Street and Collins Street for the shopping and if you miss some Chinese food, there’s always the Chinatown! The Eureka Skydeck 88 is recommended if you want to overlook the entire city. We never made it there though. ;(

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8. St Kilda Beach 

I know it’s winter and it’s probably not the best time for a walk along the beach. But since we put up at a place near the area, we thought we should just head to the beach. I think it would be a worthwhile visit in summer.

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The days are short in winter with the sun setting around 5.30pm. We couldn’t do much then except to visit some of our friends. There are so many attractions that we have missed out like the Melbourne zoo and aquarium, Fitzroy, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula which are recommended by friends. Of course, there are tons of other things to do in Melbourne but we just didn’t have enough time. We did have a very relaxing time and we are just contented that we have visited the above, considering the fact that we had a very young kid with us.

I will be blogging more in detail about some of the places that we have visited, just for memories’ sake. Those pictures need to be stored somewhere, ya?

Hong Kong | Hei Wan Dim Sum Specialist 喜運

Dim Sum is the quintessential meal experience of the Hong Kongers and is it any surprising that when we were in the city state, we had this on our priority list?

This time round, we wanted to go for a Dim Sum place in the neighbourhood and by that I mean not having it in some upmarket restaurants. The previous time when we were here, we tried Jade Garden which was fabulous. So my friend had a few Dim Sum places in mind and they are all in Tsim Sha Tsui area but unfortunately, when we reached the actual sites, there were no eateries to be found. Talk about changes! We travelled on, in search of more Dim Sum places. Thankfully, 喜運 still exists!

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To order, we just have to tick against the boxes of items on the menu sheet. Easy? Nah, not at all! The food items are all in Chinese characters and I have long given back my knowledge of them to my teachers. Thankfully, we have some proficient Chinese/ Cantonese folks in our midst and we left this important task to them. We just had to pay and eat!

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There are some basic Dim Sum dishes we will always order like (from top left in clockwise direction) Char Siew buns, Siew Mai, Fan Cheong and braised spare ribs.

It’s always a good idea to have Dim Sum with a group of friends because in that way, you can try more items and you are assured that they will all be consumed. Just imagine if it were only the hubs, Faith and I. We definitely couldn’t finish those delicious food!

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We had quite a quick flow of food since they got gobbled up by everyone at the table and we had to order more. Fried carrot cake, har gow (shrimp dumplings), Lotus leaf rice, etc…

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You can imagine how stuffed all of us were at the end of the meal. The best part is the bill didn’t come up to be hefty. After we split the cost among ourselves, we just need to pay S$10 per person. That’s really afforable!

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Can you blame us if we were all smiles?

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Faith definitely enjoyed the meal and had a good time ‘disturbing’ the elderly folks at the next table.

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喜運, Hei Wan Dim Sum Specialist
G/F, 65 Portland Street, Yau Ma Tei

Thursday Travels is a weekly column featuring sights and experiences from my wanderlust adventures, including staycations. These sweet memories need to be stored sand shared. 

Hong Kong | L’hotel elan

Thursday Travels is a weekly column featuring sights and experiences from my wanderlust adventures, including staycations. These sweet memories need to be stored sand shared. 

Our recent stay in Hong Kong is at L’ hotel elan located in Kwun Tong, the new business hub and this is the fourth hotel of the L’hotel Group. 

Location-wise, this is not the most central. Thankfully, this hotel provides shuttle services which brings us to the sister hotel – Lodgewood – located in Mongkok.  By public transport like the MTR, it takes about 30 minutes.

Our stay has been most pleasant and I love the care taken by the service staff even before we stepped foot into the hotel on the first day. We were ushered into the hotel after we alighted form the shuttle bus (we took it from Kowloon station) and our luggage was taken care of by the very friendly concierge.

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I love it that this hotel provides all the basic toiletries that we need, right down to dental floss! Very few hotels provide that nowadays and dare I say, toothpaste and toothbrush too! I love the complimentary drinks that they have for their guests – UCC coffee powder – I like! And not forgetting bottles of coke, Pocari, beer, mineral water …

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L’hotel has a small gym and a small lap pool that is just outside the check-in counter (@34th floor). This is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the hotel because not every one is so courageous to swim in front of arriving guests and service staff. However, since it has been raining every day during our stay (bummer!), we didn’t get to use the pool.

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We didn’t get to use the gym either but we helped ourselves to the fruits and snacks available at the lounge. Nice!

Initially, I thought that it would be difficult to get some decent food around the vicinity of this hotel since it is located in the industrial area but how wrong I was!

There is the Tsui Wah restaurant within 5 minutes of walking and we find ourselves having most of our meals there. I mean, the food is decently priced and delicious. Faith loves the fishballs and buns from that place and I, everything (except for their coffee)! According to my friend, one has to try their toasted buns drizzled with condensed milk. It’s real yummy!

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There is also a local restaurant which serves char siew rice and roasted goose, just to name a few. We went in, upon the recommendation from my friend and were surprised to receive big portions of the food. The Char Siew is really good and meaty! If you want to experience a local coffeeshop, this may be it!

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There are also big shopping malls just one or two MTR stations away. Every evening after I came back from the seminar, we would visit these malls since it was raining and had our fill. Got to have Ramen @ Ippudo. How nice!

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All in all, this is a great hotel and I like it that the room is tidied and cleaned everyday, just like when we first stepped in. If not for its location, I would give it a 8.5 out of 10 rating, 10 being excellent. 😉

Where to, next?

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Borrowing some winter clothing for the lil one. Guess where we will be heading to?

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And a beautiful picture of my CGL’s wife and the lil one. Sweet moments.

Hong Kong Trip Day #4 + personal reflections

What do you guys normally do on the last day of your trip? So you have a few more hours before boarding the flight home, do you still do a lot of exploring or like us, shop till you drop?

I find that it has always been the case that the last day of the trip is to do some last-minute shopping. After all, we are to pack our luggage and by the last day, we know how much space we have left!

JH and I went to buy Wife Biscuits because our family members requested for them and we only go for this brand – HENG XIANG (HANG HEUNG). They are freshly baked and you would have to carry them on board. Yours truly did the unthinkable and packed the boxes of biscuits in the suitcase (my hands were full!) and well, you could imagine the crumbs.

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We checked in our luggage via the airport express before having lunch at Festive Walk shopping mall (Kowloon Tong MTR). JH highly recommended this restaurant – King’s Palace Congee & Noodle Bar that serves the best (according to her) Barbecued Pork with rice and we absolutely had to try it. I tell you, it is indeed delicious! The BBQ pork is tender and flavourful! We ordered some other stuff and they were all found in our stomach rather quickly. 

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We still had a few more hours to burn before we had to check in at the airport in the evening. We had wanted to have our tea at agnès b. but it was far too early for that @ 1pm. So we went over to PageOne cafe to have our caffeine fix. In the end, we didn’t have the chance to dine at agnès b. but I bought two cakes to share with my travelling companions. And what do you expect? I bake so I need to taste other cakes for research purposes. ;p Lovely cakes, I must say!

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I’m going back to HK again soon and I definitely will check into more restaurants and cafes at Festive Walk. I think I have better do some workout first before I put on weight!

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Our return flight is a bigger airbus and I must say it was comfortable travelling in it. As usual, we go the first row seat so that Faith could have some space to move about. She even had a kid’s meal which I find could be a tad healthier. ;p But that’s just me.

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Oh! By the way, the gate for SQ at the HK airport has an indoor play area for young kids. Awesome, isn’t it?

Till we meet again, HK!
Very soon!

What I’ve learnt from the trip (for reference):

1. There is no need to pack so many pieces of clothes for Faith (for fear that she would poo or get dirty often) because majority of the shopping is for her.

2. Will consider NOT bringing stroller the next time if we are not doing any trail or hiking. A carrier will do better. There are no escalators at some MTRs and it would be horrid to squeeze with the crowd along with a young kid and stroller. Get a good carrier instead!

3. If travelling in a group, can consider taking a cab and splitting the cost (it’s quite affordable). But travel during off-peak hours.

4. Late night flight is not good for Faith.

5. Bring sachets of instant coffee powder along as their local coffee is not to my liking.

6. Only introduce Faith’s favourite biscuits when the plane is about to take off, NOT while the plane is taxiing.

7. Watch the time and note when the plane is going to do the first descent (usually a few minutes after the pilot announced) as Faith could not deal with the air pressure well. Have to wake her up if she is napping and give her some food or water.

8. Wet wipes. Wet wipes. Wet wipes are very useful!

9. Don’t speak in Mandarin if possible. English is better if you don’t want to be mistaken as the mainland Chinese. The treatment is different, so I’ve heard (No offense to the Chinese; I love you).

10. Some eateries do not have (many) high chairs to go around so train the kiddo to sit on the adult chair.

Reflections:20140418_071214

Throughout the trip, Faith had been very cooperative and is a joy to travel with. I wonder whether that’s due to a new environment and she was constantly being engaged and thus less cranky. It could also be because I wasn’t on any schedule and was more at ease and thus could enjoy her more. It’s time to reflect. Have I been too busy for her that I could not enjoy her (at times) back home?

Related post(s):
– Travelling with a toddler: The packing list
– Hong Kong Trip Day #1
– Hong Kong Trip Day #2
– Hong Kong Trip Day #3

Hong Kong Trip Day #3

After a tired day yesterday, we took it easy and started the day a wee late and proceeded for breakfast at the local’s coffeeshop called 茶餐厅. The one that JH wanted to bring us was not open so we decided any other one would do. I have to point out to you that throughout the trip, it is JH who decided on the places to eat and she ordered for us because her Cantonese is the most fluent; she sounded like a local.
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The above are some of the common ones found at the 茶餐厅. Simple food though I feel they can be healthier. Hah. The coffee and tea aren’t like those back home. It feels almost like drinking carnation milk. :p No offence but really…

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 Our itinerary for today was to take a ferry to 长洲 (Chang Zhou island), one of the islands in HK. We were expecting sunny beaches, delicious seafood and some cafes for us to bum around. We could use the octopus card to take the ferry which is really awesome. No hassle in purchasing extra tickets. No queuing!

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On the way, we came across this joint. I so wanted to purchase a cup of coffee since I didn’t feel that I had my caffeine fix in the morning but well, we did have to run for the ferry, in a way, so I had to give it a miss. The ferry ride took us about slightly more than hour, in total. Thankfully the waters wasn’t too choppy.

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When we disembarked, we had a shock. The place was full of people! Who would have thought? It was a workday, after all. Hello!!! The sun was really harsh that day but explore, we did!

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Apart from the crowd, it’s quite fun exploring 长洲. You won’t get to see swanky buildings or upmarket shopping malls. It’s a village life here. Slow, simple and relaxing. Since I didn’t bring the stroller along (thankfully, I didn’t due to the crowd), I put Faith in the carrier which she was okay with it (she didn’t need to walk!).

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 We stopped by a B&B to have our caffeine fix. This is one place that had the coffee machine so we thought the coffee shouldn’t be anything bad. I had the latte but there’s not latte art on my cup. 😦 长洲 is one place that does not provide changing area for young children in their toilets and I realised that bringing along diaper pants would work better in this case. So the next time, it’s diaper pants I’m using on Faith!
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One of the many reasons why people visit 长洲 is to enjoy the beach. Sadly, we forgot to get dressed for this and in the end, just sat around to enjoy the sea breeze.

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It wasn’t long before we turn back to where the seafood restaurants were located. When you visit 长洲, this is one thing you have to do. The seafood is fresh and affordable! As we were on our way to the restaurant, we saw troupes of lion dance and we later realised from the locals that they were celebrating some Chinese festival (something to the effect of warding off evil). One group was doing their dance in front of our eyes as we consumed our seafood. Faith was apparently not affected but was entertained by the whole thing, the noise and all.

For the past few days, Faith had the opportunity to use various modes of public transportation and some being her first attempt – bus and MTR. #firstworldproblem. She was obviously intrigued by them so I guess this trip did her some good in terms of such exposure.

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On our way back, we decided to pack roast goose (my first time) home for dinner. But oh, what a lot of oil! I don’t think my stomach would allow more of them though!

Zzzzzzz…..

Related post(s):
– Travelling with a toddler: The packing list
– Hong Kong Trip Day #1
Hong Kong Trip Day #2

Hong Kong Day #2

This trip must have been the most stress-free one that I have ever had. Gone were the days when I woke up early to hit the streets. Now, I wake up early too but that’s because Faith decides to start the day early. My friends were still sound asleep when we woke up and we had our breakfast albeit quietly in the living room as JH roamed in lala land. To pass the time, Faith and I read or played with stickers until my friends woke up. I realised I actually enjoyed doing these things with her. Bliss!

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We set off, eventually, at around 10am to Shanghai Street (just a street down to where we were staying) where you can purchase baking stuff! Oh my goodness! I was so tempted to buy but knowing that we would be out the whole day, decided to control my excitement and noted mentally to go back.

It’s time for Dim Sum and JH suggested that we took a cab to Grand Century Place for our brunch. According to her, Jade Garden serves good food at affordable prices. When we reached the restaurant, there was already a queue but thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long before we get a table. 

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Shop 603, 6/F, Grand Century Place, 193 Prince Edward Road, Mong Kok 
旺角太子道西193號新世紀廣場6樓603號舖

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According to my two friends who are both Cantonese, the quality of a few Dim Sum items will determine if the restaurant serves good food. They are (to name a few): Steamed Chicken Feet, Barbequed Pork Bun, Shrimp 20140416_105402-1Dumplings, Pork and Shrimp Dumplings, Pork Spareribs in Black Bean Sauce, Rice Noodle Rolls, etc. They ordered those dishes and I must say we enjoyed the food tremendously. Faith was sound asleep throughout and I could have some peace, savouring these yummy food. It’s not uncommon to see folks spending a lot time having Dim Sum. For example, this couple next to our table had already been there for an hour and they were still there, reading newspaper and subsequently order two bowls of rice with one dish. They must have been spending both breakfast and lunch at the same place! For us, thanks to Faith, we spent about one and a half hours at the Dim Sum place to savour just a few items. Not bad!

After filling our stomach, the next best thing to do in HK is to SHOP! It’s to Uniqlo we went. This outlet at Grand Century Place is the biggest and you can imagine my joy! The greatest beneficiary is Faith since the collection was so much more than the ones back home. 80% of the stuff that I put in the shopping basket were hers.

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Faith was all excited too and wanted to come out of the stroller and roamed. It could get tiring since she couldn’t walk for a long period and needed to be carried. In the end, I had to strap her. Hiking in urban jungle! I must say I spend the most at Uniqlo. Ahem…

We had wanted to do some heritage trail for this trip and we decided on the Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail, one of the six trails that HK offers. It is a good breather from the hustle and bustle of city life and grant us the opportunity to explore Hong Kong’s rural cultural heritage through monuments and buildings including walled villages, ancestral halls, study halls, shrines and temples.

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Thank God we brought along the stroller. I cannot imagine taking the trail with Faith in the carrier. And more importantly, the stroller survived the uneven terrain.

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Faith had some time at the playground! Who would have expected this place to have a play area for kids. Why, of course, there are still people residing here.

We spent a good few hours doing the trail. It wasn’t anything spectacular, to be honest. But it is a good getaway if you just don’t want to meet with crowded streets. We were tired after the trail. We have, after all, been out for a long time and by the time we reached our apartment, it was time for dinner. We ate at the small eatery next to our building, selling claypot porridge and cooked food. And I was introduced to the affluent prawns for the first time (not sure if this is actually the name). I realised too that some eateries in HK do not provide high chair or if they have, they have limited sets. So what they do is to stack chairs up and then Faith will sit on the improvised high chair. Thankfully, she sat through without much fidgeting. I think she knows the impending danger should she do that. ;p

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I’m not sure where we got the energy but we proceeded to shop along Temple Street after dinner. I brought along the stroller which was a HUGE mistake. It was really crowded and Faith was getting cranky since it was near to her bedtime and insisted to be carried. I had no carrier with me and had to carry her. Oh my poor back! Lesson learnt: bring carrier when going out in the evening.

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Australia Dairy Company 澳洲牛奶公司
47-49 Parkes Street, Jordan, Hong Kong
Tel: 2730-1356

We stopped by the Australia Dairy Company for our supper. According to JH, this place serves better steamed egg pudding than 义顺牛奶 and she recommended this place. We had the egg pudding but I’m not a fan of such a dessert. Perhaps, the next time I visit HK again, I’ll try the many other stuff on the menu. Heard that their scrambled eggs are good!

We finally reached home around 10 + pm with loads of shopping bags. We contributed to the economy by purchasing beauty products from Sasa. Hah! If only we could have a spa treatment then.

Related post(s):
– Travelling with a toddler: The packing list
– Hong Kong Trip Day #1

Hong Kong Day #1

We had an early flight to catch and had to be at the airport at 5.30am for our check-in. Getting the little one up wasn’t too difficult a task and we soon saw ourselves at the airport. To be honest, I was a little anxious. Will Faith cry throughout the flight? Will I be able to handle her? What if… 

I guess it would not help much if I was to continue to allow fear to grip me and decided that I should just trust that all would be well. JH had helped to book front row seats for us on the plane and that translated to more leg room and space for the little one to roam. I mean, how do you expect a toddler to stay in a seat throughout a flight?

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We brought the stroller along just in case we would be walking distance. It’s not those super lightweight ones but still light enough to travel with.

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We took Singapore Airlines because it was a rather last-minute purchase and it would amount to almost the same pricing if we went for the budget airlines. For comfort’s sake, we decided to pay a little more.

2014-04-15 12.11.56-MOTIONFaith was all right during the flight except for the fact that she cried for a good few minutes during the take off. I made the mistake of giving her favourite biscuits while the plane was still taxiing. She almost finished the whole packet and I had to stop her from consuming during the take off. She must have experienced air pressure and cried in her discomfort. Unfortunately, she rejected both water and milk and only wanted her biscuits which in the end I relented and gave her. That appeased her. 😉

After an uneventful flight, we reached HK! The girl was visibly tired and I had to strap her in the carrier. she fell asleep almost immediately which was good for us as we gathered our luggage and proceeded to Kowloon Station via the Airport Express Train which took a mere 25 minutes or so. From there, we took a cab to our apartment along Temple Street. Surprisingly, it was not expensive to travel around in a cab!

Our apartment is 5 minutes away from the MTR and there were many eateries and shops that we could frequent. Sha and I were too tired to roam around and JH kindly offered to buy lunch for us. They were delicious and seemed like comfort food to us – Wanton noodles, Char Siew buns, beef brisket noodles, etc.

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Supreme Beef Brisket Soup
Shop C, Wing Shing Bldg, 30-40 Temple St,
Yau Ma Tei, 
2771 2681.

We took to the streets after a rest. It was to Ladies Market and it was a near walk from our apartment. I used the stroller and within minutes, Faith slept like a log. I guess she was too tired. It wasn’t all that easy to use the stroller in crowded Hong Kong. In fact, there were only fewer than ten strollers that I saw along the way. Most of the time, carriers were used by parents with young kids.

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My last trip to HK was almost ten years ago and the streets don’t seem to have changed much. How is that possible?

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One of the things that I aimed to do is to taste these local food especially the smelly toufu! It’s extremely tasty in cold weather, me thinks! With the chilli sauce, they are just heavenly. Of course, we only had the toufu since we would be meeting a friend for dinner. Better save some space for that!

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Cravings satisfied! And Faith stayed soundly asleep in the sea of crowd. Bliss for us all!

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So we had hot pot for dinner. Absolutely delightful and I forgot to take down the name and address of the restaurant.

Related post(s):
Travelling with a toddler: The packing list

Travelling with a toddler : The packing list

I must have been out of my mind when I agreed to my friend’s suggestion of going for a holiday with the kid in tow. It’s crazy 20140405_145004because the hubs will not be going with me though I’m travelling with two close friends who are experienced with kids. The best arrangement is to have someone look after her while I have my break but we can’t find suitable and reliable childcare so she has to tag along! So technically, it’s a work trip for me!

I have been backpacking through all my leisure travels but this time round, I think I had better not be so ‘gungho’ (adventurous). The hubs bought me a suitcase so that it will be a tad easier for me to travel. Travelling with a little one can be challenging especially when she still cannot articulate her thoughts but I intend to give it a try!

We decided to go to somewhere near and which we are familiar with. So it’s Hong Kong for our dim sum, shopping and hiking!

Here’s my packing list for a 4D3N trip to this Asian country. It’s really more for Faith than me since I can easily buy should I lack anything.

Diapers. Bringing extra won’t hurt!

Wet wipes. At least one big pack and the rest can be bought.

– Blanket(s). I use Aden Anais’ muslin swaddle as blanket, changing pad and Faith’s comfort item.

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– Plastic bags. Carry a variety of sizes for storing soiled diapers, clothes, and shoes.

– Small bottles of disinfecting hand gel and toiletries

– Toys and books. I definitely won’t be bringing a lot since my only main concern is to get Faith entertained during the flight journey. This jigsaw book is one I would definitely bring on board!

– Clothes, socks, and shoes. Thankfully, the weather is rather similar to ours and what’s good is that it is cooler. I would just need to bring along some cardigans or we can layer as we go along!

Handkerchiefs as bibs. Faith is drooling lots at times so these will help a lot.

– Portable ‘chair‘. I use the sack and seat especially when the eatery does not provide high chair.

First aid kit. This is ultra important when travelling with a young kid – Baby paracetamol / ibuprofen, digital thermometer, vicks, etc.

Stroller. I know HK isn’t the best place to travel with a stroller but I’m not sure if I can carry her all the way. A light-weight one such as the Combi’s QuicKids is ideal. It’s only 4kg. I can manage that!

Carrier. What can I do without it? I travel everywhere with the carrier and I just adore Boba’s fuss-free carrier! We will be doing some hiking and this will definitely come in useful!

Here’s a peek at the interior of the suitcase.

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And here’s what I bring on board the plane (I’m a kiasu mama):

– 3 diapers (I know Faith will poo)
– wet wipes (saviour)
– Storybook20140414_223158
– 1 jigsaw puzzle
– stickers
– Faith’s favourite bars and biscuits
– water bottle
– milk powder
– camera
– passports
– Faith’s Care Bear
– wallet
– plastic bags

Let’s just see if I have overpacked in the end. Stay tuned!

Night scene in SG

I never knew the night scene in downtown Singapore is so alluring. Had the opportunity to have a most scrumptious Thai dinner and followed by a cruise along the Singapore River. Lovely. If you have the chance to visit this little red dot, do make it a point to go for this activity. S$20 for a 40-minute ride. Not a bad deal. 😉

Dinner at Tom Yum Kungfu. Delish! Think I'm gonna miss this group of wonderful and talented people once this week is over.

Dinner at Tom Yum Kungfu. Delish! Think I’m gonna miss this group of wonderful and talented people once this week is over.

The back alley of the shophouses

The back alley of the shophouses

Night scene. Can you see the flyer?

Night scene. Can you see the flyer?

Skyscrapers

Skyscrapers

Linking up with

Weekend trip to Legoland

Our family travelled up to Legoland over the weekend with our cell group from church. As we wanted to travel up together as a convoy, we departed at 4pm and reached our hotel, Hotel Granada, JB, at around 7pm via the second link. We thought the hotel is well-located, with a fast-food restaurant just outside the building and Aeon JUSCO Shopping Arcade within walking distance.

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Faith warming up the JT and S at the hotel lobby.

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IMG_9022After resting for a while, we proceeded to our dinner place which was recommended by one of our cell members. We ordered quite a number of dishes and in the end, each adult only pays about S$10! Wow!

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The following day, before proceeding to Legoland, we hopped over to the mall to satisfy our shopping desire. We only had about 2 1/2 hours to do so and to have our lunch as well. Since it is impossible to have A & W back home, we went for this fast-food joint naturally. However, I must say, the standard has dropped and the portion, shrunk.

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Need my caffeine fix!

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It was drizzling when we reached the theme park. Thankfully, we brought umbrellas. However, even if you didn’t bring, you can loan from them!

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554b6bc3-cdad-4255-97e4-efd8e3beb1ddwallpaper

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Watching the 4D show

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We did not take the rides this time round but we are definitely coming back again with our family and I’m sure it will be loads of fun then!

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Accident scene

Accident scene

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Love travelling in groups and driving up with these folks is all fun and laughter! Shall we have more?

IMG_2718The Christmas season is sure marching in furiously!

A dozen things to do in Penang

How do you plan a trip to Penang that could accommodate and satisfy a family of six which comprises an infant and folks in their 70s? We did it the slow and relaxing way – sightseeing via a van. Here is a summary of the recent family trip to the Pearl of the Orient.

#1. Book a hotel along Gurney Drive: You will not go hungry because there are numerous stalls along this road and the most popular one has to be Anjung Gurney. Here, you will find local delicacies like Assam Laksa, rojak, Char Kway Teow, etc. However, we find that the dishes are overpriced. Still, it makes for a good experience. Bring along a mini-fan.

IMG_0874 IMG_0899If you are like me and my aunt-in-law who love to buy Tambun Biskut (local biscuits), purchase them at their authorised boutiques or risk paying more. 

IMG_1362On the other end of Gurney Drive, opposite Northam hotel is a beach cafe that faces the sea. There are stalls selling local food and is less crowded. Personally, I prefer this to the previous one which is overrated, in my opinion.

Aside from the food, this road is made popular by having the best view of the sunset. Just outside the Georgetown City, Gurney Drive faces the sea of Penang and having a hotel room facing this view can provide a truly relaxing experience. Now that we are travelling as a family, I’ll make sure the hotel has ample facilities that we can enjoy in the event that we have to stay in due to bad weather or when the elderly folks are tired. For me, a spa and a good pool are good enough.

Relaxing pool

Relaxing pool

#2. Mural art in Georgetown. Ok, I must be honest with you. I’m in Penang in search for the mural art by Ernest Zacharevic. We had it easy. Our tour guide cum driver took us to the various sites where the artwork can be found. My sister-in-law and I went crazy over them and sprang out of the van the moment we arrived at each spot. You see, there were many tourists who wanted to take a picture with the painting as well so you’ve got to act fast. Sadly, the colour of these paintings have faded and some are barely visible.

Boy on a bike

Boy on a bike

The following would be some museums/attractions that we chose to go for and they are all in Georgetown. The best way to explore this UNESCO world cultural heritage city is by foot.

#3. Khoo Kongsi. Completed around 1906, the temple belongs to the Khoo Kongsi clan. The temple features fine Chinese architecture and craftsmanship. Be wowed by it.

Khoo Kongsi Temple

Khoo Kongsi Temple

#4. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. This is the famed ‘Blue Mansion’, former home of tycoon Cheong Fatt Tze. Guided tours are at specific timing and it is an hour long. There are 16 B &B rooms but they are not cheap.

Front view of the mansion

Front view of the mansion

One of the rooms was open for us to view and here they are – a basic room with shower facilities.

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Interior of one of the rooms

Interior of one of the rooms

www.cheongfatttzemansion.com

#5. The house of Yeap Chor Ee. This house was turned into a social history gallery tracing the journey of Yeap Chor Ee, a young immigrant who came to Penang in 1885. Nothing spectacular though I was more intrigued by the restaurant found at the back of the house – Sire Museum Restaurant. If you dine here, you could visit the gallery for free.

Entrance to House of Yeap Chor Ee

Entrance to House of Yeap Chor Ee

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Kitchen of Sire Museum Restaurant

Kitchen of Sire Museum Restaurant

#6. Pinang Peranakan Mansion. A must-go if you want to know more about Peranakan culture. It houses a good number of Nyonya antiques and collectibles, showcasing the Peranakans’ opulent lifestyle as well as their customs and traditions.

Pinang Peranakan Museum

Pinang Peranakan Museum

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#7. Chew jetty. This is one of the clan jetties around and you’ve guessed it, we chose this because one of the mural art pieces is found here but it is nearly beyond recognition.

Welcome note to Chew Jetty

Welcome note to Chew Jetty

Children in a boat

Children in a boat

Open kitchen

Open kitchen

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#8. Crossing Penang bridge and riding on Malaysia’s oldest ferry service. Penang Bridge is Asia’s longest bridge and it offers a spectacular view of Penang. This bridge is the pride and joy of Penang and a national landmark. Our van took us across the bridge and we came back via the ferry.

Ferry ride

Ferry ride

#9. View from the top of Penang Hill. We went up to the top through the Penang Hill Railway though you can climb up the hill. This is a funicular railway that will bring passengers all the way up to Flagstaff Hill.

Breathtaking view from the hilltop

Breathtaking view from the hilltop

#10. Culinary experience. I’ll be honest. One of the reasons I visit Penang is for the food. I love street stalls and local food and our guide recommended some good places for us to try their local food. Here’s some:

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Nyonya Baba Cuisine
44, Nagore Road, 10050 Penang. 
My peranakan in-laws endorse their food. Try their otak, spring roll and nutmeg drink. Actually, all other food is sedap (delicious)!

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Best Cendol in town! You could also order laksa and rojak here.

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How can I not go for Dim Sum? Our guide brought us here.

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If you want malay food, try Line Clear. Tables are along the alley.

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Hakka cuisine at Ke Ren Lai along Gurney Drive

Char Kway Teow stall

Char Kway Teow stall

One of the street stalls

One of the street stalls

#11. Learn more about spice from the Tropical Spice Garden. If I was to go back to Penang, I would spend more time in this garden and enrol myself in the cooking class. There is a lot of information that could be gathered just by walking through the garden and if you have a guide, that’s even better. However, be warned that there are mozzies! Lots of them! There is also a restaurant that serves Thai-Asian-local cuisine if you are tired and just want to chill. Lastly, never leave home without buying the vanilla pod! They are relatively cheaper here. I bought some. 🙂

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Spices galore! How can you resist them?

Spices galore! How can you resist them?

#12. Tembun, anyone? We bought a lot of souvenirs in the form of food items back. As I have mentioned earlier, go to the authorised stores. There, you can taste the products and you can be certain they are the real stuff.

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The popular ones are Ghee Hiang and Him Heang

So, these are the 12 things we did in Penang. We did not have sufficient time for high tea at 1885, E&O hotel (what a disappointment) and if you want to go for it, do make a call for reservation!

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We booked a van and the tour guide cum driver and this made our trip so much easier. Less walking which is good for the elderly folks. However, Georgetown should really be done on foot.

If you love beaches, spend a day at Batu Ferringhi. It reminds me of Kuta Beach area, Bali.

There you have it – our 4D 3N trip to Penang.

More pictures can be found on my FB page.

Weekend getaway #1

A long awaited break. Batam because we wanted to try bringing Faith out on a trip and to see how she takes to it. She was amazingly cooperative! She was quiet the whole trip, being secured in her carrier, until the last part when we returned on the ferry. Little Faith must have been scared by the loud engine sound. But other than that, it’s a smooth trip for us. Thank God! More to come?

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The boba carrier is my #1 companion. Faith likes to be in it and as a result, I too, can be rather mobile.

IMG_2733One of the stops – at the chocolate store. And the highlight remains to be the massage! S$20 for a full javanese massage. Where can you find that deal in SG? And thankfully, Faith was cooperative. She was lying beside me, entertaining herself, while I got my massage done.

IMG_2734After a day of sightseeing which the hubs and I would rather not have, we finally reached our hotel at 6pm. It was located about 40 minutes from the city centre, a haven for the golfers.

IMG_2737I never like to order food from the hotel. They are, in my opinion and experience, pricey and not too delicious. Or perhaps the hotels that I visited were of low standard? Since we checked in late and we would always lose out if we were to go for buffet, we just ordered in. And the food disappointed me again! Hah! This hotel does not provide baby cot too and Faith had to share our bed.  I suspect she loved this idea judging from the wide smile she gave as she turned to look at me while we were turning in.

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Our hill view. Scene from our balcony.

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We were the first guest to be coming down for breakfast. Not that we are ‘kiasu’ but we are just early risers! Nice view while having our brekky. Time stood still for a while.

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I thought this is a nice place to take some wedding pics.

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After breakfast, we checked out the swimming pool and decided that the water was too dirty for Faith and discarded the idea of swimming in it. Poor Faith. We had thought she could enjoy herself in the water for this trip but it was not to be so. Even our room does not have the bath tub. Sigh. While she rested, the hubs and I did our BS materials and had a short discussion on it. Nice.

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A short getaway is what we I need and I hope there’s more to come! Time to plan for the next one! I promise it would be more relaxing. =p

Bumming in Philly

Contrary to what many have commented about Philadelphia, I thought it a relatively safe and interesting place. In fact, I prefer Philly to D.C. Maybe it’s because it has a good mix of historic areas and buildings and the modern alike. At the same time, there are green spaces for one to rest. And technically you can roam the main city in one day, if you just stop and go at every attraction. It’s definitely possible to walk. Just be prepared to have aching feet at the end of the day. Go for reflexology!

We first arrived at the busy 30th St Station in the late afternoon and found our way to our accommodation at Poplar St, passing by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was huge and of course, not forgetting the big crowd of fans surrounding the Rocky statue.

Our accommodation was a far cry from what we had in D.C. No complaints either since this was cheaper. From our lodging at Poplar St, we took a bus all the way to Penn’s Landing at the Historic Area and Old City for $2/pax. There are many sites and they would take you a few hours to go through them.

There was a long queue for one to take a peek at the Liberty Bell. Do you think Ken and I joined the line?

The Reading Terminal market is a great place to go because …food can be found there! Food, glorious, food! It was buzzing with activities when we reached the place at lunch hour and the lines at the Amish stalls were rather long. We went for the sausage sandwich @ $4.50 and tried their fudge @ $3 per piece.

Off we went to Chinatown and I got myself a Lau Po Bing, very similar to the ones in Hong Kong! Yum!

The following morning was spent at Fairmount Park, reportedly the world’s largest landscaped park. There were boating activities at the Boathouse Row and as we sat there, watching the people in their various activities, I wonder if our weekends back home would be as leisurely as these. I hope to, and resolve to.

Ok. That ends our brief Philly trip. Goodbye!

My fav travel companion

In my years of travelling, I seldom have a constant travel companion. Each trip was with a different friend/ group of people and I experienced different personalities each time. Thankfully, I had more fond memories than bad ones.

Then came this lovable man who is super easy-going and has few(no) demands, making travelling so much more enjoyable. Best is, he could also plan very well.

Looking forward to more years with you, dude!

DC Sight seeing III

Some highlights:

The night at Dee’s place was so comfortable I didn’t want to go out. In the morning, was greeted by this.

Nice gesture from the host even though she doesn’t have to and technically you might say that these could be included in what we paid for the nights at the loft. But this is the first time we received such hospitality from the other hosts whom we had encountered.

Our first stop was Union Station which is worth visiting. It’s about 102 years old!


As we stepped out to proceed to the next location, a Korean guy standing near the fountain, sang:

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand…”

It reminded me, at that instance, that while news around the world may seem gloomy and fear the hell out of you, in Christ there is hope and peace. Just what we need at the moment. =)

Next stop: Capitol Hill.

Next Botanic Garden.

  

Hungry. Lunchtime. It’s off to the National Museum of American Indian. The cafe is recommended for the various American Indian’s cuisine and the hubs and I chose a platter from the Northwest Coast (whatever that means) in the end. Nice but not cheap =(

After the fill, we went to the Smithsonian Castle and eventually to the popular Natural History Museum. Remember this creature from the film, Night at the Museum?

This is spotted at one of the exhibitions – Race. Guess what is the average household income according to race? Which race has the highest? Whites and then followed by the Asians (very close behind).

A trip cannot do without a middle-eastern meal. =)

=)

The very next day, we headed out to U-street to do the Black History Walk starting from the African American Civil War Memorial to All Souls Unitarian Church. It isn’t much a lively place until evening when nightlife is an attraction in itself. We stopped by the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl for a Chili sausage hotdog. =)