15 Best Off the Beaten Track Adventures so Far

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Hello and Happy Father’s Day to all of the great Dad’s out there, including the special Dad in our house, Steve. I hope everyone has had an amazing day.

Boat Quay and Clark Quay

A morning aquarium adventure down Boat Quay and Clark Quay

It’s the school holidays for most parents right now, and while that fills some parents with joy, knowing how to keep the rascals entertained can be quite grueling.

Haw Par Villa

Haw Par Villa

Before I share my top quirky picks from our blog so far, I wanted to share this amazing blog by fellow Singapore blogger “Cheekiemonkies.” They’ve written “More than 50 Activities to Maximise your Children’s June School Holidays 2014” and I must say, it’s a very inspiring list of activities. Nice job. You really don’t need to go any further than this list for ideas, and I wanted to thank my friend Wendy McEwan for pushing this one out. Great find.

One note, if your kids are not in a Singapore school, try and wait until July to do the popular venues. I believe the Singapore kids head back at the beginning of July, so that should ensure quieter days at the big attractions. However, for some of the off the beaten track stuff, do make sure they are open. Once the local schools head back, much of the entertainment will only be on the weekends.

Little India

Little India

So to add my suggestions for the coming weeks and months, I went back through our blog for our top 15 Off the Beaten track blogs – which includes some obvious kids’ activities and some a little more ‘out there.’ For example, I’ve got two Singapore temple blogs because I just think these places are fabulous and love taking the kids there. If you’re curious like me, take a look because you are very welcome to visit.

Pasir Ris Kids Kampong

Pasir Ris Kids Kampong

My top 15

  1. #2 Sengkang Swimming Complex and Sengkang Floating Wetland
  2. #8 The Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery and Polo Club
  3. #13 Boat and Clarke Quay Morning Adventure
  4. #25 Jurong Lake Park and Chinese Gardens
  5. #30 Haw Par Villa
  6. #31 Little India – an Urban Adventure
  7. #37 Pasir Ris Kids Kampong to 112 Katong
  8. #39 Pasir Ris Beach Park – Singapore’s Biggest Outdoor Playground?
  9. #47 – A Brunch and Quirky Farmart
  10. #49 Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery & Republic Singapore Air Force Museum (RSAF)
  11. #50 Kranji Farms
  12. #51 Bottletree Park and Orchard Bowls Yishun
  13. #53 Japanese Gardens and Kids Amaze
  14. #58 Arab Street and Tampines 1 Water Playground
  15. #60 Longkang Fishing and Sembawang Beach
Farmart fish

Farmart

If you’re staying in Singapore for the holidays, you shouldn’t have a day of boredom with Cheekiemonkies 50, as well as some of my more obscure adventures.

Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery

Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery magnificent doors

Good luck and enjoy. Do let me know if anything captures your imagination, or if there is any other great recommendations for all of us?

Cheers

Andrea

Bambajan – Sustainable Music for Families and Schools

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My friends, I wanted to share a really remarkable moment for two of my great friends Duncan and Lee Ann McKee. Nine years ago, they launched STIX, Motivation Through Music. I was present at their very first corporate gig, and it was an amazing experience. Nearly 100 people, coming together, playing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” with nothing more than a couple of plastic tubes. It was a special moment for everyone in the room.

Lee Ann and Duncan in Action

Roll the clock forward nearly a decade and STIX has been a great success, but they’re not the kind of people to be idle, so they’ve been busy creating something else. For the last two years, they’ve focused on moving this skill beyond business, because they believe everyone can play music – young or old. But it’s not just about the music for Lee Ann and Duncan, they also have a strong desire to make a meaningful contribution in the world – both socially and environmentally. And that’s where Bambajam comes in.

Duncan and Lee Ann created Bambajam so we can all experience the joy of playing music together. Many people miss out on music in their younger years, so being able to play later in life often feels like an impossible dream. Well it isn’t.

Duncan has worked hard to create a musical notation system anyone can learn to read (see below – very colorful for the kids), and the Bambajam instrument can be played as separate tubes or with a small group of people sitting around the instrument together as a xylophone. This means everyone in a school CAN have an instrument to play. Can you see it in impoverished schools? I can.

Bambajam

I was lucky to grow up in a family devoted to music, but many do not have the opportunity. However, learning music isn’t just about exploring a new skill. All research in this area indicates that kids who have creative outlets – especially music – perform better across the board. In Asia, with academic success such a high priority, this is a key strength for Bambajam. Not to mention, the kids will be happier!

A wonderful part of this story is its sustainability message. The Bambajam tubes (or xylophone) has been handcrafted and sourced from renewable bamboo in partnership with the East Bali Poverty Project. Lee Ann and Duncan are absolutely committed to ensuring the instrument is sustainable and ethical as well. As such, the East Bali Poverty Project are sourcing the bamboo and you can read more about this great organization here. Bamboo reforestation is critical for both sustainable social and economic development in this community. Therefore, by supporting Bambajam, you really can make a difference.

How can you help? In the last week, Lee Ann and Duncan have launched an Indegogo crowd funding program and I urge you to check it out, make a donation, plant a bamboo, or better yet, buy the instrument. I think our order is already in, right Steve? Additionally:

  1. If you know someone in education, tell them about Bambajam. For a small investment, a classroom can play a symphony
  2. If you are a parent, buy one of these beautiful instruments, even if you’ve never played music yourself. You’ll be amazed how quickly you are playing a symphony with your family, or maybe some jazz, or a nursery rhyme – there’s lots of music to choose from
  3. Or just make a small donation to help them out or pay a small fee to plant some bamboo and help the wonderful people living in the mountains of Bali

Bambajam

There are lots of ways you can participate – check out the right hand side of the Webpage here for ideas. I’m just thrilled to see two great people making such a beautiful impact on the community they live in, as well as sharing a new way for all of us to learn music. But we’ve got to help them out because….

  • Bambajam is the real deal
  • It’s created by two people with a wonderful, meaningful dream who are now delivering this to the world
  • It’s a business built from passion and it can change the world
  • It’s giving jobs to people who need them
  • It’s making a positive environmental contribution
  • It can get everyone playing music, no matter the skills or experience
  • But most importantly, it’s a business built from the heart. That alone is worth supporting

Who’s going to join me and give two social entrepreneurs a leg up on their awesome business? Thanks in advance if you decide to help them out.

Cheers

Andrea

#74 Nirwana Gardens, Bintan

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Over the recent holidays, we did a couple of accessible-to-Singapore adventures. One I wrote about recently – Malacca in Malaysia – a place we all loved. We also did another adventure to Nirwana Gardens on Bintan. What did I think? Well within less than 24 hours of arriving, we agreed to reduce our stay by a night and get the hell home. However, we did stay four nights in total, coming to appreciate that it does have a lot to offer our youngsters. But Bintan really ain’t my cup of tea. I’ve always felt you can’t build soul – they keep trying though.

Nirwana Gardens, Bintan

On the beach

Nirwana Gardens, BintanSo I’m not a big fan, but sometimes you need somewhere close by with beaches and lots of outdoor stuff for the kids. It has that, and even though the beaches are by no means pristine – think jelly fish and clumps of oil – it definitely kept the boys happy for a few days. Kids are much less judgmental than their parents it seems.

Nirwana Gardens, Bintan

This cocky spoke Bahasa

As far as the positive goes, it definitely represents good value. Some of the hotels on Bintan are definitely not cheap, but Nirwana Gardens prices it’s cheaper rooms around the $200 mark, so that’s not expensive for a family needing two rooms. The staff were also lovely. Every night, they made a special little animal out of towels for the boys, and they couldn’t do enough for us. They were definitely attentive and loving towards the kids.

Nirwana Gardens, BintanNirwana Gardens also has a small zoo on site out the back of the resort. It’s not much, but it’s surprising what they have – snakes, crocodiles, birds of prey, and more – the boys were absolutely thrilled with this. There is also the elephant show nearby (which was quaint), a shooting and archery range (which we all enjoyed, but do note, the bulls eye in the photo is mine thank you very much!) and an indoor area with a bowling alley, food court and more. With the elephant show, I recommend giving the guys a decent tip, because they’ll really go to town letting the kids feed the elephants and happily pose for photos as well.

Concluding the positives: Bintan is quick and easy to get to, but a good tip for anyone planning a trip – buy first class tickets. It’s not much more expensive, but you’re first to get off and that means less time lining up at Indonesian immigration on the other side. With small kids, it makes a difference.

Nirwana Gardens, Bintan

The Mahout was really awesome with the boys

Nirwana Gardens, Bintan

Please note, I was the only one to get a bulls eye

Moving onto the not so good. We booked late and got one of the older style rooms that haven’t been upgraded yet. The beds were absolutely pathetic, which meant Steve and I spent the trip feeling crippled from sleeping in them. These rooms also have no balconies, so one of the things we love doing on holidays – sitting on the balcony, talking while the boys sleep – wasn’t possible. We always feel like we haven’t spent any time together when we have no balconies in the evening – it’s really important to us. If you enjoy balcony time as well, book a suite with a balcony. Unfortunately we couldn’t change rooms because it was holiday season, but we definitely know better for next time.

Nirwana Gardens, Bintan

Good pizza at last!

The food was also terrible at Nirwana Gardens. While we did find some great little restaurants in the other resorts eventually, the first 24 hours were very disappointing. The boys are at the pizza-only-when-we-go-out-for-dinner-age, and it was horrible. So do explore beyond Nirwana Gardens quickly to find a decent feed. The breakfast buffet was the usual stampede and definitely low down on the quality scale. It’s obviously a Muslim country, so turkey bacon is the norm, but all up it was just pretty bad – sweet bread, UHT milk in the coffee, horrible cereal, etc…. There is a lot of Asian food, so if that’s your cup of tea you might not think it’s so bad, but I wouldn’t know. I just knew it wasn’t my ideal breakfast.

Nirwana Gardens, Bintan

Our de-oiling exercise

Some other observations. We had a pretty bad run of oil on the beach and the only thing you can do is rub sand on your skin to get it off. It never comes off clothes though. There was also a lot of jelly fish action – so keep an eye out, because you wouldn’t want to swim in the ocean at this time. The dead jellies on the beach did provide a bonus – it kept the boys entertained for hours circling them so no one stepped on them. There’s always an upside.

Nirwana Gardens, BintanI also found the life guards overly-exuberant. Seriously, if you’re going to build rocks around the edge of a pool, you’ve got to expect active boys to both climb and jump off them. We heard a lot of whistles going off and our boys were usually the center of that attention. We always monitor our boys to make sure they’re safe and respecting other people’s space, so this did get annoying.

Nirwana Gardens, BintanWould we go again? When we need to escape and get a bit of sand and sea, why not. But we’d book the higher class rooms and make sure it had a balcony. We’d also aim for different restaurants immediately upon arrival. Personally, I’d rather get on a plane and go to Phuket, but when we always plan so late, that’s not always do-able. Perhaps we should be more organized? There’s an idea.

Nirwana Gardens, Bintan

The elephant could count

What do you think of Nirwana Gardens? Or if you could recommend a great place on Bintan or Batam, what would it be?

Cheers

Andrea

The Rock School, Bedok

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When Lex was 10 months old he started climbing. This new Mum was rather freaked out seeing such a mini-man with such HUGE aspirations, but as the determination could not be dulled, I decided to take a different approach – stand back and be in a position to catch him. Roll the clock forward more than six years, and our little man has the most incredible climbing skills, including phenomenal balance and great judgment. It was the right decision to let him express himself this way, but equally, it’s why we always live in a ground floor apartment…

The Rock SchoolThe Rock School SingaporeAs such, we’ve been meaning to get Lex into rock climbing for years. We’ve talked about it and talked about it and talked about it, so finally, we agreed to give it a crack. We did some research and found The Rock School at the Bedok Community Centre.

What caught our attention was “A, B,…C’s for Climbing.” This is a two-hour fun climb, which is basically an introduction to climbing with instructors, and overall, I think they did a pretty good job. It was a lot of fun, the kids certainly enjoyed it, and the parents are welcome to stay – although don’t forget to bring a book or a tablet. Two hours watching someone else have fun can get a bit long. You can find a detailed timetable here for the classes they run.

The Rock School SingaporeDetails:

  1. The introductory climb is $30/child for the two-hour session, which I thought was great value. However, you must pay in advance. I figure they’ve had a lot of no-shows along the way, because there is no compromise on this
  2. The Rock School is located in the Bedok Community Centre (850 New Upper Changi Road) and it’s not hard to find. There are public transport details on the Website for those without a car
  3. Dress seems to be something comfortable, including running shoes. If the kids get into it, I’m sure you’ll soon be forking out for a funky pair of climbing shoes. Do take water as well, they get hot

The Rock School SingaporeFocused on kids 4-14, The Rock School is the perfect venue to see if your kids have a passion for this great sport. Also if you’re keen, there’s a parent/child class you can do – but I don’t think I’ll be doing that – climbing was never my thing.

The Rock School SingaporeLex loved it, but it’s just that little bit too far if we go on a regular basis. I will get him enrolled in a weekly class, but it must be somewhere closer to where we live, because kids’ sport and hobbies need to be good for the whole family right? We can’t manage this one comfortably. A shame, because it’s a great little center for kids.

Hope you’ve had a great weekend and if you can recommend anywhere else for great climbing, or had an experience at The Rock School, I’d love to hear it?

Cheers

Andrea

#73 Adventure Cove Water Park, Sentosa

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Adventure Cove Water Park, Sentosa Before we left Singapore for our 18 month dalliance in Thailand, Perth, Brisbane and Noosa – the last major project I worked on was Resorts World, Sentosa. Not surprisingly for Singapore, this huge place was up and running in no time at all – it still amazes me. We have spent time on Sentosa during its various stages of evolution – including Universal Studios and the Aquarium – which you can read about in previous blogs.

Anyway, Andrea decided to take our eldest son Lex to Australia for her Dad’s 70th birthday recently, so to ensure Jax didn’t feel left out, we headed for a staycation at the Rasa Sentosa on Siloso Beach. We did lots of stuff together, but having never checked out Adventure Cove, despite various friends recommending it, we decided it was the perfect time to see it for ourselves.

Adventure Cove Water Park, SentosaFor the two of us to get in we forked out $72 and I have to admit, that once inside it’s a little unclear what you’re supposed to do next! Naturally, there is the obligatory sign illustrating a huge list of do’s and don’ts, which is confusing, so we looked around and found a changing room facility near the main entrance where we got into bathing suits and sunscreened up. The trouble is – as we found out later – it’s quite a way from the main activity area, so if you need money, water, etc it’s a hike back to your gear. Therefore, my first recommendation is this – use the locker facilities located centrally opposite the wave pool (Bluewater Bay). Additionally, beside most of the rides and attractions there are racks where you can store your towels, etc.

Adventure Cove Water Park, SentosaBy the time we got changed and geared up, we were so hot we needed to cool down, so we grabbed inflatable rings and had a lazy float down Adventure River, which is great for all ages. It winds around the park with waterfalls and rock features, also taking you past the dolphins and stingrays – which is cool. The only slightly weird thing is there is a lifeguard posted just about every 5 metres who seem to have been trained to be unfriendly, whistle-happy and bored out of their brains. That said, Jax got a real kick out of this activity and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Adventure Cove Water Park, SentosaNext up Jax was desperate to snorkel at Rainbow Reef, but when we got there, the line was horrendous. So we circled back to guest services by the entrance and got “Express Passes” (another $40 for the two of us) which are good for one ride each BUT only on two attractions; namely the snorkelling lagoon (Rainbow Reef) and the Riptide Rocket. However, the snorkelling was great and a good way to introduce kids to this. My only challenge was finding a buoyancy aide that fit…

Adventure Cove Water Park, SentosaAfter Rainbow Reef we went on the Riptide Rocket, which is touted as a “hydro-magnetic coaster”. I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone, so I’ll just say if you do nothing else, make sure you do this. The good thing is it does have quite a low height limit for kids (unlike other rides, which I’ll talk about later) as long as they are accompanied by an adult. This was totally bizarre to me, because it scared the absolute crap out of me as an adult.

Adventure Cove Water Park, SentosaWe also bobbed around in the Bluewater Bay wave pool, which was really, really crowded. For anyone thinking about visiting, the loungers around the wave pool would make a logical place to base yourself, as it’s quite central, and there are a series of wooden Sala’s around the edge, which were available for rent. We didn’t take up this option, so no idea how much it costs.

Adventure Cove Water Park, SentosaFrom here we had quite a frustrating time being turned away from several rides because Jax was half a millimetre below the height limit – this annoyed me. The reason it got my back up is it was stated in all the literature that height restrictions do apply to some rides, but it seemed everyone was different. There were also various charts around the place which added to the confusion. The truth is, at six, while perhaps a little taller than many six year old’s in Asia, Jax is big enough for these rides, so this can be challenging for parents with 5-7 year old keen on an adventure. I hope you don’t experience the same disappointment.

Adventure Cove Water Park, SentosaFeeling sorry for the little guy, we decided to investigate feeding the stingrays at Ray Bay. To do this you have to hike back to the entrance to book a fixed time slots, each one of which seemed to have a maximum of six people per session. The number limit is actually quite good, although you do have a crowd watching you, which isn’t. I know Andrea wouldn’t do it.

Adventure Cove Water Park, SentosaAt Ray Bay we handed over another $80 for the two of us and obviously this was only after Jax’s height had been checked (I’m not joking). Feeding the rays was good fun, apart from the fact the rays get a bit pushy which freaked out Jax. I’ve since been to Adventure Cove with Lex (our eldest) and he was totally enthralled by the experience, still talking about it this this day. For Jax, the highlight was being able to see the baby hammerhead sharks which are being bred in the same area – but obviously a closed off section.

Adventure Cove Water Park, SentosaHaving not arrived at Adventure Cove until past 1pm, we stayed to closing time, and caught the bonus of walking onto a number of rides towards the end of the day with no lines.

Up closing time, we were also faced with running the gauntlet through the gift shop to exit and I must warn you – all the photographers who snap you, then snap your numbered wrist band are lurking here, waiting to pounce. Given Jax was missing his mum and brother I did actually succumb and got a couple of photos. My “deal” comprised one large print, one medium size print (both in a folder) and I got all the photos that had been snapped of us throughout the day burnt on a CD for $75. Bargain huh?

Adventure Cove Water Park, SentosaIn summary, if your kids are happy in the water, it’s a cool place to go. I would imagine for parents of non-swimmers it would be a bit challenging, but there are life jackets everywhere and every 3rd person seems to be a lifeguard (with obligatory sunglasses and surly attitude) so please let that put you off.

Adventure Cove Water Park, SentosaThe only other thing to mention would be cost – as you can see, we dropped $250 in an afternoon and I did feel slightly miffed by this considering the great value other attractions (such as the Singapore Zoo and Jurong Bird Park) offer by comparison. Then again, Resort World, in general, does seem to be in the business of gouging you for every cent; which I get, given it’s a world class tourist destination.

Finally, it’s hot – and I mean really REALLY hot – so lots of sunscreen, hats and protection for the kids.

Stuck for ideas to spend a day and money isn’t an option, take a trip and tell us what you think?

Cheers
Steve

#72 Malacca – an Adventure

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Hi everyone, hope you’re weekend is going great. A slightly different blog this week as Steve and I agreed we needed to add a new section – a weekend get-away section. We’ve been doing some cool and not-so-cool trips in recent months, and figured the 2-3-hour-til-you-get-there-variety-adventure is equally worthy for inclusion on our Singapore kids adventure blog – we hope you agree and that you suggest great adventures too! To get this started, I must write about one of my favorite cities in the world – Malacca.

MalaccaPlease note: there are four spellings for Malacca. Melacca, Malacca, Melaka and Malaka. I decided to go for Malacca because some of the biggest Websites spell it this way, but all are right, I believe. Therefore, it’s your choice.

MalaccaAnyway, my first visit to this great city goes back more than 10 years when Steve and I enjoyed our very first Christmas together there in 2003. It immediately captured my heart. Back then, it was a city with the greatest potential, and when I went back in 2006, I could see that potential coming to life. However, it was our most recent trip (2014) that I really experienced a jaw-dropping WOW. Becoming a UNESCO world-heritage city in 2008 (I believe), money is obviously pouring into this city to ensure it has a place on the world-wide heritage map.

MalaccaHowever, with growth comes change and there is opposition from the locals – who are facing higher rents, contending with big corporations coming in, etc… I really REALLY hope this heritage status doesn’t change what makes this city so very special – its artistic heritage, beautiful architecture, abundance of antiques, maritime history, colonial heritage, etc… So far it seems to be hanging onto its old ways, but please, local and National Government, be wise enough to understand what makes Malacca special and maintain it for the future? That’s your job right now, and if you lose sight of this for short term financial gain, you will definitely lose something truly remarkable in the world.

MelakaIf driving, Malacca is an easy, straight-forward three hour drive into Malaysia – essentially turn off before you hit KL. There are freeways all the way, so it’s a smooth drive, but do remember to buy the Malaysian equivalent of the ERP card and put about 100RGT on it to cover tolls there and back. If you don’t drive, there are regular bus services leaving Singapore to Malacca as well, so either way, it’s not a difficult place to get by road.

MelaccaI know a lot of people don’t feel safe driving into Malaysia and of course, we hear a lot of horror stories. We’ve been driving into Malaysia for more than 10 years, and apart from a couple of “meal tips” to the local cops, we’ve never had a serious issue. The roads are also world-class, so it’s not a challenging place to get around. You obviously have to make your own mind up on that, but take the bus if you feel anxious.

MalaccaOne of the great delights on our recent trip is the opening of a brand new boutique hotel, which is right on the riverfront and a five minute walk from Jonker Street. Casa Del Rio is a beautiful hotel, with nice big rooms, including a day bed and pull out trundle, which means a family of four can be comfortable. A most important feature of this hotel, however, is a balcony, and that means Mum and Dad can have an evening together when the kids are finally off to sleep. It’s also got a roof top pool (which can be a bit freaky when the kids scramble on the edges), gym, spa, and one of the nicest breakfast buffets I’ve experienced in Asia. The restaurants on site are also superb, and the pizza we had the first night – after arriving late – was excellent. The cost of a room/night is just over the $400SGD mark, which is not cheap, but it is so beautiful I’d be very happy to go again.

Casa Del Rio, MalaccaCasa del Rio, MelakaThere are LOADS of hotels in Malacca, all in and around Jonker Street, including very cool B&Bs, big chains not too far away from the action, etc… However when going away with the family I want two things – a balcony for the grown up bit of the evening AND a swimming pool. If these things aren’t important to you, there are definitely more choices, but Casa Del Rio is beautiful. We’re definitely going back and between us, I’d love to go back alone and enjoy some spa time, as well as some peaceful antique buying time. Not easy taking crazy kids into the sprawling antique shops I must say.

MalaccaThings to do as a family? Where do you start! There’s a Portuguese Galleon Replica right in the heart of town, which doubles up as a museum – you can’t miss it. It’s a great place to explore and I was amazed at how deep it went. Being a convict, prisoner or slave would have been unbearable and it gives you that context. The kids loved running around, but for us, it was a fascinating look into the maritime history of the area. Malacca is full of museums and galleries, due to its colonial and maritime past, but do check out the Galleon at a minimum, and of course, the museums do come in handyMalacca in the rain – which we had to contend with. Some of them are a bit old and tired, but that adds to the appeal for me.

If your family enjoy walking, the riverside is fantastic – whether you walk deeper into the heart of Malacca, or out towards the sea. In fact, the walk to the sea has gotten a lot longer. I met a guy who’s lived in Malacca for nine years and the seafront apartment he bought when he arrived is now a long way back from the water’s edge. That’s the price of development in Asia.

MalaccaThe river cruise boats are definitely worth a trip, and the boys very happily say back and enjoyed it, while I enjoyed taking photos of the magnificent artwork on the buildings along the river. While art is everywhere in Malacca – even in the words painted on the side of buildings – this is one of the things I love most about this city. It’s such an unusual thing to see anywhere in the world and it’s beautiful. You also get to see a traditional Malay village on the boat trip, gorgeous bridges, the massive construction projects taking off, water life, and more. Well worth it.

Jonker Street, MalaccaJonker Street now has a night market – Friday/Saturday/Sunday I believe – which is terrific, because it’s blisteringly hot during the day. Jonker Street is famous for its antique shops, and while there are less today than when I first started going, there are still plenty to enjoy. Equal to the shops, the architecture down this street is beautiful – inside and out. You’ll walk into a magnificently painted building and find a central courtyard opened to the day. It’s just one of those places that constantly surprises you, and that makes me very happy.

MalaccaOh and how could I forget. One thing you’ve got to do is take one of those fantastic rickshaws, lights and music all the way! Definitely one of those unique things to do in Malacca.

Jonker Street, MalaccaThings to buy in Malacca – apart from the obvious – include the spices that are sold everywhere. The nyonya curry power should definitely be top of the pops if you like a good curry. On the last trip I also discovered a honey shop just off Jonker Street, selling big bottles of gorgeous honey and other products. I only wish I bought more, but have since discovered honey from Malacca in the Chinese herbal remedy shops in Singapore. Give it a go, it’s definitely great honey. There are all sorts of trinkets you can buy in this city, as well as great Asian art, big pieces for the home, as well as small stuff. Expect a car-full on the ride home.

Jonker Street, MalaccaMalaccaThere is a lot more to do and discover, but hopefully, I’ve inspired you to go or perhaps go back if you haven’t had such an amazing experience on previous visits. Some people tell me this. I adore this City and hopefully you’ve picked up a deep passion for Malacca that it is my privilege to share. Now, with Casa Del Rio opening up in the center of town, it’s definitely going to be a regular jaunt for our family. Malacca is one of the rare places driving distance from Singapore, which has something for everyone. It would also be a perfect place to take the grandparents, or friends visiting, who want to see something other than Singapore. You can spend more money when you save the cost of flying somewhere right?

MalaccaAs you can probably tell, I adore it. Let me know what you think?

Cheers

Andrea

Jonker Street

Steve will apparently be on Korean TV

MalaccaMalacca

Malacca

I love the Rickshaws

Malacca

Jonker Street has beautiful little alleys with lots of restaurants to choose from

Casa Del Rio

Nice big, beautiful and spacious rooms

Malacca

Came in handy to avoid the rain

Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction at ArtScience Museum

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Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction ArtScience Museum SingaporeI have not been a very good girl in my commitment to writing a blog a week – which I’m not happy about – but life, family and everything in between does get in the way. We’ve been doing lots of stuff and I’ve got a great backlog of ideas, but today is the day for a little blog on the exhibition in town for any dinosaur loving family – Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction at the ArtScience Museum until the end of July – a perfect option with the school holidays coming up.

Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction ArtScience Museum SingaporeTaking place at the ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands – it’s easy for all of us to get to – and I must say I am always amazed at how big this exhibition space is. It’s also a great spot for doing many other things, including “ice” skating in MBS, lunch/dinner by the water, hanging out for the evening light show, or just going for a big long walk around the area – including to Gardens by the Bay and the new Children’s Garden.

Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction ArtScience Museum Singapore

Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction ArtScience Museum SingaporeAs any parent knows – especially those of us with boys – dinosaurs are a huge part of the early years. My boys could say compsognathus and diplodocus before they could say their own names! Not to mention, my education around dinosaurs has certainly been enhanced since becoming a mother. It’s a fascinating time in the world’s history for sure.

Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction ArtScience Museum SingaporeFrom the get-go, it’s a wonderful exhibition, and you could easily spend a couple of hours wandering around – especially if your kids are at reading age. The entry to the exhibition was the only place that scared my loves, as it’s quite dark and the roars of the dinosaurs made for an eerie scene. I was a little worried we’d be facing this throughout, but thankfully it wasn’t the case.

Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction ArtScience Museum SingaporeThroughout the exhibition there is a wonderful collection of full-size dinosaurs, skeletons and skulls, fossils (both real and reconstructed), lots of hands-on interactive opportunities (although touching things that shouldn’t be touched is quickly jumped on!) and I love the way light has been used to create mystery around these ancient creatures. There are videos featuring paleontologists and experts throughout the exhibition, lots to read and absorb, maps, dates and one of the highlights for me was the artwork of Australian artist Peter Trusler – who is famous for recreating prehistoric fauna.

Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction ArtScience Museum SingaporeThey really have done a wonderful job putting this exhibition together, and the boys loved standing at the feet of the dinosaurs, really understanding – for the first time – how big these creatures were. The T-Rex was obviously a bit of a hit, but I also loved the underwater exhibition, the giant silver diplodocus and the room with the skulls of the triceratops, pentaceratops, and others in this family.

Ticket pricing for the exhibition is adults $21, seniors $20 and kids 2-12 at $13. But don’t forget to take your Singapore ID card for an extra couple of bucks off.

Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction ArtScience Museum SingaporeOne word of warning. As always, you cannot exit without going through the gift shop – normal these days – but this is one hell of a gift shop. They are selling magnificent toys, worth hundreds of dollars, and it’s a hard place to escape with just a trinket for the kids. If you’ve got a birthday coming up for a dinosaur-loving cherub, or you’re an early Christmas planner, definitely worth checking out. If you don’t like buying anything, better get ready to run.

So there you go, perfect if you want to be in doors to escape the haze, and I hope we’ll soon be needing to escape the rain. Have you ever seen Singapore so dry?

With all that said, you can learn more through this video

Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction ArtScience Museum SingaporeLet us know what you think if you’ve been/already gone?

From a very parched Singapore, cheers

Andrea

Dinosaurs Dawn to Extinction ArtScience Museum Singapore

#71 Legoland Malaysia

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We finally did it, we finally took the boys to Legoland Malaysia and it was terrific. We were both completely turned off by some of the earlier reports from friends – namely the intense heat and lack of shade, as well as the murderous lines everyone talked about – I hate lines. Well I’m happy to say that the December/January timeframe is definitely great from a temperature perspective, and by taking the boys after the Singapore schools went back, we didn’t have too many challenges on the lining up front.

Legoland MalaysiaLegoland MalaysiaWe drove to Legoland, but there are bus services operating from Singapore for those not able to drive. The car park is a massive, sprawling area in the sun all day, and while it’s a little confusing working out where to park and how to pay, we finally got there. With that said, the majority of people who drove that day just parked up on the roads before the car park. I suppose that’ll save you a few bucks.

Legoland MalaysiaRight from the word go, we didn’t face any grueling lines, except for the Nissan Driving School. We were rather pleased when they finally got through the doors so we could escape to a shaded seat. The boys loved driving the cars and it was educational as well, as they have a little training session before driving. I always find it amazing how quickly kids adapt and follow the rules – not a child went through a red light. Next was the Lego train. Lex has always loved trains, so he had to go on it and it was a lovely little experience.

Legoland MalaysiaThe attraction that really caught the boy’s imagination was the Lego miniature city. There was a train going from attraction to attraction, and loads of kids just spent their time running after it for close to an hour. Nice – perfect wearing kids out activity. I actually found the mini displays brilliant and it was great seeing the various Asian cities and themes represented – including a lot of historical attractions.

Legoland log ride two wet boysOne of the things I liked about Legoland is there is something in it for every age. A lot of the theme parks tend not to be small kid friendly, but there were great areas for the little ones to keep entertained. The big kids had great rides as well, with some impressive looking roller coasters, but more importantly, there were lots of options for the biggest kids of all. Steve and Lex went on the log flume ride and both came out very wet – not something our Lex finds particularly pleasant.

Legoland MalaysiaWe spent a good half day at the park and I’m pleased to say, we didn’t even get close to going on everything (probably more like 30%). This is good because we definitely need to go back again – the boys will nag us until we do. We also didn’t go to the waterpark next door and we didn’t stay at the hotel – which has now opened. With that said, I’m not looking forward to staying at the hotel (kid themed hotels are definitely not my thing), but one day we’ll have to and spend the weekend going to both Legoland and the waterpark, because the boys will certainly be happy.

Legoland MalaysiaOne thing that did surprise me is the food available in the park was pretty good – with some healthy options available. I wasn’t expecting this (thinking I’d need to pack our lunch) so I was rather pleased to see some fresh options available. It’s not gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, but it was good enough that we were all happy.

Legoland MalaysiaCost-wise, it’s about a SGD$200 exercise to get in for a family of four, plus what you spend inside of course – and the temptations were overflowing – so it’s not a cheap day out. With that said, I didn’t think it was terribly excessive for an International theme park. You can buy annual passes, (which are marketed as paying for itself if you go twice in a calendar year) and there are always deals going, so keep your eyes peeled. Definitely worth at least one visit for families.

So there you go, Legoland is a hit with the boys and a hit with us. We’ll definitely head back a couple more times.

Who’s been and what did you think?

Cheers

Andrea

#70 Children’s Garden at Gardens by the Bay

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Hello everyone and Gong Xi Fa Cai to those celebrating. We hope it’s a super special time for you and your families, and that the Year of the Horse is prosperous for all. I got caught up in the CNY celebrations with the boys yesterday, when hundreds of families converged on the brand new Children’s Garden at Gardens by the Bay and it’s good, very good. Singapore really does things well and we feel so fortunate having so many fabulous places to take the boys.

Children's Garden at Gardens by the BayChildren's Garden at Gardens by the BaySituated in between Satay by the Bay and the Flower Dome, it’s a hectare of fun for adventurous kids. We road our bikes from Tanjong Rhu Rd, through the Gardens by the Bay (East), over Marina Barrage, and then to the gardens. You could equally catch the SMRT to MBS and walk from there, or drive – although I’m not sure where parking is, but you could park at Marina Barrage as well. It’s not a long walk from there.

Children's Garden at Gardens by the BayThe boys headed straight to the water park. It’s actually a really simple design, but watching all the kids running around doing their own thing in the water, you really do appreciate how much imagination they have. There’s a smaller water park for the little ones and a big one for the older kids, although they were all mixing up together. Next to the waterpark is a great shaded pavilion – which was jam packed yesterday – but a great place for families to hang out in the shade.

Children's Garden at Gardens by the Bay

From the waterpark, the boys discovered the slide and that was them entertained for a while. The slides are metal and a lot of kids struggled to get up any speed, but if you’ve got action kids, wet bathers on the slide equals fast! The staff – who were all delightful – didn’t stand a chance of catching them as they shot off the end. Young and old enjoyed the slides.

Children's Garden at Gardens by the BayFurther on from the slides is a climbing area that is a dream come true for my boys. It looked like lots of little monkeys climbing through the contraption, but it’s awesome for kids who really love to climb. There are also two more slides in this area, so they climbed, slid and climbed again. One word of warning: it’s impossible to keep an eye on your kids in this area, unless you’ve got one parent at the bottom and one on top. But another beautiful thing about living in Singapore is you know they’re safe.

Children's Garden at Gardens by the Bay

We walked back past the slides and there’s loads of other sections – some for the little ones – as well as balancing beams, and great gross motor skill development opportunities. Some of the things you can do were well beyond me, but it was great to see kids from all nations giving it a go, as well as the parents.

Children's Garden at Gardens by the BayAll up, an excellent new playground for the kids in Singapore and even though it was packed yesterday, it didn’t take away at all from the experience. Staff are also stationed throughout the park, and they make sure everyone plays by the rules and plays safely, but equally, they all looked like they were having a great time. That’s always nice to see.

Children's Garden at Gardens by the BayOne thing I’d suggest is take sunblock. The main waterpark is completely in the sun in the afternoon and there was a lot of red skin on parade. The café serves up pretty decent food as well – so that’s an option – although with so many people opening and closing the fridge, the ice cream was soft and the drinks warm yesterday. It’ll calm down I’m sure.

Let us know what you think of the new Children’s Garden if you feel inclined?

Cheers

Andrea

Children's Garden at Gardens by the BayChildren's Garden at Gardens by the Bay

News Flash – Gardens by the Bay Children’s Garden Opening

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Marina Barrage

Please don’t drink the water Jax!

We bought the boys bikes for Christmas (well Santa obviously did) and I’m thrilled to see them loving it. I was always on my bike as a kid, so great to see them racing around. Scooters have ruled ‘til this point, which makes it even better, because we now have a form of transport where I can actually beat THEM for a change.

Anyways, today we headed out and did an adventure I wrote about a long time ago – Gardens by the Bay (East) to Marina Barrage and Back – stopping at Marina Barrage for a cool off and back home for sustenance. It was great.

However, before we headed back, I said to the boys, let’s keep riding into Gardens by the Bay because I want to show you the new children’s garden opening soon and it also has a water park. Incidentally, the Marina Barrage water park is about half its original size and I’m not sure if there are plans to close it, but I hope not. I’ve been taking the boys there since before they could walk.

Marina BarrageBack to the Gardens, riding from Marina Barrage, past Satay by the Bay and a couple of hundred meters further down, we came to the Children’s’ Garden and were thrilled to see it’s officially opening on the 21st January 2014. The only problem is both boys will be back at school by then, so we’ll have to wait until the weekend when I’m sure it’s going to be nuts.

Marina BarrageWill write about it obviously, but a new adventure option to keep in mind and I’m sure we’ll finish it off with a meal at Satay by the Bay http://www.sataybythebay.com.sg/ – we haven’t eaten there yet.

I was looking for some information on the Children’s Garden, but there was nothing on the official Website? Fortunately, I found this local blog which includes loads of great information, photos and news that entry is free.

Gardens by the Bay EastAlso if you haven’t done Gardens by the Bay (East) ride, walk, run or scoot to Marina Barrage and back, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. It’s absolutely beautiful in the gardens, with a lot of the plants really growing in now, so you get to smell beautiful flowers, listen to birds, explore bugs, chase lizards, and when you get to the top, marvel at the ships, the fact you’re standing 30 meters above the new MCE, as well as the fact you can see another country from there. I’m Aussie and it always amazes me.

Gardens by the Bay EastIf you get to the Children’s Garden before we do, let us know what you think?

Cheers

Andrea