Monday, December 28, 2009

Sentosa Island, Singapore

This is the first part of my narrative on our visit to Sentosa.

In our recent trip to Singapore, we spent an entire day visiting Sentosa Island which is located off the southern part of Singapore. My last visit there was very long ago when I was around 16 or 18 years old. Back then the only way to the island was either by ferry or cable car. Now, you can get there by land too i.e. car, taxi, bus and even train (MRT and the Sentosa Express monorail), besides the cable car. However, the cable car is currently closed for upgrading. We drove there.

Upon arrival and after paying the necessary entry fees, we found our way to Imbiah Lookout and parked our car there. We didn't have to drive around Sentosa in our car as the internal transportation to get you from one place to another within the island is very efficient. They have various bus lines and vehicles to take you from one attraction to another free of charge.

At Imbiah, we viewed the iconic Merlion, a replica of the one on the main island. The Merlion is a mythical half-lion, half-fish creature. You can get up to the mouth of the Merlion to its Gallery Viewing Deck to get a 360° view of Sentosa and the southern part of Singapore.

However, we did not visit the Merlion up close or go up to its viewing deck. We walked around for a short while, taking photographs of the Merlion, Tiger Sky Tower and facade of the Images of Singapore building (looks like a colonial-type architecture).

Then, for the children's sake (before they start fussing and get bored), we purchased tickets to enter the Butterfly & Insect Park.

Other attractions located at Imbiah include the Nature Discovery, Luge and Skyride, 4D Magix and Cineblast but they were not suitable for the kids, to my disappointment actually, because I would have enjoyed these exciting rides. At the butterfly park, we had close encounters with colourful butterflies and saw insect exhibits.

After that, we took the Blue Line bus to the Fort Siloso area (Siloso Point) to visit Underwater World, a place much like KL's Aquaria KLCC but slightly smaller in area.

At the entrance of Underwater World, there was a man displaying two snakes which he used to attract visitors to get a picture taken holding one of the snakes. Caitlin was curious and touched one of the snakes which was left inside a basket.

Underwater World has various sections for hands-on encounters and exhibits of various sea creatures such as different species of fish, stingray, starfish, and jellyfish.

You could also buy some fish feed to feed the fishes or see them being fed during designated feeding times. There was also a section which took you on a conveyor belt through an 'underwater' aquarium where you could see huge sharks, rays, groupers etc swimming around and overhead.

From there, we exited via the souvenir shop, the only exit like all tourist attraction places, out to an open air food court serving local food. Since it was lunch time and two hours before the Sea Lion Show, we sat down for a leisurely lunch and enjoyed some sea breeze.

Since we had some more time to kill before the Sea Lion Show, we walked around outside Underwater World. Fort Siloso is opposite.

Like all the other attractions in Sentosa, you need to buy tickets to enter and view the fort and its exhibits. Since this was a historical site which is less attractive to kids without any kids-type fun, I took Caitlin for a short walk around the walls of the fort and showed her the posters of old b&w pictures of the fort during WW2. The fort became a POW camp when the Japanese invaded Southeast Asia.

As we were heading towards what used to the Dolphin Lagoon for the Sea Lion Show, it started to rain. We made a quick dash to grab the last remaining seats, thus not getting centrestage view for the show. The show was delayed slightly due to the rain. When it started, two sea lions appeared displaying some antics to illustrate the show host's commentary about sea lions. The host also highlighted some differences between sea lions and seals.

This Sea Lion Show is currently a replacement for the Dolphin Show. The latter is currently being relocated so we were not fortunate enough to see the dolphins. We only caught glimpses of one or two of them surfacing while swimming in their holding pool at a far corner.

The Sea Lion Show lasted all of 15 minutes and we were rather disappointed. After the show, we went across the road to Siloso Beach to see what it had to offer.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Jurong Bird Park, Singapore

On our first full day in Singapore, we visited the Jurong Bird Park. Getting there was fairly easy with the help of our GPS. The only thing was that my bro's GPS and ours were set to bring us to our destination differently. His was via the shortest route while ours was via the fastest route. So while we were on the road, we went on our separate routes halfway through the journey but ended up at the same place. Luckily we still managed to keep tabs with each other via our walkie talkies (making phone calls to each other would have been costlier). After that we decided to sync both units so that we could travel together. However, there were days when we travelled in one car together since my car could seat seven people albeit a tiny bit crammed in the third row at the back.

Upon arrival at the Jurong Bird Park, we were warmly greeted by the park crew who immediately ushered us to their group photo spot. Many tourist attractions offer their photography services, with a premium fee of course. You can view the photos later and select whichever ones you like to purchase if you wish. They will then print the pictures out and frame them for you in their customised cardboard frame as a souvenir. If you don't purchase them, that's all right too.

All ready to explore the park:

The birdpark is nicely planned with convenient facilities such as restrooms, drink/snack stations, and food outlets at appropriate locations. The landscaping was well done and spick and span too. We saw many birds (too many to name or even remember their names) and attended a show at the Fuji Hawk Walk (sponsored by Fuji film I guess, hence the name) which featured an assortment of birds, especially birds of prey. When the host requested for a child volunteer, Caitlin raised her hand and was lucky enough to get chosen. After introducing herself, she held up a pair of sticks with some meat at the tips for a hawk to swoop down and snatch it off with its beak.

There was also another photo opportunity where she let a bird perch on her leather-gloved hand.

We walked around admiring parrots, pelicans, flamingoes and many other birds, and read some interesting facts about them.

Caitlin comparing her 'wingspan' with that of a pelican's:

Penguins in the Penguin Exhibit:

We then proceeded to another show called Birds and Buddies. Many birds came on stage, flew up above, swooped down and some, like the parrots and eagles, performed tricks -- putting balls into nets ala basketball, flying through hoops held up by spectators, singing songs in various languages and counting.

Flamingoes made an appearance at the Birds and Buddies Show:
It so happened that when we were there, the park had some Latin American events promotion and right after the show, a group of capoeristas came on stage to introduce the Brazilian artform of capoeira, which Caitlin is learning back home. They shared with the spectators what capoeira is and demonstrated some moves. They then invited some children (again, Caitlin put up her hand and got chosen!) and adults to join them on stage to perform some moves.

After lunch, we took the panorail for a ride around the entire park. Shortly after we got inside the cabin, it started to rain heavily. We were fortunate to be sheltered in the aircon carriage which also had a running commentary of the spots we were passing overhead, providing information of the various birds in those areas.

Caitlin monkeying around inside the panorail:

After we alighted from the panorail, we decided to call it a day and headed back to our apartment to rest.

The tickets ACE bought at the birdpark were Parkhopper tickets which provided some savings for those who wanted to also visit the zoo or night safari. We purchased the Bird Park-Night Safari package, so after our afternoon rest, the three of us geared up for an evening out at the Night Safari, while my brother, sis-in-law, nephew and parents went out for dinner on their own.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Singapore, 18-23 Dec

Prelude and the journey there:
The six-week school holiday is coming to an end with one more week to go! Yikes!! How did the past five weeks go by so quickly? I have made mental notes several times this week that C must return to her normal bedtime starting next week. Otherwise it will be sheer torture come 4th January morning when we have to wake up at 6am to get ready for work and school. We've been sleeping and waking late the past few weeks.

So,when we made our trip to Singapore last Friday, it was tough for all of us to get up early to start the journey. Nevertheless we made good time, meeting our target of leaving KL at 7.30am to rendezvous with my bro and his family at my parents' home in Seremban. The plan was to leave Seremban by 9am. Unfortunately, at 8.30am, my bro who left slightly later than us in his own car called while we were feasting on fried meehoon and char siew pao at home in Seremban. His 2.5 year old son Ryan had thrown up in the car and they had to stop to clean up the mess. Upon arrival in Seremban, they rinsed out his dirty clothes and left them to soak, and then had breakfast. We left Seremban for Singapore at 10.30am, an hour and a half later than planned.

The drive was pleasant with Caitlin occupying herself with her books and occasional conversations with Kung Kung.

Caitlin hugging her favourite bolster while reading in the car:

But as expected, before we even reached Melaka, the famous question (are we there yet?) popped up. So I had to cook up something to make the journey feel less draggy for her, helping her to visualise and equate the length of the journey to other journeys she's been on before. So there was Journey Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 and every now and then, she'll ask for updates on how many minutes were there left before each part ends and the next part begins.

We stopped at JB Pelangi mall for lunch at around 1.30pm. After lunch, at about 3pm, we continued our much anticipated crossover of the causeway only to meet heavy, almost standstill traffic heading to the checkpoint.

Sigh, it was indeed a loooong ride just to cross the short causeway and clear both sides of immigration points because it was a Friday (weekend) AND a public holiday. It took us around 1.5 hours of crawling and stopping before our GPS could start showing us the route to our accommodation in Singapore. Of course, C was getting impatient so lots more tactics of distraction had to be employed to keep our stress levels down. Out came a new colouring book and colour pencils, and luckily that kept her preoccupied.

Arrival day:
We arrived at the serviced apartments off Orchard Road for check-in only at 5p.m. Our plans to go to the Night Safari that evening had to be postponed. After settling down in the apartment, we took a short walk to Orchard Road in search of dinner. The malls and Orchard strip were brightly lit and elaborately decked up for Christmas as is the case every year. The wide pedestrian walkways were very crowded with Christmas shoppers, tourists, festive sideshows and just about anyone and everyone who wanted to be there to soak up the atmosphere. It was literally a sea of people everywhere.

My brother JK and his son Ryan:

We also had to queue for quite some time to get seated at a restaurant for dinner. After dinner, we joined the crowds to see the lights, decor and attempted some photography, getting shots of heads and faces of passers by inside our frames more often than not. Hence the above photos which didn't do justice to the bright lights, decor, and hustle and bustle we experienced there.

After a while, we decided to head back to the apartment to rest and call it a night since we had planned to spend the next day at the Jurong Bird Park. That meant having to wake up on time for breakfast at the resident's lounge before driving to the Bird Park.

The spacious living room of the serviced apartment, with TV, DVD player and cable TV:
The dining area with 8-seater dining table:

The fully-equipped kitchen, with toaster, fridge, microwave, cooker, kettle, coffeemaker, pots and pans, crockery, cutlery, washer/dryer:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas and New Year

ACE just returned from a six-day trip to Singapore today. Many things to catch up on before I can return to this blog and dedicate some TLC to it with stories and pictures of the past 10 days or so.

ACE will be heading to E's family home after dinner this evening to celebrate midnight mass, Christmas morning supper and family time together around the Christmas tree.

Here's wishing everyone a meaningful Christmas and wonderful New Year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sony Ericsson Cybershot photos

Here are some random shots taken using my phone over the past few weeks. Somehow, they're mostly on food.

Life goes on....

It's been nine days since my last post. Those nine days flew by just like that and I sometimes wonder where did it all go. We've been mostly homebound the past week, going out only for short trips to the supermarket, coffee shop, restaurants and a few times to the mall on weekends. I've put on hold C's art and capoeira classes this month so that gives me a bit of a breather from having to chauffeur her for this class, that class. Also, because we'll be going on holiday next week and the following week is Christmas, I didn't relish the idea of having to pay a full month's tuition fee when she's only attending half month's worth. Music lessons are status quo however, although the past two weeks, piano has been postponed due to the teacher going on holiday.

In between, C and I have been working and playing. I've been trying to 'instil' the idea of 'work hard, play hard' in her. Of course she has no problems with the 'play hard' part but when she's not in the mood to work, that's when she starts grumbling about the 'work hard' part and says that this motto is only mine, not the family's, and that I'm trying to impose "everything you want only, only your way all the time"....

Anyway, I managed to get her to do a few pages of Malay language and math exercises in workbooks leftover from this year's 'home learning' supply every other day or so. Work is interspersed with play of her latest craze of Facebook games. Thanks to daddy's intro of such games to her, my Facebook account now carries two games, Cafeworld and Petville. We don't allow her to set up her own FB account as she is too young for social networking so she only plays games on FB using my account under our supervision. Prior to Petville, it was Fishville. But later when she saw Petville and wanted it, I said she could on condition that she gave up one. So Petville has replaced Fishville while I'm also 'looking after' her Cafeworld on her behalf. I find these games real time wasters. They could be fun initially and like any other game, rather addictive. I hear of some people even setting alarms on their mobile phones to remind themselves when their virtual food is ready to be served so that their cafe biz does not make losses from unserved food rotting and going to about being addicted, or worse still, 'kiasu'....

Apart from TV, reading, playing with her toys and games, I've also managed to get her to practise her musical instruments, the piano especially, more consistently. Been giving her a bit more room with the drums since she had just completed her exam.

As for me, I've managed to write my quota of articles for my fortnightly 'column' and submitted them early to the editor so that I don't have to worry about looming deadlines when I'm on holiday and celebrating Christmas, and then preparing for school re-opening....

So with all this supervision of the child, and household affairs, that leaves me with little time alone, compared to normal days where I have the mornings all to myself. Although the household routine is not much different between schooldays and holidays, I at least get the mornings to do everything in peace and quiet without having to look over my shoulder or shout from the top or bottom of the staircase to check on C. And the past week has been more tiresome because C somehow decided to sleep in every morning till about 9.30 or 10.00am, having a slow, leisurely breakfast which eats into nearly lunchtime, thus having late lunch which eats into nearly teatime resulting in late dinners and later bedtimes -- the vicious cylce.

While there's always the grand plan to pack more 'educational and structured' activities to 'further enrich' the kid, I've just about given up on those ideas. If I were to pursue it, it would mean more headaches sourcing for ideas, materials and spending more time which I don't have (No, I don't think I'm being selfish, just lazy!).There's always the alternative of signing her up with all those school holiday programmes offered by very entrepreneurial people out there but that means having to fork out large sums of $$ and extra time and energy to ferry her up and down to those places. And I don't think she'll lose out very much at this age if she didn't participate in certain activities. So que sera sera-lah.

Being focused with all these has left me sort of 'brain dead' when it comes to blogging about more interesting stuff, current affairs, observations and quirky thoughts and opinions. That's why this blog has been rather dry lately, with just narratives and accounts of our routine life. E still wakes in the mornings to get stuck in traffic getting to work, and gets home past dinner time. I still do the laundry, cook, and care for C and Rusty, Facebook, and write, but surfing the net, blog hopping and reading online news has reduced quite a fair bit without the opportunity to sit at the computer uninterrupted.

So there, our past nine days has gone by. Next week would probably be similar with the exception of having to get ready for a six-day, most likely activity-packed trip outstation visiting children's attractions and a few generations of relatives. Thereafter upon returning home, it will be Christmas with E's family tradition of getting together on the eve, going to mass and staying up for late (or rather, early morning) supper and opening presents. It's the once-a-year opportunity for the kids to stay up and go to bed only in the wee hours of the morning. I know for sure by Boxing Day I'd be totally drained.

That leaves us with one last, final week before the new year 2010 and when C goes to Year 2 at school. Wow, time indeed flies. And life goes on.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas tree

We put up our Christmas tree considerably early this year compared to the past few years. Last Sunday afternoon, ACE decorated the tree with whatever existing trimmings we had. We also have two strings of lights. After checking, one was not working. Most likely one of the bulbs blew and we didn't have a spare.

That's the problem with such lights. If one bulb blows, the rest along the line can't light up. So we used one string of bulbs. And the option to make them blink is out -- I think the relevant bulb is also not working or something. Beats me when it comes to tech stuff. When lit, the tree is not as bright but it would suffice I guess.

We turn on the lights for a short while at night and turn them off before going to bed or when I think we've had enough of lights for that evening.

Our tree

Also, this is for safety reasons as I've heard about Christmas lights getting on fire. Coincidentally I received this piece in my email today.