Gold Coast Stay with Airbnb experience

It’s our first Bnb stay! So exciting! But this time we are going with a big group! My family, my parents and my sibling’s family!

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It all started during one of my group chats where one of my girl friend was sharing her experience at this accommodation listed on AirBnB with her family, parents and siblings’ families and it sparked me that I could do the same too! I have never travelled with this big group before and the thought of organizing such a trip feels daunting.

There’s a lot of coordination work, budgeting, itinerary and transportation research work to be done to suit the various interest of each individual in the group. At the end of the day, it might end up that some people don’t really like the arrangement, that costing etc but I thought I should do such family trips at least once so I went ahead to plan the trip with hubby.

The choice of accommodation was crucial. In the event that if there are strong objections to the planned itinerary, the last choice was to stay in and just have a idyllic and relaxing holiday just to rest our tired souls and spend some quality time with the family and the extended family. The kids could also have more opportunities to bond with their grandparents.

We picked Australia as the trip destination also because the cool weather is kind of a good escape from the dreaded heat here in Singapore. And it’s not too cold either. Best part was the drop in foreign exchange rate due to the ongoing trade war. Turns out, half of my friends and colleagues also headed there for this June school holidays. It cannot be too wrong a choice I guess.

Thanks to hubby for spending days and nights researching on the itinerary, flight tickets, transport and accommodation that we could finally settle on flying Emirates to Brisbane due to the attractive pricing. The trade-off was that we needed to travel from Brisbane to Gold Coast.

We settled for Alpha Transfers for the transport to bring us around our destinations. The coordinator was very helpful and responsive in answering and helping with our itinerary. They were also very flexible in the itinerary and the pricing was reasonable.

Our guide, Jos, was a fatherly and warm guy with a sense of humor. Thanks to him, we were able to find food, supermarket for groceries and and good shopping places! We went like, “Can we go to Target? Oh we need Coles as well” and he went “I know just where to bring you” and he did. He must be rolling his eyes seeing us accomplish each shopping trip with bags and bags of stuff. We never seem to have enough of shopping! In fact we shopped so much, we ended up with 2 more new luggages to bag our loots! Oops!

Family Oasis on Sheridan

Here’s the exciting part! Our Airbnb unit is so large I think a video introduction would better describe it.

We were a bit hesitant about the pool initially as we were worried our boy would rush and jump into the pool in excitement when nobody’s watching. Luckily, our friendly hosts have already thoughtfully babyproofed the house by installing child locks at the gates, and the door leading outside is also lockable.

The location, although not near to the tram station, is within walking distance to a neighborhood center where you can find a cafe, a chemist and a hair salon shop. There is also a bus stop nearby that goes directly to Surfers Paradise.

We spent a lot of time at the house, cooking and having our meals, swimming, kayaking, fishing, playing at the playground and TV games. The water was quite cold in the morning during this time of the year but turns warmer in the evening after being solar heated up during the day. Our swim thermals came in handy for the day swim.

Look! Here comes our Coles delivery! Breakfast settled!

We landed late the first night and to settle our breakfast for the next morning, we ordered from Coles online! Breakfast woes solved! Coles has delivery starting from as early as 6am but there is a delivery charge for the 6-8am timeslot even for first time orders. No choice though! At least we have food. For some reason, I couldn’t order bread though, maybe bread is only for same day delivery?

Dream World

There are several Theme Parks in Gold Coast. We couldn’t do them all. Of the three worlds there, we chose to do Dream World as the rides was suitable for very young kids all the way to the not so young kid. Here’s an interesting fact. We actually managed to get much cheaper tickets to Dreamworld via Klook than direct purchase at the park itself. It’s true! And the tickets were valid! But the ticket is valid only for the day that you chose so do buy the ticket on the day that you are going, just to be absolutely sure. After purchasing the ticket via Klook App, you will receive an email confirmation. You would need to forward this email to the Dreamworld guest services where they can retrieve and print a actual ticket for you.

The Dream World is really the stop to go if you are short of time. From rides, to shows to animals and sheep shearing. We were already contemplating should we go to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary by the end of Dream World trip.

McMartin’s Strawberry Farm

This day is specially dedicated to strawberry lovers. Hubby went through numerous correspondence with strawberry farmers, transport coordinators and finally managed to find this farm with strawberries already in season and ready for picking. The original farm that we planned had some fruiting delay due to weather. We were almost too disappointed until we found this.

Just look at our fruitful trip! There’s also a large playground here for kids to stretch their muscles after traveling some distance here

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

We decided to still come here despite having seen the Australian animals earlier at DreamWorld. All for this fellow here:

Platypus! One of the last 2 egg-laying mammals. Super elusive and shy guy who looks like a cross between a duck and penguin? The viewing area was really dark and we were lucky to get this shot when he came over to take a peep. Mission accomplished!

And since we are here, we popped over to see other animals. And there were lots and lots of Koala here! Best part was, not every Koala was sleeping. We get to see them in action, eating, staring into space and just climbing around and even baby Koalas with pink fluffy ears. They are so adorable! So different from the sleepy Koalas that we always see.

For dinner today, Jos brought us to an award winning Chinese restaurant, the Kampung Malay Restaurant (sounds so good already!) near where he stayed and the food was really good! Do give it a try if you are nearby!

About Prepaid Cards in Australia

I have to share about our experience with getting prepaid SIM cards in Australia. Usually when we travel, we would just need to have access to data usage to stay connected. Regardless for Google Map, Whatsapp or social media. So we usually rent a WiFi from Changi Recommends or activate our telco services for local data usage while traveling.

For the Changi Recommends WiFi for Australia, we realized that there’s a maximum of 4 connections per device. There’s no way for a fifth device to hook on. Also you must stay together with the person holding the WiFi router. Else you will be lost in data connection once you go separate.

We also realized WhatsApp is not big in Australia. Sometimes the only way to contact locals who are not on WhatsApp is by using a local phone number to call or sms or risk an bill slap utilizing overseas sms or roaming calls.

For this trip we bought a prepaid SIM card from Changi Recommends at 26SGD for 12gb of data. The local network is by LycaMobile. The prepaid card does not come with a number. You would need to register the card to actually get a number. Here’s the tricky part. We actually spent 4 days trying to register the card with no success. Seems like there is some backend validation of our passport details with the Australian visa that we applied. If your name happens to be long with first name, last name, English name or family names, the validation might fail because you might not know which name is used for validation with which field in the form. The address validation also fail to find the address of the Airbnb that we were staying.

To get customer support, you need to somehow get a local phone number (borrow from a local or hotel) and call up the customer service and they’d end up saying they couldn’t help with the registration over phone call and email registration will take up to 48 hours! Which you might already be on your way back home! So it was really a test of patience trying to activate the card with contains 12 gb data and which we couldn’t use. It was really a teeth-gritting experience.

So I tried again with another passport detail with simple name that only has 3 parts, surname and name and it finally went through! I could almost cry!

So then via Jos, we found out that actually there are cheaper alternatives. You could easily get a SIM card at cheapest price of 5AUD to get unlimited sms and call time! Major wow! So I bought this Woolsworth branded SIM card with service provided by AmaySim. The registration was painful too as I still could not get my details validated. But the best part of AmaySim service? They provide online customer service chat! I do not need to find a local number to call up the customer service! And the second best part? Their email registration takes only up to 8 hours! I highly recommend that you get this card if you must. There are other values like $10 for 2gb data etc. But you should try AmaySim. The support is really great.

Centenary of Federation State Border Marker

We are heading towards to New South Wales today and we dropped by this monument that marks the border between New South Wales and Queensland for a quick photo.

Queensland and New South Wales used to be separate colonies and renamed as States under the Federation of Australia and they have different governance in the different states. This monument was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Federation of Australia.

Tropical Fruit World

As fruit lovers, we have to make a trip here to see how our favorite fruits are grown and be awed by the all the fruit trees blooming with fruits.

Tropical Fruit World was originally known as Avocadoland and we could totally see why it was called that. The number of avocado trees, the types of avocados found here are amazing. We have never seen such large avocados before! Although the fruits aren’t for picking, the farm tour was great!

We started with a yummy fruit tasting session where the staff explain the different types of fruits and how we can use fruits for skin care other than just eating them.

Then we took a tractor tram ride around the farm to see the massive size of the farm and the variety of fruits that they’ve grown. It was so thrilling to see all our favorite fruits still hanging on the trees. The freshest they can go.

We stopped by the banana trees area to have a taste of the banana and everyone loved it. It was interesting to know that they had to wrap the bananas up to speed up the ripening else the ripening takes too long due to the cold weather. We also had a go at cracking fresh macadamia and enjoying the nut on the spot.

Then we had a short nature walk through the greenery and came in contact with some of the farm animals and even kangaroos.

The next part of the tour was a boat ride and we get to feed the eager ducks waiting out by the river and chasing after our boat to get the most number of treats.

We arrived at the next part of the farm where there’s some playground with flying fox and slide for kids while the rest had a chance to pluck to smell and feel some herbs and some special tree leaves . What an adventure in a farm tour!

Cape Byron Lighthouse

Cape Byron Lighthouse is located at the most eastern end of Australia and since we are in New South Wales, we might as well pop over to enjoy the beautiful scenery and see if we could spot some whales or dolphins while we are there.

While we didn’t spot any dolphins nor whales, we spotted this bird in flight, which after some research, could be a juvenile white bellied eagle.

Look at the soft blue and pink sky (unedited)

Ashmore Road Seafood and Steak

After a few days of traveling, we decided to celebrate the trip with a feast, complete with wine, at Ashmore Road Seafood and Steak restaurant recommended by Jos. It was an enjoyable meal and everyone was stuffed by the end of dinner.

Surfers Paradise

And the highlight of the trip.. we couldn’t give this a pass when we are already here at Gold Coast albeit it’s winter at this time and the water was chilling! We got these body boards and sand toys from our AirBnB and head down to Surfers Paradise in our surf wear and kids had a whale of a time here, splashing out in the cold water under the sunny weather. It was a tad disappointing that the waves were not at the legendary high but I think it’s safer for us first timers so it’s still ok. Our initial plan was to drop by and take a photo but I think the kids wouldn’t just pass by and soak their feet in. They might end up getting a little wet so we might as well gear them up for a full wet session! And they couldn’t have enough of this lovely beach with super nice sand and sea.

The slight problem was getting them washed up after all the messy play. We couldn’t find proper shower rooms, only outdoor showers and even toilets were limited at some distance away with only 2 cubicles at each block. So there was some queue but we had the get the girls changed in a covered area so we had to wait.

Lunch was settled in the mini van with home cooked beef fried rice thoughtfully prepared and packed by my mum for everyone. Sure feels like a good meal after a cold water swim. Yum!

Mount Tambourine Glow Worm Caves

Glow worms are a type of flightless beetle although they are called “worms”. The Mount Tambourine glow worm cave is a man-made cave for breeding of glow worms. The staff would catch small flying insects regularly and release into the cave to feed the glow worms.

During the tour, which was in complete darkness, except for the light sticks that we get to wear around us, we could actually see the glow worm and their string nets up close! The last time we went to a glow worm cave was in New Zealand where we viewed the glow worm from a boat and we could only see tiny spots of lights like stars in the night sky. I didn’t imagine the strings to be actually so tiny!

According to the guide, the females usually shine brighter than the male to attract male for breeding. And also the hungrier they are, the brighter they will shine, to attract food to come. Survival skills!

Mount Tambourine Cedar Creek Falls

Next, we did a nature trail to the Cedar Creek Falls, one of the popular attraction here. We trekked through a small part of the eucalyptus forest and rainforest where some families do picnic outings with families and friends.

The water sure looked tempting to jump in, but there are signs around to warn people of the danger of jumping in as you might hit the rocks or slip and fall against the slippery rocks. Best to stay dry on land, unless you carefully enter the water via the slippery rocks like this adventurous guy!

Mount Coot-tha

On the last day of the trip, we had an idyllic day where we stayed in to pack our luggages, swim, fish and kayaked and only set off to the airport after lunch. Our Airbnb hosts were very kind to extend our check out time knowing we are having a very late flight that day.

It was more shopping after we left the house before we went up to Mount Coot-tha to this breathtaking overview of Brisbane. As it was night time and winter time, it was super chilling up here at this time. Suggests to dress up warmly so as not to catch a cold.

All about Shopping!

When traveling with family with kids, the shopping we do usually hovers around supermarket/hyper markets, family friendly malls with food and facilities all under one roof. We went to a few of them under the recommendation of Jos and they are so good I have to share them.

Pacific Fair Shopping Mall

The nearest mall to our accommodation, this place is a must-go in Gold Coast as this is the largest shopping mall in the whole of Queensland! From K-Mart, Target, Woolsworth to Sephora, H&M’s, sports gear to food court, arcade and cinema, we couldn’t really do it all in half a day! And because here in Gold Coast, people still wear shorts and singlets during the day, you definitely can find something here to buy back home to sunny Singapore.

Helensvale Plaza Shopping Centre

We dropped by this mall for supermarket shopping and dinner on the way back home from Mount Tambourine. Found noodles and rice here at the food court and the kids welcome it. And of course we had to drop by Coles to stock up our food and kids were kept busy at the toys section, as usual.

Hyperdome Shopping Centre

The last mall that we went to on this trip, Hyperdome, is located at the Robina area. It’s quite an interesting mall and I found the local Daiso here! It’s almost everything for AUD2.80 so, erm, it’s not that attractive. The range of items here are similar to what we have. Once again, we manage to locate Asian food at the food court here to satisfy our tummies after some shopping.

Meals in Gold Coast

We spent a lot of time at our BnB on this trip, so really thankful to my sister and mum for waking up early every day and staying up late every night to prepare the meals and the next meals. It was really heart warming to have familiar home cooked food during travels. Look at all the hearty meals we had on this trip!

Housekeeping

Something to note about staying in Airbnb unit without any hosts. You need to do your own housekeeping like throwing the rubbish, sweeping the floor, washing toilets and other chores that you usually would expect housekeeping to do.

Here’s our itinerary in a nutshell

Day 1:

  • Supermarket shopping
  • Check in Airbnb

Day 2:

  • Dreamworld
  • Supermarket shopping at Runaway Bay Centre

Day 3:

  • McMartin’s Strawberry Farm
  • Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
  • Kampung Malay Restaurant at Robina

Day 4:

  • Tropical Fruit World
  • Cape Byron Lighthouse
  • Ashmore Road Seafood and steak

Day 5:

  • Pacific Fair shopping

Day 6:

  • Surfer’s Paradise
  • Mount Tambourine
  • Helensvale Plaza Shopping

Day 7:

  • Hyperdome Shopping
  • Mount Coot-tha

JavaScript Programming for Kids – A Maths Quiz

Now that we have started our very first JavaScript program, we can start trying out a real game. This program is a very basic game that introduces interaction between your program and the person playing the game. It takes in some input from the person evaluates the input and determine if the answer is correct or not.

You start the game by asking a question, for example:

quiz

The player will type an answer and click “OK”. If the answer is not correct, a message “Try again!” will show and the player clicks “Close” to try again.

quiz-tryagain

if the answer is correct, a message showing “Correct!” will show and the game ends.

quiz-correct

Here’s the complete code

  var answer= prompt(“what is 8+8?”);

  if(answer==16)

    alert(“Correct!”);

  else {

    alert (“Try again!”);

    location.reload();

  }

prompt() is a standard javascript function which will pop up a display, with 2 buttons Cancel and OK. If you clicked Cancel, the pop-up will close and do nothing. If you clicked OK, the JavaScript will be able to get whatever you typed inside the box or just a blank if you did not type anything.

When we write
var answer = prompt(….);

We are trying to get whatever the player typed in the pop-up box and store in a variable answer. So we can use the variable to check whether the player has entered the answer you are looking for, in this case, 16.

If(answer == 16)

We use 2 equal signs (==) to do a comparison, of the value on the right side is equal to the value on the left side.

We use 1 equal sign (=) to assign the value on the right side to the variable on the left side.

Then finally, we have

Location.reload();

If the player did not get the correct answer so that we can refresh the page and let the player try again. If the player gets the correct answer, we do not need to refresh the page.

If(…) and else are very commonly used functions in any programming language. It’s like in real life situations, we always have options such that if we do this, we will get this, else, if we do that, we will get that. So during programming, we need to tell the computer exactly what to do in different situations. In this case, if the player gets the wrong answer, prompt a message and refresh the page. Else, if the player gets the correct answer, show a message.

If we have more than 2 types of possible outcomes, we can even do a if(….) else if(…) else

Type or copy the above code in Visual Studio Code and save the file as quiz.html. Open the file and enjoy your game!

JavaScript Programming for Kids?

Teaching kids how to do coding has recently become quite popular here in Singapore. I checked out some of those classes that aim to teach children how to code. Most classes are either robotics or uses the Scratch platform. I checked out the Scratch website and attempted to learn programming via their method but did not understand nor how to code without using the website. If you have done flash animation before, it feels more like that than doing coding. Drag and drop pre-configured motion action, logic for the various conditions that you want to animate the otherwise motionless still-image sprite.

Then I found this book, again from our friendly National Library  , I’m a JavaScript Games Maker: Basic by Max Wainewright. Now we are looking at programming.

So I got inspired to write a post on how to get kids started on some Javascript basics and also do a simple program to get started. My girl tried out the book and only just the “Hello World” basic script got her beaming with pride that she got her first coding program working. She went on to try another sample program with a real working game, encountered some bugs, and got our help to resolve it. And she proudly declares that she made her very first game. And she got her sister interested to learn as well.

To get started, we need 

  1. A computer (Desktop, Laptop, Macbook etc)
  2. Any browser (Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge etc)
  3. A text editor App (see recommendation below)

For the text editor, any computer should come with a default text editor, for example NotePad on Windows or TextEditor on Mac. Although the basic editor works as well, but using applications built for coding would make the task much easier. You would have less chance for bugs in the program due typo error because a suitable text editor will provide suggestions to help you autocomplete your code.

‘Bugs’ in programming refers to errors in the code that make the code not to work as you expect. The ‘bug’ could be due to

Typo error – you spelt some keyword wrongly

Logic error – no typo error code works but not the way you wanted it. For example, you wanted your animation to move left upon click but it moved right.

Keyword – there are many different programming languages. Each language have their own keyword for you to use to build your code. They usually have lots of documentation, official and non official, to explain the keywords and even the ready made functions (similar to excel functions) that you can use to build your code logic.

Back to the text editor recommendation.

Here’s some suggestions and screenshots using different editors

1. Notepad

Notepad should be familiar to anyone who uses Windows. It’s good enough to use for taking down and storing some notes but definitely not good enough for coding.

Using the basic Notepad application in Windows looks like this. All black texts, no autocompletion of key words

2. Notepad++ (Download here)

The Notepad++ is a free software, downloadable for Windows. Just navigate to their site and hit the big Download button to install. Using Notepad++ looks better than using Notepad but you would still need to type everything out yourself.

No auto-completion of keywords but keywords such as would automatically be changed to blue colour font, so you know that’s a keyword in Javascript

3. Visual Studio Code (Download here)

For those familiar with Microsoft Visual Studio, no, this is not the same as that. Visual Studio Code is also developed by Microsoft but is a freeware that can be downloaded at no cost. In the book, the author recommended Sublime but on the website it indicated that a licence is required for continued use (which means you need to buy) so I would prefer Visual Studio Code instead. Both applications can be downloaded for both Windows or Mac. Firstly, you just need to type a few words and the Visual Studio Code would list out some suggestions for you so that you only need to select the option that you want. And the fonts are colour coded, so you know which are the keywords.

Auto-complete suggestions with some explanation notes on each option to help to understand how to use the keyword

Now we can start our very first program! The first basic program, basically just pops up a “Hello World” message when you open the file in a browser.

Open your text editor and type in the words, unless you use Visual Studio Code, you might not need to type in everything.


    alert (“Hello World”)

Save the file somewhere. Click the File button at the top of the editor and select Save. Enter the filename as Hello.html. Go to the folder where you save your file. In windows, the default should be in My Documents (full path should look something like this “c:\users\<your username>\Documents”. In Mac, the default document folder should be in Documents. Open the Finder. Select Documents folder. You should see the file Hello.html.

Double click on the file. It should open up in your default browser and look something like this.

Every programmer’s first Hello World program 🙂

Although we are using javascript to code, but we actually saved the file as “.html” so the system would automatically open the file in a browser and execute the codes. But we had actually written some HTML as well as JavaScript codes. The keywords and are actually HTML codes. HTML code can be easily identified as they start with a ‘<‘ and ends with a ‘>’ symbol. The actual Javascript code is only this line “alert(“Hello World”)“. The “alert(…)” with the open bracket and close bracket is a function in Javascript that performs the displays that pop up box when you open the file in the browser. Everything inside the brackets, enclosed with open and close inverted commas “” can be any words that you want to show in that pop up box. In this case, Hello World. You can now try to change the Hello World text to anything else like Hello Me, My first Javascript etc and see the different messages pop up.

So there we have, the very first JavaScript programming for kids! I will try to do up another one for the actual game script that was described in the book. It’s quite fun to build and later play the game that you built on your own. So do check back here another day for the post!

Tongue Twisters for Road Trips

Just as I finished compiling a list of car ride jokes, I bumped into this book at the National Library. A book on tongue twisters. Sounds good for a road trip too!

I extracted 20 of them from the book to store here for future reference.

Here’s the downloadable version

Tongue Twisters for Road Trips

  • 1. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
  • 2. Ann anteater ate Andy Alligator’s apples, so angry Andy Alligator ate Ann Anteater’s ants.
  • 3. How high would a housefly fly if a housefly would fly high?
  • 4. Each Easter Eddie eats eighty Easter eggs
  • 5. Which is the witch that wished the wicked wish
  • 6. Santa’s sleigh slides on slick snow
  • 7. Shy Sheila shakes soft shimmering silks
  • 8. Sarah saw a sash shop full of showy shiny sashes
  • 9. Sly Sam slurps Sally’s soup
  • 10. He threw three free throws
  • 11. The boy blinked at the blank bank blackboard
  • 12. There’s no need to light a night-light on a light night like tonight. For a night-light’s just a slight light on a light night like tonight
  • 13. Blake the baker bakes black bread
  • 14. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pickled peppers did Peter Piper picked?
  • 15. Betty Botter bought a bit of butter. “But,” said she, “this butter’s bitter. If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter. But a bit of better butter that would make my batter better.” So Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter, and she put it in her bitter batter and made her bitter batter a bit better
  • 16. We surely shall see the sun shine soon
  • 17. Betty and Bob brought back blue balloons from the big bazaar.
  • 18. Sam’s shop stocks short, spotted socks
  • 19. Mrs Smith’s fish sauce shop
  • 20. Old oily Ollie oils old oily autos.
  • Extracted from Tongue Twisters by Pam Rosenberg

    Jokes for Road Trips

    It’s the school holidays! Time for vacation! Every time we go on trips, we tend to have lots of time spent on the road, getting from one place to another. I will then always prepare some activities to entertain the kids on long car rides. And when my activities run out, they will whip out the iPads at the very first opportunity.

    Here’s what I prepared previously:

    1. Storybooks

    2. Random toys in a bag

    3. LEGOs

    4. Small balls

    5. DIY busy book (took me lots of time and effort to make)

    DIY busy book because I could not find any suitable ones outside

    6. Cardboard boxes, paper strips and Pom poms (for the baby then who gets fascinated over boxes)

    Made from toilet roll and diy Pom Pom with yarn. Can discard after the trip if the condition degrades 😂

    7. Hand puppets

    Hanged the toy with pacifier clip and a rubber band so it’s stretchy

    8. Cars

    The thing with legos and balls are that they tend to drop again and again all over the car and I would have to pick them up again and again. Duh!

    Busy books were good as I made sure I had different types of activities packed in, like mazes, writing sheets, magnetic paper doll set, various worksheets for academic skills, stickers, and thread with paper punched with holes for threading and learning how to tie shoe laces.

    The downside was that once it gets dark, all these activities aren’t appropriate anymore. Then they will spend the rest of the ride on gadgets. With bright lights and everything.. duh again.

    I’ve tried to think of something that they could do during those night car rides but couldn’t get any good ideas.

    Then this idea came to me. We can’t see well in the dark but we could talk. But talk about what? They could easily get turned off and go back to the gadgets. I finally thought of something that could entertain them for a while. We could do “I spy with my little eye…”. But it could be too dark outside to spy on anything at all.

    Finally, car ride jokes! That sounds like a potential idea. So I googled for some jokes and consolidated them here. Here’s a downloadable editable version if anyone is interested. Hope it can sustain for a while for at least some parts of the rides

    Jokes for road trip

    1. Where do sharks go on vacation?

    Finland!

    2. Where do sheep go on vacation?

    The Baaa-hamas!

    3. What do frogs like to drink on a hot summer’s day?

    Croak-a-Cola!

    4. How do rabbits get to their holiday destination?

    By hare-plane!

    5. What travels around the world but stays in one corner?

    A stamp!

    7. Where can you find an ocean without water?

    On a map!

    8. Where do cows like to go in the evenings?

    To the mooooo-vies!

    9. What did the one ocean say to the other ocean?

    Nothing, it just waved.

    10. What happens when you wear a watch on a plane?

    Time flies!

    11. Who can drive all their customers away and still make money?

    Taxi drivers.

    12. What do you say to a frog who needs a ride?

    Hop in

    13. Where do dogs park their cars?

    In the barking lot.

    14. What’s a car’s favorite meal?

    Brake-fast.

    15. Why did the old lady fall in the well?

    Because she couldn’t see that well

    16. What’s brown and sticky?

    A stick

    17. Which country has the most germs?

    Germany

    18. What did the tornado say to the sports car?

    Want to go for a spin?

    19. What part of the car is the laziest?

    The wheels, because they are always tired!

    20. What only starts to work after it’s fired?

    A rocket!

    21. What’s the worst vegetable to serve on a boat?

    Leeks!

    22, What happens when a frog parks in a no-parking space?

    It gets toad(towed) away!

    23. What do you call a sleeping bull?

    A bull-dozer!

    24. Why do you need a license for a dog but not for a cat?

    Cats can’t drive!

    25. What is the difference between a nicely-dressed man on a tricycle and a poorly dressed man on a bicycle?

    A tire (attire)

    Perth with Young and Big Kids

    With two not-so-small and one still-very-small kid, planning a trip now gets somewhat challenging.

    Where should we go for this mid-year trip? We need that break, break from balancing hectic work and doing homework and revising for exams with the kids. The kids need their break too after going through all that exam revision stuff.

    Should we go somewhere nearby? Nah, too hot. Japan? Will there still be radiation that might be harmful for the kids? Europe? Too far, the baby might not be able to take it. Duh.. decisions.. How about down under? Perth! It’s not too far away, it’s winter there yet not freezingly cold, and it feels like a place to go even without much planning. With that, we set on to plan our trip for Perth.

    As usual, we booked our flight on the Singapore Airline and this was the first flight the baby had a seat to himself. The friendly and experienced stewardess on this flight was worried the baby might be clingy and offered me an infant seatbelt, which I found out on the return flight from a newbie stewardess that it’s actually not allowed if the baby already has his own seat. But it really came in useful and I appreciated that offer. The flight was full and Bub refused to sit next to a stranger. He was clinging on to me whenever he could.

    Soon after we reached Perth, the kids were energized and all ready for the holiday.

    While planning for the trip, we were trying to decide should we self-drive or find alternative transport?

    Self driving could be tiring (for the driver) especially if we are planing to go somewhere far, like Margaret River, and we need to have more planning, like, which route to take.

    So we started to research for private tours and car hire services. Sounds like a good idea. We decided on So Cal Limo after reading good reviews on TripAdvisor and we sure were glad they didn’t disappoint. They were really very flexible on our itinary and in fact Pierce (our driver) made himself available even on the days that we didn’t plan to take the service. We appreciated that a lot because on some days we really needed the service to move around as the original plan of just crossing the road to King’s Park got foiled by non stop raining. Highly recommended!

    Quest West Perth

    We love this little cosy service apartment which able to give us 2 side-by-side units, privatized by having an additional outer door to enclose the 2 units so we feel like we are just having 2 fully equipped rooms instead of 2 units. Having 2 sets of everything also allowed us to multitask efficiently. I could wash 2 sets of clothes concurrently, dry then together, hubby and me could cook a meal concurrently while the kids just have fun running from 1 room to another. Service was great too! On some days we left the utensils unwashed and rushed out for our tour and they actually helped us to wash up! We read that most service apartments don’t provide this service so we were wonderfully surprised.

    Fruit picking at Golden Grove Orchard

    We always like to include one or two fruit picking tours during our trips. It’s fascinating and very cool to see all the fruits we eat daily on hanging directly from the trees ready for us to pick them back. Nic was complaining about the goat poop (organic fertilizer) all over the floor while the rest of us were happily snipping the oranges off the trees. Just look at our harvest! We tried mandarin oranges, reduced acidity oranges (which was the sweetest and least sour type) , citrus orange (tastes sour) and the big fat oranges that were usually used to make orange juices.

    The temperature at farms is usually lower so it was a good idea to bring along warmer jackets, apply lip balm and wear a mask for the kids to prevent the lips from drying up and cracking in the cold especially when there’s wind.

    Caversham Wildlife Park

    The reviews of Caversham Wildlife Park were nothing but praises so we definitely can’t miss this one. Only problem was how much time should we allocate here? Most people felt that 2 hours was enough to cover the park. But with our three kids and their excitement over the cutesy fur balls, we might end up with half a day there. And we did. We stayed until the park closure and the kids wanted to come again the next day! We fed many kangaroos but some were not that interested as there were already lots of dried food pellets on the ground.

    We had fun taking photos with a big fat wombat, a very hungry and not sleepy koala and patted many other animals there. It was really so much more upclose experience with the animals than seeing them at the zoo.

    The downside was there was not much food options at the park. Many came prepared with picnic baskets loaded with food which was such a good idea. Luckily we packed some sandwiches which the hungry kids gobbled up in a few minutes. There was a small cafe in the park which we bought some cup noodles, muffins and coffee before we left the park.

    Swan River

    The swan river is a long stretch of river that spread across the whole of Perth. We dropped by this part of the river for a quick shot. Too bad we couldn’t spot any swans along. We love the peacefulness of the river which reflected the scenery like the mirror lake in New Zealand.

    Crawley Edge Boatshed

    This iconic boat shed is definitely an insta-worthy site for some good photos. There was already a queue there when we reached. Luckily it’s not too long a wait before our turn and we got a bonus for waiting. A wonderful rainbow appeared in the skyline just next to the shed while it was about our turn

    Lakeside Joondalup

    Any trip wouldn’t be complete without some shopping done. We did ours mainly at this huge mall where there was Target, Woolsworth, KMart, some other supermarkets, games arcade, bookstores and whatever you need, all under one roof. After lunch at the food court, the daddy and the girls kept themselves busy at the games arcade while the baby was strapped to me while I shopped. I made a mad rush in an attempt to cover my shopping list in 2 hours before the mall closes for the day. Mission accomplished but wouldn’t mind if I had more time to get some more stuff. Shopping time is never enough.

    Busselton Jetty

    Little captain of the train

    Dropped by this nice little jetty along the way to whale watching for the kids to take a break from the long ride. Guess who was the most excited to see go for a train ride along the jetty?

    The nice captain even let all the kids have a go at his seat for a memorable photo!

    Whale watching at Augusta

    Picture taken on actual trip by on board staff available for download on the official website

    It was an epic day of whale watching with Whale Watch Western Australia! We were half expecting that we won’t catch any whales this day as many have tried and left disappointed although they did get a full refund. With the expectation set so low, it was really an amazing experience for us when we spotted not only one but several humpback whales on this trip! Some dolphins joined us for the thrill ride as well! We were so lucky.

    The down side of it? The girls ended up with motion sickness and slept though the second half of the trip. The whales were having so much fun in the sea, we were bumping along with them in the choppy water mess they created. We were lucky enough that they didn’t puke like many of the other passengers did, probably because we had given them motion sickness pills before we set off. And luckily, they still caught some of those whales in action before they zonked out.

    It was fun trying to snap photos and videos of the giants and trying not to fall overboard or have your camera slip off your hands. This was a good recommendation by So Cal.

    Margaret River

    A place not to be missed when in Perth. We went all the way to the river mouth when Margaret River meets the Indian Ocean. We were glad that we made it here after whale watching and before the sky turns dark because day time during the winter season is really short plus the distance from 1 attraction to the other is always so far. A fulfilling day with super long hours of car ride. Prepare lots of food and snacks for such trip. They came in really useful.

    King’s Park

    It’s no exaggeration when they say King’s Park is 1 of the world’s largest inner city park now that we have seen for ourselves. It’s impossible to cover the whole of the park just within a day, unless you only intend to drop by to see. The kids could be stuck at the same playground the whole day!

    We went to 2 different parts on 2 days. The kids love the playground (top pic) while we love the nature park (bottom pic) where you can get so close to river streams.

    Perth Zoo

    The Perth zoo, unlike our Singapore Zoo, is located in the middle of the city. It feels quite different that on one side we have lots of animals staying together while just across the road we have people living in tall buildings. On that day we went, they were renovating the lion enclosure. The poor boy wanted so much to catch sight of the lion but didn’t see any. There were lots of spaces for family picnics and children playground so it’s quite a nice place (especially under such cooling weather) for a weekend destination for families. Now, if only we have such weather in Singapore, our zoo would be so much more enjoyable.

    We tried out an Uber ride from King’s Park to the zoo this day and was glad that transportation nowadays are as easy as tapping a few buttons on the app

    Pinnacles

    We ditched our Mercedes for the all-terrain Land Rover today to go to the desert today. It was a amazing sight at the Pinnacles where it is full of ancient limestone pillars. Well, at least for the adults. For the kids, they thought they had come to a huge beach and started having fun drawing on the sand.

    Lobster shack

    We treated ourselves to a lobster feast this day since it was supposedly famous and we were just nearby. They ran out of the smaller ones so we could only order the big set. There were mixed reviews but we were lucky our lobster was fresh and meaty. Very satisfying meal. The lobster burger was kind of disappointing though. I was expecting a piece of fresh burger bread stuffed with lobster salad but it came in as a lobster patty instead.

    There was a huge crowd but the service was surprising fast and the thoughtful peeps here set up a kids play area to entertain the restless kids while waiting for the food. The play area was a hit!

    Lancelin Sand Dunes

    We ended our day at the Lancelin Sand Dunes watching people slide down sand dunes on a sandboard and watching the beautiful sunset. You could actually rent a board and pick it up before going, but we didn’t manage to rent the board so couldn’t try sandboarding here. We tried to borrow from 1 of the tour groups but they said it was strictly for the group members.

    Cottesloe Main Beach

    A surfer’s beach on some days, this beach definitely has waves so big we hardly ever see back in Singapore. The kids got thrilled over the high tide and fast incoming waves splashing on the shoreline and attempted to run when the waves came in. Unfortunately all of them ended with splashingly wet and we had to dig into our packed luggage for extra pair of shoes to replaced their soaked shoes. A good idea to always bring extra shoes on any trip.

    Fremantle Market

    This century old market is a must-go when in Perth. From fruits and vegetables to pastries, to burgers, snacks to souvenirs, everything looked interesting. The market is packed on weekends, similar to Bugis Village back in Singapore, so do watch out for your kids. There was also street buskers doing some performances to add to the colour of the market. We got away with some satisfying burgers and snacks, some honey cakes as well as some souvenirs to bring back home.

    South Mole Lighthouse

    A small lighthouse by the port. We love the clear blue sky and watch boats and ships sail by as well as enjoy the cooling breeze as we stroll along. Definitely a good photo spot.

    Bibra Lake Regional Playground

    Playground with a fantastic view? Oh yes! Definitely! On the way to the airport, we were recommended to this awesome playground which gave the kids unforgettable time. With sand and water play, flying fox, swings, numerous slides, the kids had crazy fun here. It was almost too sad our trip was ending. They are already asking to go back! Ok, guess we’ll be back sometime.

    Itinary

    Day 1:

    • Supermarket shopping
    • Check in hotel

    Day 2:

    • Golden Grove Orchard
    • Caversham Park
    • Swan River

    Day 3:

    • Crawley Edge Boatshed
    • Lakeside Joondalup

    Day 4:

    • Busselton Jetty
    • Augusta Whale Watch
    • Margaret River

    Day 5:

    • King’s Park
    • Perth Zoo

    Day 6:

    • Kings Park
    • Pinnacles
    • Lobster Shack
    • Lancelin Sand Dunes
    • Watertown Brand Outlet

    Day 7:

    • King’s Park
    • Cottesloe Main Beach
    • South Mole Lighthouse
    • Fremantle Market
    • Bibra Lake Regional Playground

    Hong Kong with Young Kids (2017 Edition)

    Four years after we first brought the kids to visit Hong Kong, we are back here with now 3 kids in tow. What a difference 4 years made. Besides a bigger family now, the girls have also grown, no longer the can-bring-them-anywhere toddlers. But for some reason, Hong Kong now seems slightly more kid friendly than before. And we definitely welcome that.

    Many hotels are offering kids-centered program and kids/family friendly rooms, although not at pocket-friendly prices (unless during off peak seasons). There is even a whole mall dedicated to kids! It’s branded as the world’s first multiple intelligence kids mall! How impressive!

    Transportation seems easier than before as blogged in this entry. The main reason to be accredited to technology advancement. The regular taxi scene remains unchanged as from 30 years ago, according to a local there. There are still the same nostalgic Toyota Crown 4 or 5 seaters taxi, with the addition of a new taxi type, which is the maxi cab which is mainly for wheelchair bound passengers. But they are still 4-seater taxis.

    Now with Uber and online travel agencies like Klook, booking a transport in Hong Kong was a breeze. For this trip, we used mainly Klook to book our transport as we can be guaranteed an MPV which can accommodate all of us, plus our luggages. It’s so easy to book through the app and cancellation just requires a 24hour advance notice. Plus the year end promotions offered, the pricing was quite attractive. I wonder if anyone would still arrange airport transfers with the hotels which charges at ridiculous rates.

    Here’s our simple itinerary for a 6 day trip

    • Free and easy at The Wonderful Worlds of Whampoa
    • The Peak
    • Hong Kong Park
    • D(iscovery)-Park
    • Central
    • DisneyLand

    Our main interest being, to enjoy the cool weather and also to let the kids have some holiday fun.

    This trip, we explored the area of Whampoa, Kowloon for the first time. Several bloggers wrote about it and we too, decided that we could give it a try. So here’s my account of our experience in this part of rarely-a-tourist-area place.

    Harbour Grand Kowloon

    Hotel room was average but the lobby was, Wow! There’s a very good-reviewed restaurant serving buffet and it must be very popular as a wedding venue because there was a wedding here every day during our stay

    We booked 2 connecting rooms here and the kids were happily zooming around from one room to the other. The hotel had a very grand and spacious sea-view lobby, which gives an instant feeling of relaxation in the middle of a festive(read crowded) period. The room was average with adequate amenities and toilet was equipped with bathtub! But wait till you see the exterior!

    Nice view coupled with nice weather, no wonder everyone’s smiling

    A breathtaking view awaits us at the rooftop with an aquarium-styled heated outdoor pool with a city view as the backdrop. The weather was too cool and windy for a swim so we did not try. Best to be all wrapped up in our cosy jackets!

    We took a nice evening stroll behind the lobby after checking in, just to catch the lovely sunset, watch the city light up and see traditional junk boats sail past.

    Getting their sweet treat from the hotel cafe for completing their daily tasks

    The kids had their fun participating in their VIK (Very Important Kids) program where they get treats and stickers by answering some questions given out daily

    The Wonderful Worlds of Whampoa (flash required)

    whampoa map
    Map of Whampoa, in case the flash site cannot be loaded

    When we first chance upon this place we were quite doubtful of it being ‘Wonderful’. There were not a lot of reviews on TripAdvisor and the reviews were not that great. And from the street view on Google map, the place looks a little far our imagination of wonderful. One blog that we read also had the same initial doubtful feeling but ended up surprisingly convinced. And I’m glad to say that we made a good choice for a family stay. It’s quite true as per the reviews that there is nothing much to rave about the shopping there and the prices are on the slightly high side. According to 1 local, the area is more for the middle-income residents which explains why, but if you are looking for high-end shopping, you might be disappointed that there are none here. So what do we find wonderful about Whampoa?

    Aeon

    The iconic ship building housing Aeon mall, with some restaurants and food court and retail shopping

    Aeon mall in the middle of everything! Formerly known as Jusco, Aeon is a retail group originating from Japan. If you have been to any aeon stores, you might know that they have very interesting range of things, even supermarket items!

    Photos of only some parts of the whole Aeon Mall (located at the Ship building)

    Bright, spacious mall, well stocked supermarket with a wide variety of goods, retail items like clothing, baby essentials and shoes for example. There are also sections for beauty items, stationery and household items. Really convenient for us especially when I had to cook for the baby. The supermarket stocks fresh produce like corn, potatoes and eggs which were mostly imported but were really fresh and very yummy, as approved by the little ones.

    Some of the items bought at the supermarket for making baby meals

    Meals whipped up from the ingredients using an electric lunch box

    And the cooking tools. Love the collapsible bowl invention. Its so convenient to bring around

    Whampoa Garden

    The Whampoa area consists of a few main buildings named as the different Worlds. For example, Treasure World, Fashion World, Gourmet Place were our main interests for kids (Treasure), shopping (Fashion) and food (Gourmet). All the Worlds were within walking distance from our hotel. Along the way from our hotel to the main Worlds, are the residential blocks, with many other shops and eateries filling up the ground level, for example, Maxim bakery, Watson and Cafe De Coral are some of the shops that we pass by everyday.

    Street view and overall map of Whampoa

    Sometimes we drop by the playground and let kids do some workouts. The MTR is also within walking distance and is the first stop of that line so it’s easier to get a seat.

    JumpinGym at Treasure World

    JumpinGym Arcade at Treasure World

    We were excited to know there’s a huge indoor playground nearby for the kids here. The kids had lots of fun and did not complain about the walking. The pricing of the rides were not cheap though, but at least the kids were kept entertained. There were shops like Toys ‘R us, Popular Bookstore and Dr Kong here as well, in case you are buying stuff for the kids. Oh, and McDonalds is here as well, anytime for a french fries and nuggets meal. There is also a very large branch of Marks and Spencer’s here. Happy shopping for the Mummy and playing for the kids and the Daddy.

    The Peak

    A trip to Hong Kong doesn’t feel complete without a trip to the Peak. We arrived early hoping to skip some crowd. And had the famous Mak’s noodles for breakfast. There was no queue here to our pleasant surprise. Too bad the kids didn’t really fancy the food and preferred my home cooked food prepared for the baby instead. At least they had some breakfast. The Peak Tram queue was incredibly crowded so we skipped that totally.

    Central

    Then we proceeded to the center of the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong city, Central. The plan was to let the kids hop on the longest escalator in the world but apparently they weren’t too keen. We had barely just started a few flights when they started complaining of hunger, tiredness. Ok, enough, next stop please. And while we looking for a place to rest their legs, we chanced upon this little retreat in between the buildings that the kids definitely welcome. Suddenly all that tiredness vanished. Kids.. 🙄

    Hong Kong Park

    Staircase everywhere so it’s common to see people carrying stroller up and down.. 

    Since we were in the vicinity and had some time, we came by this park after reading many good reviews. The kids playground here was really a game changer. It’s like 6-in-1 playground. We usually only get one if them at any one place but over here we have 6 of them all together. Ok I guess we will be stucked here for some time. Surprisingly, we didn’t. The kids got stricken by static a few times while sliding down the slides they were tearing, so we ended the trip early. Not sure it’s the jacket or the dryness that’s causing the static, what a pity.

    D(iscovery)-Park

    Huge kids mall

    We checked out of Harbour Grand this day to proceed to the happiest place on earth, DisneyLand! So we booked our driver for pickup and made a detour to this new mall hailed as the world’s first smart mall for kids. It was really a mall that kids wouldn’t mind coming. Now, only if I more time here to shop while hubby looks after all the kids…

    Disneyland

    Four years ago when we came here, the girls were too young to enjoy the rides. They were also crying away when taking photos with character, intimidated by the size of the character costumes. This trip, they sure outgrown all of it and had lots more fun that now they are asking to go back again. I was secretly expecting the baby to be crying away upon seeing the characters. Surprise, surprise, he was so excited like as if he met an old friend, attempting to lead every character off to somewhere to play, making everyone bursting out in laughter.

    Bub, getting all his favourite characters to follow him home

    Here’s a tip. For a Disney trip with little girls, always prepare a/few set of princess costume. In the happiest place on earth, girls would love to dress up even if they usually don’t .

    We did not stay at the explorer Lodge for this trip but we dropped by to take a look. Really new and nice. Shall try the next time.

    Finally, it’s going home time.

    Changi Airport Terminal 4

    We were so fascinated by our brand new Changi Airport Terminal 4. It’s spanking new and it’s high-tech. Even the restaurants look so interesting. As we had a baby in tow, we could not try the self check in terminal, so we went straight to the counter.

    Even the toilets was so nice, we had to take a photo (bottom left). Baggage weighing machine (bottom right)

    Cathay Pacific

    We saw this irresistible promotion on Cathay Pacific for Premium Economic that we decided to give it a try. We had a pleasant surprise when we got a free upgrade to Business Class on the departure flight due to a change in aircraft. First experience on business class! Super worth. We did try the premium economy flight not he return flight and the seats were indeed more spacious than the economy.

    The kids can’t wait to go back to Hong Kong Disneyland. Hope we get to go back soon! But for now, its back to school, back to work time!

    New Tampines regional library at Tampines Hub

    Got a chance to swing by this latest, much talked-about and exciting library today and I can say that the standard of our libraries here have gone up a notch yet again. 

    The library is huge, that even walking from one end to the other feels far and there are five levels of it. Do we really need so many books? (Yes we do!)

    Level 2 layout
     

    Looking at the amenities they even have charging points and nursing room? Thumbs up!

    Pardon the reflection on the picture. I couldn’t find this layout on the NLB website so I took a picture from one of their digital directory guide in the library. 

    Starting from level 2, we can find all the books related to our every day lives. Be it sports, magazines, cooking, hobbies etc. I was busy admiring the displays and amenities on this floor than notice the range of books though.

    The one and only stationary bike cum reading table
     

    Firstly, the library faces the view of a large, inspiring soccer field. Then there is this one and only bicycle reading table that you can cycle and read a sports book at the same time and be inspired by the sportsmen out on the field ‘live’. It looks like there may be more of this bicycle though since there is some empty spaces here. 

    Nice singapore heritage display here
    Magazines section
     

    Then you see nice, uncovered displays over the usual magazine racks that makes the magazines look more interesting.

    Cooking studio under renovation
     

    Then you see this under renovation kitchen studio where cooking classes would be conducted and you’ll be inspired to grab some cooking books home just outside the studio. 

    Room for watching soccer together?
     

    And there is this big empty room with a huge screen showcasing our National day parade. Wow.

    Level 3 layout
     

    Going up to the 3rd level is Early Reader and Baby Books section. It’s kind of unexpected that they stationed this section here because they usually tuck this section down at basement level, far away from everyone because maybe it’s expected that this would be the noisiest section of all with all the excited toddlers and babies. For this case, I would expect the noise level to be higher than elsewhere because of this 

    Kids playground in a library?!
     

    Seriously? Do we really need a playground in a library? It seems unrelated to encouraging reading of any kind. The only good reason I could think of is for parents to have some time for books while the kids have fun just next door. But maybe the library has some other playground idea instead. It’s still empty for now so let wait and see. Could be really exciting if it’s a new concept playground! And hope the glass is sound proof!

    View of the empty playground from 1 level up
     

    I love the layout of books and shelves at this level.

    Tampines library has a huge collection of Chinese books and they are displayed along this stretch of road. Very visible and accessible. Could encourage kids to read more Chinese books
    Bird cage seats.. so nice! The walkway is mostly wide and stroller friendly
    Upon closer look the books didn’t look that new. Likely to be stock from the previous location
    Love the seats! Feel like grabbing some books and park there to read
    S

    Every book is displayed with cover facing out instead of stacked together with only the book spine facing out. Parents and kids and easily choose a book of interest (although mainly judging a book by its cover). But then again kids this age can’t really read yet so the picture on the cover says a thousand words. Brilliant! When I pick a picture book for my kids I also tend to look at the pictures and decide whether this book is suitable or not then pick it up and briefly read the contents to double confirm.

    Level 4 layout
    Fully utilized


    Level 4 is still for kids, but for Emerging Readers, juniors and teens. 

    For the teens section, the emphasis is more on spaces for group revision and discussion. The rows of tables can be seen to be filled with teens and their laptops and notes, studying for the exams. This place is definitely more conducive than camping on the floor at Changi Airport, if you can find a seat. Only thing is you can’t eat here and blast your music on your Bluetooth speaker.

    Finally for the adults, we have level 5 and 6 of books for us 

    Half filled shelves. Warm lighting strips conducive for reading
    Nice glass table!
     

    2 levels of compactly packed bookshelves seem too much for now as can be seen, they shelves are mostly half filled for now. Should be expecting lots of new books to fill in next time.

    The shelves here can be seen to be more closely packed on these 2 levels and some walkways only allow single file walking. There are still abundant proper tables and chairs and sofas for us though they are still all fully packed.


    The media section looks quite cool with monitor screens this huge. This library really has quite of fair bit of electronics.

    Outdoor garden to take a breather?
     

    Then we have this cool looking outdoor space which is closed for now but seems like a good idea for groups since the noise level is not so restricted. 

    Not sure if the crowd today is due to exam period or it’s going to be this crowded throughout the year, but I see that every single seat and sofa and table is taken up even though the place is huge

    New Zealand with Call Jeeves Private Tour

    New Zealand has always been one of our top dream holiday destinations. Every time we think about the planning, the flight time (roughly 10 hours!), and the air ticket price, we always put it back on hold, promising that we will go next year. 🙂

    We were excited when we learnt that this year, our favourite airline, Singapore Airlines, has quite a number of air ticket deals to New Zealand, such as this one. It was a very good promotion and definitely a deal hard to resist. Problem was we knew we had to make a lot of planning if we were to self-drive there, and we did not have a lot of time left to make the decision. Traveling with 3 young kids (one being an infant) can be challenging especially in the winter!

    Then we came across the idea of private hire tour services that is slowly gaining popularity in New Zealand. It was definitely our preferred way of travelling as we could have a lot of flexibility in our itinerary, and more importantly enjoy the holiday and not worry about vehicle and travel logistics. We had not quite heard about it previously as everyone we knew, self-drove there. So we did lot of research and finally settled on Call Jeeves Tour. What really appealed about them was their fast responsive email responses, and understanding about traveling with kids (which is always challenging). Being a family owned business, they are personalised in their interaction and flexible enough in terms of changing itineraries and not as rigid as some other operators who are more commercially operated. Call Jeeves also had a good rating on TripAdvisor which was really icing on the cake.

    We have since completed the trip and we were very impressed by our driver/owner, Warwick, and his wife, Karen, for making our trip so memorable and relaxing that I thought of sharing our experience here. Days after returning from New Zealand, our kids are still missing the duo (they never felt this before with other private tours in other countries) and asked when we would be returning to New Zealand!

    Pick up:

    IMG_3466
    Personal pickup at ChristChurch Airport

    Upon arriving, we were picked up by Warwick at the airport arrival hall. For those who are unaware, New Zealand has strict immigration rules which apply to food and medicine. Parents need to be aware of this, and ensure that all rules are complied. I will share more about this in another post.

    Our ride was a spacious Toyota HiAce Commuter mini-coach, with enough seats for 9 passengers and plenty of space for our stroller and bulky luggages.

    IMG_9745
    Infant and children’s carseat provided

    The interior was equipped with heater that was really useful especially after we come back in from a chilly and windy walk outdoors. The seats can be reclined when the kids are napping during the car rides. And they did, most if not all of the time, when they were supposed to be enjoying the beautiful scenery. Duh.. We often joked that this is because of the good driving (which is true!) by Warwick.. haha

    The vehicle came with an infant seat and 2 children car seats which by the way were mandatory accordingly to NZ law. With all these, we were set to go!

    IMG_9742
    Spacious boot space for luggages and stroller

     

    The trip:

    Most of the itinerary was planned by Warwick based on understanding our requirements and ensuring that we optimise our time in the South Island. Multiple emails prior to the trip ensured that we tweaked the itinerary to exactly what the family is expecting. With different age groups within the party, it is really difficult to plan!

    Outcome? The whole trip was relaxing, and not too hectic, and yet with all key attractions visited. Perhaps the only regret is that we should have spent more time there!

    Collage_itinary
    Our Itinerary at a glance…

     

    Playgrounds with toilet breaks:

    Parents will really understand this. With lots of long hour drives around New Zealand, we would often stop for our toilet breaks as well as stretch ourselves, get some coffee and snacks. We were grateful that Warwick had planned some of these breaks such that we could hit a playground and let the kids have some fun and fresh air. Many toilets had playgrounds next to them, and these were really welcomed by the kids! And they really had lots of fun running around in the cool weather, with a thick jacket and still not sweat. Look at the priceless expressions of the kids!

    Collage_playground
    Playground time during toilet breaks for all

     

    Food and Supermarkets:

    After 3 days of bread and fish & chips, the family started to crave for comfort food (a.k.a. Asian food). Thus we went around searching for these restaurants. Although there was no “wantan mee” (dumpling noodle) or chicken rice, Warwick managed to find us restaurants that served decent rice with dishes and noodle soup. This was really welcomed by the kids. End of the day stops will always include a pit stop to the supermarket to stock up items for the next day (including instant noodles and potato chips!). Warwick knew exactly where the supermarkets with a good range of stuff (i.e. Countdown, Pak and Save, 4 Square) were located! This saved us a lot of valuable time.

    Collage_food
    Supermarket trips and Chinese food search

     

    Unexpected Fire Experience in Queenstown:

    The hotel we were in had a minor fire incident which resulted in full evacuation. Cause of the fire is still unknown (according to hotel staff when we left). During the incident, my hubby called Warwick and he and Karen appeared within 10 minutes trying to see how they can help. This was really good service. While both of them cannot fight fire, their presence kind of calmed the family, especially the seniors. They went around with my hubby asking for updates while the family waited. This was really appreciated. And sorry for making them miss their dinner, which we understand they were mid way through. While fires do not commonly happen on holidays (which we hope not!), having a local like Warwick and Karen does help when such need arises. We were eventually allowed back to the hotel in the night, which was a real relief to the family.

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    Evacuated from hotel after some fire occurred near the hotel premises.

     

    Pricing:

    For those wondering what’s the damage to your wallets, it is typically more expensive as compared to similar services we tried before in countries like Korea and Taiwan. This is partly because of the higher standards of living in NZ. Goods and services tax is also very high there at 15%! There are strict rules governing such services in NZ (i.e. mandatory rest hours etc.), and this really makes it a very safe mode of transportation as compared to self-drive.

    One possible way to cut cost is not to use the driver services in areas where you can walk around, (for example, Queenstown) provided that the hotel that you stay at, is near the shopping and restaurant area. However, you will have to note that many places in NZ do not have public transport services easily available especially in the rural areas. There are coach services around but they are definitely not as convenient for our group.

    The scary bit about self driving in NZ is that sometimes you even do not get any cellphone signal at all so you can’t even seek help via the internet. Not to forget that during the winter season, the sky goes dark as early as 5pm so if you have to drive long hours for any particular day, you would easily have to drive in this kind of lighting condition (pardon for the blur image, but you get the idea..)

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    Driving in the dark with no street lamps

     

    You can always discuss the different options with Call Jeeves to ensure that you have a budget fitting vacation! After traveling with Warwick, we definitely see the benefits, and it’s totally worth it!

    Saying Good Bye:

    Time flies, and its really hard to say good bye after 10 days of touring the South Island together. Unlike other private tour operators we had encountered in different countries, Warwick and Karen came with us for the flight check in and accompanied us to the boarding gate. This was really a nice gesture, and everybody hugged good bye at the gate. There was a tinge of sadness, but we know we will be coming back one day. Hopefully to both North and South Island!

    And Call Jeeves will definitely be one trusted operator and friend that we will call upon if we come back again! Till we meet again guys !

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    Thanks for a memorable New Zealand South Island trip!

     

    Note: This is not a sponsored post. Stay tuned for subsequent posts detailing on the trip!

    Taiwan with Young Kids and Baby (Part 5) – Tainan and KaoHsiung

    Finally back to completing the last installment of our trip to Taiwan.

    On the last leg of the trip, we did Tainan and Kaoshiung before heading back to Taipei for the flight back to Singapore.

    Taroko Park Mall, KaoHsiung

    After a few days at the countryside, we felt back at home after reaching KaoHsiung, another major city in Taiwan. Being a city, here comes shopping, in a mall!

    Mr Lai brought us to this very new mall, Taroko Park and my city kids were thrilled to find amusement park and indoor playground, lots of it, over here. The weather was somewhat hot for outdoor play, so we just took the carousel ride and head straight for the indoor one. There were several other rides though as seen on the map.

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    Suzuki Circuit Park at Taroko Mall
    Then comes the indoor playground. It was huuuuggeee! It seems like a combination of Polliwog, The City and Pororo Park. Good place to park the kids (and the hubby) while the mummy goes shopping!

    The best part was that this place was so new, there wasn’t a crowd, yet. So the girls had lots of chance to explore every section. They were exhausted and famished and all sweaty at the end of it but they couldn’t be happier.

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    Indoor playground at Taroko Park Mall
    We spent the whole day at KaoHsiung on this day and headed back to Deely House in the evening.

    Tsou Ma Lai Farm

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    Big farm at Tsou Ma Lai
    Read on TripAdvisor that there was supposed to to have some farm activities here. But it was quite empty when we reached. Probably because it was a weekday. Feels like we have the whole farm for ourselves. Luckily there were still some playground and we also fed the horses. Should be more fun on a weekend though. 

    Chi Mei Museum

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    Chimei Museum near Tainan
    From the Deely House, we drove around 1 hour to the #1 place to go in Tainan, as on TripAdvisor , the Chimei Museum.

    The museum compound was huge! We didn’t manage to view the exhibits as kids might not be keen and it was too big for our group to walk. So we just took photos at the exterior and they looked so grand. Mission accomplished.

    Water Fire Cave

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    Apparently the fire has been burning for 300 years to date
    The water-fire cave is literally, a cave with flower water and fire burning at the same time. It’s a natural phenomena. The fire being constantly fueled by methane gas leaking through fault lines on the rocks. You can’t get too near it but from where we stood, we could already feel the warmth from the fire. How peculiar a sight!

    Eight Trigram Buddha Landscape (Chang Hua)

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    Big Buddha Temple in Tainan
    We weren’t expecting to be seeing big Buddha in Taiwan, but there was one. The Buddha statue was quite impressive but kids were happy just running around on the wide spaces.

    Chung She Flower Market

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    Chung She Flower Farm. We love flowers!
     Finally, the most photogenic place of the trip. At an unexpected place, the Chung She Flower Farm. There were plots and plots of flowers! I think I went bonkers trying to take the best shots here and am quite pleased with the set of photos we took here. The kids had fun posing around too. 

    As it got darker the temperature started to drop and we set off to return to Taoyuan to stay overnight for the flight back the next day.

    It was quite a long ride so most of us were just napping on the car 

    I think there must be lots more parts of Taiwan we have yet to cover but should be good enough for now. Hopefully we will head for a new trace destination for the next trip! 
    Itinary

    • KaoHsiung
    • Tsou Ma Lai Farm
    • Chi Mei Museum
    • Fire Water Cave
    • Eight Trigram Buddha
    • Chung She Flower Market