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
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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:

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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

Taiwan with Young Kids and Baby (Part 4) – Taichung to Tainan

Our next stop is going to be Tainan. As can be seen from the map, there is some distance between Taichung and Tainan. So as usual, we made a few stops along the way to break up the trip

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Starting from Taichung to our hotel in Tainan

 

Fruit Picking

Our first stop is at this fruit farm by the XinFeng recreational farm. The last time we came, we went to pick their grapes. This trip, we came for something different. So we managed to pick from persimmons and oranges here. Its a bit of walk and trek up to the fruit trees so do prepare some insect repellents if you come.

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Picking persimmons and other fruits

 

Lavendar Cottage

Having heard about this place so often, we had to come here to see for ourselves, even though it’s not even lavender season, as can be seen from the big patch of green, rather than purple at the background.

However, even if it’s not the lavender season, this place still gives a romantic and relaxing feel overall. Maybe because it’s situated at a hilltop where the air is cool and it’s away from the city and buildings and traffic. Its nice for dating couples but also fun for kids. Look at the grand carousel. The kids loved it. You could also have your lunch or dinner here at the restaurant inside which allows you to have alfresco hotpot in the open with chilly cool fresh air.

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Xin She Castle (Taichung)

Our next stop is at Xin She Castle. This place is supposed to be a resort, but the open area is open to public for a fee to visit, picnic, gather or do photoshoots because it’s really very photogenic. It’s also a popular spot for pre-wedding photography and we also saw a couple doing their wedding shots here. If you are in Taichung, do drop by this place for some nice photos.

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Scenic spots at Xin She Castle

 

Our Accommodation in Tainan – Deely House, Tainan

This is our second time here. The kids love it so much, we don’t mind coming here again and it happens that we were lucky that the biggest room here was still available so we went ahead to make the booking. As this was our second time booking, we booked the room via direct email communication with Deely House and were even given some discount!

The email was totally in Chinese but it was still okay for us. Then we were given a link to pay a deposit to confirm the room. The remaining payment to be in cash during check in. After confirmation, we were given the WeChat/Line id of the staff on duty so we could make direct contact with the staff for arrival and any other enquiries.

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Making deposit on Deely house website via credit card payment

And here’s our room.. The Snow White room

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The Snow White Themed rom is takes up the entire floor. Ideal for large groups

The kids had so so much fun at the slides and swing and even just running up and down the room. There were also some costumes and hats for role playing but more suitable for even younger kids.

We had 3 double mattresses arranged for us. 2 on the lower level and 1 on top. So the girls took the top level while the rest of us took the the lower level one.

Amenities provided for kids includes bathtub, Sebamed toiletries, towels and a step stool. Adult toiletries and towel were also available.

Snacks and beverages were also provided but you would need to fill your hot water from the lobby in a flask provided.

For this room we had a living area, a dining and washing area, the beds and a toilet area, just like a house.

We met a few groups of other tourists from Singapore again and we visited each others room to check out

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Little Mermaid Themed room for 4 pax

This is the Little Mermaid themed room, suitable for a family of 4. There’s 1 double mattress at the lower level and another at the upper deck. The room size is halved but still has enough room for kids to have fun.

Deely House now provides in-house breakfast, prepared fresh on the spot. For babies, they even prepared season-less porridge with some vegetable and chicken all blended. But we had not started Bub on porridge at that time, so didn’t try.

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Western style, Chinese style and kids style

Deely house also provides other little amenities that make it so warm and cosy.

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Play area at the main lobby

Kids can entertain themselves at this play area while we check in, eat breakfast or come back from sightseeing. There are lots of toys on the upper deck and they can slide down for breakfast once it’s ready. The area is also well visible from the dining area so parents can keep an eye on them.

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Deely House Amenities

Other cosy amenities Deely House provided includes steriliser (both UV and steamer type), slow cooker (for cooking own porridge), some medications, high chair for kids, an open kitchen that you may use if you need, washing machines with laundry detergent and even bicycles for guests to get around the neighbourhood.

Really loved all these thoughtful amenities.

Itinary

  • Fruit Picking
  • Lavendar Farm
  • Xin She Castle
  • Check into Deely House Tainan

 

 

 

Taiwan with Young Kids and Baby (Part 3) – Yilan To Taichung

So we left Yilan to head south towards Tainan. It’s a long way by car from Yilan to Tainan, so we did a stopover at Taichung to break up the trip.

Traveling from Yilan southwards. Stopover at Taichung

We took some last few pictures at the hotel and the kids said they want to bring the little brother back here again some time. Good excuse!

Saying bye to Silk’s Place

Watermelon bread, watermelon toasts, pikachu bread etc

We heard from Mr Lai, that the locals had once crazed over this rectangular watermelon bread . The hype has since died down and there was no crowd when we were there.  The famous rectangular watermelon was actually a whole loaf of bread. We wouldn’t be able to finish so we bought the individually packed watermelon toast instead. They have also caught up with the Pokémon hype and had this Pikachu bread which was so cute we got it for the kids.
Verdict? Well, it’s fascinating for the first time, but that’s about it. The bread toast was rather dry and tasteless and probably contained lots of food colouring. Maybe the fresh loaf would have been better but that we didn’t manage to try.
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Queuing for delicious pancake. DIY your sauces

Next stop, we popped by this place for some really yummy Taiwanese spring onion pancake (葱油饼). There’s usually a long queue but we were slightly early so the queue was not that bad yet. It started to form while we were queuing halfway.
First, you order the type of pancake, with egg or without egg ( like roti prats aka indian pancake), then you apply the sauce yourself depending on your preference. Then you eat it hot.
Verdict? The nicest scallion pancake I have eaten! Its crispy while it’s hot, the spring onions were fresh and refreshing and the sauce completes the tastiness of it. I’m still drooling over it as I write. Thumbs up!
So after our breakfast and snack, the next stop was strawberry picking at this farm that Mr Lai brought us.

Strawberry picking under the hot sun

This was not the first time we picked strawberries but we had not tried Taiwan strawberries yet, so here we go again.
Most of the strawberries had been harvested at this time so there was not as many for us to pick. The berries were also not that huge. It was a sunny day and the kids were starting to complain. But the trip was worth it. The strawberries, although small, were all sweet! 1 whole box of strawberries! Yummy! The pricing is roughly 12SGD for 500grams of berries that you picked. Not exactly cheap, but all for the experience.
We were mostly on the move this day, luckily Bub was still manageable. I DIYed this car mobile for him to self entertain while he was not napping. If the interval gets too long, we would carry him out of the car seat to stretch a bit, else he would just start to fuss.

Little Bub entertaining himself with a DIY car mobile

Sunflower farm
We chanced by this sunflower farm while enroute to our next destination. We had to come down to take some pictures.

Location of random sunflower farm

Giant sunflowers! Picture perfect.

The kids were not too happy about it though. It was quite sunny and ‘not fun’ for them.
On the way to the next destination, we also passed by this persimmon dried fruit factory with this grand looking persimmon tree. If only we could pick the fruits! They were not for picking though. The tree was supposed to be here to attract some attention.

Persimmon fruit tree with no leaves

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All kinds of tomatoes. Currently growing 1 at home, hope it bears fruit!

Next, we stopped at a tomato farm. The tomatoes were not ready for harvest so we only took a look. It was interesting to know that there were actually purple tomatoes! Too bad we didn’t get to try it. The farmers did give us some cherry tomatoes to sample though. They were super sweet! I had a tomato juice here as well. Hope to go back with glowing complexion!

Flying cow ranch

Our last destination before we hit the hotel was the Flying cow ranch. We didn’t come here on here on the previous trips but have always heard of people coming. So here we are to see for ourselves what’s over here.
It was such coincidence when we found out the entire crowd that we met here on that day were ALL from Singapore! This farm is really popular with Singapore tourists!
We requested Mr Lai to drive us to as near the main activity area as possible so we do not have trek the slopes. So we didn’t really have to walk much to reach the farm.
The kids knew immediately what they have to do. Feed the animals! So we bought some animal feeds and the girls happily proceeded to feed the chickens and the goats while we sit back and rest and wait for the milking activity to start.
We were then briefed on the process, they hygiene and the safety rules and there the girls went, shrieking in excitement and fear as they try to milk the cow.

Milky hotpot time! The bottled caramel milk was good!

Finally, comes our dinner of milky hotpot! And of course we had to have some milk while we are at the flying Cow ranch right? There’s Bub having his dinner of cereals and milk.
The piping hot soup was much welcomed as the night starts to turn chilly. But frankly, we still preferred the clear soup. The milky soup was a bit too, erm, milky.
Finally, we checked in to our hotel of the night for a good rest before the next leg of the trip.
Nothing fanciful with this choice of hotel except that it was really near to Sogo.
So we hopped over to do some quick shopping and the kids found an arcade and parked themselves there.
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Trying to take the carousel but it was closed already

 The next last instalment of this series of write-ups on our Taiwan trip, is going to be so fun and exciting. Can’t wait to share.
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Having fun in their jammies. Stay tuned for the next post!

Taichung Itinary
  • Watermelon bread shop
  • Taiwan scallion pancake
  • Strawberry picking
  • Sunflower farm
  • Tomato picking
  • Flying cow ranch
  • Shopping