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.

IMG_1044

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..)

IMG_4104

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 !

IMG_0759

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.

Collage_kids_outdoor

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.

Collage_kids_indoor

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

collage_animalfarm

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

collage_mansion

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

Collage_waterfirecave

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)

Collage_EightTrigramBuddha

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

Collage_chungsheflowermarket

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

map_taichung_tainan

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.

collage_fruitpicking

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.

collage_lavendar

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.

collage_castle

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.

deely_pay

Making deposit on Deely house website via credit card payment

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

collage_deely_bigroom

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

collage_deely_smallroom

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.

collage_deely_food

Western style, Chinese style and kids style

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

collage_deely_play

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.

collage_deely_amenities

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.
collage_pancake

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

collage_tomato

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.
img_6811

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.
img_7113

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

 

 

Taiwan with Young Kids and Baby (Part 2) – Fun at Yilan

Based on our research, there are lots of kids friendly hotels and minsu (commoner’s home) in Yilan. We decided on the Silk’s Place Hotel as they still had room even though we booked late. So from Taoyuan International Airport, we went straight to Yilan, a 3-hour drive away.

Taking the Farmosa Freeway straight down to Yilan. A rough 3 hour drive

Transportation

This is the third time we are traveling with Lai, our local driver. He was actually fully booked but he made special arrangements so he could provide his service to us personally for part of the trip. On the days that he could not make it, he would recommend us another driver instead. So next time we had better book earlier.


A really nice and chatty guy who’s willing to go the extra mile to provide his services and leave us with memorable experiences.

We didn’t try to explore other modes of transportation although we might reach our destination faster, all for the convenience of travelling with kids and baby and even elderly. And also, Lai doubled up as our tour guide, helping us plan our route and itinerary based on our interest and call up different attractions to make enquiries before we go.

We dropped by this stall near the airport for a quick lunch before heading up to Yilan. The Yummy first lunch in Taiwan! Thanks to our driver’s recommendation.

collage_firstfood

No baby chair here, so have to eat like this.

Hotel – Silks Place, Yilan

This place, seriously, we should not even have planned to go anywhere else in Yilan. We could laze around here all day and the kids were more than happy.

1 personal vehicle with key for each room, free unlimited rides on other shared vehicles to drive direct to room and around the whole level, indoors and outdoors

There were 2 levels in the hotel building where kids were allowed to drive their vehicles around. Level 8 and 9. Try to get level 8 if possible. The outdoor playground is on level 8 and there’s also an indoor lounge on the same level.

After check in, you may proceed to level 8 to register for your personal vehicle where the staff there will tag your chosen vehicle with your room number and pass you the key so that only you can drive it and you don’t have to worry leaving the vehicle outside your room.

On usual days, only cars tagged with room numbers were allowed to be driven indoors. But on the day that we arrived, it was raining so they parked all the free-to-ride vehicles indoors as well. It then became a chaotic corridor where the voices of excited children drown the voices of everyone else. And the bumping of cars to cars, cars to poor parents who were helping their young kids navigate the car. Thankfully the above scene only happened on rainy days, on a weekend. And we happened to encounter it. *Sweat

So on our first 2 days we only stayed indoors due to the non-stop rain. Luckily they also had this cosy lounge for rainy days.

Small library on level 9, linked from level 8 lounge, with some bouncy toys, sofa, tables and sofa, snacks, drinks and coffee. Best place to hang out after a flight and a long ride

There’s a small library here but no kids were reading, obviously. It would be better if they don’t just have Chinese books. I picked up 1 book and attempted to read to the kids but found myself reading to the walls instead. So I gave up. We treated ourselves to some snacks and drinks before heading out for dinner at the adjoining mall. Rain does not bother us a lot here. *grins

There is even a theatre screening movies for the kids! We didn’t watch any movie though, the kids just needed their YouTube and my iPad, duh.

The Room

The room was a dream. So spacious they had space for a tent this big. The girls camped here for 2 nights and also tried sharing our bed which was also spacious enough for co sleeping. Bub had his own cot albeit not a very comfortable one. The mattress was not thick and soft enough but it was spacious as well.

The room, well equipped with kiddy toiletries and even small stool and bath tub!

As for toiletries, the kids got a new set of sebamed shower gel, shampoo and lotion everyday, kids Colgate and tooth brushes. Toiletries for adults were from loccitane. Nice touch. Parden the dark pictures as there was not much light by the time we reached Yilan. On winter days, the sky darkens at 5pm so usually our sightseeing ends by 5pm.

The Outdoor Playground

Bouncy castle, bouncy slide, tunnel slide, driving area, slides and ballpit plus an indoor resting area. Which kid wants to do any sightseeing in Yilan?

We were lucky as it finally stopped raining here on the 3rd day. The staff were busy early in the morning to set up everything . By the time we finished our breakfast, play arena was ready! And did the kids went wild!

Free to pick any vehicle to drive around, taking care to look out for pedestrians and traffic light, bounced at bouncy castle, slide down the bouncy slide and dived in the ball pit. Parents and baby? Chill inside the hut for some coffee and fresh milk and small toys. Holiday at its best.

Small toys suitable for infants and toddlers here

The Spa

collage_swim

Indoor and outdoor heated pool with jacuzzi

We went to the pool on 1 of the night. It was past their bedtime but we had to go since we are almost leaving for another hotel soon. So we came, at 9.30pm. The kids were starting to feel sleepy but woke up instantly upon hearing swimming time. It was chilling outside when we tried to swim in the indoor part of the pool which links to the outdoor pool. The kids were freezing so we moved back indoors to the heated jacuzzi instead. They had milk bath and jacuzzi and shower treatment here. So relaxing!

We showered here at the clubhouse and they even had spinner for you to dry your swim suits!

img_0830

Just put wet clothes in, turn to speed 1 and wait. Clothes come out spinned dry

Breakfast was included in our booking and the spread of food was great and suits any kid and adult. There was plain porridge with condiments to go with, bread, cereals, salads and a fresh juice counter! They even included drinks like bottled apple juice and yakult!

collage_food

Shopping

Our hotel is linked to the Lunar Plaza Mall so shopping is very convenient, even when it’s raining! We also had our dinners there and had more kids entertainment!

Collage_dinner.jpg

Hotpots and ramen for dinner on the first 2 nights. Also played at the arcade here. Didn’t go in this kiddy playground though. This arcade also has a section for adults for slot machines using tokens!

Sightseeing and Activities

Coming from a bustling city of Singapore to this rural town of Yilan, one can instantly feel the difference. There aren’t many tall buildings cluttering around, just lots of space and fresh air. The attractions are simple, non sophisticated and does not come with expensive entrance fees. There’s also not a lot of shopping areas, restaurants and cafes here. Nice place to relax the mind if you are stressed up by the hustle and bustle of city and work life.

Rainy Day Activities

It was raining non stop for the first 2 days so Lai planned some indoor activities for us on these days. We went to the Brick factory, crayon factory and chocolate making factory.

Brick Art Museum

collage_lego

The brick art museum opened in Yilan just recently. There was some crowd control for visitors to go in and view the exhibits hence we had to queue for a while to get the tickets to go in. While waiting, the kids could sit at the benches to start building their lego or take pictures with the lego fixtures outside the building. But it was raining that day so everyone squeezed indoors to take cover.

After viewing the exhibits, we passed by a small souvenir shop at the exit and then  proceeded to the activity area for some hands-on crafts. The only problem was that the instructor speaks in mandarin only but it’s not to hard to follow the steps since they will also be demonstrating what to do. You may also redeem 1 free drink with the entrance ticket.

It was a pity that it was raining that day. We couldn’t go outdoor to take pictures or just wait for our turn. Everyone had to squeeze under the shelter and wait so the whole experience was discounted by a little.

Lucky Art Crayon factory

collage_crayon

At the lucky art crayon factory, the kids learned how to assemble their own market pens, made some crayons and did face painting. It was quite crowded when we went but luckily we didn’t have to wait long and the kids were quite excited going from stations to stations to DIY their art materials and even had to use a hammer to fix up the marker pens.

At the last station they get to choose a tattoo to paint on. Simple fun but just right for kids this age.

Chocolate Making Factory

collage_chocolate

Tools given and ingredients. Basically only melting the chock

We DIY-ed our Christmas themed chocolates here. But, frankly, we could easily do this activity at home too. We were given some chocolate chips to melt, some toppings like marshmallows, nuts and candy to add inside our chocolate after we pour them into the chocolate mound. Then we waited a while for the chocolate to harden and bring them back.

There was another workshop for making other types of chocolate but we didn’t attend that. Then we bought some interesting chocolates and candies back from the souvenir shop.

The workshops require prior booking so make sure you call before coming .

Jinpu Fruit Farm

collage_farms

Spring onions in Yilan are famous for being huge and fat. Which was probably why we could only find FarFetch’d here (Only those who play/still play Pokemon Go will know *chuckles)

And finally, some activities for us. There are many farms to visit in Taiwan, as agriculture is a big industry there. Our driver brought us to this one called the Jinpu orchard. Kids were like ‘huh again?’ Can we don’t go? But we dragged them down anyway. They ended up having fun cutting down the fruits and forgot about the whining.

The farm owner let us apply some essential oil insect repellent. I brought along our own especially for Bub since we planned to visit the farms and there’s going to be so much insects around. We ended up getting all bitten anyway, at least for me and my hubby. The kids didn’t suffer as bad. I suspect it was because I applied for kids the insect repellent with 10% deet instead of just the natural oil insect repellent offered by the farmers.

So if you are planning some farm visits, do bring along your trusty insect repellents, best to be odourless or natural oils type so as not to accidentally spray harmful chemicals onto the crops.

Wang Long Bi 

collage_wanglongbi

Mainly for sightseeing, this place is really nice and peaceful and makes a good photo spot. Would have been nicer if it was not as sunny at the time we were there. You could hang around here for longer period and enjoy the peacefulness here.

Yilan Train Station

collage_yilanstation

One of the top destinations to visit according to TripAdvisor, we dropped by here for some quick photos before the sun goes down for the day. The art display along both sides of the road leading to the Yilan station were really photogenic and cheerful. Everyone here was trying to snap some wacky shots and you can hear lots of giggling and laughter around.

The kids were kind of tired and cranky when we reached so were not so cooperative to take pictures. Such a pity. But no choice, they were napping halfway in the car when we dragged them down for pictures.

LuoDong Night Market (羅東觀光夜市)

collage_nightmarket

Finally, no one comes to Taiwan without going to at least 1 of their night markets. Although our kids were not a fan, we had to drop by at least 1 night market to get some Taiwanese food. The Luodong night market is not very big so it’s quite manageable. There’s mostly food here, some game stalls and some accessories stalls as well.

We packed some food like braised meat rice (again), fried bee hoon, corn dogs for kids, spring onion pancake, beancurd and fruit juice back for dinner.

The yummiest food we had here has got to be this ‘smelly fries’ (臭薯条). It’s actually fries made from smelly beancurd! It went so well with the Thai sweet and sour sauce that we turned back to attempt to get another pack. But by then there was already a queue. We couldn’t wait for the queue as the kids were in the car waiting and would start grumbling if we were still not done. So, never mind, till next time! Yum, I could still remember vividly the taste of the crispy beancurd fries dipped in the sweet and sour chili sauce!

After this night, we would be checking out of the hotel to proceed to the next destination, Taichung. Kids were sad to leave, but they have no idea how much fun they would have further down the trip where we would spend another 3 nights in Deely House Tainan!

Itinary for the first 3 days in Yilan

Day 1:

  • Flight to taiwan
  • Drive to Yilan
  • Check into hotel
  • Dinner and shopping at Lunar Plaza

Day 2:

  • Brick Art Museum
  • Chocolate Factory
  • Crayon Factory
  • Dinner and shopping at Lunar Plaza

Day 3:

  • Outdoor playground at Silks Place
  • Fruit picking
  • Wang Long Bi
  • Yilan Station
  • Night Market
  • Night Swimming at Silks Place

Taiwan for Young Kids and Baby (Part 1) – Luggage Packing and Taking the Flight

This must be our third trip to Taiwan with kids. Have been meaning to pen down the trips happenings but always too engaged with other stuff. So finally, I’m determined to come up with this series of posts for the first trip with our 2 kids and 1 baby.

This is Bub’s first trip so we picked somewhere that’s so kids friendly and familiar so it’s easier to manage.

We decided on Taiwan because

  1. Flight to Taiwan is a manageable 5 hour direct flight.
  2. The weather is not too cold and not too hot at this time of the year
  3. Easy to engage private driver for transportation
  4. Lots of kids friendly Minsu and places to go.

Packing for Trip

Years back when we had only 1 baby, we packed lots of baby stuff for our trip, including jar food, blender and cooker for cooking and blending food for the weaning baby. Most people were overwhelmed with what we packed.

First trip with Baby #1 to Hokkaido. Sweet corn and Pigeon baby apple juice from local supermarket. Potato, brought from home.


2nd baby time,  We had double the number of diapers to bring and milk powder for the elder one so we dropped the blender and the jar food but still brought the cooker for sterilizing of bottles and cooking and We also standby some packets of ready food like ready cooked rice and baby soup. 

Dry ingredients from home, fresh ingredients from the local supermarket.


With the 3rd baby, although the sisters are done with diapers, we totally dropped the cooker and brought sterilizing tablets instead. And only cereals for food, since Bub just started weaning. For the next trip, we’ll probably use thermos flask to cook porridge. We tried it previously and it works amazingly! 

But the luggage was still huge, considering now we had 5 pax worth of stuff to pack. 

In the end, we managed to pack with 2 big luggages, filled to almost maximum weight, for 3 adults (including my mother-in-law) and 2 kids, 1 baby! But our luggages were being tagged as heavy weight, so hopefully the handlers would be more careful with it. Cannot imagine if we were to pack the same as baby #1’s time, we’d probably need like 3 luggages? Not forgetting we still have 1 stroller.

2 big luggages to start with and some foldable bags that were opened up to put our purchases at the end of the trip

Heavy weight. Lucky no need to repack


The vacuum bags were my savior. I stuffed the clothes in and vacuumed until they lay flat in the luggage for easy packing 🙂
We were lucky that Bub was still breastfeeding so we didn’t have to bring much formula milk, just some, in case. The hardest to estimate were the diapers. We didn’t intend to buy over there in case we were not familiar with the brands there or we totally can’t find any. So we brought all the diapers we need, plus some extras. Heavy!

This is roughly what we packed just for the kids

Packing list for kids and baby travel


The weather in Taiwan at this time was a cool 16+deg to 24deg so we don’t have to bring any thick jackets, just some pullovers or light weight jackets. 

Pullover with covered toes pants, save the need for socks that kept sliding off

For bottoms, it was useful that I brought along some leg warmers for days that was unexpectedly colder.

Overalls plus front zip jacket for layering and leg warmers because this day was supposed to be warm but ended up quite chilling

And here’s the medicine inventory 

Reddish rash around the cheek

  1. Zertec – for allergy and cold. We experienced 1 time that our baby was allergic to air/dust (according to PD) and developed rashes. Bub had the same symptom this trip and we were prepared for it. 
  2. Cough medicine 
  3. Biogaia probiotics tablets for stomach discomfort (for the older kids)
  4. Paracetamol 
  5. Brufen 
  6. Thermometer
  7. Anti diarrhea
  8. Anti vomit medicine

Thankfully we didn’t need any of the other medicine for this trip although we did get the girls to take probiotics daily as preventive measure.

The Flight

We usually reach the airport around 3 hours earlier than flight time so we can have a quick meal and more time to check in. 

There are many playgrounds around the boarding area such as this one located near Gate A15 at Changi Airport Terminal 3.

Things to do at Terminal 3 if you are early


We almost always take the Singapore Airline unless it doesn’t fly to the place that we want. Singapore Airline usually have priority boarding for families with kids, so do check in and standby at the boarding gate early!

Take a look at these!

Bub resting on the bassinet, Nat enjoying a movie, Nic writing a postcard to send back home. Goodies for both kids and baby!


We took budget airline with the kids before and had a miserable flight with bored and cranky kids, sleepy but no proper flat bed for baby to nap and ate expensive but simple airplane meal that if you were not fast enough to order, you only get to buy biscuits or tidbits stuff. *Major wails.. 

So above picture sums up the different treatment if we travel on non budget airline. 

The baby goodie bag was something new for us. Didn’t remember they had such gift but was really heartwarming. In the bag was 2 M size diapers (the air stewardess enquired about baby age when we boarded the plane with priority queue), 1 packet of wet wipes, a bib, a plushie and a paper bag for disposal of anything. Then they set up the bassinet seat and topped up with a waterproof mat and a blanket for baby.

And then of course there was the usual hassle of carrying baby in and out of the bassinet during turbulence and landing. The worst part was having to buckle up with the infant seatbelt even when the baby was sleeping so nicely halfway through. 

Brightly colored waterproof mat to lie on


Then comes the usual routine for take off and landing. Milk time for Bub! I did standby the pacifier for him to suck on in case he was not hungry for milk. It was important for them to keep swallowing something to clear the blocked ears encountered with the change in pressure during take off and especially landing. Some kids started screaming away during the landing, possibly due to the discomfort. For the girls, we prepared gummies, biscuits and milo and hubby makes sure they keep drinking or eating so they can clear their ears with the swallowing action. 

Once you managed to settle baby into bassinet for a nap, the next thing to do? Eat! Our stewardess did check with me whether I would like to have my meal as soon as baby is napping so she reserved my order in advance. I just had to inform her as soon as I had chance to eat. And eat fast! Because you never know when baby’s going to wake up and disturb your meal or the next turbulence that require you to carry baby out of the bassinet. Life of a mum! 

1 mum who was sitting next to me had to eat with 1 hand and carrying her kids with another  arm because her kid just had a major meltdown. I helped her take out and keep her tray table as she was having some diffulty managing.

Oh have I mentioned that its a good idea to bring your baby carrier on flight? After the plane landed, there would be some waiting time between disembarking and getting the stroller. So it’s really convenient to strap up the baby so you can be hands free to carry other baggages. 

And so we landed in Taoyuan Airport, Taiwan. We almost fainted when we saw the snaking queue at the customs. Then we had a savior. The ‘angel-officer’ came up to us and led us to a family counter, queueless! It wasn’t convenient to take a picture but if you happen to be there, the family counter is at Counter 20.

1 thing about the flight booking on SIA. If you have Krisflyer points to redeem for you and your infant, it’s totally impossible to redeem it online. Go straight to Ion and get the customer service to help. Don’t even try the phone call, unless you have a lot of patience with the heavily accented telephone operators. And for some strange reason, when I tied the infant ticket to my ticket, both of us had our names cut off during the ticket printing at check in. The Officer claimed that we didn’t enter full name which we 100% disagreed. It’s a system glitch. So do check your tickets and have the ticketing officer do the amendment if it happens. 

Next up will be the write up for our first stop – Yilan and the incredibly fun hotel Silks Place Yilan

Car lovers paradise

Macau with Young Kids

Macau? Young kids? Sure or not? Yes of course! We went to Macau just 2 years ago and we did a Macau day tour in a super cool looking limousine.

The cooler of the 2 limousines we had, due to an accident with the earlier one

The cooler of the 2 limousines we had, due to an accident with the earlier one

Because transport service from the hotel was just as expensive. So we decided to to go for this once a lifetime experience. We really gained a lot of attention everywhere we went.

We went again this year, also around the the Lunar New Year holidays for a short trip because we couldn’t think of anywhere else for the trip. But this round we went without any plans. We pretty much saw all of Macau during the last trip so there wasn’t anything else we really wanted to do. Just go and relax and enjoy the cool weather we never have here in Singapore. To our pleasant surprise, the hotel where we stayed do have a lot to offer for the kids. If you are not planning to go around Macau, you could consider these activities.

Getting there.

Because of the recent air traffic scares, we really only wanted to go with our most trusted airline, Singapore Airlines. Too bad it doesn’t fly to Macau direct, so our plan was to transit at Hong Kong international airport and take the ferry to and fro to Macau. Taking the ferry from the airport also means that we probably escaped the hustle and bustle at the other ferry terminals outside since it was the super peak festive season.

We indicated to the ground crew that we are travelling to Macau and they helped to collect our luggages and send to us before we continue the next part of the trip on ferry. Good service! The ferry was rather empty on both the trips so I guess it was quite a smooth ride. We also found out later on that we are exempted from the airport taxes since we were only in transit.

Ferry ticket counter

Ferry ticket counter. Buying the tickets for the next earliest departure.

For Kids

1. Hotel – Sheraton Cotai Deluxe Suite

Comes with 2 rooms, living and dining room

Comes with 2 rooms, living and dining room

We felt that Sheraton was a good choice for staying in Macau because it’s part of Sands Cotai Central and several hotels here are linked to a shopping mall with lots of family friendly facilities and activities around. It was also not as overcrowded as Venetian.

The rooms were almost full but we manage to book this super cool deluxe suite comes with 2 rooms, 1 living and 1 dining room. The 2nd room is meant to be an entertainment room but equipped with sofa bed. The kids were thrilled zooming across rooms and popping into sofas and beds. The nightly bathtub shower was also a must. We love the dining room the best. Most of the time, during the peak season, food places were filled with crowds. We can then pack our food back and enjoy the meal in the comfort of our room.

Pretty lobby in Spring time

Pretty lobby in Spring time

2. Hotel – Sheraton Cotai Magadascar Family Themed Suite.  We finally managed to book this Family room at Sheraton Cotai. But only for 2 nights, so we stayed in the deluxe suite first then move in after this room is available. The room rate is considered exorbitant during the lunar new year period but we didn’t have much choice as the we didn’t plan much activities for the kids. So here’s what they have in the family suite. This suite has an adjoining bedroom for the adults. So the kids can have their own world while the grown ups can have some peace next door.

  1. Magadascar themed kids room
  2. Wii Game Console
  3. Kids bath robes
  4. Kids bunk bed
  5. Kids furniture
Doorway between the adjoining rooms

Doorway between the adjoining rooms

The other room

The other room

Everything that kids love. Wish they had 1 of this room back at home. They can’t even bear to go anywhere outside after this.

3. Breakfast with Characters

Buffet breakfast at hotel function room

Buffet breakfast at hotel function room

We didn’t really plan for this before we came. When we saw the posters and adverts at the hotel lobby, we went to book it immediately. Honestly, we didn’t really get to eat breakfast properly. Most of the time we were busy rushing to queue at the stage to take photos with characters or posing for photos with characters at our table when they came around.

Busy eating breakfast and taking photo

Busy eating breakfast and taking photo

The buffet breakfast variety

The buffet breakfast variety

The breakfast spread variety was a lot but spread out over the whole function room, making us walk round and round the room while we were also busy looking out for character table visits and onstage photo invitation. It was a no-peace breakfast in summary. But the kids didn’t really care for the food anyway. They were only on the constant lookout for the next character appearance. Poor mummy and daddy and grandma then. Huh huh.. At the end of the breakfast, the kids were given a goodie bag packed with magasdascar goodies and a game book. All we had to do was to follow the instructions and collect all the game cards and collect a surprise gift at the end of it. This game easily took up the whole morning until afternoon as the card station was wide spread across different parts of the hotel.

Breakfast game book

Breakfast game book

Guess who did all the running after a while? Must be the daddy right? Thanks hubby for collecting all the cards. Here’s ‘your’ reward.

1 plush toy per completed book

1 plush toy per completed book

4. Character parade!

Starting point of parade

Starting point of parade

Really close up

Really close up

And the chase begins

And the chase begins

We almost had Dreamworks overdose this trip. We did all the activities they had and this was 1 of the last, and we came for the parade for 2 days of our trip, chasing them round and round the mall and high-five with the characters. We love the parade because it was indoors! In aircon comfort! Plus we could get really close up with the characters. We can’t really do that back at our Universal Studio Singapore parade. Cool experience.

5. Kids indoor playground at Hard Rock Hotel.

While the old folks were busy at the casino, the kids were running crazy here at the newly renovated Kids City at Hard Rock Hotel. There was strict requirement for long sleeves and long pants. Luckily we had them all.

Kids playground at Hard Rock Hotel

There was a ridiculously long queue that day due to the festive season and how glad that we finally made it in. We had a huge scare here because the kids were running crazily all around the place, and the worst part was the girls did not stick together. We barely just turned our heads and we lost Nat. We couldn’t find her anywhere even after combing through the place a few rounds. We finally managed to find her hiding inside this bouncing castle, crying because she lost us too. What a major heart drop.

Free play

Free play

Toddler area

Toddler area

Pretty bouncing castle

The bouncy castle that adults can’t go in

They hold art and crafts session at some fixed intervals, and we attended this session that they were making windmills. the kids couldn’t understand their instructions because they were all speaking in cantonese. But we made it after all.

Art and craft session

Proud artwork

6. Kids Zone at Venetian

Another indoor kids playground. This one is located at the very popular Venetian. I think the one at Hard Rock hotel definitely beat this.

Table games, tv games area

Table games, tv games area

Nat loved this slide because it was fast and long. We had a hard time getting Nic to try it but she did it finally and fell in love too.

Slide so long, you need to wear a gunny sack to slide down

Slide so long, you need to wear a gunny sack to slide down

Kids toilet and washing area

Kids toilet and washing area

Toddlers area

Toddlers area

Slide area covered up so kids can't run in and out too fast

Slide area covered up so kids can’t run in and out too fast

6. Dreamworks Ice World

There was a special Ice exhibition during the time we went featuring characters from Dreamworks Ice sculptures. We were very impressed. But the place was way too cold for the kids that we didn’t manage to stay for long. Winter jacket were available for loan and we also bought the gloves on the spot but the kids were still freezing cold

2 freezing kids

2 freezing kids

This ice slide was super fun but too fast and scary even for me because the cheeky staff gave me a hard push at the top. I slid so fast that I zoomed past the stopping area where they laid some mats. Ok, just once, for the kids to see only.

Me attempting the ice slide

Me attempting the ice slide

Ice Slide

Ice Slide

Very impressive ice sculptures

Magadascar!

Magadascar!

Shrek and Fiona

Shrek and Fiona

The penguins

The penguins

Ice bridge

Ice bridge

For Adults

As usual, after satisfying the kids fun time, we also need some fun time for the adults.

Our biggest concern has always been the mode of transport during our trips. Taxi Taking the taxi, by right, is the easiest solution. But is not the case for us. Here’s why. Maximum passengers exceeded It’s really not as easy as in Singapore to get a maxi cab in many places. We can’t find any in Macau as well. Choosy drivers It is quite common that the local taxi drivers choose their customers, especially during the peak season. Many drivers reject if you are only going to travel for a short distance. Pre-negotiated fare Some drivers bargain for the fare before you board. So forget about meter fares. It is actually a known issue and reported in the local media. Let’s hope the government will do something about it.

1. Casino Hopping

I came up with this itinerary, obviously for the old folks, to go around macau and see the nice casino buildings and colourful sights. So we booked a private tour from the hotel and requested to go around macau for sightseeing. Then I got my mother-in-law to apply for member card at each casino and collect the cards as souvenir. She was rather excited at her collection at the end of the day. Its the year of the goat, but obviously, the casinos still prefer dragons.

Casino hopping and member card collecting

Casino hopping and member card collecting

2. St. Paul Ruins

St Paul's ruins

And we have to make it here for at least 1 shot of the famous landmark. This place is ridiculously overcrowded as well during the festive season. So we rushed back out as soon as we are done here

View of the crowd from St Paul's Ruins

View of the crowd from St Paul’s Ruins

3. Taipa village

Taipa village

We ventured out the Taipa Village, just 4 of us using the casino provided buses and some walking. It was tiring for the kids and they were complaining. But we managed some shots of the somehow quiet and modest village

Pretty flowers for the spring Year of the Goat

This was what we came for. The famous macau pork buns! They had a new shop now and it definitely looks so much better than the previous one. The menu selection increased, but we were just here for the buns. Yummy!

Here for the famous pork bun

At the end of the trip, both kids and the adults enjoyed themselves thoroughly and almost couldn’t bear to go home. I thought we had an overdose of Magadascar, but the kids had no problem with it. Nic did a show and tell on this trip during 1 of the week where the topic was about the places she visited. Everyone was impressed and Nic was also proudly showing off pictures and souvenirs from the trip.

For the daddy and mummy, who did nothing much except planning for the fun for kids and the parents, we did really enjoy the cool weather there, our food trail and, of course, seeing everyone having a nice holiday.