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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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 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.

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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

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 

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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

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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)

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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

Taiwan With Young Kids

Disclaimer: This is a backlog entry, just for recording my past travel experience with very young kids.

Some years back, we visited Taiwan with the kids. It was summer. Bad choice as this means scorching hot weather that is worse than in Singapore if not as hot. Actually we knew it would be hot but we thought it could be better than monsoon season with lots of rain. So we tried and but wished the weather was better

Attempt to combat the scorching hot weather

Attempt to combat the scorching hot weather

The last time we visited Taiwan, we only went for a short trip to Taipei. That was without the kids. I remember walking and shopping and eating until the feet ache every night. And of course, with the kids, is a different story. Here’s our route map for the trip.

Only covered a small area

Only covered a small area

We went mainly to the Taipei area and the furthest we went was Hualian. We didn’t even make it to SunMoon Lake as most people would have done. That, we would have to do it another time, on another trip. *Excuse to go back there.

The best part of this trip, was, really was, our driver. We got the recommendation from a friend who raved about this taxi driver who communicates only in Chinese and you can contact him via email. It was a challenge as I have never written emails in full Chinese and I think my Chinese writing improved loads after this trip! What we were really impressed, even until now, was the kind of dedication, sincerity and enthusiasm our driver Mr Lai showed, during the email communications all the way until we completed the trip. We only had to tell him where we wanted to do or go for this trip and he planned everything else for us! He could even help us book hotel rooms at very good rates if we aren’t fussy. But, we are fussy. We preferred to book our own. So didn’t manage to save as much as we could have. In short, Mr Lai doubled up as our taxi driver cum tour guide. It was impressive as he didn’t have tour guide qualifications but show equally good communication and coordination skills like a real tour guide.

Our ever friendly and patient driver cum guide, Mr Lai

Our ever friendly and patient driver cum guide, Mr Lai

Our ride - Toyota Wish and baby car seat provided by Mr Lai

Our ride – Toyota Wish and baby car seat provided by Mr Lai

Having our own transport was really convenient for us as we were able to have a good rest in between destinations and the kids love to nap during car rides. We sometimes also leave our things in the car while we do a quick visit to some of the places, without having to carry very heavy things, like the super heavy hot water flask for the children’s milk and cereals.

Hotels

Caesar Park Hotel

For the part in Taipei, we chose Caesar Park Hotel. It was the 1 of the few hotels we could find on Agoda that allowed us to book connecting rooms. 1 for the grandparents, 1 for us. It was a nice room for a family as there was a little hall and separated from the bedroom. and there’s a door adjoining to the next room where the grandparents took. So the hall became the family activity cum meeting area and we had our meals here too on days that we were too exhausted to eat  out.

Picture from Agoda.com

Picture from Agoda.com

Taiwanese Min Su(民宿)

For the trip to Hualian, we booked another hotel from Agoda. But in the end we forgo it as Mr Lai recommended us to stay at a Min Su (民宿), famous in Taiwan for a true Taiwanese experience. We went for it and was impressed by Agoda for the easy cancellation and full refund of rooms even until the last minute. Thumbs up!

We stayed at 2 Min Su in fact, as the room was only available for 1 night so we had to shift for the second night. Quite a hassle but Mr Lai was so enthusiastic about it we had to try. So how was the Truly Taiwanese experience? Hmm, we decided that we are still the city kids and perhaps would still very  much prefer a nice hotel room with every amenity provided and spacious room nicely air conditioned with no mozzies flying around

Min Su along the main road

Min Su along the main road

Very homely setup

Very homely setup

The room

The room

We learned later, after we went home, that actually there were nicer of these Min Su. Some like boutique hotels and some themed with all sorts of interesting designs. I guess our dear Mr Lai had wanted us to try the non fancy and economical ones instead.

LeoFoo Resort

The last part of it, was the highlight of the trip. Leofoo resort hotel! Even Mr Lai went, wow, so expensive.

All the rooms were this large. With double stories, there were more than enough beds

All the rooms were this large. With double stories, there were more than enough beds

The upper deck

The upper deck

The highlight wasn’t just the room itself. It was the amazing view from the room. They actually build a mini zoo right in the middle of the resort! Do be tolerant of the zoo-y smells from animals here though. You can’t smell it when you are in the room but only when you are outside, so we were quite ok with it. Didn’t lose sleep over the smells.

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

Excited by the view

Excited by the view

The animals in the mini zoo

The animals in the mini zoo

The Attractions.

I remember visiting lots of animal farms, seeing lots of animals on this trip because we planned for it. There was nothing much for kids this young but they get easily excited when they see animals. So we did plenty of that. We considered the hugely popular Qing Jing Farm but had decided it’s too much of stairs for the old folks and quite a bit of travelling to reach. So we gave that up.There was also this Flying Cow ranch that’s popular but we didn’t go since we were already planning lots of other farms.

LeoFoo Village (http://w2.leofoo.com.tw/village/en/)

The resort that we stayed at was the main accommodation for the nearby theme park LeoFoo Village. You will be amazed that this place is just like a Disneyland, Taiwanese version. There’s a park for rides, a park for safari and a water park. We didn’t really go for the rides. Only the safari and water play park

One of the few rides that our kids dared to sit. A non-even boat ride

One of the few rides that our kids dared to sit. A non-even boat ride

At the water park, swimming cap was mandatory.

At the water park, swimming cap was mandatory.

Water play park

Water play park

Train ride through the Safari

Train ride through the Safari

Nic, surprisingly was happier in this park than when she was in Disneyland! Maybe because the attractions were more friendly for young kids.

Farms – Shin Kong Chao Feng Ranch (http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0002124&id=15)

Hubby found this farm during his research for the trip and we requested Mr Lai to bring us here. He suggested a few more but we still came here just to take a look. It was a huge farm! Split into different sections for vegetation and animals. It was lucky they had buggy rides for rent that we could take to go around the park. Otherwise we will all be toasted crispy under the hot sun. Hubby was excited the self-drive experience.

Our buggy ride

Our buggy ride

We had some nice steamboat here for lunch. Although it would be enjoyable if the weather was cool. The milk soup steamboat sounded fanciful but it actually like the fish head steamboat we had back in Singapore except that the milk used here was fresh milk. So the taste was slightly more bland compared to evaporated milk that we use for fish head steamboat

Milk soup steamboat

Milk soup steamboat

The pumpkin soup steamboat sounded fanciful too but we can’t actually taste the pumpkin in there. It was made diluted so we don’t feel overwhelmed by the richness of pumpkin.

Pumpkin soup steamboat. All home grown in this farm

Pumpkin soup steamboat. All home grown in this farm

Farm – Unknown Farm

Mr Lai brought us to this small privately owned farm where I forgot to take down the name of it. It was enjoyable for the kids as they get to feed small animals and the animal feed was priced very cheaply and optional! We were impressed by it and the kids were thrilled by all that feeding!

The fee for feeding

The fee for feeding

Attempt to feed the piglets milk

Attempted to feed the piglets milk

Frightened by the overly enthusiastic piglets

Frightened by the overly enthusiastic piglets

Rabbits are cuter

Rabbits are cuter

Miniature World, Taoyuan (http://www.woc.com.tw/index_en.aspx)

We dropped by this place mainly because we were nearby. Turns out, the miniature buildings were really impressive! At least at that time we visited because we haven’t actually been to many of these miniature world yet. they not only made static iconic buildings around the world, they made things that move around those buildings! Like, mini trains, moving planes and vehicles.

Minature world. The kids suddenly feel like their world

Minature world. The kids suddenly feel like their world

We didn’t go to Baby Boss on this trip as our kids are still too young for it. Perhaps the next time when both of them are old enough.

Food

Food was not a problem in general in Taiwan. They have lovely, yummy Taiwanese pearly rice, similar to Japanese rice that the kids love and couldn’t get enough of it. The only problem was at those outskirts, mountainous areas where the food was not really to their liking. Luckily we prepared lots of baby cereals, even pre-prepared baby food like rice and soup, biscuits and lots of milk. But the portion was not really enough for 1 kid, so should have brought along more of it.

Pigeon Baby Food

Pigeon Baby Food

Here’s some of the food we had as we travel

Buffet with uber cute kids utensils and cutlery at Leofoo Resort

Buffet with uber cute kids utensils and cutlery at Leofoo Resort

Hu Xu Zhang Ru Rou Fan (Beard Zhang braised pork rice) This is a must try! All these yummy dishes for very affordable price!

Hu Xu Zhang Ru Rou Fan (Beard Zhang braised pork rice) This is a must try! All these yummy dishes for very affordable price!

Western Food at Mr J(ay) cafe. The food was ok only but the portion was big. Would have been a bonus if we see 周杰伦here :)

Western Food at Mr J(ay) cafe. The food was ok only but the portion was big. Would have been a bonus if we see 周杰伦here 🙂

Wild boar pork at Yang Ming Shan countryside eatery. The food was supposed to be made with all natural seasoning and spices. It was surprisingly refreshing and tasty! Although it didn't really look that impressive

Wild boar pork at Yang Ming Shan countryside eatery. The food was supposed to be made with all natural seasoning and spices. It was surprisingly refreshing and tasty! Although it didn’t really look that impressive

1 of the most memorable meal we ate has to be this. Charcoal roasted chicken till perfect tenderness. If you watch Taiwanese travel programs, you might have seen this before. It was really as good as their exaggerated expressions told. The chicken was so tender it almost melts after putting into the mouth. The chef would debone the meat exactly in this state and it was effortless. The best part of this dish, however, has to be the sauce. It’s legendary. We still can’t get over the taste till today. The chicken, after marination would be roasted in the oven for almost a day and the melted fats with the marinate collected in a small cup and served together when it’s ready to eat. We could just eat plain rice with the sauce and nothing else for a fully satisfying meal. It was that good. The bad thing is I forgot to take down the address or the name of the shop. But i guess it’s quite common over there, so we probably need to do a research to find it if we are ever going back.

Soft bone roasted chicken at hualian.

Soft bone roasted chicken at hualian.

Finally, don’t forget to try out the food at those old streets, night markets for all the yummy Taiwanese local food. Salivating just as I’m typing this. 🙂

Hong Kong With Kids

We have been to Hong Kong several times – when we haven’t had kids, and after we had kids. We always thought Hong Kong was quite a baby-unfriendly place to go, as the streets were either very crowded or had lots of staircase or no baby changing rooms around. I remember we were shopping at H&M at Central late 1 night after our dinner, Nat, still a baby that time pooed. I asked the H&M staff for the nearest toilet and she directed me to the Macdonalds opposite. Gosh, I still remember the nightmare of changing her in that cramped little toilet cubicle where there was hardly space to even bring the baby bag along.

We decided that Central was not a place for babies until I found out later there was actually a baby store just beside Macdonalds where there’s clean baby changing room. Too late..

We went to Hong Kong again last year with the main goal of only going kids-friendly places.

 

First, our hotel – Hotel Novotel CityGate

First reaction: What?! So far! Wait until you see this to know why

Huge children's playground just across the hotel

Huge children’s playground just across the hotel

We truly believed that, to the kids, this was the best attraction of the trip. Look at their happy faces!

Happier here than at Disneyland

Happier here than at Disneyland

Wants to come here everyday

Wants to come here everyday

And beside this ‘attraction’ for the kids, the hotel was linked to CityGate outlet, which means shopping is convenient and we can go at anytime we want. It was also a backup plan for in-case-of-typhoon days. We went there during the typhoon season and were afraid that we might need to stay indoors most times, so we picked Novotel hotel, so that we won’t get too bored.

 

Next, is transport. 

My in-laws were travelling with us, so, as usual, travelling by train was out and self drive and car hire in Hong Kong was not common. Taxis were in abundance. We manage to get 1 5-passenger taxi and asked if we could hire his taxi for whole day booking. Lucky us, he agreed! So transport problem resolved.

Look out for taxi that have this green label at the back

Look out for taxi that have this green label at the back

Repulse Bay

So, since we had a private transport, we could go to places that would usually be harder if travelling by public transport. We dropped by Repulse Bay and the kids had some fun playing at the beach. It’s supposed to be a really nice beach and turns out, it’s really quite a nice place to go. We weren’t prepared enough so we bought a beach mat there and made use of anything we could find for them to build their sand castle.

Building sand castle under a tree

Building sand castle under a tree

posing and acting cool

posing and acting cool

Ocean Park

Ocean Park was nearby Repulse Bay, so that was our next stop. We went at a time when it was school holidays for the Chinese. So it was very crowded. Lesson learnt. Ocean Park is huge, so it wasn’t really friendly for our old folks who end up sitting under some shade for some cool drinks. We didn’t do any rides as the kids were too young. But they had fun watching the panda have its lunch and who seems to love attention. The aquarium was kind of small and squeeze, especially with the crowd. I think the one we have in Singapore is much more spacious to cater for big crowds. There is also a section where they have fun fair games like water gun shooting, car rides etc which was also suitable for our kids at this age.

We were super glad we hired our taxi for the day. By the end of the day, everyone was exhausted and feet were aching, body sweaty and sticky from the heat and we saw the snaking queue at the taxi stand… really glad.

Clear view of crowd friendly Panda

Clear view of crowd friendly Panda

Aquarium that wasn't as impressive as S.E.A at RWS, Singapore

Aquarium that wasn’t as impressive as S.E.A at RWS, Singapore

Hong Kong 100

I think this attraction is relatively new and it wasn’t as crowded as anywhere else, which was probably good for us. At the time we went, they had several 3D art at the viewing gallery, so the kids had some fun posing and pretending they were walking on tightrope at the top of the tower.

View from the top

View from the top

Having fun at the tower

Having fun at the tower

3d art

3d art

Shatin Plaza

Our route map

Our route map

Shatin plaza was kind of far away from where we stayed, as can be seen from the map. Hubby wanted to bring the kids here solely for snoopy’s world. but what a shame that it was closed that day due to some rain earlier on. Nic was so disappointed. But not the mummy. I was really delighted to find that Shatin Plaza was a really huge place for shopping! There are so many shops here including familiar ones like H&M, Uniqlo and I even saw Melisssa shop! The adults shoes were on huge discount and I bought a pair of wedges at 60% discount! The mini Melissa weren’t on sale but were so cute I couldn’t resist buying 2 pairs for the kids.

Only took a photo

Only took a photo

Chi Lin Nunnery

Heard of this place? Nope, before we did our research. But it’s actually a top ranking destination in TripAdvisor! It was a beautiful and peaceful place with lots of empty spaces. Maybe not so fun for the kids, but at least they had space to run and fool around. So we had a chance to come here to take a look and without the kids complaining of being bored.

Posing at the bridge

Posing at the bridge

They love this staircase

They love this staircase

Disneyland

The must-go place when you are in Hong Kong. Our kids weren’t game enough for the rides yet so we came mainly for their parades. We were glad we saw 2 parades. 1 of them being the water parade which was only available during summer. It was a nice cool down moment as the charters pass by us and splashing water at everyone in sight.

Water parade - Only during Summer!

Water parade – Only during Summer!

waiting for parade

waiting for parade

Shopping and Eating

Of course, don’t forget the most important missing to Hong Kong, shopping and eating! Especially the Michelin Star awarded Tim Ho Wan! 1 of my mission to accomplish was to get the Pierre Herme Macaroons that was not yet available in Singapore. I heard it’s better than Laduree which recently opened in Singapore. It was the nearest place to get it since I haven’t gone to Europe yet. It was really good! And expensive! Good enough to try but won’t be getting it regularly to satisfy any craving.

My rating on the must-eat food

My rating on the must-eat food 

Lastly, our trusty Singapore Airlines who never fail to disappoint us our kids with the kiddy entertainment and kiddy meals.

Glad they had some toys to entertain the kids before they got tired of the ones I brought along

Glad they had some toys to entertain the kids before they got tired of the ones I brought along

Yummy kids meals that were even better than the ones for us

Yummy kids meals that were even better than the ones for us

 

We had a non-typical Hong Kong trip this round and mother-in-law remarked that this trip doesn’t feel like we just been to Hong Kong!

Private tour by This is Korea

I don’t quite remember the kind of feeling when I travelled without kids. Should be the first couple of years when I got married and went for honeymoon.

Nowadays, traveling means having having to pack for 4, preferably within 1 big and 1 cabin size luggage plus 1 stroller, at least to keep logistic more manageable. Hubby would also bring his parents along since it’s a family trip. So that means more luggages plus transportation issues.

Train transport would be a bit tiring for the old folks and too challenging if we had to handle the luggages, stroller and the kids. We don’t always get a seat and the grandparents can’t stand for long rides.

Normal cabs won’t take 6 people unless jumbo cabs or split into 2 cabs especially in places like Hong Kong where jumbo cars are virtually non existant? The problem with 2 cabs is sometimes 1 cab goes to the right place, the other goes to the wrong one and we would have to coordinate a meetup.

We had no problem getting around in Jeju. Car rental was inexpensive, parking places were plenty and cars on the road were few in some areas. We always have a problem when it comes to Seoul.

On our previous trips we managed to hire an International jumbo Taxi to ferry us around we managed to communicate with them as they can speak some English.

For this trip, we didn’t manage to book 1 as our stay in Seoul was longer than previous, and the International Taxi was limited.

Hubby did some research and asked around for quotations and we finally settled with This is Korea. They are currently ranked #1 on TripAdvisor so it’s not hard to find them.

adventureswithmybabies.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/20140224-225147.jpg”> With our Travel Specialist (TS), Michael[/caption]

I was a bit skeptical before the trip when hubby said the reviews on TripAdvisor were fantastic and we should give it a try. My idea was that we could flag/call for cab when we need, or take shuttle buses or trains on non peak hours if required. Probably a cheaper alternative.

In the end we settled for a 2 day self-drive and rest of it with This Is Korea. We were very pleased with their prompt response and they really gave us a welcoming feeling with their responses.

After a few days with our travel specialist, Michael, this was proven to be a right decision! There are many benefits of travelling with them… Of course there are areas of improvements too… Ok, about the good points first!

reswithmybabies.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/p2033396.jpg”> Our ride. A spacious Hyundai Starex 12 seater!

[/caption]Michael speaks fluent English and we had no problem communicating with him. He was soft spoken and had a keen listening ear and was able to plan out our itinerary based on what we wanted. He was definitely patient and helpful. Our group moves slower compared to a group of carefree singles or kidless groups. Sometimes the kid wants to go to the toilet just as everyone was ready to set off but Michael was totally cool about it and didn’t stress us to come back as we are late on schedule.

He was always ready to help us take group photos with his cool Sony Nex 6. Group photos was something we hardly have as it was not so convenient to get people to help us take all the time.

hmybabies.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/p2033454.jpg”> Taking photos of the kids

[/caption]Having a car around was also much more convenient. On some super cold days, the grandparents had a choice to stay in the car while we go explore. For example, on the day we went Insadong, I remember the wind was icy cold and they preferred to stay and wait in the car. Michael would then stay there with them until we return. We also got to eat some really authentic Korean food which is not the usual tourist eateries, which was why I had some difficulties trying to locate and document down those places after coming back. Wish I had taken photos of the shop name.

Michael’s service did not stop after the last day of tour with This is Korea. We told Michael during the trip that we really wanted to experience snowfall badly for this trip as the likelihood of snow was quite high this month. So he made some calls to the weather station and told us that the forecast says that there is a high chance of snowfall just 1 day after we were supposed to fly back. After some discussions and planning, we extended our stay as we did not want to miss out the snow if it’s just a day difference.

And so, it did snow the next day. And it snowed heavily.

files.wordpress.com/2014/02/p2084627.jpg”> Heavy snow

[/caption]In fact, it started with very slight snow late that night when we were supposed to fly. Michael called us up and told us about the snow, knowing we would be very excited to know. And we really were. Late as it was, we dressed the kids up and went out for some snow. It was slight snow but we were thrilled enough. Little did we expect, the snow lasted through the night and the whole of the following day. It was so heavy that  thick snow started to accumulate outdoors. And there we build our first snowman with the curious kids.

We had fun trying out ice fishing (and getting a free fish that we didn’t fish from the kind Oppa there), seeing the Blue House, picking strawberries and visiting the Garden of Morning Calm. All that we didn’t plan to go. Only destination that we went with some regrets was the Kojinam snow resort. We wanted to visit a snow resort that was toddler friendly as we couldn’t possibly do snow ski or snow activities, except at most sledding or just snow play. But there was none at the Kojinam resort. The sledding area for the kids were too far away and inconvenient to get too, with lots of staircase around. The grandparents were freezing cold and we couldn’t make it that far. So we left the resort without really doing anything, except experience real coldness. This was one area that we felt Michael could have researched and done better… He was aware that we were looking for a ski resort that could let the kids have fun with snow but there was none! Lucky the real snowfall during our extension made up for that and we brought along our very own ski gloves instead of waiting to rent at the resort. So in a way, he made up that mistake with constant updating us of the snow.. 🙂

Maybe because he is younger, there are some areas where he could have been more attentive, especially with the elderly.. There were few times whereby he parked the car very far away and the grandparents had to walk and carry their bags a long way to the car in the shivering cold… Perhaps he thought that the walk was good which was true for the younger us… heh…. but definitely not for the grandparents.

Overall, the benefits greatly outweigh the areas of improvement… And its always good to have areas of improvement… It is an excuse for us to go back and use their services again and see if the areas have been addressed! Excuses… :p

Thank you This is Korea for the great service… And we look forward to another trip together with you in the near future !

*edit : Updated the link to This is Korea to their latest website