Category Archives: malaysia

What Singapore means to me

Hope everyone is having a great, not too wet, start to our Golden Jubilee celebrations! I’ve been looking forward to the long NDP weekend all week. We caught a fleeting glimpse of the RSAF Black Knights before the aerial show ended early, lunched at MBS and snacked at the nearby home cooked food fair (tip: don’t bother). We’d also planned to visit the Art Science Museum but the queues were just too long. Still, that and the rain didn’t dampen on our spirits as we found other ways to celebrate while being thoroughly drenched!

I’m also excited to kick off a blog train on “What Singapore Means To Me” with my thoughts as a naturalised Singapore citizen. Links to all contributions will be updated below – do join us this month and/or simply enjoy browsing through the posts about Singapore 🙂

Home and a bright future. We relocated here 8 years ago from the US, and friends and family from all over the world would often visit or transfer in and out due to work. One day, I realised that hubby and I had stopped thinking about Singapore as a place to “transit” but one that we truly wanted to raise our family in, stake our careers on, and play our small part in nation building too. So I took up Singapore citizenship 2.5 years ago – and look forward to what lies ahead.

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Little Green Dot.  Growing up in Malaysia, Singapore was always perceived as the “atas” neighbour that was so lucky to have many parks and tree-lined roads. Today, from its freshly minted UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Singapore Botanic Gardens, to the ubiquitous sky-rise gardenspark connectors, nature reserves and neighbourhood parks, Singapore’s delightful and thoughtful approach to urban development has benefited residents and visitors alike, and inspired fans worldwide. What’s more, these are all FREE public spaces despite the immense effort in creating and maintaining them.  So thank you, NParks, the late Lee Kuan Yew and our leaders for setting Singapore on a transformational path that started from the 1960s to become a Garden City and now, “City In A Garden.” What a living example of 前人种树, 後人乘凉 (“one generation plants the trees, the later generations enjoy the shade”).

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Haven for multiple generations. Since making Singapore our home, we’ve also encouraged my overseas parents and siblings to not just visit, but consider staying on as longer term residents.  Many cities don’t fully support the needs of a multi-generational family, with its complex mix of jobs, education, healthcare, transportation, security, social, emotional and physical needs. IMHO, Singapore meets and balances those demands better than many other countries. While not perfect, the government also constantly monitors changes and tries to make improvements on the quality and cost of living, childcare, eldercare, the school system and public transit, and has also acknowledged the role grandparents play in the decision to have (one or) more babies 🙂 Our lives have been so much richer and busier, with three generations in our family to care for each other and make memories together.

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So, whether you’re Singapore born, a naturalised citizen, a permanent resident or just a visitor in “transit”, if you call Singapore home, this “What Singapore Means To Me” blog train has a stop for you. Hop on the MRT by adding your links below and include the blog button (copy the code) in your post.  Majulah Singapura!

Finally Mama

Next on the train is Jenn, who blogs at mylilbookworm. This is where she documents her thoughts on educational, parental, health and investment topics. Check out her blog post on what Singapore means to her and how she spent her National Day long weekend!
Jenn

Contributions on “What Singapore Means To Me”:
Aug 9: Mei at Finally Mama
Aug 10: Jenn at My Lilbookworm
Aug 11: Cynthia at B.C.D.E. That’s Us
Aug 12: Waiwai at PeiPei.HaoHao
Aug 13: Qian Wen at Raising Our Successful Children
Aug 14: Edlyn at MummyEd
Aug 15: Natasha at So Natty
Aug 16: Jennifer at Dino Family
Aug 17: Lin Ying at Bumble Bee Mum
Aug 18: Danessa at Prayerfull Mum
Aug 19: Rachael at MalMal Our Inspiration
Aug 20: Yanxiang at The Littlest And Us Makes Three
Aug 21: Meiling at Universal Scribbles
and more here!

For more updates, reviews and giveaways, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.

Traveling with Tots: Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND (part 2)

We went to Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND over the weekend but had quite a different experience with each place. We found Puteri Harbour a nice getaway for families with toddlers but we probably won’t return to LEGOLAND until B is older, say kindergarten age and some issues mentioned below are fixed (or the trees grow!)

My review is split in two parts:
Part 1 is on the Puteri Harbour indoor parks: Hello Kitty Sanrio Town and the Little Big Club featuring Barney, Bob The Builder, Angelina Ballerina, Pingu, Thomas & Friends
Part 2 is about LEGOLAND for families with tots under 3 years

GO OR NO GO?
At the moment, there’s little shade from the elements (sun or rain) in all the main parks. In the few covered areas, there’s no proper ventilation (fans/AC) besides those in the restaurant, cafes and theatres. There’s also no shuttle bus, train or buggy system that enables you to hop on-and-off at the various parks within LEGOLAND, so quite a challenge for the very young (or very old). We visited because we were already going to Puteri Harbour the day before, and our friends with older kids wanted to check LEGOLAND out. Unfortunately for us, it was an extremely hot and humid day when we were there. My 2+ year old was wiped out despite a 2.5 hour nap after lunch, refused to go out again in the hot sun so we had a free and easy afternoon, before entering again later. Bottom line: When deciding, the weather and your tot’s the boss!
LEGOLAND Malaysia park map

If you don’t mind the heat and have LEGO fans in the family:
GO if your toddler is gung-ho and has older siblings. Spend at least 2 days so you’re in no hurry, and can enjoy the cooler evenings
WAIT until your preschooler is older.  Admission is free for kids under 3 but most rides have a strict height or age minimum
– Ticket combos are cheaper online so research and buy in advance

If you cannot tahan outdoors or crowds, DON’T GO!

HOW TO GET THERE?
– BUS: Book a return trip via coach bus (~SGD$20) or opt for the Causeway Link buses. More info here
– CAR: See step-by-step driving directions here

WHERE TO STAY?
As the Iskandar area is still under development, the nearest hotel options are LEGOLAND or Traders Hotel (Puteri Harbour). We stayed at LEGOLAND hotel for the unique experience with its distinct play areas and thematic rooms.  Basic rooms accommodate 2 adults + 3 kids with a king bed (master room), a bunk bed and trundle bed (attached suite).  The hotel is also right next to LEGOLAND and the Medini strip mall which has slightly better food. All hotel guests get free parking and early 930a entrance to LEGOLAND (vs 10a public admission). While overall family friendly, I felt a few things could be improved: Earlier than 4p check-in, later than 11a check-out, lower shower heads (or longer hose) as it was hard to clean shorter/young kids.

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Kingdom theme kids room = bunk bed + trundle

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LEGO play areas (top: park entrance, bottom: main entrance)

WHAT TO DO: 10 ideas for families with tots under 3 years

1) Eat a big breakfast. The hotel buffet is good and opens 7a-11a
2) Get in as soon as the door opens to avoid the queues!  Dress for the heat, bring a hat/umbrella and not just shades
3) Enjoy the LEGO CITY park to yourself. Ride on the express train, airport planes and boats. Compete in the Rescue Academy in your choice of fire engine or police car.  Catch a show at City Stage and let the tot freeplay at the Shipyard while you catch a break. The junior driving school is quite fun but minimum age is 3 years
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4) Proceed next to IMAGINATION, the park for toddlers and preschoolers. There’s a Musical Fountain at the entrance, and an Observation Tower which rotates around so you can view all of LEGOLAND without breaking a sweat. Tots will like the brief DUPLO Express train ride, delightful DUPLO Playground (which is also the only covered play area), and the LEGO 4D Studio which alternates shows every 45 minutes or so. There’s only one thing they can’t do here – the Power Tower (minimum age: 5 years or 100 cm)
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5) Exit to the Medini strip mall for lunch where the food is better (not fantastic) than in-park fare
6) Stroll through MINILAND to view the amazingly detailed LEGO models or take the LEGO CITY train till your kid dozes off
7) The hotel is the best place away from the heat and crowds to take a nap, so ask for late checkout if you need to.  Even the covered areas in the park and Medini mall are quite stuffy with lots of flies 😦
8) Catch indoor LEGO movies, meet-and-greets and live shows
9) Chill out at the hotel LEGO play areas and nearby LEGO shops
10) Visit some local eateries near LEGOLAND for dinner

Note: Majority of activities and rides at the Water Park, LEGO TECHNIC, KINGDOMS and LAND OF ADVENTURE parks are unfortunately not suitable for young kids below 3 years.  If the weather’s good and you have time, feel free to “window shop.”

We made it!
We made it, pheew!

 

Traveling with Tots: Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND (part 1)

I recently took B to Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND Malaysia for the weekend and had a WONDERFUL time! I drove us up, made arrangements to stay overnight and met some friends while there. When I told hubby about my plan (as he was overseas), his first thought was “Eh, sure safe or not?”  Other Singapore-based friends went “Puteri Harbour? What’s that?” and wanted to know more about it when we came back. So, I decided to write some tips for those planning to visit with preschool-aged kids 🙂

Firstly, where is Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND?  They are both located within ~10 mins drive from each other in Nusajaya, the regional hub of the new Kota Iskandar in Malaysia.

Where is Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND?
Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND are nearer than you think

For convenience, I’ve split my review in two parts:
Part 1 is on the indoor parks at the Little Red Cube along the Puteri Harbour Waterfront Development: Hello Kitty Sanrio Town and the Little Big Club featuring Barney, Bob The Builder, Angelina Ballerina, Pingu, Thomas & Friends
Part 2 is about LEGOLAND for families with tots under 3 years

Specific Puteri Harbour FAQs for tots:

1) How to get there? Easy peasy!
– BUS: Book a return trip via coach bus (~SGD$20) or opt for the Causeway Link buses. More info here. You can easily visit Puteri Harbour in a day, leaving early morning, returning by late evening.
– CAR: Fastest way is via PIE/AYE to TUAS and the 2nd link bridge. It took us 1+ hours to drive there (Sat morning) and 45 mins to return (Sun evening), door to door from the central area. Remember to have at least 3/4 full fuel when you leave Singapore. Toll fees will come up to ~SGD$15 all-in, payment via NETS for Singapore and Touch’N’Go pass for Malaysia (this can be purchased on the leftmost car toll lanes after the Sultan Abu Bakar checkpoint). Once you clear the Malaysian toll booths, take Exit 312 to Nusajaya and follow the signs that say Puteri Harbour or have the park character pictures.  Look for the Little Red Cube building, park inside (for free), head up to the 1st floor. Have fun!
– You can find step-by-step driving directions here.  The roads are new, wide and traffic is relatively low as Iskandar is still under development. There will be construction all around you and some signs are not as clear as they should be, but you’ll figure it out

2) What can young kids do? Almost everything if you’re over 90cm. The staff seem more concerned about height than age. B’s not yet 2.5 years, but at 95 cm, he had no problems, even went solo for some rides
– Tots over 90 cm: Will need to be accompanied by you (mostly). They’ll miss out on a few big kid workshops, game stalls/stations, the Thomas bumper car rides and Hello Kitty Black Wonder maze.  No big loss as you can repeat the other rides as often as you like; and there are three different playgrounds – one on every floor. Watch that big Builder slide though, it’s FAST! B had quite a scare coming down
– Tots under 90 cm: They’ll enjoy the Thomas train and Hello Kitty teacup rides, Hello Kitty Friendship Land (soft ramps, ball pit like KidsAmaze) and the Bob The Builder playground (blocks, pretend play)

– Sing-A-Long and Meet-And-Greet sessions, timing varies by day

Entertainment schedule varies by day
Entertainment schedule varies by day

3) How much $$? Kids under 3 enter FREE. LEGOLAND ticket holders get 10% off (show your ticket or printout). Malaysians get a significant discount (show your MyKad IC)
– Single park entrance: RM 55 (MyKad) or RM 75. Recommend this if you only have boys and need to watch your wallet
– The 2-park pass: RM 85 (MyKad) or RM 110. Recommend for girls, and the full experience, e.g. get for one adult if you have a free admission kid
– You can buy tickets online but we found the indoor ticketing counters there quite efficient. We got ours on-site, first thing Saturday morning with no waiting time at all. Doors open 10a.

4) What to wear? Travel light so you can go where your tot goes
– Bring layers. The outside promenade is breezy but can be hot, while the Little Red Cube indoor parks are fully air-conditioned, and gets Singapore cinema-level cold.  B wore a jacket, long pants and long sleeved T-shirt. I unfortunately forgot to bring my cardigan – brrr!
– All playgrounds require shoes to be removed. Though not “required,” I’d also wear socks as it’s cold and more hygenic!

5) Toilets, nursing and changing rooms? CLEAN and spacious on every floor. There’s larger family restrooms. And every potty has an attached water/spray hose for you-know-what! B can be fussy about using public toilets but he had no issues doing his small and big biz there 😉

6) Strollers? Bring them. You’ll need it as you go up and down floors, in and out, and for the lil one to crash and nap. Stroller bays are clearly marked in visible spaces throughout so you can park and go as needed. To be safe, don’t leave anything valuable there. There are lifts and escalators on every floor, and everything is very stroller friendly

7) Food, drinks, time out? There are on-site cafes with ample seating on all levels, but you’re better off stepping out for some fresh air, more F&B variety and better prices either indoor or alfresco within the Little Red Cube and along the quiet and scenic Puteri Harbour promenade. The tickets allow multiple entries in a day, so no worries about leaving and re-entering.

Lunch at Lat's Place b/c mama wanted to relive her childhood :)
Lunch at Lat’s Place as mama wanted to relive her childhood

Verdict: Two thumbs up! Totally worth it. There’s nothing like that in Singapore, esp. at these prices. We’ll go again before B turns 3 by end of this year, haha.  See you there?

B rode this 3x! The solo ride in front in the tank engine made his day
B rode this 3x! The solo ride in front in the tank engine made his day

For info on these Puteri Harbour parks, visit http://www.playtime.com.my

 

Week 16B: Quickening!

Back from our anniversary/babymoon – local food, fun at the beach, frequent naps in the shade, and wonderfully attentive hotel staff, esp. when they found out I was pregnant. Highlight of the trip was feeling our baby flutter while lazing by the pool! It’s like tiny bubbles, butterflies or those spa fish in your tummy 😀

Monthly baby checkup before we return to work tomorrow: Still a boy, spine and organs developing well, fetal measurements and both our weight gains on track.

Also caught baby upside down for the first time on ultrasound — guess he’s been living it up too inside mommy this past week!

Week 16a

We’re off to Langkawi to celebrate our 6th anniversary and expose our little one to Malaysia, truly Asia 🙂

Can’t wait to reap the rewards of our first baby-related shopping last weekend – comfy tops and dresses, plus storage bins for the wardrobe I can’t fit in anymore which will help clear space for all the new baby stuff to come. Here’s my WIP first-time checklist, culled from various sources ( Mothercare, Parenting.com, etc.). Any recs on where to buy or borrow, do let me know!

  1. Infant car seat (best models recline when detached, allow the baby to rock or bounce)
  2. Wearable soft carrier (slings make nursing easier – kampung style!)
  3. Crib light
  4. Cot, mattress and bedding
  5. Changing mat
  6. Extra pull out bed (for storage, convertible into a kids bed)
  7. Baby sleeping bag or blanket
  8. Baby swing
  9. Diapers, diaper disposal method and diaper ointment (loads and loads of nappies!)
  10. Baby bathtub and tub seat
  11. Baby toiletries (hooded towels, baby shampoos, infant nail clippers, soft hairbrush)
  12. First baby clothes
  13. First baby toys and toy bar
  14. Baby listening monitor
  15. Feeding equipment (bottles, steriliser)
  16. Stroller (for later)
  17. High chair (for later)