My Tot-Friendly Travel: Bali, Indonesia (Part 2)

Now, let’s talk about what to do and where to go with your twos and belows in tow.  

Bali is full of tiny cafes and hipster eateries which while so cool when you’re a couple, are a nightmare for groups larger than six and many don’t have high chairs. 

Seminyak is now so tourist-infested, it feels like the new Kuta, so while we headed back there for a few of our stalwart favorites, we also ventured into new territory, basing ourselves in Canggu (see my earlier post on accommodation).

To our delight, there’s actually quite a lot of family friendly activities in Canggu. There’s are water slides at The Canggu Beach Club, pony rides at the Bali Equestrian Centre (which we didn’t have time to do, but found online), and beaches that aren’t as crowded as the ones in Seminyak and Kuta. 

Here is my photo journal from what we did do:   

   
On the first day, we caught the sunset at La Laguna, which is a beachfront bar and dining venue in Canggu. It’s a sprawling compound with areas for dining, lounging for drinks on bean bags or sitting at the bar. 

There’s some kind of farm there – I wouldn’t call it a petting zoo because it looked rather haphazard, with a bunch of (rather wild-looking) animals – turkeys, geese, ducks and one nervous brown rabbit that we spotted living among some discarded furniture. Bubu was rather fearless and tried to run after the ferocious-looking geese, which were taller than him, and I actually thought we might get attacked!  

   There’s a pretty lake of some kind in front of the beach.   The beach and sunset aren’t to be compared with the stunners you’ll see at sundown on Seminyak beach, but it’s pretty enough, and a lot less crowded.     

Snacks, sandwiches, juices, smoothies and cocktails – the food was decent. Service was appalling, hard to get any kind of attention probably because the place is quite spread out. Overall, La Laguna is rustic and charming enough, and worth a visit. The highlight for Bubu were all the ducks swimming and waddling around, and he had a blast running up and down the wooden deck leading to the beach  – great for families because there’s so much space!   

 

On day two, we started out early and checked out Milk & Madu for breakfast in the Canggu neighbourhood. There are actually loads of cool little cafes that we drove past that we would love to have checked out in the same area. I took down their names when we drove by: Coffee & Oven, Quince and Cinta Cafe (all along Jalan Rawa).  Spending only three days there, we didn’t get to try them all, so this is Milk & Madu: 

Dining takes place in an airy little pavilion which seats about 30-40, with outdoor tables that’s seat another 20 or so. There’s a good selection of salads and pastries at the counter, fresh jams and produce in jars for sale, and breakfast fare aplenty on the menu. 
We had the French toast, eggs and chorizo and the classic big breakfast – all good! They have high chairs, but only one or two – definitely not enough, as the place is very popular with families.  There were maybe two high chairs and we had to vie with other hawk-eyed parents all trying to score one!  

 (Score! We got a high chair!) 

Other than that, I do recommend this as a family-friendly place – great for a casual, no-fuss family meal.


  

After a hearty breakfast, we headed to Deus Ex Machina, Temple of Enthusiasm (which means “God in the Machine”- very far from  our initial guess that it meant two ex mechanics haha!)  

This custom motorcycle shop also offers surfboards, apparel and boardshorts for sale – apparently there’s serious street cred in their threads, so the cool kids in my office tell me – and there’s a courtyard behind where little ones can roam. There’s also a cafe here, but we were advised by a Canggu regular that’s it’s underwhelming fare, the advice was to check out Deus but not to eat there!   
  They make their own custom motorcycles and surfboards here, and if you wander into the courtyard behind the shop, you can see the craftsmen at work on the bikes and boards. Pretty cool, eh?   

After an activity-packed morning, we head back to our Canggu home-base (Villa Simona Oasis) for a couple hours of relaxation, where my friends were all still getting massages, and the littles all hopped into the pool!  


For lunch, we decided to make the 20 minute drive to Seminyak where we visit one of our favorite lunch hangouts, Sardine. This spot never gets old, I like to visit before dark as you’ll miss out on seeing the gorgeous scenery when night falls.  

They are well-known for their scenery and their seafood. Both equally top-notch!     




Again, this lovely eatery had no high chair, but Bubu was passed out anyway, so we just propped him up with cushions, and let him doze!  Jakey had his car seat (good move to bring car seat BTW, so you can put baby down once he’s sleeping. We brought his baby carrier as well but it’s kind of hard to relax and eat with baby in a sling -especially in warm, tropical weather where you’ll just both get really hot and sticky!) 

  

 Grumpy Bubu just woke from his nap…And hey, more ducks and geese – but Bubu was too drowsy to chase them, so it was Mummy that herded these into a corner for a photo! He finally perks up enough to enjoy the scenery at Sardine – so gorgeous!   

Next, we pop over to Potatohead to catch the sunset, where our contacts at Villa Simona helped us score two of the coveted beach beds at this super popula spot. The entrance of Potatohead looks like a coliseum made up of hundreds of rustic  wooden slats and shutters, and is always jaw-dropping for first-time visitors.   Truth be told, Potatohead is much more of a party spot than a family hangout. You won’t see a lot of families and under-twelves here, it has more of a cocktail party vibe, but we always like it because it has an amazing view of the most spectacular imaginable sunset, and a pool with a shallow wading area for babies. It can get very crowded here, but all is good if you can score a beach bed.   Jake is oblivious to the party atmosphere and quite happy chilling on his beach bed. Bubu and the boys enjoy fish and chips (one or the lads seems to think the table is tastier than the food) with the best spot on the beach to catch the incredible sunset.    IMG_7968-0

We wrap up our evening in Seminyak with dinner at Il Lido, which is located at the old Cafe Warisan. Lovely garden setting in a restaurant that seats about 80-100 diners, great service, faultless Italian food, and it was very empty when we dined there on a Saturday night which made it great for our big group with lots of kids (and they had many many high chairs- no fighting here!)  

Next morning, for breakfast, we asked Made, our villa driver, to take us somewhere cool in the Canggu neighbourhood (surprise us!) and he brought us to Old Man at Echo Beach.     

 Only good vibes here!  We loved this laid-back beachfront diner. Echo Beach is a black sand beach populated with locals, tattooed surfers and carefree bohemians who look like they’ve made Bali their home. It’s not very touristy, which was part of its charm for me. There was plenty of space for Bubu to run around and explore, breakfast was satisfying- we had the corn fritters, green eggs and ham and the classic breakfast. Discovering this little hideaway, with its colorful umbrellas and cheerful boho vibes in Canggu was one of the highlights of our trip.           

Craving some local fare for lunch, we decided to venture back to nearby Seminyak, scoring a table at Merah Putih.  

 Such a photogenic space, filled with gorgeous natural sunlight and high ‘vaulted’ ceilings, a  where traditional Balinese meets modern design. 

     
    
  Gorgeous setting and incredibly tasty local fare (even the nasi goreng topped with egg and keropok looks posh here), well worth paying the premium to dine in this glamorous, elegant air-conditioned hall with soaring ceilings. We will be back for sure! 

Post-lunch, the mommies escape for a couple hours to the Rob Peetoom Hair Spa for pampering… While we send the daddies and kinda back to the villa for pool-time and massages. Aaah… This is Bali life!

We wrap the night up with a final dinner at Meja Kawi, located on the second floor of Ku De Ta. This modern restaurant has a degustation menu featuring molecular gastronomy with Indonesian influences, and is relatively good value for this genre of cuisine.   

  

The final morning of our departure, we wake up early to brunch at Bungalow Cafe. It’s a hippie, boho cafe filled with books, home decor products and quaint curios. It was much smaller and darker than I expected, having first found this place based on glowing reviews online.  

    
  Across the street, is the Bungalow Living store, which was filled with gorgeous stuff for the home, I love the affordably-priced cushions, woven baskets and quirky knick-knacks all in gloriously pretty fabrics.  
 With that, it’s a wrap! We head straight to the airport from Bungalow Cafe. 

Bali has a spanking new airport, much better than the old one. Here’s an airport tip – there’s a viewing gallery next to the Haagen Dazs where you can actually see the planes speeding down the runway and lifting off. Bubu was delighted with this – I made videos for him on my iPhone, and he still comes to me every morning asking to watch those airplane videos!  

  
For ease of planning, I’ve added my 4 day itinerary and notes below, we didn’t get to do everything, of course – but I know we will be back before long! 
Day 1 

Arrive in Bali 

Stop by Be Chocolat to buy artisanal chocolate on way to Villa in Canggu

Lunch and Massage in Villa 

Check out Canggu Beach Club (water slides)  

530pm Sunset at La Laguna 

8 PM Dinner at Naughty Nuri’s, Smokehouse (best American style ribs) or La Finca Canggu dinner

Day 2

9am Breakfast at Milk and Madu

1030am Check out Deux ex Machina (motorcycle cafe and shop)

1pm Lunch – Warung Eropa 2 (best crispy duck in Bali) on Echo Beach or Sardine in Seminyak 

5pm Potatohead  – Swim, sunset drinks 

730pm – Dinner at Il Lido (Cafe Warisan) or restaurant Mamasan (Seminyak)

Day 3

9am – Brunch at Old Man, Echo Beach or Alila Seminyak or Starfish Bloo at W Hotel

11am – Kids and daddies head back to villa (Swim at villa or Water Slides at Canggu Beach Club) 

1pm – Lunch at Merah Putih 

330pm – Spa at Rob Peetoom Mummies – Seminyak shopping 

8pm Dinner at  Mejekawi, Kudeta level 2 

Day 4

9am – Breakfast and Shopping at Bungalow Cafe and Bungalow Living

Depart for Airport 

My Tot-Friendly Travel – Bali, Indonesia 

I confess… I’m a Bali addict.  I make the pilgrimage once yearly, and heck, we even got married in Bali.

Bali Bubu 2014

This would be the first time however, that we are visiting as a family of four, and it would be a whole different experience!

One of the most important things when choosing a villa (or hotel) in Bali is the location, depending on whether you plan to spend all your time chilling in the villa or wish to do some town-hopping. 

With all the added logistics (and paranphanelia when traveling with a 3 month old baby), we decided to opt for a Bali villa over a hotel.

I can’t recommend this enough for groups or families traveling together. Many villas come with their own dedicated butlers, chefs and service staff (especially the bigger ones like 4-5 bedrooms), and Villa Simona Oasis where we stayed, also had its own mini-van (7 seater) and driver as well as an in-house masseuse.  

Exploring Villa Simona
   
Bubu loves the sunlit, spacious living areas.
 

Villa garden and pool
  
Daddy and Jakey
The thing to avoid in Bali…those nasty traffic jams (Boo)! Even short distances can take 45 minutes to cover because of road conditions, and with small children, long commutes in Bali traffic just aren’t ideal.  For this reason, I prefer to stay near or around the buzzy Seminyak area. We’ve stayed further afield before like Ubud, Nusa Dua, Tanah Lot and Uluwatu, but each time when making multiple trips back to Seminyak – whether to lunch at Sardine or catch the sunset at Potato Head – we’ve always said, “Next time we will stay closer to Seminyak”.   

Sunset at Potatohead

Our original choice was Villa Lulito, which is a beautiful four bedroom villa in the heart of Seminyak.
Villa Lulito, Seminyak

With its white-washed wood floors and Hamptons-style decor, Lulito looks like something out of Ralph Lauren Home. This little gem is tucked away just 5 minutes from the bustle of Seminyak Beach (and one of the four rooms is a huge family room with 2 double decker bunk beds – sleeps four), but alas, it was fully booked for our dates of travel!)  
Villa Lulito
Moving on, we knew we still wanted to be near Seminyak, but also wanted something less commercial, and perhaps to explore new places – something a little less crowded and touristy.  

I really wanted to share some recommendations for family travel, and some tips for taking the road less travelled in Canggu over crowded Seminyak.  Canggu is a 15-20 minute drive from Seminyak (in Bali terms, that’s like right next door) which makes it a perfect base. I decided to plan my itinerary around Canggu and to explore the area. 

It’s a lot of information, so I’ve split this post into two, this one is more about accommodation and the villa where we stayed, and the next will be an exploration of Canggu, and a suggested 3-4 day itinerary. 

We stayed in five-bedroom Villa Simona Oasis.  I’m not a travel agent, so I’m not “selling” the villa. I really just wanted to share our gorgeous photos from our experience there. 

First – this sprawling 47,000 sqft five bedroom villa has ROCKIN’ pool toys! There’s the Flamingo, the giant Swan, the Donut and even a little slide that we put over the pool to create our own water slide. Once Bubu got over his excitement of petting the pink “Mingo”, we explored the rest of the sprawling villa estate.

Here we are in the largest of the five bedroom villas on the property, it has its own living area, jacuzzi garden and like all the other rooms, outdoor bath areas , which Bubu adored (but if you’re super-terrified of frogs, lizards and other garden life forms, you may not be as enthused).

  
  
All the rooms (which are more like free-standing mini villas) have outdoor baths and gardens, this one below was another of my favorite layouts.

The dining area seats ten and they also have a high chair (plus points).

  I really loved the natural sunlight on this daybed in the living area, and took all Jake’s OOTD shots here!  Now the pool…  The villa has a spanking new pool deck with loads of beautiful striped cushions and a pair of swings that made the kids happy. 

    

Playmates in the pool
  The pool itself is very baby and toddler-friendly with shallow areas that are ankle-deep, knee-deep and waist-deep with a deeper end (which is where you should put the pool slide if your kids are bigger than toddlers). 

Note: As with any place with a pool, keep an eye on the toddlers! We didn’t find it dangerous as we could lock the villa doors to keep him inside when we were there, the villa had staff who also helped keep a lookout for the kids, but of course, be sensible-Always keep an eye on the little ones around the pool.   

 Okay, so it wasn’t just the kids who enjoyed the pool. 

The villa staff were also excellent, on hand to prepare fresh meals when we chose to stay in, helped to make all our restaurant bookings and transport arrangements, and we had fresh mango juice on-demand every day, Bubu thought he was in Paradise!
 Wrapping up now (and starting work on the next post which is about what we did and where we went in Canggu and Seminyak), here are the links for Villa Lulito (the Hampton’s style 4 bedroom villa in Seminyak) and Villa Simona Oasis where we stayed.

http://www.simona-oasis.com http://www.villalulito.com

BTW, villas are great value for families, Villa Simona was about US$950++ per night for all five rooms, which works out to less than US$250 per room, so it would have cost us more to book 2 adjoining rooms or a family suite in a luxury hotel.

And I shall leave you with Bubu’s reaction on our last day at the villa, when we were checking out.  

 If only we could all act like two year olds – I wouldn’t want to leave either !

Making A Mini Me 

      I’ve always been curious about 3D digital printing, and when the opportunity came to make a Uu 3D miniature figurine of Bubu and myself, I jumped at the experience!     

       What is significantly different about the technology offered this time round vs a year ago when Uu figurines were first available, is that the creators have come up with the camera technology to capture fast-moving children (and pets)!     

      What to wear? They suggested that we come “as we are”, in clothes that we are comfortable in, or that represent us. I dressed Bubu in his favorite Whistle & Flute T and distressed denim shorts. I would have put his beloved gold winged shoes on him, but we were advised that the technology doesn’t capture metallic colors so well. 

       
      In the past, with less sophisticated technology, you would have to stand still for at least 2 minutes each time while they captured multiple images of you from around 6 different angles (about half an hour of standing and posing in all). This was to give them a 360 degree capture of their subject so they could channel it into the 3D printing.   

       I’m so stoked that Bubu was the first little one captured by this new technology by Uu, where it was difficult or impossible before to shoot babies and restless toddlers, the new setup which features 80 cameras in a 360 degree surround setup (The Rig) they needed only one second to capture my intrepid son!   

      The whole process was pretty painless. Took only minutes for each of us.  You go 15 minutes before your scheduled timing to check your hair and attire, step into the rig (a circle of cameras), they take 3 shots – and you’re done! 
       
      The images captured are then sent to Japan for printing and editing, where they choose the best of the three, and the figurines will be printed in high composite powder. Hence the figurines will have a clay-like texture and feel.  They even scale it to your proportionate heights, to capture the relative sizes between you and the little one.

       It takes 3 months to create the figurines out of Japan, and we wait excitedly!  

      Finally, they arrive in Singapore for the pop-up shop at Scotts Square!  

      Check out the Uu shop, you’ll see a row of local celebrities… And in the front window, there we are… Bubu and I! 

       
         

       

      This is the first time Bubu sees his mini figurine, and he is super excited when he sees it! He starts giggling and tapping on the glass. We can’t wait to be able to take home our mini figurines at the end of the exhibition! 

       

      The figurines can seem pricey, ranging from $900 to $2800 depending on sizes of the figurines, from 15cm to 35cm, but if you put it into perspective, it’s what one might (arguably) pay for a handbag! 

      These figurines do immortalize your little one (I actually wish I had been able to do this a year ago when he was at his roundest and chubbiest), and that’s truly priceless.  

      Uu is now at Scotts Square #03-14/15 from today till Nov 8 2015. 

      For more information, check out this super cute Uu video (Big U meet Small u) which also features Bubu in action:

      My Tot-Friendly Travel: Penang, Malaysia

      So we’ve just spent a weekend (3 days and 2 nights) in sunny Penang, a short one hour flight from Singapore, but truly a world apart. Here are my photos and tips on how to make it a junior-friendly excursion!

      Stylish boutique hotel Macalister Mansion may not come to the top of mind as a family friendly location, but it was an awesome experience that exceeded all expectations, and one reason we really enjoyed our experience in Penang.

      Here’s the entrance, with a modernist sculpture at the arrival (which Bubu refers to as “Big Head”) as you drive up the sweeping driveway to a graceful colonial style mansion.  “Big Head” also makes an awesome photo opp … If only Bubu didnt get scared and run away!

       

      This is a boutique design hotel set in a heritage mansion with only eight rooms. All the rooms were unique and had different layouts, I recommend booking way ahead to get the room you really want. Two of the rooms are adjoining if you are traveling in a larger family party.

      Being a family of three, we checked into Room 3 which is the largest room with its own huge balcony, sitting area and a massive room-sized bathroom.

      He had fun exploring the room, it was a good family size with a super king bed that fit us all comfortably.
      Bubu LOVES the bathroom, the look on his face says it all!The bath tub is the highlight of the hotel for him. I considered for 10 seconds to let him sleep in it because he climbed right into it and lay down right away (and because Macalister isn’t entirely baby-friendly, they don’t provide extra beds or baby cots).   Spot the Bubu below…

      This is Room 2, the only room with a four poster bed, hmm… probably better for couples.

      Next we proceeded to explore the grounds and various nooks and crannies in the hotel, and found…

      The Living Room- A gorgeous breakfast hall – which served equally gorgeous breakfasts that  were included in the room rates. The must-try here is the unagi and scrambled egg on toast…mmmmm.

      Quaint and quirky design touches can be discovered all over the hotel if you take the time to explore. The cafe had beautiful wall murals which echoed the street art in Penang.  I highly recommend brunch at the Living Room (open daily 8am to 10pm) even if you don’t stay in Macalister Mansion. The food is great, the space is pretty and the coffees are satisfying!

      The cafe and gift shop space
      The quaint curated offerings in the gift shop 
      Just next to The Living Room is a room which houses the gift shop, and has a big central table that doubles up in the evenings as a pool table. The gift shop sells all kinds of cool curios like these funky porcelain cups. I also bought some beautiful  hard-cover children’s classic books – Peter Pan, Secret Garden and Frankenstein-  to decorate the boys’ rooms with, and hopefully become cherished keepsakes as they become older.

      Next, we wandered into The Dining Room- a beautiful wonderland of a restaurant which featured an elegant all-white tree as its centerpiece and a baby blue and pink deer. Such a dreamy space for an intimate wedding dinner – love! 

      Bubu would greet the animals in the little courtyard outside the restaurant each morning, with a VERY LOUD “Hello Bear!” – thankfully, with only 8 rooms, we had the whole property pretty much to ourselves (another perk of staying in a very small hotel)!

       

      “HELLO BEAR!”

      Giant book on the landing which shows Macalister  Mansion among other cool design hotels from all around the world.

       

      (Almost) Reluctantly, we leave the sanctuary of this beautiful Gatsy-inspired mansion and head out to Penang for the real reason we are here: Street Food! 

      There are many foodie blogs which detail where to go for the best this and that – so I’m not going to do that here (Don’t be lazy, do a bit of your own research!) … But I will say that the best Or Luak (oyster omelette) can be found at Lam Ah kopi tiam (opposite the fire station) and the yummiest Penang Char Kway Teow (fried seafood noodles) can be found at Pulau Tikus. Most of these local eateries do have high chairs, and they are very cute, old-school 80s style antiquities (read: bring wet wipes!!!).

      Now my favorite part, the street art in Penang. So most of you will be familiar by now with these iconic wall murals. The most famous and original ones were done by artist Ernest Zacharevic – we found a series of three – the swing, the basketball and the bicycle, all in the Jalan Pantai area.

      You may be asking how to find them, and in all honestly, I couldn’t exactly tell you, they’re not really side by side, as I expect they were designed to be part of an exploratory trail.

      The swing is my favorite, as the bicycle can get very crowded being in the middle of a busy weekend street market which despite being closed off as a pedestrian throughfare still had cars and bikes going through.  I will tell you later though exactly how we found them, and that’s one good way to explore.

      The swing was tucked away in a small side alley, no one there but us. Don’t sit on the other swing for the photo, it will block the little painted kids which are the highlight, unless your tot is so tiny he/she doesn’t go past their knees.

      The basketball mural – daddy takes a shot!Other murals can also be discovered along bustling Jalan Pantai. So a good place to drop off if you want to explore the area on foot would be at China House. It looks fairly unassuming like a regular shophouse from the outside (look out for some flags on the exterior which help you locate it), but the inside is a long, snaking series of gardens and cafes.

        Inside the gorgeous interiors and escapes of the China House (with my grumpy Bubu).  Graffiti covered walls make for a subversive cool arty/underground vibe.
      There’s even a pretty pond and garden inside – so unexpected.  Cake spread at the cafe inside Asia House.

      There are so many fun and memorable photo spots- Enjoy yourself scouting them all out and interacting with them to create your own Penang Family Album!

      It can get uncomfortably hot for tots in the afternoon, the best time to probably have gone would be about 4 or 5pm as the sun is still up, but it wouldn’t have been as hot and humid, and the market and street life would start to transition to evening.
      Bubu starts to get grumpy about 20 minutes in, and and clamours to go back to the van, even though there’s so much to see and buy, that I was wishing I had brought the pram!
      I really wanted a small hand-knit Totoro, but made the mistake of taking a photo first and when I turned around – it was gone! Many of the things in the market are one-off or hard to find again, so if you see something you love, just buy it first!
          Another place we loved for having uber cool decor was the Awesome Canteen. Being stuffed already, we didn’t get to try the food and drinks, but it’s on my must-try when we return list.  Check out the photo below, it’s like dining in the sunny courtyard of a heritage house.

       We find lovely photo corners all around Jalan Pantai.

      That pout though…   

      Grumpy Bubu…
      Spoiling my photos!
        Three men and a (grumpy) baby.

      Bubu finally gets happy again when we get back to the van!

      Next we head on to Penang Hill to catch the train that takes you to the top of the hill, one of Penang’s most popular attractions.

        Waiting for the train…On board the train with the “aunties and uncles” as he calls them. We traveled in a group of 7 adults and Bubu,  and I’m happy to share that Penang if well-planned (like having a van with a driver that fits everyone), is a fabulous group destination that can accommodate both adults and kids.
      The journey by train takes about 10 minutes up and down either way.  If I’m honest, I don’t see a lot to do at the top of the hill- unless you’re big time into scenery, and maybe it was the haze, but it wasn’t all that clear, and Bubu got bored after about 10 minutes.

      However, I would still recommend this place because of the stupendous train ride.

      Here’s the million dollar tip: Sit at the very front of the train coming down. Pay the RM30 extra for the express ticket – there seems to be less of a queue going up than down). We saw the snaking, long queue that would take about three train loads to clear – not great with small kids, so we bought the express pass at the top for the return journey, which gave us access to an air-conditioned waiting room and the privilege to board the train first. Of course we made a beeline for the first row with a huge window overlooking the track directly – and this totally made the trip worthwhile (best SG$10 you can spend to make sure baby and you get the best sears in da house)!

      After a day of eating and sightseeing, we carried on with more gluttony into the night, dining at the Jetty Restaurant in Bukit Tambun. It’s not as scenic as it looks in these photos, mainly smelly fishy water and it took us an hour to drive out to the mainland. The food was so-so, I would give it a miss traveling with young ones, especially if you’re on a short weekend trip. 

      Getting back to the hotel, we spoil Bubu with a bubble bath before bedtime. He really enjoyed himself and is still saying “Bubu go bath tub”- two whole days later! 

      Good morning Macalister Mansion!  Note, Room 3 is the only one with a balcony and it has quite a low railing, so if you’re traveling with more than one tot, or unable to keep an eye on your little one all the time, lock the door leading to the balcony- that’s just safety common sense.

      That view though! We check out the pool before heading out for the day. Good news! It’s baby-friendly with shallow splash areas, and also daddy friendly with a bar built into the pool. We headed out for a spot of shopping on Gurney Drive, where you’ll find big shopping centers like Paragon and G Plaza next to the iconic Gurney open-air hawker centre. Another highlight for Bubu, we found a kids amusement area on level 4 of G Plaza where we changed RM20 (about SG$7) worth of tokens and he rode on all the car, plane, helicopter and train rides to his little heart’s content!

      Tip: make a video on your phone of him riding each ride if he’s the kind of kid that loves to watch his own videos. Bubu has been reliving the joy of these Gurney Plaza rides over and over again – RM20 well spent indeed!

      We wrapped up a busy weekend with high tea  at the E&O Hotel. It’s kinda like the Raffles Hotel of Singapore… Ish. The pool was super crowded when we checked it out, and the hotel can smell a little old and musty- but it’s still a grand old dame, and you can have lovely tea and scones there if that’s your cup of tea! (Note: they are purist about their colonial style high tea. We asked if we could have coffee and were met with a snooty negative!… I would take the Living Room at Macalister Mansion for tea in a heartbeat over stuffy E&O for a fraction of the price).The waterfront at E&O is a little hazy and grey.   Still in the mood for  taking fun photos, these canons are part of the heritage setting at this historic hotel.   High tea at the E&O (I did say it looks a lot like Raffles Hotel).   Bubu is grumpy because he still wants to go back to the van!

      Happiness!

      Okay, so I wanted to end by sharing that apart from the standout experience at Macalister Mansion, the tip to ride at the very front of the train coming down from Penang Hill and the Or Lua at Lam Ah – the best tip I can give you is to book a driver and car (in our case a van) for getting around. First, a good driver comes equipped with local knowledge on where to go, and won’t take you to the tourist traps, and he will be able to take you straight to all the fun street art and murals (even those tucked away)!

      I am happy to recommend my van driver, Mr Ong +60 16 473 2138. He was patient, friendly, always nearby and knew all the places we wanted to go to. He collected us from the airport, dropped us off, and charged RM500 per day for 10 hours , and always had a smile on his face. This could explain why Bubu was always asking for the van! If you are a smaller group traveling and don’t need a van, you can call Mr Teh +019-411-9703.  Mr Teh was recommended by a friend of mine who swears by his services, and Mr Ong was his introduction when we needed a van.

      One last note: there can be quite a lot of walking in Penang – with the street markets, walking trails etc- if you have a grumpy (and extra heavy) toddler like mine, a pram could be a lifesaver! I can’t recommend enough a pram that folds up small enough to hoist into an airplane overhead compartment, cutting out the wait on arrival where even if you are first to exit the plane, you are last to reach the customs. This one is the Mothercare XXS, smallest pram in the world (and check out the funky leopard print)! Clocking in at a mere 3.9kg, it still supports my giant baby at 20kg (even though we are over the recommended weight limit); we actually bought it for future travel with Baby Jake, and I foresee a lot of use coming out of this little lifesaver!

      Universal Studios Singapore – Halloween Horror Nights 5 (2-31 October 2015)

      First, let me start by saying I am a huge fan of theme parks, and it’s given me great joy to have a Universal Studios in our backyard in Singapore.  

      What a treat to have been invited to last night’s media preview of their fifth edition of Halloween Horror Nights, one of the region’s most iconic haunted theme park experiences!  

       With three Singapore-themed haunted houses (The MRT, Hell House and Block 50) and USS’s first dark house (Tunnel People), there are also scare zones to walk through and chill zones to hang in if you’re prone to heart attack and want to take a breather, and many of the rides (like Battlestar Galactica and The Mummy) remain open. BTW, I love riding roller coasters at night, it’s a whole different experience! 

      The most striking Scare Zone is themed The Invaders, where giant aliens wander amidst UFOs and tanks, and it appears mankind has lost the battle for survival.  

          John walks through the battle wasteland illuminated by sweeping laser beams.
        

      Of the four haunted houses, my two favorite were Hell House and Block (SG)50.  I’ll let a few photos do the talking! 

       
        Hell House is filled with creepy “Paper People” and paper props, those paper effigies you burn during Hungry Ghost month. A lot of interesting details can be found in this haunted house, which gets pretty hot inside… As everything is meant to burn…  

       I didn’t get a lot of photos from Block 50 (or Siloso Gateway Blk 50), because it was so exciting and there were parts you we were sprayed with water, or we had to stoop low to crawl under menacing, swinging things… Only to encounter more scares on the ground!  So I put my phone away! I liked this best because it combined the Zombie nightmare experience (think Walking Dead breaks out in an HDB block) with elements of every day life that all Singaporeans would recognize – Taking you through familiar void decks (but covered with bloody hand prints and neighbors screaming from behind the grills next door), and through homes of all cultures that people will identify with. Best actress award goes to the emaciated screaming, bloody-covered Ibu zombie tied to a bed.   
          
       I’ll just end by saying this is definitely NOT for the kiddies. We left Bubu at home as I think he may have been permanently scarred by all that went on, I didn’t want to be an #assholeparent fo’ real! 

      Halloween Horror Nights 5 (#HHN5) kicks off from 2 October til 31 October. You can get admission tickets for $58 (Usual Price $68) if you buy four or more online http://www.halloweenhorrornights.com.sg for more info. 

         

      Blue House Toddler Atelier – A Space for Exploration and Discovery

      With the heat and haze, we decided to do an indoor weekend, and checked into the newly-opened Blue House Infant & Toddler Atelier at UE Square. 

      The 2000 sqft “Reggio Emilia inspired” space has beautiful high ceilings and was awash with natural sunlight. It’s not designed as a soft play space, but meant to have an environment similar to an interactive children’s museum. 

       I was dubious when first walking in, that this quiet-looking space could successfully engage my boisterous, hyper-energetic (bouncy-castle fanatic/ toy-maniac/ car-crazy) Bubu.  

      The space was was filled with little nooks and self-play activity corners,  utilizing natural materials and ordinary little things (like a whole bunch of zippers on a table, and a wicker basket filled with all kinds of bristles and brushes). 

      Once he got his socks on though, he was off and exploring! Here is our story in photos:  

      The space is welcoming and homely. The umbrellas hanging overhead are a nice touch to add interest and color, using natural, everyday objects to harmonize with the theme of the space. 

      There’s a structure on one side that looks like a spaceship, which Bubu refers to as “cable car” (not sure why)! 
      This is the view from inside the “cable car”.  There’s a Lightbox Pod, a cushioned area by the window, and a play area with cushions on the floor next to a projector (which comes on intermittently, and is fun for shadow play).
      Almost immediately, the lightbox pod catches his eye, it changes colors with different switches totally fascinates him. He soon discovers the objects provided for interaction with the lightbox pod and proceeds to arrange and stack them. 
       “Hey mum, this is cool!”  

      Here’s another view of the space, it’s great that it is not crowded (even on a weekend afternoon which is when we visited), and not filled with screaming, sweaty, over-stimulated, adrenalin-crazed kids (which is what happens to Bubu when he’s been in a baby gym for about 45 minutes… He starts to look like one of those loony tunes characters with spirals in their eyes). 

      The space also encourages interaction among parents, creating quite a warm, cosy community. 

      A half hour later, he ventures over to rest and roll around in the cushioned play space next to the window. He befriends someone’s grandpa there, and they share cushions.   After a breather he’s up and about, “Hmm… What shall I play with next!”

      Next up, he’s captivated by a wicker basket filled with brushes and bristles of all types – from paint brushes large and small to hair brushes and even a bristly shoe brush (at least that’s what I thought it was!)  He plays with the brushes against the curved surface of the “cable car”.  
      Finally, he adopts the wicker basket and carries it all around. He also explores the projector wall, and plays with the random objects scattered around the space. 
      Before we know it, we have been there for 90 minutes and it’s time to go!  He hasn’t even explored a quarter of the space, and we felt like we could have spent another two hours there. 

      What’s amazing is he wasn’t sweaty and exhausted like when we leave most kiddy play gyms. We did have a hard time getting him to leave his favorite play area though – he flattened himself out on the lightbox and gave us his sad face. 
       We assured him we would be back to visit the “cable car” and with that it was a wrap!  

      Bye Bye “cable car”!  

        

       Despite engaging him with quiet play and exploration, it still did its job, it tired out my toddler who conked out for his nap after… Bravo! Plus points, Blue House! 

      Verdict:  We paid $25 for two hours of play, it’s designed for kids ages 6 months to 3 years. A great place to spend a couple hours if you’re looking for somewhere air-conditioned to entertain your little one, and a highly-recommended alternative to baby and kids gyms (this is like an organic salad bar compared to the McDonalds that are those baby gyms!) You are actually also able to have conversation with other adults and relax a little as your kids aren’t tearing around like crazy banshees. Only drawback (and this is unfortunately huge for me!)… They have no cafe and don’t allow food and drink in the atelier. Which is great, yes- the space is kept grub-free and crumb-free… But waaah, NO COFFEE! Almost perfect – oh well! 

      The Blue House Infant and Toddler Atelier is located at #01-35 Office Block, UE Square. (There isn’t much signage, so my best advice is to head to street level and walk on the outside, it’s along the same road as Liang Court next door.)

      Welcome Little Man! Jake’s First Month Party

      Life can get a little monotonous during the first month of confinement, so for my own enjoyment, I started planning Baby Jake’s first month celebration. Since so much thought and effort was put into the little event, I decided share my resources and kiddie party planning tips!

      We started by finding a venue that I love, chose a theme (Welcome Little Man, with colour scheme of black and white with touches of baby blue) and I went about sourcing gifts and little details that would make the party special. Once again, I’m going to let the photos do the talking!

      The Invitation:  I used an image from his Newborn shoot by The Studio Loft. I added in text using an iPhone app called Over, it took 5 minutes – easy peasy! 

      The Venue:  The Luxe at 1 Keong Saik Road, this is an Australian-style cafe next to the Working Capitol, and is a beautiful, welcoming space graced with natural sunlight. I fell in love with it for Jake’s party the minute I saw it.

      The Welcome Table:   I filled it with little items and gifts for the guests like Kids’ Fedoras and images of Baby Jake in photo frames. I rented the chalkboard signage from Dreams & Confetti at Dempsey.

      The Details: Baby bottles for guests to fill with baby blue kisses (from Candylicious at VivoCity), mini cupcakes in the colour scheme provided by Luxe, and a party hashtags so we could see the pictures shared by our friends #hellobabyjake

       
      Gift bags for all the guests – filled with a customized selection of gifts – Bow Ties for the men, Mustache knuckleduster rings for the women, Bunny night lights for the kids and cookies for everyone baked by Jake’s grandma.   I designed and ordered customized sticker labels online from Evermine, with his name on them for all the bags and items in the door gift.  The letter pressed Thank You notes below are by Carda

      All set! Even Big Brother Bubu is dressed to the theme!

      Guests arrive (here’s another tip, we staggered the timing to avoid over-crowding for the little VIP, 3pm for Family and 4pm for Friends), and as hoped – the little guests love their bunny rabbits! 

      Baby Jake wakes up just for a while to grace his beautiful guests with a half-smile.       

      The ladies having a little fun with the Baby Bottles of Kisses xxx

      It’s easy to see why Bubu thinks it’s his party.  

      Baby Jake’s Balmoral carriage by Silver Cross, and portraits that we made specially for the party.   

      A close up on a little guest, and one of the Black and White balloon bouquets.

      Goodbye everyone, and Thank You for joining us!

      Event photography by John of Episode Photography http://www.episodephotography.sg

      Open Farm Community – Family-friendly Spot in Dempsey

      We discovered this place through a friend two weeks ago. Went on a weekend morning and it was lovely with a large shaded sandpit, outdoor seating (with cool blowers thankfully!) and a cafe that opened at 11am.  Plenty of space set amidst lush greenery and a natural farm setting where the cafe/ restaurant grows their own produce. There was also a little kids boutique Tinydipity that sold a selection of clothes, accessories, toys. 

      Brunch was great! Serving up the usual breakfast suspects (Eggs Benny, pancakes, toast and sandwiches, lattes, cold-pressed juices etc), but all the ingredients used were fresh – we felt like we had discovered a place we wanted to bring our friends back to.  I’ll let the photos do the talking. 

      Open Farm Commmunity is at 130E Minden Road, Dempsey Village 

         

         
      Bubu finds a wooden digger. He loves it!  We had to pry it out of his hands when we left 😦


      Lovely decor outdoors with spanking new lounge chairs and a funky ping pong table set amidst lush farm greenery #wowicantbelievethisissingapore

         

          
      At the Brunch table (still clutching the wooden digger) 

       Beautiful sunlit restaurant space, with high ceilings surrounded by glass windows.
        

      Scrambled eggs and sausage   
       
      Eggs and toast 

        
      Some of the fresh produce from the farm .    
      Tinydipity (some cheeky kid rubbed out the Y) – cute little boutique selling fashion and knick knacks 

        We return to the sand pit with his own Digger (fortunately we did because we found the other wooden Digger broken in two and Bubu was really heartbroken that he couldn’t put it back together! 

       
      Achievement unlocked! It’s his first time stepping willingly on to sand. The last few times we went on beach vacations, it was a real challenge getting him comfortable with the texture between his toes. He would cry and want to be picked up! 

      Verdict: We love it and will be back next week! Note the indoor restaurant closes from 3-6pm and the outdoor cafe doesn’t serve food. They are brand new and still building a children’s playground which will come up next to the sandpit. It does get crowded, so do make a booking if you’re going on a weekend for brunch or lunch. 

      Hello World!

      Hi, this is my online journal created to share our story and adventures in parenting, travel and life with Bubu and his new baby brother.
      There is often so much I want to share that I can’t fit into a square box on Instagram, so here we are – Outside the Box, and I hope you enjoy what we have to share!
      In this first post, I share images of Jake’s first hours and days of life, and that precious, priceless moment when the brothers meet for the first time.

      Love, Tjin, Bubu and Baby Jake xxx

      Such tiny, precious little hands!

      He’s curious!

      Can I pet him?

      Just hours old!
      Jake arrived weighing in at 3.45kg at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.

      We booked The Studio Loft to document the first meeting of the two brothers. While it was tiring for me, on the same day as the birth which was in the morning, I’m definitely glad we did it, because the photos capture a truly priceless first moment. We also did prepare the “Baby Gift” – a gift for the older sibling from the new arrival, apparently this helps with goodwill! I’m not sure about the goodwill, but his gift of a new truck definitely kept Bubu occupied for the next three days!

      Daddy, what’s that!
        

      It’s your baby brother, Bubu!

      Daddy getting to know the new guy

      And three days later, we are ready to go home!