Monday, October 9, 2017

It’s Traveling Season!

We are coming the the end of 2017 and it is the traveling season again!
Most of us love to travel but if you (minority) do not, then you have to read on, cos this may just change your mind.

“I love to travel but I hate all the hassle of booking air tickets, accommodations, trips, looking out for nearby attractions, etc.” Does it all sound so familiar?
I mean spending many hours browsing through the internet, looking for the best prices, sourcing for new ideas, reading up reviews from different travelers, secure bookings and last minute changes, waiting for friends to confirm their schedules, etc. Who really enjoys all these mundane work?
Thankfully, I have an awesome wife who loves to do all these planning, and all I have to do is to provide the budget sheet. Participation level is minimum when it comes to planning for a trip.

But the same question keeps ringing in my mind. How did she plan everything so effortlessly? How come she has so much time to look through and check through all the different sources and ideas?
Finally, the secret is revealed.

Booking Hotel with Traveloka!!
No wonder she is always able to find so many interesting places for our family trips! I browsed through the website and was in awe of how easy it is to use and how much info there is available.
Like the picture below says, “Not sure where to go yet? Get inspiration from Traveloka Blog.” This is basically like a one-stop site with everything one needs to plan for a trip.

So let me share with you some of the things that I find useful and why am I recommending it to you.

Traveloka

Best Price Guaranteed + Honest Pricing
If you ever find a better price elsewhere, Traveloka will match it or beat it!
Many of my friends agree with me, if a website dares to say its price is the best and gives their guarantee, then there must be some truth in the claim and we can be sure it will deliver. I personally like the numerous flight choices available when I was searching for a KL trip. With “Flight Discount Coupons”, SIN-KL on Scoot is only S$70.30 (inclusive of all taxes and surcharges). Fantastic!!

Best Price

Price Alert
Finding it troublesome to keep track of the ups and downs of prices? Have you ever missed a special price fare because you are not at your laptop 24/7? Fret not with the super useful Price Alert service. Just create the settings of your alerts, sit back and let the system search and inform you.  Best of all, you can receive all your alerts via the Traveloka App (both on App Store & Google Play).

Price Alert

Easy booking + Convenient Rescheduling
One thing we have learnt in our traveling episodes, changes are inevitable. So with the convenience of changing your flight schedule or other bookings, it will greatly enhance the traveling experience even before you fly.

Easy Reschedule

Lots of Reviews from Travelers Around the World
As I was looking for recommendations in Malaysia, planning for a short getaway with my extended family, a familiar place popped up - Avillion Port Dickson. The reviews from other travelers were super useful. I was able to pinpoint what the hotel is offering and how helpful and understanding the staff were. A lot of positive and also some not-so-good feedbacks which made the reviews a lot more creditable. With this, I would surely book Avillion Port Dickson online with Traveloka.

Avillion 1

Avillion 2

Avillion 3

Have I tickled your appetite to travel? Year end is coming and it is the best time to wind down from the busy work year and book a trip with your loved ones or friends!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

块三点心 Dim Sum @ $1.30

After staying in Woodlands for more than 3 decades, I am still very amazed at the new things I find around this neighborhood. This time round we visited a 24-hour dim sum place at Primz BizHub Coffeeshop (21 Woodlands Close).

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As described perfectly by the stall name 块三点心 (Kuai San Dian Xin), all the dim sum are sold for $1.30 each. Yes! You read it right! Opens 24 hours daily, dim sum @ $1.30 each.

We visited on a Sunday evening around 6:30pm dinner time, though there was a queue but the service was fast and good.

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There were ample seats in the coffeeshop too.

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Don’t expect restaurant service, you have to queue, order and pay before you get your food. Basically there are only 30 dim sum items to choose from. But you can surely find the usual delights like, Char Siew Pau, Pork Ribs, Siew Mai, Prawn Dumpling, Carrot Cake, and even Century Egg Pork Porridge.

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We (read me) were determined to try as much as we can. And here is our round 1 orders. We had 2 rounds in total, and mind you it was just for the 4 of us (2 adults + 2 kids).

Total cost was a whopping $20.80!!

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I know some of you must be thinking how good is the dim sum. So here is the verdict, on a scale of 1 to 5.

Century Egg Porridge (3 points) & Carrot Cake (3 points)
The exterior was crispy and nice. The carrot cake inside was decent, but I would recommend to eat it fast, once it is cool the skin can be a bit too hard to swallow.

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Prawn Dumpling (3.5 points) & Siew Mai 2.5 points)
We had a second helping of the prawn dumplings, in total of 3 baskets. That should tell you either we love prawn dumplings or it is really quite nice.
As for the siew mai, personally not much of a pork eater, I felt that the pork taste was a bit too strong for me. I had to dip it with chili sauce to finish the plate.

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HK Style Prawn Chee Cheong Fun (3.5 points)
Another dish that demanded a second serving. The cheong fun was soft and at $1.30, I have to say the prawn given was in good proportion. It was still nice even when it was slightly cold.

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Paper Wrapped Chicken (4 points)
Definitely my first choice in future. Technically the dish is a chicken wing wrapped in paper and lightly salted, with a tinge of ginger and Chinese cooking wine. It’s not too dry, just nice to go along with anything, maybe even plain porridge.

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Fried Yam Dumpling (1 point), Xian Zhu Roll (2.5 points) & Fried Sotong Roll (2.5 points)
If you are a Cantonese like me, don’t spoilt your taste buds with the yam dumpling. Not worth the money even when it is $1.30. The fillings were dry, very little and the yam paste was almost non-existence.
As for the xian zhu roll and fried sotong rolls, it has always been our family’s top favorite, but the girls just only managed to finish till the last piece. I think the problem is too oily and the skin was not crispy enough.

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Like I said earlier, do not expect restaurant standard. So as we managed our expectations, the overall experience was good. I think we will still come back for more, especially when it is opened round the clock. A good consideration for the late supper peeps!

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The last mouth.

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Kuan Family 好介绍!

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Sembawang Hot Spring

Having heard about the Sembawang Hot Spring since many years back, I seriously do not know why it took us so long to visit it, especially when it is so near to our house.

Located along Gambas Ave, this is the only natural hot spring you can find in Singapore. If you are driving, the nearest place to park will be at the HDB carpark (Blk 114 Yishun Ring Rd). By bus, there is bus stop along Sembawang Rd (opp Blk 115B Yishun Ring Rd), bus numbers 167, 856, 858, 859, 969, 980. After you have alighted, walk along the direction of the traffic flow, turn left when you reach Gambas Ave, walk another 100m or so, you will find a signboard that looks like this.

Don’t bother to look for the Hot Spring sign, it does not exist. Just watch out for this pavement that leads in along the army camp. Do take note that the Sembawang Hot Spring is open 7am-7pm daily.

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One turn away, you will see the entrance into the secret place.

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We are here! Before we left the house to the place, the girls were excited to be visiting a new place. Along the way, it rained a bit, probably dampened the spirits slightly, as we walked into the pavement, the girls were visibly disappointed as the place looks rundown and a bit dirty. Maybe they were thinking of some fancy water playground idea.

This is taken from one corner of the place. As you can see, the place is not very big and there is NO natural steams of water flowing down from the mountains or spurting out from the ground. All you can see are just taps and pipes where the hot spring water are being channeled out for the public’s use.

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As we settled in our corner (altogether there are 3 clusters of pipes), an older uncle came by and told us that the spring waters have some healing properties but we have to still see a doctor if we are sick. We were so amused by his comment. I have read from reports that many older folks believed that the hot spring waters can heal sicknesses. But still to hear from someone who looked like a regular “customer” is pretty amusing.

Anyway, my mother was shocked to find out that the hot spring has been around longer than she is alive. In fact, this Sembawang Hot Spring was discovered by a Chinese merchant named Seah Eng Keong, the son of Seah Liang Seah (yes, Liang Seah Street @ Bugis is named after this man) in the year 1909. Throughout the years, many plans were announced by the State with this plot of land, and the latest was, the Hot Spring area will be turned into a park by end of 2018, and work will start as soon as Dec 2017. Which means we have only less than 3 months time to enjoy this place!
Will the hot spring be retained? Or maybe the park will be designed with the hot spring in mind as part of its uniqueness?

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Joey asked, “How does the water becomes hot? Where did it come from?”
My answer, “Must be something in the ground that causes it to be hot but I don’t know where did it come from.”
So much for the educational trip intention …

So here is what was reported, for all the parents who are reading, so that you can appear to be wise and knowledgeable in front of your children.

[The exact source of the water remains unknown to local geologists, but it is believed that its origin may possibly be at Bukit Timah. Hot springs are formed when underground water comes in contact with hot rock masses. The resulting high pressure causes the water to seep upwards through cracks, forcing itself out of the ground as a spring.
Studies on the water properties have shown that the spring water here contains a substantially high level of chloride compared to water from Choa Chu Kang and Bedok waterworks. It was also found that the sulphide content is 3 times more than tap water and the spring water is slightly alkaline due to the presence of minerals.]

So what are the activities at Sembawang Hot Spring?

Needless to say, the main thing is to enjoy the hot spring water. But how? That is left to your own creativity.

Like this regular user of the spring water. He was basically bathing with the hot spring water minus the shampooing. As you can see, there are lots of buckets and pails available for the public’s use. All you need is a towel to dry yourself. Unless you are a cleanliness freak, then BYOB (bring your own bucket).

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The girls chose their own buckets and we are ready for business. Be careful as you prepare to soak your tired feet, the water can be really hot, so don’t be too eager to plunge in and later regret.

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Test water.

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After like 10mins or so, the ladies are totally enjoying the treat! Feel free to top up your bucket with more hot water, it is FREE!
Use a pail if you are want to soak those tired calves too.

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Like I said, be creative in using the hot spring water. So we brought along a thermal flask and some eggs (ok, it was actually other people’s idea).

A word of advise, don’t boil the eggs like you see at Yakun or Toastbox. Leave the container directly under the running tap if possible, that way the water temperature can be maintain.

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Even with the water running over the thermal flask continually, it took us 30mins to achieve what we wanted. Eggs that are about 75% cooked.

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As a first time visitor, we forgot to bring spoons or sauce for the eggs. So it’s going to be just eggs for us.

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It was good!! Trust me, you have to try it when you visit.

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End of the day, it was a short trip (slightly more than an hour) most fulfilling. I get to spend time with my girls and my mom. Experiencing something new and unique. Living the “kampong” lifestyle in Singapore.
And I got to really relax my tired feet!

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We will be back for more!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Families that Grow Up Together

Families that stay together grows stronger. I think that means we spend time experiencing life together, exchanging thoughts and skills. And in a typical Singaporean way, the best thing to build relationships is through food!

So last Sunday we planned a family gathering with some of the families that had known each other for a long time. Some of us are friends for more than 10 years, some are 20 years or more.

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Have to say, picnic is so “old school”, right? As we settled down along the pier at Woodlands Waterfront, most of the passer-bys were quite impressed with what we have prepared for dinner. Some families were so excited I kid you not, they almost wanted to join us too.

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As a father of 2, I truly want my girls to grow up with the kids of families I know. Not saying that the children in school are bad, but I do not know those kids’ parents, neither do I know what type of values or beliefs the family subscribe to. So for me, the safest is for my girls to grow up with a group of children whose parents are close to us as well. At least we have the same faith and value the same things.

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A father & daughter pose.

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Jayne is especially close to Chernise as they are only 1 month apart in age. In fact, our families have been friends for as long as this 2 cuties have been born, 8 years and counting.

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Bethany is 6 and our families have known each other even before she was born.

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Poor Joey’s friends were not able to make it that day.. so she was acting emo on her own, watching out into the sea.. No worries gal, Papa is looking out for you.

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And the conversations and laughter continued well into the night. And we got to enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

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Till the next gathering!