Sunday, July 24, 2016

Okinawa (Japan): Long Slide Playground Urasoe Dai-koen 浦添大公園

Other than the sun, the sand, the sea, another main reason why we wanted to visit Okinawa is... the slide! The most famous long slide in Okinawa is located at Urasoe Dai-koen 浦添大公園, which is about 15 minutes drive away from Naha City.

This slide is 90 meters long, and is made up of metal rollers. Imagine sliding down this slide under the hot sun! So before our trip, we have prepared the sliders using corrugated board to protect ourselves!

We also found the sliders at Daiso, at 108 yen each, so we bought two.

Our children demonstrated how to use slider - sit on the slider, push yourself forward, and go!

Other than the length, another thrilling factor is that you can see the highway while you are sliding down! 

Even adults queued up for the slide! There were many tourists too, an old gentleman borrowed the slider from us and had great fun!

Other than the long slide, the children were challenged by this "castle"!

You may think that these are too challenging for the younger children. Don't worry, there are other facilities for the younger ones!

There are two car parks near the park, one is just next to the park, with the sign as shown, and the other one opposite. Take note that the car park next to the park is directly next to a cemetery. 

At the entrance of the park, there are washrooms and vending machines for beverages.

We had great fun, and I came back with abrasions on my arm and leg!

Urasoe Dai-koen 浦添大公園
Address: 沖縄県浦添市伊祖115-1 (〒901-2132 Okinawa Prefecture, Iso, 115, Urasoe-shi, Okinawa-ken, Japan) 
Mapcode for GPS: 33 312 045

Information of Other Playgrounds in Okinawa

We found other playgrounds in Okinawa that are very interesting too, however, we didn't manage to visit them this time.

Kaigungo Koen 海軍壕公園
Address: 沖縄県豊見城市豊見城236 (236 Tomigusuku Tomigusuku-shi, Okinawa-ken 901-0241 Japan)
Mapcode for GPS: 33 036 694
Highlights: The blue long slide that is gentle, and the yellow shorter slide that is steep
Note: It is located near a cemetery

image source: Lai-lai web

Nakagusuku Park 中城公園
Address: 〒901-2315 北中城村字荻道平田原370-2
Mapcode for GPS: 33 410 668
Highlights: The white structures on the top which are trampolines

image source: Lai-lai web

Toubaru Park 桃原公園
Address: 北谷町字吉原554番地の1
Mapcode for GPS: 33 558 227
Highlight: Long slide

image source:

Our Okinawa Travelogue

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Monday, July 18, 2016

5 Tips on Choosing Children's Books

[Sponsored Review]

How do you choose books for or with your children? We are sharing our 5 tips on choosing children's books, with examples of selected titles from Scholastic.

1. Books with colourful illustrations
Colourful illustrations draw the children's attention. They can also help the children to visualise the context. I use the illustrations to encourage my children to find the characters or objects described by the text, or to get them to predict what would happen next.

Haggis and Tank Unleashed: Digging for Dinos
Author: Jessica Young
ISBN: 978-0-545-81888-9
Ages: 7 - 10
About this book:
Haggis and Tank's big imaginations take them on a search for real live dinosaurs! They build a nest for dino eggs and play baseball with a triceratops. But then the ground starts shaking. Is a T-rex chasing Haggis and Tank? Or could something else be headed their way? 

2. Books with balanced amount of text and illustrations
While illustrations capture children's attention,  they should be balanced by appropriate amount of text to help children learn new words and develop critical thinking.

Captain Underpants: Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants
Author: Dav Pilkey
ISBN: 978-0-545-87187-7
Ages: 7 and above
About this book:
George and Harold are fourth-grade buddies with a penchant for practical jokes. When the boys’ latest prank drives their science teacher over the edge, their clueless principal, Mr. Krupp, quickly hires a replacement: Professor Pippy P. Poopypants. Of course, George and Harold can’t resist making fun of the Professor’s silly name. But then the Professor retaliates by forcing everyone in town to change their own names to be equally silly, with colossal consequences!

3. Books with activities
Activities like maze, spot the difference, and even small toys that come with some activity books would engage the children and enable them to have a better understanding about the story.

LEGO® Nexo Knights™: Nexo Power Rules! Activity Book
Author: Ameet Studio
ISBN: 978-0-545-90584-8
Ages: 7 - 10
About this book:
Set in the futuristic, high-tech world of the Kingdom of Knighton, LEGO® Nexo Knights™ follows five young knights in their quest to battle Jestro, his sidekick, the Book of Monsters, and their Lava Monster Army. Heroic knight, Clay Moorington, leads the band of knights, including alpha superstar Lance Richmond, hipster Aaron Fox, Macy Halbert, a princess who would rather be a knight, and Axl, the giant. Together, under the tutelage of Knights' Academy mentor and Great Digital Wizard, Merlok 2.0, they join forces to defeat the enemy. This activity book is packed with fun games and tricky puzzles, and it comes with a minifigure!

4. Books with educational values
We would choose suitable books that can expand the children's knowledge and develop language skills.

Hot Rod Hamster Meets His Match
Author: Cynthia Lord
ISBN: 978-0-545-82591-7
Ages: 4 - 7
About this book:
When Hamster and his friends go looking for some wet and wild fun at the Water Kingdom waterpark, Hamster and his new friend, Holly, challenge two dogs to a race down the waterslide. Can they win? This book skillfully emphasizes word families and rhyming structures with pedal-to-the-metal flare.

5. Books that pique your children's interest
Since the children are the readers, choose books that pique their interest so that they are more willing to read the books. My children are interested in robots, and they are fans of Geronimo Stilton, so they love to read those books!

Ricky Ricotta: Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. the Naughty Nightcrawlers from Neptune
Author: Dav Pilkey
ISBN: 978-0-439-37709-6
Ages: 4 - 8
About this book:
Ricky Ricotta and his Mighty Robot have built the coolest fort Squeakyville has ever seen, and they can’t wait for the fun to begin! But then Cousin Lucy arrives with her pets and plans to turn it into a princess castle - what a partypooper! Things completely fall apart when Nimrod Nightcrawler, a wicked worm from the planet Neptune, digs a tunnel under Ricky’s fort, trapping the Mighty Robot. Now it’s up to Ricky and Lucy to put a stop to this nightmare - and save their friend!

Geronimo Stilton Spacemice - Beware! Space Junk! 
Author: Geronimo Stilton
ISBN: 978-0-545-87245-4
Ages: 8 - 12
About this book:
MouseStar 1 is surrounded by floating space junk! It's yucky - and dangerous. It's coming from a nearby planet, Cleanix. Geronimo Stiltonix goes to visit, and discovers that the aliens there are very wasteful. Even worse, robots that they've thrown in the trash have started to rebel! Can the spacemice restore harmony before the robots take over?

[Giveaway] (Closed)

Scholastic Asia kindly offers to sponsor Geronimo Stilton Spacemice - Beware! Space Junk! to 5 lucky PeiPei.HaoHao readers! Each reader will receive one copy of the book.

To be qualified for this giveaway, just complete these steps:
  1. Like PeiPei.HaoHao's Facebook page (Thank you if you have already "Liked" us)
  2. Like this Facebook post, comment "What are your tips on choosing books for / with your children?", and leave your email address in the Facebook comment [or you may send your email address to mami(at)peipeihaohao(dot)com]
  3. Bonus (optional): Share this Facebook post on your Facebook timeline.
Giveaway Terms and Conditions:
  • This giveaway will be closed on 22 July 2016, 2359 hrs.
  • The winner will be randomly drawn.
  • Prizes are not refundable or exchanged for cash or prizes of any kind.
[Update on 23 July 2016]
Congratulations to Sonia Yong, Joanne Hakuro, Rina Lim, Nancy Koh and Kaye Wong!

Disclaimer: We received the books from Scholastic Asia for review purpose. No monetary compensation was received. The giveaway is sponsored by Scholastic Asia. The giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administrated by, or associated with Facebook. All opinions and photos are mine. 

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Okinawa (Japan): Driving in Okinawa & OTS Rent-a-Car Review

In Okinawa, there is only one monorail system - Yui Rail - in Naha, the southern part of Okinawa, and there are long haul buses that do not operate frequently. So for convenience, we decided to rent a car and drive in Okinawa.

Driving Experience in Okinawa

Our driving experience was quite pleasant in Okinawa, especially in rural areas where there were not many cars, we could drive leisurely as the speed limit is 50 km per hour.

Most Okinawa drivers are very courteous, we didn't hear a single honk during our 4-days road trip. There was once I was on the left-turning lane, but I suddenly realised that I should drive straight, so I stopped the car and signaled right. I was actually hogging the left-turning lane. Guess what, I didn't get honked by the drivers behind us, and the driver on the lane that I intended to cut into actually left a space to give way to us! I am very sure that I will get honked if this happens in Singapore!

However, not all drivers in Okinawa drive safely. There were occasions that they cut into our way, but at least they made a gesture to thank us for giving way.

Parking in Okinawa is convenient in the rural areas, and many car parks are free of charge! We only spent 500 yen (about SGD6+) to park overnight at Rizzan Sea-Park Hotel Tancha-Bay. But I heard that parking at Naha town area is very challenging, and the car park charges are high too. So we planned our itinerary such that we took Yui Rail in Naha area to avoid the problem of finding car parks and high car park fee.

Things You Need Know When You are Driving in Okinawa

When you are driving in Naha (那覇) area, there are bus lanes "バス専用" which only public buses can use during peak hours. There are sections with alternating central lanes "中央線", which is a system that allows general vehicles to enter the central lane when the bus lane is in operation. In other words, just look out for a red cross on the traffic signal and do not drive into that lane.

There are also some road closures during peak hours. For example, along the famous shopping street Kokusai-dori (国際通り), no private vehicle is allowed from 7.30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and  from 5.30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

taken from Okinawa Road Map given by OTS Rent-a-Car

There is one and only one expressway in Okinawa. This is the toll fee chart (as of June 2016):

taken from Okinawa Road Map given by OTS Rent-a-Car

In Singapore, we have ERP and we pay by cash card inserted into in-vehicle unit. In Japan, they use ETC which is similar to our cash card.

We didn't rent ETC during our trip as we decided to use the expressway only once. So instead of driving through the ETC lane, we had to drive through the general lane "一般". At the toll gate that we entered the expressway, we took a ticket from the machine.

Then at the toll gate that we exited the expressway, we passed the ticket and paid cash to the staff.

Mapcode in Okinawa 

It was very convenient to use Mapcode on GPS to get to our destinations. Check out our blog post on how to find Mapcode and how to use GPS in Japan rental car.

We have tested the Mapcode in the list below, and we had a safe landing! The telephone numbers are just for reference.

Mapcodes that we compiled before the trip but have not tested:

OTS Rent-a-Car Review

When I was searching for car rental company in Japan, I chanced upon some Taiwanese blogs that shared about OTS Rent-a-Car. During a travel fair, OTS Rent-a-Car had a booth and I got to speak to their representatives. In the meanwhile, I found another car rental portal Taibirai たびらい that collates the services from various car rental companies, and in fact, there are better offers on its Japanese page. In the end, I decided to go for OTS Rent-a-Car, because they have Chinese speaking staff, so just in case *touch wood* anything happens, I know that there is staff who can speak the language that I can understand.

Booking a car with OTS Rent-a-Car online is very easy, as there is English language page which offers the same rate as Japanese page. Yes, on some online booking platforms in Japan, Japanese page and English page would have different rate! In order to get some savings, book the car at least 40 days in advance to enjoy early bird discount! And every now and then they have promotions, so check out their website to enjoy the offers!

OTS Rent-a-Car has a few branches in Okinawa. Most visitors would choose the branch near airport (RinkuToyosaki Branch) which they offer free shuttle bus service in between. But we chose not to pick our car there, because we woke up super early in the morning (3+ a.m.) and landed in Okinawa in late afternoon, so we didn't feel like driving on the first day. Another reason is that we heard about the long waiting time at that branch since many people prefer to pick up their cars once they have landed.

We picked up our car at T-Galleria (DFS) branch on the second day. This branch is accessible by Yui Rail (Omoromachi Station おもろまち), and we stayed at Toyoko Inn Naha Shintoshin Omoromachi which is a few minutes walk from there. Although T-Galleria opens at 9 a.m., there was already a queue when we reached at 8.50 a.m.! We were thankful that OTS Rent-a-Car had a few counters, so we were one of the first groups to be served. The staff who served us initially spoke English and Mandarin when he saw us holding Singapore passports, but after a while, he asked me whether I could understand Cantonese, and in the end we conversed in Cantonese.

The staff briefed us on things that we need know when we are driving in Okinawa. We also rented a Wi-fi router, and purchased admission tickets at a discounted rate. To have a peace of mind, we also purchased premium safety pack (1080 yen per 24 hours) which is a form of car insurance.

The registration is done at level 2 of T-Galleria, while the collection of the car is at level 1. So we had a "compulsory" window-shopping through T-Galleria before we got to the car! At level 1, I passed the document to the staff, and waited for my name to be called. It is thoughtful that there is a small cushioned play area for the children in the waiting lounge!

When we made our booking online, I chose the cheapest range which is 1300 cc, but we were thrilled to get a free upgrade to 1500 cc Toyota Aqua!

The staff spoke in English and asked us to do a visual check on any scratches, and he recorded on the document. And he even taught us how to start the car, as it was our first time driving a car with smart key - you don't need to insert a key to start a car! Just step on the brake and press the "Power" button! He also helped us to set the GPS to English and taught us how to use the GPS.

The whole process of picking up the car took less than an hour. I think the time taken could be even shorter if I didn't ask too many questions! And then we embarked our road trip!

Returning of the car was very easy too. There is a small petrol station at T-Galleria, just next to the car returning station. It took us just a few minutes to re-fuel the car and return it.

We spent 1600+ yen (about SGD20) on the 11.7 litres of petrol to cover a distance of 250 km. Wow, this car is really fuel efficient!

By the way, if you are renting a car from OTS Rent-a-Car, remember to get your admission tickets to places of attraction with them, as there is a good discount rate!

Overall, I am very pleased with OTS Rent-a-Car. The staff whom served us were very patient in answering our questions. The booklets that they provide are very informative, they consist of all information you need to drive in Okinawa. Thumbs up for OTS Rent-a-Car!

OTS Rent-a-Car

Our Okinawa Travelogue

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