Sunday, January 15, 2017

5 Lessons Learnt from Travelling with Children

We started travelling with our children when they were 5+ and 6+ years old respectively. We didn't bring our children overseas when they were younger because we were worried that we couldn't manage. After travelling with the children overseas a few times, now I have learnt 5 lessons from travelling with the children.

Lesson #1. Managing my own expectation

I learnt to manage my own expectation about travelling because:
  • The children may not enjoy going to places that you enjoy e.g. scenic sightseeing spots on the mountains and at the seas.
  • You may not really enjoy the places that they enjoy e.g. hotel's indoor swimming pool.
  • The children need to eat when you are busy admiring the scenery / shopping.
  • The children need to visit the washroom at the most inconvenient times e.g. in the long queue at some places of interest.
  • The children's batteries are flat by afternoon and refuse to continue the evening itinerary.
  • When you have 2 or more children, they will fight for whatever they can fight e.g. sitting at the window seat in the plane, sleeping on the same bed with DaDi (no one wants MaMi, sob...)

For example, I planned to enjoy this beautiful scenery for 1 hour. However, the wind was so strong that the children screamed and wanted to leave. So we were there for 9 minutes 59 seconds.

Well, these happen even if we do not step out of Singapore!

I have to keep reminding myself to manage my own expectation especially when I have to increase my alert level by 1000% in the foreign environment.

Lesson #2. Slow is the key, but fast when necessary

Before we have children, our itineraries were usually very packed, we tried to visit as many places as we could within a day. But this travelling method is a big No No with children. So when we planned our itinerary, the number of places to visit per day is 2 to 3. No more than that. 

While slow is the key, there are exceptions.

You bring your children to the beautiful cape. It is super windy and the children are very scared. What do you do? Take a fast selfie. Admire the cape within 59 seconds. Leave. the. place. FAST!

You order the sashimi which the children don't eat. They start fidgeting when they are getting bored. What do you do? Take a quick shot of the sashimi if you have to. Swallow. that. sashimi. FAST!

Lesson #3. Plan at least one activity that is specially catered to the children

Ok, let's be fair, the trip is not just for the children, it is for the whole family. So we should not just visit places for children only, go to places that you would love to visit too! But still, plan at least one activity that is catered for children.

We visited Disneyland Hong Kong, as well as slides in Taiwan and Japan, specially planned for the children. Recently I asked the children what their favourite activity in Japan was, they answered "The indoor swimming pool at the sea side hotel". Before I almost fainted, they answered, "Actually the long slide!" Yes, they do remember those special activity planned for them!

Lesson #4. Availability of food

The children have an amazing appetite, and they get hungry every 2 to 3 hours. So we always carry some bread and biscuits in our bags for such emergency. Sometimes the snacks may not satisfy them, so when I plan the itinerary, I always make sure that I know where the eateries, supermarkets and convenience stores are.

In addition, I learnt that I shall never order child's meal on the flight again! No, I don't mean that the child's meal is not nice, it is actually quite delicious. But it happened that the airlines we took offered pasta with tomato sauce as part of the child's meal, and it happens that my children do not like tomato sauce! So we ended up eating child's meal, while our children ate our meal!

Lesson #5. Capture the moments 

Take photos of my children and my hubby. And not to forget to include MYSELF in the photos too! I used smartphone to take wefies, but the quality of photos is not that great under low light condition. So I bought a camera with flip-out screen!

But there are times that I remind myself to keep the camera. Just savour the bonding moments with my family.

What do you learn when you travel with your children?

Thank you for visiting PeiPei.HaoHao. If you enjoy reading this post, do stay connected with us on Facebook!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Okinawa (Japan) Free & Easy Self-drive Trip with Children 6D5N Itinerary

Okinawa, the southern most prefecture of Japan, is quite different from other parts of Japan. It is influenced by Chinese and American, and it has a special culture of its own. After spending 6 days in Okinawa, I would say that it is a nice place for family with children to visit! 

Here is our 6D5N free and easy self-driving itinerary for our Okinawa trip in June 2016:

[The list of Mapcodes for self-driving in Okinawa can be found in our blog post on Driving in Okinawa]

Day 1

The first thing that we did when we arrived at Naha International Airport was to find these! They are free travel magazines with many discount coupons! You can get them at the Visitor Information counter at the Arrival Hall.

From Naha International Airport, we walked a short distance to the domestic airport where is linked to Yui Rail - the one and only one monorail system in Okinawa!

Yui Rail is similar to LRT in Singapore. We find it more convenient to travel in Naha area with Yui Rail as compared to driving. In addition, the parking fee is very expensive in this area!

If you are travelling via Yui Rail at least 3 times within a day, getting a one-day pass (700 yen for adult, 350 yen for child) would be value for money.

The first hotel that we checked in was located bear Omoromachi station. Then we had our dinner at Apple Cooper Town, which was just a few minutes walk away from the hotel. I was stuffed with the lobster with sea urchin meal, and Blue Seal ice-cream! And I began to lose my voice after that... 

Just opposite the hotel is a big shopping mall called Naha Main Place, where we bought the sliders from Daiso, to prepare for our trip to the playground with long slide!

One of the most memorable experiences that we had in Okinawa - slide down a 90-meter slide at Urasoe Park!

Whenever I was behind the wheel, we would get lost! After we had great fun at the park, I drove double the distance to reach our lunch place even with the aid of GPS in the car and Google Map on my smartphone! 

The children had their first experience to visiting a Japanese shrine - Futenma Shrine, and it was our first time visiting a lava cave! We only needed to travel to one place to see two things!

AEON Rycom is a new shopping mall in Okinawa. One reason for visiting a shopping mall was that it was raining heavily, we had to skip some other outdoor places that we planned. Another reason for visiting this shopping mall is this melon bread with ice-cream!

Day 3

It was our relaxation day - just stay in the hotel! I was too sick to move around, but the children had great fun in the indoor swimming pool and children playground!

Day 4

Rizzan Sea-Park Hotel Tancha-Bay is thoughtful that the breakfast coupons can be used for lunch instead! So we could relax in the morning and have lunch before we checked-out.

We were thankful that the rain stopped for a while when we reached Cape Manza, so that we could take some photos. It started to rain heavily when we walked back to the car park.

Our plan for the day had to be changed because of the rain! We wanted to visit Busena Marine Park, where we could look at the sea creatures at the underwater observatory and glass-bottom boat, but the park was closed due to the strong wind! What a pity! So we decided to drive up to the north to visit Okinawa Aquarium and Ocean Expo Park.

The weather was really weird. It was very windy and was raining when we reached Ocean Expo Park, but the sun appeared when the dolphin show started!

The children enjoyed watching the whale sharks swimming in the big tank!

Day 5

The weather was weird again, it rained heavily as I drove to Yohena Ajisai (Hygrangea) Garden, but it stopped when we reached the place! I was totally amazed by the sea of flowers, and I thought I was the only person in the family who enjoyed this place so much.

The rain came intermittently as we drove further north to Kouri-jima. Sigh, we didn't get to witness the clear blue sky with the turquoise sea. We only managed to look at the Heart Rocks and had lunch on the island.

Poor DaDi had to drive more than 90 km to head back to the south, as the other driver (that's me) was too sick to drive, and the children were against the idea of me behind the wheel as I keep losing our way even with the aid of GPS and Google Maps!

Before we returned our car, we stopped by Urasoe to do some shopping. The children's grandparents asked us to help them buy some health products from Phiten. Initially I have no idea what it is all about, until now then I know that the products are almost half the price in Japan as compared to Singapore (ok, nothing new...)!

Day 6
  • Kokusai-dori
  • Pick up luggage at Toyoko Inn Naha Omoromachi
  • Naha International Airport - Transit at Hong Kong - Singapore

We took Yui Rail to Makishi station, where the famous shopping street Kokusai-dori is located. Our first stop was the post office!

The postcards look so nice!

There were some cute rubber stamps at the counter, and I was thick-skinned enough to borrow the stamps.

I personally feel that Kokusai-dori was not really a good place to get the souvenirs, as the price is higher than other places like supermarkets. Even the the products at the famous Don Quijote - a 4-level shop -  are not the cheapest in town.

We had some food at Pablo, First Makishi Public Market and Calbee Plus, before we took Yui Rail back to the hotel to pick up our luggage.

Our Expenditure for 6D5N (2 Adults + 2 Children)

If you ask me, is it expensive to visit Okinawa? I would say that it depends on your preference, for example, it would be more costly to stay at seaside resorts as compared to budget hotels. As you can see from the breakdown of our expenditure below, 1 night at seaside hotel = 2 nights at budget hotel! When it comes to food, I personally don't mind to spend a little more to enjoy nice food!

Cathay Pacific air tickets for 2 adults and 2 children = about SGD2500
Toyoko Inn (2 nights) = 8640 yen x 2 =  about SGD220
Okinawa Grand Mer Resort (1 night) = 16830 yen = about SGD210
Rizzan Sea-Park Tancha Bay Hotel (1 night) = 23132 yen = about SGD290
Yugaf Inn Okinawa (1 night) = 12600 yen = about SGD160
Car rental  (including insurance) & petrol (4 days) = 23985 yen = about SGD300
Toll fee (1 way from North to South) = 960 yen = about SGD12
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium admission tickets = 3010 yen = about SGD38
Car park at Rizza Sea-Park Tancha Bay Hotel for 1 day = 500 yen = about SGD6
Wi-fi router rental = 2000 yen = about SGD25
Shopping, food and miscellaneous = about SGD660
Total damage = about SGD4420

[Note: This is based on the conversion rate of 100 yen = SGD1.25 in June 2016]

Our Post-trip Reflection

Mission accomplished! We survived from our first self-drive trip, and the children survived from their first visit to Japan!

Self-driving provides the convenience to travel from one place to another, and the flexibility to stop wherever you can find car parks, and we do not need to check the transport schedule at all! But it can be quite tiring for the driver(s) to drive over long distance, thanks to DaDi who made the trip successful as the poor MaMi fell sick!

It was a pity that I was sick throughout the trip, and it had been raining. Perhaps this gives us the reason to visit Okinawa again!

Thank you for visiting PeiPei.HaoHao. If you enjoy reading this post, do stay connected with us on Facebook!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Okinawa (Japan): What to Buy

When we travel overseas, we do not usually spend much time on shopping. But... but... Japanese supermarket and post office are just too interesting! My auntie shopping mode was turned on once I stepped into those places in Japan!

You may have heard of the famous shopping street Kokusai-dori (国際通り) in Okinawa. Honestly, I don't find this place attractive for shopping, because the price is more expensive! You can find some of the products in supermarkets!

The shrimp crackers are slightly spicy, but they are very tasty! The children love them!

Okinawa brown sugar is especially popular among the ladies for its high iron and calcium content, and is used for remedy for anemia. I like to drink hot water with Okinawa brown sugar to ease the discomfort during the "monthly event"!

Every time I visit Japan, I would look for Kit Kat! This is the limited edition in Okinawa - beni-imo!

Very convenient way of making toast! Just like using toothpaste! We bought the melon bread spread and garlic butter spread. The melon bread spread is very sweet, it gives the crispy texture like "bo lo bao" after it is baked in oven. I prefer the garlic butter spread, which gives out nice fragrance!

Ok, this one is not for the children. Orion is the popular beer in Okinawa, there is even a beer factory with free factory tour and free beer tasting in Nago. We actually saw Orion beer in some supermarkets in Singapore, but I like this special design which is currently available only in Okinawa!

Okinawa soba in instant form cannot be compared to the freshly prepared ones, but it is quite tasty and filling. Similar to some other Japanese cup noodles, there is a slice of meat inside!

One of the specialty in Okinawa is 35 coffee, which is roasted with weathered coral. I wanted to get the coffee powder, but I accidentally took the cookies instead! Anyway, the cookies are very delicious, the moment we opened the packaging, we could smell the fragrance of coffee!

I was attracted by the packaging! The biscuits come in three flavours - brown sugar, beni-imo and sea salt. Oh well, the words "limited edition" work on me sometimes.

Potato chips with shikuwasa flavour, which tastes like lime, do you dare to try? This was bought from Calbee Plus. More information about Calbee Plus in our post "What to Eat in Okinawa".

Oh yes, there is one more place that you can do your shopping - post office!

We bought a postcard with Shisa and stamps with Sanrio characters! So cute!

We also bought some children's clothes from Uniqlo at AEON Mall Okinawa Rycom (read our experience at this shopping mall). They were not really cheaper than those in Singapore, but some designs were not sold in Singapore.

In Japan, there is a chain of shops that sells baby and children clothing and products called 西松屋 (Nishimatsuya). We heard that the price is affordable, but we didn't manage to explore this shop.

Money-saving tips:
Currently, the consumption tax in Japan is 8%, and the tax-free purchase amount at the same store in a single day is more than 5000 yen. Even consumable items like food and beverages are eligible for tax-free procedure! Take note that the general items and consumable items are considered for tax free separately. Check Japan Tax-free Shop for the list of tax-free shops!

Take note that in order to enjoy tax-free for consumable items, you cannot consume them before you leave Japan. The consumables are packed in a transparent sealed bag like this:

So if you are going to buy a lot of delicious food like what we did, consolidate all your shopping at one tax-free store!

Our Okinawa Travelogue

Thank you for visiting PeiPei.HaoHao. If you enjoy reading this post, do stay connected with us on Facebook!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas at Hong Kong Disneyland

Our children first visited Hong Kong Disneyland in June 2015, and visited there again in December 2016. So we have experienced Hong Kong Disneyland in both summer and winter. If you ask me, which is a better time to visit Hong Kong Disneyland with children? I would say that December is a better choice! 

2 reasons for visiting Hong Kong Disneyland in December:
  • It is cool during early December, and may not be too cold unless there is a cold front. The temperature is nice especially for watching Flights of Fantasy Parade at 3 p.m. We had a terrible experience to watch the parade in June - we were sitting under the scorching hot sun! Our children were complaining, and their grandparents were not feeling comfortable.
  • The Christmas decoration rises the Disney experience to a new height!

How to survive Hong Kong Disneyland with children? Please read our sharing on:

During our first visit, we bought 2-day ticket, but during our second visit, we bought 1-day ticket, since we knew which areas we were interested in. We bought our tickets from Hong Kong Disneyland official website, as there was a promotion of "Play and Dine" which includes one-day pass and a free combo meal, I think it is really value for money since we had our lunch and dinner there.

The opening time was 10.30 a.m. on the weekday, and we reached there at 9.30 a.m. to collect our tickets from the ticketing booth. On the way from the MTR station, we could already feel the Christmas atmosphere.

The gate was opened 30 minutes before the actual opening time, so that visitors could take a stroll along Main Street, U.S.A. and take some photos before the rest of the theme park is opened.

Many of our favourite Disney characters were dressed up for Christmas. Yes, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse too! But the queue to take photo with them was super long, and the children were not keen to join the long queue. So what I did was to go all the way to the front, when one group of visitors had done their photoshoot and just before the next group went up, I called "Mickey! Minnie!" and took photos when they turned towards my direction! Another photo opportunity was when they took a break. They actually walked right behind us but we were not aware!

Although we didn't take photos with Mickey and Minnie, we didn't miss the photo opportunity with Santa Goofy at his special Santa Goofy's Post Office.

In addition to taking photo with Santa Goofy, we were given Disney Christmas postcard to pen our thoughts. With the Santa Goofy stamp, the postcard was made special! The interesting thing was, we could send the postcard without any charge! We received our own postcard in Singapore about 9 days later.

If you love to collect items from Disneyland, you may want to get the special Santa Mickey popcorn bucket! Ok, it is not cheap, as it costs HKD100+...

And there were Santa Mickey and Minnie soft toys!

During our second visit to Hong Kong Disneyland, our children got to experience something different from our previous visit - to take part in the performances!

First, they performed as the warriors in "Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple" at Tomorrowland.

Tips for you if your children want to be part of "Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple":

  • Once the theme park opens, go straight to The Space Trader located next to the Hyperspace Mountain in Tomorrowland to register, there is limited slots and is based on first-come-first-served basis.
  • At least 25 minutes before the performance, get your seat on the left hand side when you are facing the stage. This is because you can take photos and videos of your children's faces from this direction when they are "fighting". If you sit on the other side, you may only get to take photos and videos of their back.
  • Remind your children not to wear the hood, one reason is for hygienic purpose (ok, call me OCD), another reason is that the hood may block their faces when you are taking photos and videos.

Each warrior was awarded a sticker and a photopass (you have to pay for the photos, of course!) at the end of the performance.

Another performance that my children took part was "Flight of Fantasy Parade". We were sitting near the entrance of Tomorrowland, facing Sleeping Beauty Castle. When the parade team stops for a few minutes, the performers would invite children sitting behind Mickey's parade float to stand up and dance together!

During last visit, we were impressed by the musical "The Golden Mickey Presented in Disney's Storybook Theater". Now the performance is changed to "Mickey and the Wondrous Book". I personally prefer the previous one though.

The giant Christmas tree at Main Street U.S.A. was lighted up in the evening and it looked beautiful.

We usually don't spend much money on purchasing items from the shops. Well, after all, we have spent quite a fair bit on the admission tickets! So we usually collect some free items as souvenirs!

Stay tuned for our Hong Kong Travelogue December 2016!

Our Hong Kong Travelogue:

Thank you for visiting PeiPei.HaoHao. If you enjoy reading this post, do stay connected with us on Facebook!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Plaza Brasserie (PARKROYAL On Beach Road) Chinese New Year Buffet 2017

[Media Invite]

Even though each of us has busy schedule, all our extended family members make an effort to have reunion dinner together on the eve of Chinese New Year. To enhance the bonding moment, the choice of food for reunion dinner is very important, however, one challenge we face is to accommodate everyone's preference. Therefore, the fusion of local, Asian and international flavours offered by Plaza Brasserie at PARKROYAL on Beach Road would solve our problem!

Inspired by the Chinese zodiac horoscope of the rooster, the buffet menu of Chinese New Year Prosperity Feast 2017 at Plaza Brasserie gave us a pleasant surprise!

To celebrate Chinese New Year, one of our favourite activities is "lo-hei" (撈起), and my children love to toss the ingredients as high as they can! We were introduced to an interesting creation called Prosperity Lo-Hei Yusheng with Deep-fried Salmon Skin & Deep-fried Chicken Skin! What a creative twist by Executive Chef Ken to the traditional yusheng! My children loved the deep-fried salmon skin and deep-fried chicken skin which were very crispy and yet not too oily.

As a Cantonese, I love drinking soup. 'Chicken' Jumps Over The Wall won my heart as I could taste every single drop of goodness from the perfect combination of chicken drumsticks, fish maw, dried scallops and mushrooms. The chicken drumsticks were succulent and soft, it was very easy for me to cut for my children.

I haven't had eaten duck meat for a long time because I had some unpleasant experience with duck meat that was too tough and dry to chew. However, Braised Eight Treasures Boneless Duck offered me a new experience with duck meat - succulent and tasty!

The next dish was Sea Cucumber with Roasted Pork. The roasted pork was tender and juicy, and the sea cucumber was infused with the flavourful sauce. The crunchy broccoli balanced the texture of the dish. 

Please pardon my "unglam" look when I savour Salted Egg Crab. I smiled to the waiter who offered me some serviettes - I didn't really need the serviettes to clean my fingers, because the salted egg sauce was finger licking good! 

We were delighted to find that there were many variations to the chicken wings! Wings of Fortune - Soya, Garlic, Spicy & Salted Egg, each wing is unique with different flavour. I love chicken wings and drumlets, and I finished all 4 of them within 59 seconds! If you ask me which one was my favouite, I would say that the soya one got my vote!

After all the delicious protein treat, we had some Fried Crab Meat Mee Sua to balance the meal with some carbohydrates. It was a heaven for crab lovers to savour crab meat without having the trouble to de-shell the crab! 

At the end of the hearty Chinese New Year reunion dinner, it would be nice to catch up with the family members over some delicious Chinese New Year Assorted Cookies, and some tea or coffee!

Of course, there are many other dishes on the buffet menu!

Thank you Plaza Brasserie at PARKROYAL On Beach Road for the gastronomic treat!

Plaza Brasserie PARKROYAL On Beach Road Chinese New Year Prosperity Feast 2017
Available from 16 January 2017 to 11 February 2017
Lunch: 12 noon - 2.30 p.m.
Dinner: 6 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Early Bird Savings: Enjoy 10% savings on buffets for Chinese New Year Eve, Day 1 and 2, valid with reservations and full payment made by 15 January 2017. Seats are subjected to availability.

Address: 7500 Beach Road, Singapore 199591
Telephone: 6505 5710

Disclaimer: We were invited to the media tasting session. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions and photos are mine.

Thank you for visiting PeiPei.HaoHao. If you enjoy reading this post, do stay connected with us on Facebook!