Category Archives: Travel/Outings

Rustic charm in Samut Songkhram

We went to Thailand in June, planning to go to just Bangkok and Krabi. But since we had 11 days, we decided to add in one more destination to our itinerary just three days before we left – Samut Songkhram. It turned out to be one of the best decisions for our trip. I had the kids in mind when I chose to go there, but as it turned out, we adults enjoyed ourselves too.

Samut Songkhram is 1.5 hours away from Bangkok by taxi. It is near the supposedly more authentic Damnoen Saduak Floating Market where many tourists take a day trip to. I say “supposedly” because I found it too touristy when we went there several years ago. With a 1.5-year-old in tow, I didn’t feel up to doing a day trip outside Bangkok, so we decided to spend two nights at Asita Eco Resort.

There are several resorts in the area but I chose Asita even though it was a tad pricier because it had a waterway meandering through the resort.

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-07 at 3.48.35 PM

The rooms overlooked a somewhat murky-looking canal filled with “rich wildlife” – think colourful birds, big, red ants, several large, croc-looking monitor lizards (below).

“Are you sure they are not crocodiles?!” I asked the very friendly and hospitable resort staff.

“No, they are just very big lizards,” she answered with a reassuring smile.

It was a refreshing experience for my city-bred kids. They would keep a lookout and report all the sightings. We managed to steal a shot of the lizards crawling up the slope towards our room before they saw us and ducked out of sight. (Thank goodness!)

IMAG6737

As with our previous trip to Penang, I wanted to kids to try something they had never experienced before. Then, it was high-element challenges. This time, rowing a boat.

IMAG6722Not a modern canoe or small kayak, but a traditional, heavy, old, rickety boat that required balancing, sitting with the said “wildlife”(big ants) and dealing with splashes from murky canal water.

IMAG6730

It all looked quite idyllic, as their papa brought them out on the boat one at a time.

IMAG6732

Jason even gained enough confidence to row one on his own.

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-08 at 10.39.15 AM

Sarah and I cheered them on happily from the sidelines. I thought it didn’t look like much of a challenge. So I decided to have a go at it – and nearly capsized the boat (that their papa was rowing).

IMAG6823.jpg

I came back on land with a newfound admiration for my son, and decided never again to get on the boat. Shot taken by Jason from our room, while Sarah was having her afternoon nap.

There were also bicycles to use, which were useful when we wanted to get dinner from the shop down the road. (Free usage for both bikes and boat)

IMAG6754_1

Since we had already visited the floating market during our last trip, we decided to go to the Train Market instead – the one where the hawkers shift aside their stalls from the train track so that the train can run through it during scheduled times.

IMAG6792

Several times a day, the tourists stand by to wait for the trains.

IMAG6793.jpg

If rowing the boat was the best part of the trip for them (they said), then the visit to the train market must be the most unforgettable, because of what they saw, smelled and heard as we walked along the train track after the train left.

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-08 at 9.59.19 PM

Smells permeating from salted fish, salted vegetables and the swarms of houseflies.

IMAG6798

And the sinister sounds from the cracking of the catfish skulls as the hawkers repeatedly hammered them, to the horror of the kids.

Some of the stalls were on wheels, presumably to make for ease of movement when the train passed.

IMAG6803

The experience was good fodder for journal writing, as we later realised when he had to do his holiday homework.

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-08 at 9.57.48 PM

We took a tuktuk to and from the resort.

And we were happy to just chill out in the room and resort the rest of the time.

IMAG6821

One of the activities offered by the resort was to offer alms to the monks when they came by on boats early in the morning. We didn’t wake up early enough but chanced upon one who came by later because of an early morning downpour. Below: Thai employees on a company retreat at the resort offering alms to the monk.

IMAG6746

There are several ways to reach Samut Songkhram from Bangkok:

  1. Hotel transfer

This was the most expensive option. Several Samut Songkhram hotels I checked with quoted 2,000-2,500baht one way if they were to call a taxi/limousine to pick us up in Bangkok.

2. Taxi

A kind employee from one of the hotels in Samut Songkhram suggested we get a taxi ourselves from Bangkok and estimated that it would cost between 1,000 and 1,500 baht one way. This was the option we chose because it was the most convenient with three kids and big luggage bags. The comfortable ride also meant all three took a 1.5-hour nap and woke up refreshed when we reached. We got the hotel concierge in Bangkok to help us call for a taxi and negotiate the ride (1,100 baht), which made it easy for us.

3. Public van

This was the cheapest but slightly more inconvenient way of getting to and from Samut Songkhram. A helpful hotel staff from Asita Resort suggested this and we chose this method for getting back to Bangkok because we did not want to pay for the 2,500baht limousine from the resort. We took a tuktuk from the resort to the van station in Samut Songkhram. (300baht) There, we bought tickets for the trip. A van dropped us off at Mochit BTS Station in Bangkok after 1.5 hours. I think we paid 100baht per person plus an extra 100baht because we had a big luggage that took up one seat. The time it took to get back to Bangkok was the same as our taxi ride, if not shorter. The van was comfortable and air-conditioned, but because we were not able to get seats together, Shannon did not take a nap. Once we reached Mochit BTS, we had the option of taking the sky train or taxi back to our hotel.

Below: Waiting at the station for the van. The vans are the ones pictured below.

IMAG6829

We missed going to the weekend evening floating market in Samut Songkhram because we left on a Friday. So if we were to go back there again, that would be a must-do.

IMAG6788_1.jpg

Surprisingly, despite the modern malls of Bangkok and beautiful beaches and pools of Krabi, the older two said Samut Songkhram was the best part of the trip.

Escape to Penang

When we last visited Penang five years ago, the kids were three and seven. The activities we tried then were more sedate. This time round, the highlight of the trip was the visit to the adventure park Escape.

I chuckled to myself when we saw this sign the moment we entered the park – sheer coincidence but so apt since my column in Sunday Times today was about stopping computer games at home.

IMAG6192

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. We planned to spend half a day there but ended up spending the whole day there because the kids couldn’t get enough of the place.

The place is not just for kids – there were teenagers and adults there too.

They were initially wary and cautious, but gained lots of confidence by the end of the day.

Their favourite was the tree monkey climb which had high element challenges of varying difficulty. They tried out the Level 1 and 2 climbs. I think there were three levels.

The weather was perfect, slightly cloudy. We went mid-week and the place was not too crowded.

There was rock climbing too.

WhatsApp Image 2017-03-15 at 10.13.22 PM

Her korkor has tried such high element challenges at a school adventure camp. But it was her first time. I think she was surprised she could manage, and even enjoyed the challenges.

IMAG6207_1

Despite spending almost the whole day there, there were lots of other activities they did not try.

A sure sign of a successful outing is when they ask: “When can we come back again?”

It’s been a while…

An update of sorts. A couple of deadlines converged in the last couple of weeks, so blogging has taken a backseat. Now, things are slightly less hectic work wise. There are still deadlines to be met in the next few weeks, but at least they are spaced wider apart. I’ve finished my last lesson in NTU this semester. It’s been an enriching experience supervising a group of enthusiastic journalism undergrads, and I’m looking forward to seeing their bylines in the national papers soon.

wpid-imag2102.jpg

I was also busy with Sunday Times work, and I had fun interviewing a chess prodigy in the 60s for the weekly history page. Mr Tan Lian Ann is now 68 and a company managing director, but he was routinely winning adults in the game from the time he was 10 years old.

wpid-imag2081.jpg

Over on the home front, a niggling flu bug has been making its rounds the last few weeks, and we’re hopefully at the tail end of this germy season.

We’ve been keeping busy at home.

Painting Easter eggs with Shannon:

wpid-imag1978.jpg wpid-imag1983.jpg

While Jason whipped up another storm on canvas using acrylics… wpid-imag2111.jpg

We went for a school funfair – not the one in the news, but another that happened to be on the same day. Shannon declared this her favourite activity. wpid-imag2115.jpg

She had her first ballet recital, four months after starting lessons. She’s come a long way from the first time she went for a ballet trial last year!

wpid-imag2021.jpg

With the reduced prices at KidsStop – the children’s Science Centre, we went to check it out one morning. I’ve been wanting to bring Shannon there since I did the advertorial for their opening last June, but I was put off by the high admission price. So I’m glad they’ve lowered the prices. Admission to Science Centre is now free so we’ll be planning a trip there soon. Do take note of the visiting hours on KidsStop’s website if you’re heading there, they have fixed session blocks.

wpid-imag2068.jpgh

I meant to do a detailed post on KidsStop, but was foiled by an absent SD card in my camera…

And here’s how we’ve been beating the heat at home. Or rather, how they have been beating the heat. One fan per person.

wpid-imag2124.jpg wpid-imag2125.jpg

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

I’ve been wanting to visit the new Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve extension since it was opened in December, and we finally did so today on a Saturday with nothing on our calendar. Bliss…

Unlike the original park, this extension features many boardwalks leading out to the sea, pods for viewing, and more opportunities to get up close with mudskippers. Continue reading

Chek Jawa and Changi Boardwalk

IMG_0031

The last time we went to Pulau Ubin, the kids were just five and two. So when we mentioned Ubin during our recent Changi Cove staycation, neither remembered that we took a ferry there with their grandma three years ago, had lunch there, before they both started whining about how hot it was and we left soon after. I didn’t refresh their memory either, some things are best left forgotten. Continue reading

Changi Cove Hotel Staycation

Unlike last year‘s September holidays, we did not leave the country this time – because we forgot to renew Shannon’s passport! By the time we got round to doing so, it was a week from the holidays, and I thought it was too stressful trying to figure out if it would get done on time. So we decided to take a staycation instead. Continue reading

Malacca, revisited

IMG_0415Malacca has always been our choice destination to break up the journey to or from Port Dickson. This time, we hit on a gem of a place to stay and that made all the difference in our two-night stopover. Calanthe Artisan Loft is a two-storey shophouse in the Jonker Street area. Continue reading

Why we love Port Dickson

There is something about this sleepy beach town between Malacca and Kuala Lumpur that has kept us going back every year for the last three years. Some head there for the beaches, others for the water villas. We’re not big on beaches, neither have we splurged on the water villas (yet!).

For us, it’s a combination of the beach, food, small town charm and laid back vibe. Continue reading

Cycling at Pasir Ris Park

pasir ris parkWe last went to Pasir Ris Park one morning in September last year, and cycled for two hours, getting a good workout in the process. It was a little too hot but we enjoyed outselves nonetheless. The picture above was taken then. It looks a little like one we took a decade ago, sans kids, when JQ and I cycled to Desaru with our university friends.

It’s a pity we don’t live nearer Pasir Ris, because we haven’t gone back there since. Over the weekend, we had to run some errands that took us to the vicinity, so the kids were clamouring to cycle there once again, and we did. Continue reading

Typo crate knock-off

One of the things I really missed doing when I was working, was having time to craft. It could be something as simple as making a card, working on a scrapbook, or making a photo frame. But I didn’t have the energy or mental state to do it. Yes, there were nights and weekends, but by the time I was done with work or housework, I didn’t feel like doing much else apart from lazing with my kids.

So I haven’t messed around with paints much since my previous attempts here and here. Continue reading

September 2013

sept

Look at the unadulterated joy on their faces and I miss the holidays already. Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, isn’t it? It’s no wonder this month flew by so quickly especially since I took time off work to spend time with the family during the September holidays. The kids still talk about the ostriches we saw during our Desaru trip, which was just an hour away from Singapore. The trip was made more pleasant because we had a fuss-free journey where the kids entertained themselves with an activity bag. Continue reading

Getting kids to open up

talk head

There are parents who enjoy the infancy and toddler stage of parenting, and then there are parents like me, who prefer the next stage – when the kids are older and more capable of meaningful interaction. Yes, I loved them as babies, and would want to spend every waking moment with them. But now, I finally can “talk” to Jason, 7, and Shannon, 4, and enjoy a good conversation with them. Continue reading

Desaru Highlights

desaru

When my husband and I graduated from university in 2001, one of the trips we took with a group of friends was to Desaru in Malaysia. We were young and adventurous then, and decided to cycle all the way there, not realising that the trip would take five hours on rickety bicycles we rented upon reaching Pengarang jetty. Continue reading

Road Trip Activity Bag

roadtriphead

We enjoy taking road trips, and learn something new each time we travel as a family. The furthest we’ve gone is from Singapore to Cameron Highlands last year, a ten-hour drive if we were to do it at one go, but we broke it up into small manageable portions seeing we have two young kids in the backseat. Continue reading

Organise and display travel souvenirs

souvenir head

I’m not sure about other kids, but mine are like little collectors when we’re on a trip. They love bringing little souvenirs home. I generally let them, because it keeps them busy and entertained while we’re travelling, and the souvenirs they pick are usually free: shells from the beach, sand or pine cones. The only problem with that is they often lose interest in these items by the time we get home and are caught up with everyday living. Continue reading

No-Sew Art Kit

art kit head

When my classmates in secondary school were learning how to bake cookies and sew stuff, I was in the music room struggling to keep up with the rest of my friends in the Music Elective Programme. I always thought I was missing out on something by not taking up Home Economics in secondary school. It was not until years later that I realised how much I missed out on. I have since learnt to bake and cook, but… I can’t sew! Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: