Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Singapore 2011: Where to Stay & How To Get Around

To real all posts about our  Singapore Trip, click here

We stayed at two hotels during our recent trip to Singapore.  Our first stop was at the Swissotel@The Stamford.  The I.M Pei designed hotel was recently featured in Conde Nast Traveler Magazine (USA) Gold List 2011. South-East Asia's tallest hotel has 71 floors, with the rooms and suites outfitted with stunning picture-window views of the Singapore skyline. 

In the mornings, the girls and I head down to the pool, while my boys are left still sleeping in the room.
Our accomodations came with breakfast, which we always enjoyed luxuriously (read: we took time to eat everything!) The buffet spread is typical of any hotel, but they do highlight Chinese, Malay and Indian influences, as well as the typical continental breakfast fare.  I always start mine with a small bowl of congee to warm my tummy.  I was a daily visitor to the cheese platter, and always coming back for seconds.  And it was such a delight to eat it slathered with honey fresh from the comb.  A real joy to eat honey this pure, untouched by human hands.
The kids are creatures of habit, as well.  Everyday, B, my li'l gourmand, brings to me a plate full of salmon, pastrami, bread, and cream cheese
patiently waiting as I turn it into a filling sandwich. 

Our room is decorated with comforting colors of brown and amber.  The sheets that came with the double-sized beds were of a high percale count and feels velvety to the skin.  The only problem I had with the room were the lights.  You see, when the kids are sleeping, C and I turn on the accent lights to relax a bit before actually going to sleep.  C looks at the map and prepare for the next day's itinerary, and we both read the papers before finally calling it a night. I felt that the accent lighting of the room was not enough to make relaxation pleasurable.    (Yeah I am a lighting snob like that :) ) 
The room came with its own Nespresso machine with a variety of coffee pods for selection.  I am not really a coffee drinker so I did not enjoy this complimentary facility.  But I have friends who are coffee aficionados, and from them I have learned that Nespresso is marketed as an exclusive luxury coffee.
What C and I really love about this hotel is that it is conveniently located right in the heart of the city so everything is almost within walking distance.  Everything is so near... there's a taxi stop as soon as we step out the hotel; a few steps away and we are in the City Hall subway station.  We took the cab to go anywhere and everywhere.  There is a taxi stand just right outside the hotel with taxis waiting for passengers to hop on, so that's what we did everyday.   The kids would do a lot more walking when we actually get to our destination, so energy conservation was what we had in mind. :) It was also more economical for our big family to just take a cab.  

The hotel also just sits above a modern and spacious food court, which is just perfect for my kids who are always hungry; a big grocery is also just nearby; and the Raffles City Mall is also in the same complex.
We just love the selection that can be found in the nearby grocery.

When our friends and relatives found out that we were planning a Singapore vacation, most of them immediately advised to book a room at the Marina Bay Sands.  December being a super peak season for travel, rooms were fully booked already.  Fortunately, C got a confirmation one week before our departure.

The kids loved our stay at Marina Bay Sands that it was so hard to get them out of the room...you will understand why when you see our room.
Sorry for the personal belongings already scattered across the room; the kids were all oohs and aahs as soon as they stepped in.  Had to remind them to let me take some photos first before they jumped in on the bed.

To the right of the entry is a walk-in closet, it was as big as a small room in a condo.  We placed all our luggage and shopping bags in this room.
To the right is the spacious bathroom.  I love that we have a walk-in shower and NOT a bathtub.  Much more convenient for the kids and I do not have to worry about anyone slipping while getting in the tub.
 Here's the rest of the photos of the room

The couch can be drawn out as a queen-sized bed
High-speed internet access is complimentary.  The executive desk in our room also has a flap which opens up to a charging station for all our gadgets.  The room also has a remote control for the motorized drapes, which amused the kids. 

Hotel guests have exclusive use of the 150 meter Sands Skypark infinity swimming pool, the world’s largest outdoor pool at 200 meters above ground level. At this height, guests can enjoy the best view of the Singapore skyline.  

If your are not a hotel guest, you can still have the chance to see the SkyPark and enjoy the best view of the Singapore panorama by purchasing a ticket.  However the access is limited to the Public Obsevation Deck, and it only offers a limited view of the infinity pool.

Unfortunately for us, Singapore was experiencing rainy weather during our visit.  The cloudy skies did not really make for nice photos.  I was hoping to enjoy the sunset on the pool deck, but unfortuntely my view was limited to gray skies and the occasional drizzle of rain. But if I were lucky enough, the glorious view should have looked something like this..
image source
And in the mornings, the spectacular view should have resembled this
image source
But I did not raise a bunch of complainers...   so the fun goes on - freezing water and gray skies notwithstanding! haha! :)  It is important to share with you one importand detail:  the water is freezingly cold.  Even J who is used to early morning training and training with heavy rains found the pool temperature unsettling.  
As soon as they jump in, everyone goes into a huddle, as if staying together will make the water warmer.  As for me, I wasn't really that brave... I need about an hour or so for my body to acclimatise. :)

Since we were traveling during the super peak season, there is a throng of crowd everywhere we go, and that includes checking-in. But the kids and the hubby did not notice the long wait since they were escorted to a waiting lounge where they have unlimited access to drinks.

The hotel also offers complimentary use of its business center and its facilities so we confirmed our return flight, checked-in online and printed our boarding passes.  There are also airport shuttle buses available free of charge.

Getting Around in Singapore:  
As with any travel experience, expect to do a lot of walking in Singapore.  
For most, the MRT is primary choice of getting around, because it goes just about everywhere, it is clean, fast and safe. The route maps are color coded making it easy to understand. 

The buses are numerous and efficient, you just have to be willing to wait for one since they stop at timed intervals.

For visitors, there is the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, but it is for tourists who are short of time and would like to pack their day with a long list of places to visit.  Not for those who would like to linger and enjoy the place.
For my family, clearly, the best way to get around is Singapore is by taxi. It is the most comfortable and hassle-free way to get us to our destination.  It is also the most economical for us since there are 2 adults and 3 kids, the maximum number of passengers allowed.  Any more than that and you have to split the company in 2 cabs.   

There was one time that C and the two younger kids went back home earlier as J and I had decided to do some late-night shopping at Orchard Road.  They took a cab home and paid around $8, while J and I took the MRT from Orchard and got off two stops away and paid a similar amount.  Imagine if all 5 of us took the MRT, we would have paid a total of $20 for the train, against just $8 for the cab.  

Not only are the taxis cheaper, many times the drivers often give us good advice about where to shop, what to do or where to go.  C oftentimes engage them in small talk, and the drivers would talk away, telling us about their country in the same manner that a tour guide would.  Plus, there is a line of taxis standing by just right outside our hotel so there is hardly any waiting time. 

If you are going to plan your visit around the December break, it is best if you pack along a foldable umbrella, a hat and a water-proof raincoat while you go around the city.


ASCOF Lagundi: All-Natural and Effective Cough Remedy

Must be due to the weather, I noticed that a lot of the kids seem to have coughs and colds.  In my own family, the kids have been suffering from coughs one after the other.  Like any other mom, I worry for them whenever they get sick, and I want them to get better at the soonest possible time.  

When my kids were younger, the pediatrician used to tell me that the best way to take out cough and phlegm is to drink a lot of fluids because water is the best mucolytic.  Now that the kids are older and have a lot more activities, getting sick can mean a not up-to-par sports performance and/or missing endurance training. 

I got a package in the mail form ASCOF Lagundi the other day, and it could not have come at a better time because at the first sign of coughing, I always give my kids ASCOF Lagundi.  Unlike other cough medicines, ASCOF Lagundi is made from all-natural lagundi leaves, which is one of the 10 herbal medicines endorsed by the Department of Health.  Lagundi is a natural, herbal medicine with proven therapeutic value.  I feel better knowing that the cough medicine I am giving my kids is effective and not loaded with chemicals which might actually do more harm than good.

It has been clinically proven effective in treating not just cough but also bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis and pharyngitis. Moreover, the Department of Science and Technology has performed numerous studies on Lagundi – these studies have shown that Lagundi has been clinically validated to inhibit the release of leukotrienes, which makes it effective in controlling asthma, as well. Some doctors even prescribe Lagundi to assist in the treatment of asthma, as regular doses reduce the severity of asthma attacks. Aside from having no side-effects, herbal drugs are less expensive than their synthetic counterparts.

ASCOF-Lagundi is commercially available in Ponkan, Menthol, and Strawberry-flavored 60-mL and 120-mL syrup variants. It also comes in 300-mg. and Forte 600-mg. tablets.

They are also running a promo right now, giving away 200 pieces of ASCOF-Lagundi capsules to TEN winners each day from January 30 to February 14, 2012.  Go to their Facebook page to know more about their brand, and to join the promo.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Instagram Weekend: January 21-22, 2011

Another weekend in a blink of an eye... just like that and we are almost into the second month of the year already.  Have you made any plans for this weekend?  

We were at the Bonifacio High Street last weekend to celebrate the birthday of one of the kids' swimming team-mate.  There is a building there that houses the newly-opened Active Fun, along with some other boutique stores that all cater to children.  The kids enjoyed the tri-level area of playspace so much that they stayed from mid-afternoon up to the time the store closed at 9pm, only stopping to have dinner.

What I loved most about this branch is that the waiting area for parents is at the farthest part of the room so there is less noise, and the waiting parents can talk comfortably and hear each other without having to shout.  For parents with kids who needs more supervision, the yayas can also wait at the benches near the entrance.  There are also numerous function rooms that you can rent to celebrate your child's birthday.

A helpful reminder when you bring your kids to Active Fun:  make sure you bring socks and bottles of water.  Otherwise, you might have to end up purchasing over-priced socks and water.:)

While the kids played non-stop at Active Fun, the moms found time for some relaxation at The Spa.  It is my first time to try The Spa at Boni Hi-St.  It has the same serene and calm surrounding as their other branches, but this one strikes me as being sterile-looking, maybe because the minimalist design was taken too far.  
The service however was equal with the rest of the other branches so it is still worth a second visit.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Singapore 2011: Changi Airport

To read all posts about our Singapore Trip click here 

Some say that the airport is the visitors’ first and last impression of the country, and so it is just relevant that the facility must accurately reflect the country.  Our experience at the Singapore Changi Airport was able to justifiably manifest this. The facility was clean, modern, with a very spacious and highly functional lay-out; its personnel efficient and courteous.  A truly modern and global airport that is befitting of its title as the world’s most awarded airport.  

Upon our arrival at the Singapore Airport, while waiting for our turn at the immigration counter, I walked over to the nearest visitors’ kiosk and obtained several copies of the free city map, one for each of us. The city map helped us get around throughout our Singapore trip. 

With the new tourism campaign of "It's More Fun In The Philippines," the country should also consider providing tourist with free city maps and event guides.  After all, almost every country we have been to has a Visitor Center near the immigration.
C and I always divide our family when clearing immigration, we find it more time-efficient as there are 2 officials to process our family, instead of everyone of us standing in front of just one customs officer.
Getting out of the airport couldn't be made easier than it already is! The airport is huge and has three terminals, but travelers do not feel overwhelmed because there are huge signage everywhere.  It took us about 20 minutes to get from the tarmac, pass through customs, to claiming the baggage. 
We took a 6-seater maxicab from the airport since we had considerable number of baggage with us.  Waiting time for a cab took about 5 minutes.  Fare for the maxicabs are fixed at S$50, from the airport to any hotel in Singapore. Not exactly cheap, but we did not mind (too much) since the kids were with us and we know we were paying for convenient and secure transportation.  

For groups with less people or even for a family like us with three kids but with, ehem, less number of luggage, a regular taxi will suffice and the rate would amount to just $38, depending of course from where you are coming from within Singapore.   I know this because going from the city to the airport, we were helped by a Filipino bellhop who creatively managed to arrange all of our luggage to fit at the trunk of a regular taxi.  The Singaporean cab driver could simply just scratch his head. hehehe!:)
The other transportation available from the airport are:
~ Taxis. Taxis are available at the taxi stands at the Arrival levels of each Terminal. The journey to the city is estimated to cost between $18.00 and $38.00 and takes approximately 30 minutes. Fares are metered and there is additional $5 airport surcharge for all trips originating from the airport.
~Buses. I think for a visitor with luggage, the bus would be the least convenient option as this might require several transfers..
~ MRT.  The Changi Airport MRT Station is located at the basement of Terminals 2 and 3, accessible from the Arrival and Departure Halls through escalators and lifts.  


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Instagram Weekend {January 15-16, 2012}

It is already middle of January, and I have yet to get my game on.  My things to do are piling up and I definitely need more hours to my day!  We just finished a week-long fasting at my church, and a few minutes of the day spent in prayer and reading the Bible does wonders to my perspective on things.

Inspite of the hectic schedule, we should all find time for some quiet.  And for me, quiet does not always necessarily mean the absence of noise.  It can also be just taking a break for the busyness of it all, and doing something that relaxes you.  And one of the things that I look forward to is spending time with my fellow swim-parents while we wait for our kids during training.  Last Saturday was one of those days where I spent hours with these like-minded parents as we talked about anything and everything under the sun, literally.  We were at UP's Sunken Garden watching the kids took a breather from swimming; instead, they played frisbee and soccer.  We all had a pizza picnic for lunch and called it a day!
Come Sunday, the family was up very early as the three kids participated in the Grand Family Invitational Swim Meet.  The Grand Family Association is an organization formed by the local Filipino-Chinese community who share a common surname.  They come together for a variety of purposes and have activities among members, mostly to promote family pride.  So for that day, the swimmers were grouped according to surnames.  I just love the family logo that our association came up with.
It is B's first competition ever, and to have made her pool debut in Rizal's daunting 50-meter pool is a feat in itself!  She did not top the list for her age group, but she finished fourth in the 50-meter freestyle, alongside more experienced swimmers.  Naturally, I felt so proud of her for doing so well and most of all for giving it her best.

J and R took home medals, which they couldn't wait to show their Ang-kong and Ah-ma.  They were swimming for Team Ong, after all,

A swimming co-parent took everyone out for dinner after the competition, so bedtime was pushed until 10pm.  With the exhaustion from her first competition and the extended bed-time, B couldn't help but feel sleepy in class.  And so during Math class, she couldn't fight it any longer and drifted off to sleep - for the entire duration of the class.   So I asked her, "So teacher did not get mad at you for sleeping in her class?"  She moved her head from left to right repeatedly, "nope, she did not say anything.  I woke up middle of Chinese class already.Ayayay!  I probed further, "Do you mean to say teacher did not try to wake you up?" She answered, with her eyes almost in disbelief at my question, "Mommy, why would she wake me up?  Eh di ba, it's impolite to wake up a sleeping person?" Toink!

Hahaha!  Right back at me... this is my line every weekend morning when they wake me up with their noise.  Or worse, when they wake me up to ask where I kept the Ipads.  

But just so you know, and not think that the teacher doesn't care to have a student sleep through her class; her classmates took it upon themselves to explain to the teacher about her competition the day before.  And the day after the incident, she also got called to explain why she fell asleep in the class. 

Hope your weekend was as FUN!

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