Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kimmi Junior Dolls

The line of Kimmi Junior dolls and merchandise are one of the things my girls discovered in Singapore.  They instantly fell in love with these colorful Japanese kokeshi dolls with personality that they asked their dad to buy several merchandise. 

So smitten are they with these dolls that my li'l girl B is asking for a kokeshi-themed party for her upcoming birthday... but no, she will not be having a big party, instead I am thinking of hosting a craft party with a handful of her good friends - an intimate afternoon get-together doing Japanese paper crafts.

Already, I have been busy thinking up ideas for this afternoon of Japanese crafting.  I have been busy the past week doing digital illustrations for the pattern for the paper crafts.  Doing the prototype is labor intensive, and I expect someone's fingers to get numb from doing all the folding and the cutting. Tsk!!

But seeing her so happy and expectant makes up for all the trouble.  She is over-the-moon with excitement, even listing down her own line up of activities, and drawing up her guest list!

Wish me and my fingers some luck!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Singapore 2011: Chinatown

To read all posts about our  Singapore Trip click here

Singapore's Chinatown is like all the other Chinatown throughout the rest of the world... narrow, busy streets lined with little shops selling everything from trinkets to Chinese herbal medicine.
However with Singapore being a multi-racial and multi-cultural society, Singapore's Chinatown has its own unique features.  For instance, the country's oldest Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman,  can ironically be found right in the heart of Chinatown's confines.

But what makes Chinatown a must-visit in my book is the chance to observe the quaint street architecture the place offers.  Colorful shophouses along Pagoda street are a visual treat and make for some beautiful photographs.


The windows on the second and thrid floor of the shophouses are painted in vibrant colors that enhance their architectural details.  There is no singular style to describe the structures, they are a combination of different elelments, but what pull and unite them all together are the vibrancy of their colors.
Tourists generally flock to Chinatown to imbibe a sense of culture, but for Filipino-Chinese families like mine who grew up visiting Manila's Chinatown, it was for a more practical reason like to stock up on pantry items and to buy pasalubongs for friends and relatives.  One of those obligatory pasalubongs is the bakk-wa or mapa, a Chinese traditional dried meat in the form of thin sheets; usually made of pork or beef, but nowadays has expanded to include shrimp and chicken.  There are a lot of stalls around Singapore selling bakkwa/mapa, but for the purpose of taking the kids on a walking tour to Singapore's Chinatown, we decided to take them to where the action is... a stall where they can see the bakkwa/mapa fresh off the grill.

The most famous bakkwa brand in all of Southeast Asia is Bee Chen Hiang, it has outlets all over the continent, and has 28 in Singapore alone.  But when our cab driver heard we wanted to buy this Chinese delicacy, he quickly pointed out to what for him is a superior local brand, Lim Chee Guan.  According to him, Lim Chee Guan is a local favorite, with 3-4 hour queues, especially around the Chinese New Year period.  Our cab driver claims that is more tender and flavorful than the competition.  And he quickly adds, "but that is just my opinion, you taste it first before you buy."
We bought several kilos of beef, pork, chicken and shrimp jerkies as pasalubong, and I also bought jars of crispy pork floss, which is the perfect addition to a light breakfast of plain congee.
I remembered to replenish my stock of Chinese pantry items to my depleting stock at home.  Although most everything can be found in Manila, the premium quality of the items in Singapore is worth having to carry the extra load around.  Most of you cannot relate, but I have to gush about the superior quality of the bean curd sheets and the Japanese mushrooms that can be found here.   

I also did some shopping at the Chinese drugstore beside Lim Chee Guan called the Thye Shan Medical Hall.  I guess this is one sure sign that I am certainly growing old!  Imagine finding something of interest - at a Chinese drugstore, of all places! hahaha!

Here are the rest of our photos:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Slumber Parties and PJs Sleepwear

One and a half more months to go and it's vacation already!  Hurray for me!  Although that does not necessarily mean sleeping in for me because I still have to bring one kid to early morning swim training.  But at least it means looong afternoon naps and late night video marathons!

For my oldest, J, it means slumber parties to celebrate another school year that just ended!  She is already at that age where slumber parties are becoming more and more common; already she has a few already lined up right after school ends.  For this reason, she has been on the look-out for nice pajamas to add to her collection of sleepwear.  She has all sorts - long sleeved pajamas, short-sleeved pajamas, night shirts, capri pajamas... you name it.  So when PJs Sleepwear sent us pajamas last Christmas, she was beyond happy!

The fabric of the pajamas were of good quality, and the designs are so cute that it has won my girls over.  
Here are some more photos of our PJs Sleepwear pajamas...

The price range for their pajamas starts at P495 for the kids and P750 for adults. It comes with a price point that is slightly higher than pajamas from department stores, but this is because you are paying for the quality of the material. The materials used in the pajamas are certified and tested to be 100% cotton for majority of the collections; while some designs come in cotton blend and treated fleece – which means “no himulmol” even if you wash them repeatedly.

There is something for everyone here, and I am sure the little men in your family will be bowled over by the dinosaurs, spaceships, robots, and tractors pajamas.

Even the babies will love the designs on these onesies.

And of course, my own girls went crazy over the girly designs
Already, I am being asked to buy more pajamas from PJs Sleepwear.   

~Here is where you can get your own PJ's Sleepwear pajamas:
Level 4 Shangri-la Mall; Level 1 Trinoma Mall; SM Clark, Pampanga; Marquee Mall, Angeles, Pampanga; Abreeza Mall, Davao City; Limletkai Mall, CDO; and all branches of Rustan's Dept. Store

~To know more about PJ's Sleepwear and to view more pajama designs, visit the PJs Sleepwear Facebook Page

Photos of PJs Sleepwear pajamas as in-store display are from My Mom-Friday.

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Singapore 2011: Sentosa & Jurong Attractions

To read all posts about our 2011 Singapore Trip click here

Sentosa Island:
We were not able to do all the things we set out to do on the day that we took the kids to Sentosa as the weather did not cooperate with us.  The gray sky was heavy with clouds as we left our hotel that morning, an ominous warning of things to come.

There's a complimentary bus service which stops at our hotel every morning to bring tourists to Sentosa, but since our hotel was the second to the last stop and our visit was also timed at the peak travel season, the Filipina at the reception lobby advised us not to queue up anymore as the bus gets to our hotel already filled to the brim with passengers/tourists picked up from other hotels. 

The first time I visited Sentosa a few years ago, I remember feeling let-down after I realized that's all there is to it.  We visited the aquarium, walked on its sandy beach, took the nature walks...  Through the years, Singapore continuously developed it as the foremost leisure island spending billions of dollars to market it as" Asia's Favorite Playground."  

I remember feeling sorry for the Singaporeans because the synthetic island atmosphere of Sentosa pales in comparison to our own lovely paradise such as Batangas and Mactan, among the many others.  The imported sands that lined the Siloso Beach have nothing on the shoreline of our own Boracay.  Nothing beats the natural island vibe our own islands have to offer.  I feel that what Sentosa has achieved is a perfect and effective  marketing plan; something which our own Department of Tourism is still establishing to do.  Despite the best efforts of a long line of people at the helm of the agency, our country's crack at tourism fame has yet to ignite.  Sigh!

But to go back to talking about Sentosa...
Underwater World is still an attraction that continues to draw in a lot of tourists.  The touch pool is the first thing that welcomes us and we took quite a while convincing the kids to touch the slimy, slippery sea creatures.

My kids enjoyed the massive oceanarium, even going through seemingly endless rounds on the travelator that goes around the aquarium.  

After all, it's not everyday that they see underwater scenes like this diver feeding the fishes in a Santa costume. :)
...or watching a manta ray have its meal

... or a shark asking for second servings!

The ticket for the Underwater World also comes with a Dolphin Show, but the slight drizzle worsened into a downpour shortly after we came out from the giant aquarium so we just decided to wait it out by riding on the tramline that goes around the island.

We decided to get off at the Palawan Beach, where a suspension bridge links beach-goers to the Southernmost Point of Asia, the tip where Asia is closest to the equator.

We climbed the viewing tower where we can see the panoramic view of the entire island on one side and the sweeping vista of the open sea on the other.

By now the rain has stopped, and we decide to take our chances with the unpredictable weather and lined up for the Luge.  The Skyline Luge offers a unique outdoor experience suitable for all ages. The Luge is basically a ride that relies on gravitational pull to move.  The riders control the speed of the cart by moving the handlebars back and forth.  It goes faster as you let go and it brakes as you pull on the handlebar closer to the rider’s body.  This allows the rider to control how fast or slow the ride is. 
image source
C and R were the first one to take on the forked tracks.  They sped downhill the 650-meter forest trail.  C and I agreed that I should be last so we could split looking out for the kids, and I trailed the girls as they took on the 688-meter dragon trial.

The kids found the adrenaline rush so addicting that they were begging for a second ride as soon as we finished.  But sadly, the weather did not cooperate with us, especially me – at all!  Since I was the last to go, I was still in the middle of the tracks when rain poured down.  I was truly torn between letting go of the control to take out a jacket, but of course that would mean total disaster since letting go of the handle bar would mean letting go of the brake… making for a truly fast ride.  In the end, there wasn’t really anything else to do but to just enjoy the moment – getting soaked in the rain and all. 
After the luge ride, we took the Skyride to bring us back to the starting point.  The Skyride is similar to a ski lift.   It offers a fantastic scenery of the beautiful coastline, which I failed to pay attention to... because I was too busy being scared. :)You see, it was still raining that time and so I had my umbrella open, and I was too pre-occupied preventing it from being snatched up by a sudden burst of wind.  Yeah, I know... scaredy-cat!:)

Getting held up by the rain is no reason to complain, so we looked for other options as we waited for the downpour to stop once again. We tried our hands at origami...

We also tried interviewing the trees...
... But sadly, the rain did not show any signs of easing up, so we had to cancel all the other Sentosa attractions on our list, ate an early dinner at Vivo City Mall, and finished our day with more shopping along Orchard street. 

Do be aware, though, that while entry to Sentosa is free, you have to pay for all the rides and attractions separately.  For the complete list of things to do and attractions to see, visit the Sentosa webpage.   

Jurong Island:

Singapore Discovery Center
Since Jurong is located far away from the city, we planned to tackle three of its attractions in one day.  We initally intended to start our day in Jurong by visiting the Singapore Discovery Center, then walk through Jurong Bird Park mid-day and end with the Science Center

The Singapore Discovery Center, as Wikipedia describes it, is an attraction that offers engaging exhibits for everybody, providing insights into what makes Singapore ticks.  
Someone (namely me!) obviously did not research enough... halfway through the attraction, the kids were starting to get bored because it was after all not an attraction, per se, but more of an information center about everything Singapore.  Still having paid for the entrance already, we did explore the place as much as we can.  However, if I were to advise you, I would tell you to skip this with the kids.

Unfortunately, due to the rain unexpectedly appearing as we exited the Discovery Center, we had to veer away from our itinerary.  We decided to go to the Science Center first and just go to the bird park when the weather clears up a bit.

Singapore Discovery Centre
admission:  kids $6, adults $10

Singapore Science Centre
At the  Singapore Science Centre, the kids had such a great time satisfying their curios minds and busy hands.  The Science Center is actually a playground of knowledge for adults and kids alike.  With close to 20 permanent exhibit areas and frequent travelling exhibitions, the Singapore Science Centre is home to a huge collection of interactive exhibits featuring the science of outer space, the earth, sound, inventions, ecosystems, human bodies, technology, and visual illusions.

At the Sound Exhibit, the kids were charmed by the playful and theatrical demonstration of sound waves in action as shaved iron fillings controlled by an electromagnetic plate dance to a variety of tunes.
image source
The exhibits, although appealing and interesting, are not the star at the Singapore Science Center; the shows and demonstrations are the must-sees!  We were mesmerized at how they simulated one of the most virtually impressive BUT terrifying phenomenon in nature, a fire tornado, inside a specially built enclosure in the museum.  Fire tornadoes are not usually something that is captured on cameras, so seeing one simulated up close is something that captivated everyone.
This demonstration only comes up once a day at 3pm, so be sure to be there when they light this up
Another must-see demonstration is the Tesla Coil Show, an explosive and electrifying live demonstration of high voltage electricity.  Electrical arcs travel wirelessly and pop out hydrogen-filled balloons, making an explosive demonstration.  Audience who are brave enough can also volunteer to sit inside a giant bird cage while electric currents travels around it. 

There is a Science show, as well, that is truly entertaining and engaging, with a lot a strong element of fun and play thrown in.  There are a lot of activities which involve audience interaction and participation.

Here we are crossing a tunnel where psychedelic lights illuminate when motion is detected.

Dinosaurs Live! is one of the traveling exhibits on display, and C and R took the opportunity to visit since they missed this when we were in Hong Kong.  There are almost 50 life-sized dinosaurs in their created habitats.  There is a separate admission to this exhibit. 

There are a lot of things to do and see that an afternoon is almost not enough for my kids. We ended up staying the whole afternoon, foregoing a visit to the Jurong Bird Park, in the process.  You can visit this site if you need any help planning your itinerary at the Science Centre

This is pretty much like the Science Museum in Hong Kong where there are a lot of interactive exhibits to entertain the kids.  Only, the HK Science museum already had a mini-dinosaur exhibit. For the Singapore Science Center, we had to pay another admission fee to get in the Dinosaur exhibit.  While I personally think that the hands-on display and exhibits of the Hong Kong Science Center were superior in terms of variety and the ability to engage the kids.  Nonetheless, the Singapore Science Center makes the trip more than worth the while with its unique and must-see shows and demonstrations!
Singapore Science Centre 
admission kids $3; adults $9; senior citizens $6; children below 3 free
Dinosaurs Alive!
admission:  kids $15; adults $23; inclusive of Science Center admission 

OmniTheatre, also called the Science Centre Observatory 
We purposely, intentionally, deliberately planned for our visit to the Science Centre to fall on a Friday since that is the only day when the Observatory is open to the public for a night of FREE stargazing from 7-10pm.  

My kids have this National Geographic telescope at home which they use to look at major constellations on nights when the sky is clear.  So I know the kids, most especially B, would love to have a chance to observe the heavenly bodies using the Observatory's state-of-the-art telescope, which can be made to swivel in any direction and its shutter can be made to slide open for the telescope to focus on any interesting objects in the sky.

It is just our luck that the rain did not let up; while the observatory was still open to visitors, stargazing through the observatory's telescope has been rendered impossible due to the weather. Sigh! 

Phenomenal TIPS:
1.  It is best to arrive at SENTOSA early to avoid the crowds that start coming in in the afternoon.
2.  Like the Philippines, Singapore's weather is unpredictable.  It can be sunny in the mornings and turn rainy in the afternoon, or the other way around.  It is advisable to bring foldable umbrellas and lighweight but water-proof jackets/parkas.
3.  If you are traveling with kids, bring along water bottles and some light snacks.
4.  The Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park have a 3-in-1 joint ticket called the Park Hopper Ticket.This is great value if you plan on visiting all 3 parks. You get to save a chunk off the total ticket price. You may also get a variety 2-in-1 Park Hopper tickets for entry into any 2 of Zoo, Night Safari or Bird Park. Prices vary according to your selection of parks and rides.
5.  If you/your kids are into astronomy, make sure to experience the FREE stargazing session every Friday night at the Science Centre Obervatory.