Touristy Park – Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden

I was scheduled to work nightshift overtime but my boss called me to work the following day instead. It was already late in the afternoon, a very tempting time to just sit down and splurge into facebook but I have promised to bring my son out. So I hurriedly geared him up with one word in mind – “International”.

There is this place I went with him before where kids of all sorts of skin colour flock in, that is Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden. I thought this place would be perfect for the few hours we have to spend outdoors. We took a train to Orchard area then boarded a bus to Singapore Botanic Gardens. It was too late when I realized that Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden is located at the Bukit Timah side which is exactly the opposite of where we dropped off – What was I thinking???? I was tempted to hail a Cab to take us there but it would defeat the value on which this “escape of father and son” was built – have fun and do it cheaply! So we trekked through the lush greenery stopping from time to time to enjoy some of the attractions Singapore Botanic Gardens has to offer.  It was worth my walk and my son’s ride on my shoulders. Whewww!

On the Way to Jacob Ballas Children's Garden

On the way to Jacob Ballas Children's Garden

The 20 – minute hike seemed endless and I was getting tired. Just when I was about to grumble and ask my son to get-off my back I saw this sign which got my adrenaline flowing!

Just a few minutes more!!

With just a couple of minutes more we finally reached the destination. Along the way my son was complaining that he was very hungry and that his stomach was “growling like a monster”. There’s a small canteen at the entrance of the garden and just when I was about to order food my son was pulling on my shirt excited to go inside the garden and eat later! “What about the monster growling in your stomach?” I asked. He just answered with a brief “Let’s go”. So that was just what we did!

Inside the garden was already bustling with children playing rough-wet-wild-and-dirty of course my son immediately joined the chaos! There are plenty of things to do in the garden but he likes to do 2 things only…play in the sand box and get wet in the fountain!

A Sand Box full of fun!!!

Wet-Wild-and-Dirty! Picture frenzy for the Blogger Moms.

So if you are like me who is financially constrained to be able to bring his son to international school and yet would like to expose your kid to international culture, Jacob Ballas children’s garden is for you :P. Guess I sound Kiasu there huh! In fact after playing at the fountain with all those western kids hearing their western-English-twang my son approached me saying “Deydi! Eyts quite Cawld in heyr”! So I rest my case. More photos in FaceBook

Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden is open daily from 8am to 7PM except on Mondays and could be reached by bus SBS Bus No. 48, 66, 151, 153, 154, 156, 170, 186 and SMRT Bus No. 67, 171. Alight along Bukit Timah Road, NUS Bukit Timah Campus bus stop. It is open to children up to 12 years old who MUST be accompanied by an adult and admission is FREE. Food is not a problem since they have a canteen which offers great western comfort food. For more info check out their site at http://www.sbg.org.sg/bukittimahcore/ChildrenGarden.asp.

A Family (minus the mom) – an article worth sharing!

I came across this article about a year ago and until now it still pumps those tears out of me. Surely, my life would be wrecked should my wife leave me behind…broken-hearted for a lost love, overwhelmed with another shoe to fill. Like the author I will not know where to start as well. There may be flaws in the way the article was written but what the heck the emotion carried by each word covers everything! 

The irreplaceable 

4 years ago, an accident took my beloved away and very often I wonder, how does my wife, who is now in the heavenly realm, feel right now? She must be feeling extremely sad for leaving a husband who is incapable of taking care of the house and the kid. ‘cos that is the exact feeling that I have, as I feel that I have failed to provide for the physical and emotional needs of my child, and failed to be the dad and mom for my child.

There was one particular day, when I had an emergency at work. Hence, I had to leave home whilst my child was still sleeping. So thinking that there was still rice leftovers, I hastily cooked an egg and left after informing my sleepy child. With the double role, I am often exhausted at work as well as when I am home. So after a long day, I came home, totally drained of all energy. So with just a brief hug and kiss for my child, I went straight into the room, skipping dinner. However, when I jumped into my bed with intention of just having a well-deserved sleep, all i heard and felt was broken porcelain and warm liquid! I flipped open my blanket, and there lies the source of the ‘problem’… a broken bowl with instant noodles and a mess on the bed sheet and blanket! Boy, was I mad! I was so furious that I took a clothes hanger, charged straight at my child who was happily playing with his toy, and give him a good spanking! He merely cried but not asking for mercy, except a short explanation:
        “Dad, I was hungry and there wasn’t anymore leftover rice. But you were not back yet, hence I wanted to cook some instant noodles. But I remembered you reminding me not to touch or use the gas stove without any adults around, hence I turned on the shower and used the hot water from the bathroom to cook the noodles. One is for you and the other is for me. However, I was afraid that the noodles will turn cold, so I hid it under the blanket to keep it warm till you return. But I forgot to remind you ‘cos I was playing with my toys…I am sorry Dad…”

At that moment, tears were starting to run down my cheeks…but I didn’t want my son to see his dad crying so I dashed into the bathroom and cried with the shower head on to mask my cries. After that episode, I went towards my son to give him a tight hug and applied medication on him, while coaxing him to sleep. Then, it was time to clear up the mess on the bed. When everything was done and well past midnight, I passed by my son’s room, and saw that he was still crying, not from the pain on his little buttock, but from looking at the photograph of his beloved mommy. However, not so long ago, I hit my boy again, with much regret. This time, is kindergarten teacher called, informing me of my son’s absence from school. I took off early from work and went home, expecting him to explain. But he wasn’t to be found, so I went around our house, calling out his name and eventually found him outside a stationery shop, happily playing computer games. I was fuming, brought him home and whacked the hell out of him. He did not retaliate, except to say, ‘I am sorry, Dad’. But after much probing, I realized that it was a ‘Talent Show’ organized by his school and the invitation was for every student’s mommy. And that was the reason for his absence as he has no mommy…..

 Few days after the caning, my son came home to tell me, the kindergarten has recently taught him how to read and write. Since then, he has kept to himself and stayed in his room to practise his writing, which I am sure, would make my wife proud, if she was still around. ‘cos he makes me proud too!

Time passed by very quickly, and soon another year has passed. It’s winter, and its Christmas time. Everywhere the christmas spirit is in every passer-by…Christmas carols and frantic shoppers….but alas, my son got into another trouble. When I was about to knock off from the day’s work, the post office called. Due to the peak season, the post master was also on an edgy mood. He called to tell me that my son has attempted to post several letters with no addressee. Although I did make a promise never to hit my son again, I couldn’t help but to hit him as I feel that this child of mine is really beyond control. Once again, as before, he apologized, ‘ I’m sorry, Dad’ and no additional reason to explain. I pushed him towards a corner, went to the post office to collect the letters with no addressee and came home, and angrily questioned my son on his prank, during this time of the year.

His answer, amidst his sobbing, was : The letters were for Mommy. My eyes grew teary, but I tried to control my emotions and continued to ask him: ” But why did u post so many letters, at one time?” My son’s reply was: ” I have been writing to mommy for a long time, but each time I reached out for the post box, it was too high for me, hence I was not able to post the letters. But recently, when I went back to the post box, I could reach it and I dropped the letters all at once…” After hearing this, I was lost. Lost at not knowing what to do nor what to say…. I told him, ” Son, mommy is in the heavenly kingdom, so in future, if you have anything to tell her, just burn the letter and it will reach mommy. My son, on hearing this, was much pacified and calmed, and soon after, he was sleeping soundly. On promising that I will burn the letters on his behalf, I brought the letters outside, but couldn’t help opening the letter before they turn to ash. And one of the letters broke my heart….

Dear Mommy, 

I miss you so much! Today, there was a ‘Talent Show’ in school, and the school invited all mothers for the show. But you are not around, so I did not want to participate as well. I did not tell Dad about it as I was afraid that Dad would start to cry and miss you all over again. Dad went around looking for me, but in order to hide my sadness, I sat in front of the computer and started playing games at one of the shops. Dad was furious, and he couldn’t help it but scolded and hit me, but I did not tell him the real reason. Mommy, everyday I see Dad missing you and whenever he thinks of you, he is so sad and often hide and cry in his room. I think we both miss you very very much. Too much for our own good I think. But Mommy, I am starting to forget your face. Can you please appear in my dreams so that I can see your face and remember you? I heard that if you fall asleep with the photograph of the person whom you miss, you will see the person in your dreams. But mommy, why haven’t you appear?

After reading the letter, I can’t stop sobbing. ‘cos I can never replace the irreplaceable gap left behind by my wife….

Harmoni One Hotel and Service Apartments

  Photo From their Website

Last month I went to Batam, Indonesia  with my family for our first ever family out of town together. We had a 2D1N stay in Harmoni One (Hotel and Service Apartments). Though our stay was brief to give a comprehensive review, I will still spill out my mind. After all, first impression lasts they say.

The Plus   

  • The place is elegantly designed inside out and “elegant”, I believe is the perfect adjective for Harmoni one Hotel and Service Apartments. The swimming pool area makes you feel like you are not in Indonesia but somewhere in the mid-east or Europe maybe.
  • They have very friendly and polite crew which is what guests always want.
  • Very efficient service. Check-in and check-out was brief!
  • Really Cosy place! With a lot of rooms to cater for functions or seminars.
  • Great value for money! A 4-star hotel of this calibre is expected to charge more.
Photo From their Website

The Minus

  • Tobacco Stench everywhere including their restaurants! This decreases the relaxing factor because at times and at certain areas it is difficult to breath. When we entered our room which looked freshly done, still the smell of burned tobacco was there. This is one huge smoking area!
  • I love their crew and I saw how hard they worked but during the wee hours they were still noisily carrying out their work. I heard shouts and bangs even at dawn.
  • The food! A place as elegant as this should have a matching delectable cuisine!

All in all Harmoni One is a great place to stay! I would recommend this place to my friends…in fact, many of them booked the same tour and stayed in the same hotel and all of them gave the same impression of elegance!

Rating? 4 out of a scale of 5. Minus 1 for the food :P.

First Family Out of Town

Yes you read it right this was officially our first family out of town vacation with no other agenda but to spend time together. Me and my wife spent time checking deals in the internet and in the end we booked a 2D1N batam getaway offered by deal.com.sg. It was short but it was fun and relaxing.

We took a ferry to Batam and were surprised that there was a complimentary guided tour (by BEST of Tour) included in our package although it was not that interesting 😦 (I am sad to say that). We visited a layered cake factory (or bakery) and got to taste freshly baked layered cakes. The cakes were good but the tour guide did not deliver her promise that we will get to watch them make the cake instead I got to see them slice the cakes! At least that part I saw 😛

Included in our package was a 5-course seafood lunch. We had our lunch at the Golden Prawn 933 restaurant. The food was fine though it’s not the best seafood lunch I had or maybe my expectation was up because of the “5-course” description. I have this notion that an “X-course” meal means fine dining with excellent service so I would rather call it a 5-dish lunch hehehe… My son did not like much of the food but me and my wife were hungry so we dug in!

We toured around for a few more hours in souvenir shops then to a shopping mall. Imagine my boredom…but my wife and the other 4 tourists travelling with us seemed excited. Once at the Batam City Square mall, me, and my son separated from the shopping crowd to a game arcade. I was expecting an enjoyable time but the place smelled bad because most of the people there were adults and smokers! Me and my son had to withdraw to a play pen which I’m sure he enjoyed a lot!

After an hour in the mall we were taken to the Hotel (FINALLY!!!). Harmoni One (Convention Hotel & Service Apartments) has an elegantly designed Façade which awed all of us as we entered the driveway. The lobby I must say is equally elegant with matching large furnitures and chandeliers (again that stench of burned tobacco). My son’s jaw dropped once in the lobby and was even more ecstatic when we entered our room. He’s got this thing about nice and elegant places that by the time we went home he was crying along the way saying “Ayaw kong umuwi! Ang Panget ng House natin!!!” (Trans. I don’t want to go home! Our house is so ugly!!!). We had a great time at the Jacuzzi and swimming pool! They also have gymn facilities but I did not even have a look because the swimming pool was so inviting.

After dinner we went to our long awaited Javanese Massage! Me and my Wife were actually worried about where to keep our son in holding while having our stress relieving time. Divine intervention had it that our son drowsed off while listening to the soulful songs rendered live at the Lobby Lounge. So we had our 2-hour massage + body scrub undisturbed. The massage was good although painful at times but the body scrub was an indulgence – so relaxing that the masseuse had to wake me up afterwards. You might have guessed just right that I continued snoring once I reached our room 😀

In the following morning we had a great buffet breakfast (although again the food is not the best Batam has to offer) at the Bamboe Café & restaurant just at the hotel lobby. We ordered beef bolognaise via room service before checking out and as expected it was not as good as that of Pasta Mania. Harmoni one I could say is a sight indulgence but lacking in culinary appeal. My overdue review of the Hotel coming up shortly.

We had a great time together as a family and at the moment we are planning for another one which is very soon! Stay tuned for it. Meanwhile, check out our photos…

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Been out too long!

It’s been a while since my last post. I don’t have any excuse really except that I opted to rest even before I got tired :P.  Anyway I will try my best to give an account of what I have been up to these past few days.

Firstly, the next 2 weeks after my last post was quite busy for me at work. I was called back to work during my off days to which I readily said yes because it meant a bigger pay check. At the same time we were busy packing our things because we had to move to another house urgently – I will try to fill in on this in another post. In those 2 weeks, my wife and my son got the chance to hangout with some friends. They had a great time at the Singapore zoo and Jurong bird park – again, post coming up in a moment…hopefully :).

I suddenly realized that I have been to places and I have a lot to write about but in the mean time this short post should warm me up and get me into the writing craze again and of course to let the people who read my blog know that I am not bailing out…not today!

Meanwhile just check out my previous posts starting with the first!

Chugging through lake and lanes – Woodlands Town garden

This is supposed to be the first post in this archive (Escapes of Father and Son) but this escape can be relived easily as the place is just a stones-throw away from our house so I opted to write about the fish farm experience while it was still vivid in my wits.

Left by ourselves in the house I decided to bring my son out for a late Saturday morning “brunch”. My son insisted on riding his bike (thanks kuya Nelson!) so he pedalled for about 10 minutes to a Hawker centre near Sheng Shiong Supermarket near the road leading to Malaysia. We had our growling tummies filled with prata, chicken rice and a glass of sparkling water chestnut drink – makes me rather thirsty just thinking about it.

After 2 hours of munching and talking and mock boxing, we made our move through a tunnel that leads to the woodlands town park. Our original plan was to have a dip in the swimming pool nearby but the cobblestone pathway seemed to have a strong hypnotic appeal to my son’s bike wheels! I followed while silently taking snapshots as my son chugged through the lanes while constantly muttering “Wow!” and ”Ganda!” (Beautiful!) around the lake. From time to time he stopped to have a look at those fishes expectantly waiting for food – they must’ve associated human presence with food since most of the lake visitors throw bread crumbs to them.

Having explored every nook and cranny of the pathways (the park is not a big one actually), my son rushed to a play ground. There are 2 sand box playgrounds in the park where kids can get wild and dirty just the way they love it. One has a small slide made of plastic while the other’s got a concrete one designed for bigger kids. Of course my son has a very good grasp of size and age. To him it is relative – household chores are for big kids and he is too small for that whereas he is big enough for playgrounds intended for bigger and older kids. Anyway, there was no prohibition for adults to join the fun so daddy became the older, bigger kid! It was fun…I mean F-U-N! Most probably, there will be a next time for this…and I hope Mommy can join too.

Woodlands town garden could be reached by taking bus 950 or 911 from Woodlands Regional Interchange which is just a few stations away.  This place is very good for small family picnics since there are playgrounds for kids and the panorama is just nice for daddy and mommy to reminisce those good ol’ days and sing their favourite love song strolling hand-in-hand along the cobblestone pathways and bridges (:P). There are several huts with fixed tables and benches and an open hall where hip teens can do their groove. Don’t forget to bring bread crumbs with you to share with the natives of the lake – fish that is.

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More photos at http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150249507323246.329913.539113245

Qian Hu Fish Farm – A fishy Saturday

Friday night me and my son were discussing where to spend the Saturday. My wife had something important to do so it was just a father and son escape. My wife suggested Time Zone but I knew the place would only be fun for a few hours. I asked my son  his choice “Time Zone” or “Fish Farm” and I guess you know which one he chose. So off we went to Qian Hu fish farm.

 Upon seeing the rows of fish tanks, my son shifted to hyper mode checking every fish tank until he found two large sting rays. He was so scared that he almost crawled to get past them. There were those rainbow crabs which he is also scared of saying that they are large spiders. Yeah he is scared when he see live ones but once served on the table he takes his sweet vengeance…we tried black pepper crab before and he dug into it!

After countless minutes of checking fish tank after fish tank we went to their Arowana world where the most expensive fishes are kept. I am not a fan of Arowana but I must admit they have a beautiful collection. We also checked their Arowana breeding tanks – and man that was a lot of Arowana there! I have never seen so many of them until this!

The best part of this trip – Longkang fishing! They have a place where visitors could catch or try to catch small fishes. For the price of $5 they give a small net and tank so you could join the fishing frenzy! It could get chaotic out there especially when cool parents (Like me!!!) join the fun.  Whatever fish you catch you can bring home afterwards – we did but we set them free in the lake near our place since we don’t have an aquarium to keep them but we bought 3 small turtles for my son to take care of, well it seems like they are easier to maintain than fish.

The place also have a fish spa priced at $20 for half an hour or so but I never had a chance to dip my foot in as I have a hypercharged boy to keep an eye on.

Qian Hu is a one stop shop for aquarium hobbyists. They have a large collection of aquarium fish with prices ranging from $3 to several thousands – the most expensive I saw was an Arowana which costs $6000! They sell aquariums and countless accessories with price less than those in the shopping malls. They also have a cafeteria so there is no need to worry about food. The place is located at No. 71, Jalan Lekar, Sungei Tengah, Singapore. To get there we took a train to Choa Chu Kang then boarded their FREE shuttle bus at the bus interchange just beside the MRT Station. Admission is free! For details of their services you can visit their website at http://www.qianhu.com.

Check out our photos!

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  I got you Mr. Fish!!!!!!

Stacks of fish tanks...I'm sure you can find your kind of ornamental fish here.

   Rainbow crabs – I hope I got that right. My son says they are big spiders!
         This “guy” costs 6000 SGD one of the most expensive they have.
                               Hmm…as if he could read Chinese.
                                                Fishing Frenzy!