Monthly Archives: January 2014

High Tea Cruise to Kusu Island/クス島 ハイティークルーズ

Marc took a few days off for Nina’s birthday, so I was trying to think of something fun to do on a Monday with the kids.  First, I thought about Pulau Ubin, but wasn’t sure how it would be on a weekday, particularly Monday when everything is slow, so figured I’d pick one of the other islands around Singapore.  I found a high tea cruise to Kusu Island (aka Turtle Island) offered by WaterTours and thought this may be a fun thing to do with the kids.  Kusu Island was originally just a couple of tiny bumps sticking out of a reef, it was expanded to 8.5 hectares of island with several different temples and Malay shrines and is now an annual pilgrimage spot.  Generally, the pilgrimage takes place sometime between September and November, and during that time, the cruise does not stop by Kusu Island, so check when you book.  I also wanted to scope out Kusu Island for a weekend family picnic.  I’ve been dying to go to Pulau Ubin, but I feel like I should wait until Mila gets a bit older so we can do a family bike ride.  The high tea cruise offers a complimentary bus pick up and drop off from several hotels around the city, so we asked to be picked up at the Marriott at Orchard.  Saved us the trip to Marina South Piers.  Just have to remember that the Marriott tourist bus pick up is not at their front entrance, but at the back entrance past the lobby.  Good thing the guy walked in the hotel to look for us.

The bus driver that was bringing us back wasn’t too keen to drive out to Orchard and offered to take us to the nearest MRT.  He was arguing with Marc until I yelled, “Why wouldn’t we go to Orchard?  We are having dinner there!” and he quickly got quiet.  He saw an ‘Auntie’ in me I guess… In the end, he dropped us off at the Hilton, since he didn’t want to go through the traffic around orchard road, which is understandable as he was driving a huge tour bus and the only people on it were the four of us.  Just be aware that you may need to be a bit stern when it comes to drop off location.

If you are looking at the pictures I’ve posted, yes, that is Mila, wearing a harness. I don’t use it often, but I’m paranoid when it comes to young toddlers on boats.  I’m also paranoid when I travel to countries where the main mode of transportation is motorcycle.  I know the best thing is to hold their hand, and I do, but sometimes, they break free and run. The cruise is safe, no doubt. It’s just me. I’ve been wanting to go on a 2-3 day cruise as well, but haven’t been able to make up my mind about it because I’m scared of Mila waddling around on a cruise ship and falling overboard. There’s no reasonable way she can randomly go overboard, but I just can’t brush the fear off.  So she had a rainbow harness for the day. She wasn’t the biggest fan, kept tugging on it, but got used to it after 15 min.  So for sanity’s sake, it’s not a bad investment.

Anyways, the boat was fabulous in that tacky bright colored tourist kind of way and we all loved it. The boat had a lot of wood surfaces and was well decorated. It’s hard to find things to do in Singapore that scream “random Singapore culture” since everything is so new and shiny, but this cruise had the perfect balance of tradition, culture and touch of tourist fun. The boat had plenty of space for people to sit both outdoors and indoors.  We wandered around the boat and let Mila go up and down the stairs.  Nina liked the small lion figurines all around the boat.  It was a perfect day, not too hot and not to cold, with good wind.  You get a great view of Singapore from a different perspective than what you are used to.  The high tea, well, it’s supermarket quality. Styrofoam cups and plates with some tea bags. If you don’t need the tea, then there’s a Dragon boat tour at the same time with a similar boat if you want to save yourself five bucks. The kids loved the cakes since they usually don’t get to eat sweets at home, so if it made their day special, it was worth it for us.  The cruise is two and a half hours long with a 30 minute stop at Kusu Island.  Plenty of time to wander around, check out what’s there and decide to come back for a day on a weekend.  The water seemed to be a bit clearer than the beaches on Sentosa, though probably not a huge difference.  There are nice sitting areas with shade, too bad it looks like the food court is only open on certain holidays.  There are a couple of turtles and tortoises for Nina to WoooooW over, a small temple to visit and a shallow lagoon to go swimming in. This place would make a perfect family destination on a weekend.  We’ll be back again Kusu Island!

マークが新菜の誕生日の為にわざわざ三日も休みをとったので、月曜日もどこかに行きたいなぁ、と思って探してたらありましたよ~。シンガポールの回りには幾つか小さい島があるんですが、その中でも結構マイナー(だと思う)なクス島(タートルアイランドともいうらしい)に行く事に決定。セントーサの更に北にある小さい島で、観光客がめったに行く場所ではない。実は私も余り聞いたことなかったのですが、もとは小さい岩があっただけの島を開発の一環として、8.5ヘクタールの島になるまで埋め立て、更にお寺やマレー系のシュラインも作って、聖なる観光地とした、というなかなか面白い(突っ込みたい)歴史を持つ島なのです。今でも毎年9月から11月の間に巡礼が行われる期間まであります。その期間はクルーズがクス島に止まらないので、秋に予約入れる時は事前に確認してくださいね。もっと大きい島に行こうかと考えていたんだけど、子供達を自転車に乗せて走った事がない私、ちょっと不安になって他を探したらこのクス島を見つけたわけです。しかもこのクス島によるハイティークルーズがあるというではないですか。これは行くっきゃないでしょう、という事で、行ってまいりました。まずはピックアップ、市内のメジャーホテルでのピックアップが可能、という事でオーチャードのマリオットでのピックアップを希望。わざわざマリーナ サウスの港まで行かなくて済むのは車のないうちにはありがたいです。ただ私は知らなかったのですが、マリオットは観光バス用の入り口はロビーの裏にあります。ちゃんとロビーまで迎えに来てくれて良かった…が、帰りのバス運転手のおっちゃん、オーチャードまで行くのはめんどくさいらしく、マークに近くのMRTまで連れてくからそれでいいか交渉…話違うじゃん。でも、私の”オーチャード行くでしょ、晩御飯オーチャードで食べるんだし!“のがなり声を聞いて、大人しく送ってくれることに、おばちゃんと戦う気はないらしい…でも結局マリオットまでは行ってくれなくて、ヒルトンで降ろしていいか、だって。別にそのくらいはいいけどさ。家族4人で大型ツアーバス一台だったので気持ちは分からなくもないけど。



The Link for the Dragon Boat/High Tea Cruise Tour:

Information on Kusu Island:

Mila running off before we even board the ship.

Mila running off before we even board the ship.

Another view of the boat

View of the boat

Dragon lead the way ! Nina's birthday week was filled with dragons.

Dragon lead the way ! Nina’s birthday week was filled with dragons.

The interior of the boat

The interior of the boat

The lagoon on Kusu Island.  The grey clouds aren't doing it justice, but it's perfect for small children.

The lagoon on Kusu Island. The grey clouds aren’t doing it justice, but it’s perfect for small children.

THIS view of MBS is only available on this cruise : )

THIS view of MBS is only available on this cruise : )

The lagoon on Kusu Island.  The grey clouds aren't doing it justice, but it's perfect for small children.

The lagoon on Kusu Island. The grey clouds aren’t doing it justice, but it’s perfect for small children.

Kusu Island welcome sign

Kusu Island welcome sign

Hello lion!

Hello lion!


Nina’s Birthday Party/新菜のお誕生日会

I’m not a big birthday party person.  I know, I have two toddlers, but I am just not a big birthday party girl.  That’s always the difficult thing with kids.  How to make it THEIR day, but a day where the parents don’t go completely insane.  At Nina’s day care, it seems like most parents just do a small party at the school, then one later with just family. Since most of Nina’s close friends are from her school, I decided to make her school party THE party.  I asked her teachers if they could set aside an hour or so for Nina’s birthday party.  Nina is currently in N1 (she’s moving up to N2 after her birthday) but a lot of her friends are in N2, so I requested to do her party with both classes.  That’s about 24 kids.

I picked a gender neutral theme, Dragons, so all the kids could have fun.  One of Nina’s favorite movies is “How to Train Your Dragon” and she has a “Dragonology” bestiary that she enjoys, which ‘details’ the nature of dragons around the world. First, I had to decide on an activity that made sense with 24 two to four year olds.  I figured a simple arts and crafts activity that they could take home as a favor would work.

Dragons -> Time of Kings and Queens -> Crown -> Kids make their own crowns!

There was an idea.  So I went to my FAVORITE store, Daiso.  The best import from Japan.  For $2, (think it should really be $1), you can get everything under the sun.  Need a bento box? Done.  Need an LED light? Done. Mini-security alarm to walk at night? Done. Those corner thingies to keep your children from whacking their heads on tables? Done. Belt, slippers, most kitchen thingies, kids’ toys, gift wrapping, anything you need, Daiso’s got it.  For my purposes, I raided the arts and crafts section for shiny stickers, felt stickers, the cell phone decorating sticker jewels and more shiny lace stickers at the gift wrapping section. I never thought I would spend more than $100 at Daiso, but I did.  Afterwards, I dropped by Spotlight, a significantly more expensive crafts store to get some bigger jewel pieces.  I then happened to look in SKP on the way home and they had pre-cut crown cutouts in red, gold, silver, blue and pink.  Good to have the color variations so the boys could have fun too.  So my crafts shopping was done and I was pretty happy with the selection I picked up.  I then prepped the items in advance, cutting out all the jewels and the stickers into manageable pieces for the kids.

Now for the main attraction, the Dragon. I found Sinsations by Radhika on Facebook and, since her cakes looked fabulous, decided to order from her.  I sent her several images of our desired Dragon cake and we chatted on the phone about the color and the decorations. I wanted a treasure chest with gold coins and jewels with a dragon on top.  And look at the cute dragon she made for us!  Radhika managed to make rice krispy treats since they don’t sell them in Singapore to make this adorable plump dragon.  Marc kept saying the dragon looks like Mila, and it kind of did. Nina screamed when she saw her cake and screeched, “DRAGON CAKE! MY DRAGON CAKE!  SO CUUUTE!“ That’s always a good sign.  I did notice a lot of the kids said “Dinosaur cake!” and when I tried to say, “No no, dinosaurs aren’t purple, this is a DRAGON cake.” They calmly responded with, “Dragons don’t exist.” Well, there’s your realist Singapore education for ya.  I’d like to think it’s because it wasn’t the skinny Chinese dragon they’re used to. I had originally planned to explain the dragon on the Dragonology book to introduce the dragon cake to the kids, but since I arrived late, I didn’t get the chance.  The kids were already jumping up and down in excitement screaming “Dinosaur cake!” so I let it go. Such a klutz…  I had picked up a pink crown candle at Spotlight and it was perfect for the dragon’s head.  Nina loved her dragon and all the kids wanted to have its head, but we had to take the dragon home whole for our birthday girl. Nina happily devoured the head as an after dinner dessert.  Check out Radhika’s blog if you are looking for a person to make a special cake!

After the cake, everyone went to wash their hands and face and we set up for arts and crafts time.  Nina had a special pink crown cutout with fancy decorations, so she got a bit of a head start. Small cheat for our birthday girl.  I had a whole speil about the dragon coming to visit the class and sharing the jewels, and that each crown color stood for a different virtue….but I don’t think anyone heard that bit, so I quickly gave up and just went into distributing the cutouts. The kids did get to choose which color they got.  As the kids received their crowns, we asked the teachers to put their names on the back so they could take the right one home.  Since the cutouts were clearly too big for kids that age, I also brought a stapler with me and I would measure the child’s head when he/she was finished and staple the crown so it fit them perfectly.  I was pretty impressed by how the children sat down, focused on their project and laid out their stones and stickers.  Some connected similar pieces and others laid out different ones in order. It was such chaos when we were dealing with the cake, I was starting to think this arts and crafts may have been a bad idea.  Thanks to the teachers who sat at each table and helped the children, once they started, they were perfect little productive kids.  Loved the creativity in each one.

I think everyone had a great time, and they were so cute with their completed crowns. Most of all, Nina was having a blast with her friends, laughing and making her special crown.  She sang about her really cool dragon cake and was thrilled to be the center of attention.  Such a change from a year ago when she cried at her own birthday party.

We all had to laugh when one boy kept saying, “I’m a Queen! I’m a Queen!” Maybe in 20 years, kiddo, if you so choose.  I love that kid, too cute.

Overall a successful birthday celebration.  Now, time to brain storm for next year!

A BIG Thank You to Nina’s teachers and Radhika for being flexible and supporting a couple of klutzy parents trying to make our little girl’s birthday a special one.


次はケーキ。ドラゴンの演出はケーキでやるしかないな、と思ったんですが、やっぱり難しいドラゴンケーキ。作れそうな人を探していたらSinsations by Radhikaというサイトを見つけて、見てみると、フリーでケーキを作っている方で、色々素敵なデザインのケーキをつくっていらっしゃるようで、お願いしてみたら、丁度空いてるので出来るとの事で、お願いました。電話で、宝箱に大きなドラゴンが宝石とコインを守ってる感じ、とか相当わけの分からない説明と写真をいくつか送っておねがいしたんですが、さすがです~。とってもかわいいパープルドラゴンが見事宝箱の上でチョコンと座ってるじゃないですか~。しかもこのドラゴン、ライスクリスピーで作ってあるんですが、このライスクリスピーはシンガポールでは売っていないのでそこから作られたそうです。マークいわく実良に似てないか?少し似てる。いや~、かわいいケーキ、大満足でした~。Radhikaさんのブログはこちらですので、お子様に特別なケーキを準備してあげたいけど、自分では難しい、と思う方、必見ですよ~!

後は親愛なるDaisoでキラキラシート、フェルトシート、キラキラレーステープにデコストーンを大量に買い込み(Daisoで100ドル以上って凄い!)それとPlaza Singapura のSpotlight(高い…)で少し補充して、飾りの用意完璧。のりやテープを使うには大人の手が足りないの全てシール。全部台紙を切ってばらばらにした状態で持って行って、テーブルに分けて置けばいい状態にしておく。当日は早めに行って準備するはずが、ケーキをとりにいくのに迷子になりまして、(バカ)肝心の親が遅れて到着(泣)。着いた途端に新菜と子供さ3人程が走って来てケーキを覗いちゃったので、びっくり、の顔を取れませんでした。でも子供達が集まってくると、新菜も大興奮でDRAGON CAKE! MY DRAGON CAKE! SO CUUUTEと大騒ぎ。他の子もキャーキャー喜んでいました。でも皆恐竜ケーキって言ってたんだよな~、中華系の竜(細長いやつ)じゃないからかな~。”恐竜じゃないよ、ドラゴンよ“って言っても、”ドラゴンなんていないよ~(笑)“って返ってくる。さすがシビアな現実主義、シンガポールの子供達…最初にドラゴン学の本を紹介して、ケーキの出して、このドラゴンが貯めた宝石を皆に特別に分けてくれるんだよ、とか冠の色は金色が勇気で、銀は賢さ…とこまこまバックストーリーを考えてあったんですが、遅れて来たので披露する暇もなし、ああ、ま、いっか、皆聞いてないっぽいし。orzまずは回りのKit Katをはがして配り、コインを配り、それからケーキを切って(削って?)配りました。子供達、大喜び。でも頭を食べたがる子多数。その場で解体する勇気がなかったのでうちに持って帰って新菜の晩御飯の後のデザートに頭は頂きました。Spotlightでたまたま買った王冠ロウソク。ドラゴンの頭にピッタリ。今回はいい買い物したわ~。歌も2回歌って貰って、新菜もご満悦。


完成した冠を被って“I’m a Queen! I’m a Queen!” と叫ぶ男の子が一人。いいよ、それが君の望む未来なら、ガンバレ。全員爆笑。いや~、子供ってかわいいなあ。



Arts and Crafts, Ready!

Arts and Crafts, Ready!

The cutest dragon cake ever!

The cutest dragon cake ever!

Nina in awe

Nina in awe

Awesome cake!

Awesome cake!

Kids working on their special crown

Kids working on their special crown

Arts and crafts fun

Arts and crafts fun

The group shot outside

The group shot outside

Nina and Mila's crowns

Nina and Mila’s crowns

Nina and her dragon head

Nina and her dragon head

Hong Kong with Toddlers 子連れ香港旅行記(2)

After two days at Disneyland, we moved to Kowloon Sheraton Towers and spent about 5 days in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a great city for toddlers because there are parks all over the place. We must have gone to a park or playground every few hours, which kept Nina and Mila happy, as they could climb and run around (and tire themselves out!). Happy toddlers mean happy parents!

Our favorite park was the pirate ship themed playground in Stanley Plaza near the Stanley Market. Perfect setting to rest up after browsing all the shops and stalls at Stanley Market; have some lunch at the restaurants next door and let the kids play. They also have a stroller rental in case your bub gets sleepy. You can easily spend the entire day out in the Stanley area. We discovered that Mila LOVES olives. What a strange thing for a one year old to like.
Other parks we visited were:
- The Peak Galleria Mall. In case the Peak tram wasn’t enough excitement for the kids, drop by the second floor of the mall for a small playground. Nina and Mila made a little friend there. It’s always great to see how easily children hit it off.
- Kowloon Park has a great little flamingo sanctuary, but before you even get there, Avenue of Comic Stars (opened in September 2012) offers cheeky weird local comic character statues. It’s an endless entertainment for kids. Nina loved “taking pictures” of each and every statue.
– Hong Kong Park has a large lake with birds, a hedge maze, and a playground. Also, lots of local people sketching and painting, just a clip of the daily Hong Kong life that’s fun to see.
– Sai Yee Street Garden is a small park near the Ladies Market. It’s enough to breathe and unwind from the insanity of the street markets in Hong Kong. Nina walked into the Ladies Market and said, “Ohhhhh, I wanna buy something!” Scary how even little girls jump right into shopping mode after only 5 seconds. We bought her a pair of sunglasses.
– Goldfish Market was wonderful to walk around with all these cool fish. We saw some neon fish (I assume they are dyed that color?) and just enjoyed strolling around. Mila jumped out of her Ergo and wanted to walk and take in the sights. She pretty much learned to walk while we explored the streets of Hong Kong. In a week, a baby becomes a toddler. Exciting and sad at the same time.
– There are several parks around the Jade Market and Nina had us go to two or three of them. Mila got a free bracelet at the jade market for being cute… Yeah, she knows how to milk the cuteness
– Near the Avenue of the Stars, on top of East Tsam Sha Tsui station, across the overpass extending from the AOS, there is Middle Road Children’s Playground. It’s a pretty large playground with swings, several slides and play area for different ages. When we went, half of it was still closed, but the half that was still open was still more than enough for the kiddies.

For our toddlers, Hong Kong is like food heaven. Nina loves those meat buns (the BAO) and she could eat them all day. Some of them have eggs and veggies in it, so it’s a meal in itself and Nina just couldn’t get enough. The rice porridge (congee) is a standard for little ones and is available everywhere. If you can find one without MSG, it’s a perfect little meal for the littlies. Nina and Mila are dim sum lovers, so it’s not hard to please them with abundance of dumplings and noodles in Hong Kong.

When we went to Yung Kee restaurant with some friends. She managed to slip us into the VIP area, so we didn’t have to deal with the crowded main dining room with two toddlers. A lady there suggested trying the Black Sesame Roll which I’ve never seen in Singapore. She mentioned that they’re not necessarily an adult favorite, but children love them. And they did! After an extra-large dim sum dinner (there were four adults and two toddlers, so my friend ordered for four, thinking it would be enough, but then had to order two extra adult portions when she realized our children were ravenous monsters), our children fought over the dessert and cleaned it up. Black Sesame Roll is not too sweet, and it’s steamed, so a healthy choice for children who may be craving an after dinner pick up. The Yong Kee restaurant in general was a great place to go for adults too. Their roast meats are fabulous.

For a quick congee bite, we headed to iSquare and went to Praise House Congee & Noodle Cuisine. Good congee and it’s open pretty early, which is key when you have two hungry toddlers. I think it mentioned somewhere that they didn’t use any MSG, but I can’t confirm for sure.

Hong Kong is close to my heart when it comes to traveling with children since it was the first place we traveled to after having Nina. Nina was still only three and a half months old at the time and I had tagged along on Marc’s business trip. Come to think of, that was the beginning of our life in Asia. When we were in Hong Kong last time, we made a chop for Nina with her Japanese name. I wanted to make a matching one for Mila, so we headed out to Man Wa Lane, also known as “Chop Street.” I found a similar red agate stone and asked them to make one for Mila. Red agate apparently means family love, so it’s perfect for our little girls. I’m looking forward to telling them stories of their trips and giving them the chop when they can appreciate them. Most of the stalls will make the chop while you wait, or they can deliver to your hotel the next morning. We asked them to deliver both times and they were delivered timely and we are very happy with what we received. Highly recommend it for a special souvenir.

Hong Kong turned out to be a great kid-friendly trip overall. It is definitely on our list of places we’ll go to again with the whole family.

– お勧めはStanley Market近くのStanley Plazaにある海賊船を象った公園です。回りにレストランもあり、ベビーカーのレンタルもあるので一日ゆったり遊べます。
– The Peakの上にある小さいモールの二階の外にも小さい遊び場があります。ここで新菜と実良はお友達を作って遊んでて、かわいかった。
– Kowloon Park (九龍公園)には比較的新しい(2012年9月開設)Avenue of Comic Starsがあります。ローカルなアニメキャラの像が沢山並んでいて、子供も大人も楽しめます。Kowloon Parkに行ったらもちろんフラミンゴもお忘れなく。
– Hong Kong Park(香港公園)の遊び場やバードサンクチュアリは子供達のお気に入りでした。ローカルの方が絵を描いていたり麻雀していたりして大人も散歩していて楽しいです。
– 女人街の近くにあったSai Yee Street Gardenは小さい公園ですが、買い物疲れした足を休めて子供をのびのびさせるには十分でした。
– 三歳の娘は金魚街がお気に入りでまた行きたいと何度もせがまれて困った程です。翡翠市場の近くには三つも公園があります。
– 翡翠市場では実良さん大活躍。色々なところで愛想を振りまいてはお土産をゲットしておりました(汗)翡翠はどれも綺麗だったのですが、かえって何を買ったらいいのか分からなくなってしまい、結局買わずじまい。でも瑪瑙のカップが色違いで綺麗だったので、4つセットで買ってみました。小さい前菜とか入れるのにいいかなあ、と。前菜をかわいい器に入れるような食事結局作らないので使ってないけど。
– Avenue of the Starsを散歩した後は、East Tsam Sha Tsui(尖東)駅の上にある、Middle Road Children’s Playgroundがお勧めです。Avenue of the Starsから陸橋を登って少し歩いたところにあります。グーグルマップスで見ると結構AOSから距離があるように見えるのですが、5分程で着いたと思います。



友人と一緒に行ったセントラルのYung Kee restaurantでは一緒に行った友人がVIPセクションを予約していてくれたおかげでセミ個室で子連れでもゆっくり楽しめました。メインダイニングルームもちらッと覗いたんですが、結構カオスな状態で、自分達だけで入るには不向きかも…と感じました。でもローストはとっても美味しいです。個室リクエスト、出来ればしてみて下さい。こちらのレストランで、シンガポールでは見たことのない、黒ゴマロール(Black Sesame Seed Roll/黑芝蔴卷)という一品(デザート?)をお店の方が大人にはあんまりだけど、小さい子供は大好きなのよ~、とサービスしてくれたんですが、これが大ヒット。黒ゴマペーストをモチ状にして、巻いた感じで、確かに大人には不向きでしたが、子供達は争って食べてました。ほんのり甘い蒸し菓子、とっても助かりました。

私達はカウルーンに泊まっていたので、近くにあるiSquareのPraise House Congee & Noodle Cuisine でお粥を食べましたが、ここも美味しかったし、清潔でした。ベビーチェアはなかった気がしますが、うちの娘達は食べるのに必死で問題なかったです。確かMSGは使用していないと書いてあった気がするんだけど、確信が持てなくて、すいません。


その時に新菜、と名前の入ったハンコをハンコ街、Man Wa Laneで作ってもらっていたんです。それとおそろいのものを実良にも作って貰いたい、と思ったのでまた行って作ってきました。どこに行っても大抵ホテルに次の日の朝持ってきてくれるのは嬉しいですね。無事お揃いのハンコを作れました!赤メノウは家族や兄弟(姉妹)への愛を象徴する石だそうで、お気に入りです。いつか娘達に香港の話をしながら渡してあげるのが楽しみです。お店は幾つもあるんですが、両方とも適当に、気にいった石のあった場所でハンコを作ってます。どちらも満足な出来で、きっちりホテルに配達してくれました。その場で作って貰う事もできますが、子連れで待つって苦痛なので、お勧めしません。座るところもないし、近くに適当なお店ってのも余りないし。


The view from the Peak

The view from the Peak

I never take pics of food anymore, but the wonton noodles at the Peak was great!

I never take pics of food anymore, but the wonton noodles at the Peak was great!

Nina walking with Mila

Nina walking with Mila

Nina taking a pic of  a funky statue at the Avenue of Comic Stars

Nina taking a pic of a funky statue at the Avenue of Comic Stars

Nina at the Goldfish Market

Nina at the Goldfish Market

Nina with her sunglasses she picked out.  She's a teenager!

Nina with her sunglasses she picked out. She’s a teenager!

Nina and Mila's matching chop

Nina and Mila’s matching chop

Nina and Mila's carving

Nina and Mila’s carving

Hong Kong Disneyland with Toddlers 子連れ香港旅行記(1)

Back in November 2013, we took our two daughters to Hong Kong for a pre-Birthday celebration for Mila. We stayed the first two nights at Disney and another four at the Kowloon Sheraton Towers. Surprisingly, Hong Kong turned out to be a great travel destination with children. I was nervous about going to a large city with two toddlers, but we had a great time.
Hong Kong Disneyland is the smallest of all the Disney parks, and it certainly showed. Having been to Disney World in Florida, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, Hong Kong Disneyland was, well, “meh” for me. Both Florida DW and Tokyo DL/DS have wonderful food. I used to get super excited about planning all my meals there. Hong Kong DL food, MEHx2. The food was all cafeteria level at best. I mean, serving sushi is just a bad bad idea in a stuffy hot theme park.
BUT, the overall “meh” factor means it’s the perfect place to let your toddlers take the reins. There isn’t much for adults to get excited about, so you do what the toddlers want and don’t feel like you’re missing anything. Besides, it’s free for children under three, so it doesn’t matter if they are freaked out by the rides and don’t want to ride them. It’s not like you paid for them anyway. There were a few things Nina enjoyed: “It’s a Small World” (we went on it SEVEN times! Yes, in two days. Nina still sings the song absentmindedly while doing other things), walking around Toy Story Land and Disneyland Rail Road around the park. We circled the park a few times on the train, caught the Lion King show (with a frightened Nina), did The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride (with a terrified screaming Nina) and floated around on the River Cruise (which freaked Nina out at the end when the earthquake happens). We tried to do a few more, but Nina was shaken so much from the Carousel and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, that we decided to just let her enjoy the park and run around at her own pace. We saw Chip and Dale, Sleeping Beauty, Micky and Minnie, Stitch, and couple of other characters. Nina was fine at a distance, but wanted to be elsewhere as soon as they got close enough to touch. At lease there’s not much of a wait if you want photos taken. Not bad, considering you have to RUN everywhere in Tokyo, plus use all your brainpower to plan your FastPass schedule to squeeze in the rides. Since it’s not exciting for the adults, and once we learned Nina didn’t care about rides or meeting characters, we got to relax and let Nina and Mila have their fun without feeling like we were missing out. We chilled around the park, Nina and Mila took naps in our Disneyland rental stroller. The only thing to note about the stroller rental is that they are designed for older children, probably over 2. Mila is a solid one year old, so she could sit in it for a while, but the stroller was not structured for young babies. We didn’t know this, and didn’t bring our own, so Mila was in the Ergo for most of Disneyland.
There are two hotels at Hong Kong DL: Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and Disney Hollywood Hotel. We stayed at the Disney Hollywood Hotel, but honestly, if you are going to stay there, the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel seems much nicer. The building is gorgeous, with Cinderella themed chandeliers, and the restaurants looked better. The Disney Hollywood Hotel restaurants were just OK, and the service was not up to the typical Disney standard. We asked about reserving the Disney Dim Sum at the Crystal Lotus restaurant in the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and the staff at the Hollywood Hotel told me that we didn’t need to, but when we got there, we were told we needed to book a day in advance. The manager at the restaurant was generous and let us sample a couple of the Disney Dim Sum. They were great and definitely worth it for the kids. They polished them off so fast we could barely take pictures.
Overall, a great place to take small children, but I think we’ll wait until they are ready for the Disney lines and go to Tokyo DL next time so we can have fun together.

2人の娘達を連れて、香港へ行って参りました。香港DLは東京と比べても格段に狭いし食事もまあまあ、なレベルなので、東京DL経験者には結構ガッカリレベル(笑)ですが、小さいお子様にはピッタリです。3歳まではフリーなので、まだライドにあまり乗れなくても万事オーケー。平日に行けば殆んど並ぶこともなくライドに乗れます。私達も最高15分しか待たなかったので、いいペースで回れました。前回の東京DLに行かれた方と同じくうちの新菜はIt’s a Small Worldがお気に入りで、2日で7回乗りました(汗)キャラクター写真も余り並ばずに撮れますよ~。ザンネンながら、Stitchと写真撮ろうと思ったのに、新菜も実良も全力で拒否して撮らせてくれませんでしたが。折角眠りの森の美女もいたのに~。お姫様と並ばずに写真撮れる貴重な機会なのに、もったいなかった。母はちゃっかり撮りました。
香港DLにはHong Kong Disneyland HotelとDisney Hollywood Hotelがあるのですが、我が家はDisney Hollywood Hotelの方に泊まりました。ビルもちょっと暗めだし、食事もやっぱりまあまあなので、俄然Hong Kong Disneyland Hotelの方をお勧めします。ビルの格も何か違ったし、シンデレラテーマのシャンデリア(ガラスの靴が乗っててかわいい!)も素敵でした。こちらのホテルには飲茶を食べるためにだけ行ったので、お部屋はいてないんですが、雰囲気はこちらの方が良かったです。Hollywood Hotelも全部屋から花火が見えるので、最後までパークに残らなくてもいいし、ホテルは全体的に綺麗にしてあったしなのですが、なんとなくディズニースタンダードにまだ届いてない気がします。サービスがう~ん、だったんですよね。キャラクター飲茶の予約を入れたいと言っても、必要ないと言われて、行ってみたら前日予約要だっていわれたり。その時はマネージャーさんが出て来て、コースは無理だけど、いくつか選んで、出して下さったのでラッキーでしたが、ディズニーホテルで訊いてるのに…
苦労してゲットしたキャラクター飲茶。とってもかわいいし、美味しいです。うちでは1歳児と3歳児が余りにもがっつくので、親は一口しか食べられず。特にチキンリトル饅頭は白あん、ハスの実で作るやつ?が入っていて上品な甘さで美味しかったです。Crystal Lotusは香港在住の方に聞いても全体的に美味しいよ、とおっしゃていた通り、何を食べても美味しかったです。意外と高級感漂っていて、ビジネスランチい使われる方も結構いらっしゃるみたいです。外から見ると子供達を連れて行くのは少々肩身が狭いかな、という気にもなりますが、中に入ってみれば、ビジネススーツの人もディズニーだから、という事もあり、寛容で、楽しめました。だってディズニーホテルの中だものね。でも大人でも充分楽しめるクオリティは流石ディズニーです。

Toy Story Land Hong Kong Disney

Toy Story Land Hong Kong Disney

Nina heading into her favorite ride with Daddy

Nina heading into her favorite ride with Daddy

Disney DIm Sum.  Little men from space

Disney Dim Sum. Little men from space

Monsters Inc. favorite.

Monsters Inc. favorite.

Chicken Little.  Less known, but I love 'em

Chicken Little. Less known, but I love ’em

Three is a magic number 三歳がんばれ

Nina is suddenly making huge progress with her Japanese. Until now, everything seemed to be unconscious repetition. I speak. She repeats. She associates “inu” to dog, because I point at a dog when I said it. I wasn’t sure if she realized “inu” = “dog” in English. Same with her Chinese. She is about to turn three later in January and suddenly, she’s making a conscious effort to learn Japanese. We’ve always read Japanese books with her. I only read Japanese books, I’ve told her I can’t read English books, so she only brings me the Japanese books. She would listen, and sometimes repeat, but I didn’t know if she understood the book in full, especially some of the more difficult ones. Suddenly, she’s interested in words she doesn’t understand. She would ask “Mommy, what’s _____?” and I can give her the word in English and she goes, “Ohhhhhhh, OK.” Now, when she says “Mommy, can I have water please?” in English, I can ask her “Nihongo? (Japanese?)” and she thinks about it for a second before she asks again in Japanese. She’s starting to realize that I want to have a conversation in Japanese and tries to formulate sentences in Japanese using the limited vocabulary she has. It’s fascinating to see her make those efforts. Cool new development. We realize this is a big opportunity so we are thinking of a longer stay in Japan this year to boost this positive change. She used to confuse and combine “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” before (quarter Japanese, quarter Chinese, quarter English and quarter “Bah Bah Black Sheep”), but now each language is a separate song!
In terms of her Chinese, her Chinese teacher told me the same thing. In the beginning of the year, she only knew about 3 or 4 words of Chinese that she actively used. Now, she has a whole range of vocabulary and she’s making proper sentences with it. She has far surpassed me in my studies. More incentive to study for me! Three seems to be a magic age for our little one to start making new leaps in learning languages. Can’t wait to see what she does next!

最近の新菜の成長がすごい。日本語は今まで、聞いて、復唱して、が主だったのに、突如、彼女のなかで言語として、日本語を覚えようという気持ちが出来たらしい。例えば今までは、犬を見て、いぬ、とは言えても、実際に 「犬」を「Dog」と同じ意味の、違う言語の言葉として理解しているのかがはっきりしなかったんだけど、最近になって明らかに言葉と言葉をリンクして覚えようとしている。私は日本語の本しか読めないよ、といって日本語の本だけを読んであげてたんだけど、今まではただ聞いているだけだったのが、分からない言葉を認識して英語で何て言う言葉かを聞くようになった。しかも答えをちゃんと理解して覚えようとしている。「Mommy, Can I have water please?」と英語で言ってきても、「日本語は?」と聞けばちゃんと考えてから「お水下さい」というように。今まではテキトウだったのが、私には日本語で話しかける努力をするように。いや~、これは大進歩。でもそうなると、今までより本人にとって言語を覚えるのが自然ではなくなっちゃうのかな?この機会に日本に数週間帰るべきかを今検討中。きらきら星も英語、中国語と日本語をめっためたにして歌ってたのが、ちゃんと一曲ずつ歌えるように。

Stop confusing the hell out of me!  だからどっちの言葉で喋ればいいの!?

That’s what our driver (whom we had for maybe 2 days) must have been thinking while he drove us around Bali.

Most people who work in tourism in Bali speak Balinese, English, Japanese and probably at least one European language. It always fascinated me how people are able to learn so much and I always admired their abilities to put the fear of being wrong aside and speak.  I know I need to, and I just haven’t quite gotten there.

Anyways, during our family vacations, our language dynamic looks like this:

Me -Marc 95% English 5% Japanese
Me – Kids 60% English 40% Japanese
Marc -Kids 75% English 25% Japanese
My sister – Kids 50% English 50% Japanese
Me – My sister 5% English 95% Japanese
My sister – her husband 100% English
Brother-in-law – 100% English

This was clearly confusing to the driver and he often started his sentence in Japanese, got half the response in Japanese, the other half in English and wasn’t sure what to do.  I was trying to be consistent as well, but couldn’t figure out which would make more sense with him either.  I guess I should have asked which is more comfortable for him, or if he had a language he was trying to learn more and let him decide what he wanted to use. My sister and I tend to slip back into Japanese when we are together and I sometimes need to remind myself that my brother-in-law can’t speak Japanese.  It’s particularly difficult when you’re trying to speak more Japanese with your children.

Now that we’re home, we’re trying to readjust our family conversation rate to:

Me-Marc 95% English 5% Japanese
Me- Kids 60% English 40% Japanese ー> Me – Kids 20% English 80% Japanese
Marc-Kids 75% English 25% Japanese

My mother will visit us in Singapore to celebrate Nina’s birthday soon, which will hopefully help with the kids’ exposure to Japanese as well.  The saga of raising multilingual children continues…

I can see that Nina, at almost 3, is starting to make the conscious effort to speak and learn Japanese.  Things are getting more exciting for me too; now I really need to step up my game as well.  She has an interest in it. That alone is pretty amazing.






私:マーク 95%英語 5%日本語
私:子供達 60%英語  40%日本語
マーク:子供達 75%英語 25%日本語
妹:子供達 50%英語 50%日本語
私:妹 5%英語 95%日本語




Christmas Day in Bali/バリでのメリークリスマス

Day five in Bali was Christmas Day.  Sad thing about spending Christmas in Southeast Asia is the heat.  Holiday season doesn’t feel quite right without the brisk air.  I know, if any of my friends in NY or Boston read this, they’ll all curse me to freeze in hell.  To be honest, I say this now, but if I was actually in a blizzard in New York for Christmas, I’d only last about 5 minutes before begging to return to Asia.  At 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit, and yes, I put Celsius first), I feel cold now, need to go look for a sweater. My body has completely assimilated to this hot humid weather.  Anyways, I digress.

First sunny day since we landed!  Beautiful blue skies, the temperature suddenly spiked, THIS is the Bali we came for!  So our day started with the unwrapping of the presents.  The biggest hit this year was from my sister. She got Nina a Hello Kitty camera. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a screwdriver or a battery (it’s a kid’s toy after all) so we couldn’t do anything with it until we got home. After her camera, Nina quickly lost interest and we moved on to walk to the beach.  In Asia, you carry an umbrella to shield you not just from the rain, but the sun as well.  Once the sun is out, just a 5 minute walk can burn a child, so an umbrella is crucial.

What was supposed to be a 5 minute walk quickly ended up being half an hour.  When I travel I like to walk around and take in the different sites of places.  People have different lives in other parts of the world and the little snippets you get give different clues.  There were many manicured gardens, new buildings going up with bamboo support beams, beautiful wood carvings in the doorways.  All these things make a trip special. The kids didn’t love it, but hopefully, they are internalizing some aspects somewhere in their minds.

The first tragedy hit when we were sitting down for lunch by the beach.  Pulling his chair to sit down, my brother-in-law screamed in pain.  Either a wasp or a bee had stung his hand.  He was in pain for good few hours, but fortunately, no further symptoms.  Scary, considering I’m pretty allergic to bees and my kids haven’t been stung yet.  We were forced to move away from the place as fast as we could and sat down another half an hour later at a resort area for lunch. After lunch, we rented out the sun beds at a nice looking resort and hung out at the beach.  The perfect beach vacation day.  Ocean, kindle, nap and gelato.  Beautiful.

We had requested the villa owner to have Christmas dinner delivered to the villa, so we could enjoy a relaxing evening and she definitely came through!  When I originally asked, the owner suggested either a turkey or beef roast with Yorkshire pudding.  I’m not so much a British food fan, but more importantly, I wanted to have local people making local food, so we requested a not so Christmas menu.

On the menu:
Fresh salad with avocado, organic and locally grown with homemade dressing
Tom Yum soup
Babi Guling (Balinese roast pig dish) with all the trimmings and rice
Fruit basket with all sorts of local goodies like rambutan, mangoes, pineapple
Chocolate cake
Passion fruit sorbet
Organic homemade berry juice with ginger extract

They also sent over a helper to come and set up dinner, clean up and play with the kids during dinner. Great service!

The food was awesome, and we could see that the owners took an interest in arranging and preparing some extra dishes for us with a lot of personal touches.  Maybe not your typical Christmas dinner, but we weren’t expecting to have a standard Christmas anyways!

We were relaxing after dinner when we suddenly noticed the hundreds of large insects flying around above our heads and crawling on the walls.  They weren’t the biting kind, so it was just a nuisance and the owner suggested spraying any kind of bug spray and leaving them alone and they would quickly disappear.  The amazing thing was, two hours later, they seemed to have all fallen to the ground.  Singapore has a lot of geckos and they’re generally gross.  Some people defend them by telling me that they eat mosquitos and other bugs, but I’ve never seen them do shit…except shit on my floor.  In Bali, these guys were working hard.  Gross visual, but they were catching these buggers left and right.  It was kind of amazing to watch.  Nature at its best I guess. We just swept the remaining wings from the floor and moved on with lounging around.  Writing this, I’ve just realized how immune I have become to certain things.  I think couple of years ago, I would have run away screaming and locked myself in the bedroom.  You can get used to anything.  Apparently, these weird flying insects are seasonal, so not to worry for those visiting Bali, they don’t last that long either.  Really, few hours and poof!  Gone.



そろそろお腹が空いてきたね~、と言ってレストランに座ろうとした途端に、 妹婿が指を抑えてぎゃっと悲鳴を上げた。あぶかはちに指を刺されたらしい。幸い腫れなかったのだけど、相当痛かったらしくて数時間は指に氷をあてておりました。私と妹と多分子供達は蜂アレルギーなので、大急ぎでその場を離れて、結局その後30分程行ったところでご飯を食べました。其の後はもう完璧なビーチバケーション(キンドル、海、空、ジェラート)をゆっくり楽しめたので良かったけど、はち、(腫れなかったからあぶか?)怖いわ~。






Xmas dinner at the villa

Xmas dinner at the villa

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