Dec 19, 2014

Cebu Pacific Air: More Fun & Upbeat than the Average Budget Airline

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Two weeks have passed since we arrived home from Cebu and all of us still cannot get over how beautiful the place is. We first paid our maiden visit to Cebu in 2011 and we had so much fun that when the chance came for us to visit it once again during this year-end school holidays, it was a no-brainer.

Thanks to the Philippines Department of Tourism and Cebu Pacific Air, we had the time of our lives during our stay in Cebu. Oh, and how can I miss out Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, the one accommodation that had the monkies not wanting to leave when the time came to go home. But more on that in a later post because every adventure has a beginning, no?


As a pioneer of the 'low fare, great value' strategy in the aviation industry, Cebu Pacific Air - the Philippines' largest national flag carrier - consistently offers low prices throughout the year. Which makes it a great option if you are thinking of flying into the Philippines from Singapore.

Cebu Pacific Air operates daily flights to Cebu and the flight journey takes approximately 3.5 hours. It was to be our first time onboard a Cebu Pacific Air flight and even though it is considered to be a budget airline, I was pleasantly surprised that the interior of the Airbus A319 plane was pretty new and more importantly, clean. In fact, one of the advantages of flying with Cebu Pacific Air is that they operate a relatively young fleet.


In case you did not know, the wifey and I love overnight flights as this means that the monkies will be able to sleep during the flight and awaken once the plane lands in the morning. The best timing to start our Cebu adventure as it is like getting an extra full day's worth of fun.


Considering the fact that it was a budget flight after all, there were no seat screens for entertainment so I guess sleep was probably the wisest choice.


Compared to other budget airlines, the seats were definitely much more comfortable and legroom was more than adequate. Coming from a person of my size, I guess that is saying a lot.


Soon after we took off, the monkies fell into a deep slumber which also meant that our flight journey to Cebu remained uneventful - the best scenario a parent can possibly hope for when travelling with children.


Yes, at least I did not have to administer that bottle of cough syrup.

Speaking of consumables, food and beverages are available for purchase on board. A hot meal costs about S$10.50 and if you pre-book your meal, a free drink is thrown in as well. I did not try the food but I heard the Chicken Adobo is one of their best sellers. As for service, the cabin crew were friendly, prompt and full of smiles throughout the flight.


Our return flight to Singapore was an 8pm one and after days of swimming and snorkeling in the sea, the monkies predictably fell asleep soon after the plane took off. Pure bliss!


And it was during this flight that something unique happened. The cabin crew suddenly conducted an impromptu game of scavenger hunt with the passengers. They had passengers show various items that they requested and the fastest ones got rewarded with Cebu Pacific Air prizes.  


It was my first time experiencing something like this and I thought it was really novel and fun to interact with passengers in this manner.


Aspiring to be more fun and upbeat than the usual budget airline, I guess it is no surprise that the Centre for Aviation (CAPA) recently awarded Cebu Pacific Air the Asia-Pacific Low-Cost Carrier of the Year for 2014.


If you are planning to trip to Cebu, or other parts of the Philippines, Cebu Pacific Air is a great choice for families - and the wallet, especially since the air fares do often form a major bulk of the travel budget!

Stay tuned to our adventures in Cebu! But first, here's a teaser:


For more information or to book your flights, visit www.cebupacificair.com. Get updated with the latest seat sales and promotions by following Cebu Pacific Air on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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Dec 17, 2014

Fly, Play & Dive: 3 Amazing Attractions for 1 Special Price!

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Here we are again. We are nearing the end of 2014 but yet, it only seemed like yesterday that I bought the boys' new school textbooks and spent tedious hours wrapping them in plastic. And now, the festive season is upon us and I have to do the wrapping all over again???

Luckily though, Christmas season remains one of my favourite times of the year. Simply because along with it comes a bumper crop of holiday activities in Singapore to keep the kids duly entertained. And for a whole day of complete fun, one does not need to look further than the State of Fun - Sentosa.

Among the attractions on Sentosa, the monkies' popular choice has got to be Universal Studios Singapore and S.E.A. Aquarium. Me? I've always wanted to avoid the parking charges and jams enroute to Resorts World Sentosa so with the lure of some DC Superheroes this holiday season, I just might fly right into Sentosa.

Well, technically I won't be doing the flying. The Cable Car will.


You see, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman have joined forces to confront The Joker, who has been up to mischief in Singapore. And Faber Peak Singapore has been earmarked as the mission-base of the Justice League.

In celebration of Singapore Cable Car's 40th year anniversary, the Cable Car cabins have also been given an entire superhero makeover. 45 cable car cabins have been decked out in ‘DC Comics Super Hero’ graphic wraps on both the cabins’ exterior and interior and ticket-holders have the power to pick from Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Batman-themed cabins.


But the experience is not merely cosmetic. Once visitors step inside the cabins, Asia’s First DC Super Heroes Cable Car Experience will allow them to 'fly' with the superheroes through in-cabin Augmented Reality technology, by downloading an app prior to boarding.

Various QR codes can be found within the cabins, and all they have to do is the scan the codes onto their smartphones. Then sit back, and watch the DC characters come to life on the smartphone and battle The Joker high up in the skies!


Scan the QR codes that appear on the seats of the cable car and you will be able to snap a selfie with them too!


But no, the fun does not end when the Cable Car reaches Sentosa. In fact, the joyride into Sentosa will only mark the beginning of an action-packed day!

For the first time ever, Resorts World Sentosa and Singapore Cable Car have banded together and offered a kick-ass triple bundle that will be too good to resist. The SCC-USS-SEAA TRIPLE ATTRACTION FESTIVE PACKAGE allows one to enjoy THREE amazing attractions - Cable Car, Universal Studios Singapore and S.E.A. Aquarium - for one awesome price!

Frankly, there is no better time to head down to Universal Studios Singapore or S.E.A. Aquarium than now - especially when the entire Resorts World Sentosa is decked out in a festive atmosphere. For starters, Universal Studios Singapore has already transformed into Santa’s Land for a Christmas celebration twinkling with snowflakes.


Happening for the entire month of December with extended park operating hours till 9pm, ‘Christmas at Santa’s Land’ in Universal Studios Singapore will showcase Singapore’s biggest snowfall as Hollywood Boulevard, New York Street and Sci-Fi City will experience magical snow every hour every day. Santa’s Toy Soldiers will also be performing at the New York Public Library, together with Meet & Greet opportunities with the jolly man himself, Santa Claus! The popular Christmas Sesame Street show – Sesame Street Saves Christmas – also returns with a bigger stage for more magical moments at Pantages Hollywood Theater.

What about fireworks, you ask? The Christmas Fireworks Spectacular will light up the night over Lake Hollywood on selected Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There will also be a nightly light show and video mapping at the New York Public Library too.

The fishes at the S.E.A. Aquarium are not to be outdone though, as the entire aquarium transforms into a magical marine kingdom for this festive season.


Jingle your way to the fishmas wonderland with daily Santa appearances, learning about schooling fish in The Great Christmas Trail for kids, hearing aquarists share fun insights on schooling fish as well as catching a glimpse of Scuba Santa and Elf underwater. It is truly going a be a very Merry Fishmas @ S.E.A. Aquarium!

And when the day is done, hop on back to the DC Superhero Cable Car to head back to the main island - for a stupendous end to an amazing fun-filled day!



The Triple Attraction Festive Package includes:
1. One Day unlimited Singapore Cable Car rides
2. One Universal Studios Singapore One-Day Pass
3. One S.E.A Aquarium One-Day Pass. 

Adult pays $108 (Usual Price: $151) so that is more than 25% in savings while a child (3-12 years old) saves 20% by paying only $88 (Usual Price: $110)!

You have to hurry though, as the promotion is valid until 31 January 2015. Buy your tickets at www.faberpeaksingapore.com or at Singapore Cable Car ticketing counters.


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Dec 16, 2014

Kids-Friendly Phuket #4: Elephant Trekking with Siam Safari

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When travelling with my monkies, I always try to look out for ways to give back to the local community - in whatever small ways that we can. Because not only does it provides educational opportunities for the kids, we are able to help certain communities in a non-commercial manner.

And during our holiday in Phuket, we found one such group - Siam Safari. At first glance, Siam Safari seems to be the usual tour operator hawking elephant trekking as its main selling point. 


But after some research and being on one its tours, I know now that not only is it committed to conducting its elephant trekking ethically, it channels its funds towards elephant conservation and provides jobs to the local tribe there.

In fact, Siam Safari is the only Elephant camp which has been certified by the Royal Thai Government in Phuket and Southern Thailand, which guarantees that that its elephants are well taken care of, in good health and the camp run under sustainable environmental management. It has also been recently recognized as the best elephant camp in Thailand by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports by receiving the 'Excellent Elephant Camp' standard with the highest score of all the elephant camps evaluated in Thailand.

So with that peace of mind, we embarked on our half-day 4-in-1 Safari (with Lunch) Tour. We were picked up bright and early from our hotel and transported to the Elephant camp on top of a mountain at Chalong Highlands. The great thing about the tour was elephant trekking was not the sole highlight - it gave us the chance to learn more about Thai culture and rural life in the villages. And first up, the importance of coconuts to the Thai people.


The monkies saw for the first time, how a coconut was de-husked and then cracked opened with a spear. The coconut 'meat' was then grated out of the coconut and squeezed to make coconut milk.


They even got to take a few sips of coconut water from a freshly de-husked coconut and while Ale didn't quite enjoy it, both Ash and Ayd would have finished the entire portion had I not stopped them in time.


Moving on, we learnt how the coconut milk was then processed. After boiling it for few hours, coconut oil forms. The oil is then siphoned away while the brownish coconut residue is dried and used in Thai desserts.


Considering that the main food staple of the Thai people is rice, it was apt that our next station featured on how rice was processed.


We were escorted to a hut where a huge contraption that looked like a see saw with a leg-driven mortar and pestle. This was the machine that was used to separate the husk from the rice in the olden days and as Ayd will tell you, it was hard work!


Just imagine a person pumping the pestle for a good 30 minutes, before using a pan to separate the husked rice from the naked rice.


And after witnessing how tough it was to de-husk rice, the monkies declared they would never let a grain of rice go to waste from now on. It's amazing what a live presentation can do.

We were herded into a sheltered area next, where a coffee break awaited.


I know Thai coffee and tea is always sweeter than what we are generally used to but for some reason, I love it. Especially if it comes accompanied with some coconut pancakes as well.


And while we were sipping our drinks and chomping on pancakes, we were treated to the sight of a water buffalo ploughing rice back in the good old days.


It was like a trip to days gone by, and it definitely captivated the monkies as it was their first time seeing something as primitive as this.


Okay, so they were actually captivated by the fact that they were able to ride on a wooden cart pulled by a buffalo. Yes, me included.


A Thai curry cooking demonstration was next and while there was not much cooking done due to time constraints, we were shown the actual ingredients that go into Thai curry paste.


And what was a cooking demonstration without sampling? The boys bravely walloped a small portion of curry (with rice) while the wifey and I had second helpings. Okay okay, so I had three helpings.


As we trekked deeper into the forest, I noticed a huge area was planted with rubber trees, which was the premise of our next stop. We were given a demonstration in how rubber tree tapping is done. Did you know the best time to harvest the rubber sap is from 2am onwards? And the rubber tappers have to do it quickly before the sun rises because it will be too hot by then and the sap dries up. Definitely tough work so the next time you complain about your work, spare a thought for these rubber tappers.


The interesting bit for the kids was when they got to see first-hand how the rubber sap flowed out when the tree bark was cut. Plus the process that it undergoes in order to be made into the material we know as rubber.


We then moved on the baby elephants where we were given a glimpse on how they are trained. The baby elephants are not suitable to participate in the trekking for obvious reasons so in the meantime, they start their learning journey by obeying commands. Commands like picking up objects with their trunks, kicking a ball, painting pictures and even playing the harmonica!


And the paintings that the baby elephants churn out show after show are also available for purchase from the shop. A percentage from every painting will go directly to elephant conservation work. So the young elephants are actually doing their bit for other elephants too!


Of course, a photo opportunity with the 2 adorable baby elephants wouldn't hurt too.


And for 100 baht, the monkies got to feed them a basket of fruits.


Then, it was time for the main highlight of the tour.


Before our elephant trekking commenced proper, we were given a short briefing on how to mount and dismount from an elephant, and the rules to observe while riding on one.


And then we were off!


The mahouts, name given to the men who ride elephants, are all from the Karan tribe and they all live in the Safari area itself, working at the rubber plantation and looking after the elephants every single day. The Karen are regarded as the best handlers of elephants due to their relaxed temperament and their culture includes hundreds of years of experience working with and training elephants. In fact, the mahouts and their respective elephants are paired from a young age and it will often stay that way until the elephant or mahout retires.


The elephant trekking lasted for about 30 minutes as we trekked through the back paths of the grounds. Considering how huge and heavy the elephant was, coupled with the misconception that elephants are clumsy creatures, I was surprised by how graceful its gait was and the ride was not quite like a roller-coaster one that the wifey had originally feared.


The high point of the trek was when we arrived at a spot for an unobstructed view of Chalong Bay.


And all too soon, our elephant trek came to an end... much to the disappointment of the monkies. But we definitely learnt a lot about the elephants from our mahouts during the duration of the trek.


And of course, parting is such sweet sorrow.


At least the monkies got to feed their elephants another basket of fruits before bidding them farewell.


Then it was time to trek some more - this time by foot - to fill our own tummies.


Our tour ended with a delicious Thai buffet lunch, which would not win any food awards but decent nonetheless.


At least the view from the restaurant was superb.


The monkies then squealed in delight as they got the chance to hop onto a tractor as it brought us back to the tour bus carpark.


I guess it is safe to say the monkies thoroughly enjoyed the three hour safari tour at Siam Safari, with the highlight obviously being the elephant trek. But I believe for the boys especially, they have taken away much more than the element of fun. Coming from a modern city like Singapore, it was their first time witnessing demonstrations of coconut processing, rice farming and rubber tapping up close and I think it formed a rather deep impression on them.

As for Siam Safari, I love how it is making a conscious effort in making a difference to help elephant conservation in Thailand. They ensure that all of its elephants are regularly checked and monitored by elephant veterinarians, and also help the local community sustain by offering job opportunities at the camp.

If you are worried about the ethical aspect when it comes to visiting attractions that deal with animals, Siam Safari seems like a great way to find some balance between supporting tourism, the ethical treatment of animals and learning about a different culture.


Useful Information

Siam Safari's 4-in-1 Safari (with Lunch) Tour
Adult: THB2,300 | Child (4-11): THB1,500 | FREE for 3 years and below
Website: www.siamsafari.com/package_detail.php?id=85


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