Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Singapore Beach Getaway: Lazarus & Seringat Islands

(Daddy suntans)

It was a wondrous sight. 

Surreal even, as all of us first set our eyes upon this.


You see, if someone had shown us the photo above 45 minutes before that and told us that this stretch of beach paradise can be found in Singapore, I would have laughed my head (and rear) off.

Well, it turns out that it is really in Singapore. Although technically, the beach is not on the main island but part of the Southern Islands.

Say hello to Lazarus Island, a little-known island tucked quietly between St John's and Kusu islands. Also known as Pulau Sakijang Pelepah, which means 'Island of One Barking Deer and Palms', there are no direct ferries to the island. But the good news is that it is linked to St. John’s Island by a paved bridge, so that was where we headed during one of the weekends.


The Southern Islands are managed by Sentosa Corporation, and they can only be reached via Singapore Island Cruise which is the one and only company in Singapore that provides daily ferry transport services to Kusu Island as well as St John’s Island.

Board the ferry from Marina South Pier, where you can purchase the tickets before departure. A two-way ticket costs $18 for adults and $12 for children aged between 1 and 12 years old. (The ferry schedule can be found at HERE.)

The journey from Marina South Pier to St John's island took about 30 minutes and once we set foot on the island, we were all ready to begin our little adventure!


But first, we were waylaid the history of St John's Island which fascinated the boys pretty much. The island has served as a quarantine station for infectious diseases such as cholera and leprosy in the late 19th century, as well as housing Prisoners of War (POWs) during the Japanese Occupation, with gruesome tales of a human chessboard where prisoners were used in place of chess pawns. It then became a penal settlement housing political prisoners and ring leaders of secret societies, before turning into a rehabilitation centre for many of the nation’s opium addicts. Definitely one chequered history for a small island.

Of course, there was still the small matter of another island to be conquered and the boys soon got Lazarus Island back in their minds. From St John’s Island’s jetty, we turned left to head towards Lazarus Island.


As you can probably see from the map above, access to Lazarus Island is via a paved bridge.

Paved Bridge in the distance
Lazarus Island on the opposite side
Along the way, there are signs indicating that Lazarus Island is currently under construction and that the public is discouraged from going onto the island.


Well, for sure we were not going to let a little sign deter us from stepping onto the island. LOL!


Even before reaching the beach, there was something completely different about the entire place. It could be due to the lack of buildings and vehicles that added a much needed tranquility to the surroundings, with the monkies pausing momentarily along the way to pick tiny casuarina fruits or poke at the leaves of the mimosa plant.


As we came to the end of the paved bridge, we caught sight of a stretch of beautiful rocky shore along Lazarus Island.


Amazing sight, no? We were rather awestruck by the turquoise waters, something that I have never imagined I would see in Singapore waters.

A stretch of beach (Beach 1 in the map above) then came into our view soon after we crossed the bridge. It is rather small, and not exactly the pristine white sand that I had envisioned it to be.


Ahh, but that was because the real gem lay further inwards. We continued on the pavement, and soon rows of palm trees greeted us.


We walked through that, and this was it.


An 800-metre stretch of beach paradise!


Yes, this natural sandy beach (Beach 2 in the map) is the most remarkable feature of Lazarus Island. Or I should say, it is the only feature of the island.


But no matter to the monkies, who were bent on testing out the waters the moment we laid down our bags.


If you are looking for crystal clear seawater to rival that of the Maldives or even Pulau Redang, then you can look away now. Granted that the water is not exactly what overseas beach resorts can offer but compared to the likes of East Coast Beach, Pasir Ris Beach or Sentosa Beaches, I have to say the seawater at Lazarus Island is as good as it gets.


Not that the monkies minded anyway, as the beach became their large playground for the next few hours.


Yes, for the next few hours.

I had originally thought that they would get bored with the beach after the 1-hour mark but guess how long we ended up staying on the beach? A good 2.5 hours!


And as you see from the photos, the beach was rather deserted. And this was on a Sunday. Except for a few private yachts and mainly foreign beach-goers, we practically had the entire beach to ourselves.


If you ask us, this beach is definitely attractive haven of peace. Besides being home to a beautiful sandy beache and inviting waters, Lazarus Island is a great spot for a laid-back escapade from the city hustle.



But hang on, we were not done with the island just yet.


A short walk further north will bring us to yet another island - Seringat Island. The southern end of this island merges with Lazarus Island and is mostly undeveloped. For now, that is. The island has been zoned for residential use under the Ministry of National Development's Land Use Plan so it may just be a matter of time before the rustic nature of the place is destroyed.


For now though, Seringat remains relatively isolated and tranquil... which made us plonk down our stuff and had an impromptu picnic right on the ground!


For a day's worth of off-the beaten-track kind of fun, Lazarus Island is truly one gem that offers a peaceful day getaway from the mainland. After all, how many such serene places can we still find in today's modern Singapore? The island boasts a pristine beach and scenic views, so I highly recommend a visit before the place loses itself to the effects of modernization.


Here are a few tips if you are planning a trip to Lazarus Island:

  • There are no shops on St John, Lazarus and Seringat Islands. So do stock up on food and water before you depart Marina South Pier, where there is a small eatery and shop.
  • Save for one pavilion, the beach at Lazarus island is not sheltered at all. So bring along plenty of sunblock and caps for a day out at the beach.
  • There are no toilet or shower facilities at the beach. The nearest toilet facility is housed in a building next to the private jetty on Lazarus Island, which is a 5-minute walk away. There are toilets on St John's Island though.
  • From the St John's Island jetty, it is approximately a 20-30 minute walk to the beach on Lazarus Island. So do buffer enough time when you are making your way back, or you might just miss your ferry!

Useful Information

How to get to Lazarus Island by Ferry 
Singapore Island Cruise operates ferries from Marina South Pier to St John's and Kusu islands. Visit www.islandcruise.com.sg/ferry-schedule.html for the detailed ferry schedule. Prices for a two way trip are fixed at $18 for adults and $12 for children aged 1 to 12 years old. No advanced or prior bookings needed.

The ferry will head to St John's island first before going to Kusu Island. Journey from Marina South Pier to St John's island takes 30 minutes and 15 minutes from St John's to Kusu.

Singapore Island Cruise 
#01-04 Marina South Pier
31 Marina Coastal Drive
Opening Hours: 8am - 4.45pm (Ticketing booth closes at 3pm daily)
Tel: 6534 9339

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Financial Tips on Planning for a Family Holiday

(Daddy blogs)

I was recently asked by MaybeBaby to contribute an article on some of the financial aspects that parents should take note of when it comes to planning a holiday with the family, especially with young children. And here is my article, reproduced in full.


What financial tips can you offer when planning a holiday with a newborn? Would a packaged tour or free and easy trip be more economical?

The fantastic thing about travelling with a newborn, or toddlers who have not started formal schooling for that matter, is that you can go on a holiday during non-peak periods! Say goodbye to joining in the holiday rush during the school holidays break. Even better, airlines tend to roll out more promotions during the off-peak months. So act fast whenever an airline sale rolls along!

Compared to just traveling as a couple, it is not so straightforward when it comes to picking either a packaged or free & easy trip with a newborn in tow. No doubt a packaged tour might seem to offer more bang for your buck, but a packaged tour usually means changing hotels almost every night, waking up early to catch the tour bus and being rushed from attraction to attraction. All these, at the risk of lugging along a cranky newborn and ruining the holiday? No thanks.


I have a one-year-old baby and a 6-year-old pre-school child. What should be taken into consideration when purchasing air tickets for a family holiday?

Admittedly, airfares often take up a large chunk of the travel budget and there is no way around this except to pay close attention to the various airlines for periodic sales.

Infants under two years old are charged a percentage of an adult airfare (it varies from airline to airline). So parents can request a bulkhead seat onboard so that a bassinet can be attached to the bulkhead wall, thereby allowing your baby to more easily nap. Unfortunately, bulkhead seats are not guaranteed even though you have paid for your infant’s air ticket as they can be assigned not only to families, but also to people with disabilities and priority customers.

So if you do really wish to secure that bulkhead seat in advance, it may be worth calling the airline to plead your case. Else, you may try checking in at the airport early and request your seating preference.


What type of accommodation should parents consider when travelling with newborn? Are budget hotels or caravans suitable?

Standard, or even budget, hotel rooms might be okay for a night or two, but if you're vacationing for a week, it makes the most sense to go with an apartment instead of a regular hotel. You will have a full kitchen for preparing your baby’s food and storing snacks and drinks, a proper dining table for mealtimes, and a washer/dryer for the inevitable baby laundry you will have to do. Do check out some of the gorgeous apartments that are available from Airbnb and Roomorama and you will find that some of the 2-bedroom options can be even cheaper than standard hotel rooms!

Caravans offer a different level of experience to one’s holiday and while I totally recommend every family to give it a try at some point, I do feel that this form of accommodation is more suited to families with older children.


I have a one-year-old baby and a 6-year-old pre-school child. How do I keep my children entertained throughout the trip without splurging?

Planning ahead is always key to any holiday with children. Ever since I became a parent, the first step in choosing any holiday destination is whether there are adequate children-friendly attractions and activities to keep my children occupied. And by that, it does not necessarily have to be the usual high-priced theme parks, museums or attractions.

What I usually do before a trip is to research on the various free playgrounds and parks around our accommodation so that we can let the kids run wild there. Also, keep a lookout for events and festivals that may coincide with your time there, suss out the weekend markets, find a park and have a picnic – there is so much free stuff to be done.

Or if you still plan on doing the more touristy stuff, countries usually have travel discount cards for tourists which offer bulk discount rates on various attraction entrance fees. And the savings do add up a fair bit.


How much travel coverage/insurance is considered sufficient for a holiday with a newborn? Would a basic family plan from most insurance companies suffice?

You may think that travel insurance is just another unnecessary cost, but the truth is no one should ever travel without it. Especially when travelling with young children.

When it comes to evaluating a sufficient travel insurance coverage, one important factor is your holiday destination. Countries in Europe and North America have notoriously high medical costs, especially since foreigners are not privy to any medical cost subsidies. Not to mention that should an emergency evacuation back to Singapore be required, the costs will be astronomical. So it makes more financial sense to go with a plan that offers a higher coverage for the entire family if you are travelling to faraway countries.

For nearby countries (less than a 4-hour flight away), a basic family plan should suffice. As always, it is a good idea to compare travel insurance policies among different companies to make sure you're getting the best cover for the entire family. Different companies offer varying levels of cover and may also have varying rules and restrictions when it comes to covering dependents.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter Festival at Universal Studios Singapore

Media Invite
(Daddy hunts)

This Easter - starting from Good Friday on 18 April until 13 May 2014 - witness the Hollywood and New York Streets at Universal Studios Singapore transform into a giant Easter Egg Island!


There will be loads of Easter-related activities for everyone and for 70 beneficiaries from the Metta School, Easter came early last Saturday as they got the exclusive opportunity to hunt down more than 2,000 eggs with candy treats hidden across the theme park. 


The children and youths, aged 7 to 18, started the day with a hearty buffet breakfast before embarking on the first-ever egg hunt activity at Universal Studios Singapore. And the monkies were fortunate enough to join in the egg-citing hunt!


Just for the Easter long weekend (18-20 April 2014), visitors can also participate in the park-wide egg hunt by signing up for the Easter Weekend Special. The experience consists of an Easter Breakfast Buffet at Marty’s Casa Del Wild Food Court and of course, a search for the 2,000 candy-filled plastic eggs hidden around the theme park.


Talk about putting all of one's eggs in one basket.

But suffice to say, every single child enjoyed the massive egg hunting expedition!


In fact, I think they must have filled their baskets in record time - under 2 minutes flat. No wonder they were on such a sugary high.


Besides the egg hunt, children at the Easter breakfast buffet will get to indulge in some egg-painting handiwork too... all to keep them busy while the parents can gorge on the breakfast spread freely I reckon.


For me though, do you know what was the best part of the breakfast? It was entering Universal Studios at 8am and beating the crowds to the popular rides first when the park opens to the public at 10am!

So yes, the boys got their adrenalin fill at the Transformers and Revenge of the Mummy (their first-ever!) rides before the queues kicked in. Which gave them enough time for other forms of entertainment, including a very special performance just for the Easter period.


The Easter Eggstravaganza performance features the - who else - Easter Bunny who will be showing off his amazing drumming skills on New York Street.


And together with his entourage of dancers, drummed up a storm he surely did!


And do linger around after the performances, as there will also be meet & greet photo-taking opportunities for visitors!


To be honest, Ash and Ayd were expecting the ultra-cool Easter Bunny from Dreamworks' Rise of the Guardians instead... which is incidentally one of their all-time fave animated movies to date. But that is not to say the cute Easter Bunny at USS suffers from a lack of fans. At least Ale is one of them!


You have to be quick though - the Easter Bunny will hop away on 13 May 2014 while the Easter Breakfast Buffet only happens this long weekend for three days. More details below:

Easter Weekend Special at Universal Studios Singapore
Dates: 18, 19 & 20 April 2014
Breakfast Times: 8am - 10.30am
Prices: Adult $118 | Child $93 | Senior Citizen $81
*Prices include the following:
- 1-Day Pass to Universal Studios Singapore
- Easter Breakfast Buffet at Marty’s Casa Del Wild Food Court
- Early entry to the park at 8am onwards for Egg Hunt followed by breakfast
For Annual Pass holders, adults pay $55 while kids & senior citizens pay $45.
Website: www.rwsentosa.com/Homepage/Promotions/EasterFestival/tab/Promotions#uss

Monday, April 14, 2014

10 Activities for Kids this Easter 2014

(Daddy compiles)

The Easter long weekend is near, and there is no better excuse than to spend some quality time with the family... with some of these activities for the kids, perhaps?


Tulipmania
14 Apr - 4 May 2014; 9am - 9pm
Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay
Admission charges apply. Click HERE for rates.

The hugely popular Tulipmania is back! This year, Asia's biggest tulip display depicts a Dutch cityscape of 50,000 assorted tulip varieties in a stunning array of colours. What's more, get to meet Miffy and snap a photo with her too! Read more about our experience HERE!

Easter Egg Hunt with Miffy 
20 April 2014 (Sunday)
Egg Hunt Sessions:
11am - 12pm (Registration opens 10:30-10:45)
1pm - 2pm (Registration opens 12:30-12:45)
3pm - 4pm (Registration opens 2:30-2:45)
Eligibility: Children 3-12 Years Old (3-6 years old require one parent supervision)
*Registration will be done in Flower Dome.


For more information, please visit HERE.


Eggy Day Out at Jurong Bird Park
18 - 20 Apr 2014; 8.30am - 6pm
Adult $25 | Child $16 | Senior Citizen $10

Revisit the feathered wonders and splendours of Jurong Bird Park. Go on specially curated tours and discover the park in a different light. Even better, children get 50% off admission rates this Easter long weekend! Simply flash the coupon below at the ticketing counter to enjoy this offer.


Egg Treasure Hunt
Kids can grab a treasure map and use the clues on it to hunt down 8 giant eggs around the park. Perform a task at selected stations to receive chocolate eggs or answer a simple question at other stations. Complete the map to receive a special treasure!
Dates: 18 – 20 April 2014
Time: 10am – 4pm
Venue: Head to the Activities Registration Booth, Penguin Coast to collect the treasure map and egg carrier.

Lory Loft Behind-the-Scenes Tour
Venture into the world’s largest Lory Loft flight aviary and learn about these chatty parrots, their habitat and diet. Get hands-on and prepare your own lory feed for an up-close feeding frenzy with these birds!
Dates: 19 & 20 April 2014
Time: 9.30am (30 mins)
Registration: Starts from 8.30am at the Activities Registration Booth, Penguin Coast. Slots allocated on first-come, first-served basis. On-site registration closes 30 mins before tour.

Junior Eggs-pert Tour
Go on a tour of the Bird Park's bird nursery, the Breeding & Research Centre, where eggs are incubated and chicks are hand raised by “bird nannies”.
Dates: 18 – 20 April 2014
Time: 10.30am (15 mins)
Venue: Breeding & Research Centre
Registration: Not required.

Egg-lympics
Let the games begin! Little ones, take part in egg challenges and win medals for being an egg-lympian. Be enchanted by the half time magic show and end off with an egg-mazing finale!
Dates: 18 – 20 April 2014
Time: 1.30pm (30 mins)
Venue: Pools Amphitheatre

Eggs-periment!
Learn more than a thing or two about eggs through fun experiments with “explorer” Dr Squawk. With the help of a “bird nanny”, she will show you how a chick feeding is done!
Dates: 18 – 20 April 2014
Time: 11.45am and 2.15pm (30 mins)
Venue: Breeding and Research Centre, Junior Eggs-pert Room
Age limit: 6 – 12 years old
Registration: Limited spaces only, registration required at the Activities Registration Booth, Penguin Coast. Alternatively, click here to register online. Slots allocated on first-come, first-served basis. On-site registration starts from 8.30am and ends 30 mins before session. Online registration closes 1 day before session and participants will receive a confirmation email.

Didi & Dodo Meet-and-Greet
Meet the chirpy egg mascots Didi & Dodo and take a photo with them to commemorate your Eggy Day Out!
Dates: 18 – 20 April 2014
Time: 12noon & 2.30pm (30 minutes)
Venue: Jurong Bird Park entrance

Celebrity Eggs-cursion
Go on a mini park excursion with your favourite celebrities!
18 April 2014
English Trail Guide: MediaCorp Class 95FM DJ Glenn Ong
Mandarin Trail Guide: MediaCorp Artiste Bryan Wong
19 April 2014
English Trail Guide: MediaCorp Gold 90.5FM DJ The Flying Dutchman
Mandarin Trail Guide: MediaCorp Love 97.2FM DJ Leelian Chua
20 April 2014
English Trail Guide: MediaCorp Class 95FM DJ Glenn Ong
Mandarin Trail Guide: MediaCorp Love 97.2FM DJ Leelian Chua

Time: 4pm & 5pm (60 mins)
Registration: English & Mandarin tours run concurrently. Registration starts from 1pm at the Activities Registration Booth, Penguin Coast. Slots allocated on first-come, first-served basis. On-site registration closes 30 mins before tour.

For more details, visit www.birdpark.com.sg/eggydayout/


Easter Festival at Resorts World Sentosa
18 Apr - 13 May 2014; 10am-7pm daily
Resorts World Sentosa
Normal admission applies


Universal Studios Singapore

Easter Weekend Special (18 to 20 Apr 2014; 8am - 10.30am)
It's the best time to put all your eggs in one basket! Participate in USS' park-wide egg hunt and feast on its special Easter breakfast buffet and egg painting activities before you continue your day in the park. Our experience HERE.

Easter Egg Island (18 Apr - 13 May 2014)
Catch the Easter Bunny as he shows off his drumming skills and meets his fans.

S.E.A. Aquarium

S.E.A.A. Bunny (18 Apr - 13 May 2014)
Take photos with a diving bunny at the following timings:
10.45am - 11.15am - Shipwreck Habitat
1.15pm - 1.45pm - Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora/Open Ocean Habitat
3pm - 3.30pm - Open Ocean Habitat
4pm - 4.30pm - Shipwreck Habitat


The Great Egg-Venture
18 Apr - 5 May 2014
Sentosa Harbour Front
Normal island admission applies


Come celebrate Easter at the Sentosa Harbour Front with your families and friends from 18 April to 11 May 2014, and be intrigued by the galore of Easter-themed activities and promotions. It will be Singapore’s grandest Easter Fiesta yet! Be part of Singapore’s biggest egg hunt in The Great Egg-Venture! Hunt through the nooks and crannies of the Sentosa-HabourFront precinct for 100 giant eggs, each measuring 1.5 metres by 1 metre, and stand to win prizes! For more information, visit www.shba.org.sg/events/easter-2014/the-great-egg-venture.html

Fort Canning Spice Trail
19 Apr 2014; 4pm - 5pm
Fort Canning Park
FREE; Pre-registration required


Participants will be taken on a guided tour of the Spice Gardens, which was once the site of Singapore’s first botanical gardens and now planted with many herb and spice plants including those with medicinal value. Some of the plants in the Spice Gardens include nutmeg and clove, which are used in various cuisines. For registration and enquiries, please call 6636 2393 or email elaine_pang@nparks.gov.sg.


The Day the Earth Died
18 & 19 Apr 2014; 2-4pm
Gardens by the Bay, The Canopy
FREE

Commemorate Earth Day with your family and through a very special program, learn how to take care of Earth and know first-hand what it would be like, if we do not take care of our planet Earth.

Singapore Maritime Trails
19, 20, 23, 26, 27 & 30 Apr 2014; 9am - 12pm
Pick up & meeting point: Swissotel, Main Lobby
FREE (Pre-registration required)

The first of a series of Singapore Maritime Trails will bring you on a journey that tells the story of the progress of Singapore’s maritime industry through a guided tour to Fort Canning, Boat Quay, Waterboat House, and other historical maritime landmarks.

Registration is compulsory. Please call +65 63255707 (Tuesdays to Sundays, 9am – 5pm) or email enquiries@maritimegallery.sg with the following information: 

• Name of Participant
• No of Pax (including participant)
• Handphone number
• Email address

For more details, visit www.smw.sg/singaporemaritimetrails/index.html


Dinosaurs: Dawn to Extinction
25 Jan - 27 Jul 2014; 10am - 7pm
ArtScience Museum
STANDARD: Adult S$24 | Senior Citizen (>65 yrs)S$19 | Child (2-12 years) S$12
SINGAPORE RESIDENTS: Adult S$18 | Senior Citizen (>65 yrs) S$16 | Child (2-12 yrs) S$11

Featuring more than 400 fossils and models, as well as over 50 original artworks, this first-of-its-kind exhibition combines four exhibitions from the renowned American Museum of Natural History, San Juan National Science Museum, SCI! Expo at Monash University and artist Peter Trusler.

“Dinosaurs: Dawn to Extinction” will take visitors on a journey from the Precambrian, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous time periods, offering a refreshing and in-depth journey into the pre-existence, existence, rise and extinction of dinosaurs. Through a timeline thread, visitors will be transported more than 600 million years back in time to learn the unique story of what came before and after the dinosaurs, and gain a deeper understanding on how these species evolved and adapted to changing environmental conditions. Read my review here: www.cheekiemonkie.net/2014/02/dinosaurs-dawn-to-extinction-artscience.html & visit HERE for more information.


Rapunzel
Now until 30 Apr 2014
Mon - Fri: 10am, 2pm | Sat, Sun & PH: 11am, 2pm
DBS Arts Centre - Home of SRT
Various Ticket Prices

Get tangled up in this musical fairy tale with a twist, and join Rapunzel as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, helped by her zany friends Montague the Prince, his sidekick, Chester the Camel, Hugo the Armadillo and Harriet the Roadrunner. Along the way, Esme the Witch, who has kept Rapunzel a prisoner in a lonely tower, also learns a lesson or two about the parent-child relationship, friendship and love. For tickets, visit HERE.

Seeing is Believing: Unusual Stamps exhibition
Now until 4 May 2014
Mon 1pm - 7pm | Tues - Sun 9.30am - 7pm
Singapore Philatelic Museum
Free admission for Singapore Citizens & PR

Have you seen stamps that are made of materials other than paper? Come and view a display of unusual stamps from the museum's permanent collection from Singapore and overseas. Discover quirky features on these little treasures that tickle your five senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch.

Put your nose to stamps that smell of familiar scents like flower, coffee and chocolate. Feel stamps made of different materials such as flockage, wood, silk and lace. See stamps that glow in the dark and those that feature 3D images. Listen to stamps that can play the national anthem, folk songs or even narrate a poem. There are stamps that even taste of chocolate!


OR, if you prefer to stay at home, how about some Easter Eggs DIY?

We have made our very own colourful Easter Eggs in the past and the monkies loved them! For a step-by-step guide on DIY Easter Eggs, visit www.cheekiemonkie.net/2012/04/easter-eggs-diy.html


HAVE FUN!

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