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Monday, July 28, 2014

Top Penang Activities For Kids

We LOVE Penang. Other than the obvious tantalising FOOD options, Penang is a fantastic place to travel to with children in tow. Of course, the beaches at Batu Ferringhi, heritage trails and street art at Georgetown make for good attractions for families but beyond that, there are so many other kids-friendly places to visit in Penang that the major complaint from our travelling buddies and us is "Why is our Penang holiday so darn short???"



With so many sights to see, it can get a tad overwhelming so I thought I would put together a list of the best things to do with children in Penang.

Penang Escape Theme Park

This theme park is unlike the usual theme parks as there are no roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, spinning teacups or giant costumed characters. Instead, Penang Escape Theme Park is a theme park where Mother Nature takes center-stage, and one that is conjured up with generous doses of creativity and pure fun.


Billed as Malaysia’s first environmentally friendly theme park, it has more than 15 outdoor activities for both adults and children and combines physical challenges utilising existing jungle trees, such as rope bridges and climbing walls, with natural play activities including tree-climbing, caving adventure and even a free-fall experience. A must-visit attraction for not only kids, but adults too!

Location: 828 Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11050 Penang (Beside Penang Butterfly Farm)
Cost: Adults RM60 | Kids (4-12) & Senior Citizens (60 & above) RM45 | FREE for kids below 4 years old
Our experience: http://www.cheekiemonkie.net/2014/07/penang-escape-theme-park-time-to-play.html
Website: http://www.escape.my/

Made In Penang Interactive Museum

Made In Penang Interactive Museum (美因槟廊) opened in late 2013 and its main attraction undoubtedly is its three-dimensional interactive art. The ground floor houses the Diorama Gallery while the upper floor showcases the Penang 3D Gallery. The 3D wall murals cleverly uses various shadings and shadows to create tricks on the eye, with the paintings being brought to life -  and allowing visitors to invent their own imaginative (and often hilarious) poses.


Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be every adult's and child's favorite part of the museum, and all of us had a blast at going shutter-happy and poser-crazy here!

Location: No.3 Pengkalan Weld, 10300 George Town, Malaysia
Cost: Malaysian Residents RM15 | Foreigners RM30 | Child/Student RM10
Our experience: http://www.cheekiemonkie.net/2014/07/trick-art-fun-at-made-in-penang.html
Adventure Zone

Housed within Golden Sands Resort in Batu Ferringhi, Adventure Zone is your best bet to beat the Penang heat (or rainy day)... and one that promises to bring adrenaline levels to dizzying heights, literally. The 10,300 square feet indoor play facility is home to a 3-lane Wave Slide, as well as 3 heart-stopping Drop Slides.


For younger ones who cannot experience the thrill of the slides yet, there is a separate play area reserved for toddlers below 4 years old which is essentially a mini Indoor Play Gym that you would find in most Indoor Playgrounds here. Parents can keep a close eye at the nearby seating area, which comes complete with free WIFI, as well as a small cafe serving drinks and light snacks.

Location: Batu Feringgi Beach, 11100 Penang, Malaysia
Cost: For resort guests: Kids pay RM44 for half-day package, or RM22 per two-hour session
For Local visitors/Non-registered guests: Kids pay RM33 per two-hour session
*Adults enter free of charge with paying children
*Rates are subject to the prevailing government tax.
Our experience: http://www.cheekiemonkie.net/2012/06/penang-with-buddies-part-3.html
Website: http://www.shangri-la.com/penang/goldensandsresort/for-kids/adventure-zone/

Penang Hill and Funicular Tram Ride

If your child loves train rides, this is one ride that offers much more... in terms of steepness! Bukit Bendera, or Penang Hill, is situated 823 metres above sea level in the Air Itam area and a ride in a funicular tram is part of the experience in getting up to Penang Hill. For the adults, it is the perfect excuse to escape the heat as it is a cool 25 degrees up there.


Besides offering stunning views of Penang, the top of the hill has a kids playground, Indian temple, modest bird sanctuary, hiking trail options, as well as ample food stalls. Oh, and here's a tip: try to occupy the front of the funicular tram on your descent as kids will love speeding down the track with a full view of the track!

Location: Jalan Stesen Bukit Bendera, Ayer Itam, 11500 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Cost: Adult RM30 | Child (3-12) RM15 | Family Package (2A & 2C) RM70
*Prices above are for non-Malaysians.
Our experience: http://www.cheekiemonkie.net/2012/07/penang-with-buddies-part-4.html
Website: http://www.penanghill.gov.my/

Bao Sheng Durian Farm

Granted that durians may not be everyone's favourite fruit, but how often can one set afoot on a 6.7 acres durian plantation and join in guided Durian Tours that are conducted every morning and evening? Located in the Balik Pulau area - a 20-minute drive from Batu Ferringhi - the main attraction of the farm has got to be its durian buffets where one can try every different type of durians available, depending on season.


In addition to durians, Bao Sheng also grows several types of fruit trees such as mangosteen, rambutan, jackfruit, soursoup, and others, which will make it an interesting trek around the plantation for the kids. To complete the ultimate durian experience, one can even book a villa at the farm! The villas come equipped with air-con, hot shower and LCD TV with a Blu-Ray player.

Location: 150 Mk.2, Sungai Pinang, 11010 Balik Pulau, Penang, Malaysia
Our experience: http://www.cheekiemonkie.net/2012/06/penang-with-buddies-part-2.html
Website: http://www.durian.com.my/

Penang Butterfly Farm

Children of all ages will love it here, or at least my monkies did.The world's first tropical live butterfly sanctuary, with an average flying population of some 4,000 live butterflies of 150 different species, kids can get acquainted with so many different kinds of butterflies... and a wide variety of insects, reptiles, fishes and plants.


Be sure to check out the insect and reptile shows, as they allow children to see many of the insects and reptiles up close. They will love learning about camouflage and those brave enough can even cuddle some stick insects!

Location: No. 830, Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11050 Penang
Cost: Adult RM27 | Child (4-12) RM15 *Prices above are for non-Malaysians.
Our experience: http://www.cheekiemonkie.net/2011/12/penang-getaway-butterfly-farm.html
Website: http://www.butterfly-insect.com/index.php

Kek Lok Si Temple

One doesn't normally label temples as being kids-friendly but with Kek Lok Si, it actually has lots of activities to keep families entertained. Besides the beautiful architecture, there are turtles and koi fish to feed, wishing trees, animal statues to pose with and plenty of space of them to run wild.


Take the vehicular glass elevators to reach the top, where a massive bronze statue of Goddess of Mercy awaits. Do note, however, that there are lots of steps and narrow columns to climb, so leave the stroller behind.

Location: Air Itam, Penang, Malaysia
Cost: Entry to Kek Lok Si is free, but the ride in the glass elevators costs RM4 for a return trip per pax and free for children under 4 years old.
Our experience: http://www.cheekiemonkie.net/2011/12/penang-getaway-kek-lok-si-temple.html
Website: http://www.tourism.gov.my/en/sg/places/states-of-malaysia/penang/kek-lok-si?page=1

Penang Youth Park

This is one place that I did not have the chance to bring the monkies yet, but I have heard so much about it. Also known as the Penang Municipal Park, it sits at the edge of Georgetown and has huge playgrounds, skating park, walking trails, and even a water park with several fountains and play pools for children. All of these, FREE of charge! The great thing about the park is much of the park is covered with trees offering much-appreciated shade for families.

Photo courtesy of Penang Municipal Park
Location: Persiaran Kuari, Jalan Kebun Bunga, 10450
Cost: Free entry
Website: http://www.penangmunicipalpark.com

BONUS! If you intend to hunt down the famed street murals around Georgetown, here is a handy map of where most of the wall art are located. Have fun!


Truth is, there are so many more places to bring the children in Penang such as the Toy Museum Heritage Garden, Cornwallis Fort, the Spice Garden, Snake Temple, Botanical Gardens, night markets... and don't even get me started on the stuff to eat and places to shop.

Do you have tips for what to do in Penang with kids? Share them with me in the comments below!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fatherhood: Does it get easier?

You would most probably have read the roller-coaster of emotions I went through when I became a father for the first time. And I was a very proactive one too. I read a lot of books and magazines, went through loads of online research, and attended pre-natal classes with the wifey.


After all, bringing up a child is like running a small business. There is the constant thinking, thinking, thinking, planning, planning, planning and putting EVERYTHING together. And for Ash, I jumped at every opportunity to be close to him - changing diapers, bathing, playing, lulling him to sleep. Whatever it was, I would do it. Even making stupid faces and sounds that I never dreamed I would be doing before the monkies came along.

So by the time my second and third kids popped into our lives, I was like, "Oh been there, done that." Not to the point of being complacent mind you, but rather I found that my parenting style has evolved with the addition of more little lives into my family.


When I only had Ash, I did everything by the book - sterilised everything religiously, waited exactly six months  before I fed him solids, and stressing myself over the delayed appearance of his first tooth. With Ayd and Ale, I was more of "Oh, teeth? They’ll get them eventually" and "Solids? I guess getting them started earlier at five months can't hurt".

The thing is -  my world does not revolve around my monkies, and in this busy world of ours, we parents only have time to focus on what is truly important. I want to spend as much time hugging and playing with them, rather than spend time worrying about the things I have to do.

But that is not to say I do not acknowledge all the help that the books, magazines, online sites and even the hospital my monkies were born had provided me. I do, and I am forever thankful for that. And because being a first-time father can be nerve-wrecking business, Thomson Medical Centre and Nestlé NAN GRO 3 will be organising Daddy’s Boot Camp - a 2-day roadshow at Compass Point over the 2-3 August 2014 weekend.


Whether you are a first-time Dad, or a newly-minted one who is in need of some pointers on caring for your baby, come down and find out more about Weaning , Tui-Na for baby, and Dental care. In addition, Mrs Wong Boh Boi, Assistant Director (Clinical) and Senior ParentCraft Lactation Consultant of Thomson ParentCraft Centre, will be on-site to give parents tips on Paediatric Massage for Toddlers & Infants. Mediacorp artiste, Evelyn Tan will also be present to share her parenting experiences and how she juggles the challenges of family life with her hubby and four kids.

Or if you (and your baby) are up for a challenge, you can also take part in the Daddy Diaper Challenge, Baby and Daddy lookalike contest and Toddler Crawling Challenger! It will definitely be a fun-packed carnival-like atmosphere at Daddy's Boot Camp, with enough activities like a Big Bobby Car Race and a mini-kids Gym to keep all kids happy and busy. What's more, the first 300 visitors receive a FREE goodie bag too!

But at the end of the day and after all the fun, it comes down to this - involvement.

If you have been following our Cheekiemonkies Facebook page, you would most probably have seen this status update of mine:

I asked the boys on 2 separate occasions, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Ash: A father.
Ayd: I want to be just like you, a father!

I totally never expected them to echo the same answer! I would like to think all my effort in spending time with them had rubbed off in a positive way.

So my advice to new Dads is this: 

Put everything into practice. Feed more meals. Bathe them more. Change more diapers. Play with them more. Listen more. The rewards will be immense.

And maybe, just maybe, this whole Fatherhood business might just get easier.


Useful Information

Daddy’s Bootcamp
Dates: 2 & 3 August 2014 (Sat & Sun)
Time: 10.30am to 9pm
Venue: Compass Point (Next to Sengkang MRT)
Admission is FREE

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cavalia is Coming to Singapore!

Media Invite

The first time I heard about Cavalia and its premise, it got me all intrigued. 

Created by Normand Latourelle, one of the co-founders of famed Cirque du Soleil, Cavalia is an innovative multi-media and multi-disciplinary theatrical production that boldly explores the boundaries of equestrian arts and acrobatic feats.

Photo courtesy of BASE Entertainment

But the most astonishing part of the show? It is a lavish production involving 50 magnificent real horses and featuring 43 riders, aerialists, acrobats, dancers and musicians from all over the world - all coming together to present a fantastic demonstration of horsemanship that transports the audience into virtual atmospheres.

Photo courtesy of BASE Entertainment

Indeed, Cavalia is truly a show like no other. And it is coming to Singapore!

Given the magnitude of the show, its performing arena needs to be constructed from scratch out in the open as none the theatres here has the capacity to accommodate such a huge cast. And the search for the perfect spot ended at an empty plot of land beside Marina Bay Sands.


To witness the largest touring Bit Top tent in the world being erected on Bayfront Avenue was an experience in itself. With fairytale spires towering 10-storey high, Cavalia’s White Theatre Tent spans more than 2,440-square-metres and accommodates a colossal 50-metre-wide stage.


The media was given a first-hand look at the interior of the Big Top tent and it was huge! We were told that the gigantic stage area provides horses room to gallop at full speed, allowing them the freedom to express themselves in all their grace, strength and beauty.


Over the coming weeks, the 80-strong crew will begin putting together the different components inside the Tent and will build a true theater, where 2,500 tons of sand and earth will be used to create the stage!


Frankly, I can't wait. Count the wifey and monkies in too... more so after they caught a glimpse of what to expect from this teaser clip:



Amazing stuff, no? And yes, the stage will be flooded with water at some point too!

Photo courtesy of BASE Entertainment

Cavalia opens on 12 August 2014, so do stay tuned for more updates... especially when the horses touch down in Singapore!


Useful Information

Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Man and Horse
Venue: Under the White Theatre Tent, at Bayfront Avenue beside Marina Bay Sands
Dates: 12 Aug - 14 Sep 2014
Times: Tue - Fri: 7.30pm | Sat: 2pm & 7.30pm | Sun: 12pm & 5.30pm
*No performances on 13,19 and 26 August 2014
Duration: 2.5 hours (including 20 minutes intermission)
Tickets: $58, $88, $98, $148, $188, $208, $248 & $288 (excluding booking fees)
*To buy tickets, visit www.sistic.com.sg/events/cavalia0914
Discounts: 
- 10% discount for MasterCard Cardholders [Valid from 1 Jul 2014 till 31 Jul 2014] 
Applicable for Cat 5 - 9 only and for Tue - Thu & Sun Matinee only
- S$141 (Cat 5), S$111 (Cat 6), S$73.50 (Cat 7) for Family Pack - Buy 3 Get 1 Free! 
[Valid from 4 Jul 2014 till 31 Jul 2014]  Applicable for Cat 5 - 7 only and for Tue - Thu & Sun Matinee only
Website: www.cavalia.sg

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ASUS ZenFone 5: A value-for-money smartphone packed with goodness

Advertorial

I have to admit, one of the perks of being a blogger is getting nifty gadgets to review. But what's even better is when that gadget turns out to be something that I genuinely end up liking. Case in point? The newly launched Asus ZenFone 5.


At first glance, the Asus ZenFone 5 comes packed with plenty of juice: It has a sleek, minimalist design, array of features and perhaps most importantly, its budget price tag makes it an extremely attractive choice.

For S$219 - you can purchase it directly online from ASUS newly-minted ASUS ONLINE STORE - you get a 5-inch HD IPS display with scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, quad-band 3G and 2G, expandable memory up to 64GB (8GB onboard) and a 8MP camera on the back.


The great thing about the ZenFone 5 is that it supports dual SIM cards, which makes it really handy for people who have 2 mobile lines. Or should you want to keep your personal roaming line and a local data line for Net surfing while on holiday, the Zenfone 5 will appeal.


As a smartphone, it feels neatly-built, with its back cover sitting flush with the rest of the body. Personally, I felt extremely comfortable holding it in my palm, thanks to its curved edges. The little brushed aluminium trim at the bottom of the phone adds some flair to the phone, keeping it in line with the Zen-series design DNA.


The phone also features ASUS' all-new, exclusive mobile user interface, the ASUS ZenUI which is a huge departure from the previous versions. The new interface is touted to have more than 200 enhancements over the stock Android operating system. The new theme follows a flat look for all the icons and I love it. The redesigned icons and the change of fonts have contributed to a much more enjoyable experience.

Of note is the inclusion of two features called What’s Next and Do It Later.

What’s Next manages one's daily schedules, consolidating information such as appointments, reminders and weather updates into one single app.


So instead of having to view information from different apps (like calendar, reminders, weather apps), What's Next automatically pulls all these information and displays them on the lock screen, home screen and in the notification drawer. This definitely made it extremely convenient for me to see what is going on at a glance.


The intelligent thing about What's Next is that it is also able to remind me when I have a missed call and unread emails or text messages. There was one time when I was going to be late for an appointment, and the app actually prompted me to send out a text or give a call to the other party to let them know I will be late!

The other feature about What's Next that I found to be really useful is the countdown timer placed beside the next event on the lock screen. This may be minor, but it provided a handy way for me to keep track of my next appointment.


The other inclusion of the new interface, Do It Later, functions as one's personal secretary. It helps to keep track of important tasks when you are busy to attend to them at a particular moment.


Besides creating a To-Do list, the Do It Later app allows one to defer tasks to later time and date. For example, you may choose to reply to an SMS that was sent to you earlier in the day by selecting the 'Reply Later' option when reading the SMS. This will add the task into the Do It Later app, where you can click the 'Reply Now' button for a quick reply. The app works for missed calls and for articles or websites you want to read at a later time too.


As can be seen above, the tasks or reminders are listed as cards in the Do It Later app, which I can easily swipe away once I am done with them. An absolute gem of an app, if you ask me.

And in this day of social media, what would a smartphone be without a competent camera? Featuring an 8-megapixel camera, the ZenFone 5 boasts ASUS' PixelMaster Camera technology which combines hardware, software and optical design to deliver superior quality images in most scenarios.

For outdoor shooting with good lighting, the camera fared reasonably well and yielded me impressively-detailed shots.


Indoors-wise, finer details were also properly captured in the photo below.


But the most fun aspect of ASUS PixelMaster has got to the whole slew of features in the Camera app. Or at least that was what enticed the monkies most.


Notable ones include a depth-of-field effect, panorama, tilt shift, and HDR.

 Tilt Shift Mode
The Depth of Field Mode allows one to capture photos with sharp, isolated subjects set against a blurred background. Two images will be captured after the shutter button is pressed, and this is the result. Not too shabby.

Depth of Field Mode

And for selfie addicts, great news - you can use the the rear camera on the ZenFone5to snap a selfie in the Selfie Mode. All you have to do is indicate the number of people in the photo (up to 5) and once the camera has automatically detect the selected number of people are in the frame, it will begin a series of beeps before taking three photos. Yes, three because having the option to select the best shot is a must.


For me though, the best aspect of the camera has go to be its Low Light Mode. And it is extremely impressive! The mode allows one to to take pictures in really dim conditions, without the need of a flashlight.

As a comparison, I used the Samsung Galaxy S4 to snap a photo of Ash's LEGO Mixel in a dimly lit room. And this was what I saw... or could not see.


For the ASUS ZenFone 5, I enabled the Low Light Mode and this was what I got.


I am utterly bowled over! The photo, while grainy, was way much clearer and brighter than the previous photo. Here's a video of its Low Light Mode in action, just to prove that everything is as good as I have made it out to be.



The monkies though, were fixated on another mode - the GIF Mode. This allows them to capture simultaneous shots (up to 30 at one go) and the camera will automatically stitch them together... often to hilarious effect.


Overall, the ASUS ZenFone 5 offers great value for its price. If I did not know of its price beforehand, it would have been fairly easy to convince me that the phone would sell for twice its asking price, or more. The ZenFone 5 impressed me with its hardware and software. Battery life was decent too, with it able to last a day of average usage which included surfing, messaging, and using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Simply put, if you are on a budget and especially need dual-sim functionality (and do not mind having a camera with awesome features!), the ASUS ZenFone 5 is definitely worth a look. 

Want to know more, get filled in on more of the ZenFone 5's features and details HERE! Or get yours hassle-free from ASUS' ONLINE STORE, with FREE shipping!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Going Nutty over Nutella

Sponsored Post

Creamy chocolate and hazelnuts form one irresistible combination, even more so when they come harmoniously blended together to form Nutella! Just ask Ale.


If Ayd is the biggest Milo fan on this planet, then Ale must be the most fanatical supporter of all things Nutella, a hazelnut spread with that unique and delicious chocolaty taste.


Truth be told, the wifey and I too love to indulge in our Nutella so I guess that was how Ale got started on her Nutella addiction from a very young age!


The unique taste of Nutella can be attritbuted to the combination of roasted hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa. In addition, not only does Nutella contain no artificial colors or preservatives, it naturally has vitamins and is high in fibre and protein - thanks to its nutty Hazelnuts.


I will be the first to admit it - Nutella absolutely tastes like heaven straight out of the jar. But while it tastes good on its own, did you know it is the perfect (and sensible) thing for breakfast when paired with bread?


After all, breakfast IS the most important meal of the day. But it isn't always a breeze when it comes to getting the monkies finish their breakfast... more so for the boys who have to get up really early for school and the last thing on their minds is to put their jaws to work.

With Nutella on bread, it is a different story though.


The thing is when used in moderation with complementary foods, Nutella can form a part of a balanced meal for breakfast. It is a quick and easy way to encourage the monkies to eat whole grains, such as whole wheat bread and even, wholemeal crackers.


The monkies may think they are getting a treat for breakfast with Nutella on bread while I am actually helping nourish them with whole grains. Fuss-free? Yup. Win-win situation? Double confirm.


And though we may know about the great taste of Nutella, there are some things you may not know about this super addictive spread:

1. Nutella is actually sweet nut
An Italian bakery owner called Pietro Ferrero created the spread in the 1940s. Originally called Pasta gianduja, it was renamed Nutella in 1964, as a result of combining the English word ‘nut’ and the Latin suffix for sweet  - ‘ella’.

2. Nutella was sold in loaves orignally
Initially, it came in the form of a solid block, just so that people could cut a perfect slice to fit on a piece of bread.

3. There is a World Nutella Day
In 2007, two Italian bloggers took their love of Nutella to the next level and created a worldwide day of celebration dedicated to Nutella. Every year, 5th February is a day for dedicated for all things Nutella.

4. There is a right way to store Nutella
Contrary to belief, storing Nutella in the fridge will make spreading it extremely tedious. Store Nutella at a room temperature to experience at its best creamy consistency.

5. Nutella sells like hotcakes
One jar of Nutella is sold every 2.5 seconds worldwide. Definitely at a faster rate than a baby is born in Singapore. 'Nuff said.


GIVEAWAY!

Want to enjoy the great creamy taste of Nutella? We have two bottles of hazelnut and cocoa goodness (200g) to give away to THREE of our readers!


All you have to do is to answer the following question: 

"Name 2 ingredients found in Nutella."

Leave your comment either in this blog post, or in the corresponding Facebook post HERE.

Giveaway ends on 27 July 2014, 2359 hours and is open to residents in Singapore only.

Good Luck!

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