Jul 23, 2019

5 Must-visit Attractions in Kyushu

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If you have been following my Instagram, you will know that we visited Kyushu during the June school holidays. Kyushu consists of 8 prefectures (inlcuding Okinawa) so it is HUGE, and definitely will require mulitple visits to see everything. A lot of Kyushu's attractions have to do with history and lush nature so it is a welcome change compared to modern cities like Osaka and Tokyo.

Fukuoka city is the main gateway to Kyushu, and that was where to flew to from Singapore. There are tons to explore - from the multicultural metropolis of Fukuoka to the cherry-blossom adorned slopes of Kumamoto Castle, and from the shores of the smoldering volcanic island of Sakurajima to the rejuvenating hot springs of Beppu. 


We had originally planned to spend 10 days in Kyushu but unfortunately, our holiday was cut short due to the passing of my grandfather-in-law. As we had to fly back home on the fourth day, we decided to change our itinerary and visit the most famous attractions in Kyushu... even if it meant driving for hours. 



So while I cannot provide a day-by-day Kyushu itinerary, here are the attractions we managed to visit during our short visit... which in my opinion, should NOT be missed if you are planning a trip there.

TAKACHIHO GORGE
Miyazaki Prefecture


Oh Takachiho Gorge, what a gorgeous beauty you are.


Takachiho Gorge was formed from the lava of Mount Aso volcanic eruptions 100,000 years ago. Over time, the area was eroded to create 100m-high cliffs of volcanic basalt columns, one mersmerizing waterfall and a calm river that flows through it.


A must-do when visiting Takachiho Gorge in Kyushu is renting a boat at the south end of the gorge and rowing along the peaceful Gokase river... and coming face to face with the magnificent 17m-high Minainotaki waterfall.


The boat rental costs 2,000 yen for 30 minutes. Each boat can sit up to 3 persons.


It really is simply breathtaking.


Another way to enjoy the gorge is from above - walking along the paved path that runs along the edge of the gorge (third pic). There are beautiful views all along the 1km trail.

My recommendation? 𝗗𝗢 𝗕𝗢𝗧𝗛! 😄


WEBSITE

KIJIMA KOGEN AMUSEMENT PARK
Oita Prefecture


Nestled in the hills of Beppu, Kijima Kogen Amusement Park is a gem. There're a total of 38 (😱) attractions, ranging from the exciting wooden rollercoaster & absolutely thrilling Flume ride to less heart-pumping rides like the merry-go-round and train rides. There was even a less scary rollercoaster that Ale mustered enough courage to go on!



It really has something for all ages so I have no idea why the park was so empty when we were there. 🤔 Not that I'm complaining, because that meant we didn't have to queue for any of the rides. 😆 And the monkies rank this theme park as one of the best they have been to!


Oh, and you have to go on Japan's first wooden roller coaster! A 1.6km-long track consisting of undulating twists and turns, Jupiter at Kijima Kogen Theme Park had us whizzing up to 91km/h and reaching a dizzy height of 42m.


And we went on it TWICE! Thank goodness I had 2 boys' screams to mask mine. LOL.


You can buy the entry only pass at S$19 for adults and S$7 for kids but you have to pay individually for the rides which in my opinion, isn't worth it if you wish to try almost all of the rides. So we got the all-access pass at about S$50 for adults and S$40 for kids which allowed us to go on unlimited rides!

WEBSITE

YUFUIN FLORAL VILLAGE
Oita Prefecture


Yufuin is a popular hot spring resort, located about ten kilometers inland from Beppu, and a few minutes drive away from Kojima Kogen Amusement Park. Yufuin has a wealth of art museums, cafes and boutiques, and it is great for a day trip.


The highlight in Yufuin has got to be Yufuin Floral Village which looks straight out from a fairy tale! Definitely made for IG for sure. 🤣



It occupies a relatively small area and consists of mostly souvenir shops. For kids, there is also a cat cafe and owl zoo but those are payable. Worth a visit just to snap photos, if you ask me.



WEBSITE

KAWACHI PASS
Nagasaki Prefecture



Located in Hirado city, the Kawachi Pass is a popular spot for hikers, tourists and even locals. This series of grassy hilltops offer a fantastic panoramic view; from the Northern 99 Islands in the south, to Iki and Tsushima Islands in the north.


But even though we couldn't identfy the islands, the scenery at the top was too beautiful for words. All I can say is if you can only visit one natural spot in Hirado, make Kawachi Pass the one.



You can even hike up the mountain but we chose to drive up to the summit... simply because this area has been selected as one of Japan’s 100 Best Roads. 😆 There is a car park near the summit, and a flight of steps to reach the top.



Location: Mountain south of Hirado city centre (Google Maps)

HIRADO CITY
Nagasaki Prefecture


Hirado is a special place where you can still experience the beauty of the Japanese countryside... and of course, fresh sashimi!


It's a pity that we did not have enough time to explore the quaint city but my limited impression of Hirado is it is not touristy at all compared to the likes of other Japanese cities. It was all very laidback, and everywhere was not crowded at all.


OUR ACCOMMODATION

We put up at a vacation home rental in Hirado via HomeAway Asia, and what a gem of a find it turned out to be!


For starters, the private villa is a ryokan-styled one, with tatami-matted rooms and sleeps up to 9 pax. And we have the entire home to ourselves!



As you can tell, the space is huge and comes with a washing machine and full-fledged kitchen.




The property even has a separate shed where we could have a BBQ if we wanted to. Love it!


What we did have was a hotpot session on our final night!


You can view details of the property via here: https://hmwy.io/cheekiemonkies-in-nagasaki.



Obviously, it sure didn't feel like we have seen Kyushu in its entirety. I think even if we had stayed for 10 days, we would only have scratched the surface in terms of attractions. It exudes a totally different vibe from the other Japanese cities - Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo - that I have been to. If you love nature attractions, then Kyushu will be where you might want to plan your next holiday to!




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Jul 16, 2019

12 Best (& FREE!) Outdoor Playgrounds in the West of Singapore (UPDATED)

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With the opening of the massive Forest Ramble outdoor playground at Jurong Lake Gardens, I think the western part of Singapore now houses some of the most fun outdoor playgrounds for kids, and these include huge climbing structures, tall slides, a tank and even a Snakes-and-Ladders life-sized boardgame!


So if you are planning for some outdoor fun with the kids, why not head down to these outdoor playgrounds located in the West?

1. Lakeside Garden @ Jurong Lake Gardens


The new 53-hectare Lakeside Garden is one huge park that will be more than enough to offer a day of fun and activities whether it is for families, couples or individuals.

Kids will no doubt love Forest Ramble which is the largest nature playgarden in the heartlands. The 2.3-hectare playgarden is HUGE and comprises of 13 adventure stations for kids to explore, while being set in a natural environment consisting of streams and plants.


Most interestingly, the playgarden's stattions are designed to emulate the movement of animals which inhabit a freshwater swamp forest. What this means is the play structures are designed to allow kids to mimic the movements of a monkey, frog, heron, crab, squirrel and even an otter!


There are also water play areas in the park - the Tidal Play Pool and Sand Play Pool. Kids can enter the Tidal Play Pool by walking down a gentle slope. Periodically, water will gush out from the steps, making the water level rise (up to 30cm in depth) which gives kids the opportunity to learn about natural tide cycles! At the Sand Play Pool, kids can experience the varying textures of sand while observing how water movements create wave-sculpted ripples in the sand.


Visitors can also head to Rasau Walk, a 300-metre meandering boardwalk along the water’s edge or zoom towards Grasslands which is dominated by tall grasses and small hills - AND totally made for Instagram! Read more about Lakeside Garden in my review HERE.


Address: Along Yuan Ching Road and Boon Lay Way
Opening hours: Always open
*Forest Ramble & Water play areas are open from 8am to 10pm, and closed on Mondays except for Public Holidays
Admission: FREE

2. West Coast Park


The King of Playgrounds in the West has got be West Coast Park, home to SEVEN different types of play areas which cater to different age groups - from the toddlers to even teenagers. Standing at the core of the park is the Adventure Play Area with a giant spiderweb-like structure that allows kids (and adults) to scamper up to dizzying heights.


Scampering up the giant spiderweb-like structure is a no-brainer but there’s more – the Ninja Warrior-inspired obstacle courses and Flying Fox installations are a hit with any one seeking to challenge one’s agility.


The little ones do not get left out too - there are two non-sand areas which cater to the youngest of toddlers.


Address: Parallel to West Coast Highway

3. Jurong Spring Playfields

Instead of just the usual kids' playground and fitness corner found at most HDB estates, the Jurong Spring Playfields incorporate playgrounds, fitness corners, a basketball court and open green spaces to encourage residents as well as families to go outdoors and keep fit together.


For starters, kids will not be disappointed as there are a total of THREE playgrounds to choose from! The ever-popular Vertical Playground is here, in all its cheery yellow glory... and with a slight twist too. Kids will be able to climb up to the top of the structure and descend quickly via a tube slide.


Just beside it lies a giant rope structure which promises to offer lots of climbing fun for kids.


Younger kids need not feel left out, thanks to a smaller playground designed just for them.


And while the kids are kept busy at the playgrounds, parents can work up a sweat storm too at the fitness corner which consists of resistance bands and even weights!

Address: In front of Block 549 Jurong West St 42, Singapore 640549

4. Jem Shopping Mall Dry & Wet Playground

The playground Jem Shopping Mall at Jurong East Central was closed for upgrading works and good news, it has re-opened! And even better news, it looks much MORE fun than the previous version!


Inspired by honeycombs, the sheltered outdoor playground is located on Level 5 and just outside of the foodcourt. Taking centrestage is the huge web canopy, where kids can climb to their hearts' content.


There is also an amazing water play area. Just hit the switch and watch streams of water cascade down into a mini pool!


This has got to be one of the more orginal playground designs that I have seen - a playground that combines both dry and wet play elements into one play structure.


Address: Jem Shopping Mall Playground, 50 Jurong Gateway Road, Singapore 608549, Level 5 (Beside the foodcourt)

5. Jurong Central Park


Besides sporting a huge 8-hectare area for kids to run themselves silly, Jurong Central Park is the first park in Singapore to have life-sized board-game features in a park - Snakes and Ladders playground and Ludo Garden. The pavement around the playground area is marked with numbers and visitors can move around just like on an actual game board.


But how does one move on the boardgame without dice? The answer: use the dice tower built in the park which generates random die number for game play!


Rules for the Snakes and Ladders playground is just like its namesake board-game: landing on a ladder will see one climbing across the obstacle to reach a higher board space while landing on a snake will allow one to descend to a lower board space via a slide. It just could not get more fun than this - and a fantastic way to bundle boardgame fun with physical activity!


Address: Jalan Boon Lay junction with Boon Lay Way

6. Alexandra Linear Park


How often can one find FIVE playgrounds along a stretch of ONE park? The Alexandra Canal Linear Park is one of the most unique parks in Singapore, thanks to it being built on top of a covered canal. It starts from Queenstown MRT Station, passing by Strathmore Estate all the way to Tanglin Road.

And if that sounds like an awfully long distance to bring your kids, it actually isn't - it is only a 1.4km stretch, which is easily doable for a nice stroll.


Comprising of 5 playgrounds - a Rope Bridge Playground included - the park also hides the bonus of a Water Terrace and Skate Park!

Although some of the 5 playgrounds along the park are the usual playgrounds that one can find near most HDB estates but put them collectively together, these band of 5 serve as a good incentive to bring your kids on a morning's worth of leisure stroll and get some exercise going for the family.


Address: Parallel to Strathmore Avenue (Block 83)

7. Keat Hong Quad (Choa Chu Kang)


Sembawang has the Battleship play structure and now, Choa Chu Kang has its own Tank play structure. I can already foresee plenty of kids clambering on the tank to play!

Internally, the tank has rope nettings within to encourage even more climbing and scurrying, something which I think kids will never say no to.


Oh, and it also has a Vertical Playground too!


This Vertical Playground looks entirely different from the rest of the other public ones. While the rest are encased in see-through grills, this new playground is covered with grey metal meshing and sports a colour different from the usual orange.

The playground also has a swing netting, as well as a play area for younger children.


Address: 815C Choa Chu Kang Avenue 1, Singapore 683815

8. Keat Hong Mirage


Sandwiched between Blocks 818B and 818C at Choa Chu Kang Ave 1 (Keat Hong Mirage), the most eye-catching play structure is undoubtedly the bright green army truck.


Much like the Crooked Houses playground in Yishun, the structure is designed by MONSTRUM, a danish company famed for reinventing the notion of kids' playgrounds through artistic and design-related thematic areas that fascinates and inspires both kids and adults. Kids will be able to clamber onto the truck and get into the driver's seat or scamper to the back of the truck where a green slide awaits.


Of course, the other highlight at the playground is the lookout tower which pays homage to the military lookout posts of yesteryear. Kids will be able to climb up via the rope ladder or rock wall, and whizz themselves down the fireman pole. It is pretty high though, so a huge dose of adrenaline rush is guaranteed.


Address: 818B & 818C Choa Chu Kang Avenue 1, Singapore 683818

9. Zhenghua Nature Park


Located in Bukit Panjang, Zhenghua Park stretches for about 2.5 km along the BKE, linking the Bukit Panjang Park Connector to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Serving as a green buffer for the reserve, the nature park is also home to a playground for kids.


The playground is situated some distance behind Block 248 Bangkit Road, and it adopts a more rugged theme with climbing structures and slides to keep the little ones happy. In addition, the entire playground is built on a huge sandbox for children to engage in imaginative play.

Granted that the playground equipment is pretty normal compared to other playgrounds in the list but if you are looking for a pleasant retreat (read: playgrounds free from overcrowding with kids) from the hustle and bustle of the usual playgrounds, this will be your best bet.


Address: Bangkit Road Entrance, Behind Block 248 Bangkit Road

10. Westgate Wonderland


Adopting a Fantasy Garden Theme, Westgate Wonderland is Singapore’s largest thematic outdoor playground featuring three zones - one dry play area each for those aged below 5 years and for older children, and a wet play area for all.

Flowers that respond to touch with musical sounds and lights are just but one of the many interactive elements found in the playground. Older kids can scale a 10-metre high tree house and come whizzing down via a meandering tube slide. At the heart of the water play area, a large watering can with an active spray nozzle towers over the children, making all them drenched and deliriously happy. Mini water fountains are also planted all around, increasing the splashing fun factor.


The magical surroundings come alive at night with special lighting and sound effects. That, and the presence of a Changing Room located just beside the wet area is music to parents’ ears too.


Address: 3 Gateway Drive, #04-00, Westgate, Singapore 608532
Opening hours: 10am – 10pm daily

11. Bt Batok East East Playgrounds


The newest outdoor playgrounds to open in this list, the Play Tower at Block 283 Bukit Batok East Ave 3 boasts a splendid climbing design where kids have to climb up through a tower via a spiral netting at one end of the structure. After crawling through a slanted wooden bridge and navigating through a series of platforms and climbing ropes, the slide awaits.


If you have extra time to spare, take a short stroll to Block 266 at Bt Batok East Ave 4 where kids will be able to play on the newest Vertical Playground to open in Singapore!


Bukit Batok East Playground
Address: 283 Bt Batok East Ave 3. Singapore 650283

Bukit Batok East Vertical Playground
Address: 266 at Bt Batok East Ave 4, Singapore 650266

12. Firefly Park


Surrounded by five thematic gardens, Firefly Park at Clementi Ave 4 consists of two playgrounds for toddlers aged two to five years old and kids aged six to 12 years old.


The play structure has a tall slide, complete with a high walkway which children will relish in climbing up. Add a cool obstacle course and mini rock climbing wall to the mix and the kids will pretty much play themselves silly. Oh and do I spy a set of old-school swings too?


Address: 304 Clementi Ave 4, Singapore 120304



Do share if you know of any other cool outdoor playgrounds in the West!


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