Thursday, July 31, 2014

9 Things Not to be Missed at NDP 2014

Media Invite

National Day Parade (NDP) tickets are the hottest commodity whenever August rolls by, and it is always a near-impossible task in trying to snag those pieces of prized paper. So imagine our huge delight when we were invited down for the NDP Combined Rehearsal show a few Saturdays back.

Playing the fool with the SengkangBabies and PrincessDana

NDP 2014's theme is Our People, Our Home - where we celebrate us, ordinary people who can do the extraordinary when we come together as one community, one people.

I will tell you who is extraordinary. 

This guy.

For some reason, Ayd is the one who always revel in such a highly-charged atmosphere. He cheers on cue, waves the flag on cue, screams himself hoarse on cue... in short, he does EVERYTHING throughout the entire NDP show with unparalleled passion and fervor.

Suffice to say, he loved every part of NDP 2014. Which segments stood out for me? Here are 9 things to look out for during this year's NDP.

1. The Red Lions

A crowd favourite, the Red Lions always have spectators craning their necks towards the sky in a bid to catch their free-fall.

Last year's NDP was supposed to mark the first time that a female Red Lion(ess) took part in a NDP free-fall display. Unfortunately, that did not materialise as the jump was cancelled during the actual parade due to bad weather. So fingers crossed for Third Warrant Officer Shirley Ng, who will be hoping to make history at this year's NDP!

Also participating in the Red Lions free fall display for the first time this year are the Junior Red Lions, made up of specially-selected Primary 4 and 5 students. No, they will not be jumping but will be welcoming the Red Lions as they descend on the Floating Platform.

2. 'A Salute to the Nation' Flypast 

One of the key fixtures of all National Day Parades has got to be the moment when a RSAF chinook flies the huge Singapore Flag across the performing area.

Also too, is what comes right after we have sung the National Anthem - the sight of F-15SGs streaking across sky, complete with their supersonic roar!

Things got a tad special for me this year when I got to see the hard work that went behind the scenes in preparation for the flypast. The entire thing may last just a mere ten seconds, but the perspiration and passion that behind the flypast goes way beyond that.

3. A Parade with A Heart

For some, the Parade and Ceremony segment might be the most boring part of NDP - just standing still and marching and more marching, no? It will be different this year, in a good way of course.

This year will be the first time that the Parade and Ceremony will begin with a Military Tattoo, a seven-minute formation display put up by the Combined Band and the SAF Precision Drill Squad. This will also be the first Parade in history that Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) is participating in the Parade.

Through moments termed "Heartbeats", the Parade and Ceremony pays tribute to our pioneers who worked against great odds and uncertainties to build Singapore to where it is today. 

"Heartbeats" also celebrate the unity of Singaporeans, as well as the importance of families and our community in supporting the individual.

4. Dynamic Defence Display

2014 marks the 30th year of Total Defence in Singapore, and what better way to celebrate it than showcasing over 30 pieces of defence hardware. We were given a sneak peek at the various platforms from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) before the parade and it was an eye-opener for the monkies.

After all, how often can one can to shout "Missiles away!" while pretending to aim through a missile launcher?

Or pretend to steer a huge fire engine?

Or to don a erm, a really oversized Fireman uniform?

The 10-minute Dynamic Defence Display will definitely exhilarate the audience with an all-action display that is interwoven with music, multimedia and pyrotechnics. 

Keep your eyes peeled for Republic of Singapore Navy's Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (or RHIBs for short) too!

The RHIBs are part of Sea Display segment, where it simulates naval divers on two RHIBs who will interdict a target vessel at Marina Bay. I went aboard the RHIB during one of its rehearsals and let me just say it is no easy work. Precision is key, and I ended up spending one hour on my 'cruise' with 5 rehearsal runs in total under the hot sun.

5. The Big Show

This is the biggie, or least in the eyes of the monkies, as this is the part of NDP that fully captures their attention every single year. For this year's NDP Show, it celebrates the can-do spirit and caring attitude of
Singaporeans through vibrant multimedia and lively mass displays in four acts.

Act 1,"Celebrate It!", celebrates Singapore’s success story as the little island that dreamed big, with Singaporeans from all walks of life contributing to make our nation what it is today. 

Act 2, "Love It!", recreates the warmth of our family and multi-cultural society. And what better way to showcase the ties that bind us than through our wide array of local food!

Act 3, "Live It!", then brings the audience into a reflective mood as it acknowledges Singaporeans’ individual challenges with the stage filled with a sea of performers dressed in black and white, illustrating the personal challenges we each face.

As the performers find the strength and determination to push forward, the sea of black and white on stage transforms into a vibrant red and setting the stage for the final act.

Act 4, "Be It!", will be put up by young performers, who will be performing the precision drill as red and white flag-bearers - which symbolizes the rallying call for all Singaporeans to come together as one people.

I felt that the show is extremely different compared to previous years. After all, there can only be so many times that one can retell the Singapore Story, or incorporate Sang Nila Utama or Sir Stamford Raffles into an NDP show.

Instead, bright colours and pop music feature strongly this year... which makes perfect sense after I found out that the Creative Director for NDP 2014 is Dick Lee. The entire show is truly refreshing, and focuses heavily on the one thing that truly make up Singapore - her people. Which brings me to my next point.

6. Stories of Five Ordinary Singaporeans 

The stories of five Singaporeans intersperse the Show and reflect the narrative of the four acts. Through depicting the challenges each character faced -  such as an ex-convict having difficulties finding a job and a disabled child whose character was inspired by Singapore's "Blade Runner" Shariff Abdullah - and how they overcame them with the care and support of their family and community, these stories acknowledge the can-do and caring spirit of our people and celebrate our everyday Singaporeans.

7. Dancing Fountains  

For the first time at NDP, two fountains have been installed in the waterway between the promenade and the stage which will be complementing the Show segments. 

Spanning a distance of 30m each, each fountain is able to reach a height of 10m and will be dancing along to the songs, complete with a changing display of lights to match.

8. Marina Bay Backdrop

With the new National Stadium up and running, it may just be time to bid the Floating Platform farewell. Singapore's 50th Birthday Bash will be held at the Padang next year, with the subsequent year's NDP to be held at the new stadium at Kallang.

So this NDP, cherish in what could possibly be last year where the Marina Bay skyline acts as an awesome backdrop for the NDP show and fireworks display.

9. 'Five Stars and a Moon' Fireworks Display

What is NDP without Fireworks? This year's finale will feature pyrotechnics like no other - in the form of Singapore's crescent moon and five stars! Each star is made out of 49 individual red flames and the
crescent moon with 4 sets of 49 individual red flames.

For obvious cost reasons, the 'Five Stars and a Moon' fireworks did not feature in the combined rehearsal that we went to. So you can be sure that we will be glued to our TV come 9 August!

And if you are planning to head down to catch the Fireworks in all its full glory, here are the best Vantage spots around the Marina Bay area to view them.

Fireworks-viewing sites are highlighted in dark slate blue.

View more photos of our NDP 2014 experience in our Facebook Album HERE!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Park Hotel Group's Mid-Autumn Treasures

Media Invite

Light those lanterns and round up the family! The Mid-Autumn Festival is around the corner again and as always, get ready for the invasion of the mooncakes. 

This year, Park Hotel Group celebrates Mid-Autumn Festival's joyous reunions with a luxurious ensemble of 12 Mid-Autumn treasures and new luscious mooncake creations, all exquisitely handcrafted by its award-winning Park Palace restaurant.

Were the mooncakes worth the calories? Erm, just ask the monkies who could not seem to stop stuffing their mouths with mooncakes during a media tasting session we attended at Grand Park City Hall last week.

Personally, I prefer mooncakes in their traditional forms and Park Hotel's Baked Mooncakes with White Lotus Seed Paste ($62 -$65 for a box of 4) do not disappoint. The lotus seed paste was smooth and not overly sweet, coupled with a golden brown soft crust.

If you are a fan of teochew-style mooncakes, then be sure to check out Park Palace's signature Golden Yam mooncakes ($62 - $68 for a box of 4). Boasting a fine crisp and flaky golden outer crust with silky pumpkin and mung bean paste, the Golden Pumpkin with Mung Beans & Single Yolk mooncake's taste is further amplified by a salted egg yolk core.

But the mooncakes that truly stole the limelight were these dazzling majestic jewels, symbolising pearl, jade, gold and yellow topaz.

My photos may not do justice to the mooncakes' appearance, but these Snowskin Mooncakes definitely thrilled everyone with their glittering velvety soft skins.

The Golden Cognac Truffle in Snowskin mooncakes ($58 for a box of 8) exude fruity notes of premium cognac... which probably explained why I loitered around these mooncakes for the longest time (hic).

If you prefer something non-alcoholic, how about the indulging in the Imperial Jade & Coconut Truffle In Snowskin mooncakes ($58 for a box of 8) which pairs a refreshing coconut swirl with a creamy chocolate shell core?

The Pearly Lychee & Lychee Snowskin mooncakes ($58 for a box of 8), on the other hand, tempted the wifey with its sweet filling and chewy fresh lychees.

The monkies' fave? Of course it had to do something with chocolate! The Royal Topaz With Nougat & Chocolate Pops in Snowskin mooncakes ($58 for a box of 8) perfectly fuses the subtle sweetness and texture of the white lotus paste with nougat and crunchy chocolate pops, making every bite a delicious and crunchy one.

Craving for a mooncake fix yet? If you are, great news! I have a discount code you can use when you purchase your mooncakes from Park Hotel Group.

Just quote 'CHEEKIEMONKIE' to enjoy the following discounts and promotions:

Until 31 July 2014
25% off total bill and receive
a $20nett F&B voucher if you spend $65nett worth of mooncakes
or a $40nett F&B voucher if you spend $120nett worth of mooncakes

1 August to 8 September 2014
15% + 5% off total bill and receive
a $20nett F&B voucher if you spend $65nett worth of mooncakes
or a $40nett F&B voucher if you spend $120nett worth of mooncakes

NOTE: The 'CHEEKIEMONKIE' discount quote is only valid for orders via email ( or by calling 6432 5555 only. Collection can be done at Grand Park City Hall, Grand Park Orchard or Park Hotel Clarke Quay.

Terms & Conditions for the vouchers:
a. F&B vouchers are redeemable for dine-in only at Grand Park City Hall (Indulge at Park, Park Palace, The Bar at Coleman, The Deli)
b. These vouchers cannot be combined and only 1 voucher can be used per table.
c. Can be used in conjunction with Indulgence, Park Gold, credit card promotions and other privileges.
c. No minimum spend required for the usage of vouchers
d. This voucher is not exchangeable for cash or in-kind
e. This voucher is only valid with the hotel’s stamp and authorised signature.
Voucher is to be presented before paying the bill
Vouchers are valid till 14 November 2014

For more information of Park Hotel Group's mooncakes, visit HERE or download its Mooncake brochure.

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:

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:
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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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

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!


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