Apr 20, 2015

Tulipmania 2015: Fairytales Alive!

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Arguably one of Gardens by the Bay's most popular Flower Dome floral displays, Tulipmania is back for a third edition where captivating blooms of tulips in a riot of colours create a spectacular landscape within the dome.

Last year's edition had seen Miffy mingle with the visitors while this year's Tulipmania is set amidst a colourful setting of magical fairy tales. All of which should be familiar to both adults and kids alike.

Let me just get this out of the way - I very much prefer the tulip Flower Field layouts of the previous 2 Tulimania editions. The first Tulipmania saw the tulips planted in rows while the second had the colourful blooms in a concentric pattern. This year's display has a huge gingerbread house from the story of Hansel and Gretel plonked in the middle of the field which in my opinion, serves as a huge distraction and marred the overall tulip display.

But that is not to say the tulips were less spectacular though.

If your kids are fans of fairytale classics, then the incorporation of various fairytales into the lush and vibrant tulip displays will be a real treat for the senses.

Kids will have a field day attempting to spot the various fairytale incarnations around the Flower Field. How many can you identify?

Over 40 varieties of tulips in a myriad of hues and forms are planted this year. Notable tulips include the scarlet "Red Riding Hood", the “Purple Prince”, and the “Orange Princess”.

I suppose one can never get bored looking at these tulips. Which is why even though this year's Tulipmania appealed less to me than previous years, the monkies still lapped everything up - I suspect it is all thanks to the fairytales theme!

And Tulipmania still remains as the ONLY flower display that the monkies did not clamour to leave after a period of time... which I guess is testament to its alluring popularity.

A great time to visit Tulipmania 2015 will be THIS weekend (25 and 26 April 2015) as a host of activities has been planned for everyone!

Meet popular fairy tale characters in the Flower Dome, and take a photo with them as a special memento. Don't miss a special short dance performance too, and do look out for fairy tale characters on stilts.
Date: 25 & 26 April 2015 (Sat & Sun)
Time: 11am  - 5.30pm (special performances at 1pm, 2pm & 3pm)
Location: Flower Dome

5,000 tulips will be given away in the Flower Dome on 26 April, as part of KLM’s celebration of Koningsdag, an annual holiday in The Netherlands. While stocks last!
Date: 26 April 2015 (Sun)
Timing: Various timings
Location: Flower Dome

Journey into the enchanted world of your favourite fairy tales as they come to life in a spectacular display of tulips with this Garden Trail.
Date: Now until 10 May 2015
Time: 9am – 9pm
Location: Flower Dome
Details: Trail map is free and available (while stocks last) with every conservatories ticket purchased.

Useful Information

Tulipmania 2015
Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay
20 Mar - 10 May 2015
9am - 9pm daily
*Admission charges to the Cooled Conservatories apply
Website: www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en/the-gardens/whats-on/calendar-of-event/Tulipmania-2015-Details.html

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Apr 18, 2015

Every Drop Counts

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Sometimes when it rains here in Singapore, it really pours, making it seem as though water is falling free from the skies and plentiful. But Singapore can experience dry spells too and as Ah Kong says it quite aptly, it is important to make every drop count.

Fact is, water is a very important resource for us. We need it to grow food, maintain our environment and produce everything from chicken rice to electronics. We use water every day at home too. Brushing teeth, washing utensils, taking a shower - all of these activities use water.

So when it comes to water conservation, the wifey and I believe it starts at home… with our monkies. And the lesson in saving water truly hit them hard one night when we returned home to find there was no water running from our taps.

For some reason, the water tank on top of our apartment block was empty which meant that the upper units in our block experienced no water supply. A technician was duly despatched to pump water from the water tanks that served the lower units up to our units but that took time. In fact, the water supply was only restored some time after midnight.

"How do we bathe?"

"How do we brush teeth?"

"What if I need to poo and cannot flush?"

"My hands are dirty but I cannot wash them!"

"Will we die of thirst?"

Ale asked the last question by the way. But these were just some of the concerns that the monkies exclaimed throughout the period when our taps were dry. In the end, they had to go to bed with our water supply still cut off. But come morning, imagine their utter joy when they discovered that they were able to brush their teeth with water running from the tap!

Truth is, they - and I if I may be honest - have taken our water supply for granted. Whenever we turn on the tap, it is a given that water must gush out from it. But water is a limited resource for Singapore and it may very well run out if we do not treasure it.

We cannot afford to waste even small amounts of water so what better way to teach children the importance of conserving one of the Earth’s most valuable resources than these 8 simple tips:

1. Do not leave the tap running when not in use.

2. Tightly turn off the taps to ensure they do not drip.

3. Check for leaks in flushing cisterns, pipes, and taps and repair them immediately to prevent water wastage.

4. As an extension to the tip above, check for leaks regularly by turning off all taps and checking the water meter. If the water meter counter dial is still running, it means there is a leak. Call a plumber immediately.

5. Monitor your water bill to monitor your family’s water consumption. If your consumption is more than average, re-look your family’s water usage habits.

6. Install thimbles or water saving devices at taps with high flow rate.

7. Use water efficient labelled fittings.

8. Run the washing machine only on a full load.

Limiting our time taking a shower, washing a full load of clothes, and even less obvious methods such as not littering our drains will translate into wasting less of our precious water resource. By changing the way we use water as a family inside our home, we can do our bit in helping to conserve and make every drop count.

Do you have more water saving tips to share? Share them in the comments below, or head over HERE for more water conservation tips.

Visit PUB Singapore's Facebook page and Instagram account to stay updated too!

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Apr 16, 2015

Telunas Private Island: Paradise for Families

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Oh Telunas Resorts, where do I even begin?

Do I write about the stunning turquoise waters, or the enchanting sunsets and sunrises?

But as we found out, Telunas Resorts is more than just all of those. 

Because if you are on the lookout for an easy and relaxing beach holiday that does not require flying from Singapore, then this is THE place that will allow one to get away from the hustle of city life.

Getting to Telunas takes a fair bit of travelling though - approximately 2.5 hours by sea. We started with a 1-hour ferry ride from Harbourfront to Sekupang in Batam, and followed up with an another 1.5-hour journey from the local pier at Sekupang to Telunas Resorts via a wooden long boat.

Do not be unduly worried by the wooden boat. It is far more stable and safer than it looks, and life jackets for adults and children are provided as well. Our journey was pretty uneventful (always a good thing!) and the ride was comfortable enough for the monkies to even catch a power nap before we arrived.

Telunas Resorts actually consists of 2 accommodation types - Telunas Beach and Telunas Private Island - both of which are a 5-minute boat ride away from one another. Telunas Beach Resort on Sugi Island offers the more economical option, with three choices of rooms set on stilts over the sea.

But if you are seeking a private island escapade. then Telunas Private Island is the way to go. And when we first set afoot on the island, 'stunning' was the only word I could utter.

Truth is, I felt right at home within 5 minutes of wandering around Telunas Private Island. How not to, when faced with a view like this?

There are only 15 villas on the island and all of them are built over the water.

At first glance, they looked rather simple and rustic from the outside.

But once we stepped into our sea villa, every one in the family squealed in delight.

The villas are truly wonderful. They are spacious and can easily accommodate a family of five with a king-size bed and a children’s loft.

The ladder to the loft is bolted to the wall so it is very secure. There is a sliding wooden gate at the top to seal off the entrance to prevent any unwanted accidents. Although it may appear steep, trust the monkies to get the hang of scurrying up the ladder within seconds and proclaim the loft as their new found land.

As for the wifey's and my territory, it came in the form the main bedroom, which was located downstairs, behind the living area.

And the perk of our bedroom? Facing the vast ocean, with a huge balcony to boot - which is completely private from the neighbours.

Furnished with upcycled wooden furniture, the villa's interior is incredibly well-decorated. A hot and cold water dispenser is provided in each room as well, which negates the need for plastic bottles. Definitely in line with the resort's eco-friendly objectives.

The bathroom is rustic yet modern at the same time. Oh, and it comes with a rainshower too!

And since the villas are over the water, there is no need for air-conditioning. The lack of air conditioning is made up for by the constant sea breeze (and a powerful ceiling fan!) and as I found out come night time, I even had to snuggle beneath the blanket!

I think the favourite part of the villa for all of us had to be the spacious balcony which offered an almost 180-degree sea view. And as the boys found out, this was the place where they tasted success when they fished for the first time! But more on that in my second post.

For parents, here is the PLUS point (or minus, if you are a kid reading this) of staging your getaway at Telunas Reorts: the entire resort is devoid of WiFi and electronic gadgets. Yes, no televisions in the room or in the resort's lounge too.

There are no hogging of smartphones, checking of emails, scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, or even being glued to the TV at Telunas. Which to be honest, I was initially unaccustomed to. But the reality is we all need a little detox away from the electronic gadgets from time to time and with Telunas, it was just a step back to the simple life. And connecting with the people who matter to me.

And speaking of connecting, meal times were exactly made for that. At Telunas, all meals come provided for and there is only one restaurant on the island where one can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner - which essentially is an open, large area in the main building and exudes a very tropical feel.

Perhaps it was due to the limited number of villas on the island but we soon got to know most of the guests during our period of stay... by virtue of having our meals at the same place at the same timings.

Meal times at Telunas Private Island do not come with a printed menu. Instead, a chalkboard detailed the wide range of choices for breakfast and dinner each night. Breakfast offered usually the same choices every day while we could pick from local or Western dishes for our main course come dinner time. For lunch, a local dish is the fixed option and let's just say I was never disappointed.

For breakfast, there is a mini buffet spread of cereals, juices, yoghurt, fruits and pastries as well.

Personally though, the Nasi Uduk gets my vote for the best breakfast item on the menu. I had this every single morning during our stay and I still could not get enough of it! It is like our Nasi Lemak, but only much tastier.

A hit with the monkies was the egg dishes, particularly the vegetable & cheese omelette and scrambled eggs.

The food here is really impressive and I cannot tell how how much I was looking forward to the meal times at Telunas! Actually, the monkies were too because they simply loved picking their own dishes from the chalkboards.

For kids, there is also the Kids Menu to choose from which comes with the usual suspects - Fish & Chips, Chick & Chips, Spaghetti with either tomato or cream sauces.

But if you ask me, the main courses were still the best of the lot.

There was even sushi for one of the appetizers during dinner - which as you can probably imagine, sent the monkies over the moon.

Well, all that food definitely needed some outlet for us to work off those calories. And if I were afraid that the kids or myself will get dead bored at Telunas, I would be proven wrong.

There are a ton of activities to get everyone active... if you ever feel that just chilling by the pool or at the beach is too sloth-like. I will cover in detail of the wonderful activities that families can partake in my second post.

One of the main things that endeared me to Telunas is that it is a little different from some of the other resorts we had been to. Telunas Resorts is not just a hospitality business, but also a social impact enterprise.

Sure, profits matter but so do making a difference to the lives of the villagers around the resort. The practical impact of this is that the resort believes in being part of something holistic and purposeful on multiple levels, and not just offering fantastic creature comforts to its guests.

We were lucky enough to be offered the chance to visit Sugi Village where we would be paying its primary school a visit. With such a meaningful trip, the monkies each contributed $20 from their piggy banks to purchase pencil cases, pencils, crayons and a brand new football so that they can give them to the primary school students in the village.

The village was a 15-minute boat ride away and since there were no vehicles on the island, we were given a short tour on the island as we made our way to the school on foot.

Amazingly, the first inhabitants of the village were Chinese so that explained why a Chinese temple stood in close proximity with a mosque.

We stopped by a Kindergarten along the way, and said our hellos to the bunch of adorable kids... who were understandably a tad shy but full of smiles nonetheless.

We finally reached the Primary School and the first thing that struck Ash and Ayd was, it was so different compared to their school in Singapore.

For starters, the open compound in front of the school was filled with sand and not grass. There is already a volunteer project underway to cover the sand with concrete bricks. This will serve the kids better as a sand-filled area will be unfavourable and dangerous when it rains.

The classrooms were also a different sight from what the boys were accustomed to, so I have to say our little trip to the school really opened their eyes to the comforts that they have come to take for granted.

The monkies passed the gifts to the teachers and of course, the one gift that stood out from everything else was the football. Which led to an impromptu friendly match.

I will never forget how the village boys' eyes lit up when they saw the new football. I could see that it meant so much to them. Well, the chance to be able to play during a non-recess period clearly helped too I reckon!

Both Ash and Ayd each captained a team of Primary 3 and 4 school kids - even though they couldn't understand one another.

But there wasn't any need to.

The sheer joy in just being able to play together - like what all kids do best - was all that mattered.

And hopefully, the boys realised the importance of being grateful for the little things we have in our lives and how wonderful it is to share joy to others.

After the match, a Telunas Resorts' employee graciously hosted us in her home for lunch. And this marked the first time where the monkies gamely tried eating with their hands, instead of spoons and forks.

I think they enjoyed it tremendously!

When we headed back to the resort, there was no escaping from the pool.

Frankly, the resort is all about doing nothing. Really.

The best way to enjoy the resort is just to lay back and enjoy the stuff that Telunas did NOT create - the mesmerizing sunsets and sunrises.

I also have to give a special mention to the resort's staff. Sure, all of them were courteous and happy to help in any way they could. But I got the feeling that the resort's guests were more than guests to the staff. We were like friends to them and they made sure we feel the same way too.

Ale's fave staff, or jie-jie, was Elsa. Okay, so her name could be the reason why the Diva gravitated to her so much but I would like to think that Elsa's contagious smile and bubbly personality were what drawn Ale to her.

There is usually a tinge of sadness when a holiday comes to an end. But for Telunas, there was an unprecedented amount of sorrow when our 3-night stay was up.

Never mind there was no air-conditioning, or TV or iPads, the monkies were genuinely sad to leave the place. And before the monkies pleaded to go back again some time, the wifey had already made that request.

For me, the fact that Telunas is a holistic community that exists for the well being not only of its guests but also its local staff and the surrounding island community appeals to me. Okay, so the luxury of being able to fall asleep to the lull of the ocean and wake up to beautiful sunrises certainly helped too.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Telunas Resorts stay when I list the family-friendly activities to keep kids occupied!

Useful Information

Telunas Resorts
Desa Mentangun
Moro Kepulauan Riau (Riau Islands)
Phone: +62 811 7710951
Skype: telunas.resorts
Email: stay@telunasresorts.com
Website: www.telunasresorts.com
Telunas Private Island Pricing: www.telunasresorts.com/private-island/private-island-pricing

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