Few months back, I was approached to pen an article for a publication - Preschooler Survival Kit - which will be distributed to parents of preschool kids.
To be honest, I would never have expected to land a writing gig (and a paid one at that!) in my wildest dreams. My GP Teacher during my Junior College times will be so proud of me.
So it was really a pleasant surprise that I ended up contributing not one, but two articles for the handbook. One article features my Top 10 picks of Indoor Playgrounds in Singapore, while the other touches on short family vacations near Singapore.
And here is the first article reproduced in full.
As parents tending to young children, we can always do with a break. Yet we don't want to break our bank account when we recharge. With many long weekends upcoming in 2013, we don't need to wait till the school holidays to have a short family getaway.
To help you along, we have highlighted a few places which are just nearby Singapore to get your vacation going!
UK Agro Farm Resort
Situated in Johor - about one hour's drive away from Singapore – UK Agro Farm Resort is Malaysia's largest goat and sheep farm, with 100 acres of grazing land for 4000 sheep. It is good for a day trip, but if you are looking for a farm stay experience without busting your wallet, this is as good as it gets.
Accommodation comes in the form of a 'Long House', a traditional house found in the Iban community in Sarawak. Built on stilts and with long corridors, the rooms overlook the vast green meadows and the grazing pastures of the Farm. We got the Deluxe Room which came with one double bed and one single bed, with the usual amenities like air-conditioning and water heater. So yes, it was pretty decent, clean and functional. A one-night stay is more than adequate.
If you are feeling adventurous enough, there is the Dormitory option which comes complete with mosquito coils, nets and a communal bathroom. Or for a notch higher in the adventure stakes, there is even a camping site where you can pitch your own tent for only RM35 a night.
There are tons of farm activities for the kids to get all excited about – a full three hours’ worth in fact! Visit the Herb Sanctuary, Mushroom and Fruit Farms to learn all about plants. But the highlight of the farm tour has got to be feeding and cuddling sheep at the Sheep Farm. Kids can even try their hand at feeding milk to the baby goats, or filling the tummies of the ostriches at the Ostrich Park!
If the kids still have energy to expend after that, they can partake in the Sheep Challenge where they would be given 3 minutes to catch sheep in an enclosure, and stand to win a prize if one is successful. Or if they prefer something less exhaustive, families can sign up for UK Agro Resort’s DIY activities ranging from lantern-making, kite-making to baking their very own goat milk muffins or curry puffs.
The Farm Resort has its own café and restaurant which serves standard food fare like fried rice and noodles, coupled with their signature dishes of lamb chop, mutton soup, salt-baked kampong chicken. You can also have a delicious steamboat meal at the Zenxin Organic Farm – an organic vegetables farm – which is a 10-minute drive away from UK Agro Farm Resort.
Directions: Take the North-South Highway from Tuas Checkpoint. Take the Air Hitam Exit, and turn right at the T-junction after the toll. Pass Zenxin Organic Farm and a set of traffic lights. You will see a huge UK Agro Farm signboard on your left. Turn left into a gravel-laden road. Continue on it and turn right on seeing the sign.
Lotus Desaru Beach Resort
Located on the South-eastern tip of Johor, Peninsular Malaysia, Lotus Desaru Beach Resort is approximately 75 minutes away from Singapore via the new Senai-Desaru Expressway. Desaru means “Village Of Casuarinas” and is the most popular beach along the east-coast in the district of Kota Tinggi.
Lotus Desaru offers accommodation with one, two, three or four-bedroom apartments. All the apartments come with living and dining areas, as well as a kitchenette (microwave and fridge). To enjoy all the activities that Desaru has to offer, the recommended length of stay is 2 nights.
Two words: Water Park. A huge ‘spash-tacular’ water play park that is sure to be a hit with the kids. Situated smack in the middle of the resort, the water park features numerous water slides, a water playground and a huge tipping coconut – a sure-fire way to illicit squeals and screams from those standing below!
But the highlight of the water park has got to be the Lazy River - a meandering slide that starts at the top of a slop and brings its sliders down 4 water channels & 3 whirlpools. My kids must have gone on it more than twenty times when we were there the last time.
In addition to the beach, there are various activities that families can enjoy while at Desaru as well. Visit the nearby Desaru Fruit Farm and Ostrich Farm for a fun-filled educational day, or go on a Fireflies Cruise, where kids will be able to see these fascinating insects in their glowing glory.
The Resort offers a variety of food outlets ranging from coffee houses and seafood restaurant to a beach front bar. For the freshest seafood, you can take a 20-minute drive to Sungai Rengit where numerous seafood restaurants await.
Directions: From the North-South Highway via Tuas Checkpoint, take the Senai exit (Exit 2201). Travel towards the direction of Desaru on the Senai-Desaru Highway and follow the signs to Lotus Desaru Beach Resort.
Batam View Beach Resort
Located at Nongsa, Batam Island, the Resort is 35 minutes by ferry from Singapore. Totalling 10 hectares in Batam, the Batam View Beach Resort enjoys an exclusive hilltop location and private beach facilities.
Batam View Beach Resort offers the standard hotel accommodation. For a more unique experience, stay in the one or two bedroom villas which are built right at the edge of the sea. Located in a secluded spot near the private beach (but within walking distance to the resort's facilities), the villas gift a breath-taking view of the sea from the comfort of one’s balconies.
Batam View has its own private beach, which is music to parents’ ears especially to those with younger kids. Looking for something more strenuous? Go on a guided Kampong Walk and learn more about Malay villagers and their culture where many aspects of traditional island life still remain unchanged. Get a chance to walk into the jungle and catch a glimpse of the tombstone of the King of Nongsa or the Isa King who was the early ruler of native administration on the island of Batam.
There are the other places of interest around Batam that the families can visit too: Barelang Bridge, the Tua Pek Kong and Adhi Vinayakar Temples, as well as the Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya Buddhist Temple which is one of the largest Buddhist Temples in Southeast Asia.
Or go splash the cash at one the many malls – Batam City Square, Nagoya Hill Shopping Centre and Mega Mall – and bring home a few bargains!
Batam View Beach Resort boasts a hosts of dining options, with the Kelong Seafood Restaurant and Poolside BBQ the main highlights. If you are planning to hit the shopping malls, adequate restaurants can be found there as well.
Directions: Take the Ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. Upon arrival, hospitality stewards from Batam View Beach Resort will be waiting at the arrival hall at Nongsapura Terminal to bring guests to the Resort.
This article first appeared in Preschooler Survival Kit (November 2012), a handbook targeted at parents with preschool children and is distributed at preschools in Singapore.