Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Damai Puri Weekend

Nee had a UNIMAS project meeting over the weekend at Damai Puri. As usual, this is one of the ways a bloated public institution spends the Rakyat's money. This also meant a short weekend getaway for the participants, and their family members. We were not the exception, and were quick to take advantage of this perk.

The renovated room was clean & most importantly it had wooden flooring, instead of tiles; and this lent a certain level of comfort and warmth to our stay. Surprisingly, against our expectations, the room was very acceptable.

The main asset of Damai Puri was their larger than usual pool & I thought their stretch of beach was much wider & private as well. We were not aware at all that there was more action in the children's pool as it was sort of hidden & not visible. So along with most people, Kay just played in the larger infinity pool.

This was Kay's first experience with the arm floats. And it worked better than the rubber ducky ring ones cos this made her think she could really swim.

I didn't really want to do this post cos I thought it was more of a personal family holiday but gosh, I am just so enamoured with Kay's photos that I wanted to share them with the world.

Being parents ourselves now, we could finally understand why every other parent would think that their own kid is the cutest in the whole wide world, even though they may not really be, in the eye of the public. For us, we're just fulfillingly content being ignorant about that.

Sigh. Blink blink. Flutter flutter.

In the end, the little sleepless monster of eternal awakeness finally flattens herself out.

Damai Puri turned out to be a little pleasant surprise for us as most of the Damai range of hotels had an air of monopolic arrogance. It's true that Damai Puri will charge for every little additional thing like RM15 or so for a pillow/towel etc. We've read a lot of complaints about the non-existence of service but we were lucky enough not to have required them, and that probably spared us. We were also fortunate enough to be given a clean room which seemed more recently renovated. So yes, we will be back and Damai Puri will be our choice over the more crowded & smaller Damai Beach Resort, for now.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

CNY in Bali: The Arrival

Despite the hype, and the Eat Pray Love fiasco, we've never been to Bali. Although the place had crossed our minds a few times before but the trip somehow never happened. So this time round we thought Bali would make a good Chinese New Year break for us.

The trip wasn't that well planned although we did have some ideas of what we wanted to eat, and the places that we'd wanted to go. In retrospective, I think it wasn't so much of being well-planned, I think the trip needed less planning instead. We didn't know it then but the mistake was that we planned Bali the way we did with our other holidays. 

We were booked for Aston Bali Resort in Tanjung Benoa Nusa Dua, down in the southern peninsula of Bali, about 40km from Denpasar & 30 minutes from the airport.

The airport experience wasn't that great cos we arrived around evening 6-7ish & there was a sense of hurriedness & at the same time an anxiety over being approached by taxi touts, porters, etc. We ignored the touts as advised, and we bought our tickets at the counter for IDR90,000. However the 3 porters got to us, and in Bali it takes 3 of them to handle one luggage. Later we found out that the touts charged even cheaper, but we weren't sure the same rule applies in general, and we wouldn't have wanted to take that chance.

Nusa Dua is the place where all the resorts are at, and in keeping with the resort traditions, a bit far from everywhere else. It's fine if you're planning for a quite getaway of doing nothing but lazing around. That's what we should have done, but we did our usual sightseeing & food-hunting, and the trip ended up as an exhaustive one filled with horrible traffic jams on single lanes cos the main sites like Ubud & Denpasar were far away. Nee almost suffocated herself in the car, & Kay had a couple bouts of puking from car sickness. Bali's infrastructure has obviously not yet caught up with the demands of its burgeoning tourism.

The Aston Bali Resort wasn't really what I had in mind for Bali, but Nee's family was already there and the whole point of it was for a family reunion sort of CNY holiday. My ideas for staying by the padi fields with a sarong & a Teck Kong Ah Pek singlet didn't happen.

The resort despite being 4 stars was a bit anti-climaxing. You can tell from how the room looks.

I think the lighting was a bit dark & we could see that Kay wasn't too excited by the room as she usually is with almost ANY hotel room. She wanted to make sure that EVERY single light was switched on in the room, every single night.

These were some of the decor at the lobby. From the moment we stepped onto the hotel, you could tell that Bali was a place with an abundance of skilled craftsmen, and that is why it has an inarguable strong identity in the art world: the unmistakable Balinese style.

Later on I came to learn that Balinese art is deeply rooted in their rituals of dance, music, sculpture & carvings which were mainly done for their many temples. And that explains the rich tradition that it has in its arts & cultural practices.

This is the view from our room's verandah. The lighted area in the center is one of the restaurants where they were going to have lion and dragon dances; which was going to be Kay's first delightful encounter with the celestial creatures.

Here's Kay adoring the candlelight.

There are three major things which Kay responds to right now: Food, Light & Swimming.

The first night was just for us to settle in. We wouldn't have the time nor energy for any more adventures after Changi. And so we had to be contended with just hotel food.

Roasted Pork Belly

Satay Bali style

Oxtail Stew

I think one of the highlight was for Kay to see Roger (Big Jiu Jiu) again. And it's always interesting to see how Kay takes to Roger very quickly even after not seeing him for so long.
I guess blood will always be thicker than water, and that Skype probably also has something to do with it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

From Changi to Bali

We haven't been posting for a long while and as a result we have a whole backlog of posts to catch up on. I've promised myself that I'd get this done, slowly but surely, and hopefully it's not going to be more and more like doing homework. 

It's becoming more urgent to do this now because our memories are starting to fail us. We've always wanted to record and document our journeys anyway, more as a personal 'diary' for ourselves. I keep imagining both Nee & I as old farts 30 years from now looking back at our old blog posts thinking, 'Did we look hot way back then?'. And if the answer is Yes, then it will clearly be because of the weather. 

Anyway, here's a post about our love for Changi.

We did our very first Bali trip during the beginning of this year, on the second day of the Chinese New Year celebrations. We took the Airasia KCH-SING-BALI route. Cheap wasn't the main reason, although it was cheaper than the KL route. Changi was the honey cos we wanted a comfortable transit for Kay; and if you have an active toddler with 4 hours to kill, KLIA is not going to be your option.

Changi has always been our first preference (if we had a choice), and we knew it was a good place from the way Kay took to it like a rabbit to the fields. There's just so much to see and do, and the space is just awesome for a toddler; miles of thick carpets to run and fall safely on. 

We were there during CNY and it was a delight to see the effort they had put into the CNY festive landscapes & this sort of made up for the celebrations that we left behind in Kuching.

Of course this went down very well with Kay cos she started this Love for Lanterns phase. She would make redundant sentences about lanterns every time she encounters one, 'Look. So many lanterns. This one is small. That one is big. This lantern is on. That lantern is off.  Why is this lantern off? Daddy switch on the lanterns!'

Much like a mini-Singapore, Changi had mostly what the city state has. It's like a sampler. 
There were mini art galleries which pleasantly pop up at random places.

These were the Birds in Flight by Baet Yeok Kuan. 

Kinetic Rain were made of 1,216 computationally controlled bronze raindrops; which has since become Kay's eternal association with Changi: Raindrops = Singapore airport.

Mommy & Baby sculptures; Mother & Child by Han Meilin

This reminded me that Kay needed a diaper change; Thanks to my extra-sensory paternal hormones.

M&Ms with a durian (& a hedgehog).

Free art activity for kids; this one Daddy like.
Note to diary: Kay pooped at this point.

If your kids haven't had enough of Angry Birds on your iPads, Changi had them also.

Angry Birds Planet, to be exact.
I'm thinking this would make a giant bad-a** omelette.

Have you ever wondered how the eternal flow of the Qi energy looks like?
Yes, like this.
Kay becomes the physical manifestation of that when she's at Changi.

Except for when she's up against older kids. Then she pulls the brakes & exercises extreme caution & stillness.

And then to Kay's delight, there was also the Koi fish pond.
And next to this was a butterfly farm, which I didn't have a picture of. Can you believe that? I mean the farm, not the picture.


Train shuttle rides between the three Terminals.

 There's shopping for mommy.

Like all things in Singapore, Changi is very well thought out. Unlike the colder KLIA, Changi feels warmer, safer, and much more comfortable to be in. Everything you need is there, and in abundance. Free phone charging stations. Sleeping Lounge area. Free 4-bar WIFI (he-llo KLIA!). Free internet consoles, without the waiting. Lots of seats, and lots of everything.

Oh, there's more. If you're a hardcore gamer, you might appreciate the XBOX KINECT, XBOX 360, PLAYSTATION 3 and movie theatre at Terminal 3.  You can play till your blood vessels pop cos they're all free.

With all that, four hours was easy to kill. And we're pretty sure Kay had some new neurons connected and synapses fired up within that short span of time. So if you need to transit, remember, Changi is the honey. 

KLIA, I think you'd better up your standards. Think FREE. Think abundance.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Gawai Break on the Beach @ Damai Sentral

When faced with long holidays, it is imperative that you get out of the house when you have a 2-year old toddler. Otherwise, chaos will run in your home as your sweet little one turns into a monster. We were fortunate this time around. Some friends suddenly had an idea for a trip to the beach on the 3rd day of Gawai & remembered to include us.

When Kay saw Nee packing her brand spanking new swimwear the night before, she wanted to go right away on that night. We had to restrain her & explain the concept of tomorrow to her: something about then being night & the need to sleep, and the sun needs to come up then the beach trip is on. When the next morning came at 7am, & the sun came up as promised,  her eyelids flew open at the mention of the word beach.

Here she was in heavenly bliss. Nobody was going to take the beach away from her now, for she would take it back.

Here she was doing something irrelevant like pouring seawater into the sand. I'm glad she wasn't hooked on this or else I'd be worried about her IQ level.

There were small fishes in the shallow waters but I couldn't catch them. Otherwise they'd be some BBQ going on.

By this time, it was all about the sand & her pail & shovel set. She hadn't really entered the water yet.

Pit stop: She gulped down one whole burger. Ah yes, you can see her girly painted nails here. They glow in the dark.

Part Two: It's water time again. See, it's just like the F1; refuel & run again.

I think hanging out with older kids helps to give her the confidence to get into the water. It's good to let her get a bit of salt water into her system & overcome that fear. Sometimes when the wave gets too strong, she'd wrap herself around my legs, 'Scared scared.'

By now, she's thinking that she's really swimming. I got her to place her hands onto the sand and let her legs float up, and I think she caught the feel. Pandalela baby!

One of those rare occasions that we'd get our family my photo taken; thanks to Eng Hean.

We managed to drag Kay out of the water & left for lunch when the crowd started setting in at about 11-ish. I promised her ice-cream cos food always does the trick. Learnt that from  the circus shows.

Lunch was at this little known place called Ah Soh Buntal Seafood. The owner of this place was an old man who would snap at you if you didn't behave. Steven called him a gangster, potential cabinet minister & political analyst. He'd sit down & rant his politics if you'd let him. We made sure he didn't get his chance.

And he made us get up to get our own drinks, and ice, and cups, and chopsticks. We almost wanted to ask him if we'd have to cook our own meals, but I think we didn't want to push it, less we'd also have to wash the plates.

The place is surrounded by a decent view of kampung houses, fishing sampans & the water. But it really doesn't look as good as the photos below cos I filtered them.

In the commercial world, you'd call this false advertising. But it's not relevant here cos I wasn't paid for posting this. 

Ok. I'd shut up for a while now & let you take the feel in.

This place was supposed to have good food at reasonable prices comparative to the other restaurants at Buntal. You'd just have to know how to take the old man's abuse.

This was Kay's favourite.

Steamed prawns, as fresh as they can get, literally from the sea in front of you.

This was kailan vege with beef I think.

Pretty good Oyster Omelletes; different from the ones I've eaten before in a good way.

Nee thought the tomato koay teow was just so so; not enough frying.

This could be the specialty of this place: roasted free range chicken. We both agreed that the herbs could have been stronger, and the salt, less. It was good but it didn't hit Nee's spectacular meter.

Kay had a whole drumstick.

See, did you realise that I was not in any one of the photos here?

I think I seriously have to start camwhoring.

This is the gang that we hang out with; loving & supporting friends who keep each others' feet on the ground. Food & Laughter is our motto.

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