Monthly Archives: October 2012

Chinglish Lunch

Today I went to lunch with a group from the office.  We went to a local Chinese restaurant and had a delicious meal.  I love the Chinese way of ordering lots of different dishes and then everyone tries a little of everything.  It is also nice to go with locals who order food that I would never think to order and most of the time, it is yummy!  I had to laugh at the translation on the menu for many of the dishes.  I don’t know what the staff thought I was doing when I asked to keep the menu so I could take photos!

Every restaurant in China has a food safety certificate prominently displayed.  I think that yellow is ok to eat!  No funny tummy so far……

A yellow neutral face for food safety today

There were 7 of us for lunch and everyone ordered a couple of dishes each.  I chose a spicy fish option, because my first choice had already been ordered:

Explosion Lamb! It was fantastic.

Pork Grandmother (the translation means “homestyle” cooked). Again, it was delicious.

This cauliflower dish was perfectly cooked with a fabulous combination of flavours. Unfortunately, none of my friends knew the English for the “green stuff” so I don’t know what it was cooked with. It was definitely not mustard!

The rest of the photos here are of dish names on the menu that made me laugh, but that I did not try.  I will be going back, so I will be sampling some of these in the future.

So many on this page alone: Moo Meat; Braised Stroke; Chicken Black Fungus; Rich Beef; Cowboy Cake Ring; Chicken, blinds results.

Grilled Husband Sixi. Perhaps all the scorned women of China get together for a special type of “divorce”.

I love soybeans (edamame), but I had no idea that I just been eating the good ones up until now. I can’t wait to try the naughty ones next time!

3 yellow chicken

How many versions of yellow can there be? And, this poor chicken has 3 versions……..

Old Chicken Pot. This poor chicken looks like he just gave up the struggle to live. Chicken in China is more often than not served like this (head and feet). It is also the same when you are buying it. The feet are a delicacy and are most often served deep fried.

Chicken Feet

Halloween Trick or Treat

The Emerald does Halloween Trick or Treat at the weekend nearest to October 31st so last night was our night to be out!  Isabelle was Violet Incredible, Oliver was Dash Incredible and I was Elastagirl Incredible.  Owen stayed at home to give out the candy!

We spent the morning completing the house decoration:

Our Halloween decorated house

Our Halloween decorated house – complete with the “black” light to make the spiders web fluorescent in the dark!

All the little ghosts, witches, wizards, spooks etc met at the Clubhouse at 5.00pm.  There were so many children – I didn’t realize we had so many in our neighborhood!

The neighborhood gathering to start the Trick or Treat rounds

The neighborhood gathering to start the Trick or Treat rounds

Many of the adults were also in costume so it was a very festive and fun walk around!  At 5:15pm all the kids were off and running and in all different directions.  The kids wanted to get to 5th Street as quickly as possible as all the houses in that road had got together to build a Haunted House!

5th Street Haunted House

5th Street Haunted House

We had walked through it earlier in the day and it was a little scary for our 2 incredibles so they definitely did not want to do it again in the dark!

Most of the houses in our large compound were participating in the Halloween tradition and many houses were suitably decorated too!  This is the biggest Trick or Treat that I have ever seen (and we lived in America for 15 years!!!!!)  You could tell who the American children were as they were the ones dressed in costumes that were not scary!  We saw lots of vampires, spooks, witches and ghosts.

Our neighbor across the street had made her own headless woman costume – it looked brilliant:

Our headless neighbor

Our headless neighbor

2.5 hours later, we were back at our house.  There was a note on the door to say that we had run out of candy!  Owen said that the door bell was going non-stop and that he had never seen so many children.  Apparently, everyone loved our pumpkins and were mesmerized by the light.  Our 2 had sore feet and aching legs from all the walking, but were over the moon by the amount of candy they had collected!  A very enjoyable evening – I like Halloween Chinese style!!!!!

Trick or Treating at a neighbors!

Trick or Treating at a neighbors!

 

Emerald Halloween Party

Tonight (Saturday October 27th) was the Emerald Halloween Party at Clubhouse II from 6.30pm – 9.00pm.  The kids were so excited about this and have been talking about it all week – what to wear, who was going and all the activities that they would do there.  It was another mild night, so no need for coats or jackets.  Once we arrived, we could see that a huge effort had been made, the clubhouse was suitably decorated and there were loads of activity tables set up around the main room.

Owen (not in costume), Isabelle the witch, Oliver and Sara

Owen (not in costume), Isabelle the witch, Oliver as Dash Incredible and Sara as Elastagirl Incredible arriving at the Emerald Halloween Party.

Kids and friends at Emerald Halloween Party

Kids and friends at Emerald Halloween Party

Oliver, Ethan, Isabelle and Ava

Oliver, Ethan, Isabelle and Ava

The first activity table was a pumpkin carving station.  Isabelle and Oliver both drew the design they wanted carved and then we left them to be carved by some of the chef’s!  The second activity table was mask painting.  Oliver wanted to paint a pumpkin mask while Isabelle did a cat face.  Unfortunately, while leaving them to dry, someone else took Isabelle’s away, so it was just Oliver who got to take his home.  The same thing happened to her pumpkin, so the chef gave us his extra large pumpkin as consolation.  Our annual tradition of pumpkin carving is going to be broken this year as all the pumpkins here are much smaller and wider.  Not at all the right shape for our elaborate designs.  I feel quite sad about that 😦

Oliver (Daddy assisting) painting his pumpkin mask.

Oliver (Daddy assisting) painting his pumpkin mask.

Isabelle painting her cat mask

Isabelle painting her cat mask

The Emerald also had a haunted house set up.  Oliver refused to go through it and Isabelle went with her friends.  She came back laughing (but nervous laughter) and did not want to go back through it when her friends went for round 2!  Emma and I went through and there was 1 section that made us both jump!

The kids also had a go at tossing hoops over a skeleton to win prizes and throwing candy sweets into a pumpkin.  Both of them came home with pumpkin shaped glasses and light up spooky badges.  It is the little things that bring happiness!  There were 2 more activities: face painting and candy decorating.  Isabelle had a ghost painted on her face and they both found lots of chocolate sweeties!

Oliver proudly displaying his light up badges.

Oliver proudly displaying his light up badges.

I did her eyes and the ghost was done at the party!

I did her eyes and the ghost was done at the party!

A buffet dinner and cocktail/drinks station were set up at the far end of the room.  We ate monster toes (hot dog sausages), Mummy pizza’s, popcorn chicken, french fries and chicken wings.  The bartender put on a display of juggling with flaming bottles.  We had a vampire and damsel in distress dance display as well as a spooky themed disco.  All the kids were dressed up and most of the adults had made an effort too.  It was a fun evening, and we were all home by 9.15pm!

The backdrop to the stage/disco area.

The backdrop to the stage/disco area.

Halloween spookiness everywhere......

Halloween spookiness everywhere……

Who are these 2 people with the witch?

Who are these 2 people with the witch?

Aha, it is Elastagirl and Dash Incredible!

Aha, it is Elastagirl and Dash Incredible!

 

Char Bar, Mr Willis and Friends

End of a long week!  Friday night started with us heading to the Char Bar, which is  a bar on top of Hotel Indigo on the Bund.  We were meeting friends from Emerald on the roof top for drinks before going to dinner in the French Concession.

It was a fantastic evening.  The ladies all wearing sleeveless dresses/tops and no need for a jacket!  The weather is absolutely gorgeous this time of year.  Loads of blue skies, sunshine, good air quality and warm!  We arrived on the rooftop at 7.30pm and had a couple of cocktails there before leaving for dinner at Mr Willis.

Owen, Matt, Emma, Nick and Lin at Char Bar, Hotel Indigo

Owen, Matt, Emma, Nick and Lin at Char Bar, Hotel Indigo.  Great view of the Pearl Tower, Bottle Opener and other downtown buildings from here.

Owen & Sara at the Char Bar, Hotel Indigo

Owen & Sara at the Char Bar, Hotel Indigo

This is a fabulous location!  It was a lovely relaxing start to the weekend – chilled glass of wine, with friends, admiring the view and unwinding from the week.

Fabulous view of downtown Shanghai

Fabulous view of downtown Shanghai

All of the boats on the Bund were lit up!

All of the boats around the Bund were lit up!

Another great view.......

Another great view…….

The Huangpu River at night.

The Huangpu River at night.

We can highly recommend Hotel Indigo!

Hotel Indigo

After such a good start to our evening, expectations were high for dinner!  A short drive across town and we arrived at Mr Willis in the French Concession area.  This area is very distinctive as there are lots of trees down all the avenues and there are many “boutique” type shops, cafes and restaurants.  This area is probably the most western within Shanghai.

Mr Willis restaurant is on the top level of a building with a couple of other restaurants in it.  The menu is all western and top quality.  I shared the Goats Cheese Souffle with Emma (Owen ate a whole portion) to start with and then had Lamb Shank for my main.  Owen had ordered the Roast Beef which was actually the biggest steak I have ever seen, but so delicious (over 50% came home in a doggy bag with us!)  My lamb shank was fall-off-the-bone tender, and perfectly accompanied with couscous and a tomato based sauce.  Owen had lemon sablee for dessert and I had pavlova – both melt-in-the-mouth yummy!  It was a fantastic meal for both of us.

A lovely evening, with lots of laughs, good food, fine wine and friends.  The perfect start to the weekend!

BISS “Ourselves” day, Roman Day, Picnic Day and others……

The school that our children go to, British International School Shanghai, (BISS) is a great school and I am so grateful that they are happy there, getting a fantastic education and having fun!  The school sets high standards – above the standard UK government recommendations and so the expectations are that our 2 should do incredibly well here.  I particularly like that they involve parents in many of the topic and class activities.  For example, a couple of weeks ago, Oliver was finalizing his topic on “Ourselves” which included building his own family tree, learning about the different parts on him, things that people have in common as well as the differences between him and many of his classmates (it is an International school with many different colours of skin, accents, languages and cultures – all of which are discussed and celebrated).  I got the chance to spend a couple of hours helping him finish his family tree and then the finale – draw around him and help him finish his “Oliver self portrait”.

Oliver with his finished "me"

Oliver with his finished “me”

I drew around him and he did all the painting, cutting and sticking on of everything.  It was so much fun!

One of Isabelle’s recent topics has been on the Romans and the finale was to dress up as a Roman for the day:

I am a Roman Goddess!

I am a Roman Goddess!

Showing off the cape......

Showing off the cape……

Walking like a ....... Roman!!

Walking like a ……. Roman!!

Another parent involved day was to assist with a practical on following instructions.  In class, Isabelle brainstormed different sandwich fillings and all the elements that go into making a healthy sandwich.  The next day she had to take those ingredients in and make her sandwich.  This was the parent inclusion aspect!  She was so excited when I arrived in class (about 50% of the children had parents there to watch!)  Then we all went to the football field to enjoy a picnic with the finished result.

Isabelle enjoying her self made sandwich with friends

Isabelle enjoying her self made sandwich with friends (Ava, Sophia, Maddie, Sarah and Mayha).

I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to participate in these events every now and then – it really makes the difference to my life and to the kids!

Oliver's class - Reception Alder. Teacher is Miss S

Oliver’s class – Reception Alder. Teacher is Miss S

Oliver's artwork - his pasta name!

Oliver’s artwork – his pasta name!

 

Chinese Cooking and cooking, kids style

One of the ECA’s (Extra Curricular Activity) that Isabelle is doing at school is Chinese Cooking (the other is Arts and Crafts).  One of her first classes was making Chinese dumplings and they were delicious.  She has also made vegetable fried rice, sticky chicken wings and sticky red bean dumplings.  We have all liked everything so far, except for the red bean dumplings.

Last weekend our Ayi, Angela, was babysitting.  (Owen was in the UK collecting his medication and I was going to a 40th birthday party.)  I came downstairs from getting ready to find Angela and Isabelle hard at work making more delicious dumplings.  Angela was showing Isabelle different ways of filling and making them.  Oliver and I were lucky enough to taste them for lunch on Sunday!  There are a couple of different ways to cook them – you can either steam them or fry them.  I like them fried best and so that is how we ate them.  Surprisingly, even when frying you use at least 1 cup of water to steam them at the same time.  When I read the instructions, I thought that something must have been translated wrong, but as you can see from the photo, they looked (and tasted) perfect!

Isabelle's yummy dumplings!

Isabelle’s yummy dumplings!

On Thursday October 18th, Oliver had a school trip to a Pizza place.  They were learning about cooking too, so all the children got to make their own pizza’s and bring them home for dinner.  Oliver had used many different toppings which were all artfully arranged.  It was delicious too!

That evening, he also wanted to help with dinner.  He put his pizza apron and hat on so he could help Daddy:

Carefully pour the milk in.

Carefully pour the milk in.

Stir well (closely supervised by Daddy!)

Stir well (closely supervised by Daddy!)

Ta-dah!

Ta-dah!

Last week, Isabelle’s Literacy homework was a practical task to prove that she could follow instructions.  She had to pick a recipe or craft activity, make it and take it into school.  She choose to make Marshmallows following Owen’s trusted (secret) recipe!  She has previously successfully made them and shared with her school friends in the UK.  She followed the instructions to the letter and they turned out beautifully:

Marshmallow Queen

Marshmallow Queen

Not to be outdone by his own daughter, Owen had booked a Chinese dumpling cooking class to learn how to make them too.  Yesterday was lesson day!  He went with 1 of the Dad’s and 2 of the Mum’s – he said that the guys performed way better than the girls!  They all had a fun time too.  Even though we are yet to taste them, they look very professional:

Owen's beautifully created dumplings.

Owen’s beautifully created dumplings.

They look so professional

They look so professional

Golden Week Holiday! Final Stop – Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore

After another quick 1 hour flight, we landed back in Singapore at 2.00pm.  We had cleared immigration and were walking out with our luggage at 2.10pm – super efficient.  We took a luxury hotel shuttle bus to the Marina Bay Sands hotel, which is the hotel with the boat on the top.

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Largest Ferris Wheel in the world.

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Largest Ferris Wheel in the world.

View from the Top

View from the Top. Owen is wearing Oliver’s new hat!

Looking down to the ocean and gardens

Looking down to the ocean and gardens

As we had arrived at check in time of 3.00pm, the line was very long, but after collecting our keys we rushed up to our room on 39th floor, changed into swim wear and then raced up to 57th floor and the pool.  It has an infinity edge, so it appears that you could jump out of the pool to the ground below.  It was a little chilly in the pool for Owen and I, so we only stayed long enough for photos!!  The kids enjoyed and hour or so of swimming.

The infinity pool at the top is very cool.

The infinity pool at the top is very cool. The kids thought they could jump out from there to the ground! There are several feet and 3 barriers to prevent this, but it is a great illusion!

My turn for photos!

My turn for photos!

And, Daddy's turn for photos

And, Daddy’s turn for photos!

Chillaxing on the water sun beds!

Chillaxing on the water sun beds!

Messing about on the water sun beds!

Messing about on the water sun beds! This was many minutes of fun: splash, laugh and repeat!

Going......

Going……

Going......

Going……

Gone!

Gone! Splash!

Soaking wet and loving every minute!

Soaking wet and loving every minute!

A quick change out of wet into dry so we could go to dinner.  The Shoppes at Marina Bay is a mall filled with designer, expensive shops.  The mall looked quite busy so I guess singapore must be full of rich people with money to burn.  There were a few celebrity restaurants and we had chosen Bistro Moderne.  Owen had a truffle/short rib burger, Isabelle and Oliver shared a Yankee burger and I had prime rib.  Loads of ice cream for dessert.  All delicious.

We love you Daddy and what a fantastic meal!

We love you Daddy and what a fantastic meal!

Aaah!

Aaah!

We went back up to the roof after dinner to see the skyline lit up. And from our room we watched an amazing light show against water jets as the kids were getting ready for bed.

Singapore at night is amazing.

Singapore at night is amazing.

Up early so we could get to the airport in time for breakfast.  Nice airport with big kids play area.  X-ray machines are by gates – what a fantastic idea!  No long lines waiting to clear security….  I am amazed that no- one has thought of this before.  5 hour flight back to shanghai, ready for work/ school tomorrow…

Golden Week Holiday! Malaysia, Club Med at Kuantan Beach

After our short flight to Kuantan in Malaysia, we were the only flight to go through customs and immigration – it is a tiny airport!  We had a little delay with the transport to Club Med at Cherating Beach, (we were just about to take a taxi, but then the transport arrived!)  When we arrived we were greeted by several people waiting for us in a welcome party!  On the 40 minute drive from the airport, I was amazed to see cows in front gardens, like you would see dogs anywhere else.  We saw monitor lizards and monkeys on the driveway up to reception.  75% of the resort is jungle and so we have been warned about keeping doors and windows locked to keep monkeys out (apparently it is not enough to just keep them shut, the monkeys have worked out how to open unlocked doors and windows!)  We have connecting rooms in a building on stilts (built in local style)  so better sleeping accommodation than at Sentosa Island.  The resort is built on unspoilt coastline and we walked along the beach once we checked in.  There was no-one else on the beach and the kids found some wonderful shells.

Walking on the empty beach - our footprints were the only ones there.

Walking on the empty beach – our footprints were the only ones there. The kids had fun collecting some amazing seashells.

Kids collecting shells with Daddy

Kids collecting shells with Daddy

After  beach time, it was pool time!  The pool is very kid friendly and there were plenty of loungers and cool places to hang out when it got too hot…..

Just chilling by the pool in a cabana made for 2

Just chilling by the pool in a cabana made for 2

Playing in the water jets at the main pool

Playing in the water jets at the main pool

Club Med is all inclusive so meals are buffet style.  There are so many nationalities here (Japanese, French, Malaysian, Chinese, Korean, American and us!) and the buffet selections reflect this.  So, it was a wonderful opportunity to try new types of food.  After dinner, the kids club were putting on a fashion show, which Isabelle and Oliver loved watching and then the staff performed  Mama Mia.

Mama Mia by the Club Med Staff

Mama Mia by the Club Med Staff – pretty good for an amateur show!

There were tigers everywhere to scare the monkeys!

There were tigers everywhere to scare the monkeys! Cuddly ones as well as statues. We saw the staff use the cuddly ones to get the monkeys away from people – very effective!

The pool in the evening - beautifully lit up

The pool in the evening – beautifully lit up

After a wonderful buffet breakfast (so much choice) on Wednesday morning – the kids went off to kids club.  They were going to spend their morning doing archery, tree topolis, pool games, beach games and circus school (learning how to fly on a trapeze).  Meanwhile, Owen and I had a wonderful Balinese massage.  The beds were next to each other in a cabana overlooking the beach and ocean.  It was so relaxing – we booked another session for Saturday!!

Our massage room - views to the beach!

Our massage room – views to the beach!

At lunch, we saw a group of about 20 monkeys climbing over the roof – they are so cheeky here, they can open patio doors and windows.
The resort is a series of locally built structures (no more than 2 storeys high). They are all on stilts, built of wood.  It is a very Eco-friendly place with recycling, limited bottle water and electricity conservation in all rooms.  They have huge bottles of shampoo and body wash in the bathrooms instead of little giveaways.

Oliver on our walk from the pool to hotel rooms

Oliver on our walk from the pool to hotel rooms

Isabelle and Oliver in the grounds of Club Med

Isabelle and Oliver in the grounds of Club Med

Beautiful flowers all over

Beautiful flowers all over

We spent the afternoon lazing by the pool, reading on our iPads and missing the kids!!  At about 3:45, we saw them coming back from an activity, and thank goodness, they were ready for some Mum and Dad time!!  Another couple of hours flew by in the pool.

On Thursday we were up early so we could get on the bus to go into the jungle and elephant sanctuary on a “Safari tour”.  It was a 2.5 hour bus ride during which we learned lots about Malaysia: they produce 47% of the worlds palm oil which is used in cosmetics and soap; they export bio-diesel.  There are huge palm tree forests all over the region we travelled through.  The population is 60% Malay, 30% Chinese, 7% Indian which means a country full of differing religions – Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist – all of which peacefully co-exist here.
Traditional houses are built on stilts out of wood.  However, newer homes are now built out of concrete so don’t need to be on stilts.  There are no fences or boundaries between different homes, extended families look after each other….. it still is a community that is responsible for the next generation and takes care of everyone.  According to tradition, a coconut tree is planted for every child that is born.  There are 13 states (used to be 14, but Singapore became independent in 1965).  There are 9 regional Kings (Sultans) and every 5 years they take it in turns to be the national King.

Our first stop was at deer Park where we hand fed the deer and an ostrich.  We saw peacocks, parrots, rabbits, pheasants and other birds.  I had a snake around my neck!!

First stop on our "Safari" was at Deerland

First stop on our “Safari” was at Deerland

Tropical birds at Deerland

Tropical birds at Deerland

Owen hand feeding the Ostrich

Owen hand feeding the Ostrich

Sara and Oliver feeding the Ostrich (raw potato)

Sara and Oliver feeding the Ostrich (raw potato)

Oliver enjoying feeding the deer

Oliver enjoying feeding the deer

Isabelle making friends with the deer!

Isabelle making friends with the deer!

This deer wanted to kiss Owen, in exchange for food!

This deer wanted to kiss Owen, in exchange for food!

Both kids got brave feeding the deer through the fence

Both kids got brave feeding the deer through the fence

Isabelle did not want to get her hand pecked by the Ostrich!

Isabelle did not want to get her hand pecked by the Ostrich!

But she loved stroking the deer......

But she loved stroking the deer……

Oliver had a special way with the animals and were happy to settle by him

Oliver had a special way with the animals and were happy to settle by him

Oliver did not want to get his hand pecked either!!

Oliver did not want to get his hand pecked either!!

Even the mature deer loved getting petted by Oliver

Even the mature deer loved getting petted by Oliver

This weird looking bird reminded all of us of a Vulture

This weird looking bird reminded all of us of a Vulture

Making friends with Rabbits

Making friends with Rabbits

Wasn't too sure to start with, but this snake was calm

I wasn’t too sure to start with, but this snake was calm. I tried to get photos with Isabelle and Oliver standing next to me, but neither of them would come close!

Onto lunch in the jungle – fish (tilapia) wrapped in leaves and barbecued (delicious), barbaeque chicken cooked in bamboo, vegetables and rice.  Ripe, juicy melon for dessert.

Chicken in the bamboo and fish wrapped in leaves.

Chicken in the bamboo and fish wrapped in leaves. All delicious!

Then onto the elephant sanctuary.  This was so disappointing for all of us as we had paid for elephant rides and swimming with them, but the law changed TODAY and contact is no longer allowed.  We still got to feed them with peanuts and fruit but it was a bitter letdown after our expectations had been set.  It was all the more disappointing because it was a 2.5 hour bus ride each way to experience what we could have done anywhere, and certainly would not have signed up for that trip for just feeding……

Arriving at the Elephant Sanctuary

Arriving at the Elephant Sanctuary

On our way to feed Elephants at the Sanctuary

On our way to feed Elephants at the Sanctuary

Feeding the elephants with peanuts

Feeding the elephants with peanuts

What a wonderful, beautiful creature

What a wonderful, beautiful creature

So soft and gentle.....

So soft and gentle…..

The kids got good at feeding them all

The kids got good at feeding them all

Elephants

Elephants. The sanctuary takes orphaned and wounded elephants, nurse them back to health and independence and then they are returned to the wild.

After a long, bumpy 2.5 bus ride back to the resort, it was time for dinner.  The day had taken its toll on Owen so it was just me and the kids.  It was circus theme tonight and the same staff that had performed Mama Mia last night, were now performing a Cirque du Soleil type show with a spooky theme (it is almost Halloween, after all!!).  Again, another great amateur performance.  Afterwards, they had us exit through the “ghost train” which was actually a spooky scary walk through.  I was a little bit scared with the witches, ghosts and spooks they had created and the kids were really frightened at the end.  I wish they had warned us that it would be so scary, as dealing with 2 scared kids at 10:30pm was not a pleasant experience……  I had to remind them that it was just people dressed up and in make-up.  I hope they dream of elephant feeding and not scary spooks……..

The staff greeting us for dinner and promoting the evening's entertainment

The staff greeting us for dinner and promoting the evening’s entertainment

Lots of activities for the kids

Lots of activities for the kids. While waiting for the show to start, other staff are keeping the kids happy…..

This monkey was waiting right outside our hotel room!!

This monkey was waiting right outside our hotel room!! Definitely a cheeky monkey!

We spent all of Friday morning by the pool.  After lunch we jumped on the resort electric tram to go to Cherating Beach which is unspoiled, natural and very quiet.  It was a lovely afternoon taking kayaks out on the gentle warm ocean, hunting for shells and generally relaxing.  The kids found loads more wonderful shells.

 

On the tram to go to the Beach

On the tram to go to the Beach

Unspoilt Cherating Beach

Unspoilt Cherating Beach

The other side of the Beach is Jungle!

The other side of the Beach is Jungle!

Tiny crabs everywhere - can you spot the 2nd one??

Tiny crabs everywhere – can you spot the 2nd one??

We had so much fun with the kayaks

We had so much fun with the kayaks

Lizard sunning itself on rocks by the Beach

Lizard sunning itself on rocks by the Beach

End of another perfect day.....

End of another perfect day…..

Club Med realized that we were incredibly disappointed with our elephant experience the day before, so had offered us compensation in the form of a nighttime river boat ride to see thousands of fire flys.  So after a quick dinner, we were jumping in a taxi for a 10 minute ride to the river.  What an absolutely fantastic experience and what a treat!  Isabelle and Oliver both caught some and held them in their hands. They were all over us – hair clothes etc.  It reminded us all of the scene from the Disney move “The Princess and the Frog” and both kids were calling out for “Ray” and “Evangeline” to come to them!!  Both Owen and I tried to get photos and videos of this unique interaction – unfortunately nothing came out.

Ready for the Firefly experience

Ready for the Firefly experience – 1000’s of them lit up the sky around us.

At the Firefly dock

At the Firefly dock

We got back to the Resort, just in time to see 10 mins of tonight’s show on Brazil.  It was only 10 minutes because of 2 very tired kids today……

The staff greeting us for dinner and promoting the Brazil show

The staff greeting us for dinner and promoting the Brazil show

The staff are super good with the kids!

The staff are super good with the kids!

Saturday – oh what a morning of pure indulgence!  Owen and I went back to the spa and had a floral foot wash, body scrub, then shower off and straight into the biggest deepest bath I have seen. Then it was Balinese massage time, followed by a fantastic foot treatment for Owen and facial for me.  3 hours of peace, relaxation and quiet time.

The deepest bath either of us had seen.

The deepest bath either of us had seen. 3 hours of pure indulgence for us!

Beautiful sunset through the local style buildings

Beautiful sunset through the local style buildings

The kids were back in kids club doing trapeze skills, pool games, beach, tree topolis and arts and crafts.  The weather can be so changeable in rainy season.  This morning was brilliant blue skies, but suddenly at 2.30pm down comes the rain accompanied by thunder and spectacular fork lightening.

And down comes the rain.  2 hours later we are back to blue skies and sunshine!

And down comes the rain. 2 hours later we are back to blue skies and sunshine!

By 4.00pm it was over and blue skies were back again.  The pool was reopened and time to get the kids!!  Oliver’s late nights were catching up with him, so Owen took him back to the room for movie quiet time.  5.00pm came and we were back in the pool for final hour of the day.  After a quick shower for us all, we were ready for Rembulan restaurant on the beach (a reservation only restaurant at club med).  We had a lovely meal which Oliver slept through!!   We had a spectacular light show over the ocean as there were storms in the distance so the lightening over the water was truly spectacular.  Isabelle is proving to be quite the young lady – apple juice in the wine glass,  helping herself to the salad bar and enjoying the finest lamb dish.  Watching the other Asian kids in the restaurant, I was really proud of her behaviour and manners.

Remulan Restaurant

Rembulan Restaurant

Owen and Oliver went back to our room (sleeping boy to get into bed) while Isabelle and I enjoyed the last evening show of our holiday.   It was a comedy cabaret and Isabelle was in the front row with a friend from kids club.  I could her laughing throughout the entire show!  Another late night night for her as the show did not finish until 10.30 (she wanted to stay for the disco!!!!!)

Isabelle made it onto the stage for the final show of our stay!

Isabelle made it onto the stage for the final show of our stay!

Sunday – up early for breakfast and then speedily got packed.  In the same way that we had many of the staff to greet us when we arrived, we now had the staff waving goodbye to us all as we got on the coach to take us to the airport.  As I said, Kuantan airport is tiny with only 2 flights a day – 1 to Singapore at lunchtime and 1 to KL in the evening.  Needless to say, not much to do at this airport!!

The staff waving us goodbye - we are on the bus to go to the airport

The staff waving us goodbye – we are on the bus to go to the airport

Golden Week Holiday! First Stop – Shangri-La, Sentosa Beach, Singapore

On Friday September 28th, the kids finished school at noon.  1 short hour later we were on our way to the airport to fly to Singapore for the start of our 10 day holiday over Golden Week.  We flew China Eastern Airlines (I have previously flown a couple of times with them domestically), and this was a different experience from British Airways and Delta – both of whom we are frequent fliers with.  China Eastern Airlines ran out of food and drink when we were only half way into the flight!  The flight was full of people escaping China for the holiday week and the economy seats felt much smaller than in BA or Delta!  It is a 5.5 hour flight from Shanghai to Singapore and I know that for Owen it felt like 15 hours!  Once again, I was proud of our kids who were so well behaved.   Singapore airport was a welcome sight – so clean, so organized and so quick!  No lines to get through immigration and our bags came off rapidly too.  Once through customs, there was a very nice driver waiting to take us to the Shangri-La Sentosa Beach resort.  It was now after 10pm and our 2 kids were fading fast……

We drove in a fancy people carrier which the kids loved.  Owen and I just wanted to get to our hotel room at this point!  Check in was fast – a lovely open air lobby on the 5th floor (road side) and then we rode the elevator down to the first floor to our family garden terrace room by the pool.

Shangri-La Sentosa Beach Resort

Owen’s back was so painful after the travel day and so for our first full day Owen did not leave the hotel room.  Isabelle and Oliver were oblivious to either parent as there was a huge pool with water slides!  They were perfectly happy to be here for the whole day and they quickly made friends on the water slides.   Our international move has been so good for the kids confidence (especially Isabelle, who can be quite reserved initially) as they are both proactive now at introducing themselves and making friends.

Checking out the beach by the hotel

Checking out the beach by the hotel

The pool was a kids paradise!

The pool was a kids paradise!

Oliver chilling with the frogs by the pool

Oliver chilling with the frogs by the pool

"Look Mum, I am peeing!!"

“Look Mum, I am peeing!!”

Later in the afternoon, I realized that I did not have any Singapore $$’s so I booked the kids into Cool Zone (kids club) for 30 minutes so I could get the tram into beach station to find an ATM.  I was so glad that I did that as I saw lots of good things to do outside the resort.  Also, Isabelle and Oliver loved the Cool Zone and begged to go back later!

Outside the Cool Zone

Outside the Cool Zone

I came back to get them so we could see some of the activities that they might want to do – the Luge, Mega Zip wire, Beach, Trapeze.  On the way down we saw a couple of peacocks, a big lizard and lots of monkeys!  We had been warned to keep our terrace patio doors closed as the monkeys will come in to steal things!  During our stay we witnessed a cheeky monkey leap from one balcony to another with something glittery in his hands!  Of course, the kids thought this was hilarious.

The peacocks made them jump!

The peacocks made them jump!

One of the largest trees on Singapore

One of the largest trees on Singapore

Oliver and Isabelle by the big tree

Oliver and Isabelle by the big tree

Please don't feed the Monkeys!!

Please don’t feed the Monkeys!!

Isabelle and Oliver on the Silosa Beach letters

Isabelle and Oliver on the Silosa Beach letters

After a really nice dinner – we are all inclusive so dinner was buffet, but what a choice and all great quality.  I like the concept of eat as much as you want too!  Isabelle and Oliver loved going to all the different stations to try new food.  After dinner, they both wanted to spend a couple of hours in the Cool Zone, so Owen and I took advantage of that to enjoy an adult drink and conversation.

Sunday was a much better day for Owen’s back pain so we rode the tram into Beach Station.  First item on the agenda was the Luge!  – we all had a couple of go’s on the luge.  First it was a ski life ride up to the top – our ride’s were attached underneath us.  My stomach dipped a couple of times riding this and we were not that high up!!  What a rush on the Luge!  There were 2 runs down, and once we had completed one, we were back on the ski life to do the other run!  Isabelle rode with me and Oliver rode with Owen on the first run, and on the second run, Isabelle wanted to do it by herself so Oliver rode with me.  As it requires a little arm strength to control the brake and turn capabilities, half way down the second run, Isabelle had enough and rode the rest of it with Owen.

Beach Station

Beach Station

The ski lift ride to the Luge run

The ski lift ride to the Luge run (seen from the top of the Merlion)

Waiting for ride number 2!

Waiting for ride number 2!

Finishing the Luge!

Finishing the Luge!

Too cool!

Too cool!

After the Luge, we rode the tram up to the next stop where the Singapore Merlion is.  We all climbed the Merlion and took photos from the top – you could see all of Sentosa from there, including Universal Studios!  We all stood in the Merlions mouth for more photos and discovered that it actually has 16 teeth and not 4 that you can see from below!    We took a leisurely walk back to Beach Station and then caught the tram back to the hotel.  After another lovely dinner, the kids begged to go back to Cool Zone so Owen and I had another lovely evening enjoying a couple of cocktails before we collected them at bedtime!

Playing with the Octopus outside the Merlion

Playing with the Octopus outside the Merlion

Sitting in the fish outside the Merlion

Sitting in the fish outside the Merlion

Sitting on the water feature by the Merlion

Sitting on the water feature by the Merlion

The Merlion

The Merlion

The Legend of the Merlion

The Legend of the Merlion

In the mouth of the Merlion

In the mouth of the Merlion and pretending to be roaring lions!

The beautiful sculpture seen from the top of the Merlion

The beautiful sculpture seen from the top of the Merlion

The kids loved this water sculpture

The kids loved this water sculpture

The sand sculptures at Beach Station were wonderful

The sand sculptures at Beach Station were wonderful

On Monday morning we booked the kids into the Cool Zone as Owen and I wanted to do iFly (skydiving inside) but it was fully booked!  So we took a leisurely walk along the beach and relaxed by the pool for the rest of the morning until it was time to collect the kids.  Once we picked them up, we went straight to Mega Zip which is most definitely the longest Zip line I have ever seen and…. OMG what an experience!!!!  Soooooo much fun.  Isabelle was scared at the top so we told the guys just let us go and once we were on our way she enjoyed it.  Owen and Oliver went down together and Isabelle and I went together…..

Waiting to do the Mega Zip line ride

Waiting to do the Mega Zip line ride – it is very high and the kids were a little nervous!

On our way down the Mega Zip line

On our way down the Mega Zip line – Weeeeeeeee……..

Hanging about at Silosa Beach

Hanging about at Silosa Beach

More swim and slides time at the pool when we got back.  After dinner, the kids again, begged to go back to the Cool Zone.  Owen and I had always thought that kids club were dumping grounds for parents who did not want to spend time with their kids – it never occurred to us that the kids would actually beg to do it!!  When we passed by the window (on the way to enjoy another evening cocktail!), they were both wrapping one of the workers in toilet roll like a mummy!   They have had so much fun at this resort – we would definitely come back and it is highly recommended.

Tuesday meant an early breakfast as our taxi was coming at 9:00 to take us to the airport for our flight to Kuantan in Malaysia.  Singapore airport is a lovely airport – clean, spacious, lots of lovely shops, big play area for kids and best of all, the x-ray machines are by each gate!  What a fabulous idea to reduce long security lines!  It was an uneventful short 1 hour flight on a little prop jet plane.

The lovely Shangri-La Resort at Sentosa, Singapore

The lovely Shangri-La Resort at Sentosa, Singapore

Golden week – Mid Autumn Festival and National Holiday

Last week was “Golden Week”: the Mid Autumn Festival and National Holiday, which basically means a week off work for most people and a huge travel opportunity!

The People’s Republic of China was founded on October 1, 1949 with a ceremony at Tiananmen Square.  The Central People’s Government passed a Resolution and declared that October 1 is the National Day.  The National Day marks the start of one of the two Golden Weeks in the PRC (the other is for Chinese New Year).  The National Day is celebrated throughout China and Hong Kong and Macau, with a variety of government-organised festivities, including fireworks and concerts.  Public places, such as Tiananmen Square in Beijing, are decorated in a festive theme.  Portraits of revered leaders, such as Mao Zedong, are publicly displayed.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, Mooncake Festival or Zhongqiu Festival, is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar, close to the autumnal equinox.  The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most important holidays in the Chinese calendar, the others being Spring Festival and Winter Solstice.  Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as:

  • Eating mooncakes, traditionally consisting primarily of lotus bean paste.  We bought ours from Starbucks – coffee, green tea and caramel flavoured.
  • Drinking tea.
  • In some parts of China, dances are held for young men and women to find partners. “One by one, young women are encouraged to throw their handkerchiefs to the crowd.  The young man who catches and returns the handkerchief has a chance of romance.”
  • Carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, floating sky lanterns.
  • Burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang’e
  • Fire Dragon Dances.
  • Solving riddles, or miyu in Mandarin Chinese, usually written on slips of paper and pasted on the lanterns.
  • The Moon rabbit is a traditional icon.

The story of Chang E is the most widely accepted tale regarding the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival.  It is said that in ancient times, ten suns existed and the extreme heat made people’s lives very difficult.  It was the hero Hou Yi who, owing to his great strength, shot down the nine of the ten suns.  On hearing of this amazing feat and the hero who performed it, people came from far and wide to learn from him.  Peng Meng was among these people.  Later, Hou Yi married a beautiful and kind woman named Chang E and lived a happy life.

One day, Hou Yi came upon Wangmu (the queen of heaven) on the way to meet his old friend.  Wangmu presented him an elixir which, if drunk, would cause him to ascend immediately to heaven and become an immortal.  Instead of drinking the potion himself, Hou Yi took it home and presented it to Chang E to keep. Unfortunately, Peng Meng secretly saw Hou Yi give the potion to his wife and three days later, while Hou Yi was out hunting, Peng Meng rushed into the backyard and demanded that Chang E hand over the elixir.  Knowing that she could not win, she took out the elixir and swallowed it immediately.  The moment she drank it, she flew out of the window and up into the sky.  Chang E’s great love for her husband drew her towards the Moon, which is the nearest heavenly body to the earth.

On realising what happened to his wife, Hou Yi was so grief stricken that he shouted Chang E’ s name to the sky.  He was amazed to see a figure which looked just like his wife appeared in the Moon, which now takes the form of a rabbit.  He took the food liked by Chang E to an altar and offered it as a sacrifice for her. Hou Yi’s neighbours also burned incense and prepared food to express their good wishes to the kind Chang E.  This became a custom later every year.

If you look at the moon from China, you can clearly see a rabbit shape!  For us, it was a fabulous opportunity to travel to Singapore and Malaysia.