5 reasons why we picked The Great Madras for our family staycation

It’s hubby’s birthday week and we were contemplating going overseas for a short holiday since hubby is on leave and I’m in between jobs. However, our list of activities for the week is so overwhelming (thanks to me!), we can’t seem to make a holiday work.

I decided to book a staycation and surprise hubby with my choice of hotel. We have stayed in a number of hotels locally including 5 star ones like Shangri La, Hard Rock Hotel and Pan Pacific Hotel. We have not tried staying in a boutique hotel here though we have stayed in quite a number of quirky and very Instagram-worthy ones overseas like Dash Hotel in Bali and Kuala Lumpur and Rove Hotel in Dubai.

As I was searching for options, I found out that the Great Suite in The Great Madras is available on the dates I wanted. I only decided that we will go for a staycation last week, hence a lot of hotels didn’t have rooms suitable for us or were completely sold out. (Note: Do book in advance for a greater choice of room and hotel options !) The Great Suite is the second largest room in The Great Madras, but what attracted me most was that it has a huge round bathtub in the room. My boys love bathtubs (which kid doesn’t!!) and to have a huge bathtub in a small hotel is a luxury indeed. I decided to go for the room. We stayed in The Great Madras for 3 days and 2 nights and we love the place. If you are thinking of going for a family staycation, here are 5 reasons why you should consider one in The Great Madras.

1. Location

The Great Madras is located in Madras Street within Little India. There are plenty of alleyways to explore and shops to visit in the vicinity. And if you are a fan of Indian food, you are across the street from Tekka market where some of the best Indian food can be found. Walk a bit more and you will reach famous restaurants like Apollo Banana Leaf and Sakunthala, both known for their briyani, nan and fish head curry. The Great Madras is also a 3 minutes walk from Rochor train station on the Downtown Line, which connects you to east Singapore (Expo and Tampines), central Singapore (Botanic Gardens, Telok Ayer) as well as west Singapore like Bukit Panjang and Sixth Avenue. You are also a short drive / Grab ride away from Orchard and City Hall, and you can even walk to Bugis. Excellent location, really!

2. Picture Perfect Everywhere

Whimsical with a dash of retro is the theme of the hotel, Wes Anderson-inspired, with every nook and corner good enough for your Instagram feed. Even the toilet door doesn’t quite look like just an ordinary toilet door. The lift has a huge round mirror inside. The walkway to the swimming pool has steps which has some rules written on them. The quotable quotes all around are very much quotable. Even the books on the book shelves are curated to appeal to the guests, with customised book jackets printed for some of them. It makes me want to customise all the books covers for my book shelf too!

3. 24-hour shopping

Yes, you can shop all day and all night at Mustafa Centre, just a few roads down from the hotel. We were supposed to go on a birthday shopping spree on our second night, but hubby made soccer plans with his colleagues. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were too tired to go shopping. You can get just about anything and everything you can think of in Mustafa. I always wonder how they manage their inventory. It must be a massive headache!!

4. Dad needs a haircut or a shave?

Yes, located at Level 1 of The Great Madras is The Golden Rule Barber Co, a hipster barber joint known for their pop up stores and events. Indulge in a hair pampering session while mum and kids laze in the room or go swimming. A very convenient arrangement for the family !

5. Breakfast and dining options

Also at the ground floor is The Great Mischief, a halal cafe offering their own rendition of Catalan delicacies featuring a wide range of Tapas options. Hotel stay comes with free breakfast served in the same venue with a free flow buffet setup of cereals, eggs and bread.

Head over to the hotel website for more info on the venue and the rooms.

Every school a good school, but Home is a whole lot better

I was nursing baby to sleep, with the firstborn lying next to us.

Me: Ari, we have confirmed your primary school. You will be going to Yumin Primary School.

Ari: How do you know that Ibu?

Me: We received a text this morning. We will be going to your school on 9 November to meet your new friends.

Ari: (grinning widely) Ok Ibu.

So yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m happy to announce that we have successfully secured a place for Ari in one of the 6 schools within one kilometre from our new place. I’ve said this before and I will say it again, the process of registering my firstborn for a primary school has been a very stressful one and I really wonder whether all that stress was necessary / could have been avoided.

6 years ago, we had Ari. Our firstborn. And he happened to be a dragon baby. 6 years ago, we knew that getting him into a primary school will be a challenge. We decided there and then that we will register Ari into one of our primary schools. My alma mater is Opera Estate Primary. Hubby’s alma mater is Temasek Primary. Between the two, Temasek had a slight edge because it was nearer to our home (we were staying in Simei) and Temasek was/is a popular choice.

So what made us change our minds? We could have secured a place in Temasek during Phase 2A(2) if we wished to. Instead we decided to wait it out and register at Phase 2C. Let me attempt to break down some of our considerations.

1. Home-School Distance – the nearer the better

Earlier this year, we sold off our flat and bought one in Tampines. Just like that, our school options increased with 6 schools located within 1 km from our place. The nearest school, Gongshang Primary, is the most ideal because Ari would have to cross just one road to reach the school. The next nearest schools are Yumin and Chongzheng Primary. The remaining schools are further away and are easily about a 15minute walk from our place.

Distance became a huge deal to us (especially to hubby) because for the next 2 years at least, our 3 boys will have different school/caregiving arrangements in the day. Ari in primary school, Dani in childcare and Izz in Nenek care. Going to a school further away from home will mean having to wake up earlier and shuttle the other 2 boys to their child/Nenek care earlier. Other alternatives include getting Ari to wake up even earlier and board the school bus or hubby sending Ari off to school first and return home for a second trip out with the rest of us. This will be a huge problem on the occasional mornings when either of us have to be in work early and the other is pretty much on his/her own. Plus the fact that morning traffic can be pretty busy where we are.

2. No balloting, please

We learnt that Gongshang and Chongzheng usually have balloting at Phase 2C. Yumin doesn’t. We were concerned about going for balloting and not getting a spot, and then in Phase 2C supplementary, the schools nearest to our home don’t have any more vacancies. We signed up for a Kiasuparent account just so we can study the balloting history of these schools and make our own risk assessments.

3. CCA offerings

We decided to research more about the options near home. We found out that only Yumin offers soccer as CCA. Gongshang has rugby but hubby wasn’t keen for the boys to pick up such a rough sport. Ari is excited at the prospect of playing soccer in his primary school.

Logic vs Reputation

All of a sudden, Yumin became an attractive choice. Near home, low chance of balloting at Phase 2C and it offers soccer as a CCA. But what was ironic was how despite Yumin being a logical choice, it was a struggle for us (me mostly, hubby wasn’t as conflicted) to come to peace with that decision.

I didn’t know any friends who went to Yumin Primary or had kids in Yumin Primary. But I knew many people who studied in or have kids who studied in Gongshang or Chongzheng Primary. We were told that Gongshang and Chongzheng were more academic-focused schools.

It got me wondering what are the yardsticks that the society has been using to compare these schools. Is it the PSLE results – percentage passes, number of top students, quality of teachers ? Will my kids be better off in a “better” school? Or will they be equally good in a “less reputable” one? Are we shortchanging them by sending them to the latter?

When I shared our struggles briefly in FB, a friend posted this comment :

Every school a good school,

but Home is a whole lot better.

Reframing my thoughts about the choice of primary schools helped me find that much needed peace. Yumin is near home. Yumin is near caregiver’s home. If Yumin doesn’t prepare my kids well academically, both hubby and myself are capable and experienced (ex-tutors, mind you!) enough to teach our kids. It was pretty serendipitous how on the same day I decided that Yumin was a good choice for Ari, I found out that one of the staff in the boys’ childcare has a kid in Yumin Primary. By chance we were talking about P1 options, and she shared that her son is in the school. That same evening, she sent a photo of Yumin’s school values and shared what she liked about the school.

School is not everything. Learning is. And learning goes beyond the school, beyond the classrooms. We will continue to engage the boys, travel the world, impart life skills, cultivate values etc. We agree that Home is a whole lot better. Home is everything.

Here are some useful links for parents who will like a head start in preparing for their kids’ P1 registration.

1. P1 registration process and elaboration on what the different phases means > MOE website

2. School vacancies by Phases > MOE website

3. 2018 P1 registration oversubscription risk > Kiasuparents

4. Balloting history > Kiasuparents (members only)

WBW 2018

In conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week, here’s a collection of photos of me and my nurslings taken during our family travel adventures.

Thankful for the support and guidance of fellow mummy friends and counsellors from breastfeeding support groups (BMSG!) and friends, colleagues and family members who allowed me to go all crazy about breastfeeding.

Much love to the hubby, my biggest supporter, who would listen to my woes, help me dig out nursing covers, wipes etc from deep within my bag when I’m feeding on the go and wake me up when baby cries on those nights when I’m just so tired and sleep like a log.

Every breastfeeding mum has her own kampung (village) cheering her on. These people are from my kampung.

Familytrippers review BedBox

Thanks to Taxi Baby Singapore, we had the opportunity to bring along a BedBox by JetKids ride-on suitcase on our recent trip to Dubai. We have seen photos and videos of the BedBox in action before, and we have been wondering whether it is a good buy for the boys. The boys have Trunki luggages, but we don’t often bring those along when we travel either. We figured it’ll be a hassle to have so many luggages and so few people pushing/carrying them.

BedBox, the luggage

Measuring 46cm x 20cm x 36cm, the BedBox weighs 3kg and has swivel wheels at the front to allow for seamless manoeuvring. We were impressed with the storage capacity of the BedBox. 20 LITRES! Even with the BedBox cushion, there was still plenty of room to store other things. These days, I leave the packing of the kids’ non-essential items to Ari. His task is to think of items (toys, books, etc) to bring along for the trip, the only criteria being they must fit into one bag and can be shared between the brothers. Ari managed to pack like a gazillion toy cars (I stopped counting after 20!), 3 storybooks, frisbees, a LeapFrog writing toy, and a couple of other random items.

BedBox, the bed

But the BedBox has a dual purpose which is what attracted me to it – it converts the flight seat into a bed. We travel on Economy class most all the time, and the seats aren’t often the most comfortable seats. In the plane, I’ve seen the boys shift around so much just to make themselves comfortable. On long haul flights, they will share their seats just so they can stretch out their legs and/or lie down whenever possible. Occasionally we end up with 1 or 2 empty seats next to us, and the boys get more room to sleep, sit, stretch etc. And then, there’s that challenge of making sure that the boys do not kick the seat in front of them. After sitting down for a long time, it does feel good to be able to stretch out your legs. I don’t blame the boys for wanting to do so!

Our Verdict

So how useful was the BedBox for our family?

1. Legs up!

For the first time since his bassinet days, Ari got to prop up his legs on his own seat, and not on Dani’s or mine or the Daddy’s. He was seated very comfortably throughout the flight, didn’t fidget much and barely got out from his seat except to go to the toilet one time. He was not able to stretch out his legs fully though due to lack of space. (Ari is 6 years old.) We didn’t manage to get 4 year old Dani to try out the bed (he fell asleep at take-off!) but I suspect he would have been able to stretch out his legs and the in-flight bed would probably be much more comfortable for Dani than Ari’s age group.

2. Restrictions on usage

Like the bassinet, the BedBox need to be stowed away at take-off, landing and during turbulence. It can be quite a hassle to fix and stow away in the overhead compartment if the flight encounters plenty of turbulence or if you are travelling solo with multiple kids. As I was busy tending to the baby, hubby handled the boys and fixed / removed the BedBox.

3. Ease of usage

Hubby managed to install the BedBox pretty quickly, he didn’t need to refer to a manual either. It’s relatively easy-to-use. Ari on the other hand struggles to open the lid of the BedBox and often had to holler for help each time he wanted to take out something from the luggage.

4. Ride on fun

The boys enjoyed riding on the BedBox, but because we only had one piece, they were constantly squabbling over whose turn it was to ride on it. We had to keep coming in to “referee” and reminding them to take turns.

Would it have been better to bring along two BedBoxs? We’re not too sure about that. As it is, the BedBox is pretty bulky and having two of them would have increased our luggage tally to 4. 3 was a comfortable number for that trip. It also depends on how much cross-city travelling we will be doing in the trip. If we were staying put in one location only, it would be perfectly fine to have 2 BedBoxs. But because we did move from place to place quite a bit in this trip, having an additional luggage would not have been ideal.

Curious to know what Ari thinks of the BedBox? Watch this video! In the video, Ari shares what he likes about the BedBox, the stuff he packed in it, step-by-step instructions on how to fix the BedBox, as well as how you can be the proud owner of one.

The BedBox by JetKids retails at SGD$299. Taxi Baby Singapore is currently having a promotion for its BedBox at a special price of SGD$269 only. Click here to purchase one for the family.

In collaboration with Taxi Baby Singapore, Familytrippers will be holding a special giveaway. Stand a chance to win a BedBox worth $299. Look out for our Giveaway post in our Instagram and Facebook pages on 1 June 2018.

Why you should consider staying in ROVE Downtown, Dubai

Reason #1: It’s not just a hotel stay

Rove Downtown is not just an ordinary hotel stay, it provides a holistic experience unlike any other! Every corner of Rove Downtown is aesthetically pleasant to the eye and seemed to have been designed for a purpose. As soon as you step into the lobby, it feels like you are stepping into someplace cosy and familiar. There’s something about Rove that makes you feel like you belong there, even if you are a family with 2 hyperactive, nap-deprived kids and a wailing baby in tow.

Reason #2: It’s designed especially for the Wanderlust soul

The theme of Rove chain of hotels is on travel and is sure to excite every wanderlust soul out there. Every corner, every accessory, every decor, every quote, every nook and corner speaks to you. It feels like home, the most perfect home for that wanderlust soul. In fact, this wanderlust soul has been inspired by what she saw in Rove Downtown and is hoping to incorporate some of the decor ideas into the family’s new home.

Reason #3: Location, location, location!

Rove Downtown is a stone’s throw from Dubai Mall, probably the busiest and most popular mall in Dubai. Burj Khalifa, the jewel of Dubai, decks the view from our room. A truly priceless Dubai stay, at a  fraction of the cost of other well-known hotel chains in the vicinity. Truly a value-for-money one at that.

Reason #4: There’s something for everyone

Apart from the usual hotel facilities like the swimming pool and the gym, Rove also has a games room with a set of Playstation and consoles and a play room with sports equipments like Table Tennis, Basketball hoop, a Football table and a Golf putting mat – the kinda stuff that appeals very much to our boys. Definitely a win for our family! There’s even a minimart at the lobby, very very convenient if you need to get items quickly without having to make a trip to the mall.

Reason #5: Once you Rove, you will always be a Rover

Rove guests are known as Rovers and it feels like an honour to be once called a Rover. It’s like sharing a secret that no one else knows, and that you hope it will stay that way just so you can always get a room when you need it! But this Rover wants the hotel chain to be successful and hopefully expand to many other parts of the world. So that we get a chance to stay in a Rove hotel each time we travel. How about one in Singapore too? It’ll make a perfect staycation during the months when we are homebound.

Reason #6: Uniquely Rove

And because there are some designs unique to Rove hotels, you will immediately spot them when stalking following others on their social media pages. Like this photo

and this

because there really is…

Rove Downtown is located at

312 Happiness Street, Zabeel 2, 119444, Dubai, UAE

https://goo.gl/maps/mhAm4XZbExq

Check out the newest attraction in Dubai

Dubai’s newest attraction is a frame! Yes, you read that right… it’s a frame. Not any usual frame, but a giant 48 storeys high kinda frame!

Standing tall at 150m high, you can easily spot it when travelling within Dubai city. And because it is unique, a one-of-its-kind in the world, (it’s even acclaimed to be the biggest frame ever built!) we chose to visit the Dubai Frame over a what would have been a less exciting and more ordinary experience at the Burj Khalifa Observatory Deck.

The Dubai Frame opened its doors to the public in January 2018, after almost a decade of planning and construction. It is strategically located within Zabeel Park and offers a spectacular view of the Old and New Dubai. The Dubai Frame was designed by award-winning architect Fernando Donis, who also designed the Dubai Porsche Design Towers and the Renaissance Tower. The total cost of building the Dubai Frame was 160million AED!

View from the Top

The two vertical sides of the frame are elevators that will bring you up to the top level where the viewing gallery is at. Here, you get to see for yourself two different sides of Dubai. On the north, you will have a bird’s eye view of the “old Dubai” – consisting of places like Derai and Dubai Creek. On the south, modern skyscrapers with buildings such as the Burj Khalifa and Emirates Tower deck the landscape known as the “new Dubai”.

Old Dubai

New Dubai

Enjoying the view from the TOP!

Interactive activity

There are a number of interactive touchscreen displays in the gallery providing information on the view and the buildings that you are looking to. The touchscreen also allows you to take selfie shots with the Dubai Frame as backdrop. We had fun taking various selfie shots on the machines, though be warned that there will definitely be photo-bombers at the back ! You can also choose to add the photos to the digital photo wall at the ground floor and we got the kids to play a round of “spot our photos” later on.

Walking on Glass

The main attraction at the top floor of the Dubai Frame is a glass bridge set in the middle of the gallery. It’s frosted at first glance, but when the motion sensors are activated, the glass becomes clear, revealing the view of the grounds 150m beneath. For those with a fear of heights, don’t worry, you can avoid walking on the glass bridge. But if you would like to try and overcome your height phobia, this is the best place to do so !

Boys looking down 150m below !

Exhibition galleries

At the ground floor, there are two galleries that you will be ushered to – the first features Dubai’s development over the years, from the past to where it is today. Towards the end of your visit, you will be brought to an virtual reality gallery showcasing Dubai 50 years into the future. You get to go on a journey through Dubai’s Past, Present and Future all in one!

A perfect photo spot

Even if you do not wish to access the viewing gallery of the Dubai Frame, it’s still worth a visit because of the fact that it is a one-of-its-kind structure and more importantly, it makes an awesome backdrop for photos. We started taking photos from outside the gated compounds of the Dubai Frame, and they were awesome. The gold structure stands out majestically against the clear blue sky. A perfect place to be trigger-happy!

Here’s a short time lapse video of our elevator ride down the 48-storey high Dubai Frame. Enjoy!

http://familytrippers.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/img_3020.mov

Getting there

Dubai Frame is located in Zabeel Park. You can get there by Metro and stop at the Al Jafiliyah station. Alternatively, you can hail a cab or book an Uber ride. If you drive, there are plenty of parking spaces around the park. Entrance to the Dubai Frame is located at Gate #4 of the park.

View on Google map

Tickets are priced at 50AED for adults and 20AED for children above 3 years old. Free entry for children below 3 and the disabled. Opening hours is from 9am to 9pm daily.

For more photos and videos of our visit to the Dubai Frame, check out our Instagram story highlights and our photo album in Facebook.

Packing List templates for all your Family Travel needs

Packing for a family trip can be quite a chore, especially if you’re going on a first trip with the little one(s). After awhile, you do get the hang of the things to bring or not to bring on your family trips. The rule of thumb for us is to overpack rather than underpack ! You’ll never know when the extra clothes will come in handy or when the excessive snacks can help soothe a cranky child.

We’ve put together 3 sample packing lists that can serve as a base for you as you start packing for your upcoming trip. It’s not meant to be exhaustive, cos every family has their own unique needs. Feel free to modify the list and add in / remove items to suit yours.

FREE Templates for download !

List 1 – Familytrippers packing list for all trips

List 2 – Familytrippers packing list for beach/resort holidays

List 3 – Familytrippers packing list for road trips

Let us know if you’ve found these useful! Happy packing! ☺️

Familytrippers’ Top 3 indoor playgrounds and theme parks in Johor Bahru

Here’s a quick review of our top three indoor playgrounds and theme parks for your next JB adventure.

1. Fanpekka, AEON Tebrau Mall

We have heard so much raving reviews of Fanpekka from our friends, and we knew we had to check it out! Fanpekka is a Finnish-inspired theme park, occupying over 27,000 square feet of space in AEON Tebrau Mall. This was the top item in our to-do list during our last trip to JB.

The kids were issued a passport which they had to get stamped as they enter the indoor playground. Our little seasoned Travellers had no trouble getting this part done with little assistance from us parents.

Once inside, the kids were spoilt for choice. There was a huge selection of role play activities that they could indulge in, from being a pizza seller, to a cashier or Chef. Dani’s personal Favourite was dressing up as a fireman and driving the fire engine!

The Nautical-themed ball pit in Fanpekka is a clear winner! It’s huge, mind you, and it’s probably the biggest that we have been to thus far with plenty of play options, slides, etc. Entertaining for both kids and adults!

There is also a section for families to build and design their own houses using the planks provided. You can decorate your house and fill it up with furnitures and kitchen items provided. Ours had a slide at the entrance just because we thought it will be fun to have one!

There’s a family-friendly cafe located within the indoor park, very convenient when you are hungry and need a bite.

Admission fee to Fanpekka is RM66 inclusive of 1 child(RM55) and 1 adult(RM11). Kids below 2 years old enters for free. Operating hours are from 10:00am to 10:00pm daily.

2. Angry Birds Activity Park, Komtar JBCC

We visited the Angry Bird Park back in 2015 when our firstborn was barely 3 years old. Entrance is free for kids below 3 years old, hence we only had to buy tickets for ourselves.

We decided to visit the park again over the New Year holidays. This time round, our #2 has just turned 3 years old, and as a result, he wasn’t eligible for the free entry. We decided to go for the family pass, which cost RM280 for a family of 4. If you are a Maybank card holder, you are eligible to purchase the family pass RM218 only!

On weekends and public holidays, the park has three different time slots for entry. 10am-1pm, 2pm-5pm and 6pm-10pm. The one-hour break per play session is utilised by the staff to sanitise and reset the play equipments. We arrived at 1pm, and since we had an hour to go before the next play time, we decided to have lunch at the Boat Noodles restaurant which was located just next to the theme park.

During the one-hour closure also, we caught a dance item by the Angry Bird mascot and staff of the theme park too. We’re not sure whether it’s a regular feature or whether it happened to be a special item on that day though. By 1.45pm, a queue has formed at the entrance of the theme park. The first time we visited the park, this was Ari’s favourite activity then – the balance bike ramps. This time round, he still enjoyed this activity the most. 3yo Dani enjoyed this activity too!Another of Dani’s favourite activity was the foam building blocks. He built ramps and rolled balls along them for a good 30 minutes!

The Piggy Shooting Gallery was also a hit with the boys. Featuring three ball guns, objective of the station is to knock down as many of the piggies as possible. Very much like the actual Angry Birds game!

We then headed to the trampolines and the giant leap foam pit, and boys being boys, they didn’t get tired of jumping around and into the foam pit. http://familytrippers.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/img_7915.mov

Ari tried go-karting for the first time and the boys ended the evening at the Soccer station. 3 hours of fun for the boys = 3 hours too long for us parents. Some of the activities like the mazes were not that suitable for young kids like ours. According to hubby, there were obstacles that they could not overcome because they were not tall enough and he would have to assist them through the obstacles. By 5pm, we were pooped !Operating hours from 10am to 10pm daily.

Tickets at RM75 per person (child/adult). Free entry for kids below 3 and senior citizens above 60. Multiple entries allowed.

3. The Little Big Club / Sanrio Hello Kitty Town, Puteri Harbour

Families with young kids need to check out the indoor parks at Puteri Harbour. Where else can you find Thomas & Friends, Barney, Bob the Builder, Angelina Ballerina, Pingu and Hello Kitty right under one roof if not at Puteri Harbour! Definitely a treat for the young ones with 6 themed interactive play zones.

Thomas & Friends’ rides were a hit with our boys both times we were there. We probably spent the bulk of our time on those rides. In our last visit in March 2016, we went on the Thomas train ride 3 times in a row!

Another activity that was a hit with the boys is Bob the Builder’s construction site. They can easily spend 30mins (or more!) in the construction site – building, piling, climbing etc.

The other activity zones aren’t to the boys’ liking. So we will try and catch some of the live shows on stage or stalk the cartoon characters for a photo.

Both times we were there, we skipped the Hello Kitty Town just because our boys weren’t interested in them.

Both parks operate from 10am – 6pm, daily except on Tuesdays, their off days. Tickets at RM 85 for Little Big Club. 2 park passes to Little Big Club and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town available at RM 125 only.

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Know of other indoor playgrounds and theme parks in JB that Familytrippers should explore? Leave a message and we will include them in our next JB-tripping adventure!

Our family travel stories by #thesuhardis