The Kidzania Survival Guide (Parents’ Edition)

Remember a time when you used to put on a paper hat and cooked vegetable scraps in the kitchen? Or when you ran your own little clinic by checking all your stuffed animals for fevers? Did you ever put little price tags on all your belongings to set up your own little departmental store? Kidzania offers children the chance to experience traditionally adult activities like going to work (and getting paid), and making purchases.

Role playing is the best way to learn, and in Kidzania where everything is made to resemble a little functioning city, it promises nothing but fun.

Everything is beautifully set up in a child-sized environment, and meticulously thought through to ensure an almost real running economy. Children will love it, there’s no doubt about it; it will be the best day of their lives. But perhaps not as fun for adults because they won’t be able to participate in any of the activities. In fact, most times, adults will be separated by a glass panel where they can watch but not interfere with their children’s experiences.

We’ve been to Kidzania twice – once in Singapore and once in Kuala Lumpur – and stayed from opening till closing both times. Our kids loved it of course, and we did as well. Based on our experience, here are ten things we think are necessary for parents to know or have in order to survive Kidzania. And by surviving, I mean minimal meltdowns for both parents and kids. Sounds good? Let’s go.

Planning a trip to K.L? Read about the kid-friendly activities that we enjoyed here.

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1. Enjoy yourselves too

When you enjoy yourselves, your happiness rubs off your kids, and they’ll have a better time too, don’t you think?

Kidzania opens with a bang where all the Zupervisors will line the streets and dance to the Kidzania theme song. You will soon realise that they do this every hour on the hour. So you can choose to do one of two things – 1) try to ignore them and race past them as you and your children head on to the next destination, or 2) sing and dance along with them together with your children, or at least smile and wave at them. Many children enjoy the dance and bop along to the music whenever it comes on.

While you’re at it, when Zupervisors smile and greet you with “Kai!” (Kidzania’s way of saying hello), go ahead and put two fingers over your heart like they do, and reply “Kai!”. The same way you would put on Mickey Mouse ears while in Disneyland, right? So just let loose and enjoy yourselves too. It will make your entire day so much more fun.

Don’t forget to wear comfy shoes. Our step counters told us that we walked about 9,000 steps while in Kidzania so choose shoes over flip-flops, please. Your feet will thank you.

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2. Let your children enjoy the complete experience

Sometimes our fault as parents is that we love the kids too much and want to do everything for them. In doing so, we forget that the best way for them to learn is through experience.

They will be paid Kidzos when they complete their respective jobs, and will need to pay to learn certain skills. All these transactions are done within the activity area where you will not be allowed to enter. Give them a little pouch or sling bag to carry so that they can manage their own money. It will be easier, not to mention faster, to prepare their Kidzos for them, but if you let them do it on their own, not only will they learn better, but also enjoy the independence. I can honestly say that one of my favourite moments out of the ten (yes, ten) hours we spent at Kidzania Singapore, was watching our 4-year old answer questions from the facilitators (sorry, Zupervisors) and counting her own money from her little purse for each activity.

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3. Let them do the choosing

Parents, I am going to tell you something, and it will absolutely gut you. Ready? Here goes : It is called Kidzania, not Momzania. So as much as you want to get a picture of your darling in a pilot outfit, try not to push your own ideas to the kids. Let them do the choosing. Remember that at the end of the day, it’s just a fun place, and whatever they choose is absolutely no indication of their ultimate career path.

As parents, we have the tendency of wanting to squeeze many activities into a short time, so that we can get everything done. But kids think differently. So if they don’t want to see a performance, or try out acting classes, or learn about surgeries, then don’t force them.

It’s all about fun. It’s all about enjoyment. It’s all about learning. It’s all about them. So if they want to earn Kidzos laying bricks at the construction site, or delivering newspapers, just let them. Our 4-year old really enjoyed being a window cleaner.

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4. Go at their pace

See above point about Kidzania/Momzania. There are approximately 100 activities that kids can participate in, in over 60 establishments. With each activity lasting at least 20-30 minutes, it is impossible to cover everything even if you stay from opening till closing.

As a practical adult, I can understand the urge to want to cover as much as possible because hey, the admission tickets are not cheap. If we were to let the kids go 100% at their own pace, there is the slight (almost impossible) chance that they might end up wanting to simply walk around and not participate in anything, thus wasting all that money.

So while you want to give your kids the experience of ‘shopping around’ for things to do, gently remind them that they will not be able to do everything, but that they will be able to do many activities if they focus.

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5. Go for coffee breaks when you can

Do not misread what I just wrote. I did not say chuck your children somewhere while you go off gallivanting.

There are certain sessions that you will not have any contact at all with your children – like when they are training to be pilots or part of cabin crew for instance. Unless you’re a passenger on the aircraft, you can either choose to spend half an hour sitting by the entrance or the activity area, waiting for them to emerge, or you can dash to any of the F&B outlets for a quick cuppa. Yes, coffee. Go for it. It’s going to be a long day.

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6. Hold off the cameras

Yes it is a special occasion, and yes having pictures of your children in those little chef hats are absolutely adorable. But think of it this way: knocking on the glass panel every 2 minutes asking them to look at you not only distracts your children, but also the other children in the group. How about just snapping a pic or two and then spend the rest of the time smiling at them and giving them the “Awww you’re so cute” look of adoration? That would be a better memory for them anyway.

And don’t forget – this is a fun day not only for your children, but for all the other kids as well. So don’t get so engrossed in photo taking and waving that you end up blocking other kids or worse, bumping into them!

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7. Manage expectations

So you’ve explained to your children that they simply can’t do everything. Let’s talk about your expectations now, shall we?

Your research will show you that the best thing to do is to send your kids to bake pizzas or make burgers or sushi when lunch time is approaching. That is a fantastic idea. But it is also the same idea that every other parent will have. So first, it will get crowded, and second, your child might not have the same idea.

So we started the day out fixing a loose time for lunch and dinner, and the kids knew that if they were to fuss about eating, then we’d all bid Kidzania farewell. I think that was the fastest I’d ever seen my children eat.

Just be warned that food options are not only limited, but they also um shall we say, do not rank the highest in nutritional value. So that’s another expectation to manage. Bring your own little snacks if you like. And water bottles (fill up at the coolers).

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8. Let them do their own queuing

There is a queue line at the entrance of every activity, and the rule is that the child participating in the activity must be in line himself. Alone. Don’t worry, you can be just out of the queue and beside your child. But no, parents and guardians are not allowed to be in the queue in place of the child. Which is perfect because that would mean that every child in Kidzania gets a fair and equal chance to participate in all activities.

So if Junior is in line, then runs off to do something, nobody is allowed to hold his place. So if he returns and finds that his spot is gone, he loses it and would have to queue again. Well, that would be the perfect chance to explain a life experience, wouldn’t it?

What about toilet breaks? As long as your child is already in the queue, let the Zupervisor know that he just needs to step out to go to the loo, and he will be given a queue card of sorts. The whole idea is to encourage responsibility and independence, through a fun way, no less.

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9. Ditch the map

Upon entry, you will be given a map of Kidzania. It is very comprehensive. It is also very big and shall we say, not entirely child-friendly. It is pictorial but it is sometimes hard to decipher what the images are trying to depict. Of course, there are numerical references, but that can be quite confusing for a young child. I suggest to ditch the map entirely, and simply go with the flow. We took the map but it remained in our pockets the entire time; we simply did not feel the need for it.

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10. That final activity

Ah yes, everybody panics when the announcement comes up to say that Kidzania is closing in half an hour. That’s the last call to squeeze in one more activity. This is when you tell your children very calmly that they can only do the activity that is closest to them with no queue. There is no time for queuing at that time. There will be no time to go hunt for something they saw during the day and want to try it out. There is a high chance that they either 1) won’t be able to find it or that 2) there will already be a queue. So tell them – it’s either this, or nothing, because the place is closing. And every child understands “the place is closing”.

I have to admit that the child in me thoroughly enjoyed both my times at Kidzania, even though I didn’t participate in anything. I hope that you’ll enjoy your Kidzania times too. If you let loose and let yourself have fun, it will not be a long draggy day, I promise! Till next time, zee you!

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Kidzania Singapore is located at Palawan Kidz City, 31 Beach View, Sentosa Island. It’s opposite the Port of Lost Wonder. You’ll see the big aeroplane nose sticking out of the building. The closest train station on Sentosa Island is Beach Station. Check out updated ticket prices here.

Note: Images shown were taken at both Kidzania Singapore and Kidzania Kuala Lumpur outlets.

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What to Do and Eat Around Ipoh

Ipoh, the capital city of the state of Perak, is the third largest city in Malaysia. But somehow, it does not enjoy the same level of fame and popularity, nor receive as many tourists as other cities like George Town, Malacca, Johor Bahru or Kuala Lumpur.

Visiting KL? Read this: What to do in Kuala Lumpur with kids? 

Perhaps it is that the days of tin mining glory of Ipoh have passed, but the general feel we got of Ipoh was that it was an extremely sleepy town and no one seemed to be in a rush. Everyone we met was helpful and patient, which was a very refreshing change for us, coming from a busy cosmopolitan city.

Despite the fact that there were few shops open for business, there are plenty of food options around. It was funny actually – everywhere was quiet, so much so that you wonder if it’s a public holiday and everyone’s out of town. You wonder where everyone is and what they’re up to and then you step into a restaurant and BAM! Hello, Ipohians, there you are! Speaking of food, here are some suggestions to whet your appetite.

L.I.F.E Ipoh Food Collage

Top row, L-R: Tau fu fah from Funny Mountain, Curry noodle from coffee shop across the street from Funny Mountain, full breakfast at Ben&Lynette at Ipoh Parade Shopping Centre

Middle row, L-R: Tauge (of tauge ayam fame) from Restoran Lou Wong, roast duck from Sun Yeong Wai, Egg caramel custard from Restaurant Sin Yoon Loong

Bottom row, L-R: Steamed prawns at Pusing Public Restaurant, Dim sum at Ming Court Hong Kong Dim Sum*, Teh tarik from nondescript coffee shop near Gerbang Malam (night market)

*Across the road is Foh San Restaurant that looks much more authentic, and more affordable, but it was way too crowded

 

We stayed at French Hotel, and apart from Sun Yeong Wai, everything shown above was within a comfortable walking distance.

 

If you want more than just a gastronomical holiday within Ipoh, then hiring a driver to take you to slighter further away places (we even managed to squeeze in a day-trip to Cameron Highlands) is a good idea.

 

Kellie’s Castle

31000 Batu Gajah

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This incomplete castle was supposed to be the holiday home of William Kellie, a rich Scottish planter. Unfortunately he passed away before it was completed, and it never got finished. On top of that, part of it was damaged during the war. Apparently there are hidden rooms and secret passageways but we didn’t manage to find any. It’s a beautiful place, but ever so slightly creepy. Just a tad.

Apparently some parts of the 1999 movie of Anna and the King was shot here. Please exercise caution – you’re allowed to go into most areas but that isn’t to say that there are always safety barriers. For example, no one will stop you if you want to climb up on the roof top but there are NO barriers or railings to prevent accidents.

Visiting Penang? Read this: Ten family-friendly things to do in Georgetown.

 

Perak Tong Cave Temple

Jalan Kuala Kangsar

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Located 6km North of Ipoh is Perak Tong Cave Temple. It’s a beautiful Buddhist temple inside a limestone cave. The cave is home to a 40-ft high Buddha, as well as painted murals on the walls. Unlike some limestone caves, this one is dry inside. If you’re up for a climb, you can get to the top of the 163metered hill by means of narrow stairs that reminded us very much of those at the Great Wall of China.

Visiting Malacca? Read this: A slice of Baba-Nonya Heaven in Malacca

Taman Rekreasi Gunung Lang Waterfall

Jalan Damai, 30100, Ipoh

L.I.F.E Ipoh Waterfall

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When we left Perak Tong Cave Temple, our driver asked if we wanted to visit a waterfall. Upon arrival at Taman Rekreasi Gunung Lang, he was relieved that ‘it was turned on’. Who would have thought – a man-made waterfall in the middle of nowhere! The waterfall itself, set against the backdrop of gorgeous limestone caves, was a pretty sight, and there were huge turtles swimming in the pool below. But I’m not sure if it’s worth a trip out on its own.

Staying at Batu Ferringhi in Penang? Read this: What to do around Batu Ferringhi

 

The Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat

No 1, Persiaran Lagun Sunway 3, Sunway City Ipoh, 31150

BanjaranSource: Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat
The Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat looks simply divine but it was way out of our budget. It’s only open to guests of the Retreat so we couldn’t go in for a look. But hot springs? Yoga  in a cave? Massages next to cascading waterfalls? Ah, maybe some day.

 

Lost World of Tambun

No.1, Persiaran Lagun Sunway 1, Sunway City Ipoh,
31150 Ipoh, Perak Darul Ridzuan,

Lost World of TambunImage: Sunway Lost World of Tambun

If you’re traveling with kids, you may want to check out the Lost World of Tambun. A spa, theme park, water park, amusement park, petting zoo and the opportunity to get close to tigers. This looks like a place with something for the whole family. We gave it a pass though; this was a go sloth, anti adrenaline rush kind of trip.

 

Planning a trip to LEGOLAND Malaysia? Read this: LEGOLAND is fun for the whole family!

 

Cameron Highlands

Cameron Highlands is just a 2-hour drive from Ipoh. For ease of transport and flexibility, we opted to go with a private driver. The last time we went to Cameron Highlands as a family was 20 years ago. Many more little farms have sprouted up and opened themselves to public, and temperatures are warmer than they were, due to global warming.

For more information on Cameron Highlands, check out this useful site.

 

Where to go in Cameron Highlands

There’s no lack of farms to visit and explore on Cameron Highlands, from Butterfly Farms to strawberry farms and tea plantations. We visited a handful but the two that we particularly enjoyed were Cameron Tea Valley and Big Red Strawberry Farm.

 

Cameron Tea Valley

Batu 34, Jalan Besar, Cameron Highlands

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The Cameron Tea Valley plantation was gorgeous, almost like a giant maze. Walking around is free, but ATV rides are chargeable. The further up you go, the less crowded it gets. Just stand in the middle of the plantation, take a deep breath and absorb the view. Sometimes we have to be surrounded by nature to realise how big the world is.

 

Big Red Strawberry Farm

Brinchang, Cameron Highlands

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Sometimes you see the name of a place and you’re not quite sure what to think. It certainly wasn’t the case with Big Red Strawberry Farm! Among the farms we visited, many had a small area for strawberry picking. This one however, had a huge area dedicated to strawberries, which was pure bliss.

Visitors are given a plastic basket (2 to share a basket) and after the simple instruction of filling it up at least half of it with strawberries, you’re set loose into the huge area with tons of beautiful strawberries. There is no time limit and you can head back whenever you’re ready with your harvest, and it will be weighed. I think it was RM25 for 0.5kg of strawberries (equivalent to half a basket).

I think I might consider a career change. Being a strawberry harvester is so much fun!

 

What to eat at Cameron Highlands

Restoran OK Tuck

26, Jalan Besar, Brinchang, 39100 Cameron Highlands

We didn’t do any research on food and wandered into Restoran OK Tuck. The original idea was to have a nice hot pot of steamboat to accompany the cool weather but the weather wasn’t cool enough for steamboat in the afternoon. This was my favourite meal of the trip but unfortunately there are no pictures because by the time we got there for lunch, it was about 3pm so we were famished.

Assam fish, egg fuyong, hot plate tofu, salted vegetable soup, stir fried kailan… it was all delicious. And cheap.

 

So there you have it. Where to go and what to eat around Ipoh. If you know of someone who’s planning a trip to Ipoh, feel free to share this post!

 

Ferringhi on Foot led us to Food Paradise

Most times, we book our accommodation at central locations so we can save on transport. But for Hard Rock Hotel, Penang, we made an exception. This was probably the only time we’ve booked a hotel stay with no plans to do anything touristy, and just to stay and enjoy the hotel.

We’ve had one Hard Rock Hotel experience in Singapore and we all loved it. So when Hard Rock Hotel Penang (and its awesome swimming pool with 3 slides) had a promotion that we couldn’t resist, we threw our entire Malaysian holiday budget out the window and booked a 2-night stay right away.

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L.I.F.E Hard Rock Penang

The pool was the highlight of our trip. We left the hotel 2 shades darker with obvious tan lines from our swim suits. We must have gone on the slides a hundred times each. We swam so much that our swim suits couldn’t dry fast enough between swims. If the kids had their way, our entire hotel stay would have been spent at the pools.

The thing that led us out of the hotel was the price. Of everything, really. So out we headed, and this is what we did on foot.

First, food, shall we?

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At the end of the night market (pasar malam), you’ll find two food courts. First you’ll pass the “I love you” food court, which will look pretty much like a ghost town. And then 5 minutes later, you’ll be greeted by Long Beach Food Court which should really rename itself as “food haven” or similar.

We ate and ate and ate, then ordered more and ate and ate again.The kids wolfed down their wan tan mee, and asked for more satay, we polished off the teppan-yaki fish and I just about licked the plate of prawns clean. And all this, including drinks, for less than the cost of a burger at Hard Rock Cafe.

I think that was the most satisfying moment of the trip for me – good food at unbeatable prices, who wouldn’t be happy?

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L.I.F.E Batu Feringghi

Frandy Mini Market just across the road from Hard Rock Hotel was a godsend. We had all our clothes laundered at RM5 per kg. Dropped them off by 11pm, and collected them 12 hours later all clean and neatly folded. All in all, it was RM30 to wash everything we had. In comparison, that amount would have allowed us to wash 2 tee-shirts through the hotel’s laundry service.

It may seem strange for a mini mart to offer a laundering service, but they did a wonderful job with our clothes. Hooray for not having to rummage through suitcases for clean clothes.

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Two doors down is Enca Cafe where we all fell in love with the Tandoori Chicken and kebabs. They also serve local food and have a Western menu, all at reasonable prices.

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The beach, sadly, did not live up to expectations. The sand was rough and grainy, there were lots of broken and sharp seashells, and fair bit of construction going on, complete with excavators. Apparently the beach is going under conservation efforts due to erosion. I sure hope that by the time that’s done, the beach will look wonderful again.

There’s a stable with 6 horses next to the hotel, and the guys that work there will hang out at the gate of the hotel that leads to the beach, so the moment you’re out on the beach, they’ll approach you to offer horse rides. At Rm40. They were persistent even when we insisted we didn’t have any money on us, but nice enough to let us pet the horses.

Our beach-loving kids chose the pool over the beach every day.

 

L.I.F.E Batu Feringghi Penang night market

L.I.F.E Batu Ferringhi Night Market (1)

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And then there’s the night market which had the usual stuff night markets had on sale – souvenirs, t-shirts, bags, toys, and a sprinkling of food stalls (the coconut ice-cream was delicious!). Hard Rock Hotel offers a free shuttle service that starts from 6.30pm but it’s no biggie if you miss it – the night market is about 500m away, so a 10-minute stroll will get you there, and you can catch the bus back when you’re done.

Essentially it’s a row of makeshift stalls that set up on either side of the pavement, blocking out regular shops (that perhaps are open during the day?). The Batu Ferringhi night market was sold to me as “one of Penang’s most noteworthy attractions”. While we enjoyed walking through the 1km or so stretch, I can think of more attractions that are more deserving of that accolade.

Bargaining is expected, but we’re only rubbish at it. Go ahead and bargain because everyone loves a good bargain, but do bear in mind that you saving a couple of dollars is affecting someone else’s livelihood. We were there over the weekend and business could hardly be described as ‘brisk’.

Hold on to your little ones, because sometimes, between roadworks and overly zealous stall owners whose stalls spill onto the narrow pavement, you may that the only way to go forward, is on the road. And traffic can get a little crazy at times.

 

That’s pretty much what we did in Batu Ferringhi. It wasn’t “much” but considering the amount of non-pool time we had, I’d say we covered a fair bit of stuff!

 

Closeby there’s also Adventure Zone at Shangri-la’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa, but we were kept occupied enough by our pool. Escape Adventure Play and Penang National Park are nearby as well if you’ve got energy to spare.

 

Batu Feringghi is a 20-minute drive from Georgetown, so if you’re planning a trip to Penang, it’s really easy to stretch your stay at both places. Here’s our pick of ten family-friendly things to do in Penang, including a ferry ride and the Upside Down Museum!

 

The Penang airport is rather small so you may need to fly domestic to Kuala Lumpur to catch a connecting flight. If you do visit Kuala Lumpur, check out our 5 must-dos with kids in KL (where we vist a 400-million year old limestone cave!), won’t you?

 

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5 Must-Dos with Kids in Kuala Lumpur

When we first talked about going to Kuala Lumpur with our kids, the first thing they asked was “Oh, are you visiting family?”. And when they found out we weren’t, nobody could understand why we would travel just an hour by flight to visit a city “so much like Singapore”.

The answer is this. Because every country, every city is different. In the way it looks, in the food that it has, in its people’s behaviours. But in particular, why KL? Well, because, Kidzania.

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1. Kidzania
Curve NX, Mutiara Damansara (just opposite IKEA Damansara, and The Curve Shopping Mall)

If you’ve never been to Kidzania, it’s a lovely little city where kids can experience different occupations within 20 minute sessions. There are over 90 jobs they can do in more than 60 establishments so they are abound to find something that they will enjoy.

This was our kids’ first time at a Kidzania and they loved every minute of it. Buy your tickets online for a discount, and so you won’t have to waste any time waiting in line for tickets. Then on the day itself, arrive 15 minutes before. Because there’s a queue to enter, even if you have tickets.

Many diehard Kidzania fans will tell you that the 3 most popular (i.e. be prepared for long queues) jobs are the pilot, air stewardess, and firefighter. We told this to our kids beforehand as well as the fact that they would NOT be able to do all the jobs – we found this method of managing expectations to be very effective! So they decided prior to our visit, that they would head straight for the fire station. And after that, it was pretty much free and easy for us.

We were there from opening to closing time, and they each probably managed about 10 jobs each at a reasonably leisurely pace. I can’t speak for all adults but I certainly was not bored. There’s a parent lounge on the second floor but I simply hung around and peeped at the kids while they were enjoying their activities. It was nice and quiet in the morning but after lunch is when most people arrive and you can see the queues getting longer.

Our strategy was simply to skip anything with a big queue, and never waited more than one turn for a job. Each job takes 4-8 kids per session (clearly stated at the start of the queue) so if you see more than the designated number of kids waiting in line, that gives you an indication of how long the queue will be. Adults are NOT allowed to queue for their children and Kidzania staff members enforce that rule. Hooray!!!

Our kids’ favourite jobs? Being firefighters, beauticians, nurses, manning the toll booth and delivering newspapers.

Cost: RM80 for kids, RM39 for adults

Opening time: 10am to 5pm on weekdays, 10am to 7pm on weekends (look out for earlier closing times on their website – it closed at 4pm when we were there due to Ramadhan)

 

L.I.F.E KL Batu Caves (7)

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2. Batu Caves

To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about Batu Caves. Simply because everyone talks about how many monkeys there are and how the monkeys, the monkeys, the monkeys are vicious and try to snatch everything. We took our chances nevertheless.

The limestone caves were astonishing and we were there on a Saturday which coincided with a prayer session which was fascinating to watch. We also got a blessing from a Hindu priest (donations welcome) which was nice.

It’s 272 steps (we counted) to get up to the top, with rest points along the way. Watch out for your bags because really, the monkeys are fierce and will grab stuff from you. Apparently they associate plastic bags with food so keep everything in your backpack, including your water bottles.

If you think you can manage holding your kids’ hands, keeping your belongings close while trying not to fall down the steep steps, then Batu Caves is a really interesting place for a visit. The steps within the cave are very slippery so please be careful.

Getting there: Take the KTM rail to Batu Caves Station and from there, it’s a walkable distance. Toilets are available on ground level of the Caves, or at the train station (I strongly suggest skipping the train station’s toilets).

Cost: free

Fun fact: Batu Caves is over 400 million years old!

 

L.I.F.E KLCC Petrosains Discovery CEntre

L.I.F.E KLCC Petrosains Discovery Centre (1)

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3. Petrosains Discovery Centre
PETRONAS Twin Towers, Level 4, Suria KLCC

Petrosains Discovery Centre was not on our list initially. We’d already done Kidzania the day before and one indoor not-particularly-local activity was enough for me. But it rained and our plans to play at the massive outdoor play area outside KLCC were dashed.

But I’m so glad we visited because we had so much fun there, adults included. Make sure you set aside at least 3 hours for this because it is huge. Having a discovery centre with large “please do not touch” signs all around would be a bummer, and thankfully, this was not one of those places. Kids (and adults) are invited to touch and experience everything; it was really really interactive, as how a discovery centre should be.

There’s lots for little kids to do, but the only way in was via “the dark ride”, a ride where you sit and go through a tunnel which brings you through different environments. Just because it’s really dark, it can be quite scary for little ones. It barely lasts 5 minutes though, and then it’s fun all the way. Our 4-year old loved the Space exhibit – older kids will really enjoy moving the Mars Rover, and finding out about the International Space Station and how astronauts live in space. Really cool.

Be warned though that entry to the next section is guarded by a dinosaur and we entered just as it roared and moved, freaking our 4-year old out. But this is where we met the kindest service staff ever. Two ladies working there witnessed our situation and spent so much time talking very patiently with our little one, trying to persuade and convince her that there was nothing to be afraid of. One of them went as far as to accompany us down to the next exhibit (which was a good distance away).

Sparkz was the most enjoyable for the kids. Working mini excavators and digging in grain pits, controlling robots in a soccer game, working cooperatively with others to transport grain… they would have stayed all day here if we’d let them. Adults would be awed by the oil platform (it is Petrosains after all) – if you’re above 140cm tall, you can even try out the escape chute, which looks to be a lot of fun.

Cost: RM20 for adults, RM8 for kids (3-12)

Opening hours: Tuesday-Friday 9.30am-5.30pm (last admission 4pm), weekends and public holidays 9.30am-6.30pm (last admission 5pm)

 

L.I.F.E KLCC

 

4. Petronas Twin Towers and KLCC

The tallest twin towers in the world beckoned so we answered. The fountains are on at night, making it a really pretty sight. Apparently there is a huge playground around the area but funnily, we asked and no one could give us clear directions. Plus it rained, so we missed this altogether. Shame. I heard it’s awesome.

You could pay to go up the bridge too but we were happy to just be on ground level. There are plenty of food options within KLCC and if you’re up for some shopping, you’ll be spoilt for choice within the mall.

Tip: You’ll have to lie down on the ground if you want to take a photo of the entire height of the twin towers!

 

L.I.F.E KL train

L.I.F.E KL train35. Take the train

There is no better way to get to know a country than to do what the locals do. We loved taking the train (and getting lost on it). The new monorails are beautiful and we met the most helpful people on board, and very friendly too – there was always someone standing up right away so that our kids could sit.

It can get slightly confusing because not all the lines are connected (as in you might have to physically get out of a station and walk some distance to get to your connecting train, and buying separate tickets) but get a map (available at most stations) and ask around. You’ll get a hang of it quickly.

It’s really cheap to take the train (our tickets were RM2 for adults and RM1.20 for children, I think, from KL Sentral to Batu Caves!), plus they’re clean too. Oh and when you take the KTM, there are coaches and seating areas specifically for women. I imagine those must come in really handy, particularly during rush hour!

 

If you’re planning a trip to Kuala Lumpur, I hope you’ve found this post useful!

*****

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Ten Family-Friendly Things to do in Georgetown, Penang

L.I.F.E Georgetown Penang (2)

L.I.F.E Georgetown Penang (3)

L.I.F.E Georgetown Penang (5)

L.I.F.E Georgetown Penang (7)

Penang is famous for its food, but not so much as a family-friendly location per se. I think it depends on what you consider ‘family-friendly’ – do you need high chairs? Clean public toilets? Playgrounds? Amusement parks? Stroller friendly pavements? Because we traveled with a 7-year old and a 4-year old and had a really nice time exploring around. We never had any trouble with food except on a day we got caught unaware by a public holiday and most food outlets were closed.

We didn’t do all the typical touristy things or tick all the famous foods off our list, but still had a really good time on a decent budget.

Tip: Don’t buy tickets for the Hop On Hop Off bus, because you can ride on the CAT shuttle bus for free, and it goes to a large number of places as well. It’s so convenient that even locals hop on board. See the routes here. If you don’t have a plan, you could simply hop on the bus and get off whenever you spot something that interests you.

Here’s what we did, spread over 3 days, at a really leisurely pace (meaning that we even had time for afternoon naps at the hotel).

L.I.F.E Penang Clan Jetty (3)

L.I.F.E Penang Clan Jetty (5)

L.I.F.E Penang Clan Jetty (6)

L.I.F.E Penang Clan Jetty (1)

CLAN JETTIES

Starting off the day at the clan jetties proved to be an excellent idea. Our intention was to beat the heat, but that also allowed us to get ahead of a bus load of tourists. Following the flow of traffic on Pengkalan Weld, the first clan you’ll see is the Lim clan. It’s gorgeous and peaceful and we loved it. We really got to see how people lived and were mindful about respecting their personal space.

Chew Jetty is supposedly the most ‘tourist friendly’, and we found out that it simply meant that there were souvenir shops available. I was disappointed to find out that most of the shop owners simply rented the space, and were not residents. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful experience and even our little ones enjoyed the morning. Find out more about Chew Jetty here.

Cost: Free (unless you shop, or eat at the jetties. There are little eateries on the jetties, as well as on land).

 

L.I.F.E Penang Butterworth ferry (4)

L.I.F.E Penang Butterworth ferry (1)

L.I.F.E Penang Butterworth ferry (3)

L.I.F.E Penang Butterworth ferry (5)

L.I.F.E Penang Butterworth ferry (2)

 

FERRY TO BUTTERWORTH

Pretty much right next to the start of the Clan Jetties is the Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal. It’s kind of hidden behind the bus terminus where you’ll see lots of Rapid Penang buses.

Taking the ferry from Penang to Butterworth is free, and you only pay on your journey back. Butterworth is known as ‘the mainland’ (since Penang is the island), and it looked pretty much like an industrial town so we didn’t have any plans to hop off for a visit.

The ferry itself has limited seating and if you’re not among the first to get on, then your chances of sitting on a tiny bench are slim. However, the cool thing about this ferry is that it is a double decked one, and while the upper deck is for passengers, the lower deck ferries vehicles. Once the ferry took off, we went down to the cars and hung out there. We counted about 30-odd cars and a further 20 or so motorbikes!

The ride is only about 15-20 minutes, and quite an experience for all, even the little ones. Take note though, that while you’re allowed to be down with the cars on the ride, please be sure to go back up to the upper deck when you disembark, because you can’t simply stay on for the ride back. Everyone disembarks, and if you’re on the lower deck with the cars, you’ll have to go on a half-hour hike (not fun under the blazing sun, I assure you) outside the ferry terminal just to get back in again. If you get off from the passenger level though, it is simply a 5 minute U-turn to get tickets (you’ll exchange your fare for ‘shillings’ to put into a turnstile).

Cost: RM1.20 for adults, RM0.60 for children (though our 4-year old was waved through without having to pay)

 

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown Teochew Opera (3)

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown Teochew Opera (2)

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown Teochew Opera (4)

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown Teochew Opera (7)

TEOCHEW PUPPET AND OPERA HOUSE

122 Lebuh Armenien

This is a real life puppet and opera house where you can try your hand at handling the puppets (for those 10 and above only, because the puppets can get quite heavy!), and try on the opera costumes and props.

Our kids really really enjoyed fighting with the weapons (props! props!) and we learnt so much. Did you know that red beards were only for bad guys in Teochew Opera? And that puppets were divided into 4 groups – men, ladies, bad guys and funny guys?

I took the chance to try on a costume – apparently I was wearing the costume of a queen. If you ever saw a wayang (opera) performance as a kid, you probably would have tried on your dad’s shirts and waved the sleeves around going ‘chiang chiang chiang chiang chiang’. That was fun to do, even as an adult. But I lasted only 10 minutes in the robes – it was really hot and the headgear was really heavy! Imagine, the actors having to dress up with full face make up painted on for performances!

You could do that too, have your face painted and be decked out in full gear. I think they mentioned it costs something like RM250. They hold shows regularly as well. Check out their Facebook page for details.

Not a big place, and to be honest, a tad bit creepy, but an interesting experience. By the way, the signboard doesn’t say Teochew Puppet and Opera House. If not for the standing banner, we would have missed it completely. Look out for this house; it’s facing a big basketball court on the quieter side of Armenian Street (it’s a little lane)

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown Teochew Opera (6)

Cost: RM10 for all non local visitors (free for our 4-year old)

 

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown Esplanade (1)

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown Esplanade (2)

PADANG KOTA LAMA

We ended the day by hanging out at the Esplanade Park (Padang Kota Lama) near Fort Cornwallis just to enjoy a little quiet. It’s not a big park but after a long day of walking with lots of crazy traffic everywhere, the big open field was a nice thing to look at. There’s a little playground there with swings and a climbing structure, which is a nice way to escape traffic.

 

L.I.F.E Penang Upside Down Museum (2)

L.I.F.E Penang Upside Down Museum (1)

UPSIDE DOWN MUSEUM

45 Lebuh Kimberly

We were divided about this one. We weren’t sure if it was going to be fun or a waste of money. In the end we decided that this was a holiday for the kids as well, and while I would have loved to visit all the old Peranakan houses, it wouldn’t be very fun, nor fair, to them.

I’m not sure why it’s called a museum; I’m sure there would be more visitors if it were called Upside Down House instead. Because that’s what it is – all the rooms in there were upside down.

To be honest, we were all tickled when we first went in. There were staff in every room showing us how to pose for pictures which was nice, because they knew the best angles, and even helped us take our pictures. That, we appreciated. But don’t expect to wander around at leisure. Because you’ll probably almost always be in someone else’s shot if you do so. You’re allowed to move around the rooms (so no, you won’t be herded from room to room) but just don’t hog the stuff.

Kids will love it, but adults, you decide. This was the most expensive thing we did in Georgetown and if we were traveling without kids, we would have given this a pass.

Cost: RM27 for adults, RM16 for children (our 4-year old went in for free)

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown Cendul (1)

Tip: There’s never any harm in asking. The cendol stall outside Joo Hooi Cafe is supposed to be famous as well, but none of us were in the mood for cendol, weird as it might sound. So there, I said it. We didn’t have the famous cendol of Georgetown. And we still enjoyed Georgetown. Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll carry on.

So I asked if they could do ice balls. And oh my gosh, the look on the kids’ faces when they saw the big ball of ice soaked with syrup. Priceless.

Cost: RM 1.50

 

L.I.F.E Penang Peranakan Mansion (3)

L.I.F.E Penang Peranakan Mansion (2)

L.I.F.E Penang Peranakan Mansion (4)

PINANG PERANAKAN MANSION

29 Church Street

There are so many Peranakan homes to visit in Georgetown, each claiming to be the best. We decided on this one just because we happened to be on the same street. It was absolutely beautiful. We were lucky enough to be just in time to join a guided tour. I strongly recommend joining a tour – you can go around on your own but the little tidbits of information shared by the guide are really interesting.

Cost: RM20 for adults and RM10 for children (free for those below 6)

 

L.I.F.E Penang Street Art (1)

L.I.F.E Penang Street Art (3)

L.I.F.E Penang Street Art (4)

L.I.F.E Penang Street Art (6)

L.I.F.E Penang Street Art (7)

L.I.F.E Penang Street Art (8)

STREET ART

We knew that they were scattered around, so made no plans to seek them out deliberately, knowing that we would somehow or other chance upon them while on our way to other attractions.

For most of them, we exchanged smiles with one or two other families, but at the famous girl and boy on bike on Armenian Street, we probably arrived at the wrong time because  our arrival coincided with a large and loud group that paid no heed to the neat little line of people quietly waiting their turn. No blog or travel website mentioned anything about that and we did not expect it at all. Up to that point, we were really enjoying discovering the various art installations. But that incident killed our enthusiasm to continue and that’s where we stopped.

Right next it, was Cheah Kongsi. It was more than a place of interest, it was more of a place of refuge for us. We bought tickets and went in just to escape the throng of tourists.

L.I.F.E Penang Cheah Kongsi (1)

L.I.F.E Penang Cheah Kongsi (2)

L.I.F.E Penang Cheah Kongsi (3)

L.I.F.E Penang Cheah Kongsi (4)

L.I.F.E Penang Cheah Kongsi (5)

CHEAH KONGSI

8, Gat Lebuh Armenian

Don’t forget to get your shoe covers! We hung out and wandered from room to room. It was absolutely beautiful, almost like a living museum because you could pretty much touch and sit on anything in the rooms, but it felt slightly abandoned somehow.

Our favourite room was the mahjong room. No better way to fully experience how the people really lived than to partake in their activities! Cheah Kongsi conducts free Taichi sessions too! Check out their Facebook page to find out more.

Cost: RM10 for adults, not sure about the price for children but ours were waved in with a smile.

 

Tip: Always ask the locals where to find food. At Cheah Kongsi, I was drawn by the smell of Hokkien Mee. Turns out it was from someone’s home but the folks at Cheah Kongsi directed us to a food court two streets away where we spent RM20 on wantan mee, assam laksa, pohpiah, roast meat.

 

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown Indian Shop (3)

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown Indian Shop (1)

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown Indian Shop (2)

VISIT LOCAL SHOPS

And I’m not just talking tourist traps. Go somewhere that doesn’t sell “I love Penang” t-shirts and magnets. Go into little shops, chat with the shopkeepers, buy something and support local businesses.

 

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown food (2)

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown food (1)

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown food (3)

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown food (4)

L.I.F.E Penang Georgetown food (6)

EAT

Oh yes, eat!!! By all means, do your research and get some recommendations, but don’t base your entire trip on them. Trust your gut – if you see somewhere that meets your level of hygiene, go for it.

Tip: Having an itinerary (or even just a loose one) is helpful, especially with kids. But it leave room for flexibility. There’s no point rushing around trying to find a particular ‘highly recommended’ restaurant and missing out on “hey this place looks interesting; let’s give it a try” opportunities

Case in point: Kedai Makanan Heng Kee at 60, Lebuh China. This was our hidden find. We stumbled upon it while walking around aimlessly. None of the travel blogs I read mentioned this little gem. It was as local as local got. We were the only non locals and absolutely loved this place so much that we went there for two dinners.

Everything we ordered was delicious. Cost: RM50-60 for 4 dishes and a soup. Over 2 dinners we had the stir fried sweet potato leaves, herbal chicken, egg with onion, sesame chicken, fish with tofu, fish with ginger, pork and lotus root soup and keh ki soup (I’m not sure what it is in English). I repeat, we loved everything.

 

If you’re planning a trip to Penang, I hope you’ve found this post useful! By the way, a mere 20-minute drive away is Batu Ferringhi – we stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, and you can find a helpful list of things to do around the area here.

*****

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Hotel Jen: Kids in a Business Hotel?

When Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour in Johor Bahru invited us to stay for the weekend, I immediately read up on them. Words like “upscale”, “contemporary” and “minimalist” popped up; it listed “health centre” and “club lounge” as its draws. Pictures of it showed a sleek hotel drawn with clean lines, a hotel that screamed “Business guests! Come here to get away from noisy children!”.

So I was a little skeptical and made sure the folks at Hotel Jen knew that we would be arriving with children. Noisy children. They welcomed us all the same.

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (1)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (3)

The thing about traveling is that it always gets you hot and thirsty, doesn’t it? And possibly a little head-achy if you’re traveling with kids in the group. So Hotel Jen’s welcome drinks of iced tea and chilled infused water were very much appreciated. We had this while our check-in was processed. And from check-in counter to our room, I held my breath, constantly on the look-out for things that active kids could possibly find interest in and um, break. Happy to report that nothing was broken, and running along the carpeted floors were also permitted.

The verdict? A warm welcome, professional and friendly staff, well maintained amenities – we expected no less of a hotel from the Shangri-la group! The earthy colour scheme that ran throughout the hotel gave a wonderful feeling of calm, an entirely different experience from our previous two days at LEGOLAND and LEGOLAND Hotel. We enjoyed the space and I’m happy to say that we may now start looking out of the ‘family friendly hotels’ range. Business travelers of the world be warned!

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (5)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (7)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (8)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (23)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (51)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (9)

At first glance, our room looked pretty standard. Then we saw the view and all collectively went “Wow!”. The view of the habour was simply gorgeous and so calming. I’m glad the hotel took full advantage of it and added lots of glass around to offer that view as much as possible. Also, it was really nice to have that much sunlight streaming in.

The day bed at the gorgeous window bay cleverly hides a lower pull-out bed, and so our family of 4 managed to sleep exceptionally well without having to squeeze. The view was beautiful – I sat there often with a book, pretending to be rich and the kids enjoyed the sunlight and played their games there.

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (55)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (13)

It was slightly hazy during our stay but we still managed to squeeze in a swim a day at Hotel Jen’s gorgeous pools – there was the infinity pool, the baby pool and the jacuzzi. It was right next to the Sky Bar with businessmen and their beers but nobody ever came up to us to say “Could you please keep your voices down; we’re trying to relax here”.

We didn’t venture much around the area because of the haze but if you’re up for some shopping action, the Johor Premium Outlets are closeby, and Hello Kitty Town and Little Big Town are right at the next building. We gave those a miss because we were quite worn out from 2 days at LEGOLAND. LEGOLAND incidentally, is a mere 15-minute drive away, and the hotel provides complimentary shuttle services.

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (78)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (42)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (16)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (17)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (14)

The remote controlled blinds in the room occupied our kids for a long time. Our room was constantly alternating between darkness and light with the blinds going up and down, up and down. And when they finally grew bored of that, and TV wasn’t enough, we simply went downstairs. There, we sought refuge in Toys R Us Express, and bought 2 games to keep us occupied. Also available are a string of food outlets from Ajisen Japanese Restaurant, Kenny Rogers Roast Chicken, Taiwan Shilin Street Food, DC Cafe, Starbucks and Old Town Coffee.

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (43)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (46)

On the way to breakfast every morning, we walked by the quaint little roof garden and said hi to the fish and took in the zen. It was all very peaceful, very calming, very quiet, and very much like what every holiday should be!

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (47)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (48)

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L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (70)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (71)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (73)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (74)

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L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (34)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (35)

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (76)

We had our breakfasts as well as a dinner at the Harbour Cafe located within the hotel, and were very impressed with the spread and quality of food. Our seafood dinner gave us the choice of freshly prepared sushi and sashimi, a ton of barbequed seafood (including a whole salmon baked with curry!), a noodle bar (our 7 year old’s favourite), lots more local dishes, fresh vegetables and fruit, and of course, they didn’t go stingy on the dessert. Our 3.5 year old did not need instructions on how to use the chocolate fountain. And charging stations for mobile devices so you can charge while you eat? What a clever idea!

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (56)

The only thing that bothered me ever so slightly was the personification of “Jen”. Jen Hotels have taken on the identity of a hotel staff by the name of “Jen”, and all communications throughout its various media have adopted this, and everything is delivered on a first person basis. Why that bothers me is first of all because that it does not tie in with the image of a business hotel. And secondly, I think there has to be a line drawn somewhere, for instance in the issue of safety and security. Speaking in a personal tone as opposed to an authoritative one in this aspect kind of downplays the importance of the message. But really, that’s just me being picky.

Our stay at Hotel Jen was not marred in any way because of this, and even I slept easy at night. If you’re looking for a quiet place to recharge and refuel for the evening after or before a whole day of fun and action at LEGOLAND, Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour is a good choice to consider.

L.I.F.E Hotel Jen Malaysua (52)

Disclaimer: We received 2 nights’ stay at Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour in exchange for our honest review.

About Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour

Hotel Jen is located at Persiaran Puteri Selatan, Puteri Harbour, 79000 Nusajaya, Johor Darul Takzim, 79000, Malaysia. Its check-in time is 2pm, and you check out at 12noon.

Getting there: Directions for drivers as well as options for pick up can be found here.

*****

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LEGOLAND Hotel Malaysia: Everything is Awesome!

My kids, they love LEGO. My feet, they don’t love LEGO all that much. But when LEGOLAND Hotel invited us for a night’s stay, none of us didn’t put up a fight at all. Not even me. You see, I may lack an engineering bone and my creativity with building stuff may be limited, but I love me a good theme park. And we were thrilled beyond belief that our stay came complimentary with passes to enjoy the LEGOLAND theme park for two days – our review can be found here.

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (29)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (33)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (25)

This was probably the only hotel in the world where the late check-in time (4pm) didn’t bother us at all. LEGOLAND Hotel makes is easy for guests to pass their time while waiting to check-in. Castles, pirate ships, roving mascots, and tons and tons of LEGO blocks … prying little ones from this area is a challenge. And that’s just the ground floor.

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (40)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (43)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (19)

On the upper floor there’s even more stuff – huge building blocks as well as regular sized DUPLO blocks, and an XBOX 360 Kinect where everyone’s welcome to join in for a dance. But pry them you must if you are to head to LEGOLAND theme park. So you can do like us and leave your bags at the baggage counter and head out to LEGOLAND theme park, and return when you’ve had enough fun for the day.

Don’t forget to check for special packages when you book your stay – sometimes complimentary park tickets are thrown in!

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (12)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (5)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (2)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (9)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (8)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (37)

I’d never been to a themed hotel so I didn’t quite know what to expect. Which was good because everything was like they say – awesome – and we all had a blast, and not just the kids. The lifts with their upbeat music and disco lights were my favourite. After two trips in the lifts with me, the kids left me to dance on my own. Which I did. Because who can resist a good ole Y-M-C-A?

One really fun thing our 7 year old enjoyed was the treasure hunt in the room. There was a treasure chest with a 4-number lock, and with her set of clues, she would have to answer a couple of questions which would then lead her to a 4-number combination. The reward for her quest? A nice box of (guess what) LEGO.

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (36)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (35)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (20)

One thing that struck me was how wide the corridors were. We could roll our suitcases and the kids could practically cartwheel around us.

Amidst the whole hotel, if I had to pick just one thing that I was just ever so slightly disappointed it, it would be the pool area. The pools are pretty standard, just that the fun factor was upped just a notch with cute LEGO characters, as well as the availability foam blocks. I would have expected, I don’t know, LEGO slides or something.

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (21)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (23)

Breakfast was a fun affair. If you’re not a morning person, the Brick Restaurant makes no apologies in giving you a good morning jolt with its vibrant colours and happy music. There was a wide spread of food including the regular “western” dishes, as well as an Asian corner. I loved the inclusion of local fruits – this was probably the first time I saw dragon fruit at a breakfast buffet! The breakfast spread was indeed sufficient for guests to fuel up for a big day of play at LEGOLAND.

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (14)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (16)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (17)

We thank LEGOLAND for hosting us, and can’t wait to return for more! For more on our days at LEGOLAND theme park, check out our review here.

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L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (1)

L.I.F.E Legoland Hotel Malaysia (32)

Disclaimer: We received two-day combo LEGOLAND park tickets and a night’s stay at LEGOLAND Hotel in exchange for our honest review.

About LEGOLAND Hotel

LEGOLAND Hotel is located at No 1, Jalan Medini Utara 3, Bandar Medini Iskandar Malaysia, 79250, Iskandar Puteri, Johor. Breakfast is included in all room packages. Check-in time is 4pm, check-out time is 11am. Bookings can be made directly through LEGOLAND Hotel Malaysia.

Getting to LEGOLAND

Getting to LEGOLAND Malaysia from Singapore is easy enough, even if you don’t have a car. We simply booked our tickets with WTS Travel and got to the pick up point at the Singapore Flyer half an hour before our departure time. Tickets cost $26 per person and the journey takes less than an hour from pick up to drop off at LEGOLAND.

 

*****

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LEGOLAND Malaysia: Fun for the Whole Family!

There are few places that can claim to be fun for the entire family. Fun for the kids? Probably. But fun for their parents too? Not always likely. LEGOLAND Malaysia however, was a place that we all enjoyed. And thanks to the park’s invitation, we were able to spend two full days playing at the theme park. And it still wasn’t enough!

But what was possibly the best thing about the park was that it was located a mere 5 minutes from LEGOLAND Hotel, which we loved tremendously – read more about our stay here.

L.I.F.E Legoland Malaysia (13)

In case you were wondering, it’s LEGO, LEGO and more LEGO everywhere! It’s a LEGO lover’s dream come true! But even if you’re impartial to LEGO, it’s still a really fun theme park. It’s 31-hectres big, which to us, is not too big and not too small. We could pretty much manage to do everything within a day at a leisurely pace.

This was our third family trip to LEGOLAND Malaysia, and I think that it was our favourite one. At the time of visit, our kids were 7 and 3.5 respectively, so they were able to fully appreciate the entire park.

There are 7 lands in LEGOLAND, and while some are catered to older children and young at heart adults, some were specifically built to create big adventures for the smaller ones.

Big kids will love…

The Dragon and Dragon’s Apprentice

Lots of action on the Dragon (the bigger roller coaster that exits through a castle!), as well as the Dragon’s Apprentice, a smaller ride but still packs quite a punch. If you’re nervous, start with the latter.

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L.I.F.E Legoland Malaysia (15)

L.I.F.E Legoland Malaysia (16)

LEGO City Driving School

Kids will attend a short briefing on the proper rules of the road, and then they’re off! They’re given a fixed time to drive around on their own, and at the end of the session, you can also buy a personalised driving license.

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Aqua Zone Wave Racers

This was something that I enjoyed quite a bit. It seems simple enough but there’s a bit of thrill in there because you wonder if pure physics is good enough to ensure your little contraption doesn’t fly off! This is a high speed ride and the puke factor is high if you’re not the kind who likes to go round and round.

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Project X

According to my 7-year old, the drop was fun but the getting to it was “really long and draggy”. Still, it didn’t stop her from going on this about 5 times on her own.

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Merlin’s Challenge

Merlin’s Challenge ranks very high on the puke scale. It starts of slow and then really speeds up, drawing squeals from kids, and possibly undigested lunch bits from parents. It is an extremely high speed ride.

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L.I.F.E Legoland Malaysia (21)

Technic Twister

Essentially, this is every theme park’s “spinning tea cup”. It’s relatively high speed and you’ll probably get off feeling just a tad bit dizzy.

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Build and Test

Build your own little cars and race them? Test out if your building can withstand an earthquake? Oh, the big kids will have a blast here! (Tip: it’s a great indoor activity for when it gets too hot or rainy)

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LEGO Star Wars MINILAND

Wait, did I say big kids will love? I meant big kids’ dads. Apart from the life-sized LEGO Darth Vader, C3PO and R2D2 at the entrance, as well as the little video snippet at the start, I suspect the little ones may simply race through the exhibit. To be honest, I appreciate that tons of work went into this exhibit, but I wasn’t too hot on it.

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L.I.F.E Legoland Malaysia (8)

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Small kids will be entertained with …

Junior Driving School

Similar to LEGO City Driving School, the Junior Driving School allows for younger kids to drive their cars on their own. However, this is where we will discover why they aren’t allowed on the “real roads” at LEGO City Driving School – many will require some help from the staff on hand, and despite that, some will continue bumping into curbs and be too busy waving to their parents and enjoying their freedom to watch out for zebra crossings.

L.I.F.E Legoland Malaysia

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L.I.F.E Legoland Malaysia (48)

LEGO City Airport

It’s a simple ride – climb into an airplane, and then fly round and round. There’s a lever that you can pull to bring your plane up and down that even 3 year olds can manage. But that’s basically it. The ride is over in a minute but it’s a whole lot of fun for the younger ones.

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Royal Joust

Kids get strapped on giant DUPLO horses and go on a rail, experiencing Medieval LEGO Land. The horses gallop a little so the movement is fun for the little ones.

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L.I.F.E Legoland Malaysia (19)

Beetle Bounce

Beetle Bounce doesn’t go very high, but the first time can be a little scary. For kids I mean. And some mothers. But after the first go, it’s quite addictive and you’ll find everyone screaming “Again! Again!”. It’s basically a ride where you’re lifted up and get dropped in spurts while being buckled safely in a row of seats.

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L.I.F.E Legoland Malaysia (56)

The fringe activities at Build and Test

While older kids build and race their cars, younger ones can make buildings and test to see if they will withstand an earthquake. Laughter almost guaranteed. There are also big foam blocks they can play with and build HUGE buildings!

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L.I.F.E Legoland Malaysia (66)

Tiny tots won’t feel left out with…

DUPLO Play Town

Imagine all the DUPLO buildings you’ve seen, and now picture them life-sized. This is where tiny tots can hang out if they can’t go on any of the rides. Lots of stationary vehicles to ride on and buildings to climb in, flaps to open and shut, and even a little maze.

There’s also the DUPLO Express, a mini train that they can go on – they can be accompanied by big kids or their parents.

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L.I.F.E Legoland Malaysia (61)

 

All the stuff they can climb in and out off, scattered around the park

All those times they’ve been told “Stop! Don’t climb on that!” will be forgotten at LEGOLAND. They won’t be able to help it; there’s just so much stuff for them to explore and climb!

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Families can enjoy….

MINILAND

Seeing the world without leaving LEGOLAND! Look out for the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, Singapore’s river scene and many more icons of Asia.

There are lots of buttons to press in this area, each with a different surprise. Watch as you control ships, drive cars, make fountains squirt and start dance performances! A nice place to head to for a bit of quiet after going through some of the noisier parts. L.I.F.E Legoland Malaysia (9)

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Lost Kingdom Adventure

We all enjoyed piling up into little cars and shooting at skeletons! Our 3.5 year old was a little apprehensive at first but thoroughly enjoyed it after. The kids probably just enjoy aiming their lasers at the targets, but I bet you all parents will end up making this a challenge.

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Meeting the mascots

There’s a schedule that shows what time each mascot is scheduled to appear, but we simply waited to bump into them. This one showed up in the middle of our lunch at Market Place Restaurant!

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Rescue Academy

This was really fun for us all, but incredibly tiring! Each vehicle is powered by your biceps and by an up-down pumping movement, you ‘drive’ your vehicle to a building ‘on fire’. There, there’s more arm power where you’ll engage a fire hydrant and spray to put out the ‘fire’ before racing all the way back to the starting line! If you make it a race, and you probably will, it will be loads of fun. Your kids will be extremely happy, but your biceps will not.

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L.I.F.E Legoland Malaysia (53)

Boating School

This is a nice and slow ride and little ones are allowed on the boats too if they have life jackets on. Older kids will enjoy steering the boats, but parents can steer for the younger ones. Or you can let your little ones steer you into unknown areas.

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As a child at heart, I loved the rides. As a parent, there were many things that I appreciated as well. First, as long as your kid’s ready to walk, there are things for him to do at LEGOLAND. Also, near rides that were catered to bigger children, there were side activities that smaller children could occupy themselves with while waiting for their older siblings.

I also loved that height markings were very clearly shown at each ride.

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Did we love LEGOLAND? Absolutely. Will we return? Oh we can’t wait!

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Disclaimer: We received two-day combo LEGOLAND park tickets and a night’s stay at LEGOLAND Hotel in exchange for our honest review.

 

About LEGOLAND Malaysia

LEGOLAND Malaysia is the first LEGOLAND in Asia and the LEGOLAND in the world. Get the latest ticket prices here.

How to get to LEGOLAND:

Driving in? Get directions here

Taking a bus? Find out more here.

 

 

*****

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Malacca: A Slice of Baba-Nonya Heaven

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L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (29)

If you are Peranakan, like me, you may find it hard to resist the urge to caress all the beautifully old Peranakan tiles in Malacca. If you’ve always wanted to see how it feels to live like an old Baba or Nonya, Malacca is the perfect place for it. Almost every shop you enter in Jonker Street makes you feel like you’re walking into an old Peranakan home.

In this day and age where everything old is being torn down to make space for yet another big, tall, character-less building, it is heartwarming to see so much restoration being done in Malacca to protect its beautiful old shophouses.

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L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (20)

I first visited Malacca on a class trip at age 12. I remembered two things from that trip – the food, and the visit to A’Famosa.

A’Famosa (which means “The Famous“) is probably Malacca’s most visited site. The fortress was built in 1511 by the Portuguese as a stronghold against foreign invasion. In its time of glory, it housed hospitals, churches, stockades and townhouses. Today only a portion of the walls remain.

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L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (37)

L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (38)

L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (39)

Within A’Famosa, atop Bukit St Paul (St Paul’s Hill), is St Paul’s Church. Or rather, what remains of it. Allegedly, it used to be visited frequently by St Francis Xavier, and upon his death, the church housed his temporary tomb which is still in existence today though it is fully fenced up.

There are often street artists and musicians within, and young children selling all kinds of knick-knacks. Among the smiling street vendors, buskers and the photo-snapping tourists, there is a quiet dignified air, especially when walking among the recovered tombstones that now line the walls of St Paul’s Church.

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L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (41)

L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (42)

L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (43)

L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (44)

Malacca has no shortage of hotels but do try to stay in one of the little boutique outfits if you can. Many have been beautifully restored to their former glory, and are conveniently located. I recommend Courtyard @ Heeren. But for those who prefer something more like a ‘real’ hotel, I’ve heard that the Hatten Hotel is pretty good. Hotel Puri is pretty too, but the Peranakan theme doesn’t continue into the bedrooms, which is a shame.

If you choose to stay around Jonker Street, you’ll have lots to do to keep you busy without having to leave the area, all within walking distance. See if you have the time to pop into this quaint little library right on Jonker Street. There’s a small collection of children books, both in English and Chinese. Stay and have a read and seek some respite from the scorching sun; nobody will chase you out.

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L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (10)

L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (11)

L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (12)

If you’re planning a trip to Malacca, I highly recommend a visit to the Baba Nonya Heritage Museum – It’s made up of 3 double storey beautifully restored Baba-Nonya shophouses jam packed with old Peranakan pieces of history. Join the tour; it’s only 45 minutes long and is very enjoyable thanks to the guides who share so passionately about stories of old typical Peranakan families, like how the daughters of the family were not allowed to meet any visitors that called upon the home, so they would clamour to peep through a hole in the floor of the second level to get a good look!

Prices: RM 16 for adults and RM12 for children. Tip: Book your tour online to reserve your spot.

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L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (54)

We usually like visiting places on weekdays when there is less crowd, but this time round, we were in Malacca over the weekend and got to experience the Jonker Street weekend market. It’s situated right in the middle of Chinatown, and at around 5pm, the hawkers start pushing out their carts and when night falls, the sleepy street changes completely.

It is bursting with colourful lights, all kinds of food smells fill the air, and I’m not sure if it’s a weekly thing but when we were there, there was a public karaoke competition going on. We were told performers had to pay a token sum to perform, complete with their own backup singers and dancers. They all had such a good time that it was hard not to be absorbed in their happiness.

Tip: Skip restaurants one Friday or Saturday evening, and head out for street food. You don’t even have to grab a table – just buy and eat your food along the way, and when you’re done, repeat!

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Many visit Malacca simply to satisfy their stomachs. I love searching for places that have been passed from generation to generation, and my favourite has got to be Kocik Kitchen. It’s pronounced Ko-chick and means “little aunt” or “youngest aunt”. I love how the restaurant hardly seems decorated to look like one, but that furniture has simply been cleared aside for tables to accommodate guests. And that’s exactly how it feels like, that you’ve been invited for dinner as guests of Kocik.  Here, I recommend the cincalok omelette and the ngor hiang. Prices were not exorbitant and we liked it enough to return twice in the same trip.

And if there’s a Kocik restaurant, one would wonder if there’s a Makko restaurant? Indeed there is! Though the two are unrelated, both as sisters, as well as restaurants. It was on our list of restaurants to visit but it was closed when we went. Nancy’s Kitchen was full when we showed up so we ended up ordering their famous kueh pie tee to go.

 

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L.I.F.E Malacca Malaysia (31)

Is Malacca worth a visit? I absolutely think so. There are so many interesting little shops to visit, so much beautiful architecture, and the nice quiet pace can be quite refreshing.

 

*****

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Zenxin Organic Farm: Johor Bahru Day Trip

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Attention, city kids! Get your track shoes on, grab a hat, roll up your sleeves and get ready for a day of work at the farm!

If escaping the busy city life is constantly on your mind, but you can’t spare the time for a long holiday, the answer may come in the form of a day trip just across the Causeway.

Zenxin Organic Farm was one of our stops on a recent day trip to Johor Bahru. It grows all its produce without chemicals or pesticides; it uses (and sells) its concoction of chicken fertilizer – no smell!! If you’re thinking that the name sounds familiar, Zenxin supplies to Singapore supermarkets like NTUC so look out for their vegetables.

Prior to the trip, we were told we would be able to pick vegetables and that got us really excited. We’re true blue city kids so any form of farming was highly exciting. Unfortunately we didn’t get to visit the greenhouse because our farm tour coincided with a huge school group. We did however get to pick mulberries of here-we-go-round-the-mulberry-bush fame.

Go for the darker coloured ones, they’re less sour. And really hard to find. But the picking was really fun, even for the adults. Mulberries are supposed to be great anti-oxidants and don’t taste half bad either. There’s a sheltered walkway just closeby for anyone who chooses to sit this really fun activity out.

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Dragonfruit is probably one of the weirdest fruits ever (the white fleshed one is tasteless but the red one can be nice and sweet), and the plant that it grows from is equally weird. It’s part of the cactus family; who would have known.

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The mini petting zoo is a definite hit with the kids. It smelt just like how a mini zoo would, but the kids didn’t mind at all. There are chickens and geese but for some reason, people are not allowed to enter. It’s possible to enter the rabbit pen though, so feed away (you can request for little pellets or vegetables to feed them with). Look out for the little burrows the rabbits have dug – they hide in it to keep cool. Fascinating.

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Zenxin Organic Farm also grows passion fruit, xiao bai cai, cai xin, kang kong, long beans, cucumber, pumpkins, lady’s finger and eggplant – I wish we had more time on this farm to see them all!

Because it was a customized day trip for the family (12 of us!), we could pick our own activities. So we included a batik painting session as well, and this was thoroughly enjoyed by both the young (7 years old) and the old (70 years old!) as well as everyone else in between. Don’t worry if you aren’t artistic; everything’s already drawn out and all you have to do is paint the colours in. We started our day with this activity and they were nicely framed and ready for collection by the afternoon.

L.I.F.E Johor Bahru Batik Malaysia (1)

L.I.F.E Johor Bahru Batik Malaysia (2)

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I don’t have the contact details for the batik painting activity because this was organised through our guide. We booked this trip through Singview Holidays and found their prices to be rather reasonable. For a van to pick us up from Singapore and bring us all around (with a guide), and all our meals (3 huge meals plus a tea break), and all admission charges (we also visited the Stingless Bee Farm and a noodle factory), we paid SGD $100 per person. We got picked up at 7am, and reached our drop off point in Singapore at about 9pm.

This is not a sponsored post.

About Zenxin Organic Farm

There are fixed timings for guided tours so please check their website for the latest updates. The tours will take about half an hour and I’m guessing the tours vary, depending on crowd. It costs RM15 for adults and RM12 for children (under 4s go free). There’s a restaurant on location with prices that looked reasonable. It’s about an hour’s drive from the Woodlands Checkpoint.

ZENXIN AGRI-ORGANIC FOOD (JB) SDN BHD 
No.57 Jalan Sulam, Taman Sentosa, 80150 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia.
Tel: +60 (7) 3319299, +60 (7) 3319399
Fax: +60 (7) 3356299
Email: zenxinjb@zenxin.com.my

 

*****

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