Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort

Stayed in this hotel for 6 days when Katie was 10 months and I must say this is the best family resort we have ever stayed in. Let me get started...

We flew by Tiger Airways as this is the only airline which goes direct to Krabi from Singapore. Thai Airways would requires us to transit at Bangkok. The flight to Krabi is only about an hour plus so before we know it, we had arrived.

We hired a private van from the hotel and were impressed with their service right from the start. We were given cold towel and cold mineral water to freshen up before setting off to the hotel. Once there, check in was done swiftly. The manager came out to welcome us and we had a nice chat. Cold drinks were served and you can even have a shoulder massage while waiting at the reception. We decided to go to the restaurant for the kids' meal before heading back to the room. Luggages were brought to our room by the staff.

We were having lunch when I realized that I left Katie's bib and feeding spoons in the luggages. I went to the room and found out that my room card didn't work. A staff was nearby and he walkie-talked a chambermaid who came and opened the door for me. The staff took my card and said he would change it before bringing it to the restaurant. By the time I grabbed the feeding utensils and got to the restaurant, my husband was already given the new card. The restaurant is on the second floor while our room was on the third. It sure didn't take me very long to get to the restaurant. My husband was very impressed and commented that Sofitel Krabi is the best hotel he has ever stayed in. He has been travelling since he was young so to hear him say something like that, Sofittel Krabi must be really good.

Katie came down with a fever on the second day of the stay. The staff at the restaurant got to know about it and made a special effort to cheer her up during meal times. Of course, they entertained Anna as well. Whenever we arrived at the restaurant, the staff would start setting the table up with 2 sets of children's utensils. Extra teaspoons, bowls and napkins would also be placed on the table as they knew that I would be using them for the pureed food and the mess while feeding. A staff would approach me to take the bottled food for heating, without even being asked! We did the whole routine twice when we went to the restaurant and the staff caught on really quickly. When I saw the details the staff paid attention to, I was just overwhelmed. On the third day, an executive staff came by when we were in the lobby to find out about our stay. When she knew that Katie was sick, she was really concerned and asked if we needed a doctor. They could call one and the doctor could arrive shortly. She was geninuely concerned and that came as a surprise.

The room is spacious, enough for the kids to run around without getting hurt. The view from our room's balcony was simply fantastic. Staff told us we got the best view. It helped that it was low season so I supposed there was not much competition for the room. We got a little surprise during our stay there. It was our wedding anniversary and when we got back to the room after a dinner, we found a pretty cake in our room. The room's lighting was turned down so it was really romantic. Anna loves pretty cakes and she was very pleased too.

The kids club is also a class of its own. There are 3 parts to the indoor kids' club. A napping room, a wooden floored room where kids can do drawing, play computer games, read books, play building blocks and more importantly, run around safely and another room which is fully padded with a mini playground. There is also a very clean toilet inside the kids club. Outside the kids'club is a huge playground, with doll's house, swing, see-saw, slide, and a huge sandpit. The kids' club is just beside the gym so you can drop the kids before heading for your stress relieving stretch and run or simply to the spa for a good massage. I went for massages 2 days in a row. Hehe.

The staff at the kids' club took the initiative to befriend Anna and Katie. They even let Anna do some art and craft at no extra charge. They merely took some of the old art samples and let Anna paint all over it. It is comforting to know that their service is not all about money. Some kids club staff would only entertain the kids when activities have been paid for. Anna also made a lot of tissue paper flowers and was clearly very pleased with her achievements. I still have them kept in the drawer. Even when there were other paying kids (their parents had paid for baby sitting and a full day's activities), the staff would welcome Anna to sit with them and participate while I was playing with Katie in the other room. Katie loved playing in the spacious room (the one with the wooden flooring) as the toys are all placed on a very low table. She could stand up on her own and played with the toys at ease. Playing was really fun especially since she could just nap in the napping room inside the kids' room whenever she got too tired.

The pool was also great. It is supposedly the longest pool in the whole of Thailand, circling the hotel. Needless to say, we went to the kids' pool everyday. It has 2 slides and a water feature in the middle of the pool shaped like a mushroom.

The hotel has won several awards, one of them being, the Gold Award for Luxury Family Resort for the years 2009 and they certainly deserved it.
Total cost: 6 days 5 nights $1600 (includes air tickets for 4, accommodation and all meals)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Before Flying

Here is a list of pointers which I have gathered from my travels. Do not that they are not all encompassing. On top of that, different families have different needs, so you would need to customize them accordingly.


There are parents who chose the destinations based on flight duration while there are those who are willing to sit through a 20 hour flight with young children. To each his own. But some things you may want to consider.

- Flight timing. Some recommended taking a morning flight when the baby is fresh and happy. Others would recommend taking a midnight flight as it coincides with the baby's sleeping hours. We have tried early morning, afternoon, and even midnight flights. We found the ones in the morning, around 9am, and those in the afternoon around 2pm, the best for our young children. They are fresh and alert in the morning. Preparing them for the flight is also a lot easier as they would be eager to see what's outside the windows, drink their favourite juices and eat their yummy snacks. This helps them deal with the pressure in the ear without the parents even mentioning anything about it. The ones in the afternoon coincides with their nap times. Their nap time is around 1pm and I would usually choose a 2pm flight. Since boarding time is around 130pm, I can settle them nicely in their seat before the actual take off. By the time the plane takes off, they would have dozed off. No fuss at all. We took a 12am flight to Adelaide before and it was a disaster, at least for us. A was only 15 months but was too fat for the bassinet. She was clearly very uncomfortable. Having to take her out everytime there was turbulence disturbed her a lot and she would break into loud wails. I ended up having to carry her throughout the 7 hours flight. Even then she would stir whenever there was turbulences or when there was announcements. Seeing other babies sleeping so soundly through the flight didn't encourage us at all. By the time we reached the hotel in Adelaide, we were all too tired to enjoy and had to turn in early for the night. Fret not. Each child is different so you may have a fantastic flight experience wherever you go. Good to understand your child's needs and more importantly yours as well, before you book the flight. You would become more experienced as you travel more. The girls are now seasoned travellers and can cope with longer flights very well. I definitely did not see this day coming during that midnight flight to Adelaide but yes, the day would come. Take heart. :)

-Transit. Transiting interval has to be taken into consideration too. Changing plane means having to settle the kids again or even waking them up from their naps. If you need to transit, it is good to choose the flight timing appropriately.

- Cost of air tickets. Some airlines do not charge taxes on infant. Singapore Airlines is one of them. That is the reason why I flew a lot with SQ when the kids were under the age of 2. Early purchase of air tickets can save you a lot too. It is good to start planning at least 1 year in advance as ticket prices are still relatively low. One important note- Some airlines do not allow you to change the date of flight one year from the date of purchase. As you would never know the future so do be prepared to take the risk. Do also remember to block your leave early. Alternatively, you can hop onto the last minute airfare special promotions. However, the low fares may not apply to the destination of your choice. Also, if the trip requires a lot of planning, e.g. a backpacking trip to Europe, a last minute decision to travel would just mean a whole load of stress for the parents, or should I say, mothers. At least, it would be for me.

-Child friendly airlines.Some airlines are more child friendly than others. Take for example, Singapore Airlines. (I cannot say about the rest as I have not tried them, not with the kids at least.)I can pre-order the children's meals online. They even have a detailed list of possible food restrictions which I can check off. The girls have food allergies when they were younger so it gives me the peace of mind that their meals are well taken care of on the plane. This would also mean that I have less to carry at the airport which equates to more relaxed shoulders. They have weaning meals, post weaning meals and child meals. I have tried all three and both my husband and I must admit that they are very delicious. We practically steal food from our children on every flight. And don't worry, they are not bottled food.


Again, it really depends on the parents' needs. I know of parents who have stayed in places with limited access to electricity and water, even with babies and young children in tow. I salute them. Some would go for normal comfort in a 3 star accommodation, while some would go for 5 star accommodation with kids club. I have tried the last 2. I don't think I would try the first anytime soon as the kids are still so young. So what I have written would be somewhat limited in that sense.

- Kids friendly resort. This is always a blessing to us especially when the kids were a lot younger. Kids' menu, kids' activities and facilities, kids' pool, availability of doctors, level of service etc. Holidaying is a time to relax and enjoy, forget about the mandane routine of housework and minding of the kids at home (though you still need to mind the kids while on holidays) so having the extra services do really helped to create a more relaxing atmosphere. How so? A kids' menu would mean less packed food in the luggages. Kids' activities and facilities would mean the kids would be kept entertained and hence, the parents can have a slightly easier time keeping the kids happy. Afterall, happy children equates to happy parents. A high level of efficiency and service in the hotel would also mean less stress as kids cannot wait! You know what I mean.

Some things to note - everything comes with a price. To stay in a hotel with all the services would cost a lot. Hence, it would be wise to select the services carefully. A lot of hotels offers kids activities for 4 years and above. That includes a full day programme, lunch and for some places, dinner. Younger children would most likely only be playing with the toys available in the kids' room. If your child is happy with just a few of his or her favourite toys, you can skip the kids' club service altogether. Plus, bringing him or her to the pool for the whole morning is usually enough to make everyone happy.

One more thing, it would be good to check with the hotel of your choice or even read reviews on travel websites to find out more about the kids' services. I have been to hotels which claim to be kids' friendly even for infants but the kids' room is filled with toys for older kids - computer games, pool table, etc. Yes, they have toys for younger children but they were so poorly maintained (being old and dirty) that I didn't even dare to touch them.

To save money on engaging an emergency doctor, bring along the more common medication for cough, flu, tummy-ache etc. Yes, please bring along the thermometer.I have noticed that there has been an increasing number of hotels venturing into kids' friendly services, which is of course a good thing. More choices for parents and hence more competitive prices. :)


A lot of mothers have approached me with great concerns about feeding during travelling. Keeping meal times quick and happy have always been quite a challenge for most parents. I too have my fair share of sob stories to share. Still, I emerge stronger and more ready to take on the next meal time showdown.

- Kids' Menu. When staying at a hotel, you can email the hotel to check if they provide kids food and request for a copy of their kids' menu. You can then decide if you want to pack your own food for the trip. Do note that porridge in some places mean congee, the very watery kind. Feeding your child congee can be a very slow and messy affair. First thing that comes to mind would be to drain the 'soup' away. It is time consuming but it would save you the heart-ache of messy feeding later. Tip: to make the congee thicker, I usually mix it with a bottled of baby food. It gives it a more familiar flavour too.

- Bottled baby food. Do prepare some bottled pureed food and cereal just in case the food in the hotel is not to the kid's liking. Even if he or she has eaten a bit of the hotel's food, you may choose to top it up with the food that you have brought. Always good to have a ready supply. If your child has never taken bottled baby food prior to the trip, start trying some at home first. Every child has differing taste. It is good to know which are the ones he or she dislikes. You wouldn't want to start your little experiment overseas and ended up not having anything he or she wants. A hungry baby is not a happy baby.

- Order normal main dish. Some of the more kids' friendly adult meals are fish and chips, poached salmon, steamed vegetables (usually available in the appetizer menu) and rice with a soup dish. When we ordered fish and chips, we would peel the fried outer layer and just feed the baby the fish. Steamed vegetables like carrots, brocollis and cauliflowers can be smashed into soft bits easily. Soaking the rice in the soup would soften it and it would be like a porridge dish, somewhat. Since the young children won't eat too much a portion, he or she can share a dish with an adult. That would also reduce the cost as well.

- Children's utensils. Some hotels do not provide at all or only provide plastic plates so don't take things for granted. Email the hotel and find out. Of course, you can always bring your own. If you do, you might want to bring along a small bottle of dishwashing liquid. We usually bring a dishwashing sponge and a bottle brush too. :p

The longer the trip, the more medicine you need to prepare. Our most recent 3 weeks roadtrip to Exmouth, Western Australia, saw 2 boxes of medicine. The places we are going to are very far away from the Perth City so I like to be well-prepared. I would visit their pediatrician prior to every trip and stock up all the necessary medication. If this is your first trip, your doctor should be able to advise you on what medication you would need to bring for your children. I would also have the pediatrician write a letter listing the kinds of medication I am bringing. Not that I need to show it at the custom but it is always good to have them on hand in case they asked. The bottom line is I have my medicine from a legitimate source. As long as your medication has the doctor's clinic's labels on them, the custom officers would usually not asked for the supporting letter.

Of course, the list is not all encompassing. There are a lot of things to take note of, such as weather (children are usually more sensitive to temperature changes than adults). I am writing the more common asked ones. Should you have any questions, you are welcome to email me at and we can talk more. Enjoy your planning.

Sunset at Phuket, Thailand

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gallop Stable

Weather was good last Saturday morning - cool and cloudy. A great day for the outdoors. We decided to make a visit to Gallop Stable. We have never been to the place but have heard about the place from friends who have been there before. "You can feed and ride the ponies. Interesting." As it was an impromptu decision, I had to rush to the coffee-shop nearby to get some food for our little 'picnic'. One would say that I can always get food from the park especially since Singapore is such an accessible and well-equipped island. Yet, it being our first visit, I was unclear as to the facilities and amenities nearby. With 2 young kids in tow, I always need to ensure that food and water supplies are on hand. Last minute frenzy search for food and water to satisfy two hungry and whining kids is just not my cup of tea.

Located at Pasir Ris Park Carpark C, it took us only 15 minutes by cab. Once we got off the taxi, the kids started shouting excitedly, "I see the horse, I see the horse!"Even K, the more subdued one, was jumping around with joy. It was such a wonderful sight to behold such simple joy and innocence. The stable is situated between the cycling and walking tracks in the park so a lot of cyclists and joggers would stop by to just admire these animals. There is a nice little bistro by the stable, Bistro Ayden, where you can enjoy your food while watching the animals. A nice place for a romantic date.

There are also some tables and chairs beside the pony riding area so you can sit back and enjoy the scenery and animals.

We were greeted by Charlie first or so we believed as 'Charlie' was printed on his strap. He was the only pony available for feeding at that time. A pack of feed costs $1 and consists of some small hays. We bought a total of 4 packs. It is not advisable for children under 7 to feed the pony so the kids were in charge of pouring the feeds into my palm while I subjected my hand to the wet sweeping strokes of Charlie's tongue. He even snorted a few times and the kids were very amused by that.

Next came the pony ride. Each ride costs $10 and it takes a short 5 minutes to complete one circuit, around the paddock where one can take riding lessons. When we were there, there were some young children waiting for their lessons. They were all geared in horse-riding attire, with helmets and all. The youngest one looked like he is only about 5 years old. Cute.

A went on the pony first. This would be her second time on a pony. Her first was during her school's Sports Day where ponies rides was part of the many activities available in the stadium. The ponies at the stadium were from Gallop Stable too. A rode the pony with such poise, with a straight back and a charming smile on her face. She was clearly very pleased to be sitting on the pony. When it was K's turn, it was a different story. She was very reluctant to wear the helmet despite countless assurance that I would hold her hand and walk beside her. I couldn't blame her. It would her first time on a pony. Both my husband and I decided to give K's first pony ride a miss. Pushing her may just cause her to dislike horses altogether and we certainly do not want that.

I ended up having to ride the horse since tickets must be used on the day of purchase. It was my first time and since A made pony-riding look such a breeze, I was certain I would be graceful on one too. A was very concerned that "the pony's legs would break" if I were to sit on it. I had to assure her that I would be sitting on a horse instead of a small pony. In addition, the personnel confirmed that I was within the safe weight limit. Still, it was quite embarrassing as I was the only adult in the long line of young children. I mounted the horse and I definitely didn't look graceful. When the horse made a gentle turn, I could feel myself leaning towards the side and I grabbed the reins tightly. I attributed my lack of poise to my height and hence the higher center of gravity. Mere excuse but it made me feel better so yes, it's justified. Despite the little unglamourous moments, it was still nice to view the surrounding at a height. Everything seemed so serene. I was above the stress and problems and it felt light, even if it was only for a brief moment. 

After our little 'picnic' lunch at the table beside the paddock, we explored the mangrove trail nearby. It is a short 15 to 20 minutes walk from Gallop Stable. When I said 10 to 15 minutes, that is kids' time. All parents would know that with kids, a normal 5 minutes walk can take a good 10 to 15 minutes.

We spotted a few mangrove creatures and kids were fasinated. Even though it was already 1130am and the sun was scorching hot, the vegetation provided the much needed shade and relief. It was a tranquil walk, a good way to end the morning before we head back for a refreshing bath and afternoon nap.

We would definitely be back again as the whole park is so spacious and clean. There is a huge grass field just behind the Bistro and a bicycle kiosk just beside it. The cycling track was not crowded when we were there, considering it was a Saturday morning. Just the right place for the kids to learn cycling. No rush, no stress.

For those who are interested to visit the Gallop Stable, here is some information.

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 8am to 7pm. Closed on Monday. Lunch time is 12-2pm.
Address: 61 Pasir Ris Green, Singapore 518225
Contact: 65839665

Educational Aspects for Young children

- Interaction with animals helps children connect with and build positive experiences with their natural surroundings, satisfying their need for discovery and igniting their curiosity. The connection between horse and child empowers the young ones to understand that sociable behavior transcends the sharing of a common language or appearance.

- Caring for animals. You can watch the staff care for the horses, explaining why certain things have to be done, e.g. we wash our hands before feeding the pony so that we do not spread any germs to it while handling its food, making it sick; a horse stands on three legs with one hind leg cocked showing that it is relaxed and in resting position; horses appreciate kind words of encouragement and assurance in uncertain situations just like we do, and we can hear the staff speak to them in this manner occassionally.

Friday, August 19, 2011

To the Dentist

I brought the girls to the dentist on Thursday. A has been to the dentist a few times. However, today would only be her second time getting a proper teeth cleaning. The first few times were mere exposure, letting her get use to sitting on the dentist chair, having her mouth wide open and even getting the mirror and explorer into her mouth. It would be K's first though. She has always followed A and I to the dentist but it would be her first time on the dentist chair. It helps that August is Oral Health Month so dental check up is free. Best time to get the kids to get use to everything dental.

We go to the dental clinic, Planet Dental, near our place. I have frequented the dentist for a few years now and have actually talked with him about the kids before bringing them. Hence, when I brought them along, Dr Chee was ready. I don't think he needed to do any preparation as he is an experienced professional. I think it is more for my peace of mind that I have done my part besides just reading them books about going to the dentist. That would also ensure that hiccups are minimized on the day of visit.

On that day, I made sure that both girls had had a good nap, a good snack before heading off to see Dr. Chee. Once there, A went first. Of course, I did my prep work before that. I told her I needed her help. As the older sister, I needed her to show K that going to the dentist is not a scary thing at all. Of course, being the great sister she is, she was ready to accomplish the task assigned to her. A did great, though she got a bit nervous during the polishing. I carried K so that she could get a good view of the whole process. With the other hand, I held A's hand, praising her for her bravery. Dr. Chee was singing some songs to lighten the mood so it was fun.

When it was K's turn, I let her lie on me so that she would not feel so alienated. However, she was unwilling to open her mouth. Dr. Chee would try to coax her but to no avail. Still, the both of us considered that a milestone. That was how A started too, getting used to the big dentist chair. A took 2 to 3 visits to Dr. Chee before she was willing to open her mouth to let Dr. Chee count the number of teeth. :)

To congratulate them on their bravery, Dr. Chee made a balloon out of his glove. He even drew a funny face on it. The girls were really intrigued by it. They even got to bring it home, leaving behind even more good memories. In short, K's first visit to the dentist is a success.

Educational Aspects

- Knowing the various dental tools, e.g. an explorer, saliva ejector and mouth mirror and their uses

- Importance of hygience, e.g. why does the dentist need to wear mask and gloves

- Importance of oral health (brushing and flossing) and gum diseases.
(The third point may seem a bit too profound for young children but you would be amazed. A had been fascinated with the posters in the clinic since we first brought her when she was barely 3 years old. We would spend a lot of time explaining the concepts of tooth decay and gum disease, even introducing the word, 'periodontitis')

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket

We went on our first family trip when our first child was 8 months old. Even though I was looking forward to the break, I was apprehensive. 'What if she cries on the plane? What if she doesn't sleep well and gets cranky? What if she disturbs the guests in the hotel? How to entertain her when all her toys are at home?' Enough questions asked. You get the point. It just seemed so much easier to stay at home and avoid the stress. Yet, I was determined to brave it. I did a lot of research online, read other parents' reviews of places and hotels and even studied the destination maps of potential holiday spots.

I decided to focus on a few things for a start. First, the plane trip had got to be short so as to avoid major meltdowns. Second, the timing of the flight should be taken into account. It is important to choose a time when she would be happy and less likely to cry and throw a fit. Third, a child friendly airline and last but not least, a child friendly hotel where things like kids' pool, baby cot and even kids' meals would be of much help when needed.

We decided on Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket for our 4 days 3 nights stay. 2 main reasons why we chose the hotel. We wanted one that was not too expensive and there was a promotion during the time we went. We wanted a reputable hotel so that we could have the peace of mind that everything would be taken care of efficiently.

On the day of departure, we went to Changi Airport Terminal 2 early so as to avoid added stress from the rush. Terminal 2 has a family corner with playground, nursery room and a well-padded corner for small children and babies. Needless to say, our dear baby had a great time crawling around. Hot water is also available in the nursery room so that made warming up her pureed food a breeze.

Playing with 2 other girls at Terminal 2 Family Corner
We flew by Silkair and I had to admit that the flight there was rather challenging. We had to deal with the change in pressure during the take off. Baby was crying and I was trying to coax her to drink her water so as to reduce the pressure in her ears. She was crying a lot and no amount of smoothing could do. When she finally stopped, it was quite a relief. It really helped that the air-stewardesses were all very kind and understanding. They assured me that it would be over soon and crying actually helped to reduce the pressure in the ears. We were given front row seat because of the infant bassinet but as my daughter wasn't sleepy, one of the stewardnesses removed it so that we could have more space.

We hired a cab upon arrival and were whizzed to Dusit Thani promptly. Cab fare was rather cheap and it was nice chatting with the taxi driver. The journey took only about 20 to 25 minutes from the Phuket International Airport. The hotel is located on Bang Tao Beach, away from the popular Patong Beach. It is located alongside a lagoon and together with a few other luxurious hotels, it formed a mini 'village' around the lagoon. We were there in 2008 and Sheraton and Allamanda were 2 of the 5 hotels around the lagoon. Laguna Holiday Club was being built at that time so I supposed, the whole place must look very different now. A internal bus shuttle was also available so we were able to go to the 5hotels and use their facilities. We only visited Sheraton Hotel so I can't say much about the rest of the hotels. The beach at Sheraton was huge and clean...a great place for sandplay.

Dinner at Sheraton Hotel
The stay at Dusit was very comfortable. Room was made twice a day (as I found out from friends later that such service is actually expected of a 5 star hotel) and it came in really handy as the room would be in such a mess by mid day. It was nice to be able to sleep in a neat room with a sweet message on the bed, wishing us a good rest. The service staff was very obliging with my requests. I asked for an extra hot flask, towels and pillows and they were delivered very quickly.
Restaurant at Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket
The kids facilities are also commendable. They have an outdoor playground with baby friendly swings, an indoor kids' room with many soft and child friendly toys. Even the big table in the room has rounded corners. The kids' club organizes activities for children 4 yrs and above so I did not make use of their services. We did spend a lot of time in the playroom though as we went from toy to toy. Baby was simply overjoyed.
 Laughing so heartily whenever she was in the swing.

Spoilt for choice

My own spot
The swimming pool has a wide shallow end so it was easy to just sit and splash the time away.

No prize for guessing who's the water babe
A baby elephant visits every early evening so it was quite a pleasant sight. It was my daughter's first encounter with an elephant. Her eyes shone with such curiousity. Just thinking about me made me amazed at how babies can observe and learn.

All in all, my stay was great.

Total cost of trip: Air tickets - about $700. Hotel stay: about $500 including food. Not too bad I think. At least my first trip with baby went well, well enough for me to try exploring new grounds again.