Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Bask in Serenity at Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour

At the end of a long albeit fun day at LEGOLAND, would you rather rush everyone to the car in an attempt to avoid the traffic jam at the Customs checkpoint? Or would you rather face this?

My point exactly.

After 2 days at LEGOLAND, we were on a theme park high, which was great, but it was wonderful that when fatigue finally set in, it chose to do so at a plush hotel with earthy tones and calming views. In the wise words of Kramer from Seinfeld, "SERENITY NOW!" Serenity now indeed.

The recently re-branded Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour, Johor, has 283 guest rooms, half of which have a lovely view of the harbour. One could easily get used to waking up to a view like this. I really enjoyed sitting by the window and admiring the view, pretending to be rich.

Our Deluxe Harbour View Room had a king sized bed, and a bay seat area which looks small but can accomodate an average adult. But the best part is that it comes with a pull-out so our original room for 2 technically became a room for 4. Awesome.

With its large corridors and full length glass panels aplenty, the hotel gives a very open and airy feel, which is wonderful. Because why have a harbour view and not show it off, right?

The former Traders Hotel used to cater to serious business clients but after its rebranding, it adopted a whole new approach. While families aren't its core target (so no, you won't find playgrounds or kiddy slides or drop-off centres), there were many spots around the hotel and beyond that can keep the little ones busy.

But wait, let's back up a little to the new branding. Back when it was Traders Hotel, I imagine it was like any other hotel of its class, with suit-clad staff and clickity-clackity heels across the hotel lobby. Today everyone dresses down - the bellhops are in polo t-shirts, for instance, and everyone has ditched their suits. Which is totally fine because the hotel wants to set the image of welcome guests as friends, and suits tend not to make people look approachable.

I had a slightly hard time with the whole virtual persona of "Jen" though, after whom the hotel is named. The fact sheet explains that "Jen" is a professional hotelier who loves life, travel and the adventure of new places. And all forms of communication are signed off with that name. I suppose it could have been slightly confusing for someone who hasn't read the description. Or maybe a random businessman could get into trouble with his wife for receiving a note from the mysterious "Jen"? :)

But seriously, I personally feel that while efforts to maintain consistency throughout all forms of communication should be applauded, things like safety instructions feel a little downplayed due to the casual tone of voice.

But that was a small issue, and possibly only with me, and it did not affect our stay at all. So, back to keeping the little ones occupied.

On the roof top, there are 3 pools - the gorgeous infinity pool that overlooks the beautiful harbour, a jacuzzi (my favourite!) and the baby pool - the water is salted so it takes a while to get used to. They're all located side by side and the jacuzzi and baby pools are shallow enough for parents to not be in (perhaps enjoy a drink at the sundeck?) while their kids splash around. But really, why not go into that jacuzzi!

Also up on the roof, is a cute little rooftop garden - it was our favourite way to start our mornings. Before breakfast, we'd make a detour up to the rooftop garden, breathe in the fresh air, and feel all Zen-like before heading down for the feast.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love hotel breakfasts. Rolling out of a comfortable bed and strolling to a bright and beautiful cafe where you get to pick from a wide range of food (none of which prepared by you), and not having to wash up after. What's there not to love!

The seafood buffet dinner was possibly the best I've ever had. The spread was amazing. Fresh sashimi in the Japanese corner, lots of barbequed and grilled shellfish (oh that scallop!), assam salmon (not a combination I would think of doing but it was surprisingly yummy!), local delights and a whole bunch of desserts. My kids were of course, head over heels with the chocolate fountain.

The 7 year old initiated the 3 year old to the chocolate dream; their conversation went on like this:

"Calla, first you find your fruit, then you put it on a stick, and put the stick into the fountain. Like this" (and proceeds to slather multiple layers of liquid chocolate over small pieces of fruit)
"But why not just put your bowl there like this!"

Oh... the chocolate force is strong in this one.

Poppy's favourite of the dinner was not the seafood, but the noodle counter. Where, I might add, had no seafood at all. She just enjoyed picking the noodles, asking for soup, watching her meal being prepared, and carrying her bowl back to the table. (Two weeks later I asked what she liked the most about Hotel Jen and she said "The food").

For those who'd like to explore eating out, there's a wide variety of eateries nearby - Sushi King, Kenny Rogers Roasters, Ajisen Ramen, Starbucks, Taiwan Shilin and Savaro. But for the little ones, it's not the variety of food that will impress them, but that the hotel is right across from Little Big Town and Hello Kitty Town, and LEGOLAND is a mere 5-10 minute drive away. For those of you who do not drive, Hotel Jen does provide a shuttle service, but it is in the form of a small van so please let the concierge know in advance.

If you prefer to just hang out in your beautiful spacious room but want some entertainment for your kids, there's a Toys R Us Express right downstairs. I'm sure you can find something helpful.

For this stay, we were looking for peace and quiet, and peace and quiet was what we got. Thank you, Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour, for giving us this opportunity to recharge!

Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour
Address: Persiaran Puteri Selatan, Puteri Harbour, 79000 Nusajaya, Johor Darul Takzim, Malaysia
Phone: +60 7 560 8888

Disclaimer: We received a 3D2N stay with meals, compliments of Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour. All photos and opinions are our own.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Active Kids, Healthy Life!

We're all getting a little um - how shall I put it such that it doesn't make us sound bad - LAZY.

I blame the haze. I stretch and stretch and stretch my creative cells thinking of all kinds of activities to do with the kids but cabin fever is rough for everyone. And so, the youngins of the house have not complained about being introduced to our childhood favourites like the Smurfs, Star Wars and Inspector Gadget. No, not all in one day.

But I'd say we're doing rather decently, and TV time in comparison, is but a small fraction of the entire day - Yes, I am trying to make myself feel better. But in any case, here are some things we have done at home to keep moving and stay active. Oh yes, we have done them all!

I'd love to hear if you have other fun ideas - let's fight cabin fever together! Down with cabin fever!

Disclaimer: These activities are designed to get participants up and moving. For less streneous activites, check out 10 Art Projects for Kids - the trade off is that while you won't get as sweaty, things will surely get more messy! Your call!

Pillow Sumo
I gave them each a big t-shirt and stuffed pillows in the front and back and made them imitate Sumo wrestlers.They found this absolutely hilarious! On that note, Sumo Rolling is also extremely fun. And funny.

Get on the Dance Floor
As a kid, I badly wanted a Dance Dance Revolution set. Now it's somehow not in production anymore. But the wonderful news is that we've tried out Dance Central on XBox Kinect and wow, we all love it. Don't have a set? No worries - just go on YouTube and search for XBox Kinect Dance Central and you'll see a whole list of dance sets to choose from. Just follow the steps and dance away! Shoo my extra calories, shoo!

Twist and Shout
Here's another game from the past - Twister. Actually all you need is coloured paper stuck onto the floor, and yell out parts of the body followed by a colour. So for example, I would call out "feet on blue!" and "butts on green!"

The Great Singapore Workout
Oh yes, you remember it. Seeing it again filled me with a wave of nostalgia; I remember doing this in my old school field together with hundreds of other schoolmates. Here, knock yourself out with the Great Singapore Workout!

Obstacle Course
Turn the kids' room into a huge obstacle course with things to crawl under, things to balance on, things to jump through, things to climb over and things to cross over! This might take a while to set up but they are bound to enjoy it. I bet you'll give any indoor play gym a run for its money.

Fitness Test
Remember the fitness tests we all had to do in school? I sure do. I modified the activity for the kids and they really enjoyed all the running and jumping. It's so cute that at this age, they still fumble with jumping jacks - it comes so naturally to us but 3 year-olds just can't get it!

The Dancing Newspaper Game
Remember the retro game we used to play at every birthday party? Where every kid was given a sheet of newspaper and told to dance, and jump on the paper when the music stopped? And then the paper would be folded in half each time before the music started again? Guess what? It's time to bring that idea back into the house, yo!

Ballon Up!
Balloons are so much fun. Until they float around half deflated collecting dust around the house. But! They are a lot of fun till then. You can hold a race between the kids - who can get from Point A to B with the balloon wedged between their thighs, or between their elbows. Got only one balloon? No problem - see how long everyone can cooperatively keep the balloon off the floor. Want to up it a notch? Sit and make sure butts stay on the ground while balloon is up in the air! It's not as easy as it sounds!

Gym Class
Squat, turn your head in, and roll, roll, roll! (all you need is a mattress on the floor) Do splits (or try to)! Do cartwheels! Do stretches! Get a long piece of ribbon and twirl!

Disclaimer: My kids have gone through/go through gym classes as part of their weekly curriculum in school. So they are familiar with foward rolls and tumbles. Having said that, I never did any of those things formally but it didn't stop me from holding my own 'gymnastics competitions' when I was 7.

(Kriss Kross will make you) Jump! Jump!
Give kids separate washi tapes. Make them peel an inch off at a time, and take turns trying to paste their individual tapes on a designated vertical surface. Like a wall that you know will not get its paint removed when you take off the tapes. Or a door, but be prepared for it to be noisy! If you like, you can even mark zones according to height and see how many stickers end up at the "red zone" or "blue zone". This is more fun when your kids are about the same height.

Remember, the idea is simply to get up and get active, but most importantly, fun should be on the top of that list. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

To the Nursery we go!

It's funny because usually when I spend time only with one child, I try to make it a special outing - You know, play, ice cream, fireworks. But having said that, I also enjoy bringing them to non typical kiddy places. And because I was hoping for a quiet morning, Poppy and I hung out at Far East Flora at Queensway.

I didn't grow up much with plants. My late grandmother had a garden but she didn't really plant anything. If I had that same garden today, I would go crazy planting vegetables! Or least try to. These days I've grown quite fond of plants, and I dare say we're seeing more green than brown in the house. Green fingers high five!


The weather was perfect for a day at the nursery, and my companion was the perfect nursery browser. Together we laughed at some plant names, ooohed at some really pretty ones, smelt some nice ones and really just had a good time looking around. For those of you who cook, there's a nice section of potted herbs as well.

Poppy was really intruiged by the Venus Fly Traps. Oh yes, you can buy one of those too! Watch out for your fingers though, they looked quite hungry. We just loved that wall of seeds - there were so many to choose from, from flowers to vegetables. And at only 90 cents per pack, it's hard to resist buying them all!

We spent over an hour there and didn't even manage to see everything! We ended up getting some pots ($1.20 for small pots made with recycled plastic, awesome!), a Boston Fern (supposedly an air purifying plant), and lots of seeds. Everything was just so neat and tidy, and fresh and green. It was a really nice way to spend a quiet morning.

Far East Flora is situated just behind McDonald's at Ridout Tea Garden along Queensway, which in my opinion, is the prettiest McDonald's location! I can't wait to go back again. And with a bigger budget :D

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

LEGOLAND® Hotel Malaysia - More than just Bed and Brickfast

There are hotels that set aside specific areas that cater to kids, and there are hotels like LEGOLAND® Hotel Malaysia that are built for kids, where kids are allowed to be kids at every and any part of the hotel. When it comes to choosing a child-friendly hotel, you absolutely cannot go wrong with LEGOLAND® Hotel Malaysia.

Sometimes a fun day at a theme park can end quite abruptly - the magic stops when you hop off your last ride, wave goodbye to the characters and step out of the park with the upbeat music fading away. The wonderful thing about staying at LEGOLAND® Hotel Malaysia is that our LEGO® adventure didn't end when we left LEGOLAND®. Instead, it simply continued.

All the way from dancing in the elevators, to playing at the reception area, and right in our own rooms. We enjoyed two days at LEGOLAND® with a night's stay at LEGOLAND® Hotel wedged in between, and throughout that entire period, the kids behaved like they were on a sugar high. And with all the fun things happening at every turn, it's not hard to understand why.

See that lift? Cute? Yes. Totally awesome disco complete with disco lights and music? Oh yeah. And each time Mama jumped into the lift, Mama was singin' and dancin' and movin' to the groovin'. Disclaimer: After a few occasions in the lift, your kids might consider disowning you. Especially if you have tweens or teens. 

We arrived early with the intention to deposit our luggage and head out immediately to play so the late check-in time of 4pm did not bother us (we eventually checked in at 7pm, after dinner and a full day at LEGOLAND®!) But for those of you who intend to play only on your second day, you might want to take note of this.


You'd be mistaken if you were to think that LEGOLAND® Hotel were to leave you in the lurch, waiting indefinitely with cranky kids. Oh no, my friend. No no no no no. Quite the opposite, actually. You see this? It's the reception area. Where your kids will probably want to stay at forever.

And not too far away, is this. Where you can build a life-sized house, or play with regular DUPLO® blocks, or hold dance competitions with the Xbox 360 Kinetic. And if you're lucky, you'll catch a LEGO® character or two on his rounds.

LEGOLAND® Hotel has a total of 249 guest rooms, each equipped with - are you ready for it? - a separate bedroom for the kids! All the Standard and Premium rooms can take up to 5 people, while the Suites sleep a maximum of 8. We stayed in a Kingdom theme room the kids just went craaaaaaazy the moment we stepped in.

We liked the treasure hunt that was set out for the kids (clues were incorporated into the things found in the room), the bunk beds for kids which meant parents could have the huge king sized bed to themselves, the clever idea of having two sinks in the bathroom (one at a regular height, and another at a lower height), and of course, the tub of LEGO blocks because what would a room at LEGOLAND® Hotel be without LEGO® blocks?

Brickfast (you know what I mean) at BRICKS Family Restaurant was a fun experience for the kids, simply because there were so many fun things to look at. But non-morning folks be warned - the upbeat music in the restaurant isn't set on a low volume.

There are two pools, a baby pool and a slightly bigger one, both with fun foam blocks to play with, but we didn't have time for a splash because we couldn't wait to go for some serious fun nearby.

Our kids are 3 and 7 years old respectively, and like most 3 and 7 year olds, they have Lots. Of. Energy. And a theme park filled with rides (like LEGOLAND®!) is the perfect way for them to bounce off all that energy. If you can tear your kids away from the hotel, LEGOLAND® is just a mere 100 steps away, where - wait for it - LOTS MORE FUN awaits. There are usually special deals for hotel guests when they buy LEGOLAND® park tickets, so watch out for them.

LEGOLAND® Malaysia is a good-sized theme park with something for everyone from adrenelin junkies to leisure park cruisers. It is divided into 6 areas, with rides for big kids as well as attractions for littlier ones in each section. There are over 40 rides spread over 70 acres (to give you an indication of size, Universal Studios Singapore is 49 acres large), and even though we were there over 2 very quiet weekdays, we still didn't manage to go on all of them!

Our family really really enjoyed the two days spent at LEGOLAND®. I think being there on a weekday helped - the entire place was absolutely empty! There were never any queues and it was just so pleasant to walk around and explore at our own pace. The kids were able to go on the rides multiple times and liked most of them. But when asked for their favourites, they've narrowed it down to the following:

The top 5 rides according to Calla, age 3: Dragon's Apprentice, AQUAZONE Wave Racers, Royal Joust, Beetle Bounce and Junior Driving School. 

The top 5 rides according to Poppy, age 7: Project X, The Dragon, Dragon's Apprentice, Driving School, Merlin's Challenge, and though it isn't a ride, the Build and Test.

We really enjoyed ourselves so so much! Thank you LEGOLAND® for inviting us - Poppy still remembers her trip from 3 years ago and I'm sure that both our kids will keep talking about this trip for a long time to come. Thank you for giving us these beautiful memories :)

Disclaimer: Our family received a stay at LEGOLAND® Hotel Malaysia and 2-day combo passes to the LEGOLAND® theme parks for purposes of review. No monetary compensation was involved. All opinions, photos and very tired calves are mine.

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