Thursday, April 29, 2010

Primary One Seminar

You might say that it might be too early but, yes we are attending this seminar.

It’s Young Parents Magazine’s Annual Primary One Seminar to be held at Marriott Hotel Singapore this Saturday, 1st of May, 2010. Topics includes: What to Expect in Primary 1, Maths without Tears, Ready for School and Beyond, and Reading, Writing and Loving English.

Well, it’s better to be prepared than to be found clueless when the time for Ashrie’s schooling comes!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Ashrie!

Our little princess is officially a toddler! She just turned one today, 28th April 2010. She has earned for herself eight pearly whites already. She's practicing to walk (she can make a couple of steps but still building confidence to walk unaided). She’s very affable, waving her hand to greet people especially kids like herself twinned with her ever contagious smile.

Photos of her fabulous First Birthday party to follow soon...

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Ashrie will be one year old on the 28th. Sometimes, we feel emotional about this because she will no longer be a baby, but a toddler! Oh, how time flies! But we are also rejoicing over the fact that she is doing good, she’s healthy and growing quite well. Thanks to her SuperMom who is taking care of her 24/7 and of course, Thank God!

For her birthday celebration which will be on the 24th, we decided that unlike with Jane’s Baby Shower, we are going paperless this time! (for the invites that is.) In lieu, I would like to try how efficient Facebook’s Event application is.

Well, so far so good. RSVP invitations were sent out exactly one month in advance. Food will be catered. The birthday cake is to be ordered early next week. The venue is confirmed (which will be at home). The decorations are in the works nightly since last Sunday. Fresh flowers will be bought and balloons will be blown the same day as the celebration, plus installation and finishing touches galore! Whew!

We’re making sure everything is in order and praying hard for a sunny Saturday next week.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bintan Trip Travelogue

Hotel reservations and  ferry ticket booking were done a month before this trip, but we only had the time to prepare our luggage the night before. We had to pack a bulk of summer clothes most of which was Ashrie’s, alongside her baby food, feeding and bathing paraphernalia. And we had to do this only after she’s asleep which is usually before midnight. Challenging enough? Nah! We were finished with our packing before 2am, slept for a few hours and must be up and about the early morning! Now that’s challenging!

(Day 1) 02 April 2010.

Departure Time is 1110 hours. We got to be at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal at least one and a half hours before departure time. So, we worked double-time that morning, fed the baby, I took a very fast breakfast (my wife didn’t had the privilege) then bathe, and went out of the house as fast as we could. We took a cab and reached the terminal just in time. Collected our boarding passes and pre-paid tickets and checked-in our luggage. Emerald Class passengers were welcomed with a carpet walk to the counter.

In Singapore, boarding passes were scanned almost like an EZ-Link card, where all your details can be traced, the time you board, the luggage you checked-in to say the least. After passing through the immigration, we waited at the departure lounge wherein my wife had her well-deserved breakfast from the kiosk. We waited... kinda a long wait before the ferry arrived. Maybe we’re just too early.

Then the time has come to board the ferry. It was quite a long paseo to the ferry but it provided us to have a panoramic view of the vessel and the walk prepared us for the trip. (I prayed that everything will be fine, no Titanic incidents please).

Unlike with airplane flights, there were no stewardess presenting you with their acrobatics on how to wear a life vest, instead, we watched a video on the safety procedures during the trip. Afterwards, they played a movie documentary on Madagascar (The Animated Movie with Alex the Lion and the rest of the gang), which I think no one bothered to watch because the view outside is much more interesting plus it’s only a short trip.

So there we are, aboard the Wan Seri Beni heading to Bintan, sailing through the South China Sea overcoming a bit of seasickness and my phobia of drowning in open waters. Generally, the voyage had been smooth all the time. Thank God the skies were clear that day. We even went onto the open deck to have a good view of the sea and of course take some important photos! Only those from the Emerald Class were allowed to stay in that area. Buying those tickets was a decision I didn’t regret making, even if the fare is more expensive than ordinary ones.

After 55 minutes, we arrived at the Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal in Indonesia. It was now 1105 hours, 5 minutes earlier our departure time! That’s cool! The reason is that Indonesian time is an hour late from Singapore.

There was a strong contrast on how they handle arriving visitors in Bintan. Unlike in Singapore where everyone was fair in the eyes of the Immigration Officers, they channelled the Emerald Class passengers to a separate queue. So we finished the process in no time. Our luggage was even ready, all set in the pushcart and ready to go.

We got out, found our coach and travelled about 10 to 15 minutes to our resort of choice, Angsana Resort Bintan. The road was lined with plants and trees and most of the time, one can see the natural flora of the island, the mangroves, and the forest dotted with resort edifices along the way.

Reaching Angsana, we were greeted by friendly staff to the Reception Room where we checked-in. Welcome drinks were served beforehand, it was lemon juice with a lemon grass stirrer. Actually, I have an embarrassing story to tell, there was this instance that while I’m talking to my wife, I unconsciously mistaken the lemongrass stirrer for a straw and took a sip with it! Hahaha! That was a LOL moment! We finally got our key and headed straight to our room.

The resort’s interiors had a distinctive Asian Architecture theme, punctuated with Balinese paintings and art pieces here and there. Colors were basically browns accented by greens and yellows. The wooden poster bed and the daybed which were both rendered with lots of cozy pillows created a very relaxed ambience. They surprised us with a personalized welcome note and a tray of apples. They even supplied their rooms with electric insect repellent, anti-mosquito lotions, and scented incense sticks! The facade was designed with glass walls and sliding doors opening to the patio, a small garden which leads to the resort’s central garden and pool area. Walking further, one will see the beach in all its splendour.

We did not waste time, after having a sumptuous luncheon at the Lotus Cafe, we went swimming. As expected, Ashrie loved the pool and the beach. Not a time was she afraid of the waters. She had a blast and enjoyed every second of it. After swimming we had dinner.


Going back the room we found our room cleaned up. I think they do make-ups during dinner time. They also gave an invitation for Kids’ Easter Egg Hunt, (an event which our daughter cannot join yet) and a cute starfish pin cushion to take home. I’ve noticed that Angsana has a genuine concern for nature conservation. They asked for a voluntary donation for their nature or wildlife fund. They use biodegradable materials for their products in the spa. You can even see written reminders even in the bathroom, they use natural ventilation in the cafe and most of the hotel’s indoor common areas. They make full advantage of their garden’s blooms by using it throughout the resort as tabletop flower arrangements. That’s why for my daughter’s portraits, we just pick-up fallen flowers from the ground to put on her ear. That’s our little effort on eco-consciousness.

And then we retire for the night. That was the end of Day 1.

(Day 2) 03 April 2010.

My day started very early even before my two girls were up. I really planned to get up ahead of them to catch the dawn and take some good photos. It was my first time to be at the beach alone. I am an early bird clicking my way, catching the first glimpse of light that day. The moment was majestic. The scenic cloud-covered sky with light beaming through, accompanied by the echoing sounds of the rolling waves - that was undoubtedly resplendent!

We spent the day lazing around, had fun in the pool and beach, eating, roaming around the resort’s facilities and visiting the Angsana gallery.

Angsana have a lot of leisure activities and dining experiences to offer like the Dinner on the Rock or the Fisherman's table, but we did not give in to such indulgence and we really have no plans to. Also, we did not burden ourselves into thinking on doing water sports, snorkelling, or going on guided nature walks, rather, we contented ourselves in spending time together. It’s perfect joy to see your little daughter enjoying. And thank God, we as a couple were having a good time too.

The highlight of day was during the barbeque buffet dinner. It was a feast, a bit drizzling outside but inside the cafe it was party time! Although no dancing was seen, the local band entertained the guest with classic songs. The atmosphere was festive. It was such a great night!

Back at the room, we got ready to leave for the next day. Packing was easier and did not take us as long as the night before the trip. Angsana gave another souvenir that night. It turned out to be a wooden bookmark that I needed to pick up at the gallery. All is set. Day 2 is in the history books.

(Day 3) 04 April 2010.
I was looking forward for an early visit again to the sea but was shocked at the sight when I opened the patio door!

It was raining cats and dogs! So, what can a poor guy do but snooze and hope that the sun will shine later that day. So after getting ourselves ready, bags were already packed the night before, we headed for the cafe and enjoyed the bountiful cornucopia set before us, the second and the last buffet breakfast.

Fortunately, the rain stopped and we still had the time to enjoy the beach for the last time. Ashrie, though already dressed and ready for home seemed to like to have a final dip. So with jeans folded-up she left footprints in the sand, the next thing I saw, she was already half-drenched with seawater (of course with my wife’s assistance), making the most of her first beach holiday.

After bathing the baby again, we checked-out, collected our boarding passes from the staff and waited for the coach to bring us back again to the ferry terminal. We boarded the mini bus, unknowing of a surprise... a privilege we only realized when we reached the terminal.

It was quite a long queue from the main entrance up to the immigration counters along the bend. Passengers were squeezing their way through the spacious hall in a single line. On the sides were food stalls, souvenir shops and travel agencies. Upon arrival at the immigration gates, we were balled over the fact that we need not to fall in line! Our Emerald Class tickets were the culprit or should I say our golden ticket to convenience and luxury!

Just beside this gate was the Bintan Ferry VIP Lounge where we were welcomed, had some free refreshments, shopped for some barang-barang to bring home (the ones I have shared in my “Safely Home” post).They processed our passports and handed it back to us stamped by the officer while we wait in comfort overlooking the waiting Wan Sendari, our ferry back to Singapore.

Sailing back was a breeze, we even had the chance to be on the open deck all by ourselves! An experience we will never forget. Back in Singapore, the long walk to the arrival area again, the fair treatment at the immigration again, and back to Yishun again.

My wife is happy to see the house organized as she had left it, my daughter now enjoys the comfort of her cushioned high chair, and I am bracing for the day after, where I have to work again to earn for the next holiday hopefully next Chinese New Year.

Will we ever go to Bintan again? Why not?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

This is EAT!

I suggest that you grab some potato chips or popcorn to nibble while reading this post because it’ll be mouth-watering.

 During holidays, there is no reason for you not to enjoy. It’s compulsory! So, forget all those diets (as if I am dieting) for a while and seize the moment. Let your eyes feast on a spectrum of vivid colors and enjoy the pleasure of satisfying your palate in a wide variety of textures and flavors.

The beautiful Island of Bintan is is located just 45 kilometres south east of Singapore and twice its size. Northern Bintan is easily accessible via a 45-minute ride from Singapore's Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. It is the largest of 3,200 islands in the Riau Islands and the third largest of 27 provinces in Indonesia.

Our in-house restaurant in our resort hotel is Lotus Cafe which serves popular Indonesian and Asian specialties like Black Pepper Beef, Nasi Ayam and my favorite Laksa. Beef Sirloin, Oven Roasted Rack of Lamb, Grilled Salmon Fillet and Caesar Salad are some of the Western favorites that make it onto their à la carte menu. Staying there gives us the opportunity to try Indonesian cuisine.

I can boldly say that Lotus Cafe is the heart of Angsana Resort Bintan. It is strategically located opposite the Swimming Pool Area almost right after the main lobby. It has a high ceiling and uses natural air for ventilation, so you can hear sounds from nature while you dine.

Although, I didn’t take pictures of all the foods that we ate, here are some of the many dishes that we have had.

Nasi Goreng. Literally meaning "fried rice". In Indonesian and Malay, nasi means cooked rice and goreng means fried.

In the Lotus Cafe's version, the dish is served artistically on a painter’s palette-like dish which is accompanied by additional items such as a fried egg, chicken and beef satay, pickled vegetables, cucumber and tomatoes, tomato ketchup, and kerupuk (prawn crackers). Hmmm, that sounds like the Pinoy’s own crunchy snack kropek! Anyway, it was good!

Prawn Laksa. The origin of the name "laksa" is unclear. One theory traces it back to Hindi/Persian lakhshah, referring to a type of vermicelli. It has also been suggested that "laksa" may derive from the Chinese word "la sha" pronounced "latsa" in Cantonese, meaning "spicy sand" due to the ground dried prawns which gives a sandy or gritty texture to the sauce. The last theory is that the name comes from the similar sounding word "dirty" in Hokkien due to its appearance.

Quite different in taste, color and texture of what I usually eat in Singapore, this laksa has no cockles and no tofu puffs but has tomatoes in it. The king prawns are a bit chewy but tasty and indeed very delicious.

Beef Rendang. It’s a classic dish that originated from Indonesia but is also popular in Malaysia and Singapore. It is made from beef slowly cooked in coconut milk and spices for several hours until almost all the liquid is gone, allowing the meat to absorb the spicy condiments. The cooking process changes from boiling to frying as the liquid evaporates. The slow cooking process allows the meat to absorb all the spices and to become tender. The spices may include ginger, galangal, turmeric leaf, lemon grass and chillies.

I always order this when buying from a Malay food stall here in Singapore. So, I definitely must taste an authentic one in Bintan. This serving doesn’t disappoint, it’s really outstanding although a bit spicy for me. Maybe I should have eaten it with a little bit more rice. Aah waiter, more rice please!

We have consumed a lot of good meals, too many to mention which includes two buffet breakfasts, one Barbeque Buffet Dinner plus à la carte meals. Here is a sample of one of our breakfast.

Now let’s have dessert!

Kueh Lapis. A bit of history first, Kuih (also kueh, kue, or kway) are bite-sized food items in the Malay Archipelago. They are usually—but not always—sweet and intricate creations, including cakes, cookies and puddings. It can also be described as pastry, however it is to be noted that the Asian concept of "cakes" and "pastries" is different from that of the Western one. Kuihs are more often steamed than baked, and thus very different in texture, flavour and appearance from Western cakes or puff pastries.

I buy my kueh lapis in Tang’s which is good but I believe Lotus Cafe’s offering is better. It should be, because it’s more expensive. Unlike the usual coconut shavings as a compliment for their layered cakes, they use chocolate and fruit syrups. Not so sweet, just right to end a good dinner. And a good segue to end this post.

Thank you for reading and Happy eating!

FoodFacts for this post is taken from Wikipedia.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Safely Home

Thank God! We’re back from a weekend getaway to Bintan, Indonesia.

Just bought some mementos from our trip, a traditional drum called djembes (works well but is high-pitched, not surprising because it’s a miniature), a kalimba, the body of which is made from coconut shell (it has a relaxing sound that I really like), a mascot ceramic mug, and the staple souvenir, a ref magnet!

I will post our photos soon.
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