The accommodation package we chose at Santhiya @ Koh Phangan was half-board – breakfast was provided, and the other meals would be of our own arrangements. Our stay though was at the fast North-East corner of the island, with the town center and most of the island’s other resorts on the opposite corner – south, and south-west, and very hilly and winding roads in-between these two spots. Fortunately, there was a small village within walking distance of Santhiya that we visited, and it had several streetside restaurants, alongside several other beach-side restaurants along the way too.

Dining Route Map!

Santhiya’s Chantara Restaurant – where we had our daily breakfasts – was of course a deluxe five star-esque-styled hotel restaurant with all the trimmings. Unfortunately, dining was not cheap – and in my opinion was charging way too high even after considering that this is a hotel restaurant – that we largely skipped dinners at this place, outside the BBQ buffet the third evening, and the following evening with Ling and the kids after I got violently ill from food poisoning.

The much talked-about little village beside Buri Rasa Koh Phangan is actually a short 10 minute brisk beach walk way from Santhiya, though because of our two kids and also the strong waves and winds on several evenings, made the walk across the beach harder than it should had been normally. One of us had to carry Peter at least throughout most of the way. Still; we checked out two streetside restaurants on the first two evenings of our stay: Again & Again, and Bamboo Hut. Both whipped up authentic Thai cuisine, at about SGD4-5 per dish item, and both times – mindful of what the kids could take at these tender ages – stuck to pretty safe fare. Basically light curries, lots of stir-fry vegetables, and the occasional meat item too. The bills came to between THB 400-450 / SGD16 to 20.

With a restaurant placard like this, who wouldn't want to LOL.

With a restaurant placard like this, who wouldn’t want to LOL.

Bamboo Hut - almost directly opposite Again & Again.

Bamboo Hut – almost directly opposite Again & Again.

Inside Bamboo Hut. The two streetside restaurants didn't have baby-friendly seating, so the both of us had to take turns eating with one hand and holding onto Peter with the other.

Inside Bamboo Hut. The two streetside restaurants didn’t have baby-friendly seating, so the both of us had to take turns eating with one hand and holding onto Peter with the other.

I recovered somewhat enough to venture out again on the fifth evening for dinners again. The Beach Love is Phuwadee Resort’s main restaurant, and offered not only Thai cuisine, but also Western-styled fare, including burgers, sandwiches, and even pizzas. Hannah had one look at the pizza items and wanted to try one badly – so we had a western-styled dinner this time round involving club sandwiches and a Hawaiian pizza. Not surprisingly, the prices for such more exotic cuisine were higher than the local fare – and THB500 / SGD20 this time round. The restaurant has baby-friendly furniture too, so if adult seating is too dangerous for your child, this restaurant is an option.

Beach Love Restaurant

The sixth and last evening was at Baan Ta Pan Noi Restaurant / Thongtapan resort, the beachside restaurant closest to Santhiya. The restaurant had uniformed wait staff who spoke pretty good English, were quite friendly, but no baby-seating oddly. We had a bunch of local dishes again and ate our fill for THB 655 / SGD26. The restaurant has a lovely ambiance too with their tree-lined lights, and are situated on a pretty flat beach area. Of the bunch of restaurants we dined at outside Santhiya, this one would had been our favorite.

Beachside dinner @

Beachside dinner @ Baan Ta Pan Noi Restaurant. Peter is sitting on a stack of four cushions!

Not surprisingly too – the prices of fare increase the further one is away from the village, notwithstanding the premium prices we were paying for dining at our Resort, though quality-wise, the local fare were savory but close enough all times round that we couldn’t really distinguish between them, putting aside price-differences and presentation of fare. All-in, if you’re staying at Santhiya, there’s no reason not to at least visit these restaurants and save some money.


Of our two kids at our week-long stay in Koh Phangan, Hannah – easily – enjoyed it more than Peter did, and probably more than the both of us too. Peter was already a little cranky for the first half of the stay, and from the second half, picked up from me the viral infection and experienced a bucket load of tummy trouble – so bad that we nearly ran out of diapers and had to come up with interim solutions involving toilet paper LOL.


Mommy and daughter in the villa. Hannah’s on her usual iPad Mickey Mouse Clubhouse games, and Ling’s reading a book about life in North Korea. LOL.


Hannah easily finds things to do on her own – like twirling our villa’s umbrellas!


Peter regaling morning breakfast guests with his version of ethnic music-making – mainly involving percussion effects…


… while Hannah is teaching Pluto how to fly!

Our girl in her usual eco-friendly and helpful self. She swam around the large main pool picking up leaves. At least she's channeling her energy into doing useful things. Maybe the Resort will give us discounts for her contributions!

Our girl in her usual eco-friendly and helpful self. She swam around the large main pool picking up leaves. At least she’s channeling her energy into doing useful things. Maybe the Resort will give us discounts for her contributions!

Just check out the look on her face LOL.


Peter with his stunned look when in the water. This vacation was his first extension forays into the pool.


After a mid-afternoon swim at the Resort’s main pool. The weather was quite cool during the week we were there, so swims were in pretty cold waters.

 Just check out the look on her face LOL. — with Tay Ling Ling.

The sand in the Resort’s private beach was quite coarse, which made stepping on them somewhat uncomfortable. Didn’t stop the kids from having some sandcastle-building time when the waters were calmer on Day 3.

Taking the walk along the beach for grub in the village. Check out the waves! We didn’t see many guests braving these waters.


Trying one-hand stands on the dance podium after breakfast.


The issues we had with our stay at Santhiya began almost immediately after we landed at Koh Samui airport. Sigh.

Upon landing at the airport and after clearing customs and collecting our luggage, we headed to the Arrivals pick-up point and waited there stupidly for 45 minutes, before a friendly local who was also waiting for his pick-up gestured that we were supposed to go to the other pick-up point – which I assumed was the Departures drop-off – for our ride to the Koh Samui pier. Yep you’ve guessed it. We had no idea there was this other pick-up point that while was just a few minutes away, was not within eye-shot. We were thus late for our pick-up for our scheduled speedboat transfer to the resort’s pier. Not that our late arrival mattered, since the choppy waters meant that the speedboat could not directly transfer us to the resort’s pier, but instead brought us to the back-up location – Baan Tai pier, which was on the opposite end of the island. The boat ride in choppy waters was terrifying for Hannah and Peter, but there was more to come. Between the pier and the resort were winding roads up and down hills, and a very bumpy stretch of muddy road where our 4×4 vehicle had to inch forwards trying to navigate the path.

At the start of the boat ride to Baan Tai pier Within minutes, both kids are gonna look terrified instead.

At the start of the boat ride to Baan Tai pier Within minutes, both kids are gonna look terrified instead.

Thing is; I’d read a lot about the transportation options getting to the resort, and opted specifically for the direct speedboat transfer from Koh Samui to the resort as I wasn’t sure how the kids would handle bumpy rides. I also checked my correspondence with the resort to see if they said anything about the other pick-up point. Nothing on that end either. When I pointed this out to the Guest Relations Officer at the Resort, all I got was an apologetic reply that the choppy waters meant that the speedboat could not bring us to the Resort’s pier, but there was no offer of a refund or even partial discount off the premium we paid for it.

The unit as I described previously is indeed lovely and well-decorated, but it’s not without its sets of issues. For starters, the teak wood floor base did not seem to absorb vibrations well. In fact they seemed somewhat hollow beneath. While I didn’t for a moment think that the structure was going to collapse under its weight anytime soon, it did mean that we had to tiptoe everywhere we were in the unit, less our foorsteps gave the rest of our family nausea. The problem was less pronounced in the common areas like the main restaurant, presumably because it was less elevated than the villa units, but we had to frequently confine Hannah to her bed when Peter was trying to nap, lest her foot steps around the villa wake him up.

Oddly too, we faced power disruptions several times a day – especially at night. It wasn’t a big thing, since the disruption came back on simultaneously each time, but I observed that their WIFI router reset each time too in these power outages, which meant an inconvenient re-login reconnection back to the router

And talking about Internet access, believe or not – Internet access was better in the toilet end of our villa than the main living/bedroom areas. In fact, WIFI was so spotty in the latter areas that it was practically unusable for a good part of our stay. The Internet access in the main restaurant and concierge areas were much better though, so you’ll want to head there if you have serious work to do.

And the mosquitoes – ugh. We live in the tropics and know more than a thing about mosquitoes. But the situation in the Resort can get pretty bad. One evening while waiting for dinner, we hung out at the concierge lobby – and Ling with her eagle-eyes, smacked a total of five critters in the space of 15 minutes. And Hannah got one even. The mosquitoes for the most part didn’t get into our villa, but on the occasion when a couple did one evening, gave all of us bites (excepting Peter who slept in a mosquito net).

Eagle-eyed wife said this was the Aedes mosquito, capable of carrying Dengue fever. Thankfully, there was no such outbreak in this part of the world - unlike Singapore for several months this year.

Mosquito population -1, thanks to Ling. The eagle-eyed wife said this was the Aedes mosquito, capable of carrying Dengue fever. Thankfully, there was no such outbreak in this part of the world – unlike Singapore for several months this year.

Most seriously though was the overall pricing of dining in the Resort. Granted that this is an island, and I guess most fresh produce has to be brought in, but it was hard to believe the dine-in prices at the Resort’s restaurants when a nearby village with numerous street-side restaurants were whipping up local cuisine at a fraction of the price. Stir-fried mixed vegetables for instance cost 330 THB in the Resort, and 70 THB in the village’s restaurants. I don’t think higher prices for better service standards at least, hygiene probably and culinary quality are unusual, but the price difference was almost 5 times in this case. That’s just too much differential in my opinion. Peter didn’t get spared too, picking up a touch of diarrhea at the last few days.

On the third evening, we had the international buffet at 799 THB an adult – and I had food poisoning. Yep, me – a Singaporean who’s used to stomach abuse with all the wildly different food available here at the International crossroads – vomited and stayed sick for the next 2 days, making miserable a good part of my stay. Oh, maybe it had nothing to do with the buffet, but the nausea and vomiting started 30 minutes after we finished. Too close to not draw a relation.

Topping it off; our vacation was at a period when the weather was mostly gloomy. That caught us by surprise, as we’d thought this part of the world wouldn’t be experiencing monsoon. Not at all the fault of the resort of course.

All-in; would I recommend Santhiya? Yes on account of the generally good condition villas and exclusiveness of the Resort – but with caveats. Specifically: be aware of the transportation options and risks, live with the mosquitoes, be prepared to take the 10 minute brisk walk to the nearby village for meals, and bring diarrhea medication – just in case!

Next couple of posts to come on the various other parts of our stay, and additional notes on our stay @ Santhiya.


Well – six of seven days later into our 2014 vacation at the Santhiya @ koh Phangan, I’ve got decidedly mixed feelings about the place! Some parts of it were indeed as advertised, while others weren’t – and to top it off, we had a few unexpected mishaps.

Some brief facts about our stay first: we stayed at the Hideaway Pool Villa for a seven day stay, opting for also the private speedboat transfer. Total damage was about TBH58K, or about SGD2,351. Not exactly cheap for resort-centered stays, more so that this resort isn’t situated in an overpriced everywhere Singapore.

Firstly; the good things.

The villa sits on a pretty secluded north-easterly spot on the island, and has its own private beach that’s marked out by inaccessible rocks on one end, and by more rocks on the other end. Not easily accessible from the rest of the island too (more on that later). The villa we stayed in was also reasonably private. While the villas themselves are not spaced that far apart, foliage and trees are cleverly used to isolate one unit from the next. Our villa also sat near the top of one steep incline, which meant that we could occasionally hear vehicles that were trying to get up-hill. Not loud enough to be of a bother at all, but it’s there if you’re the type to notice these things.

Our Hideaway Pool Villa Suite. It's as lovely as it looks from the picture here

Our Hideaway Pool Villa Suite. It’s as lovely as it looks from the picture here

The resort spans a very large 18 acres spot, and uses the space to maximum advantage with beautifully landscaped features all around. The beach, main restaurant and main pool sit on the lower end of the resort, while the other restaurant and pool are situated at the upper end. The villas and units are served by buggies which serve guests round the clock for those who don’t want to manage the climb. The resort is also reasonably new, opening its doors in July 2006. There are 60 villas in the Resort, and two other accommodation buildings housing maybe another dozen or so units. All in, it’s a fairly large resort with very few units.

Our villa, like the others in the resort, had golden teak wood with intricately carved wood as a central theme. We like the general architecture of the unit, though our specific unit configuration wasn’t what we’d initially expected. Specifically, some of the villa units feature outdoor shower areas. I did inquire during our back/forth correspondence about outdoor bugs that might invade the shower areas (wouldn’t want Hannah freaking out in the middle of the night!), but the resort assumed I was requesting the units with the indoor shower type, and allocated one such. That did mean that we had somewhat less common space after the children’s bedding was put in, but hindsight, it worked as well – since the cloudy weather and occasional rain brought out a host of insect inhabitants to run around in the outdoor areas!

Three beds in the main bedroom.

Three beds in the main bedroom.

Our villa’s pool – one of our eagerly anticipated highlight – didn’t disappoint. It was as large as it looked from the pictures, reasonably well-maintained, and also deep enough at the deepest end for swimming. Make no mistake though; you won’t be swimming length-wise laps in this pool, but it’s somewhat wide enough for you to swim circles around it at least. The kids certainly loved the pool. We spent several afternoons lazing on our pool’s deck chairs; with Peter napping in his cot, Hannah scampering around anything that caught her current attention, and Ling reading a borrowed library book about life in North Korea (duh – yep!).

The resort never felt crowded, and the over the week we were there, guests were mostly Caucasians (especially Germans), and we encountered just one other local Singaporean family. Yep; no other Asians, and certainly and thankfully no misbehaving or rowdy North-Asian tourists!

The staff were as a rule, friendly and hospitable – well, at least apart from one buggy driver who did not smile, did not greet, and instead gave us a cold hard look whenever we boarded his vehicle to/fro the common areas and our villa. Other than that, we found the staff accommodating and attentive, and possibly even over-staffed during meal times that we never needed to call long for attention. Oddly though while the staff were hospitable, we observed that they didn’t as a rule make attempts at polite conversation to most guests. The smiles were genuine, but unlike some of the other five-star establishments we’ve stayed, the staff didn’t attempt to engage most guests beyond greetings. Housekeeping was brisk and spot-on too for the most part, excepting one evening late in our stay when they missed their housekeeping service. We observed a team of four (two chambermaids and two pool boys to scoop leaves out of the pool, and clean the general surroundings), and we had four bottles of water brought to our villa twice.

Hannah especially liked the croissants at breakfast, and had at least two every morning.

Hannah especially liked the croissants at breakfast, and had at least two every morning.

Breakfast was a mix of Asian and Western cuisine types. The fare was generally savory, though by the time we got to the midpoint of our stay, we were getting a little tired of more/less same spread each morning! The restaurant and adjourning areas was large enough to host a sizable number of guests, so we never felt like we were rushing for seats, nor did we feel compelled to finish up and go to make space for others (not that we ever chose to overstay our welcome). There was in-restaurant live local music each day too, which added more local flavor to the ambiance.

More in the next post – the not-so-good.

We finally decided last evening on our December vacation spot, going ahead to book a flight for all of us, and also put in a booking for our choice of accommodation too. For a week in December, we’ll be at Ko Pha Ngan – an island just north of Ko Samui – and likely staying at the Santhiya Resort. Though I had a budget to work with, there were so many options and accommodation permutations within that budget trying to find that elusive mix of the best accommodation with the best options on the best travel times and dates that I pretty much gave up and went with what looked like the best balance between our requirements.

Of the places:

Nha Trang was a real possibility but we ended up dropping the city from the shortlist as the layover period time would had just too long for Peter. We did think about spending a couple of days in Ho Chi Minh to ease out the layover, but that would have stretch our vacation period even longer. We were told by the resort that while the weather was going to be cool, it would likely also be rainy – what a bummer.

Maldives got added to the shortlist late in consideration, but got dropped just as quick after the projected cost of an approximately week-long stay would have over-shot our budget by quite a bit.

In the end, it was basically a toss-up between Ko Samui and its neighboring island Ko Pha Ngan, both on the east coast of Thailand. The resorts we especially liked in Ko Samui were pretty decent, well-appointed for the most part, and many had their own pools villa-styled, and were pretty large, with several unit areas of a hundred square meter area and more. The size of a middle-size HDB apartment easily. But the cost of these accommodation at Ko Samui were relatively high, and the beach qualities quite variable. We did especially like the Buri Rasa Village, as it had among the most promising beaches around, was nicely located – but the cost accommodation unit we looked at was a tad small at 80sqm, and the main/common pool rather small too. But we eventually decided on Pha Ngan.

Pha Ngan is less dense in terms of its accommodations but also less varied in range, and also reputedly offering slightly better beaches too. Accommodation options were very slightly cheaper if also less swanky. While the pictures of the beaches looked more attractive than the ones we saw at Ko Samui, we weren’t willing to chance for a swim only at beaches. That meant we needed a resort with a decent-sized main/common pool, and also – if we could find it – a unit with a larger private pool too. There weren’t many accommodation options of a particular ‘quality class’ on the island, and among these, only the Santhiya ticked all the boxes: a fairly large villa at 115sqm, a larger than normal villa pool, and a large common pool, and the accommodation cost somewhat high but just within what we were prepared to spend. As a bonus too; the resort had its own private beach, the villa option we booked was well-away from the beach-front too  (and thus hopefully quieter), and the resort grounds apparently quite spacious.

Ling was initially a little skeptical about heading up to Pha Ngan rather than staying on Samui, and wondered if it was a self-contained island; because if it wasn’t, it’ll mean we’ve have to frequently travel back to the main island every time we wanted to do something else (like eat outside the resort LOL). Thankfully, the island seems the former – with its own town center, restaurants, infrastructure, natural areas and the like. Not that there’s a lot to do in either island, but this trip we’re primarily intending to just stone and vegetate rather than sight see.

The island from the air.

The island from the air.

Santhiya Ko Pha Ngan - hope it's as good as it looks on the travel brochures!

Santhiya Ko Pha Ngan – hope it’s as good as it looks on the travel brochures!

More to come later once I’ve worked out a sort-of itinerary!

2014 is almost over, and it struck me earlier this year that we haven’t traveled nor gone on a family vacation in 2013. Not that I need vacations because I’d go crazy without one, but vacations are always opportunities to take pictures of places other than the usual staple that we frequent as a family. The big event we’ve had for 2014 was our move to our new home at The Minton and now that we’ve settled in nicely, I revisited plans for a vacation.

We were initially deciding if Peter was coming with us, and if not, if grandparents are still able to take care of him for a couple of days we head out as a family somewhere. Going with this arrangement, it would have had to be somewhere close to home and a relatively short trip as well so as not to stress our parents out when they care for Peter. Couple of ideas, and they included:

Legoland in Johor: Hannah has a special interest in this one, and was in fact just asking us about it earlier this year after seeing that NTUC Fairprice had a couple of promotional vouchers for trips there.

Cruise: this has been long on our list, if also because neither of us have been on cruises yet. Oh, it’ll probably turn out to be guilty-laden event where we’ll eat so much food that it’ll be coming out of our ears, but that should be provide equivalent incentive for us to make use of the fitness facilities onboard too.

Staycation @ Sentosa: We had a wonderful, if dreadfully expensive, staycation at Capella Sentosa when Hannah was 2 years old, and were thinking of returning for her to enjoy Resort Worlds Sentosa and Universal Studios.

We decided last week though that Peter would join us for the family vacation of about a week, and that it’d be at year end. Hopefully by then, he would had been better able to walk long distances without tiring quickly. That expanded our travel options quite a bit, though we’re still ever mindful of being financially prudent, and also of prevailing weather conditions in various parts of Asia.

Nha Trang Bay, Vietnam. Neither of us have been to Vietnam before. From what we’ve read, neither Hannah nor Peter would be able to handle a walking-heavy itinerary of the city and sights, and the capital Ho Chih Minh was dense with all the intricacies of a developing city. The coastal city we’re headed to though is some distance away from the capital, necessitating a connecting flight from the capital. The resort we have our eye on at Nha Trang Bay is lovely, but we’re a little worried about the return leg – as the layover at Ho Chih Minh before flying home to Singapore would had been about 8-9 hours. Way too long for Peter!

Koh Samui, Thailand. We haven’t been to this island either, though we’ve both gone to other parts of Thailand several times now. There are direct flights to Koh Samui from Singapore – more convenient – but also a less ‘new’ place for both of us on the other hand.

Perth. Ling is especially interested for the family for a self-drive trip in Australia, as the place is (probably) more child-friendly. Unfortunately, having spent three years in Perth, I’m not wild about going back again so soon! Still, if we were to make the trip there, it’ll be an opportunity to catch-up with my old supervisors and friends at University.

More to come very soon, since we’ve just had Peter’s passport made and will be deciding on the vacation place very soon.

Mmhhmm - a big possibility!

Mmhhmm – a big possibility!

There’s yet another sign that time passes by so quickly, and it’s how soon I have to write another end-of-year retrospective post! Every year end I write a long post to reflect on the ‘big’ (e.g. costly and involving technological toys) decisions we made in the last year. Always fun to think with hindsight the decisions that worked well and didn’t. Looking at the list of decisions made last year, many of them involved purchasing of computing or photographic equipment, but this should taper off in 2013 since I’ve got just about everything I need or care to use for both the Nikon and micro four-thirds camera systems.

Nikon D7000 (Win). This one was a marginally ‘right’ decision. I picked up the D7000 to replace the D300 nearly a year ago now, and still marvel at how light the camera is. Compared to the D300, the absence of focusing levers and metering buttons to toggle between modes still proves troublesome and is the singularly largest thing I’ve still yet to adjust on the D7000. I haven’t used this DSLR as much since picking up the E-M5 though, but it’s still a great camera to use on the occasion when coupled with the portrait prime lenses. I suspect when the newborn comes into our family in July, I’ll be using this camera a lot again.

Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 (Mixed). This lens cost more than the D7000 but has still yet to see extensive use – on account that apart from our park outings, there hasn’t been many occasions where it’s been necessary to bring this out. One occasion would had been Hannah’s year-end pre-nursery concert in November, but the school advised that there’d be official event photographers and parents were ‘discouraged’ from taking pictures. We went to the event to see parents bring all kinds of photography gizmos, including several with Canon’s signature L lenses. Now we know better, so hopefully next year will see extensive usage of this fast zoom lens.

The old E-PL2 which I now use at work, the E-M5 and the D7000.

Olympus E-M5 (Win). This has been one of the best purchasing decisions of the year. The micro four-thirds camera has won numerous photography accolades and has been viewed as among the best, if not at the top of its peers, camera of the year among review sites. The camera’s light, focuses extremely quickly, and when coupled with the two portrait lenses I have for the camera – the 20mm f1.7 and 30mm f2.8 below – have helped me take many of Hannah’s most memorable pictures of the year. I still think the Fujifilm X cameras – especially the X-Pro1 or X-E1 renders colors visibly better than the E-M5 or D7000 – but they’re still let down by apparently more sluggish auto-focusing speeds, which is absolutely critical when trying to take pictures of a 3.5 year old daughter who won’t remain still. Maybe when Fujifilm releases an X series camera that is as quick as the E-M5 will I finally make the jump of selling away all my Nikon gear and picking up the X system.

Sigma 30mm f2.8 (Win). For the very low cost of the lens, this has been the best bargain I’ve found this year. The lens is very sharp out of the box and focuses quicker than the Panasonic 20mm f1.7. In fact, I hardly use the 20mm as much anymore. The focal length is a little on the long side for Hannah – it’s meant I routinely have to take a few more steps backwards to have her in the right picture frame, so there’s been some necessary adjustment to technique.

Telunas Beach Resort vacation (Win). Mostly right decision. The hospitality at the resort was wonderful, as was the companionship we enjoyed with our Ang mo family friend, Matt. It was only let down by less than pristine waters. The highlight of the trip? Ling and myself carrying Hannah in the 12 km trek up to the jungle waterfall LOL.

No idea how Ling managed it, but I got through the hike carrying Hannah by counting 1 to 100, repeat etc.

Melaka vacation (Win). Our second short vacation. Somewhat less memorable than the Telunas one, given the fact that we didn’t sight-see very much, preferring just to take it real easy as Ling was still wrestling with the early stages of pregnancy. That said, the stay at The Majestic was wonderful, with a beautifully done-up and comfortable room. Hannah adjusted to the trip very well, gobbling up everything we put before her and swam a great deal too. She still talks about the trip a week after we got home.:)

Macbook Pro Retina (Win). No contest; easy win. I dislike the fruit company, but they still make the most amazing notebooks. I still get more than a few colleagues or students asking how come I bought a souped up Macbook Pro and run Windows exclusively on it though.

Motorola Xoom 2 (Mixed). This Android tablet was intended to replace the iPad 2 that Ling (accidentally but who really knows) destroyed. I picked it up at a bargain, but while I like and enjoy using the Android OS a lot more than iOS, the hardware just simply wasn’t up to spec leading to sluggish performance all round. This would had been a bad purchasing decision were it not for that I can still find uses for it e.g. at work or for Hannah.

The Xoom 2 and the iPad (4) Retina.

iPad 4 Retina (Win). Still hate the fruit company, but iOS has Hannah’s favorite apps. The tablet’s distinctly heavier than iPad 2 though – something I still haven’t been able to adjust to.

Samsung Galaxy Note (Win). A year ago, people were wondering how ridiculous it’d look to hold a small tablet-sized phone beside your ear and makes call. Today, no one bats an eyelid anymore – and there are even large ph-ablets in development now. Now that I’ve used a smartphone with a large screen and experienced its benefits browsing, notetaking, scrolling through pictures etc. doing just about everything, I can’t see myself ever going back to a phone that’s smaller, including a certain smartphone with a 4 inch screen from a certain fruit company.

Canon IXUS HS115 + WP-DC310L (Win). This camera was the surprise ‘win’ for the year. I didn’t expect to use it nearly this much taking pictures of Hannah swimming, but in the just over half-year since purchase, I’ve taken several thousand pictures with it.

Fun pictures like these. First-Person Shooter starring Daddy and Hannah; Daddy won (no fight LOL).

Fun pictures like these. First-Person Shooter starring Daddy and Hannah; Daddy won (no fight LOL).

Best of all, the waterproof casing is still holding out great.:)


If our trips to Melaka and Sugi island has shown us any one thing, it’s that our 3.5 year old girl is ready for further trips outfield. She survived the 4 hour bus journey to/fro Singapore and Melaka very well and quite fuss-free, took to whatever we fed her – even Indian food – and generally listened to Mommy and Daddy’s instructions. No tantrums, no standoffs etc. Maybe it’s just that we have got a relatively compliant daughter to begin with, so here’s to hoping that our second child will be the same.:)

Our stay at The Majestic was near perfect. Housekeeping was brisk and so prompt in fact that we had to on several occasions turn housekeeping away. Comparatively speaking, I don’t think the staff service at this hotel has been the warmest I’ve observed – that accolade still goes to Telunas Beach Resort – but The Majestic comes very close. Staff were consistently friendly and went out of their way to please. One incident especially sticks in my mind: we were waiting for the sixth floor lift to take the lift down to the lobby. The lift door opened to show a staff member with a small push-cart of maintenance items. The lift was comfortably large enough for all of us to join in on our way down, but the staff immediately exited and vacated the lift for us and courteously kept it open and assisted us in pushing the appropriate lift buttons (not that we needed it).

Every staff we encountered – the concierge, the restaurant waiters, the doormen, and even the maintenance workers contracted to do some painting work while we were there – all offered greetings at every turn. Several even engaged Hannah by chatting with her, though our girl – shy as she normally is – normally needed prompting from us to reciprocate. Likewise, we returned the courtesies whenever we received it. Hopefully it goes a bit of a way to show that not all Singaporeans are unhappy or grouchy.


Morning breakfasts at The Majestic. Hannah had some admirers, including a middle-age Caucasian couple who found her very cute!


Nasi Lemak at the hotel. Very delicious! We had these three times.


Pretty small ala carte breakfast menu though.

Our daily breakfasts at the hotel’s restaurant were idyllic and quiet affairs well-attended to by staff, and yep no screaming children or Singaporeans tripping over themselves at the buffet queue. There was one minor hiccup though; the concierge staff mistakenly advised us on our third day that ala carte items didn’t come with our stay package even after our repeated requests for clarification. Thankfully, that still got resolved pretty quickly by the duty manager who overhead our discussion with the concierge, and immediately stepped in to apologize on behalf of his staff, clarified, and followed-up to make sure everything was in order in the subsequent days.


Hannah lounging at our room. She watched a lot of Disney Junior TV.


Another delightful hotel perk; lots of containers containing those little tidbits we loved as children ourselves. These are little candy cookies. Hannah asked for a few of these each time we walked past the container. I think the lobby staff were kept busy topping up the container just for her.:)


The two girls at an afternoon swim.

The hotel’s pool was pretty small too; at perhaps around 10 by 3 meters. But the pool was very clean and though the hotel was fully booked during our period of stay, we had more/less the pool to ourselves during the two occasions when Hannah swam – or paddled about rather.

Apart from fine-dine breakfasts, we ate like the locals everywhere else. The cleanliness of the eateries took some getting use to, especially us as Singaporeans spoiled on normally clean eating surroundings. In fact, the less seen about the possibly less than savory preparatory conditions for some of the food we had, the better it was for me! Ling was especially bothered by the pollution. The coffee shops we ate at had no rules about patrons puffing away indoors, so on several occasions, we hurriedly had to finish eating if only to escape what seemed like Smokers Wild joints. A couple of smokers did notice that we had a young girl with us, so helpfully accommodated by moving to a further seat whenever it was possible, but others couldn’t care less.


Helping herself to garlic naans at Pak Putra. She was receptive to the mutton daal too.

There’s always just one question we ask ourselves to gauge whether a vacation was generally worth the expense:would we return to the place again? For this trip to Melaka, the answer would be a reluctant ‘no’ for myself, but not for any reasons to do with the cuisine or the stay at The Majestic. The food was on the overall decent and accommodation was great. It’s just that there wasn’t very much to do in the city itself outside eating and lounging around. There were a couple of sights worth checking out of course, but they were also quite crowded. Probably because the core area of Melaka is so compact, everyone zeroes in on the same place. There’s about a day’s worth of sight-seeing in the core city itself, but that seems about it.

In sum, If your intent for the vacation is to just spend time with family and to just relax, a small and luxury property like The Majestic fits the bill nicely. I’m already thinking of which other place to go to on our next short trip in the next 6 months; we’ll probably check out Batam. A visitor’s blog has some notes about a property stay that she’s frequented, and it looks intriguing.:)

Where shall we go next?

Where shall we go next?

While most of what we had for makan in our five day stay in Melaka was great, we had a small share of bad luck in Melaka. One of which was deserved – i.e. we walked right into the restaurant knowing it was going to serve mediocre food – but in another case, the stall was well-reviewed elsewhere in blogsphere but was a disappointment for us instead.

Fish Porridge @ Wang Food Court

Reviews for this fish porridge stall at Wang Food Court shows up on a couple of blog and foodie places online, and Ling marked it out as a must-check-out eating place when we were planning for the trip. The foodcourt is situated beside Hotel Grand Continental, which itself was just a short 5 minute from The Majestic. We popped by the foodcourt on our first day after checking into the hotel in the early afternoon, but most stalls at the foodcourt were closed, necessitating a return visit on the second day evening.

The stall offers a variety of fish-based fare. We both tried the fish porridge (MY$3.50 and upwards), and found it surprisingly nothing like what the reviews online raved. Ling was especially disappointed that the fish didn’t seem fresh and the soup base for the porridge was bland. I’m not normally a fan of fish-based porridges or soups, but frankly, even the fish soups in my school canteen taste better. Also, I wasn’t expecting stellar customer service, but even that seemed lacking. We both found the middle-age lady serving us unfriendly; her tone when taking our orders was curt and she snorted a loud “沒有” (“don’t have”) when we politely asked for an additional small serving bowl for Hannah.

Also; the fish slices had bones in them; so some caution is necessary if you’ve got young children with you.


Maybe the stall was just having a bad day.


Other stalls at the foodcourt looked a lot more appealing. There was a long queue at the Nasi Lemak stall especially too.

Mei Sin Café

This café is also just very nearby The Majestic, and we dropped by for a quick lunch on day 4 on Saturday just before noon. We weren’t expecting much when Tripadvisor ranks this at #114 of #162 granted though that it’s just got one review to its name. The coffee shop was pretty packed with lunch-time crowds, so we were still a little hopeful. So, we ordered the char kway teow and wanton noodles. And the food was, well, still bland with the latter just a little more tasty than the char kway teow which needed a lot more black sweet sauce. Sigh.


Mei Sin Cafe @ Jalan Bunga Raya Pantai.




The two girls tucking in. Wanton noodles were slightly better.

At least the service was much better. The elderly gentleman whipping up the kway teow was friendly. This guy was a one-man show; cooking, serving, and collecting back used dishes all by himself. Interestingly, each plate of noodles was cooked separately. The aunties manning the wanton noodle stall were even warm, chatting with Hannah, and even obliging Ling’s request to cut the noodles up into smaller strips for our little girl.

On a different note; we picked up a couple of trays of pineapple tarts from Malacca Jonker Nonya Enterprise on our way to Pak Putra yesterday evening. The baker must be proud of her 100% homemade tarts, since her name is even included in the cover packaging. We’re going to try these when we’re back at home – and if they’re good, Ling’s probably gonna write up about it here.:)


Pineapple tarts from Jonker Street.

On our last evening in Melaka, Ling and I both wanted to try different cuisines. We had quite a bit of Indian cuisine just yesterday, but I still wanted to try this Tandoori restaurant that’s rated #1 of all restaurants at Tripadvisor. Ling on the other hand wanted to try Milk crabs at a Chinese restaurant just outside our hotel. What to do – we have only so much stomach space to go around.

Thing is; we’ve had mostly average to abysmal luck with Chinese food in Melaka (you’ll read about this in our Foodie post #4) and I wasn’t that keen to test luck again, whereas all the Indian cuisine we’ve tried in Melaka – putting aside the fact that it was all Carbo heavy – have been pretty good. Moreover, Pak Putra Tandoori & Naan was in the approximate direction of Jonker Street that we were going by anyway.

Now, finding the place was supposed to be easy – except that this time round, iOS maps were just plain wrong, pointing us to an address that was about 100m away from the actual place. We wandered around the area for nearly 45 minutes before eventually finding the restaurant – imagine the relief we felt.


Like finally finding the oasis in the desert! The crowd at 1830 hrs. The restaurant is a double-shop size that can sit a lot of patrons, and there is more seating outside at the car park lots in front too.


The ovens for the Naan are situated on the outside in-front.

The restaurant is like many other local Melaka restaurants we’ve dined at; it’s spartan, totally functional and without the usual amenities i.e. air-conditioning that Singaporeans expect at eating places. A quick visual glance at the other patrons also having dinner gave us early confidence though: both Chinese, Indians and Malays were robustly tucking into Naans, and we saw a mix of patrons: families, couples, singles and even a couple of elderly Caucasians, mildly surprising since the street was some distance away from the very touristy Jonker Street.

Feeling all adventurous, we ordered three Naans: a garlic/butter, an onion, and a double-cheese which was highly recommended by a Jonker Street salesperson we’d just bought pineapple tarts from. The Naans come with their own gravy, but we added Tandoori chicken which a lot of other patrons were also having, and a mutton daal. And a large Mango Lassi (of course, Matt). The Tandoori chicken was barbequed well on the outside though small bits of it were still a little bloody. Its meat was succulent with strong flavor and a slight tinge of chili. The mutton daal on the other hand was just prefect; thick, lots of spices, and generous in its helping. The mutton dip was so good we just ignored that accompanying Naan dip altogether.

The bill came to MY$33.50 (S$13.50); slightly pricier than the other Indian fare we’ve had in Melaka, but still way cheaper than back in Singapore and delicious to boot.


Hannah taking an interest in the Mango Lassi. She loved it!


Tandoori chicken legs for Ling.


Mutton daal for me!


One of our three Naans; which was a lot of food for the three of us. This one’s the garlic/butter one.

The walk back to The Majestic took 50 minutes, and ended with Ling grumbling if we could avoid finding #1 rated restaurants that were so far from our accommodation LOL.