The nightly concerts at Club Med Bintan was the second major event outing for the new Olympus 40-150mm f2.8, the first being Hannah’s K2 Graduation Concert a month ago. The shooting conditions were similar in some respects – fast subject motion on-stage and constantly changing stage lighting – and different in others – the distance separation at Hannah’s Concert was about 40 or more meters, while the Club Med concerts were about 10 meters. The latter difference was especially significant – subject motion and also depth of field posed greater challenges, while lens shake was less of a problem.

On the overall, about 950 odd photos were taken using the 40-150mm, about 800 were at the evening concerts. Many of them turned out quite well – all things considered – with the frame capturing the stage actors in the intended posture, the shot being reasonably sharp, and stage lights not posing a frightful mash of colors on sensitive frame areas (especially faces). Here’s a selection of some of my favorite shots across several evenings!

The first concert night was a mash-up of 1960s onwards popular music. That's a fake guitar BTW LOL.

The first concert night was a mash-up of 1960s onwards popular music. That’s a fake guitar BTW LOL.

The very sporting GOs looking like they just stepped out of the Blue Oyster Bar LOL.

The very sporting GOs looking like they just stepped out of the Blue Oyster Bar LOL.

Feet up! Hard to get shots like these right.

Feet up! Hard to get shots like these right.

Tina Turner - I think!

Tina Turner – I think!

I love K-pop!

I love K-pop!

Couldn't guess which artiste this GO was mimicking.

Couldn’t guess which artiste this GO was mimicking.

No prizes for correctly guessing this one! The GO did a pretty good facsimile of the Gangnam style.

No prizes for correctly guessing this one! The GO did a pretty good facsimile of the Gangnam style.

The hilarious French Whistler skit on the second night.

The hilarious French Whistler skit on the second night.

One of those supremely lucky shots! Look hard enough and you'll see the dude's implants letting fly LOL.

One of those supremely lucky shots! Look hard enough and you’ll see the dude’s implants letting fly LOL.

Solo number. Kept the color exactly as it was from the stage lights.

Solo number. Kept the color exactly as it was from the stage lights.

Fourth concert night titled 'Indonesian night', which comprised cultural dances and skits.

Fourth concert night titled ‘Indonesian night’, which comprised cultural dances and skits.

The dance choreographer of the fourth night showing his moves.

The dance choreographer of the fourth night showing his moves.

Of the whole bunch of us, I reckon Hannah probably got the most out of our Club Med Bintan stay. Ling wanted to try out a couple of activities (e.g. trapezing) but was trapped down by Peter who clung onto her and refused to let her go. But she was able to venture out to the beach several times to hunt for sea life. Peter was probably just thrilled to lots of things to touch (and eat).

As for myself, aside from swimming and archery, I pretty much spent all the rest of my time taking pictures and reading. In fact, on the latter, over five days I finished four books including one on the battle for Iwo Jima and written by the late Robert Leckie and whose story was told in The Pacific mini-TV series, and a quarter into a fifth –  Forgotten Ally by Rana Mitter, a critically acclaimed and compelling account of China’s role in WWII, the struggles between early politicians like Mao Zedong, Wang Jing Wei and Chiang Kai-shek and why China is the way she is today. The National Library of Singapore’s eReads is a godsend!

Of the whole bunch of cameras, lenses and accessories I brought along for the trip, surprisingly, usage largely centered on a few key pieces of all the gear I carted, and they included:

E-M1. This camera body was given a real run for the money, and didn’t disappoint.

Olympus 40-150mm f2.8. Of the slightly under over 1,300 frames I shot, about 80% were on the E-M1 (the remaining were using the E-PL6 and also Samsung Galaxy Note 5), and of these, almost all were on this 40-150mm lens.

Billingham Hadley Pro in its first substantial outing. The National Geographic messenger couldn’t comfortably hold the 40-150mm.

Joby Pro Camera Strap: worry-free tethering!

Surprisingly, the equipment that I used little of or barely touched included the:

Olympus E-PL6/Olympus 17mm f1.8: I took several dozen low-light shots in our dimly-lit rooms and also a couple more at the restaurant – but that’s it.

Olympus 12-40mm f2.8: used it only for a small handful of beach and walking about shots and also our usual family wefie shots on the last day.

Nissin i40: never got brought out.

This trip was probably an odd one, since we didn’t do any sight-seeing at all. Rather, the majority of the 950 or so shots using the E-M1/40-150mm were of Hannah’s activities, and also at the evening concerts, where the combo really shined and producing amazing pictures under limiting conditions. Here’s the first bunch of them; I took so many concert pictures that they’ll have to go into a different post later!

Cloud Summoning 101 by Peter. Or rather, those are soap foam clouds.:)

Cloud Summoning 101 by Peter. Or rather, those are soap foam clouds.:)

Kids on the beach.

Kids on the beach.

Peter loved the pool, and wanted to swim everyday.

The 40-150mm aptly showing that it has near-macro abilities.

The 40-150mm aptly showing that it has near-macro abilities.

Our girl has a lot more guts than daddy in this sort of thing.

Our girl has a lot more guts than daddy in this sort of thing.

She liked the trapeze so much that she did this three times, and even (nearly) accidentally jumped queue in her enthusiasm!

She liked the trapeze so much that she did this three times, and even (nearly) accidentally jumped queue in her enthusiasm!

No tripod or self-timer needed. Just the Billingham Hadley Pro propping it up for support, and the Android client of Olympus Image Share.:)

No tripod or self-timer needed. Just the Billingham Hadley Pro propping it up for support, and the Android client of Olympus Image Share.:)

Concert pictures next!

 

Continuing from our last post. For the bits that didn’t work:

Our two interconnected rooms were the largest problem. We’d already mentally prepared ourselves for their state through the Tripadvisor reviews prior to our arrival but they were still depressing when we saw them first-hand. Our rooms were in Block ‘P’ which is nearly at the furthermost end of the resort. The walk from the main building to our rooms took several minutes, but on non-raining days the walk was typically pleasant (there is a completely sheltered alternate path for times of inclement weather).

Of problems though: our rooms were dimly lit, sparsely decorated, and had a distinctive musky odor when we checked-in. Furniture was clearly worn. The air-conditioning in the children’s room rattled loudly, and never got fixed despite our reporting it to Reception. Rust and stains were in several spots and paint peeled off in the children’s room. There are no door bells nor feet mat at the door entrance. The main door in our room did not open smoothly using the keycard – it required us to jiggle the card in the slot, and then apply some force to jolt the door open. Our ‘king-sized’ bed was really two beds joined together from two separate bedframes, and the separation of two mattresses could be clearly felt. Each room had a separate toilet from the bathroom – hooray – but missing a wash basin – duh.

In-room entertainment was also lacking for the couple of rainy afternoons when we had to hideout in the rooms. The TV is small (32″ maybe?), and while pre-programmed with several channels, reception was very poor – we received static for most channels. Internet connectivity is so-so with occasional drop-outs, requiring re-connections.

Ling especially felt that housekeeping was below par, with newly laundry/amenity items occasionally left out, and the additional cushions piled at one corner of the floor which wasn’t really clean. And the room hidden surfaces – e.g. below bed frames – were all dusty.

Honestly put – the quality of rooms is simply not befitting the price of stay, and reminded us in parts of the old dilapidated East Coast Chalets from the 1990s. Using a scale of one to five stars, with Capella at 5, Ayara Hilltops at 4.5, Telunas, Santhiya and Naumi at 4, Legoland at 3.5, Tepi Sawah Villa at 3: we weren’t expecting rooms of the same luxury class as Capella’s of course, but we were still hoping for something that’s about four out of five stars and would have settled for three. As it is, I’d put the rooms at two stars at best.

I guess one could make the argument that if you’re doing a Club Med stay, one would be out of rather than inside rooms. And in case one feels that I’m being unduly harsh on the state of rooms, numerous Tripadvisor reviews make mention of this issue too, some politely, while others as pointedly as I’ve done here. There doesn’t seem to be many reviews praising the rooms! Oddly and on the other hand – several of the blogger reviews I read heaped glowing praise on hospitality and accommodations, and stayed in rooms that looked a heck lot cleaner and better looking than ours. Perhaps we were just plain unlucky to have drawn poor rooms (though how that syncs with numerous other Tripadvisor reviewers pointing out the same issues is anyone’s guess) or there were other reasons for them emphasising the good rather than less savory aspects. To be fair – several bloggers did declare that their stays had been sponsored by the Club. One of the benefits of a completely non-sponsored/affiliated blog here I guess – I can be entirely candid and say exactly what I feel about a stay that is as typical as any other non-sponsored traveler.

Kids settling for pre-loaded cartoons on the Surface Pro, since the room TVs only showed static.

Kids settling for pre-loaded cartoons on the Surface Pro, since the room TVs only showed static.

The age of the resort wasn’t just immediately observable in the rooms, but also in other spots. The internal little gardens separating each block seemed in need of maintenance. The laundry/dryer machines while no-doubt a welcome convenience (we did laundry – twice!), were sitting in a room that looked like my NTU hostel’s laundry room from the 1990s. The fan blades in the building’s first floor bar, theater and common areas were rusting. The GOs themselves seemed to recognize that they were operating in an old facility, and one shared that the resort was going to be refurbished next year, and promised that things would be better after that.

The resort's gym - located at the Sports Center. Did the thread mill and a couple of static stations here. Not much of a view.

The resort’s gym – located at the Sports Center. Did the thread mill and a couple of static stations here. Not much of a view.

We signed Peter up also for the Petit Club Med at additional cost, but just after a few hours on the first day of that, the attending GOs hunted us down to return him as they found themselves unable to handle Peter. We’re aware of his clingy temperament, but it was also a downer as we’d hope the Club could manage him and have him enjoy their activities. No apologies were tendered nor offers of refunds given – not that we’re hung-up about the latter, but a gesture would had been nice.

It would had been also helpful to add a note in the booking/sign-up part of this experience during booking on what are the contingencies in which a service could not be consumed, e.g. a service guarantee that if kids cannot adapt to the club early on, a partial refund would be given. A lost customer service-centered opportunity. And the irony – he got a completion certificate on the last day. Guess the resort didn’t realize that he was barely in the Petit Club.

And other comments:

We were visited by a troupe of monkeys one morning upon waking up who ran around our rooms’ porch area, and peed on one of the deck chairs even LOL. Made for some interesting interaction opportunities for Peter especially, though behind the glass doors. I quipped to Ling that this was like a reverse Zoo. The monkeys were the real residents of the resort and were observing us in our rooms from the outside – while we were the real animals in the zoo this time!.

This fellow peed on the chair when he departed.

This fellow peed on the chair when he departed.

The resort didn’t feel too crowded during our stay, though we weren’t sure if this was because it wasn’t at full capacity. There were several visitors from a certain large country far up in the North who, by way of fossilized cultural mannerisms, spoke loud enough at every conversation that their presences were always obvious. Guess there’s no vacation spot left on Earth where you can go without being reminded that you’re not far from that part of Asia.

On the overall: we’d recommend Club Med Bintan if you’re looking for an all-inclusive, family-friendly resort with a variety of activities that you’re interested in, and are willing to accept the generally poor rooms. If you’re however more introvert and envision yourself spending more time inside your room to enjoy its amenities to relax, then we couldn’t recommend this place. There really are more luxurious properties in the region at similar price points. For ourselves, there are also other Club Med resorts in the vicinity, and we’d be hard-pressed to think of a good enough reason for a return-stay, unless the rooms and housekeeping significantly improve.

Next couple of posts on the equipment and pictures!

Well, what’s our verdict after a five day stay at Club Med Bintan? In a word or two: “it’s complicated”.  The summary of it is that the hospitality from Genteel Organizers (GOs) for the most part were as warm and memorable as numerous Tripadvisors reviewers and other bloggers have commented all over the ‘net. But if the quality of rooms is of importance to vacation seekers, then Club Med Bintan is not for them.

Starting off with the good bits:

Visible Management. We’ve never seen a property or resort which witnessed a similar degree of involvement from the Manager. Jessie, the resort’s Chef de Village, was ever visible making her rounds about the resort, and will go from table to table every dinner to converse with guests – and it’ll take an hour or more each time for all the tables. The burly restaurant manager Mervyn would welcome guests at the entrance with his booming voice. On the last day, the deputy manager (I think) spoke to the outbound bus of travelers inviting us to provide feedback on Tripadvisor, how visitor feedback is used and shared among the GOs, and what it means to them too in career advancement too.

Warm GOs… for the most part. The GOs are involved in so many aspects of our stay that we were able to recognize by face most of the team by the end of five days, and names of several. The resort’s prominently displayed organization chart with pictures and nationalities certainly helped us in making these personal connections. Most of the GOs made a serious effort to mingle though Ling felt that a couple of GOs seemed to be going through the motions. To be fair, it’s not a small resort and travelers are coming in every day. Of all the resorts we’ve been to, the one with hosts that strikes as most are genuinely and consistently warm all-round was Telunas Beach Resort. Not an exactly equitable resort of course, but they are both broadly serving the same market.

The lively ladies and lads running the Mini Club Med at least obviously adored kids. How the GOs manage training for the concerts every evening is also just mind-boggling. Hannah really enjoyed the two full days she spent with the Mini Club, and especially the circus/trapeze segments. And the Mini Club GO Dolpi who looks stern initially but is really a jovial and comical character and clearly a favorite among kids. He called our girl “Little Mei Mei”, and on our day of departure, asked a amused Ling to “take care of Hannah for him” LOL.

The beach is clean, and on a sunny and bright day, is stunningly powdery white. The waters are reasonable though not quite in the pristine state as some of the other well-known beaches in Malaysia. Both ends of the private beach were also teeming with sea life, and Ling made several ventures out for pictures and videos of all manner of critters she could find.

Feeding time was for the most part good. Recognizing that it’s tough to feel that you’re being fed new things every meal once you’re past a couple of days in the stay, credit has to be given to the team of chefs for at least trying their hardest to inject as much variety as they could. Breakfasts tended to feel same-y after two days, and to a lesser degree lunches, with dinners presenting the most variety. Seating availability was never an issue with enough tables to go round, and wait service was prompt and polite. More importantly for the kids: there was pizza and baked beans a plenty, so both kids ate well and a lot! :) Meals were served at the main restaurant, but there’s another restaurant further in the compound though dinner reservations are required there.

We looked forward to each evening concert, with the most memorable one of our stay centered on the comedic mash-up of modern music from the 1960s that had us laughing in stitches! One GO, Hans joined our dinner table one evening, and quipped that they rehearse when we’re sleeping.

The few accommodation-wise parts that worked for us were that the showers worked well (good water pressure, really hot water if you wish it), and also the free to use laundry/dryer machines (bring your own detergent!).

Booking our stay was also easy with a well-designed web site, and the package is really all-in (ferry prices from Tanah Merah Terminal are included).

The main pool as seen from the concierge on the top-floor.

The main pool as seen from the concierge on the top-floor.

Powdery white sand, with enough deck chairs to go around.

Powdery white sand, with enough deck chairs to go around.

Greenery everywhere, though the inward gardens aren't quite as lovingly manicured.

Greenery everywhere, though the inward gardens aren’t quite as lovingly manicured.

The main pool looking very serene before its daily 0900 opening hour.

The main pool looking very serene before its daily 0900 opening hour.

The tall coconut and palm trees made for very pleasant strolls.

The tall coconut and palm trees made for very pleasant strolls.

Jessie, the Chef de Village, introducing the concert every evening.

Jessie, the Chef de Village, introducing the concert every evening.

The GO team waving everyone in the bus goodbye.

The GO team waving everyone in the bus goodbye.

More in the next post!

We’d not initially planned for a trip out of Singapore at the year-end. Changes at work leading to a new job portfolio, that we’d already done a family vacation during the June holidays, and most of all – prudent spending – all pointed to a year-end period where we’d be home bound to do very local things. So, it was mostly on impulse that we decided to find a small block of time where I would be able to get out of work, and then go somewhere.

Tricky thing though is that after that very tough experience with Peter onboard airplanes on our return leg from Santhiya last year – basically, he just couldn’t keep still – we’d resolved not to travel by air anywhere until he’s older and better able to moderate his behavior. With that in mind, our planning planning parameters were:

5 Days trip – that was the longest block I could easily find

Does not involve air travel

Won’t break the bank LOL

We considered a whole bunch of places, including a little known island south of Vietnam, Penang, Langkawi, various other islands off the west coast of Malaysia, cruises, and even our 2012 destination spot again – Telunas – before deciding on that very popular if also expensive Club Med Bintan. Most of our previous trips routinely featured our own itineraries and we basically just made stuff up as we went along. Sometimes, that worked well – like in our Telunas trip. But we also learned lessons from our Santhiya 2014 trip, where we spent seven days there not doing very much, even if half of that time I spent violently sick in bed. Simply put, it’s hard putting together a workable itinerary when you have a temperamental 2 year old boy! This time round, we wanted someone else to do all the planning for us for a semi-short stay, and there’s no better place than Club Med than that.

Vacation spot for Dec 2015.

Club Med Bintan is just over an hour away from Singapore, and is also a popular vacation spot for many local families here, if going by the many blog reviews is any indication. The total damage was a shade under S$2.8K for a 5D4N stay – ouch. More notes and comments to come in the months ahead!

The third and last in our series of posts on our short sojourn to Legoland last week! Comments in no particular order of significance:

There are two Lego-themed parks in the vicinity – the main theme park, and a waterpark – with the Hotel sitting snugly in-between the two. Both are within easy walking distance of just 2-3 minutes and are flat or with slight inclines, so strollers/prams are just fine to bring the little ones.

We checked out the main theme park on a Monday, and the waterpark on Tuesday, and going past entrances shortly after they opened at 1000 hrs. Off-peak season too for the normal Malaysian visitors, as their school holidays had just ended. The main theme park was relatively sparse of people and only became somewhat more crowded past mid-day. The waterpark got crowded quicker, and there were lots of people milling about by late morning.

The main theme park is significantly larger than the waterpark (which is quite compact). Depending on whether you’re doing repeated rides and the number of visitors, we think about a 6 hour stay will let you cover at least 70% of the park and once on each of its rides. The waterpark – slightly less. About 4 hours will cover it.

Several of the rides in both parks have a minimal age for admission, no matter whether there’s an accompanying parent or not. Peter for instance was admitted into a boat with Ling at the Boating School but not the rollercoaster rides. The Junior Riding School has an age requirement of three years and older too.

Brief comments on each of the rides we tried out too in the main theme park: Technic Twister, Merlin’s Challenge, Lego City Airport – easy rides though not for those subject to vertigo. Aquazone Wave Racers – easy ride though prepare to get drenched. Dragon’s Apprentice – relatively mild and short rollercoaster which should be fine for most people who are able to handle rollercoasters. Boating School, Observation Tower – easy even for two year olds. Junior Riding School – age requirement, but otherwise fun and easy. Rescue Academy – fine for kids and parents, though not for Peter as there’s physical activity involved.

Some visitor reviews of the main theme park note the lack of trees to provide shade and the like. Things have improved in this regard during our visit; the areas showing scale models of famous landmarks is still rather bereft of shade, but the rest of the park is fine with trees about, and also sheltered places to hide if need be.

The wave pool at the Waterpark. The gently bobbing waves make for lots of fun, though the pool is also quite popular and can get crowded.

The wave pool at the Waterpark. The gently bobbing waves make for lots of fun, though the pool is also quite popular and can get crowded.

Boating school. Safe for two years old accompanied by parents too.

Boating school. Safe for two years old accompanied by parents too.

Miniature train ride. This one runs on a small circuit sitting inside a large tent.

Miniature train ride. This one runs on a small circuit sitting inside a large tent.

The Lego scale models are very neatly done up and provide lots of opportunities for zoomed in pictures.

The Lego scale models are very neatly done up and provide lots of opportunities for zoomed in pictures.

 

Lots of little annoyances to note – none of which are deal breakers and we could get by them or simply adjusted our expectations. Here’s the list:

In-room WIFI is account-based (login ID and password are on the TV screen), complimentary but also excruciatingly slow. It’ll still be tolerable for email and light web-browsing, but not for heavy duty work or web-gaming. Might be a good thing though, since you now have a good reason not to follow-up on work emails!

The king-size bed is wide but also somewhat short in depth. Asians like ourselves will be fine, but if you’re a tall Ang Mo visitor, your legs might be sticking past the edge of the bed.

The user-interface overlay for the televisions is pretty and informative, but also resulting in obviously lagging navigation from menu to menu. In fact, it’s bad enough to dread changing TV channels!

The hotel is relatively new but it’s already starting to show wear and tear, on account I’m assuming because of heavy use by visitors to the Theme Park, and also maintenance that’s not keeping up. The window edge carpeting in our room was damped on our last morning, and we suspected it was due to inadequate window sealing. Small parts of the room showed wear and tear (e.g. stains on the walls), and our bedsheet on one morning showed large stain spots even after house keeping had supposedly cleaned up.

The water pressure in our showerhead was awfully low, and it took us – even the kids – at least twice as long just to get clean. We didn’t bother with calling for someone to come look at it as we figured it’s a common enough problem in many hotels.

Bring your own toiletries too. The hotel only provides the bare minimal.

There are lots of things for kids to do and get engaged in, but not for adults. Not the Hotel’s fault of course, but you’ll need to moderate your expectations.

The hotel’s main restaurant – Bricks Family Restaurant – is the venue for its included breakfast. Probably due in part because of the number of hotel guests and also that most families would time their breakfast to finish just before the Parks’ opening hours meant that the restaurant got really crowded between 0900 to 0945 hrs everyday. The restaurant felt like a school tuckshop, with the restaurant reception having to use loudhailers to direct visitor traffic. The breakfast buffet offerings were adequate for kids (or rather as they’re not discerning enough to tell quality) but adults might wince! A check on Tripadvisor reveals a lot of unhappiness over the quality of food in this restaurant and also its general organization. To be fair, our experience wasn’t quite as bad. There’s enough food to go around and queues are for the most part either short or non-existent – probably because most of the buffet items were not cooked on the spot, and patrons during our visit were for the most part abiding by basic courtesies of not queue-cutting and minimal shoving. But the food quality really isn’t there.

The hotel’s fairly late check-in at 1600 hrs and early check-out at 1100 hrs policies don’t sync well with the Park’s opening hours, and makes it hard for travelers to arrive at the hotel, check-in, and head out to visit the park right away.

Hotel staff service standards are generally adequate (e.g. knowledgable) but not particularly friendly or warm.

Most seriously though is the price of the stay. For what one is paying, you’re really expecting much better all-round standards, especially the included breakfast spreads, and room luxuries and amenities.

Last post in the series on our notes and recommendations for future trips to the Park, and hotel if ever!

 

After the tough trip to Koh Phangan with Peter last year in December 2014, we resolved to try some place closer to home for our short June vacation – and something that didn’t involve traveling by air. The usual suspects were considered – including staycations and immediately offshore islands in Malaysia and Indonesia, before we finally settled in for a 4D3N trip to Legoland Malaysia.

Planning for it was pretty easy: the Legoland Hotel offered bundled deals for entrance into the two theme parks themselves, and the place is just a short 10 minute drive from the Tuas Checkpoint. The outbound trip took to the Park/Hotel took a little longer than we thought – largely on account that we spent 30 minutes in the queue at the Malaysian customs (we left on a Sunday afternoon, forgetting that it was also the last day of the Malaysia school holidays with lots of vehicles returning up North), while the return clearance was very quick through both checkpoints.

Many Singapore families with young kids have already been to Legoland Malaysia and we’re kinda late to the party. So, we’re not sure if what we’re gonna say about the place and the hotel is going to add anything new to the volume of opinion and knowledge about the trip, but here it goes anyway. We’ll do a review of the Legoland Hotel in two parts.

Firstly; the stuff that went well.

Driving from Tuas Checkpoint up north to Legoland was an extremely easy drive, and had less traffic on the highway than a typical low-peak day on Singapore expressways. Even if you don’t have a GPS equipped car or Google Maps, there are road signs that will direct you. Right after the Malaysia checkpoint is the toll-booth. If you don’t have a Touch n’ Go card, take the left lane and buy one at the manned counter. It took just about 10 minutes drive from the MY checkpoint to get to the Hotel.

Hotel carpark: two levels, brightly lit, and watched by security too. On the last day morning, I ferried luggage separately to our parked vehicle, and could feel the security guards watching me from their guard post.

Check-in at about 1545 hrs was smooth. That said, it wasn’t as quick as some of the luxury stays we’ve had even though there was no one ahead of us in the queue. There is a play area right beside the Hotel Reception, so the kids didn’t mind. There was a longer queue on the check-out morning, but a hotel staff saw that I wasn’t arriving, and pulled me out of the queue to do a separate out-processing.

We had a Premium Adventure room on the second level, and even though it sounds small at 36sqm, the room can comfortably sleep five persons. The room has two separate areas connected by a sliding door; one room faced the Theme Park and had a king-size bed, and the other room had a bunk bed with an additional pull-out bed that could sleep three persons. Both rooms have TVs too. The TVs have their own overlaying user-interface that shows hotel information, including weather, amenities, admissions and the like. The wallpaper make for a very cheerful ambiance and we enjoyed lounging around in the room.

The name of the Hotel made up of Lego bricks.

The name of the Hotel made up of Lego bricks.


King-size bed in the private room.

King-size bed in the private room.


The room came with a tub of bricks for the kids to play.

The room came with a tub of bricks for the kids to play.

The room has lots of Lego-styled amenities that excited Hannah. The treasure hunt within the room (clues on the room wallpaper!) leads to a number combination code that will unlock a floor-chest, and the payout is a little bag of Lego bricks. If you get stumped on the hunt, give Reception a call and they’ll reveal the combination code to you.:)

Air-conditioning was on over-drive for both rooms, and we had problems fine-adjusting the temperature even. Oh well – better cold than warm!

The room had a fridge but no chargeable snack/drink items – a good idea I think; otherwise kids are likely to just raid every snack about and the parents have to pay for them! The four mineral water bottles (replenished everyday), scented teas and all-in-one coffee sticks are all complimentary.

The ground floor – where the Reception and Concierge are – also has play areas for kids. Including a castle and pirate ship set pieces, tons of both plastic lego bricks and also rubbery type ones, a small Lego souvenir shop, and an area for dancing games. Hannah and Peter loved these hangout places, and we allowed them almost free reign of the area after meals on most days.

Ground floor play area. Several kids built a small house even!

Ground floor play area. Several kids built a small house even!


Face-off. Our girl turned and ran in fear LOL.

Face-off. Our girl turned and ran in fear LOL.


Hannah is in the front row, and joined by a mass of kids!

Hannah is in the front row, and joined by a mass of kids!

There’s a small pool on level five with a scenic view of the general area, and the pool is watched by lifeguards too. The pool seemed a little small for the typical volume of hotel guests and was crowded in the afternoon we checked it out, and we didn’t return again to it.

Next post – on the things that didn’t work as well!

 

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.

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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.

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

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

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… 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.

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

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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.

a

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