Singapore to JB in 5 minutes by the KTM Shuttle

Some friends have been asking why we’ve been going to Johor Bahru (JB) so often this year. Besides the strong S$ that is on our favour where the exchange rate is close to 1SGD to 3MYR, another reason is because transportation is so convenient ever since we got a driver contact from a friend where he’ll drive us from our home to the hotel. This worked out well for us since we’ve sold our car and hubby need not get frustrated by the long jam at the causeway.

On our recent trip last month, we decided to take the Shuttle Tebrau, which is is operated by Malaysia’s Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) and to my utmost surprise, it takes only a grand total of 5 minutes!

Yes, you heard me right. Just 5 minutes from Singapore to JB.

No more frustrating traffic jams at the checkpoints and causeways where you have to deal with another, Mummy, are we there yet?!

Well, how did the journey go? Here’s our experience on how the train ride to JB went.
Tickets for the KTM Shuttle
Tickets for the KTM Shuttle can be bought online. And because we were planning to get tickets for a Friday morning, we had to purchase them one month in advance online, here. Alternatively, you can also purchase your tickets directly at the KTM office at the Woodlands Train Checkpoint building.
I’ve heard that since the shuttle service opened, it’s been popular to commuters who need to make their daily commute from Singapore to JB which is faster than the bus which can take anything from half an hour to 2 hours.

Train Schedule

Woodlands to JB: 8:00am, 10:00am, 1:30pm, 4:30pm, 6:00pm, 6:45pm, 8:00pm, 8:45pm, 10:00pm and 11:15pm

JB to Woodlands: 5:30am, 6:00am, 6:30am, 7:00am, 8:30am,  9:00am, 12:30pm, 3:30pm, 5:00pm, 7:00pm, 9:00pm and 10:15pm

We choose the 10am train as the timing would be just nice for us to drop our luggage at the hotel and head out for lunch. Just in case you’re wondering, we stayed at Doubletree by Hilton which is close to JB Sentral and just across Komtar Mall and a mere 5 minutes walk away from City Square Mall.
We’ve been staying there on our past few visits and have enjoyed our stay very much. Their pool and gym facilities are great and this time we even got upgraded with access to the Executive Lounge.

Comparing ticket prices
Tickets for KTM – $5  from Singapore to JB and $5 from JB to Singapore.
Tickets for bus – $2 from Singapore to JB
Hired car – $150 return trip from Singapore to JB

The marked savings we enjoyed on our transport means more shopping for my JB trip. More assessment story books for Sophie from Popular!

Journey to JB on the KTM Shuttle

The KTM has a very strict no photography policy and we saw multiple notices that photography is prohibited. We didn’t want to risk flouting any rules so no photos on the blog to walk you through the experience.

To get to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint, we took an Uber from our home as we had luggage with us. It’s recommended that you arrive at Woodlands checkpoint 30 mins before your designated boarding time.

There was a jam due to heavy traffic in the morning and we nearly wanted to get off the cab and get there by foot. Thankfully, we still had 10 minutes before boarding and the queue moved pretty fast after a short wait.

After we presented our tickets and passport for boarding, we had to go through immigration for both Singapore and Malaysia as well as Customs at Woodlands Train Checkpoint. This is how they speed up the clearance for passengers on the KTM so you don’t have to repeat it once you’re in JB.

There were about 5 lanes opened and we were onto the train platform in about 20 minutes. I also found out from the officer that Sophie can start using the automated line after she turns 7 years old, so I’m definitely making a new passport for her soon.

It’s all free seating but if you want to get out of the train fast, then go for the middle cabin. On our journey there, our cabin was the ‘older’ and more run down section and the seats looked rather shabby. Which gives it a very retro and nostalgic vibe. I’m just thankful that the train ride is no more than 5 minutes.

Thankfully on our journey back, we managed to get seats in the revamped section of the train which didn’t look so grubby. Anyway, photos are okay inside the train so we decided to snap some photos while waiting for the rest of the passengers to board.
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Fooling around while waiting for other passengers to board

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Return trip with nicer looking seats

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Sun setting as we headed back home

As promised, we arrived in JB Sentral in 5 minutes without any long jams and it was all over too soon. Overall we were satisfied by the pleasant journey via the KTM Shuttle and would definitely take it again especially if we plan to put up at Doubletree by Hilton given the proximity to the train station.

Anyway the reason for us taking a trip up this time was to celebrate Sophie’s birthday. But the poor birthday girl fell ill on the first night and we didn’t go to many places which we planned.

 Thankfully the little tropper was still in good spirits and we managed to go to the malls where she got to buy more Geronimo Stilton story books when it was going at a good discount at Harris bookshop’s relocation sale in Jusco Tebrau City Shopping Center.


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If you’re planning to head to Johor Bahru, here are some of my recommendations on where to stay, eat and shop.

Letter to my 7-year-old Sophie

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Dear Sophie,

I can finally call you a big girl because you’re all of 7 years old this year. Even though you love your big girl status now that you’re in Primary One, I know a huge part of you still wishes you’re mummy and daddy’s baby girl.

It’s been a good 8 months since you started primary school and while my initial plan to work part-time didn’t materialise, I know that you’re well taken care of by both your grandmas, por por and nai nai, after school. In fact, I count it one of my greatest blessings as a working mum to have them both taking care of you and I can set my mind at ease when I’m at work.

I still remember the initial anxieties we both had at the start of the year about how you’ll settle in a new environment in school with new teachers and friends. But you’ve proven to be a real trooper by taking personal responsibility in getting ready for school every morning without me having to drag you out of bed. In the afternoons, grandma would tell me how you’ll diligently complete your homework and smart work on your own without any reminders or nagging. I’m just so glad to hear how independent you are and this discipline will surely carry you far in life.

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Though we only get to spend less than 3 hours each evening, we try to make the best of our time together. Some days I’ll take you down to the playground, some days you’ll exercise alongside me and other days you’re just contented for me to ask about your day and read to you.

Although you’re such a competent reader these days, you never grow tired of me reading to you and it’s one thing that you always look forward to just before bedtime. I just hope we don’t get so time starved when the homework starts piling up slowly over time. Though it’s tough to find the energy after work, I want to remember to dedicate time to connect with you instead of just going through your homework and spelling each evening.

Being the only child, some may assume that we will allow you to get away with disciplinary action or even responsibilities at home. However the truth is, we can be pretty strict on you and would never allow bratty behaviour to slide. You of all people know first hand what it means to receive tough love from us and I know can be hard for you to understand why we do this at a tender age but my dear, I know you’ll come to appreciate it when you’re older and wiser.

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I asked what your birthday wish for this year is and your reply was simply to be a good girl.

You know what my dear, you are already a good girl.

You have a good heart, good attitude and good personality and that’s what makes you so lovable and likable. And I know I’m not the one who thinks that way. At your recent school’s sports day, I was talking to a parent and she told me, “Oh you’re Sophie’s mummy. My daughter talks about Sophie and she’s so popular in class.”

When I hear about how helpful you are towards a particular classmate who has been struggling in class and how you even stayed back during recess to teach him even though you have lesser time for recess, I’m so proud at your big heart. Your teachers also tells me that you’re one spiritedly child who’s ever so helpful and brings so much sunshine to the class.

I’m so thankful to be your mum my dear little Miss Sunshine :)

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Raising Young Thinkers

At 7 years old, Sophie is at an age where she’s outgrown picture books. In fact, she’s grown to be such an avid reader that she’s now progressed to chapter books at Primary One.

Some of the series that she currently enjoys are The Magic Treehouse, Rainbow Magic and she’s also into local titles like Amos Lee and Sherlock Sam especially after the authors came to visit her school recently.

Usually I’ll raise an eyebrow when she picks out a picture book. But when she selected this book, It might be an apple, from the library, I knew that we were going to have so much fun with it.

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It might be an apple, Yoshitake, Shinsuke

We borrowed this book from Pasir Ris library, which by the way looks so refreshing after renovation.

I really like their open concept at the children section where the layout makes it to inviting for little hands to grab a book and get lost in stories of adventure, mysteries and fairy tales as they park themselves by the window where there’s plenty of natural lighting.

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Synopsis of the book 
A young boy comes home from school and finds an apple on the table. But wait, is it really JUST an apple?

He thinks it’s might also be an apple. Or maybe a fish rolled up to look like an apple.

Perhaps it may even wish t be something else, like a pear, a mailbox or even a plane.

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And wait, have we even explored the possibilities of where it came from and how did it appear on the table?

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It might be an apple is a delightful read for both Sophie and myself and our minds just went into overdrive as we tried to catch up with the wild imagination of the boy in the book as he conjured up up all kinds of possibilities of what this apple. Because some of his ideas are so out there, you never quite know what to expect which certainly keeps things fresh and exciting.

 

Creative thinking at its best
We are always encouraging our kids to think creatively, think out of the box and this book checks all those boxes.

In this book, the author very cleverly gets children to consider the countless possibilities of what an apple that’s sitting on the table could be. Of course there are lots of absurd and utterly whacky ideas that the boy comes up with and your child will be taught how to question and not just accept things at face value. To cover all grounds and consider all possibilities with an open mind without dismissing them so quickly.

Lately I’ve been reading about how children slowly lose their sense of wonder and ability to apply Divergent Thinking, i.e., a theory by Sir Kenneth Robinson to consider multiple solutions to a problem, which you can understand from here, as you are challenged to explore the possibilities of what you can do with paperclips.

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Image credit: http://wordsliive.org/

As children grow older as they are taught to be more pragmatic and their imagination like a candle is being snuff out by adults who dish them with the realities of life which can sometimes be too harsh for them to handle.

It might be an apple is just the kind of book that both parent and child will benefit from as we encourage curiosity in a child, guide them with the skills for critical thinking and divergent thinking to see things in a different light with multiple possibilities.These are skills that will go far in subjects like Science and I hope Maths too.

But more importantly, these will be invaluable life skills that will be with them for a lifetime and truly make them a class of their own :)

 

 

Sustainable Living with IKEA

Small changes for a more sustainable future

Some time ago I shared about this article on my Facebook post on how I’m guilty of not sorting my trash. It’s a very prevalent problem in Singapore and many cited the convenience of our common refuse bins as a contributing factor.

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While there’s little push factor to sort out our refuse, I do acknowledge that the simple act of doing so will help our nations’ effort in recycling. But more importantly, the conscientious effort of doing it will raise the awareness of adopting a more sustainable lifestyle among those in my household, from my mum to my daughter. Yes, that’s changing mindsets from one generation to the next.

Small Changes, Big Impact

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One of the biggest changes we did this year to go green was to sell our set of wheels. It was not an easy decision for us as it meant a trade off in convenience which we’ve been so used to for the past 10 years.

However the economics of it made so much more sense since we’ve stopped driving to work for a while now thanks to the efficient public transport system we have. We’ve been making good use of apps like Uber, Grab as well as car sharing service for times when we really need a car.

There are days when Sophie misses the car and will ask when are we going to buy a car so that she doesn’t have to stand on the bus or MRT. I was so tickled that she even told me to join a lucky draw once because the grand prize was, you guessed it a car!

The past 6 months without a car wasn’t as tough as I imagined and I’m glad we’re doing our part to reduce our carbon footprint towards a greener environment.

Habits for Sustainable Living

While some choices like forgoing a car may be a significant decision, but if you think about it, it’s really our everyday habits that will go a long way towards adopting a more sustainable lifestyle in our families. I may have been a late adopter to some of these sustainable habits, it’s never too late to get started if you haven’t already done so.

Sustainable living is all about making choices in our daily life where we rely less on the earth’s resources and replace what we use to our best ability.

 

1. Prevent food wastage

As a nation, food wastage is a huge problem. I always feel that our “ta bao” culture makes it even more prevalent especially when hawkers dish out more food to justify what they charge. I do my part by telling them to give me half the portion of rice to cut down on wastage. But on occasions where I still end up with left overs, I’ll save them in food containers for the next meal along with other dishes.

On weekends, I do my advance meal prep and store my food in the fridge or freezer. Items like sauces, and frozen meats are my go to items and is a quick fix for days when I need to rush home to prepare dinner for my family.

These IKEA 365+ containers are perfect as they come in assorted sizes and are freezer, dishwasher and microwave safe which makes reheating fuss-free. And the deeper version of the IKEA 365+ container measuring 12cm in height fits the bill especially for my pasta sauce with it’s tight-fit transparent.

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IKEA 365+ containers perfect for storing sauces

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2. Changing our diet

Speaking about food, you can literally go green by having your greens. Choose sustainable ingredients in your diet by understanding your food sources and having salad is one way to go. I’m not vegan nor vegetarian and I love my meat and seafood, but sadly, these cause problems which article sums up very well.

By just making a switch to go meatless a day in a week, we can make a positive change to our environment and our health as well.

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I don’t know why I didn’t discover the BLANDNING salad lunch box earlier. The salad box has a divider and  it even comes with a compact (and matching) fork and knife that you can snap and remove from the divider lid. Spilling salad dressing all over my salad are a thing of a past as there is a separate compartment to prevent accidents from happening.

I only wished they made an extra compartment on the top as well so that I can pack along some protein without making my salad soggy by lunch time.

3. Lighting up with LED

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LED lighting is an efficient source of energy and uses significantly less energy than standard lighting. We’ve made the switch to LED lighting and this has also translated to cost savings in our electricity bills every month.

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I recently purchased the LERSTA standing bedside lamp so that I can do some reading before bed and the adjustable lamp arm certainly scores points.

And yes, till now my mama’s reminder of “Turn off the lights”, still rings in my head whenever I walk out of the room.And an even better habit to save electricity is to rely on natural lighting as much as possible.

4. Using a shopping bag

While we can’t eliminate the use of plastic bags especially when buying groceries, we can definitely reduce their usage by using shopping bags.

I always have a foldable cotton shopping bag with me when we head to the supermarket, the library and just about any shopping errands. These shopping bags from IKEA’s GLÖDANDE limited edition collection sure is a head turner with their quirky and whimsical designs.

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5. Sorting our trash

We’ve also started a system at home to sort our trash where recyclable materials go into the respective green boxes. These boxes are placed in a corner of the living room as it would defeat the purpose if they go unnoticed.

So far, everyone has been doing their bid to sort the trash and Sophie has even become our little recycling ambassador to ensure that we follow the system religiously.
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IKEA has loads of recycling solutions with an assortment of waste sorting containers for the kitchen, backyard and living areas. So there’s really no excuses not to started.

SORTERA Waste Sorting Bin | FILUR Bin with Lid | PLUGGIS Waste Sorting Bin

Our GLES green boxes are not the conventional waste containers as they are much smaller measuring only 28 by 38cm. But at $1.90 each, they sure offered value for money and served the purpose for waste sorting before we send them down to the recycling bin.

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6. Whiteboard to replace paper

Kids can also do their part to save Mother Earth too!

Sophie has been doing her part to save the environment by using her whiteboard instead of scribbling on paper. So when she learns her spelling, or trying to solve her maths questions, I’ll get her to write them on her MALA easel white board or the black board which is on the reverse side. Plus she likes it when it makes her feel like a teacher in class :)

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7. Choosing a simpler lifestyle

Lastly, if there’s thing that I want to advocate, it’s to be intentional and choose to have a simpler lifestyle.

I’m guilty of being a victim of consumerism at times and shops like Daiso are my weakness as I hardly think twice about filling my basket with items when everything is just only $2. With my recent decluttering attempts this year, the realisation of how much unnecessary stuff I have in my life hit me. My regular decluttering is now a wake up call for me to take stock of not just what I have in my house but also what’s in my life.

The konmari philosophy has been a good  reminder for me to let go of things I no longer need and focus on the future I want to paint for my life.

Choose to live a simpler lifestyle.
Stop buying unnecessarily.
Learn to let go.
Pass it on to others.

Hubby has noticed the changes in me and is so glad that I’ve finally seen the light and adopting his ‘less is more mentality’. Well, I may not have reached the stage of being called a minimalist, but I know I will get there :)

 

 

 

This is my third post written for IKEA and here’s the first and second post if you missed them.

 

* This is a sponsored post written in collaboration with IKEA, however all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

A Christian Mum’s take on the PSLE changes

Last week the hottest news among Singaporean parents was about the announcement of the PSLE changes. This was a hot topic among my group of friends since our Primary Ones kids will be the first cohort of students impacted by the changes.

In a nutshell, the key changes are:

  • Removal of T-scores which is replaced with 8 wider grade bands or “Achievement Levels” (ALs)
  • Students will not be graded relative to their peers
  • Places will be allocated according to PSLE score first, but a pupil who puts a school higher in his list of choices will get priority over another with the same score who ranks the school lower

While the objective of these changes is to dial down the competition over the PSLE so that pupils can focus on own learning instead of comparing them against their peers, many remain skeptical that this will make it any less stressful for our children.

I’ve read many views from both end of the spectrum who hold differing views on the changes. Some welcome the changes because with the wider banding, it’s no longer about chasing that 2,3 points anymore. On the other hand, some are worried that their children will see the wider grade bands as a hurdle and be less motivated to try.

I mulled over the revamp and I’ll be lying if I said I’m unfazed by the changes. There are still questions left unanswered like whether MOE should have also looked into revamping the curriculum, and if the PSLE examination supports the push towards a more holistic education when it still all boils down to measuring our children’s academic success when they are just 12 years old.

But I do acknowledge that these changes made are in the right direction and I’m hopeful that it will improve our education system.

Studying

A Mindset Change for Parents

As a mum, I ask myself, so what’s my role?

How I can support Sophie in her learning journey and how can I help her develop positive attitudes towards learning especially when she’s going to be spending her next 15 years or so in school.

I’m far from having it all figured out and after praying about it, I felt the Lord nudging me to remember Jeremiah 29:11

 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

How little I felt at this reminder because while I may be Sophie’s mum, I’m really just a steward of her life on this earth.

My role is to recognise her unique talent and gifting from God and to give her opportunities to hone them instead of conforming her to the dreams I hold for her.

More importantly, is to remember that God has a purpose and destiny for her life which will be greater than the grandest of plans I have for her. And as the years go by, my prayer is that she’ll come to see His hand in her life, guiding her and leading her towards that purpose.

It’s tough to swim against the tide, but I’m going to bear in mind that I should never measure Sophie by her academic sucess after all grades alone should not make or break her future. And honestly who’s to say what the future economy will look like when it’s now looking so different from where we were 10 years ago.

So while her teachers in school are going to equip her with knowledge, my role is to keep her grounded in values and help her develop a growth mindset.

 

“Growth mindset is someone who’s tries to improve himself and believes that with more exercise and work he can get to anything and he can learn anything”.

 

Kids who give up easily often exasperate their parents and teachers because they don’t even bother to try. This is also referred to as a fixed mindset where kids just do enough or simply give up trying because it’s too tough.

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I’ve been doing some reading on how we can teach our kids about growth mindset and you can read more about them here, here and here.

 

Don’t teach the mentality that ‘nothing is ever good enough’, rather teach them the mentality that ‘there’s always room for improvement

 

Alarmingly, the way that I praise Sophie has been promoting a fixed mindset as I focused on the results and not the efforts behind the results. It’s an area that I need to be more conscious of if I want Sophie to learn the importance of preserving at a hard task and being open to try and learn from those experiences.

I want her to know that it’s okay not to have all the answers and it’s even okay to fail because we learn from our mistakes and that failure is never final.

At the end of the say, what I want is for Sophie to develop a spirit of excellence where she gives her best no matter what she does knowing that whatever results she get, it brings glory to God.