Glamping in Canopi, Bintan

We just got back from one of our most relaxing glamping vacation in Canopi, Bintan and oh how I miss waking up to this sight of the clear blue skies.

I’ve been recommending this unique experience to so many friends and no, I’m not paid nor sponsored to say this. If you’re looking for a chillax holiday that’s not too far from home, then this is the perfect getaway for you.

This also marks our first time travelling with friends and it proved to be a wonderful decision. Sophie had a wonderful time with her friends who go way back from her kindy days and we parents enjoyed the company as well.

 

Ferry to Canopi

After a quick brunch at Killney within the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, we took the ferry over to Bintan and arrived there in 50 mins.

Thankfully, the waves were not too choppy. Even then Sophie was feeling strange in her tummy but it all got better once we disembarked and got some fresh air. We were picked up by the shuttle service provided by Canopi and reached the resort in just 5 minutes.

Rooms in Canopi

We booked the Lagoon View Deluxe Tent that came with a personal jacuzzi right outside our tent and paid S$477 for our 3D2N stay via Agoda. In case you’re wondering, our tent was air-conditioned, that’s why it’s a glamping (aka glamorous camping) experience 🙂

I’ve seen many photos of the Safari tents but still I was pleasantly surprised once I step foot inside it. The room looked so cozy with the king sized 4-poster bed along with a day bed and we had restful nights during our stay.

The basic amenities were all there and the room had a mini fridge which was cleverly disguised as an old fashioned trunk.

Since this is a glamping vacation after all, you get a taste of outdoor shower… I’m kidding.

The bathroom is only semi-outdoors as the walls are 2m high, blocking out any unwanted attention. But it gets chilly if you shower in the evenings even with heated water.

Activities in Canopi

The main highlight of Canopi is unmistakably the Azura blue lagoon. Spanning 6.3 hectares, the saltwater crystal lagoon was such a welcoming sight once we entered the resort.

There’s a whole lot of things you can do for both water and land activities. You can even head out of the resort if you’re feeling adventurous. We did a mangrove firefly tour on the first night and it was a unique experience especially for the kids who saw fireflies for the first time.

We spent most of our time at the lagoon and honestly, we loved every single minute of it. The kids were contented to swim, play monkey in the pool and they also tried hand paddle boats and kayaking.

But the one activity that topped it all was the thrilling water slides at Slip and Slide.

We paid IDR 50.000 per person which is equivalent to S$5 for unlimited play on the slides and it was SO MUCH FUN!!!

Ready to make a splash on Slip and Slide

The 3-storey high water slides are a MUST try and we all gave it 5 stars. Even though I only managed to get two perfect landings where I didn’t do a nose dive and landed head first into the water, I still went on it time after time until my legs ached from climbing up the stairs. The pool was filled with our laughter and we had a belly ache from laughing at each other’s missed landings, which embarrassing to say was really mostly mine.

The red slide on the extreme right was the most thrilling of all as you can feel yourself being lifted off before making a big splash into the pool.

On the 2nd day, we hopped onto the buggy and made our way to Treasure Bay, an activity centre where guests of Canopi can try different water and land activities at a fee. It was the best decision ever as the kids discovered an indoor playground where they got to enjoy unlimited playtime for $8 while it was pouring on the 2nd morning.

The only downside is that it’s not air-conditioned and even with a high ceiling and a few fans, the playground was pretty warm but that didn’t bother the kids a single bit.

And can you guess what we adults did while the kids were having a ball? We went for an hour of massage and it was bliss for everyone 🙂

If you’re planning to go for massages, do check out the spa at Treasure Bay. We paid 280.000 for an hour of massage and it was pretty good. I heard that the spa at Canopi is not bad too.

On the last day, the kids returned for more indoor play after we checked out while some of us rented escooters just for kicks. No bike licence is needed as the escooters only go up to 20 km/hour.

Though I was apprehensive about riding it alone initially, I’m glad I went ahead anyway. It was so liberating to ride on one around the lagoon and have the cool breeze in your hair. A very fun experience that gets 5 stars from me.

Food Choices at Canopi

In terms of food choices, I would say that the main restaurant, The Patio, wasn’t all that shabby. Sure, prices are expensive where you can expect to pay around S$16-S$18 for a pizza and $12 for nasi goreng and mee goreng, but the choices are pretty decent with both local and Western options.

The Patio, Canopi’s main restaurant

Western and local options at the Patio

For our breakfast, we headed to Warna Warni, another cafe within the resort grounds, where they have a playground right outside the cafe. The breakfast spread was not too bad with the usual fare of eggs, bread, porridge, noodles, french toast, cereal, fruits, etc.

We also tried Hook On restaurant at Treasure Bay for dinner but I find their style of zi char quite different from ours and didn’t fancy the food much. We wanted to order crabs but the waitress said they only have small crabs so we gave it a pass. In the end, I only find their fried rice and grilled fish nice.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also head out to the nearest hawker or even go to the kelong for seafood.

At the end of our 3D2N in Canopi, the kids were all so reluctant to leave and wanted us to plan another trip back soon. I’m pretty sure we all feel the same given that all 3 families enjoyed the glamping experience and had a rejuvenating holiday.

If you’re thinking of a short getaway with kids, then look no further. Better still, round up a few families and book yourselves a getaway at the Canopi for a chillax holiday (#notsponsoredok)

 

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Christmas Watercolour Workshop with Dottieshop

We’re only 4 weeks away from Christmas. Can you feel the festive spirit in the air already?

Every year, I look forward to this time of the year where I launch into my elf mode and start my Christmas cards production. This year I’ll be adding watercolour Christmas cards to the mix after I attended a Christmas watercolour workshop with Dottieshop last week.

Watercolouring has been making waves on social media for a while now and I’ve been so inspired by the beautiful paintings that I see popping up on Instagram and Pinterest.

I finally made time to attend a workshop last week and was so glad that little Sophie got to tag along for a kids session too.

Let’s get painting

To get us started, we were all given an aquash water brush by Pentel, watercolour papers, a palette, class notes and sample Christmas prints of selected fall and winter blooms, including poinsettia, holly branches, oak leaves and Christmas roses as a reference.

Dorothea kicked off with the kids session first, and here she’s explaining the angle to hold the water brush and how the kids can pick up paint with it. She was very patient and answered every questions that the kids bombard her with.

Drawing poinsettias before painting it

Just when I wondered why Sophie has so little inclination towards art unlike her mama, she surprised me with her quiet focus as she drew and painted that morning. And whoever said you can’t paint a rainbow Easter Egg at a Christmas workshop?

Here’s my attempt at painting poinsettias.. which kinda looked like a lotus.

With Dorothea’s guidance, I managed to control how much pigment to pick up and how to ensure my paint brush is not too wet to prevent unintended blending mistakes.

It’s also important to use lighter pencil strokes if you don’t want them to appear after adding watercolour.

Watercolouring Fun Fact

Do you know that if you want lighter colours, you add water instead of adding white paint. And on the converse, you use less water if you want your colours to be more intense.

With a bit more practice, here’s my watercolour Christmas card. I even tried my hand at calligraphy.

And the verdict? I definitely could do with more practice. But for now, I’m pleased with my card.

Dorothea with her kiddy students

I could do with more weekend mornings like this, painting with mummy friends

Watercolour Christmas card by Dottieshop

If you’re keen to pick up watercolouring and gift your love ones with hand-painted watercolour Christmas cards like the ones featured above, Dorothea from Dottieshop will be conducting 2 more Christmas themed workshops on 6 and 17 December at Artify Studio.

Sign up for classes here and you may just pick up a new hobby before the year ends 🙂

You can also check out more of her creations and be notified of future workshops on her Facebook page.

 

So thankful for such a fun and relaxing morning where I can do what I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. As the year unwinds, I should make it a point to remember to take time out for myself and do more of what makes me happy.

After all, a healthy being starts with mental health 🙂

 

 

 

Celebrating our kids achievements, big and small

It’s the end of the school term for us. I’m sure many parents are celebrating the fact that we get to sleep in a little later on weekdays… at least until 2 Jan 2018.

From the start of the week, my Facebook timeline has been flooded with photos where my friends have been sharing their kids’ achievements and awards in school. It’s so heart-warming to hear each and every one of their journey of success and I smiled reading every post from their proud parents.

Awards or not, I’m still proud of you

While Sophie may not have topped her standard, her class or even got first in any subjects, I’m still so proud of her. When she showed me her report book yesterday, I pointed out that there was a marked improvement in her Mathematics and it was all down to regular practice and being less careless in her work.

Sophie was however disappointed that she didn’t managed to maintain her 100 score in Higher Chinese when we focused on pulling her grades up for Maths. I guess I was overly anxious about her Maths results and we dedicated more time on it at the expense of other subjects.

Sophie with her BFF from class

She told me the names of her classmates who topped her class and we added that she doesn’t have to be the top. The most important thing is that she does her best and always strives to reach the goals that she has set for herself.

Progress not perfection

Beyond her grades, we’re glad to read her teachers’ recognition of her leadership potential and hope that she’ll get the opportunity to take on a leadership role next year. Her teacher have feedback that Sophie is a very cheerful girl who is well liked by her peers and I hope she never loses her sparkle.

I’ve always emphasised to Sophie that while grades are important, they are just one dimension to measure how good you are as a student.

In fact, there are also many areas that she can develop like her character, her values, her way of thinking which are sometimes not as recognised as academic excellence. But they are the very skills that will see her through life when she has to learn to work with others, and learn how to uphold herself to the values she’s been taught.

And more importantly, it is my desire for her to always remember that her identity is secure in God. That she is dearly loved and cherished and God sees her as unique and fashioned her to be one of a kind.

Though she didn’t come home with any awards, Sophie confidently told me that she’s in one of the top 2 classes for Primary 3, going by her deduction that the top students are in the same class as her. Her teachers didn’t want to confirm that since MOE doesn’t encourage competition among students and parents, so we’ll leave it as that 🙂

A working mum’s struggle

As a working mum, I do feel bad that I can’t spend more time to coach Sophie myself. And inevitably, I ask myself how I could have helped her more and if I should consider sending Sophie for enrichment next year since everyone has warned me to anticipate a huge jump from Primary 2 to primary 3. Things may get more busy on the work front with new challenges for me too and I hope we’ll be able to manage it well especially when she has to take on a new subject (Science) plus CCA.

And with the end of the school year, it also spells the start of the school holidays. It pains me to hear her asking why her neighbours’ mothers can take their kids out while I’m the only one working. And despite how understanding she is, the school holidays are always hard to bear for her since she’ll see so little of us. So right on the first day of her school holidays, both Alexis and myself took leave today and brought her ice skating.

I know it means the world to her to have our company and I hope she’ll always remember that she has a wonderful childhood filled with many beautiful memories of how we have always been rooting and cheering for her 🙂 Love you lots Sophie dear.

The Sound of Music in Singapore, 2017

The hills are alive with The Sound of Music in Singapore at the Master Cards Theatres. This beloved classic musical returns to Singapore this November and we were thrilled to be at the opening gala night, especially little Sophie as she was looking forward to see so many kids performing.

The family watching Sound of Music in Singapore

This 1965 movie that won five Oscars is one our favourite family movie where the songs never fail to get on our feet as we belt out at the top of our voices to songs like Do-Re- Mi, My Favourite Things, and of course The Sound of Music where reach those high notes in gusto.

It was hard not to sing along when these familiar tunes were sung by the amazing cast and twice, I had to cover Sophie’s mouth when her zealous humming got louder and louder much to the amusement of the ladies seated beside us.

The Sound of Music in Singapore

Maria played by Carmen Pretorius performed her role with sincerity as she navigated her way as a free-spirited governess to 7 children. You’ll feel yourself rooting for Maria as she tries to break into their regimental routine set by their retired naval officer father, Captain Von Trapp played by Nicholas Maude by in introducing music into their lives.

The chemistry between the 2 leads felt a little awkward initially when they shared a dance. But soon you’ll be captivated by their quiet affection towards each other as love blossoms.

But the stars of the night were no doubt the talented kids who were so charming. Each time they appeared on stage, they received thunderous applause from the audience.

The littlest one of all who played Gretyl was oh so cute that we couldn’t help but snigger when she pouted, stomped off or shot her papa a death stare.

The wonderful kids harmonised perfectly and the musical’s cherographeed version of So long, farewell, especially the part where the girls went cuckoo , cuckoo was even more delightful than the movie.

As a mum, it was heart aching to see how these kids longed for the attention from their distant father and the scene when they were all wrapped in a warm embrace turned me into mush. A reminder that all our kids really want from us is simply our presence and affection.

The stage set up was pretty elaborate and when the first scene opened with the hills of Austria, Sophie went WOW! The changes between the scenes from the hills to church, and different parts of Von Trapp’s home were all done swiftly and effortlessly as they transported us from scene to scene.

The unsung heros of every musical, the live orchestra was phenomenal as they lent their musical prowess to the singing that night.

And how can I not mention about the powerhouse that night by the Reverend Mother where she reached those crazy sky high notes with Climb Every Mountain. She sang with so much power and conviction that you’ll find courage rising within you to remember to follow our dreams.

Even though some parts of the musical felt a little heavy for kids to understand, like the impending loss of their homeland to the Nazis, Sophie was able to follow the story line. The scene where the Nazi flags were flown was chillingly realistic when we found ourselves being the very audience when the family sang Edelweiss as a farewell before the Captain had to accept a omission in the German Navy.

Overall the Sound of Music musical was a captivating and timeless performance that the whole family will certainly enjoy this holiday season. Many of my friends are looking forward to it and I heard that tickets are selling out fast too. So do book your tickets before the musical ends their run on 3 December 2017.

 

Get Your Sound of Music Tickets Today 

Dates: 7 November to 3 December 2017

Show times: Tue – Fri: 7.30pm, Sat: 2pm & 7.30pm, Sun: 1pm & 6pm

Venue: Mastercard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands

Duration: Approximately 155 minutes (including 20 mins interval)

Ticket Pricing: from S$65 to S$195

Book through Sistic here.

 

*A Juggling Mom received complimentary tickets to watch The Sound of Music. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions are honest and are my own. Photos are used with credits to Base Entertainment and Sliding Doors.

Kyoto with kids – The Wonder of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

When we decided on squeezing in Kyoto for our Japan itinerary with a day trip from Osaka, a must visit was the Bamboo Grove in the Arashiyama district.

If you don’t already know, the Bamboo Grove is Kyoto’s most instagrammable spot and voted as one of the most amazing attractions not to be missed. As for my other half? He was less than impressed.

He may be my Instagram Husband but the mere thought of walking through bamboo forests, visiting shrines and temples was not what he had signed up for on this trip. And an Instagrammable Bamboo Grove? He wanted to roll his eyes at me and was skeptical if Sophie would even appreciate it.

However I beg to differ.

Sure, there are other kid-friendly attractions like the themeparks that will certainly appeal to my 8-year-old (and might I add even for my almost 40 year-old hubby), but the whole point about travelling with kids is to show them the beauty that is waiting for her to discover in another part of the world.

Nevertheless, hubby was happy to go along with what I’ve mapped out for our itinerary and that my friend is when the magic happened.

Getting to the Bamboo Grove 

For us city folks, Kyoto was an amazing escape from the busyness of the city. It was a welcoming respite where one feels instantly rebalanced with the embrace of Mother Nature. 

Arashiyama is a popular district to enjoy what nature has to offer particularly during the cherry blossom. In Autumn, it’s foliage transform the whole backdrop into a breathtaking picturesque scenery.

To get to the bamboo forest, we had to enter through the Tenryu-ji Temple, which is one of Kyoto’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We were initially expecting to make a quick exit from the garden and head directly to the bamboo forest. But we were captivated by the lovely scenery and lingered a little longer as we took in the tranquil sights of the garden that dates back to the 14th century.

We were stopped by 2 local university students who were dressed in kimonos and assisted them with a short survey. In return, they happily obliged with a photo and I think Sophie played a part in charming them too.

While there was lot of walking, Sophie welcomed the change in environment and we slowed down our usual hurried pace as we took in the sights. Along the path, we saw lots of beautiful blooms during Summer and Sophie was enchanted.

She observed and marveled at the flora beauty as she pointed out their names and attempted to read the Chinese character of the signages. She even asked for daddy’s GoPro camera as they were too pretty not to be captured in a photo memory.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Awestruck at the Kyoto Bamboo Grove

As we exited Tenryu-ji temple by the north gate, we caught sight of the Bamboo Grove.

Standing among these giant bamboo tree made me feel so so tiny. And as Sophie puts it so aptly, “Just wow”.

It dawned on me that it was the best decision to stick to my guns to make it to the Bamboo Grove. It’s one thing to read or watch what the Bamboo Forest. But to stand there and marvel at its towering beauty, it was simply out of this world and we felt so enveloped by nature. 

And when I turned to look at Sophie, her eyes were filled with wonder.

I imagined that if I could read her thoughts, it would be filled with so many questions waiting to be answered.

How tall are the bamboo trees?

Why do they grow so tall?

What do they look like in the different seasons?

 

To catch a glimpse of your child lighting up with wonder in their eyes, that’s a priceless feeling that all parents desire to give our kids.

And that’s why Sophie will always be welcome when we jet off on holidays despite the sacrifices we have to make to accommodate a more family friendly itinerary. After all, they wouldn’t stick around with us on holidays forever.

2 words that Sophie used to describe the Bamboo Grove – just wow

TIP: According to reviews Trip Advisor, some advised coming either early in the morning or late in the afternoon if you want to have a calm and peaceful experience in the bamboo grove.

As much as I wished to say it was a tranquil and peaceful experience like what is portrayed online, it was lined with huge crowds when we were there around noon on Sunday.

Kimono Forest in Kyoto

Since we are on the topic of forest, you don’t want to miss the Kimono Forest.

This lesser known forest is actually a man-made “forest”  marked with a footpath lined with 600 pillars that creates a dramatic entrance to the Randen Arashiyama Station.

Within the pillars, pieces of fabric dyed in the Kyo Yuzen style decorated each cylindrical pillar with a unique design. Each print was intricate and beautiful in their own way and they made a delightful backdrop for photos.

From the natural Bamboo Forest to a man made Kimono Forest, both attractions in Kyoto were captivating in their own right. 

Before we headed back to Osaka, we also stopped by the Togetsukyo Bridge, another well known landmark where you can spot folks on rented boats. Make sure, you linger a little longer here and take in the sights and sounds of nature.

Travelling to Japan soon?

More about our Japan holiday in the next post, on our amazing Universal Studio Japan experience and the most adorable Minion Town that just opened this year in 2017.

If you’re heading to Japan soon, don’t miss my earlier Japan posts below.

 

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You can also follow me on Twitter (@Susankoh) or Instagram (@ajugglingmom) for more travel and parenting posts. See all the places that we visited on our Japan holiday with the hashtag #TaysinJapan