Amari Hotel Johor Bahru, Review

We frequently travel to Johor Bahru by train and our favourite hotel has always been Doubletree By Hilton. Whenever I’m asked why it’s our choice of hotel , the top factor has got to be its centralised location, where it’s a mere 15 minutes walk from the train station at JB Sentral. Their rooms and service have always been top notch for us, plus their signature cookies are always so welcoming.

Recently, we stayed at the newly opened Amari Johor Bahru during the September school holidays and this four star hotel is soon becoming our family’s favourite accommodation.

Situated directly opposite Komtar mall, where you can also find Angry Bird Activity Park, their centralised location and room rates makes them even harder to beat than Doubletree.

The Amari Johor Bahru opened in May this year in 2017, and I love how spanking new it looks.

Amari Johor Bahru, hotel lobby

Amari Hotel Rooms

When we booked our room (we chose the Deluxe room), we couldn’t get a room with a King bed and settled for 2 twin beds. But we tried our luck again upon check-in at the reception, and they happen to have an available Deluxe room with King bed and promptly made the switch for us. As we only checked in the evening, waiting time didn’t take too long.

The room was modern and stylishly furnished and I liked that it is very spacious as well. Above the headboard was a beautiful purple motif that added warmth and character to the room. And for those who can’t live without wifi, yes, the hotel offers complimentary wifi.

For families with young kids, you can request for a baby cot too.

And you know what we’re definitely coming back for – Deluxe rooms with pool access when they are available!

Amari Johor Bahru Deluxe Room

We stayed on the 21st floor and had a view of Komtar Mall from our hotel room.

What impressed us at the hotel was how friendly and hospitable every staff was from the concierge to te receptionist and every service staff we met. We were always greeted with a smile and the service staff always made us feel right at home with their warm hospitality and eagerness to help whenever we needed any assistance, something which is really rare even in the service line in Malaysia.

Directions to Amari Johor Bahru 

The entrance to the Amari hotel is along Jalan Trus. So if you’re coming from Komtar Mall, you can cross at the zebra crossing, which is such a relief for me as the traffic can be tricky to jaywalk.

But what we’ve noticed is that cars don’t always stop for pedestrians, even at the zebra crossing. So we’ve quickly learnt to adopt what the locals always do; stick out your hand, make eye contact with the drivers and chiong your way across to Zenith Mall with caution.

The exterior of Zenith Mall

Once you arrive at Zenith Mall, walk into the building at level 1 where you’ll see Morganfield’s and a Korean BBQ restaurant. Head up the escalator to the 2nd floor and you’ll see 7-11 (in my case, it’s wasn’t  operational  yet), and keep walking till you get to the drop off point at the back of the building and you’ll see the hotel entrance to Amari. You’ll need to take the lift up to the 6th floor to get to the main lobby.

Hotel Facilities

While the hotel has a swimming pool, it’s closed till further notice due to on-going renovation works at the service apartment, Suasana Suites, next door. Sophie was so bummed that she didn’t get to swim and hopes the pool will be open the next time we come for a stay.

On the same level, they have a 24-hour gym and it’s pretty well equipped. They have treadmills and elliptical machine on the side of the gym that overlooks the pool. There are also free weights, cardio equipment and machines and the place was quite spacious.

You can also enjoy a relaxing spa session at Breeze Spa where they even have double room with jacuzzi for couples. From their Facebook photos, it looks very indulgent and I’m sure prices are considered cheaper than what you’ll pay in a spa hotel in Singapore.

On level 6, there is a hotel library where guests can borrow books or use the computer. And right beside it is a club room with a pool table where guests can feel free to play a game or two.

Dining options in Amari Johor Bahru

We didn’t have breakfast with our stay but if you choose to do so, breakfast buffet is at the Amaya Food Galley at level 6. There is also Amaya Café which opens from 8am to 10pm which offers beverages and light bites.

We usually prefer to head out of the hotel for our meals and this time, we walked over to Faculty of Caffeine café along Jalan Trus for brunch. We worked out an appetite after a 10-15 minutes walk and wasted no time in placing our orders.

They don’t have a lot of food items on the menu but what they do have is quality coffee and we had waffles with sous vide eggs, hash brown and beef bacon for just RM22.90 which is about S$7.50. #wheretofindinSG

Alexis went for Hainanese chicken chop… but with waffles, so odd can?!

Faculty of Caffeine at Jalan Trus

Shopping in JB

On this trip, we also checked out a new AEON mall that recently opened and it’s even bigger than KSL!

AEON Mall Bandar Dato’ Onn is close to Mount Austin and there were many shops that are not found in the other AEON malls. In fact this AEON department store looks way more modern than the others in Bukit Indah and Tebrau City, which are the ones I usually frequent.

They also have SportsDirect.com which is the Number 1 sports retailer in the UK and ezbo, which is similar to Muji but at much lower pricing. #savemore #shopmore

Another of my personal favourite is COCO Japanese fashion wear and Padini where you can get girls dress at less than $10 and t-shirts for just $5.

They also have an indoor kids playground, cinema and arcade, that’s entertainment for the whole family.

READ ALSOAustin Heights Water and Adventure Park in JB 

We definitely see ourselves returning to Amari Johor Bahru for our future stays and we’ve got our eye fixed on that upcoming pool access room too. Plus as a new hotel, you can be assured that every thing will be nicely upkeep.

We booked via Agoda and paid S$228 for 2 nights. We thought that the rates are a good value considering that the Amari is a four star hotel in such a convenient location.

 

If you’re heading to JB, don’t miss these posts where I share some of my shopping finds and places to go cafe hopping across the causeway as well.

Getting to JB

Fun things to do in JB

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Exam Preparation for Primary 2

We’re into term 4 of the academic year and just weeks away from the final year exams otherwise known as SA2! I would like to think I’m no kiasu mummy but when Sophie came home with the  semester assessment timetable right after she returned from the term 3 break, I got all panicky.

You mean exams are happening this year for Primary 2?! And in 3 weeks?!

Sophie was nonchalant about it and coolly told me that I had to sign and acknowledged that she’s done her part and informed me about the upcoming exams. I honestly questioned who’s the one having exam fever here?

While tests are nothing uncommon for Sophie, year-end exams are quite another story. Though as parents, we harbour good intentions in making sure that our kids ace the exams, it’s my belief that our kids have to  take responsibility in preparing for their exams instead of us spoonfeeding them what to do. 

But since this is the first time that Sophie has to stretch herself to remember a years’ worth of learning, I decided to equip her with some tips to tackle her exam preparation for Primary 2.

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Visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

I’m finally catching up my overdue Japan holiday blog posts. And on Day 3, we traveled from Osaka to Kyoto. I can’t believe how I almost allowed my husband to strike Kyoto off our initial Japan itinerary as he wasn’t keen and even tried convincing me that all the walking and scenery would be boring for Sophie.

It was a nice try on his part since we have visited Kyoto some 10 years and seeing shrines and bamboo forest was just not his cup of tea.

We worked out a compromise and I’m glad I managed to arm twist convinced him that we should at least do a day-trip to Kyoto.

As a city folk, I really looked forward to Kyoto as it’s a welcome change from cities like Osaka and Tokyo. Being able to slow down our pace and take in the breathtaking scenery while enjoying the tranquillity is something not to be missed if you’re heading to Japan.

Since we only have one day in Kyoto, I packed the day with these places of interest.

Fushimi Inari Shrine>Arashiyama district > Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Togetsu-kyo Bridge> Kimono Forest

Visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

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When our words become their inner voice 

My not-so-little Sophie just turned 8 years old last week. Even though she’s more than capable of tucking herself into bed, the realisation that my baby is growing up too soon makes me want to hit that slow motion button to savour her remaining childlike years before they slip by.

So one thing that Sophie and I look forward to at the end of the day is bedtime. Besides the fact that I still read with her, (we just finished Sherlock Sam and we both rate it 5 stars), we like to snuggle in bed together where I’ll lie next to her as she recounts her day to me.

It’s no wonder Sophie still prefers mummy to put her to sleep as she gets hushed to sleep if she so dares make a squeak by Daddy’s army like style when he’s in charge.

Among our many bedtime conversations, what she said just last week got me reflecting about how my words became her inner voice.

 

“Mummy, today the teacher teach us to think positive thoughts and to be positive.” She went on, “Miss Chow said that when her daughter didn’t do well in her test, she’ll not scold her. But Miss Chow will tell her not to give up and try harder the next time.

When she said that, I was pondering if it was her way of telling me what she needed to hear from me when she didn’t do as well in school. So when I probed and asked if I should learn from her teacher, she grabbed my arm, gave it a big squeeze and exclaimed, “You always tell me positive things and to try harder next time already. Thank you mummy!

 

Thankfully, the lights are out and she didn’t see the tears that rolled down my cheek.

Tears that affirmed my role as a supporting mum.

Tears of joy that she sees my heart and how I’m always rooting for her to be the best she can be.

The silent reinforcement that with constant encouragement she can be shaped to be a confident young lady.

The Power of Our Words

Hearing this was a reminder that my words have the power to build or crush her. And while I’m not proud to admit it, there were countless times where hurtful words were blurted out in the heat of the moment and I said things that made Sophie feel awful about herself. But I’m trying and I’m still a work-in-progress. 

 

Reading this status update from my Facebook post a year ago made me realize just how my words have become Sophie’s inner voice and thank God that it’s an encouraging and supportive voice where she knows she can do what she sets her mind on.

Though parenting is the toughest job in the world, but it’s times like these where I know it’s all worth it.

How are you shaping your child’s inner voice?

As parents we have a tremendous responsibility on how our children view themselves.So let’s speak kindly to our kids. Let’s support them and remind them that they are loved no matter what happens.

Let’s encourage them and motivate them so that they can be resilient and have the courage to take on things greater than themselves.

 

Think positive thoughts and be positive!

 

If you enjoyed this post, you may like these posts where I share my heart about parenting.

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Scoring in Primary Two English Composition

One of the notable differences when Sophie progressed to Primary 2 is having more graded written assessments. With a greater emphasis on writing for both English and Chinese, I began to wonder how I can guide Sophie to score in her Primary 2 compositions. It’s no wonder parents often feel stressed when trying to help their kids with their studies when they feel helpless and unfamiliar with the school syllabus.

Despite being an English speaking parent, I am sometimes at a loss when Sophie approaches me for guidance because writing can be so subjective with no definite methods or answer. But at the same time, it’s also what I like about compositions as kids are not confined to a fixed answer and where they can exercise their creativity.

While there’s no doubt that the enrichment centres or tuition centre may do a much better job at teaching my child how to ace her compositions, I like to be more involved in my child’s learning.

READ ALSO: English Composition Writing for Primary One

I scoured writing resources, blogs and forums and picked up some very helpful tips and here are a few things that I’ve learnt along the way while has helped Sophie. In fact, her writing has improved over the months where her recent essay got selected by her English teacher to be published in her school’s budding writers publications which was a much needed morale booster.

Understanding Primary School English Compositions Format 
  1. Picture composition – Four pictures in a sequence

This is one of the most common formats used in Primary 2 composition where students have to write a story based on the pictures provided.

Pupils are encouraged to be as detailed as possible when describing the events in the pictures while ensuring that they stay relevant to the pictures.

Sample Picture Composition. Source from http://scholastic.asia

  1. Picture composition – Three pictures in a sequence with a question mark for the 4th picture

This is another common format where the ending is open-ended. This allows students to exercise their creativity for the conclusion of their story and where they can inject surprises in their writing.

I feel that this format gives a chance for students to differentiate their piece of writing from other kids where original ideas will have an upper edge.

  1. A topic or theme

Broad topics like, friendship or an act of honesty, are sometimes given where students have room for penning an original story as long as the content is relevant to the topic.

Other times, proverb such as, Honesty is the best policy or a dog is a man’s best friend, are given and pupils have to expound on it and write a story based on it.

READ ALSORecommended list of assessment books for Primary Two

 

Tips for Primary 2 English Composition

I don’t claim to be an expert in writing, but these are my top 5 tips that have worked well for Sophie’s writing in getting her from good to great.

1. Show. Don’t tell

Show, don’t tell is a technique to get kids to think about how they can use their word to allow the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings.

Here are 2 examples.

Tell      Ryan was feeling sad.

Show   Ryan was feeling so upset that tears started flooding his eyes as he hung his head low and walked away from his classmates who were laughing at him.

Tell         Sonia was terrified of the wild dogs.

Show     Sonia’s legs trembled at the sight of the wild dogs and she slowly inched from the dog house.

See how the second sentences have the ability to paint a vivid imagery with just words.  Here are some other examples from Pinterest.

For similar resources, head to Pinterest and search for, “Show. Don’t tell.”

Source: Jennifer’s Teaching Tool, http://jennifersteachingtools.blogspot.sg

2.Expanding their word bank

In Sophie’s class, she’s encouraged to have a word bank that helps them build their vocabulary with different ways of saying the same thing. For example, thought can be replaced with words like wondered,  imagined,  dreamt of, etc.

Here’s another example on the possibilities you can come up with for “said”.

3. Start with an impactful opening

A typical start of a composition begins with, one fine day or one sunny day. While there is nothing wrong with this opening, it is painfully predictable and boring to say the least.

To have a more interesting opening, you can get your child to consider using the following:

  • Sound – Ring…. the alarm clock woke me up from my slumber and I leapt from my bed.
  • Dialouge – “Have you ever been wrongly accused as a liar before?”
  • Idioms or proverbs – It was raining cats and dog and I was drenched from head to toe.
  • Question – “Do you ever wonder what it would be like if you could have super powers?”
  • Flashback – Whenever I see a bulldog, it would remind me of the time I was chased by my neighbour’s dog.

4. End it well

Starting well is important but you have to end it well in the conclusion of the writing too. Here are a few formats of how your child can end their writing.

I’m not so sure about the cliffhanger ending as it may give the impression that it’s unfinished.

The printable for the above can be downloaded here.

5. Editing checklist

Last but not least, kids should be encouraged to edit their writing to ensure that they spot any mistakes they might have made in the course of their writing before handing it in.

The few areas I’ll remind Sophie to check are:

  • Tenses
  • Spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Sentence Structure
  • Storyline relevance to the picture

Here’s an editing checklist that you may like to use with your child after he/she completes their writing.

Editing Checklist Source: http://www.upperelementarysnapshots.com

 

I hope this has been helpful for you to guide your kids in their composition to the next level.

Don’t let it be just about the grades

As I write this post, I have to remind myself that it’s a learning journey both for me and my child. There were many times when I’ve lost my cool with my girl especially when I felt that she wasn’t putting in effort in her writing. It led to a lot of needless frustration and tears and at the end of the day, I questioned if it was worth if if she aced her writing at the expense of having her feelings hurt by my harsh words?

So do be patient with your kids as they slowly embark on more writing and don’t expect overnight changes. I’m a believer that we need to equip our kids with a Growth Mindset and let them know that they can and they will improve with time and we should also encourage them and praise them for the efforts and progress they’ve made.

 

Here are some other useful links on primary school learning that you may be keen to read too.

 

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