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More on Tanjung Jara Resort in this post!

The Service

Attentive. Discreet. Classy.

That’s how I would describe it. And I firmly believe it is because of the excellent work done by the General Manager, Philippe Cavory. It’s really a case of leading by example. He’s everywhere! When we arrived he was at the lobby to greet us as we were served Tanjung Jara Resort’s apparently famous Roselle Tea. When we chilled out at the beachfront, we saw him walking the grounds, adjusting the bins and pinning back the curtains at one of the cabanas since he saw them out of place – no task too small or beneath him. At the little Malay cultural event, he was there to chat with the guests. And one afternoon when we were in the room, we received a call from the front desk saying that the GM wanted to serve us complementary wine and hors d’oeuvres. Wow!

Our surprise!

Our surprise!

It’s the little things that really leave an impression. Serving guests who were along the beachfront iced water on a hot day (all beach hotels should do this!), delivering our room service meal in record time when we told them the kids were very hungry, helping to carry my bowl of noodles back to the table when they saw my hands were full with Alyssa.

Activities

There’s a whole variety of activities to keep you busy at Tanjung Jara Resort. I’d have taken part in more of them if Alyssa wasn’t stuck to me since I’m still her milk bottle at the moment. For starters, I’d have visited the spa. The treatments sound won-der-ful. Oh well. We had planned to go for a hike as well, but the kids were having so much fun at the pool that we decided to just stay put.

We did get to enjoy the Kampong Sucimurni Lifestyle event which is held weekly for guests, especially those not from the region, to experience traditional Malay village life. There were little stations for guests to try traditional games, local snacks and drinks, and there was even a monkey climbing trees to pick fresh coconuts that are opened on the spot. The kids loved the snacks. Ellery, in particular, made hundreds of trips to the snack table to help him to more keropok (crackers).

Kampong Sucimurni Lifestyle day

Kampong Sucimurni Lifestyle day

Coffee, tea, and Roselle water (a type of hibiscus)

Coffee, tea, and Roselle water (a type of hibiscus)

Monkey picking coconuts

Monkey picking coconuts

There’s also an island nearby that’s a good spot for snorkeling. My brother and nephew went for a day trip and saw a reef shark, a turtle, lots of fishes big and small, tons of sea cucumbers, and Nemo, Nemo, Nemo.

Food

The breakfast buffet at Di Atas Sungei features a mix of Western standards and – the best part – local delicacies like nasi dagang (rice steamed with coconut milk in leaves). One of the mornings they served a soup made from pure fish stock that was sooo good. The freshly baked croissants are good too. They bake trays and trays of them. Philippe is French, so I suppose that’s why he ensures good croissants are available!

The food at Di Atas Sungei can be quite pricey for dinner though so we didn’t eat there at night. We found a wonderful seafood restaurant less than 5 minutes away from the resort that served up excellent food at cheap prices. Cheap and good – Singaporean’s love to hear that! Restoran Seafood C. B. Wee has been around since 1983 and is popular among the locals. Interestingly a lot of them come here to eat the Western food, but for all the 3 nights that we went there we had seafood.  I think we went through most their menu.

Restoran C. B. Wee

Restoran C. B. Wee

There were 8 adults and 6 kids (not counting the baby), so we really had a feast each night. Steamed fish, chicken, squid, lots of veg, small prawns, medium prawns, and giant prawns. I love prawns, but have never tried the giant ones before. It’s so much cheaper there than in Singapore. A single prawn sells for upwards of $25 at Newton hawker centre. At C.B. Wee, depending on how good the catch that day, you cold get a whole plate of giant prawns!

Awesome food. If you stay at Tanjung Jara Resort you got to eat here.

Just a few of the dishes we ordered

Just a few of the dishes we ordered

Look at the size of that prawn

Look at the size of that prawn

Overall, Tanjung Jara Resort if a lovely place to stay if you are willing to make the drive up. My brother’s friend who joined us drove straight from Singapore to Tanjung Jara in 8 hours, and he drives fast. If you do come, you can be assured of a relaxing stay with good service and good food.

Some of the kids

Some of the kids

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The plan was to have breakfast at Restoran Hoi Yin again as we were not yet done with our curry mee fix, but unfortunately the place was simply too crowded for hungry bellies to wait, so we ended up at a prata place a few doors down.

After breakfast the boys couldn’t resist playing in the sea one more time before we left. They weren’t even dressed in their swimming clothes! From just dipping their feet, it became ankles, and knees. And when the waves splashed their pants, they just didn’t care after that and simply jumped into the waves. Ah well. That’s all part of the fun of a beach holiday :) I figured they could just live in their boardshorts for the next few days.

Playing at the beach

Playing at the beach

So, happy impromptu beach fun over, a quick dip in the pool, a quick bath, and we were off to our next destination.

Tanjung Jara Resort

Tanjung Jara didn’t look that far on the map but we took surprisingly long – 4 hours – because the traffic was heavier on this stretch. The entrance to Tanjung Jara Resort was just an understated carved stone wall with the name of the hotel on it. When you turn in, you drive along a narrow road lined thickly with trees and bushes – you can’t even see the hotel. It felt lush, secluded, and exclusive. When we finally saw the main building, it was like a secret revealed.

The hotel sign

What you see from the road

We were welcomed with three grand chimes of the gong – a sound we heard over the course of the next few days, ringing out in the background each time other guests arrived. I couldn’t help thinking it was like a reverse situation of the Hunger Games in that the gongs signified the arrival of more people, rather than the other way around.

You can get fish food from the reception to feed the fishes. The kids loved this!

You can get fish food from the reception to feed the fishes. The kids loved this!

The Rooms and Surroundings

The place was beautiful and calming. A sanctuary of peacefulness. Inspired by traditional Malay architecture, the hotel was designed to reflect the elegance and grandeur of 17th century Malay palaces. When you walk the grounds, you feel like you are in a lavish kampung (traditional Malay village). And indeed a lavish kampung it was. The interiors featured solid wood furniture with rustic, yet elegant, touches, and reached a level of comfort and luxury that YTL hotels are known for.

We stayed in the Bumbung Sea View Room, which was on the upper level of a two-storey building. Extremely spacious, there was a king-sized bed, a day bed, two desks, a bench to relax on at the foot of the bed, and still lots and lots of space for the boys to play even after we put in the cot. Then there’s the bathroom. Gosh, it is about the size of my master bedroom at home, perhaps even bigger. I especially loved the dressing table which was perfect for use as a diaper changing station. With all the space, it was very comfortable for the 5 of us.

Our second-floor room

Our second-floor room

The first thing they do in any room - jump on the bed :)

The first thing they do in any room – jump on the bed :)

The other side of the room

The other side of the room

Nap time heh heh heh

Nap time heh heh heh

Kids stoning at TV time

Kids stoning at TV time

The changing table! This is just tone corner of the bathroom!

The changing table! This is just tone corner of the bathroom!

Two sinks, lots of counter space, and less just half of the bathroom...

Two sinks, lots of counter space

Our house was built away from the seafront, but it was just a short walk to the beach. The waves can get quite strong on windy days, so make sure you watch your kid at all times when they are playing in the sea. Asher got flipped over by the waves once and had a bit of a struggle getting back on his feet. Jon was by his side anyway, but this is just to stress how important it is to watch your kids like hawks here. Waves ‘crashing’, is really an apt description. But also because of that, it is extremely fun to play among the waves here.

The single-storey beachfront room

The single-storey beachfront room

Many beachfront cabanas to relax in

Many beachfront cabanas to relax in

Lovely spot to enjoy a book

Lovely spot to enjoy a book

On a calmer day you can walk quite far out and it's still shallow

On a calmer day you can walk quite far out and it’s still shallow

Jon and the boys :)

Jon and the boys :)

Alyssa enjoying her first beach holiday

Alyssa enjoying her first beach holiday

We loved the pool too. It’s next to the beach so you can hear gorgeous sounds of the waves, but swim in the relative safety of the pool – ‘relative’ because you should always watch your kids when they are in water anyway (yes, I’m harping on this point, but it’s so important!). On the third day we spent the entire day  by the pool. The kids had such a good time, stopping only for lunch, and when they were forced out of the pool by a sudden, blustery storm. The rain was torrential, and as we scrambled to find shelter at the nearby cafe, especially for the then 3-month old Alyssa, it was as if we were escaping a typhoon. The cafe certainly made a lot of money from the storm though, because all the guests started ordering hot chocolate, coffee, tea and snacks. Alyssa was wrapped up in a warm towel and sleeping soundly, completely oblivious to the raging storm outside. She only woke up when we got back to our room quite a while later.

Chilling by the pool

Chilling by the pool

My wrapped up baby

My wrapped up baby

Ellery loved scooping the water out of the big pots to wash his sandy feet

Ellery loved scooping the water out of the big pots to wash his sandy feet

More on Tanjung Jara in the next post!

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Been meaning to put up this post much sooner but for various reasons was delayed!

Our  family, my brother’s family and my parents headed up to Malaysia for a roadtrip at the end of July. It was a  long anticipated trip that was planned months before. It all started with my Mum coming across an advertisement for a SAFRA roadtrip to Lake Kenyir. It sounded interesting but the driving schedule was quite crazy, so we decided to form our own convoy and head up ourselves.

We met at 6am at my parent’s place. Any thoughts of how 6am was nutty quickly dissipated when we saw that the Causeway had no queue whatsoever. I tried to get the boys to continue sleeping in the car but they were much too excited. My mum had also lovingly packed a cooler box full of cold water, fruit and snacks for each car. The boys immediately tucked into the fruit and happily munched at the back of the car.

A chirpy hello to the grandparents at 6 in the morning

A chirpy hello to the grandparents at 6 in the morning

Lots of comfy cushions & pillows

Lots of comfy cushions & pillows

They were really happy to be chucked right at the back of our MPV. When they found out a few months before that there were seats hidden in the floor they were so surprised and kept asking to sit there. We decided to make the road trip more fun for them by letting them sit right at the back. It was like their little space, and it was just nice for the kid’s short legs :) In hindsight it did throw off the balance of the car somewhat, and my neck got tired from turning around whenever they called me, but they had a great time so that’s fine.

Playing with their own things

Playing with their own things

Pillow fight!

Pillow fight!

Jon the driver, and Alyssa behind him

Jon the driver, and Alyssa behind him

Going in our own convoy was a good idea especially with so many little ones. Between toilet breaks and diaper changes we had to make quite a few stops. Food stops, less than expected because of all the snacks we had packed. Plus, we were looking forward to curry noodles in Kuantan.

Mmmm. I remember this curry noodles from when I was a kid! I think I was 9 years old when I first went to Kuantan with my parents and brother. I distinctly remember eating at the curry noodle shop every day, and that it was very good. We arrived in Kuantan around 2pm and the first thing we did was to head to Restoran Hoi Yin for a bowl of curry noodles. We were the last customers there and they had run out of chicken. But even just the curry gravy with lots of tau pok, fishcake and fish balls, it was delicious! We were fortunate to get some noodles at all because they are extremely popular. It’s something about the food in Malaysia, is it the quality of the ingredients? It just tastes so good. The texture of the noodles was just right, the fishcake and fishballs had a lovely bite. Yum!

(Fyi, Restoran Hoi Yin is at No. 31 Jalan Telok Cempedak, 25050 Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia)

Restoran Hoi Yin

Restoran Hoi Yin

Preparing our bowls of noodles

Preparing our bowls of noodles

Finally! After many years of waiting to eat this again :)

Finally! After many years of waiting to eat this again :)

Each a bowl (kids ate non-spicy kway teow soup)

Each a bowl (kids ate non-spicy kway teow soup)

We stayed the Hyatt Hotel in Kuantan, which was apparently the same place we stayed at when I was a kid. I can’t remember much about the hotel, but I’m guessing they hadn’t changed it much. It looked quite in need of some sprucing up. Our room was really disappointing in terms of cleanliness. I’m ok with small rooms, simple, old fashioned decor, and even some less than perfect housekeeping. But I really couldn’t bear the room we were given. It was sticky! Everything, every surface was sticky. Not sea salt sticky. It was like some kind of solution, or oil, or resin kind of sticky. Everywhere! The floor, the tables, the cupboards! Eeewww! And the boys were running around, then climbing onto the bed. I tried to get them to not step on the pillows but they’d sometimes forget. I used to be quite OCD about cleanliness, but my standards dropped drastically after the boys came along. Still, this was a bit too much. Despite all that I was willing to stay on in the room.

However, after the boys came back from swimming and I was going to shower them, we found that the bathtub (the only place to bathe) got clogged up! That was it. I really didn’t want to bathe in dirty water, step on a dirty floor and then sleep on a dirty bed. Not for the price we were paying.

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Beach area at Hyatt Kuantan

Our sticky room

Our sticky room

Thankfully the front desk staff were understanding and they arranged for us to change to a different room. They actually did it quite readily, which made me wonder if other guests had encountered similar problems before. The room we were given in exchange was completely different. It was like we had gone to a different hotel. The decor was different, the layout was different, and even the toiletries were different! I think we were given a recently renovated room. If so, Hyatt should quickly renovate all their other rooms!

The added perk of our new room was that someone lit fireworks at the beach in front of our balcony, so we got to enjoy a surprise fireworks display.

We turned in fairly early after a long day, and in preparation for another day of driving. We were heading up to Tanjung Jara next.

Playing at the beach

Playing at the beach

Happiness is picking seashells

Happiness is picking a bucketful of seashells

Playing 'monkey' in the pool

Playing ‘monkey’ in the pool

Enjoying the sea breeze together

Enjoying the sea breeze together

Sunset from our new room

Sunset from our new room

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Our last leg of the trip was planned mainly for Asher’s enjoyment.  Phillip Island has many toddler-friendly attractions that Asher could appreciate since he’s much more aware now.  We thought it’d be great if he could see some of the animals he’d seen in pictures come to life.  Phillip Island boasts penguins, seals, koalas, cows, sheep, chickens, roosters, Clydesdale horses, turkeys, Scottish long-horn cattle, peacocks, kookaburras, galahs, magpies, wallabies, and kangaroos, among others.  Asher got to see all of the above except the last two, while we had the bonus of seeing wild wallabies hop across the road (Asher was asleep in the car then).   

Our apartment was a standalone cabin, cosy and clean, set on an outback style Wistaria Lane.  The All Seasons Eco Resort is fairly new, and prides itself on it’s ecologically sound building and contruction philosophy, and an ecologially sustainable design.  It’s a very pleasant place to stay, and if we ever go back to Phillip Island, I might well stay there again.

Here’re some pics from the various places we went to on the island!
Penguin Parade
No photos allowed inside cos they’re afraid the penguins would be traumatised and hurt by the bright flashes. But I sneaked a picture of Jon and Asher before the penguins made their way to the shore.  Asher was very happy cos initially there were a lot of seagulls flying low in front of him, and then of course there were the penguins.  The penguins come right up to the board walk, so he had a clear view of them waddling home.  It was molting season so some penguins had eaten tons to store up energy while their fur molted.  Those penguins were so adorably fat!  And because of their added weight were particularly amusing to watch cos they’d tire easily and have to plop down on their bellies to rest before carrying on for another few metres, then plop down to rest again :)  Since that night, say “penguin” and Asher will waddle from side-to-side :) 
The bonus was the wonderfully clear night sky that showed off the Milky Way in all it’s beautiful splendour!  You could actually see all the stars clustered into a ‘stream’, instead of how they’re usually scattered across the sky.  The concentration of stars made the twinkling more intense and magical.  We actually got to see this at the Twelve Apostles as well, but Asher was asleep by then.  This time he got to appreciate their beauty too!
Anyway, an interesting little sign – check under your car for penguins!  Some of the penguins stay quite far inland and sometimes can be found wandering under cars at the carpark as they make their way home.
Breakfast at Mad Cowes the next morning was yummy.  I shared pancake and fruit with Asher, while Jon had a decent eggs benedict. 
Churchill Island
This is such a great place for kids.  It’s a small island off Phillip Island, linked by a narrow causeway, and features a working heritage farm.  Some of the caretakers were even dressed in period costume.  Asher had a ton of fun here petting animals, chasing chickens, running around the lawn, picking wild Dandelions, etc.  We dubbed the day “hat day” to entice Asher to wear his cap, and Jon and I donned hats as well to lend credence to the theme.  It was necessary anyway, cos the Australian sun can really burn.  One of the plastic toys we bought for a friend’s kid melted in the car while it was parked in the sun!
Flowers, and more flowers, much to Asher’s great joy! The gardens featured many strange and wonderful Australian wildflowers.

Checking out the gentle Clydesdale horses.
Asher chased this family of chickens…then this rooster came out to register his protest
My favourtie bird on the island – the Galah.  They are so pretty!  A lovely slate grey with a powdery, almost-fushia pink breast.
What are these Scottish long-horned cattle doing here?  The original inhabitent was from Scotland and he brought in these cattle as a reminder of home.
The surroundings were so peaceful, it was ideal for a picnic, or in Asher’s case, a nap!

A field of lavender
Beautiful day to walk the grounds, enjoy the gardens, and see the heritage buildings
Looking for more Dandelions
A clever invention – a Coolgardie Safe.  It’s an olden day equivalent of the refridgerator!  Moist hessian sides cooled by the blowing wind made the insides cool enough to store butter and meat!
Scrumptious food at the cafe.  Pumpkin and spinach quiche with rocket on the side, and homemade patties made from beef got off the farm.  Asher had a taste of everything and was most satisfied, I think :)

Seal Cruise
We caught an evening cruise out to Seal Rocks where we literally saw hundreds of seals just chillin on the warm rocks, and some were playfully showing off their stunts in the water.  What a sight for Asher!  What a sight for us!
Yes, another I’m-so-happy-I’ve-got-the-Ergo moment.  How else to balance baby and yourself on a bobbing boat??
We thought we’d head to another part of island for dinner and decided to check out the highly-rated Foreshore Restaurant at Rhyll.  It must be good, since there was even a wedding party there.  But somehow the food didn’t quite suit our taste.  It was ok, a bit overdone.  We felt the chefs were trying too hard to make the dishes unique and exotic.  It wasn’t effortless, and it sometimes didn’t seem to gel.  We tried the grilled kangaroo, which came with asparagus, drizzled with sweetish plum-like sauce, sweet onion chutney on the side, and a split chilli on cream.  Each individual part was ok in itself, but together, we thought it didn’t quite add up.  The risotto with seared duck was also just so-so.  While the duck, which was cooked with orange reduction, was pretty good, the risotto was really nothing to shout about.  The scallops were blow-torched, but I wouldn’t say to perfection.  Perhaps it was just an off night for the restaurant, perhaps Asher was getting sleepy and needed more attention so we couldn’t focus as much on the meal so it seemed less good, perhaps our taste buds don’t know any better, or perhaps, perhaps, the restaurant is over-rated. 
On a brighter note, the evening sky was watercolour perfect!
Asher’s babycino at breakfast the next morning.  Looks just like a minature version of the real thing, doesn’t it?  We had just asked for a cup of warm milk, but the staff went the extra mile by frothing it, topping it with chocolate powder and serving it with a marshmallow!  But in the end, Asher only got to drink the milk, mummy ate up the choc powder bits :))
Koala Conservation Centre
At this park we got to see koalas up-close in their natural habitat among the gum trees.  A boardwalk brings you through the forest of trees where you can spot koalas with the help of some signs.  Yep, there are signs pointing out where the koalas are for the day.  I was initially surprised, then I realised it was only possible with sleepy animals like koalas.  They really don’t move that much! :) They are impossibly cute, and I was particuarly amazed at how they could sleep on the branches without falling off, especially since some of them were in really strange positions!
Seriously, how can you not fall when you’re sleeping in this position?!??
One of the few koalas awake
Asher really surprised me when he spotted this koala.  It was way up in the trees and wasn’t even sign-posted!  He said, “wan mor!” and pointed up into the trees.  I had to search a while before I found it.  See if you can spot it yourself in the non-close up picture!  (Hint: it’s near the middle of the picture next to the thick, curved branch.)
Another one awake!
Bonus of the day – KOOKABURRA!  It was my first sighting, and we went on to spot another 2!  Finally, I know what the bird in that famous song looks like!  Love the eye-shadow.
Our last stop before driving off to the airport was San Remo, just on the otherside of the bridge linking Phillip Island to the mainland.  By the time we got there we had just missed the daily pelican feedings and they were swimming home, but there was another unexpected bonus!  Wild sting rays!  I was so excited to see them I just rushed down to the shore with Asher in my arms, getting my shoes all covered in mud (and these were outing shoes, not the rugged hiking type).  But honestly, I didn’t care that I was potentially wreaking my shoes, I was just thrilled to see the sting rays, and probably more thrilled than Asher since he doesn’t know it’s rare to see wild ones!  They gracefully glided about very close to the beach and evey now and then flapped their wings above the waterline. 
After a fish & chip lunch at the famous fisherman’s co-op at San Remo, we were off to the airport to catch our flight.  The flight back was good, Asher slept quite soundly and I even managed to watch the animated film, Up.  Asher made a new friend on board too – Ashley!  So it was Asher and Ashley playing in the bassinet area, sharing biscuits and bread, and watching Tom & Jerry :)
That’s our boy, and that’s our plane!
Checking out the butterfly on her jacket.
A very packed and satisfying trip.  I’m so happy we went!

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Leaving as speedily as we could with a young one in tow, we were off with Jon at the wheel. Great Ocean Road, here we come! It was a fairly long drive, but Asher was so good. I do think he deserves praise for how well behaved he was for our 4 days of roadtripping. At home I sometimes have trouble convincing him to get into his car seat without protesting. In the week or two prior to our trip I kept telling Asher, “we’re going to to Australia, and there you must be a good boy and sit in the car seat, ok? They are very strict, you must stay in your seat at all times, yeah?”. Did he understand? Maybe not, but I have this feeling he knew we were on holiday and so was happy to get into the seat.

It was a pity that the car seat the car rental company provided was a little low, so from his perspective, all he could see from the sides were the clouds unless the trees/buildings were very tall. At least he sat in the middle, so he could see the view in front, though still mainly things that were taller. I was eagerly pointing out to Asher, “Cows! Sheep!” But then I slid down to his height and realised he couldn’t see anything : /

Breakfast stop at Hungry Jacks.  The staff there gave Asher a paper crown, and he was delighted!

The initial segment of the Road was as winding as I remembered. Had driven along the Great Ocean Road to the 12 Apostles with my family nearly ten years ago. The road hugs the rugged coastline for a good distance, passing coastal towns along the way, some more touristy than others. We ended up stopping at Apollo Bay for a quick lunch and a much needed stretch (or in Asher’s case, run-around) before pressing on again. While the headlands, bluffs, and bays were impressive, I noticed that the same sense of awe I experienced the first time was missing. I think it has to do with the travels that we’ve gone on in the space between. Having been to the Cote D’Azur, this seemed to pale in comparison. I can’t quite put my finger on it, perhaps there was less variation in the way the headlands looked? Maybe it was the way each turn in Cote D’Azur was somehow more surprising, revealing a hidden bay here and there. Maybe it was the simple reason that I’ve been along this road before. Maybe it was no reason at all.

But the segment of coastline after the road goes inland and comes out again was lovely, and it built up the anticipation to see all the wonderful rock features again.  It was at this point in the trip that I was again thankful for the Ergo.  Don’t think I would have dared to venture so close to the edge if I was carrying Asher in my arms.  Even for the places that had railings, the paths were narrow and rugged with a cliff just beyond; it was not conducive terrain for a stroller nor for a baby in arms.  This way he was snuggled safe and close.  And since we made quite a few brief sight-seeing stops, it was convenient that he could get in and out of the carrier very easily.  Ah, how I love my Ergo :)
The scenic Castle Cove
Asher spotted a couple of birds above.  Sometimes his eyesight amazes me.  But as someone recently reminded me, he probably has 6/6 vision, unlike myself.
What’s Asher looking at now?  Yep…still looking at birds.
The Arch
The (collapsed) London Bridge
The main draw – the 12 Apostles (11 now that one fell several years ago).  See the changing light as the sun set.
We managed to squeeze in dinner at Port Campbell before viewing the 12 Apostles.  Can’t remember the name of the restaurant off-hand (will go chk), but the food was great!  One of the meals I really enjoyed during our trip.  The seafood was so fresh (see the seafood platter below), and they served a most excellent Chicken Parmagiana.  Comfort food!  We were quite hungry, so had lauched into all the other dishes before I got a chance to snap a shot of it :)
We stayed at the Twelve Apostles Motel, the same place I stayed at with my family all those years ago.  It hadn’t changed much, which means the rooms are quite old.  It’s sufficient for a night’s stay, but may not be the most comfortable for a much longer stay.  
I was happy to see the motel’s farm was still there, and especially that their pig, Miss Piggy, was still around!  There was also a goat, some chickens, birds, and a horse too.  The field the horse was grazing in had wild lavender growing in it, giving the field have a sweet purple hue!  Lavender bushes also grew outside our room, adding a fine fragrance to the crisp air. 
One of the nicest sights there was the field in front of the cottages the next morning.  Overnight it had become covered with yellow dandelions!
We headed off to Timboon for breakfast and to try and sample their apparently well-known Timboon cheese.  When we got there we were informed that they had stopped producing the cheese though!  Hey!  All the tourist guides were not updated!  We didn’t use Lonely Planet for this portion of the trip cos the Melbourne guide doesn’t cover this area.  I’m sure that would’ve been more updated!  We did get a block of 12 Apostles Whey cheese though (creamy and milky, quite subtle, good with sandwiches), as well as some locally made Otway G.O.R.G.E chocolates, which were smooth and well made.
The day before we had also tried the award-winning Timboon ice-cream at Port Campbell.  The ice-cream was pretty good – creamy, not too sweet, and had a good range of flavours covering the usual to Coconut & Lime, which I enjoyed, and which was the ice-cream man’s favourite flavour.
 It was gonna be a day of endless driving.  Timboon – Melbourne airport to drop my FIL – Josh’s house – Phillip Island!  Almost 7 hours!  Asher again deserves praise for being so so good.  He sat in his seat non-stop for a 5-hour stretch – taking his morning nap, lunch, and afternoon nap in the seat!  To be fair to him I stayed in my seat the whole time as well to accompany him, even though we made one very brief rest stop along the way.  He was doing so well, and I was afraid that if I took him out he’d not want to go back in!  But I pampered him with massages, partly to make sure his blood was circulating properly :)
Grandpa & Asher catching 40 winks in the car
The more pastoral landscape on the drive back to Melbourne
Next up, the last part of our trip.  Phillip Island!

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Road Trip to Malacca

It was almost a spur of the moment decision to go to Malacca. We decided a week before that we would head up, and after a trial holiday at Sentosa, we were on our way to Malaysia! Asher’s first overseas (or over-causeway) trip. Hopefully this is just the beginning of our continued travels. Jon and I believe that having a baby doesn’t mean our travelling ways have to come to an end; rather Asher will join us in our adventures :) But I must say, travelling with a baby slows your pace down a lot. We can’t zip about on a whim and have to have regular stops to feed Asher and keep him out of the hot mid-day sun.

The weather the day we left was good – windy, clear, and not too hot.

Managed to get a shot of all 3 of us! :)

Anyway, among the things that I packed for the trip was a bag full of Asher’s toys to amuse him on the car rides to and from Malacca. His colourful ‘book’ that he’s had since he was born, a new teether JJSB gave Asher, an improvised car seat toy (I had seen in stores how some toys had clips which looked like clothes pegs that were used to attach the toy to the bar of the car seat, so I decided to just use clothes pegs, and some hook/rings from another toy of Asher’s to make a car toy!), his toy that my Mum gave him, etc. Actually my hand came in handy for many entertaining rounds of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star too :)

The drive up was thankfully uneventful, and reached Hotel Equitorial safe and sound. We had requested for a cot for Asher, and it came in a most delightful shade of…pink! Haha. But he seemed quite happy to lie in it with his best friend Lotty :) In fact, he was so excited (to be in a new cot? To be on holiday? Just plain excited?) that he couldn’t stop kicking and waving his arms about!

Check out his legs…a blur of movement!

As we were only going to spend one night in Malacca we head off straightaway to do some sight-seeing, and EAT! We were starved! That, and we had been greedily waiting to devour all the yummy Malacca specialties. First stop – chicken rice balls! Don’t be deceived by the few balls of rice and their small size. They are really quite filling! It was a good thing we shared the dish, otherwise we wouldn’t have had as much space in our tummies for the other food.

We then went to were hunt down Donald and Lily’s Nonya restaurant which is known for it’s good, yet cheap Nonya food. We read about it in the Malaysia Lonely Planet guide, but the directions the book gave were wrong! So we ended up circling about, wandering into strange alleys, and finally just winging it and trusting our instincts. Yep, we found the place! It was tucked away in a non-descript, dusty alley, up a narrow flight of stairs behind a closed cendol stall. All that searching was worthwhile, though, cos the Nonya mee rebus was excellent! The tau kwa rojak was sedap sekali, and as a greedy afterthought, we also ordered char kway teow (after spying it on someone else’s table), which was yummy too! Did you think we forgot cendol? No way! Just that we were so eager to eat it that I never got around to take a photo of it haha. That happened for all the cendols we ate during the trip :O) We wanted to try their Nonya Laksa too but it isn’t available on Tuesdays, pity.

Besides food, we did do some minor sightseeing. I guess our main idea was to just chill out in Malacca cos both of us have been to Malacca on school trips to explore the sights previously. Maybe when Asher grows up we’ll do the sights again proper, but then again, he’ll probably have a school trip to Malacca as well.

In any case, what trip to Malacca will be complete without pictures at these sights?

The funniest thing happened when I was taking this photo. As Jon held Asher on the canon, I could hear a group of women tourists suddenly go, “Aiyoooo, hou tak yee ah!! Hoi siong ah, hoi siong ah!” (Translation: “Aiyoooo, so adorable/cute/interesting! Take photo, take photo!”) They were referring to Asher! He became a mini-celebrity of sorts, stealing the limelight from A Famosa for those few minutes. We found it so funny that he became a ‘sight’ for the tourists :) But anyway, I think he, as any baby would, charmed the people we met on our trip. From toilet cleaners to stall holders, passers-by to tourists, many stopped to pat his head and say hello :)

We of course also went to walk around Chinatown (which is where Donald and Lily’s is located). Pity it wasn’t a Friday, otherwise we could see the Jonker Street night market as well, but it was atmospheric enough as it was.

At one of the shops, I spied some slippers that I wanted to get to replace the disintegrating pair that I was wearing. It was cheap, and so comfortable! Best of all, the sole was non-slip – great for someone who has a tendency to be clumsy like myself :) And cos the Uncle said we could get a further discount if we bought 2 pairs, Jon decided to get a pair too since his slippers aren’t in the best of conditions either! I was so tickled that we were going to have the same pair of slippers because we are totally not into his-her things! This is such a rarity! Initially Jon said he wouldn’t wear his slippers when I wore mine, but they were so comfortable he couldn’t resist and wore them straightaway. So yes, a his-her slipper shot we never thought would happen :) But yes, if you do go to Malacca, there’s a shop along the main street in Chinatown (Jalan Hang Jebat) that sells Birkenstock look-a-likes called Hipopo. A good buy!

After yet another cendol stop, we decided to head back to the hotel in style – by trishaw! The Lonely Planet describes this as a must-do activity, so in the spirit of things, we went for it! Anyway, I’ve never taken the trishaws in Malacca, or for that matter Singapore, before, and neither had Jon. It was so kitsch, but so fun! Our trishaw had Boney M hits like “Sunny”, “Daddy Cool” and “Rivers of Babylon” blaring from it’s speakers, and it was decked out in a colourful but organised mess of artificial flowers. Asher was getting tired by then, and was pretty stoned for most of the ride :) I, on the other hand, happily sang along with all the songs :O)

I love this photo! During the trishaw ride we stopped by the Maritime Museum, which is housed in a ship, to take a photo. Jon held Asher high, while I called out to him to look at me. This pic captured the moment Asher smiled and at the same time excitedly kicked about, stepping onto Jon’s spectacles, causing him to make a funny face :) Priceless!

Back at the hotel after putting Asher to bed, we ordered room service for dinner! I love room service! I don’t know why, just something fun about it. I guess it’s just like how I like airplane food :) Anyway, the Hotel Equitorial deal comes with RM80 in credits which you can use at any of their restaurants or for room service. It was partly why we chose to stay there, cos we figured that once we put Asher to bed we can’t go anywhere for dinner, so room service suited us just fine. I must commend Hotel Equitorial on the effort they put in to make the dinner table look good. It came complete with tablecloth, napkins, and even a flower! If I’m not wrong I think most places just bring in a tray of food? Anyway, add the dim lighting (cos Asher was sleeping), and we had a lovely romantic meal. Romantically laughing over how bad the food was :) Ok, I guess the steak was alright, but really nothing to shout about. But my ayam penyet was like KFC (and maybe KFC is better), and the rice that came with it was totally dry. We also ordered a red date creme brulee cos it sounded like an interesting twist to a favourite dessert of mine, but the execution was all wrong. There was no crust of caramalised sugar to crack!! How can!! I love cracking the shell! Instead there was a dainty pile of already cracked gula melaka bits in the middle of the dish. That wasn’t all, the texture of the creme brulee was all wrong. It was not light and smooth, but more like thick, rough, mousse. A well-intentioned dish, but really not to my liking. However, the best disaster was the lava chocolate cake. We were so excited that offered that dessert, and were saving it for the last. We even strategised where to cut the cake so that the chocolate inside would ooze towards to berry compote. But we cut, and cut, and ate, and ate….and never found the lava! It was a molten rock cake! We thought maybe we read the menu wrongly, and ordered a brownie, but nope, the description was clear, there should be chocolate oozing from inside!! Bleah. A disappointment, but a good laugh.

After a disturbed sleep (rem from my previous post? Asher wakes up more when he sleeps in aircon…), we awoke to the sounds of students shouting and cheering while playing tug-of-war for PE. The losing team had to march around the field :) Quite old-school, but very nonstalgic.

We had breakfast of roti chenai, teh and kopi. Jon was actually sent on a mission to find a particular roti chenai stall that the Lonely Planet had recommended which was supposed to be near the hotel. It was supposedly one of the best in Malaysia. When Jon came back and served up the food, I commented that, “oh, this is what the best roti chenai in Malaysia tastes like. It’s so-so.” It was only then that he sheepish revealed that actually he couldn’t find the stall, tsk :O) Trying to sneak one past me! :)

Anyway, it was another lovely day for drive back to Singapore. Armed with the toys, and a filled belly, we made it back home in good time :) Wonder when our next trip will be, and to where?

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After the excursion to Goodison Park, there were more activities lined up for us at the Peak District National Park, which lies just south of Manchester. This was a bonus trip for us because we had not planned to make a trip here. Since we were going to Liverpool and had to head south to get back to London (for us) and Exetor (for Ernest), we thought we’d take the opportunity to visit the area.

We headed for the small village of Ollerbrook Booth just off Edale (itself a small town), and which lies between the White Peaks and Dark Peaks. The roads there were winding, steep and as we were arriving at night, they were also pitch black! It took us a while to locate the place. The B&B was the most lavish Jon and I had ever been to – we had a spacious room complete with a sitting area, stereo, TV, a full sized bathroom with a jacuzzi sized bathtub and shower, a walk in wardrobe…wow!

The B&B and trusty ol’ Suzie (Ernest’s car)



Evidence of spring – Snowdrops!

Around the B&B

Near the B&B was a field with plenty of sheep, which reminded me of the super tasty dinner I had the night before – lamb stew in a giant Yorkshire pudding :)

After having our fill of a full English breakfast, we headed off to explore the Peak District proper. It was lovely, bright and clear day, which was perfect for sightseeing. Our first stop was to Mam Tor – a mountain overlooking Hope Valley. But we didn’t climb that; instead we walked to the top of another hill also overlooking the valley – which was lovely except for a tall industrial chimney spewing out smoke. From the top it looks like you’re on the top of the world, even though it really isn’t that high.

We next headed through the steep-sided Winnats Pass to Castleton, where we were going to go down into Speedwell Cavern – a flooded mineshaft. Inside you take a boat ride down a narrow flooded tunnel to a natural cave where a huge subterranean lake lies. Unfortunately although the pictures on the brochures look like you will get to take a boat onto the lake and explore deeper into the cave, in actuality, you only get to stand in the cave and peek at the edge of the lake. Still, it was a fun experience, and we got to stay down there longer than expected cos some silly people from a second group got on our return boat, taking our places, even before they had a chance to look around the cave! So we had to wait for the next boat to arrive. Good thing the return boat comes every 15 minutes so we didn’t waste too much time.

After Speedwell Cavern, we drove on to Millstone Edge to check out the view, which was supposed to be spectacular. The scenery there was supposed to be more craggy compared with the White Peak area, consisting of cliff edges that stretch for many kilometres. I really enjoyed walking around the park area surrounding the lookout point, just being in the outdoors on a sunny day and being near to nature :) The rock formations were intriguing, some aerodynamic looking, some were huge monuments standing up in the middle of nowhere. And of course being the monkey, I climbed everything I could haha :)

As the sun was setting we decided we’d better start making our way South, but we thought that before we left the Peak District we’d stop by Bakewell to try their famous Bakewell Pudding. It’s very sweet, has strawberry jam, almond essence, and some other ingredients.

After a good dinner and the Bakewell Pudding as dinner, we drove on to Birmingham where Ernest dropped us off at the train station where we caught a train back to London :)

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