Fire up your taste buds, there’s a new kid in town

The word supper club conjures up images of an exclusive members only venue in London or America. Somewhere dimly lit, full of stylishly elegant people, smoking cigarettes and sipping cocktails. The actual American definition of supper club is ‘a small, expensive night club.’ However, to many others it refers to a kind of mix between a restaurant and having dinner at a friend’s house – a friend who’s a really good cook. Often at traditional supper clubs there would be entertainment provided too in the form of cabaret or live music.

More recently, supper clubs have undergone a resurgence in popularity and tend to refer to ‘underground restaurants’ that are more intimate than ordinary restaurants and offer diners a cosier, more homely feel, with service that is less Maitre D’ and more ‘you matter.’

Inside The Ottomani

The beautifully decadent interior of The Ottomani.

The Ottomani is one of the latest, and most stylish supper clubs to open here in Singapore and is set in the heart of Tanjong Pagar, one of Singapore’s favourite neighbourhoods known to foodies and trend setters alike.

Hidden in the back of a heritage shop house on Peck Seah Street, the entrance takes you through a neighbourhood establishment where you could be forgiven for wondering if you have come to the wrong place. But, no sooner do you give your name than you are whisked away to one of the most stylish and desirable dining rooms you will ever see.

Low, dark wood tables edged in gold, leather sofas laden with pillows and turkish rugs all offer a dining experience that feels intimate and homely. Golden lights twinkle from the many low-hanging pendants and table lights and the whole room exudes warmth. Standing proudly around the room are huge polished drinks trolleys that are heaving with gleaming glasses, bottles of all variations and all the accoutrements that are needed by the best cocktail makers.

The Ottomani - Türk Kajvesi G&T

A simple G&T takes on a new meaning here.

With no bar as such, the bartenders instead bring the bar to you preparing your drink on the mobile trolley. With a selection of cocktails and fine wines to choose from, this isn’t the easiest choice either – so let the staff at The Ottomani do what they do best and advise you on what to have. Service is where the restaurant comes in to its own. Capturing the experience of days gone by, everything comes with a personal touch.

I was lucky enough to experience this when myself and my guests – who were visiting from the uk – ate there recently. We were served by Thomas, the Slovakian head bar man who was happy to recommend dishes that he thought we should try as well as suggest how much of the food to order – you really could over order very easily.

This is due to Australian Chef Nic Philip’s ever-changing seasonal menu which is full of food you just have to try. The menu comes from a lifetimes of experience in Middle Eastern flavours and ingredients from his childhood family table as well as from his experience at leading London venues such as #26. He has a love of light and fresh cuisine with a passion for spice and this is reflected in dishes such as ‘Mum’s’ Spinach and Cheese Triangles and Burnt Carrots.

The Ottomani - Cabbage Sprouts

Who doesn’t love sprouts?

Spinach and cheese triangles

Just like mum used to make?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire features strongly at The Ottomani – from the oil lanterns that burn around the room to the wood-fired earth pit. In this custom-designed pit, every night before he leaves the restaurant, Chef Nic buries the next night’s menu leaving it to slow roast over night. This gives a depth of flavour that just cannot be replicated in an oven and leads to melt-in-the-mouth dishes made for sharing such as Sticky Pork Belly with a rub of turkish coffee, palm sugar and Szechuan pepper.

The Ottomani waiters and bar tenders

The service is attentive without being intrusive.

The end of the night comes too quickly at The Ottomani but also with a flourish. We ordered a sorbet pudding that was prepared at the table offering a spectacle of dry ice and popcorn popping in front of our eyes. It tasted great too.

Everything we ate tasted amazing and was served beautifully and with care; the service being just the right side of attentive. We were all in awe of the decor and the whole ambience of the restaurant. In fact, I can’t wait to go back.

If you go along, do let them know that 5 Go Mad recommended you.

The Ottomani, 48 Peck Seah Street, Singapore, 079317

+65 9231 9316.

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When parents come to stay

An itinerary for when Parents/grandparents come to visit.

Usually when people have their parents over to visit it is for a longer period of time – so there’s no need for a set one or two-week itinerary. Instead I’ve listed the places I’ve tried and tested with my parents and other guests we’ve had that I think all ages would enjoy.

There’s a few things to bear in mind if you’re planning days out with older guests:
  • The heat can be really hard work so take things slow, make sure they carry water bottles, wear a hat and you stop for plenty of comfort breaks. Bear this in mind when deciding where to go; there’s always a toilet in a shopping centre, MRT station and at attractions and usually a cafe and food centre too.
  • If walking is difficult make the most of any free shuttle buses, trams and mobility scooters that places like Gardens By The Bay offer.
  • I hired an electric scooter for my dad as he cannot walk very far due to “dodgy knees”. I got it from Delcon who were extremely helpful. You could also hire a wheelchair if you are confident someone is able to do the pushing. Remember, Singapore’s pavements are not always the best place for those less able though so take this into consideration too.
  • Don’t assume older guests are not interested in the more adventurous days out. My mum loved Universal Studios and was on and off the rides as much as the rest of us. Dad couldn’t go on much but still enjoyed pottering around after us.
  • Taking the kids with you is great, but some of the days out may not work. For example, not many children would enjoy the orchid garden at Botanics, but most older adults would. Let them have some space away from the kids if necessary.
View from smoke & mirrors bar, singapore

Our more mature friends have enjoyed the night life too!

ogre universal

Universal Studios is for the young, and young at heart.

Jurong Bird Park

A fascinating place with more birds than you can ever imagine. We had lunch with the parrots as my sister had bought it as a birthday pressie for my dad  –  and it was great fun. There’s a splash park there too so great if you get too hot. A lovely wander round can take all day with shows and feedings to take in and there are plenty of benches and cool spots to rest in when you need to. All info on their website

Gardens by The Bay

You could visit the gardens over two days as they are huge and there’s a fair bit of walking involved. If your guests are at all interested in flowers you should definitely take them to the flower dome. There’s often special themed exhibitions on like Chinese New Year, Christmas, Tulips and so on, and these are always stunning to see. There’s a nice little cafe inside to grab a cuppa when you need to. The Cloud Dome is also really interesting but do take jumpers as it’s freezing in there.

flowers in dome

The flower Dome is spectacular.

If they’ve got a head for heights take them to Supertree Grove and the OCBC Skyway. Lovely views of the gardens from up there.

If you have done it over two days  leave later one day and have an early dinner at Sate By The Bay before watching the Singing Trees do their thing. Everyone loves this part of the holiday and it’s not to be missed.

Botanic Gardens

Probably the place most parents seem to know about are the Botanic Gardens as they are world famous.  Take a picnic or plan to have lunch at one of the many cafes. Take your time and again make sure you’ve got plenty of water with you. There are toilets inside the gardens and places to refill your water bottles. Things to look out for are include Symphony Lake, Ginger garden and Orchid Garden. However, some of the Orchid Garden is closed due to enhancement work. If you are visiting with kids don’t miss the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden.

Raffles

Take your parents for look around Raffles if it’s open. Don’t just head for a drink though as you can wander around the courtyard and grounds and visit the gift shop which has some lovely gifts to take home. It is essential to stop at the Long Bar for a Singapore Sling thought and take in the old colonial atmosphere of the place. However, please note the hotel is undergoing extensive renovation work at the moment (October 2017) so do check before you go. The Bar and Billiard Room is still open serving the famous Singapore Sling.

 

Afternoon Tea

fullerton high tea

Afternoon tea at The Clifford Pier is well worth it.

Book them in to one of the many afternoon or high tea’s that most of the hotels offer. I took my parents to the one at the Fullerton Bay at Clifford Pier and it really is a spectacular venue. This is not a traditional afternoon tea though so bear in mind that you won’t  get finger sandwiches and traditional scones. However, it is delicious. The Shangri La on Orange Grove Road does a great high tea in the Rose Verandah and there are plenty of other places to try too. In fact, if you get bored of it, ask me and I’ll take them – I love an afternoon tea!

Bumboat along the river

This is a great way to while away the morning or afternoon and you can choose where to get off. I’d suggest getting on at Clarke Quay and then make your first stop at Clifford Pier to see the original Merlion at Merlion park. Plenty of photo opportunities here. Then walk down to the Fullerton Bay Hotel and go in to reception. Not only will this give them a respite from the heat it offers a spot for a loo break! They can also take in the stunning hotel lobby.

Once you’ve taken in the sights around there, jump back on a boat and see the rest of the river. Just make sure you buy a ticket that allows you to hop on and off.

Museums

Any of the museums are well worth a visit. I particularly like the Peranakan Museum as it’s not too big and has a lot of fascinating information about Singapore’s heritage. Changi War Museum is also popular and also well worth a visit. Then of course there’s the National Museum, Asian Civilisations Museum, Malay Heritage Centre and so on.

Smaller, but worth checking out especially if you have kids to entertain too is the Mint Toy Museum; a small museum which is packed to rafters with toys and memorabilia from all the century’s. Everyone can find their favourite childhood heros from Noddy to the Avengers. It’s good fun for an hour or so and is right by Raffles so you could do both in the same day. If you do visit Mint, be sure to go right to the bar at the top – which may or may not be open – as it has some lovely views and some old school tin signs that will have you reminiscing.

peranakan museum

The Peranakan Museum is a glimpse back to how Singapore began

Bollywood Veggies

I had a great day out here with my parents and the kids. Set way out (north) west in Kranji, Bollywood Veggies is a fantastic spot that many people don’t know about. Essentially a farm and a bistro/cafe, this is a unique day out that you will all find interesting. The self-named ‘Warriors’ who own and run it have a great sense of humour and this is apparent throughout the farm – quirky signs telling you to help with the leaf clearance in return for a drink in the cafe and warnings about torture trees all make for a different kind of day out. Lunch at the bistro is amazing, and although you may need to encourage a little adventurous tasting as it’s local food, you will not be disappointed. Try one of the platters – they are delicious!

Kranji War Memorial

The graves at Kranji War Memorial

Kranji War Memorial

You can stop here on the way to or from Bollywood Veggies. A tribute to all the fallen from the UK, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, India, Malaya and the Netherlands who died defending Singapore and Malaya against invading Japanese forces during World War 11. The memorial consists of war graves, the Memorial Walls, the State Cemetery and the Military Graves.

East Coast Park

Great for a relaxing stroll when you want an easy day. Wide open paths and cycle paths mean everyone can choose their way to travel. You can hire bikes here too. Pack a picnic, lots of water and have an easy stroll.

scooter and scooter

All types of transport welcomed at East Coast Park.

The Merlion on Sentosa

Situated in Sentosa, take them for a lovely stroll along the Merlion walk and then  in to the Merlion itself to hear about the myth, make a wish and ring the bell. You can use the lift to get to the mouth of the lion for a great shot over Singapore. Those more able can go right to the top of the head although there are still a few steps to climb. But there are benches for those that can’t manage them so you can go up whilst they wait in the cool.

Little India

A wander around Little India is often something older guests enjoy. If you can get a guide like those run by Road to India even better, as Poojah, the well-informed guide will explain the etiquette of the temples and some of the meaning behind what you are seeing. Stop for lunch at the hawker or one of the many restaurants if you want to try some of the best Indian food in Singapore. Wander around the markets and marvel at the dresses and saris on display. You might even want to try some on.

If, like most mums, your mum loves a bargain take her to Mustafa’s. Many claim you can buy ANYTHING you want there. From toys to suits, flour to fresh fish, they will be amazed. It’s huge though so don’t get lost! 

Singapore Zoo

This day out will involve a LOT of walking so I would only suggest this if you hire a wheelchair or scooter for less able guests. Check the website for more info as the zoo does have some to rent. It’s a great day out though and you can take it as slowly as need be. Lots of benches, shaded areas and cafes to stop when necessary as well as a tram that can take you around too. Watching the many animal shows and feedings also offers a sit down when needed.

orangutan at Singapore Zoo

Monkey around at Singapore Zoo.

Theatre in Singapore

A night at the theatre or a live performance is always a safe bet as far as I’m concerned. More often than not you’ll find something of interest on here – whether it’s a free music concert at the esplanade or a west end musical on tour at MBS. Have a look online for what’s around. These websites are helpful. http://www.baseentertainmentasia.com/ https://www.esplanade.com/ http://www.srt.com.sg/ http://pangdemonium.com/

McRitchie Reservoir

If your parents/guests are good walkers they’ll love a wander around McRitchie. For the more fit and adventurous there’s the treetop walk. Not something I’d suggest unless very good walkers though! But a stroll around the reservoir is pretty easy-going and you’ll still get to see the resident monkeys if you’re lucky. Whatever you do thought, DON’T feed them or offer them anything. They can be quite cheeky and have been known to swipe bags from tables!

Marina Bay Sands

If everyone is really tired of the heat then head to one of the shopping centres. They are all air-conditioned and if you choose MBS, you’ll find a few added attractions as well. Think Venetian style canal and traditional Sampan rides. If you time it well you’ll see the Rain Oculus too – this is a large whirlpool that forms inside a 70-foot diameter acrylic bowl and falls two stories to a pool below. The artwork, a collaboration with architect Moshe Safdie, functions as both a skylight and a rain collector. The rain water is recycled back to the whirlpool and also fills the canal that runs through the atrium.

canal at mbs

Take a stroll along the river inside the shopping centre!

Stop for lunch somewhere – you could go something more local like the every popular Din Tai Fung or go elegant at TWG. There’s also every kind of option from Gordon Ramsey to Wolfgang Puck as well as a food hall. For more information on where to eat look at the MBS website.

And remember…

These are just some suggestions. Don’t forget if your parents are visiting all they really want to do is see you and your family. If you have to work or have other commitments, leave them with instructions on how to get a cab, who to contact if there’s a problem and some ideas of things to do during the day. If you are a member of a club get them a temporary pass (most offer them for family visitors) and they can go there as often as they like. Also don’t forget to explain how to use the air con, open the door/gate and get out of the condo if you’re in one. It might be obvious to you, but to guests it’s all new.

Invite some of your Singapore friends over to meet your family. Have a barbecue or a casual dinner. Your parents will really appreciate seeing who you spend your time with and it will make things easier when talking on the phone next. It may also help to reassure them that you are doing okay here and that you have a nice life here.

When families with children come to visit

Family with children visiting for two weeks:

When you’ve got children in the mix, make your days much less packed as things always take a little longer with kids. Try to cater for all age groups where you can – but let everyone know that there’s lot of fun things around Singapore and everyone will get their turn. When all else fails, use a bribe – ice cream always works for us!

Day 1

Boat trip on the river. Start at Clarke Quay. Get off at Clifford Pier to see the original Merlion at Merlion Park. Plenty of photo opportunities here for kids including spouting water from their mouths and ‘carrying’ MBS – if you don’t know what you’re doing take some tips from those around you. Then walk down to the Fullerton Bay Hotel and go in to reception. Not only is it a respite from the heat (and offers a spot for a loo break!) but it’s beautiful decor and peaceful feel will take your breath away. And don’t worry, you can just wander in as it’s a public walkway. Once you’ve taken in the sights around there, jump back on a boat and see the rest of the river. Just make sure you buy a ticket that allows you to hop on and off.

bumboat in Singapore

Everyone loves a relaxing potter down the river don’t they? If not, bribe them with icecream!

Day 2

Get the MRT to Esplanade and have a wander around the Esplanade. You can get some pics of the Grand Prix Track from its roof and there’s a great Haagan Daaz inside. Take a leisurely stroll towards Marina Bay Sands crossing the stunning Helix Bridge. You can stop for lunch at one of the many places at MBS, there’s plenty of options including a not too pricey food centre on the lower floor. Whilst you’re in MBS show the kids the canal that runs through it and if you’ve timed it right, you’ll see the Rain Oculus empty – it collects rain water that fills the canal! You can even jump on one of the sampans for a leisurely ride.

Next it’s time to grab your head for heights and go on up to the sky park for the most stunning views of Singapore. This is where your guests will get to see what the city from 57 floors up – and if you stretch your neck enough, can gawp at those in the famous infinity pool (no entry if you’re not a guest I’m afraid). You can stop at Ce La Vie for a quick drink – a good way to relax whilst taking in the view.

skypark at Marina Bay Sands

Young and old alike will be blown away by the views at the top of MBS

Day 3

Is pool day and a bit of down time for the adults whilst the kids burn off some energy in the pool. If you are a member of a club, head there for the day – if not, a condo pool or house pool would do the trick too. If you don’t have one and are not a member anywhere – take advantage of most clubs free two weeks/one month membership whilst you have guests here!

Pool at The British Club Singapore

A day by the pool relaxing will be just what you all need today.

Day 4

After a relaxing day yesterday today is all about action packed fun and is probably THE thing your younger guests have been waiting for. Universal Studios.  A great family day out that will tick all the boxes no matter what age the children are. Discount tickets can be bought through places like the British Club and you can buy an express pass to help skip some of the long queues (the price can vary). But really, these places are all about the anticipation as much as anything else so just go armed with lots of patience and you’ll be fine. Pre-book your entrance tickets to avoid the long lines to get in and get there early.

Universal Studios

One of the less hair-raising rides – for some!

Day 5

Take it easy today, the kids will be exhausted from yesterday – as will the adults. Take your guests out for lunch somewhere you would go to usually. Go for a walk around your local area, let them get to know your ‘hood’. Have lunch at a hawker centre and order some food the kids may not have tried before.

Day 6

For older children today is all about local heritage so head for China Town. This may be met with groans of ‘boring’ from younger guests but remind them they can look for cheap pressies to take home or find the best noodles in Singapore today. Visit China Town Heritage Centre to get a feel for how the city has changed over the years and see how people used to live.

china town

China Town and its Markets are full of colour and culture.

Head to food street for some local fare. If it all looks a bit scary to your younger visitors, choose something simple like chicken sate or spring rolls. Or ask The Noodle Man for some plain non spicy noodles.

Spend the afternoon wandering around the markets and challenge your guests to try some Durian.

or

orangutan at Singapore Zoo

Monkey around at Singapore Zoo.

If this really doesn’t appeal to your older children and probably won’t with younger children you could suggest Singapore Zoo. One of the most impressive zoo’s I’ve ever been to and although it’s  a long day you can take your time walking around and can jump on and off the tram for a few extra dollars. The monkey exhibit is amazing and there are plenty of animal experiences and shows to see too including jungle breakfast (this requires pre-booking).

Day 7

Have a shorter day today and suggest The Alive Museum in Sun Tec city is a great spot to take families (especially on a rainy day, but it will be busy) and you will literally run out of battery on your camera. From flying on the back of a huge Kingfisher to being picked up by a giant baby, this 4D museum has to be seen to be believed. Great fun for young and old alike!

Day 8

Sentosa is calling. There really is so much to do on The State of Fun that one day is not enough. Madam Tussauds to Segways, Ziplines to a butterfly park. There’s a good page on the website here that will help you plan. It’s worth buying a Fun Pass which gives you access to a number of attractions. You can even stay for the evening and watch one of the light shows too.

For me, the things you should not miss is the Luge – brilliant fun for all and the most hair-raising skyline ride up to it, the Merlion Walk and the Merlion and the Images of Singapore LIVE (really one of the best ways to introduce children to the history of Singapore).

Dinner at Coastes is a great way to end the day – kid friendly, relaxed, the food comes quick and the kids can play in the sand whilst you and your adult guests can enjoy a much-needed beverage.

dinner at coastes, Singapore

The perfect spot for a family dinner – relaxed, good food, service is quick and your toes are in the sand. What’s not to love?

Day 9

Relax. Take it easy as everyone will be tired from yesterday. If the kids get tetchy take them for a walk around your local park.

This evening would be a good time to go on the Night Safari. The world’s first nocturnal wildlife park, it’s quite a unique night out, but it’s a late one so maybe some afternoon naps would be a good idea before you go. Book your tickets in advance and although it’ll be busy when you arrive, it’s well organised and everyone gets to see everything.

Day 10

Time to head for Gardens By The Bay. Go later in the afternoon if you can so that you can stay for the light show at 7:45. Allow a few hours at the gardens or if necessary, go back in the evening.

laying down for singing trees

Tell your guests to lay down and take in the wonder of the Singing Trees.

Plenty to do at the Children’s Garden including a splash park so get the kids to take their swimwear. If they are older they might enjoy the Cloud Forest but it’s pretty chilly inside the dome so take jumpers. Don’t forget to head to the Supertree Grove to see the gardens during the day and you can visit the OCBC Skyway if you’re ok with going up high with the kids.

Day 11

East Coast Park.  If the children are able to ride bikes this is a good place to go as you can hire them here and cycle all the way along the cycle paths that run next to the beach. If not, just grab the stroller and take a leisurely walk. Scooters, roller blades, inline skates – they’re all welcome! Plenty of dining options along the way or take a picnic. There are also barbecue pits if you want to get organised for a family bbq, you’ll need to book here though.There is a children’s playground too.

Wishing Bells, Mount Faber, Singapore
Make a wish at Mount Fabe

or

You could go for a ride on the Cable Car for spectacular views and fun. Begin your journey at Mount Faber where you can have a look around at the stunning park before getting on the cable car. There’s the huge polish bell of friendship, stunning views and a great little restaurant and gift shop up there. Also, you can buy a bell or two of your own and tie them on the railings as many others have done before.

Day 12

Water Park. Whilst Adventure Cove is great fun and well worth a visit, if your guests have already made heavy dent in their wallets, take them to Jurong Water Park instead.  A local pool that has enough rides, slides and lazy rivers to keep the younger ones happy. It may not be ideal for older children looking for huge thrills, but is a good substitute for little ones. For older ones, I’d opt for the Sentosa park for sure – if you are a member of the British Club (or know someone who is) they have discounted tickets available.

Day 13

Kartwheels on Tanjong Beach

Simple fun at the beach – and it doesn’t cost a penny!

Beach day. Most children will want to go to the beach before they go home. You can go to Tanjong, Siloso or Palawan on Sentosa for an easy day. At Palawan there’s also a fantastic pirate ship splash park ideal for under 10’s. Check the website for opening times. Whilst you’re there you can maybe do one or two of the attractions that you may have missed on day 8.

Day 14

Take a day off today and let your guests relax in the sun whilst they get ready to leave. Again a pool is a bonus here. If you’re feeling generous (which you may not be after two weeks) you could offer to take the kids out to a park to give the parents some space to pack.

Or…

If the family that are coming to stay are feeling adventurous suggest a few days away somewhere like Bintan. There are many resorts and hotels to choose from and gives people a different taste of Asia. It’s only 45 minutes by ferry so you can do it over a long weekend – we’ve even done just two days.

bintan beach games

Take a break from Singapore and hop on the ferry to Bintan for a few days. Simple laid back fun.

Other options a bit further afield are Thailand, Malaysia, Batu Batu and so on. As long as it’s within a 2 hour flight or 5 hour drive it’s worth it I think.

By doing this it takes the pressure off you as a host too as feels more like a holiday. Alternatively if you are working or your kids are at school the family may want to take a few days away on their own. Give them lots of ideas before they come and let them decide. It may even be they treat themselves to a couple of nights at one of the hotels here in Singapore.

Other places to visit that you can swap in are:
Orchard Road – I’ve missed out shopping on here as it bores me, but if you have a shopaholic visiting you must of course visit the shopping district – Ion, Paragon etc. Botanic Gardens – a beautiful and relaxing stroll for as long or short as you like.
National Museum – in fact any museum! The Peranakan is one of my faves.
Singapore Zoo – both during the day and at night (the Night Safari is very popular).
Gardens By The Bay – either just wander around the huge gardens and/or go into the flower dome or cloud dome (take a jumper, it’s chilly in there!)
Pulau Ubin – to see a bit of how Singapore used to be. Ideal for mountain bike enthusiasts.
Jurong Bird Park.
Kent Ridge Park – or any of the other parks, especially early morning to catch a taste of what the locals do to keep fit.

The list goes on and on…

Here’s a printable PDF version:
family visiting If you do print out this free itinerary please don’t forget to click the ‘like me’ button and comment at the bottom of this post.

Take a look at the other itineraries for more information on the above or more ideas.

When your best friends come to visit…

Five day Itinerary with friends – no kids

Teapot cocktail, Bitters & Love

It will be cocktail o’clock when your best friends come to visit

Day 1

AmTanjong Beach. Take a towel and just sit and take in the strangely relaxing scenery of ships, tankers and the like. Have a dip if you like and just catch up. Don’t rush too much as everyone is just catching their breath. Then after an hour or so – or more if you have sun worshippers visiting – head for brunch at the Marina. I like Em for a good breakfast and if you’ve got kids in tow they can play on the pirate ship playground whilst you enjoy a chat with your friends. Another favourite spot that I’d go to any time of the day is Coastes – quick service and you get to sit on the beach.

PM – Walk around Sentosa – I would always get the free tram to Beach Station and go to Merlion Walk and show guests the magnificent Merlion that takes pride of place there. You can even go inside and up to its head for some stunning views of Sentosa and the surrounding area. There are a whole list of other things to do on Sentosa here. More info on Sentosa on my blog post.

Evening depends on how tired everyone is but a relaxed dinner at home is always a good way to round of day 1. You can always grab some hawker food if you are short of time (or cooking skills!)

The Luge, Sentosa, Singapore

The Luge is somewhere you should take your friends – and just pray you make it down without any ‘accidents’ of any kind. Great for a giggle and the hats are a great solution to frizzy hair!

Day 2

AMBoat trip on the river. Start at Clarke Quay. Get off at Clifford Pier to see the original Merlion at Merlion Park. Perfect photo opportunities here – if you don’t know what you’re doing take some tips from those around you. Then walk down to the Fullerton Bay Hotel and go in to reception. Not only is it a respite from the heat but it’s beautiful decor and peaceful feel will take your breath away. And don’t worry, you can just wander in as it’s a public walkway. Once you’ve taken in the sights around there, jump back on a boat and get off at Esplanade. More details on Clarke Quay boat trips here.

PM – Have a quick look at The Esplanade and get some pics of the Grand Prix Track from its roof, then walk towards Marina Bay Sands crossing the stunning Helix Bridge. You can stop for lunch around the Esplanade or eat at one of the many places at MBS (I love TWG  for some good old-fashioned elegance or there’s plenty of other options including a not too pricey food centre on the lower floor. Now grab your head for heights and go on up to the Sky Park for the most stunning views of Singapore. This is where your guests will get the see what the city is about – and they stretch their neck enough, can gawp at those in the famous infinity pool (no entry if you’re not a guest I’m afraid). You can stop at Ce La Vie for a quick drink – a good way to relax whilst taking in the view.

On the way home it’s time to head to Raffles. Everybody who has visited us here has this at the top of their ‘must do’ list. It may be a bit of a tourist trap and overpriced, but it is so reminiscent of a bygone era it’s worth it. It’ll only take an hour (if there’s not a queue) and is a good way to round of the day. Of course, you have to go to the Long Bar and have a Singapore Sling, but also have a look around the Courtyard and in the gift shop. Some lovely take home gifts there. * NB The Long Bar and much of the hotel is closed for renovations at the moment (October 2017) so check the website before you go.

Evening – After a freshen up and some down time back at home or the hotel it’s time to head for cocktails somewhere swanky. My favourite spot is The Lantern Bar. Pricey but worth it for the view and the atmosphere. Other places to consider are Smoke & Mirrors, Ce La Vie or Zafferanos. All offer great views.

Views from the Lantern Bar, Singapore

Great photo opportunities for your friends at The Lantern Bar and it’s always a ‘wow’ moment when the lift doors open.

Or if you fancy it head to one of the more hip places like Jigger & Pony, Operation Dagger or Bitters & Love is my personal fave. You can snack whilst drinking your cocktails as most places in Singapore offer bar snacks which are usually more than substantial if you’ve had a big lunch!

Day 3

AM & PM -Time to relax. Jet lag will kick in on day 3 so give your guests the day off. If you are a member of a club, head there for a day around the pool. Have a relaxed lunch, maybe even a spa treatment if you can.  A condo pool or house pool would do the trick too – ask friends if you don’t have one and are not a member anywhere – or take advantage of most clubs free two weeks/one month membership whilst you have guests.

Evening  Having spent the day relaxing, head out early to Gardens By The Bay – my absolute favourite touristy thing to do in Singapore as you’ll read here. The Singing Trees do their stuff at 7:45 and 8:45 every night. 

Supertree Grove at night

I have seen these beauties a dozen times or more and still love it. An absolute must do!

Pay the minimum charge (about $20 per person) and go to the top of the main tree and have a drink, it’s worth it – the views are stunning, especially as the city lights up at night. They do some pretty tasty snack up there too if you get hungry. The Indochine restaurant – which is a floor lower than the rooftop bar, is great if you want to splash out on dinner.  But I would go for something a little less heavy on the wallet and wander over to Sate By The Bay after the light show and try some of the best local food around. Don’t miss out on the Pork Belly or Sate.

Day 4

AM – Book a walking tour. I love Betel Box tours and highly recommend their China Town Food Tour. It’s really informative and takes you to places you wouldn’t necessarily know about, as well as the obvious spots. Of course, it’s all dependent on what day this is and what they have scheduled but get in early and you can work your itinerary around them. They do offer private tours too which although more expensive, actually may be worth it to do what you want.

Local hawker food at China Town

Just one of the many dishes you’ll try on the Betel Box food tour – the every popular Chicken rice.

PM – Depending on how everyone feels as walking around in this humidity can really get to you, the afternoon can be spent wandering around the markets in China Town – all the cheap touristy gifts can be found here. Arab Street and Little India also are good places for this.

Evening dinner should be somewhere relaxed, one of your favourite local dining spots maybe, or a club. Let your friends see what you do and where you’d go.

Day 5

AM – Time for some history. Either head to Reflections at Bukit Chandu, Fort Siloso or my recommendation would be Changi War Museum. A great way to learn about the history of Singapore and a good end to a hectic week.

PM – Take some down time to sit and chat, after all, they’ll be gone before you know it. Make tea, put your feet up and just enjoy them being there. They’ll also need to think about packing, dependent on what time they leave tomorrow.

Evening – time to get your glad rags and show them how it’s done in Singapore. ‘Dinner up high’ is an absolute must and tell your friends to allow for this in their budget as it doesn’t come cheap. Artemis has the best food, great view and fab bar in my opinion, but there’s also Level 33, Zafferano’s, Mandarin Oriental, Ce La Vie (you will need to take out a mortgage though!), Me @ Oui, to name but a few.

 

These are just ideas for a five-day itinerary with friends and is pretty packed. Obviously you can miss things out or swap things around. For example, it may be that it pours down one day and you have to do the museum on day two instead. Be flexible but try to have a plan of some sort. That way your friends will leave feeling like they’ve seen something of this amazing island. Talking of rain, don’t assume rain stops play – as you’ll know once you’ve lived here a while, it can be raining one side of the street, and not the other. Plus, it’s very often short-lived. Just take a brolly and get on with it.

Other places to visit that you can swap in are:

Orchard Road – I’ve missed out shopping on here as it bores me, but if you have a shopaholic visiting you must of course visit the shopping district – Ion, Paragon etc. Botanic Gardens – a beautiful and relaxing stroll for as long or short as you like.
National Museum – in fact any museum! The Peranakan is one of my faves.
Singapore Zoo both during the day and at night (the Night Safari is very popular).
Gardens By The Bay – either just wander around the huge gardens and/or go into the flower dome or cloud dome (take a jumper, it’s chilly in there!)
Pulau Ubin – to see a bit of how Singapore used to be. Ideal for mountain bike enthusiasts.
Cable Car over to Sentosa.
Jurong Bird Park.
Kent Ridge Park – or any of the other parks, especially early morning to catch a taste of what the locals do to keep fit.
Trick Eye museum – there are two in Singapore, one on Sentosa and one Suntec. Both great fun and a must for all Instagram addicts.

The list goes on and on…

Here’s a printable PDF version. If you do print out this free itinerary please don’t forget to click the ‘like me’ button on the side of the page and comment below.

5 day with friends

Take a look at the other itineraries for more information on the above or more ideas.

Where do you go when…?

night in city

Lots of family and friends will want to visit this beautiful city you call home

I’ve had a LOT of visitors in the three or so years we have been living in Singapore. From people we barely knew who became lifelong friends after their visit, best friends from home, a friend’s daughter who came for a few days and stayed for two weeks, old school friends who moved to Australia and I hadn’t seen for years and of course, parents and siblings. Each visit has been different and each visitor has been given the ‘Jo tour guide’ treatment. Some more so than others, depending on how busy I was or how much they wanted me around.

So it’s not surprising that when other people I know have visitors they tend to ask me for “one of your itineraries.” I’ve got quite a reputation for my planning when it comes to visitors. I learnt early on that without a plan days can disappear and before you know it guests leave having seen barely anything. So I thought I’d share the three most used itineraries with you. All free of charge, no plus plus added and no forms to fill in. I just ask one – well two – favours. Please click the like button at the side of this page and at the bottom of the page add a comment about who you’ve got visiting. This kind of info takes a lot of time to put together so some feedback is always welcome.  If you could go so far as to follow the blog too you’ll get notified when I add more itineraries or reviews of places to go here in Singapore.

Oh, and if asked how you found out about an attraction or place to visit, please mention 5 Go Mad!

Singapore city at night

Singapore is a photographers dream!

Before you check out the itineraries, here are a few tips to help make the visits as much fun and as easy on you as possible.

Things to remember when you have visitors:
  • Everyone has different tastes and likes and dislikes. Ask visitors before they come if they have any ‘must-sees’ that they’ve heard about or anything they don’t like doing (for me, you’ll not get me near an aquarium).
  • That jet lag will affect them to one degree or another. This can mean they get barely any sleep at night and then want to crash during the day. Where possible encourage them not to sleep during the day, but it can be tough. Allow for rest breaks during the day though as don’t forget the heat hits people hard too.
  • Make sure you have spare bug spray and sun tan lotion. You’ll be surprised by how many people think they don’t need it.
  • Being a tour guide 24/7 can be exhausting, no matter how desperately you want the visitors here. So give yourself some time off too. If they are confident travellers you could suggest they do one more of the days on their own. If not, allow for some time out at some point – maybe just take a break from each other early evening.
  • Remember all friends and family want to see how your life works here so if you have a group you meet up with regularly, consider introducing them. Or if there’s a favourite coffee shop or cafe you go to a lot, take them. That way, when you’re talking to friends and family back home again next, they’ll be able to relate to your life here so much more.
What to do before they arrive:
  • Buy a couple of MRT cards for them and load them up with $10 – that way they can get around straight away.
  • When my nieces have visited I have made them up a goody bag as a welcome gift. I just go along to the markets and pick up some cheap souvenirs – a Singapore tote bag filled with things like a stuffed Merlion, a key ring, a notepad, a fan. etc.
  • Pick up a couple of Singapore maps or voucher books from the larger MRT stations or at the airport.
  • Prep your helper if you have one on the fact that there will be more people either staying or visiting and to adjust her shopping and cooking accordingly. I ask guests to leave money for a helper when I had one as it is extra work, but really that’s up to you ($50 per person at least is a fair amount I think). If you haven’t got a helper, prepare yourself – get some extra food in, start making up beds a few days before etc.
Once they arrive:
  • Once they’ve arrived, get your guests to download the MRT map app as well as Uber – that way they can figure out where to go and how to get there if you can’t be around the whole time.
  • Give them your address, phone number (add to notes on their phone or physically on a note) and point out a few local landmarks so that they feel they know where they are. You’d be surprised how many people forget to ask and head out for the day, not knowing where they’re coming back to! I always tell people what our nearest MRT and the line it’s on.
  • You could treat guests to a local sim for their phone – or point them to a shop that sells them.
  • Explain to them how the aircon works in their bedrooms, any water heaters etc. Also explain that electricity and water costs a fortune here and to turn air con and heater off when not using otherwise your next utility bill will give you a shock!

 

Merlion park, Singapore

The famous Merlion, one of the many must-sees in Singapore

Itineraries

Please click on the links below for the itinerary you want to see:

Itinerary for friends visiting for 5 days

This is for when your besties manage to get away from the kids and visit you. Lots of girlie fun and relaxing.

Itinerary for family or friends with children

Is your sister or brother heading over for a holiday with their kids in tow? Teenagers or toddler, this 14 day plan will have you covered.

Itinerary for parents visiting  

Got the parents or in-laws coming for the first or twenty-first time. Here’s some suggestions for things to do with them to keep you and them sane.

Joining the Sisterhood

Sister Act The Musical

Come join the sisterhood

There is nothing I enjoy more than a night (or day) at the theatre. Musicals in particular have an appeal like no other. I swear I must have had some connection to the theatre in a previous life. Sadly I don’t think I was high kicking with Liza Minelli or serenading Michael Ball; probably more like running around polishing shoes or sewing sequins. So it is with much excitement that I have recently been talking to the company who bring all the best shows to our little red dot, Base Entertainment. Today I was fortunate enough to be invited to the press call for its latest show at the MasterCard theatre, MBS, Sister Act  – sequinned wimples and all.

Anyone too young to have watched the movie Sister Act needs to get themselves a couple of hours on the sofa right now as it’s a rare treat. Real old school comedy, fine female (and some male) actors and fabulous music. What more could you want? Obviously Whoopi Goldberg is forever associated with the film – but did you know it also featured Maggie Smith (pre Dame hood) and Harvey Keitel?

So it really shouldn’t be a surprise that a musical based on the film is also a must see. A huge hit from Broadway to the West End this production features the cast direct from the Broadway show. Obviously I’m not going to give too much away about what we were shown to say but suffice to say I’m more than a tad excited to be seeing the show.

From a 16ft tall Virgin Mary (with a not so dark side), to racks bursting with sparkling habits, our tour backstage was fascinating. Molly, the production stage manager showed us where she cues stage crew, audio and actors alike from left of stage (or right of stage if you are her as she has to do everything backwards) and the ‘God mike’ – for when things go wrong.

Gondola row – or wardrobe walk – was much smaller than I had imagined. This is the area where actors do quick changes. I can only imagine the swan like activity that goes on – with calm changes on the surface and utter panic underneath. I spotted a Wurlitzer (which looked original and I immediately coveted) bar stools upended, bottles of drink and glasses, Dolores coat and lots of slippers amongst many other gems. I can’t wait to see where they all feature in the show.

It was fascinating to hear how the sets, costumes, props, lighting and so on are all shipped around the world in five sea containers. How parts of the set are moved on and off stage and how the huge cast and crew work together to ensure the show is as good in one country as the next.

With shows as good as this hitting our shores I for one will make sure I’m supporting them – please go and do the same so this sister can carry on feeding her ‘habit.’

Look out for my Facebook post for my thoughts on the show itself.

Sister Act is on at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands from 9th – 28th May.

Costumes back stage

Watch out for the wimples!

Sister Act The Muscal

Part of the scenery

Props backstage

An original Wurlitzer?

Scenery, backstage at Sister Act the Musical, Singapore

A different view to usual

Wires, cables, musical

Can you imagine trying to find the fuse that blows in this lot?

Delores Sister Act Costume

You can never have too much fur and fringing – Delores costume.

Scenery, backstage at Sister Act the Musical, Singapore

She’s looking very virginal right now – but she has a hidden side. All 16ft of her!

sister act

Not to be missed!

Toilet humour

When you move to another country you have to make new friends. Fact. But what you may not realise is that you will still rely on your friends back home to be there for you. Even though they can’t actually be there. You need to find a way to keep the connection going. For me this meant the start of what became known as ‘The Toilet Selfie.’

Yes, you heard right. The Toilet Selfie. Say it fast, it sounds great fun! Do it fast. It’s even funnier!

This craze has built up quite a following over the past two years, with not just me indulging in this rather odd pastime. Oh no! Obviously my friends at home have been ‘involved’  But also some friends here too. Then there’s my mum, my friends mums, our daughters, friends of friends and their daughters. I don’t think any man has got involved yet (although my Son has snuck in one). But there’s still time.

So let’s go back to the beginning. It started with a Whatssap group amongst a few of my closest friends back home. Initially I’d message a few times a week (maybe more) and fill them in on what I was doing. They heard about the day I screamed the house down when I bought a chicken complete with head, feet and claws, they knew I’d developed a look akin to Monica from Friends in that episode in Barbados. I told them my triumphs – making it to the supermarket and back without getting lost. My failures – THAT waxing story.

In return they kept me in the loop of things going on back home. Just a quick “hi, how are you?” made my day.

Then one night very early on hubby and I had been invited out with a group we didn’t know. It was one of those social events organised by an expat group. All very nice, all very friendly. Except after an hour or so I really wasn’t enjoying myself. I went to the loo and just happened to get a ping from a friend in our Whatssap group asking how I was doing. I sat in the loo for a while having  ‘a virtual chat’ about how I was so hot I could melt as I’d stupidly gone out in jeans, how the night wasn’t that great etc. etc.

Then, for reasons I’m still not sure of, I decided to send a selfie of me looking frizzy haired and sweaty, whilst I was in (NOT ON I hasten to add!) the loo.

Of course, they all could see I was in the loo and laughed at my insalubrious choice of setting for my self pitying selfie moment. From then on it became almost a challenge to find a worst setting for my toilet selfies.

But, as funny as this was, it went deeper than that. When you are out meeting new people, it can be quite hard work. Not all the time. But sometimes. Sometimes you just don’t click. People you thought you’d get on with you find you have nothing in common with. At those times it’s like a comfort to pop off and have a quick chat with my buddies back home, who know me, who get me and who always lift my spirits.

After a while though it was no longer about that. It also became about celebrating being out and having fun. The Toilet Selfie became funnier, more drunken sometimes yes, but the smiles were real. Things had improved and my lovely friends at home were there for that too.

When I let my closest friend here in Singapore in on my secret hobby she insisted I blog it. Apparently it’s a ‘lovely story about friendship’ not to mention great fodder for the funniest pics you’ll see on here. Toni, how did we never get a pic of us having a Toilet Selfie?

Having thought about it, she’s right. So, as a thank you to my girls back home – Victoria, Hazel, Tracey, Liz, Kellie and although late to the party, always there in spirit, Gill. For holding me up when I needed it most. For being the kind of friends who I can come back to and pick up right where I left of. For being daft enough to find taking a picture in a toilet hilariously funny and heart warming all at the same time.

To those of you going out tonight with people you don’t know…

Tonight could be the night you meet your Singapore Bestie, or Besties. If not, pop to the loo and message your friends back home and let them know you’re thinking of them. Better still take a little pic of yourself and send it to them and wait for the funny comments to come in. If you do though, you have to send it to me too as I own all rights to Toilet Selfies. Fact!

And to those new friends I’ve made here. Well done on making it through the first night out with me. If we haven’t already – fancy a toilet selfie one night?

NB: Apologies for gratuitous pictures of me all over this piece but really, there’s no better way of explaining the phenomena.  Also apologies to those friends who have been featured without first gaining permission, I tried to ask most of you. Feel free to ignore all future Whatssap message from me.

Taking the shock out of shopping in Singapore

Shopping for clothes in Singapore

Don’t give up, you’ll find clothes in Singapore

There’s no getting away from it, Asian women are beautifully packaged. Alabaster skin, tiny waists, perfectly proportioned legs, all makes for a lovely petite bundle. So it should come as no surprise that the shops here in Singapore are geared up for these dainty lovelies. This can make shopping for your average sized, non-asian, expat lady, a little difficult.

You’ve heard the stories of women who have left stores shamefaced after being told they are ‘too big’ for anything in the store. Maybe you yourself have been turned away from that lovely boutique with a ‘no, cannot!’ echoing in your ears?

What’s too big you may ask? Think anything above a UK size 4!

I’m painting a dark picture I know — it’s not all bad. The staff aren’t necessarily being rude or obnoxious. They tend to be, how do I say this? Honest?  There’s no beating around the bush, they tell it like it is. Not to upset you or be mean, just to save time. I actually find it quite refreshing and prefer it to the fawning “oh that looks gorgeous” from a clearly deranged shop assistant in the UK as you stare at yourself in a banana yellow shapeless shift dress. As long as it’s not that time of the month, or year, I can put up with a bit of frankness

Clothes too small

Sometimes clothes shopping in Singapore can be tough!

I’ve had my moments here for sure. I remember one time whilst shopping for a dress in a department store I’d picked up quite a few that had caught my eye — always a good start. A sales assistant came up to me and asked if I’d like to try them on.  As she showed me to the changing room she deftly removed a number of my choices with a:

“No lah, not for your size.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, “It’s my size on the label.”

“No ma’am. For Asian women yes. Not you.”

She blatantly looked me up and down as she said it. I felt like I’d been scanned. With that she wafted off.

But, I had to get a dress so I had no choice but to soldier on. As I was squeezing my butt in to one of the two dresses I was left with, the assistant arrived with quite a few similar dresses for me to try, explaining that these were all ‘my size.’

It turns out she was spot on. The couple I’d chosen were all wrong — tight across the chest, arms too short, so not my size. But the selection she’d made were much better. I came home with two.

Shoppes at Marina Bay sands

The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands – take your credit card!

So, ladies, don’t be disheartened. Take advice from the sales staff (if you can get past the initial fear of being ‘too large, lah!’)  Get to know the stores that stock your size.  Find the malls that are aimed at the expat – Tanglin Mall and Cluny Court are two of the most popular. There are also quite a few big chains here – H&M, Esprit, Marks & Spencer, Zara – that stock your average expat sizes. Also you have to front it out and ask for larger sizes as often they do but they are not out on display.

If all else fails, order from the cool, air-conditioned, comfort of your own home. Asos, Boohoo, Next, Macy’s, Saks, Zalora, to name but a few, all deliver to Singapore. Some of them even offer free delivery. Just be sure to measure yourself and check sizing first as returns can be a pain.

Happy Shopping!

If you have bosoms, and need a new bra, God help you. Really, that’s a whole other issue…

Esprit clothes shop

Esprit stock a good selection of sizes

PLEASE LADIES WE ALL NEED YOUR HELP

Let’s make a list of places that stock a great selection of sizes. I’ll start:

Tangs in Orchard

Esprit all over the island

Most of the clothes shops in Tanglin Mall.

The perfect getaway?

Idyllic beach anyone?

Idyllic paradise beach anyone?

When I was looking to take my little sis somewhere special for her (ahem, sorry about this sis) 40th birthday while she was here visiting with her family I ran through all the usual ideas. Swanky restaurants, weekends on Bintan, spas breaks, staycay at MBS and so on. But, being the selfish person I am, I figured why not make it something I’d enjoy too – in fact something both of our families would enjoy. I’d heard about this special island just off Malaysia and started doing some digging. A couple of days later and we were booked. I didn’t tell sis, or her family. It was all going to be a big surprise. And what a surprise it was for us all.

Fun on the boat over

Fun on the boat over

Batu Batu is a private resort set on the previously uninhabited island of Pulau Tengah – meaning middle island – just 16km off the coast of Malaysia. A quick drive through the Johor border and over to Mersing and then it’s a quick 20 minute boat trip on the resorts own speedboat. Simples!

The resort is a relatively new venture having opened its jetty just four years ago in 2012. Built with sustainability in mind all of the buildings on the resort were constructed by local carpenters using traditional techniques and a huge emphasis is placed on preservation of not only the island, but its wildlife, flora and fauna.

Check in, check out
As you spot Batu Batu in the distance, honestly there is something that happens to you. A sigh escapes your body that is barely discernible. As the boat glides in to the jetty and you climb the rustic wooden steps a lightness seems to take over. The expanse of sea and sand is breathtaking and if traveling with children, hold on to them tightly, as you may find they can’t resisit the urge to throw themselves off the jetty right there in to the ridiculously clear waters is almost overwhelming. There’s plenty of time for that later on.
We were met by a friendly young man called Nicholas (we were all – grown men included already falling for his french accent, laid back swagger and stories of sharks in the water) who led us along the jetty towards ‘reception.’ As we passed wooden Kampung style villas nestled amongst the rocks and spied steps that led down to white, sandy beaches – the island has eight such beaches for you explore –  it was clear this wasn’t your typical resort at all.

Even the loos had a picture perfect view

We were shown to the restaurant area – having passed the office, reception and shop without actually realising it – and encouraged to relax on huge wooden chairs, given refreshing drinks and handed cold flannels to cool us down. As we took in our surroundings the smiles on everyone’s faces grew, the knots in our shoulders loosened and the shoes on our feet were kicked off.

 

Eating at Batu Batu
A spacious open sided pavillion with views across the sea whichever way you turn, the restaurant and bar area is not a bad place to sit and while away some time. As we had arrived on the early boat we knew our room wouldn’t be ready and took the offer of lunch while it was prepared.

At Batu Batu all meals are included in the ‘board basis’ which you pay for when booking. This includes a buffet breakfast, two course lunch (main and dessert) and three course dinner (starter, main and dessert). The menu changes daily and whilst we were there there was a choice of 4 or 5 dishes each day ranging from fresh local seafood to traditional Malaysian dishes. Children are well catered for with their own menu, or they can opt to have a smaller version of the grown ups food if they like. Our young people were mixed in their tastes and the staff were always happy to accommodate (“fries with that, of course,” “less spciy randang, no problem”)

The adults were more than happy with the food too with portion sizes keeping us full between meals. If we did get a little peckish though there was always fruit and home made cake available.

Villa amore
Even though there are just 22 villas on the whole resort – I swear I spotted no more than half a dozen, which is testament to the design and layout of Batu Batu. With a choice of beach, ocean, poolside or jungle villas it’s best to choose dependent on your needs and preferences. We opted for beach villas which, as promised, were sat directly on the island’s ‘Sunrise beach’ and are ideal if you have a few beachcombers in your group.

The jungle villas are set back from the coast and offer a bit more privacy being nestled in the jungle. But to get to them there are a good few steps to climb; not good for those who are not as agile on their feet. The ocean villas offered stunning views out across the sea and are set in to the rocks. Again a few steps to climb –  though not as many. The two poolside villas are better suited to larger families as they have two bedrooms (all the others are one bedroom with or without children’s annexe) and are directly behind the resorts only pool.

Our villa on the beach

Our villa was simple and yet stunning. With a huge four poster bed taking centre stage offering views out to the beach and ocean. A separate and equally massive bathroom led off the main room and held double sinks, wardrobes, a dressing area, shower and toilet. A large bathtub sat regally in front of the almost floor length windows inviting you to take a soak and watch the sun go down. Interestingly, the windows – that can make you feel slightly, shall we say, exposed at a time you may prefer some privacy – are cleverly designed so that they offer a feeling of being outside without those on the outside seeing in. We know, we tested it out.

To the other side of the main room was a small, but perfectly formed ‘annex’ – a room with just bunk beds in to accommodate children. We found it comfortably accommodated our 10 year old and surprisingly our 17 year old. Our 15 year old opted for the daybed in the main room. This layout worked fine for us for the few days we were there. Anyway, who wants to stay in the room when you’ve got the beach on your doorstep?

All of the rooms had everything you’d need for a comfortable stay including wi-fi (though this was hit and miss; something I liked as it meant phones were switched off), dvd player, iPod speakers, tea and coffee making facilities, mini bar etc.  There were some simple but really helpful touches too like the plastic box in which to store your snacks away from any mini critters and gorgeous smelling, environmentally friendly toiletries.

Beachside bliss
A balcony complete with daybed led you out to the star of the show, the beach. Most of the time we were there it felt like our own private beach and many an hour was spent snoozing on the sunbeds listening to the sound of the sea or watching the kids look for shells. Every now and you may spot someone having a wander past but very rarely was our peace interrupted. Again this is testament to the way the resort has been designed.

Sigh!

Sigh!

The pool – an infinity pool – on the other hand was a slightly different story. This was where a lot of the kids hung out and despite our protestations we did spend some time there. As with any resort pool, children can be a bit noisy (not ours of course!) so if I were returning sans kids I’d definitely give the pool area a miss, which is pretty easy to do considering the choice of beaches to relax on. It wouldn’t be hard to find yourself a quiet spot away from noisy youngsters. But honestly, this was only occasionally, we had the pool to ourselves on occasion too.

Diving Divas

Listening carefully

The girls listening carefully

If sitting on a beach relaxing isn’t your thing one of the other attractions of Batu Batu is the fact that it is surrounded by stunning coral reefs and clear blue waters that beg you to dive in to explore. Last year saw the opening of the resorts dive centre – with all profits generated from it going straight back in to environmental projects on and around the island.

With various PADI programmes open to anyone over 8 years old (and who meet the medical requirements) this is not a bad place to start your diving hobby. As the two youngest members of our group discovered.

Still listening

Still listening

Two, patient, fun and confident instructors took the two girls off, kitted them out in full wetsuit and diving gear and before we knew it they were fully fledged Bubblemakers and could be spotted as little black dots heading down to the ocean floor.  Us mums were a little pale faced and needed a cocktail or two, but this was an experience that the kids were absolutely raving about afterwards (and ever since) and both were keen to go back for more. For those who didn’t dive there is the option of snorkeling and this kept many of our group occupied as they were gone for hours exploring around the islands reef. Even if you didn’t want to dive you could let off some steam by hiring out kayaks or trekking through the interior of the island. You really can be as active as you like.

Somewhere down there are our baby girls!

Somewhere down there are our brave baby girls!

Added extras

The resort also offers a spa where you can be pampered with massages, facials, pedicures and so on. We had to try it out – for research purposes obviously – and can verify it’s worth a visit or two. There’s also a kids club where the littlies can spend some time away from mum and dad. Ours didn’t use it as they were having too much fun on the beach and in the pool, but should think it’d come in handy for some.

Tremendous Turtles

IMG_3817For me – and in fact, the whole group – though, the true highlight of our time on Batu Batu came in the form of eggs and what came out of them. The ethos of the Lasalvy’s ever since they began building the resort was to ‘tread lightly’ so the turtles that come to nest on their island have been in the forefront of their mind from the beginning. Turtle Watch Camp on ‘Long Beach’ is a program they run to help protect, conserve and educate visitors about and is something they are rightly proud of. Before the camp was set up many of the eggs laid on this and the surrounding islands were subject to illegal poaching (the eggs are a delicacy in some parts of Asia)  and the Dugong and Green turtles had become endangered – the Hawksbill turtle critically so.

The turtle hatchery

The turtle hatchery

Now, through monitoring nests, a controlled hatchery and spreading the word to its visitors, the conservation team at Batu Batu are really making a difference. The turtles continue to nest and the Camp help keep their eggs safe until they hatch, then they gently help them on their way. If you are lucky – as we were – you’ll get to see the tiny baby turtles released; a truly magical experience. (see turtle camp blog post for more on this)

 

Sunsets and cocktails
As well as Turtle Watch Camp, Long Beach is home to the beach bar. Just as any good beach bar should it had a decent cocktail list and plenty of cold beers as well as juices and smoothies and was the perfect place to sit and watch the sun go down.

Don't miss cocktails on the beach.

Don’t miss cocktails on the beach.

It’s fair to say that once the sun goes down there isn’t that much going on at Batu Batu. The restaurant finishes serving around 9pm and most people have headed back to their villa by 10pm. So not the place to go if you like late nights.

Our time on Batu Batu can be summed up by something the usually stressed hubby said. “This is the first place I’ve been to and felt myself relax on the first day.” The fact he didn’t seem to mind too much that the wifi didn’t work too well was also a good indicator that we’d found somewhere worth visiting.

For more information visit the website at www.batubatu.com.my

Bye, bye beautiful Batu Batu

Bye, bye beautiful Batu Batu

 

 

Special Delivery

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Singapore is one of the most popular shopping destinations in the world. Fact. But ask any expat where they get a good majority of their shopping from and it’ll probably be on-line. Obviously we’re not talking food shopping so much but clothes, shoes, household stuff, sports gear, gadgets etc.

Maybe it’s something from home we’re after (think fave footy teams new kit) or just to save some cash (as import taxes can really make a difference to prices), online shopping is big here. If any of the big US or European department stores are offering free delivery to Singapore it’s shared all over expat social media quicker than you can say BOGOF.

But, when you do order online and are hit with the delivery costs from say, the UK or States, it can make an everyday purchase suddenly seem a luxury.

Then what? Can you live without your favourite brand? Will you just make do with a not so perfect fit? Should you just bite the bullet and pay the extra $ it’ll cost you here? Can you persuade the kids to support a local team instead?

Woman shops online

Never fear. No one has to defect to the dark side, or spend more cash than necessary thanks to a new way of ordering that I have recently had the good fortune to try out.

PacMe is a company based in the US who are here to help. They can take delivery of your packages, unpack them, get rid of all the excess packaging (and we know how much that is don’t we?) and then forward them to you in Singapore all in one parcel.

Genius! One of those ideas that make you slap your forehead and wonder how you didn’t know about it before.

It can cut your delivery costs by A LOT – especially if you are clever and get all the free delivery options that most online sites offer to US. Whilst many items can be delivered here in Singapore, the delivery charges are often not worth it. For example, for ages I’d been after a spiraliser (I know, I’m so rock and roll) but the cost of delivery was more than the actual gadget itself. But, to get it delivered to US is free.

iStock_000031935720XSmallThe service is also ideal for all those awkward things you want to buy that never seem to ship to Singapore at all, like pool toys. Or those items that are just more readily available with more choice on-line when you have them delivered to the States.

With PacMe it seems that the more you order – and therefore the heavier your final parcel – the better value it gets. This isn’t the place to go if you are just ordering a small gift. This is where you head when you’re planning to buy a number of things – at Christmas for example.

So, when the lovely people at PacMe asked me to try out this new way of ordering I of course had to have a go.

Firstly you sign up for an account – which, would usually cost around US$40 – BUT NOT FOR YOU LUCKY LOT. See promotional code at the end of this blog for promo code to get free account!

Free-sign
You’re welcome!

 
So, you sign up for your FREE account and are then given your own ‘shipping address’ which is in Oregon, US (which is a tax-free state). You then order whatever you want/need/fancy – as much or as little as you like (although the more you order, the better the savings) – and enter your new Oregon address as the delivery address. Then it’s a matter of waiting for things to start arriving.

Once they do, PacMe will let you know what has arrived via email and you can check yourself through your account. They will even send pictures of your items so you can check what you’ve got. They unpack the items, remove excess labels, any unnecessary packaging and so on. You can choose if you want them to send the package on to you straight away, or hold on to it until you’ve got a few packages to send. Once you are ready to receive your parcel/s they will give you an estimated cost of delivery (rates are cheaper than usual delivery costs) and it wings its way to you.

It really is as simple as that.

When I tried it out I found the whole experience to be very straight forward. Any questions I had the customer service team answered very quickly via email. Even going back and re-taking a picture when I wasn’t sure the right thing had been sent. I happened to be away for a week after all my goods had arrived at my US delivery address, which was no problem, they simply kept hold of them for me. When I got back I let them know I was ready for them to send it.

When my package arrived to me I was really happy with the way things had been packaged – it always frustrates me when I get packages that are full of excess paper, plastic and materials that are not really protecting them.

My parcel was packed up just the way my mum would do it. squashing things that can’t break (t-shirts) in to protect things that are a bit more delicate (the spiraliser) and keeping things in place with heavier items (books).

When I looked at the cost of how much it would have cost me to have them all shipped here I saved myself a small fortune.

Santa Carrying Shopping Bags --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

All in all I’d say this was the ideal answer to something like shopping for Christmas gifts. You can go online, do all your ordering over a few days, have it sent to Oregon and then get it all delivered in one parcel to you here. As I’ve mentioned already – the PacMe guys will hold on to your packages for up to 90 days, so there’s no rush to place the whole order all in one go.

They even let you know how much space, weight has been saved. In my case I ordered 7 separate things from Amazon which in total weighed 10kg. When I received the order – in one box with no excess packaging at all – the final billable weight was just 4kg! Now it doesn’t take a genius to work out that more than half the weight equals more than half the delivery costs. Well worth it.

T9494-P0001-CON-1The company is also very clear about the fact that this isn’t the thing to use if you’re just ordering a couple of things. For instance, a 2.3kg package going to Singapore costs about $55 for the 3-5 day service (which is outrageous for a single pair of shoes or a few shirts!), whereas a 23kg package costs a little less than $160. So again, better for a big spree you’re planning.

 
Give it a go, if you’re a smart shopper and order from websites that offer free delivery to the states you could save yourself a tidy sum. Especially as the lovely PacMe people have offered all Five Go Mad In readers a free account. Simply log on to www.pacme.com sign up and enter the promo code:

‘5gomadin’

Happy Shopping!