Wednesday Write-Up: Singapore-Part Two

 I try to write about how we are doing on my Wednesday Write-Up’s, not what we have been doing, but I just have so much to write about Singapore that I have to keep writing about it. I am hoping that you will not be completely fried on Singapore by the time I am done, but want to visit it and check it out for yourself! (And for those of you who write blogs about Singapore yourselves, thanks for reading even though I am sure you have done these things yourself more than once.) 

Singapore Part Two

On our second day in Singapore, Z woke the whole house us up bright and early to enjoy it. We planned to spend the day at the Singapore Zoo. Almost everyone we talked to when we were planning visit to Singapore told us that we HAD to check it out. I have always loved zoo’s and we have been to a couple of them along our travels so far (You can read about our time at the Taipei Zoo here and the Budapest Zoo here).

We took the SMRT from our house a couple of stops to the Ang Mo Kio stop on the Red (North South) Line. We stopped at the AMK Hub for a quick coffee and chai tea latte (Hooray, my favorite!!) before grabbing the 139 bus that heads directly to the zoo.

We didn’t know how far out the zoo is, but it is pretty far out from the center of town. The bus ride took about 40 minutes, but it did stop often so I am sure the times will vary. It was an easy and cheap way to get there though, as our SMRT tourist cards worked for busses as well.

When we arrived at the zoo, there were signs everywhere saying you could save 5% off admission if you bought the tickets online with your smart phone. It was a little bit of a pain as the website had a couple of issues, but Chad patiently kept trying and finally we had our tickets. We decided to also buy tickets for the Night Safari, another zoo adjacent to the main one that opens after dark.  All together we paid around $120 Singaporean dollars.

Don't feel like waiting in line here...

Don’t feel like waiting in line here…

You can use these directions to buy your tickets online using your smart phone and save 5% in the process!

You can use these directions to buy your tickets online using your smart phone to bypass the lines and save 5% in the process!

We had gotten a late start to the day, despite our early wake up toddler call and didn’t arrive at the zoo until around 1:00 p.m.. We started by walking around while looking at the map and getting utterly confused as to where to go first. We decided to look around a bit and then eat lunch quickly before heading to a the Rainforest Show. We started with the white tiger, then the baboons, jackals, chimps, and so on. Most of the animals were pretty out in the open, the cages or barriers well hidden, and the orangutans were actually “free-range” meaning that they could be in the trees above you anywhere in their area.  It made me feel as though we were in their habitat instead of them being in ours. I loved it and the animals seemed very happy and healthy. Chad and I realized that this was the first zoo we had been to where the animals were so active (including the pygmy hippos mating… while people were casually taking their kids pictures in front of them… awkward to say the least).

The white tiger... this is the first time I had seen a tiger swimming in real life.

The white tiger… this was the first time I had seen a tiger swimming in real life.

The Baboons

The Baboons

The pygmy hippos AFTER they were done with their private business.

The pygmy hippos AFTER they were done with their private business.

There is an orangutan above me!

There is an orangutan above me!

We got a bit lost on our way out to the eating area but finally made it to the entrance/exit. There was a KFC, a sandwich place, and a place serving Singaporean food. We chose the Singaporean place and had Nasi Lemak, a rice and chicken plate with sauces,  and Laksa, a coconut based soup with shrimp. Zoë doesn’t handle the spicy food so well, so she had cheese pizza from the deli. All of the food was fairly inexpensive and delicious. Later in our travels we found the food court that is actually inside the zoo, and it looked great as well, but be aware it closes at 6 p.m..

We spent the rest of the daylight walking around the zoo, seeing all of the shows (each lasting between 15-30 minutes), The Rainforest Fights Back Show, The Splash Safari Show, and The Animal Friends Show. We all enjoyed all the shows although the splash safari show was a little long and we ended up leaving a bit before it ended, Z just wasn’t that interested in the sea-lion.

The Animal Friends Show

The Animal Friends Show

Zoë’s favorite part of the zoo was Kidzworld. This area had a large water play area, pony rides, petting zoo, and other physical activities for kids. Chad was my hero and took her to run around in the water so I was able to sit and relax in the shade. What a guy, right!?

Kidzworld water park... Z's favorite part of the zoo.

Kidzworld water park… Z’s favorite part of the zoo.

We only made it through half of the animals before closing time at 6:30 p.m. I wish we would have had more time there. We did a quick run through of the souvenir shop, it had much to choose from and not all the items were that expensive.  We may have spoiled Z just a little more and gotten her an orangutan stuffed animal magnet to commemorate our visit.

After the main zoo closed we decided to head to the Night Safari area, which was about a two-minute walk from the main zoo entrance. We were told there were places to eat there so we went to go find our dinner. The Night Safari does not open until 7:30 p.m. so we leisurely looked around at the places to eat, finally deciding on the international food area and having some okay Indian food. The food is very expensive in this part of the zoo, so I would suggest that anyone not wanting to pay S$17-30 a person either eat outside the main zoo entrance or bring your own food.

There is much to do in the Night Safari, we decided to start with the tram that takes you on a ride through different world locations to see how the animals live at night. We really wanted to see the lion feeding and were able to get off the tram and head down to the lion cage just in time to see them throw meat at the lions from a safe position. It was rather anti-climatic in my opinion. Not only that, but we realized as Chad was holding Z on his shoulders to see the lion feeding, that Z had pooped her pants. Yes, I was that mother standing there smelling her child’s rear end and then running for the nearest bathroom with her.

Luckily there was a bathroom near by and luckily I had one more pair of clean underpants for her. What we did not have was another pair of shorts, so we tied Chad’s Harley Davidson bandana around her waist the best we could, making a very cool rocker skirt.  I was pretty glad it was dark and hot still. I don’t think anyone noticed at all.  Another lucky thing was that the poo did not go through to Chad’s shoulders. Oh the joys of being a parent.

We were able to hop on another tram within 5 minutes and continued our journey through the night wildlife. The coolest part was that the animals that were not harmful or aggressive were free roaming for the most part, so we were within arms length to Tapirs and different kind of deer (gazelles? not sure what type they were except they looked like deer to me) and water buffalo and such.

By the time we rounded the last bend on the tram ride, Z had fallen asleep in my lap and we decided to just head back to our place. We missed out on the walking trails that you can take through the park, and the show about night creatures, but we were all ready to go home and rest.

Our second day in Singapore was quite an eventful and fun day. Have you been to the Singapore Zoo? What did you enjoy about it?

Leave a comment and tell us about it! Thanks for reading, following, sharing, and commenting!

Monday Montage: House Hunt Phuket

This week has been all about finding a house to rent here in Chalong, Phuket, Thailand. We have learned many things about renting in Thailand since our experiences in Hua Hin. For example, we made sure that the house has a water tank large enough to hold enough water to last at least a few days (or twelve). And we wanted the house to be in a location where we can walk to everything we need, it’s the city girl in me.  And we wanted to do it on our own. Our experience with a rental agency left a bad taste in our mouth and we ended up overpaying for our place in Hua Hin (or so we were told at least).

We rented a car for the past three days and went on the hunt for a house. We drove through the neighborhoods that appealed to us and just started calling the numbers on any house we saw with a for rent sign. I made many phone calls (I honestly thought I had forgotten how to actually make a call on my phone, this was a good reminder that I still can do so), looked through 6 or 7 houses and ended up finding an awesome place and signing the lease papers yesterday! We are moving into our three bedroom, 2 bathroom (hallelujah more than one bathroom!) beautifully furnished house on Saturday. It will be our home base as we travel more this year. More on that in my Wednesday post.

Here are the pictures from this past week. Thank you again for reading and following us here on And Three To Go.

This is how we found houses to look at to rent, just following the signs and calling

This is how we found houses to look at to rent, just following the signs and calling

Driving around near Rawaii, Phuket

Driving around near Rawaii, Phuket

This is a gas pump, you could just pull up and fill up without the hassle of the gas station

This is a gas pump, you could just pull up and fill up without the hassle of the gas station

We found a large second hand store that sells mostly things from hotels and restaurants that have closed down, but I found this among all the furniture, it was a bit creepy. I have no idea what it would be for.

We found a large second hand store that sells mostly things from hotels and restaurants that have closed down, but I found this among all the furniture, it was a bit creepy. I have no idea what it would be for.

The lights on Chalong Pier, Phuket

The lights on Chalong Pier, Phuket

Singapore: Part One

We just spent six days wandering through Singapore. We ran ourselves ragged (Chad has the blisters on his feet to prove it) doing all we could in the bustling city-state in Southeast Asia. I decided to split all that we did into six posts, as we did so much, and I wanted to be able to tell you all about it.

There were a couple of expectations I had of Singapore, one was that it would be extremely clean and pristine, the other was that it would be busy and crowded and crazy. I had come to the conclusion of its cleanliness after reading about the fines in place for things like chewing gum or not flushing the toilet. And I had assumed that the city was crowded and overly busy after reading about the fact that Singapore is not only a powerhouse in the Southeast Asian business arena, but in the world arena.

As it is with most assumptions and expectations, I was wrong. Singapore is very sculpted, it’s sidewalks wide and lined with trees and shrubbery. There was nature on the edge of everything that was carefully crafted to look natural. But it was not a sterile, gleaming place of cleanliness. No, I did not see any chewed gum on the street, but ironically I did see a few breath mint boxes littered on the ground at points. And the whole thing about having to flush the toilet law must have been overturned or something, because I can honestly say that I rarely went into a public restroom without having to clean off the toilet seat and flush it before using it.

I was also wrong about how overly busy the city would be. Yes, it is a huge metropolis, but it is so well set up, that I never felt like it was crazy or chaotic. Even traveling on the MRT at rush hour was manageable as far as how crowded it was because the infrastructure was prepared to handle it. In this aspect, I absolutely loved Singapore. Everything seemed to be planned to perfection and we were able to move about with ease.

Despite these little hiccups of my expectations being unreal (again, ack!) Singapore had much to do and see that made our trip fun and worthwhile.

We arrived at Changi Airport in the middle of the day and were quite excited to see many of the companies we knew and loved back in the States. We ate Quizno’s for lunch, which is not one of my favorites, but Chad was pretty happy about it. Our trip was starting out pretty well it seemed (because truly it is mostly about the food for me).

We had rented a room in someones house on airbnb.com (you can read about that here) that was supposed to be a quick walk from the Marymount SMRT station on the Circle Line. Honestly all that was like a foreign language to me until I looked at a map of the SMRT lines. It was incredibly easy to figure out where to transfer from one line to the next to make it to our destination. And with the airport being one of the terminal stops on the East West Line, it made it even easier to find our way. We bought 3 day tourist unlimited SMRT cards for S$30 (plus a S$10 deposit) because that was the highest amount of days possible. We hopped on the train and although we had to transfer two times, it was a piece of cake. Each station was clearly marked with where to go and all of the stations were baggage and stroller friendly. We arrived at the home where we were staying within an hour.

singapore

SMRT Map

I unpacked while Chad researched where to find good beer and food in Singapore. Chad is a home brewer of beers and has been missing the hoppy beverages since we left California. In every new place we visit, Chad is on the look out for any place that may have beers from home.

Chad found a place called “The Good Beer Company” that was located in the Chinatown Complex. We hopped on the SMRT and arrived smack dab in the heart of Chinatown within 20 minutes.

We arrived at Chinatown station

We arrived at Chinatown station

Chinatown reminded us both of Taipei somewhat. Hearing mandarin being spoken, seeing the arts and crafts being sold at the booths, and smelling the delicious Chinese fare made us feel at like we were home. We wandered around, looking for the Chinatown Complex without much luck until we finally used Google Maps. We finally came upon the massive open building (resembling a parking garage really, but with booths selling food or clothing instead of parked cars), we quickly made our way to the second floor and found the little hole in the wall that sells all the good beers one could wish for. We picked up a couple of delicious dishes at some food sellers around there and sat down with our food and drink and enjoyed. Chad’s favorite dish was the carrot cake, or Chai Tow Kway, which is radish cakes fried with seasoning and egg and has a sweet and smoky flavor. Z and I had dumplings and they were made so perfectly that I had to go get a second plate.

Chad enjoying a hoppy beer

Chad enjoying a hoppy beer

After we had all had our fill, we waddled out of the complex and noticed that there was a stage right outside the door where some sort of celebration was going on. There were girls dancing, singing, and some sort of comedy routine as well (it was in Mandarin so I am not sure). I think it had something to do with Chinese New Year. We watched for a little while because Z loves dancing lately and really loved watching the dance troupes with their fans.

Right next door to the stage was the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. As we walked past it a parade started, four men dressed as lions and 5 or 6 men making a dragon on sticks dance around came out of the temple followed by monks playing drums and a long line of people holding what looked like large books walking behind them. They circled the temple a few times before we got up and started walking again. It seemed almost magical that all of these things were going on just as we arrived in the area. It was just perfect.

We ended the night by walking back through Chinatown, taking pictures, looking at the Chinese goods for sale, and just enjoying each other and the atmosphere. We hopped back on the SMRT and headed back to our home away from home and crashed early, preparing and resting for the next amazing day in Singapore.

Have you ever been to Singapore’s Chinatown? What did you think? Leave a comment and let us know!

(*** Chad took some amazing photos for this post and I was unable to get them to work, I will put up a gallery tomorrow)

Wednesday Write-Up: Making It Work

Well, after a wonderful trip to Singapore, we have arrived safe and sound back in Phuket, Thailand. I will be writing all about the touristy things we did while in the fascinating city-state for the next couple of weeks for sure. I cannot wait to give you all the details!
It’s funny though, as I thought I would be coming back to a hotel with working wifi, and it turns out we have no wifi tonight! What a cruel world… Yes, I am being a tad dramatic I know.
I have learned that much of long term travel is about just making it work. I was always a hard-core planner with lists and alarms and spreadsheets to help me along. For the past few months, I have given up on the planning. Well, at least the planning of little things (like wifi connection) because I have found that when the small things don’t go as planned, that’s when I get the most stressed out. Of course I am not going to stop planning ahead for flights and cities to visit, or great big details like that. But I have stopped trying to plan exactly what we will do each day. Or what way we should pack our bags. Or to have a working wifi connection.
A good example was the Airbnb host that we stayed with in Singapore. We have used airbnb.com on numerous occasions in many different locations around the world, but this was the first time we actually rented a room in someone’s house. We had always just rented apartments that we had all to ourselves.
We booked the room on Airbnb and it sounded fantastic, it had two great reviews and was pretty inexpensive in comparison to renting a hotel room in Singapore. We were excited and nervous. Excited because we love trying new things and nervous because one never knows how loud a two year old can be until you want them to be quiet and not disturb people who like to sleep later than 6:30am.
We arrived at the two story apartment in a high rise, which was wonderfully close to the MRT station and seemed like it was in a nice enough neighborhood.
Peggy and Jun were excellent hosts and were kind and helpful. The room was clean and spacious. Peggy and Jun even had fresh oranges and water bottles in the room for us. It seemed perfect.
That night we realized the problem with the wifi. They had advertised high speed wifi, but it wasn’t a big deal, we worked our way around it using a week long SIM cards from a Singapore cell phone company. That gave us access to the internet at least. Chad couldn’t work often, but at least we could still keep in touch with others and I could still write my blog posts. Disaster averted.
The next morning, there were two strange men (they weren’t creepy or anything, just that we didn’t meet them before and they left that day) in the kitchen making themselves breakfast as we trundled down to make ourselves breakfast. As it turns out, Peggy and Jun were not only renting out the room we were staying in, but the two others upstairs. So we were sharing the”private” bathroom with 3-5 people the whole time we were there. Lucky for us, our two year old is an early riser, so we always were able to shower before anyone else was awake.
Having to share a bathroom was not a real problem, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. Darn expectations, get me everytime.
These were just minor things in the grand scheme of things, but these are the type of things that used to ruin my days. They would make me into a negative jerk. That is, until I stopped letting them get to me (as often at least).
And that is another reason that I feel so blessed to be on this adventure, it has taught me to just make it work. No matter what could, and often will happen to throw off my day in a negative way, I have learned along this road that there is almost always a way around it, even if it’s just to ignore it.
So… Would I rent a room on Airbnb again? Yes! Who knows what lessons I will learn from it!

Have you ever rented a room in someone’s house while traveling? What did you think?
Also… When you have traveled, what lessons have you learned?
Please leave a comment and share!

Monday Montage: Seeking Good Wifi Signals

Have you heard the math problem about the family of three that went to visit Singapore and had just one computer, two iPhones, and 2 bars on their wifi signal half of the time? It’s a tough one I know, but the answer is one blog writer banging her head against the wall 25 times as she tried to write said blog on her iPhone yet again.
As you can tell, I am no mathematician, but I am getting better at writing my posts using my (outdated but much loved) iPhone 4. So, hooray for staying in a place that has little, to no internet connectivity and coming out from the experience having furthered my tech skills.
Singapore is quite interesting and has many things to do, which we have been doing and which I plan to write about for the next couple of weeks. So stay with me at least until I get back to the internet age and can fill your inbox, reader, or whatever with all my stories of Singapore… Please?!
Until then, here are my Monday Montage of pictures from this past week…

20140217-142442.jpg

Look Mom! Swenson’s in Singapore has food as well as deserts! My mom and I had to change our girls day out a bit when we realized that we couldn’t eat lunch at Swenson’s in my post,  A Grand Girls Day Out in Hua Hin.

 

 

20140217-142453.jpg

I decided that I wanted to show what the mailboxes look like in each country we visit, these are what they look like in Singapore. Not too exciting are they?

20140217-142522.jpg These lanterns shaped like old Chinese coins are hung over the street near Chinatown here in Singapore. I found them quite eye-catching. Also you can see the horse lanterns that are up and down the street to celebrate the Year of the Horse this year.

20140217-142614.jpg

 

I just thought that this was humorous. We were getting some food at the Chinatown Complex and this lady was standing in line having a rather loud conversation using her iPad as a phone. I know some people who use their iPad to make calls, but I have never seen anyone actually holding it up to their ear. It looked pretty uncomfortable.

20140217-142825.jpgThis is definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Singapore, I got to meet a fellow blogger and friend in person! Bronwyn (of Journeys of the Fabulist) as well as her two adorable children, met us for tea and delicious french toast. She and I had a chance to chat while Chad took the kids to ride on some rides in the mall. It was my first time ever meeting up with someone who I met through blogging, and it was wonderful. Chad, Z, and I all had a great time and  B gave us some great recommendations for where to eat our lunch that day (more on that in a following post). Thanks Bronwyn, P, and T!

On that note, I have to say that is one of the reasons that I love blogging so much, there is a real possibility of getting to know people and forming friendships all over the world.

Until we meet again (and I have better WiFi), thanks again for reading and following!

So Far So Good… Singapore

We left our hotel in Phuket, Thailand early this morning to go to Singapore.
The Phuket Airport was quite easy to get through and our flight to Singapore went without a hitch (if you didn’t count the gentleman behind me resting his arms on my headrest and sharing his incredibly strong body odor).

20140214-224814.jpg

We checked into our Airbnb place and the family renting us the room seem very nice. The location is great and the we explored much of Chinatown today.
I plan to write more on all this later, as the wifi is spotty here (only drawback to the place we are staying), so I currently writing this on my phone. I should be getting really good at this by now, but really long posts with many pictures are still a bit out of my league.
So far I am fascinated with Singapore and cannot wait to share with you all every detail of our trip!
Thanks for sticking with me through my internet woes!

Wednesday Write-Up: What’s Been Going On

I feel like I have written many posts about parts of what we have been doing, but not many on the normal stuff we are doing. I mentioned a little portion of it in my last post, but I decided that I wanted to catch up with you all today.  I am going to try my best to make sense as I currently have the stomach flu and a head cold (I guess I am getting my yearly sicknesses over in one fell swoop).

We have been in Phuket now for two weeks. We started our time here at a guesthouse just about a 10 minute walk from Karon Beach called Pineapple Guesthouse. Steve and Lek, who own and run the guesthouse, treated us wonderfully. They have a daughter who was 8 years old, but there were also a few other girls that hung out there that were nearer to Z’s age and would play with her every day. Z loved her pineapple house, as she called it. When our week there was up, we were sad to go, despite the fact that we were not very happy with the Karon Beach area.

Just to give you a little of my perspective on Karon beach (and the neighboring beach, Kata), it was far too touristy. The food and drinks were all very overpriced (900 baht, or $25 a person for a Thai food buffet… you have got to be kidding me!), which means a ton to me. I like to eat, as you all know, and I hated having to cut back on my eating. Also, the locals that worked there seemed a bit jaded and unhappy. On the plus side though, Kata and Karon beaches are absolutely beautiful and for 100 baht you could rent a chair with an umbrella and waste the day away.  I think a week vacation in Karon is fabulous, but I wouldn’t want to stay there long term.

This is Karon Beach.  Gorgeous is not a good enough word to describe it.

This is Karon Beach. Gorgeous is not a good enough word to describe it.

This past week we have stayed at the Palm Garden Resort. The resort, which is 24 Thai style bungalows that surround a gorgeous pool, is much more fancy of a place than we normally stay in, but it has been such a treat. Not only is the resort great, but the day we moved in  so did another family, with another Zoe, who is one month younger than our Zoë. They became fast friends, it always makes my heart full to see Z so happy and playing.

Zoë and I have met a bunch of other moms and kids in the Chalong area and after hearing about how much they love living here, we decided to stay for a while longer.  So now we are looking for a place to rent short-long term, 3 to 6 months or so. We will see if it all works out.  But, before we can do anything else here, we have to do another visa run, this time to Singapore. I am quite excited to finally see the place that a couple of my favorite bloggers (Journey of the Fabulist and Kids “R” Simple) call home and write about. We are spending a little bit of time there so I will be writing a couple of posts about what we do there.  I am pretty excited about that. Oh, and we are finally trying out the part of airbnb.com where you actually rent a room in someones house. I am hoping and praying that it goes well, it is a little nerve-racking.

So those are the mundane, everyday things we have been doing in our travels in the past couple of weeks. If you want to know more about where we have been or what we have been doing, feel free to leave a comment. There are more exciting posts to come, so make sure to subscribe, follow, and share if you feel so inclined! Thanks friends!