Bali Travelogue – (Part 1): Holiday Inn Resort Bali Benoa, Bali Collection and Discovery Shopping Mall

This was our first family trip to Bali which is one of more than 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and is located just over 2 km from the eastern tip of the island of Java and west of the island of Lombok. The island is currently home to about 4 million people.

We hopped onto an early flight and arrived early at Denpasar International Airport.

Upon checking out, we headed straight to get a SIM card at the airport which we strongly recommended against if you are intending to get one. It cost about SGD$35 for just a basic plan and we only realised the exorbitant price (in SGD) after making the payment. It would be better off purchasing one from trustworthy online travel sites.

To minimise any hassle of finding transportation to the hotel, we decided to book airport transfer before arriving here. It was a breeze as our friendly chauffeur from Holiday Inn Resort Bali Benoa were already right at the airport arrival hall awaiting for us.

Did we say the drive from airport to the hotel only takes 20 mins? You can find out everything about this family-friendly hotel in the previous blog here.

AddressJl. Pratama No.86, Benoa, Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

+62 361 894 7888

Bali Collection (Nusa Dua Shopping)

Our hotel offers shuttle services to Bali Collection which is a shopping, dining and entertainment complex located in Nusa Dua. This is a touristy mall featuring international and luxury fashion brands to traditional handicraft and souvenir outlets catering to the guests from nearby five-star hotels.

We did not purchase any items or dine here as it was pretty pricey. Nonetheless, we thought it was worthwhile to explore this mall within less than 30 mins.

Ole Ole restaurant, one of the various dining options at the complex.

Bali Collection opens daily from 10am to 10pm. Guests staying at one of the hotels in the Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa areas can take a free shuttle bus (from opening time to around 9pm) service.

AddressITDC area, Nusa Dua, Kuta Selatan, Benoa, Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80363, Indonesia

Discovery Shopping Mall

Getting a Grab car is possible in Bali but it does come with a hassle as it is not welcome among the community of taxi drivers. We managed to get into a taxi after negotiating a reasonable price with the driver. We learnt that travelling on Bali road wasn’t that straight-forward. Due to the fact that the roads were really narrow and coupled with heavy traffic, a ride could take us 40 mins instead of 20 mins even if Google map told us the distance apart was only 14 km.

Along our way, we noticed a little girl (on the right of the picture), all alone, peddling a couple of small items 😦

Next, we visited the Discovery Shopping Mall which was located along Kartika Plaza Street, Kuta. Visitors coming to Bali would almost definitely explore Kuta during their stay.

Truth be told – Discovery Shopping Mall is not new and looks dated to us. However, it is one of the largest shopping malls in Bali and the second largest shopping hub in Kuta after the newer Kuta Beachwalk.

This large three-storey mall houses some of the popular lifestyle and familiar F&B outlets such as KFC, Cold Stone Creamery ice cream, Starbucks, Domino’s Pizza and Pizza Hut.

A visit to Bali is not completed without trying their local dishes.

Here were the dishes we ordered.

Finally tried the crispy duck, one of Bali’s most popular dishes which we were craving for. The meat was tender and skin was crispy. Coupled with Bali sambal, our dinner was full and hearty!

That’s all for Day 1 where we were exhausted by the time we returned to the hotel after a day of activities. More than just shopping, stay tune on our journey in this Island of the Gods which offers some of the most natural sites to explore and yes, they are picturesque as well.

Opening Hours: Sun – Thu 10:00 – 22:00, Fri – Sat 10:00 – 22.30

Address: Jalan Kartika Plaza, Kuta

How to get there: Jalan Kartika Plaza, opposite the Waterbom Bali and beside the Discovery Kartika Plaza Hotel.

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Finland Travelogue – (Part 7): Helsinki City and Christmas Market

Much has been said about escaping to the capital of Finland, Helsinki to be soaked in the atmosphere of Christmas. Just before we headed back home, we had the opportunity to explore Helsinki city and the Christmas market.

Come winter season, there are only few hours of daylight and it is not surprising to see most of the pictures taken were dark.

We took the train at the Rautatieasema Railway station from the airport.

The ride to the city took about 30 mins. After being acquainted with snow and forested surroundings, it was a refreshing feeling to be back to urban jungle again.

Helsinki is the capital of Finland. There are lots of attractions to explore and experience for tourists which you can find here. Since we had a few hours before catching the flight, we thought the best option was to head straight to the popular Christmas market and walked in the city, immersing ourselves in the nordic atmosphere.

With a single ticket you can hop aboard trams, busses, the metro and even the ferry to Suomenlinna. Single tickets can be purchased from ticket machines, R-kiosks and other HSL sales points or by using HSL mobile application. Tickets can only be bought from the driver on buses and trams.

Familiar food brands.

We were figuring out how to get to the Christmas market. With the kind help of the locals, we managed to reach there, finally!

Helsinki Christmas Market is the oldest and largest event of its kind in Helsinki. Taking place in the centre of Helsinki in the Senate Square the Christmas Market attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. One of the main draws of was the hugely popular and old-fashioned merry-go-round offering free rides to children and others who are young at heart.

So many Christmas stalls here. There are over a hundred vendors selling traditional handicraft, the latest design and utility products, as well as produce from primary producers and farms.

Trying out some delicious traditional Finnish Karelian pasties to bring into our flight back home.

Helsinki Christmas Market is open from early December until Christmas Eve week. Events such as Finnish Independence Day (6 December) and many other free smaller events during the run-up to Christmas, regulate the everyday life of the market.

Our dinner 🙂

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All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Penang Travelogue – (Part 1): Snake Temple, Lee Clan Jetty 姓李桥, Chew Clan Jetty 姓周桥, Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendol, Joo Hooi Café and Ming Xiang Tai Pastry 名香泰餅家

Unlike many travel destinations where visiting once is enough, Penang gives me all the reasons to return again and again. A large proportion of population in Penang are made up of Penangite Chinese and this makes it even easier to communicate with the locals and travel around.

When I arrived at Penang airport, my first task was to purchase a local SIM card (1GB for RM$26). Knowing that there would be lots of traveling, transport cost was one of the major factors to take into consideration. With a SIM card, I would be able to get connected to local network and more importantly, explore Penang by Grab service instead of hailing normal taxis which could charge you exorbitant fees. I figured out that using Grab service would end up saving about 50% to 60% in transportation cost.

Snake Temple

My first stop was the Penang Snake Temple. It made sense to have this attraction in my initial itinerary as it was just three km from the airport in Sungai Kluang, Bayan Lepas. Built in honour of Chor Soo Kong at about 1850, legend has it that he was also a healer and sometimes gave shelter to the snakes of jungle.

Being a tourist attraction, the snake temple has attracted locals to set up shops selling touristy items.

Penang is well known for its street art. I was given a glimpse of some of the masterpieces at the entrance.

The temple is filled with the smoke of burning incense and a variety of pit vipers. The vipers are believed to be rendered harmless by the sacred smoke, but as a safety precaution, the snakes have also been de-venomed but still have their fangs intact.

I skipped the altar section and went straight to the snake exhibit.

I was encouraged by the staff to feel the python and most probably, he would be asking me to carry the snake and take pictures for a fee which I declined politely.

The snake farm was situated inside the temple. This was the spot to go if you were looking to get near to any kind of snakes.

Venomous vipers, huge pythons and different types of cobras were found here.

It was a worthwhile experience visiting the snake farm. I was a tad surprise that the snakes were quite active instead of coiling at a corner sleeping away.

Albino pythons which the snake handler told me they do not bite humans.

A huge python which I was cautioned not to touch it.

A rare sight of an albino cobra spitting its venom. Did you see the venom on the screen?

Another active cobra spitting its venom. I learnt that cobras which do not have “eyes” on the back of their hoods are usually able to spit venoms.

Not a spitting cobra.

The snake handler invited me inside the King Cobra’s house.

He said this king cobra only dine on snakes.

The king cobra was captured in Indonesia.

Trying to get closer to this 3m long king cobra to snap a picture.

The king cobra was getting stressed out and started to get aggressive. I am getting out of here..

Other residents in the snake farm included quails.

Cats. Shouldn’t they be allowed to roam around?

An over 100 year old land tortoise.

And many geckos. I thought the snake temple was worth paying a visit though one should not spend more than an hour inside.

Outside the snake temple, there were 2 coffeeshops selling Chinese roasted delights and Indian dishes.

Opening Hours: 06:00 – 19:00

Location: Bayan Lepas

Price Range: For Temple: FREE

Snake Farm: Adults – RM8, Kids – RM6

Lee Clan Jetty (姓李桥) Georgetown

Visiting the clan jetty is one of my checklist items. I have always wanted to visit these waterfront settlement housings located along the main road of Pengkalan Weld.

Clan Jetties map
Image Credit: Penang Discovery

While many visitors chose to flock to Chew Jetty (pretty touristy), I decided to pay Lee Jetty a visit first.

As I stepped foot onto Lee Jetty, I paused on a corner observing the traditional houses built on stilts that made them looked as if they were forever stuck in a time capsule. Nevermind that I had to battle with the sweltering heat. It was an experience exploring these heritage buildings.

The Clan Jetties are unique Chinese settlements that have been around since the 19th century. There are eight different clans that still reside here, with each individual jetty named after their surname. Look at the villages on stilts that house the descendants of Chinese immigrants.

A girl returning to her jetty house after school.

Various types of houses.

An elderly resident stood at his gate and beckoned me to try out the ice cream. I did not try though.

I reckoned if the owner turned this residence which was situated next to the sea into an Airbnb, there would be many bookings.

Unfinished construction of bridge crossing.

After Lee Jetty, I moved on. My next destination was the popular Chew Jetty which was about 5 mins walk from the Lee’s. Along the way, I snapped pictures of the streets.

A local coffeeshop outside the Tan Jetty selling cold beverages. What a perfect respite after soaking in the afternoon heat!

Another food stall at Tan Jetty but there was nothing much to see there so I continued walking.

A bicycle rental shop.

A local “mama” shop.

Selling cold beverage is one of the best options in Penang.

Chew Clan Jetty 姓周桥 Georgetown

As I mentioned, Chew Jetty is a touristy spot where you could see some of the wooden houses transformed into shops selling souvenirs and eateries.

Hey, Ahmah and Ahsoon (Grandma and Grandson) at the entrance of the Chew Jetty. One of the factors contributing to the popularity of the Chew Jetty was due to the movie of Ice Kacang Puppy Love ( 初恋红豆冰).

When you are tired from walking, renting a bicycle is an option.

A house that is pretty dated.

More houses were built inside. While these traditional jetty houses were pleasing to the eyes, visitors would need to take note that some of them belonged to the locals and taking pictures of their residence were prohibited.

As you delved into Chew Jetty, these touristy shops became a common sight.

Street art souvenir post cards and apparels on sale.

Note books with street art imprinted on the covers.

Penang white coffee – I think you can find these in NTUC over in Singapore though you have to pay a premium for them.

Back to old school days! Have you tried these ice sticks before? 🙂

A hip café opened by youngsters selling fruity beverages.

A stall selling durian puffs. Do give it a try if you are feeling peckish.

A street dog lazing in the afternoon.

On the right of this picture was a restaurant selling big bowls of ramen.

It did seem ironic to me that this restaurant was selling Japanese ramen instead of local cuisines. After all, visitors wanted to visit Penang to try its famous local dishes right?

So huge! Don’t think of trying it if you are not travelling with a food buddy.

Boats lining up along the Chew jetty. It is a nice place to enjoy the scenery as well.

As I completed my tour of the Chew Jetty, I popped by the coffeeshop near the entrance to try out their coffee.

The smell of aroma coffee for RM1.10.

 Address: Pengkalan Weld, George Town, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendol & Joo Hooi Cafe

Just directly opposite the Chew Jetty are the streets to spot all kinds of street art. As such, you would not need to travel by car. Just walk across the road will do.

However, I decided to visit Joo Hooi Cafe for my lunch and chendol. The Penang Road Famous Teochew Chedol and Jooi Hooi Café are located at Lebuh Keng Kwee

I was snapping some pictures and in a matter of few minutes, the queue started to form again. You have the option to dine inside the café (or I called it as a coffeeshop as it was not air-conditioned) instead of standing under the unforgiving heat. I chose the former.

Joo Hooi Café packed with customers on a typical weekday. If you are intending to visit Joo Hooi Café, you would have the chance to taste most Penang famous dishes such as Assam Laksa, Char Koay Teow, Lor Bak,  famous Chendol and Ice Kacang.

Whipping up many dishes of irresistible char koay teow, I am sure she had won many fans.

I ordered these 2 dishes – enough to fill up my empty stomach.

The prawns tasted juicy and nice!

Choose to gulp it down or savour at your own pace. On a fair note, I wouldn’t say the best Penang food are found here but Joo Hooi Café certainly provides a one-stop location for you to get a taste of local delights.

There was this stall also selling char koay teow outside Joo Hooi Café. The owner plied his trade using his left hand.

Each plate of char koay teow cost RM6, cheaper than that from the stall at Joo Hooi Café which cost RM7. A downside was that you would need to stand on the roadside to eat.

Address: 475 Jalan Penang, 10000 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Opening Hours: 11.30am – 5pm daily

Ming Xiang Tai Pastry 名香泰餅家 @ Penang Road

Stepped through the old shophouses (just beside Joo Hooi Café) you would find Ming Xiang Tai authentic Cantonese-style pastries.

Fresh pastries of different flavours on display.

Some notable pastries on sale include Trishaw Egg Tart, Salted Egg Tart, Salted Egg Pastry, Pandan Kaya Puff, Wife Pastry, Wutaro Yaki and Wedding Cookies.

The most popular item at Ming Xiang Tai has to be the Ko-Cha Siew Bao which is selling at RM2.20 per piece.

Take a bite on these Golden Pillows (stuffed with chicken meat). Each piece sells for RM2.20.

I bought a few pieces and tried. Even after I left them overnight, they still tasted as nice!

Stuffing inside the Golden Pillow.

Tastefully designed boxes fitting for gift giving.

More than just eating, this trip to Penang presented the chance for me to explore pictorial worthy ambience. I took my time in Ming Xiang Tai and feasted my eyes on its rich interiors, decorated with traditional household items dating back to 1940s.

There were many more places I covered which would be shared in subsequent blogs. If you think its good, share it!

Address: 475-A , Jalan Penang George Town, Malaysia (beside Joo Hooi Café)

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All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Finland Travelogue – (Part 2): Airbnb Stay and Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park in Lapland

Travel like a tourist and live like a local. They need not be mutually exclusive and Airbnb has made it possible for us to enjoy a meaningful holiday with authentic, local experiences.

We were really blessed to meet a wonderful host who readily fetched us from Santa Claus Village to his Airbnb abode at no extra cost.

Our host stayed near to Rovaniemi city. Along the way, he gave us a mini-tour of the city and stopped by a supermarket for us to do some grocery shopping.

Our Airbnb Stay

Here we are, at our Airbnb and it was freezing cold. An interesting sight was the entrance to the house; in fact, there were 2 doors to access. We were curious why it was so but guess probably could be due to the freezing weather that it needed 2 doors to insulate the house from coldness.

Some might thought the lighting looked spooky but we felt it was a nice touch.

It was snowing all day and the cars were covered with snow!

The size of the house was typical of a 3 room HDB flat and more than sufficient for us.

The living room with sofa bed.

Our host prepared coffee powder and cookies for us.

Mini-kitchen.

The bedroom with connecting bathroom.

We were blessed to have a wonderful host. Not forgetting to pen down our appreciation for his great hosting!

 Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park

Pure snow white provides for many opportunities to have fun. The Arctic Circle has no lack of snow activities to engage in. For the very first time, we got the opportunity to explore snowmobile ride in the snowy forest.

We booked the day activity program from the Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park.

The group sizes are small and the speed and the length of the safari depend on each group. This is why this safari suits for families as well as for those who are looking for a real adrenaline boost.

Our guide first gave us a brief introduction to snowmobiling after which he lead us to the wilderness.

Getting ready to move out…

And off we go! The kids really enjoyed the ride which lasted about 15 mins.

The Lapland is an amazing place to take on a fascinating ride through the winter forest.

That was not the end. Come second part, we joined a bigger group and snowmobiled for about an hour into the wilderness. This excursion is available for everybody, but a driving license is required to ride a snowmobile for longer distances.

This time round, Big and Small M had to sit under the blankets on a sledge behind the snowmobile.

For a moment, we almost couldn’t recognise who she is! That was how freezing cold the Lapland is. Small M’s hair froze and became spider web. Snowmobiling in the wilderness and playing with the snow were already an experience in itself, but this safari would be taking us to meet reindeer and husky dogs in our next blog. Stay tune for more 🙂

Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park Oy is located in Santa Claus Village at the Arctic Circle in Finland.

Address:
Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park
Santa Claus Village
Joulumaantie 5
96930 Arctic Circle
Finland

Email:
Bookings and safari information
: info@snowmobilepark.com

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All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Stockholm Travelogue – (Part 1): Finnair Airbus A350, The Old Town Christmas Market and Ice Skating in Kungstradgarden

This is our first trip traveling all the way to Sweden and Stockholm, being near to Helsinki (Finland) by just an hour flight, became a part of our itinerary during the school holidays.

It is no secret that Sweden is famously known for being the “Land of Ikea”. However, we know in our hearts that Stockholm has so much more for us to discover. We were first whisked off from Changi Airport to Helsinki (Finland) in a 12-hour flight.

Thanks to the new spacious, calming and eco-smart Airbus A350 aircraft by Finnair, our journey was made very much smoother and enjoyable.

Needless to say, on-board entertainment is sure to bring smiles to the kids.

We were surprised that Big and Small M did not complain on the long journey. After landing at Helsinki Airport, we hopped onto Norwegian in a flight to Stockholm Arlanda Airport.

All in all, after counting the total flight hours and waiting for transit, it took us about 17-hours to reach Stockholm, finally!

Stockholm Arlanda Airport

It was -7 degrees when we reached and freezing cold. What to do in Stockholm? At the Stockholm Arlanda Airport, feel free to pick up travel guides, brochures and maps. They will come in handy in any last-minute itinerary planning. Hey, not to forget buying a SIM card at the convenience store before leaving the airport. It cost $95 Krona (SGD $15) for our SIM card.

You have few options to travel to Stockholm city – either by bus, train or taxi.

Stockholm-Arlanda Airport is located 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Stockholm City.

The Arlanda express train takes you from Arlanda Airport to the city center. The platform is easily accessible, underneath the arrival terminals. Departure: every 15 minutes (for most of the day). Travel time: 20 minutes.

Flygbussarna Airport Coaches departs every 10-15 minutes between Arlanda Airport and the City Terminal (located next to the Central Station). Travel time to Arlanda: 35-45 minutes. Buses also run to Liljeholmen via Karolinska, Fridhemsplan and Södermalm (50 min). To Bromma airport via Kista and Sundbyberg. (54 min).

We eventually settled on taking a taxi which cost $450 Krona (SGD $76). It is actually more expensive to travel by train after factoring the 4 of us. Before hopping onto the taxi, do ask the driver on the fare. Stockholm is quite a cashless society. Everywhere you go, credit card is widely accepted for purchase.

Our accommodation was at Freys Hotel, which was a short walking distance from City Terminale. The hotel rate were rather pricey which was a big thumbs down. A maximum of 2 adults are allowed for a normal room booking. If you are travelling with kids, the hotel would need to impose additional charges and upgrade you to a bigger room.

In our hotel room’s balcony.

The Old Town Christmas Market

Merry Christmas! How can we not explore Christmas Markets on a trip to Europe? We dropped our luggages and headed straight for the market. Along our way, we met a kind Swedish who walked with us over a kilometre to the market.

At the Old Town Christmas Market, you will find a lot of Swedish Christmas and other specialities such as Swedish Christmas sweets, smoked sausages, smoked reindeer, elk meat, handmade knitted caps, candy floss, glögg (mulled wine), a range of Swedish handicrafts and decorative arts of workmanship and much much more.

The Old Town Christmas Market is the oldest Christmas market in Stockholm and Sweden. With the exception of the years 1907 – 1914, it has been a ongoing tradition until present time.

Crowds, from the young to the old, gather at Old Town Christmas Market during this season to soak into the Christmas atmosphere.

We did not really shop here but indulging in the food is a definite must for us.

Sipping over a cup of hot chocolate was heavenly in such a freezing weather 🙂

Exploring Christmas Market is a bonus when you visit Stockholm. You can check out which Christmas Markets will be opened over here.

Exploring Stockholm

We do not think it is a must to hit every attractions during our travel. Sometimes, even by leisure walking is very much a part of our itinerary. And it does bring great family bonding as well.

Ice skating in Kungsträdgården

It is common to ice skating indoors but it was our first time experiencing ice-skating rink in the middle of the city and to top it all – at outdoor. This is a surreal moment for winter visitors to Stockholm.

For once, we were a tad surprise that it only cost $60 Krona ($10) for 2 kids to skate including the skating gears. We were kindly advised by the ice skating staff to watch out of our belongings.

She is very happy!

The skating rink is self-maintained since this is winter season.

Kids had so much fun over here and never mind about falling down, they got up and continue to glide round the rink.

What a treat for everyone! Children gathered and sing christmas carols. We really felt like experiencing the true spirit of Christmas. Night comes early during the winter season. By 3:30pm, night beckons. We are dreaming of a white Christmas. Our first trip to Stockholm; a dreamy Christmas 🙂

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tos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

10D9N Taiwan Travelogue – (Part 2): Day 1 @ 西門町 Ximending

In my Part 1 blog on our Taiwan travelogue, I shared on 10 tips when planning a trip to Taiwan. I hope it’s useful to you. Knowledge is power. Even a small saving can go a long way to maximize your mileage to make your trip more enjoyable. Continue reading “10D9N Taiwan Travelogue – (Part 2): Day 1 @ 西門町 Ximending”