A Day Out With Lola (Grandma)

Lola came to visit us in Singapore. While we are shuffling around the days that we are free from school and work, we managed to stroll all the way down to Gardens By The Bay and see the pretty flowers.

Tulipmania is the main attraction at the Flower Dome and this runs from the 12th of April through the 20th of May 2019. We did not get to see it last year, so we brought Lola along to see the Flower Dome play host to the Netherlands. The Flower Dome itself had been home to different varieties of flora from the start. With Tulipmania, it was obvious which flora was at center stage. This year’s Tulipmania brings us to the Dutch countryside with rows upon rows of tulips. We were told that there were about 35 varieties of tulips across the display including the new “Singapura”, a red and white variant to commemorate Singapore’s founding some 200 years ago. The look was definitely ideal with Dutch cottages, a watermill, a windmill and dozens of wooden clogs scattered across the tulip zone. The tulips, of course, are amazing to look at spread far and wide like they were. Having the different varieties under one roof makes you appreciate it’s beauty even more. And if you get hungry, there’s a European Fair happening in the Flower Dome as well. This is where you get stuffed with sausages and pastries from a variety of local European food stalls. It would also be just in time for you to rest your feet by the time you get to the hall so it’s all well and good that the food is good.

After having a snack in the Flower Dome, we decided to use all our available time wisely and headed for the Cloud Dome next. Luckily, we were with a senior citizen and managed to get priority at the lift taking us up to the top of the Cloud Dome. As usual, we went about enjoying the colorful greenery. It also helped that the mist had just started and the Cloud Dome has transformed into this foggy, misty, wonderland. We took our time getting from place to place and reached the foot of the dome just as night time is taking over. It had been a fun and slightly wet day at the Gardens, but we’re glad that Lola enjoyed it. Because we did too.

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Video Games Classics with the SSO

What is the SSO?
In this case, it stands for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Matthew had been drafted to join Military Band for his school’s Co-Curricular Activity at the start of his Freshman year. It was not his first choice, but he did not make an appeal to change it so we didn’t attempt to get it changed. They were given a chance earlier this year to attend a concert and then meet and greet the band that played. He told us that he enjoyed it and that he was happy that he had attended.

The stage for Video Games Classics with the SSO
This is our view while watching the SSO

I am personally not musically inclined because music does not seem to like me. Let me re-phrase that. I like music. Music does not like me. But I won’t let that stop me from taking my family to enjoy the things that make them happy. So, out of the blue, I saw this ad for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra playing Video Games Classics. So we booked seats. That was way back in February with the show scheduled for the 5th of April.

Video Games Classics is a show conducted by Eimear Noone. So, Eimear Noone is known for her work on the music behind the World of Warcraft. Her other achievements include the scores for Starcraft II, Diablo III and Overwatch. And this show, was amazing. I probably knew half of the pieces, and the rest were music that I have heard while playing games or watching videos on YouTube. It was a pleasant surprise, really. But the way that the show went was really quite a surprise because it was lively and it was fun. I didn’t even know you could do that watching an Orchestra. So, yes. My favorite band is now, an Orchestra.

Of course, this show was really about Matthew. After all, he is the person that is in a band. Yes, it is Military Band. But it is a band nonetheless. And in fact, we were told from the very beginning of his secondary school education that this CCA of his would be playing a big role in his overall marks by the time that he graduates. And that is one of the reasons why we brought him to watch Video Game Classics. The second reason was for him to actually have a bit of time to relax from school work. If adults burn themselves out from too much working, it is no different for a child to burn himself out if he cannot find a balanced study life.

Matthew and the SSO Pops programme for Video Games Classics
Matthew’s face whenever he does not want to give us a “nice” picture.

At the end of the night, we all had a good time. Video Game Classics with Eimear Noone was an excellent performance. It was a very enjoyable experience and one that you would look for should other performances come along that will tickle our interests.

Not Just A Dad

I wanted to write a blog about Fatherhood and I thought that was what I was doing. But I came to a realization that you cannot be a good father if you are not a good husband. Yes, there are technicalities in relationships in this day and age, but I would like to keep it simple.

Often times I find myself between a rock and a hard place whenever there is an argument at home between my wife and my son. These don’t happen often, but when they do, I am usually left to decide if I am going to take sides. And yes, there are times that it becomes a difficult choice (though you’d think it shouldn’t even be a choice).

We all have our thoughts about what’s right and wrong. It shouldn’t really be about who is and who isn’t but deciding on that is more difficult than it seems. During one of these tough tugs-of-war was when I realized that we, as parents, shouldn’t be biased. I had been biased towards my son most of the time because of my thinking that he was “still a child” and that he was “still learning” and all those other alibis that fathers can think of just to put an argument to rest. And that’s wrong.

I understand that it is going to take a while to fix that. But it needs to start with a thought. And that thought is my wife. I wouldn’t have been a father if Matthew didn’t have a mother. And to raise Matthew into a beautiful person, I need to do it together with Judy. I had been blinded by my need to become important as a “father” because the world has changed. It has now accepted and is even preaching that fathers play an equally important role as a child’s mother. I made that my goal without realizing that being a father is not a competition. Rather, it is a joint venture called proper parenting. And having two parents is definitely an advantage over having just one.

Then we come to the point of being a good husband, partner, and friend. It is very important to take care of your partner (and you should know that my wife is standing behind me as I type this). As a child grows up, he would be growing with the values and behavior of the people he spends his time with the most. And from the beginning of his life, his parents would be the primary source of his love and inspiration. Matthew grew up as a very caring person. He would attend to you when you are feeling sick. He would give you hugs and kisses for no reason at all. He would often hold your hand when you had to poop in the toilet. Some of those traits were slowly lost to us as he grew older. He is now thirteen years old and he has been exposed to a lot of people with different views in life and different ways of dealing with their emotions. Inevitably, this has affected him. And like all kids that are growing up, the people around him play a part in his development – mostly these are his peers.

Luckily for us, his foundations had been strong enough to allow him to keep his identity. He would still hug and kiss you out of the blue, though not as often as before. He would still take good care of you when you are sick and he would still make sure that you are comfortable, though he would always take care of himself first. But he would no longer hold your hand when you poop in the toilet. Some of the traits that he developed are understandable but there are still some that we have been having difficulty trying to understand. I guess that’s part of parenting. And like what we have always been telling ourselves, this is a journey that the three of us are taking together and that there would always be surprises along the way.

Right now Matthew needs to see more of our love and understanding. It would be wrong to give him all of ourselves. So, while trying to figure out how best to move forward, I think that I also need to rekindle love in our youth. I believe that setting a good example is always the best way to teach someone. And I know that I have been lacking in that department lately. So this is the year for a comeback. Matthew’s world is growing and I would prefer to be in a bigger part of that world as his life becomes fuller. At the same time, we would need to find ourselves again and live our own couple-lives as our son continues to grow. The future has just become more exciting.

iLight Marina Bay 2019

2019 marks the Singapore Bicentennial commemoration. Bicentennial meaning 200 years since the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles onto Singapore shores. Not to be confused with SG50 held back in 2015 where Singapore celebrated its 50 years of Independence. Therefore, iLight Marina Bay will also be in Bicentennial edition despite only having started in 2010. Leave it to Singapore to have something to celebrate and spend money on. So let’s not get into too much detail over those things.

This year’s iLight Marina Bay was a wet one. That being said, we were not really able to enjoy some of the installations due to the inclement weather conditions the night that we went. Still, you can’t let a good night go to waste so we made the most of what we had. The route we took started from the Prudential Marina Bay Carnival and the light only started coming on from the Promontory.

City Gazing Singapore
City Gazing Singapore

“City Gazing Singapore” is a suspended map of Singapore at night. Albeit upside down. However, it portrays a Singapore that is both “grand and humble” according to the artist/s (VOUW). It would have been better for us to see the installation in full if it wasn’t raining so I will leave it to the artist’s interpretation. Over on the other side of the Promontory were these lit up squiggly lines which apparently were named “Squiggle”. There were joysticks for visitors to use to interact with the installation which is an abstract reflection of the multicultural world that we live in according to artist Angus Muir. Again, the rain didn’t help much with our experience here. Trying to get away from getting sick, we passed by “Les Footballeurs” which looks simple with only a bunch of LEDs but when you see the fluidity of the movement that they managed to set with these LEDs, you just go “wow”. Kudos to the artist Remi Brun for this one.

Dune
Dune

Still trying to be in shelter from the rain, we reached the installation “DUNE” next at OUE Bayfront. According to artist Daan Rosegaarde, visitors become a part of the artwork, enhancing social interactions between themselves and the landscape. This happens as the light fibers brighten (or dim) as visitors pass by and touch the installation.

Over at The Fullerton, the “Time Traveller” stands between the old and the new as a bridge between generations according to the artist Eko Prawoto. It was inspired by bamboo fish traps from the past which is what makes this visitor in the present a time traveler. It looks nice but unfortunately, I still don’t get it.

Flower Clock
Flower Clock

Our plan was to grab dinner at Over Easy, but it was closed. And so was P.S. Café. So we walked along the “Flower Clock” in search of actual food. The design was inspired by the relationship between blooming flowers and time which also celebrates Singapore as a Garden City. This was an entertaining piece while looking simple so props out to the group of students from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (China).

The Merlion has always been an integral part of iLight Marina Bay. This year, the lights are from Loom Prod of France and are called “The Cat in the Garden”. Viewers will travel through seven colors of the light spectrum which is a poetic bridge to nature reminiscent of a rainbow. Yeah, we didn’t get this either. Last iLight’s take on the Merlion seemed to have been better executed and was better in terms of overall design as well. Not saying that this installation is bad, maybe it would just appeal to others.

Sebastien Lefevre decorated the Jubilee Bridge with hundreds of vertical flags animated by kaleidoscopic lighting in an installation called “Oriflammes”. As the flags wave in the wind, the colors and the lights play along with it creating an interesting display. I guess the word is festive.

Time Frame
Time Frame

DONIS, on the other hand, lit up the Esplanade Bridge with his “TIME FRAME” exhibit. Using information from http://www.worldmeters.info, TIME FRAME displays various information under the Esplanade Bridge like a ticker box. Some information is surprising, some relevant and some are just nice to know. Being Singapore’s Bicentennial, this display shows information represented by numbers in Singapore compared to numbers in the world. Interesting and informative is what I would say about this.

We managed to score a very late dinner somewhere between Makansutra and the Esplanade. And we decided to take the long route home by going back to Marina Bay Sands just so we could pass through “The Time Vortex”. This installation by Paul Vendel and Sandra de Wolf is easily our favorite. Set up on the Helix Bridge, you will be drawn to the light like a moth to a flame. Our only gripe is that the transition seems to hiccup in order to reset the journey. It would definitely have had more impact if the lights did not seem to switch off and reset in between sequences but this is still one of the best, if not the best that this year’s iLight has to offer.

Matthew and the Motorshow

Matthew and the Motorshow.

We have always been car guys. And while it is extremely difficult for us to own a car in Singapore, I have always made sure that our passion for cars doesn’t disappear into the darkness. We did this by getting cars on a much smaller scale. Cars that would fit in our house rather than out in a garage. They may only be toys but they filled the void and we were happy with them. And then there’s the Singapore Motor Show.

You would have thought that the car market in Singapore is dry due to the exorbitant cost of owning a car here. You couldn’t be more wrong. The car market in Singapore is, in fact, flourishing with a modern fleet of cars. And they are as diverse as the people living on this little island. There is a good representation of automobiles from Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, and even the Czech Republic. We went to the motor show expecting to see some of our favorite cars and we weren’t disappointed. In fact, it was mostly a surprise.

There are a good number of cars representing the different types of transport demands. Sedans dominated the floor followed closely by SUVs. You have the executive class, the compact and sub-compact classes. You have people movers. You have fleet cars. You have hybrids. You have fully electric cars. You have sports cars. You have luxury cars. The list is exhaustive if you have money to burn. Of course, different people have different needs and different wants. Covering the motor show is a job for journalists. Here we are just going to talk about the cars that made an impression on us.

Subaru VIZIV Tourer Concept
Subaru VIZIV Tourer Concept

We were greeted by Subaru’s VIZIV Tourer concept car. The latest iteration of the car since the VIZIV name was introduced in 2013. As far as concept cars go, this is an edgy low-slung SUV-ish wagon. And it looks good. This was also your ticket to getting tickets for the Russ Swift Stunt Show by posting a photo of the concept car in your Facebook profile.

Honda Civic Type R
Honda’s Unicorn, Civic Type R

The Honda booth was dominated by Civics but it was the Civic Type R after all that was still the talk of the town. Under the shadow of the Type R is the Turbocharged Civic which is a pretty good car but the Type R is just on a whole other level. None of these made Matthew excited. The Honda motorbikes on the other side of the show floor did though.

The Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf

While Nissan was giving away a free Tomica Nissan Leaf, it was the 1:1 version that was being promoted alongside the e-Power Nissan Serena. An electric car and a hybrid. After the dominance of the Toyota Prius in the hybrid arena, other manufacturers are finally stepping up into the ring with various vehicles utilizing electric motors.

Matthew’s favorite car in Forza Horizon was there in the metal which of course made the little man smile. Not in the pictures though. I told him that since he really loved the Range Rover Sport, we should take a photo of him with it to inspire him to own one. Maybe not now, but it could be soon. This Sport also happens to be the P400e, another car employing a hybrid powerplant.

Suzuki Swift Sport
Suzuki Art. The Swift Sport.

Colorful Suzuki Swift Sports were just what the doctor ordered for cuteness in a world that is now being overtaken by big, burly SUVs. The Swifts didn’t disappoint but there’s no hiding the fact that these are small cars.

Inside the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.
Inside the Eclipse Cross.

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is another addition and proof of the ever-growing demand for SUVs. SUVs have become a lifestyle vehicle for most people being stylish and usable in just about every situation. The Eclipse Cross is a big car though, and while it is a good looking car, it wasn’t the one that Matthew had been attracted to.

Funky Digital Dashboard of the Citroen Cactus.
Funky Digital Dashboard of the Citroen Cactus.

Over to the Citroen booth was the Air Cross and the Cactus. Two very cute runabout SUVs that will catch your eye because of their quirky looks. Even in the normal looking colors that were on display at the motor show, these small cars still shown. It is the Cactus though that stole our hearts. And as Matthew and I were talking about cars, we decided that realistically, the Cactus would be the car that we would own if we ever decided to buy one.

Soul Red CX-3. The Sub-compact Sport Utility Vehicle.
Soul Red CX-3. The Sub-compact Sport Utility Vehicle.

The Mazda booth was more of my personal haven. I have been a Mazda enthusiast for a very long time. And seeing all those Soul Red cars at their booth really makes my heart race. But while the new Mazda 3 is special, it is the CX-3 that has been calling me by name.

Mini was just as interesting and we had always had a soft spot for the little car. Unfortunately, the Mini is not so mini anymore. It still has its charm, but not the same as before when the Mini was still the icon of small cars.

The Hyundai booth made for an interesting presence with the Kona electric. Of course, Kia wouldn’t be left behind in the race and they have the Niro to show for it. But it was the Stonic that seemed to be bringing in the crowds. It is one of the new sub-compact SUVs after all.

The Pink Porsche Boxster.
The Pink Porsche Boxster.

Of course, we had to take a look at the Porsche booth as well. There was a pink Boxster on display after all. And not to be outdone in the green car race, the Panamera e-Hybrid Sport Turismo sits in silence to wow the crowds.

The surprise for me was when we went over to the Isuzu booth. Yes, they seemed to be the only one selling trucks at the show. And these are proper semi trucks and refrigerator trucks. And there was a plain white single-cab D-Max. It was barebones. It had a manual transmission. I had Matthew climb aboard and had him feel what it was like to shift a manual transmission gear lever. This seems to have left an impression on him as at the end of the show, he was torn between the Cactus and the D-Max.

Russ Swift at the helm of the Subaru Forester.
Russ Swift at the helm of the Subaru Forester.

And then there was the Russ Swift Stunt Show. We were expecting a wow experience. To a point, there was a wow-factor, but it was not what we were expecting. Maybe we expected too much. The show was a brilliant display of high precision driving and you really can’t say anything bad on that front. But we couldn’t help but feel that there was something lacking in the show. Maybe it was because of our seats. Maybe because the venue was too small. We went home after the stunt show that we liked but we never figured out what it was that was missing though.

And that was the Singapore Motorshow this early in 2019.

Growing Up

Matthew turned thirteen last November 2018. The key word there is “teen”. There are lots of different stories from parents about raising their teens. There are good stories and bad stories. Some of the stories may have been exaggerated and some may have been toned down but the fact of the matter is that the teenage years can be the most troublesome years for parents and their children. I know my parents had their own stories to tell about my teenage years and I have my own stories as well. It is time to get a helmet because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Thirteen
Thirteen

Honestly, this is not going to be pretty. I don’t think there is a way of sugarcoating raising a teenager. As parents, we need to understand that our children have their own minds and their own free will. We could guide them as best as we could but in the end, the choice is theirs to make. We have already been butting heads since his anxiety started acting up. It has not been easy and we even looked to professional medical advice at one point. And now here we are entering a new era in our parenting journey.

Matthew had already shown a different side of him since he turned twelve. This proved that he is growing more mature and that he is starting to experiment and change his experiences with us first. He would now normally keep to himself by staying in his room. He even locks the door now. An act that we had to take action and compromise on. I installed a chain lock on his door so that he would only use that instead of fully locking the door. We recently also just let him go to his friend’s house and spend the afternoon there with his friends. We are still new at this but he seemed to be happy with his experience. We had already laid down ground rules for him to follow when going to other people’s houses and we can only trust him to follow them. He also had his best friend come over during the holidays and they spent the afternoon goofing off in the house. We do believe that part of growing up properly means having to expose him to socialization. I am just hoping that we are going in the right direction with this.

Trouble brewing
Trouble brewing

As much as we would like to believe that he is growing up, the pace that he is growing seems to be irrational. A few of the things that we had hoped he would have changed for the better for are still the same after all these years. His room is still a mess despite having been told to clean up every day. He still takes more than an hour to finish his meal because he reads while he eats. We also still need to call him three or more times before he actually comes around to do what he is asked to do. And even then, the tasks he does are incomplete. He is still indecisive to the point where we have to decide for him because if we don’t, he is going to miss the opportunities that are sitting in front of him. And then there is this thing that he seems to have suddenly turned into the shyest person in the galaxy. He would hide behind me when someone talks to him and he would rather not drink anymore if you ask him to buy his own drink from the store. These traits were totally not him five years ago.

Like I said. It is time to get a helmet and prepare for an even bumpier ride. This is not going to be pretty.

Looking Forward

We welcome the new year with open arms today. As we poured our sparkling grape juice between the three of us, we talked about the year that was. And as we were talking, it occurred to me that this may have been the first time that we really talked about it.

Our New Year welcome dinner
Our New Year welcome dinner

2018 had been good to us. It had its ups and downs for sure, but it treated us more kindly throughout.

Matthew had been able to go to his chosen secondary school after the grueling assessment exam courtesy of the PSLE. And during his time in this new school, we realized that this was the school that we were looking for. Over the course of the year, we attended school events and gatherings. We made sure that we were able to attend parent-teacher sessions and we got to know the teachers well. We attended parent-child bonding activities to help us understand each other better. Through those interactions, the teachers were able to talk about their concerns and we were also able to voice out our own. As time passed, we felt that the way the school managed the way they teach is the right way for Matthew. Although all schools need to comply with the strict academic benchmarks by the Ministry of Education, they are given enough freedom to use different teaching methods. We are thankful that this school gives importance to a child’s potential rather than expecting them to perform at an unbelievable performance standard right off the bat.

Mister Matthew
Mister Matthew

We had good times just roaming around Singapore all throughout the year. We went to the Tampines Eco Green and tried grounding. We also frequently cycled to Pasir Ris Park. This served as our exercise and our bonding time as well. There was no fixed schedule and we went as often as we could. It could be to catch the sunset or to catch the sunrise. Sometimes, it is just to catch good food at the nearby hawker center. We went to a fair and rode the crazy swinging ship. We ate hipster food and drank hipster drinks. We visited the Turtle and Tortoise Museum for the last time before they closed the gates at the Chinese Garden. It was sad that they had to leave that place and we do hope they manage to find a new home soon. We rented a car from time to time just for the heck of it. And we finally got around to go to the places that we had only previously talked about.

Catching the sunrise at Pasir Ris Park
Catching the sunrise at Pasir Ris Park

We managed to go on a trip to Tokyo. And during our stay, we managed to go to places that we didn’t even think we could reach. Often times we got lost or got to a place that was not on our plan at all. We even got to take home souvenirs from nearly all the towns that we visited. A short visit to an aunt and our cousins made the trip a little easier during the first few days. And then a visit to a friend in Osaka also made it into our itinerary. But the best places that we managed to go to this time around were in Tokyo. Akihabara, Tokorozawa, Diver City and Yokohama to name a few. Okunoshima and Kyoto were also memorable places for us. Japan is definitely one of the highlights of 2018.

Welcome to Akihabara
Welcome to Akihabara

I also started teaching Matthew about photography. It’s time he advanced from just pointing the camera and shooting. It’s time for him to understand the concepts behind photography and make a hobby out of it. I can’t stand to just see him sitting on one corner and reading a book over and over. He really needs a more active hobby. And so do I. We do attend anime and gaming conventions now, but I don’t think that counts as an active hobby.

At Paradores Del Castillo
At Paradores Del Castillo

We visited our families in the Philippines at the end of the year. We tried to spend as much time as we could with them. We took them out to eat and to travel around the nearby provinces. We enjoyed our stay there and we had fun. While we also had a lot to eat, Matthew seemed to be the only one to not gain weight.

We had our downs too. But we’d rather not recall those. I think we already learned our lessons from those times. And its better to let those experiences go.

Yes. 2018 had been a good year. And here’s hoping that 2019 brings us more blessings and happiness that we can share.

A River Safari

Fresh off our revisit of the Singapore Zoo, here we are now at the River Safari. What is the River Safari exactly? And did it really need to have its own spinoff wildlife park? I mean, we already have the Singapore Zoo which is the standard definition of an open concept zoo where animals are not “caged” (at least not entirely). And then we have the Night Safari which differentiates itself from the zoo by being nocturnal in nature. And then there’s the Jurong Bird Park which by the name alone should tell you specializes in our avian pals. And now The River Safari which attempts to diversify itself by being a river-themed wildlife park, just in case the name has not tipped you off yet. These wildlife parks all offer safe haven to various species of animals and they ensure that endangered species in their care are preserved as much as possible with professional care. But do we really need four separate wildlife parks?

The River is Calling

I don’t really have a straight answer for that. But our experience at the River Safari would have us believe that it is.

Manatees
Manatees

The Singapore River Safari sits just beside the Singapore Zoo and finds itself sandwiched between the Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari. When we entered the River Safari, it looked just like a normal zoo. I guess you should expect that since it also falls under the Singapore Wildlife Reserves. The map gives you two ways to go about the safari, and we chose to go through the right wing of the Amazon Flooded Forest (which is opposite the “your journey starts here” direction). This brought us to a few giant pools. We weren’t expecting to be greeted by pools, but as we were looking over them, we realized that they were actually giant aquariums. Based on the information blocks, we were about to embark on a short trip through a river environment. And that’s when we saw this enormous creature swimming about in the aquarium. We were then introduced to the Manatee. We spent most of our time at the Manatee enclosure just laughing our heads off since the Manatees are like big, gentle giants swimming around. Farting. The other fishes were nice to look at, but not nearly as entertaining as the loveable Manatee.

A Squirrel Monkey

Moving along, we reached the Squirrel Monkey Forest. This enclosure is home to, you guessed it, Squirrel Monkeys! And some Black Howler Monkeys as well. We spent our time in the forest following a pair of naughty Black Howler Monkeys that have been chasing each other and seem to be in heat. And yet, a Squirrel Monkey had been tagging along and keeps on coming in between the two lovebirds who are not really paying much attention to the Squirrel Monkey. We just followed them around having another round of laughs.

We hit the Boat Plaza next to hitch a ride on the Reservoir Cruise. That was an informative cruise, but honestly, there was nothing to see. It’s a good thing it was free. It did help to buy us some time and we were back on shore just in time for the Once Upon A River animal show. It’s best to sit in the front row for this bit as the trainers will get you up close and personal with some of the endangered wildlife living along some of the world’s rivers. You can’t beat the experience of nearly kissing Iguanas and snakes. The show is full of surprises and is really quite entertaining. After the show, we paid to hitch a ride on the Amazon River Quest. This is like a very toned down River Log Jam ride. The difference is that you won’t necessarily get very wet and that instead of steep drops, you get surrounded by animals that are found in the Amazon. Not a lot of them, but enough to keep you in your boat. After the boat rides, it was time to grab some lunch.

After lunch, it was time to hit the road again. We were on the other side of the Safari by now and we are about to enter panda territory. Kai Kai and Jia Jia are a pair of giant Pandas under the care of the Singapore Wildlife Reserves. The Giant Panda forest is where they are being kept. It is a huge enclosure that is cooled to a very low temperature to match the Panda’s living environment back home. Unsurprisingly, the pandas were asleep. I would be too if I lived in a cold forest. There was one other panda in the enclosure though, a Red Panda who was a bit livelier than the two giant pandas. This side of the River Safari is called the Rivers of the World. And you guessed it. It will take you around some of the world’s largest and diversified rivers.

The Yangtze River was our first tour. This is where we met the Sturgeon, the Yangtze Alligator, and the Chinese Giant Salamander. On the opposite side is an open area where Crab-eating Macaque roam. Further down the route are Storks and later on, you come around to another giant aquarium with the Mekong Giant Catfish and the Giant Freshwater Stingray. This signals your entry to the Mekong River. The Giant Catfish is where we spent a lot of our time laughing at one of them who kept staring on the riverbed and its eyes are already turning red. We called him Bob. And he seems to have lost his coin and has been looking for it in the sand for a long time. The Mary River came on the next corner where the Australian Lungfish was swimming. While at the Ganges River, the Indian Gharial stood to watch while the Goonch Catfish swam in a pool nearby. The River Nile is where the Tiger Fish caught our attention, mainly for the fact that it does look like a very anger tiger with its teeth showing as an evil grin. Moving along through the Congo River and its African Dwarf Crocodile. The next incredible animal was the Alligator Snapping Turtle living in the Mississippi River. You will then be back at the Entrance Plaza.

Looking back at the map, it seems that we went through the route in the opposite direction. But it doesn’t really matter. It felt the same to us and we didn’t really miss anything. In fact, our timing for the boat rides and the shows were just right with the route that we took. And do take note that we were there as soon as the gantry opened to let visitors into the park. We had a great time at the River Safari. It’s relatively smaller than the Singapore Zoo in terms of land area, but the theme is intact and it shows with the animals that are in the park. There is a Park Hopper promotion on offer that lets you visit all four of the Wildlife Reserve Parks for a reasonable price if you have the time. If it is your first time visiting Singapore Wildlife Parks, the Zoo is still a safe bet, but you can’t go wrong with the River Safari either for a slightly different kind of experience.

Silent Nights

We have been celebrating Christmas in different ways for a while now. This is our tenth year living in Singapore, and that means spending Christmas away from our extended families. Not all of our Christmases were spent in Singapore, but we don’t necessarily fly home to the Philippines every year to celebrate. It would be nice to. But it wouldn’t be practical. So we call it as we see it.

Say Cheese!

We were out and about on the weekend before Christmas with Matthew’s cousins. If it wasn’t the Christmas season, it would just be a normal day out in Orchard. But it is the season, and Orchard road is lit up once again for everyone’s viewing pleasure. To be honest, we (me, mum and Matthew) stopped bothering with it after three years. To us, it just wasn’t worth the hassle squeezing yourself through a thick mob of sweaty people to get a blurry photo to share on social media. Nope. We grew wiser and decided to just stay home or go out only if we needed to. So we go out when we have family and friends visiting and want to see the sights. With kids in tow, we spent the afternoon in Bounce to tire them out, I mean, for them to have fun. Impromptu photo taking sessions followed and we ended the night with a quiet dinner at Din Tai Fung (yes, not very festive, I know). The highlight of the evening was the trip home, where our XL Grab vehicle turned out to be a mini-bus! We had a good laugh all the way home.

On Christmas Eve, the extended family had gone back to Batam and we were left on our own again. Being the working man of the house and the 24th being a Monday, I spent the day in the office doing office-y stuff and met up with the family for dinner. A short stroll down Haji Lane to look for a bag for mum got us chatting with the shop owner who happily offered us seats and warm tea. I think that friendly chat was one the best Christmas presents we received this year. Our Christmas dinner came after tea. It was made up of Truffle Fries, Turkey Ham Pasta and Guava BBQ Beef Ribs. The Turkey Ham Pasta we ordered with Aglio Olio … which turns out to be a very, very spicy version in I am …’s menu. The Guava BBQ Beef Ribs though were awesome. It was definitely not Christmas ham.

Guava BBQ Beef Ribs

On Christmas day, we attended mass at our new favourite church, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on Queen Street. It’s quite a long way to travel to from Tampines, but we really like the service here. So even if we have to wake up much earlier, we travel anyway as it is worth it. Christmas day mass was no different, except that there are much more people around. But it remained a calm and serene celebration. After the mass, there was still time for Christmas lunch. The queue at PS Café was not what we expected (1 hour waiting time), but we’re glad we stuck around. This time, lunch was made up of Chicken Rossa Penne and Honey Glazed Iberico Pork Chop with a side of garlic bread. It seems that we were meant to put on pounds this Christmas as we were once again stuffed after lunch. That Iberico Pork Chop is not on the regular menu so I would suggest that you grab it while you can.

Glazed Iberico Pork Chop

We are thankful for the presents that we received and the greetings of joy and cheer from family and friends. This Christmas was a calm and easy celebration. Our family is small, but I believe that we had a better year this year than the last. We hope that everyone else had a good holiday cheer this 2018. Merry Christmas!

After Christmas Lunch …

Here we are looking forward to the new year and wishing everyone a blessed holiday season.