My Little Climbing Room

Media Invite

Finally we have an indoor playground of sort which had recently opened up in the sleepy Hougang town. Rightfully put, it is a Climbing Room designed especially for the young ones.

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Xi En has recently showed interest in scaling walls but we have yet to bring him to a wall climbing place as I was concerned if those were a little too high. Then again, it is probably my own height phobia getting in the way. With a smaller place such as My Little Climbing Room, I was excited to let the 2 boys experience rock climbing.

Located at Promenade @ Pelikat (near Kovan), it is really a “room”! I was pleasant surprised that though it is located within a small mall, it was sufficient to entertain my boys for the entire 90 mins play session.

Each 90 play sessions starts with 30 minutes of free play, then 30 minutes of group games, followed by another 30 minutes of free play. It is advisable to arrive 15 to 20 minutes earlier to allow ample time for safety briefing and gearing up. Proper grip socks are compulsory as the kids were be climbing with only socks on.

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Gearing up.

The entire room isn’t huge but surprising, packed a bunch. There are four 4meters high walls, a Number Wall, an Obstacle Wall, an AR (Augmented Reality) Wall. There is also a Hangout Zone and some wheelies for variety.

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Compact climbing room which packs a punch.

Xi en took the high walls immediately upon arrival. He is a very focused sort and wanted to complete a mission card given to all climbers. Being a first timer, I think he did very well (without cheating!) as he navigated through the instructions. He was short of 2 very difficult climbs at the end of the play session which he insisted to return for. Smile

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Scaled the first empty wall he found.

Parents play a big part in the climbs as well. Each child has to be accompanied by a parent/care-giver who will take the role of belaying the child. It is also for the purpose of child-parent bonding instead of parents sitting out and staring at our mobile phones. Smile with tongue out

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Eizac was quite apprehensive about climbing walls initially as he was doubtful that he could do the same as the older kids. So I coaxed him into trying out the Obstacle Wall first. He had fun going for the bell, lopping through the hula loop, pushing himself further to touch a higher bell and etc. Being a IPad fanatic, Eizac also enjoyed the AR wall with “bubbles” which you slapped when you reached them. Towards the end of the play session, he also mustered enough confidence to try out half of the 4meters high wall which is such a booster to his morale!

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Giving his best at the Obstacle Wall.
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Reaching to tinkle the bells
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He caught me by surprise by wanting to try a tall wall towards the end of the session. And he mustered enough courage to scale half the wall. Love that spirit!

During the 30 mins group games, the room was dimmed and the kids played a game to the tunes of Baby Shark Song. It was entertaining though I thought maybe 30 mins might be too long to entertain the hyper active children. Or perhaps more than 1 game might be necessary? The kids were also given little erasers strategically placed at different levels of a low wall to climb and reach for them as a mini reward. Good strategy!

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All eyes on his eraser! Open-mouthed smile
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The Hangout and Wheelies zones prove to be good distraction for those who are not scaling the walls or want to take a break.

Conclusion: My boys liked My Little Climbing Room and asked to be back again. We understood from the owners that they will change the positions of the grips every few months so to refresh the climbs and also introduce new games from time to time. I find this place a good starting ground for those who want to introduce rock climbing to their young ones. It is an easier and less daunting platform for those under 3 years old as well. We will be back: Xi En wants to return to finish his “mission” card while Eizac wants to ring more bells!

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Details of My Little Climbing Room:

Website: https://mylittleclimbingroom.com/

Location: Promenade @ Pelikat (FREE basement parking available!)

We are running a giveaway for 2 free passes to to 2 winners to experience My Little Climbing Room. Check Evespiration on Instagram for more details.

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Admission charges – do check their website for any updates.

POSB Smart Buddy Watch

Media Invite

Nowadays, I felt that I need to catch up with technology. Everyday there is a new app, a new smart watch, a new PayLah, PayNow, InstantPay?!

These days, children have a head start being born in the Internet Age. It is a walk-in-the-park to play games on the Ipad, watch a video on Youtube or even use a smart watch for payment.

Riding on the smart cashless payment trend, POSB launched the POSB Smart Buddy Watch targeted at the primary school levels. I attended the media invite recently to understand more about this initiative and how the watch works.

With this watch, our primary school kids are able to make payment for their recess food and also “steal” a buy at their favourite school bookshops. This wearable also double up as a watch (of course) and a fitness tracker.

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Paying for food at the school canteen. Photo source: POSB

Paired with a mobile app, parents can allocate allowances directly from their personal accounts, track their children’s expenditure and savings. We understood there are also plans in future versions to add additional features such as a location tracker (within the school), biometric feature and a school bus locator where parents can track the real-time location of the bus and be notified when their child boards or alights from the school bus.

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Paired with an app on the parents’ phone. Photo source: POSB

Besides using the watch in schools, students can also use it at participating merchants such as Comfort (taxi), KFC, Pizza Hut, POPULAR, Sheng Siong and https://www.ourbeautifulplanet.org/best-cycling-watch/ for other types of watches. There are definitely plans to bring more merchants on-board.

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Xi En paying for items at POPULAR book store.

As Xi En’s school has yet to sign on to the program, we tested the watch at POPULAR and here are what we (or rather I) felt after the trial.

Our take on this program and the POSB SMART BUDDY WATCH:

The size is just nice with sufficient strap holes for small wrists. The strap is of a durable dark plastic material, thus it is dirt and water resistant. It is simple to navigate and comes with clear digital numbers.

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I like the clean-cut and simple design.

The app on my phone shows me exactly how much money I can allocate to him daily and I can also allow him (or not) to sign on using his own ID and password to check his own savings. There are “ savings goals” that he can set and work towards. The fitness tracker is Xi En’s favourite feature as  he was intrigued by the steps and distance covered. If the watch is lost, parents can quickly disable the functions remotely as well.

POSB Smart Buddy

Currently more than 24 schools are on-board and the general feedback had been positive. Parents with kids on the program liked how they can increase (or decrease) allowances with just an app, monitor what their kids purchase in school and encourage them to save. I can imagine that it would have been useful if my son suddenly need a dollar to buy a marker refill. he can just ring me from the general office and I can “send” the money to him almost immediately. It would be interesting to know his food selection in the school canteen as well and if he is telling me the truth! Smile with tongue out

Going digital also means that the school canteen vendors do not need to touch coins/bills while preparing food for the students – now that is a big plus.

On the flip side:

The first thought which came to my mind when the watch was introduced in the news: Hey! Will this prevent my child from learning how to count money? Not being able to touch and feel the coins/bills, will he understand the true value of money or will he think that money grows from watches?! *gasp*!

But one incident changed my viewpoint. I was having coffee with some clients from Beijing. They wanted to foot the bill but dug so deeply into their wallets for some loose change that I was almost embarrassed. They explained that they seldom need to bring their wallets out in China as almost all payments are done via the phone (QR codes mainly). And this was after our PM Lee’s National Day message on wanting Singapore to be a “Smart Nation”. My clients felt that Singapore is backwards in this aspect!

The folks at POSB emphasized that this initiative isn’t meant to be the ONLY mode of payment, but to be one of the available resources for payment. Indeed so. Though there isn’t an absolute need to digitalise everything, we cannot stand sit forever. Teaching the concept of counting money, instilling the value of hard-earned money, educating the younger generation on money sense – all these are still very important morals and lessons. I don’t think the schools intend to fully digitalised teachers! And we parents continue to play a big part of teaching our children about the dollars and coins. Having said that, when it’s Eizac’s turn to enter Primary One, I will still prefer him to learn how to carry a wallet with his pocket money and to be able to count the right change after buying a bowl of noodles during recess. The basics should still precede while the digital enhances the learning in my opinion.

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When it’s your turn, baby. Smile

As for my 8 years old, Xi En continues to track his savings in an exercise book and at the same time, enjoys tapping the POSB Smart Buddy Watch when we do visit one of the participating merchants. A marry of old-and-new I call it. We embrace technology as it comes along, but not forgetting to stay rooted with the basics. Smile

As POSB Smart Buddy Watch is still in the introductory stage, we hope to see more enhanced features such as the GPS tracking locator function which will help busy parents. Schools or parents who wish to find out more about the POSB Smart Buddy programme can visit www.posb.com.sg/smartbuddy or email posbsmartbuddy@dbs.com.

Sawasdee Krab : Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao

June holiday came and went in a flash! With 2 energetic boys, I wondered if a relaxing Phuket holiday will suit them. Surprisingly, none of us has been to Phuket before though it is just a 2 hours+ plane ride from Singapore! With an affordable Silkair promotion, we hesitated no more and booked tickets for the family and invited the in-laws along.

I concluded we need an extremely family-friendly resort so the adults can chill while the kids are in a safe and fun environment. The selection of a resort hotel become easier as I narrowed down to a few criteria:

1) Near to the airport: We need to catch an early morning flight and I don’t want to miss our flight if there is a traffic jam.

2) Kids friendly with a GOOD kids’ club: from research online, it seemed that many hotels in Phuket have kids’ clubs. But I will like a responsible team if we need to drop off the kids and a entertaining one. Who likes boring kids’ club? Smile with tongue out

3) Something for everyone: If the kids are entertained, they won’t be on our back. And so, if there are some activities (besides relaxing by the pool/beach all day) for the adults, it will be a great bonus.

If you are a first-timer to Phuket, I found this website useful for a general idea of which location suits you/your family: http://www.phuket.com/hotels/where-to-stay.htm

After much research, Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao came into the picture.

It ranked high in my selection as I have read good reviews both from fellow bloggers and their guests.

And it was very kind of them to offer a review opportunity for my immediate family. Here’s a look at our honest experience with them.

Airport Transfer/Check-in

We took up the airport transfer car to the hotel. Instructions were clear from the email booking to exact location where to find the person waiting with a Holiday Inn signage.

It was a short 15 mins ride to the hotel and we were greeted with chilled rosella drinks during the check-in. Nice touch. Smile

A spacious reception area made it easy for those with kids & old folks in the party. No one will stare weirdly at you even if you have a massive luggage just for kids’ floats?! Open-mouthed smile

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Spacious reception area

Checking-in was swift and the front-desk staff was very helpful throughout our stay. Ann, the sweet receptionist, also helped to organise breakfast boxes for us when she knew that we need to depart on an early morning flight.

At the concierge, you can also book the hotel shuttle bus which runs 2X daily to Phuket Town at a charge per pax. We choose to take one way on our 2nd day to visit the Patong area and took our own taxi back to the hotel so that we have some flexibility on the return timing. It takes about 1hr travel time to the town area.

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Huge relaxing lounges at the reception area.

Rooms

We were booked a Family Suite which is actually 2 separate rooms connected via a door. A good size at 82sqm, it boost of more than enough space for the entire family and more! Just to put it into perspective, some of our 3 room model HDB flats in Singapore is just 70sqm.

The adult’s room comes with a comfortable King-sized bed, TV, DVD player, mini-bar, kettle, couch, a balcony with a daybed and the usual necessity and complimentary bottled water. Though the rooms showed some age and has its fair wear and tear, we liked the spacious layout, the huge rain shower and 2 separate TVs for the adults and kids! No fighting over the remote controls! Smile

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The adult’s room with direct pool access from the balcony

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Walking over to the kids’ room, there are 2 single beds completed with kids’ linen, kids’ toiletries, low-rise cupboards and the most “important accessory” – the PSP games console!  Once my 2 boys were matriculated with the PS4, they DO NOT want to leave the room at all!

The kids’ room is equally spacious with their own attached bathroom and a huge shower tub! I liked it that the adults have more than sufficient standing room to shower the kids and there is provision of rain shower and hand shower at the same time so that we can reach the younger one comfortably.

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The kids’ room completed with their TV, PSP and private pool access.

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Phuket 1

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My favourite part of the room has to be the immediate pool access from the terraces. The almost-private pool along the entire row of room suites is such a convenient delight that we didn’t even need to go to the common pools in  the hotel.

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It is a lazy comfort but oh-so-easy to walk in and out of your room and plunge into the 1.2M deep pool. There was a sunny day on our 2nd day and the boys had a great time swimming and waddling across to their grandparents’ room which is just next door. It’s a pity that it drizzled and rained on the 3rd day and we didn’t get to enjoy the pools further.

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These pools are great photography spots too. Seize every bit of sunshine to capture some memories! Smile

A quick note that there are access pool terraces from both the kids and adults’ rooms; thus a close eye on young kids is required if they are non-swimmers.

Hotel and it’s surroundings

Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao is a self sufficient resort and one do not need to step out of the hotel grounds if you do not wish to. There are 2 main restaurants – J’s Cafe & Restaurant and Pesto Restaurant. We had daily breakfast at J’s Cafe and most dinners at Pesto.

Breakfast spread was a good variety. Not massive but sufficient choices to cater to most diets and nationality. Quality is reasonably good. The Kids-eat-and-stay-for-Free promotion for Holiday Inn brands provides good savings for parents. With every paying adult, a kid stays for free and get a kids’ meal for free too. Both J’s Cafe and Pesto offers Kids-Eat-For-Free meals now. My oldest boy was happy ordering his own meal and dessert and felt responsible finishing it up since he ordered it. Open-mouthed smile

Breakfast sample spread on our 2 mornings:

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This is my favourite! Pork bacon – on a hot plate! The ceramic pot is lined with carrots, and onions; the constant warming of the bacon made it crisply yummy!
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Hot eggs station. Always a delight to have such a station in hotels. Eggs done the way you liked it; what more can one ask for? Smile

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Auto pancakes making machine! I would have prefer my pancakes more fluffy but this is a smart idea to churn out cute pancakes which the kids enjoyed! Smile

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J’s Cafe has a thoughtful buffet laid out just for little ones. Shorter tables and chairs cater to their heights and walls are adorned with happy animals. It is a fun sight to be greeted with in the morning. My 2 boys enjoyed helping themselves at the table; not eating but just “helping” themselves. Open-mouthed smile

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We had a scrumptious dinner at Pesto on our first night as well. Situated next to the sea, you get to enjoy the mesmerising sunset if you dine around 6 to 7pm. A causal setting with an open concept kitchen, you can see your food being prepared while you wait. The food was authentic though some taste adjustment seemed to have been done to cater to the variety of tourists dining here. Recommendations: In particular, we liked the Beef Striploin, Duck Leg Confit and Spaghetti with Pork Bacon.

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Dreamy dinner by the sunset.
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In between dusk and dark with a live band.
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All Italian restaurants have to have good crusty warm bread. We enjoyed the peppercorn and olive oil dips. I am a bread addict. Open-mouthed smile
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One of the appetizer dishes recommended by the waitress – Quesadillas minced pork with mashed avocado, jalapeno, tomato salsa and Monterey Jack Cheddar and lime-cilantro sour cream. Good sharing dish.

Our mains:

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Xi En tucking into his kid’s meal: Fish and Chips. Baked not fried. Open-mouthed smile

Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao has a lovely clean beach which is surrounded by the Anadaman Sea. The beach was almost deserted when we were there and a red flag was visibly noted for warning on the condition of the sea waves for the day. Nevertheless, how can we conclude a resort holiday without experiencing the beach, sand and sea? On our 3rd day, Eizac and I set off to the beach with beach towels supplied by the hotel staff and had some relaxing time taking photos, playing with sand, collecting sea shells and simply lazing around. But silly me decided to venture near the shore to scoop some sea water for Eizac’s sand tunnels. I lost a slipper to the great ocean as a result of the choppy waves. Thus, I won’t recommend going into the sea if the red flag is on.

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At the corner of the beach are some external vendors selling drinks, fruits, cooked food and providing alternative outdoor massages. There is an idyllic feel if you enjoy balmy massages complete with coconut juices on the side. Smile

The hotel grounds have activities corners strategically placed near the heart of the resort thus making it easier for the whole family to interact together. There are human sized chess boards, connect-4s, dart boards, an awesome trampoline and more. On selected nights, there are free screening of movies-under-the-stars with free popcorns. It’s a pity that it rained periodically during our stay thus hampering outdoor activities for us. But that’s when the indoor options are life savers! Smile

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Outdoor deck chairs for outdoor screening of night movies

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All kids’ favourite trampoline

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Free form pool in the common grounds.

Kids’ Club and Tea Tree Spa

The Kids’ Club is a winsome place. It won the kids over.

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A ball pool is the centrepiece for the younger ones while the PSP and Wii machines attract the older kids on the side lines. There are toys, reading nooks, board games, activities sheets and more. Basically once your kids enter, they won’t want to leave. The guest officers here are friendly and I watched them hit-it-off easily with the “regulars”. They played, entertained and watched over the children. By the 3rd day, my 2 boys were almost zipping over to the kids’ club on their own as our rooms were just a few steps away from the kids’ club.

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There were organised free or paid activities such as wind mill making, Thai umbrella painting, pizza making and etc. The boys took part in 2 of the activities – Pizza Making and  Sand Footprints.

Pizza Making was so much fun for them as they were led to J’s Cafe and they get to use gigantic roller pins to roll and knead the dough; complete their toppings and eat of their labour! This is a worth-while paid activity in my opinion. You get to play and eat at the same time. Open-mouthed smile

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Sand Footprints is basically getting footprints on sand and then casting them into moulds to be brought home as souvenirs. I applaud the guest officers’ effort not to cancel this activity even though it rained in the midst of getting footprints from the children. They dug sand, brought them in pails to a sheltered place so to allow each kid to imprint a footprint and cast a mould thereafter. Though we were leaving early the next day, they rushed the moulds and drying off and gave them to the kids on the night itself. Kudos for great customer service! Smile

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Sand footprints in the making.

For the adults, there are no lack of activities too. We were too comfortable to wake up for the morning yogas, workout etc. Instead we decided to have a spa massage at their in-house Tea Tree Spa . Open-mouthed smile

Xi En joined his Daddy for a “My First Massage” which is a 30 mins oil massage with gentle strokes especially cater to little guests. Kim and I had our full 60 mins massages. It was extremely relaxing with the right strengths and soothing music. I dozed off unknowingly. That’s how good it was. Highly recommended for a complete resort experience. Prices are affordable though not exactly cheap by local standards; the clean environment and professional masseurs are definitely worth every dime.

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Conclusion

We liked the laid-back feel of the resort. It makes one feel isolated from the hustle and bustle of city life. That’s what a beach holiday is meant to be? In the beginning I was worry if the kids would be bored, but my worries are unnecessary. They were happier in the resort than being dragged to shop with us in the malls. I liked it that there is a good mix of indoor vs outdoor activities so that wet weather plans are available as well.  There is also free Wi-fi in the resort thus you can stay connected if you prefer to. Smile

Overall, Phuket Holiday Inn Mai Khao checked the boxes for a relaxing short family resort stay. If you do not need to stay near the town, the Mai Khao beach is an ideal option for it’s quiet and cozy ambience. And Phuket Holiday Inn Mai Khao makes an affordable and comfortable family choice. Smile

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If you are considering an Holiday Inn hotel in the near future, do not forget to sign up for free as an IHG Rewards Club Member. You get to enjoy special member rates when you book directly with Holiday Inn. There is no need to look for a 3rd party provider as they promised the best rates when you book direct.

Furthermore, there is a current promotion to “Accelerate” with bonus points rewarded for each tier of “Acceleration” offers you cleared. Eg, you get 500 point just be downloading and signing in to the IHG App. Extra bonus points will be awarded for a completion of all “Accelerate Offers”. That is an initiative to allow faster points accumulation and thereafter rewards! Smile More details on their IHG Rewards Club website.

For more photos and special offers that Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao is running, do check out their comprehensive website on this link.

N.B: This blog post is in conjunction of a review of Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao via a sponsored stay. All opinions and viewpoints are writer’s own. For any clarification of rates and information, please refer their official website: http://www.phuketmaikhaobeach.holidayinnresorts.com/