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Friday, July 3, 2015

Weekend Getaway | Holiday Inn Resort Bali Benoa, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia is a very popular tourist attraction. Full of magnificent beaches, lively art scenes, friendly locals and interesting culture... it's hard to imagine why not. Bali has been on my travel to-do list for a long, long time.

However, it is a long list filled with many other destinations. So many places to visit, so little time #firstworldproblems

Lucky for me, we finally had a weekend getaway earlier this month to see this exotic island for ourselves and stayed at Holiday Inn Resort Bali Benoa, a new family-friendly resort at Nusa Dua.

It was nothing short of amazing and I had a hard time writing this post not because there was nothing to write about, but because there's too many!! Too many photos and thoughts to go through... hard to decide what to pen down :P

Jetstar flies direct from Singapore to Bali - Denpasar {Ngurah Rai International Airport} twice a day. When we booked, they had an early morning flight that left Singapore at 2am, but the schedule has changed and the flight times from Singapore to Bali are now 4.05am and 10.45am. Flight journey is about 2 hours 45 minutes. We prefer to take the red eye so that we can sleep and start the day early at our holiday destination.

Unfortunately, our flight to Bali was delayed for half a day so we took off at 2pm and arrived in Bali around 5pm. We were rather disappointed for the time wasted, but definitely didn't want to let that mar our weekend getaway. The most important thing was that we were still together as a family, and we arrived safely at our destination #silverlining

Our feelings were immediately uplifted when we reached Bali. The airport was very modern and we actually passed through customs very quickly. There's a special queue for those holding passports from ASEAN countries {right hand side of the area} and Singaporeans do not need any tourist visas. If you're not from Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, you will need one.

Holiday Inn Bali Benoa helped us to arrange for airport transfer and the driver was waiting for us with a sign at the airport entrance. So convenient! The journey from Bali airport to the hotel resort located in Nusa Dua took just 15-20 minutes drive.

After a fast check-in, we went to our Benoa Ocean View Suite with panoramic views of Benoa Beach.

We had connecting rooms for the 4 of us and inside each spacious room had everything we need {mini-bar, tea/coffee making facilities, walk-in shower, complimentary WiFi, iron, LED TV with cable channels etc} to truly unwind and enjoy our holiday.

Lil Pumpkin was happy to sleep in her own bed with my mum for the grand total of....1 night. After that she slept with us in the other room but thank goodness for king-sized beds!!! It really is one of life's wonders how such a small human being can take up so much space on a bed (*≧∀≦*)

I loved our private balconies where we could sit outside to enjoy cooling coastal breezes and admire the sea views.

Who can not love waking up to this view everyday??? Seriously, if you go for a beach holiday, you need to get a beach-facing room! Ours was on the highest floor {level 5} and situated right in the middle of the resort so had a perfect, unblocked view.

For most of the weekend, our schedule was just swim, eat, play, sleep. Swim, eat, play, sleep. Repeat (。◕ฺˇε ˇ◕ฺ。) After so much walking and traveling around in Japan and Vietnam, I was very happy to just nua in one place for this holiday haha.

Within the resort, there's everything to cater to all our needs so we didn't have to crack our brains on what to do, and where to do it. With massive swimming pools, Kids Club, beach activities and excursions you'll never have a dull moment there.

Want to laze in the pool? No problem! The resort has not one, not two, but FOUR pools!

There’s a beautiful shaded atrium pool with outdoor Jacuzzi, a fun kids’ pool with a slide and fountains, a pool with a swim-up bar {Duke's Pool Bar & Lounge} and an infinity pool with plenty of sun loungers.

Oh what bliss!!! Our little waterbaby sure knows how to enjoy life and was so happy to know that she had a full weekend to access all the pools!! I think she enjoys her time in the water even more now that she knows how to swim {short distances} without floats..

Lil Pumpkin was also happy to spend most of her time in the resort at the Kids Club, which is open daily from 9am - 9pm for kids up to age 12. I've been to a few resorts with in-house Kids Clubs and I must say that this is really one of the best I've seen, in terms of security, facilities and staff service.

To start off, there are CCTV cameras outside and inside the Kids Club for parents to monitor their kids at play, and deter any potential criminals. The doors are always locked, and parents also have to register their kids each time they drop-off & pick them up. For the first registration, the staff will also take photos of parents for proper identification. As a parent, I really appreciate them taking such effort to keep the kids safe so that mums and dads can have a peace of mind to enjoy some quiet time too. If parents wish to go outside the resort, they are also provided a mobile phone with direct access to the Kids Club to keep in contact with them. What a wonderful added service!

Inside the Kids Club, there's a slide, climbing wall, costumes, arts and crafts, and lots of toys to play with. There’s a computer zone {iPads are only loaded with kid-friendly games and have restricted online access}, a ball pit, and a photo booth with playful props so kids have a fun memento to take home. It is always supervised by at least two staff, who also organise indoor and outdoor activities for the kids e.g. Bahasa language lesson, stargazing, kite-flying, ice-cream sandwich-making etc.

The staff are all very friendly, genuine and welcoming. They know most of the kids by name {especially those like Lil Pumpkin that come often haha} and make sure everyone feels included and happy. I also heard a few kids say that that they are so sad to leave and when they do, they want to hug each of them! Aww, you can see what a great impression the Kids Club staff have on the kids this way.

Food was easily available on the resort at 3 main dining areas - Duke's Pool Bar & Lounge, Nudie's Beach Club and Pasar Market Café.

We ate mainly at Pasar Market Café for the daily breakfast buffet and dinner. It offers an international array of food, including authentic Indonesian cuisine, and is conveniently located near the pools and Kids Club. The prices are really reasonable {around Tambuah Mas price range?}, yet have the good quality and presentation you expect from reputable hotels.

Oh and as part of Holiday Inn's Kids Stay & Eat Free! program where kids 12 years and under eat free {breakfast, lunch and dinner} when eating at Pasar Market with an adult, Lil Pumpkin got to choose her own dish from the kids menu and eat free too! #winning

At Pasar Market, I recommend the Capricciosa thin crust pizza {honey ham, italian sausage, fresh tomato, pepperoni, olive, mushroom and antichoke, Rp 120,000} which is made fresh from their in-house lava stone oven, Bebek Betutu {Balinese-style duch swerved with steamed vegetable, spiced coconut & rice, Rp 140,000} and Fisherman's Basket {beer battered prawns, calamari, scallops, fish and homemade fries, RM 150,000}.

Can't live without desserts and you should definitely try their Lime Ginger Tarts {Rp 45,000}, Chocolate Volcano cake with mint ice-cream {Rp 55,000} and Indonesia's national dessert - Es Campur or shaved ice with fruit, grass jelly, fermented cassava, rose syrup and condensed milk {Rp, 40,000}.

We also lunched at Nudie's twice which I found to be a real treat because how often can you laze in the waters, then swim up to a sumptous meal, all without leaving the pool??! Pool bars definitely rock!

The food selection here is smaller and consist mainly of finger food, but you can also offer food from the Pasar Market Café menu and bring down to the pool. 

If I'm not wrong, all Holiday Inn resorts have their own signature Tea Tree Spa and we had our first blissful experience with the one at Holiday Inn Batam. Holiday Inn Bali Benoa is no exception and has its own massage and spa sanctuary on-site.

Mum's doctor advised her to not have any massages this trip due to her current treatment so she enjoyed a nice read by the pool, and Lil Pumpkin played in the Kids Room while the boy & I had a special date night at the Tea Tree Spa. I just couldn't leave Bali without trying out an authentic, traditional Balinese massage!!

I was pretty satisfied with my Balinese Classic Massage {90 mins} which has been practised in Bali for centuries and targets the body's pressure points to work out those nagging knots. It was sooooo good! Just thinking about it now makes me wish I was back there again haha.  I have pretty bad back-aches and told my therapist to focus on those areas and with each hard rub, I felt her easing my muscle tension and literally releasing more happy endorphins :P

The boy had the Sport Massage {90 mins} which is a slow, deep tissue massage to target stressed muscles and unlock tension. Although it was relaxing, my dear gym bunny didn't feel that it was any particular help to his tired muscles he used often for exercising. I think next time he should just stick to the Balinese Classic Massage, or the Tea Tree Signature Massage which combines the Balinese Classic Massage with herbal compress techniques using heated bath salts, herbs and essential oils. See the full Tea Tree Spa menu here

Other than the children activities organised by the Kids Club, the resort has a full social schedule for adults to learn new things too e.g. fruit carving, snorkeling, ketupat-making, yoga etc. Most are free, and some are available for a small fee.

My mum and I took part in the Balinese dress-up activity where we got to try on authentic Balinese costumes, learn more about the different pieces and also visit the small Hindu temple on-site. It made our trip to Bali even more enriching and I'm so glad to have done it with Mummy, who was in Bali for the first time too :)

I knew Lil Pumpkin would enjoy it as well but found out her kiddy lesson was only on a Thursday. However, the staff went the extra mile to arrange a special session just for her since they knew we would have to check-out before the usual kids session. Must say, Lil Pumpkin looks sooo cute as a little Bali Princess!!

When we wanted to play some beach water sports, the resort helped us to arrange with Bali Jet Set Dive and Marine Sports, Bali's newest and most exclusive water sports centre {15 mins drive away} which has received many rave reviews online. See Blue Jet Set's list of activities and prices here.

The boy and I had another "date" up in the Flying Fish for the first time! Pretty cool as a speedboat dragged our rubber boat along so that it flew up into the sky like a kite in the air up to about 11m. My first thought when I got in was - where's the belt?? All we had were two tug-ropes to hold on to but luckily a guide came along with us to keep us safe and maintain balance while flying in the air.

One thrilling ride lasted just about 15 minutes. Unfortunately Lil Pumpkin was too small for this but she got to sit on the Banana Boat... twice! Again, it was a first for all of us and Lil Pumpkin was such a brave little darling to sit right in front for both times. It was kinda fast but very stable. Thanks to our friendly guide, she even stood up and wave her hands!!

On one of the afternoons, we got out of the resort using one of their excursion services for some easy sightseeing and shopping at Kuta, which is about 25mins drive away. Was thinking of going Ubud too but that's 2 hours drive away!! Too far.. maybe during our next trip back (*^-^*)

Kuta has some of the best beaches in Bali so is very alive with tourists from all over the world swimming, surfing and sunbathing by the beach. Not to mention enjoying meals at its many open air restaurants or shopping at the souvenir markets {remember to bargain!}.

Bought some really cheap batik sarongs, handmade art and breezy beachwear here. Oh, and Indonesian sambal chilli too because Mummy said it was really good! (。◕‿◕。)

We spent about half a day there and also took the time to visit Bali Bombing Memorial. It's not a very big area, but a poignant reminder of the tragedy that took place and worth taking a look if you are in Kuta.

Overall, it was a fun-filled, relaxing family weekend and I loved every minute of our time in Bali. Mum is already talking about making a trip back hah! No doubt, the warm hospitality we received at Holiday Inn Resort Bali Benoa played a big part to our experience. I'd highly recommend this resort to stay with the whole family from older grandparents to young kids.

They do have some teething problems like the water supply being cut off suddenly one morning, and some activities like the Bali Cooking Class {which my mum was looking forward to} and the evening BBQ sessions not being ready yet, but these can easily be rectified over time.

The amazing facilities {yes, even a well-equipped 24/7 gym for hubby!} and friendly staff definitely won us over. Actually, throughout Holiday Inn Bali Benoa, all the staff we meet from the bellboy, to the receptionist, to the pool attendants, to the waiters are all very genuine and personable. They always have a smile ready and are so eager to help.

I had a chat with their General Manager, Mr Simon Morley, just before we left and I did bring up how impressed I was with his staff's impeccable service. He said that it was partly job training, and also partly because he hires people with that kind of genuine personality. You can train someone to be polite and effective, but to be truly genuine and personable, that is something that has to come from within.

He also told me that Holiday Inn Bali Benoa is the first hotel in Bali to use Sea Water Reverse Osmosis {SWRO} technology to turn sea water into portable and drinking water. It was impressive to know that they think green and want to do their part in conserving our limited resources by meeting their water needs in an environmentally-friendly manner.

Being "family-friendly" goes beyond providing hotel services to take care of our current generation; it's about caring for our future generations as well.

Too long, didn't read???! hahaha.. Have a look at this short video for a quick overview of our Bali family holiday then. If the video isn't working, watch it on my YouTube channel here.

Tips:
  • Currency used at Holiday Inn Bali Benoa is Indonesian Rupiah.
  • Remember to pack in your swimsuit, sunscreen and insect repellants. 
  • Rubber slippers {adults only} are available for loan in the rooms. 
  • Although there are bed floats available at the pool for use, bring your own pool toys, kids floats and arm floats {if needed}. 
  • It's best to make early reservations for spa and massage treatments.
  • Free shuttle service is available to Bali Collection, largest shopping mall at Nusa Dua.
  • Make time for the free organised guest activities. Meeting place for kids' activities is in the Kids Club, while meeting place for adults' activities is at the pool reception desk. 
  • If you're going as a family, you might want to consider Tanjung Family Adventure Suite as well. I'm not sure if it is beach-facing, but it comes with a spacious lounge area with two separate rooms – a parent’s room and a themed kids’ room with twin beds, kids’ linen, a kids’ welcome pack full of treats and a PS4, and two separate bathrooms for the adults and kids too.

Holiday Inn Resort Bali Benoa
Jl. Pratama No.86 Tanjung Benoa Kuta Selatan, Badung Bali – 80363 Indonesia
Tel: +62 361 894 7888
Website: http://www.balibenoa.holidayinnresorts.com

*Disclosure: This is a review for Holiday Inn Resort Bali Benoa. All opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wordless Wednesday {linky}: Indonesia Playgrounds - Holiday Inn Bali Benoa Kids Club

Where is this week's playground?
Kids Club, Holiday Inn Bali Benoa Family Resort.

FUN Factor?
9/10. Free indoor playground for the resort's guests.
Always supervised by at least 2 resort staff,
it's very safe, secure {must register in/out & under CCTV surveillance}
with fun ball pit, trampoline, electronic games area, dress-up props, arts & crafts area etc.
Suitable for kids up to 12 years old. 

P.S. Do check out my 52 Weeks Singapore Playgrounds series!
P.P.S. If you like this Kids Club, find out more about our beach holiday in 
Holiday Inn Bali Benoa Family Resort here!

*****

Sakura Haruka's wordless wednesday
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Monday, June 29, 2015

20 Things to Buy for Kids Entering Primary 1 | from parents for parents

I guess Primary 1 registration is on the mind of all local parents with kids born in 2009. Stress level is high these few weeks as registration officially starts but no matter which school our kids attend, we must still buy for them the same school supplies and resources.

I believe it's always better to prepare in advance, rather than panic later when we can't find the things we need. Besides, shopping is a way to relieve stress so why not hit the shops while the Great Singapore Sale {GSS} is still on to get their school bags early and score some great savings! It ends on 26 July 2015 by the way.

Since Lil Pumpkin is our first child, I didn't really know what to get but I asked my fellow parents  what their must-buy items {outside the school book-list} are and they gladly shared with me their wisdom and experience {thank you!}. To all the would-be Primary 1 parents, hope you'll this list of 20 Things to Buy For Kids Entering Primary 1 from the parents, for other parents just as helpful!

*****

1. We have few kinds of name labels. One is just the name. Another is the name and the class our child is in. For textbooks we paste the "name and class" labels. For stationary or bottles, we use just the "name" stickers. - Mummy Jazry

2. I will get a new school bag for her to mark the new journey. - Mummy Siew Tiang

3. New wallet (get kid's fave characters, if possible). - Mummy Meteorice

4. Definitely a good pencil case well equipped with pencils, ruler, eraser and scissors. - Mummy Lynn

5. All P1 kids need a new toy to bring to school. They can use the toy as an ice-breaker to get to know other new kid and make new friends. - Daddy Vincent

6. Ergonomic backpacks - Mummy Adeline

7. Hair accessories that are in approved colours! - Mummy Lyn

8. Multi-pocket file for memo, spelling list n worksheets. - Mummy Janice

9. I will get my girl a zipper folder so that she can place her communication book and important papers from the teachers inside. - Mummy Juliana

10. Need to get my girl white shoes & socks (unless school has specially printed ones). - Mummy Tammy

11. Plastic wrapper for books. - Mummy Diana

12. More erasers and pencils on standby. - Mummy Joanna

13. White polisher to polish and keep theirs shoes white!!! I remember I used to do that every weekend.... Wash my shoes and then apply white polisher. - Mummy Jamie

14. Small Notebook for the children to take down little notes. - Mummy Sandra

15. I would buy and stock up 5 water bottles for P1. A common item that's often lost or forgotten. - Mummy Karen

16. I think a good pair of school shoes is important to keep the kids comfortable as they hardly wear shoes in childcare and it may be a huge change for them. - Mummy Mag

17. A pretty analog watch to help them learn to tell time correctly. - Mummy Nadia

18. I would say a key-chain that represents you or carries fond memories between you and your girl! She is able to carry it in school, reminding her you are thinking of her and she doesn't have to be afraid in a big unfamiliar school because you are there with her. Basically, it will act as her mummy's protective charm! - Mummy Wei Ting

19. A cutie lunchbox filled with filled with mum's kitchen breakfast & include a lunchbox note too!!! - Mummy Mabel

20. Make them a name stamp. - Mummy Germaine

Good luck to all of us at the Primary 1 school registration!!! 


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Friday, June 26, 2015

Fitness Diary :: Personal Training @ Genesis Gym, Singapore

Ok, time for some serious fitness training reboot.

There's been some major changes in our schedules and life recently that has kind of bumped me off my regular fitness commitment. These really shouldn't be my excuses but I got distracted and haven't been focusing as much as I should have on keeping a healthy lifestyle. Yes, I go for swims with Lil Pumpkin sometimes, I go for runs sometimes, I try to avoid unhealthy food sometimes... but I really want these "sometimes" to be more "everytime".

To me, staying healthy isn't just about losing weight because the journey doesn't end once I reach my end goal weight. It's about staying fitter, stronger, more energetic to keep up with our busy lifestyle and with Lil Pumpkin, who is only going to get bigger and faster too.

With a little push from the boy, who has always been so supportive and my inspiration in keeping a healthy lifestyle {I'll definitely be in a worst shape if not for him!}, I signed up for a personal training package at Genesis Gym. The boy even helped me to look for this gym and research more into the price, packages, location etc. Thank you! 

I wanted to try personal training because I know that I need that extra push and professional help in making exercise, and more nutrional meal-planning, a regular thing in my life. I've never been a fan of lose-weight-fast fads like diet pills, "special" massages, body wraps or even surgeries {although sometimes these things are needed, but more on that later}. Yes, relying just on these might help you to lose fat {or perhaps just water weight} fast, but they will never help you to keep them off. Why? Because your lifestyle and way of thinking hasn't changed. You still eat the same food, you still live the same sedentary way so once you stop these pills / massages / programs / medical procedures, the fat will just pile back on.

With my personal training program, I hope to gain more knowledge to strategise, track and progress towards my goals, and form better fitness habits so that even if I stop the program, I will still use these knowledge and habits for life. I'm not sure that this personal training program will definitely work, but at least I will try. If it does, fantastic! If not, well, then I'll just keep looking for something better. The only constant in life is change. If an exercise or workout isn't suiting your needs, just change.  The important thing is to not give up.

For now, at least I know that I will definitely be working out at least twice a week for 12 weeks. And that is already a win for me.

Sometimes I start out strong and furious, but then half-way through I burn-out or get distracted and lose my way in exercising. With a personal trainer to push and supervise my workouts customized to my goals, needs, genetics and current fitness level, I'm quite sure that I'll be able to get the maximum results in the most time-efficient manner.

Of course, the world's best gym, program, trainer, food, equipment will do naught if I'm not committed to it myself. Right now in our lives, our schedules have somewhat settled and I'm absolutely sick of not reaching my fitness goals, that flub around my waist {often hidden by my clothes!} and feeling so lethargic most days, so yes, I feel like I'm committed and ready for this. 

We went down on Monday this week for a consultation and to have a look at the gym. Overall vibes is good, location is kinda convenient, price is relatively decent, so I signed up to go down 2x/week for 12 weeks. They will also tailor a program for me to work out on those days I can't make it to the gym, as well as a nutrition program to make better eating choices.

Right now I've also downloaded the My Fitness Pal app {free calorie counter and workout plan app} to monitor my food intake so that the trainers can see what I usually eat, and make changes from there. I've never counted calories before but now with the app, I'm more "aware" of the food I take. Like gosh, does my fave Mushroom Minced Pork Noodles really have 511 calories?? To give you some sense of reference, active women who want to lose weight should aim for about 1,200 - 1,400 calories per day. Eating one bowl of that means almost half my calorie intake for the day is gone.

I'm planning to update my Fitness Diary weekly with my journey in this personal training program too. Firstly, to remember what I did each week and to monitor my progress. Secondly, as a personal experience review for anyone that's planning to take up personal training {be it at Genesis Gym or not}. And lastly, as a means of being more accountable and motivated.

If you read that I haven't gone for a workout, or eaten more chocolate than I should, please call me out! I want you too! I'd need your help and support to stay on track as well so ya, give me that extra push. I will try to write as candidly as I can in this journey and not sugar-coat stuff to make me look good #keepingitreal (⌒▽⌒)☆

Here's to a healthier, happier lifestyle for all of us! ♥

P.S. Still need more motivation to exercise? Read my 5 Quick Tips to Make Time for Exercise!!

Genesis Gym
105 Eunos Avenue 3 #06-02
Tel: 63461978
Cost: S$1,860 {Personal Training Program, 2x/week for 12 weeks}
Website: http://http://www.genesisgym.com.sg
*Also located at Raffles Place & Alexandra Road

Have you tried gym personal training before?
How did you find it?


Disclosure: This is not a sponsored or paid post. All views expressed are my own.

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