Friday, February 28, 2014

Fun Food Friday: Animal-Shaped Dim Sum

Roast goose, squid and bunny-shaped dim sum (yum!) at Serenade Restaurant in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Do not miss! The School of Hard Knocks in Penang, Malaysia

I first learned about the School of Hard Knocks from a fellow travel blogger at Our Travel Lifestyle and made sure to book a visit to the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre for our upcoming visit to Penang, Malaysia.  Royal Selangor is a Malaysian pewter manufacturer and in addition to a lovely retail store, the visitor's centre offers tours and workshops.

Their School of Hard Knocks offers visitors the opportunity to make your very own pewter bowl.  After checking in, we headed upstairs to the workshop.  Each of us was provided with a Royal Selangor apron and a round, pewter disc.  Our first step was to emboss our names onto our bowls with a small hammer and embossing letters (Mark wasn't paying attention to the instructions and his 'M' ended up being upside-down).  The next step was the really fun part - placing our pewter discs over a wooden mould then banging away at it with a mallet until it formed the bowl-shape.  B and his grandparents needed a little bit of help but we were each able to bang out our bowls in about 25 minutes.  It was a fun family activity and well suited to our five-member, three generation group.  B absolutely loved being able to hammer on his bowl and make plenty of noise in the process!  At the end of the class, we each left with our apron as a memento, our own hand-made pewter bowl and a completion certificate.

The Details

  • Royal Selangor Visitor Centre is located at Straits Quay in Penang (they have other locations in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore)
  • Advance reservations are essential and a minimum of 4 participants is required to book a workshop
  • The school opens every day at 10 am
  • The cost is RM60 per participant (about $20 CDN)
  • The Royal Selangor Visitor Centre can be reached via email at straitsquay.my@royalselangor.com

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Terrific Travel Book: Everything Goes Up in the Air by Brian Biggs

B and I discovered Everything Goes Up in the Air by Brian Biggs last week at the library and I can't wait to head out and buy our very own copy.

What makes this book terrific?

Entertaining illustrations, a handy primer on jet (and other aircraft) parts and fun seek-and-find activities (think sneaky babies, numbers and birds wearing hats).  But what really captured my attention was the lighthearted, yet realistic take on the airport experience.  How many other books show travelers removing their shoes to go through security?

Not only will this book delight a well-traveled preschooler, it would make an excellent introduction to air travel for a child looking forward to his/her first airplane flight.

What travel-related books for preschoolers made you think 'Wow!'?

El Valle, Panama

A framed image of El Valle greets me every time I enter my kitchen.  The print of a painting, by my talented friend Pirkko Saari, beautifully depicts her visit to the El Valle Artisan market many years ago.  So, when we visited Panama, I knew we simply could not miss a visit to El Valle.

A two-hour scenic drive, El Valle is located about 120 kms Southwest of Panama City.

What to see in El Valle

The Artisan and Vegetable Market - As the subject of the lovely print in my kitchen, this was a must-do visit for us.  Though small, this market is a colorful and interesting place to peruse handcrafts and stock up on delicious local fruit.

Chorro El Macho Waterfall - At 70 meters high, it won't likely be the tallest you've ever seen, but it is located in a beautiful location accessible just a short walk from the parking area.  Pathways are rough and a bit slippery and the route includes a short rope bridge.  Caution is certainly advised if visiting with small children, but the short walk is definitely do-able.  At the time of our visit, B was about 18 months, so I carried him most of the way.  Be sure to use lots of bug repellent as there are a lot of mosquitoes here.

El Nispero Zoo and Botanical Gardens - El Nispero is a small zoo with a large collection of animals and birds and is a pleasant spot to spend a few hours.

We visited El Valle as a day trip, and in hindsight, there was so much to do, it would definitely be worth staying a few days.


For more information on El Valle, visit El Valle Tourism


Friday, February 14, 2014

Fun Food Friday: Crocodile Satay!

When crocodile came up on a menu in Cambodia, I had to order it.  B loved it, and perhaps not surprisingly, it tasted just like chicken.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Louvre with a 3 year old? You bet!



The Louvre with a pre-schooler?  Are we nuts?  Admittedly, I was a bit leary about taking B to the Louvre, wondering if he would be bored and unruly.  As it turns out, we all had a great time.


Here's is what worked well for us:


  • We didn't try to see everything.  We researched our visit in advance and selected a few 'must sees' to search out.
  • We read a lot about Paris before visiting, particularly "This is Paris" by Miroslav Vasek.  B had seen the Mona Lisa dozens of times in his book, and he was over the moon about seeing her in person.
  • We used a compact stroller and had reasonable expectations of 'accessibility'.  During our visit, we encountered lots of stairs, the occasional inoperable elevator and obviously large crowds.  Having a compact stroller made things a lot easier when B got tired of walking, though we did have to pull him out of it a number of times to navigate stairs.
  • We brought our own drinks and snacks.  While you can't eat or drink in the galleries, there is seating near the gallery entrances and the foyer under the pyramid where you can relax and take a break. Snacks and drinks are available on site but they are VERY expensive.
  • We kept our visit short and sweet - about two hours, then headed to the Tuileries Garden for a picnic and a good run.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Visiting the Big Buddha in Hong Kong


Tian Tan Buddha Hong Kong
B had read about the Big Buddha (the Tian Tan Buddha statue) in his book Sasha Visits Hong Kong and had specifically requested we visit on our recent trip to Hong Kong.  

The most convenient way to access the Big Buddha is via the MTR then the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, a 5.7 km, 25-minute cable car journey from the Tung Chung MTR station to Ngong Ping village at the base of the steps leading up to the Buddha. If your little ones are fans of airports, the cable car affords a bird's eye view of Hong Kong's international airport.
Ngong Ping 360 Crystal Cabin

I arranged cable car tickets in advance via http://www.np360.com.hk/en/ which got us into a shorter ticket line on a busy day.  Since our visit, the website has enabled online ticket sales allowing you to purchase and print tickets in advance and skip the ticketing line altogether.  I chose to purchase 1+1 tickets, which involved riding in a Crystal Cabin (with see-through floor) on the way to the Buddha, and riding a Standard Cabin on the return journey.  Taking the Crystal Cabin at least one way is a must-do for anyone who isn't terrified of heights and the views were fantastic.
Ngong Ping village

When you get off the cable car, you need to walk through the Ngong Ping 'village' to get to the base of the Big Buddha.  The village is full of souvenir shops, restaurants, tidy washrooms, plus a 7-11 which is handy for picking up water and/or snacks.  I wondered whether or not to bring along a stroller, but am I ever glad I did.  It is a bit of a walk from the cable car to the base of the steps up to the Big Buddha, and with B's 4 yr old little legs and hot sun, I would have ended up having to carry him on the return journey otherwise.  Our handy Uppa Baby G-Luxe stroller fit nicely under the seat in the cable car and we parked it at the base of the steps before proceeding up.  


Beautiful views
Although it sounds like a lot, it wasn't a big deal for B to climb the 268 steps to the top, though he did ask to stop a couple of times to drink water.  He felt so proud to make it to the top on his own!  I should add he was also highly motivated by the promise of ice cream when we got back down to the village :)

HOW TO GET THERE

Take the MTR to the end of the orange Tung Chung line, and from there, the easiest way to access the Buddha is via the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

TICKETS

You can buy them Ngong Ping 360 cable car lower terminus or online in advance at http://www.np360.com.hk/en/.  1+1 tickets (Crystal cabin to the Buddha, return journey via Standard cabin) are $210 HK per adult, $135 HK for kids aged 3-11 and $165 HK for seniors.

RESOURCES:
Official Ngong Ping 360 cable car site http://www.np360.com.hk/en/
Hong Kong Tourism http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/see-do/highlight-attractions/top-10/the-big-buddha-po-lin-monastery.jsp

For more reading about this scenic spot, check out http://www.dangerous-business.com/2014/02/lantau-island-green-escape-hong-kong/

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Still our favorite travel stroller... The UPPAbaby G-LUXE

A year ago, I wrote about our favorite travel stroller, the UPPAbaby G-LUXE stroller we bought when B was just over a year old.  Three years later, our G-Luxe is still going strong!

Here's why I love it:

It is durable and reliable - Our G-LUXE has been gate-checked on three dozen flights, bounced over miles and miles of cobblestones at the Acropolis, Ephesus and Pompeii, bumped along the wild trails of Komodo, been folded up and unfolded hundreds of times and it works as well today as the first day we had it. Over the last three years, it has taken a real beating and it still keeps going!

Easy to clean - The fabric is easy to wipe clean and the latest model has a removable cover that can go in the washing machine.

Comfortable - It reclines almost all of the way back so it is easy for B to sleep in if we are waiting to board a late-night flight or wandering around during nap time.  The foot rest is adjustable and the sun canopy effectively keeps the sun out of B's eyes.

Lots of storage space - The large mesh basket below the seat is big enough to store pretty much everything we need along the way.

Functional - It is fast and easy to open and shut.  And it STANDS easily when folded!

Lightweight - According to the manufacturer, it is the lightest reclining full-size umbrella stroller available in the U.S.  At only 11 lbs, it is easy to tote about when not in use with the convenient shoulder strap.

Compact - When folded, it is very compact and easily fits through airport x-ray scanners and in the smallest cruise cabin closet.


It retails on the manufacturer's website for $189.99 and I have found it is worth every penny.

What is your favorite travel stroller?