December 31, 2013

2013 – the year that was

The year started with the little one entering her first year in kindy.  She was rather reserved and wasn’t willing to join in the activities with her friends the first couple of days but she eventually got used to kindy and made several close friends.  Her kindy organizes the sports day and concert on alternate year and this year was sports day.  However, she didn’t join in the school trip to Farm in the City as I had taken her and her jie-jie there earlier.  She also missed her year-end class party as we were holidaying in Australia then.  Study wise, she’s not doing that well – after a full year in kindy, she still doesn’t know all the 26 alphabets.  Been coaching her the last few weeks to prepare her for kindy reopening next week.  Since we missed the Parents-Teacher Day as we were in Australia, I collected her progress report recently when I went to collect her new books for 2014, and was pleasantly surprised to find that she was awarded the Most Caring student for her class.

Yiu Yiu is progressing along in her studies, settling near the top 1/3 among the 600-odd Standard 2 students in her school.  She was also awarded the Exemplary Student award in her class.

This was a photo taken from the school's notice board

After two years of learning gymrama, she finally took her first grading exam in the free hand and ball routine for the Little Gymnast category, which she passed.  She will have to wait till June to take the exam for the last apparatus, the rope, which she missed as she didn’t have enough time to practice due to our being away to Australia.

The girls also started piano sometime in Aug/Sept.  We initially only planned to enroll Yan Yan, since Yiu Yiu is already learning the violin but she likes the music centre and the teacher, and requested to learn so we agreed.  She has also started swimming lessons with her cousins in April so she’s one really busy young lady with piano, violin, swimming, gymrama and art classes.  We’ve asked her to drop some classes but she loves them all, so we’ll just let her continue for the time being.

We went on some outings…
- to Legoland and Hello Kitty World in January
- to Kidzania in June
- to Farm in the City in August

…and a holiday to Penang during the June school holidays.

We were also blessed to have been able to go on two overseas holidays this year – to Central Vietnam (Hoi An, My Son, Hue and Danang) in March and to Melbourne and Sydney during the recent year-end holidays (which I have yet to blog about).

On a personal front, I didn’t travel as much for work this year, but somehow ended up in Bangkok three times J  During the last trip in October, I took some time to visit Ayutthaya, Maeklong Railway Market and Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.  And after sporting long hair for umpteen years, I chopped if off for a bob.  Here’s a shot taken at the saloon after my cut and colour.  Please pardon the dark circles under my eyes - this was just a day after we returned from Australia and I was reeling from lack of sleep.  I like my new look, as does many other people who says I look 10-15 years younger...haha.

We wrapped up the year with a Hi-5 concert at the KLPAC.  The girls (and Yihao & Xiaoyu) had a blast, singing and dancing along with the group.  We even scored a Meet & Greet session pass and the children had the opportunity to take photos with the group.

So that wraps up our 2013.  I don’t typically make resolutions for the new year but here’s my to-do lists for 2014:
- start exercising again and lose some weight.
- spend less time at work and come home earlier every day.
- have more patience with the girls
- go for facial, massage and pedi regularly.
- enroll Yan Yan into a ballet school, as she’s been asking for it for a long time now so I should seriously start looking for a class for her.
- enroll Yiu Yiu into a Money Tree program, and Beginner’s Camp at Radiant Retreats.
- encourage Yiu Yiu to read more, as she hardly reads.
- teach the girls to cycle.  Yiu Yiu was cycling regularly on her four wheelers until her bike broke down several months ago and we never replaced it, so will have to buy new bikes for them both.

Lets see how many of the above can I accomplish this same time next year.

Wishing everyone a blessed 2014 filled with an abundance of laughter, joy, success and great health.

Hi-5 concert

I was having a meeting with my colleague and the events company to discuss on some logistics for an event we are planning for next year.  We were discussing venue options when KLPAC came into the discussion.  The person from the events company mentioned that they will be running an event there on Dec 27 for my previous company.  It turned out to be the Hi-5 concert!  She mentioned that she has extra tickets, as most of her staff are not married and so, no children to bring to the concert – so I became the happy recipient of five complimentary tickets.

So on that day, sis and I, together with four kiddos, made our way to KLPAC.  We weren’t sure if they would allow six of us to enter with five tickets, but sis was prepared to just wait outside and do her work in case they didn’t allow.  Luckily, we met my ex-colleague who not only gave us an extra entry ticket, but passes for the Meet & Greet session after the concert.

The children enjoyed themselves tremendously – singing and dancing along to the songs.  Even I enjoyed their lively and fun performance.


After the show, as we were going out from KLPAC, we stopped to take some photos at the beautiful old KTM warehouse (?), but a guard promptly came and stopped us, citing private property of YTL!  He even stayed to ensure we got into our car and drove off, before riding away.  Ceh!
This was the only photo I managed to take before being chased away

December 30, 2013

Bangkok working trip – visit to Railway Market & Floating Market

In my younger days, I fell in love with images of boats carrying colourful fruits, flowers and vegetables in floating markets in Thailand.  I thought these are common sights in Bangkok so I was suitably disappointed when there was none to be seen in the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok.  Only later I found out that these pretty sights are found outside of Bangkok.

After my visit to Ayutthaya, I made a trip to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market the following day.  As it is not easy to get to the floating market by public transport, I opted to follow a tour, which first took us to see the Maeklong Railway Market.  The market seems like any typical wet market in Thailand selling local produce but what’s unique is that the train runs through the market several times a day.

Some big shot was making a market visit on that day 

Within minutes before the train arrives, the vendors retract their awnings, and move their goods away from the track.  All the carts are equipped with wheels so that they can be pushed away from the track easily.

Tourists all ready with their smart phones, tablets and cameras waiting for the arrival of the train

Here comes the train 

For some goods displayed on the ground, the vendors don’t even bother moving them, as the train will just move swiftly above their goods.

Once the train’s gone, the vendors raise their awnings and push back the stalls to the original position.  And business is back to normal, all within five minutes.

We arrived at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market close to noon and even then, it was still jampacked with tourists.  Most of the things on sale are trinkets and souvenirs that can be found in tourist attractions in Bangkok.  It looks like the whole market is catered to tourists rather than an actual market for the locals. 

Massive congestion in the waterways
This is how the passenger boats are stored after the hordes of tourists left the market at about 2pm 
  We were also taken on a boat tour of the water village before leaving for Bangkok.

December 28, 2013

Bangkok working trip – visit to Ayutthaya

I have been to Bangkok numerous times for work – in fact, I was there three times this year.  While I’ve seen most of what Bangkok has in terms of tourist attractions, I’ve never been to Ayutthaya.  So on my last trip to Bangkok in October, I extended my stay to visit Ayutthaya.

I read in travel forums that it is fairly easy to get to Ayutthya by public transport, so I made my way to the Victory Monument BTS station, and took a minivan from there.  The trip took about one hour, at the cost of 60 baht (if I am not mistaken).  It was a wet morning and by the time I arrived in Ayutthaya, it was still raining.  The van dropped me at Wat Phra Mahathat instead of the drop-off point in town, saving me time and extra expense to get to the temple.  Wat Phra Mahathat is a large temple that was quite thoroughly ransacked and set on fire by the Burmese in 1767.  Its claim to fame is the tree that has grown around a Buddha head.

Across the road from Wat Phra Mahathat is Wat Ratchaburana, established in 1424 by a Siamese king who ascended the throne after his two elder brothers killed each other in a battle over succession to the throne.  The temple was built at the cremation site of his two brothers.

Upon exiting Wat Ratchaburana, I hired a tuk tuk for 200 baht/hour, as the other temples are quite far away and scattered.  Our first stop was Wat Lokayasutharam.  Nothing much remains of this temple except for a largest reclining Buddha statue in Ayutthaya made of bricks and mortar and covered with plaster.

We then crossed the river to visit Wat Chai Wattanaram.  This is the best preserved temple in Ayutthaya, and a visually impressive one with the principal prang standing 35m high on an elevated terrace with four smaller prangs on each corner of the terrace.  It was built in 1630 by King Prasat Thong to honor his mother.  Wat Chai Wattanaram was conceived as a replica of the Angkor temple. 

Wat Yai Chaimongkhol features a large reclining Buddha in saffron robes, and a huge chedi surrounded by statues of Buddha wearing saffron robes.


Wat Phra Ram, consisting of one huge prang and some smaller chedis.  It was constructed on the cremation site of the first Ayutthayan monarch, King Ramathibodi I.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet, the most important temple of Ayutthaya, is known for its distinctive row of three restored chedis containing the ashes of three Ayutthaya kings.  Housed within the grounds of the former royal palace, the temple was used for royal religious ceremonies.  It also served as a model for the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.

 Foundations of buildings in the Grand Palace
Next to Wat Phra Si Sanphet is the Vihara Phra Mongkol Bophit which houses a large bronze cast Buddha image.