Monday, 30 April 2012

Travelogue: Tokyo Accommodation

Having been to Japan quite a few times, I thought I will write a post on the type of accommodation I have stayed in especially in Tokyo. There are plenty of choices ranging from budget to $$$, from the normal to the wacky. Unfortunately, it's not in our comfort zone to try out the wacky ones. So what I have here are the normal from reasonable budget-conscious type to comfy 5 stars hotel.

Nowadays with the advent of the internet, nobody can give the excuse that they cannot find a place to stay while on holiday. There are tons of booking sites, review sites, the list is endless. I remember the time when internet was new (ohhh, Am I revealing how old I am?). Anyway, back on point, back in the days,  going on holiday, especially free and easy was more challenging. I love the INTERNET!

The first time we went to Tokyo was back in 2007. We found a great place to stay in Tokyo. The place we stayed was called the Tokyu Stay, an apartment hotel. They have 15 hotels scattered around Tokyo, from Ginza to Ikebukuro to Shibuya. The advantages of such a hotel is that their rooms have kitchenette sand they even provide free internet. The current rates for a standard room in Tokyu Stay in Higashi-Ginza ranges from JPY 9,400 to JPY 17900 (SGD$145 - 278) a night.

We stayed at their Higashi Ginza branch. It was a brilliant location just right next to the Tsukiji Market and the Higashi Ginza Tokyo Metro Stop. Our room had two twin beds, there was a computer which had free internet and doubled as a TV. There was also a little kitchenette with a washing machine, fridge and a electric stove top. Our stay also included continental breakfast each morning at the reception area downstairs. Great for budget and fuss free travelling.

Tokyu Stay at Higashi Ginza

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Travelogue: Trip to Prague, Czech Republic - Part I

Prague is one of my cities on my 'must-visit' visit. Weirdly, after living in UK for more than a decade, I never got my "derrière" (Pardon my french) to visit Prague even though it is only a 2 hour flight away. I finally only got to visit this magical city of bridges, cathedrals and gold-tipped towers after I have moved to Singapore. Fret no more as at least I got to visit this amazing capital city of the Czech Republic.

We stayed at a newly opened hotel called Jurys Inn which is located in a convenient spot for the Prague Old Town. It has the Florenc Metro across the road and a tram stop right in front of it. We spent two lovely nights there and paid only SGD$100 per night for the room and somehow the rate was for a triple room.

Jurys Inn Prague

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Therapy Dogs Singapore - Come and volunteer with us!

Since I have stopped working, I have always put some of my leisure time into volunteering work. When I was in the UK, I used to volunteer for Leonard Cheshire and Age Concern as a befriender. Quinton and Reegan used to come with me to the visits as in the UK, there are mostly dog-friendly.When I was in HK, I had wanted to enrol Reegan into the Dr Dogs programme by Animal Asia, but they require a dog to be over 2 years old. So I had to wait till she is 2 before I can register her. Unfortunately I moved back to Singapore before I could do that. Instead of just being a tai tai being bored at home, I decided to look for volunteer positions again in Singapore and I found Therapy Dogs Singapore.

Therapy Dogs Singapore is formed by a group of dog lovers who wanted to share the love and joy of their dogs with the less fortunate in the society. Charlie Ho is the founder and there are a group of lovely people among the volunteers. I have now been volunteering with them for 2 years and have been heavily involved in the running of the group. I have to say it is an amazing group and the work we do here is great. We concentrate mainly on Animal Assisted activities (AAA) which is where we visit our seven adopted homes with our dogs. During the visits, the residents of the homes can interact with our dogs, from patting them, brushing or feeding to walking the dogs. The reward is when you hear the laughter or see their big smiles having spent an hour with our canine volunteers. The other type of activity we do is call Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) where it is more of a one-to-one programme where a medical professional (Physiotherapists/Occupational Therapists/Nurse/Doctor) is present. There is a set goal and the session is more targeted. For example if you have a patient who has recently suffered from a stroke and is refusing to do physiotherapy. If the patient loves dogs, having a dog around to motivate the patient to do his exercise e.g like throwing a ball for the dog to fetch, is an example of some of the exercises carried out during AAT.

AAT is being used a lot in the West, but in Asia, we still lack behind due to the lack of understanding and the mindset of people towards dogs. There have been so many documented cases of how dogs or animals can help us in various areas - like dealing with stress, emotional pain etc. If you are interested to learn more about Therapy Dogs Singapore, go to our website ( . In the meantime, here are some pictures of our therapy dogs at work.

"Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It is what you do for others." - Danny Thomas

Collage of our canine volunteers hard at work

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Travelogue: Trip to Perth Part 1

The husband and the parents have never been to Australia. When we were living in the UK, to travel to Australia is a huge undertaking as it requires over 20 hours of flying time. That is just too painful to go through. Hence we never felt the need to explore that part of the world. I was lucky as in my younger days, I went to Perth & Fremantle on a school trip and again with a university mate to Gold Coast & Brisbane. So when I spotted some bargain air tickets on Jetstar, my travel planning gloves were put on and off we went to Perth.

One of the beaches we stopped along our way to the Pinnacles

Monday, 23 April 2012

The beauty of Golden Retrievers

I am an active member on the Singapore Golden Retriever club on facebook. We have a wonderful group of individuals who truly love and spoil their golden retrievers. We even have outings together and I have the privilege now to have met 2 wonderful Goldie owners, and between the 3 of us we have 6 beautiful Goldies. 

Recently, the club has started a photo contest, with the first theme being cute butts!!! Alas, we have many owners invading our doggies' privacy to snap pictures of their cute butts. That contest has ended and BoBo, the club founder's dog has won. Now we are having another contest, this time is for most beautiful smile. We are only allowed 2 photos per dogs. Frankly to choose just 2 photos is a difficult task. Goldies have the most amazing ability to smile. They are such happy dogs. Quinton my boy always look at the camera when I am snapping him and most times he is smiling at the camera. Reegan smiles less but that is due to her quieter personality as opposed to Quinton's exuberant self.

Here are some beautiful photos that I didn't share on facebook without photo bombing the facebook page. Enjoy.

Reegan at 7 weeks, smiling beautiful as we take her home with us

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Travelogue: A family trip to Bali, Indonesia

Despite the proximity and the years living in Singapore, I have never been drawn to Bali. Despite the husband being an 'Ang Moh' (Local Singaporean term for Caucasian), we have never been drawn sun, sea and beach. I know it is ridiculous especially within a stone's throw, there are plenty of great beach resorts to visit. We prefer cooler climate which explains why most of our trips are further afield rather than in Asia.

Distinctive Balinese architecture

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Travelogue: Trip to the East Coast USA for Fall Foliage - Day 1 & 2 in New Hampshire

Everyone has their list of places they want to travel to or things you dream to see - your wish list. To see the northern lights was one of those on my list. The other 'hot' item on my list is to see the autumn foliage in New England, USA. This phenomenon happens during autumn when the green leaves of deciduous tress found in many temperate regions turn to many different shades of yellow, orange and red. In some areas of Canada and the United States, it is a busy tourist area where people come from all over the world to witness this amazing sight. One of the busiest areas to view the trees is in New England, on the northeast coast of USA. It comprises of six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. For our trip, we only had 2 weeks, so we concentrated on New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.

Fall colours taken in Seoul, Korea. Hoping to see more like that in New England

A short post for a Quick walk at the Botanical Gardens

We are lucky to live so close to Botanical Gardens. Today we had an impromptu afternoon walk there. The reason is because I have been struck down by the cold bug for a few days now, which means no doggie outing for Quinton & Reegan. So finally the nose has stopped it's incessant flow and I can breathe normally again, it's time for a short outing today.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Exploring Singapore for dog-friendly places - Henderson Waves

Back to exploring Singapore to find new and interesting dog-friendly places with Quinton and Reegan. On a quiet friday morning, the family took the dogs out to explore Telok Blangah Hill Park. It is only a short drive from where we live, in the Southern part of Singapore.

Henderson waves actually is a bridge that links Telok Blangah Hill Park to Mount Faber Park. The whole area is known as the Southern Ridges, where you can do an extended walk (9km/5.6miles) linking the two parks mentioned and Kent Ridge Park and covers 8 trails. You can read more about it on this wikipedia entry.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Travelogue: Visit to Tokyo Part 1- Spring

One of my favourite countries to visit is Japan. I had the privilege to visit the country on a few occasions. The first time was back in 2007 when the husband and I were still living in the UK. We flew in during spring in late march in hope to catch the Sakura (Cherry blossom) season and we were really lucky. More on that later.

Anyway, we went back to Japan again and again as we couldn't resist the charm, and also the husband had to go there a lot for business, so lucky me got to join him there at least 2 to 3 times a year. So between 2009 and 2011, I had gone back to Tokyo at least 6 times. These trips gave me plenty of chances to explore Tokyo and some of the trips were in spring which meant that I got to see more Sakura!

Japan is amazing, no matter which season you choose to visit. I love spring for the cherry blossoms but I also love autumn, my favourite season ever!! I love to see the colours change in the trees, stepping and hearing the crunchy sounds made as you stepped into a big pile of fallen leaves :).

Admiring cherry blossoms in Kitanomaru Park

Monday, 9 April 2012

Exploring Singapore for dog-friendly places - Bukit Batok Nature Park

Back when we were living in the UK, the dogs had a good life. We had a huge garden that was around 3 times the size of the dog run at Bishan Park, which means my Goldies could get a run around in the garden. Furthermore, we were only 5 minutes drive to Ampton racecourse in Ingham which covers 80 acres and is only used several times a year. Rest of the time, it is just a dog and dog's owner heaven where they can run free, chase pheasants, quails, rabbits and squirrels to their hearts delight. At the bottom of the field, there is a little church, a stream and more fields. Very picturesque and here are the pictures to proof that.

Dogs at the Ampton Racecourse

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Travelogue: Trip to Polar Zoo in Bardu, Norway

During our winter 2012 trip to Scandinavia, the highlight of the trip was to see the Northern Lights. Since we flew from faraway Asia, we wanted to pack a lot more into the trip. One of the other highlights while we were in Tromso, was to visit the Polar Zoo.

Here's what is written on their website:

Polar Zoo is one of northern Norways most popular tourist attractions and well known as the worlds most northern zoo. The park uses an area of 114 acres with wild and beautiful nature in Salangsdalen in Bardu, in the county of Troms. These amazing nature surroundings will make your visit in Polar Zoo complete.

Our main attraction is Wolf Camp, where you have the possibility to join us inside the wolf enclosure to meet the mythical and legendary wolves close up.

The Wolf camp was exactly what we came for. From Tromso, the Polar Zoo is around a 6 hours round trip on the bus from Tromso. Here is the bus timetable. Of course, it is easier if you were to rent a car and drive there.

We caught the bus at 615am and reach the main road leading to the zoo at around 935am and the Zoo sent a van to pick us up. Even though the bus journey was long, the views along the way were amazing. It's just something magical when everywhere you looked is snowy and white :)

View from the bus

Monday, 2 April 2012

Travelogue: Northern lights in Tromso, Norway

It has always been my dream to see the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. I'm not talking about following in Joanna Lumley's footstep. Since 20 years ago, when I first heard of it, I have been wanting to go. Finally this year, I got the chance of a lifetime.

It was going to be a 2 weeks vacation to Scandinavia with the highlight of the trip - Northern Lights viewing. It has been predicted by astronomers that 2012/2013 will have solar maximum which will result in a high incidence of the Northern lights. This is the reason why we choose 2012 as the year we will go to watch the lights. 

The Northern Lights are usually observed above the Arctic Circle. We chose Tromso in Norway, which is 350km inside the arctic circle. It is also made famous when Joanna Lumley went there in the BBC documentary to catch the Northern Lights. Remember if you decide to go, to book your tours and accommodation early, as most of them get booked up very early.

We joined a bus tour, unlike the others, our guides Anja and Francesco were great. There were photographers, and not only they gave us loads of pointers, they were super enthusiastic and took care of us. I would highly recommend their service to anyone thinking of going to Tromso to see the lights.

Here are their details:

Arctic Guide Services - their facebook page.
Northernshots site where they sell the great photos they took each night.

Without further ado, here are the pictures I took on the 4th March 2012.