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Bookmark Monday: All about Singapore

I had wanted to allocate one Bookmark Monday segment for covering Singapore history and its road to independence. However there aren’t any books (I haven’t found them and I’ve asked the librarians but if you know of any, please drop me a note!) for young readers, and the most elementary that I have found is in the Primary Four level Social Studies syllabus. But that’s for another post…

For this week’s post, as an alternative to the printed page, I thought I would list a couple of events that have been organised in celebration of Singapore’s 47th National Day, that we ourselves are thinking of checking out.

  • TimeOut has published a short article listing four activities for kids in Singapore this month. Click on this link to find out more. Among the listed activities, is free entry to the Istana on 5 August, art and craft activities at the Arts and Heritage Village and complimentary entry into the Istana Building (otherwise priced at $2) if your child participates in the On-the-Spot Art competition.
  • The National Museum of Singapore, in a collaboration with the National Archives of Singapore is displaying an exhibition titled 45-65: Liberation, Unrest…a New Nation at its Stamford Gallery on Level 1.  This is a free admission exhibition running till 18 November.  It’s free, it runs for some time, I don’t have to be asked twice. 🙂
  • And for the entire month of August 2012, the National Heritage Board is offering free entry for Singaporean citizens and permanent residents to the permanent galleries of the following museums – Asian Civilisations Museum, Memories at Old Ford Factory, National Museum of Singapore, Peranakan Museum, Reflections at Bukit Chandu, Singapore Art Museum and Singapore Philatelic Museum.

To all our Singaporean readers, Happy 47th National Day!

Happiness is –

Hugging each other in the morning, and the afternoon and the evening and the night again, just because.

Three chocaholics sharing ONE chocolate milkshake.

Bedtime prayers for “going to the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park and Dinosaur Show”. Every night. Even though the last time we all went was six months ago.

Counting down from months to days to the actual day of bundling into the car – horses and dinosaurs and Transformers and all – at the break of day for the five and a half-hour drive to Grandpa and Grandma’s home.

Holidays spent eating and sleeping and playing and…eating and sleeping and playing…and eating and sl…


In my world: Pat it and prick it


Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, dig some sand

Build me a castle as fast as you can

Pat it and prick it and mark it with leaves

Pull out the camera and save it for me.

On whim we took a walk…

On whim we took a walk, our family of four

To find some fascinating treasures on our nature explore

   we collect blooms fallen by the pathway, enough for a bouquet!

Cool sand bids us, come, leave the scorching pavement, explore, enjoy and play…

An hour of fun for four, and home we go with fond memories of the day.

Field Trip: Penang Butterfly Farm

I’m glad we made ourselves get out of our hotel room at 4pm to make the drive down to Teluk Bahang. We’d just checked in to our rooms after a rather sleepy and long car journey out from Taiping, and it was truly tempting to just sprawl on the bed and veg out.

Finding out that the Butterfly Farm closed at 6pm, we thought the timing was just about right, as we could leave directly from there to go for a hawker fare dinner on the beach afterward. 😛

It was a magical experience. DH and DD held butterflies on their palms for the first time.  This is a New Lacewing on DD’s hand.

I have to admit I was too chicken to try. Still am, haha.

Penang tourist attractions maintain a differentiated pricing structure, tourists pay a higher price whereas MYKAD and MYKID holders (Malaysian citizens) pay a subsidised price. So Malaysian citizens, do not forget to bring your MYKAD as there is a MYR 9 difference which can buy you a plate of char kuey teow, a bowl of curry mee and cendol for dessert with some change left over!

We arrived just in time to join a free nature guided tour which turned out to be an immensely educational experience. I wished I had brought a notebook but it was probably not possible to take any notes with DS clinging onto me, so I tried my best to remember snippets from the commentary. Tough…

The Penang Butterfly Farm was established in the 1980s, it is a live butterfly and insect sanctuary. Behind the scenes of the public exhibition, is a research and development facility dedicated to breeding, conservation and nature awareness of butterflies and insects, with particular focus on the conservation of the endangered Yellow Birdwing (Troides Helena).

On our tour, we were shown the four stages of a butterfly life cycle, from egg

to larva (this is a New Lacewing caterpillar)

to pupa (chrysalis)

and imago (adult butterfly, I forgot to ask which species this is).

Butterflies come from the order of Lepidoptera, which means “scaly wings” in Greek. Enlarged on a microscope, these are the scales on the wings of a butterfly, it is like what our human skin is to us.

This is the image of the scales under a microscope.

Image Credits: Penang Butterfly Farm

These scales can detach from the wings easily upon touching them, so we were told to not catch or hold a butterfly by its wings as the powdery substance left on our fingers are actually the scales fallen off, which can negatively impact the butterfly’s ability to fly.

Our guide also showed us an example of mating butterflies in the garden. The male attaches itself to the female and the two may remain coupled between an hour to overnight, depending on the species.

When a mating couple flies, it is usually the female who bears the weight of the two, and does most of the work in the flying. Hmm, lazy males!

The farm also houses insects in both its greenhouse as well as an indoor education centre. Outdoors, we were shown a Mexican Redknee Tarantula

and a black scorpion.

And some 30 cm long millipedes that the Nature Specialist explained were really harmless and misunderstood.

Misunderstood I can understand, I won’t harm them but I’m still running far far away if I encounter any of these foot-long crawlies….brrr…I have shivers down my spine just writing about it…

Can you spot the stick insect amidst the twigs?

Here it is, on my mum’s hand!

In its indoor education centre, visitors can view a huge collection of spiders, beetles, bugs and frogs. Kept safely behind glass walls, phew!

At the end of our tour, we were each given a little container with a butterfly inside that had just freshly emerged from the pupa and was ready to fly. You can open the container and release the butterfly into the air.

DD was so excited about this, she was given a second container.  That was fun! 🙂

For the educational and informative value, I really would like to go back again, but I have to say the entrance fee is a rather prohibitive factor.

Whilst I acknowledge that I really shouldn’t complain given the favourable exchange rate between the SGD and MYR, hopefully in future, the farm could find a way to either provide more value in the experience, or lower the pricing a little more.

Getting there:

Penang Butterfly Farm
No. 830, Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11050 Penang, Malaysia.
Tel: 60-4-8851253

Field Trip: Taiping Zoo

We spent a few days holidaying in Malaysia during the December school holidays, and took a driving trip up to Taiping and Penang.

When my aunt, who lives in Taiping, heard that we intended to visit the Taiping Zoo, she laughed and said, if our kids had already visited the Singapore Zoo, what could a small town zoo offer in terms of excitement and new discovery for our kids?

Well, quite a lot, as we soon found out to our delight! 🙂

The first zoo to have been established in Malaysia, the Taiping Zoo is more of an unpolished gem – a little rough around the edges but with some really invaluable discoveries – as compared to the more tourism savvy Singapore Zoo which is very geared towards edutainment, shows and structured activities.

Admission is priced at MYR 12 per adult, MYR 8 per child (3–12 years) and the day zoo is open from 8:30am to 6pm.  From 8pm to 11pm, it runs a Night Safari which is priced slightly more expensively.

Commentaries and label descriptions are largely dispensed in local Bahasa Malaysia, which means either you understand it fully or you don’t understand it at all. Language challenge opportunity to figure out why a hippo is called badak air and a rhino, badak sumbu?

There were no maps available at the ticketing counter, so we had to find our own way around the place. In this respect, it is useful to take advantage of the free tram ride and go for it first thing, to gain your bearings.

With a compressed schedule, we didn’t quite get to walk the entire length and breadth as we would have liked so we personally found the tram ride that much useful in at least getting a brief overview of the different sights the zoo has to offer.

When we got off the tram, we stopped by the usual favourites of the children, like the giraffes and zebras, elephants, tigers and lions.

The animals appeared a lot livelier in Taiping than Singapore, and we think this could be because of the lack of shows in the former. There aren’t any scheduled shows, so there are no droves of people rushing for seats and spaces. I personally like this because each can then people or animal-watch at leisure and go about their own business. Sometimes I tend to feel that because we’ve paid an expensive admission into the Singapore Zoo, we need to make the most value of the price and see every show there is – which becomes a rather stressful undertaking!

We saw a tiny baby elephant nursing from its mother, surrounded by all the other elephants in the herd, who took turns to assure and protect the little one between their strong legs.

Majestic Malayan tigers enjoying a morning swim.


Cute but fierce little lion cubs gambolling around while their father and mother relaxed lazily in the shade in a neighbouring enclosure.

And an interesting “one-sided argument” between an antagonized ostrich and a nonchalant giraffe.

It was all very relaxed and pleasant, and a very enriching experience for the kids who had not to date, seen baby lions or baby elephants in the Singapore Zoo.

The zoo is located within the Taiping Lake Gardens, the gardens themselves valued for its deep historical worth as the first public gardens established during British rule in Malaysia.

There is always a constant hum of activity in the Lake Gardens with joggers and walkers traversing its paths at dawn, and cars passing through the busy roundabout throughout the night.

These over-hundred-year-old golden rain trees with their branches bent down towards the water are the most frequently photographed and admired residents of the garden.

A Trip to Maritime Experiential Museum & Aquarium

We visited the Maritime Experiential Museum & Aquarium (MEMA) at Resorts World Sentosa a couple of weeks back.

Technically, the Aquarium part isn’t ready yet till 2012, so there’s only the museum, but at admission of $5 for adults and $2 for children 4 and above, one doesn’t have too much to complain about. Even if you add in Sentosa island admission cost), it still beats the more expensive admission price of the Art and Science Museum at Marina Bay Sands.

MEMA’s focus is on the history of ancient maritime trade, and the current exhibition is on the journey of Admiral Zheng He and life and trade on the Maritime Silk Route.

Before going in to the Souk Gallery, at the entrance, you can catch a preview video introducing Admiral Zheng He and his epic voyage from China to the western oceans on a life-size replica of the bow of his ship, Bao Chuan (treasure ship).

It’s a little overwhelming at first for the little ones (a moving, roaring lion head with eyes that flash bright red), but I kinda like the effects. DD liked it enough to want to go back and catch a second viewing.

Behind the scenes, literally (!) is a cross-section display of the goods that Zheng He carried and brought back to display to the Chinese emperor – he actually could fit giraffes and rhinos in his ship. (Those poor animals, I wonder how they ever survived the journey).

Children can collect a little booklet passport with pages to collect stamps for each port of call on the Maritime Silk Route – Quanzhou, China; Qui Nhon, Vietnam; Palembang, Indonesia; Malacca, Malaysia; Galle, Sri Lanka; Calicut, India; Muscat, Oman and Malindi, Kenya.

There are also full-colour activity sheets printed on sturdy cardstock that your child can fill out details in as they hunt down the answers around the exhibits.

Don’t forget to stop by the activity stations and make your own paper model of a Chinese junk and wayang kulit puppet to bring home.

Interactive exhibits also encourage one to stop and learn about Chinese ship building technology and math principles, explore traditional Indonesian dancing and get a picture of yourself in traditional gear, and role play the life and challenges of a port trader. According to the game’s scoring, I’m only an average trader…so sigh, I gotta keep my day job. 😉

What I appreciate about MEMA is the natural daylight. You know how museums are always kind of dark and enclosed, with focused spotlights on the exhibits in recessed spaces? This one is all glass and steel structure, and the natural daylight pours in through the ceiling and clear walls, making it feel very bright and airy.

MEMA also has a typhoon theatre. It’s a 150-seat 360-degree multimedia theatre, where you board a sailing ship and follow the story of a father and son who set sail to carry a gift from the Chinese Emperor to Arabian royalty. The ill-fated ship meets a treacherous end in a vicious typhoon. Sad story.  😦

The theatre basically simulates what a typhoon might feel like through movements of the platform, changes in the room temperature, water sprays and scene changes. It’s an interesting experience albeit a tad frightening for our youngest one who clung to me tighter than a baby koala throughout the whole experience. The admission for this is a separate cost of $6 per adult and $4 per child aged 4 and above.

I wonder if they will increase prices after the Aquarium is open. I hope not.
And if they will change their exhibit from time to time. Although that may not happen anytime soon.

Resorts World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway Sentosa Island Singapore 098269

Museum 10am – 9pm daily, Typhoon Theatre 10am – 8pm daily

In my world: Assorted nature finds

It’s been raining and storming so much in the past weeks that the occasional balmy evenings have been a welcome opportunity to leave the house and get some exercise! I’m just sitting here watching over the kids’ finds on our walk around the neighbourhood…while they’re off climbing and running at the playground.

Dinosaurs Live!

Last Wednesday we decided to check out the Dinosaurs Live exhibition at the Annexe of the Singapore Science Centre.

The exhibition runs from 21 October to 26 February 2012. In line with the theme, the Omnimax theatre is showing Flying Monsters, a study of prehistoric pterosaurs and their evolution, narrated by David Attenborough.

How do you tell a styracosaurus from a triceratops from a protoceratops?

I got them mixed up but DS was totally in his element, as he called out the names of the dinosaurs from afar even before we got to the exhibit itself.  He was so pleased with himself when we confirmed with the signages that he was absolutely right! Totally precious.

What’s a dinosaurs exhibition without the all familiar, typical tyrannosaurus rex skeleton? 😉

Be forewarned though, the admission charges are on the pricey side.  Especially if you’re questioning the accuracy of the representations…I mean, after all, which one of us could really say for sure that that was truly the colour of an ankylosaurus, or how the parasaurolophus really sounded like?  Ha.  But if you take it with a pinch of salt, the sandpit, colouring station, clay dino-fossil craft table and dino rides are pretty fun to the young, wide-eyed and un-jaded amongst us. 🙂

DD and DS brought home their own clay triceratops and stegosaurus respectively, coloured up some funky velociraptor pictures, and spent a considerable time just digging and raking sand.  Which gave DH and I the opportunity to check out the explanatory notes at the exhibits, and also catch up with some church friends we met who’d brought their grandchildren to the exhibition.


A tip from DH: Go to the website link above and download the 3D app if you have an iPhone. You’ll get some really cool interactive images. 😀  ** REALLY. COOL! **

And just one more additional little tip for parents: Stay far, FAR away from the “dino store”, a.k.a. souvenir store.

For one, it’s a gaping toy retail trap.

For another, it stocks the “exclusively designed exhibition trail booklet” priced at $3, but the booklet is not comprehensive enough on its own so you’d feel obliged to complete the pack by purchasing the accompanying stickers, by which time, you would have paid a princely sum of $8 in total for each trail booklet pack.

The booklet is meant to be filled up as you stop at each of the dino-kiosks  in the exhibition to collect picture stamps of various species of dinosaurs. Which is a useful resource, except…

A cleverer zero cost option? Pick up a couple of A4 sized plain sheets of paper from the colouring station, fold them into a mini-book and let the kids stamp those. Kickstart your memory into gear, remember what each of your stamps represent and go home and look up the internet or encyclopedias together as a family for information on the dinosaur species in question.  Save the $8 to buy three packs of chicken rice for lunch…or two McDonald’s value meals with a $1 top up. 😀


(Post update: We’ve just discovered, after downloading the app, that the sticker pack also has the capability to display in 3D with the iPhone app.  So buy the stickers if you would like to have the full 3D collection.  But only if you have an iPhone, otherwise they would just be expensive regular two-dimensional stickers.)