Thursday, February 21, 2013

Piece by Piece: Our Legoland Malaysia Trip

The brick from our childhood days comes alive in Legoland Malaysia (shortened to LLM hereafter). This is the newest theme park situated at the Johor-Bahru estate, southern tip of Malaysia, just between the Singapore-Malaysia border. We went to LLM during the CNY holidays albeit cloudy skies and chance of rain.

Here are helpful information for those of you who are interested to visit LLM one of these days. My pov is coming from Singapore as the starting point though, but should apply even if you are coming from other parts of the world.

Booking and Getting There

We booked the LLM trip at the package tour office in Novena Square. It includes 1-day pass and coach bus from SG to MY and vice versa.

I would recommend getting a package tour.  First, the entrance ticket was given to us before we left SG and therefore, you don’t have to queue at the ticketing booth when you arrive at LLM. This can save you time esp if you happent to visit on a busy day where there could be hordes of tourists/visitors. Second and more importantly, you will have a convenient tourist bus transportation from the predetermined bus pick up point and will drop you exactly at Legoland Malaysia park already.  Same process going back- they will pick you up infront of LLM parking area and take you back to the originating point of bus pick-up. This also include drop off and waiting time at the respective SG border and MY border Immigration. Our pick-up point was at the Singapore Flyer where there are sattelite offices for package tour providers. This need to be booked in advance.

From SG flyer, one way trip is about  90 minutes including immigration clearances.

While the LLM park is situated just across SG-MY border, you will need to pass customs of both countries. Also, the location of LLM is at an estate that is still under development and is not accessible by normal public transport. You will need to book for your transportation arrangements. So I suggest getting a package tour altogether.

What to See

Just like any other theme park, there are rides for the young and old alike. The unique attraction would be the Lego City featuring replicas of famous landmarks from Asia using – lego bricks of course! Malaysia featured KLIA (airport), Kuala Lumpur Petronas Towers and the KL cityscape. I liked the Singapore city scape featuring the Marina Bay skyline with the Singapore Flyer, Merlion, Fullerton Hotel and the Riverside / Boat Quay. I was frankly quite puzzled with the choice of feature on Philippines. It could have showcased the Banawe Rice Terraces or Mayon Volcano landscape.

Ain't this a familiar site?


KL Cityscape with the Petronas Towers looming by

I noticed that LLM has quite a number of ‘daring rides.’ I wasn’t in the mood for uh—passing out or something gross afterwards – so I kept to the ‘safe’ rides. The cars were designed to look like replica of lego models and look very colorful. There were also several lego-inspired figures around the park where you can have your quirky picture taken. Even the fountain was made from lego.

Bring some change of clothes if you will dare the water-rides

... This was a safer bet.

The kids will enjoy the Nissan Driving School adventure where they get to experience “actual driving” in a multi-lane driving track complete with traffic lights, traffic congestion, et al. They even get to have their own driving license with picture!  Kyla tried this and hubby keep on reminding her to keep into her own lane and follow the arrows and traffic light.  My sister and I were watching in the sidelines and smirking that if this were a real road at least Kyla was a good defensive driver (takes after the father and not after her reckless-driving titas, hahaha). Suffice it to say that at least this was just a make believe driving! There was one kid who kept on railroading anything and anyone moving and non-moving creature along the path! It was funny and amusing to watch, but not if you were the parent of the kid whose car he kept on bashing against. And he was the only one who parked the wrong way when it was time to park the cars to the starting point, and yep, bashed a few more cars in front of him.  At least he provided the watchers with entertainment...

The Nissan Driving School adventure
What to Bring

Unless you are a Malaysian, you need to bring the passport!

Local currency (MYR) is required when paying at the food booths and the restaurants within the park. There are several restos inside the park, with both western and local fare. Bringing of food and drinks into the park are not allowed. Credit cards are accepted in the souvenir shops.

Hats and umbrellas for either warm weather or rain. Sunscreen for sunny days.

Comfortable pair of walking shoes.

Comfortable clothing for a day’s worth of tour. Unless of course, your idea of comfortable clothing is a black, skin tight cocktail dress with all the bling-blings and 4-inch stilettos (?!). Well… it’s a democracy, so fine! (Couldn’t help this…)

Bulky bags are not allowed in some of the rides. Travel light.

What I Thought

I would give it 3-stars for now.  We came during a festive season so I was expecting a ‘festive atmosphere’ starting from having to see Lego Mascots at the entrance gate to welcome the visitors and maybe entice them for photo-ops, a common offering in other equally prestigious theme parks. It was quite dull when we arrived. There were no voice over music or announcements to liven up the park that could have made up for the nearly gloomy weather.  Music started piping in only around noon time. They do have fireworks towards end of closing time but we left earlier so we did not get to see this. We only saw one mascot throughout the day. They should install more mascots around, even if for shorter durations, at the different areas of the park.

If you are impatient (like me) to wait for long queue for food, you better go in line at the restaurants a little bit earlier than usual. I guess I was used to the hustle and bustle at the Kopitiams so waiting for the food (I was the ONLY person there) to be completely placed on our trays felt like an eternity. I had to stop myself rolling my eyes while waiting. This is a good case study for work process improvement (said to my then impatient self…).

Same can be said on how the queue for the rides was managed. They could do with a little bit of perky movements. The line in the driving range had 45 minutes waiting time so I had plenty of time to observe while waiting for Kyla's turn. It is inevitable some cars would collide from time to time and would need assistance to disentangle the cars so that the kiddie drivers can move on. In other theme parks I’ve been, the assistants would be alert and quick to react, safety considered.  In this case, the assistants do the metaphorical “walking-under-the-moonlight” act (“naglalakad sa liwanag ng buwan). So before the cars got disengaged, time was almost up. Thankfully, the other rides were more efficiently managed.

The Lego City and Imagination City was a great crowd drawer, just need to jazz up the energy there by a notch.

There are several souvenir kiosks around for Lego-branded trinkets and stuff.

Outside the park, there is an ongoing construction for Legoland Water Park and Hotel. This should draw more customers if there is a comfortable hotel across the park, they can stay overnight and enjoy the area for longer.

Overall, Legoland Malaysia promises to be the next big attraction in addition to USS here in Southeast Asia. With a wee bit of tweaking, it will be quite a blast!

More pictures and a whole lot more side comments in Facebook.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Birthday Staycation

After spending endless years with my birthday falling on weekday/work week, it was, quite an auspicious way to celebrate a birthday that is faced with a long weekend holiday as it coincided with the 2013 Chinese New Year!

Easily in the last 4 birthdays I had I was -- holding a weeklong workshop at the Plant, skipped lunch to hustle issue sheet revisions and powerpoint presentation that was due shortly after lunch, had to finish the monthly board Operations review and last year, huddled in a situation room to put together the supply plan after a crisis erupted.

With my birthday falling on a long weekend holiday, you can say I did concote a grand plan to enjoy it while it  lasts.  Nothing could be more promising than being marooned with one good luck after another!

Panoramic view of Rasa Sentosa Resort
No cloudy day can dampen my mood this week!
Weve always wanted to do a staycation at Sentosa but bookings are always a challenge. I got lucky with my chance booking at the Shangrila Rasa Sentosa Resort for a spacious, pool side room.  With two tweens in tow, I very much appreciate that our suite has a living room and the sofa bed was converted into a bed that Kevin and Kyla can use!  There were two mini balconies that directly face the pool side and the Koi pond. We spent the afternoon doing nothing mostly. Well, sort of -- knowing me, I have to get around and take pictures even with the cloudy sky looming.

The main bedroom with soothing hints of earth colors

The kids love having their own hang-out and TV (we do too..!)

Birthday cake from the Resort Staff

Being a festive season, the staff kept on bringing stuff over at the room througout the day, not that we are complaining. There were lukans (pair of mandarin oranges), box of chocolates and chocolate lollipops and a mini birthday cake for our family to enjoy.

By dinner time, we were deliberating whether to just have room service (too lazy) or dive into the CNY eve buffet dinner at Silver Shell Cafe which I predicted to be overflowing with crowd. So we went there anyway and got a table immediately at the serene end of the dining hall. Kyla thoroughly enjoyed the children's buffet spread which was set up at the right height for the young ones.

To continue the lucky streak, just before we left dinner, the host asked if we want to contribute to their children's charity fund for $5. Each donation entitles you to a lucky dip in their prosperity casket-filled with angbaos.  We had two picks, one each for Kevin and Kyla. I was busy assisting Kevin in his angbao when the host exclaimed that Kyla picked the angbao with the grand prize! It was a buffet dinner for two at Rasa Shangrila hotel!

CNY Eve Dinner at Silver Shell Cafe

We spent the next day- my actual birthday- strolling along the Siloso Beach after a sumptuous breakfast and with the kids going for a swim while hubby and I watch along. It was Kyla's first swim after months of having her arm in a cast. Throughout the day, greetings from friends and well-wishers also poured in.

Dragon Dance commenced early in the morning of my Birthday,
the 1st day of the Lunar New Year and welcoming the year of the snake


The Water Park area

We went home later that day for a birthday dinner at home with my sister Cindy and our yaya Jhane. With hubby presiding over my usual request of dishes. The highlight was of course, when hubby and the kids gave me their birthday present... hubby pulled all the stops this year when he surprised me with a Pandora bracelet with charms! There was an angel boy for Kevin and a sun for Kyla.. then we added the twin butterfly for hubby and me, plus it is the symbol of my blog itself. I probably gushed a hundred times about how much I loved this thoughtful gift!

Keeping it simple. One candle for that one shot at life. One precious life to live.

Hubby is all smiles that I loved it... of course, my smile was bigger!
... and it is not yet the end. The next day we all head for Legoland Malaysia. But that, is another story.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

"There's a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heart breaking."

I encountered this book more than three years ago, while I was reading another favorite book-- The Chicken Soup for Children with Special Needs. This book was mentioned in one of the short stories in the Chicken Soup series.
A few weeks after, while scanning the shelves at the bookstore, I saw the paperback edition. I did not bother to scan the reviews for this book so I bought it out because I was intrigued.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom is about meeting the people who came to your life for a reason. The setting of the story dwells at the events that happen shortly as you pass the after life. 
After the first few pages, I was definitely, irreversibly hooked. I finished reading it while waiting for Kevin during his Saturday speech sessions in La Marea. The story was riveting and poignant. I shed tears along the way while reading the emotional parts of the story.

Maybe because deep inside I already knew the first person I will meet in that afterlife. At that moment, there was no doubt in my mind as to what the purpose of my own life was all about. Never been clearer.

And I thought, that it would still be best to divine the purpose of your life while you are actually alive, and not have it spelled out for you in death while pondering into winds of eternity and wondering what you could have or not have done. So I raved that this book came to me at a great time.

"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning."

I also could not help but remember friends, people who became a part of my life.  Most of them stayed on for a while; sometimes a really very short while, so fleeting, before life took me to another phase, another chapter. And there were people who actually disappear in your life, only to come back again, at a portentious time when you actually need them to be there. Such were life's mysteries and blessings.

"When someone is in your heart, they're never truly gone. They can come back to you, even at unlikely times."

I was in my late teens when I began to recognize the fleeting pattern of how people, places, faces passed by my life. There was and I predicted then, that there will be no permanence. Only series of changes. Moving from city to country.  Country to city.  One lifestyle to another.  New places, new people, maybe some friends to be made, friends to say goodbye to someday.  And that patterns never ends. And sure enough until this day, it does continue.

"There are no random acts. That we are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind."

That was many years ago and I never understood why.  When you are young and carefree, you may see the patterns of the future but you don’t want to over-analyze things.  But now I know better.  People do come and go in my life, most of them with a special purpose.  And when their mission has been served, we say goodbye.  Some of them do come back.  Some don't.

And that is how it is supposed to be. 

That was how my life was willed to be. So I accept it.

"Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you're not really losing it. You're just passing it on to someone else."

But through it all, there were the very few friends and acquaintances, who served as the bridge to my past, the present and maybe well into the future.

"And if you are ever going to have other people trust you, you must feel that you can trust them, too--even when you’re in the dark. Even when you’re falling."

And perhaps, that is why at the end of our life, the metaphorical five symbolizes the ones that truly last forever, not by virtue of time spent with them, but the meaning they were to bring into our lives.

"All endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at that time."