Friday, 28 February 2014

Just like Grandma's

School holidays were a simple affair when I was a young child. There were no such things as hotel stays (not quite affordable then) and going to the airport to catch flights (this one even more out of the budget range). What me and my big brother did was go home to our Uwan's (Grandma's) place in Batu Kikir, Negri Sembilan and spent our entire holiday with her. Just us and her, no parents, for most of it. Maybe some cousins once in a while..

Her house was the typical kampung house, surrounded by the sawah (paddy fields) in which she planted rice. My Grandpa was a songkok maker and shopkeeper. Anyway, we had a grand time playing around the house which was wooden and had push-out windows. Grandma had ducks and geese and chicken which were not pets and reared to be eaten as well as for their eggs.

So, what's the point of this rambling? Well, my children - most of their lives - live in the city. They only get to visit kampung houses during raya. And even those are very modernised. But, they got to see an honest-to-goodness genuine traditional rumah melayu during our visit to the Sarawak Cultural Village in Damai, Sarawak.

 My daughter, who always has poker face on, was truly delighted. Everything was so pretty and cool, according to her.

The kids had a go at the congkak set that was on exhibit..

Outside, there was a main gasing demo, where visitors could try out and and see if they have it in them to spin the top.

It was like a step into a magical place for the kids.. and a stroll down memory lane for me. At least now, when I talk of my childhood, they can actually visualise what I mean and relate.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Checking out the Culture Club!

Here's part 2  of  our family's maiden Sarawak visit (just in case you're wondering apa hujung pangkal cerita ni), which we had last December.

Now, before I start -- a little Geography: Sarawak is the biggest State in Malaysia. With just 4 days and 3 nites to our family vacation, it is quite impossible to cover the vast State and its many ethnic groups. So, the next best thing is to visit the Sarawak Cultural Village.

We woke up early on Monday morning took the drive to Damai where the village is located, some 32km from Kuching. The drive was pretty interesting because we didn't know what to expect. But we knew we were near when we saw Gunung Santubong which was a sight to behold. (Sorry no pictures... but oh, a liitle note, we past by some sekolah berasrama on our way and numerous KFCs on our way.)

We arrived at about 10.00am, just as the ticket counter opens. Here's an excerpt from the tourism department about the centre:

"Known as the 'Living Museum', the Cultural Village was set up to preserve and showcase Sarawak's cultural heritage.  Sprawled across 17 acres, there are about 150 people living in the village, demonstrating traditional daily activities from Sarawak's diverse tribes like the processing of sago and the making of handicrafts. They wear traditional costumes and also put on dances for visitors."

Got more pictures from the Sarawak Cultural Centre and the rest of our Kuching trip. Will share more!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Our Cat Visit

So planned your Cuti-Cuti Malaysia already? It's Visit Malaysia Year 2014 and I reckon there is no better time to explore our own country than the present! If you tak ada idea nak pegi mana, I would like to suggest Kuching (yes... Cat City itself) in Sarawak for your next free and easy family vacation destination.

Mr A, the 2 kids and I actually had our first vacation in Kuching last year during the December school holidays. Though Air Asia had numerous offers throughout the year, we finally bought tickets from one of Malaysia Airlines deal of the day. Imagine, for around RM1,000 we got seats, meals, 20kg luggage each and flew from KLIA (instead of LCCT) to Kuching. Good deal huh.. go trawl the Internet and the site once in a while.

Anyway,  the flight took off about half past three on a Sunday afternoon and we landed nice and easy at Kuching International Airport at a little past 5pm despite the fact it was rainy season. The weather was kind.

For transport, we decided to rent a car at the airport itself despite reading advise fromn other blogs on whom to rent cars from and checking out online car rental services. Mr A actually placed a booking online but the fella didn't turn up pon! So we rented a Proton Saga Auto outside the arrival gate. The asking price was RM150 but since we were there for 3 nights, we got it for RM120 per day.

We didn't take our GPS but instead relied on Google Map on our phones to get us to our destination. 

Our destination was Arriva Gateway Kuching. I initially searched the hotel portals like and agoda, but because it was school holidays, it was hard to get the type of accommodation we wanted. So, biasalah.. check the Internet with keywords like "hotel apartment", "riverside" and "family", I got what I wanted from the hotel website itself. A 2-bedroom apartment with breakfast included with superb location.

Our apartment even had a kitchenette with working stove, plates, pots and utensils, fridge, microwave, electric kettle and all. Not bad for a price of RM350++ per night.Too bad the washing machine rosak though the dryer was in good condition.  The hotel is event connected to Top Spot, a famous and cheap seafood place in Kuching!

We had dinner tepi sungai on our first night. It was laksa sarawak which was fantastically delicious - tak pernah rasa sesedap tu kat semenanjung. Walking distance from the hotel but we took the car since we were not familiar with the place. Google Map helped too. 

Despite buskers aplenty, for the first day, we had an early night. We had a lot of things planned for the next day. But that would be another story...

Thursday, 13 February 2014

My Lil Helper

LOL. If my son saw the title of this post, he would kill me. In his opinion, he is neither little (which is true...) and..well, the helper part should be okay cause he does do his chores when assigned to them.

Anyway, I roped him in to help me do a review of the Samsung Galaxy tab 3 for Kids recently. Why? Because it's for KIDS.. and I'm an ADULT. And I felt he would have a better "feel" for the product. Wouldn't you agree?

The review was published in the New Straits Times and can be read here.

I actually enjoyed the collaboration. Hopefully he did too.. ;-)

LAB REVIEW: A tablet for tots... and the family
By Rozana Sani

In addition to providing an intuitive and fun user-experience, a tablet with an interchangeable interface grows with a child, writes Rozana Sani
.DO you get anxious when your toddler grabs your tablet and starts leaving his fingerprints all over it? Bet you are biting your nails and suppressing the desire to grab it back, but you’d rather not create a scene.
Well, you could get the little one his very own tablet. How about the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 for Kids, which features a 7.0-inch display, offering portability and handling designed for younger users?
Packaged in a colourful box, unwrapping it is exciting for both parent and child. Designed for those aged 3 to 9, the tablet is a cheerful yellow and the combo comes with a matching yellow and green protective case with a handle and an easy-to-grip C Pen, a kid version of a stylus.
It is easy to slot in the tablet into the case and the string attached to the C Pen ensures that you won’t lose it. The handle of the case is adjustable, providing an option to use it as a stand at various angles. So a child can lie down on his front on a sofa and have the tablet on a stand facing him.
With 1.2GHz dual processor, 1GB RAM, 3–megapixel rear-facing camera and 1.3–megapixel front-facing camera, Galaxy Tab 3 Kids has the power and performance you expect from a Samsung Galaxy tablet, designed to provide children with an exciting and interactive experience.
To begin the experience, turning on the tablet will bring you to a registration page where you can sign up your child as the owner. That way, whenever the tablet is switched to child mode, the first screen is a welcome page with your child’s name on it. The user interface is bright and colourful with the main preloaded apps lined up card-style on the screen. The size of the “cards” makes it easy for even the youngest of children to swipe the device.
The selling point of this RM799 WiFi–only device is its safety features and educational tools.
The Application Manager allows parents to select and control the apps their children have access to. The Galaxy Tab 3 Kids also includes a Time Management feature that allows parents to set specific time periods for usage up to a maximum of two hours. When the designated usage time is up, a password protected lock screen appears, requiring a parent or adult to enter the password to unlock the device.
App-wise, preloaded content is available across three categories — Education, Creativity and Games. There is a Kid’s Store where more apps can be downloaded either free or for a fee.
To see how the device pans out in terms of usage, I enlisted the help of the only child in my household who, at 10, has unfortunately has passed the age (3 to 9) the device is intended for. But I figured he would do as co-reviewer.
The first app he tried was the drawing app. There were enough tools, effects and colours on the palette to keep him occupied. The C-Pen came in useful with a good grip for drawing and colouring. The pictures can be saved and emailed or stored in a scrapbook on the device.
The Kid’s Camera was a hit. There is a set of accessories to turn pictures of himself into portraits of pirates, cats, tigers etc. It is indeed a fun app to play around with friends.
As for the other apps, my co-reviewer said that they would be more appealing to pre-schoolers and kindergartners — which is where the ability to change the interface from Kid’s Mode to Standard Mode comes in handy.
The Application Manager enables those with the password to change the interface to the normal tablet interface, making the device a shareable one for all in the family. This means the tablet can transform as the child grows.
All in all, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 for Kids is a good gift for a child and it will get him off tablets and devices meant for adults.
However, for RM799, it should at least come with a SIM card slot so that it can run on a data plan. It will truly be a more useful device with that feature.

Read more: LAB REVIEW: A tablet for tots... and the family - Tech - New Straits Times

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Putting the cool into cleaning...

Was in Singapore in early January to visit a kilang. Things I do for my job hmmmm..

But it was interesting! Check it out!