Istana Visit

The last time I visited the Istana was when I was about 6 to 7 years old. That’s a few decades ago! Memories were still vivid till now as I recalled it was a Chinese New Year Day. I wore a yellow and white long jumpsuit and a little sun hat. Ok – I can’t remember that well. It’s more because my parents kept photos. Smile with tongue out

After having kids, one of the places I had always wanted to let my boys experience is The Istana – “Palace” – in Malay. On the 2nd day of Chinese New Year, we were not required to do any house visits and thus thronged out early in the morning to pay a visit to The President. Turned out, he was not at “home” but we had a good time running around the huge lawns and turning cartwheels on the green green grass.

As described on it’s official website, The Istana is a “green lung amid the arteries of metropolitan bustle”. Located at Orchard Road, one cannot imagine it’s vastness till you really stepped in for a visit yourself.

Thankfully we arrived early and fitted into 2 categories (young infant below 3 years old and elderly above 60 years old) – thus we joined the express Q and didn’t need to wait too long in the sun.

Tip: If you are planning a visit during any of the open house days (especially CNY), it’s best to be early. When we left around 12+pm, both queues (regular and express) were snaking towards the mall. I am probably not one who enjoy being in a queue under the sun with tired kids. Do remember to bring along your identification cards too! Singaporeans and PRs enter free; others pay $1 entry fee.

Upon entering the premise, one of the first few sights that greeted us were The Swan Pond. This is the largest ponds in the grounds.

The swans were a little shy with all eyes peering at them.

The most impressive part of The Istana to me is not the iconic architectures but the spacious and luxurious greenery. This is the first year a new Nature Guided Walk led by National Parks Board is conducted at the Istana. Believed they might bring this initiative back for future open houses due to it’s popularity.

Tip: If you are a nature lover and keen to hear the flora stories of the Istana; do go early and purchase the tickets. We heard that the tickets were sold out by the afternoon.

My kids were not too interested to hear the flora stories and history. Instead they were more interested in this:

I am not sure if the playground is a permanent display at The Istana. But it is definitely a delight to the young ones to enjoy some swinging fun while we take a breather on the grass patch.

Of course, besides the extensive greenery, there is the iconic The Istana Main Building which is sited on top of a hill. This is a restricted place where we can’t take any photos of the interior. We paid $2 per adult to enter and viewed the ground floor which hosted many foreign diplomats. This is also the place where The State Room is located; it is commonly used for official presentations and ceremonial purposes such as swearing-in. On display at the same time were collections of gifts which were presented by foreign countries to Singapore. It is definitely worth the $2 (which goes to charity by the way) to tour the building. Probably the only few chances commoners can enter and view the building (you will recognise the familiar scenes from the news channel!).

Hang around the gardens for a while and you will get a chance to see the guards marching for change in shifts.

We were happy that we made this excursion for the kids and for ourselves! I am not sure if it might be another few decades before we head back for another Open House.

More photos for the album and memories:

If you are thinking of going by for one of the Open Houses, do check out The Istana website for updates.

For Year 2014, it is open to public on these dates:

1. Chinese New Year (2nd Day): 1st Feb 2014

2. Labour Day (Actual Day): 1st May 2014

3. Hari Raya Puasa & National Day: 2nd Aug 2014

4. Deepavali (Actual Day): 23rd Oct 2014

Book in your calendar and bring your kids/parents/friends/visitors for an experience!

One Year Young!

The littlest man in the family turns ONE year young today! Time files so quickly – just the same day one year back, I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance to await Eizac’s arrival.

Celebrating his 1 year’s journey in photos below – the best memories are left in the heart and in my opinion –  photos too! Smile

To my dearest little Eizac,

From blubbering to blabbing;

From milk to solids;

From toothless grin to 2 front-teeth smile;

From crawling to cruising;

From sleepy expressions to expressed emotions

From holding on to letting go;

From 3.235kg to 9+kg;

Baby darling, you have grown so quickly!

You are a little miracle child;

No less loved than your brother;

You are very much loved and cherished.

Watching you grow up healthy and happy is the best thing we can ever ask for.

Thank you for the joy, laughter, tears and poo (yes, we love you the whole package)

Keep the sunshine in your smile and the skip in your hop. Smile

We pray that you will continue in good health;

enjoy your childhood and stay a cheerful boy.

We L.O.V.E YOU, Baby Eizac!

Happy ONE year young birthday! Smile

The Zalora Shopping Experience

Advertorial

If you enjoy online shopping, Zalora Singapore would be a familiar name to you. If you haven’t quite heard of Zalora, it’s a good time to get acquainted! Smile

Zalora is a fashion e-commerce portal which stocks local and international brands. Their products range from clothing to shoes, accessories, beauty and more. But the most important part which attracted me was the FREE DELIVERY and 30 DAYS FREE RETURN policies.

Just to share my first-hand experience. I chanced upon Zalora about 2 years ago when brick-and-mortar shopping became tougher with the demands of work and family. After kids came along, the luxury of shopping became a rushed event most of the time. With an active boy and napping schedules, shopping is just a grab-and-go affair. To clarify – I am not much of a window shopper to start with. I prefer to “shop-with-a-purpose” and the purpose will be to BUY! Simple hey!

And so, the only spare time I have is when kids are finally fast-asleep at midnight. I would be thinking about that friend’s birthday gift which I haven’t gotten a chance to buy; or that I badly need a pair of black ballet flats as my reliable old one had decided to turn into a snappy crocodile. The best solution at that weird witchy hours is to go online!

My first purchase at Zalora was a whole lot of T-shirts for my husband! I figured that he is a lot easier to please. His size is quite standard and harder to go wrong. Turned out that I got 4 out 6 T-shirts correct. The 2 odd ones – he looked too gay in that pink one and the other was too tight. Kim was pleasantly surprised when I told him I could return that 2 without incurring additional charges and a refund will be possible too. It was a breeze for the return – I just filled up the return forms; dropped them off at the post office and that’s it! The customer service person called a few times to check why I opt to return and if I had received the refund. Overall it was a good first experience.

Subsequently, it became my go-to shopping portal for a variety of items. Shoes, tops, dresses, bags!

Top 3 reasons why I am a returning customer:

1) Free 30 days return. This is just what I need. Most of the time, I am a size 7 but sometimes it can be 8 or 9 depending on the cutting (shoes I am talking about.) Open-mouthed smile Not every online portal has such fuss free return and refund policy.  Most do charge a return shipping cost. A winning policy for me; hands down.

2) Fast delivery. It is fast. fast. fast. Can you imagine their customer service is actually available 7 days a week! I received my purchases within 2 to 3 days most of the time. This is helpful when I need something urgently.

3) Predictive shopping. My guess – Zalora probably hired more IT professionals than merchandisers! It knew that online shopping is not just about providing the right goods. It is also about online presence, remembering customers’ likes, media engagement and more. You will realise that it remember your “viewed” items and promote similar items to you on the same page. When you are “missing” for too long, you will receive an email with some promo codes to nudge you to come by again and spend some money! hahaaa…  It is addictive that way. It is smart that way.

Of course with every business, you won’t get it right 100% all the time. Some customer service personnel will test your patience while you test theirs too. Some paperwork might go missing – happened to me once; but after some rounds of explanation and apologies, they sorted it out. Overall I can say I am a happy customer because dissatisfaction was always rectified promptly and follow ups were sufficient.

Have you bought your Chinese New Year clothes? If not, do swing by to check out ZALORA for CNY Shopping for a wide selection of auspicious-looking sunny clothes! Smile

Have fun shopping!

image

N.B: This post is part of a discussion with Zalora Singapore. Otherwise all views and opinions expressed remain writer’s own.