Hungary Winter Drive – Sprain, Pain & Piano

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I had to re-wrap the bandage because it was falling off. It ain’t pretty but it worked!

My holiday adventure began even before I boarded the plane. Having just came back from Japan the week before and knowing that I’ll be eating lots of yummy Hungarian food in the days ahead, I felt the need to go for a long walk / jog the night before we fly, to clear off a few extra calories.

So away I went, walking for a good two hours till it was past midnight, doing my rounds at a park that was a five minute walk from my home. Just before coming back, I decided to do a quick jog for one final circuit, so that I work out a bit more of a sweat. Little did I know that this would be a fateful decision. As I was rounding the final bend, I stepped into a crack at the side of the path, which I did not see in the dark. My left foot took a huge wobble and I literally went SPLAT and fell face first on the ground. Ouch… not good… not this… not one day before I’m due for the long flight to Europe and having to drive our way around for 10 days, in a manual car where my left foot would be crucially needed to engage the clutch.

It took me 5 minutes to pick myself up slowly from the ground and a full hour to hobble back home. I wasn’t sure about the full extent of the damage done, but it felt like at best a bad sprain, or even possibly a fracture. Thankfully, I have a brother who is a doctor, and he was able to give me some useful advise, and also loan me a set of crutches to bring along for the trip. I managed to also drag myself to a Chinese physician the next afternoon before my flight. He did a bit of magic on my foot (a little press here, a little step there) and wrapped up the entire foot in a bundle of herbal medicine. Somehow the treatment worked wonders, and my condition improved dramatically within a few hours. I was also grateful for the crutches, for they were a life-saver, giving me that extra support to navigate the long walks through the airport terminals at Changi and Heathrow.

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Our daughter had to be more proactive in light of my injury.

On a more positive note, it was wonderful to be back in London for the first time in 17 years, albeit only for a few hours at Heathrow Airport to transfer planes. A flood of memories came back, and I found myself reminiscing of the good times I had, four years of my youth living and studying in the UK. I made so many great friends from different nations, although I confess I am one who is very bad at keeping in touch. My apologies, old friends!

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Memories of my Music studies in the UK

It was nice to walk past a piano at Heathrow, and I took some time to tinkle on the keys. Even managed to get a bit of applause from the people passing by! Maybe I should have put a hat on the ground to earn some spare change! 🙂

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Next time I transit at Heathrow, I’m gonna do a full busking set!

Oops. Maybe not, with that security officer keeping his eyes on me!


This is part 2 of my Hungary Winter Drive blog series,  click HERE for part 3 where I share pointers about driving in Hungary as a foreign tourist.

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. If you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

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Ibis Styles Fraser Business Park, KL, Malaysia

This hotel is our favorite haunt whenever we make a trip down to Kuala Lumpur. It is extremely near to the city centre, a short distance to Berjaya Times Square and yet reasonably priced, clean and spacious. We always make it a point to book this hotel during the Accor 40% off sale, where prices are a steal at around S$40 per night. There is even a small kids room where your kids can play and entertain themselves for a bit while the parents enjoy a time of rest and relaxation!
(Rating: 9 / 10, Excellent Budget Hotel, Value For Money, Clean, Spacious, Good Location, Good for Kids)


Here are the links to the other parts in this Blog Series:

Reviews of Hotels and Restaurants:

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship and a nice home-cooked meal. So if you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


5 Oysters, HCMC

We were looking for a good place to eat for our final meal in Ho Chi Minh City, and we settled on the 5 Oysters restaurant at Bui Vien. Thankfully, our experience here matched the generally positive reviews on Tripadvisor. Prices were reasonable and well worth it considering the quality of the food. 
Summary:

Bo Nuong La Lot, Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaf, VND80,000 (Rating 8/10) – This was more tasty and authentic that what the version we had at the Royal Saigon Restaurant!

Goi Cuon, Fresh Spring Rolls with Shrimp and Pork, VND40,000 for 5 pieces (Rating 7/10) – These were the best fresh spring rolls we had during this trip, and we were so happy we ordered a second plate. However, in our previous trips we have tasted better. 

Chim Cut Chien Bo, Fried Quails with Butter, VND70,000 (Rating 8/10) – This was delicious, especially the sauce and the veggies. The quails were good but a little on the tough side though and were not easy to chew. 

Hau Nuong Pho Mai, Grilled Oyster with Cheese, VND30,000 per oyster (Rating 8/10) – Oysters were reasonably fresh and well grilled. Cheese was grilled just nice, not over or under-done.

 

Pullman Saigon Centre, HCMC

Booked the Pullman Saigon Centre during Accor’s 40% members sale and we certainly have no regrets! Wonderful hotel, convenient location near the backpackers street. I don’t know how, but the front desk staff greeted me by name when I checked-in before I even handed them any official identification documents. I’m still figuring that one out! As Accor Gold members, we got a complimentary room upgrade. The room is super comfortble with modern decor and all the little perks like complimentary coffee machine, fruit and a bottle of fried soya beans. There is a huge open concept bathtub which you could spend the whole afternoon soaking in whilst enjoying a good book or movie. The breakfast was delicious with a good spread of local and international fare.

All in all, this was a steal for just about VND1,600,000 per night. 

A Little Dreamer, Preparing to take Flight

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“I do not know what’s in the future, but I know that in the present, I have in my hands, a little dreamer preparing to take flight.”

This song, composed for the 2014 Ministry of Education Workplan, will definitely be one of the highlights of my time in MOE. It speaks of the heart and soul of education, of empowering every child to chase his or her dreams and to reach for the skies.

In the original performance in 2014, I had the privilege of working with a group of amazing musician educators, putting together an amazing performance that moved the hearts of the leaders in education present at the Workplan. To this day, I still enjoy jamming and performing with these Musicators. Every rehearsal, they never fail to bring a smile to my face!

On 16 July 2016, Dorothy and I had the privilege of reprising the song (with a twist!) at the 2016 Music Education Scholarships and Beyond O Level Music Talk organised by MOE HR. As we were preparing the song, Dorothy felt that we should get my kids to join in to sing the final 2 choruses, as a signal that as a Music Educator, it is all about the children. They are at the centre of everything we do. We work hard to enrich their lives with a love for music, at the same time developing in them a diverse range of 21st Century Competencies such as confidence, communication skills, collaboration skills. Being a music teacher sure is great fun, and oh, what a meaningful career it is!

 

 

The Perks of Being A Father

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It isn’t easy being a father. Nothing you can do adequately prepares you for the role, and after 7 years of fatherhood, I still feel so new and so raw sometimes. Things can often be rough when the kids get up to mischief and awkward when they ask you a question you do not know how to answer in simple terms. Sometimes you run out of ideas. It is one big leadership training ground.

But through it all, I can say it has been a heck of a ride! No regrets, only wonderful memories and worthwhile lessons which shape the person you are. The perks of a father are not these little gifts from your kids on Fathers’ Day, but the way these little eyes look at you with that sense of respect and love, the eyes that say in spite of all your imperfections, “You are the best Daddy in the world!”

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand – Day 2 – Driving Conditions from Sadao to Phuket

This is the third part of my blog series that details our road trip from Singapore to Phuket, Thailand and offers some advice to would-be travellers who might like to attempt a similar journey. The first part can be found here and the second part here.

In this part of the blog series, we will share about the experience of driving on Thailand roads from the Sadao border to Phuket island.

Firstly, after crossing the border, it is a good time to find a place to eat brunch or lunch before doing the long drive to Phuket. For families especially, a great place to fuel the stomachs would be at Tesco Lotus, Sadao which is just down the road after the Sadao customs towards Hat Yai on the right hand side of the road. Parking is free but as you enter the car park be prepared to show your ID (Passport or Driving License is good) to the security officer to “scan” at the camera. Within the building, you will find family friendly eateries such as KFC, MK Restaurants and The Pizza Company in a comfortable air-conditioned environment. Our eatery of choice for both our trips was The Pizza Company which serves delicious pizzas, pastas and kids meals great for the whole family! (Much better than Pizza Hut, trust me!) This is also a good place for you to stock up on groceries for your trip.

From Sadao, it is another 5-6 hours drive to Phuket, depending on how fast you cover ground. I would recommend you to drive conservatively while getting used to the unfamiliar roads and traffic habits of the Thai drivers and riders.

There are 4 main types of roads you will experience along the way. I will run through each type here:

1. Urban roads through Towns / Villages

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Urban Roads

These urban roads could be single or dual lane roads and are generally fine, except that you need to look out for cars and bikers that weave in and out without signalling. Also, you will routinely get motorists who will completely ignore traffic lights at intersections so do watch out. Don’t assume people will stop just because they have a red light on their side.

 

2. Dual Carriageways with a Central Divider on Major Roads like the Route 4 / AH2

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Dual Carriageways

After you get out of Sadao and make a left turn just before Hat Yai along the Route 4, you will be driving along a well-maintained dual carriageway for about 3 hours. Although the road doesn’t possess the finesse of the Malaysian NSE, it is a pretty good road to drive on and you should make good progress because overtaking is relatively straightforward with two or more lanes going each way. The only thing you will need to look out for along this stretch is traffic (especially motorcycles) suddenly shooting out from the side roads on the left as well as from the central divider on the right. Don’t be surprised that these motorcycles can come out from the central divider whether or not there is a legitimate U-turn point in-between the two carriageways. Sometimes the motorcycles can seem to suddenly come out from bushes and trees in the divider so you have to be alert. You will also get motorcycles (and sometimes cars!) coming at you in the wrong direction at the left side of the road.

 

3. Well-maintained Country Roads

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Country Roads

After the long stretch along the Route 4, you will proceed onto single-lane single carriageways for much of the remaining journey. Most of these are well maintained, but you do have to watch out for the following:

  • Super-slow Vehicles. Some motorists are operating on a different time-line and paradigm to you and will be taking their time crawling along and clogging up traffic, causing a long train of other vehicles to form behind them. Do overtake but only when safe to do so.  When you are overtaking, please check your right mirrors and blind spot to make sure that there isn’t another car coming from behind that is already trying to do a SUPER OVERTAKE.
  • Undulating roads in the hilly regions. These can be very deceptive because it may seem like a clear road up ahead, but there could be cars coming in the opposite direction which are completely invisible because they are hidden behind the curvature of the slope ahead. Don’t be presumptuous when you are trying to overtake along such roads because you could end up in a nasty head-on collision. Even when you are not trying to overtake, you might find that the cars in the opposite direction are trying to do so, so if you cannot see so far ahead because of the curvature of the hill, it will be prudent to slow down a bit to give you the chance to react if there is an emergency situation.
  • Sharp bends towards the left or right. These can be quite sudden and take you by surprise, so please don’t assume you can safely take all curves at the speed limit stated on your GPS.
  • Animals. Look out for dogs, cows and other animals that might be crossing the road or having a leisurely afternoon stroll.

 

4. Uneven Dirt Roads or Unmaintained Tarmac Roads with Potholes

There are some roads like these and we didn’t take a picture because we were too busy moving to the rhythm of the bumps. Just google “thailand roads with potholes” and you will find images of these suspension killers. These roads are nasty especially when coupled with heavy rain, puddles and mud. My advice here is to go slow and save your car from damage. Additionally, you should look out ahead for changes in the colour of the road surface because this could indicate the possibility of an upcoming pothole or of rough surface and give you some advance warning to slow down.

 

Arriving in Phuket

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Scenic drive around Phang Nga

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Arrival at the JW Marriott at Mai Khao Beach

With the kids sleeping in the car after lunch, I did not stop at all from Sadao to Phuket – a straight 6 hour drive. This can be potentially back-breaking, so do take a break and a coffee at the petrol kiosks along the way if you have to!

Enjoy the scenery especially along the roads around Phang Nga, these are really gorgeous scenes with lovely hills and cliffs. The view from the bridge crossing over to Phuket island is also a breathtaking sight so soak it all in! There is a security check at the gateway to Phuket just after the bridge, but you do not have to get out of the car and passports are not required. Just smile at the security officers as they give you a quizzical look at your Singapore registered vehicle.

We arrived at the JW Marriott Hotel / Phuket Beach Club at Mai Khao Beach at around 6:30pm local time, with a sense of achievement and looking forward to a great time at the resort! Mai Khao Beach is at the tip of Phuket and so if you are moving on deeper into the island towards Patong or Kata Beach you will need to give it another 1 hour on the road to arrive at your destination.

I drove to Phuket AGAIN in 2017. You can read about my exploits from the link below:

Read about my Drive to Thailand in June 2017

Finally, my wife and I also enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship and a nice home-cooked meal. So if you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series