US West Coast Trip (May 2017) – San Francisco Day 2 (Lori’s Diner, Cable Car Tram and Koret Children’s Playground, Hog’s Island Oyster Bar)

After spending almost a day being cooped up on a flight, we decided that the kids needed an outlet to release those pent up energy. So we decided to spend the first full day of our time at San Francisco at a park. 

We headed to Lori’s Diner at Ghirardelli Square for breakfast. The Diner was about a 10 mins walk from our hotel but the kids were more than happy to oblige us especially Jah who was looking forward to visiting an American Diner which he learnt about in school recently. So yes off we went for pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs and of course milk shakes!

After breakfast, we walked across the street to the start of one of the cable car tram lines to begin our journey. There were of course other cheaper public transport options to take us to The Golden Gate Park where the Koret Children’s Quarters are but we figured that the kids would love the experience on the cable car tram. They were both scared and excited to be sitting on the exposed side of the cable car tram and were thoroughly thrilled by the view that they got of the streets. 


We rode the cable car tram to the end of the line at Mason & Powell which always meant we got our money’s worth πŸ˜‰ From there, we got onto the local Muni & Judah train and it took about 15 mins to take us to the USCF/ Paranssus station. Once we got off, we followed our phone GPS and walked another 5 mins till we got to the Golden Gate Park. The Koret Children’s Quarters was very close to the entrance. 

The kids were so happy to be out in the open space. Running, climbing and swinging! The park was quite crowded for a Friday late morning and we noticed many daycares or school kids there with their teachers. Come early if you want a picnic spot because they tend to grab all the shaded areas but if you are happy to be just running around the playground then it’s fine and there were more than enough stone benches.

There was also an ice cream stand and an old school carousel ride nearby. Of course we rewarded ourselves with an ice cream and a couple of rides after a crazy time at the playground.

By the end of it, the kids and us were famished and we decided to take a walk back towards the entrance we came in through. You would be able to find tons of restaurants a few streets down outside the park (9th Ave being one of the streets) and of course the phone GPS came in handy again and we found ourselves some lunch rather easily. 

We didn’t think the kids or the adults could cope with another multi transfer public transport ride to get back so we got ourselves an Uber and it took us back. The 20 mins ride cost us about US14 and we were all ready for our afternoon nap. Yes for those who don’t know we all still do afternoon naps even when we are on holidays. :p

We got up at 6pm from our nap and the urge to skip dinner or have room service was almost too hard to ignore. But I persevered and dragged everyone out of bed. I even insisted that we head to the Ferry Building where the Hog Island’s Oyster Bar was located at. I don’t know what possessed me to choose that restaurant for dinner, on a Friday night of ALL nights. The kids were pretty cranky the entire way and when we saw the snaking queue we were ready to give up. It was already 730pm and it didn’t look like we would get a seat for at least another 45 mins. But for a lack of better option in the vicinity, I was unwilling to give up. So Joel very bravely brought both kids to Starbucks while I stood in line. Thankfully the queue moved pretty quickly for a table of 4 as most people were there in big groups. We were also willing to take a table at the bar which fortunately gave us a good sunset view and a view of the food being prepped πŸ™‚ 

We ordered ourselves a raw oyster platter, some raw halibut, the best clam chowder we have ever had and will have on this trip and a grilled cheese sandwich. Actually we ordered ourselves 2 oyster platters because the kids absolutely loved the raw oysters and we found Jah polishing off half a dozen of them on his own!!! Blue cheese and raw oyster lovers, what kids are these? 

By the end of the night, everyone was in high spirits from the wonderful food and that’s when Joel and I realised how much these kids are like us! πŸ™‚

Stay tuned for Day 3 at the Kids Creativity Musuem! 

JahBella’s Mummy

US California Trip (May 2017) – San Francisco Day 1 (GoCar & Pier 45)

We arrived in SFO bright and early at 9am on a Thurs (gained a day after having also departed at 9am on a Thurs woohoo!) Check out our post on how we survived our 15 hour flight with the kids here.

 
We breezed through immigration quite easily but ended up waiting quite abit for our transfer from airport to hotel. There were several options like airport shuttles to city hotels that charge on a per pax basis and honestly may have been faster, given that we waited 30 mins for our driver. However we didn’t know if the kids would be cranky after a long flight and whether we needed to deal with tantrums so we had preferred to pay slightly more for an option with a meet and greet service. We paid about USD110 or so for a meet and greet service that would chauffeur the 4 of us plus our 3 big suitcases in a huge MPV and send us directly to our hotel.

 
We arrived at our hotel (Hyatt Centric @ Fisherman Wharf) at 11am. Our room was ready shortly after our arrival (normal check in time is 3pm) but we decided not to bother freshening up in case we procrastinated and got too tempted by the beds. We headed straight for our planned activity which was just a 3 min walk away – GoCar.

 
We had pre-booked a 2 hour tour slot with GoCar, it is essentially a self drive tour using a 2-seater scooter car which was fitted with a GPS that will guide you along the route and give you a commentary of the sights on the route. There are options ranging between 1 hour to half a day but we chose 2 hours as we figured it was bearable for the kids and would be just enough to take them to nap time.

This was taken by Jah while I was driving!

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The pre-briefing – I promise I was not sleeping

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The kids totally enjoyed the novel experience of the ride and were happily pointing out the sights and views. Less ideal for the parents because we were focusing on driving the Go Car and ensuring that we were driving on the correct side of the road!

 
The GPS worked fine for us, up till our half way point at the Golden Gate Bridge and then it kind of all went downhill from there. (No pun intended) After a few detours because several roads were closed on the route and we couldn’t follow where the GPS wanted us to go. We found ourselves on the ‘fringes’ of the demarcated route which also meant that the GPS would stop working as it was no longer within ‘the zone’. By that time, we were past over our 2 hour tour time (which meant incurring extra charges on a per minute basis!!!) We were essentially circling round and round and the adults started to panic as we noticed that we were getting on busier roads with faster cars and no longer recognise a lot of the road names. To be fair we were given a hard copy map to use if the GPS should fail us but it was impossible for me to drive and read the map at the same time and my 6 year old passenger wasn’t much help at that point. Thankfully we had set up our mobile wifi by then and Joel reminded me that I could use my handphone GPS to navigate us back. Phew! We got back to the pit stop at 230pm (30 mins late) and the staff was nice enough to waive the extra time incurred because they realised that there truly were a lot of road closures that day.

It was truly a nail biting experience for us haha and a true test for any marriage I tell you!

We had a quick lunch at the Codmother (a fish and chip food truck) across from our hotel and proceeded to our room for a much much needed nap.

We dragged the kids up after a 2 hour nap and trust me it was an almost impossible feat but we had to make sure that we got dinner in those tummies and that everyone quickly adjusted to the US time zone.

Our hotel was located in the touristy Fisherman Wharf area close to Pier 45 so we took a slow walk down towards Pier 39 and found ourselves at the Crab House for a seafood dinner and a glorious sunset at 8pm!

The kids entertained themselves with carousels rides and a 7D shooting game at the pier after dinner. We had quite the blast before heading back to our hotel at 10pm. The kids definitely didn’t want their night to end but we decided to call it a night as most places were closing for the day and the adults needed their sleep. :p

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It was an awesome Day 1 to our much anticipated trip.

More on our trip coming up! πŸ™‚

  1. How we survived flying 15 hours with the kids and coped with jetlag

How we survived flying 15 hours with the kids and coped with the jetlag – JahBella in the US (May 2017)

We finally embarked on our long haul journey to the US 2 days ago..well between the option to take a direct flight (15 hours to San Francisco) or a 1 stop option (20 to 24 hours) we were spoilt for choice and many people were kind enough to give us their 2 cents worth on which might work better. Many parents felt that a 15 hour flight at a go without an option to get off the flight and stretch or run it off, was a recipe for disaster. However we decided to give it a try anyway since we preferred the arrival time at 9am.

So here’s how we made it work for this flight in particular and how we broke up the flight for the kids and kept everyone relatively sane
Time in US shown in brackets 

First half of the flight 

Our flight took off at 925am (SFO 625pm), we kept the kids awake although it didn’t take much effort to, since they were really raring to go. Lunch on board was served at about 10+am (SFO 7+pm), I guess u can consider that dinner if u wanted to. The kids spent the next 2 hours, eating and watching their inflight entertainment. By the time meal service ended at about 12+pm (SFO 9+pm), the kids didn’t mind going to bed. Thankfully they are used to a naptime in school at about this time. Lights in the cabin were switch off which made it a lot easier for them to doze off. The kids slept for almost 4 hours! Which meant they woke up at about 4pm (SFO 1am). 
2nd half of the flight 

I had tuned my watch to SFO time by now and of course panicked a little (a lot) knowing that they are awake at 1am SFO time! But I really didn’t have much energy to fight them on it (haha what else could I do). Somehow their wake time was actually pretty perfect because the crew started switching on all the lights in the cabin anyway and began serving breakfast. The kids took their breakfast and then continued watching their shows. By the time the meal service ended at about 7pm (SFO 4am). The kids were starting to get groggy again and I told them that they had to sleep for abit. Shockingly they didn’t fight me! So with the cabin lights dimmed again, they took another nap from 7pm to 930pm (SFO 4am to 630am). I could tell when they got up at 930pm (SFO 630am), they were getting a little edgy and impatient but we were only 2 hours away and that 2 hours was manageable with abit of bribery (candies and snacks). The choice of a morning arrival worked in our favour because the kids had all morning to work off whatever sugar they had consumed and they had obviously adjusted to the time difference by the time we landed in San Francisco.

Conclusion

A 15 hour flight is perfectly manageable if the time of the flight is used effectively to tune their body clocks. The arrival in the morning worked in our favour because it was easy to keep the kids up for the rest of the day when they were so excited to get started on their holiday. I’m not sure if the same can be said if we had arrived at night instead. I’m guessing it would be quite hard for them to sleep through the night then. For the record, we made sure the kids were engaged after we landed so there was less chance of fatigue and restlessness setting in and the kids took a nap at about 4pm SFO time. We dragged them up for dinner at 630pm, bedtime was a breeze at 10pm and they slept through the night. Safe to say, they are completely on SFO time now and we will be attempting the 1 stop flight on the way home so more on how to cope with that to come (if we do cope with it successfully of course, wish us luck!!!) πŸ™‚

More on how we occupied them upon our arrival into San Francisco..haha a pretty nail biting experience for the parents :p

JahBella’s Mummy

Cheung Chau with Kids – Hong Kong Oct 2016

With the typhoon just passing Hong Kong a day ago, I was closely monitoring the weather just to make sure that there was not going to be any residual rain that was going to spoil our plans for Cheung Chau. Being the avid TVB drama fan, I always wondered what it would be like in Cheung Chau, Lamma Island and the likes. So we decided to do something a little less city-ish and try out Cheung Chau with the kids.

We took an MTR from Jordan near our hotel and reached Central MTR in less than 15 minutes. From there, it was a short walk to the Central Ferry Pier where different lines/ routes departing from different pier numbers. We headed towards Pier 5 where the ferry would take us to Cheung Chau. We left our hotel at 745am and were at Central Pier 5 by 825am. In fact we made it just in time for the 830am ferry. Do check out the ferry schedule beforehand though because there are 2 types of ferry..the fast express one and the normal one which leaves at different time slots. We were initially targeting for the 9am Express ferry but figured the extra wait time at the ferry terminal versus the longer journey time on the 830am ferry would have us reaching Cheung Chau about the same time anyway and we preferred to be on the move. 


We quickly purchased our tickets and ran for our ferry just as the bells were ringing (haha a familiar sound that I often hear when watching my tvb dramas :p)

We got to Cheung Chau nice and early and most shops were either still closed or just opening up. I had planned for us to have some authentic hole in the wall dim sum breakfast so we headed in search of ζΌ’θ»’θŒΆζ¨“ (located at 58 Hing Lung Back Street). It is located in the right side of the next alley which runs parallel to the Main Street. You have to know what you are looking for because the looks from the shop front will send any sanity loving parents of young children running in the opposite direction. :p It is a really small cramped shop with a stove full of dim sum basket at the front of the shop and tables cramped up inside. The owner was very nice when I said I needed four seats and found us a table with empty seats immediately but of course we had to share it with a couple of uncles leisurely reading their newspaper and enjoying the morning tea. We were abit uncomfortable at first and were worried that we or the kids were disturbing them but they silently move the utensils and pots or cups around and it almost felt like a silent acceptance and their way of looking out for us. I was hungry and determined to have my breakfast there and I suppose a part of me stubbornly wanted my kids to get through this and be tossed out of their comfort zone if only for awhile. We ordered the food from the stove in the front and the aunties there were very nice to give us recommendation so we just ordered some stuff which tasted really good and was really good value too!


Now this may seem random but parents with potty trained kids would know why this is important..we were almost through our meal when Jah decided that this was a good time to need the loo. Nope not the kind of need where mummy equipped with a pee bag was ready for. Joel had this look of horror on his face! Where are we going to find a toilet on this island! Luckily I remembered seeing a toilet sign while we were searching for the restaurant and I immediately took off and started backtracking with Jah (wonders of a mother’s subconscious mind haha) Needless to say we found the toilet and Joel’s fears were unfounded because it was really really clean! 

For those with older kids, there are lots more to do on Cheung Chau like hiking and visiting the Po Chai Cave. However we didn’t think the kids would be able to handle a hike of that distance and then make their way back (which usually calls for an entire day trip). So we focused our time within the few alleys of the main street, basically in search of different types of snack and food. We had planned to visit a lot of shops but Joel would complain to you that he wasn’t expecting it to be an eating expedition and really wasn’t ready to stomach so much.

We tried Giant fishballs which were available at almost every corner. Kind of wished I had waited abit longer for the ones that sold the curry ones to open. We also stopped at a shop for shaved ice, mango mochi and fried chips with your choice seasoning. Although I have to say the chips were rather hard. But the kids were really happy so…:)

Joel needed his coffee fix and was surprised to find a little shop selling freshly brewed coffee.

I wanted to try some ping tang hu lu (candied haw) and put zai kou (red bean cup ‘jelly’..honestly I felt abit disappointed because the ping tang hu lu in this instance was really iced fruits and the put zai kou was kind of tasteless. Looks like I will have to head to Taiwan for the real ping tang hu lu?


After all that snacking, we decided to head for lunch (yes Joel was about to kill me ahha) but there was no way we could have done any hiking in those sunny humid conditions as you can see from my kids going on strike in one of the above photos. (Probably should have brought our carriers for this) 

We headed to New Baccarret (one of the many seafood restaurants) on the main thoroughfare. Most of them would come with standard sets that you could order or you could do it ala carte. I asked for an English menu and then started to wonder if there was a difference in pricing hmmm but I really was too tired and hot at that point to bother. We ordered fried rice, some prawns in garlic sauce and fried calamari. The prawns and the sauce was ohh so good! 



We made it in time for the 1pm ferry after that. Half glad to be making it back to city life and an afternoon nap but also half glad that we tried this. I would come back with the kids again especially when they are abit older and ready to do alittle more exploration of the island. But it was a good experience for what it’s worth πŸ™‚


JahBella’s Mummy

Hong Kong Oct 2016 – Victoria Peak, Madam Tussaud’s and a little transportation tip

We made our recent Hong Kong trip right on the tail of 2 typhoons in the region. In fact we nearly had to call off our trip due to that uncertainty. But I was pretty insistent on taking the trip and yes some would have called me mad, given that flights were cancelled the morning before our departure due to a Signal 8 raised in Hong Kong and we didn’t really know what kind of weather we were getting ourselves into once we got to Hong Kong. The upside, I became quite the typhoon tracker expert after this trip :p

In any case, the airport reopened and flights resumed and we got to our destination safely and landed in dry and sunny conditions! Phew!

We decided to stay at Nathan Hotel on Nathan Road this time around. Given that it was going to be a really short trip, we wanted somewhere very central for food as well as a short walking distance to an MTR (3 mins walk to Jordan MTR). 

We were fortunate than our room was ready for us at 11am despite check-in being only at 2pm. Apparently many guests checked out the night before or in the wee hours of the morning before our arrival because they were able to get on their newly timed flights. We comfortably settled lunch in the vicinity and then the kids got their much deserved nap time, after enduring a 3am wake up call from their parents. 


We were still pretty tired at about 5pm but we didn’t want to waste the night so we got everyone up and about and decided to head to Victoria Peak for dinner.


How difficult could that be right? We took a train from Jordan MTR to Central MTR (10-15mins ride?) and it was a relatively simple 10 mins walk from Central MTR to the Peak Lower Terminus where we would take the Peak Tram up. 

That is until we turned the corner and saw how long the queue to purchase a tram ticket was. I didn’t take a photo because I was absolutely shocked. I’m honestly not sure if this is the usual weekend crowd or it was a result of people being trapped indoors for the last 48 hours due to the typhoon. Well we had 2 options – turn around and run for the hills (no pun intended) or queue (it looked like a 2-3 hour queue at least). It was 6pm..kids were pumped up for a tram ride which we probably oversold to them and we were too hungry and still tired to recalibrate.

Luckily we saw a sign that said express tram ticket but it involved us purchasing a package that included a ticket to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Musuem. Well at that point, anything to beat the queue and get out of there so we paid 10x the price literally and were on our way.

Well almost, we had to queue another 30-45 mins or so to get on the tram because they were alternating entry between big groups and independent travellers. Well ok still on track for dinner at 7pm at least…


The kids were intrigued by the tram going uphill so steeply (like a rollercoaster they say) though I would say that a day time tram ride would probably have been better for them visually. But that’s a toss up between the visual impact of going uphill and seeing the lights and the skyline which pops out at you in the night.


We got to the peak station and managed to settle dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company before the crowd started thickening..honestly the food was rather disappointing and everything just well tasted fried..I mean I know it’s fried food but it was tasteless and just tasted like oil..really different from what we remembered from the US.

We were quite fortunate that we ended up buying the package because the kids were pretty keen to check out Madame Tussaud’s (who would have thought). We moved through the exhibits pretty quickly (spent about 30 mins or so?) but the kids were quite happy to pose for most (some) of the photos :p

We made the customary trip to the viewing area but ended up leaving within 5 minutes. The droves of tour groups up there, was pure madness! Guides were screaming and waving, and people were crowding walkways to pay, to get their photos taken. Not to mention that the vents from the restaurants seems to be spewing smoke out into that ‘confined’ space. Really a far cry from what I remembered it to be almost 15 years ago when we were up there for a school trip.

We finally made our way down to the peak station (our package came with a return ticket) at about 930pm. A sign told us that the wait time to get onto a tram to lower peak terminus was about 1 hour. We decided to forgo our ticket and walk over to the cab stand which also looked about an hour Long 😦 and didn’t seem to be moving at all. But we were kind of stranded at that point and had to just wait in line for a cab. 

So here’s a little tip πŸ˜‰ while waiting for our cab queue to move, I started googling for a taxi app and found one that was in English! The app is called HK Taxi and it is a bright red app. You could indicate the extra tip you are willing to pay to entice a cab to take your booking. I eventually up my tip when no one was taking my booking after trying for 5 minutes and scored a cab rather quickly. The app is best used if you have a local phone number which we did because we got a local Sim for data and it came with some free call credits. The driver called us immediately to tell us that he was 5 minutes away, asked us to look out for his cab number and hop in because he was not allowed to stop in that area to wait. I spoke to the cab driver in Cantonese but I’m sure they would be able to cope with some English, given that they ask you what your preferred language is when making the booking. We managed to get out of the area by 10pm phew! and thank goodness the kids were all still in good spirits when we got back (especially because Jah caught his first Haunter PokΓ©mon while we were driving down the peak) :p

What a wild 18 hours we’ve had so far! 

Stay tuned for more of our Hong Kong 2016 trip!

JahBella’s Mummy