A preview of the New Year cheongsams

2018 Chinese New Year is more than 2 months away, but already boutiques are preparing for launches. In fact, Peter Kor of Studio 55 started his creative process some months back. He didn’t want to repeat the mistake of last year when he had to rush through the designs at the last minute. The fact that the next CNY falls on mid February will help the retailers, in the sense that it provides a breather for shoppers after Christmas.

I was at Studio 55 a couple of days ago and Peter had kindly allowed me to feature some of his new designs, and I can tell everyone that the collection is huge! (Actually I had a sneak preview a couple of months ago of some of the dresses, but of course I couldn’t take any pictures then.) I have to say that I am pretty excited about this range.

So, here are some beautiful cheongsams you can expect from Peter.

Starting off is one of the pieces that I love: an oriental print silk fabric from Italy, which is absolutely stunning! A simple dress that lets the print does the talking.

The below design with the flamenco pleat is the same as one that was launched for CNY last year. The difference this time is the polka-dot print with stone buttons, giving the cheongsam a playful spin that will appeal to the younger crowd.

Peter has again incorporated Japanese cotton print into the CNY cheongsams, which you can wash gently in water. To make the cheongsams interesting, he used interesting trimmings for the collars and the embroidered buttons.

Here’s another piece that I like, the fabric that is reminiscent of a Klimt’s painting.

Look at the French lace covering the collar. It adds a touch of elegance. Another simple cheongsam that stands on its beautiful print.

For those who prefer a modern dress without the high collar, you can opt for this with embroidered buttons. Personally, I wouldn’t consider this a cheongsam though.

Now, the two dresses below are not part of the CNY designs but from the previous collection. I thought I would feature them here in case anyone is interested in something that is not in the red category or something appropriate for work (not that I consider any of the CNY cheongsams as inappropriate).

From Studio 55, let’s move on to other cheongsam retailers. Here we have Hana, with its unmistakable ostentatious embroidered dress that would be very fitting at a wedding.

Blum boutique has started releasing some new designs and here was what I spotted the other day at the window display.

As usual for Shanghai Tang, it offers both the classic and the modern looks, including short collars for those who are not used to having their necks hugged.

If you are looking for an edgy-looking cheongsam, I must say Shanghai Tang does it well, like this blue dress with zip below.

For those who want to look like a million buck even in a casual cheongsam, this is the dress for you.

I can understand if the price tags of the above retailer would put off many women. For something that would be within reasonable budget, you might see something you like from Joli Pretty’s latest collection for 2018. The range of dresses and jumpsuit is priced between S$169 to S$189.

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There will more launches, especially in end of December and beginning of January. I will try not to get distracted by Pogo, and showcase as many as possible in my blog,

 

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Lunch at Bar-Roque Grill

Last week, I celebrated my belated birthday with husband and Buddy at BR Grill, a French restaurant that is recommended by TripAdvisor members for its steak.  We were initially deciding where to go, and my husband even checked out the review for Wolfgang Steakhouse at Robertson Quay (the restaurant opened by Wolfgang Puck). But I wanted a place that serves a more varied menu, and we also had to consider Buddy’s liking for pizza and pasta as well. So I looked around and found BR.  It offers a very reasonably-priced 3-course set lunch at S$38++, though for the steak there is an additional S$18. My husband was attracted by the positive reviews on the steak. There are many compliments on the excellent service as well. Then there is the cheesy flambé on the ala carte menu, which we marketed to Buddy as pizza. So, I booked a table for lunch for the three of us.

The restaurant is located on the first level of Amara Hotel facing Tanjong Pagar road. The interior has a dim warm lighting, with a bar close to the entrance. There were a few tables at the side, and more tables at the lower level, where the kitchen is located. The feel is that of a high-end bistro. We were given a corner table at one end of the small dining room.

For the appetiser, I ordered a baby spinach salad with pine nuts and goat cheese while my husband requested for the tomato salad with mozzarella and rocket. I managed to take a picture of my salad, below. My husband, who tried both appetisers, felt mine was more tasty. Personally I thought it was alright, nothing amazing.

When the flambé arrived, it smell good, and my husband and Buddy started reaching out for a slice. So there is a missing corner by the time I took a photo. The crust is rather crispy, and it does taste like an Italian pizza minus the tomato paste. Buddy likes it, but kids love pizza anyway. Thought it is tasty, it still pales in comparison to the pizzas in a good Italian restaurants like Etna or Bruno. Perhaps this is not an Apple to Apple comparison.

For the main, I had the roasted snapper with root vegetables. It comes with a slice of rye bread, baby octopus and a couple of mussels. Unfortunately the fish was a little over cooked though the rest of the dish was fine, but of course the fish is what should matter.

My husband loves the steak, which is one of the best he had eaten. It was done medium rare as requested and cooked to perfection.

For dessert, I ordered a raspberry sorbet for Buddy, and a separate chocolate fondant for myself. Yes I know I am allergic to gluten, but I decided to throw caution to the wind since I hardly have any cakes, even gluten-free ones. As you can see from the picture below, the cake comes with a couple of fruits and a raspberry sorbet too. The slightly tart sorbet cuts away the sweetness of the fondant. But I gave Buddy my sorbet since he slurped down his in double quick time. He really loves sorbet! As for the fondant, it was alright, doesn’t blow my mind away because it doesn’t seem any different from the one offers by Beard Papa’s, a Japanese puff pastry specialist.

My husband had initially wanted the lemon tart, but the restaurant changed its menu that day and the tart was no longer available and so he had the cheesecake instead. He thought it was not bad, but a little too subtle for his taste.

So, would we return? Maybe not since the food didn’t wow us. Besides the service was not as excellent as what I read in the reviews. I had to ask for refill of water. Maybe because there was only one guy serving the lower area. We had a much more fabulous dining experience at Etna Italian restaurant. My husband thought that perhaps it was because we went for the lunch special and so the food was nothing to shout about.

Quick peek at Laichan cheongsams

The other day, I was at Paragon for lunch and decided to grab a quick peek into the latest designs at Laichan boutique. Eddie was not around and I met Lai Chan attending to a customer. Spoke briefly to him about the official opening of the shop, and he said he was fine with not having any since the shop is considered open for business. But it looks like he has to have an official one as many regulars are asking about it. Right now he is busy with the fashion show at Singapore Fashion Week in 26 October. In fact Laichan is opening the show!

Anyway I didn’t stay long in the boutique as there were more customers coming in, and Laichan had to handle them on his own. I managed to take pictures of some new designs, and found that there were more Japanese cotton fabrics this time. So, here we have some standout cheongsams for formal occasions including wedding.

 

 

Below is a cheongsam with Japanese print. A youthful looking dress that is cheery as well!

I like the geometric print of this cheongsam below.  It has a retro feel and yet is beautifully contemporary.

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If you remember that Laichan has designed a cheongsam with pockets since end last year, and this time he added overlapping front pleats and using gingham print.

A beautiful and elegant white cheongsam for the big day!

There are not many cheongsam tops available though. Here is one with zipper instead of the signature stone buttons.

While I was there, Laichan pointed out a kimono-style jacket to me. This regal outerwear is a showstopper!

A black flamboyant long jacket for those who want to make a statement.

I am very honored that Laichan invited me to his show at Singapore Fashion Week, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it. I like to wish him all success, and look forward to checking out new designs in the near future.

The love for Pogo

It has been more than a year since Pokemon Go was launched, and I am still playing the game, better known as Pogo for Trainers. I have steadily rose through the levels, currently at level 34 (with the highest being 40).

If you are wondering, this is my pogo avatar, styled by Buddy, because this account is originally created for him.

Honestly, I have never stuck to a game this long, and in fact, you can even consider me being addicted to it. Last week, the game server was down for a few hours, and I started feeling jumpy, and kept checking the app if I could login. It’s like a drug addict ransacking the drawers for cocaine or even weed. (I can understand how a drug addict feels.) I remarked to a group of trainer friends that if the downtime was to take more than a day, I seriously had to check myself into rehab, otherwise I might turn crazy. One of them remarked, “we need Pogoholic Anonymous!” (But I doubt if any of us will sign up.)

Despite news reports on the contrary, the game has a lot of active Trainers, at least in Singapore. Sure there was some fatigue during the first half of this year despite the launch of generation 2 pokemons in February. But when Niantic (game developer) launched the reworked gym in June with the appearance of the raid bosses, that got Trainers excited again. (Raid boss is a powerful Pokemon which hatches from an egg that has taken over a gym or dojo for an hour and Trainers are encouraged to come together to battle it.) That also heralded the arrival of the legendaries in July, starting with the birds: Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, mascots of the 3 teams of Mystic (blue), Instinct (yellow) and Valor (red) respectively.

The birds have since left when September came, and we are now facing off the beasts: Raikou, Entei and Suicune (L-R).

Legendaries, by their status, are extremely rare and are mostly powerful Pokemons. They do not spawn in the wild unlike the ordinary ones, and instead they only hatch from raid eggs, i.e appear as raid bosses. The only way to capture them is to participate in the raids, or battles. Once Trainers defeat the boss in battle, we get to go to the bonus challenge of capturing it using special premier balls. Basically the whole raid thing is a little like a martial art or boxing fight.

The legendary frenzy has caused a big surge in interest among Trainers who have to come together to defeat them, because it is just not possible for a trainer to do it alone. They are spawned from tier 5 eggs, the highest as well as most difficult level. You need at least 6 high level Trainers with the right powerful counter mons to battle them (and even then it may be a close shave). This is in line with how Niantic has envisioned Pogo to be – a cooperation-based game, and the various gym reworks were geared towards making Trainers work together, although some changes have the opposite effect.

Still the raids, especially those for the legendaries, did produce the desired behaviours. Even among reticent Singaporeans, more are stepping out of their comfort zones to start organizing team-based groups to battle raid bosses. This is because the number of premier balls given depend on the damage your Pokémons inflicted on the boss, the number of fellow team members in the battle, as well as which team controls the gym (during the battle.) So the more same team members in battle, the more balls given, and so best to form same team battle group.

Though organizjng on the ground can also be as simple as getting enough people to battle the boss regardless of teams. Each day, trainers are given a raid pass to participate in a battle. Once you throw in the pass to enter the gym lobby, you cannot get it back even if you decide not to battle. This had happened to me when I raided a Tyranitar (tier 4) boss and was dismayed to find only 3 Trainers, me included, standing by for battle. Despite trying numerous times, we just couldn’t defeat the boss and my pass was wasted.

Though Niantic has recently tweaked the gym systems to allow Trainers to check the number in the lobby before committing the pass, it is still flawed – the number is inaccurate. Many times, the number shows only one when in fact there are several waiting inside lobby. So, this forces trainers to be proactive in interacting with each other. But it’s actually a good thing because it gets the Trainers to socialize with each other which is the purpose of the game.

Like last week, I rushed to a gym near my home for the Raikou raid, but realized many were already battling when I arrived. By the time I entered the lobby, there were only 2 of us waiting, which is a sure defeat. I noticed there were a couple standing nearby and asked them if they were raiding. Together, we rounded up a few more and managed to get 8 pax. It was a close shave since Raikou is a pretty tough Pokemon to take down, but luckily everyone used the correct counters.

As expected, I am part of the Pokemon Go Singapore community in Facebook, and that is a big source of entertainment and information for me. Anyone can put up posts in the group as long as they don’t go against the guidelines (at least in theory). And so there are posts from people who keep asking questions which had been answered countless times before (like “when is this legendary appearing in Singapore”). Then there are those who wanted to show off their Pokemon catches, like the number of legendaries caught; as well as the expected complaint kings and queens (Singapore being a complaint nation).

As mentioned earlier, certain gym reworks had caused the ire of Trainers. Previously, the gym system allows trainers to level up or train up their own gyms, from level 1 to 10, as well as attack opponent gyms. The higher the level, the more mons are placed in it. Every time you place a mon in gym, you get 10 pokecoins in the bag. The current system has done away with levelling and there are only 6 slots for Pokemon placement. So once the slots are taken by your own team, you cannot add in any and will have to look for opponent gyms. And when a trainer takes down an opponent gym, his/her selected mon is the first defender, which means an opponent will take down this mon first. Every 10 minutes spend in gym entitles to 10 pokecoins, but trainers can only get them in the bag when the mon is kicked out of the gym, and there are maximum of 50 coins a day. So there are a number of trainers who found ways around this. They create multiple pogo accounts of different teams, and use an opponent team account to battle first mon inside the gym, basically targeting only the first one. Once it is kicked out, there is an empty slot available and the trainer then log into the account of the team (that controls the gym) to place his or her mon into the gym. This is called “shaving”, and it has pissed off a lot of Trainers. It takes a lot of effort to take down the entire opponent gym, and yet the first defender is also the first to get shaved out, which is rather unfair. (Easier to target one than all 6 mons.)

Anyway, I have learned to live and let live, and not get worked up over things like this despite being addicted to pogo. It is important to enjoy the game as it is, and I have had lots of fun, and make new friends too. In fact it was because of the wasted raid pass from the Tyranitar raid that I came together with a couple of trainers, whom I got to know through FB, to form a WhatsApp group to battle the raid boss together. Within a few months, it has grown to a sizeable group, comprising of a mix of genders and teams, where most of us work in the CBD areas. Whoever can make it during lunch time or after work will meet up to raid Tyranitar boss or the legendary mons. I’m a little embarrassed to say I have been socializing with them more so than with other friends. Initially the chat was about game info and tips, and as we got comfortable with each other, we start sharing and venting about work, family, and health. There is no rivalry among the different team members and instead there are lots of encouragement.

Now, you may still wonder what’s the big deal about Pogo and why do I love the game so much? Well, my behavior has certainly changed because of it. After I had Buddy, I didn’t get to exercise as much as before, but because of Pogo I walk a lot more now, especially during lunch time. I have slowly learned to get out of my comfort zone and to interact with strangers. But, I do admit, because of Pogo, I’ve also neglected my passion in cheongsams, which I know I should get back to. I have to learn to balance my interest in both.

The different styles of cheongsams

A few weeks ago, a reader sent me a CNN link of the recommended cheongsam boutiques in Shanghai. Though her intention was not to introduce the boutiques but to alert me to one which claimed to have made the dresses wore by Maggie Cheung in ‘The Mood For Love’ (and it wasn’t Linva of Hong Kong). The boutique in question is Han Yi (瀚艺).

Anyway, after a little research, I think it was very likely the costume designer for the movie approached more than one tailor to make the cheongsams. But what piqued my curiosity is the list, because I want to know why are these the best, and how they distinguish themselves from the rest, especially compared to those in Singapore.

However the article didn’t even provide representative pictures of the cheongsams from each of the shops, and even the descriptions of the designs say very little about them. What does it mean by colorful, unconventional, decadent fabrics? The pictures featured don’t seem to have any relations to the ones offered by the boutiques.  The only boutique I’m familiar with is Shanghai Tang, and I had checked out Qipao by Jane some time ago (and strangely the website has been taken down). I tried to search online for them, but pictures were few and far between. Notably absent is also mention of the workmanship and service.

Now you might be wondering since these are said to be the best in Shanghai, the workmanship would be assumed to be good? Yes, especially since they offer customized cheongsams. So I am curious as to whether they accommodate women with odd physique and the ability to downplay the flaws. I have not seen it for myself, but Eddie of Lai Chan boutique assured me that they do not turn away customers who do not have the typical body shape. He recalled a lady who had really flat bums and Lai Chan designed padding on the dress for her. I have also seen for myself how Gary Lau of Kang’s boutique can make a cheongsam (for a friend) which accentuates the curves and camouflages the flaws.

Anyway, this got me thinking that I should write a post on how the cheongsam designers in Singapore differentiate from one another. Now, this is not a comprehensive list but is based on my knowledge of the designers and the dresses.

Hana

Hana’s designs tend to be a little opulent, even loud or flashy, and looks like something a middle aged or older socialite would go for. The dresses are in the usual classic fit since I suspect that is what its clientele feel that this is what cheongsam is supposed to be.

Laichan

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What else but its distinctive semi-precious stone buttons running from the collar down to the hip? Sure, occasionally there are deviations such as the modern qipaos with backzips, but the row of buttons is uniquely Laichan. It’s no surprise I have a soft spot for the cheongsams because of the beautiful prints and fabrics (sometimes with a dash of whimsy), the amazing workmanship and attention to details, and the good customer service. Despite the classic look featured here, Laichan is capable of ultra modern cheongsam designs.

Peter Kor (Studio 55)

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Peter’s dresses are geared towards the working ladies, with hidden back zips for easy wear, stylish designs and good workmanship for a professional look. Yet they retain the soul of the cheongsam. There are other designers who make cheongsams for the working women, but Peter’s dresses stand out for the rich and quality fabrics and prints, which are mostly sourced from France and Japan. However, I have to add that the onsite alternation is not up to my expectations because the dress wouldn’t fit nicely even after the work, and I had to send it to my regular seamstress to get it fixed. This is a pity since many times the alteration also affected the original excellent workmanship.

Clothier

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Clothier’s qipaos are typically in oriental floral prints with simple fabric button accessories in traditional design. They have reasonably good workmanship and prices are not crazy expensive. Despite the classic look, the dresses have hidden back zip for wearability.

Mama & Misse

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M&M incorporates local cultural elements into its cheongsams, like the use of sari and batik fabrics. The cheongsams are usually in classic design as well, and have a mix of those with back zip or side zip. M&M offers both formal and casual cheongsams to customers, in either silk or cotton fabrics. The prices are similar to those from Peter Kor, but fabrics are not as luxurious.

Lark & Peony

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L&P cheongsam designs are semi-casual and modern. The collars are shorter than usual, there is the shift cut, and even culottes. Fabrics are mostly cotton to accommodate the humid weather here, and the prints have a touch of ethnic or Japanese aesthetics. The traditionalists might not endorse the designs but the brand has its fans.

Jolli Pretty

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JP’s collections have a mix of casual and work wear. The fabrics do not have the interesting prints of L&P, and instead there is an ordinary feel about them. But for those who want affordable cheongsam work wear, below S$200, JP would be the place to get them.

Toughening Buddy up

A month ago, my husband said to me, "Buddy has to learn judo!" It turned out Buddy was bullied again by a classmate who is taller and bigger than him.

Buddy asked the boy if he could play with his spider man toy at the playground. In response, the bully said no and hit Buddy on the chest. Needless to say, Buddy wailed.

I had mentioned "again", because the bully had previously pushed Buddy's head against a metal railing, and even attempted to trip him at the playground. We had complained to the teachers and daycare supervisor, and even told the boy's parents about the incidents. The boy had been warned and told not to touch Buddy. Still, even though we protect Buddy as much as we can now, we also realized he has to toughen up and learn to protect himself for the future.

My husband had mull of sending Buddy to judo class for quite some time, and this incident cemented his decision. To him, judo is the most practical martial art, compared to Tae Kwon Do or Karate, because the practitioner or judoka learns how to fall without serious injury, and to grapple with his/her opponent and sweep the person off the feet. In contrast, kicking or punching is not as practical as what is depicted in movies or TV since during a fight, the close contact wouldn't give you the chance to do so. Besides, in Singapore, when you kick or punch another person (even in self defence), you are also liable under the law. (By the way, this is pertaining to the Singapore context where possession of guns is illegal and the punishment is mandatory death sentence. And anyone caught possessing a weapon like a knife also faces serious consequence, especially if another person is injured or killed as a result.)

My husband also feels that Buddy lacks situational awareness, and practising judo will improve that. He will learn to be alert of the people or kids around him and know how to avoid any possible malicious contact.

We signed Buddy up with a Judo dojo near our home, which offers classes for children aged 4 to 12. The instructor, known as Sensei, is a young lady who is very firm. There is no soft touch here, and you might even find her fierce. But I don't blame her because teaching kids is like herding cats. It can drive anyone up the wall, especially when you have to handle different types of kids.

It's been a month since Buddy started and as expected, there were a couple of crying incidents. Like when the instructor told him firmly that when he falls, he should get up immediately. (Very practical advice because you don't want anyone to fall on top of you.) Buddy didn't take it well as he thought it was a scolding from the instructor, and he got upset. And last Saturday, he suffered his first sport injury when, during a grappling session, he hurt his foot, and later he forgot to do break-fall and knocked his head against the hard tatami floor.

Thank God, despite the teary episodes, Buddy remains enthusiastic about Judo and enjoys the lessons. He knows that he has to build up his strength and learns to face up to bullies. As we comforted him, we also told him to be mindful of his opponents and not be deterred by the pain because he will get stronger. Indeed, even for the kids, they get to practice grappling with each other, which is very good exercise for them.

Observing the kids in class has been a pretty entertaining experience for us as well. There are a couple of kids who stand out from the rest in particular, not because of their skills but for their non-Judo antics. There is a young boy, either sane age or a year older than Buddy, who seems to live in a different zone. He fidgets a lot, likes to look at himself at the mirrors, and basically does his own things. He first caught our attention at Buddy's first lesson, when he told Sensei that his intestines hurt as he was looking for a way out of the practice. My husband couldn't help but snickered, while I was "amazed" he could pinpoint the exact area of the pain. My husband then gave him the nickname "Mr Intestines".

Mr I is also rather hyperactive. Before the start of the lesson a couple of weeks ago, we found him running round and round the dojo like a dog chasing its tail. He kicked aside a water bottle on the tatami mat as he ran like it was a piece of garbage. An older girl in yellow belt asked the Sensei, "Did he have too much sugar this morning?" Well, I wasn't sure what he had, but if he did, it looked like he had a barrel of it. During the last lesson, he was given time-out a couple of times because he was so lost in his own world.

The other notable kid is the exact opposite of Mr I in terms of behaviour. He mozzie around like he has all the time in the world, so much so that my husband nicknamed him "slow loris" or just "loris". But, like Mr I, he also likes to gaze at himself in the mirrors. (There must be something fascinating about looking at your reflection!) Not to say Buddy is fully attentive, because at the end of the 1-hour lesson, his attention will start to waver.

We learned that Loris has been learning Judo for 6 months, after Sensei told him off for not knowing a basic move. Maybe that is why he is still a white belt judoka. So is Mr I, whose judogi looks pretty well-worn. The rest of the kids have colored belts, with 2 French brothers leading the pack with green belts. They do look pretty serious when they spar and grapple. Despite their skinny frames, they have the "don't mess with me" air about them.

There are quite a number of girls learning Judo in both children and adult classes. I think the skills are very handy for the fairer sex, because even though girls are generally weaker than guys, the practicality of Judo allows some form of level playing field unless the guy is also a judoka.

Hopefully, Buddy will continue his interest in Judo and improve on the techniques. Meanwhile, I am still considering when to send him for swimming class, which he is now interested in.

The second staycation at RWS

Last week, we went for our second vacation at Resort World Sentosa (RWS). This was planned around Buddy’s definition of a fun time: as long as there is a playground, especially a water playground, or something that allows him to move about, he’s happy. Given such a simple request, we really don’t have to travel far since Singapore has many attractions available.

The previous time we were at RWS for a staycation was 2.5 years ago, when Buddy was a wee tot who couldn’t go for most of the rides at Universal Studio. This time, though there are a couple of roller coaster rides which are beyond his height, but the majority do not pose any problem as long as he can sit on his own. During the last trip, though he was suitable for certain rides, he refused to sit independently and insisted on sitting on our laps. But that was not allowed and he wailed. Needless to say, it wasn’t much of a visit, and we hadn’t gone back to the theme park until this staycation. 

Like before, RWS offers staycation package comprising of accommodation at one of the 4 hotels available (3 days 2 nights), 2 adult tickets to the theme park, the SEA aquarium and Adventure Cove water park. For the dates I picked, the package only costs S$819 for Hard Rock Hotel. (Previously we stayed at Hotel Michael where the bed sucks!) It turns out HRH had undergone a recent refurbishment, and from reviews my husband read in TripAdvisor, the bed was good for those with backache which means firm mattress. (This is very important to us because we can’t stand soft bed.) I only had to pay extra for Buddy’s tickets, which is actually quite a good deal. 

The room is relatively spacious, though I must say the king bed seems a little smaller than the one at home. The toilet is also quite roomy but there is no door. (There is a door for the shower cubicle.) I requested for the lowest floor possible and we got a room on the 3rd level, overlooking a rooftop garden. (The reception is on the 2nd level and the hotel is only 6-storey high.) The bed is truly firm but I don’t like the soft pillows. (Alright I’m being very fussy here but I am used to firm pillows.)


Location-wise, HRH is a good choice since it’s centrally positioned between the three attractions. Best of all, it has a large pool divided into various sections, like a man-made beach and a children’s water playground. Too bad Buddy only managed to play in the pool on the first evening but he had lots of fun. 


We went to Universal Studio on the first day, and zoomed in on the Transformer 3D ride at the SciFi zone. The line was freaking long! We waited nearly 1.5 hours before it was our turn. We thought it won’t be a long wait when we finally moved indoor, but the line continued twisting like a labyrinth. Worse, it was almost impossible to get out of the queue once you are inside the building because of the narrow spaces. It was a huge relief when we finally got onto the ride, which I have to admit was thrilling. It really felt like we were inside an adrenalin-packed car chase, and I am not ashamed to admit I was a scaredy cat. I literally hung on to the safety rail for dear life and closed my eyes when I felt like I was being flung around. I even shouted to Buddy to close his eyes, but the boy had guts, he didn’t and enjoyed every minute of it.

Luckily, for the rest of the day, we only spent 10-20 minutes for each subsequent lines, like this slow jeep ride at The Mummy attraction.  We didn’t go for any shows this time but focused on rides since those were what we missed the last time.  Needless to say, Buddy didn’t require any handholding, and had a wonderful time. He also kept his eyes wide open riding the canopy flyer in the Lost World zone, whereas this scaredy cat here was again hanging for dear life and screaming like anything, and of course, I received amused laughers from 2 girls sitting opposite me. 

The Adventure Cove water park was our destination the next day. Unfortunate it rained in the early morning, and the staff didn’t allow anyone to enter the water until the weather cleared an hour later. 

This was the highlight of Buddy’s staycation. He enjoyed the float along the river so much that he kept going for it again and again. 



We left the aquarium to the last day since we knew we would spend the least time in it. In fact, we were in there for only slightly more than an hour. The exhibit was definitely smaller than the previous visits. I remember during the first time at the aquarium, which was not long after its opening, there was a tank of piranhas which both fascinated and spooked the visitors with their stares and half-bared jaws showing rows of jagged sharp teeth. 

A year or so later, during the second visit, the piranhas were gone! This time, our 3rd visit, there were even fewer tanks! My husband pointed out there used to be a big cylindrical tank of colourful coral fish, which have since vanished. Granted there are new additions like these amazing looking but poisonous Blue Arrow frogs from South America, and the mutated Blue lobster (the color varaiaton happens only in one out of a million red lobsters). But still it was a disappointment. 

Anyway it was a fun staycation for us, especially for Buddy, and a better experience compared to the last time. So we will definitely return. But I might drop the aquarium visit though since it is a shadow of it’s former self.

Being a child

Buddy celebrated his 5th birthday more about 2 weeks ago, and the celebration reinforced the feeling in me that time really flies! It didn’t seem so long ago when he was a wee baby. Soon, he’ll be six and has to get ready for primary/elementary school. It’s a good thing he’s in daycare because  I think it makes it easier for him to adapt to the new environment. At least he’s used to the long hours away from home, compared to kids who attend regular preschools.

The other night, I happened to watch a program on Channel News Asia “Being A Child”, which features the pressure faced by preschoolers in Singapore. Yes, pressure, because their parents put them through various enrichment classes: ballet, music, Maths, English, Chinese, you name it. 

For Buddy, we didn’t rush to do that. In fact, the only class, outside of daycare, he is attending is Chinese at Berries. He started on it when he was 3 years old and it was because we have to make sure he has a good grasp of the language before entering primary school. But most importantly, it’s for him to feel comfortable with the language and not hate it, which is a bane for many kids and their parents. And I think we have succeeded, because Buddy is very comfortable speaking in Chinese to me. In fact he automatically speaks English to papa and switches to Chinese with me.
My husband and I had many discussions about other enrichment classes for buddy. We don’t want to over burden him, but we are also mindful that we should prepare him for the competitive primary school environment. Just because we want him to have a happy childhood doesn’t mean we should not do anything to prepare him, since we would be irresponsible if we start panicking when he has difficulty coping later. And crying over spilt milk and blaming the school system then is a waste of time. 

My husband had initially looked at some Maths classes but none were conducted in a manner entirely to his satisfaction. What he wanted for buddy is to possess an appreciation and understanding of Maths concepts (a feel for numbers) and not just memorization. Sure there are some stuff that requires the latter, but memorize only when necessary. In fact we don’t want a case where buddy memorizes the stuff for exam and forgets after, which is what happened to me. Till now I still have a phobia of Maths and have not been able to appreciate its beauty. 

So I asked around friends and colleagues for recommendations, and we ended up with an unusual one from my boss. It was an online program for Maths and English developed by the Stanford University: https://giftedandtalented.com/. My husband likes it because the program is structured such that the child has to understand each topic before moving on to the next. There are also interesting projects and general knowledge info for the kids. Though the website states it can be done independently or with the help of a tutor, the truth is the kid needs guidance and instant feedback. So an adult has to be around to work on the problems with the child, and if that is not possible, you will have to pay extra for an online tutor. My husband has been guiding Buddy since he started last September and he’s making good progress. 

However my  husband also realized that the Stanford program (like the general American curriculum) covers breadth but not depth, as compared to the Singapore Maths. So he has to plug the gaps with separate coaching. From this experience , we realized the importance of understanding Buddy’s development. It is not wise to outsource everything to the external providers.

My husband also guides Buddy in puzzle games, and I work with him on English and Chinese languages. We go to the library regularly to get books for his nightly reading. (There are so much resources in the library that I am surprised not more parents make use of them.) So you see, we DIY for much of Buddy’s enrichment. We work with his pace and provide instant feedback.

During Buddy’s recent parent teacher meeting, one of the teachers remarked that Buddy is quiet in class and is not very participative in large group though he does speak up in small group setting. We know Buddy, and don’t see anything wrong with that. In fact, being quiet is not a developmental problem as long as the child is happy. Buddy is a reserved kid with people he is not close to. He will observe the situation quietly before taking any action. (He inherited that from both my husband and me.) Most time he will keep quiet when talked to because he is very selective of people. (The good thing is he is unlikely to fall for temptations from strangers.)  

But when Buddys is with us, he talks so much that it is very difficult to stop him, whether it’s during meal times, watching the TV, movies, or even during bed time.  He keeps asking us questions that sometimes I am tempted to tell him to give me a break. In order to get him to respect our wishes to have a conversation between my husband and me, I drew a picture of an ear and one of a mouth on flash cards. When we want him to stop talking, we show the ear picture and tell him, “lend me yours ears.” I have even resorted to telling him, “silence is golden!” and his reply, “silence is NOT golden!” (Not with us it seems.)

My husband and I don’t think we are helicopter parents as defined in this Big Think article. We certainly don’t spoil him. We see ourselves as coaches and mentors to Buddy. Most importantly we believed that our  gift to him is to build a strong foundation in morals, physical and intellectual in him. 

Cheongsam updates 

Some latest news on the cheongsam. 

Peter Kor’s Studio 55 boutique is having a mid year sale for the entire month of June. The cheongsams from past collections are on sale at major discount, from at least 50% off. Some even going for 70% off and others are discounted to as low as S$99.

If you like any of those Chinese New Year dresses I had previously featured in my blog, now is the time to get them at these big discounts. Though, only limited sizes are available. 

For the current W collection, Peter only designed a couple of cheongsams as he focused on work clothes. Here are the two designs I spotted: one modern interpretation, and the other, though in classic cut, has a contemporary print.



While I was at the boutique, Peter revealed that he has started work on the collection for next year’s CNY, which took me by surprise as it seems pretty early to me. He has started late for this year’s designs, and as a result, he was unhappy with some of the shoddy workmanship due to the rush job. So he is starting early this time to make sure the dresses would be up to his expectations. And I was very lucky and pleased when he showed me some of the completed samples. I have to say they are gorgeous! I couldn’t take any pictures of course, but I can assure you the prints and fabrics (from France) are simply amazing. Already, I’m thinking that I would burn a hole in my pocket when the collection is launched. 

Over the past week or so, two brands have launched new dresses again: Joli Pretty and Sissae. For JP, this is the second part of the Spring/Summer 2017 collection.

There is a mixture of jumpsuits, dresses and tops.




Jumpsuit style seems to be trending, because Sissae is also offering it as part of it latest “Virtuous” collection. The designs are in the typical Sissae formal style, but are also ultra modern in looks. Despite having misgivings about the workmanship, I have to admit the designs are pretty striking and remind me of those from the  French couture fashion houses.



That’s it for now, folks! I’ll continue to sniff out other collections and will update then.

The new cheongsams from Lai Chan (updated)

(Note: added the A-line cheongsam that I missed out earlier.)

I was at Raffles City mall a couple of days ago and decided to pay a visit to Laichan boutique. I was happy to spot some new designs, like this light grey modern cheongsam with a knot at the center waist. A classy dress that looks absolutely presentable for work and important meetings. A great modern interpretation of the traditional.


Of course Lai Chan’s classic cheongsams are the staple, and we have a number of new prints available. You can expect a burst of floral blooms in this collection. For those who like to have a little flair to their dresses, here’s one with a splash of flowers.

I love the bright poppy flower print of this dress below, which pairs beautifully with the contrasting blue stone buttons. I’m a sucker for vibrant colors!

If you prefer something a little more feminine and subtle, here is an option. The print reminds me of an English garden. 

Another dress that caught my eyes! Yes, I was taken in by the combination of the azure blue flowers and the aquamarine leaves. That blue color is gorgeous! 

For something a little different, this is a retro floral print which is pretty in its own right.


If you are looking for a more earthy tone, you can opt for this elegant purple cheongsam that looks amazing in any formal setting.


Laichan also launched a loose fit cheongsam for women who wants a more casual look. I really like the modern floral print of this sporty dress.

Late last year, Lai Chan added the A-line cheongsam to his collection, and it has been a hit since because of the presence of pockets. We women love the convenience of pockets don’t we? (At leash for Singaporean women.) This time, Laichan used the retro geometric print for the dress, which gives it a rather youthful look. 


There is a wide selection of cheongsam tops available as well, though I am only showcasing a few here. Down here, we have one  with small floral print, and the other in block color complemented with floral appliqués.

I spotted this interesting modern top with a pretty floral print on the front and a purple back panel. Instead of the usual side buttons, there is a hidden zip at the back. However, I’m not sure if there’s a problem with the purple fabric or that this is a difficult material to handle because there is puckering along the zipper. And I only realized, upon looking closely at the picture, that even the bottom seam looks jagged.  If this is what happened when a zip is used instead of buttons, then I rather go for the latter. Perhaps I am being picky, but  I find puckering unsightly.


All in all, I would still say the collection is rather eye-catching, and many of the classic cheongsams are drool-worthy.