Monday, July 31, 2017

Airbnb, is not for everybody!

I had been relying on Airbnb for my travels on many occasion simply because it is often the cheapest way to go. I had booked Airbnb in Tokyo, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Australia. Thank goodness they were pretty uneventful and I was generally cool with the usual dirt in the apartment or even the occasional insects (but bedbugs are a NO NO of course!). However my recent Airbnb experience with Stacci in Perth, was truly quite an eye-opener even for me.

The listing had only one photo of a small portion of the living room, but because the person who listed the apartment was quite responsive and reasonably friendly, I took my chances. The apartment looked really nice from the outside and was located in a great location, just slightly beyond the free bus zone of Perth City. There were a total of 3 rooms on the second level of the apartment of which we took one, and there were crudely partitioned areas on the first level which housed another 2 tenants. I later learnt that this apartment was rented out to an entrepreneurial Thai national who then sublet out to other Thai students and even put up rooms on Airbnb to supplement her income. Well, being open to meeting new friends, I am still cool with that.

She told us upon check-in that nothing else will be provided, except for our room and I only found out the following day, that we had to put on the bedsheets and blanket covers on our own, after discovering the sheets in the wardrobe. That was how “bochup” I was, sleeping directly on the mattress without realizing it the night before!

Friendly cockroaches were around but we are still okay with it.
We had to share the bathroom, which had a bathtub. It was late night when we checked in and Stacci said she wanted to take a hot bath which I agreed, but only on the next day. When it was light the following day, we went to the bathroom and the plan was immediately aborted. 

Hmm, the amount of hair and grime in the bathroom really puts us off.
I wonder when was the last time anyone used the tub?
The wash basin didn't look that clean either but we will survive.
I was still okay to all the above, but it got really irritating when the students (of which numbers I lost count) started having late night booze parties at the backyard, directly below our room. I mean, listening to music and having fun past midnight is understandable at times but all the way till 3am-4am for a few nights is a little too much. Spoke to them nicely the first time it happened but it fell on deaf ears (not a surprising condition with the music volume they were playing). 

We were told that we are free to use the yard. Not that we would like to anyway.

The aftermath of the late night parties.
On the last night, someone knocked loudly at my door and when I opened it, I was surprised to see an angry Caucasian lady demanding to see a particular person but I had no idea who she as referring to. It then dawned on me that she was actually the neighbor who wanted to confront the main tenant on the ruckus that she had to deal with on the many noisy nights. Thank goodness I was only there for 9 days.

Airbnb had definitely changed the way how one travels these days, offering convenience and the much relished homestay feel at a reasonable price. But I am just sharing with you that not all listings accurate, with many homeowners none the wiser about what goes on in their properties and others out to just make some quick bucks in their otherwise underutilized space. It may be cheap, but you have to deal with whatever less than pleasant stuff that gets thrown at you and you MUST always be prepared to make alternative plans. Because it is not as if you can request to check-in into another room! Sure you can raise it up to Airbnb immediately but you are still pretty on your own there and then.

But in the end, it doesn't even matter. Because we had each other for the journey!
Having said all that, I was still glad that Stacci and I got through all the insects, filth and noise together. She is a pretty tough lady alright, sleeping through all that and we still had an enjoyable Perth bonding trip since we were mostly out and about during the day! I think many would have totally freaked out at the condition of the apartment, but we took that as bonding and beyond!

The reason for my posting is really to let all potential Airbnb customers better manage their expectations. I wasn't expecting much when I booked the really cheap apartment, hence I was still kind of okay with it. Did leave a remark in my feedback that went, "Location is great and walkable. However if you are a light sleeper or a cleanliness freak, it will not be suitable for you. Remember, you get what you paid for. :) Suitable for backpackers / budget travellers."  One really needs to be mentally prepared because there is really no other room you can check into, besides the one you had booked. But if it can be solved with money, it is also not a problem. The only problem is when you have no money. Dang...
Anyway, have fun travelling everyone!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Visit to the Source of our Greens

Singapore is highly dependant on our neighbouring countries for a variety of resources, be it water, food or even manpower. To ensure the freshness of the produce that reaches the markets, they would have to be shipped (while not fully ripened yet) or air-flown. With the aim of reducing the carbon footprint, over-dependency on certain sources and maintaining prices, NTUC FairPrice has also been supporting local farms with the sales of their produce in their supermarkets.

Yes, a lot of hard work goes behind the production of that single plant Leroy is holding!
I am not a particularly fond of vegetables, but when the opportunity of bringing family on a special visit to the local farms came along, I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to show the kiddos the amount of work that goes into putting that greeny goodness on our tables. The kiddos may know where to find vegetables in the supermarkets, but going all the way to the sources would definitely be an eye-opener for them! 

These tall structures houses the towers that the plants are being grown on!
When we think of vegetable farms, the picture of a vast field of vegetables planted in soil comes to mind. Or at most hydroponics farming, which is also gaining popularity. But Sky Greens is taking it even further by growing plants in 3m, 6m to even 9m tall aluminium towers! Just like our HDB flats, the only way to maximize space is to go up. I would have imagined the farm to be using hydroponics but they are using potted soil instead, and utilizes hydraulic water-driven system to rotate the growing troughs so that the plants receives uniform sunlight, irrigation and nutrients! And the amazing thing is that all these only requires 40W electricity, making the patented system a truly low-carbon and sustainable solution to farming in land-scarce Singapore.

Red tilapias are part of the system too, with the water they live in and the waste they produce being recycled!

Where going up is the only way to go.
The plants are grown in these troughs of soil.

The vegetables are harvested by hand, packed, stored and delivered to NTUC FairPrice, usually on the same day.

The soil needs to be cycled and this is where they are kept before the next use.
The kiddos with Dr Ngiam Tong Tau, Chairman of Sky Urban Solutions and Mr Seah Kian Peng, CEO of NTUC FairPrice.
Many of you would be familiar with Kok Fah Technology Farm, as many organized weekend farm tours would usually include a stopover at the weekend market in the farm, where city-dwellers marvel at the range and freshness of the produce. But we were lucky to be treated to a VIP tour of the farm where we learnt all about the technologies used from the seed-sowing stage all the way to the production line where the vegetables are packed! And now we know exactly the stages the greens had to go through before it reaches your nearest NTUC FairPrice outlet as a pack of Pasar vegetables! Besides supplying their own local-grown vegetables to the supermarket chain, they also does the packing for their imported vegetables as well.  

The very down-to-earth bosses of the farm. 
The kiddo were amazed by the machine that does short work of sowing the seeds into their respective receptacles. 

It was quite warm and I guess Leroy wanted to be cooled by the automatic misting system.

Rows upon rows of seedlings waiting to be transplanted to the soil.

The kiddos learning how to harvest the vegetables.

And here we learn that harvested vegetables has to go through a vacuum cooler which evaporates the water in and on the surface of the vegetable to extend their storage life and retain quality.

The workers will bundle the vegetable and ensure the quality before the machines does the rest of the work.

And yeap, this is about the freshest it can get, only second behind our locally-produced crops!
It is truly heartening to know that NTUC FairPrice is helping SMEs by promoting local products / produce. In doing so, it allows the farms to concentrate and improve on doing what they do best, farming, instead of worrying over sales. Besides, where else can we find the freshest produce at the most reasonable price, other than our own backyards? Thank you for inviting the family over for the interesting visit to your partnering farms NTUC FairPrice, and we sure have a much better understanding of what goes on behind the supply chain now! 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Red Riding Hood 小红帽

[Media Invite]

We visited Singapore Repertory Theatre at KC Arts Centre again last weekend to catch a very familiar play! It was a story that everyone would have heard of, and a story with various different endings / variations and I can bet, almost always in English also. But this time round it is different, we are watching the play in Mandarin!

The kiddos with the amazing performers!
I was having doubts about watching a play with a storyline that I know so well, and in Mandarin no less. I was afraid that it would be boring. Being my first time, it was kind of weird for me to hear the songs in Mandarin and I was trying hard to catch the words. But my fears were really unfounded, as the artistes were all truly profession in their delivery. You will be able to hear adults laughing so hard at their jokes or actions, and even more than the kiddos at times. I know I did! A truly entertaining play for both kiddos and adults alike, and you will not be bored even if you need to stay with your kiddos throughout. Kiddos nowadays are so accustomed to fast animations and info on demand, but the show still manage to captivate my kiddos with its seamless changes in scenes and great performances by the artistes!

The show is now on till 01 Sep 2017 only. For more information and booking, please check out this Sistic page.

Thank you for inviting the family over for the play Singapore Repertory Theatre! We truly enjoyed our afternoon and our kiddos gives their thumbs up for a really great performance!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

KOOZA is Cool sia!

[Media Invite]

This is the second time that I am catching a Cirque Du Soleil production and only because they are here in town, like they did before in 2015 for Totem. The two older ones gave a resounding yes when told they were going again this year, and they could still recall the great performances of the frog people the last round. I am so happy that they are back again with Kooza!

Many had asked if the show was worth watching and I had to be honest with my assessment. Firstly, none of the death-defying were refreshingly new, and you would have seen them on TV programmes before somewhere back in time. So why watch again? Let me tell you, it is totally different when you watch it performed live! And you are not watching the acts in isolation, but as part of an entire artistic presentation. 

The view from any corner is still good, except if you are blocked by any of the supporting beams.
One of the first acts, the Aerial Hoop involved the female acrobat hoisting herself and spinning high in the air. Nothing much maybe but then knowing that she did all these without any safety nets / lines got my adrenaline pumping. Any miscalculations would have disastrous results. so all these acts are you are going to watch, are the results of years of hard work and dedication by the performing artistes.

Then of course, the cost to bring the whole family to the circus will cost us an arm and a leg. I will still catch the circus on a date night with the wife even though I am really a miser when it comes to entertainment. Simply because the performances were top-notch and the clowning totally entertaining. But to bring the little rascals along may prove to be little erm, painful though. So thank you Sliding Doors Entertainment for having us at your opening night with all the celebrities! In any case I know cost will not be an issue for many, so please go ahead and enjoy one of the world's best known circus right here on our sunny shores! It's worth the hype so get your tickets here!