Taiwan 2016 (Part 1)

For the first time in a decade I am having a holiday whereby I am not worrying throughout the day when can I find time to reply to urgent emails and churn out documents, because I am in between jobs. Ah… The bliss of waking up to only leisure and personal emails, and fully enjoying the journey.

This trip was planned by my cousin Michelle. It’s fun packed but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for families with young kids. Probably better to take parts of it and expand.

We engaged a local guide cum driver who followed us throughout the trip. It’s a highly recommended mode of travelling around Taiwan as it is quite affordable and stress free. You can customise the trip in whatever way you want.

Day 1: Keelung and Jiufen


We set off for the journey with Sandra running rather high temperature that refuses to drop below 38 degrees celcius. The flight there was therefore not the most comfortable. Sandra was fussy and didn’t sleep well. But we survived with basically me carrying her throughout, and the daddy taking care of Sophia.


The first place we went was Keelung night market where we had 红烧鳗鱼,一口香肠,炸鸡排,卤肉饭,and some yummy pork soup and vege, amongst others. Our guide who is from Keelung feels that the night market there is the best. It is indeed not too bad.

The great thing was Sandra finally started perspiring at the very warm night market after not able to regulate her body temperature through perspiration for three days, and she’s now cleared of fever! Unfortunately instead of fever she had diarrhoea in the middle of the night and I even had to wash her pjs on the middle of the night and on our one hotel a night trip I had to take it out to hang for 3 nights before it dried.


After the night market, we went to our first hotel, 九份景栈. Normally it’s not recommended to stay at Jiufen because it can get misty according to our guide. However, my cousin wanted to stay there as she heard the stars can be beautiful. I was too tired to try catch it. The hotel (or should it be called motel) was a small one but was clean and cosy. It’s quite old fashioned but well maintained.

Day 2: Jiufen, Yilan


The second day we woke up to rain and had a delicious breakfast cooked by the lady boss. We started with fabulous pumpkin soup and followed with scrambled eggs and sandwich, all of it was delicious.

After breakfast it was still raining but still we went to 九份老街. The very long flight of stairs up carrying baby and wearing windbreaker was rather uncomfortable so it was a grateful break at the yam ball dessert place. We also had black pork sausage, white bittergoard juice, 雪在烧 and almond milk. At the end we rushed back for Sophia to use the toilet while my cousin ordered 太阳饼 from 李义饼家. 


It kept raining the entire day so we had to skip much of our plan like 十份瀑布 and parks.  Instead we went to indoor places like 金车咖啡城堡 and 金车威士忌噶玛兰酒庄, both nothing to write home about.


We went back to the hot springs hotel early but even then we only had time for a shower each and went out to the nearby restaurants for dinner.

That night Sandra was fussy and wanted to sleep on the comforter, refusing to sleep on the bed itself. I was worried the fluffy comforter will suffocate her in the middle of the night so moved her off the comforter after she falls asleep. That may have been a bad idea because she woke up covered in rashes! The sheets were probably irritating her skin.

Day 3: Yilan

Breakfast the next morning was a buffet spread with porridge and accompanying dishes. There was also green bean soup which I tried to feed Sandra more of to help with her rashes.

Then we covered some of the places we were supposed to cover yesterday but did not due to the rain like 几米广场,亚典蛋糕,山寨村. 


Thereafter we went back to the minsu (自然捲)that we were staying in that night, much to the delight of the kids as this is a very kids friendly place. Not only do they have a slide and lego in the room and a play kitchen area immediately below the room, there are also lots of kids friendly amenities like a bottle sanitiser and bottle soap and brush in the common area, and baby bath and toilet seat in the room. Everything was also very clean and bright. It’s the best accommodation I have experienced so far in the trip. Once I entered, I was extremely tempted to tell my cousin that our family will stay here for the rest of trip until the group goes back to Taipei when they can then pick us up. But of course we didn’t abandon the group.

That night we went to 罗东夜市 and had more Taiwanese snacks like 大肠包小肠,卜肉 etc. We then packed back to eat and the kids ended up sleeping way past bedtime, especially the younger one who usually sleeps early.

Hello DC, and back to Krisflyer

I was irritated how Krisflyer’s fuel surcharge for an award ticket was more expensive than a full budget airline non promotional ticket, so I thought I’ll switch to United Airline’s MilagePlus. Didn’t work! Can’t input my points. So looks like its back to trusty old krisflyer.

Another work trip so soon and late work day just before the flight. Sophia already told grandpa “cannot see mama and grandaunt” before she slept. Grandaunt was also travelling. Guess she knows we’re away. Now I regret extending the business trip for travel. I should have just rushed back to see my baby while she needs me.

Sydney continued – serviced apartments

I love staying in a serviced apartment when travelling. Pity not many parts of the world has the concept of short term (days instead of months) serviced apartment.

I loved the apartment from the moment I stepped into it. So much bigger than hotels and with the washing and drying equipment, we really could have afforded to bring just 2 sets of clothes and rotate them throughout the trip.

The kitchen was the most fantastic part. The cabinets had perhaps 20% of amount of stuff I had in my kitchen but yet had everything I needed to do most types of cooking. It just goes to show how much unwanted stuff I have in my kitchen. Its probably a good thing every morning the little one puts on her shoes and literally drags everyone out of the apartment because I could spend all day in it cooking and chilling.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, 5 minutes into us occupying it, it is nowhere near as zen as it looks in the pictures.

Dim sum – as good as ever

Yum yum, one of the best things about Sydney is the dim sum there. That’s what you Aussies call yum cha. Ok, hubby just interrupted saying that yum cha is also used here so I probably should clarify that yum cha is often used as a noun in Australia when it is a verb.

This time we visited Sydney, I made it a point to fit in a trip to a yum cha restaurant and was initially planning to head to marigold which is of course the evergreen there and widely thought of as the best but fortunately I bumped into an old friend at church who informed me that in his view, a new restaurant called The Eight at Market City is better and with shorter queue, so we went there and the food was indeed great. That was the consensus among daddy, mummy and baby.

 

This trip we also found a great Thai restaurant called Chat Thai. For this one baby didn’t quite agree with daddy and mummy. “La la” (ie spicy) she says.

Back and sick!

Finally back from 5 days in Sydney, supposed to be 6 days but became 5 – don’t ask. The daddy vowed NEVER to bring the baby to a trip anymore, at least not to somewhere with flights of more than 3-4 hours. Admittedly the flight back was bad as it was in the day so Sophia was awake and needed to be constantly entertained. Towards the end I caved and gave her the iPhone so she can sing and dance to the nursery rhymes app. Don’t judge. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Unfortunately, after we got back, Sophia developed flu symptoms. She probably caught a chill on the second last day of the trip when the weather suddenly turned much colder than the previous 2 days. We were caught unawares and under-dressed. The sudden downpour coupled with such strong winds that my umbrella was completely destroyed didn’t help. Last night, Sophia’s temperature rose to a whopping 39.8 degrees and not surprisingly she was unable to go to sleep and insisted on being carried. I fed her some paracetamol, turned the air conditioner to chill mode (as it was getting stuffy with the air circulation mode that grandpa likes to set it to), gave her water to drink and hugged her to sleep. After 45 minutes or so, the grandparents decided to check on her and all of a sudden there was a flurry of activity with the grandparents turning on the lights to see how she was doing and take her temperature. Then the grandma deciding to make 2 hard boiled eggs in order to administer her home remedy of rubbing eggs on Sophia’s back, forehead and chest, with much clanging of pots. They then decided to bring Sophia to their room to rub her over with a warm egg. This seems mighty unscientific to me – if anything, she should be given a cold rub down or tepid sponging, not with something warm! She clearly didn’t like it very much either so the grandma could only manage to rub her back. Once again the lights were on for this traumatising procedure and the tv was also on in their room, much to my dismay. After getting baby all worked up, we had to calm her down again and make her sleep (which, in my view, was what she needed most). In the end nobody got much sleep last night.

I do really appreciate my parents’ help with Sophia but circumstances like last night really leave me quite frustrated. I know they did the egg thing out of desperation because they were not people who believe in such old wives tales either and have never done that to me as a child so I am grateful that they care for Sophia so much, BUT I was really worried that the warm rub will only make the fever worse, which is a dangerous thing for children. Its really tough dealing with these situations.

On a separate note, am I the only one who finds these new security devices issued by banks way too fiddly? I received 2 such devices while I was on my trip, they look like mini calculators about 7cm long and 4.5cm wide, but are rather flat so not that hard to carry around. The size was to accommodate the numbers, which is fine, but with one of the devices, the numbers were completely useless! One just needed to press one of the buttons to obtain the pin, so why does the device need to be so huge? With the other, the numbers made sense as a pin needed to be entered to generate the pin, but activation and future operation instructions were beyond vague. I was supposed to follow onscreen instructions which were actually wrong. The button that was supposed to generate the pin based on the instructions was actually the backspace button and I had to experiment with the device myself to figure out how to generate the pin, and then fiddle with it more to figure out how to turn it off (which was not part of the instructions). I have now activated the device but am not 100% sure that next time I would know how to generate the pin. If a young and supposedly technologically sound person like me has difficulties, how much more would the elderly have difficulties?

On the plane

No, I did not jeopardise the safety of all the passengers on the plane by posting this on the flight. I merely wrote the draft while I was struggling on the plane, unable to sleep. Good thing I took an hour’s nap at home before heading for the airport. Its just so impossible for me to catch any sleep on flights.

Sophia was surprisingly good tonight! She slept at about 9pm, which is a good time by her standards, but woke up when we carried her up to head to the airport. That was a bit of a bummer because I was hoping she would be able to sleep through it all but no matter, she was really good throughout the journey all the way till the time we boarded the plane! Surprising for a child pulled out of bed. Once the plane started taking off, she found herself a comfortable position in my arms and dozed off. But my inability to sleep meant I was too wriggly a bed so eventually I managed to put her on a seat and off to a deep sleep she goes. Meanwhile I’m exhausted but get no rest.

Here’s hoping she’ll be as easy as this throughout the trip!

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Travelling with baby

Last month I travelled to Penang with baby and being the mad planner woman I started scouring the internet for packing tips and the results were all somewhat unsatisfactory. So I decided that for the greater good of motherkind I’m going to write the decisive quide on packing for baby. Ok I’m clearly kidding. You are going to have to adapt the list to your particular circumstances, like medication your baby is taking for eg. But I’m hoping this will be a good starting point for mummies as clueless as I was.

I) MILK (Very important)

If your baby is breastfeeding by direct latching, this is simple. You just need to bring your nursing tops and cover and you’re good to go.

If your baby is on formula its not all that tough either. Bring a small tin if you are not sure whether the place you are going to sells the brand you are using. If you plan to buy at the destination, even easier, just bring enough for the trip.

You’ll need water to mix up the and for the trip it can be brought in a thermos flask. Milk and hot water can be brought on the plane if you are travelling with baby. But its impossible to bring enough water for the entire trip and if you are travelling to a place where you’re uncertain about the tap water’s cleanliness, buy bottled water at destination. Select distilled water or drinking water or reverse osmosis water, not mineral water, mineralised water or natural spring water. This is because the additional minerals may be too much for baby’s kidneys to handle. There are certain brands of mineral water which is safe for mixing up formula, Evian being one of the popular ones, but to me its too much trouble to remember which are the safe ones. Just go with distilled water to be safe.

If your baby is on expressed breastmilk like mine is, its the most troublesome. You need to being your pump, pump parts, charger, bottle to store expressed milk, cooler bag to bring milk out with and a portable warmer. I packed prince lionheart’s on-the-go bottle warmer. I sometimes also filled a thermos funtainer with warm water which then can be used to warm milk as well as food.

II Sterilisation

This is kind of related to milk but I thought it deserves a separate category because there are a few options to discuss.

What I did, which I think is the most practical, is to bring a large heatproof container sufficient to fit everything I needed to sterilise (bottles and pump parts). After washing everything with local tap water I boiled bottled water with the kettle provided in the hotel room and poured the boiling water over the washed items placed inside the heatproof container. Towards the later part of the trip I just used boiling tap water and it was still fine but again depends on where you are and how safe the water is, and also how fussy you / your baby is. You may even want to wash with bottled water but I found that way too troublesome. The last boiling water rinse will surely flush away all the bad stuff.

Medela also sells some quickclean wipes that can be used to wipe down and sterilise but I can’t see how these wipes can reach the inside of the pump parts or the bottom of the bottle so I didn’t end up using these after buying them.

Pigeon and tollyjoy also sells sterilisation tablets which I used while on a staycation with hubby (without baby) but I did not end up using the milk pumped while on staycation so whether baby would drink that milk is still an unknown. The tablets are mixed with a specified amount of water and bottles and parts need to be submerged in the solution for a certain number of hours. The solution smelt like chlorine and I was told bleaches certain surfaces so I can’t imagine it to be very good for baby to consume even minute quantities of it.

Lastly, you can also bring along your steriliser but these tend to be bulky so only do it if none of the above are a satisfactory option to you.

III Food

If your baby has already started solids then this is another matter to consider. Even if you are generally fussy about preparing home cooked meals for baby (as I am) I would say forget it during the trip. If your baby is below 1 year old then bring commercial baby food purees. I like happy baby meals because of the BPA free packaging and organic ingredients. Sophia likes to eat them too. I didn’t bother heating the room temperature food up but when its the refridgerated portion (I separate the portions before feeding), I’ll use warm water in funtainer container to warm it up or ask for warm water at the restaurant.

If your child is above 1 and the place you are going will have clean restaurants then don’t even bother with commercial food. Just feed baby parts of the adults’ meal that is soft enough for her teeth/gums to process. Like the breads and roasted veges and fruits etc.

You’ll also need bowls or some type of container (I used Avent’s via cups which were convenient as both storage and bowl), spoons (I used munchkins take & toss which were pretty durable and BPA free but yet cheap so I didn’t feel heartache if I lost it or dropped it etc) and bibs.

I also brought pigeon hand and mouth wipes and some dettol hand sanitiser for cleaning up before and after meals. And tonnes of tissues.

Oh yes, don’t forget the sippy cup / straw cup.

IV Clothes

Pack according to climate and what your baby usually wears. Things to think about are: going out clothes, pyjamas, swimwear, shoes/socks, mittens if baby is really small, hat, jacket, winter wear, leggings and gloves.

V Diapers

Either bring enough for trip or buy at destination. Also bring/buy wet wipes and barrier cream.

VI Entertainment

What you bring in this category depends on what your baby likes at the moment. Definitely bring his/her favourite toy. Some books could be good. Security blanket if he/she has one. Snacks like little biscuits or rice puffs are also good when used sparingly.

VII Medication

Madaboutbaby made a good point about baby medication, which is especially essential if you are heading to a country where you do not trust the hospitals / doctors, or a country where you potentially will have difficulty communicating with doctors because of linguistic barriers. To me there are 2 categories, which I shall explore below:

First category being the “daily comfort” category ie gripewater, ruyi oil or whatever else you may use on your baby on a regular basis to make baby feel comfortable. I personally don’t like to get my baby reliant on these things so don’t tend to use them (plus I’m just too lazy). But if you do use them then a trip is not a good time to drop them and you definitely should lug them along.

Second category are the things that would come in handy if someone should fall sick or for minor accidents.

For minor accidents, all you need are really: (i) a disinfectent – a vial or two of normal saline available at most pharmacies will do. Or if you are not concerned about the sting then a few alcohol swabs. (ii) an antiseptic (yes, this is different from disinfectent) and it is again available at pharmacies. I tend to stock Burnol but there are many others out there. (iii) simple bandaging equipment. Some sterile gauze and a roll of surgical tape would serve most purposes. If you are concerned about looks then opsite’s good.

For the falling sick bit I guess the list can poteltially be very long, especially for people used to say the North American culture where people self medicate with otc medication a lot. I tend to head to the GP if I am sick and am generally unfamiliar with self medication options so only brought paracetamol.

Oh yar and I suppose there is one last category that I wrote off even though I know they exist – the equivalent of sleeping pills to knock baby out for the flight. They’re available from GPs and paediatricians and possibly even pharmacies. Even when my baby is sick I object to putting more medicine in her than is absolutely necessary so I certainly wouldn’t inflict sleeping pills on her when she’s well. But then again my baby is ok with take offs and landings and, though active, not overly so such that she will scream from boredom of the flight. So no judgement if you feel the need to use some modern medicine to preserve the sanity of fellow passengers.

I think those are the main categories. Let me know in the comments if there’s any I missed!

The funny bits

The first trip with Sophia came and went and I’m really glad we made it because now it opened up grandpa’s mind to bringing her on trips and he’s now contemplating bringing her to Genting in December! Yay!

I guess nothing on the trip is ha-ha funny but there are a couple of “I never imagined that could happen” funny things.

On breakfast the second day, Sophia was, as usual, whining to be carried by mummy (no, daddy won’t do, only mummy) and so I brought her along to pick up food from the buffet. When I returned, she was slipping off my arm as I balanced a plate on the other. Daddy jumped up to help and as I was putting the plate on the table, I heard a loud plastiky pop and splat, sort of like toppling over a coffee mug except more muffled. A split second later a scream and some waiters rushing over. Apparently, when stepping forward to help us, daddy stepped on a container of strawberry jam that Sophia dropped on the floor, the contents squirted out under the pressure and landed across the seat and clothes of the lady sitting in the next table. She was not happy at all about the turn of events. And throughout all this her husband just looked on poker faced then continued reading his papers when she went off to change. Potentially funny in a cheap comedy but in real life not so funny. There was a lot of awkwardness as we offered to pick up the laundry charges  and apologised profusely.

Fast forward 2 days and we are back in Changi airport. Mummy is carrying Sophia while daddy stood watching out for the luggages. Mummy spotted grandpa and grandma and waved. Sophia waved too. Amidst all these, mummy spied a luggage with a purple ribbon and a huge fragile label that looked very familiar and pointed for daddy to check if its ours. Daddy reached for the luggage and off we went. Turns out, it wasn’t ours and we ended up heading back to the airport in the evening to exchange for our, which fortunately was returned to lost and found. Poor guy whose luggage we took and I really hope he isn’t a tourist and there isn’t anything he urgently needs in the luggage. As punishment, Sophia got over tired from returning too late and cried very loudly at bedtime for a very long time before going down to sleep.

Stay tuned for review of the family friendly Golden Sands Resort by Shangri-la……

Back!

Pardon the radio silence the past few days. I was in Penang with the baby and the hubby. And also I have acquired a mac and have absolutely no friggin idea how to use it. I’m still struggling with it but clearly I’m not as young and open to new things as I thought I was, because it is as hard as I thought it would be. And this is of course the reason why I have resisted the switch to a mac for years, only to give in now when I am perhaps too old to deal with the change. We’ll see.

On the trip, baby girl torturing us at bedtime in Penang. Its so hard to get her to sleep, she keeps standing up in the playpen the provided and we ended up letting her sleep in our bed before carrying her into hers when she falls asleep. Bad habit that led to 1.5 hours of coaxing before she would sleep in her crib today. Doesn’t help that I’m suffering from clogged ducts so every time she struggles as I try to hold her down hurts like hell. Good thing grandpa came to the rescue.

I’ll update about the trip in another one or two posts, meanwhile, here’s a photo of the naughty girl at bedtime……

I love my new bed too much to sleep in it