MS. ULB

a Mother in Search of the Unbearable Lightness of Being


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Koh Samui with a Toddler

Olive’s +66 trip at 16 months small

Travel period: 18 Feb to 22 Feb 2016 (4 nights)

Weather: Tropical climate, year-round summer with temperatures averaging at 30°c.

Stay: Nikki Beach, Lipa Noi, west coast of Koh Samui.

Eat: Anything and everything since Olive has reached toddlerhood.

Moving around: We took the taxi to and from the hotel. We were total beach bums this holiday and didn’t move around much. Our main purpose for the trip was to attend a wedding so no research was done at all. Zero, zilch, nada! If we weren’t sleeping, we were either by or in the pool, or by the beach or in the sea.

Staying connected: We purchased pre-paid sim cards at the airport.

Useful Information (since I cannot provide you with much)Koh Samui with Kids: Your Ultimate Guide

Best part about not doing any research or planning for a holiday is the dolce far niente. Yes to the unbearable lightness of being and ultimate nua-ing (i.e. lazing around in Singlish)! I could do this all day, everyday. Will let the pictures do most of the talking.

Itinerary:
18.02.16 Thu Day 1: Checked in to Nikki Beach Resort. Eat. Swim. Dance. Repeat.

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Olive’s 26th flight out @ 16 months small.

19.02.16 Fri Day 2: Eat. Swim. Play. Dance. Sleep. Repeat. And of course attending our dear friend’s wedding at Ban Suriya, a 6 bedrooms villa by the beach.

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Ready to bum around all day! Hip hip hurray!

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Olive loves the sea as much as I do, maybe even more. Can’t wait to go scuba with this kid!

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Olive’s first destination wedding!

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Olive with the gorgeous flower girl and page boy.

20.02.16 Sat Day 3: Eat. Swim. Play. Dance. Sleep. Repeat. Plus a recovery BBQ party.

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Olive making friends wherever she goes.

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The little animal whisperer.

A short story: If the goodness of one’s character can be gauged by his/her love and compassion for animals, then there’s no doubt that Olive has a heart of gold. I was observing Olive play with 2 older boys and a cat. The witty boys were role-playing and named Olive Obi-Wan Kebaby, and the cat was Catlo Ren. I watched Olive interact with the Catlo Ren, whose ears were wounded, red, and raw. She tilted her head side to side, observing Catlo Ren so intently, and petted him on his back in the gentlest manner. It was as though she knew he needed a little more tender loving care. Moments like this are so special and memorable, especially so when I get that warm fuzzy feeling. I sure hope Olive will continue to love and care for animals the way she does now.

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The little coconut head enjoying her coconut.

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Shots please?

21.02.16 Sun Day 4: Eat. Swim. Play. Dance. Sleep. Repeat.

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Fambam!

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Olive just wants to eat.

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The one and only time we tried to get out of the resort for dinner at a nearby restaurant. BUT…

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this happened. Olive ran into the sea the minute we walked on the beach. We ended up in the sea, by the beach, in the pool, and had dinner by the pool instead.

Documenting a conversation with a stranger who came back to shore from a dip in the sea.
Stranger: Excuse me, do you speak English?
Oska: Yes.
Stranger: I’m drunk but my psychic ability only comes when I’m high. She (referring to Olive) is very smart and knows exactly what she wants.
Oska: Er…ok.
Stranger: Just let her do what she wants and be what she wants to be. She’s a smart one.

So the Oracle has spoken. Imagine if the stranger dished out a less than ideal prophecy instead!

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Sunset walk.

22.02.16 Mon Day 5: And we’re out! IMG_8290


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Staycation @ Kempinski Jakarta

Oska and I made an impromptu decision to book a one night stay at Kempinski Jakarta last weekend, with his Agoda points. Coincidentally, Olive turned 19 months that Saturday so it ended up as a mini celebratory weekend for her. It was our 2nd staycation at Kempinski and needless to say (but I’m still saying anyway), we love it there!

Here are the top 5 reasons why:
Location
1. We live in the suburbs east of Jakarta so staying right in the heart of Jakarta in itself was a nice change. Truth is, every time we get to staycate in the city center, there’s only one word that pops up in my mind, “Civilisation!”. Oska would roll his eyes or frown reading this because yes, I exaggerate. But you know, the city girl needs her bustling city living every once in a while at least.
2. Grand Indonesia and Plaza Indonesia malls are right next to Kempinski. That means lunch at Tim Ho Wan , dinner at Tim Ho Wan again or an alternative Chinese restaurant, and desserts from Llao Llao and Union Deli. The Chinese girl needs her Chinese food fix too because that’s what we lack where we live.

Service & Engagement
3. Service at Kempinski was nothing short of excellent.
4. First time we were at Kempinski, I posted a photo of Olive on instagram enjoying her stay. Next thing we know, the lovely people at Kempinski sent her some toys and souvenir. This time for our 2nd stay, we got a room upgrade. Because of that we never made it to the swimming pool as the bathtub was enjoyable enough.

Amenities
5. I love Kempinski’s focus on the little people they call “little VIPs”. Apparently, we could have just called the concierge if we needed bottle sterilisers/warmer, baby cot, kids bathrobe and slippers, bubble bath, bath toys, changing mat, stroller, car seat, carrier, babysitting services etc. Damn! I really should have called the concierge for the bath toys at least seeing that we spent so much time in the bathtub. Also, there is a little VIP indoor playground at Signatures restaurant where we had our breakfast at. That means us parents get to spend more time savoring our food while the children play.

Now, photos.

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Hahaha! Can’t believe I’m back again, with Chuck Chuck.

Grand Deluxe Room we got upgraded to.

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Olive’s reaction when she saw the bathtub.

Taking care of Chuck Chuck before taking a nap.

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Nap time is always fuss free on hotel beds.

Heading out for dinner.

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Early Learning Centre, the must-visit toy shop. Olive spotted ELC from a distance away, flung our hands away and dashed into the store.

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Puffy-eyed Olive heading to Signatures Restaurant for brunch.

Signatures Restaurant.

Croissant in one hand, and a spoonful of omelette on the other.

Our little big eater goofing around and clapping hands to food, oh glorious food!

Free play time!

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Kempinski Little VIP Playground

Spending most of our weekend in the bathtub. IMG_8553

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Cartoons and water play. Getting Olive out of the tub was as difficult as trying to catch a greased little pig. She kept slithering out of my hands. 

Olive having snacks on the bed, on the chair, everywhere.

Olive hiding behind curtains. What’s the fascination with peekaboo anyway? 19 months on and she’s still loving it. Well, whatever rocks your socks, baby girl!

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Couldn’t resist taking extra photos of this girl in this handmade romper by @elisevaughn. If you are instacrazy and love handmade clothing, you would understand. 

That’s not all the photos I wish to spam but I really should stop. Till our next staycation then!


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Back in Bali with a Baby

3 months after Olive’s first trip to Bali, we found ourselves back in the tropical paradise again. This time with Olive’s paternal side of the family.

Olive’s Bali trip at 9 months small

Travel period: 20 July to 23 July 2015 (3 nights)

Weather: Year-round summer with temperatures averaging at 30°c.

Stay: We booked a 3-bedroom villa at Villa Kubu Boutique Villa Hotel and Spa for a travel party of 5 adults and a baby. There are 17 villas in this estate ranging from private one-bedroom villas for couples to 2- and 3-bedroom villas for bigger groups. This villa passed the baby test with its cleanliness and contemporary Balinese design.  It is conveniently located in the Seminyak district, minutes away from the beach and steps away from restaurants, bars, and boutiques. The service from the guest relations officer, Ms Ika, was excellent from the time we made a booking. They were very comprehensive in what they had to offer knowing that we had a baby in tow. Possibly a standard protocol for bigger establishments as compared to privately owned villas, this was the list of things that could be pre-arranged:

  • Meal upon arrival;
  • Champagne on ice;
  • Baby items (baby cot, high chair, pool fence etc.);
  • Massage at Spa Venus;
  • Special items in the maxi bar;
  • Restaurant reservations;
  • Tour programs, car or motorbike rental;
  • Fast track immigration services;
  • Nanny services

Ms Ika also took caution in asking if any of us had food allergies or special dietary preferences so as to inform their manager and chef in advance, for the preparation of our breakfasts. We were so laid-back to the extent that we even had to be reminded to provide our arrival and departure details in order to arrange for the complimentary airport transfer. I would definitely recommend Villa Kubu for families with elderly and kids.

Eat: Some useful Bali food guide links:
Bali’s best restaurants 2015 by The Bali Bible
Bali food guide – 35 restaurants, eateries & bars you have to visit by Ladyironchef
Again for Olive, I brought myself, the milk cow, and food pouches for her pureed meals.

Moving around: We hired a driver or cabbed to get to places not within walking distance of our villa and also walked around Seminyak for food. There are many boutiques to shop at in Seminyak but mostly targeted at tourists, thus overpriced. Child seats are not required by law but if you are concerned with road safety, it is best to book transport and a baby seat in advance. Lesson learnt from our last trip was to ditch the stroller and babywear instead since Bali is not stroller-friendly.

Staying connected: Prepaid sim cards can be purchased at the airport. Most, if not all the restaurants we went to had Wi-Fi access.

Others: If your accommodation does not provide the necessary baby equipment, check out Bali Baby Equipment hire where you can rent anything and everything you might need for the baby at very reasonable prices.

Itinerary:
20.07.15 Mon Day 1: Flew in to Bali and checked into Villa Kubu.

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Olive waiting to board her 8th flight out.

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Not too excited about the plane ride?

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Olive testing out the sofa @ Villa Kubu.

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Private pool.

21.07.15 Tues Day 2: Breakfast and swimming in the villa before lunch at Sardine, followed by Potato Head Beach Club and the beach.

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We actually brought the foldable Stokke bathtub with us for Olive’s baths. No harm, with sufficient luggage space.

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Getting dressed to head out!

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Lunch at Sardine.

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Daddy & daughter bonding under a tree.

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Fambam.

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Mesmerised by the rice paddies.

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Olive giving Daddy her best smile.

Olive has a knack for making friends (or acquaintances) wherever she goes, strikingly reminding me of me. Looking back at all my travels, I cannot think of a destination I had been to where I hadn’t engage in hearty conversations with flight passengers, B&B owners, local guides, and random strangers. Then again, even when I am back in my home country, I find it interesting to just chat up with people. I hope she will stay the way she is, and never be too shy to interact with people from all walks of life, maybe even learn a thing or two from them or simply just enjoy a tête-à-tête.

We wanted to have dinner at Potato Head Beach Club but there was no chance, without a booking in advance. Just look at the crowd!

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Potato Head Beach Club

So we enjoyed the beach a little, and went back to the villa for dinner instead.IMG_7519

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Olive, trying to kiss-attack another baby girl.

21.07.15 Wed Day 3: Drove all the way down to Uluwatu, on the south-western tip of Bali. Had lunch at Finn’s Beach Club and went to Tanah Lot for sunset and to visit 2 of the 7 coastal sea temples.

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Olive at Finn’s Beach Club.

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Inclinator down to the beach.

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Olive’s first ride on the inclinator.

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Beach please.

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Pura Tanah Lot, a pilgrimage temple and popular cultural icon in Bali.

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Pura Batu Bolong, another temple within walking distance of Pura Tanah.

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Groupshot featuring the corn on the cob.

22.07.15 Thu Day 4: Relaxed in the villa before we bade Bali bye bye!

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No guesses who enjoyed the most this trip!

Till next time!


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Chipmunks Playland @ Kota Kasablanka

Over the long weekend with 2 days of public holidays on the 5th and 6th of May, Oska and I brought Olive out every day to explore more of Jakarta.

We wanted to check out Ancol Dreamland but we got too intimidated by the maddening crowd. Parking was a problem and when we drove past the beach, we saw that every inch of it was covered by people. Oska drove off without any hesitation and we ended up indoors at Kota Kasablanca mall for Chipmunks Playland, a New Zealand-based indoor playground, instead.

Entrance & Pricing
Chipmunks Playland is recommended for kids from ages 0 to 12 years old. The play area is one of the biggest, if not the biggest we have been to in Jakarta so far, well furnished with a wide array of playground equipment.IMG_6467

Ticket pricing as such:IMG_6470

Stroller parking and shoe shelves right when you enter. As with most indoor playgrounds, socks are required. I have already built the habit of packing a couple pairs of socks into the diaper bag for both Olive and I because more often than not, they come in handy. But if forgotten, socks can be purchased at the ticketing counter for Rp15,000 or less. Alternatively, just buy a nice and comfy pair from the shops in the mall, one that you will wear again.IMG_6472

Toddler Area
There is a toddler area catered for children under 5, featuring make-believe playhouses, an inflatable boat ride, a mini carousel, a merry-go-round, a ball pit, and climbing and sliding obstacles. Olive, 18 months small, spent most of her time in this area.

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Olive on the merry-go-round, where she sneakily did her big business at.

Obstacle Course
There is an obstacle course across the main hall meant for bigger kids.
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Ball Blasters & Climbing Tunnel
More climbing tunnels meant for bigger kids surrounding a ball blasting arena.

Wave Slides
3 wave slides with a slower orange track.

Bouncy Castle and Inflatable Slides
2 inflatable playground equipment, one for smaller kids and the other giant inflatable slide for bigger children.

Trampoline
The trampolines, cleverly positioned by the entrance, to draw passersby’s attention to the playland.
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Kids Activity Corner
Ain’t nobody got time for that! Seriously, between climbing, jumping, sliding and clay modeling or coloring, most kids would choose the former.
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Games Room
Ain’t nobody got time for this either! IMG_6539

Center Stage
For events and performances.
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Party Rooms
Party rooms for rent.IMG_6534

Charlie’s Café and Dining/Rest Area
Always convenient to have hot food and beverages sold within the play area. There are also toilets and a nursing room within this play space.IMG_6540IMG_6508

Olive giving high fives to show how much she enjoyed the place. She played so much that she concussed within seconds of lying down on the stroller. Nap time with no fuss.  Now imagine me punching my fist in the air saying “YES!” IMG_6521

Address:
Chipmunks Playland and Café
Kota Kasablanka, Lantai 2, Unit 206, Jl. Casablanca Raya, Kav. 88, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta
Phone:(021) 29465012
Opening hours: 10am-10pm daily


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Cinemaxx Junior – Cinema for Kids

Cinema for kids? Say what??? Yes! There’s a cinema specially designed for kids here in Indonesia.

Cinemaxx, a Lippo Group cinema chain, launched Indonesia’s first cinema for children on 14 March 2016 in Maxxbox Lippo Village shopping mall. Cinemaxx Junior is an innovative cinema-and-indoor-playground-in-one entertainment space that allows children to catch a movie, and at the same time have the freedom to move around, socialise and play all while the movie is screening.

Cinemaxx @ Maxxbox Lippo Village
Boasts 3 types of cinemas, Cinemaxx Gold, Cinemaxx Ultra X D, Cinemaxx Junior and an arcade, Maxx Games. Oska and I frequent the Cinemaxx Gold in another location closer to home because it really is such a luxury to catch a movie on lavish recliner seats, complete with pillows and blankets, and food and drinks served right to our seats. Best part is, a gold class movie ticket here in Indonesia costs Rp60,000 to Rp90,000 i.e. not more than 10sgd whereas an equivalent gold class movie ticket back in Singapore would set us back by 29sgd to 39sgd weekdays- or weekends-depending. And yes, the gold class experience here is also cheaper than the regular movie tickets back in Singapore! At this price, I can watch even the trashiest of movies whenever I feel like it.

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Cinemaxx at Maxxbox Lippo Village mall.

Not exactly sure what Ultra X D has to offer but we will try out soon enough.IMG_5972

Cinemaxx Junior
The showtimes for movies at Cinemaxx Junior are set an hour earlier so that the children can enter to play at the indoor playground prior to watching a movie. For example, if you book the ticket for the 4pm showtime, that will be the stipulated time for entry into the play zone, but the movie will only start screening at 5pm. Great way to control the crowd and yet allow sufficient time for kids to enjoy the indoor playground.
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Cinemaxx Junior – Indoor Playground
A 2-storey play space right next to the movie theatre.IMG_5979

Featuring a flying fox, climbing “trees” and a trampoline.

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Mini hammocks, chalk-board/magnetic wall, and more climbing features on the 2nd floor.IMG_6220IMG_6222

Kids toilet and the cleanest, most welcoming nursing room I have come across in Indonesia so far.

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Wouldn’t mind a poop situation with a changing room like that. Thank God!IMG_6212

Cinemaxx Junior – Movie Theatre
Tube slides and ball pits right when you enter the movie theatre. You can slide down into the movie theatre in style. IMG_6095IMG_6102

Separate ball pit for toddlers. Very well thought out, especially with all the big kids going bonkers at the tube slides and crashing into the main ball pit.IMG_6103

Olive enjoying the ball pit, as always.

Movie-goers can choose from a variety of seat types – sofa beds, cinema seats, loungers, and beanbags, currently priced at Rp100,000 per seat and Rp200,000 for a sofa bed that seats 2 adults.

Seat Layout

Screenshot from Cinemaxx website.

I would recommend the bean bag seats for novelty and sofa beds for extra comfort.  IMG_6157IMG_6160 IMG_6201

Olive’s first movie experience at 18 months small! Cinemaxx Junior is recommended for children between the ages of 3 to 10 years but if your toddler is ready, go ahead and let them enjoy the experience. Most children would be on the move anyway and nobody would bat an eye because that is precisely why parents bring their kids there. To drain their kids’ energy that is, while they enjoy the movie or fall asleep. I spotted many fathers getting their shut eye in the theatre.

The littlest movie-goer and her first taste of popcorn.

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Lazy bums chilling on the bean bags.

Olive was more engrossed in the commercials and trailers than the actual movie. The only movie available that afternoon was “Ratchet & Clank”, not quite suitable for Olive so we left midway and headed for the playground instead.

Here’s a video of Olive watching the “Finding Dory” movie trailer, with a snack in her hand, crossing legs all. She actually understood what was going on and was shaking her head when one of the characters said, “Are you crazy? It’s too dangerous!”

There was even a souvenir given to kids upon leaving the movie theatre. Which kid doesn’t like a little surprise gift? Even the big kid in me was pleasantly surprised.IMG_7674

Maxx Games
We also brought Olive to the arcade where they had some games for smaller kids.

Olive’s first arcade game with Oska.IMG_5986

And 2nd arcade game with me. Clearly, she preferred cars to horses.IMG_6001

Can’t wait to bring Olive to Cinemaxx Junior again! For a better, more educational movie next. Hopefully they will open another theatre for kids in a more centralised and accessible location soon.

MaxxBox Lippo Kawaraci Address:
Jl. Boulevard Jend. Sudirman No. 1110, Lippo Village 1200, Kec. Kelapa Dua, Banten, Indonesia
Phone: +62 21 29171888

 


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First Love

Dad·dy
/ˈdadē/

noun

informal
noun: daddy; plural noun: daddies
  1. a daughter’s first love.
    Daddy-daughter love

    Olive & Oska on 27th Mar 2016.


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Great Ocean Road Trip with a Toddler

Oska and I love road trips. We met through a motoring club back in our university days. The road trips we took, as part of the club activities, played a part in bringing us together as a couple. We did a few road trips when we were dating. From Lhasa to Mount Everest Base camp, Florence to Rome, George to Capetown and most recently, Australia’s Great Ocean Road (GOR) with a toddler in tow. Look how far we’ve come!

So here I am, documenting our 3 days 2 nights GOR trip pitstops and highlights, with a 14 months toddler.

Our 3D2N GOR Route (summarised)

GORT

Day 1: Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens hotel > Werribee Open Range Zoo > Colac (lunch & Olive’s poopstop) > Port Campbell Jetty > Portside motel (check-in) > The Arch > The Grotto > London Bridge > Port Campbell (dinner) > Twelve Apostles Port Campbell National Park (sunset)

Day 2: Loch Ard Gorge > 12 Apostles Helicopters > Apollo Bay > Cumberland Lorne resort (check in & lunch) > Explore Lorne

Day 3: Teddy’s Lookout > GOR Memorial Arch > Aireys Inlet Splitpoint Lighthouse > Bells Beach > Torquay (lunch & surf shop outlet shopping) + Australian National Surfing Museum > Diamond Railway Valley > Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort & Spa, Yarra valley (check-in & dinner)

Note: Most people would have taken the coastal Great Ocean Road from Melbs city to Port Campbell (estimated 4hrs 15min no stops) and back via the faster inland Princes Highway route ( estimated 3hrs 15min no stops), but we did the reverse due to constraints from last minute booking of accommodations.

Top resource: Check out www.visitgreatocean.org.au, more specifically the official touring map which had all the information I needed in 2 pages.

GOR Map

Screenshot of the GOR official map. Pretty neat, huh?

GOR Highlights

Torquay
The official start of the Great Ocean Road. We went there to check out the surf shops and chanced upon the Australian National Surfing Museum. Also checked out Bells Beach because Olive, our little mermaid, needed her beach fix.

Aireys Inlet Split Point Lighthouse
We missed the Cape Otway Lightstation at the tip of the Southern coastline, so we went to Split Point Lighthouse instead.

Memorial Arch
This is where we battled the notorious summer flies and the buses of tourists to get a mandatory shot of the famous memorial arch and ‘diggers’ statue.

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Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch

Olive, doing the Simba at the memorial arch.

Lorne
Stayed a night at Lorne which was a great base for our road trip.  The beach and the playground were enough to keep Olive busy the whole day. This seaside town is definitely not to be missed. IMG_0998IMG_0987

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The Playground, Lorne.

Went to Teddy’s lookout for yet another spectacular view of the GOR coastline.

Apollo Bay
Olive enjoying the sun, sand, and sea at Apollo Bay! Just like every parent who thinks their kid/kids is/are the best, here’s my BEST KID EVER:
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12 Apostles Helicopters
We went to 12 Apostles Helicopters for Olive’s first helicopter ride. Prior to the trip, I wrote to them enquiring about the possibility of having an infant/toddler on the flight, safety aspects etc. so here are some useful information gathered:

Minimum age restriction: None. Apparently they fly infants every day because modern age parents are cool and adventurous like that.
Price: Price for children 3 years of age and above are the same as for an adult as they are required to occupy a full adult seat. Infants who have not yet reached their 3rd birthday may sit on the lap of an adult for a flat fee of AUD20.
Prices are per person and start at:
$ 145.00 – approx. 15 mins for 12 Apostles – London Bridge
$ 235.00 – approx. 25 mins for 12 Apostles – Bay of Islands
$ 570.00 – approx. 60 mins for 12 Apostles – Bay of Islands – Cape Otway Lighthouse
Other safety requirements: Only one infant may sit in an aircraft and must be seated in the rear of the aircraft.
No bookings required.

We took the shortest and least expensive ‘London Bridge’ flight, and were lucky enough to have a chopper all to ourselves.

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View from the top.

Twelve Apostles Port Campbell National Park
I had the best sunset walk ever, along the stunning coastline which shone and shimmered at dusk. Hand in hand with Oska and Olive, my heart felt full yet light. It was one of those remarkable moments where Oska would ask me, “we won’t ever forget this, right?” As long as my memory doesn’t fail me, NO, NEVER! This is it! The unbearable lightness of being I seek.
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Loch Ard Gorge

London BridgeIMG_0437IMG_0417

The GrottoIMG_0396IMG_0351The Arch

Finally, let me leave you with my top 5 survival tips for parents with kids on a road trip:

1. Stock up whatever you need in the car, and make it as self-sufficient as possible.

2. Mark your pit stops, pee and poop stops, and never miss the food stops!

3. Be flexible even when things don’t go as planned because they almost always don’t go according to plan, especially with kids. We missed some places we wanted to visit, like Gibson steps, Cape Otway and Kennett River but quality time spent at the other sights more than made up for what we missed.

4. & 5. Go easy, go with the flow & enjoy every minute and every second of your trip!