Parenting: How to get kids to pack up

I used to struggle a lot in the past to get the kids to pack up. Until one day, I saw this billiant idea on Pinterest, and it worked for me too! It’s called “Ransom Box”.

I’m not sure about others. But for our family, before the “Ransom Box” was introduced, we always threaten the kids that the items (toys, books, etc) will be thrown away if the kids don’t keep it (there was one occassion that Chubby really threw some toys away ). However, this is not a good method as most times we just threaten, and it is not environmental and pocket friendly to be throwing toys away like that. So when I saw the idea of “Ransom”, I think it is a better option.

The “Ransom Box” works by putting items, that is left lying around by the kids, into the “Ransom Box”. And it will be held “ransom” until the kids do something to redeem it. Usually a household chore. But do note that chores within their “scope of work”, are not considered. For example, the kids don’t get to redeem items from the box if they say put their own dishes into the basin after meal, or making their own bed, etc. It has to be something extra.

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I chose a big and transaparent “Ransom Box” so that even bigger size toys can fit in and the kids can see what is inside.

If you search around the Internet, they usually put a notice on the “Ransom Box” explaining to the kids what happened. But when I started this, my kids were barely 5 and 3.5 y.o.  They couldn’t read well. So I sat them down, told them about the rules and place the ransom box in a very obvious place as a reminder (very much like red light camera on the road).

Tip: Do remember to inform all adults (including domestic helper) about it. If there is anyone who packs up for them, or unknowingly takes out the items from the box, the method will not work.

For us, the kids’ cousin come over on weekends, so the same applies to them. If they leave the items around, I would help them pack up but they will have to do a household chore at their own house in return (I make my SIL take video as proof to show me. Oh the wonders of technology. LOL). So going home doesn’t mean they get away with it.

The first week, we implemented it, the ransom box got filled quickly. The kids got around to helping me clean up their younger brother (they particularly hated cleaning his poo) and the house too. The cousins got to help bring out the dirty rubbish to the common rubbish chute. Bascially, think of chores that they will not willingly do. So after a while, they realize it’s easier to just pack up.

Nowadays, all I need to do is say “I think I need to bring out the ransom box…”, and they will rush before me to pack up their toys. There isn’t a need for constant nagging, isn’t it great? Our ransom box has been empty for about a year already. But it is still there as a reminder.

Tip: In order for younger kids to help pack, the toys must be arranged for easy packing. 

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We love these shelves as it allow us to organise the kids toys easily. Each box holds a different category of things (e.g. Peppa Pig, Cars, Poli, Musical Toys, Playdoh, Lego, board/card games, etc). The kids just need to dump them in the correct box and thats it. Something even my 3 y.o. nephew can do it easily. Ok, we don’t have the neatest or prettiest looking shelves, but it does its job and is not too messy.

So how do you get your kids to pack up after they are done?

*P.S. This is not a sponsored post. You don’t have to get the exact model of shelves or ransom box. The idea is to have a big ransom box so it can hold most of the toys. And toy storage that helps in packing.

Kluang 2014: UK Argo Farm Review (2)

In my previous post, I covered the background of the trip to UK Argo Farm. In this post, I will cover the guided tour itself. As mention, the tour and the feeds required (found in the “goody-bag”) is included in the package stay. And we were brought around the farm in this “bus”.

I like how "open" the bus is. But too bad there weren't free roaming animals around.
I like how “open” the bus is. But too bad there weren’t free roaming animals around.

Tip: DO put on mosquito patch and/or insect repellent before you embark on the trip. In fact, I helped the kids put on both once we reach the farm. There were quite a fair bit of insects around.

The itinerary of the guided tour.

A snapshot of the tour displayed at the main lobby.
A snapshot of the tour displayed at the main lobby.

Sheep Herding
The first stop is to witness the “Sheep Herding”. This is the process where they herd the sheep from one grazing patch to the other. Initially I thought it would be quite boring, but I was wrong. It’s quite a view seeing a big group of sheep moving from one place to another. And according to our friendly guide, Uncle James, some of the sheep at the end of the herd were actually pregnant. You can see the small belly that they have, which is quite cute. The kids definitely enjoyed the “scene” and having such close encounter (without cage or barriers) with them.

The sheep / goat running pass us.
The sheep / goat running pass us.

Feedstock Processing
Next, we walked a short distance to the “feedstock processing factory”. There isn’t much to “see” there but just feedstock. We can’t really see the process itself. But Uncle James provided some basic explanation about the feedstock, goats and the farm. It was quite informative, but maybe a little too long and not interesting enough for younger kids. The boy got a little inpatient near the end of the explanation.

The feedstock before it is being "processed". According to Uncle James, they will add vitamins into the feeds.
The feedstock before it is being “processed”. According to Uncle James, they will add vitamins into the feeds.

Tip: We were silly enough to stand quite close to the feedstock (cause Mommy wants to take photo for the blog). And we didn’t realize that there were many insects near it. They didn’t “bite” but can be quite irritating when they fly to your leg. So keep a good enough distance from it.

Goat Feeding
Behind the feedstock processing “factory”, is the goat pen. This is where the kids finally get some hands on. Feeding the goat! As mention, the feed was provided. So it’s time to take it out and have some fun feeding. And don’t worry, the goat don’t bite. According to Uncle James, even if they do bite, one row of their teeth are soft (think is the upper row), so it won’t hurt. But we didn’t encounter any that bite though. Oh, the farm is thoughtful enough to provide a bin for you to throw away the plastic bags for the feed and a tap for you to wash your hands if you are concern about hygiene.

The boy feeding the goat. His favourite activity for the tour.
The boy feeding the goat. His favourite activity for the tour.

Tip: We realize that the goat prefer the soft grass and wouldn’t really eat the twigs. So don’t bother about feeding them the twigs.

Milk Feeding
As we walk further into the goat pen, there are more goats waiting for us. This time round to feed them milk. You can exchange the coupon in the goody bag for the milk in bottles. Each person is entitled to only one bottle. This I find a little too little, I have to give up mine for the boy to have more chance of feeding.

In order to feed more goats, the boy was bad enough to pull out the bottle from the first goat he fed, and give it to another goat. Oh that poor goat...
In order to feed more goats, the boy was bad enough to pull out the bottle from the first goat he fed, and give it to another goat. Oh that poor goat…

Tip: The kids may not be tall enough to feed some goat. This is because the bottle need to be tilted in order for milk to flow through, much like the bottles human use. So go for the baby goat which are much shorter and ask the kids to raise their arms as high as they can.

Goat Milk Processing
The bus brought us to the milk processing factory. Here, they showed us step by step how they milk the goat. There is some “sterilizing” process to ensure there is no contamination. For the actual milking itself, they uses machines that reminds me of my Medela breast pump. So it’s a pity we won’t allowed to have some “hands-on” milking experience.

Blocked from the view is the breast pump...
Blocked from the view is the breast udders pump…

After watching the milking process, we proceed to the “factory” next to it and again Uncle James explain how the milk is being pasteurized and available for our consumption. Too bad the factory was not in operation when we were there, probably due to weekend. So it gets a little boring for the kids again.

After the short explanation, we were served with goat milk for us to try and purchase if you want. I took a small mouth and I think the “goat-smell” was rather strong.

The girl doesn't seems to mind the taste and had 2 cups. Difference between a milk lover and a normal drinker. (Photo Credits: My SIL)
The girl doesn’t seems to mind the taste and had 2 cups. Difference between a milk lover and a normal drinker. (Photo Credits: My SIL)

Looks like I’m unable to cover all the itinerary of the guided tour in one post. So stay tuned for part 3, where I will share the 2nd part of the tour!

Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored post.

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Blog Train: FTWM After Work Hours

I have previously join a linky stating why I chose to be a FTWM. Another taking a peek at a day in my life. This time when Christy holds a blog train for FTWM, I had to join to show my support. But now that I’m sitting here typing out the blog posts, I’m not really sure I have anything to write. 😛

Now that Loi is older and I had stop breast feeding, plus we got ourselves a helper, my after work hours compare to the previous post is slightly different. Basically, now when I reach home, after shower and dinner its time to spend with the kids. Yipee no more housework to do, bottle to wash and breast pump to sterilize.

With that, it ends my after work hours. So what can I write? Ok, I thought hard and came up with this 5 tips. Hope it can provide some kind of help or maybe let you feel you are not alone in NOT being a super mom.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Let’s admit, not all of us are capable to be a super mom, me included. So don’t be afraid to admit it. We don’t have to do everything by ourselves. Getting external help will definitely do a FTWM some good. Try doing your sums to see if you can afford a live-in helper. You can read more about my views on domestic help here. Well, if you really can’t, then consider a part-time helper to do some weekly maintenance of the house. Otherwise, rope in your husband and children to help out in the chores.

Before we have our domestic helper, Zai helps me out in some of my chores such as putting on the clothes peg and all. It’s a good bonding activity too.

2. Understand that kids are able to entertain themselves
I came to realize that kids are capable of entertaining themselves. There really isn’t a need to jam pack their schedule with learning activities everyday (even if it is a learn-through-play activity). If you let the kids have a chance to get “bored”, you can see their creativity come in to play and how they will find means to get themselves occupied. We just have to facilitate them and also ensure that we don’t have a mess to clear up after that. Or better still, get them to clear up their own mess.

3. Go for simple activities on weekday night
Having said the above, if you still feel a need to have some activities, go for simple activities that is easy to setup and cleanup so it doesn’t tax your already tired body. Our common activities are “no-mess” drawing doodling (using crayons, markers or just simple chops), book reading and pretend play. Or the dish-washing activity I share over here is also a good weekday night activity.

I think it helps for me that Zai is very good at pretend play. He comes up with scenarios from the books he reads or shows he watches and he will rope us in to help act it out.

Loi acting as a princess while KorKor help with the "gown". My kids are just good at pretend play.
Loi acting as a princess while KorKor help with the “gown”. My kids are just good at pretend play.

4. Don’t be overly concern about “screen-time”
I admit I’m those parents that allow the kids to watch on our smart phones while waiting for dinner to be served at a restaurant. Just to ensure that the kids stay in seats and “keep quiet” (but strictly no distraction while eating). I also allow them some “screen-time” (on TV and Smart Devices) on some weekday nights. Especially on days when I’m so tired from the day work, and has no more energy to keep them entertained.

We have all read about the side effects of having too much screen time. I’m concern as well, but I think it’s unavoidable at this era. I think more importantly is how they use it and what they are expose to. For us, we choose the programs they watch and the apps they play carefully. I also make it a point to sit beside them and engage with them even while they are watching or playing with the apps (Yes, I can sing almost the entire opening song for ‘Sofia the First’ already). So that it is not a one-way interaction and we can follow-up with discussion on what we saw or learn from the apps.

But do limit each session to not more than half an hour. We usually set it to 15 minutes for our kids, to ensure their eyes get plenty rest.

5. Ensure enough rest
For yourself I mean. We all know, we tend to be more short-tempered when we do not have enough rest. So don’t push yourself to continue if you really need the rest. It’s not beneficial to anyone. So turn-in early if you need to. If there is nobody to take care of the kid, get them to turn-in also. They may protest or fool around in the room for a while. But if nobody continue to “entertain” them, they will soon fall asleep too.

I hope you will find these tips useful.

This is a blog train hosted by Kids R Simple on “A Peek into the After Work Hours of a FTWM“. Read about how the other 20 FTWMs handle their kids and household everyday from 1 June to 21 June. The aim is to give other working mums motivation, ideas and support to deal with the everyday demands of juggling work and family while keeping sane. We will be happy to hear your story, tips and even an encouraging word will make our day! Share your thoughts in the comments!

Next up is Natasha from quirkyaffairs.com.

Natasha

Natasha is a recently converted full time working mum juggling 2 part time jobs, an online business and the world of motherhood while currently pregnant with her 2nd child. She blogs at quirky affairs, sharing bits and bobs of her life – capturing everyday moments with her family, indulging in her little idiosyncrasies, documenting milestones, pregnancy jitters & first experiences on parenthood and takes heart that it’s okay to be imperfect.

Melbourne 2014: Tips for Planning a Family Trip with Young Children

Late March, we went for a family trip to Melbourne together with my in-laws. That is a total of 7 Adults and 5 children (age 6, 4.5, 4, 2.5 and 1). It was a logistic nightmare, having to plan out the trip. Here are 5 tips to share with regards to planning a family trip with young children.

1) Country to visit
First decide which country to visit, sounds like a silly tip right? As silly as it may sound, travelling with young children is very different from travelling as a couple. You have to consider if the country is “child friendly”. By “Child Friendly” I mean things like; Are the places of interest easily accessible? Are the places stroller friendly? Does the cafes, restaurant or food joints have high chair for toddlers? Are hot water easily available in restaurants? Is there food that is suitable for the kids? Do they have diaper changing or nursing room in their malls? Are toilets easily available (for kids that are toilet trained)? What is the travelling time on the plane?

A lot of things we took for granted in Singapore may not be easily available in other countries. I have once express breast milk in a restaurant “VIP Dinning Area” (which has no doors) while overseas. So selecting the country to visit is really important.

2) Places to visit
Having decide the country, next of course is to decide where to have the fun. Seriously, this is the most difficult part as different people have different expectations.

The rule of thumb we use is to have one activity for kids and one activity for the adults in a day. If we are only able to cover 1 activity for that day, then the following day have got to be an activity for the other “age group”. We also try to plan the adult “activities” in the later part of the day so it coincides with the kids’ nap time.

This was taken last year at KL Sunway Lagoon. The kids had a fun time in the morning and was napping while the adults got their turn to try out the rides in the afternoon.
This is taken last year at KL Sunway Lagoon. The kids had a fun time in the morning and was napping while the adults got their turn to try out the rides.

3) Mode of transport
What should be the mode of transport over there be like? Public buses? MRT? If so, you will probably need to find out if the stations or buses are stroller friendly. And are the buses or trains crowded most of the time? Imagine having to look after the stroller and kids in a busy station or train, are you able to handle it?

If you intend to travel by taxi, then you probably got to find out what are the charges like. How many pax are allowed in the taxi at one time. Are there extra charges in using the boot space to put the stroller? My experience in Hong Kong was that usage of boot spaces may incur extra fee. So do take note.

Is renting of car an option? Which may be good as you can just dump everything in the car (Do note that your baby bag will be twice as heavy when you are overseas as you will be out almost the whole day). However, renting of car also has its issues. You have to check if parking is easily available. And if parking charges are reasonable. Petrol costs, toll charges and rental of GPS need to be considered too.

4) Places to Stay
Having decide on where you are going to visit and what kind of transport you will be taking, the place you are going to stay will become easier. Choose places that are close to your visit or near the transport you are going to take. This time Google Map will be your best friend.

The type of room should also be considered. If the kids are bunking in with you, you probably need a bigger bed or have the option to “add” a bed into the room. Two bedroom suites are also good for extended families so you cut down on having the need to call each other. But sharing of toilet at crunch time may be an issue.

Also opt for hotel or apartments that have free laundry services. We all know kids dirty their clothes easily. Having a washer or laundry service, can put your mind at ease.

5) Airline to Fly With
This is important for long flight. Points to consider include; Does the flight provides kids meal? The recent emirates we took does not have special kids meal and their adult meal are not entirely kids friendly. Do they provide toys and in-flight entertainment to keep the kids occupied? Much as I don’t want to let the kids watch too much TV, but I simply can’t avoid when I need to trap them in a seat for a good few hours. I think another important point to consider is the time of the flight. Opt for timing that is near the kids bed or nap time. So they can just sleep.

I wouldn’t really recommend budget airline unless the flight hour is short, like 1-2 hours. This is because, the space is really narrow and you will have a hard time carrying the kids or finding space for them to sleep. So if possible, choose an airline with full service.

Loi sleeping peacefully in the air plane. The flight was so close to her bed time that she fell asleep the moment the flight took off.
Loi sleeping peacefully in the air plane. The flight was so close to her bed time that she fell asleep the moment the flight took off.

Do you have any tips for planning an overseas trip with your kids? Share with us here.

This is the first part of the series where I share on our Melbourne trip. The upcoming posts will cover the airline we took (i.e. Emirates), the hotel we stayed and also the places we visit while there. Do be back to check it out!

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Thoughts: SMB Blogger Event 2014

I think I was very fortunate to attend the SMB Blogger Event 2014. This event was organized by Christy, and members from the SMB were invited to the event.

At first, I was a little apprehensive about going for the event as I’m shy by nature and is not comfortable in a group setting. Especially if the group consist of people who already knew each other. But the topic really interest me and I want to know more about blogging. And I’m glad I did take the step to go. I learned a lot from the workshop and is full of awe for some Mummies (They put an IT personnel like me to shame).

I learned about the differences between categories and tags. Apparently I have been doing it all wrong. And more likely I have done it the opposite way. In a nutshell, categories should be broad while tags should give more details. I remember the time and effort I took to organize my categories years back, now I need to do again *cries*. So be warned, if you receive a whole list of updates from my RSS feed, please ignore them as I’m likely just changing the tags and categories.

I also learned about finding my voice. I have to admit at some point in time, I did change my writing style to make myself “sound” more funny in the hope of attracting more readership. Yes, I have learned to be myself, and now I’m still rethinking what are the pillars for my blog, i.e what am I going to focus on.

And of course, I got to understand Google Analytics better. Page views are easy to understand, but I get to know this thing call bounce rate. I also found out that feed reading does not add to your page view. Now I know why some blogger only had partial post in their feeds. Much as I’m tempted to do the same, but as a reader myself, I do know the frustration of having partial post in feeds. And they do result in me deleting the subscription. So, nope I’m not changing to partial post. So please help me to know that you are reading by commenting on my post when it interest you? Or a simple like will do fine. Thanks.

Of course a lot of the information shared that day can be found online. However, they provided a good entry point for me, and motivated me to write better and rethink the direction for my blog. So Thank You Christy for organizing this and the fellow Mom bloggers who shared your valuable knowledge that day (Rachel, Chrystal and Dominique). I had an enjoyable time and learn lots.

P.S. We were told to reduce an event post. Erm I just flouted the rule.

Tips: Easing your toddler into childcare

Loi went for trial at her childcare in the last week of November and was formally enrolled since December 2013. This implies that she has been in school for over a month and she seems to be coping well thus far.

Her first day of trial in school. She did painting and spend most of her time outdoor.
Her first day of trial in school. She did painting and spend most of her time outdoor.

Having send two kids to childcare at a young age of 20 and 25 months. Here are some of my own views and tips with regards to easing them into school.

1. Go for the trial
If the school offers trial classes always go for it, even if you are familiar with the school cause your elder kid is there. Because you may be familiar with everyone but the kid doesn’t. If the school allows the parents to stay with the kid during the trial, like Loi’s school does, it’s the best opportunity. You not only get to know the teachers, more importantly you help the kid get use to her teachers. She will learn that teachers are safe people to be with as they sees Daddy/Mummy there and encouraging her to join in with the teachers activities.

If parents aren’t allowed during trial, it may get a little tricky. You can only base on the “state” of your child when you pick her up. For example, is she still in tears? Or her eyes is so swollen from all the crying? Does she allow the teacher to carry her or calm her? All these are tell tale signs of her adaptability in class.

(We are fortunate that the CC the kids attend does not believe in the “cold turkey” method. I know a lot of kids survived that but I think it’s a little brutal to the young toddlers. Just imagine as adults we get uncomfortable in a group setting of all strangers, so how can we expect our young toddler to do it?)

2. Don’t introduce too much change at a time
It may sound like a tempting idea to start a fresh new year. So the kid got enrolled into school, enrichment classes or even a drastic change in normal routine. This will put the kid under unnecessary stress and increase her sense of insecurities. For example, you send away your domestic helper because the kid is now in school. The kid will get upset when she reaches home and couldn’t find the familiar face. She will resist going to school more and become unsettled. Do introduce changed gradually.

3. Talk to the Teachers
Where else can you get 1st hand information about the kid? Besides seeing you interact with the teachers might put your kid at ease as it may appear to her the the teacher is your “friend” and she is harmless.

4. Get the older sibling to help
If the older sibling is in the same school, it definitely will help the kid feel more secure. You can get the elder sibling to help bring the kid to her classroom. And kids at this stage are good at modeling after their siblings. Seeing their GorGor or JieJie enjoying his or her class may inspire her to do the same.

5. Ask about her day in school
I find this helps. It shows her you are still concern about her. But asking does not stop there, after learning about what she do, try to do the same thing at home. Especially those that she enjoys. For Loi, she loves music and movement, so I sang and dance with her the songs that the teachers were teaching. This not only refreshes her learning, it help her feel that school is a fun place. She may also become eager to learn more so that she can come back and do it with you.

What is the activity that your kid enjoyed doing in school?
What is the activity that your kid enjoyed doing in school?

Actually, at the end of the day, a lot of things will come naturally when you imagine yourself in the position of the kid. And blow the thought up by another 200% you will probably understand the impact it has on them.

KL 2013: Sunway Lagoon

We visited Sunway Lagoon last year when we were in KL. The kids had lots of fun and since both my Bro and Sis did not visit the theme park before, we decided to add it into our itinerary for this KL trip.

My family @ Sunway Lagoon
My family @ Sunway Lagoon

Basically, Sunway Lagoon is divided into 5 different parks. The Wildlife Park, Water Park, Amusement Park, Scream Park and Extreme Park.

The Wildlife Park is like a mini zoo. We spotted the Sun Bear, Panther, Monkeys, Birds (different kinds), Ducks, Peacocks, Chickens, Snakes, etc. What we like about it is that their Peacocks and Ducks are free ranging. The boy is intrigued by it and will attempt to follow them as close as he dares.

The birds were in an enclose area, however, they are free to fly inside. And one of them actually flew on top of the boy’s head. The boy was a little scared, but he didn’t wave or make big movement. Instead, he stayed still until we “guided” the bird away. It was quite an experience for him.

Wildlife Park @ Sunway Lagoon
Wildlife Park @ Sunway Lagoon

The previous year when we were there, there is an area that allowed visitors to “touch” some animals. I remembered the boy had a go on the tortoises and rabbits. Unfortunately, this time round the animals have been removed. So no more “hands-on” for the kids.

The Water Park is where the crowd is. There are a few slides for adults much like what we used to have at the big splash and the current Adventure Cove. For the kids, they have at least 2 play structures. One for older kids with steeper and longer slides and one for younger kids with shallower water and milder slides.

Water Park @ Sunway Lagoon
Water Park @ Sunway Lagoon

Apart from the slides, the kids also enjoyed the “lazy river” and “wave pool”. The girl enjoys lying at the edge of the wave pool and feel the water “washing” her up to the “shores”.

For adults, we tried the “World First 5D Waterplex”. Well, I will just say there wasn’t much 3D effect and the water splashes are just out to make you wet. With the air-con blowing from the theater, it makes you feel real cold. Hence, I think its a total waste of our time queuing for it.

The Amusement Park is where all the rides are. Chubby and my siblings tried on the viking which turns 360 degrees. However, they came down mentioning that it wasn’t fun as the fall was quite controlled. For the kids, they managed to ride on the carousel like 3 times. There were other rides like the ferries wheel, teacup, roller coaster and all. But we didn’t play much as the adults were all tired from waking up early that day.

Kids on Carousel @ Sunway Lagoon
Kids on Carousel @ Sunway Lagoon

The Scream Park is where the “haunted house” is. This is my second time walking in the “house”. The last time, we had to pay extra to go into the park, but they have since change it to a “free” area. Since its free I think it is well worth to spend the time to go in. There were some effects that I really like, plus the makeup they had were quite scary.

The Extreme Park is where all the other extreme activities like flying fox and bungee jumping are, we skipped that area as it is far and most of the activities requires us to pay more. Besides, we were all tired after the water play.

Loi Sleeping @ Sunway Lagoon
Loi Sleeping @ Sunway Lagoon

In summary some points to look out.

  • Go on a weekday and non-public holiday
    We make the mistake of going on Hari Raya Haji. The crowd was terrible. The last time we were there, it was a weekday and the crowd was better.
  • Apply sun block and mosquito repellent.
  • Bring along a stroller for young kids.
    Most of the area are stroller friendly. So there will be no issues with stroller and the kids will have a place to nap after they are tired from playing.
  • Bring along your own food if possible.
    The food choices are not kids friendly. They are mainly snacks, sandwiches and Malay dishes that contains chili. There is a Mary Brown “Fast Food” inside (Chubby queued for half hour and there is no progress in his queue so he gave up) and a Subway (we settled for that in the end).

Details of the park:

  • Sunway Lagoon
    3, Jalan PJS 11/11, Bandar Sunway, 46150 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
  • Entrance Fee: Adults RM120, Kids (Above 90CM) RM 90 for Non-Citizens
    (There is a Maybank CC discount when we were there. Not sure when it will end though.)