Thursday, June 30, 2016

Letter to EV: Preparing Mummy for Primary School

Dear darling,

You’ve reached a significant milestone. Over the past few years in your kindergarten, you have blossomed so much, into a cheerful, bubbly little girl who is so endearing to everyone. And now, this month, mummy will be registering you into a primary school.

We’ve been trying to prepare you in little ways for your primary school journey; we know it will be very different and it’s a totally new experience that you will need to adapt to. In fact, you already had a gut feeling that something was different this year, the way your kindergarten teachers were giving you more regular homework, the way mummy and daddy were trying to get you to finish your homework as soon as you returned from school. I know you are unsure and confused and I see the uncertainty in your eyes. You also can’t help feeling excited for the new experience, because many of your friends will probably be going to the same school.

In fact, my dear, this experience is as new for me as it is for you. 

I still remember a tiny little you, holding you for the first time; you fit nicely into my arms. Now you’re so much bigger, it’s harder to carry you on my lap. I love your first smile, I love the way you danced in front of the mirror, I love the way you bravely went on to the school bus on the first day of pre-nursery when school ended, without mummy or daddy (though we were hiding behind the bushes).

Darling, the past years are precious. Time has flown by too fast; you have grown up too fast. 

As I await for the time to register you into primary school, I’m having mixed feelings. I’m happy to see you grow up, to see you move into the next milestone of your life. Yet, I wish time would stop. I wish you can always fit in my arms so I can hold you tight always and hug you. 

At the same time, I’m apprehensive, and scared. I’ve heard all these horror stories about primary school, the level of stress, the number of graded assignments and assessments, and so on and so forth. I want to prepare you for it, but yet I don’t want to over prepare you. I want you to have the spirit of learning, yet I’m worried that we will be overwhelmed by all the assessments and projects that will have to be done. I’m not sure how I can help you to adapt to a totally brand new environment, with longer hours and more academic demands.

Yet, I just know you have the strength in you to adapt to whatever you may face next year. I believe you can do it.

And you know what? Mummy will be on this journey with you. It’s an unknown path before us, but I’m sure, absolutely confident, that if we walk together and support each other, we can face this challenge together. 

You have me darling, and you always in my heart.



Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Review: 3 'MAX' reasons to like the Asus ZenFone MAX

I shared my first impressions of the Asus Zenfone MAX here. Like I said then, the phone looks like it’s got heaps of potential, and indeed it has.

Mammoth capability
Imagine, not having to bring an extra power bank to charge your phone once it runs out of juice in the middle of the day. After all, this is a common scenario, especially when we are such heavy users of mobiles these days.

That would be super convenient! Imagine again the lesser weight you have to carry! Ok, it may not be much compared to the kids’ bottles and jackets and wet tissues and so on, but every little bit counts, me thinks. 

And the Asus Zenfone MAX has got this built-in power bank with a 5000mAh power capacity. What this gigantic number means is that the MAX has enough energy to fully charge itself as well as other devices. It’s a fully operating power bank by itself, so no need to bring another extra.

So it’s got great battery power as a power bank. How is its power as a phone? Quite good, as we’ve discovered. We left the MAX on standby mode for just about two weeks, and when we woke it up again, the battery was still three quarters full. So the MAX has lived up to its claim of having up to 38 days of standby time. The 5000mAh lithium polymer battery is also responsible for giving over a day of talk time and web surfing. That means that if you’re an average user, then you’ll only need to charge the phone every two to three days or so, and your phone will seldom run out of juice. Especially useful when the kids keep you so engaged that you forget to charge the phone. Yup, it's happened to me before.

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The battery however, is not removable. One can find it just under the removable back panel, where the dual-SIM and microSD card slots are located. Internal storage stands at 16GB, though this can be increased up to 64GB with a microSD card.

Internally, the ZenFone MAX runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor with 2GB of RAM. This combination works decently day to day. However, graphic intensive applications like Angry Birds 2 might cause the phone to warm up a little after some play, resulting in some lag. Just turn off the apps and let the phone cool, and that should do the trick. The only problem with this is if the lag happens while the kids are playing with it (which is generally quite rare in my case, because I limit their screen time); it will be tough to get them to put down the phone without a fight (that's why I limit screen time in the first place).

Amazing camera
Previously, when we reviewed the Zenfone Selfie, its camera impressed us. The same goes for the Zenfone MAX. 

It has a 13 megapixel rear camera with 0.03 second laser auto-focus and a f/2.0 aperture. Its laser beam focuses extremely fast for quite detailed images, especially in settings where the light is more balanced. Now this is quite useful to capture focused pictures of energetic kids. Though there is some noise in images taken in low light, the images are rather satisfactory. There are heaps of shooting modes like manual, low light, HDR, slow motion, time lapse, panorama, and so on to make mobile photography really fun and creative. Hahaha.. I think it will be hilarious to see EV and AA in slow motion or time lapse.

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The front camera also features a f/2.0 aperture but stands at 5 megapixel instead. There’s also the additional beautification shooting mode, that first appeared in the Zenfone Selfie. This mode allows you to instantly beautify oneself before taking a selfie, or if you are still not satisfied, then further post editing can be done after the photo is taken. This has been a hit with EV, who always asks for selfie and requests that I add colour (read: lipstick).

The 5.5-inch Zenfone MAX is protected by the Corning Gorilla Glass 4, so it is extremely scratch resistant and durable. This is quite standard these days, so it is good to know that Asus didn’t stinge on this despite the MAX’s affordable price. In fact, according to Asus, the Gorilla Glass is 2.5x stronger and 85% less likely to break in daily use. In other words, it is rather kid proof.

The phone’s screen itself is a 1280x720 HD display that has a 178-degree viewing angle, with a density of 267 pixels per inch that makes images appear clear and detailed.

EXquisite lightweight design
The Zenfone MAX only weighs 202g. That really light, considering that it’s got a monster battery in such a small, slim space that measures just 156mm by 77.5mm and between 5.2 and 10.55mm thick.

Overall, the Zenfone MAX’s design is similar to its other Asus siblings, with the metallic frame and control buttons. Up close, that’s where the differences reside. The power button and volume rocker is on the right side of the phone.

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Turn the phone around and the back panel is where the design gets exquisite. We like the embossed leather feel of the phone in Osmium Black. It gives good tactile touch, and makes the whole phone much easier to hold on to. We really do like how it feels and adds to the elegant look already achieved by the screen and the surrounding metal edge.

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The Asus Zenfone MAX, available at a price of $249, is a good all rounder. It looks good and performs satisfactorily well, and the key feature that may sway any buyer would be its massive battery. It means you don’t have to go searching for a charger mid-day, plus it comes at an economical price that won’t hurt the pocket.

Disclaimer: We were provided with a unit of Asus Zenfone MAX for review purposes. No monetary compensation was received. All images and opinions are our own.


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Adventures at the Singapore History Gallery

Straight after our visit to the Treasures of the World exhibition, we headed to the Singapore History Gallery, as requested by EV. From the outside, the Gallery looks quite understated. Little did we expect that there is a wealth of displays that trace Singapore's history from the time it was a fishing village, to the colonial times, to World War 2 and the country's independence.

The whole gallery is free and easy, and visitors can roam from display to display, from room to room, in whichever way they like. What caught EV's attention at the entrance is a gigantic animation showing an ancient map of the Southeast Asian region. The animation showed Singapore's name at that time, and also the important trading posts nearby, such as Palembang and Aceh. Just next to this screen is a mock up of an old fishing village, complete with fishing nets. 

History 1

Just when you thought that was the end, a little doorway led to the next area of the gallery, which depicted how Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore. Here, EV had a close encounter with him, or rather, his portrait.

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A huge part of the gallery is devoted to the colonial times, which also featured the key personalities from those days, such as Tan Tock Seng and Eunos Abdullah. There are also mock ups of opium dens, displays of ceramic pots used during that time, and a feature on secret societies and the people responsible for controlling them. 

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EV met some colonial personalities as well, and had a portrait taken with them.

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There are lots of photos of Singapore during those days, and I took the opportunity to explain to her how life then was different from life today. 

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EV saw some items that were used then, but not now, such as the typewriter.

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After the colonial area, we were transported to the difficult times during the Japanese occupation.

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The actual teak table that was used during the British surrender in 1942 is on display, on loan from a museum in Australian War Memorial. EV was entranced with an animation showing how Japan first conquered Manchuria and then eventually, Malaysia and Singapore. We met our tour guide from the Treasures of the World exhibition, who was with a group of children, and we stole a moment to listen to her explaining about the Sook Ching massacre, when many males were executed by the Japanese.

Then, we moved ahead in time to the period after the world war, when Singapore was on the road to gaining independence. And after that, how the country developed to become the country it is today. EV saw some old technology, like an old TV.

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We entered a mock up of a Housing Board Flat, and it was so nostalgic for me. I had fun explaining to EV how the old stove worked, and how people had to physically carry gas cylinders and put them into the stove itself. 

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One very nice feature is the huge tree with many screens, and a cosy platform underneath. As the screens play images of flowers, birds and animals, it is relaxing to lay back and watch, especially after an eye opening, time travelling adventure through Singapore’s history.

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The Singapore History Gallery is more than meets the eye, a hidden gem that you don’t expect when you first enter it. It is filled with interactive elements, such as animation, voice recordings and videos, effective in engaging with the younger crowd as they trace 700 years of history and who may tend to be more visual and aural inclined. Definitely worth a visit.

Singapore History Gallery
Permanent display
10am – 7pm
Free admission for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents.

Find out more here.


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Adventures at Treasures of the World by the British Museum

I have been thinking of visiting the Treasures of the World exhibition but haven't been able to do it. I was delighted to find out that it's been extended till 3 July, and in fact, was contemplating of visiting it myself.

Then last week when we visited Masak Masak 2016, EV expressed interest to see the Treasures, which was a surprise. I was even more delighted to know that they have tours every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for families and kids aged 6 years and above. I enquired more and find out that kids are allowed, but they should avoid running between the exhibits. This means that AA would not be able to go.

So on Tuesday, EV and I headed to the National Museum of Singapore again and attended the 1030am tour. We were a little early, so we wandered inside the exhibition for a bit first. The tour was hosted by a very knowledgeable volunteer from Friends of the Museum, who brought everyone on a time traveling adventure around the world to see the various myths, legends and and beliefs of the many different cultures. There are other themes that the tours focus on, such as Technology and Innovation, Faces and Masks and Fashion and Adornment, and participants will only know on the day itself. 

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Our tour started with a explanation of the centrepiece of the exhibition, which occupied it's very own space in the exhibition. It is a stone axe, which dates back to 800,000 years ago and was found in a particular part of Africa (if I remember correctly). The fact that this axe, which had to be crafted by using other tools to give it its shape and sharpness, existed so many years ago, and in a single area shows that the human brain then was already much developed. It's an artifact that's older than any of the others on display and represents human development and culture, before all the other artifacts were made.

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From the bright hall, we made our way into the dark exhibition hall and it's understandable why it is not suitable for younger kids. The place is quite dark, with spotlights strategically shining on the artifacts. The dark environment makes one speak in whispers instinctively, and the gloomy mood can be a little frightening to kids at first. No wonder EV was a bit apprehensive, but soon got over it once she saw the mummy. She had earlier read a book about Egypt at home, and had a little idea of what it is.

I think EV found the mummy rather interesting, especially when it is that of an adolescent boy. She asked how old he was and how he died, but she was most intrigued by the shading counter nearby. There are small tiles with engravings of various artifacts on the counter, which can be shaded on to a paper using pencil. 

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The nice thing about this exhibition is the inclusion of activities such as this and big notice boards that make the exhibition more hands-on and interesting for kids. Sometimes, I think, even adults would have fun doing all these.

What I personally found interesting is a ‘unlucky’ painted wooden mummy board, or coffin lid, of a woman. Apparently, it is cursed and caused much death and disasters, such as the sinking of the Titanic. According to the guide, there is no basis to all these myths, but definitely, the reputation surrounding the board has intrigued many, including me, such that I returned home, and read whatever I could about this interesting board.

So we continued with our tour, which lasted about an hour. EV followed eagerly, always making sure that she was up front, paying attention to the guide. She saw this huge welcoming figure...

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a little round device that can do over 500 things, such as maths calculations and tell the time...

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a war warrior from Hawaii.

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and a huge tapestry made of recycled materials such as bottle caps.

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However, I could see that she was starting to lose focus as the tour progressed. Still, she persevered till the very end, and even said a very sweet ‘thank you’ to the guide.

My little girl was famished after the tour, so we made a little detour for lunch at Food For Thought. Along the way up, we saw the Toysaurse display which is part of the Masak Masak exhibition and was under construction on the day we visited. EV took one purple recycled toy and added it to the display, contributing to the ever-changing display that is constantly under construction.

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After lunch, we returned to Treasures of the World to look at other exhibits that were not covered by the tour, and also for me to clarify any doubts EV may have after the tour. This time, she was intrigued by a clock that was made during the time of Elizabeth I, and also of an engraving bearing a likeness of the queen.

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and tried to measure how big one of the huge figurine is...

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At the area about China, she recognized the name Qin Shi Huang when I mentioned it during my explanations about artifacts from that period. Her kindergarten was doing a theme about China and had learnt about the emperor and other related historical facts, such as the Great Wall and terracotta warriors.

There was one thing that the tour guide mentioned, which I felt was quite significant, and which I repeated to EV. The difference between a thing and a treasure is that a treasure carries with it a story, a story about the people who created it, their culture and their history. In explaining to EV, I used things that she was familiar with, such as her journal and my mobile phone. I wanted her to realise that there are stories all around us, every day and everywhere, and by using daily items that she can relate to, I think she got the idea.

I think that the Treasures of the World exhibition was quite well put together, presenting the history around the world in a nutshell. It’s a good introduction, and for those who want to explore more, they can find the opportunity to head to the British Museum in London. Hopefully, I do get the chance to someday to see the other 10,000 artifacts there, maybe when the kids are older.

Leaving the Treasures of the World exhibition, we headed to the Singapore History Gallery one level up. Stay tuned for our sharing.

If you haven’t visited the Treasures of the World exhibition, do so soon, before it ends on 3 July Sunday

Treasures of the World from the British Museum
Now till 3 July
10am – 7pm

For citizens & permanent residents
Adults $14 
Free for children under the age of 6, students & senior citizens

For non-citizens & non-permanent residents
Adults $20
Children $16
Senior Citizens $16

Find out more here.

Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Adventures at Imaginarium 2016

Three museums in two days. The day after we visited the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Philatelic Museum, we headed to 8Q @ Singapore Art Museum for its annual Imaginarium exhibition. This year, the theme is about oceans.

Right outside is the Underwater Labyrinth display by Janice Wong. It's quite interesting to see how edible foods like isomalt and chocolate can be molded to resemble sea corals. EV and AA were amazed to find out that chocolate was used in the making, and went in search of melting chocolate. Then they guessed that the room is probably air conditioned because they could only find one tiny weeny melting bit, but we can't tell if that's chocolate or isomalt.

Imaginarium 1

The first display upon entering is the Dimana Mogus? (Where is Mogus?) display. It entranced the kids with colourful corals, octopuses and fishes made out of wool. EV and AA spent the most time there, both at the start and at the end of our visit. They loved lying on the gigantic white whale looking cushions, and couldn't stop running from one cushion to another, zipping between the corals.

Imaginarium 2

Like previous installations of Imaginarium, the walls at the staircase were transformed into huge art murals, depicting various oceanic scenes of endangered marine mammals such as a whale being hunted. Don’t They Know It’s The End of the Whale?, The Finale Fin of Shark’s Fins and Apex Predator initiated a discussion about animals being endangered and how it is important to protect them, and also about understanding different cultures in the world.

Imaginarium 3

Imaginarium 4

Imaginarium 11

Our next stop was the art and craft room. This year, the focus is on origami and the folding of marine life such as angel fish, seal and penguin. The good thing about this is that the difficulty levels are scaffolded; the simplest origami is the angel fish. So young and old can participate in this.

EV did not dare to go into the next display – ADA by Karina Smigla-Bobinski, but the adults had a ball!

Imaginarium 5

It's essentially a larger than life illuminated PVC ball that floats in mid-air, with little knobs of charcoal all around. Pushing it against the walls, floor and ceiling will make marks. Watching the ball float and bounce back once it hits a surface is actually quite therapeutic. AA loved it, as he's the more adventurous of the two siblings. Seeing her brother enjoying himself, EV eventually pushed the ball gingerly, but ran off the moment the ball bounced back.

Another exhibit is by Thai artist Krit Ngamsom. To be honest, the marine message of this is not clear. It consists of three displays: Damien, I’m Famished, Bryde’s Fountain and Surrealism SpicedThe most eye catching is one of a shark in an acrylic box, looking like it is breaking free of the box to prey on some fishes.

Imaginarium 7

Then there is another display of neon coloured fishes turning round and round. AA was quite intrigued with the display of a whale with a white fountain on top, instead of a blowhole.

Imaginarium 6

Sure, the little display notices may explain what the various displays are about. However, I think that if the whole exhibition is meant to target kids, then the individual displays should make a more concerted effort to make the displays more understandable and accessible to them. Yes, it’s meant to be open to interpretation, but a bit more guidance might be good to avoid the kids getting distracted and disengaged easily. Which was what happened on the day we visited. EV and AA were asking to move on to the next exhibit more often than in previous years.

Imaginarium 9

The best part I think about the next display Papermoon Puppet Theatre is the engagement of sound and sight. As one listens to the lapping of the waves, one can see long lengths of cloth depicting the moving waves of the sea, which are caused by an unseen wind source somewhere in the room. There are little bottle figurines all around, representing fishermen and the relationship they have with the sea. There are also several random displays, such as one which allows kids to manually turn the lever to change the scene of the story they are listening to.

Imaginarium 10

The one that left the most impression on EV and AA is Plastic Ocean by Singaporean artist Tan Zi Xi. It is a room full of hanging plastic garbage and when one walks in, one can imagine how a marine mammal feels swimming in an ocean that is increasingly filled with rubbish. Once I explained that to EV and AA, I could see the look of realisation in their eyes; they were able to empathise with the marine mammals. 

Imaginarium 8

The trip ended with another visit to the first exhibit Dimana Mogus? (Where is Mogus?), before we headed off to the early Bakery Asanoya for afternoon tea.

While Imaginarium 2016 seemed less engaging as compared to last year, it is more experiential and tried to engage the kids on a deeper level. However, I think that can be done more effectively by making the messages and purpose of the displays more explicit, like what the Plastic Ocean display did. 

Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea
Now till 28 August 
10am to 7pm, Fridays 10am – 9pm
Adults $10, Chldren above six $5, Free for Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents
Find out more here.


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Adventures at Singapore Philatelic Museum

Right after our adventure at the National Museum of Singapore, we took a short walk to the Singapore Philatelic Museum, since it’s so close by. EV went there recently with her school, but she happily went again to be the guide for AA, who has never been there before.

The highlight for this trip has to be the Shaking It With Shakespeare exhibition, which is held in celebration of the bard’s 400th birthday. In that small little room, the folks at Singapore Philatelic Museum were able to squeeze in so much information of one of the world’s greatest writers.

From an introduction of who he is and the life he lead during the period he lived in, 

Shakespeare 1

To an interactive ‘pull-out’ display of this playwright and poet’s plays and sonnets, 

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Shakespeare 4

Shakespeare 5

To a display of the objects, both exotic and everyday, from Shakespeare’s times

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To a display of magical spells and cures from the Tudor Times,

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Shakespeare 9

And even a feature of words, phrases and insults invented by Shakespeare that we still use today, EV and AA learnt all about this talented wordsmith whose works still influence today’s society.

Shakespeare 2

In fact, EV recognized a picture depicting a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which she read about from one of her storybooks. She was quite delighted. At the words and phrases features, she understood what the phrase ‘to catch a chill’ meant, and when told it was invented by Shakespeare many hundreds of years ago, she was visibly impressed.

Shakespeare 6

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In a separate area outside the room, EV and AA could see stamps from around the world that featured Shakespeare, and also the many plays and movies that were inspired by Shakespeare’s plays.

Shakespeare 11

They listened to how people spoke during that time, and also the different types of music then. They also saw costumes used in a Romeo & Juliet ballet production, and AA even tried dressing up as a Shakespearean character, though he refused to have me take his photo.

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We moved upstairs, and another highlight was the More Than Monkeys exhibition.

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Here, stamps depicting primates are featured, and there are even showcases of personalities such as chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall and legendary characters such as Sun Wu Kong. EV and AA also saw how primates are physically similar to us humans in terms of physical structure.

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In celebration of Singapore’s 50 Years, there is also the Singapore Journey: 50 Years Through Stamps exhibition, showcasing the country’s development.

Shakespeare 21

Just opposite this exhibition is a small display of how food was kept and cooked in the olden days.

Shakespeare 20

Of course, EV had to bring AA through the permanent exhibits, such as the Orange Room, and the Room of Rarities, where AA saw what a post box look like in the past, and the equipment used to postmark letters. 

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There have been some changes to the Heritage Room, since I last visited with EV. The wooden clogs area has been removed and now replaced by a display of spices. Instead, the wooden clogs are now used as a decorative piece, which is sad, because kids can have so much fun experiencing walking in clogs. The musical instruments have also been removed, which again is quite a pity because it can be quite an engaging experience for kids.

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The teh tarik table is still there.

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The interactive video depicting traditional trade routes in the 19th century is also not working, and instead, there are more spices on display there.

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Shakespeare 19

Overall, while the Heritage Room still has some history, it isn’t as engaging as it was before.

Overall, the trip to the Singapore Philatelic Museum was educational. The Shaking It With Shakespeare exhibition was well put together, simple and engaging enough for everyone, young and old, Shakespeare fan or not, to appreciate the talent of this acclaimed writer from the Tudor times, who is still relevant today in more ways than we know.

Shaking It With Shakespeare
Level 1
Now till 15 Jan 2017

More Than Monkeys
Level 2
Now till 16 Oct 2016

The Singapore Journey: 50 Years Through Stamps
Level 2
Now till 16 Oct 2016

Orange Room (Level 1), Room of Rarities (Level 2), The Heritage Room (Level 2)
Permanent exhibitions

Time: 10am – 7pm
Admission: Adult $6, Child $4, free admission for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents
Find out more here


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you.