Harry Potter World – Osaka Universal Studios

The Harry Potter World part of Universal Studios in Osaka exceeded our expectations.

The Hogsmead Street and Shops and Hogwarts Castle are very authentic and the Butterbeer tasted much better than we expected.

Since our main reason for visiting Universal Studios was for Harry Potter World I will keep our pictures of the other theme areas separate.

The park is pretty big and although we stayed only half an hour away by subway, I think it would be worth staying in the Universal Village Hotels and getting a two-day pass – but we certainly made the most of a single day.

Ari was picked to be part of the Olivander’s wand show which was pretty special for him.

The wands that the kids bought can be used around Hogsmead to cast spells.

We really loved our day here!

Posted in Japan, Osaka | 1 Comment

Osaka – Onyado Nono Namba Natural Hot Spring Hotel

Our hotel in Osaka was lots of fun, very kid friendly, the whole place has tatami floors so you need to leave your shoes in a locker at the entry, they provide ‘house clothes’ that you can wear from when you come in at night til when you leave in the morning, the rooms are ‘traditional Japanese style’, it has hot spring baths and saunas which we used every day, the breakfast was fantastic and they provide free ramen noodle bowls in the restaurant every night from 9pm. It’s also right above the train station and Namba Walk with lots of food options directly underneath. 

Couldn’t ask for more!

The street opposite the hotel

There’s a Studio Ghibli shop in the Namba Walk

We’d definitely recommend this hotel

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After flying from Gold Coast to Tokyo we only had an overnight stay in Narita before flying to Osaka.

Posted in Japan, Narita | 1 Comment

Singapore – The last stop

The last three days of our holiday have been jamb packed with fun on Sentosa Island in Singapore.

This place was pretty amazing and a perfect end to the trip. We stayed on the island previously with Ari in 2009 but it seemed to have so much more this time than it did 6 years ago. Universal Studios has opened on the island since and so perhaps other things followed. 

Our hotel, the Mövenpick Heritage Resort, couldn’t have been in a better position, directly opposite the Merlion, the free monorail and the cable car, these were all in the view from our room, it was so easy to get around and the hotel itself was pretty special.

In the time we had here we managed to go to the top of the Merlion, ride the monorail and the beach tram, walk the Merlion Trail, catch the cable car to the top of the mountain, walk to the Henderson Waves (the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore), see the laser, water and fire show known as Wings of Time, watch the automated Dancing Cranes and the Lake of Dreams show, race down the luge three times and ride the chairlift back up, watch the live animal demonstration which Ari participated in, walk part of the nature trail, go to the beach and cross the ropebridge to the southern most point in continental Asia, and yet there was so much more to do if we had more time.

It was quite hot in Singapore and we had many heavy rainstorms, but they didn’t slow us down at all, they only lasted up to half an hour, cooled things down and then the sky cleared again, they were quite a nice break from the heat, it was the same in Malaysia.

Here are some more details on the things we did, with lots of photos of our time here, they’ll be the last for this trip as we are home on Sunday 17th January.

The Merlion is a funny thing, Merlions do not feature in any local folklore or myths of Singapore, and it was only used in Singapore initially as the logo for the tourism board in 1966. The fish body represents Singapore’s origin as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, which means “sea town” in Javanese. The lion head represents Singapore’s original name—Singapura—meaning “lion city” or “kota singa”. The huge statue was right infront of our hotel window and we did a tour inside, there is a short video, you get a souvenir gold coin from a lion machine inside, there is bell in the mouth that you can ring for luck, and there are great views from the head and the mouth.



The Merlion Walk is a colourful mosaic fountain depicting a coral reef and marine life, stretching 120m from the Merlion towards the beach alongside the monorail.






The Skyline Luge was cool fun. It was different to ones we’d been on in Austria and Switzerland because the cars are not on tracks, they are separate carts on a wider road and you can race and overtake. The total track is about 1.4km and forks near the top into two routes of about 640m and 690m that merge back together near the bottom. It looks like bedlam but when you’re on the track it doesn’t feel too crowded and you can get up some speed. A chairlift takes you back up the hill with the carts attached to the back.


The cable cars were fun for the kids and give a great view over the island, harbour and city. You can also use them to get around to some extent but they are quite expensive and there is a free monorail and beach tram that cover the island as well.


About 500m walk from the highest station you can get to the Henderson Waves walkway.


There are lots of shows to see on the island, mostly at night and mostly for free. The only one we paid for was Wings of Time which is a live show with laser projections on water fountains, plus fire and fireworks. They are all difficult to photograph, but these pictures give some idea at least of what they were like.

Wings of Time:



Dancing Cranes:


Lake of Dreams:


Bird and Wildlife Show – Ari volunteered to have an eagle land on a helmet on his head


The beaches on Sentosa are quite nice despite hundreds of cargo ships just offshore, they are wide sand beaches with palm trees, calm water and really nice beachside restaurants. You can cross a rope bridge to the southern most point on the Asian continent, so for a brief moment out of the 4.4 billion people on the Asian Continent we were the closest to Australia. Note the change from clear sky to bucketing rain, all the photos were taken on the same walk.



I am sad that our five weeks of travelling has come to an end, makes me remember why we loved so much longer trips previously, the kids certainly got more settled into being constantly on the move towards the end and I think travelling gets easier the longer you are away, because travelling with kids has challenges most days. We really have seen and done so much that it is hard to believe it all happened in the same Christmas holiday and started with just a plan to spend Christmas with Santa at the North Pole. I hope the kids are old enough to remember it all when they are older, that is the main reason I keep this blog, I will have it printed into a book for each of them to look back on.

Looking forward to catching up with friends at home now and excited for Tess to be starting Prep, and Ari is looking forward to Year 2.


Posted in Christmas 2015, Sentosa Island, Singapore | 2 Comments

Malaysia – Johor Bahru – Legoland

Before going to Singapore we spent three nights in neighbouring Malaysia at the Legoland resort.

We were not entirely sure whether this would be a hit, something so gimmicky could easily not be, but the Tripadviser reviews were right, this place is awesome and we certainly enjoyed every minute of it.

The whole hotel is obviously entirely Lego-themed, and so are the adjoining fun park and separate waterpark.

There’s lots to describe so I will use lots of photos.

The hotel itself looks like a Lego house as you approach, in the foyer it has Lego galore for the kids to play with and the restaurants (there are three) have fantastic Lego sculptures everywhere. Every night in the restaurants there is a princess and a pirate making balloons for the kids and there is constant Lego movie music playing (the music stressed me out at breakfast). The lifts entertain you with disco music and lights, the kids couldn’t not dance every time we got in. I didn’t actually think to get a photo of the front of the hotel, the first one below is just at the back of the hotel where you enter from the themeparks. The staff at the hotel, and we are guessing Malaysian people in general, loved kids, they did everything they could to make them smile, the kids are clearly the customers here.











The rooms come in a choice of three themes being pirate, kingdom or adventure (Egyptian Mummies etc.) and two whole floors are dedicated to each theme so that you are in the theme from the moment you step out of the lift, and then each theme has a choice of standard or premium rooms. We went for premium pirate and thought it was pretty awesome. It overlooked the themepark. It had separate parents’ and kids’ bedrooms and the Lego theme extends to everything, even the soap! The kids get a treasure map where they have to count items around the room to get the combination to unlock a treasure chest which has Lego figures to keep. 




The themepark and waterpark were also really awesome, we got an unlimited two day pass to both which worked really well, we started the days in the themepark until it got too hot after lunch, then moved to the waterpark to cool down. The rides and slides were all pretty cool, there were only a couple in each park that Tess was not tall enough for, we didn’t realise before this trip that she is quite the daredevil, there has been no ride she won’t try and none that she didn’t love.

These parks were spotlessly clean and so empty and calm, we never had more than say 10 people infront of us in any queue and after didn’t even have to get off the ride if we wanted a second go! Her favourite here was the dragon coaster, the big one in the second picture, and she was upset she was not allowed on the flume.
In addition to the rides there were sideshows, a live show, a 4d cinema, lots of places to eat and Lego replicas of famous Asian landmarks. So much more than I have put in photos.







Legoland Malaysia far exceeded our expectations.


Posted in Christmas 2015, Legoland, Malaysia | 1 Comment

London – England

After leaving Portugal we had a few nights in London before we were to start the return journey home via Malaysia and Singapore.

Tess and Skye had recovered from their tummy bug by the time we arrived but Ari was still at the tail-end of his so we laid low the first day and only managed to get out to the Natural History Museum for a couple of hours, just 5 minutes walk from our hotel. While laying low we watched a couple of episodes of Antique Roadshow. In one of the episodes they visited a place in London called Alfie’s Antique Market which looked pretty intriguing and so that is where we decided to start our next day, by which time Ari had fully recovered. We met the same lady who had featured on the episode, she was a real character and had a lot of time for the kids.

There is not much to show here by way of photographs because most of the market had ‘no photography allowed’.




On the way back from the antique market we went via Kensington Gardens and the Diana Memorial Playground. 

We have written about these before on this blog, spot the difference below, 2012 v 2016!



Here are some more pictures from the day.


The following day we took another trip out, this time to the London Water and Steam Museum. It’s much more exciting than it sounds, honest. This place was cool, it had huge working steam pumps and loads of interactive exhibits on the history of the water and sewerage systems in London. The kids loved it.

After the museum we walked to Kew Gardens but unfortunately arrived on closing time, we still enjoyed the walk though and got to catch a double decker bus back to the station after having a walk around a little churchyard near the gardens.



On our last day in London we had to leave the hotel before 4pm to catch our plane, we had a 12 hour flight ahead followed by more than an hour drive to Legoland Malaysia, so we wanted to keep things pretty low key, the hotel let us extend our checkout til 4pm so we were able to get out to the science museum (also 5 minutes walk from the hotel) and have a second short visit at the Natural History museum and get back to the hotel by 3pm to shower and pack ready for the trip ahead.






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Portugal – We’ll have to come back.

So, with Tess confined mostly to bed or in someone’s arms in front of the fire, and with Ari and Skye starting to fade too, we did not get out and about the next couple of days, but we did really enjoy being at Rute’s and Filipe’s home and their amazing hospitality. 

I got to see Filipe’s parents’ house where he grew up and we had a lovely dinner with them and Filipe’s brothers, sister-in-law and nieces.

We also got to try some great local foods and of course Rute’s amazing cooking.

The kids enjoyed catching up, the boys wanted to play video games and sword fighting (Rute and Filipe bought the kids some great costumes at the Palace), and in truth we didn’t mind the down time at all as we all just got to hang out together.

Here’s some more pictures.




We really enjoyed our time in Portugal and a huge thanks to Rute, Filipe, Leo and Luana for making such a big effort to look after us. We’d love to come back sometime, maybe in summer.

Posted in Christmas 2015, Portugal | 3 Comments