Our leaky HDB toilets no more

This is really belated. But I am a little (just a tad) OCD. I wanted to finish my blogs for our Perth trip before I started on this. So here goes. In April, a HDB officer paid us a surprise house visit to inform us that our neighbour downstairs had a very bad case of seepage on their ceiling. Somewhere in our toilet(s) had sprang a leak. So he arranged for a date for a contractor to make an assessment.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, an assessment was made. The contractor had no idea what caused the leak. So both toilets had to go!!! 😱😭😵 We had totally gutted the toilets when we did our renovation like 6 years ago. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Apparently the workmanship was shoddy enough for a leak to occur underneath the tiles.

The cost for renovating each toilet was $600, to be divided up between our neighbour and ourselves. However, since we ain’t moving out in the interim, we could only do one toilet at a time. Each toilet would take 3 days. We arranged for the renovation to start immediately after our Perth trip.

The amount of noise, dirt and dust generated was unbelievable. Ez was terrified of the workers. So he cried while Lè meimei cried because her brother was crying. The first 3 days were horrible as my parents were away. I couldn’t offload them and they had to stay with me because someone had to babysit the house. Having one functional toilet is survivable even with 2 young kids. But the amount of dirt and dust everywhere made me pray harder that our toilets should never leak again.

Here’s the process in case you’re interested. Though for your sake, I hope you will never need to experience this. 4 different subcon came by. A single worker did the hacking on the first day. He worked from 9am till 5.30pm with an hour for lunch. He also helped me to cover up the exposed surfaces in the kitchen (albeit very reluctantly). We were totally clueless and really had to thank him. Otherwise, the post cleanup would definitely be much worse. At the end of day 1, he cleared the debris before he left.

Bye bye black tiled flooring

On day 2, another contractor came by to apply the waterproofing. He would stop by around 9.30am to apply a layer first. Then be back around 1pm to finish up.

At the start of day 3, the contractor in charge of tiling came by to lay the tiles. It’s a tedious and back breaking process. It took him almost half a day to finish up. Finally, the plumber came by to install the toilet bowl and lastly secured the pipes (or something).

It took them longer to complete the toilet in the master bedroom due to the bathtub. Initially, the guy from the renovation company told us that if the flooring beneath the bathtub did not have tiles (as with some contractors to save cost as no one could see after the tub was installed), we would have to top up to lay the tiles. Luckily, there was tiles! Both on the wall and the floor! So no need to fork out extra cash. But we did have to pay extra for them to install a longer version of the aircon water outlet so that it could go around the new tub. Yes. Renovation is already very cheap so you will need to top up for every single extra stuff.

We had brand new toilets at $300 per toilet while our poor neighbour only had a new coat of paint and sealant on their ceiling while having to fork out $600. The consolation? At least they don’t have to live in a limestone cave like environment with growing stalactites overhead in their master bedroom.

Caversham Wildlife Park

Caversham Wildlife Park is located inside Whiteman Park. Expect to spend at least 3 hours in here. Parking is free. Nearby, you will find the Motor Museum of Western Australia, the Tractor Museum and the Whiteman Park Children’s Forest. We did not go to any of these because the kids were knocked out after looking at the animals. Also if you google, the exhibits in the automobile museums are all behind barricades. I doubt I can keep the kids’ hands away from the vehicles and thus we had to give them a miss.

We arrived in time to catch the penguin feeding. However, there were only 2 penguins in the enclosure. This little one is very cute and loves to pose. It ain’t too hungry though and the fish went to the seagulls instead.

Northern Blue Tongue skink

So chubby and so cuddly

The animal show is very informative and should not be missed. It’s the highlight of our visit.

She pushed her joey into the pouch when she saw us taking an interest in it.

Ez, the timid, managed to overcome his fear and stroke the kangaroo! It was very difficult for him but he did it. Lè meimei in the other hand had no qualms about touching them.

Fremantle market and Fremantle Prison Tour

If you are heading to Fremantle Market, check out King’s Square carpark.

Parking can be expensive in Australia. This carpark offers an Early Bird (EB) discount at $9Aud for the day. The catch is that you have to enter before 9.30am and exit between 2.30pm and 5pm. Do note that it’s a walking distance to the marketplace and even further away from the Fremantle prison. But of course it’s worth the walk as you can take in the sights.

Sheltered parking with lots of space

Ez was tickled by this cuz he saw a penis

Too enticing… The kids couldn’t resist. Chocolate ones not a good idea for messy eaters

Very expensive orange juice but worth every cent

This guy caught my eyes. Cool dude!

Spot the hub!

Breakfast

I highly recommend this sandwiches. They cost a lot! I think around $15aud but they are extremely worth it. The eggs all fluffy and tender. Pulled pork so flavorful. Bread slightly crispy on the outside yet soft and moist in the middle. It’s a must have! The queue is astounding too. So head there early. Sorry I don’t have the name of the shop but it’s right along the same row as the orange juice.

It was hard to walk around as Ez wanted to follow the trail markings around the market but it’s kinda impossible with so many people around.

Next up, the Fremantle Prison.

Note that not all the tours are kids friendly. We arrived here at around 11.15am only to realize that the next available tour was an hour later. We did the Behind Bars tour. We had an hour to while away. So we spent it wandering the tiny alcoves turned museum exhibits.

Lè meimei checking out the visitation cubicle

The prison’s grounds

The cells

Handicap accessible

I was surprised to see a bathtub among the bank of showers. I guess that’s the thing about preconceptions. We often envisioned prisoners as burly and fit. Yet not all members of the prison population are big, tough guys. Some are injured, aging or otherwise impaired.

Inside of one of the earliest cell. Cramp spaces. 23 hours a day.

One of the newest cells

Towards the last days before this prison was decommissioned, the officers allowed the prisoners to draw on the walls of their cells as an incentive for good behavior. Creating many masterpieces.

The gallows

The crack

This crack was the result of an attempt suicide. The impact cracked the tiles. But he did not die.

This marked the end of the prison tour. Do check it out when in Fremantle.

Rottnest Island with kids

You might have read about our very exciting whale watching experience earlier on and how we vowed never to eat ice cream prior to a boat ride. But guess what? We never learnt our lesson!!! This time round, we drank chocolate milk before the 30 minutes long ferry ride in the still very choppy seas. We happened to share the ferry with a bunch of kids on a school tour. They puked too. So yeah. It’s not cuz we Singaporeans are weak. Just remember not to take dairy products before you embark on a journey at sea.

Do your homework before you park your car. There are different carparks in the vicinity (they are actually in the same area) and they charge different rates. The lots nearest the cafe cost the most. So be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before the boarding time to ensure you have enough time to find a lot that cost only $10 per day. It’s only about 10 minutes away if you walk extremely slowly (at Lè meimei’s speed) but couple with the time taken to get everyone out of the car and the time taken to queue for payment, it can be an adrenaline pumping experience. Oh yeah, bring water and sunblock ok. There’s food and drinks on the island but you will need a lot of water if the weather is hot.

Once you get onto Rottnest Island, you have a choice of exploring the island by train, the hop on and off bus, on bicycles (read the map carefully about the road conditions) or to walk (maybe not a good idea). We booked the train prior to the trip but alas! The train had broken down due to the heavy downpour. The hop on and off bus makes its round around the various tourist spots every 40 minutes or so.

Before you move off to explore the sites around each stop, be sure to take note of the timing for the next bus. Generally, the drivers are very nice. They will drive towards you if they happen to spot you running for the bus. But don’t push your luck all the time.

On Rottnest Island, please please please watch where you step especially on grass patches because it’s 片地黄金. If you ain’t observant enough, you will step on the poop of the quokkas, the happiest animal on earth.

Fresh Quokka poop

Spend a minute or so to read about how to selfie with these very trusting mammals. There’s no predators on the island so the quokkas are not defensive at all and they can come very close to you. Please do not feed them okay. It will make them sick. Ditto for cigarette butts. They might mistaken it for food.

There’s a museum at the first bus stop. Nothing much here but you can spend a few minutes to learn more about the habitat and its flora and fauna while waiting for the next bus.

We chatted with the very friendly bus driver and seeing that we were lugging along 2 kiddos and a huge diaper bag, he told us to be selective in where we drop off as we wouldn’t want to be stuck in the seemingly wilderness while waiting for the next bus.

And so we went on our little adventure. But not before stopping at Dome cafe for an early lunch. The popular stops are #7 Salmon Bay, #8 Wadjemup Lighthouse, #11 Cape Vlamingh. Once again, plan your route wisely and be conscious of time as once you drop off, you will need to wait for the next bus which is about 40 minutes away. So if you do not want to miss the next bus, you have to walk back to the same stop to wait for the bus. This leaves you with very little time to explore.

Due to time constraints, we only went to explore the Wadjemup Lighthouse (#8) and Cape Vlamingh (#11).

Wadjemup Lighthouse is about 800m away from the bus stop. However, we took a long time to get to the lighthouse because the entire journey is up slope. Take heart that the return journey is much easier since you just need to walk down the hill. The lighthouse that you see here is actually a secondary one in a bid to improve maritime safety. The original one had been demolished but the base had been preserved and converted to a (small) gallery. So presenting the taller (twice the height) and with a more powerful light version.

We spotted this dried up creature. It looks like a snake with legs. Only knew what it was at Caversham Reserve.

Not too far but all up slope

We were blessed with the bluest sky that day in the 2 week duration of our stay.

Only look look. Never go up because it’s too cramp for babywearers.

Our next stop, Cape Vlamingh. Bring a jacket if you are going to be here in winter. Though the sun was shining on our backs, we were chilled to the bones. Had to use our heat pads.

There’s supposed to be a platform for seals and dolphins viewing. We didn’t catch any of them though as the sea was pretty wild. A short walk away from the bus stop, you will find a row of those portable toilets. They are surprisingly clean and odor free. A short distance away, you will find a walk way that’s made from recycled plastic.

On your left, you will see the amazing Fish Hock Bay. It’s the perfect place to snorkel as it’s sheltered from the waves and has crystal clear blue water.

I love how the waves hit against the rocks formation. It was really windy. The boy who usually refused all headwear was afraid that the wind would blow his hair away and hence he willingly used the hood. We spent almost an hour here. Thereafter, we ran after the 2nd last bus to get back to the main settlement. And went looking for some quokkas. However, it was getting late and most of them had retired for the night. Do you know that they sleep by curling themselves into a ball and just stick their head into the ground in the middle of anywhere? That’s how trusting they are.

The view on Rottnest Island is just breathtaking everywhere. So do plan for a day or two here.

Subiaco Farmer’s market

We started Saturday at Subiaco Farmer’s market which was a 5 minutes’ walk from our AirBnB apartment. The stalls are set up on the grounds of the Subiaco Primary School and rotated on alternate weeks. While you can expect to pay an arm and leg for the stuff here (okay, granted our pasar malam also not cheap) the food stuff is surprisingly good.

There are stalls that sell plants, fresh produce like fruit and veggies (expect a snaking queue and lots of local patronized this store), pickled onions, macadamia nuts, soup and plenty of hot food.

Saw this and messaged my favourite person in school who happened to be molesting some animals in Gold Coast

Little boys on the field while there’s also a ballet class nearby

We love the beef sausage too

Ez had not been eating well at this point of the trip and so when he saw people eating ‘prata’ (a wrap with egg benedict and stuff) and wanted it, we bought it for him. A plain one with cheese cost $9aud while that of bacon, eggs and whatsnot cost $13aud. But what the boy wants, whatever the boy gets. If he only wanted to eat plain prata, plain prata it was. Then he wanted mushroom soup and it’s really good so no regrets paying $20aud for 2 small jars.

Spanish Tortilla

There’s also a petting pen for the kids to get into close contact with the farm animals. But you have to pay to get in. I think it’s $6aud per kid but I can’t be sure. There’s a few hungry sheep, ducks, chicken and rabbits.

Do check this out if you happen to be in the area. All in all, Subiaco is not a bad area to stay in as there’s Woolsworth, Coles, Target, lots of restaurants and also this Farmer’s market that’s open every Saturday so you should definitely keep this area in mind.

Fire Safety Education Centre and Museum

We spent a couple of hours at this ex fire station turned museum. One can expect to see the mundane stuff we see in a fire station in Singapore. There’s a display of the fire trucks, new and old, the gears such as the water hoses and their parts, helmets and fire fighting jackets. There’s also a rack of ‘uniforms’ the kids can put on and lots of helmets for the little ones. While most of the fire engines are “do not touch”, they do have one specially for the little ones to climb up. The experience comes complete with buttons to press and switches to flip.

Then that’s where the similarities ended. While the ones we can visit every Saturday in Singapore are fully operational, this is not. I am quite impressed with the exhibition on level 2. By the way, this museum is wheel chair accessible as there’s a lift. There’s also toilets and a diaper changing table.

While we are fortunate enough not to have to worry about bush fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and even earthquakes, this also translates to being inadequately prepared for the elements when we are on holidays overseas. The exhibits are big on information and yet not boring. The hub stayed with the kids while I had a quick walk around. Words and kids don’t go too well.

But fear not, there’s a kids corner to keep them occupied. There’s lots of colouring pages of assorted fire-fighting related theme, colouring materials, puzzles and even toy fire trucks to keep the little ones entertained.

This museum is only opened on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 3pm.

Here’s the address.

Fire Safety Education Centre and Museum (Central Fire Station)

25 Murray St,

Perth WA 6000,

Australia

What we missed in Margaret River

Due to time constraint and also partly cuz we couldn’t be bothered, we left 3 interesting activities unexplored. You would have realized that we skipped the cave explorations, the Tuart forest and also the lighthouses.

Prior to the trip, these were on my agenda. However, 4D3N in Margaret River ain’t enough and we decided to cut the caves off because we didn’t like stairs and there’s lots of steps through the caves. The thought of babywearing the kids while struggling with stairs ain’t too appealing. Plus caves are echo-y and Ez is going through this shouting phase where he deliberately make weird noises just to hear echoes. Stopping him is beyond my control. So for everyone’s sanity, we sacrifice.

There’s 4 different caves to explore and 2 lighthouses.

Ngilgi Cave: pronounced as neelgee. There’s a semi-guided tour that takes about an hour and then you get to roam on your own. You will learn more about the Australian Aboriginal mythology from the visit. (Sounds like something the kids can’t appreciate. Yet.)

Mammoth cave: A limestone cave that’s within the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park featuring fossils of extinct animals (jawbones of marsupial species!). Initial tours were conducted by lamplights until 1904! Can’t imagine the tourists then being able to see much. Wheelchair accessible for part of the tour. Free for children under 4 years old.

Lake cave: This is my favourite and I really wanted to have a look. What deterred us?! The 325 steps each way! Goodness! I don’t think I’m fit enough to do this anymore. Expect to see a breathtaking lake that reflects the formations, a suspended table that weights tonnes and also stalactites as one descend through a sunken Karri forest. Nice. Not suitable for young kids as you are supposed to be quiet in order to listen to the dripping sound. Try telling the kids this.

Jewel Cave: The largest show cave in Western Australia with a depth of 42m. This cave contains one of the longest straw stalactites at 5.43m. Not much of a geography student so the formation of this cave eludes me. Sand cemented together to form limestone by the action of rainwater. Interesting. One is also expected to stick to the group the entire duration. But again, I doubt Ez and Lè meimei are interested in listening about sand and rainwater.

Two iconic lighthouses marked the start and finish of the cape to cape track in Margaret River.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is situated at the most south-westerly tip of Australia where the Indian Ocean meets their Southern counterpart. One must climb up 176 narrow and winding steps to get a view of the seascape. However, children under 4 years old are not permitted on the tour.

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse is thus more suitable for families with little kids like ours because there’s only 59 steps to the top. There’s also a new observation platform where you can enjoy the coastal landscape.

Tuart Forest National Park has the last remaining Tuart forest in the world. These trees only grow on coastal limestone. I would love to check this out but somehow I doubt Ez and Lè meimei would be impressed by them. Coupled with the bad weather and the lack of time, we gave this amazing piece of nature a miss too.

So many places to go, so little time. Perhaps the reason why it’s cool to bring little children overseas is just so that we can have an excuse to double back just so we get to complete what we missed. Looks like we are coming back to Margaret River again. Maybe not in the near future but WE WILL BE BACK!