A Thrilling Four-day Excursion in Singapore
Shandley in Singapore with black pepper crab, photo by Shandley McMurray
Shandley in Singapore with black pepper crab, photo by Shandley McMurray
Shopping in Singapore's Chinatown, photo by Shandley McMurray
Visiting one of Singapore's beautiful temples, photo by Shandley McMurray
Beautifully painted buildings in Chinatown, photo by Shandley McMurray
The $100 fish that we ordered, photo by Shandley McMurray
Taking in the streets, photo by Shandley McMurray
, photo by Shandley McMurray
It was a cold, wet and windy day in London when my husband, Austin, daughter, Marley (6), son Pierce (5) and I boarded a flight to Singapore’s Changi airport. Anxious to escape England’s depressing winter weather, we cheerfully buckled our seatbelts ready for the long haul to find sunshine. Thirteen hours, four movies and 1,056 “Are we there yets” later, we landed. The doors of the plane opened, welcoming a waft of delicious, warm and humid tropical air.
Exhausted from a restless and sleepless flight, we patted ourselves on the proverbial backs for having the foresight to pre-arrange an early check-in at the Intercontinental Hotel. After a three-hour nap in one king-sized bed (the kids’ adjoining room wasn’t ready yet) we felt recharged and ready to explore Singapore’s most child-friendly locations.
Our first stop –Singapore Botanic Gardens. What a perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon. Peaceful and lush with the most fragrant and beautiful flowers surrounding the grounds, the Botanic Gardens was one of our favourite spots. Our little ones ran through the large open spaces, taking off their shoes to feel the soft grass between their toes as they played a game of tag. They circled picnickers on their way back to us before heading into the Rainforest.
In the oldest remaining rainforest in Singapore, it’s easy to forget that you’re in the middle of one of the world’s greatest cities when traipsing up the wooden stairs to its heart.
Stopping to study the enormous trees (some are up to 40 metres tall), the kids were amazed by both the height of the vegetation and musty, pungent smell. With over 300 species of plants, Marley and Pierce were mesmerized by the ferns, strange-looking bugs and massive leaves we found. “Why is it so noisy in here,” Marley wondered aloud as she balanced on the edge of a log. “The rainforest is home to a variety of animals and insects,” I tried to explain. “Just like humans, they communicate with each other, so consider all of their chirps and screeches a conversation.”
Next we moved on to the National Orchid Garden. We must have taken 200 photos in here, using the vibrant colours of the exotic orchids as a backdrop for our kids’ dimpled smiles. We went into the orchidarium and the mist house before luxuriating in the airconditioning inside the Cool House on our way to the exit.
Day two included a trip to the Singapore Zoo hands down one of the most kid-friendly zoos we’ve visited. Walking from the cheetahs to the elephants, we passed under the Orangutan Boardwalk where a large ape cackled at Pierce from above. The orangutans are free to roam along the treetop walkway above visitors in this section of the zoo, making us feel as if we were in the jungle with them. A short ways along the path we came face to whiskered face with a rare white tiger. The zoo has two of these beautiful creatures: Omar and Winnie. Their creamy white fur striped with brown and adorable pink noses set between two blue eyes made them even more endearing than their playful attitudes. We watched for half an hour as they swam, nuzzled each other and gave out small roars. Their enclosure was pristine and spacious yet designed to make us feel as if we were in there with them.
Hot enough that our clothes were sticking to our backs, we left our feline friends and headed to the wet play area of the Rainforest Kidzone. As soon as the sprinklers and massive dumping bucket came into view the kids started screaming, running towards the water with abandon. They stripped off their clothes as they ran, leaving a trail of discarded shorts, t-shirts and running shoes behind them. Before I could catch up I felt myself being sprayed from the side by a pint-size water cannon. Pierce had weaselled his way behind the machine, commandeering it from an unsuspecting toddler. He laughed hysterically as I screeched at the refreshing feel of the cool water on my skin, running off once again before I could catch him.
That night we walked along the Singapore River, ogling at the impressive display of eclectic buildings. From Marley’s favourite “boat building” (aka The Marina Bay Sands Hotel) that literally has a boat perched atop three towers to art deco-inspired office buildings, Singapore’s mismatched architecture styles somehow seem to mesh. Pierce was particularly amazed by the gardens that looked as if they were growing out of the middle of huge office buildings. While we didn’t take a bumboat ride, we walked alongside their route from the vibrant Clarke Quay with its numerous shops, riverside restaurants and colourful, over-the-top building designs. We dined in a tourist trap called Forum Seafood in Boat Quay. The kids loved looking at the fish, crabs and lobsters swimming in the tanks along the walkway, but we ended up paying the equivalent of $100 US for one fish (big enough to feed all four of us, but not to the point of feeling full). Yes, we had a nice table on the water with a view of beautiful bridges and the glorious Fullerton Hotel, but we left with our appetites only slightly satisfied and our pocketbook much lighter than it was when we arrived.
Taking a cable car to Sentosa Island on day three we quickly saw why Singapore is known as one of the world’s largest port cities. Pierce was fascinated by the towering cranes and miles upon miles of containers stacked upon each other. The sea was peppered with shipping boats and oil tankers, making our proposed dip in the water off Sentosa’s Siloso beach seem a bit suspect. As we approached Sentosa we felt shocked by the multitude of Western-looking resorts that sprung into view. Complete with a casino and Universal Studios, stepping foot onto Sentosa felt akin to landing in Orlando for a trip to Disney World.
Shortly after the start of our walk to the beach, we were approached by a sweet man holding a vibrant toucan on his hand. He and his two female colleagues led us to a small area where they had a collection of bright birds calmly sitting on branches. For 15 minutes they allowed Marley and Pierce to hold each of the birds in their hands while they snapped pictures of our little ones’ happy faces. In the end, each photo was equivalent to $20 US, so we declined a purchase, which made them (and our children) quite upset. All was forgotten when we stumbled upon the impressive Merlion Walk. In the middle of the 120-metre-long pathway runs spectacular aquatic-themed and Gaudi-inspired sculptures and fountains. At the head of the path is a smaller replica of Singapore’s infamous Merlion (an 8.6 metre-tall mythical mascot with the head of a lion and the body of a fish situated in Merlion Park).
On our fourth and final day, we visited were Chinatown and the Sri Mariamman Temple. Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, the Sri Mariamman’s intricately carved spire can be seen from miles away, sitting in juxtaposition to the modern day traffic stuffing the streets below it. Marley and Pierce revelled in the feel of cool concrete beneath their bare feet as they explored the doll-like statues of the Gods and the beautifully decorated ceiling inside the temple’s walls. A perfect teaching opportunity, we told them about the world’s many different religions. Marley was dwarfed by the towering statues as she posed for pictures, her hands folded in prayer. Before catching our flight to Bali, we wandered through the jam-packed alleyways of Chinatown, running our hands through the various fabrics on display and consistently saying “no” to the children’s pleas to buy cheap toys. We sat in an outdoor restaurant, happily people-watching while awaiting our delicious pepper crab. As she dug into her meal, Marley looked at me and asked, “Mom, can we come back here one day?” “Definitely,” I answered, pepper juice dribbling down my chin, “Definitely.”
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