THIS IS A PERSONAL POST AND MOST OF THE PHOTOS WERE TAKEN USING MY IPHONE 5S.
We hadn’t originally made any plans to visit Singapore last year, but when Scoot airlines (Singapore Airlines’ low-cost subsidiary) announced their launch into Perth and their super cheap introductory airfares we knew we’d have to act fast to snap up the super-bargains. Kids seats were being offered at $33 each way and adults at $89 each way. We have wonderful friends living there with a couple of spare rooms so within 15 mins of the airline’s announcement on Facebook, we were booked!
Stu and I visited our friends Dirk & Marilyn in Singapore a couple of years back and had the time of our lives. We knew this time going with three kids and with our hosts now having two littlies of their own, would be a slightly different experience but we wanted to do it all!
It was WONDERFUL! Our boys seem to have reached an age where all of a sudden it’s so much easier to travel with them.
We departed at 7:30 pm and since we had cheap tickets, there was no food, drink or entertainment provided. We took iPads with pre-loaded movies, snacks, and our own snuggle blankets and bottles of water. Our youngest, Lucas (6) has always been a great sleeper and was exhausted and happy to go to sleep. He struggled at first, but happily donned his blow up neck pillow and sleep mask, got cosy cuddled up to his trusty gigantic bear Oscar and within 10 minutes nodded off. Middle guy, Oliver (9) had little naps but was frequently woken up by passengers inadvertently pressing the call buttons on their armrests that continued to “ding dong” loudly non-stop throughout a large chunk of the flight. SUPER annoying! (This didn’t happen on the way back, thankfully). Jacques (12) didn’t sleep a wink and watched movies and played cricket games on his iPad the whole time.
We arrived at our friends’ home at 2am, which was about an hour later than we anticipated thanks to long lines to get through immigration and then again at the taxi queue. Stu & I both recently both upgraded to iPhone 5s and although I continued with the same Telstra account number and phone number, apparently you need to activate GLOBAL ROAMING for the actual phone. Poor Marilyn was up worrying and we couldn’t text or call to say we were in the cab! Lesson learned. Luckily Telstra activated it pretty quickly after an online chat via wifi.
Happily the kids slipped straight into bed and nodded off to sleep, as did we. Felt SO good to lay flat.
When everyone was up a few hours later, Jacques suggested we visit Bugis markets (recommended by a friend of his) so he could get some sunnies and we could find lunch. The $1 cups of fruit juice (I loved the lime) were a hit and the kids discovered “crispy crepes”, which are exactly what you think. It was as if someone had made a crepe but left it on the plate a bit too long and it got crispy. It’s then smeared with toppings of choice (chocolate & any other thing imaginable. Chocolate & cheese stuck out) and folded up ready to eat. When I asked Oli if there was anything in particular he would like to look for, he melted my heart by saying “All I want is to find a souvenir to take home for Oma”. We looked at quite a few vendors and he found the perfect thing. A solar-powered chinese waving cat for good luck!
With Chinese New Year about 2 weeks away, the markets were brimming with brightly coloured good luck decorations – fluorescent giant orange paper fold-out pineapples lanterns my favourite.
In the afternoon, we were a bit “thirsty” and The British Club was the perfect spot to quench. It seems taxis and road transportation laws in Singapore are a little different to what we’re used to. The front of the car is sacred. Definitely only a driver and a single passenger and seat-belts are essential. In the back of the car, pretty much anything goes. If you can physically shut the door hard enough that it clicks shut, any amount of pressure against the doors from that point on, from say, a whole lot of squished together sweaty bodies, doesn’t really raise an eyebrow. Getting a taxi to come on short notice was nearly impossible some days so we decided to just all get in one car. I remember Dirk laughing to himself at how much money we wasted at home on a 7 seater Volvo, when no less than 8 of us got out of their Mitsubishi Lancer on arrival at The British Club. Even funnier was how Dirk’s loose estimate of it being a 5 minute car ride to our destination was more like 35.
Anyhow, we really felt like our holiday kicked off when we ordered Margaritas (including my first try of Mango flavour – OK, but will stick to traditional) delivered poolside as we swam and the kids feasted on Club sandwiches and French Fries. Hours of fun, chatting and watching the kids swimming and water sliding. 100% Relax guaranteed.
Since it was double birthday boy’s Pirate party eve, there was still a lot of preparation for the next day to be done. Marilyn spent hours painstakingly icing a stunning chocolate cake she’d cleverly whipped up from scratch earlier in the day. She’s French and when it comes to anything sweet, nothing less than perfection will do. She amazed me with her patience and attention to detail, particularly as 5 boys were blowing up balloons and volley balling them all around her. I needed a drink to steady my nerves just watching her.
Furniture was moved to make way for delivery of a bouncy castle coming in the morning, balloons (what were thought to be black and red when blown up, much to Marilyn’s amusement turned out to be purple & pink). And just like that the party had a new theme – Gay Pride Pirate party.
D&M’s boys’ birthdays are quite close together and they decided a combined party would be perfect since they were overseas for one of the boy’s birthdays. They boys were 5 & 2 so the excitement was fever pitch.
The bouncy castle arrived perfectly on time at 9am and fifteen minutes later was filled boys “testing” it out. Dirk & Stu had collected what seemed like hundreds of Pain au Chocolate from Singapore’s well known Boulangerie and Patisserie Paul and a plethora of other tasty morsels were spread out over tables ready to be demolished by the hungry sprockets. The kids came, they partied hard and most of them left. A few quality grown ups hung out for the whole day just chillin`. D&M really know how to host kids parties. At 10am when boring people offer tea or coffee to the parents, Dirk brought out the first bottle of a total of 8 litres of Rum punch (cleverly disguised as Berri Pink Guava) he’d masterfully prepared the day before. If there’s one way to cope with a bunch of rowdy kids, sipping on 30% Rum punch is certainly up there with my fave so far. They say you should always make sure you drink in-between alcoholic beverages, so Dirk made sure we had some refreshing jello-Vodka shots to cleane the palette in between plastic cups of punch. Little tip for next time, might be not a bad idea to serve the rum in cups that a different colour to the kid’s REAL fruit juice! All kids were breathalysed prior to being allowed to drive their parents home, so no harm done.
A visit to Singapore isn’t complete without an indulgent Sunday brunch. On our sans kid visit previously we went to the Raffles and it was one of the most memorable meals of my life. The food was out of this world and we ate and drank to the point of almost having to be stretchered out of the place. The bonus is there’s a gorgeous Leica store right next door!
This time after much research (thanks Marilyn!), we decided on The W. It was a little cheaper for the kids (we could not justify close to $100 for a breadstick and 2 forkfuls of pasta). And the added benefit was the pool. Where they typically charge $50 per person for non-hotel guests, if two adults purchased the French Champagne breakfast (mad if you don’t), we were allowed free use of the pool. What a marvellous way to digest and relax. There were waterfalls and different depths in the gigantic pool with a swim up bar at one end. Lots of comfy banana lounges to relax on and while away the hours.
Another tough morning spent with M at the British Club swimming and relaxing and a tasty lunch to fuel up for a busy afternoon. In the late afternoon we opted for a bit of touristy action and took the boys on the Duck Boat tour which is an amphibious vehicle. Quite bizarre hogging out some of the main streets then going down a little ramp straight into the river. The kids LOVED it. The tour guide was super friendly and happy to share lots of interesting facts about the various buildings and sites of Singapore for about an hour. We then took the free shuttle bus to the Singapore Flier. It’s most economical to purchase combined tickets for various activities at once. It takes half an hour to do a full circle. We were blown away by the view. I highly recommend taking it at around dusk. It was stunning to see the changing colour of the sky and see the pretty city lights. After the kids were in bed we ended the day with a stroll around China Town (buzzing!) and a scrumptious dinner at one of our friends’ faves Italian place Lateria Mozzarella I had the truffle & smoked mozzarella risotto which was to die for!
We wanted to show the boys the Miranda Bay Sands hotel. Although even with a map and a compass it’s difficult to negotiate your way around the inside of the place, it is just one of the most amazing pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen. I can’t stop staring at it in awe and wishing I could have been there at the table supping cognac with the genius who came up with the concept of it’s design. To think what what must have been going through their head (s). Awe inspiring.
Anyhow, it’s now much harder to sneak into the pool area since they restricted the infinity pool use to guests only. So we did the next best thing and had brunch on the top (57th) floor. Enjoying the view with all you can eat bacon made the boys extremely pleased! With tummies full and all coffeed out, we went on our journey to explore the Gardens by the Bay. It was a lovely little stroll from the hotel. We walked through the weird fake tree things and spent some relaxing time wondering around the two domes. They were both beautifully cool one with it’s own spectacular waterfall. When our legs were a little tired, we had a little sit by the water play area. We didn’t know about it as I think it only just opened the day before we got there so even with no appropriate bathers, the boys had a quick run around the sprinklers to cool off.
Not long after we got home, Marilyn was having one of those one chance in a million sneaky naps upstairs when we were contacted on iPad chat by Cynthia, another special friend in Singapore that she needed to speak with Marilyn urgently. I could tell that something was seriously wrong. A horrendously unbelievable thing had happened. The father of their 5 year old’s son’s best friend, and their close friend Tom had died suddenly of a heart-attack. He was just 37 years old. It was shocking and there were a lot of tears and the painful task of having to give the news to a sweet five year old.
We had lots of talk about the ensuring we continue to value the important things in life and we never know what lies ahead in our life journey. With the situation feeling very surreal and everyone in a bit of a daze, we decided to end the day with the lot of us going to dinner at PS Cafe where the food was delectable and the place overflowing with ambience. The kids were a little tired (as we all were) so we grabbed dessert to go. It was impossible to not order it. I’ve never seen such temptations and talk about HUGE servings! By the time everyone got home, everybody was too full to eat it and just too emotionally drained. Tomorrow would be a new day and cake and coffee would be the perfect breakfast.
We’d saved what we believed would be a trip highlight for the kids `til last. I knew it was there but didn’t have any personal desire to visit, but Universal Studios turned out to be super fun for all of us! It opens at 10am and we aimed to be there for that but were a little late due to a long wait for a taxi. I was really surprised how much fun Stuart & I had (I knew the kids would). Tip: what MADE the day were the express unlimited tickets we purchased. It added another $50 per person to the price but it meant that we could all go on any of the rides as many times as we wanted going straight to the front of the queue. Some rides had queues of approximately an hour and there is no way we would have had nearly as much fun if most of the day was spent waiting in line with kids. Seems a little elitist, but I would seriously say for this type of thing, it’s all or nothing.
Tip: We had heard that the “The Mummy” ride is quite lame and perfect for little kids. What we didn’t know was there was a second “The Mummy” ride which we happily let our scaredy-cat super-sensitive hyper-sensory overload-effected child go on. It was hidden inside a giant tomb from view. I’m pretty sure with another 12 months of therapy, he will have recovered from the super-fast cork-screwing backwards IN THE FREAKIN` DARK roller coaster ride. Oopsie.
Overall though: “BEST DAY EVER” was the unanimous verdict. I won’t go into details of the rest of the rides as most of the fun is in the element of surprise. Unlike other fun parks where the rides are TOO scary or TOO lame, I just loved these all as they were more “experiences” than just rides designed to shake & spin the living beejuzus out of you.
To say when we got back to the ranch we were shattered is an understatement. Lucas loves fried rice and had got Marilyn to promise him some on his last night, so we all happily stayed in and enjoyed some French champagne and each other’s company for the last time in……..who knows?
A normal work / school day for our Singaporean friends, we bid them adieu packed up our stuff and crammed into a taxi home bound. God bless my parents who picked us all up from the airport, drove us home and cooked us a good old fashioned Aussie BBQ and let us eat and run home to bed.
Dirk & Marilyn, we really really really enjoyed our time with you. We were a little apprehensive about staying with our three boys and if you would survive our invasion of your home for a whole week but I think overall we did OK! Your hospitality, your chauffeuring us all about and the trouble you went to with making us all so comfortable as well as buying enough gluten free goodies to feed me for a year blew me away. We thank you ever so much for allowing us all to stay. To us it was a super-big deal and we loved every moment. It was so special getting to know your boys a little bit better and having our kids play together like cousins and getting to be a part of their birthday celebrations, well the bits that I remember
We love spending time with you, laughing at your stories and being energised by your zest and passion for living life to the full, no matter what. When I look at these pictures of our week, your Joie de Vivre comes through my screen and it’s as if we’ve just popped another bottle. Miss you and can’t wait to see you again, wherever that may be. xxxx