Today we’re transferring from Phuket to Singapore. We arranged for the same taxi service company to take us to the airport. I can definitely get used to this private-transfer thing! Each transfer they’ve been on time, picked us up at our door step, been professional and safe drivers, and had plenty of room for our suitcases. That’s a win, especially since it’s only about $3 more for the private transfer to the airport vs. tracking down a taxi.
The airport was straight forward and check in and security were simple, so we were there in plenty of time for our flight. This time we’re flying on Singapore Airlines, which seems appropriate. 😉
The flight itself was pretty quick — about 90 minutes gate to gate, so we were given a quick drink and a little warm snack. Their orange juice was particularly tasty! I don’t know what all was in it, but it wasn’t US oranges. LOL!
Singapore is known for their fabulous airport! So upon landing and going through immigration, we took our time exploring the airport. There are food courts scattered through the non-secured section of the airport, so we grabbed some food to eat. There is even a four story slide for kids! Talk about fancy.
Next door is a huge mall called Jewel attached by covered walkway. Inside the Jewel is a massive waterfall. It was beautiful! And felt quite unique, falling in a huge circle in the middle of the mall. There is so much greenery and plenty of viewpoints to enjoy the space. On the top floor are many rope paths, a jumping course, hedge maze, and all sorts of other activities. All were paid, however, so we opted to just wander a bit. We did stop for more food in the food court and particularly enjoyed a curry chicken leg dish. We also had mochi for dessert — a kind of frozen chewy coating around a ball of ice cream. Definitely different!
From here we caught a Grab taxi to our apartment. Check in went smoothly and we spent the evening unpacking and getting settled in the new city. Kamy is going to bunk on the floor for this trip, so the kids had to get their beds all sorted too. It was cozy, but she found the mattress topper softer than the main bed so she was happy anyway.
We went to the nearby hawker center — Singapore’s answer to food carts that are scattered throughout the city. There wasn’t much open when we arrived, so we walked up Joo Chait to another hawker market where we found more options. I don’t think we were super impressed with the food, but we did manage to get fed. Then it was a quick stop at the local grocery store for some breakfast basics and back to the apartment. We’re looking forward to exploring some of Singapore tomorrow!
Today our plan included sleeping in a bit before exploring all afternoon. We want to see the Gardens By the Bay at night, so we need to pace ourselves (and the kids) in order to make it all day.
We started with Chinatown! Singapore has a huge Chinese population, almost 70% according to Wikipedia, so there is Chinese influence everywhere you look. Today is the start of Deepavali, a Hindu celebration about the triumph of good over evil that runs for about a week. We saw many men walking in traditional yellow and orange clothing and a ton of smoke coming from the major Hindu temple near Chinatown. We didn’t go in, but some quick Googling taught us that they were preparing the fire walking pit for later that day.
We had lunch at a hawker center with a ton of stalls selling all kinds of Chinese food. One of the most famous is Hainanese chicken and rice, of which this vendor is supposed to be the best. There literally was a line out the door some 30 people long! Keller stood in the line while the rest of us picked other dishes to add to his. It was pretty good — a very soft chicken and a mild flavor, but we didn’t need to stand in line to get more. 😉 We also tried popiah — similar to a spring roll and filled with vegetables, peanuts, and a spicy sauce and wrapped with rice paper but not fried.
Next we went to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple — a Chinese Tang style Buddhist temple that was recently built on the edge of Chinatown. There was a ceremony going on while we were there, so it was interesting to listen to the methodic chanting and the call-and-response cadence of the ceremony.
The temple itself is beautiful and very different from the Thai style temples. There were other rooms on the ground floor with images of some of the deities and which ones were commonly associated with specific astrological years (Year of the Rat, etc).
On the upper floors were several small displays with historical artifacts, a little museum, and a meditation garden. There is also the Budda Tooth relic alter, around which the entire temple was built. No photos were allowed here, so you’ll need to hit up Google to get an idea of the room. LOL.
When we left the temple, we stumbled upon a group of Chinese line dancers! A little bit of watching showed that there is more than one dance and the leader was calling out the name of the next dance when the new song started. Apparently line dancing is quite popular in this area and we watched at least four different dances. They were more complicated than our Western line dances too!
Next we walked through downtown to the Gardens By the Bay in search of the children’s playground. Downtown, and Singapore in general, was immaculate — perfectly clean sidewalks, fabulous architecture, and a very structured community. As it is Sunday, downtown was pretty empty (even a closed Starbucks!) but it is easy to imagine this gets busy during the day.
We walked past the Marina Bay Sands hotel, often nicknamed “The Surfboard Building.” It over looks the harbor and the entire Gardens By the Bay area. Eventually we made it all the way to the Children’s Garden. Kamy and Caden were glad for the physical outlet and climbed all over the various structures and slides for a solid hour. There is also a splash pad area with sprayers and dump buckets, but we were not prepared for them to get wet this round. We’ll be back later in the week for the water play.
As sunset approached, we went to the Supertree Grove to find a spot for the light show. There are a total of 18 Supertrees, and the central grove of 12 is where the best light show is. Every night the lights on the trees are set to music for the public the enjoy. We stationed ourselves at the base of one of the largest trees and had a great view. Some light engineer certainly had fun designing the show! Both kids really enjoyed it as well.
On the walk to the subway, we passed the Singapore Flyer all lit up too. Clearly Singapore has spent a lot of money in aesthetics and design and it shows. Singapore is one of the most beautifully designed cities we’ve visited.
We intended to grab pizza for dinner, but the restaurant we’d picked out was closed by the time we arrived. Instead we ate at Little Italy and shared two pasta dishes and a pizza, plus desserts. Our wallets are definitely noticing the difference in pricing versus Thailand right now! 😉 Then it was back to the apartment and back to bed because we have a big day planned for tomorrow.
Today we’re heading to Universal Studios Singapore! Honestly, this is half of the reason we decided to come down here. As we are visiting many theme parks throughout the world in the next year, this will add another one to Keller’s bucket list.
Universal Studios is on Sentosa Island, about 45 minutes away from where we are staying. We ate breakfast and headed to the bus -> subway -> bus to get there. We were there right at opening, so our timing worked out great!
First on our list was riding the big dueling coaster, Battlestar Galactica. Since the kids haven’t seen the show, we filled them in on the high level storyline. We started with the Cylon side, which is a hanging coaster with inversions and drops into a misty pit after loops. It was a lot of fun! There was no line when we got there, so we opted for the front rows. Both kids loved it!
We immediately switched to the other side to ride the Human track. This is a more standard coaster with no inversions. It was fine, but not as good as the Cylon. However, Keller asked the ride operator to please please please run it as the dueling coaster — the coasters went independently on our first ride. They did it! So that made it more fun, though the Human side was definitely slower than the Cylon.
Next we went to The Revenge of the Mummy. Keller and I have ridden this one before in Florida, but it was all new to the kids. They were a little spooked on the first ride through, but ultimately decided it wasn’t too scary. In fact, we immediately went back in line to do it again. 😉 Gotta take advantage of short queue lines when you can!
By now the kids were getting hungry, so we headed toward the entrance. We rode Lights Camera Action, a movie set recreation of a hurricane hitting a boat house. We also did the Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase. We had high expectations after the fabulous Sesame Street ride in Spain, but alas this was really disappointing. <shrug> Oh well, there was no wait so we didn’t burn much time.
We exited the park to go to the hawker center next door for lunch. We grabbed a few dishes to share and then went back to the park. We did the Madagascar boat ride (surprisingly good this time!) and then the Shrek 4D movie. Kamy rode the carousel with zany characters from the Madagascar stories.
Next we decided to wait for the Waterworld stunt show. We’d missed the earlier performance, so this was our last chance to see it today. Keller has seen it before, but it was new to the rest of us. The stunts were pretty convincing and the kids loved watching the people in the front row get splashed by the seadoos.
We had about two hours left in the park by now, so we had to start making decisions about timing and which rides we would finish with. Cylons for Battlestar Galactica was only about 30 minutes, so Keller sat this one out while the kids and I rode it again. The kids wanted to wait for the front, so it took a bit longer than anticipated.
We went to the Transformers ride next. This is a big attraction, but for whatever reason the lines are long in the morning and short in the afternoon. Works for us! The ride is super intense though, with a crazy action packed storyline, chaos all around you, and the coaster car was jostling everywhere. I don’t think it was anyone’s favorite ride, but we did it!
From here, we split up. Caden wanted to do Battlestar again and Kamy was interested in The Mummy. I told Caden I’d ride Battlestar with him one more time, so we did the Human side which only had a 5 minute wait (vs 55 minutes on Cylon!). He then proceeded to ride it three more times solo — each time making a new friend on the ride and waiting for the front row. I think it’s safe to say he likes it!
Meanwhile Kamy and Keller rode The Mummy three more times, then did the Dinosaur Flyers, and the Dinosaur Rapids water raft ride. They certainly made the most of the last hour before the park closed!
Once Universal Studios closed, we stopped at the gift shop for a t-shirt souvenir and then caught the bus and metro to a hawker market. This time we went to the one in the business district. It is best known for their street of satay sellers! One of the streets downtown was closed off and there was a line of some 12 satay stalls selling chicken, mutton, beef, and shrimp satay! There’s also a large covered hawker market with a wide variety of food. Caden chose satay, Kamy picked out green curry from the Thai stand, and Keller got Indian butter chicken. We were all happy with our dishes! They were quite tasty, and while a little more expensive than the other hawker markets we went to, at least in the same ballpark and with a higher overall quality. We were pleased!
We had a great day today at Universal Studios, but we were all hot and tired by the end of the day. Overall it was a good park, but fairly small. I doubt we will return, but you never know!
We slept in this morning since Keller had to work late overnight. The kids were interested in checking out a local park on the waterfront, so we decided to walk there in order to see the area. We stumbled upon a little vinyl record shop that had a good selection of American classic rock. They even had a used section and were running a promotion — 3 albums for S$50 (about $35). Most of their albums were Japanese imports too, so Keller found four that he wanted to get — 2 Chicago albums, 1 Santana, and 1 Emerson Lake and Palmer. He was happy with his souvenirs!
The playground is at Marina Cove, right on the waterfront. Keller and I hung out in the shade while the kids played. They said the park was a lot of fun! There were several other kids there who spoke English, so they made some fast friends to play with.
Next we caught a double decker bus to downtown Singapore! Kamy and Caden really enjoyed riding the double decker buses in London last year, so they were itching for a chance to ride up top in front and “drive” the bus. We were heading back to the hawker market from the day before since we were so pleased with the food.
The weather was drizzling a bit by the time we were done with dinner, so we scurried across to the harbor front by the Merlion statue in front of the Marina Bay Sands hotel. The Merlion has become a symbol of Singapore and is on almost every tourist souvenir you find.
Marina Bay puts on a nightly light show on the mall side of the complex that you can see from across the harbor. Reviews online suggested watching from the Merlion statue, so we found a place to watch that was protected from the rain. Unfortunately, it really was too far away to hear well or see the projections onto the water. The lasers were pretty cool though! We’ll have to come back and watch from the mall another night instead. The rain meant few crowds though, so Keller was able to get some beautiful photos of the skyline with almost no one in it.
The kids were interested in returning to the playground at Marina Cove this morning, so once school and screen time were done we walked down to the coast. Another US family was visiting the park at the same time, so they teamed up to play together while the moms talked. On the way back to the apartment to meet Keller, we stopped at a local mall for some pre-made pizza. Sometimes quick and easy is enough when it comes to meals and the kids. 😉
Today we’re visiting the Malay Heritage Museum. It is housed in a complex that used to be the ruling sultan’s abode and has some interesting exhibits about Singapore’s past. Unfortunately, the exhibits were a bit light on actual information and explanations, so we didn’t get a whole lot out of it. Oh well.
Then we walked up to a hawker market for ‘lunner’ — all Chinese food this time. We were very close to Little India, so we walked down the main street to get our bearings. Since Deepavali is going on this week, everything was extra colorful, extra crowded, and extra lit up! We ducked down a narrow side street that had a crazy amount of things for sale! Keller had to duck and it was so crowded that we had to squeeze between people. I’ll say one thing, it was definitely crowded! One the lights turned on at dark the street was very pretty.
For dessert we ended up at Creamery, an ice cream place that specialized in hot lava cookies with a scoop of ice cream on top. The kids opted for a scoop of ice cream but Keller and I shared a chocolate cookie with banana ice cream. It was quite tasty!
This morning we started with breakfast, school, and screens before walking back down to the playground at Marine Cove. It’s a new favorite and the kids are enjoying the chance to run around and play on a longer tether for a change. We were back at the apartment in time to meet Keller for our afternoon plans.
Today we’re heading across town again to check out the Singapore Botanic Gardens. They were recently recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, so of course I wanted to visit them! It is currently only one of three gardens on the list and the only one in a rain forest region. It started out as a garden during the English colonial period and was used as a proving ground for rubber trees. They grew so well in this area that Malaysia went on to be one of the top producers of rubber in the world for a number of years. There are also several formal and thematic gardens scattered through the grounds.
On the way to the gardens we stopped at a high end mall complex called Orchard and tracked down lunch at the food court. The food court was really quite good — high quality food for slightly more money than the hawker markets. We all found dishes that we enjoyed and spent less than we were expecting. That’s always a winning combination!
We started in the gardens by walking to the children’s garden area. It was all strung out along a forested walkway and included slides, climbing structures, and a maze. The gardens weren’t totally deserted, but it wasn’t busy either, so we were able to enjoy the peaceful walkways without a ton of chaos.
We also walked down to the Orchid Garden. Botanists have been developing new orchids here for decades and there is an extensive collection of in-ground orchids and potted hybrids to view.
We grabbed some pizza for the kids on the way home and called it a night.
This morning I took the kids down to the Gardens By the Bay. Kamy and Caden both wanted to return to play in the splash pad part of the children’s garden, so we made a plan to meet up with Keller in the park this afternoon. This way the kids could take their time playing in the water and on the playground and we’d be able to explore the Gardens in the afternoon.
The splash pad was not busy at all, so the kids played in the water for about an hour before switching to the playground side of things. Here they made new friends and played tag, climbed all over, and messed with the sand. They were most interested in filling one of the seated spinners with sand and then creating patterns in the sand while it was spinning.
Keller joined us for lunch and we walked to the food court at the Marina Bay Sands mall. This time we were less impressed with the food, but we did get fed. We were on the fence about doing the conservatories or the floral fantasy green house, so we ended up not doing any of them. Instead we went to the National Gallery, intending to check out the art.
When we got there, we discovered a free children’s art exhibit that instantly grabbed Kamy and Caden’s attention. There were a series of 9 different interactive installations for the kids to explore. Kamy really liked throwing balls at the colored hanging tubes. The exhibit with mirrors was particularly well done too!
We ended up in the Children’s Art section where there are several workshop rooms dedicated to kids and creating art. Caden spent about an hour working on cutting up black plastic tubes to create a sculpture and Kamy enjoyed “building” sculptures on a touch screen to project onto the wall and created a pipe flute from straws. I was also adopted by a little Indian boy who practiced writing letters and identifying colors with me.
By this time we needed to head across the water to the Marina Bay Sands to catch the light show. This time we positioned ourselves right in front of the projections and had a great view. I thought the show was really nice and they did a wonderful job taking advantage of the spraying water to tell a story.
It was a clear night too, so the Singapore skyline was quite beautiful all lit up. Singapore is one of the prettiest (and cleanest) cities that we have visited. We’re really enjoying our time here.
Next to the mall connected to the Marina Bay Sands is a really neat whirlpool installation. It falls as a waterfall into the mall below, but the swirling movement was very hypnotizing.
On the way home we stopped at the hawker market by the apartment and picked up some sweet and sour fried pork and fried rice. It’s quite tasty — not as sweet as American style sweet and sour but with a lot of flavor.
Today is our last full day in Singapore. Since we didn’t end up making it to the Gallery part of the National Gallery, we wanted to return. This time the kids and I went early so they could spend more time in the children’s wing. Caden finished his heart creation he started the day before and Kamy worked on a few different projects.
Then we went across the hallway where the kids could paint with watercolors. Kamy created a bilingual image to match English and Spanish words (water and agua, etc) and Caden painted a picture of me and him under an umbrella.
Daddy joined us shortly thereafter, so we bought tickets to the art exhibits and worked our way through the complex. The art covers a range of topics but most was from the 20th century, from the 1950s on. I think I connected with the ones with Western influence the most, but there were several paintings that we enjoyed seeing.
We also stumbled upon a little exhibit highlighting the history of Singapore as a colony, then joining with Malaysia, and then separating into its own country just two years later. This is also where Trump and Kim Jung Il signed the nuclear treaty last year (not that anything changed from the meeting).
We trekked back to the Orchard Food Court for dinner, since that was one of our favorite places to eat in Singapore. Then we caught the bus back home and called it a night.
Overall, we really really enjoyed Singapore. It is beautiful and clean, without feeling sterile. It’s clear that the government and businesses are willing to spend extra money on aesthetics and maintenance. The architecture is amazing. Culturally it is varied, but it is a very orderly society — almost no talking on the buses, the hawker centers are eerily quiet, and everything looks pristine. Public transit is cheap, clean, and always on time.
This, like Ljubljana, is a city where Keller can picture us living. It’s a bit hot and humid for our preference, but I am sure you’d get used to it! It is super close to the equator, so there really isn’t much of a weather change except rainy or drier seasons. Cost-wise, it is much more in line with Western Europe — housing and food are 3x as expensive as Thailand, but we were going from extremes from last week to this. 😉
Off to Malaysia tomorrow!