On Wednesday at breakfast, I sat staring at my empty iced chai latte cup and thought, "I'm going to miss this place." I was sitting with my kids at a Starbucks on Orchard Road in Singapore. There is a very good chance that I'll never be there again.
I can't remember how many months we were into our life in Bangkok when we first visited Singapore, but I do remember that it felt soooo good! The streets were clean. I spoke a common language. There were familiar things - organized traffic, playgrounds, parks, shops, etc. I took a photo of the view from our hotel window and thought that it reminded me of Vancouver.
Singapore is easily the place that we traveled to for a family-oriented getaway the most during our six years in SE Asia. It's only about a 90-minute flight from BKK and Saigon, and plenty of the discount airlines in this region fly there. I think that we kept going back to stock up on shopping (baking ingredients! vitamins!) and because there are were more quality things to do with children.
Usual highlights from our trips:
- The wildlife parks: Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, and the newly-opened River Safari. There is a zoo in Bangkok and there's also one in Ho Chi Minh City, but the ones in Singapore are modern, spacious, educational, and conversation-minded, and they do not dress the animals up in costumes for exploitive photo ops.
- Botanical Gardens, because 1) the flowers in SE Asia are lovely and exotic to my eyes and 2) it has a terrific playground area.
- The Forum: This is a small shopping center that has a lot of retailers focused on children. There's a Mothercare (a UK-company that carries a lot of baby apparel and gear that is hard to come by in SE Asia - things that I bought there include packages of onesies (nicer than Old Navy, actually), See Kai Run shoes, and a SwaddleMe)). There's a shop called Vitakids where I've found other things that were a challenge in BKK and Saigon: children's vitamins, supplements, and safer sunscreen/shampoo (they stock TruKid, among others). My kids are fans of the children's bookstore called Bookaburra, and there's an Early Learning Center toy store next door. On the top level, there's a Stride Rite and also a Toys R Us (though it doesn't stock the same quality of merchandise as the stores in Canada, it's a lot better than the TRU in BKK).
- SEA Aquarium on Sentosa: This is quite new, and is marketing itself as the largest aquarium in the world. Madeline was thrilled to see about a half dozen exhibits on jellyfish, and I was happy to have a (flash-free, of course) photo of a clownfish in an anemone. I have a four year-old, so Finding Nemo still heavily influences our aquatic interests. The aquarium is located in Singapore's maritime museum, and I wish that we'd spent more time looking at the exhibits because the did look really cool (and very hands-on).
- Gelatissimo: Madeline's dearest request for our last trip was that we go for gelato because she really wanted more of the green apple gelato that she had the time when we checked out the Singapore Flyer. The Singapore Flyer was out of the way, but luckily, there was a Gelatissimo outlet on Orchard Road that we could walk to. And they did have green apple on the menu on that day!
I picked up a second-hand "things to do with small kids in Singapore" book before our final trip, and there were more than a couple of museums that earned kid-friendly marks, and a science center that sounded like something my girls would be into, though we didn't have the time to check it out. We've been on the Singapore Night Safari, so we saw a lot of animals sleeping, and we've been to Universal Studios on Sentosa, but it wasn't as interesting to our younger kids as a Disney Park is.
We've sometimes had difficulty finding taxis for return trips back from places like the zoo, so on my last trip, the kids and I got around using the MRT and the SAEx coaches and it was inexpensive (as far as Singapore goes) and easy to figure out. I also saw one of those double-decker sight-seeing buses, and thought that would have been a practical way to navigate between several of the tourist attractions. Wish I'd known about that before ...
So, yeah, I was a little sad to have my farewell tour of Singapore come to an end earlier this week. I always felt a little bit more like my old self there, like I was slightly less of a foreigner than I was when in Thailand or Vietnam (and maybe even Newfoundland, you know). I will be glad, however, to never again feel the frustration of trying to search out a hotel that had rooms that could accomodate more than two adults and one child simultaneously. Oh, Asia :)