Family guide to Singapore (or what we did on our travels)
Thursday 30th November 2017
Art Science Museum
We visited on a Friday as they run Family Fridays where children under 12 go free! This was a good saving as some attractions can be expensive in Singapore. The girls loved the future science exhibition, especially the doodle aquarium where you coloured in a picture which you then scanned and watched your creation dance about on the massive "aquarium" wall. The other exhibition was closed for maintenance and the art gallery installation was a little adult for the girls so we headed off to our next stop.
Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is a huge development created to showcase the natural plant world. You may have seen the huge "avatar" trees where thousands of species of plants and creepers are growing up this city centre solar powered structures. As well as the Super Tree Grove the area is home to several other attractions, including two of the world's biggest column free greenhouses contains the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome.
We visited the Cloud Forest where a sky walkway curves around a mountain of plants some 30 metres in the air. I'm not too scared of heights but even I found it quite tricky to meander around at that height! The man made waterfall and crystal grove make this something special.
We then visited the Flower Dome where different gardens from around the world are showcased. There's a Mediterranean one with olive trees and a South African one with proteas. As it was later November when we visited much of it had been transformed into a Christmas showcase with real looking snow and many Christmas trees, the scent of which made us all a little nostalgic for our cold and frosty Christmasses at home!
We all really loved the sculpture of "La Famille de Voyageurs" - the travelling family, that depicts a family leaving the Gardens by the Bay, taking memories from their visit with them but leaving a part of themselves behind. It felt so apt and really resonated with us. You can see it in our pictures below.
We headed to the children's park where there are water poles spraying out water and spinning around, smaller fountains and buckets that dump a load of water on your head. The girls loved running around the cool water and dancing to the music playing (mainly from Disney films), it was a super area to play in. We explored the adventure playground too before setting off to see the sculpture garden.
I had really wanted to see the famous baby sculpture here so we wandered off to find it. It's a fantastic piece, how it's balancing I'll never understand despite Nikki trying to explain it mathematically to me (never going to work) - I just enjoyed the peace and serenity of it.
We stayed later in the day to catch the music and light show from the avatar trees and first took to the skyway. From the ground it doesn't look very high but it feels it when you're up there. It also sways a little which I didn't expect and that made me feel a little anxious! We completed the walk while Nikki remained at the safety of the lift entrance - heights are definitely not his thing!
We found a grassy spot to watch the light and music show and again it had a Christmassy theme. We felt it was a little too early to be getting Christmassy but still enjoyed seeing the trees lit up and changing colour and displaying their lights. It was shorter than we expected but still worth it and completely free!
We headed home exhausted after a long day and having walked for hours, but ready for our next day's adventures.
The next day we decided to visit Sentosa, an island made from reclaimed land and essentially a massive playground resort. There's hotels, various attractions, even a small Universal studios! It's all spotlessly clean of course and well thought out with a free monorail across the island.
Having done his research Nikki decided we needed a fun day pass which essentially gives you credits to use at various attractions. The girls were desperate to visit Kidzania so we headed there first and whilst smaller than the one in the UK they both had a great time exploring the place.
We headed off next to have some lunch and take a family vote on what to spend our remaining credits on.
We decided on the luge, the aquarium and the 4D Adventure Island show. So off we went!
To get to the luge from where we were you have to go on the Skyline - the sort of aerial bench you find at ski resorts that scoops you up. Nikki struggled with his fear of heights as we glided over the treetops to the top of the run. The queue was massive but we donned our helmets and waited in line. Our time came and it's a bit like Mario kart, you're in a little wheeled cart (the luge) and you make your way down a winding track to the bottom. It's over so quickly but so so SO much fun we would have ridden again and again had it it been for the queue. We read about how the luge originated in New Zealand and we're hoping to go again when we stop there next month!
Off to the aquarium and we all agreed that it was a pretty good one but we still prefer seeing fish in the sea. However we can't even explain how awful the dolphin enclosure was and had we known that there were dolphins we probably wouldn't have gone. They very sneakily keep the dolphins off the material they promote it with and you can see why. Although it's a big enough pool it's barren and dirty. The dolphins are bored and it's an appalling way for creatures like this to be kept. Especially in a country like Singapore that seems to pride itself on its ecological way of living. Whales and dolphins just don't belong in captivity and it was heartbreaking to see. We questioned a staff member and we were told that the dolphins have other pools to move around in but we were not convinced.
We moved on and found our way to the adventure island show. It was really fun and although we wanted it to go on for much longer we all agreed that it was a really good experience.
We came out and found ourselves at the top of the luge. Well there was only one thing for it - we had to have another go! Despite the pouring rain we sped off and loved it. Super fun.
A final stop at the massive candylicious store for some pick and mix and off home we went. The queue to get out was long and not well managed as people queue jumped and mono rails went half empty because of the weird barrier system which was a disappointing end to what had otherwise been another great day from which we returned home exhausted.
After a day of fun I was looking for something a bit more cultural and some map reading showed we were close by to some Peranakan houses, and they looked so beautiful it seemed worth the short walk to see them.
They were really stunning and are now listed due to their heritage. Their pops of colour reminded us of Bo Kaap in South Africa and we all picked which one we would choose to live in. Peranakan means a mixed heritage of Chinese and Malay cultures and there's a whole museum dedicated to it too.
We walked along the Joo Chiat Road toward the MRT station at Eunos and enjoyed seeing the older style shops and restaurants of the area. There's more of a sense of history and authenticity here than the majority of Singapore which is so westernised. We also had a fantastic and very cheap (for Singapore) lunch at the Evertop restaurant and would highly recommend it.
We got on at the MRT and after some map reading changed lines and stopped at Little India to see some of its temples and the famous Tan Teng Niah House - brightly decorated as the former house of a Chinese merchant. It was so strange being in Little India having recently been in actual India. It really was like being back on the streets of Delhi with the locals and shops and spices albeit much cleaner!!
We then hopped back on the MRT to our next stop.
Similar to Oxford Street this is the hub of Singapore's malls and shops. It was decorated with beautiful Christmas lights that we didn't get to enjoy being there in the late afternoon (the early dark evenings do have some pluses in the UK!) but really we had come to see the famous library in the Orchard Gate mall.
The girls in this family are big readers and we all enjoyed wandering around the amazing space this library provided. Even Nikki took a seat in a reading cove with some travel books! Looking down from the stairs to its curving shelves and marvelling at the inbuilt nooks and reading snugs we could have spent hours here. Darcy decided that every book ever written must be in the library as it was so massive and the shelves contained so many topics and subjects and varieties of books. It was great. But we had to go, we had another adventure to go on.
Now we'd read mixed reviews about this and we weren't sure what to expect. It's quite confusing as there's several animal type attractions on offer in Singapore (river safari plus Singapore zoo which are separate to the night safari) and we aren't massive fans of "zoos" but given that Singapore zoo has a good reputation and this was something totally different to anything we've ever done we decided to give it a go.
We arrived about 20 minutes before the gates officially opened, but already people were heading in, all being ushered to the "live animal performance shows" - we avoided these as we don't like any animal performances and headed to the night tram - a long carriage of benched seats that has its headlights off as you meander through its lanes where many of the animals are free roaming.
We actually really enjoyed it, we thought the male elephant could do with a bigger enclosure but we are a bit sensitive when it comes to elephants after our amazing experience with Wildlife SOS.
It was really cool to see hyenas and lions just metres away and tapirs even closer - the girls were quite frightened that the wild animals could get to us as their eyes were fooled by the trickery of the moats and shrubs around the enclosures. It took a lot of explaining that the hyenas couldn't just stroll out to eat us!!
We also did the walking tours where you wander through pathways and get to see their smaller animals up close. We saw otters and the clouded leopard, the golden cat and even a possum. That's one of the best things about doing the night safari was how much more active the animals were at this time of night and it was so much cooler for us!
Merlion and river walk
On our last day we decided to visit the Merlion statue, the symbol of Singapore. It's right on the river - and in a nice area to walk around with restaurants and shops.
It was a little underwhelming as we (for reasons unknown) thought it would be gigantic but it's smaller than we thought and in need of a good clean! Still we did some pictures in between the hordes of Chinese tourists and headed off to wander about to kill some hours before our flight out.
We walked under the underpass and over the famous Cavenagh bridge, arriving at Empress Place where we enjoyed seeing some sculptures dotted around. Our favourite - Children in the River looks so lifelike of children jumping in.
We meandered around the quay area full of bars and seafood restaurants all displaying their crabs and fish in tiny tanks outside - something we all hate to see - before calling it a day and grabbing a taxi to the airport.
Singapore is a truly fantastic family destination. There's something for everyone to enjoy, we had so many other things we wanted to do as well, the Botanical Gardens for instance - it's so clean and so safe that you can see why so many expats are here. It's pretty expensive though so be prepared to spend a lot. We would definitely recommend Singapore as a place for families to visit.
We had a short break in Borneo before we left Singapore which we will fill you in on our next blog post before heading down under to Australia! G'day Perth!