Saturday, 22 February 2014

Smiling In Singapore: The Perfect Family Holiday

The first time I travelled to Singapore about fifteen different people warned me that I would find it a bit ‘sterile’.  A bit 'overly clean’ and a bit 'too modern’.  I’ve just returned from my seventh visit.  There's no denying it is a clean and modern city.  But sterile?  I think not.  It's an adventure playground for children and a pretty near perfect destination for family fun.

I’ve optimistically allowed myself one hour to turn out a post about some of the little island's attractions, vainly hoping that Little Miss will stay asleep that long and Mister Four will obligingly play peacefully with his friend for the allotted hour.  So think of this less as an all-encompassing guide, but a little taster of what Singapore can offer families - perhaps it will provide some inspiration if you're planning a trip.

Here are highlights from our most recent five days there.  Click on the highlighted sections to go to each site's official website.

Not having visited this newish attraction before, I admit I was a little sceptical at first.  Would Mister Four really appreciate the beautiful flora?  Would Little Miss nap her way through the heat?  Turns out that yes, Mister Four quite liked the giant trees and Little Miss did catch some zzzs in the shade.  But what really did it for us was the water park here.  There’s a new, huge (and free!) splash play area where hot and sticky little people can run under water fountains and tip hovering buckets of water over themselves (and unsuspecting others) to their hearts’ content.  There’s also an adventurous, sand-based playground running alongside the water park and best of all, a large, shaded area for parents with deck chairs and giant fans, keeping those of us who prefer to stay dry nice and cool - a rare feat in humid Singapore.  

Giant trees, small boy

Alright, so I know it’s an obvious one, but you really can’t visit Singapore and not stop off here.  You’ve likely heard that this is one of the world’s great zoos, and for good reason too.  It’s a little way out of town, but that means it’s set in a beautiful expanse of jungle.  You’ll find most of the animal kingdom's big shots here (and quite a few of its interesting supporting acts too) and you won’t fail to be impressed by the clever ‘cage free’ environment.  The animals look healthy and the grounds are pristine.  The zoo is best showcased by its slick shows and feeding sessions.  There are decent food outlets and baby change and feeding stations peppered throughout.  Our ticket included unlimited tram rides and this was a godsend for tired little feet (and aching, baby–wearing backs).  Oh, and because this is Singapore, there is again a fantastic water play area in the Kidzworld section.  It was the perfect way to end another hot and sticky day (and let’s be honest, Mister Four’s abiding memory of the outing).

Never smile at a crocodile...

Ten years ago in those hazy days before either of us knew how to change a nappy, hubby and I spent a romantic night here.  This time round we knew that our visit would be less about the tranquil ambience and more about the excitement of riding a tram through the darkness.  In all honesty I’m not sure if Mister Four fully appreciated the beauty of elephants quietly foraging in the moonlight (and Little Miss had no idea at all) but he thought the transport was pretty cool.  There are a number of walking trails you can take through the park but if little ones are tired the tram ride gives a good overview of all the animals on offer.  And do avoid public holidays: we visited over Chinese New Year and queues for the tram were loooong.  I ended up holding a sleepy little boy for the best part of an hour as we waited for our ride and I must admit that I was pretty thrilled to sit down on that tram too.

A word of warning – the day zoo and night safari are probably too much to tackle all in one day.  We bought a combined ticket that could be used on separate days and were glad we made the decision to separate the two visits.  Animal fatigue, anyone?

I am so pleased we stumbled across this attraction on our last day.  It’s about as off the beaten (tourist) track as you can get in a place like Singapore and yet it was Mister Four’s highlight of the entire trip.  It’s a small, free museum next door to the Central Fire Station ('Yes sweetheart, it really is a real fire station').  Little Fireman Sams can look at old fire engines, climb on one and even try on fire fighting suits too.  Mister Four was in emergency-seeking heaven.  What really topped off the visit was the kindness of the volunteers, retired servicemen themselves ('Yes, he really used to be a real fireman').  They were very happy to share tales of their careers and even snuck us next door for a peek at a working engine ('Yes, it really is a real fire engine').  Despite being somewhat off the tourist radar it’s centrally located; a very happy way to fill a little adventurer's morning.



Like most of Asia, Singapore is a foodie’s paradise.  What we love is the incredible range.  Gourmands will delight in the international cuisine on offer (we thoroughly enjoyed our first vegetarian Japanese restaurant) but the food courts and hawker centres are equally good and considerably more pocket-friendly in a city that’s generally not a cheap destination.  Do take a moment to introduce your little ones to durian.  I know, I know.  It’s truly dreadful, but it has to be done!

There are a hundred other things to explore in Singapore and I’ll try to share more here in the future.  But my time’s up – baby is awake and my little fireman has just returned and placed a mixing bowl helmet on my head.  That’s my cue to make a speedy exit. 

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