Singapore Sling

We left Christchurch for Singapore via a 10, almost 11 hour flight, on Singapore Airlines.  Sing Air is known for great service and I was looking forward to the downtime! Ten hours of movie watching and blog writing for me! The flight was uneventful, the kids consumed all their Christmas candy. We arrived in Singapore thoroughly exhausted but ready for the next step in our journey.

We’ve been members of the online HomeExchange community for a couple of years but hadn’t tried it until Singapore.  James connected with a family who was traveling for the holidays and it was a perfect match. We stayed at their home in a beautiful neighborhood just outside of center city.  The homeowners have similar aged children, so they had bikes, books, and toys, which made it feel just like home. Sarrel, a lady from the Philippines who worked for the family, greeted us and kindly showed us around.  We immediately fell into our beds only to wake up around 4am due to jet lag!!!

Our first day, we made the usual grocery run and then headed out to kick the jet lag with a four-mile hike along the Southern Ridges Trail.  The juxtaposition between the lush rainforests and the dense city life was amazing to see as we walked along the trail.  The city is busy and alive, but also full of greenery. 

Manji is our nature lover and loved looking for leaves on the Southern Ridges trail

Manji’s find along the Southern Ridges Trail

After reaching Mount Faber, we made our way to our first hawker center experience at Seah Im Food Centre.  To clean up the streets, the government condensed all the food vendors to hawker centers over the years.  It feels like a food court on steroids, and with way better food.  Our Grab drivers consistently recommend the food centers as the the best food in Singapore.  We all shared dumpling and noodle dishes and were delighted to be back in a country with cheap and delicious food!

Our first food center in Singapore, Seah Im Food Centre

Our first hawker center experience at Seah Im Food Centre!

We spent the day moving, afraid we’d collapse from fatigue, so left the hawker center and spent the afternoon at the National Museum of Singapore.  The museum tells the story of how the country went from rural and desolate to a booming economic hub in such a short time.  The craziest moment for me was seeing pictures of what it looked like in Singapore in the 1800s, rural with thatch roofed houses, and telling James it looks like that in Lombok, Indonesia currently. 

One of our taxi drivers explained it best when he said that when Lee Kwan Yew came into power he taught tolerance among everyone. Singapore has a complicated history from the ’60s, when they joined and were then kicked out of the Malay Federation. Seeing the shiny buildings and incredible wealth of Signapore is truly impressive, considering where they started a short 60+ years ago.  It’s a society that has all different religions and everyone works together for the greater good.  It seems too good to be true!

The following day we explored the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO world heritage site.  It was rainy, but it made everything appear even lusher than it already was. The kids enjoyed walking through the rainforest path and James and I loved the orchid house.  We only made it a fraction of the way around the garden before the whining started so we aborted the rest of the garden for another hawker center.  Jet lag is hard and poor Ben has to deal with a bulky cast in extreme heat so we can’t blame them for needing a break! As is typical of Southeast Asia, we found ourselves in a mall for a while and then went home to chill for the rest of the afternoon. 

All five of us at the Orchid section of the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Viewing the orchids at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Another activity we did was the Singapore Flyer.  A 30-minute observation wheel with incredible views of the city.  From 165 meters in the sky you can see the infrastructure that’s in place to make this incredible city run like clockwork. 

We then walked around center city and ate lunch at what would become our favorite hawker center, Lau Pa Sat (we frequented it A LOT during our week).  Lau Pa Sat had something for all of us.  Manji was hooked on dim sum, Goose loved the Xiao Long Bao, Bingo found Greek food, and James and I indulged one night on Singaporean chili crab (which goes really well with Tiger beer by the way). 

Our first of many stops at the Lau Pa Sat food centre

The first of many meals at Lau Pa Sat

We capped off that day with my first (James’ second) Singapore Sling and a view of Spectra Night Show.  The kids struggled to stay awake but they were rewarded with views of city lights and dancing fountains!

The kids in awe of the Marina Bay Sands at night and the Spectra light show

The kids enjoying the Spectra Night Show at the Marina Bay Sands

Singapore has both a Little India and Chinatown and we were lucky enough to have time to visit both! Our visit to the Indian Heritage Centre enlightened us on the experiences of Indians in Singapore and the impact they’ve had on the country. 

Goose, Manji, and Bingo taking in Little India in Singapore

In front of the Indian Heritage Center

After, we enjoyed an Indian hawker center where we saw one cook churning out naan bread like nobody’s business.  It was delicious and following our feast we took a walk around the entire Indian center, which had its own wet market and clothing market.  Bingo was in love with all the beaded sarees that were hanging.  It was a sea of colors and beads and she flitted from stall to stall enjoying each gown. 

While out, we stopped by the hospital for a follow up on Manji’s arm.  We were very excited to learn his bones were looking great, and he was on his way to healing.

James and I were lucky enough to have a date night since Sarrel was available that evening.  The kids were excited to have time to chat with her while we were gone, and we were thrilled to have a couple of hours away.  We were exhausted from site seeing so we just headed to our favorite hawker, Lau Pa Sat, and shared a couple of pitchers of beer and taste test our way through the place.  We then took a walk along the waterfront with our very own two scoop ice cream cones that we didn’t have to share—a treat!

The next day, feeling the need to burn off some of our beers, James and I each went for a run along the 24km Rail Corridor located just behind our house.  It was beautiful and there were so many people out walking, riding bikes, and enjoying nature.  We then headed to Chinatown for lunch at one of the more famous hawker centers, the Chinatown Food Centre. It even has a food stall that once received a Michelin star.  The food there was incredible! Not surprisingly, we feasted on several Chinese dishes and topped it off with some ice cream. 

Manji and Bingo enjoying Char Siu at the Chinatown Food Centre

Chinatown eats

We did some shopping at the local Chinatown market after and visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.  Bingo and I donned loaned sarongs to enter and then we all entered. We were greeted by the most beautiful part of the temple, with 100 Buddhas placed around the entire room. 

Manji and Bingo taking in the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore

At the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

it has been interesting to see the kids understand the world around them on this trip. That is especially true after learning more about religions around the world. They know to be respectful when entering another place of worship, even though it is so different from their own.  They understand that certain ways of dressing are unacceptable at times and that we are guests with these sacred places. These are all the things we were hoping they would get out of this trip around the world. 

Lastly, we visited the Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay and the S.E.A. aquarium.  The Cloud Forest was an incredible greenhouse that contained featured species of plants from almost every continent.  Just like everything else we experienced in Singapore, it was over the top and perfectly manicured.  Our stop at the aquarium was much the same. 

The aquarium is on Sentosa Island, a separate island that contains all sorts of amusement activities for the family. 

The kids posing for a pic outside of the Lego store on Sentosa Island

On our way to the aquarium

In the aquarium, you can walk through a large tube with all types of fish and sharks surrounding you.  The sharks were a favorite with a chance to see reef sharks, hammerheads, and a Tiger shark.

A hammerhead cruising above our heads at the S.E.A. Aquarium

A hammerhead cruising above our heads at the S.E.A. Aquarium

Further on in the aquarium, we saw the enormous 4.8 million gallon tank on display. There we enjoyed seeing huge grouper, manta ray, and sting ray swim around.  The most impressive aquarium we have ever seen by far!

Bingo taking in one of the many sites at the S.E.A. Aquarium

Bingo at the aquarium

On New Year’s Eve, we celebrated with bubbles and a dinner crowd pleaser, tacos.  We all shared the highlights of 2023.  It’s definitely one we will never forget!  

Cheers to 2024 being even better!

Check out our Blog for the latest on our adventures