If you had suggested a vacation to Singapore during my pre-Mommy days, I would have laughed at you. After half a dozen trips there over a decade, Singapore has always seemed like a great place for business. But leisure – well, it’s a bit like taking a vacation to Cleveland. It’s just not first on the list with Angkor Wat and Katmandu beckoning nearby.
And then there were four … I mean seven.
Our recent holiday involved three generations including two children aged 2 and 3. With Singapore aggressively courting visitors through its $1-a-night hotel stopover specials and value flights, plus frequent recommendations from friends with children, it catapulted to the top of our list.In fact, after four days there, we wished we had spent two weeks!
Our home base was the Grand Hyatt, centrally located on Orchard Road. They havefamily suites with two rooms and shared living room (but check, it may be cheaper just to get adjoining rooms) and the pool there has lovely tented beds. They even have special mini-van taxis to accommodate big groups.
After a dip in the pool to cool off and a nap for the grandparents, we went off in search of Begawan Solo bakery in the basement of the Wisteria Atrium mall for pandan cake and other treats. There is a giant food court with all kinds of specialties, including the famous Bee Cheng beef and pork jerky. These are great treats for kids and we had them on hand for snacks and breakfasts in the room.
That night we celebrated Grandma’s birthday at the Hyatt’s Straits Kitchen, a famous buffet of all the various Singapore specialties from laksa and char kwai tiao noodles to fruits like duku and jackfruit. For finicky eaters, there’s always something approximating food from home (like burgers) and for adventurous eaters, its fun to introduce new and exciting foods. Makan Sutra, a local guide to street food, offers information on hawker stalls and food tours and has recently re-opened Gluttons Bay, an alfresco dining experience with the best hawker food from around Singapore. And no trip is complete without famous Singaporean crab at No Signboard Seafood restaurant.
With kids, the highlight of Singapore is always the Singapore Zoo. It’s not just any zoo – more like its own country and we went to various parts of it for two days running! Thanks to advice from friends, we came prepared with swimsuits and towels for the kids rainforest water play area. After a breakfast with the monkeys, hand-feeding the elephants, tromping to see the white tiger and hopping the tram to view the kangaroos at the water park, the fountains and water slides were a huge and dousing relief for the kids.
Lest you find yourself bored with the acres of animals on offer at the zoo, there are many other places to watch flora and fauna, day and night. The night safari is a world famous experience and there are bird, frog and crocodile farms all within a taxi-ride of your hotel. Sentosa boasts a wonderful Aquarium as well as beaches, sky-gondolas and a luge. And if the weather is not too hot, the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden in the Botanical Garden is a wonderful place to play and to learn about the local flora.
On the local cultural scene, kids really rave about the museums, though with only four days we did not have time to even visit. Our small children did enjoy the Imperial Cheng Ho Harbour cruise to the Merlion as well as a romp through the Raffles Hotel colonial courtyard while the grown-ups had Singapore Slings.
All in all, a love-affair with Singapore blossomed for us during this trip with kids and we’ll look forward to going back many times.As a great stopping-off point for Malaysia, Thailand and even Australia, it rates high as the gateway to Asia or a holiday destination in its own right.
Singapore Zoo www.zoo.com.sg
Night Safari, 7.30pm-midnight daily, www.nightsafari.com.sg
Jurong Bird Park www.birdpark.com.sg
Jurong Frog Farm www.jurongfrogfarm.com.sg
Singapore Crocodile Farm www.singaporecrocfarm.com
Science Museum www.science.edu.sg loads of fun things for small kids
Asian Civilisations Museum www.acm.org.sg – Empress Place opposite the Fullerton Hotel – top floor there is a kid’s interactive area.
National Singapore Heritage Museum www.nationalmuseum.sg has been refurbished
Botanical Gardens www.sbg.org.sg
Sentosa attractions www.sentosa.com.sg – aquarium is wonderful for children
Mandai Orchid Gardens www.mandai.com.sg
Imperial Cheng Ho Harbour Cruise www.watertours.com.sg