” I am not sleepy!!” Our holiday begins with Aren protesting at 2 a.m. and refusing to sleep. Our flight was at 12:40 in the morning of the 17th of May. After we check in, we are informed that our flight has been delayed and will take off only at 5:15 a.m. I was pissed. This was really bad customer service!!! We hadn’t received any intimation from them!! Our domestic airlines do a much better job.
After a 200Rs Masala Dosa and 3 hours of running around like a maniac in the airport, and some dark conversation on life and death (he lost two of his great grandmoms recently and is scared I am going to leave him too) , Aren fell asleep in my lap at 3 in the morning. Poor child had to be woken up in an hour to walk to the boarding gate, which again, didn’t open on time. Aren was looking for an adventure, and that’s what we got, but not in a good way.
My cousin Priya came to the airport along with her 3 year old daughter Advika to pick us up. Thanks to the delay with our flight, our plan was a little thrown off and we decided to take a good nap and think of the itinerary once we woke up.
We woke up around 5 and Priya took us to the Singapore Flyer. Aren and I bought a ticket for the flyer for SGD54. Priya decided to wait out while we went on the ride. The flyer is a giant Ferris wheel with specially designed capsules taking you 162 metres high with a stunning view of the city. Our capsule was full of young girls going crazy with selfies. While I (the young in my head girl) struggled with the night shots on my DSLR as always and decided to stick with my phone camera. While I was busy taking pictures, Aren the ladies’ man that he is, was busy chit chatting with the girls in our capsule. He even asked one of them to take our picture. Good job my boy!!
Once back on the ground, we went to the Singapore food trail, the food court at the Flyer. I was thrilled to see a lot of items from my “What to eat in Singapore” list. Thinking Aren would eat meat and rice, I ordered a roast duck with rice SGD6 and a Char siew rice SGD5 which is Crispy pork belly with rice. Forget disliking it, Aren refused to even taste it. The exhaustion of the flight and a sleepless night came crashing down on him, which meant a meltdown and a river of tears. I requested one of the stall guys who was shutting down, if he had some noodles, he had refused earlier but, now seeing my plight, he along with the neighbouring stall guy quickly whipped up a noodle soup with fishballs. God bless those guys!! Aren loved the soup and the noodles.
The journey back home was long and Aren was exhausted. So was I. Tomorrow we are to visit Universal Studios. A good night’s rest was mandatory.
After a quick breakfast, we first went to Chinatown as Priya knew places where we could buy the tickets for various attractions like Universal, zoo, aquarium etc. at cheaper prices than we would get directly. You have multiple such outlets in the People’s park plaza. I was salivating looking at all the food stalls in Chinatown with some amazing looking dishes. Unfortunately, I was full and we were already late. A train to Harbourcity and the Sentosa monorail later we were at the waterfront station of Sentosa, home to the Universal Studios.
It was raining on and off and Priya was worried that most rides would be shut down. We walked towards Transformers which had a 80 minutes wait time!!! Crazy but I really liked how you could look at the flashing wait time outside each ride and decide if you want to go in or not. The Battlestar gallactica, one of the most insane rides was obviously top on my list. Aren was understandably not allowed on it, so Priya was supposed to stay with him, while I went in. There was a wait of 30 minutes, and after waiting for 30 minutes in the queue and watching people with express tickets (an additional SGD60) walking in ahead, they announced that it would be another 45 minutes of wait( I was mistaken. The new wait time was for the people just coming in). I knew that Aren would have gotten really upset by now and I had to get out. I was torn between being the adventurous traveler and a mom. Round one went to mom.
I came out to see a distraught Aren, running to me and hugging so tight like we hadn’t seen each other in a few years. I decided to stick doing things he would enjoy, after all this trip was for him. Next stop was at “The Transformers”. We had a 30 minute wait and Aren kept us entertained with his observations on the fashion sense of the women there. We all know it’s quite different to what we have. Grown ups with a minnie mouse hairband is not a norm here. 😛 Long queue but worth the wait. Just incredible!! The 3-D and 4-D effects were the best I have ever come across. So damn thrilling, wouldn’t have minded going for another round. Aren got super scared and hated it.
Now it was time for lunch and I could not take another of his food fits and so decided to go to the Indian spice court. SGD15 for a bowl of rice and chicken!!! FML! Well, atleast he ate well. Next stop was “The Lost World” The queue for the “Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure” was excruciatingly long. And just as our turn was coming up, my darling son announced that he needed to pee RIGHT NOW!! So, out we two go, running for a bathroom. Luckily Priya was still in the queue and we made it back just as it was our turn. Fun water ride, with your boat/ride going through some rapids on a trail with Dinos peeping out. The highlight is you getting stuck inside a building and a T-Rex attacking you. The boat rises up in the air with the T-Rex staring down at you and as soon as you get close to it, the boat drops down and out you go into the sunshine again. Aren got really scared and we all were drenched.
Next we went on the Canopy flyer and I was pleasantly surprised and proud to see Aren being so thrilled about a fast ride. A ride which would scare most kids his age. We went through “Far far away” and then to “Madagascar”. Met Pinocchio and danced at “Hollywood” It was close to closing time and we went back to Battlestar galactica. The waiting time was only 10 mins and I did both the rides. “Human” and “Cylone” OMFG!!! What an exciting experience!! Satisfied with finally being able to finish all the important rides, we took the monorail and rushed to the beach station of Sentosa to catch the 7:40 show of “Wings of time” By the time we got the tickets, it was 7:50, which meant half of the 20 minutes show was over. Decent laser show and fireworks but, for SGD15 each it wasn’t worth it at all. After a dinner of a McDonald burger for Aren and Priya and a bowl of Laksa with Lychee cooler for me, we went on our way home.
It was Zoo time today. At the bus stop, Aren noticed what I had noticed on my first solo trip. “It was all so quiet.” No horns blaring, no people yelling. Aren wondered why it can’t be so peaceful back at home. So, I explained about population, civic sense etc etc. Some heavy conversation for a 6 year old. But old enough to learn the right ways.
The bus to the zoo was full of Indian families holidaying in Singapore. So, we had a reminder of how we generally are. The bus was crowded and a lot of people had to stand. One lady put her handbag on a seat and didn’t let anyone else sit as she wanted her husband to come there. Are you serious?!! You are going to do this in another country too?!! The night before, on our way back from Sentosa, we had come across loud, rude Indians not letting others sit, kids acting like hooligans and parents not checking them, behaving like the train was their personal property. Where does this sense of entitlement come from?!!
Anyway once at the Zoo I rented the buggy for SGD15 as recommended by my cousin. The buggy is for kids who can’t fit in the stroller anymore. Aren was exhausted yesterday and I couldn’t put him through so much walking again. But once we got the buggy, Aren was more interested in pulling it than sitting in it. The Zoo is small but very well managed. We walked through the Zoorassic park where almost life size moving replicas of dinosaurs are kept. This is mainly to teach the meaning of extinction and educate children to take care of their environment and be a responsible global citizen.
We saw an aged polar bear almost losing all his teeth, some gorgeous giraffes, zebras, rhinos and a stunning cheetah. There are multiple shows running through the day. We attended the rainforest show talking about conservation, the elephant’s show which had cliched Indian music playing and the Splash show, the best part of our zoo visit with Pedro the sea lion stealing our hearts.
On the way to the Elephants show we met Zayna, a Pakistani girl who tagged along with us for the rest of the evening. As always, Aren immediately took to her and refused to let go citing the reason “She is our neighbour” , something she had said while explaining to him where she was from.
After the Splash show we rushed back home and I quickly fed Aren dinner as Priya, I and another cousin Rajini had planned to have a girls night out. Aren and Advika were left in the expert hands of Priya’s husband Ajay, and we girls dolled out to start the party! I hadn’t met Rajini in 13 odd years, so it was nice to catch up. We headed out to Clarke Quay, the party hub of Singapore. First stop “Le Noir” The place was full and we couldn’t see a single free table outside. I decided to go ask one of the staff and, Yay! We got a table. We ordered tiger beer to start with, had to taste that while I am in Singapore and we caught up with all that’s going on in each other’s life. The music was from our era, and they even played Punjabi MC’s Mundia tu bachke and we could see some Indians dancing inside. It took all my effort to not get up and join them. After a while a pretty decent band came onto play. Played some of my favorite numbers too.
Priya wanted to eat proper dinner and not some munchies, so we decided to move to some other place. While we were walking around we were trying to take some pictures of ourselves. Watching us struggle, two Indian guys came forward and offered to take our pictures. We sniggered that only Indian men would run to them everytime they see women. Those guys tried to make conversation with us, I politely kept trying to walk away. One of them even suggested we hang out together, I got progressively rude and sarcastic, but there was no letting go. So, we just walked away and landed at Cuba libre. And boy oh boy, there was some party on. Live singers, people dancing, a twerk contest! The recipe for an awesome time. After a while, we moved out again in search of food and ended back at Le Noir. And guess who is on the table next to me?! Yes, that annoying Indian boy, who by the way was a Hyderabadi and kept irritating me to talk in Telugu. He even dedicated a song for me. He insisted on buying us drinks, but we had one drink each, an incredibly delicious pizza and walked out.
I even saw cops trying to calm down a drunk girl near the taxi pick up point and a few drunk, puking youngsters. Same scenes all over the world.
Sleep deprived and tired. But, today I was supposed to meet Shah. I had met Shah last year in Prague. Two solo travelers on the streets of Prague, we had struck a conversation and then gone to the John Lennon wall and the Franz Kafka museum and shared our travel stories over an incredible cup of hot chocolate.
Aren was throwing a major fit and didn’t want to get out. It took a while to convince him and we met Shah at Chinatown. He showed us around a bit and took us to a food court kinda place for lunch. I had a Fried Kway Teow which was like eating street Chinese food in India and got Chicken Satays for Aren. As was the norm of this trip, he refused to eat it. It was a hot hot day and I was sleepy and tired and had no patience for his tantrums and so let it be. Shah ate a Roti John, Singapore’s own Indian creation. Bread with some stuffing served with a tangy sauce. He got us an Ice Kacang, a Singaporean dessert made of ice shavings with different syrups and jelly. I normally am not a big fan of sweets and this didn’t impress me much either.
We walked around Chinatown a bit, shopping. I wanted to buy it all, but this time it was one of the rare occasions when I didn’t lose my mind shopping. I was proud of my self-control. Shah is currently working for Duck tours, one of the best Singapore tour operators. He offered to book a duck water tour for us. Around 2, Shah left to go to a German meet while Aren and I took a train to go to Gardens by the bay. I was quite tempted to go home to take a nap but realized I would just end up wasting the whole day.
Priya had given us two EZ-link cards. These can be used to board all the trains and buses in the city. If you are travelling through Singapore, this is the best way to use the public transport. You won’t be wasting time looking for change every time you board a bus or a train. There was an issue with our card and we got stuck at Chinatown station. We couldn’t swipe our card to move forward or go back. Aren swiped his card and went on the other side while I couldn’t move to his side. He couldn’t come back to mine. He was panicking majorly but luckily, we were right next to the information counter and got the problem resolved.
The exit to the Garden by the bays is beautiful. The whole pathway is lined with mirrors and wallpapers of flowers. If you go early in the day and don’t have a tired kid with you, you can spend your time walking through the two conservatories and 10 other attractions. But, as that was not the case with me, I had to pick the one which would, MAYBE appeal to a 6 year old. We bought a ticket for the Cloud forest conservatory and for the shuttle service. A walk would have been great, but it was hot and I didn’t want to tire Aren out at the beginning.
As we drove towards the main building housing the conservatories, we could see beautifully landscaped gardens and lake. There was a wonderful view of the Marina Bay Sands building and of the Singapore flyer. I made a mental note to come back later and take pictures.
You are welcomed inside the cloud forest dome at the level of the waterfall view. It’s beautiful and Aren spotted a rainbow too!! We walked around the various levels of the dome.
At the highest point, “The lost world” we saw carnivorous plants like pitcher plants and Venus fly catcher. We sat next to the beautiful pond, where much to the amusement of everyone, Aren made me pose while he took pictures. While walking down you get a gorgeous view of the Marina bay front.
Walk through the mist in the “Cloud walk” or through the forest canopy in the “Tree top Walk”
Learn about Geology, stalactites and stalagmites in the “Crystal Mountain”
The Earth check was shut for maintenance, we moved on to +5 degrees, where a video on the effect of global warming and an increase of 5 degrees in global temperature was shown. Our heart broke watching the damage that we have already done to our planet. A few weeks ago, I had shown a small clip from “Before the Flood” to Aren and had explained what was going on in Indonesia. The reason behind the destruction of its rainforest and a near annihilation of its animal population. Since that day, he had quit eating chips. His own way of protesting against the palm oil industry. His resolve got stronger after watching this video and I hoped it had the same effect on all the people sitting there. Hoping, may be we could all bring about the change and not head down the road of destruction.
I was exhausted. Couldn’t imagine how much Aren’s little feet might be hurting. We took a long break sitting in the secret garden. I knew there was no way I could walk through the skyway with Aren. We came out and I took a few pictures of the Supertree groves. We were going to miss the 7:30 p.m. light show, but I couldn’t care less. We had a fun day and I was not going to stress about the things I was missing. Aren had a burger and then we walked around a bit, taking some great pictures of the Singapore flyer and Marina bay waterfont. I had a good laugh watching Aren behave like a grandfather, showing his displeasure over some young kids breaking the rules and skating around.
On the way home, I had to carry him quite a few times. He was close to tears when we had to change buses and I stopped to buy food. Poor child was exhausted. We reached home with a dinner of scallop and prawn dimsums and carrot cake. It neither had carrot in it, or was a cake, it’s a famous Singapore dish made of radishes. He ate a quick dinner and crashed, while I sat for a while eating mine. Sleep came before this insomniac could even close her eyes.
Priya had a brunch to attend and so her husband Ajay took us out for breakfast. We had the kaya toast with soft boiled eggs and Kopi( Coffee made of condensed milk). Absolutely delicious!!! The best dish in Singapore. Kaya toast is a sandwich with kaya jam which is made of coconut and eggs. I loved every bite of it and decided to take a few bottles home.
Post this lovely breakfast Aren and I headed back to Sentosa island. On Priya’s recommendation we did the Skyline Luge and Skyride. Took the three ride combo and had a blast!! Zipping by in the luge through the jungle and dragon (recommended) trails and then coming back up the Skyride with a bird’s eye view of the whole island. Later, I spent more money on buying the pictures for it than for the actual ride.
After a lunch of Mee Rebus, a noodle soup, which surprisingly Aren loved and even recommended to two burly Australian men on the next table (Hilarious) we ran to SEA Aquarium. We went through the aquarium in a hurry as we had to get back into town for the Duck tours Shah had booked for us. The place was too crowded but we still got to see some beautiful marine animals. Aren was thrilled looking at the sharks and sting rays. The Open ocean area is gorgeous and worth sitting and watching the sting rays glide by. We had a little role reversal moment when Aren started yelling at me to stop recording and taking pictures and hurry so that we don’t miss the train.
We did miss reaching back on time for the duck tours, despite running like maniacs and not enjoying the aquarium as we should have. Nevertheless, I apologized to Shah and headed back home. We were going to Rajini’s place for dinner. I was meeting her family for the first time and we stopped by a toy’s store to buy some gifts for her boys. My little boy had his first moment of defiance where he tried to threaten me with giving all his love to his dad if I didn’t unbox the toys I had bought for him. I asked him to get out of the store and go to his dad back in India. That settled it.
Well, he is a sweet child and realized his folly in a while and came and apologized to me for his nasty behavior. Pat on the back for the (most times trial and error) parenting. We had a lovely dinner and a great time at Rajini’s place. She has a beautiful family. Her little one kept us in splits throughout and made it an entertaining night.
Our last day in Singapore. We were tired to our bones. Aren didn’t want to go out. He cried and begged me to leave him home. Unfortunately, that was not an option. I would have loved to cancel it all and stay home but, we had already booked the hop and off bus and a few important sights were still left to see. I let him relax for a little while longer and I went to the closest supermarket and let myself go crazy. After buying enough Kaya to feed me at least for a few months and some special sauces for my experimentations, we headed to catch our bus.
We didn’t board the bus at the starting point and so our first sight of importance for us was “The botanical gardens” It’s impossible to walk through the whole gardens. The helpful lady at the information desk suggested a few important spots which we could cover in the next 30 minutes. We met meemee, another tourist from Manila on the bus with us and we hung out together. We saw some beautiful orchids and Aren decided to be our photographer for the day.
The next destination was Orchard road where I had to buy Aren an overpriced SGD17 pizza meal. He ate the pizza and I drank the lemonade and ate the icecream. Not much to do in the day time, we waited at the bus stop for our next bus. Aren started howling and crying wanting to see his dad at that moment. He wanted us to fly back home immediately. I knew he was exhausted and this tatrum was a manifestation of it. I decided at that moment to let go of going to the Buddhist temple. Something I really wanted. This trip was for Aren and I was going to keep it that way.
Next stop, The National museum of Singapore. I was worried that Aren would hate this place. But we had the best time in “The glass rotund” This section has an audio and video exhibit by some art students from Japan and is absolutely gorgeous. The last room has a bed and you can lie down on your back and watch these virtual petals fall on you. One of the guards had told us to come out in the main hall after an hour as at the turn of the clock, a row of chandeliers, swing in different patterns.
Rest of the museum talks about Singapore’s history during the various eras.
We moved on to our last stop of the day. The Merlion. We took quite a few pictures just as a thousand other tourists were doing. On the way back, our quick stop over at Food republic in Serangoon bus station, where I picked up delicious White bee hoon. Again, carried Aren back home.
He had been wanting to get into the pool at Priya’s apartments and unfortunately, we didn’t get the time to do it all these days. Our flight was in a few hours and I took Aren for a 5 minute dip in the pool. At the same moment, Advika fell while playing in the park and cut her lip. Priya had to rush her to the hospital. By the time we were ready to leave, Advi had calmed down. Felt sad leaving home at a moment like this, but had no other option. It was time to head back home.
As Aren fell asleep in my lap even before we took off, I thought about how different this trip was from all the other ones I had been on in the past few years. This time it wasn’t about the places I wanted to see or the things I wanted to do. It was about my first holiday with my boy. A lot of tantrums and a lot of crying, but also a lot of laughs and some great memories. This time I was a mom and not just a traveler.
I woke him up 5 hours later, when we landed in Hyderabad. My little cub said, “So fast Amma? We reached so fast!!”