The first thing that you notice about Singapore – is that it doesn’t feel like the rest of SE Asia – more bluntly it doesn’t look like it or smell like it. Pristine, modern and glimmering. Towers and manicured gardens replace squat concrete and old country European wrought iron dripping with overgrown greens and flowers. There are no piles of garbage and on our first little walk around a couple of blocks in little India we do not see even a single crawly or skittery thing. Our home for the next three nights is a shoebox with one bubblegum pink wall and two bunk beds. There is a small leatherette pouf as the single piece of furniture. A transparent green drape flickers in the air conditioned breeze. Our beds are clean and fairly comfortable save for the weird blankets that look and feel like giant tea towels.
For our first full day in Singapore we have decided to go all tourist. So we head to Sentosa Island – a playground of waterparks, luge rides, 4 D cinemas, Universal Studios and casinos. Sounds horrible! But we have decided to pile on the modern fun while we are here – buttering the kids up for our planned overnight up the volcano camping excursion and three day village stay we have booked in Indonesia. Plus Singapore is a modern miracle especially after spending months in SE Asia riding in the open backs of trucks and on dusty tuk tuks. Our “hotel”, and I use the term loosely – it’s really a hostel, offers a “free breakfast buffet all you can eat” insert classic Indian accent with a gentle head bob. While our hosts are over the top friendly and smiling the all you can eat buffet is six packages of wonder bread, a tub of margarine, a tub of peanut butter and a tub of chocolate spread, instant coffee and instant tea (cuz somehow tea isn’t instant enough) as well as bananas. It’s funny that now mini bananas are the norm and I’m sure we will all freak out when we see “Canadian” bananas.
So after our breakfast delight we head out to find the bus stop – Singapore has incredible public transportation and we love seeing the city this way. Again I am struck by the cleanliness and the the ordered traffic. It’s how we drive – in lanes, obeying lights and signs – to be fair there have been very few lights or signs in the other places we have traveled. We find our stop – hop in the super air conditioned bus for a harrowing – I am not joking – harrowing drive to the bay. The bus was going easily 60 with fast stops and dodgy turns. I was pretty much sitting on Sabine to keep her from flying off the seat. We did get some great views of buildings – so beautiful and modern and we flew past a mosque that I had wanted to see so that was a bonus. We arrived at the gondola 🚠 to take us to the island. This turned out to be FUN!! So much fun. It was a beautiful ride and we saw ritzy yachts and huge ships – the island of Singapore makes nothing so everything is shipped in and the harbour shows that. We flew over the water park – spotting dolphins and rides and the luge. The day was spent consuming – popsicles to keep cold, fast rides, candies from the most giant candy store in the world, dumplings, more rides and then a few 4D shows. Exhausted we made the last gondola back to the mainland and crawled into bed.
For day two we planned to go a little more educational with a visit to the art and science museum. But first we dodged the all you can eat wonder buffet and hit a cafe Chris had found online. It was amazing – crazy breakfasts with ice cream and sauces but also super healthy and delicious options. It was fast and friendly and for sure the most money we have spent on breakfast this trip – like double what dinner cost in Cambodia at the fanciest place. But that is Singapore. We headed to the museum – we had to walk through a mall to get to it. It was one of those super chi chi fancy malls with Cartier and Louis Vuitton. We did get distracted by the incredible French speaker store as well as the giant Marvel Cafe. Then we spent sometime dancing on the digital interactive floor. Finally we made it to the Art and Science Museum where we stayed for the entire day! So much for going to the Cloud Forest. We rushed through the Floating Utopia exhibit – it was incredible and I could have just sat under the giant moon conceived by UK artist Luke Jerram, entitled Museum of the Moon, for the entire day. It is a huge internally lit moon – 7 meters in diameter- featuring detailed NASA imagery of the surface. Jerram designed The Museum of the Moon to travel the world exploring the diverse cultural, scientific and religious relationships that different societies have with the moon. Yet somehow with all the differences the distant glowing orb connects us. It was very mesmerizing – just like the real thing – I have spent so many nights in some of my favourite places staring up at the moon and the night sky – as we all do. So when I look up in the sky in SE Asia it surprises me with its unfamiliar moon! The moon is not crescent shaped here – it grows upwards from a smile as it waxes. It’s always surprising. And it always makes me think of home. There were so many interesting interpretations of floating utopias – from giant air filled animals that arrive unexpectedly to lounge between apartment buildings in giant cities – to giant air balloons made from plastic bags, complete with a work station to build an other one. There were a few exhibits about pneumatic protest. The Yes men who are an activist group who use humour and trickery to highlight what they believe to be the corporate takeover of society. They provoke with elaborate hoaxes that they film. Hilarious and frustrating. I love going to museums – it was so nice to be challenged and surrounded by art.
Mad Hatters tea party
The kids loved the Future World exhibit that was fully interactive with a slide, glowing balls and walls that you could design. By the time we got to the Alice in Wonderland exhibit we were all a bit worn out – but I am so glad we pushed through because the tea party was beautiful. We finally emerged around 5:30 and Anderson was done with exploring and desperate to cash in on his birthday promise to see The Avengers movie – so we headed to the theatre. Speeding across Singapore during rush hour was nuts but it gave me more time to marvel at the real roads and manicured greens that spread out around and before us. Unfortunately the movie was sold out so we were left enjoying The Secret Life of Pets 2. By the end of the movie a small cut on Chris’s leg had blown up and turned angry so we spent the next few hours finding a clinic and getting some help. Luckily a super lovely couple walked us the few blocks through a twisty maze of apartment complexes to a clinic unluckily it was closed but we found an other a short cab away. We ended up back in our little dorm room by 11pm. The next day our flight to Bali was in the afternoon and I was keen to explore Little India – right outside our door. Of course with the exhaustion from the day before and the late night Anderson was not interested in anything other than his screen. Chris offered to stay behind and Sabine and I headed off. We had picked up a stroller for the long walks we knew were taking in Singapore so I was strollering her along through the smells and colours and heat. Such incredible heat. We lasted about an hour and then I melted back to the hostel drenched in sweat. Definitely feel like we could have used an other full day of exploring – but I am ready to see Bali.