travel

Singapore through the eyes of a mum, and a kid.

Singapore Tourism Board
Thanks to our brand partner, Singapore Tourism Board

The eggs were great at Singapore Zoo. So was the toast. The juice and coffee? Spot-on. And nothing makes a tired parent’s day like an excellent breakfast.

In fact, if you are designing the perfect holiday, start with the words Buffet Breakfast and the rest will fall into place.

But the trouble with breakfast at Singapore Zoo is the company. It’s very, very distracting to be trying to focus on your breakfast when there’s a family of orangutans sitting in the trees right next to you – munching banana palms and making eyes at your kids.

So starts the day at one of the big-ticket attractions on a Singapore stop-over. The Jungle Breakfast with Wildlife, as it’s called, was one of the things we did in the place they call the Little Red Dot that my kids and I were in complete agreement about: It was excellent.

Singapore Zoo’s orangutans are so famous that Michael Jackson once tempted one of them – the very famous, now-departed Ah Meng – to leave the zoo to come to have tea with him at Singapore’s fabled Raffles hotel. And now I’ve eaten with them, I can see exactly why.

Brent, Matilda and I with our breakfast companions at Singapore Zoo. Image: supplied.

This three-day stop-over in Singapore was full of experiences that are now part of our family folklore.

Because travelling with kids is about making memories, and our banks are stocked from those few, sanity-saving days on the way to the other side of the world when we broke out of Singapore airport to see what lies beyond the seductive shopping malls of Changi.

But if you compare the lists of the favourite experiences of six-year-old Matilda, three-year-old Billy and Ssssssh-don't mention how old the old man and I are, we have some quite different things to say about our Singapore stopover.

Best experience with WOW Factor.

Matilda & Billy: Kidzania.

You have never been to a theme park like Kidzania before. Out at Sentosa Island, where more familiar attractions include the aquarium and Universal Studios, there's a truly unusual place.

Remember how much you liked playing 'shop' when you were a kid? Well, the people who invented Kidzania liked it too, so much so that they built a whole kids' town in miniature, gave it a currency and an infrastructure, a theme song and an airline, and let kids run the place. Hence, on the day I took my family to Kidzania, they flew a plane, created soap in a laboratory, made lollies in a sweet shop and pulled out some fillings as dentists in a surgery.

Everywhere they went they earned Kidzos - the currency of the park - for their troubles, and then got to 'spend' it in the special shop that only trades in those. If we'd have stayed longer, they could have had a turn putting out fires, making real-life edible Pizza Hut pizzas and delivering the mail. They could even solve a crime after joining the local CSI team. Yup, told you it was unusual.

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Don't worry, people. This is not a real plane. Billy, of course, doesn't know that. Image: supplied.

Me: Gardens by the Bay Cloud Forest.

Only in Singapore will you find a tropical rainforest-covered mountain, complete with a cascading waterfall, inside. If that sounds like a strange idea, you're hardly even beginning to imagine the scope of this project, which includes two biomes (that's kind of like a temperature-controlled dome) filled with exotic plants and trees from all over the world. In the Cloud Forest, you zoom up inside the mountain in a lift and walk down a futuristic, suspended runway that winds around the mountain. It's like nothing you've ever seen before, especially when you find yourself inside the waterfall, but bone-dry.

Best FUN experience.

Matilda & Billy: Gardens By The Bay Children's Garden: If we lived in Singapore, Matilda would have me here every single day after school, and judging by the number of mums sitting sipping coffee while their kids ran around in the GBTB's Children’s Garden, that's exactly what happens.

Never-ending fountain jets arch into the air, sculptures dangle buckets that self-fill and tip over hot heads over and over and over and vigilant lifeguards keep an eye on proceedings with a whistle to their lips. Kids' friendly music pumps over the speakers, everyone is soaking and cool. My kids were in heaven and were only happy to leave it with the promise of the light-show that sparks up in Supertree Grove every evening, and dinner, of course.

Me: Sentosa Beach.

Hello palm trees, hello crab salad, hello ice-cold glass of wine. I'm home. Sentosa is a beautiful little island, with clear, warm water for swimming, a sandy shore for lying on and a strip of beach-floored cafes and bars that take you right to the tropics, and feel about a million miles away from the soaring, gleaming skyscrapers of the city. Heaven. Getting me off that sun-lounger was no mean feat for my children.

Billy was unimpressed by our enthusiasm for Sentosa's laid-back beach bars. My smile tells a different story. Image: supplied.

Best Cultural Experience.

Matilda and Billy: Imaginarium at Singapore Art Museum. 

Singapore city boasts many, many gleaming new skyscrapers - each more incredible than the last, but it's also home to some beautiful old colonial buildings, and many of them have been co-opted into art galleries and museums, making sure their life as public spaces continue.

The Singapore Art Museum is one such place, and right now it's playing host to Imaginarium, a truly original art exhibition that explores sea life, at all its levels. I can't really tell you what the amazing glowing orb that bounces around a darkened room - drawing on the walls with its many charcoal protrusions as it goes - has to do with sea life, but I can tell you that my children were completely obsessed with being in that room and asking all of the questions about art. WIN.

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Have a look:

Matilda and Billy loved the Imaginarium. Image: supplied.

Me: Chinatown.

Singapore can feel like a city of the future. And then you go to Chinatown and a window opens into its past. From the incredible Indian Hindu temple, encrusted with colourful effigies of the gods, to the wafting incense from the Chinese temple in the heart of bustling Chinatown, you are in no doubt you're in Asia from the minute you set foot in the lantern-strung streets, lined with colourful shuttered shop-houses.

Of course, it's all about shopping and food, two of my very favourite pursuits, so I could have stayed in Chinatown all night, but I would have had to bankrupt myself buying trinkets for the besotted Matilda, who got a master carver to etch her name on a "lucky stone" and spent a solid half-hour choosing which one of the many stalls served the perfect noodles. Shopping, followed by traditional Hainanese chicken rice and an icy Tiger beer? Heaven.

I call this my 'loving-myself-sick-in-Chinatown' selfie. Image: supplied.

Between all of us, we have a mosaic of memories from Singapore that make up a perfect whole. I'm SO glad we left the airport.

And seriously, breakfast companions have been decidedly dull since those zoo eggs...

What are you looking forward to in Singapore?

Here are some more happy snaps from Holly and the fam:

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