I love Singapore, it's an amazing, modern, clean, green city (and country) where everything is so... efficient. If you live in Laos, you may understand why the contrast is such a novelty! It's an especially great place to visit with kids because it's very family friendly and there's loads of attractions and activites.
The last time I visited Singapore was 7 years ago when I was pregnant with child #1. Returning with 2 active kids this time round was a very different experience. Singaporeans, like all Asians, adore kids, and we found everyone to be super friendly and helpful, smiles lighting up their faces at the sight of our two chubby-cheeked rugrats.
As parents will know, holidays with kids aren't about relaxing (excuse me while I choke on my laughter). From a kid's perspective, they're about exploring, playing, making friends with anyone your height, eating foods you're not normally allowed, and having as much fun as is humanely possible.
For parents, holidays are about exploring, eating foods you don't normally eat, not losing the kids, and trying to take one or two non-blurry happy snaps.
There's also the slim hope that if you exhaust the kids as much as possible, they'll fall into a comatose slumber at 6pm and you can have that much-needed and peaceful drink (or two).
So, here's what was on our agenda on our recent Singapore family trip...
Singapore Zoo is one of the best in the world. Like everything in Singapore, it's well planned and easy to navigate. It was raining on the day we went, so a lot of the animals were taking shelter and we saw them right up close. We especially loved the primate enclosures, the rainforest walk and of course, feeding the Galapagos tortoises - they love tomatoes!
Also part of the Zoo experience are the River and Night Safaris and the Jurong Bird Park. We kept those for next time!
Chinatown in any city is always a hive of activity and it’s certainly no exception in Singapore. We wandered the streets, ate noodles at Michelin Star Hawker Chan, and bought Singapore’s famous pineapple tarts (they were very generous with the samples).
It’s great to experience Singapore’s ethnic diversity in its temples, tucked away inside the city. Our kids loved the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown with its hundreds of ornate gold statues, the massive solid gold stupa that holds the relic, and lighting incense offerings. A few streets away is a more simple Buddhist temple, which 150 years ago had a seafront view. Now, thanks to reclaimed land, it’s a tiny oasis within a gleaming glass and steel metropolis.
Exploring on foot
Singapore is an enormously walkable city, big pavements, pedestrian crossings and orderly traffic. We walked everywhere, it’s really the best way to explore a city properly, appreciate the architecture and see things you'd otherwise miss. And whenever we were tired, a shopping mall always magically appeared.
Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay are truly amazing. Walking into the entrance on a high wooden bridge, what seems like a forest stretched out before us with ponds, playgrounds, bike trails, sculptures, and a special garden children’s garden (which includes water play, bring your swimmers!). We ate Singaporean chicken satay on the bay in a hawker-style outdoor food area.
It’s hard to miss the two giant glass and steel domes right by the water and part of Gardens by the Bay. The Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome, the largest greenhouses in the world, hold immaculately cultivated, climate controlled gardens. These are the only part of the Gardens that cost but they’re well worth it. Bring a cardigan; it’s cold inside.
Also in the Gardens by the Bay (it's got it all!) are Singapore’s famous Super Trees. These incredible vertical gardens are up to 50 metres tall and dominate the skyline. At night, they become even more magical for a light rhapsody, that mesmerises kids and adults alike.
Over on the man-made Sentosa Island, a whole other horde of family fun activities await, from Kidzania to Universal Studios. We opted for the Adventure Cove Waterpark and snorkelling in a simulated reef surrounded by tropical fish and manta rays was the definite favourite. As well, just walking around Sentosa is lovely, climbing up into the mouth of the Merlion, exploring the mosaic sculptures, and seeing the Lake of Dreams light up at night.
Finally, if you have an extra couple of days, I strongly suggest nipping across the border to Legoland in Malaysia. It’s pretty amazing!
Before hopping on a plane back to Laos, we squeezed out a last bit of Singapore kids’ fun at Changi Airport where there’s kids’ playgrounds in every terminal, interactive gardens, drawing stations, a butterfly garden, and more. Phew.