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Monday, April 21, 2014

Singapore First Time as a Tourist

So finally I managed to go to Singapore as a tourist with family. And just like most of our trips, this one also happened on an impulse. Since we had nothing planned for the summers, a sudden official trip of mine became a good excuse to cover the country as a tourist.

So after speaking to many friends, especially the ones with children,  I drew up the following plan.

Day 1 was arrival in the morning because that way we saved up on a night of hotel stay as the other option was to arrive late night. We had booked in VIP hotel through Agoda and despite reservations, I realised that it turned out to be a good place. My criteria for hotel selection was getting a place which would allow the children to stay in our room. Most hotels offered connecting rooms which would never be feasible with our clingy kids. So this hotel near Newton MRT was the best that we could get and this was a boutique style place with a cursory complementary breakfast of bread, eggs, sausages and baked beans and no room service. It is located in a very European kind of locality and tucked inside the colony yet not very far away from a market, bus stop and MRT.
What we did not like- check out time is 12 noon and check in is 2 pm. I asked for an early check in which was indicated subject to availability which is fair but what I did not like was that by 10.30 am the room was vacated, cleaned and available yet the staff refused to let us in, giving the excuse that the room is not ready and we could see for ourselves that the room was readied by the housekeeping. They went on saying,
we will give you in half an hour, we can give you by 2 pm, then again wait for 15 minutes. Why dont you go shopping and come back by 2. Cant they see that we have traveled overnight with  kids and inspite of that they ask me to go shopping. If the room was not ready, I would have camped in a friend's place but I could see that the room is ready and it was pointless of them to refuse and for us

to go to a friend's place carrying our change of clothes. The staff seemed programmed and not at all willing to help until the time we stood in front of them not willing to budge.

Another problem was providing water bottles. I in fact found the night duty men very generous but the morning ladies were a pain. in spite of three asks, they never gave me the bottles. Said , we will charge you, Let me get them for you, wait a minute.....the bottles never came.

Ask the ladies for a have to pay us service charge,
The men did not ask us to pay!!
Were they being racists? I hazard a thought and I will not be surprised if it turns out to be true because there was an Indian lady who gave us the real facts that helped us negotiate to get the room earlier.

This comes as a surprise because early check in option was given to us at the time of booking by agoda subject to availability.

Anyway, we had a long sleep as soon as we got the room. The bathroom was spacious and comfortable and toilet kit generously provided. Four bottles of water were provided per day and the extras as I mentioned depended on the people in the reception for there was no room service facility.

We headed out for the Gardens by the Bay in the evening, taking the MRT that dropped  us within walking distance. Now this is relative because we were walking anything between 10 and 15 km per day so shoes are an absolute necessity else  one gets tired and so are bottle of water, how many ever you can carry, Gardens by the bay has water stations from were one can fill the bottles once they empty.

We got a discount on jet airways boarding card. The Tulipmania was on and it made a lovely sight. I was very impressed with the cloud conservatory also. A great place for nature and plant lovers. There was an interesting movie on global warming running which was very informative. But I guess it gets dull and dimly lit by nightfall.

We walked up to the Marina Bay and managed to catch the sound and light show which was fascinating but overhyped.

The next day we did the river safari and the zoo. I had office passes so they were free for us and I must say, the  best things in life are  really free or cheap. You will see why I say that.

The river safari is an indoor river themed aquarium sort of place which covers marine species of five major rivers of the world including Nile, Missisippi, Ganges etc.
Initially the kids were just rushing to the display to see the animals and I had to pull them back to read what  was written about the animals. However after a while, they got the drift of it and were rushing to read first instead!

The kids loved it and we especially liked the Pandas that put quite a show of not showing his face until the very end. We also had a river cruise which showed us Flamingos as the most attractive part of the safari among other things.

We had lunch in KFC and then headed to the zoo in the same area and we were honestly tired with a
5 km walk done in the river safari and could have taken the tram but we are stubborn that way and tram means a lot of waiting because it is a hop on and off thing. We loved the penguins that we almost missed, Ojas is still wondering how come he missed the komodo dragon but we were too tired to persist. We liked the fragile forest which is a small enclosed rainforest recreation which has free ranging animals, birds, flying fox and butterflies. We loved that small place and wish it was bigger.  The kids loved chasing the birds and animals.
We also saw a reptile moving about freely in place where it was not supposed to be. Lucky us!

The squirrel monkeys were kind of cute and friendly. We missed most of the shows except the best one that is the feeding session. Loved the white tiger feeding session, most impressive.

The children were most happy here and we could see the excitement on their faces.
We also managed to take the double decker and a Chrysler taxi on the way back - the first on my wish list and the second on the kids'.

Day 3 was the most regrettable one. It was easter and that was the only day we had for doing Universal studio. In perspective we spent Rs 12000 to do the following
-- wait for 2 hours in a claustrophobia inducing space to do a 10 minute ride on a transformer which had 4 D scenes which the kids loved but declared as fake so not very high on the niceness of the whole thing. Given a chance they will do it again but after all it is fake.
- tempers flared because everywhere the queue was at least 45 minutes long and we did not have the courage to get into another queue in our lifetime.
- we went back to do the SEA Aquarium which had a discount after 4 pm that day on Universal Studio tickets. And thankfully I had the foresight to get myself stamped for re entry.
- the kids loved the aquarium which is based on ocean habitats across the world. We saw the hammer head shark from under the transparent chute which is supposed to be the longest in the world at 9 feet
There were lovely jelly fish which the kids were most amazed with and other crustaceans.
 - went back to Universal only because I could not see the 12K getting wasted over doing nothing. Managed to take the Madagascar and accelerate ride. The rest of them had at least half an hour waiting time so we did not have the courage to do it.
We also did the 4 D movie which was enjoyable.

We walked both ways on the board from the mainland to Sentosa and back through Vivo City mall and there fore clocked atleast 16km that day including the walk back from MRT.

 Enjoyment quotient- should not have done it at all because a) my kids are not amusement park people
b) what they do not know does not hurt

c) just because transformer is of interest to them, I should not have wasted money but bought them transformer toys instead because that would be extremely cheap.
But they really loved the various characters that appeared in 3 D
In that way it was worth it and on a weekday perhaps I would have managed a few more rides.

It did not make sense to pay double to get the express queue tickets on such a busy day.

Day 4 was the most fruitful because we did only the Science centre in Jurong. Had to forgo bird park much to Ojas' disappointment but I could not be asked to see another fish or monkey or bird anymore.
Science centre turned out to be a total value for money experience. Kids and us were thrilled . Me with the concept exposure and kids because they could touch everything in sight, touch every button, experience everything., It was amazing. I loved the tiny magnet balls that could be combined and
formed into shapes. I loved the illusions
The fire show is cool  and so is the tesla coil. We loved the earthquake demo and also the egg hatching demo set up. We waited for a long time but the eggs did not hatch.

This place again had water stations uinlike Universal studio and zoo/ safari where you have to buy the bottles.

The shop was totally blah. I expected more cool stuff. 4 pieces of chinese puzzles cost a fortune when I know that they do not cost more than the cost of a key chain. Puzzle books were another tiny fortune  especially when compared to Indian cost for books.

On Sunday once the husband and children left, I wallowed in self pity for a while then took a bus to China town. Oh it was great fun doing local stuff but careful, come out before 8pm as the shops  start
closing and you will want to come out of the place by then.
A complete street market at a bargain but you see one, you have seen all.
Reminded me of the 1000 steps Church area in Paris which had  a similar souvenir street


Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

Loved reading your post. I felt that I was traveling with you!

Well, I also liked your post because it is packed with parenting, practical tips that no one really prepares you for when you go on a trip to places like Singapore. This will come in handy when I plan my trip too!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to mark this post for future trips back east. We have plans to stop by in Sing. on our way to India. I did visit the state years ago for a week or so but it was a whirlwind work trip and I think all I took in was the night zoo(the name of which I'm forgetting but it was fun), Orchard st or road, and the Indian markets but you seemed to have done the most one can with two kiddos in tow:-)

You guys sure manage to have fun together and I love reading your family posts. Others too ofcourse.