Singapore used to be the first foreign trip that most Indians made in those days once they got their passports. Travelling on software work to the US, semi-bonded labour to Saudi wouldn’t count. Those were business trips. The first foreign holiday was usually Singapore.
It was the same for us. Singapore fits the bill because it is closer home, is within budget and has something for everyone. I’ve only been to Singapore once. So I am no authority on the best places to visit in Singapore. I went with the collective wisdom of the world. I relied on my google research. I must say we had a great time at Singapore. The kids count Singapore among one of their favourite trips too. It’s been more than a year since we visited Singapore. So I will be hazy around specific details.
Like with everything else, there was one song that was playing on my mind when we were on the flight to Singapore. The Ramaraj song set in Singapore – “Sorgame endralum adhu nammu ooru pole varuma…“. My first impression of Singapore was that it had such high high-rises, it was scary. Also Singapore could give Chennai a run for its money on the humidity angle. It was hot and sweaty. We visited sometime in September-October.
We spent an absolutely fun-filled day at Universal studios. Jagan had a great time riding all the roller coasters multiple times on all our passes because we were too scared to go. We sipped slushies and ice creams and went on the slow rides that grandmas and tiny tots went on. I hauled my hefty DSLR around while petite, perfectly smooth legged chinese women nimbly extended their selfie sticks and expertly shot a few 100 pictures. I ducked and dodged to stay out of other people’s selfies. I didn’t want to be that out-of-focus beautiful fat aunty with the mookuthi in the corner of the picture.
We were totally beat by the time we returned to the hotel that night. I had the most flavor-packed ramen bowl that night for dinner at a little restaurant at Clarke Quay that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind.
Universal studios is a quick cab ride from Singapore mainland. We had booked all of our tickets for Universal studios online right after we booked our hotel and flight bookings. We did the same for Jurong bird park and Singapore Zoo. All of the tickets are available online. You may get a discount too if you’re lucky. It’s also a good idea to look at the park times and schedules so that you know what’s happening when and you can plan your trip accordingly. I strongly urge you to book your tickets online too.
Gardens by the bay is a beautiful place to spend an evening. The kids’ favourite was the delightful water play area that had a whole lot of fountains and sprinklers. I changed them into their swimsuits (I knew before hand about the water park because I read about it) and let them loose. They went crazy running around the fountains. I had a tough time dragging them out of there.
We climbed up the giant “supertrees” because everybody else seemed to be doing it. I shook in fright the entire 5 minutes we crossed the bridge from one supertree to another and got down. I held my nerves just enough to click a couple of pictures of the fantastic Singapore skyline from up there. There are individual gardens you can visit by paying separately but we didn’t visit those.
The souvenir shop here has a lovely collection of the prettiest little plants, knick knacks and fridge magnets.
Jurong bird park should definitely figure in your holiday plan. I may have enjoyed the bird park even more than the kids. I couldn’t get away from the penguins. I fed them fishes. I clicked pictures of them and stared at them fixedly. They swam away feeling self-conscious. I followed the stink of the swans to capture them on camera. Jagan and kids opted out.
The one thing we all enjoyed equally was feeding the parrots sugar water. For a small fee you can buy little cups of sugar water which you can offer to the parrots. The parrots will bend down into your cup and drink from it. It is the sweetest, cutest thing you’ll get to do. Kids will love it and so will adults. We each had a cup in our hand walking around looking for parrots to feed.
Then there’s the bird show which is beautifully choreographed. The birds are stunning. I wondered how different those bird trainers’ daily job looked like as compared to mine.
We took the night safari at the Singapore Zoo and I thought it was underwhelming to say the least. We chugged along on a tram while a recorded voice described each animal we were about to see. Special focus lights were placed to highlight the animals in the darkness. The idea sounds exciting but the actual safari was quite boring. We were glad we had allotted only one evening at the Zoo. While we waited for the night safari at the Zoo, we tried the popular cocktail “Singapore Sling”. I don’t remember anything about its flavor profile except that it tasted great.
We went to the Mariamman kovil where a group of Tamil paatis in sarees were sitting around and gossiping about somebody at home. I felt at home. Singapore’s skyscrapers form the backdrop of the temple. It’s strangely comforting and re-assuring. I kind of understood why people built temples everywhere they settled. They’re recreating their homes.
Chinatown is a short drive from the Mariamman temple. We walked the streets and window shopped. I bought a couple of tops and a maxi dress. There were tons of shops selling condiments and Chinese ingredients but I refrained as I had no clue. We wanted to try the Chinese street food here but had to get back to the hotel as Jagan’s shoes were troubling him. That happens inevitably when I am out shopping.
We stayed at Clarke Quay and ate dinner at Clarke Quay every night. We realized we had to try the river cruise. So we took the night river cruise. It’s about 40 minutes long. They take you on a slow ride on their bumboat (we laughed everytime someone said it) from Clarke Quay and show you a lot of historic Singapore buildings including the famous Merlion. There was also a laser show we watched before turning back. The night cruise I’d think is a better option if you’d like to beat the heat.
I wasn’t getting back from Singapore without visiting Mustafa. My perimma and thatha shopped at Mustafa 20 years back when they first visited Singapore. My maamiyaar shopped here when she first visited Singapore 7 years back. I had a legacy to follow. Mustafa is this massive shopping place that is open 24 hours and has everything from gold jewelry to vegetables to sarees to Singapore sarees to kodali thailam to Singapore scent to casio watches. I am a sucker for Nostalgia. I had to buy a couple of Singapore sarees, a pack of Kodali thailam and Singapore scent. How else will people know I’ve been to Singapore?
I also bought a whole bunch of rechargeable fans I’d been eyeing all the while when I was in Singapore. Every Chinese woman had a selfie stick and a small rechargeable fan at Universal studios, at the bird park, at the zoo, everywhere. These rechargeable fans are ingenious and so useful when you’re stuck outdoors in a humid place. I bought one for all my favourite people. I also bought Kayamila, a delicious jam that is a specialty of Singapore.
Tired, happy and content we headed back to Chennai. We bought some mooncakes at the airport and kicked ourselves for not hoarding them in Chinatown. The mooncake is a special dish Chinese make during the mid-autumn festival. They contain lotus seed paste and egg yolk apart from other things. The ingredients and process seemed so intimidating I would have been happy to subscribe to a monthly order of those mooncakes if I could.
Please find below some of the links I used to buy online tickets.
I hoped you enjoyed this post and found it useful. I am sure there’s a lot more to Singapore than what I experienced. I’d love to visit Singapore again.
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