Singapore Sojourn – I: My Impressions of the City
Prologue: A 3 part series on my recent trip to Singapore. The series will focus on my personal experiences and things to do with a 4 year old boy as well.
To celebrate Button’s 4th b’day and to try foreign shores before Twinkle arrived, we planned a trip to Singapore in May this year for a week. We stayed with our friends for a week (yes, there are friends like these even in today’s time and age!) and needless to say had a blast. The entire trip was planned with Button in mind, his eating and sleep schedule, things that would interest him and finally, a couple of shopping points for me to buy a few items that I wanted.
|Koi Pond - Changi|
We flew Air India (I do not recommend the airline). The turbulence, terrible service and mosquitoes ensured that we had no peace until we landed. Changi airport was a whiff of fresh air in multiple ways. Button loved the travelator and insisted on his dad running beside him as he whizzed past! The loos of course need a special mention. As a 5 month pregnant woman, loos are almost as important as food and vitamins! You can imagine after umm.. holding on for over 8 hours (since I left home), the airport loos were not just good, but clean enough to eat off. I must say that the state of most loos, including the zoo and sentosa island loos were almost as good. Button especially loved the koi ponds and I strongly recommend spending some time exploring the place.
Our friends were waiting to receive us. As luck would have it, our cab driver was Chinese and spoke NO English. Our friends had recently moved in and were not fully clued into their neighborhood. Button and I of course enjoyed the neighborhood darshan till we figured our way out. The area (East Coast Parkway) area (and possibly most of Singapore) is actually pretty easy to figure out with clear signages and grid construction. ECP area is lovely with the condos having several easily accessible shopping and eating areas, and lovely play areas for kids. Needless to say Button was what in Tamizh we refer to as “avutthu vitta kazhudai” (A donkey let loose).
|Play area IKEA|
Our first stop the very next afternoon was IKEA. I recommend the play area in IKEA for kids between 3 and 8. They have a huge ball pit, a movie area, several slides and climbing apparatus. They have several trained staff overlooking the rambunctious kids. What’s wonderful (for hygiene OCDing parents like me) is that they store away the footwear of the child, put on a plastic apron over the clothes and sanitize the child’s hands before the kid enters. What’s wonderful also (for over-imaginative, safety OCDind parents like my husband) is that they do not let the parents enter, they also take (mandatorily) a phone number for the parents (and do call them) and only have a specific number of kids in the play area at any given time! My husband and I had a wonderful time browsing and shopping. Button had a blast playing in the ball pit, after a while he missed us and got the attendant to call P. He came with us in the second half of our expedition (and seems to have inherited the retail browsing gene from me).
We ate out… lots of Indian places (of course), but sadly not many local Veg options, except if you choose Indian again of course. I enjoyed walking across the road with a shopping cart, buying stuff and walking back again. I was struck by how healthy Singaporeans are (barely saw anyone even in size L, let alone XL and XXL! What a contrast from my year in NJ!) I realized that Singaporeans walk SO MUCH every day, from home to bus stop, to metro stations, to shopping malls, inside shopping malls… no wonder they do not put on weight.
I also enjoyed crossing the roads… no don’t laugh… after Chennai, where I have the unenviable nightmarish job of needing to cross the busy busy Arcot Road to hail an auto to drop my son off to school, it was a pleasure skipping across the road with him and watching ALL vehicles halt. I felt like God, did it many times to feel good! Also, any cab you want you can hail, and go a few metres or a few hundred kilometers, no questions asked, as long as you pay the fare. And there is the meter. I know Bombayites will laugh at this, but hey, try living in Chennai AND talking to an Auto driver EVERY SINGLE effing day.
|Offered a seat|
Button and I had a blast vying for the ‘upstairs driver seat’ in the double-decker buses. No matter how old I am, the pleasure of rushing to the front of the upstairs portion of a double decker bus will never abate. The bus stops are clean (of course) but what is cooler are iPhone apps that give you info on when the next preferred bus would arrive at your stop. I tested the app (what did you expect?) and the systematic part of me did cartwheels when the bus arrived on DOT, each time, every time. Magic I tell you, sheer magic.
|Courtesy courtesy courtesy|
The railway stations are certainly cleaner than their ‘western’ counterparts in the US or UK, but definitely crowded in peak time. People are so courteous that I felt terrible if I even laughed too loudly. My son was thrilled that everytime he entered a train, somebody would give him a seat even if the train was packed. He began to believe he was important and we were amused when he asked someone to vacate their seat in a ride at Universal J Its surreal to see 4 year olds there walk through the Metro turnstile swiping their cards like an adult and boarding the train. What’s more, their well behaved ways actually is cute and makes you wonder what is it their parents feed them. Actually, the entire city thrives on courtesy. When there are posters advocating courteous behavior on buses and metros, you know it has seeped into the collective and individual conscious of the denizens of S'pore.
The zoo, Sentosa and other experiences follow in the next two parts.