Prologue: This part will focus on touristy attractions and our experiences there. Some information on timings and other details may be given.
Warning: Long Read!
Singapore Zoo (http://www.zoo.com.sg/)
If you are visiting from India, then plan to spend a whole day at the zoo with your family. Not only is the range mind-boggling, but the seeming ease with which crowds are managed and animals are showcased leaves one wondering why as a country of a billion with such diverse wildlife, we can’t manage one half decent zoo?! The website offers an opportunity to eat breakfast with Orangutans, but if you are seeking full paisa vasool, skip it. Button had the opportunity to watch the Orangutans swing away to glory as he ate his lunch, their enclosure is nearby anyway.
We used the excellent metro and bus connections to reach the zoo at about 9.30. Had a blast until closure going from animal to animal and returning to enjoy the ones we LOVED. (For button, the lions, I loved the giraffe and the husband the monitor lizard..ugh!) I recommend the Park Hopper pass which allows you to explore the Zoo, the Night Safari and the Jurong Bird Park beating the (sometimes) LONG queues for tickets. Be sure to ask for maps at the entrance.
|Hookah or Bottle?!|
Apart from the animals, there are lovely shows. We watched the Elephant show and thoroughly enjoyed Ganpati bappa spraying us with water. Lunch for vegetarians could be difficult (the restaurant prata set is “yuck” according to Button, and I concur). Lovely lovely fruit platter though. For a pregnant and hot me, the fruits were even tastier than for others. (Don’t tell, but I ate 2 platters AND a prata set). Lots of cooling options in terms of drinks. Check out the bottle in the pic for a cool drink you can buy in a cooler bottle that Button insisted we wash and bring back home.
I recommend the tram for the post lunch languid period. Just a hint of breeze and a bit of sitting down does wonders to get your energy back. Of course, carry lots of water and use the clean loos. J Another thing that caught my eye was the abundance of dustbins all over the zoo. And Indians CAN behave themselves (contrary to what one may believe) Most of the Indians took pains to throw their trash into the trash cans. Even nicer was the nod to recycling… as you walk out of the zoo after a tiring but lovely day, you can choose to return your map to be recycled (hear the trees cheering?). I recommend skipping the gift shop, unless you like the regular touristy keepsakes.
The Night Safari (http://www.nightsafari.com.sg/)
|A minute before he slept!|
Heading from the zoo to the safari with a 4 year old could be a bit too much (as we found out). In fact unless you’ve bought the park-hopper, I’d recommend skipping the night safari, especially if you are on a short holiday and/or a tight budget and/or travelling with a 3yrs or younger child. The shops that line the entrance of the night safari may excite older kids, especially the spooky shop which has several glow-in-the-dark items from full skeletons to small spider key chains. The safari opens only at 7 in the evening with usually LONG lines. The show is similar to the ones at the zoo, only the large tourist groups hog most good seats. And the actual experience after an entire day at the zoo becomes too animal-y. What was Button’s reaction? He slept a minute into the tram ride! Soundly. Through the LONG journey to ECP at the other end of S’pore.
Jurong Bird Park (http://www.birdpark.com.sg/)
A lovely experience. Again marketed brilliantly. Knowing that most visitors would’ve visited the zoo and night safari before the bird park, Jurong has been designed so colorfully that it is indeed refreshing. The repetition factor of same elements of map, tram, shows etc. gets subsumed by the sheer brilliance of rainbow colors. Don’t miss photo ops at the entrance with the lovely parrot family (macaques, lovebirds and many others) and the opportunity to feed loris (lovebirds) at the lori feeding station. I personally LOVED the owl exhibit (always have loved them, and the snowy owl – Harry Potter factor). Button enjoyed feeding the birds and bravely walked with us through the ‘birds of prey’ exhibit (boys will be boys!). The veg options here are slightly tastier, but the souvenir shop significantly better.
There are several attractions in Sentosa that could keep you occupied for days on end. A 2 day trip to Sentosa (overnight there) would be sufficient to cover most of the key spots, provided your travel partner and you are able to agree on the key spots :)
Underwater World (http://www.underwaterworld.com.sg/)
|The Jellyfish Exhibit|
I highly recommend the Underwater World, yes, even over Universal(though that may win favor due to better marketing and character based rides). Button had a big blast at the Underwater with touch-pool exhibits and the travelator through the water tunnel. We were reminded that he is indeed a small kid when he burst out crying seeing sharks swim all around him in the tunnel! Cute J He refused to touch the sting ray until (ugh) I had to brave my fears and touch them myself. Child IS the father of man… I hopefully will not cringe the next time I have to do it!
The dolphin show is a MUST. They invite a member of the audience to participate in a sea-lion interactive act. Me being an enthu-cutlet, put up my hand and to my horror I was called. Now, before I tell you how scary it was, I must confess that am not very touchy-feely with animals of any sort. No dogs, cats or furry creatures, no snakes or any slimy creature, no turtle or any hard backed ones, not even fish really call for a petting session. In fact I don’t particularly ask to even hold human babies! That is as touchy as I am (though am constantly up for a hug or cuddles or hand-holding the husband!) So with a sinking feeling, again to let my son know how brave I am (umm) and how one should not let go of any opportunity (what opportunity, yikes!) I bravely walked up to the sea lion. To my horror, the act in the show consists of massaging the sea lion. Praying that the sea lion did not knock me into the pool behind, infested with dolphins, I tentatively touched the sea lion. It refused to do its trick until I gave up and massaged it thoroughly in disgust. Yes, I scrubbed my hands raw and sanitized it with an entire bottle before I even drank a can of Coke!
|At a Souvenir shop in Universal|
If your kid is like mine, skip it. He refused to sit in ANY ride except the MILDEST ones – Madagascar and Desert Safari. He clung to me even in the non-rocking seats of the 4D Shrek show. Refused to go on any other ride. Howled through the Spielberg Movie experience and beamed when we walked out 3 hours after we walked in! We wasted a ton of money on those tickets. We splurged on express passes, which I recommend with small children as queues ARE quite long. For braver small kids, the Jurassic park rides and Transponders show may also be VFM. My son refused to even go near the lion (Alex) mascot! And this is despite his being able to mouth EVERY line of all 3 Madagascar movies. For veg food, in the ‘Mummy’ section, a decent Indian meal is available in the food area near the Safari. Loved the opportunity to browse in the souvenir shops… an art almost perfected, not at the level of Disneyland, where I yielded and splurged madly, but almost!
Cable Car, Butterfly Park and others
|Angry Birds 'golu'|
The cable car ride is a lovely experience. Time it around sunset, so you get to see the views in daylight one way and the lights on the return. Button loved looking at large cruise ships from up above as well as “flying” over S’pore (the cars are glass all around). The Angry Birds display in the shop at the last stop on the Cable Car ride is worth a dekho. The starbucks outside the boarding point for the cable car has wonderful blueberry-raisin muffins. Amongst the best I’ve tasted.
|The last Butterfly standing!|
The Butterfly park should be visited only in the mornings – afternoon. We went in at 5.30 p.m. and the butterflies, tired of flitting around, had already retired for the night… we ended up paying about 30 Sing dollars for some dried insect displays. Otherwise, the Merlion statue and beach are worth visiting if you have time. There were multiple other attractions like a war memorial, museum and laser shows which we were sure Button would not enjoy and therefore skipped.
We stayed at the Movenpick, which was reasonably good. The buses in Sentosa take you all over provided you know how to read a map and bus routes. We encountered multiple tourists who would stop and ask us how to get from points A to B, when route maps are put up in every bus stop!
The concluding post will come up shortly on some off-the-beaten track things to do with kids and some more impressions of the city. And what we missed out and why!