Raise Backpackers

Cruising into Singapore (Part 2)

We all had one last cruise ship breakfast overindulgence and then disembarked the Dawn, one and a half packets of nappies and 3 bottles of wine lighter but with 12 bags in total. We left our luggage at the port and had to pay per bag, however as the form only had space for a maximum of 10 bags, the girl only charged us for 10 and looped some together. We went out into the world again and decided to walk to Marina Bay before we could check into our Air bnb property in the afternoon. It looked close on the map but of course we took the wrong road in the right direction and it was a very hot day. 9.8kms later we had seen some of the new gardens at Marina Bay (amazing!) and waked back to get our bags.

The day we had to face the real world and get off the boat.

The day we had to face the real world and get off the boat.

We collected our bags and I silently cursed why we had so many. Why hadn’t I brought less, bigger bags? Why hadn’t I combined some of the kids luggage? Anyway, we managed to stuff everything as well as ourselves into 2 regular sized taxis and told the drivers where we were going. I always get nervous when checking in for Air bnb, it was only our 3rd time but it’s always a new experience and always a bit dodgy. Air bnb is not allowed in a lot of countries, it’s not technically illegal but it’s not allowed and the owners of the properties generally ask you to lie to the security on the doors. I loved watching Burn Notice when Michael and Fi impersonate other people and they do it so well to blag their way into all sorts of situations. I am not a good actor or liar and I always have a little panic that security is going to challenge me and I’m going to have to make something up on the fly. It’s never happened though.

An employee of the guy that owned the property met us there and let us in. The first thing she said was “Air bnb is not allowed in Singapore…” and gave us the spiel about what to say and what not to say if anyone asked. Then she showed us the rubbish chute, the air con and told us that we could use the swimming and playing facilities outside.

The bamboo maze on the property.

The bamboo maze on the property.

We dumped all our bags and the one child that was asleep, and as with every other trip I can remember, Jon went and got into bed with a sleeping child and went to sleep himself. Mum and I took the remaining children and went to find the little shop so that there was something for dinner. We made a whole packet of pasta, 2 jars of pasta sauce and tipped a block of cheese over it. It sure was a bland alternative to what we had been eating on the cruise ship. And we had to wash up the dishes afterwards. And if we wanted water to drink, we had to get up and get it!

I had created a tight itinerary because we were only there 5 full days and I wanted to do all the tourist trail again with all the kids. That night we all trekked to the Night Safari and trekked home again with a couple of sleeping children.

The next day was the zoo, then Adventure Cove water park over on Sentosa, then the River Safari. We always came home at night carrying 1 or 2 sleeping children. We became expert at catching taxis, splitting into groups of 4 and splitting up whoever was arguing on that particular day into different cabs.

The River Safari.

The River Safari.

After the River Safari I wanted to do something we had done years ago in Singapore which was go to Clarke Quay at night. Five years ago Xanthe had been exactly 18 months old and now, Lewin was 18 months old that day. We went there on the MRT and it was heaving. There was a band in the square competing with loud music of all sorts coming out of every different bar and restaurant. We had a joke that we had so many kids that we would need to find a restaurant that offered Kids Eat Free. We googled that and then found a place, so we got seated and then found out that the waiters knew nothing about that deal and then told us that they could only offer that on a Wednesday night. And it was not Wednesday. We had to buy five adult meals as it was so we wanted to save buying the 3 little ones meals if we could so, embarrassingly, we left. The next place we found had to ask their manager if they could do Kids Eat Free and they said they could but they could only offer a choice of Butter Chicken or a Vegetarian option. It was Indian food but they said they could do it “not spicy” so we sat down and ordered 1 chicken and 2 vege for the kids to see what we would get. Jon had taken all the kids to the toilet in the square somewhere when the food arrived. We tasted the kids’ food and it made my eyes water. I called the waitress over and told her it was burning my mouth and I couldn’t feed it to my kids so they apologised and said they would make another one.

Recreating a 5 year old photo when there was just 3 of them on this tortoise.

Recreating a 5 year old photo when there was just 3 of them on this tortoise.

Jon came back with all the kids and they watched us eat while we waited for their next meals. By this stage my mouth was burning with my own “not spicy” food so when theirs turned up I wasn’t able to discern how hot it was. The chef then came over and apologised to Jon, that he had removed the spice which meant he had removed most of the flavour so the food would be very bland. We assured him this was OK and the kids would prefer it bland. To cut a long story short, I couldn’t tell but everyone told me that it was still far far to hot to feed to the kids, even smothered in yoghurt and Xanthe confirmed this by tasting it. So for a pretty expensive meal, the kids ate a bit of plain rice in yoghurt and left, still hungry. That was a #fail. Lesson learned – Indian people have NO CLUE about what is too hot to feed to Western kids, their taste buds must be different to ours from being brought up eating curries.

We wanted to do what we had done with Xanthe at 18 months which was sit in the square and eat ice cream. There had been a Haagen Dazs there back then. It wasn’t there now. So we wandered a bit and then googled for ice cream again. We walked 5 minutes and found we had arrived at a Japanese ice cream place, offering seaweed and green tea flavoured ice cream – not what we were looking for! We tried another place and walked across the river, promising the kids we were getting them ice cream. We saw the sign in the window and got really excited – until we walked around the angle of the building to the door and found that it was all boarded up and very much closed.

We happened across a friendly tuk-tuk driver while looking for ice cream.

We happened across a friendly tuk-tuk driver while looking for ice cream.

It was about 9pm, the kids hadn’t even had a proper dinner and there was no ice cream to be found in the entire region of Clarke Quay. We found we were standing outside of Burger King. We don’t eat that usually but I thought the kids wouldn’t care if they got ice cream from there, then we could start the trek home as it was getting late. Jon had been looking on Google again and found another ice cream place he was fairly sure was still open, but it was a taxi ride away.
“I think we should get a taxi”
“Remember it’s two taxis, I can’t be bothered, let’s just get Burger King and go home” I countered.

This went on for a while, the older kids taking sides, the younger kids alternating between yawning and asking where their ice cream was.

A man approached us from behind. “Hello, my name is Lawrence and this is my bar. How can I help you?”

We turned around to find a friendly Asian man smiling at us. We bombarded him with our frustrations about ice cream and he calmly told us “I have ice cream so come in”.

One and a half hours later we were full of Lawrence’s special chicken dish, his fries with truffle oil (now that’s a good dinner for the kids) and ice creams with a piece of fudge in martini glasses. I think he made up that dessert just for us but it was worth it because he sold 8 of them. We knew all about Lawrence and he knew all about us. He used to work in a different industry but it was his dream to own a bar, so 6 months ago he had bought it. He told us about the area, about his menu and took Lewin outside to watch the boats and the buses. We assured Lawrence if we weren’t leaving in the next few days we would be back and we took his card anyway.

That was one of those travelling things that you never experience if you stay at home. I almost think Jon conjured that guy out of thin air just because we wanted it hard enough.

At Lawrence's digs.

At Lawrence’s digs.

The following day we went to Universal Studios and got in at 11pm with aching feet, even in my beloved Go Walks. I’m not going to give you a full run down of the place (go see for yourself!) but I have to say I love the Waterworld stunt show. And I’ve seen it before. At least 4 of us walked out of there (drenched) saying we would need to rent the movie when we got home.

A little concerned that baby dinosaur was going to nibble their ears off!

A little concerned that baby dinosaur was going to nibble their ears off!

The last day we had scheduled Jurong Bird Park but Jon and I had a 30 second discussion and we both agreed we were all theme parked-out and we wanted to do something else. We had done the Bird Park last time and loved it but we’d loved Clarke Quay more and thought we should go and see another part of Singapore that wasn’t a tourist park. We had tickets but we’d bought the package deal so cheaply that we’d already got more than our money’s worth by visiting the other three.

The River Safari.

The River Safari.

Where to go was a no-brainer for me. I was hitting Orchard Road. Mum and I went in the morning while Jon stayed with the kids and then he went out in the evening with the big kids while Mum and I took over the little people. I didn’t even put a dent in Orchard Rd. We arrived in the Orchard MRT station which is inside a huge shopping mall. We’d go in some shops and then turn around and there was the entry to the station again so we weren’t even making any headway. I checked out all the places I wanted to – Victoria’s Secret (didn’t have the sports range I have been looking for for 3 years), Kiki K (stationery is too heavy to take home) and Lulu Lemon (umm, prices seemed to be double anywhere else). I bought a passport charm for my Pandora bracelet because I had renewed my passport for this trip with my married name. As we were thinking about leaving we saw something that looked like a $2 shop so we thought we might be able to get a box of tissues there. Well, once we got in there it was like a rat maze. It was a Japanese store with everything you could imagine and more. Lovely little drawstring bags, pencil cases and hair accessories. That’s what we were interested in but they had everything. Nothing had a price though plus we were under the pump to get home to take over the kids. So we grabbed the things we really wanted and I said to the guy on the till “there is no prices on anything” . He smiled at me and said “Everything two dollar”. Oh.

I spent basically the whole evening packing and repacking. I kept out warm clothes for the kids and the following morning just dressed them in a t-shirt and underpants until we were ready to leave the house.

We had been there almost a week so we knew exactly how to get everyone and all the bags downstairs and into a taxi. I was making a mental list of all the things I would be doing in Singapore next time which included way more time shopping on Orchard Rd, spending much more time at the Marina Bay Gardens, going to Little India on a Sunday night, and generally doing more cultural things rather than tourist parks. I just love how efficient and organised Singapore is and it’s always hot, my favourite!

We arrived home without incident, I always get nervous checking in for the end of the trip because I think how could we have been on that big, long adventure and then turn up here and I will have booked the correct flights on the correct date with everyone’s name matching their passport perfectly? But I had. The kids were good on the plane with their little packages I had made up at the Japanese $2 store: stickers, crayons I had collected at restaurants, hair pins etc. Lewin needed to sleep so did a fair bit of crying but once we got him to sleep it was great. The hostess had moved Jon and Lewin to a row in front of me with 2 spare seats so he was able to put Lewin on a spare seat to sleep. That’s like the best thing that can happen on a flight with a toddler.

I was pleasantly surprised when the staff turned up with a meal for us as we were on a budget airline and I didn’t expect it. It turns out that I pre-booked and paid for a meal when I bought the tickets which I have no recollection of doing but I’m really glad that I did or else we would’ve had to buy everyone food, which is not an easy task when there are 8 of you.

I got an email when I got home saying that I had received a review on Air Bnb but that I couldn’t see it until I left a review. I sat down and thought long and hard about the property and I filled in all the bits that are genuine feedback for the owner, and left it off the public part. I wrote him a really nice review of his property and said I would stay there again. His review was unlocked and all the jerk had written was two letters: Ok.

That’s all we got. We had refilled all the toilet paper, cleaned the kitchen, not broken anything…quite disappointing especially since I have only stayed in 2 other properties, one which never left us a review and the other one left us a glowing review but called me Lisa so it doesn’t even look like it was intended for us.

Back to reality, back to school…back to housework, homework and work. And back to the damn cold weather! It only took me a day or so until I was planning the next school holidays. Local this time but something to look forward to!

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