9 DAYS IN SINGAPORE WITH KIDS

arrival in singpore

We land at the start of our 9 days in Singapore with kids and are struck by the plush, modern airport, reportedly the best in the world. There is thick carpet, lots of glass and shiny tiles, and lots of natural light. Scuptures move gently above your head as you stand by a tree and listen to the calming music being piped in whilst waiting for your passport to be stamped.

Our accommodation in Singapore is The Inn on Temple Street, in the heart of Chinatown.

We wanted somewhere near an MRT stop and this fitted the bill. Around Temple street there is plenty to see, eat and do; we took in a Buddhist service at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum and visited the ‘Buddha’s tooth’ shrine upstairs, as well as the roof garden.

It’s a fascinating place full of gold and red, and to see the monks chanting and praying was quite an experience.

If temples is your thing, at one end of Temple street is….well, a temple. The Sri Mariamman temple, to be precise. This ornate, 19th century place of worship is a bright and vibrant place to visit, especially on an evening, when it bustles with worshippers and is aglow with colourful lights. Temple goers queue for food, pray, and ring bells, going about their business with no real notice given to tourists looking around. Our 5 year old developed a keen interest in worship and faith while we were in Singapore, and was fascinated by how the devout prayed with hand-waving and kneeling.
There are plenty of food options around Temple Street and Chinatown, including Nanyang Old Coffee, voted by the FT as one of the best places in the world to buy coffee. Quite an accolade and the coffee was indeed excellent, but of the ‘kopi’ variety rather than barista-style. On the subject of coffee, if you’re looking for a first-rate brunch, check out Tolido’s. We went here for CPY’s birthday and the coffee and pancakes were outstanding.

GARDENS BY THE BAY: OUR NUMBER ONE THING TO DO IN SINGAPORE WITH KIDS

We’ve picked out the highlights of what we did in our 9 days in Singapore with kids, and Gardens by the Bay would probably be our top pick, purely because there is SO MUCH to do and see. We visited 3 times and could have gone back more. Gardens by the Bay is a 101-hectare nature park on reclaimed land in the centre of Singapore.

It is a network of paths leading through manicured gardens, statues, informative displays, waterfront parks, vast modern greenhouses, and the iconic ‘Supertrees’; towering structures topped with solar panels, which light up at night. The whole place is incredible.

We visited Flower Dome and Cloud forest on CPY’s birthday as a treat. You can save a few dollars by using Klook, where we paid around 65SGD for us all to get in, and it saved us waiting in the (long) queue to get in. The Cloud Forest was, for us, the more interesting of the two and we spent a few hours climbing up to the top of this amazing place, waterfall and all, then navigating the twisting paths back down. The Flower Dome is lovely too, displaying as it does flowers and trees from all over the world (the orchid and cacti displays in particular are amazing), but it’s a lot of plants to look at in one day if you do both.

At the side of the Cloud Forest, down by the waterfront, is the children’s water park, and what a fantastic facility. A small but totally free water park where kids of all ages can splash about while fun music plays and the increasingly-irate staff periodically shout over the public address system tell kids to STOP SWINGING ON THE WATER POLES. There is a connected dry playpark with slides, climbing areas, balance beams…loads to do.

For lunch, the hawker centre (Satay by the Bay) just beyond the water park is very well priced and sells delicious, convenient meals and drinks, with satay the order of the day.

Finally, you must stay one evening for the music and light show at the Supertrees, a genuine must-do if you have 9 days in Singapore with kids, or just any time in Singapore at all! It takes place every evening at 1945 then 2045 and is spectacular. Position yourself down among the trees for the closest view (if you don’t mind craning your neck) but the best place to sit (in our opinion) is one of the quieter spots up on the hills/walkways which go around the Supertree area. You’ll get a great view of the show and it will be much quieter than being down in the crowds. Scope out a spot in the afternoon would be our tip.

SENTOSA WITH KIDS

Sentosa has a reputation for being expensive, and if you eat in the restaurants, and especially if you visit the theme park, it will be. But we had a pretty cheap day there and didn’t feel like we were missing out. A short trip on the MRT will take you the Harbour Front station, and from there you can either get the monorail or walk across the bridge to Sentosa island. The monorail costs 3SGD per person, but when you are on the island it’s free to get around using it (even if you walk over the bridge). We opted to save the money and take the pleasant walk over the bridge. Until 1 January 2019 it’s free to get onto Sentosa.

The island houses Universal studios, and for the most part, it’s some big hotels and a real Disney-style area with shops and music being pumped in. It’s fine, but not really our sort of place. We took the monorail (free when you get there) to the far end of the island and spend the day at the beautiful beach. There are three main beaches; Palawan, Siloso, and Tanjong. Palawan is the family beach. While there, we made the short journey over the rope bridge to the most southerly point in continental Asia, a fun little trip. We also spent a fun couple of hours at the free water park.

We walked back to the middle of the three monorail stations, taking in a long walkway with a colourful water fountain running the length down the middle, and a dozen or so fun and bright models of people wearing indigenous clothing, with explanations of the history of the dress. We got the monorail back to the ‘mainland’.

360 DEGREE VIEW OF SINGAPORE AT THE PINNACLE AT DUXTON

There are a few options for getting a great view of Singapore, (and TheSmartLocal has detailed several) and we opted for The Pinnacle at Duxton. A lesser-known viewpoint, this opportunity to see this amazing city from up high is situated on the 50th floor of this building complex, which is made up of 7 towering residential towers all linked together. Take your EZ Link card if you have one, and make sure you pay your $6pp at the bottom before heading up in the lift. The walkway linking the towers is long and there are climbing blocks to keep the children amused, so combined with the 360 degree view, you can easily spend an hour or two up here. Enter (and pay) at the base of block G. This was a real highlight of our 9 days in Singapore with kids.

The day we visited The Pinnacle, we stopped off at Jing Hua Xiao Chi Chinese restaurant and thoroughly recommend it for delicious dumplings and noodles.

Mid-range, price wise, and the service was sultry and unfriendly.

Plus they do sneaky things like give you a little bowl of nuts and facewipe but don’t tell you they charge you until after you’ve finished, but the food is great.

THE KEPPEL CENRE AT THE NATIONAL GALLERIES

The National Galleries is one of the city’s top attractions, but it’s not cheap at $20. However, there is a free and excellent facility in the Keppel Centre within it. This is a wing of the building where children can enjoy immersive spaces that encourage imagination, creativity and self-led exploration. Our two had a fantastic time in this interactive space drawing and painting and experimenting with virtual pottery. There’s even a (noisy) experimental musica area with pots pans to bash and bells to ring.

The Keppel Centre is not well advertised as far as we could see, and neither is the fact there are still things to do without paying in the galleries. One level down from the Keppel Centre is an exhibition that’s open to all, and on the 5th floor there is a bamboo maze with a model of a traditional teahouse in the centre, and great views out over the city. As well as that, there’s the amazing atrium between the two buildings; a sight in itself worth seeing.

If you’re in the area at lunchtime, be sure to stop by Macpherson Barbeque Seafood at 34 South Bridge Road. It’s popular for a reason; the food is superb and well-priced, but the big selling point is the service. Staff are so incredibly friendly and it was a pleasure to visit.On a related note (arts based spaces), if it’s your kind of thing, then do visit the Artground at the Goodman Arts Centre. It’s a fun and engaging play area for under 12s, and it’s totally free. The free-play nature of the space was something our two loved, and there’s a cafe and free wifi too!

wild wild wet

On one of our last days, and with the water park at Sentosa being a massive hit, we headed out for a break from the norm at Wild Wild Wet, a large waterpark in the Downtown East area. We’ve covered the park in more detail in our review, but safe to say it was a big hit. There is loads to do for all ages; lots of splash areas and small slides for the 3 year old, larger slides which the 5 year old could go on with an adult, as well as the lazy river which was great for everybody. Picnic benches are plentiful, though there’s not quite as much shade as we would have liked. But if you judge a place by how many times your five year old goes on a big ride (6!) then this was a winner.

our last day

The last day of our whole 3 month trip was spent cramming as much fun stuff in as we could, mainly revolving around food. We headed out to try some Kaya toast, a pretty random traditional breakfast dish in Singapore and Malyasia. Kaya toast is prepared with kaya, a topping of sugar, coconut milk and eggs, pandan, and sometimes margarine or butter. It’s served with strong coffee and some barely-cooked eggs into which the toast is dipped, after adding some pepper and soy sauce. It’s strange, sweet, savoury, and delicious!

We went to Ya Kun Kaya Toast at Far East Square on China Street, and afterwards explored the beautiful temples on Telok Ayer Street before stopping in at Sarnies. Terrible name but great coffee and cake and they drew a little bear on top of the kids’ babyccinos so we’re all good with the Sarnies posse.

We managed to squeeze in one final treat at Singapore airport; the staff canteen. We were tipped off that instead of the usual airport food, we should hit the staff foodhall, so we did! There are signposts for it and it’s open to the public so head in for great value, delicious food. If you are flying out of Singapore airport, getting there extra early is no bad thing; there are swimming pools and showers (payable), a lotus garden, a kids art area, and children’s play zone as well as more shops and cafes than any reasonable person could desire.

reflections on our 9 days in singapore with kids

And so our journey ends! Singapore has been fantastic. Clean, great transport, and so much to do. The facilities are exceptional, though the people generally fairly unfriendly (could just be a ‘big city’ thing though). Yes it’s expensive, but do your research before you go (we didn’t do enough, in truth) and cut your cloth accordingly. This is a buzzing, growing city-state, and was a brilliant place to spend the final days of our trip.