Singapore was great: colorful, tropical, a nice break from chilly Tokyo. I ate too much, the kids went swimming every day, we hit the Singapore Zoo and the Botanic Gardens (both terrific) and took a bumboat river cruise.
On Tuesday, our first full day there, we went to Sentosa, an island resort, which was a bit cheesy, just as my friend and host had warned me it would be, but perfect for us, with its sandy beach, lush flower beds, an elaborate stone mosaic fountain, a 7Eleven with a working slushie machine, and, of course, the LUGE. For this you have to ride a chairlift up to the top of a steep hill, which, by the way, nearly gave me a panic attack. (When he saw that I was nervous, my 7-year-old said, "Mom, just imagine you are on a park bench" and my 5-year-old added, "Yeah, one that moves." It never occurred to them that I was afraid for their safety.) When you get off the lift at the top, you strap on a helmet, get into a bobsled/go-kart thing and speed back down the hill; you control the steering and the brakes, and gravity takes care of the rest. C handled himself like a champ, while D and I doubled up and then I had a go solo.
After the Luge we had pizza on the beach, on the south side of the island, on what I think is the Singapore Strait (cross it and you're in Indonesia). We didn't bring the kids' suits but they stripped down to their shorts and waded in anyway. The monorail that took us back across Marina Bay and to the garage where we parked ran us right past an enormous construction site, where a Las Vegas-style casino and Universal theme park are to be built and open by 2010.
Wednesday: Chinatown and lunch at Yum Cha, in an upstairs space on one of the shopping streets and across the road from a big Buddhist temple. The boys ate plain broiled chicken (as fast as I could cut it), but they skipped the fried whole fish and prawn and mango dumplings. Afterward we shopped the stalls and bought T-shirts, bendable ninja dolls (one of them has its own cute little pair of numchuks!) and a cheap embroidered-silk mobile for the boys' room featuring the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, with rat on the top as 2008 is his year.
Later that evening we left the kids at home with J's helper (who's Indonesian and makes killer satay and spring rolls) and went to dinner in Little India, where I picked up a snake ring and some beaded sandals. On our way to the restaurant we wandered into a Hindi temple, leaving our shoes at the door, and found ourselves in the middle of a ceremony, with torches burning, people chanting, etc. I spotted one man dressed in a loincloth, cheeks streaked with white paint, throwing flowers into a fire pit. (If anybody knows what this is about, do tell...) We felt a little conspicuous so we left.
On Thursday we took a bumboat ride up and down the Singapore River, getting a good look at the Merlion, the city-state's official greeter, positioned at the old entrance to the port. Apparently some locals gripe that the Merlion has been overexposed as a national icon, so much so that it borders on the cliche, but hey, it's half-lion, half-fish and spits water -- for tourists under 10, what could be better than that?
Friday was zoo day, then a half-hearted attempt to catch the Chingay parade, which is sort of in celebration of Chinese New Year, which happened the week before, but it started late so we bailed after the intro, which featured Darth Vader and a legion of stormtroopers marching to the theme song from Star Wars, followed by some race cars and then a dance troupe wearing big yellow and green sleeves, which they swished for effect. There was a line of floats down the block promising more of the same, but we didn't stick around long enough to figure out what they were....the kids were beat. (Tickets to the bleacher seats included a bottle of water and emergency rain poncho, so I didn't leave without stashing four in my bag. Score!)
Next post will have photos...