Tag Archives: Singapore

Singapore, 2015

On the way back from Sri Lanka, my husband, daughter and I stopped in Singapore. We stayed at the luxurious Swissotel at Clarke Quay where my daughter loved the big bed, the free cow soft toy and kids toiletry pack. We all had great fun at the water slides on the roof too.

We also enjoyed exploring more of the Clarke Quay area. The art gallery with the colourful shutters, the street art and the view of Marina Bay Sands. Clarke Quay at night was also a pretty sight with all the lights.

One of the things on my hit list for this trip to Singapore was the largest fountain in the southern hemisphere- the Fountain of Wealth. And so to the fountain we went, located conveniently next to a large shopping centre with a huge Uniqlo and the best H&M I have been to so far.

The fountain was so big that you could walk into it so was definitely worth the trip. We also met my friend Cynthia and her new baby son for lunch. Dinner was with the other half of the couple, her partner Tony, and my husband’s friend Drew at Café Iguana back at Clarke Quay.

The next day, we went to Fort Canning Park, which was more of a sprawling park of walkways than an entertaining park for kids. We went to Cynthia and Tony’s for dinner at a local restaurant and reacquainted our daughters who enjoyed posing together for photos and holding hands on the walk back to the apartment.

With not enough time as always, the holiday came to an end once again, and it was time to bid farewell to our friends and fly back to Sydney.

Related posts: Singapore, 2013: Part 3, Singapore 2013: Part 2, Singapore, 2013: Part 1, Singapore 2012: Old vs New, Singapore 2012: Part 1, Indonesia and Singapore, 1994, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, It’s an Asia Thing, It’s a Water Thing, People vs Place

Singapore, 2013: Part 3

On the way back home from Europe, my husband, daughter and I stopped in Singapore for a couple of nights mainly to see friends, and to shop of course.

We went shopping on Orchard Rd and saw the colourful statues on the steps of ION Orchard. The usual suspects were visited- H&M, Uniqlo, New Look, Marks and Spencers, Mango and Zara. And as usual, our bags required much repacking to fit in the purchases. I’m not sure it would be very healthy for my bank balance to live in Singapore.

After our day of shopping, we caught up with Cynthia and Tony plus my husband’s friend Drew for dinner at Din Tai Fung. The matching kids cutlery was very cute and the food was good as always. Cynthia and Tony had left their daughter at home with their helper Rosie so they came back to our hotel on Orchard Rd for an after dinner drink before it was bedtime for my little one.

The next day we went to visit Cynthia and Tony and meet up with their daughter. Our daughters seemed to like playing together and were more curious about each other this time. It was nice to see them everyone here again six months after my solo trip here with my daughter.

We went to the local roti house for lunch, which was ridiculously cheap and packed with school kids. The little ones had to sit next to each other of course and it was amusing to watch them copying each other.

After lunch, we went back to Cynthia and Tony’s place for a nap and a swim in the lovely pool in their apartment complex courtyard. The little ones enjoyed splashing around with a novelty turtle pool toy and it was a great place to rest while we waited for our evening flight back to Sydney.

As always, the visit was not long enough, and there was barely time for a quick after swim shower before heading to the airport. Until next time…

Related posts: Singapore, 2013: Part 2, Singapore, 2013: Part 1, Javea, 2013, Barcelona, 2013, Versailles, 2013, Paris, 2013, Belgium, 2013: The Place, Belgium, 2013: The People, Hong Kong, 2013: Part 2, Hong Kong, 2013: Part 1, Fiji, 2013

Singapore, 2013: Part 2

My favourite sightseeing part of the trip to Singapore with my daughter was Gardens by the Bay. Due to smog from fires in Indonesia it was advised that my friend Cynthia and I stay inside with our daughters, but seeing as Gardens by the Bay is an indoor Botanical Gardens, this was not a problem.

The waterfall in the Cloud Forest Dome was fantastic and such fun to be able to walk up to, behind and above. There were many beautiful orchids, lots of colourful miniature hot air balloons and bridges in the sky to cross.

Marina Bay Sands and the Super Trees were mostly clouded by the smog, but inside the air was clear and the colours of the vegetation were bright. There were Boab trees, turtle statues, old olive trees and even windmills. I borrowed Cynthia’s ergo carrier so my daughter could have a nap while we wandered through the lovely Mediterranean garden.

The gift shop was almost as good as the gardens themselves. I left with a pair of dragonfly earrings and a clever cup that changed colours when you poured hot water in it as a gift from Cynthia.

The next day, the air quality was still bad, so I took my daughter on a quick trip to the indoor MINT toy museum. I think I enjoyed seeing Astro boy, Punch & Judy and Tin Tin paraphernalia more than she did.

That night, Cynthia and I left the girls with her husband Tony and their helper Rosie to hit Little India for a French dinner. After some good wine and great company, I almost forgot that we had kids and it was just like old times.

On our last day we went to the smick and modern Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. There was an indoor skating rink, gorgeous window displays and an indoor canal that you could take a gondola on under a bridge. The highlight was Cynthia’s favourite ice cream/chocolate shop Au Chocolat and the ingenious water fountain that dropped from the ceiling to fill the canal.

Singapore to see a good friend had been the perfect first trip to test the waters of travelling alone with the little one and I was so glad that I had come.

Related posts: Singapore, 2013: Part 1Singapore, 2012: Old vs NewSingapore, 2012: Part 1Indonesia and Singapore, 1994England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1998It’s an Asia Thing

Singapore, 2013: Part 1

When my daughter was 8 months old, I took her on our first trip without my husband to Singapore. My friend Cynthia had just moved there and she had a daughter the same age, plus a live in helper called Rosie, so I figured all I had to do alone was make it through the 9 hour flight.

The flight turned out to be fine and when we arrived my daughter made herself at home right away playing with Cynthia’s daughter, all her toys and one of the cats that dared to come close enough.

I borrowed a pram and we set off to see the city starting with Chinatown and the peaceful Temple of the Tooth. I loved the garden with so many little Buddha’s in the red walls and the cheap vegan restaurant downstairs was a favourite of Cynthia’s.

In the afternoon we cooled off with a swim in the pool of the apartment block that Cynthia lived in with her partner, Tony. Looking after two little girls of the same age turned out to be not so hard as sleep times, meal times and bath times could all be done together.

One night we all got dressed up for dinner and went to East Coast Park for chilli crab. It was delicious. For lunch the next day we headed into town to catch up with mutual friends Karen and Mitch for Ramen. Tony worked at Google and had us over to the all you can eat cafeteria at his office for lunch on another day where you could get anything you wanted from seafood to ice cream. There are so many good places to eat in Singapore that the possibilities were endless.

My daughter did us a favour by sleeping through a shopping trip where I stocked up on all my H&M goodies. When she did finally wake, she found her first changing room experience interesting- mirrors always seem to be a hit.

I was keen to visit Haw Par Villa as I had been there as a child when it was called the Tiger Balm Gardens. Although parts of it were falling into disrepair, it was still colourful and interesting. My favourite part was the dragon mural wall and the white lady on the lake fountain.

Related posts: Singapore, 2012: Old vs New, Singapore, 2012: Part 1, Indonesia and Singapore, 1994, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1998, It’s an Asia Thing

Malaysia, 2012

A runway had been built on the island since last time I had been to Tioman Island, so instead of catching a boat, my husband and I took the plane.

We landed at Tekek village where the resort bus picked us up. No hut on the beach for us this time- we were staying at the Berjaya Tioman Resort.

We were shown to our room on the ground floor of a double story free standing apartment which had a wide verandah just metres from the beach. It was perfect.

The resort also had a beach bar, a pool bar, spa, waterslides, a pool and a real river running through the grounds. Everything you could need for a relaxing holiday. I started with a manicure at the spa.

A little way up the beach was a pier where scuba diving boats went out to Renggis Island and beyond. My husband wanted to dive, so I went on the boat trip with him and a few other keen divers.

The view of Tioman and the resort from the boat was lovely. We spotted another more reclusive resort in he hills which looked interesting.

We went past many other smaller and uninhabited islands during the day. I snorkeled at Pulau Chebeh and Pulau Sepoi that had large rocks jutting out. We could hear whales in the water which was beautiful.

Docking at Tekek village pier, we had a look around and ate at one of the local seafood restaurants for a change from the resort food.

That night we met a French couple and their two daughters who were also staying at the resort. My husband enjoyed speaking French and drinking beers, while I enjoyed watching a mother with her children and wondering what was to come.

Our last night in Tioman was marked by a sunset on the beach with a boat bobbing in front of Renggis Island. It was a familiar scene to me and I took an almost identical photo to the last time I had been here.

My husband was staying at the Orchard Hotel for work back in Singapore, which was a little bit swankier than our hotel at the beginning of the trip.

I stayed for an extra day and we discovered the shopping side of Singapore at the ION Orchard. I bought so much at Zara and H&M that we had trouble fitting it all into our bags.

Related posts: Singapore, 2012: Old vs New, Singapore, 2012: Part 1, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988It’s an Asia Thing

Singapore, 2012: Old vs New

The next day, my husband and I headed back to Chinatown to explore further the mix of old and new. The old colourful Hindu Sri Mariamman temple was still there along with the Buddha Tooth Relic temple.

There was an old Buddha statue near a new perspex temple and old markets next to the new Tin Tin shop. My husband was a big fan of Tin Tin from his days of living in Belgium and he was happy to find some of the books in French so that he could teach the language to our child once it was born.

Another Asian favourite of my husband’s is a good hawker centre, so we found an authentic one here for lunch. The humidity being cut briefly by the afternoon rains was an old familiar Asian experience. One clap of thunder was so loud that it made me jump.

After the rain, we went into to the new Marina Bay Sands to journey to the top. We got a tip that the best place to go was the cocktail bar at the curved infinity pool where you got the view without having to pay for the observation deck.

From the bar we could see the shell like Art Science Museum, the Singapore Flyer and the domes and trees of Gardens By The Bay that was currently under construction. It was a clear day so I felt like I could see almost all the way to Malaysia.

On our last day in Singapore we went to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. We saw the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage, a statue of Chopin and Swan Lake with fountains, swan statues and real swans and turtles. We went behind a waterfall, which triggered the old memory that I had been there before.

I’m not usually a flower person, but we figured it would be rude not to go into the National Orchid Garden while were here. After all, the purple flower is the national emblem. There were arches of golden orchids, an interesting cage display and a tiger orchid fountain.

The waterfalls in the cool room were another welcome reprieve from the heat. We got lost heading out of the gardens and found it hard to find a cab home, so that evening we took it easy by dining at one of the riverside restaurants at the foot of our hotel.

After a hectic couple of days in Singapore, my husband was looking forward to some relaxing beach time on Tioman Island and I was looking forward to returning to the island that held old memories from the last time I had been there.

Related posts: Singapore, 2012: Part 1

Singapore, 2012: Part 1

When I was 5 months pregnant, my husband and I took a trip to Singapore and Malaysia. It was my first trip back since the 1990’s and my husband’s first time there at all. He had recently acquired a job with an international company, so we were fitting the trip in before his work trip in Singapore.

Singapore had modernised over the last 18 years, the Chinatown had shrunk and big sleek high-rise had popped up everywhere. We stayed in the Riverview Hotel where there were lots of lovely old buildings, most which had now been given a fresh coat of paint and a face-lift. Necessary, I suppose, but sad that it also meant a loss of authenticity.

I started our tour of Singapore with the iconic Raffles Hotel. The Indian doorman I remembered, but not the fancy expensive shops. The Singapore slings also seemed a bit out of reach expensive this time around.

We headed for the waterfront, past the futuristic looking Esplanade Theatre, to my favourite white Merlion fountain. It was now overlooked by the new Marina Bay Sands which was three towers with a curved cruise boat shaped roof, shimmering in the sunlight.

Passing the Fullerton Hotel, we walked to Clarke Quay with all the bronzed statues of buffalo’s and children jumping into the river. We had lunch at one of the many riverfront restaurants boasting fresh seafood and good beer. Here it felt a bit more like the Singapore I remembered.

My husband is a bit of a fan of markets, so we headed to Bugis Street markets to see what we could find. We also stumbled upon Chijmes, a church surrounded by a new courtyard complex of restaurants, including a very nice Tapas restaurant. Chijmes was one of the nicer new developments where I could see improvements to the old.

That night, the bus picked us up from the hotel to take us out to the Singapore Zoo for a night safari. I love zoo, but had never heard of a night safari before and was quite excited to be embarking on a new experience. We sat in a jeep vehicle train with zebra stripes for the safari.

The light was not good enough for my camera to be able to take photos in the dark, which turned out to be a good thing as it forced me to sit back and enjoy the animals rather than concentrate on recording them all. There were Indian wolves, elephants and Himalayan Tahr.

Some of the animals were not naturally nocturnal which was a bit worrying, but I guess animals are adaptable, just like humans. After the drive, we got out of the jeeps and took one of the walks to see the bizarre fishing cats which I had never seen before. They became a new favourite of mine.

Related posts: It’s an Asia Thing,  Indonesia and Singapore, 1994, England, Malaysia and Singapore, 1988

It’s an Asia Thing

My first foray into Asia was to India. I marvelled at the temples of Tamil Nadu, spent Christmas in KodaiKanal and saw the sunset at Cape Cormorin. There was a visit to a strange circus in Kerala, a boat trip in Cochin and lots of ice cream in Goa. We went to markets, met Mormons, climbed Cape Rama Fort and left through the gateway to India in Bombay.

Next was a school trip to Indonesia where we were educated in all the traditional arts and crafts from batik to silver making. We travelled through Lombok, Bali, Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan. The highlights were the vast Borobudur temple and the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

On the way home we went through Sentosa Island in Singapore. There have been many trips to the land of the Merlion since then to explore the food in Chinatown, the shops on Orchard Rd and visit friends, now expats of the city.

Close by is my favourite Asian destination of Malaysia. The fabulous food halls in Malacca, the life of Penang and the beautiful islands of course. So far I have visited Pulau Kapas, Pulau Pangkor and Pulau Tioman twice. Each island is special and interesting in its own way for the monkey in a hammock, the snorkelling or the sunsets.

The first time I went to Bangkok in Thailand I thought it was a big dirty Asian city. I thought Phuket was incredibly spoilt by tourism and I was sure I would never return. How wrong I was, as the island of Koh Lanta was to become the special place where I became engaged and later married. The little town of Ban Saladan and the beach at Kaw Kwang will forever have a piece of my heart.

Vietnam was a pleasant surprise, largely untouched by the greed of making a buck when I went there. I loved Hanoi, the city built around Haan Kim Lake and was fascinated by the other side of history as the story of Ho Chi Min unfolded before me. Halong Bay was undoubtedly beautiful and the little French colonial hill village of Tam Dao was a rare treasure.

When you think of places to go in Asia, South Korea is probably not at top of mind. However, I found I very much enjoyed discovering the two sides of Seoul. One deep in the traditions of markets, gates and palaces; and the other slightly crazy side of shopping centres, theme parks and off beat fashion.

I wish I had visited Hong Kong before the English handed it back to the locals, just to see how much it had changed. The modern world could clearly be seen here, but there were still the remnants of old. Like the Star Ferry and the fact that the city still had many large green spaces that had not yet been bulldozed by development. The smog of Victoria Peak reminded me that it was still Asia, but back on the ground there was always a drink in Soho to cool you down.

Yes, Asia can be hot, dirty and tiring; but it is also exciting, enticing and an assault to the senses. Riding in tuk tuks, bargaining with the friendly locals and appreciating the simple things in life. Asia has a lot to teach us and I sincerely hope that modernisation doesn’t engulf it to the point where it can no longer be recognised for the glorious cultural explosion it is.

Related posts: It’s a Sri Lankan Thing, Destination Thailand, 2010, Thailand, 2009, South Korea, 2008, Malaysia, 2006, Vietnam, 2003, Thailand, 2002, Sri Lanka, 1998, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994, Indonesia and Singapore, 1994, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, India, 1987- 1998, Part 2: The Journey North, India 1987- 1988, Part 1: The Road South

The Fashion Files

As I have previously stated, I am not much of a consumer. I don’t keep up with fashion and prefer to wear the styles and colours that suit me. I detest the societal pressure to look model thin and the requisite downsizing of sizes that goes with it.

That being said, I am so excited about the new H&M store that is opening in Sydney’s Macquarie Centre this Thursday. I haven’t been this excited since…well, since the first Australian store opened in Melbourne and I went to that one- currently the biggest H&M in the world as the young helpful sales assistant informed me. My favourite section is the comfy casual Logg clothing that I recently found in the Orchard Rd store in Singapore.

I first discovered H&M when I travelled to England to visit my grandparents. I just found that the pants fitted me better in European clothing brand shops. I was also taken to Zara on Oxford St, purchased a black ruffled skirt and a love affair with Spanish clothing brands commenced. Every overseas trip since then has included a trip to Zara and H&M in Europe, Asia and the Americas wherever possible.

After purchasing a t-shirt with an underwater fish scene in Las Vegas, I found the sub-brand Trafaluc and it is now my favourite section in a Zara store. When Zara opened in Sydney I was ecstatic, but this enthusiasm quickly turned to disappointment as I realised that in the tradition of many fashion outlets in Australia, we were at least one year behind all the European fashion.

The same could be said of the Sydney Mango shop, which went one step further and held leftover stock from Europe as far as I could tell as I found the exact same pair of black high heels that I had bought the previous year in Belgium. They used to have a great shop on the Gold Coast, but have now closed this along with all their other shops except for the flagship store in Melbourne and now distribute through David Jones.

On a recent trip to Barcelona, I saw the Desigual label. Very pretty and colourful, but a little too young and hip for me!

Now if I could just take a mental picture of my wardrobe so that I don’t end up buying the EXACT same top twice that would be great.

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Indonesia and Singapore, 1994

In October 1994, our years 10 and 11 Indonesian language classes went on a school trip to Indonesia and Singapore. As I was born in May, I found myself in between the two age groups, but mostly ended up hanging out with the older kids because they were allowed to drink.

We had been fundraising for the previous year by cooking Indonesian dishes and various other means. Our Indonesian teacher was very passionate and knowledgeable about the country and it was her drive that enabled the trip in the first place.

She wanted us to experience the traditional cultural Indonesia away from the tacky tourist spots, so our first stop was the island of Lombok. The hotel had a fresh water pool and we went for a jungle walk to a Hindu temple shrine. In the evening, we had a traditional Indonesian dancing lesson.

We went to Senggigi Beach and stayed in a resort where I saw my first pool bar. The boys climbed trees for coconuts and we ate in a restaurant on the beach. We visited a primary school where all the kids loved orange and blonde hair as it was unusual to them and they wanted to touch it. We also visited Purbasari weaving village and a pottery village.

From there, we caught the hydro foil to Bali. I got hassled to get my hair plaited at Kuta Beach to the point of tears- lesson learned- the less touristy Lombok was better that Bali.

We travelled to Yogyakarta, Java and saw the king’s throne at the Kraton. The city itself was busy and full of becaks (also known as rickshaws). We visited a silver factory, a batik weaving factory and a shadow puppet making and mask factory.

The epic Ramayana night play at Prambanan Temple was as long as expected and watched on uncomfortable stone seats which made it seem even longer. We visited the magnificent Borobudur Temple- I had never been to a temple so big before even after visiting dozens of them with my parents in other parts of Asia.

We went to the lovely little village of Bukit Lawang, Sumatra and stayed in huts that were separated from the town by a bridge over the river. We went swimming and I remember eating a whole bag of Kopiko’s while everyone else played volley ball.

One of the girls got invited to a wedding being held in the village by a local boy and our teacher encouraged her to go an experience first-hand something that most tourists would not get to see.

The highlight of the trip for me was visiting the Orangutans at the Tanjung Puting Rehabilitation Centre, Kalimantan. We also went to caves with bats and saw rubber trees.

On the way back to Australia, we stopped in Singapore. My friend Selina and I took the cable car to Sentosa Island, an artificial island with palm trees planted in a line two metres apart. We went on an enchanted grove dragon walk which had lots of dragon statues. We visited the maritime museum, the butterfly park and saw a costume show at the Asian village which encompassed East Asia and had a Philippine village that looked like Europe.

Related posts: Friendship: Great Expectations?, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988