I had honestly never been too excited to visit Singapore. We had had the opportunity to “move” there temporarily to give birth to Joshua but decided against it and went to the US instead. In my mind, post-partum depression, plus newborn, plus Christmas in a new place where I didn’t know anyone was not a good combination for the new mama nor for those surrounding me. The opportunity to go there on a shorter vacation rose again and I started doing some research. Five minutes into googling Singapore and Singapore with Kids, I was sold. I needed to get there ASAP!
We quickly started looking for plane tickets and found a good “online” deal with Garuda Indonesia Airlines. The only problem with this deal is that we couldn’t buy the infant’s ticket online and had to go to their office anyway. Since my husband was traveling further after our trip to Singapore we just decided to book all of the tickets thru a Travel Agency. The price wasn’t much higher than the online offer as long as we got the non-exchangeable, non-refundable ticket. We ended up paying a bit less than $200 USD for Evan’s and my ticket, Joshua’s ticket was $80 USD.
Please note that these are not the best deals you can get to Singapore from Jakarta. We purchased the tickets about 2 weeks before our trip so I really do think that purchasing them in advance would have been better. The problem with our lifestyle is that sometimes we cannot plan far ahead because of DH’s work. So we just go with the flow and try to make the best of the opportunities that present themselves.
We have stopped flying AirAsia since Joshua was born. I don’t have anything against them but since we now have to pay for Evan’s ticket the prices don’t differ that much once you add seat assignments and luggage fees, which we always have to pay due to our diaper overload. The service in Garuda Indonesia is usually very good and the flight attendants are very amenable and helpful. Evan flirts when them until they give in and end up giving him 2 or 3 toys and Joshua’s smile always attracts extra attention and constant water refills for mommy. Whenever I fly by myself with the two boys the ladies are always eager to lend a helping hand and they even hold or watch over one of the boys while I’m changing the other’s diaper.
The one thing I don’t like about Garuda is that on several occasions their flights I’ve been on have been delayed. Sometimes they are short delays, 15 to 25 minutes. Once, while in Surabaya, we had to wait 6 hours at the airport. I was pregnant and had a young toddler at a time. Trust me I was not a happy mama. After the delay, as we were grumpily getting on the plane they gave us 300.000 rupiahs each, I’m guessing for the inconvenience of having to buy yucky airport food or in my case a Venti Zen iced tea and chicken wrap from Starbucks.
Back to this trip. Once we arrived in Singapore I felt like I was in a different planet. It smelled clean, or rather, I couldn’t sense any odors emanating from anywhere. The staff was very friendly and to my delight the first thing I saw as we arrived on our gate was a baby changing station. Yay! I changed the boys, Evan insisted on going potty with daddy, and succeeded. And I later thanked God for the availability of a play area. I knew that would come handy in the near future.
We swiftly walked thru the gates and arrived in immigration. One word to describe it: awkward. You are not allowed to go thru immigration as a family. Each family member is supposed to go thru by themselves. My husband took the kids with him and I patiently waited as I saw 7 year olds walking towards that imposing desk by themselves. After a few quick questions and a very nice chat with a smiling agent we were reunited again.
After asking around with my friends in Jakarta and a good Mexican friend who lives in SG, we came to the conclusion that the place to stay was on Orchard. We love boutique hotels in random places but we were not sure we could pull that off with the kids in tow.
So I made it my task to look for a hotel. I checked lots of travel websites and found the prices to be a bit high. From what my friends then told me, hotels are quite pricey in Singapore, compare to Paris during the summer, but yearlong. I then remembered my good friend Loren in Bangkok always booked hotels with Agoda. Agoda.com is a website specializing on hotels in Asia. After deciding the area we wanted to stay in and the price range we were looking at( about $220 a night, considering that the cheapest hotel we had found was $180 and the most expensive $525 ) we decided to stay a the Mandarin Orchard Hotel on Orchard Road.
Location, location, location
After paying $18 Singapore dollars for a 25 minute taxi ride from Changi Airport, (less than we thought it would be) we arrived at the hotel. The Mandarin Orchard Hotel is right in the midst of Orchard road. Easily accessible to the MRT, public transportation buses and tour buses I don’t think we could have stayed anywhere better, other than another hotel on the same area. Wide sidewalks make taking your stroller anywhere a breeze. With a mall attached to it,it was very easy to go get emergency supplies, be it bottled water or seaweed and milk for the toddler.
As we arrived at the hotel we were greeted by impeccably presented staff that led us to the check-in counter. The lobby area is majestic and the scents reminded me of a Spa. The atmosphere was just of pure Asian elegance. Ten minutes later and an ear popping ride on a very fast elevator we were led to our room on the 25th floor.
As we entered the room, I must say my bubble burst. The room was nice and clean but my expectations were highly elevated by the appearance of the lobby. Don’t get me wrong; it was not bad, at all. It’s just that I was hoping our room would have similar lighting and scents as the lobby. The room was just what we needed to sleep and get some rest. We asked for a baby cot and got a nice travel bed where Joshua slept. We tried to make Evan sleep on the small couch but he refused and we ended up having some lovely kickful nights. We were very happy with the view from our window, which faced the bay area. We could see the Marina Bay Sands Hotel from a distance and the night-lights were just gorgeous.
Eating There, or, please buy me another bubble tea!
On the first night, pork deprived us, had dinner at a small cheap café called Bao Today on the nice open aired mall 313@Somerset. I don’t know if it was just the satisfaction of our longstanding craving, or the fact that it was actually good, but we eagerly ate away a couple of pork sampler dishes and a noodle soup. For about $18 Singapore Dollars, we had drinks, and enough pork to make us capable of standing another long period of pork fasting.
After a delightful dinner, and one that made me remember why I didn’t eat pork on the first place, even before Indonesia, we headed to explore the rest of 313@Somerset. As we were about the leave the shopping center I saw a picture of what looked like sticky rice with Mango so we headed to Honeymoon Dessert. Beautiful décor and even lovelier pictures of desserts greeted us and enticed us until we gave in and instead of sharing a dessert we ordered a sweet rice dumpling soup and a shaved iced fruit dessert. They were both very good, Evan can attest to that. We swore we would go back but we just didn’t have time.
Since the rate at our hotel did not include breakfast we explored our surroundings and found several cafés where we decided we were going to have breakfast on the following days. The first day there we had a croissant and coffee at Marché Restaurant. The restaurant itself wasn’t open but they allowed us to eat our freshly baked pastries and coffee while they were setting up for their lunch crowd. The bread and coffee were ok, but nothing impressive.
Since we went on the tour bus ride on our first whole day there we stopped wherever we wanted and had snacks and drinks wherever we felt like it. To my demise, I found Gong Cha (Tribute Tea) which is a Taiwanese tea chain that has everything from plum tea to green tea with milk jelly and coffee plus I don’t even remember how many different kinds of jellies. I think I got addicted to Gong Cha, because every time I saw an outlet I started getting thirsty, very thirsty. The fact that Evan usually chugged about half my tea before I could even taste it didn’t help but it did give me an excuse to buy one on every opportunity.
For lunch, as I mentioned before, we stopped at a Hawker Food Court and had delicious street food that didn’t make us sick. I had Thai basil-chili ground chicken with rice and the husband tried to eat what was left of his noodle soup after Evan attacked it. After a shaved-ice dessert consisting of mango and pickled coconut we proceeded to finish our tour.
Another Gong Cha later, we headed to Clarke Quay where we stopped at a Muchos Mexican Restaurant. Beautiful décor and what looked like a fun atmosphere but average service, high prices and not very good guacamole. Moving on….
On our second full day in Singapore we woke up to the smell of McMuffins and Coffee. Well, we didn’t wake up to it, but since we had seen the McDo the night before we decided we would hit it before heading out to the zoo the next day. We had a Sausage McMuffin and tried to grab a piece of the three hash browns we bought from Evan. We didn’t succeed.
At the Singapore Zoo we had a fruit salad and chicken rice. It was ok, good for a zoo I would say. A bit on the pricey side compared to the hawker stands considering their quality was probably similar.
Our last night in Singapore we were treated to the delightful company of my friend Azul and her savvy on the dinning scene of Singapore. We visited Ippudo,a Japanese Ramen Noodle Restaurant. We got there about 6 pm and the place was already packed, by the time we left the queue was about 30 people long. Here’s why: it’s fabulous! They had a wide array of ramen dishes ranging from gingery, to spicy to mild to whatever you set your heart on! We enjoyed draft Sapporo beer and Evan enjoyed playing with the plastic plates and spoons they gave him. Again, Evan ate a goof chunk of our meal, to the extent that we had to order extra noodles to add to our soups. I thought that was fantastic, not having to order a whole new dish but ordering extra noodles for cheap. For about $30 Singapore dollars per person you will leave Ippudo satisfied and planning a comeback.
On our last day we just rushed to the airport, we each took our corresponding flights and as I enjoyed an iced latte I wondered what my dear hubby was eating on his last day in Singapore for now. Probably a breakfast noodle or congeé soup, Evan has to get it from somewhere after all.