Singapore Trips 1 and 2

**This post has been in draft mode for a while, yet living the life I’m writing about has gotten in the way of writing it and I already have many other things I’d love to share with you, but…one thing at a time. **

In September we had two short trips to Singapore. This city has been on my radar since before we arrived in Jakarta. It’s a well-known city and at less than a two-hour flight away, it is the destination new employees are sent to when having their Visa’s renewed or in order to get their work visas. I knew we’d be visiting and have been looking forward to it for a while!

Since we have kids, we were allowed to make this an overnight trip, instead of a day trip. We tried to make it into a long weekend, but only managed to get about a day and a half there.

There was a little ‘hiccup’ in our planning for this trip. Lion Air. It is an affordable airline that suits…smaller people. Lion Air has a very poor safety rating and we have also heard stories and warnings about it. Somehow, we managed to get our own experience on this airline. It began with a delay of about half an hour. Not bad compared to what I have read. We crammed ourselves into our seats, trying not to touch too much. The plane looked worn and dirty.  During the flight, I opened our trays to play cards with Jeremiah and was surprised and disgusted by what was on the back of the seat. Thankfully, I wasn’t eating any meals on this flight. Once in the air, we were able to spread out a little, since there were two empty rows behind us. That was a positive. On our way back, Naomi tried to use the washroom but found neither had lights and one didn’t have a working sink. She decided to wait. On our arrival, we were ushered into a bus meant to feel like the Arctic and spent a frigid 15 minutes driving to the terminal in our little icebox.

We chose to book our own hotel and managed to snag a room with two double beds! That was the best we could find, and it turned out all right. The kids are getting used to sleeping together, (they did it while sleeping in Grandma and Grandpa’s trailer, so maybe it’s nostalgic?) and we are getting used to watching Netflix with one set of headphones and all the lights off while crammed into a little bed.

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On this first trip, we decided to walk to the famous Gardens by the Bay to see the Supertree Grove and Cloud Forest. I was not disappointed. Yes, I have been blessed with many tropical plants all around me and a perpetual summer with no dreary grey winters to make me long for growing things, but let’s be honest, I still live in a city, in an apartment. I was dreaming of real gardens. We spent about an hour in the Cloud Forest. It was amazing first of all because it was cooler inside than outside. Our body’s thermometers were relieved. It was comfortable, the air was fresh, and then you walk in and see this magnificent man-made mountain with a beautiful waterfall surrounded by and covered by amazing plants.

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I wasn’t satisfied until I had taken a picture of each one. We wound our way up until we got to the top, at various points walking through the mountain, looking out through the waterfall or other windows. You even walk out on a walkway that takes you out over top of it all, giving you a new perspective. It was so satisfying and even the kids enjoyed themselves.

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After that, we toured the flower dome, where it was again very comfortable inside and had an amazing array of plants from all over the world. It also had a special sunflower display, one of my favourite flowers.

After we sat down for a bit, rested our feet and refueled, we wandered through the pathways and found the Supertree Grove. I would have loved to see this at night, all lit up, but they were pretty amazing during the day as well. These are structures, made to look like trees, covered with growing plants and they also have eco-friendly jobs. The website says: “Some will have photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy for lighting up the Supertrees. Others are integrated with the Cooled Conservatories and serve as air exhaust receptacles.” They’re pretty cool and are a reflection of how this city is committed to taking care of their piece of the world.

We also ventured up and did the 128-meter walkway. I like to think I’m adventurous, but even looking out my balcony makes me dizzy, I’m not great with heights. So I held on and tried not to look down too much, but the view out was pretty great.

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On our second trip we spent the first afternoon on Sentosa Island at the beach. This is a resort/tourist island. It has some serious attractions, including Universal Studios. I think it’ll be on our list for another trip, not Universal Studios though, I’d rather do zip-lining, or visit a water park.

We started at a free little water park for the kids (and me) called the Palawan Pirate Ship. I couldn’t believe this was free. It was just big enough that I didn’t have to follow the kids around but big enough that they didn’t get bored quickly.

After that, we walked down to the beach (which was right next to this area) and crossed a suspension bridge to another small island. It was Sunday afternoon, so we hit a peak visitor time, but I did my best to ignore that fact and take in the beauty of the area. It was a tropical wonder. We enjoyed the beach, even swimming from the small island, back to the main island and back and we made sand sculptures. I love the beach and soaking up the sun, so for me, it was very refreshing. And this time, there was no hysteria about sand being in uncomfortable places, but that could be because of the many threats discussions we had beforehand.

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Day 2 on trip 2 we traveled to the Singapore Zoo. We decided to get a family membership since it pays for itself after visiting two of the four attractions and we plan to go back in December. This time, we went to the River Safari. It was just long enough to keep the kids’ attention, but not feel too tired. If we had the full day, we could have done two zoos in one day. The Singapore Zoo also includes a Night Safari and a Bird Park. On our boat tour, we did get to see some of the zoo animals through the trees. This place is another manifestation of Singapore’s eco-conscious planning as the reservoir that we were on has been naturalized and kept as a nature reserve. The boat we were on was electric, leaving no oil in its wake. 

We needed to leave mid-afternoon to meet our agent and collect our passports. A great way, I think, to deal with the government. After collecting our passports with our new visas inside, we headed back to the airport.

After our first experience with Lion Air, we made sure to book on a better airline. Garuda is the Indonesian national airline, similar to Air Canada. It was so nice, we had a full meal on our 1.5-hour flight. There was barely enough time to eat it and clean it up! And the kids had their personal video screens. Yay for zoning out to a movie!

There is so much to love about Singapore! First, they speak English, which is a relief to my weary Google Translate app. Second, the currency is similar to the Canadian dollar, so we weren’t constantly doing the conversion. Also, it is a very clean city. I was told gum is illegal there. The city is well planned and orderly and they have an environment-friendly mentality. Plants and trees are growing everywhere, even on the buildings! It was easier and faster to get places, we never sat in traffic when we took a taxi, and could easily take the MRT. Perhaps I liked it so much because I was a tourist there, maybe it’s because I could get a Subway sandwich, but a lot of it probably had to do with how different it was from our new home in Jakarta.

Yet, coming home, M commented that our city is endearing. And as we drove home, looking out at the streets full of people doing what they do, living how they know how, I thought, yes, I do love this place. You don’t have to pretend here. People are friendly, they see you and are curious, even if it is just because we’re different, but they welcome us. It is a quirky place that doesn’t always make sense to me and everything is just harder to do, but it forces us to slow down and calm down. My frustration won’t change any process here that I don’t like or think is inefficient and Jakarta’s inefficiencies are helping me to be more patient and reflective.

I need to remember that I’m not made to be comfortable and enjoy everything nice. I’m made to love God, to know him and to serve him and my reward isn’t here on earth but is in heaven. So I will savour the Singapore moments and listen to what God is saying to me in the Jakarta moments.

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