Hubby is home from his business trip to good ‘ole Blighty!

It’s been two weeks since we returned from our fabulous hols in Singapore (more blog posts coming on that trip!), and we’ve been so busy settling back into ‘Term 3′ of the school year – especially with the man of the house away, on business, for a week and a half. He was working in the UK (some 40 hours of travelling time away) and though we missed him heaps, I was really happy for him to squeeze in an evening with his brother, sister and parents.

Dan (left), with his Mum and Dad (top left and right) and his sister (middle) and brother.

Dan (left), with his Mum and Dad (top left and right) and his sister (middle) and brother.

He also caught up with his best friend from his school years (whom he hadn’t seen in eight, long years!), in Oxford, on his last night.

Whilst he was travelling through from Newcastle to Durham, and Birmingham to Leeds, taking in the countryside (and pubs) in between…

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Beautiful English countryside vista.

We were busy on the school routines and fitting in some fun times in between.

We saw the fantastic film ‘Inside Out’, and visited the beautiful Wellington Botanic Garden on the weekends. The daffodils were blooming!

Daffodils in bloom and two of my beautiful daughters. Awww!

Daffodils in bloom and two of my beautiful daughters. Awww!

The gardens were so beautiful and there was a brief hint of spring (though we are far from there… some cold fronts forecast for much of August!).

Magnolia buds in bloom!

Magnolia buds in bloom!

Miss 9 put together this awesome video of our visit (the editing is ALL her own work & she directed me as to what to film).

The video includes our trip on the Wellington Cable Car (always a ‘must’ for visitors to Wellington!) and there were some magical lights in two of the three tunnels!

Wellington Cable Car

Wellington Cable Car

Now we are back to being a happy family of five, with hubby returning home before school finished. His presence at school pick-up was such a warm and welcome surprise for his three daughters.

It’s great to have him home x

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My Sunday Photos | Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Gardens by the Bay, in Singapore, opened to the public in 2011. It is an amazing development, which brings to life a vision of creating a City in a Garden, as described in detail on the Gardens by the Bay website.

Towering over the gardens is the ‘Supertree Grove‘, which made me think of the movie ‘Avatar’.

‘These unique trees of up to 16 storeys in height can be found all around the Gardens – twelve at the Supertree Grove, while the remaining six are placed in clusters of threes at the Golden and Silver Gardens.’

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We visited the gardens on a Sunday morning, with our three children and their grandparents (my dear parents-in-law) – known to the children as ‘Chinese Granddad and Grandma’.

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Chinese Granddad & Grandma inside the ‘Flower Dome’.

The ‘Outdoor Gardens Audio Tour‘, aboard the 22-seater Garden Cruiser tram, took us on a leisurely 25 minute ride around Bay South Garden and dropped us off by the incredible domes (there’s two of them – a cloud forest dome and a flower dome).

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The ‘Cloud Forest‘ dome was massive, with a walkway spiralling from top to bottom, with a magnificent water fall featured. Described as,

‘Step out of the concrete jungle into a realm high in the mountains where you can learn about rare plants and their fast-disappearing environment.

Take in breathtaking mountain views surrounded by diverse vegetation and hidden floral gems that disappear into the clouds.’

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‘Enter the Cloud Forest, a mysterious world veiled in mist. A 35-metre tall mountain covered in lush vegetation shrouding the world’s tallest indoor waterfall showcases plant life from tropical highlands up to 2,000-metres above sea level.’

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The ‘Flower Dome‘ was a delight to the eyes and nose, with so much vibrant colour and delicate scents.

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The dome is described as:-

‘Enter a world of perpetual spring, where unique plants bloom in an ever changing display of flowers. Discover plants from the Mediterranean and semi-arid subtropical regions.’

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There was also a fun nursery rhyme theme, at the time of our visit, which delighted our very own ‘Alice in Wonderland!’

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Overlooking the flowers was this magnificent dragon!

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After visiting the domes we cooled off at the ‘Far East Organisation Children’s Garden‘ – where there was a water play area, before taking a rest around the pool at the apartment.

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At night, the gardens come alive in a different way with lights and music for a ‘Gardens Rhapsody’…

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I didn’t get round to seeing this myself, but hubby (who took these wonderful photographs), our 9 year old and grandparents did. They were in awe. Maybe I’ll see them again on a future visit. Singapore is most definitely an incredible ‘garden city’ to enjoy a mesmerising break.

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Dan took a short video of the Garden Rhapsody -

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Linking up with ‘My Sunday Photo’, where there are some gorgeous posts on the ‘One Dad 3 Girls’ blog. Apologies for a lot more that one Sunday photo, but I just had to get all these down for my own reflection and to look back on with the family!

OneDad3Girls

 

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Water play & keeping cool with children in Singapore

Coming from a New Zealand winter the heat and humidity of Singapore was both welcoming and – at times – exhausting. However, plentiful air conditioned spaces and a great apartment to sleep in meant we were given respite from the heat – failing that we simply sought out water; by way of drinking it, playing in it or floating along the Singapore River in a boat!

Alice on a 'BumBoat' on the Singapore River

Alice on a ‘BumBoat’ on the Singapore River

All along the Singapore River are street vendors selling bottled water, so there’s always a chance to quench the thirst. There are restaurants and cafes aplenty too, at Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, where stronger drinks can be enjoyed a leisure too!

Singapore River, Clarke Quay area

Singapore River

The shopping malls of Orchard Road, Bugis Junction and Vivo City are all wonderfully air-conditioned and some even have rooftop water play areas – like Vivo City – for the children to cool down!

We also made good use of umbrellas to shade us from the sun (as well as the occasional tropical downpour).

A tropical downpour at the pool!

A tropical downpour at the pool!

We learned to take a towel and spare change of clothes for the children, just in case there was an unexpected place to play in water too (whilst we could enjoy a quiet moment to sip on a Singapore Sling)!

Water fountains in Clarke Quay

Water fountains in Clarke Quay

Here’s some fabulous places we found to cool down whilst holidaying in Singapore…

Singapore Zoo wet play area – this is positioned halfway around the Zoo – on the other side of the Zoo to the main entrance.

There’s a cafe there too and a jungle adventure obstacle course. It’s a perfect place to cool off and take a break!

Wet play area at Singapore Zoo

Wet play area at Singapore Zoo

Gardens By The Bay – Far East Organisation Children’s Garden & water play area.

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Set in these beautiful gardens is this wonderful children’s garden (free to the public). Included in the garden is a water play area. Perfect!

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Sophie took the opportunity to enjoy a good cool down!

Children's Garden at Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Children’s Garden at Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

I adore this photograph Dan took of her, playing in the moment. Meanwhile, I took the other two children back to the apartment – as the heat had got too much for them! Dan and Sophie stayed on to have a great time.

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Adventure Cove Waterpark on Sentosa Island. This is a wonderful water park that also gives visitors the opportunity to see marine animals (even get up close to dolphins!), as well as enjoy the thrills of water-slides.

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There’s a long adventure river, that goes past an aquarium of sting-ray and through a glass-roofed tunnel of fish.

Taken on the adventure river, Adventure Cove, Sentosa Island.

Taken on the adventure river, Adventure Cove, Sentosa Island.

The river floats through many themed environments, which you can either float around in a rubber ring or swim.

It was a perfect depth – just under a metre high.

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I spent hours swimming around it with Alice.

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She adored the river and ditched the rubber rings in favour of swimming. Alice tucked her face down, and into the water every time we went through a tunnel, and swam like a little fish.

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The highlight of the water park, for our two older daughters, was the opportunity to snorkel with tropical fish (included in the basic admission cost).

Our youngest did it once too – which was quite brave of her, at only five years of age!

Snorkelling with tropical fish at Adventure Cove, Sentosa Island

Snorkelling with tropical fish at Adventure Cove, Sentosa Island

There was also a great wave pool area.

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Wild Wild Wet water park, Downtown East. This was a really affordable and fun water-park. It had none of the live marine animals, but was all about family play and fun.

Wild Wild Wet, Downtown East, Singapore

Wild Wild Wet, Downtown East, Singapore

Universal Studios – Jurassic Park – this area of the park not only had an awesome couple of rides, but this wet play area by a large, air-conditioned dining hall.  I spent an hour with my youngest daughter here, whilst hubby and the older two went into the air-conditioned restaurant to take a break from the heat.

Jurassic Park, Universal Studios, Sentosa Island, Singapore

Jurassic Park, Universal Studios, Sentosa Island, Singapore

She loved playing in this space so much.

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Beaches – Sentosa Island – We didn’t really make the most of visiting the beaches. Alice and I rode the cable-cars one day and briefly visited Siloso Beach, but there are so many activities to do here (maybe next time!).

Alice on Siloso Beach, Sentosa Island

Alice on Siloso Beach, Sentosa Island

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More information on many other ‘Water Play Places in Singapore‘ from Kids and Parenting (last updated Jan 2014).
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Linking up with other families around the world, enjoying outdoor fun with their children, over at…

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Magic moments on holiday with Grandparents in Singapore

Singapore, halfway between the UK and NZ, or thereabouts. A guaranteed warm destination to break up our NZ winter. A couple of weeks by the pool with plenty of entertainment to please everyone in our group – from the children (aged 5, 9 and 12) to the parents (myself and hubby) and the grandparents (who flew in from the UK).

We spent a fortnight in Singapore with Chinese Granddad and Grandma. We stayed in a wonderfully air-conditioned apartment near Clark Quay (restaurants and bars galore on the Singapore river).

Clarke Quay, Singapore

Clarke Quay, Singapore

The apartment gave us much more space that a hotel room, including a kitchen and decent living area. Breakfast was available from 7-10am, Monday to Friday, and the pool was a perfect size for us to cool down in the heat (and squirt each other with water pistols!).

The girls came up with a lovely synchronised swimming show for us one day…

Another day the girls were sprung by a sudden tropical downpour and, seeing as there wasn’t any lightening (or I would have been ushering them indoors), they made the most of the moment to sing and dance in the rain (with their Daddy making a star appearance)!

We knew Chinese Granddad would enjoy being close to Chinatown (for the food) and Grandma would like the shopping (on her first night there she came home with some darn plastic chickens that I quickly had to hide away!)…

It was really wonderful for me to see the children having quality time with their grandparents – and for hubby to get out in the evening with his folks for some special time.

I was happy to stop in the apartment with the children most nights, content knowing that hubby was savouring time with his folks (so precious when we live on opposite sides of the planet). The day-time fun made up for the quieter nights and I relished the time to read (I deliberately left my laptop at home).

However, I did manage to get out a couple of times for the all essential Singapore Sling, initially at bars local to where we were staying, but eventually the home of the cocktail, ‘Raffles’.

Raffles, Singapore

No trip to Singapore is a done holiday until a visit to The Long Bar at Raffles has been made (just make sure you get your quota of monkey nuts, as the price of the cocktails is – as to be expected – top notch!).

Raffles Hotel

Our highlights of our time with Grandma & Granddad were around the pool at the apartments and visiting Adventure Cove on Sentosa Island, where the girls loved snorkelling with tropical fish!

Swimming with fish at Adventure Cove

We also had a great day-trip to Singapore Zoo.

A visit to the ‘Gardens By the Bay’, was absolutely wonderful and definitely to be recommended. We visited during the daytime and strolled through the cool forest and flower domes (literally cool, compared to the temperature outside!).

Inside the 'Flower Dome'.

Inside the ‘Flower Dome’.

On arrival we paid for the tram ride, which was good value and an easy way to get one’s bearings of the gardens, without suffering heat exhaustion. The commentary was excellent and the tram stopped by the entrance to the domes.

Inside the 'Forest Dome'

Inside the ‘Forest Dome’

At night the giant ‘super trees’ come alive with lights – powered by solar power.

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It’s like a scene from Avatar. Grandma & Granddad loved it.

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Another scene that was pure magic was the free show at Marina Sands Waterfront Promenade. A blend of music, dancing water, fire, bubbles and laser projected film come together to tell a story that stirs the spirit, heart and soul.

Dan took his parents one night and then I managed to take the girls on the way home from Raffles another night (travelling on the MRT – underground railway system, which they loved). The show is on every night at 8.45pm. I sat mesmerised and delighted in seeing the expressions of awe and wonder on my children’s faces (particularly my youngest!).

Alice watching the laser light show at Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade

Alice watching the laser light show at Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade

There is always something to do in Singapore and we really did have an amazing time and holiday together. Now we are back home, and the girls are all back at school, I shall look forward to bringing together the many hundreds of photographs we have taken and putting them in albums and recording our adventures here on the blog.

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Back in town!

Singapore

Singapore at night, from the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade

After an amazing fortnight in Singapore we flew back to New Zealand last Sunday, bracing ourselves for the cold. We had an overnight stay in the comfortable Novetel Hotel at Auckland International Airport, before flying down to Wellington on Monday afternoon (just in time for the northerly to turn to a howling southerly and give us a good shake up of a welcome home!).

We’ve now been back a week in Wellington, arriving in time to wish her a 150th Happy Birthday, in the glorious sunshine that was bestowed upon the capital this Saturday.

Term 3 of school starts tomorrow.

I was so grateful for an extra week of school hols after our trip away – as Singapore time is hard to get out of the system (four hours behind New Zealand – so we’ve been going to bed past midnight…). Tomorrow morning the alarm is set for 6.45am and I shall be rousing my three daughters single handedly (as hubby has had to fly to the UK for business – strange to think he’s still travelling there – after leaving us over 24 hours ago!). The plan is to ensure I’ve made myself a darn strong coffee before even tackling the children!

I’m amazed that I haven’t blogged in over three weeks (this must be a record in my 12 years of blogging!). The main reason is the holiday was filled with family time, awesome day trips and time by the pool to read. Since returning from Singapore my computer has been commandeered by the children for Minecraft or Roblox (and when it’s been free I’ve been too busy doing post-holiday laundry, serving up food for the children and their pals, and trying to burn off some of their physical energy in the hope they’ll adjust their sleep patterns to NZ time!).

So, come tomorrow, with the children back at school, I shall hopefully start catching up on my blog reading and writing. I have so many photographs and memories to commit to the blog for future reflection, as well as making time to run whilst the girls are at school (I signed up for a half marathon the other night – it’s in four weeks time!), walk the fur baby (so good to see him after our trip away), do the house chores and keep the cupboards well stocked for my munchkins!

Sounds like a plan! Great to be back x

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Singapore calling!

It’s been over ten years since I last visited Singapore, in 2005. That visit was accompanying my hubby on business, with our first born daughter (at 19 months of age).

I’d also travelled before children, back in 2002 (which was an entirely different experience!).

On Sunday night I will be flying to Singapore again, with hubby and all three of our daughters, for a fortnight’s holiday! We are meeting up with my parents-in-law, the children’s grandparents, which will be so wonderful. We are very much looking forward to experiencing the cultural richness and variety that Singapore offers (as well as the waterparks, the incredible Zoo, Universal Studios and Sentosa Island!); though with humidity hovering around 75%, and daytime temperatures usually climbing to over 30°C, we shall have to pace ourselves! Fortunately the air-conditioned sanctuary of a shopping mall is never far away…

I remember the cathedrals of consumer heaven very well – and of course the ‘Mecca’ of them all – Orchard Road. A whole day is definitely needed to explore the 2.5km stretch. Multi-level shopping malls, selling designer goods from around the world, sit majestically where a dirt road in the 1840s used to be; lined with orchards, nutmeg plantations, burial grounds and the occasional home.

All the major hotels are located along Orchard Road too, such as The Hilton, the Singapore Marriott, the Grand Hyatt, the Mandarin Singapore and Le Meridien. With numerous nightspots, bars, lounges, pub, cafes, movie theatres and restaurants, it is a prosperous symbol of Singapore’s economic power.

I doubt the children will be very interesting in shopping, but the cinemas will be a draw-card. The architecture of the modern malls is quite entrancing too. In the centre of Orchard Road, the temple-like, marble clad, form of Ngee Ann City towers to the sky.

But Singapore is about so much more than shopping. Within a country the size of Lake Taupo (in the centre of New Zealand – at 646 sq km’s) there lives a vast blend of cultures and architecture; China Town, Little India, Malaysian influences and that of the European settlers in the colonial days (Raffles instantly springs to mind… along with a Singapore Sling!).

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Singapore is so easy to travel around, with a well supported public transport system, combined with the prohibitively high cost of travelling by private transport, ensuring reasonable free flowing traffic in and around the city. Road traffic consists largely of taxis, buses, industrial vehicles and the occasional large and sparkling, private car (well, if you can afford to drive in Singapore there’s no point in doing it half-heartedly!).

When I was last there I travelled extensively on the ‘MRT’ – Singapore’s underground train system. A transit-link fare card gave me freedom to hop on and off any train or bus that took my choosing.

My first stop, back in 2002, sans children, was Raffles Place, to explore Chinatown.

Chinatown

Chinatown opens the senses with wonderful smells of food, the aroma of incense sticks and beautiful scenes of traditional architecture and elaborate temples. It lies next to Singapore’s Financial District, but they present two very different pictures.  In contrast to Chinatown’s retention of the atmosphere of old Singapore, the skyscrapers of Raffles Place, and the rest of the Financial District, symbolise everything new and dynamic about the modern nation.

Chinatown

However, the division between the two areas is not clear-cut. Old and new intimately blend. One moment your thoughts can be carried back to times long ago, as you take in the scent of coiled incense hanging above your head in an elaborate temple, and the next – you see a towering skyscraper dominating the skyline to bring you right back to the modern day.

Chinatown Singapore, next to the financial district

The heart of Chinatown is a colourful cluster of narrow streets running off South Bridge Road. Once a densely packed area of shops, coolie lodging-houses, coffee houses and opium dens, the area has now been carefully restored.

It is home to antique shops, bars, restaurants and plenty of traditional colour with beautifully fashioned fabrics, glittering jewellery, temple paraphernalia and curious Chinese health shops.

Singapore

The shuttered buildings, painted in a rainbow of colours, with terracotta-tiled roofs, are in stark contrast to the high-rise neighbours encircling them from above.

Chinatown Singapore

From Chinatown to the Financial District I remember feeling thrust back into the modern world – along with refreshing availability of a cool beer (even if it was costly!). Boat Quay, home to Singapore’s elite workers. Situated along Singapore River, with views of Parliament House and colonial grandeur on the opposite bank, Boat Quay offers an eclectic choice of cuisines and outdoor dining. The two to three level white washed buildings, with their terracotta roofs, stand in charming defiance to the skyscrapers lining the horizon behind. There are bars and restaurants to suit every taste – from an authentic London styled Victorian pub and Irish jolly, to the exotic spices of India and China.

Boat Quay, Singapore

However, Boat Quay is costly, and it was for that reason that, back in 2002, I ventured onto the ‘Satay Club’ at Clarke Quay (we will be staying in an apartment in the Clarke Quay area on this holiday).

I remember stepping onto a ‘Bumboat’ to enjoy the cool breeze, as I cruised along the Singapore River from Boat Quay to Clarke Quay. Traditionally the bumboats used to jostle for position at the quay, ferrying goods from the harbour to the warehouses, now-a-days they make for another mode of transport.

Travelling by Bumboat

Alighting from the bumboat I was greeted by a festive atmosphere of music filling the still air and fairy lights, dancing with a welcome glow from the bars lining the quay. Featuring blocks of restored warehouses, Clarke Quay is home to hip entertainment, dining outlets and shops of all kinds. The streets are lined with craft stalls and satay delights.

The area caught the eye of developers in the 1990s, prior to that it used to be a strip of dilapidated 19th century warehouses run by predominantly Chinese traders.  I am very much looking forward to seeing how much more it has changed in the past decade.

Another area I am looking forward to revisiting is the Colonial Core (though I doubt the children will share my passion). In 2002, I travelled on the MRT to emerge in daylight, as though I had travelled through time. In Raffles I found myself in an oasis of tranquility. My thoughts drifted back to the days when gracefully dressed ladies and gentlemen would accommodate Singapore, a peaceful island of elegance amidst the heat and bustle of Southeast Asia.

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The courtyards, gardens and covered walkways created a lingering feeling of calm and peace. Of course I had to sample a Singapore Sling, in the cool comfort of ‘The Long Bar’, darkly lit with elegant shutters and wooden beams setting the backdrop, wicker arm chairs and tables inviting me to linger, and heart shaped fans on the ceiling providing cool relief from the heat.

Raffles Hotel Singapore

After a refreshing cool down I vividly remember stepping back out into the heat. I’m told it takes two weeks for the body to adjust (and two weeks was all the time I had!). It was an exhausting, humid heat (which is why I know we will have to pace our exploring with the children). I strolled to Fort Canning Park. The park was the seat of the Malay Kingdom of Temasek back in the 14th century. It was also the first Christian cemetery on the island. The grand Fort Canning Centre was built as a British army barracks in 1926. After a spell as an office block, it was restored and converted to a gallery and performance space.

From Fort Canning Park I walked to Chijmes. Today Chijmes consists of bars and shops, akin to Covent Gardens in London, but in yesteryear it was the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus. The sisters of the convent, which was founded in 1854, ran a woman’s refuge, orphanage and well-respected school until 1983 when the convent was relocated.

The architecture is enchanting, with the facade an elegant white and the centrepiece a magnificent five-floor-high spire capping the chapel. The walkways, of which there are 648, are beautifully decorated with carvings of tropical plants and animals. The atmosphere, by day, is peaceful – but at night the laughter and conversation winds its way up amongst the walkways to the night sky.

Heading back toward the Singapore River I enjoyed a leisurely walk around the Padang – a rectangular playing field where sporting activities take place. The Padang is surrounded by Old Parliament House, the Supreme Court, City Hall, the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall and Singapore Cricket Club – all most impressive buildings of grandeur in Victorian styled architecture.

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Reaching the river I crossed at Cavenagh Bridge (Singapore’s only suspension bridge). But, before doing so, paid my respects to the founder of Singapore – as a trading post – by Sir Stamford Raffles (the East India Company), who in 1819 signed an agreement with the Sultan of Johor giving the British the right to establish a trading post on the island, proclaiming it a free port. And so it was that modern Singapore was born.

Despite Singapore’s high-density population it is surprisingly ‘green’ in appearance with many parks and gardens to find relaxation. The Singapore Botanic Gardens are a beautiful oasis of nature, located practically on the doorstep of Orchard Road’s shopping hub. There are many other opportunities to get close to nature in Singapore at places such as the wonderfully open-plan style Singapore Zoological Gardens, the Jurong Bird Park, the Bukit Tamah Nature Reserve, Mandai Orchid Garden, Japanese and Chinese Gardens. Since I last visited there has been the addition of the amazing ‘Gardens by the Bay‘.

And as well as travelling by bus, train, MRT and bumboat, there’s also a cable-car, from the heights of Mount Faber to Singapore’s recreational playground – Sentosa Island (where I imagine our three daughters will have high on the list of ‘must do’ activities!). Sentosa Island provides an amazing array of attractions from ‘Dolphin Island‘ and ‘Universal Studios‘ to a butterfly & insect park and the world’s largest aquarium. We will definitely be visiting the ‘Adventure Cove Waterpark’ and spectacular ‘Lake of Dreams‘.

The island of Sentosa has quite an interesting history – being transformed from a fishing village to military base and now an island of entertainment. There are a number of historical exhibits, which I delved into on my visit in 2002, prior to children!

Sentosa Island

The British used the island as a military base until 1967. Fort Siloso – the last bastion of the British during World War II, was built in the 1880s, and is an intriguing complex of bunkers, cannons and underground passageways.

I visited the ‘Images of Singapore‘ – a marvellous trip though time to learn more about Singapore through the ages. I can’t wait to revisit this now, over a decade on, and see how it has developed. I remember a vivid and colourful section of this exhibit, the ‘Festivals of Singapore’, which brought to life the traditions and festivals of the main ethnic groups in Singapore, including Chinese, Indian and Peranakans (also known as Straits-born Chinese – who descended from the early Chinese traders who settled in the Straits Settlements of Malaya and Indonesia, from the 16th century, and intermarried with the local Malay and Indian women).

I loved this walkway of colour too – reminding me of the architectural wonders of Gaudi in Barcelona.

Sentosa Island

A walkway to the beach, of mosaic brilliance, twisted metal and water fountains.

Sentosa Island

The ‘Spirit of Singapore’ Boat Ride looks like an amazing new attraction to take the family on!

I can’t wait! I’m just hoping that we can pace ourselves in the heat! There is just so much to see and do!

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