The Singapore Zoo is an "open concept" zoo meaning there are very few actual cages for the animals. It felt surprisingly similar to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in our home town only a bit more... tropical. The weather was drizzling rain pretty much the entire day which actually helped us from becoming too hot while enjoying the zoo. The animals were a bit more active than I expected too because the heat wasn't so intense.
It was easy to spend the entire day at the zoo. We especially loved the "Fragile Forest" exhibit filled with tropical birds, giant flying fox bats, miniature deer, and very large lizards. There were supposedly lots of butterflies too, but as it was drizzling rain all day, we didn't get to see those.
The boys may argue that the best part of the zoo was the small water park in the children's zone. I was a good mom this time and remembered to pack swim suits, so a solid hour was spent splashing around in the middle of a zoo in Singapore.
Toward the end of the day we happened to be at an exhibit right as they were starting a show about animals native to Singapore. The boys really enjoyed learning about some different creatures and thought it was awesome that the monkeys walked on ropes right over the audience's heads. At the end of the show, Derek took the boys up to hold a giant python.
I would highly recommend the Singapore Zoo to families visiting Singapore. There was lots to see and do. We opted to rent a stroller for Oliver because it was a lot of walking and it was too hot to carry him on my back all day. Bring lots of water, take a few breaks, and make sure you pack the swim suits!
Our first full day in Singapore was spent wandering around Gardens by the Bay by the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. I booked a hotel close to the MRT to make travel in the city easier, so it was very fast to hop on the train down to the harbor. For Singapore being such a large city, we felt relatively alone as we walked along the river. It was a bit rainy, but we decided to take a short boat tour to get a better idea of where things were in the city.
The tour was a nice introduction to the city, and we were able to note where key things were (like a brewery). It was also nice to sit back and listen to a little of the history behind the city. Singapore is incredibly diverse, and its history provides the cause of such amazing diversity. As a huge port dating all the way back to the 1400's during the spice trades, Singapore attracted people from all over the world. In fact, today, Singaporeans observe holidays for Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists.
Along the tour, I was pleasantly surprised to see how beautifully clean the city and river were. There was so much green space with lovely parks, trails, and flowers. The city was clearly designed well, but it was a little hard to see the history in a place with so much "new."
After the boat tour, we wandered into the mall at the base of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Saying it was a fancy mall is an understatement. There was even a river complete with a gondola on the bottom floor. We had a quick lunch at the mall (nicest mall food I've ever had) and continued on our way to the Gardens by the Bay.
Gardens by the Bay
The Gardens by the Bay is a huge park with a children's area, the wire "supertrees" seen in many photographs, a botanical garden, and a cloud dome. There was a fee to go into a few of the places, but we found plenty to do without actually going into any of the exhibits.
I was very fond of the supertrees. They are huge wire structures covered in nearly 200 different species of orchids and ferns. Eventually, the plants will cover all the wires and provide shade for the park, but at this point, they were about 3/4 the way up the trunks. In the center of each supertree is a solar-panel which produces the energy needed to light the park after dark.
After looking at the trees for a while, we found the children's garden. There were meandering paths filled with play equipment, and an awesome tree-house jungle gym with some of the longest kids' slides I've ever seen. There was a "sprayground" as well, but swim suits were required, and I had neglected to pack them for the days' adventures. (Thankfully, the zoo had one too so Mommy could redeem herself the next day.)
After the park visit, we headed to Little India for dinner. Indian food is always a good bet for us as vegetarians because we know there will always bee options without meat on the menus. Derek found an all-vegetarian Indian place that was delicious. Oliver shoveled a ridiculous amount of palak paneer into his face. After dinner, we walked around Little India a bit so that I could see a temple I had wanted to see. It was very busy though, and we could not go into the temple, because the next day was the Hindu holiday Deepavali. Interestingly, during Deepavali, most Hindus do not consume any meat to help in the purification process, so the vegetarian options were even greater than normal the few days we were in Singapore.
We had a great first full day in Singapore, and were ready to check out the Singapore Zoo on Day 2.
Our family had a wonderful time at Legoland. The kids enjoyed the rides, the weather was perfect, and it wasn't crowded at all. We stayed one night at the Legoland Resort in a pirate themed room which made the boys incredibly happy. We are very glad we brought the boys there, but I regret thinking it would be "easy" to get from the Singapore airport, across the border to Malaysia, and all the way to Legoland.
We got into Singapore around noon on Sunday and had a little trouble figuring out where to go. We eventually found a great vegetarian Indian place in the airport for lunch and then found our way into the basement to get on the MRT. We ended up having to take five different trains to get to the station closest to the Malaysian border, and I am glad it was midday on a weekend because changing trains that often with two little kids and luggage would have been horrible. At the train station, we got a cab to take us to the causeway to go through immigration and pass into Malaysia.
Getting from Changi to Legoland...
As we walked through immigration and customs, we were very aware that we really had no idea what was going on. There were very few signs, so we just moved with the flow of people and hoped for the best. When we finally found our way through the winding halls and walking bridges, the lady at the immigration desk wasn't too happy with the fact that we were leaving the country after being there for only a few hours. Eventually, she let us out of Singapore.
At that point, we were no longer in Singapore, but we weren't in Malaysia yet either. We figured out that we needed to hop onto a bus to take us over the bridge connecting Singapore to continental Asia. It was a full bus as there was a queue and the driver jammed as many people on as possible. We missed the spot to buy bus tickets somehow but luckily had enough Singaporean change for the fare.
Once we got over the bridge, the doors of the bus opened, and a whole bunch of people started jumping off even though we were no where near any buildings that could possibly be Malaysian immigration. Thankfully, a kind lady said to stay on and wait to get to the station. The people jumping ship early were just in a hurry and walking was faster the the bus in traffic. Again, we had two kids and luggage, so we decided to be patient.
Malaysian immigration wasn't as confusing as Singaporean immigration, though that's probably because we were a bit more prepared for how it was going to work. After we were finally through immigration and customs, we decided we were finished navigating public transportation for the day and found a taxi to take us to the Legoland Resort. We finally got there after about two and a half hours, five trains, a bus, and two taxis. Next time we go to Legoland, I think we will plan to fly directly to Johor Bahru instead of the nonsense we went through to get there.
We checked into the hotel at Legoland around 4:30 on Sunday. The boys were instantly enthralled with all of the Legos to play with in the front lobby. There was a pirate ship, a castle, and a pit of Legos. Every kids' dream come true! They had regular Legos, Duplos, and even giant foam building blocks for kids to play with. They played in the lobby for quite a while before we went up to our room. I booked a standard pirate room for one night. Every room has a large king sized bed and a bunk bed with a trundle so a family of five would fit comfortably. The room was also equipped with a bucket of Duplos which was a big hit with our two after having to be so good on the plane, trains, and automobiles for so long. Derek and I let them play for a bit and then took them to the pool to blow off some energy.
The restaurant at the hotel has a buffet dinner, but it would have cost us nearly $80USD even though Oliver still eats free. Since we are vegetarians, we hate paying for buffet style meals because we never feel like we are getting our money's worth. Instead, we found a nearby place for a fraction of the price. Breakfast was included with the room, so we had the chance to eat at the Lego restaurant on Monday morning.
Legoland Theme Park
One of the perks of staying at the hotel was that we got to enter the theme park 30 minutes early. We hurried to the rides that the boys really wanted to do but quickly realized that the park was not going to be busy at all the entire day. The number of people at the park was perfect--enough to make it feel exciting but sparse enough that we never waited in a line more that 5 minutes or so. We opted only to do the main theme park and forgo the water park this time around simply because we knew Ollie wouldn't be able to do much of anything at the water park.
Here are a bunch of pictures from our fun-filled day at Legoland.
We particularly enjoyed that replicas of the famous sites in Asia. It was fun to go around to all the different "places" and hear Owen say "We've been there!"
Owen's favorite parts were the roller coasters and driving school, and Oliver was fond of the boats. I am so glad we made the effort and got the boys to Legoland. They had so much fun, and it is so wonderful to see that kind of joy in your child's eyes.
Getting back to Singapore...
After a full day for amusement parking, Derek and I did not have the energy (or desire) to lug kids and luggage on another two hour journey through the unknown to get to our hotel in downtown Singapore, so we took a taxi to Malaysian immigration, the bus over the border, and then a taxi from Singaporean immigration straight to our hotel. So much easier, but not nearly as good of a story...
Here you will find the blog entries from our trip to Singapore in October 2014.