Saturday, 14 January 2012

Baby friendly city: Singapore

Singapore, right after Xmas

We had a three-night stop-over in Singapore on our way to New Zealand from Istanbul. It is a clean, nice, baby- and pram-friendly city. We really enjoyed Singapore with our baby.
Some (strange) facts I observed about Singapore:

  • I think Singapore is the best Asian city to go to when you need to have a stop-over on the way to New Zealand, particularly if you are travelling with a 13 month-old baby. The flight time from Istanbul to Singapore and from Singapore to Auckland was less than 18.5 hours.
  • Singapore Airport is huge! and quite cool! It is one of the must-see places in Singapore :)
  • They welcome tourists at the Immigration Control very hospitably. They offered us candies at the Passport Control Point when we arrived and before we left. They are very friendly. 
  • Singapore has five languages and English is the main language of education or let's say most common language. But apparently it is a Singaporey English. I have a suspicion that when they say 'oh it is very far', actually they mean it is very nearby! Otherwise, no way could it have happened to me twice in three days! 
  • While travelling in Singapore, many times I asked myself: "If this is modern architecture, what is it in Turkey or in Europe?" Singapore is a young and beautifully and intelligently architectured city. What kind of a fantasy can make you build three skyscrapers and connect them with a boat at the top so that you can have a city-view that you can watch, while swimming [see the building in the background of the photo above]! 
  • National Museum of Singapore
  • Finding souvenirs in Singapore is very tricky. It looks like shopping is a big deal in Singapore but you really need to be well-off to be comfortable with your spending depending on where you shop. Prices at the shopping malls are quite pricey. I went into a kids clothing shop, and with 50 % discount, a children's top was 100 Singapore dollars. You can try Bugis Street market but even though the prices may be attractive, the quality of products is really low. And when you want to buy souvenirs, everything looks like 'made in China'. After visiting Bugis Street, we went to a Buddhist and Hindu temple and afterwards we found our way to the National Museum of Singapore. By the time we arrived there, it was 6pm. At the entrance, it said 'entrance free' and the museum is open until 8pm. We said 'jolly good' and had a look at the museum. If you want to find a nice souvenir, I recommend the Museum Shop. Some of the galleries were closed but we could visit one of them. Interestingly, when we went back to the Museum the next day, they said that we needed to pay to see the galleries (!)
Tips if you are travelling with a baby
  • It is a clean and nice city. I found it very easy to travel with a baby in Singapore. Highly recommended.
  • You need to fold your pram when you get on a bus [it needs to stay folded throughout your journey].
  • It is easy to find ready meals in jars for your baby (a small jar [organic] for around 2 Singapore dollars) Naturally my baby doesn't like eating spicy foods; breastfeeding, bananas, porridge and eggs saved my life! Easy to feed!
  • Singapore is a warm and humid city. I normally don't use sun block on my baby's skin. Instead I try not to take her outside under hot sun between 10am and 5pm and make sure that she wears long-sleeves and leggings (to protect her from sun). But because we only had 3 days in Singapore and we were exclusively tourists, I had to give up on my rules for three days. Make sure you have some sun block for your baby.
  • Singapore can be very rainy. Apparently the worst month to go there is December and we were there just before the New Year. It was not too hot, but definitely it rained and it was humid. Even if you don't like using umbrellas, make sure that you carry your baby's pram's rain cover.
  • Most importantly, our baby did not need any extra vaccination to go to Singapore.
Notes on food
  • There are different yummy cuisines in Singapore but the Malaysian cuisine is the cheapest to try. My husband had a vegetarian dish for only 2 dollars! 
  • Food is cheap depending on where you buy it. Our friends, who live in Singapore, do not even cook at home, because it is really cheap. You can eat a nice bowl of noodles for only 4 Singapore dollars.
  • Finding vegetarian food is easy but in big shopping malls it can be difficult (don't know why!) What I know is we spent more than 2 hours looking for vegetarian food in shopping centres, and couldn't find any. We ended up going to a market (7 eleven) and bought a cheese-pastry thingy.    
  • Fresh juices,  such as coconut, are great to try! You drink your coconut juice from the fruit shell itself and then you can scrape its flesh with a spoon and eat it. How cool is that!
Money matters
  • Don't worry about the rates at the exchange offices at the airport, they offer pretty much what they offer at the city centre (up to 1 cent in the dollar max).
  • Before going there, everyone said that credit cards are widely accepted, but I recommend you not to rely on credit cards. For instance, they say taxis accept credit cards. Yes they accept credit cards, but they charge you  10 % extra for that!
  • Keep in mind that if you book a taxi in advance, you need to pay more than the usual price. Don't do like we did, spare some extra money before you leave. Luckily we had great friends there to lend us some money ;)
  • Supermarkets at the city centre are more expensive than the ones in suburbian areas. And being tourists, it is not that easy to locate supermarkets. 
One last suggestion: If you have time, visiting the Spice Garden in Canning Park, next to the Museum, is a very good experience. You can show your child where spices - such as cardamom, clove, ginger etc. - come from.