Singapore, Southeast Asia’s Hyper-hub

We arrived after a good long trip where sleeping was intermittent.  Everything went as planned and off we went to Johor in Malaysia right away.  A bit of a traffic rush on the border but eventually all was well.  We decided to opt out of going to the park the first day to maximise the time the following two days as part of our daily passes. So we took it easy and then off to Johor Premium Outlet mall we went which was almost a carbon copy of the one in Halton Hills (Canada) and where my partner in crime (wife) made it a productive one getting a few things for herself.  The lobby of the hotel and the room were a nice surprise for all of us at the Legoland hotel, the theme was in full swing already.  The bunk beds and the décor was a nice touch as well, but the lobby had enough activities that we didn’t even have to go to the main park. Looking forward to doing so tomorrow though; and the following day.  Eventually doing the sights in Singapore soon after (hotel Wi-Fi as an extra charge there in Singapore will be a bit of a let-down, I hope that was some wrong info but we’ll see).

Full on at Legoland Hotel

Really looking forward to going back to Dubai on Emirates Business Class (upgraded with skyward miles) – in fact that’s probably my biggest highlight of the trip.  All in all an easy trip and so far so good – a nice highlight was working out a treasure chest in the hotel room and getting two prizes a Lego straw tumbler and three mini figures both worth about 60 dirhams (about 15 bucks) (Day 1, Legoland hotel 10:11p.m. Johor time)**

The second day started with a difficult wake up attempt after a very relaxing sleep – blaming the jet lag.  The kid was difficult to wake up, but had a quick breakfast then off to Legoland we went.  Started with the easy stuff, plane rides, mini town and he tired himself out at the playground “Shipyard”.  He was surprised to see a Ninjango live show which was a nice treat.  Took them back to freshen up– it was also very humid and started to rain.  I dashed back in to go to the observation tower solo, see the Star Wars displays and walked around to see where to take them next, once they’re ready to go.  Got caught in a bit of a rain storm but headed back to download the pix and update the journal.  Can’t wait to head back and try the other rides (a couple of which I might do solo such as the roller coaster).  So far so good, nice to be a kid again. (Day 2, Legoland hotel 2:10p.m. Johor time)**

A more structured day than the last two, after another full but crowded breakfast buffet, we headed to the water park.  Starting with the kids’ pool, moving to the lazy river, through to the smaller water slides and then back to three rounds of the lazy river; I believe my son must have been smoking something, he acted high just enjoying the floating sensation and singing to himself.  We spent less time there than expected, about 2-3 hours, but tiring nonetheless.  After a quick shower and change – and a minor mishap with our hotel door not working – we headed back to the main park to watch another 4D movie.  I took time to go to a roller coaster and mom and son went on the boat ride.  Didn’t find much at the “Big Shop” to peak my interest, but eventually got a “City” set which had 4-5 separate things for my son (and really me).  Would’ve liked to have gotten the classic bricks bin, but they ran out, which I found odd for a place that should have a good supply. I mean if not in the largest Lego store in Asia in LEGOLAND no less, where else!  Might get it in Dubai now that my kid got the Lego bug and is well into Lego building…finally.

Amazing Lego Buildings!

We headed back to the hotel and after some dancing to the XBOX Kids Just Dance 2014 we saw a castle/princess show and called it a night.  Tomorrow we are off to Singapore, but not before we squeeze out as much as we can of this stay down to the last minute, with a swim in the hotel pool, breakfast buffet, figurine exchange and a show 15 minutes before our ride to the Singapore hotel…. just worried about the Wi-Fi charges there (I know what a crisis!), but will cross that bridge when I get to it (Day 3, Legoland hotel 10:25p.m. Johor time)**

Not much of an eventful day – mainly said our goodbyes to a lovely stay in Legoland.  Back to Singapore in what is a more luxurious hotel than I expected.  After a quick drop off and check in, went for a long walk along Orchard street to Kanakouniya Bookstore (the biggest in Asia!) and got a couple of books. Walked back through to Plaza Singapore, got some Legos of all things from Hamley’s (the classic bricks which I didn’t find in Legoland ironically), and finally to our room where we rested.  Very beat, will write more tomorrow after a visit to the Bird Park I’m sure.  (Day 4, Conrad Centennial Hotel, 10:48p.m. Singapore time)**

Our Singapore Home

What a day this has been, and not in a great way by any means.  I was shivering so much during the night leading up to it that my muscles were all tense and sore, apparently I have had severe dehydration from the day before.  So the day was naturally difficult on that account.  We still managed to do what we wanted to do, Jurong Bird Park, Marina Sands, and Gardens by the bay, but nowhere near what I would have done had I been 100%.  I was in so much pain I was lethargic and felt almost other worldly; due to pain not anything positive.

A Singaporean Christmas

Another memorable lowlight was my son vomiting inside the taxi as we were heading to the Park which certainly didn’t help.  Needless to say the taxi driver was not impressed and we gave him a big tip – we felt really bad.  His cab was spotless (as expected in Singapore) and he even had an air deodoriser – so much good that did.  As I write this I am still trying my best just to keep up and survive on painkillers and rest (and lots of liquids). I really hope tomorrow this pain lets up so that I can move on and enjoy what’s left of the vacation! (Day 5, Conrad Centennial Hotel, 8:30p.m. Singapore time)**

Jurong and Gardens by the Bay

I felt much better today, but had random spells of nausea and fatigue.  Today we went to SEA Aquarium in Sentosa Island, it was like Disneyland with many international restaurants and coffee shops. The aquarium was great….as expected, but nothing too surprising due to the Dubai underwater Zoo in Dubai Mall, yes we’ve become crazy jaded.  I thoroughly enjoyed it regardless, however our spoiled brat was unimpressed, and mom made the most of it.  We went to Chinatown for some much needed cultural fix – too touristed out – and it was authentic!  We got some nick nacks, the highlight of which was a seal stamp with my name in Mandarin.  Somehow though ended up going to a very ghetto food court that didn’t help my nausea at all, the smell alone was …um… challenging, on any other day I would have been a better sport about it but not while I’m sick.  We also tried the metro for the first time and realised we got the little guy one ticket too much, since he is free; but it was nice clean and comfortable.  Headed back to rest up before trying out the hotel pool…. yes, we finally made use of it, which we found out opens till late. (Day 6, Conrad Centennial Hotel, 6:45p.m. Singapore time)**

Chinatown

Another interesting day for all the wrong reasons, my boy ended the day last night with a fever and diarrhea; including messing up all his night clothes to the point that we are on the last pajama for the next four days.  So even though I was planning on doing the zoo and night safari today we opted to take a break today and make it wifey’s shopping day instead.  We got him some medicine and some basics from the hypermarket (including some laundry detergent).  Thought we’d let mom have her day, so I “single dad”ed it and took him home to relax; lo and behold as he was drinking electrolytes he vomited (again) all over the chair and floor of the hotel room. Luckily most of it went into the electrolyte glass he was holding (too much imagery?).

For the next couple of hours, I was doing the laundry in the bathroom sink and cleaned up the vomit, washed him up and waited for the room to be fixed (which as of yet it hasn’t been).  It doesn’t help both hotel room phones aren’t working for some reason.  The reason why we initially wanted the bed to be fixed because he had wet poop stain in the middle of it…great!  wonder who the lucky cleaner will be?  Let’s hope the day doesn’t get worse and tomorrow we can actually do some more sightseeing, too much sickness happening all around for my liking.  (Day 7, Conrad Centennial Hotel, 1:45p.m. Singapore time)**

I was a little late in writing the next log, instead of the day of, I’m writing this (a day late) bright and early Christmas day Singapore time while everyone is still sleeping.  After the usual breakfast, and an arduous night before, where my boy woke up at least 6 times.  For the first time though, since being here in Singapore, I was able to try food in the buffet other than fruits and yogurt!  Wasn’t really missing much, actually was craving the healthy stuff – but good to have the choice.

After a long time of chilling in the hotel to get my kid’s body to settle a bit, while boo went shopping (again), she was nice enough to get me socks and a belt from a Taiwanese store in Suntech – really nice stuff and I needed them both.  I did get a nice surprise this morning with a swollen red left eye to add to my lovely list of bodily ailments.  We’ll see where this one takes me now.

The original Raffles

We dressed up and headed out to the Raffles hotel for our pre-booked high-tea.  Some light rain weather, but luckily it was close enough – the humidity was relentless though.  We had as classy of a high tea as we could with my kid joining us…. ehm…. the usual screaming, fits, crying and arguing; all be fitting a classy high-tea at the lovely Singapore Raffles hotel.  The food was great (there was a buffet to go with the high-tea tray stack) and tea was delicious, I had Darjeeling and the misses had Earl Grey.  There were some highlights, the scones and the Mango and lemongrass mousse were unforgettable. Then we walked to the nearby Arab Quarter and Little India (forgoing the original plan to take the metro).  Some nice sites in little India and got some cheap souvenirs from Mustafa Centre for my colleagues; we bought snacks from a huge hypermarket and then back to the Arab Quarter for some milk tea.  When I asked the old Indian guy for “Karak” tea he laughed and asked surprisingly if I am from India.  I said I was coming from Dubai, he appropriately said “it was the same as India” – apparently no one knows of Karak tea in Singapore!  Singapore, you don’t know what you’re missing.  He made it for us though, and he loved that I was originally Iraqi – especially since their stall was in “Bassorah Street” (named after Basra, Iraq).  It was nice to see the Arab Quarter at night, it was a hip and trendy place, not some stale place.  My favourite of the three cultural districts we visited.

Vibrant and trendy Arab Quarter

When we got back to the hotel we sent out our Merry Christmas messages and called it a day.  Hoping the next day my poor little guy feels good enough for the zoo; since we don’t have much time left to squeeze it in the schedule (and that my freakishly swollen eye gets better – at least for pictures’ sake) (Day 9, Conrad Centennial Hotel, 8:18a.m. Singapore time)**

The famouse Singapore Zoo

Today started off with what has become a daily occurrence (rushing down before the breakfast buffet closes down) but this time it was really crowded and they sent us to the 4th floor for a makeshift extended buffet.  This one was so disorganised, no food left, no one came to ask us for tea or coffee, that we were willing to wait longer at the regular spot.  Luckily it wasn’t a wait at all the second time and thankfully we did leave the 4th floor venue (some people suffered through a lackluster buffet). My son and I then spend a morning relaxing while my better (and now more relaxed) half got a facial and bought even more stuff!  I started to get irritated that I got cooped up for three days while she does her shopping fix when I set aside a full day (tomorrow) just for that!  This is really not my kind of trip and half of it is becoming for shopping purposes while my son gets even more addicted to the iPad which was grinding at my nerves.

I put my frustration aside (or tried to) since they were putting up with activities in a very humid city  (even though again those activities are meant for them).  I do think I missed out on a few things I had my heart set on, for example I didn’t get to go to the transformers roller coaster (or any adult ones for that matter) while in Universal Studios which cost a fortune.  Neither did I savour the aquarium – I just sometimes feel like I am giving up more and no one is appreciating it, and it’s not like these things are free.  God forbid I want to go to a museum or an art gallery which are walking distance!

Moving on, we finally headed to the Zoo at around 3 in the afternoon.  As usual my son fell asleep as soon as we arrived, and the wifey got tired.  We went to the kids play area where I left them to take photos on my own (I kind of had enough at this point and needed to do my own thing)– the highlight was the crocodile and cheetah, the ring tailed lemurs where also a treat which compensated for not seeing a Solaris – disappointed for not finding a tiger though.  So I come back to a panicking wife about how I was 15 minutes late and they were closing the park down; so much for that brief moment of bliss.

A big disappointment was queuing in the night for the Night Safari; it took about an hour only to have my angel child needing the bathroom (another diarrhoea session).  When we came back it was an even bigger line, that’s just for the entry and not the tram.  It was too disorganised for my comfort and with the humidity, I was barely to tolerate it (I can image for the kids and wife how it must have felt).  I finally “let ‘er rip” to the entry guard (knowing full well it won’t make much of a difference).  When we finally did the night safari it was amazing, the highlight was the white lion (not albino, it was naturally white).  But I couldn’t take any good photos in the night (when will I get a decent camera, when?)  We headed back to rest up; tomorrow is our last day. I don’t have much planned so it’ll be an easy-going one. Might make a trip to the Arts museum alone – if I can.  And then off to upgraded business class seats – can’t wait.  (Day 10, Conrad Centennial Hotel, 12:10 a.m. Singapore time)**

The day was fairly productive, more so than I expected – after the usual breakfast (and a worsening swelling eye) – we passed by Marina Square and I got a couple of things, and an extra hard case luggage bag from the hypermarket to fit all our shopping, which we didn’t expect we would have so much, I mean we already filled up one empty suitcase we brought! Obvious result of many shopping sprees – refer to logs above.

I decided to take the day for myself and go out into the city and see some of the Architectural sites.  Actually it started off with just going to the Museum but took a detour and saw the WWII Memorial, the City Hall and Courts, the Armenian Church, St. Andrew’s Church, Synagogue, the Merlion statue, Mr. Raffles Stature, the Singapore River, the Esplanade façade (Durian buildings) among other things in between – took some amazing shots if I do say so myself and had a good work out doing it.  I really enjoyed having good walk through the Museum (which coincidentally had some items from the British Museum on loan – some of which I already saw in Abu Dhabi a couple of years ago).

More sites and….

….snacks of Singapore

After a late lunch at a Japanese restaurant near the hotel, we went out again this time to the Raffles Centre which is another mall across from the Raffles hotel – got a book, again! Also a couple of trinkets and rounding it off with some local Kaya spread (which bae is now officially obsessed with).  Calling it an early night because we have to be up fairly early tomorrow to have breakfast, final touches of the pack up…. our pickup to the airport is at 7:10 a.m.!  But looking forward to Business class on Emirates for once in my life (and I’m sure it’ll only be once!)  Despite the ups and downs, lots of fun times in Johor, and Singapore did not disappoint.  Sanitised for the typical tourist, but if you strike on your own and you look for it, there are some great authentic gems along the way (Day 10, Conrad Centennial Hotel, 10:17 p.m. Singapore time)***

Do you guys think Singapore is too sanitised? I’m sure there are more edgy parts of it I haven’t explored yet.

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