Our Singapore Diaries and 2015 in general


I cannot judge 2015 by its super-fun and exciting end. The year was quiet for the most part, and I would be hard put to talk about anything memorable that happened in the year. Or at least, I can but those weren’t the kind of memorable things I had hoped for when 2015 started.

First in 2015 was a nasty jarring news which shook me on all fronts. A close friend of mine who was diagnosed with cancer, and who seemed to be beating it, suddenly and very abruptly had a setback, lapsed into coma, and then eventually passed away. K suddenly had an accident – broke his nose and hand, the breaks were more complex than originally diagnosed and it took him the better part of the year and a couple of operations to recuperate and recover.

Piglet who seemed to be enjoying school started disliking his new teacher when he graduated to Pre-K class in June. Suddenly, a playful fun-loving boy had turned into a sulky stormy brat who daily brought me complaint notes from school (and other mothers). I was totally at a loss. What to do? My sweet boy was now the school bully! With each school interaction, it was getting more and more obvious that Piglet had totally disconnected from school and his classmates.

After a lot of thought and work later, we realized staying at the same school was just too impossible, and so right in the middle of the term we switched. I can’t say that things have improved much, but we have our fingers crossed. His new teacher seems to have a strong personality, and Piglet already likes her quite a bit. From this experience, I realized Piglet really likes someone to be in charge, his earlier teacher was very sweet and soft-spoken, but that just brought out the brat in him. He needs a strong hand to reign him in, and be someone whom Piglet can respect as an authority figure. We are also working on changing Piglet’s overall negative attitude to school; but it’s proving to be a task 🙁 .

So, yeah, overall 2015 is not a year I look back upon fondly.

Something really nice did happen though.

One day, while randomly browsing through LinkedIn (I think I had landed there when an ex-colleague had asked me for a reference), I came across what seemed like an unbelievably interesting opportunity, and I applied on an impulse (hardly daring to believe I could qualify). Interviews and tests happened in quick succession, and then I waited to hear some news. And waited, and waited. Thankfully, just when I was beginning to give up hope, I got a callback, and then before I could say 1-2-3, I was in a new place, learning new skills, and after a long time, really having fun with my work.

I guess one out of three momentous events being positive is not too bad, although I would give anything to have my friend back happy and healthy.

Coming to the Singapore Diaries

To get over this meh year, I was determined to have a year-end break with family. And so, Singapore and Malaysia. We really lucked out with some cheap tickets and K also hoped to get some work done there, and so we made a family vacation of it.

Some preliminary googling revealed that the Singapore zoo was one of the places to visit, and when we found out that they had pandas, our itinerary was pretty much done. There was no way Piglet was going to miss seeing his favorite panda in real-life. Singapore zoo is a pretty huge place, and easily needs a couple of days to enjoy fully. We took our time over two days doing the Night Safari and River Safari.

Night Safari was a blast. We gathered there around 6pm the day we landed in Singapore, and as the sun set, we settled into our trams, and were driven through the reserve. All the animals are in their enclosures, but there are no cages or bars involved. It really felt like seeing animals in the wild. The best part? Because dusk is the time animals are most active, we could see them all in action – no sleeping animals snoozing off the noon-day heat here. The only downside is that it’s quite dark, so it was virtually impossible to get any decent photographs. Still a great time though, and it was the perfect start to our break.

Piglet at the night safari

Piglet at the night safari

River Safari was even more spectacular. I was a little hesitant about booking this earlier. There wasn’t too much information on the web, and it seemed like we would be paying a premium just to see the pandas, and nothing else would be worthwhile. Boy, was I wrong! We loved the river safari. The whole theme is so well-planned and educational, and yes, enjoyable. Really well-done, and I enjoyed myself almost as much as Piglet.

The highlight was the panda of course, but we also had an absolutely delightful time at the otter enclosure, and then a mind-blowing time at the dugong aquarium. We also saw the strangest fish I have ever encountered in the Mississippi paddlefish.

I did hope we would see some river dolphins, but considering they are incredibly rare, I was not surprised to see them not included in the river safari.

We next did the Universal Studios in Sentosa, where Piglet experienced his first high-speed coaster zipping twenty feet above the ground in the middle of a thunderstorm. His reaction? Pretty stoic. The Canopy Flyer is not the biggest coaster out there, but it’s quite fast, and I was a bit worried about Piglet panicking and screaming.

The Canopy Flyer

The Canopy Flyer

I panicked even more when I could not hear a squeak from Piglet during the ride. Snubnose and K were yelling all the way, but nary a peep from Piglet. He didn’t speak for some time after the ride either. Until suddenly I heard a bark of laughter from him about 5 minutes later, and then we were like phew all is well 🙂 .

We spent an incredible 90 minutes waiting for the River Rapids slowly progressing through 4 rooms of queues (it was Christmas day, so the place was packed). The ride however was a damp squib. Just some small rapids, and then a very short flume ride type of splash. Not impressed at all, and definitely not worth the wait.

The thunderstorms during our day there meant that the Waterworld attraction and the Revenge of the Mummy coaster were closed. But we spent our time enjoying some of the other smaller rides. One was this incredibly cute “giant” wheel that was hidden away inside a shop called The Magic Potion Factory. I didn’t think that adults would be able to fit into those tiny enclosures, but we managed, and enjoyed a sweet, whimsical little ride.

The sweet little giant wheel

The sweet little giant wheel

Another favorite was the Shrek 4-D show. It’s a short story about Shrek rescuing Princess Fiona but I didn’t pay much attention to the story because the effects were so cool and sometimes surprising that I kept getting distracted. Haha. In fact, all the rides in the Far Far Away land were tops, the second favorite being The Lost World.

Our third favorite was the Madagascar zone, which was a little on the kiddish side, but perfect for our Piglet, who loved the carousel and the crate adventure rides.

If you are into fast coasters, they have three really high-speed ones – one in the Egypt zone, and two in Sci-Fi city. The twin coasters are awesome. It’s like a giant battle between cyclons and humans, and based on the side you choose, you have a slightly different ride and experience.

The twin coasters in Battlestar Galactica

The twin coasters in Battlestar Galactica

Pretty heart-popping experience, and not for the faint of heart.

So, that was our day in Universal Studios, and with that we were done with the major attractions in Singapore.

But we also spent a perfectly lovely day in the Gardens by the bay area, with the Singapore Flyer, Chinatown, and Orchard Road.

Here are some shots of our hot afternoon at Gardens by the bay. It was sweltering there. We went there immediately upon landing, and it took a while to get used to the heat.

Really a lovely place to just walk about and chill. We really wanted to make an evening visit too to see the incredible Christmas lights, but unfortunately it was a choice between that and Orchard Road, and since we hadn’t visited Orchard Road yet, that was where we ended up spending the evening.

We also popped into Chinatown and Little India. The visit to Little India was primarily to eat at the same restaurant Narendra Modi ate at when he visited Singapore – Komala Vilas and get our fix of cheap vegetarian South Indian food. Not the cleanest place, but the food was decent and the least expensive of all the food options we saw in Singapore.

Seriously, it was really difficult getting vegetarian food to eat in Singapore (unless you are willing to spend a lot of money). Singapore is a pretty expensive place in general and we really had to watch our pennies there.

This plate of veg fried rice cost us 16 SD!

This plate of veg fried rice cost us 16 SD!

Thankfully, we didn’t have to eat out every day, otherwise we would be totally bankrupt.

Because Singapore was so very expensive, we did our visits to Mustapha Plaza (meh place) and Orchard Street (fabulous but terribly expensive), but didn’t buy anything. So much for all my shopping hopes. I tried on the sunglasses I was talking about here, they were in stock in Takashimaya but were horrendously expensive, and I”ll be better off looking for a dupe, or finding some deal on the web. The good news though is that it fits like a dream on my face 🙂 .

Chinatown was quaint and fun. We just walked around the place smelling all the jos sticks, and watching the old men gambling on street corners. And then we turned a corner and stumbled on this gem – a beautiful Buddhist temple. We could not take too many pictures of it. Just outside there was a big gambling den, and it was very uncomfortable to stand around and take photographs. Here are a couple of snaps that we quickly clicked while entering.

So that was pretty much Singapore for us. 4 action-packed and hectic days. We managed to pack in a lot, but with an extra day, we could have done so much more. I am really bummed that we missed hanging out at Clarke Quays 🙁 .

Next up. Our Malaysia chronicles.

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  • Wow! Sounds like quite a trip. And I’m glad the pandas were worth all the fuss — sometimes you’ll go to a zoo with one particular animal in mind that you desperately want to see, and that’ll be the one day that animal decides to stay inside and sulk. :p

    • Nishita

      @readingtheend:disqus That’s exactly what I was afraid of. And I thought it was a bit rich of the Singapore Zoo to have different events highlighting a single animal, thereby making us buy two sets of tickets when it is all at the same place.

      However once I went there it made sense. The river safari which I was skeptical about is not only about the panda. It was organized really well, very educational, and they had many animals and fish that I had never seen before in my life.

      The pandas were the best, but the dugongs came close, they were so beautiful. So did the massive perch and paddlefish. Overall, fantastic 🙂

  • Glad you had a wonderful time. Vacations are the best to relax and bond with family. Hope you have more travels lined up for 2016

    • Nishita

      @reshsusan:disqus Thanks, it was the greatest time. As of now, no travels planned for 2016. It’s expensive taking an entire family somewhere!

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