TT and I recently spent a few weeks in Singapore, and we had a glorious time. She was thrilled to be spoiled by her family; she played with her younger cousin and was only too happy to follow her older cousin everywhere like a shadow; she was pampered by many aunties and uncles who endured princess movies with her and indulged her every whim; she loved being a tourist and wandering around our little city everyday.
Being in Singapore was a slight respite from Abu Dhabi where temperatures have hit the high-40s. However, the humidity was a huge challenge to contend with. TT has a mild eczema which we’ve managed to keep at bay, but it flared up during our trip and she had many itchy patches which she scratched badly. So as much as possible, we tried to stay indoors. Despite not going to the zoo or other outdoor attractions, there was certainly no shortage of things to do or places to visit.
Exploring new parts of Singapore
Even as a Singaporean, our two weeks felt like we were exploring something new everyday. Perhaps it’s because things are constantly evolving in our city. New areas are always being developed, old places are being revived and refurbished, and nothing gets old (in every sense of the word). We may be a small little dot but I found new places on this visit when my husband’s cousins took us out to Sentosa Cove for brunch on a sunny Sunday morning. Sentosa is famous for its rides in Universal Studios and other waterparks, as well as beaches and casino. Avoiding the crowds and bustle, our cousins brought us on a scenic drive through the island to the cove which is lined with a row of restaurants. The view and ambience was so tranquil and calming, and it felt like we had been transported to another country. Next time we’re back, I’m counting on them to bring us to another magical far corner of Singapore!
Architecture and sights
As we travelled though the island, I noticed that Abu Dhabi seems a lot more spacious, especially along the major highways where there is flat land all around and an expanse of space. However, in Singapore, whenever you look up while in a car, bus or train, you’ll know exactly where you are from the unique buildings that line the streets. With a heady mixture of new and old HDB (government) flats, places of worship, malls, office sky-scrapers, colonial houses, brand new housing enclaves, gardens sprouting from building facades, and even a newly-minted UNESCO heritage site in the Botanic Gardens right in the middle of the city, Singapore is truly a city like no other.
Experiencing heavy rain is not an unusual affair, and considering it rains less than 5 times annually in Abu Dhabi, this was actually quite exciting for Talia who got to sing on multiple occasions, “it’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring”. So we stayed indoors either because of the rain or the heat. Besides the malls (and indoor playgrounds!) we popped into a few museums, like the less well-known Philatelic Museum which had a Shakespeare exhibit that I wanted to bring TT to. We also took refuge in the Singapore Flyer one humid afternoon and marvelled at the beautiful skyline while pointing out some famous local buildings to TT.
Travelling around the city
Travelling itself was a fun activity. We rarely take public transport in the UAE, apart from taxis, so being on the buses and trains was a huge adventure for TT. We would take a train ride to our destination and then enjoy a long bus journey home (and I would cross my fingers that TT would fall asleep and rest awhile).
I will not deny that food is always a major highlight of any trip back to Singapore. While you can get good Indian food in the UAE, Chinese and Malay cuisine is much harder to come by, which will explain why each day’s itinerary was probably planned with a specific food, restaurant or hawker center in mind. We enjoyed such a varied amount of local dishes during our trip, that will have to satisfy all cravings till our next visit. I was pleasantly surprised that TT proved to be a local foodie and was game to try most of whatever we had; I even think she put on a little weight during our trip!
And the best part of our trip? Spending time with our family, of course! We visited TT’s little cousin, my cousin and her little girl, aunties, uncles and friends. My sister, brother-in-law and nine year-old niece who live in New Zealand, stayed at my parents’ place for a week too and it was such great fun. The last time my sisters and I were under the same roof was twenty years ago, so we were able to chat till late at night without worrying about different time zones. Our daughters shadowed each other the entire week and it was nice to see them get closer.
Since we’re only back perhaps only once a year, we don’t have the privilege of constantly being in our family’s company. They see TT grow up in stages; on every trip she’s changed into a different person and everyone is always surprised at how much she’s developed. It’s not easy keeping in contact and staying close, but it’s always wonderful to reconnect with our loved ones and share what’s been going on inall our lives. As I’ve gotten older and lived away from home over the years, one thing has become very evident… that despite happy or sad circumstances, we can always find strength in family and friends. And that’s something that I hope TT remembers as she grows up and travels across the world.
Our days were limited and we tried to do as much as we could during this short visit. To my friends back home, thank you for taking the time to be with us. I’d love to know of new places to visit and dine at when we next return, in your company of course. I also hope I’ve enticed my non-Singaporean friends to pop by for a visit, since I keep hearing that our little red dot is their next holiday destination. Even as a born-and-bred Singapore girl, there’s always something old and something new that paints the city in a different light every single time, with promises of nostalgia and a colourful future.
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