When parents come to stay

An itinerary for when Parents/grandparents come to visit.

Usually when people have their parents over to visit it is for a longer period of time – so there’s no need for a set one or two-week itinerary. Instead I’ve listed the places I’ve tried and tested with my parents and other guests we’ve had that I think all ages would enjoy.

There’s a few things to bear in mind if you’re planning days out with older guests:
  • The heat can be really hard work so take things slow, make sure they carry water bottles, wear a hat and you stop for plenty of comfort breaks. Bear this in mind when deciding where to go; there’s always a toilet in a shopping centre, MRT station and at attractions and usually a cafe and food centre too.
  • If walking is difficult make the most of any free shuttle buses, trams and mobility scooters that places like Gardens By The Bay offer.
  • I hired an electric scooter for my dad as he cannot walk very far due to “dodgy knees”. I got it from Delcon who were extremely helpful. You could also hire a wheelchair if you are confident someone is able to do the pushing. Remember, Singapore’s pavements are not always the best place for those less able though so take this into consideration too.
  • Don’t assume older guests are not interested in the more adventurous days out. My mum loved Universal Studios and was on and off the rides as much as the rest of us. Dad couldn’t go on much but still enjoyed pottering around after us.
  • Taking the kids with you is great, but some of the days out may not work. For example, not many children would enjoy the orchid garden at Botanics, but most older adults would. Let them have some space away from the kids if necessary.
View from smoke & mirrors bar, singapore

Our more mature friends have enjoyed the night life too!

ogre universal

Universal Studios is for the young, and young at heart.

Jurong Bird Park

A fascinating place with more birds than you can ever imagine. We had lunch with the parrots as my sister had bought it as a birthday pressie for my dad  –  and it was great fun. There’s a splash park there too so great if you get too hot. A lovely wander round can take all day with shows and feedings to take in and there are plenty of benches and cool spots to rest in when you need to. All info on their website

Gardens by The Bay

You could visit the gardens over two days as they are huge and there’s a fair bit of walking involved. If your guests are at all interested in flowers you should definitely take them to the flower dome. There’s often special themed exhibitions on like Chinese New Year, Christmas, Tulips and so on, and these are always stunning to see. There’s a nice little cafe inside to grab a cuppa when you need to. The Cloud Dome is also really interesting but do take jumpers as it’s freezing in there.

flowers in dome

The flower Dome is spectacular.

If they’ve got a head for heights take them to Supertree Grove and the OCBC Skyway. Lovely views of the gardens from up there.

If you have done it over two days  leave later one day and have an early dinner at Sate By The Bay before watching the Singing Trees do their thing. Everyone loves this part of the holiday and it’s not to be missed.

Botanic Gardens

Probably the place most parents seem to know about are the Botanic Gardens as they are world famous.  Take a picnic or plan to have lunch at one of the many cafes. Take your time and again make sure you’ve got plenty of water with you. There are toilets inside the gardens and places to refill your water bottles. Things to look out for are include Symphony Lake, Ginger garden and Orchid Garden. However, some of the Orchid Garden is closed due to enhancement work. If you are visiting with kids don’t miss the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden.

Raffles

Take your parents for look around Raffles if it’s open. Don’t just head for a drink though as you can wander around the courtyard and grounds and visit the gift shop which has some lovely gifts to take home. It is essential to stop at the Long Bar for a Singapore Sling thought and take in the old colonial atmosphere of the place. However, please note the hotel is undergoing extensive renovation work at the moment (October 2017) so do check before you go. The Bar and Billiard Room is still open serving the famous Singapore Sling.

 

Afternoon Tea

fullerton high tea

Afternoon tea at The Clifford Pier is well worth it.

Book them in to one of the many afternoon or high tea’s that most of the hotels offer. I took my parents to the one at the Fullerton Bay at Clifford Pier and it really is a spectacular venue. This is not a traditional afternoon tea though so bear in mind that you won’t  get finger sandwiches and traditional scones. However, it is delicious. The Shangri La on Orange Grove Road does a great high tea in the Rose Verandah and there are plenty of other places to try too. In fact, if you get bored of it, ask me and I’ll take them – I love an afternoon tea!

Bumboat along the river

This is a great way to while away the morning or afternoon and you can choose where to get off. I’d suggest getting on at Clarke Quay and then make your first stop at Clifford Pier to see the original Merlion at Merlion park. Plenty of photo opportunities here. Then walk down to the Fullerton Bay Hotel and go in to reception. Not only will this give them a respite from the heat it offers a spot for a loo break! They can also take in the stunning hotel lobby.

Once you’ve taken in the sights around there, jump back on a boat and see the rest of the river. Just make sure you buy a ticket that allows you to hop on and off.

Museums

Any of the museums are well worth a visit. I particularly like the Peranakan Museum as it’s not too big and has a lot of fascinating information about Singapore’s heritage. Changi War Museum is also popular and also well worth a visit. Then of course there’s the National Museum, Asian Civilisations Museum, Malay Heritage Centre and so on.

Smaller, but worth checking out especially if you have kids to entertain too is the Mint Toy Museum; a small museum which is packed to rafters with toys and memorabilia from all the century’s. Everyone can find their favourite childhood heros from Noddy to the Avengers. It’s good fun for an hour or so and is right by Raffles so you could do both in the same day. If you do visit Mint, be sure to go right to the bar at the top – which may or may not be open – as it has some lovely views and some old school tin signs that will have you reminiscing.

peranakan museum

The Peranakan Museum is a glimpse back to how Singapore began

Bollywood Veggies

I had a great day out here with my parents and the kids. Set way out (north) west in Kranji, Bollywood Veggies is a fantastic spot that many people don’t know about. Essentially a farm and a bistro/cafe, this is a unique day out that you will all find interesting. The self-named ‘Warriors’ who own and run it have a great sense of humour and this is apparent throughout the farm – quirky signs telling you to help with the leaf clearance in return for a drink in the cafe and warnings about torture trees all make for a different kind of day out. Lunch at the bistro is amazing, and although you may need to encourage a little adventurous tasting as it’s local food, you will not be disappointed. Try one of the platters – they are delicious!

Kranji War Memorial

The graves at Kranji War Memorial

Kranji War Memorial

You can stop here on the way to or from Bollywood Veggies. A tribute to all the fallen from the UK, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, India, Malaya and the Netherlands who died defending Singapore and Malaya against invading Japanese forces during World War 11. The memorial consists of war graves, the Memorial Walls, the State Cemetery and the Military Graves.

East Coast Park

Great for a relaxing stroll when you want an easy day. Wide open paths and cycle paths mean everyone can choose their way to travel. You can hire bikes here too. Pack a picnic, lots of water and have an easy stroll.

scooter and scooter

All types of transport welcomed at East Coast Park.

The Merlion on Sentosa

Situated in Sentosa, take them for a lovely stroll along the Merlion walk and then  in to the Merlion itself to hear about the myth, make a wish and ring the bell. You can use the lift to get to the mouth of the lion for a great shot over Singapore. Those more able can go right to the top of the head although there are still a few steps to climb. But there are benches for those that can’t manage them so you can go up whilst they wait in the cool.

Little India

A wander around Little India is often something older guests enjoy. If you can get a guide like those run by Road to India even better, as Poojah, the well-informed guide will explain the etiquette of the temples and some of the meaning behind what you are seeing. Stop for lunch at the hawker or one of the many restaurants if you want to try some of the best Indian food in Singapore. Wander around the markets and marvel at the dresses and saris on display. You might even want to try some on.

If, like most mums, your mum loves a bargain take her to Mustafa’s. Many claim you can buy ANYTHING you want there. From toys to suits, flour to fresh fish, they will be amazed. It’s huge though so don’t get lost! 

Singapore Zoo

This day out will involve a LOT of walking so I would only suggest this if you hire a wheelchair or scooter for less able guests. Check the website for more info as the zoo does have some to rent. It’s a great day out though and you can take it as slowly as need be. Lots of benches, shaded areas and cafes to stop when necessary as well as a tram that can take you around too. Watching the many animal shows and feedings also offers a sit down when needed.

orangutan at Singapore Zoo

Monkey around at Singapore Zoo.

Theatre in Singapore

A night at the theatre or a live performance is always a safe bet as far as I’m concerned. More often than not you’ll find something of interest on here – whether it’s a free music concert at the esplanade or a west end musical on tour at MBS. Have a look online for what’s around. These websites are helpful. http://www.baseentertainmentasia.com/ https://www.esplanade.com/ http://www.srt.com.sg/ http://pangdemonium.com/

McRitchie Reservoir

If your parents/guests are good walkers they’ll love a wander around McRitchie. For the more fit and adventurous there’s the treetop walk. Not something I’d suggest unless very good walkers though! But a stroll around the reservoir is pretty easy-going and you’ll still get to see the resident monkeys if you’re lucky. Whatever you do thought, DON’T feed them or offer them anything. They can be quite cheeky and have been known to swipe bags from tables!

Marina Bay Sands

If everyone is really tired of the heat then head to one of the shopping centres. They are all air-conditioned and if you choose MBS, you’ll find a few added attractions as well. Think Venetian style canal and traditional Sampan rides. If you time it well you’ll see the Rain Oculus too – this is a large whirlpool that forms inside a 70-foot diameter acrylic bowl and falls two stories to a pool below. The artwork, a collaboration with architect Moshe Safdie, functions as both a skylight and a rain collector. The rain water is recycled back to the whirlpool and also fills the canal that runs through the atrium.

canal at mbs

Take a stroll along the river inside the shopping centre!

Stop for lunch somewhere – you could go something more local like the every popular Din Tai Fung or go elegant at TWG. There’s also every kind of option from Gordon Ramsey to Wolfgang Puck as well as a food hall. For more information on where to eat look at the MBS website.

And remember…

These are just some suggestions. Don’t forget if your parents are visiting all they really want to do is see you and your family. If you have to work or have other commitments, leave them with instructions on how to get a cab, who to contact if there’s a problem and some ideas of things to do during the day. If you are a member of a club get them a temporary pass (most offer them for family visitors) and they can go there as often as they like. Also don’t forget to explain how to use the air con, open the door/gate and get out of the condo if you’re in one. It might be obvious to you, but to guests it’s all new.

Invite some of your Singapore friends over to meet your family. Have a barbecue or a casual dinner. Your parents will really appreciate seeing who you spend your time with and it will make things easier when talking on the phone next. It may also help to reassure them that you are doing okay here and that you have a nice life here.

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Where do you go when…?

night in city

Lots of family and friends will want to visit this beautiful city you call home

I’ve had a LOT of visitors in the three or so years we have been living in Singapore. From people we barely knew who became lifelong friends after their visit, best friends from home, a friend’s daughter who came for a few days and stayed for two weeks, old school friends who moved to Australia and I hadn’t seen for years and of course, parents and siblings. Each visit has been different and each visitor has been given the ‘Jo tour guide’ treatment. Some more so than others, depending on how busy I was or how much they wanted me around.

So it’s not surprising that when other people I know have visitors they tend to ask me for “one of your itineraries.” I’ve got quite a reputation for my planning when it comes to visitors. I learnt early on that without a plan days can disappear and before you know it guests leave having seen barely anything. So I thought I’d share the three most used itineraries with you. All free of charge, no plus plus added and no forms to fill in. I just ask one – well two – favours. Please click the like button at the side of this page and at the bottom of the page add a comment about who you’ve got visiting. This kind of info takes a lot of time to put together so some feedback is always welcome.  If you could go so far as to follow the blog too you’ll get notified when I add more itineraries or reviews of places to go here in Singapore.

Oh, and if asked how you found out about an attraction or place to visit, please mention 5 Go Mad!

Singapore city at night

Singapore is a photographers dream!

Before you check out the itineraries, here are a few tips to help make the visits as much fun and as easy on you as possible.

Things to remember when you have visitors:
  • Everyone has different tastes and likes and dislikes. Ask visitors before they come if they have any ‘must-sees’ that they’ve heard about or anything they don’t like doing (for me, you’ll not get me near an aquarium).
  • That jet lag will affect them to one degree or another. This can mean they get barely any sleep at night and then want to crash during the day. Where possible encourage them not to sleep during the day, but it can be tough. Allow for rest breaks during the day though as don’t forget the heat hits people hard too.
  • Make sure you have spare bug spray and sun tan lotion. You’ll be surprised by how many people think they don’t need it.
  • Being a tour guide 24/7 can be exhausting, no matter how desperately you want the visitors here. So give yourself some time off too. If they are confident travellers you could suggest they do one more of the days on their own. If not, allow for some time out at some point – maybe just take a break from each other early evening.
  • Remember all friends and family want to see how your life works here so if you have a group you meet up with regularly, consider introducing them. Or if there’s a favourite coffee shop or cafe you go to a lot, take them. That way, when you’re talking to friends and family back home again next, they’ll be able to relate to your life here so much more.
What to do before they arrive:
  • Buy a couple of MRT cards for them and load them up with $10 – that way they can get around straight away.
  • When my nieces have visited I have made them up a goody bag as a welcome gift. I just go along to the markets and pick up some cheap souvenirs – a Singapore tote bag filled with things like a stuffed Merlion, a key ring, a notepad, a fan. etc.
  • Pick up a couple of Singapore maps or voucher books from the larger MRT stations or at the airport.
  • Prep your helper if you have one on the fact that there will be more people either staying or visiting and to adjust her shopping and cooking accordingly. I ask guests to leave money for a helper when I had one as it is extra work, but really that’s up to you ($50 per person at least is a fair amount I think). If you haven’t got a helper, prepare yourself – get some extra food in, start making up beds a few days before etc.
Once they arrive:
  • Once they’ve arrived, get your guests to download the MRT map app as well as Uber – that way they can figure out where to go and how to get there if you can’t be around the whole time.
  • Give them your address, phone number (add to notes on their phone or physically on a note) and point out a few local landmarks so that they feel they know where they are. You’d be surprised how many people forget to ask and head out for the day, not knowing where they’re coming back to! I always tell people what our nearest MRT and the line it’s on.
  • You could treat guests to a local sim for their phone – or point them to a shop that sells them.
  • Explain to them how the aircon works in their bedrooms, any water heaters etc. Also explain that electricity and water costs a fortune here and to turn air con and heater off when not using otherwise your next utility bill will give you a shock!

 

Merlion park, Singapore

The famous Merlion, one of the many must-sees in Singapore

Itineraries

Please click on the links below for the itinerary you want to see:

Itinerary for friends visiting for 5 days

This is for when your besties manage to get away from the kids and visit you. Lots of girlie fun and relaxing.

Itinerary for family or friends with children

Is your sister or brother heading over for a holiday with their kids in tow? Teenagers or toddler, this 14 day plan will have you covered.

Itinerary for parents visiting  

Got the parents or in-laws coming for the first or twenty-first time. Here’s some suggestions for things to do with them to keep you and them sane.

Joining the Sisterhood

Sister Act The Musical

Come join the sisterhood

There is nothing I enjoy more than a night (or day) at the theatre. Musicals in particular have an appeal like no other. I swear I must have had some connection to the theatre in a previous life. Sadly I don’t think I was high kicking with Liza Minelli or serenading Michael Ball; probably more like running around polishing shoes or sewing sequins. So it is with much excitement that I have recently been talking to the company who bring all the best shows to our little red dot, Base Entertainment. Today I was fortunate enough to be invited to the press call for its latest show at the MasterCard theatre, MBS, Sister Act  – sequinned wimples and all.

Anyone too young to have watched the movie Sister Act needs to get themselves a couple of hours on the sofa right now as it’s a rare treat. Real old school comedy, fine female (and some male) actors and fabulous music. What more could you want? Obviously Whoopi Goldberg is forever associated with the film – but did you know it also featured Maggie Smith (pre Dame hood) and Harvey Keitel?

So it really shouldn’t be a surprise that a musical based on the film is also a must see. A huge hit from Broadway to the West End this production features the cast direct from the Broadway show. Obviously I’m not going to give too much away about what we were shown to say but suffice to say I’m more than a tad excited to be seeing the show.

From a 16ft tall Virgin Mary (with a not so dark side), to racks bursting with sparkling habits, our tour backstage was fascinating. Molly, the production stage manager showed us where she cues stage crew, audio and actors alike from left of stage (or right of stage if you are her as she has to do everything backwards) and the ‘God mike’ – for when things go wrong.

Gondola row – or wardrobe walk – was much smaller than I had imagined. This is the area where actors do quick changes. I can only imagine the swan like activity that goes on – with calm changes on the surface and utter panic underneath. I spotted a Wurlitzer (which looked original and I immediately coveted) bar stools upended, bottles of drink and glasses, Dolores coat and lots of slippers amongst many other gems. I can’t wait to see where they all feature in the show.

It was fascinating to hear how the sets, costumes, props, lighting and so on are all shipped around the world in five sea containers. How parts of the set are moved on and off stage and how the huge cast and crew work together to ensure the show is as good in one country as the next.

With shows as good as this hitting our shores I for one will make sure I’m supporting them – please go and do the same so this sister can carry on feeding her ‘habit.’

Look out for my Facebook post for my thoughts on the show itself.

Sister Act is on at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands from 9th – 28th May.

Costumes back stage

Watch out for the wimples!

Sister Act The Muscal

Part of the scenery

Props backstage

An original Wurlitzer?

Scenery, backstage at Sister Act the Musical, Singapore

A different view to usual

Wires, cables, musical

Can you imagine trying to find the fuse that blows in this lot?

Delores Sister Act Costume

You can never have too much fur and fringing – Delores costume.

Scenery, backstage at Sister Act the Musical, Singapore

She’s looking very virginal right now – but she has a hidden side. All 16ft of her!

sister act

Not to be missed!

Four Seasons

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The Four Seasons hotel is a luxury five-star hotel and home to the One-Ninety Bar which claims to offer “afternoon tea with a twist.” What’s the twist we wondered?

As we all gathered in the dimly lit bar ‘by’ Javier de las Muelas it felt as if we were there too early. Perhaps the creative partnership of Muelas serves its purpose well with martini’s flowing in the evening and a no doubt stylish crowd mingling amongst the spacious bar and outdoor area (they call this the Terraza). But, during the day it felt dark, heavy and too sombre.  This is possibly a bar best seen at night.

But there we were and afternoon tea is what we were after. The waitress gave us the menu and there was an impressive selection of teas to choose from. If you like fancy tea that is. For those of us who wanted a bog standard English Breakfast tea, or even an Earl Grey it seemed we were scuppered. Perhaps we should have opted for one of the amazing concoctions on offer; they certainly sounded delightful.

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We all agreed these teas sounded lovely, but were not what we wanted with our sandwiches and cakes.

But, following a small panic by my mum – who was visiting from the UK and would win any award for tea drinking there is – we managed to get a pot of perfectly acceptable English Breakfast tea. She was happy. The rest of the tea drinkers were fairly conservative in their choices too with Earl Grey being the most adventurous. The coffee drinkers were well catered for too with latte’s, cappuccino’s and flat whites readily available.

The traditional three-tiered stand was soon to arrive, carrying what looked like a delectable section of finger sandwiches, pastries and scones (oh or o, I don’t care!) There were salmon, cheese, ham and egg sandwiches to choose from. Nothing amazing in the fillings and not really what you’d expect from a five-star hotel but they tasted fine so no complaints.

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The tiered stand looked very pretty with its glass cups of strawberry mousse perched on top and macaroons nestled next to tiny little chocolate and raspberry bites, as well as some quirky champagne flute shaped cookies. There were also some rather large cupcakes brimming with fondant.

Of course the obligatory – in our opinion – scones were there with small dishes of clotted cream and jam to accompany them. It all looked pretty good.

But, and it’s a but that needs to be butted.

It all looked lovely. But tasted – meh!

Nothing blew any of us away. The macaroons were ok; they had a nice pistachio taste but were no deal breaker. The mousse was pretty bland, the chocolate and raspberry bites IMG_2347had those awful silver balls on top that you find on kids cakes that can break your teeth. The cupcakes were all show really. Even the champagne flute cookies weren’t particularly tasty. In fact, the icing on top also smacked of a children’s party. Again, not what you’d expect from a five-star hotel. The scones were ok, not too dry and had some fruit inside, but nowhere near enough jam or cream is provided. In fact, had we not all been such a polite bunch, a fight could have broken out over who had too much cream.

According to the website there is a show pantry “with a variety of exquisite pastries.” We weren’t told about or shown this and certainly didn’t get offered anything from anywhere else. We were also not offered more than one pot of tea, which is poor. Although had we asked, I’m sure they would have accommodated. Unfortunately the staff weren’t that easy to find so top ups were not really an option.

Some of our group opted for the additional $20 for a cocktail, and for $30 you can go for a glass of champagne with your afternoon tea. The standard afternoon tea was $42 – this seems a fair price for the quantity of food and is pretty average for Singapore.

Overall, the company made the afternoon worthwhile. Everyone felt they had got their money worth and although disappointed with the flavour of the food that day, the look of it was lovely. But, the afternoon tea was just a sideline really; never the star of the show, which is a shame.

This is definitely a bar best seen at night. Oh, and the twist? No idea! *

What, when, where, how much?

Classic Afternoon Tea
Daily, 2-5pm.
One-Ninety Bar and Terrazzo by Javier De Las Muelas *
The Four Seasons Hotel
190 Orchard Boulevard
Tel: +65 6734 1110

http://www.fourseasons.com/singapore/dining/bar/one-ninety_bar_and_terraza_by_javier_de_las_muelas/

$42++ per person. More for cocktails and champagne.

Overall score from The Handbags and Teabags Ladies:

imagesimagesimages (out of 10)

* Maybe the twist is the ridiculously long name?

The island of fun

Bear with me whilst I have a little meander down memory lane won’t you?

Years ago when I was young, free and full of bullshit, err…I mean adventurous spirit, my BFF and I decided to give up our jobs, our homes (well, I left mine with my then boyfriend) and our families to travel to the wonderful land of Oz. We booked our flight and didn’t pay much attention to the stop over destination. We just agreed that a few days in some place called Singapore would be an ok idea.

I remember getting off the aeroplane, finding the bus stop then walking for miles looking for a hostel. We checked in to a not-so-great looking place where flip flops were a necessity when visiting the bathroom and downstairs was a cafe frequented all through the night by labourers. I have no idea to this day where we stayed I just remember my friend fell down one of the storm drains whilst we were crossing the road and I thought this was hilarious. What I do remember is taking the cable car one day across to Sentosa Island. We only went there as it was in the tourist guide and there didn’t seem much else to do (sharp intake of breath from everyone).

SilosoBeachSentosa

Siloso beach as I remember it.

It was all very low key. Some kind of nature walk and a mono rail, but that was pretty much it. What stands out  in my memory was discovering the ‘beach’. A line of palm trees in front of the Rasa hotel through which was the merest hint of sand. Walking through the trees revealed this magic patch of sand with a few straw umbrellas dotted around. My friend and I whiled away an hour or two chatting, planning, bullshitting no doubt. But it was lovely. Peaceful, serene even. And yes, there were tankers sailing by just across the way. That was 1996.

Years later, with a husband (the aforementioned house sitting boyfriend no less), a couple of children and a whole life time on I came back to Sentosa. We were there, again on a stopover to Oz. In that weird way that life has, we were actually on our way to visit my BFF who had never left Sydney all those years before. After saying ‘see you up the coast’ as she had a job that was keeping her in Sydney for a few more weeks, we bid farewell. Then my BFF met and fell in love with her now hubby and never made it.

giant-merlion-on-sentosa

The mighty Merlion

Anyway, I digress. So, there I  was with my little family and the beach was just as I remembered really – the line of palm trees, the patch of sand with the umbrellas shading just a few people, all still fairly low key. Except it was now called Siloso Beach, well that patch of it was anyway. This was 2004.

By this time there was also the aquarium on Sentosa – a big shiny attraction with dolphins to swim with, huge tanks, petting pools and so on. There was also a few other things to see such as the musical fountain and a butterfly park, there were a few restaurants dotted along the beaches too. There was even a tram that could take you from one end to the other.

My hubby, myself and our two young boys – took the tram to visit the Merlion. This 37m towering giant was a sight to behold – and a sight that catches your eye as you enter Sentosa across the causeway bridge. Well, it used to – more of that later. Night or day it looks amazing. Standing proud of all of its surroundings. Well, it used to – but more of that later! 

We went up to the observation deck at the top of the Merlion’s head, stood and roared in its mouth and had the obligatory tourist shot taken. We went back at night too when the Merlion takes on a whole new feel with it’s beady eyes shooting out laser beams, and its mermaid scales that twinkle with thousands of lights as the water gushing around it sparkles.

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A stroll along Merlion walk. 2007.

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The original Siloso

I know, I’m a little bit in love with the Merlion.

From that visit though it didn’t seem that that much had changed on Sentosa apart from the odd new place to eat and things were a bit more polished for the tourists. A few years later though and it was a whole new story.

With hubby’s work now bringing him to Singapore more and more we would come with him on work based holidays. By now we had a new addition to the family too. So, he’d work for a week whilst me and the kids holidayed – hubby would then join us for a week. Each time we chose to stay on Sentosa. Each time it changed a little bit more. First, the restaurants grew, then a few more attractions were being advertised – Songs of The Sea, Images of Singapore and so on. Then, my husband heard the rumours that there was going to be a Universal Studios resort built there. This was around 2008.

What? On our lovely serene Sentosa. Don’t be daft.

The next year when we visited we could see the skeleton of what was to become this mammoth building project taking shape. I didn’t like it.

After a few years of being away, in 2012 we returned and the change was amazing. In fact, it was jaw dropping. My husband had given us updates each time he’d been over. That the park was pretty much taking over the whole of Sentosa. That you could see it as you came up towards Sentosa Gateway.  That it was now a fully fledged tourist attraction. But nothing could prepare us for this amazing new mini town with its huge fairy tale castle, sky scraping hotels and  hair-raising rides, restaurants, shows and much more.

You could see it as you drove across the causeway. In fact, it kind of hits you around the gob full on.  And here I quietly stifle a sob.IMG_1257

My poor majestic Merlion no longer stands proud and tall over Sentosa. Instead, he has been hidden away behind the buildings, rides and general stuff that make up a world famous theme park. Now, you’re lucky to spot him as you drive around the bend towards the beach.

But, I have to say, it is spectacular and for Singapore it does add an element that was missing. Or, an element that tourists couldn’t see or find before so easily. Fun!

Nowadays if you head to Sentosa you are going knowing full well you’ll be spending the day having fun. Whether it’s visiting the Images of Singapore exhibition (wonderful), skimming the treetops on the 450m long megazip ride (my Son tells me it’s amazing), flying down the luge (the best fun ever), cooling down at the Port of Lost Wonder (great for younger kids), watching the stunning water and laser show (worth the $15 or so) or meandering around the butterfly park (good fun).

There is so much to do you need a whole weekend at least. And that’s without stopping for food. On that note, a mention to one of our favourite spots in Singapore – Coastes restaurant. The best place to kick off your shoes, sink your feet in the sand, grab something cold to drink and chill. We go there often on a Sunday after taking our dog for his Sunday morning dip at Tanjong Beach. The fish and chips is always fab, the all day brekkie is good too.

USSAnd what of Universal Studios; Singapore’s answer to Disney land? It is fab, I can’t deny it. My kids love it and would go every weekend if they could. It has some great rides, is clean, well laid out, easy to access and never so busy you want to scream (well not much anyway). It does add an element to Singapore that was perhaps missing. I just wish they’d given some more thought to the poor old Merlion and his view. Still, he seems quite happy as he now has an even sparklier walk up to see him.

And, this, as it turns out is just part one of my Sentosa story. A friend of mine recently moved to Sentosa so I went for a little wander around the residential area one day whilst waiting for her to let me in for a cuppa. Oh my. It’s a whole new world! And, there’s another story…

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I couldn’t resist it…. 2014