Where to splash, splurge and stroll
The Travelers: Australians Aaron and Shevaun Macks and their three sons Brenton (12), Gus (9) and Elmo (7). Both Aaron and Shevaun work at the Australian Embassy; the boys are students at Western Academy of Beijing.
The Destination: Singapore
The Plan: After 13 straight months in Beijing, the Macks family, especially the younger ones, wanted a real break and lots of energetic activity (preferably involving as much splashing as possible).
Where to Chow Down: The Macks couldn’t get enough of the fresh, varied and cheap food sold from the hawker stalls strewn across the city; try the Chinatown Food Complex, Newton Food Centre and Lau Pa Sat Festival Market (www.visitsingapore.com). They also bought food from supermarkets, and even stocked up on things to bring back to Beijing. For breakfast, the boys liked to follow a bowl of cereal with the palm-oil-soaked flat bread called roti chennai, which they bought on the street and then took home and slathered with honey or Nutella.
Where to Get Wet: The boys had a blast dancing in the spray of the many fountains that dot the city’s plaza areas – their water-soaked shenanigans often drew perspiring crowds, and occasionally even tempted an onlooker to join in. Try the center outside the monorail to Sentosa for some fountain fun. The kids’ absolute favorite splashfest was Wild Wild Wet (adults SGD 12.90, kids ages 3-12 SGD 8.80, (65) 6581 9112). This awesome water park caters to little squirts and adrenaline junkies alike with a wave pool, tube rides, a water playground, and a long river complete with rapids. For even more water-drenched opportunities, check out Sentosa Island.
Where to Get Wild: The whole family loved the Singapore Zoo (adults SGD 16.50, children SGD 8.50, (65) 6269 3411), which lets its visitors get up close and personal with the animals (some even roam free and will accept a quick pat). Don’t miss the Australian Outback section, a legacy of the late Steve Irwin. The adjacent Night Safari is a chance to check out the many animals that come alive after 6pm and was a hit with the Macks, but its midnight finish might be a little late for wee ones, not to mention pooped parents. Do like the Macks and conserve your energy by visiting these two sections of the zoo on different days.
Where to Spend Your Dough: Shevaun loved Little India for the luscious sari fabrics on sale – she stashed a store in her suitcase to bring back to Beijing’s tailors. Mustafa Department Store (65 6295 5855), located in the heart of Little India, is a 75,000sq ft shopper’s nirvana: six levels packed with everything short of a jumbo jet. The kids also loved their visit to the city’s Toys ‘R’ Us.
Best Ways to Get Around: Singapore’s transit system is world-class: buy an ez-link card at the airport and then catch the MRT straight into town. You can also buy the card at TransitLink ticket offices, and use it on the city’s trains, busses and light rail. For places a little way off the MRT train line, like the zoo and Wild Wild Wet, the Macks family suggest hailing a cab – taxis are efficient and affordable. Of course, being such a small place, it’s also easy to simply leg it to many Singapore destinations.
Best Clean Air Perk: The greatest thing about Singapore turned out to be the simple freedom to run around outdoors (even barefoot!), swim, climb trees, and breathe humid air in an efficient, clean city. The boys also loved getting consistently wet in the daily rain showers. (Don’t worry, Mom – it’s so hot, kids dry off in minutes!)
Best Vacation After a Vacation: The Macks turned their seven-day vacation into a two-week jaunt by heading to Ria Bintan island in nearby Indonesia for a week-long stay at a Club Med resort. Just a 45-minute ferry ride from Singapore, the Ria Bintan Club Med proved to be worth its price tag, which included all accommodation, food (and alcohol with dinner), kids’ clubs, and most activities. The family-oriented resort offered not one but four kids’ clubs (catering to kids ages 0 to 17) running all day and well into the evening. For travelers as active as the Macks kids, windsurfing, kayaking, volleyball, sailing, snorkelling, archery, tennis, basketball (just to name a few) and the fantabulous Circus School, where kids can sail around on the flying trapeze, are all on offer.