How to spend a Singapore family stopover

Mon, 09/07/2018 - 6:17pm
Read Time: 3.4 mins

If you’re heading for Europe, Singapore is the ideal stopover. In 24 or 48 hours you’ll only scratch the surface of this giant Asian playground, leaving plenty to do on the way back.

Living so far away from the rest of the world means 20-30 hour long-haul flights are not unusual, but a good stopover can make that experience much easier, especially if kids are part of your entourage.

We recently travelled to Singapore with our kids and had an incredible time. Arriving on a balmy evening we were thrilled to find so many hawker centres and food courts still open, much later than  they would be in New Zealand. It was great on the budget front too. Our boys were delighted with pillowy soft pork buns the size of their heads from Chinatown – a steal at $1.50 each and the ideal pre-dinner snack before we headed to Din Tai Fung for their world famous Xiao Long Bao (soup-filled steam dumplings).

Outside dining along Chinatown's Food Street. Photo: Singapore Tourism Board

After a much-needed shower and sleep we spent the next day on Sentosa Island. After a spot of retail therapy at Vivocity, the enormous mall near Sentosa station (one of 123 malls in the city) we headed for an early dinner in in Boon Tat Street. The satay we ordered was exquisitely tender, served straight off the coals served with cucumber and peanut sauce. Our meal – which also included chilli crab and freshly cooked roti – eaten at tables on the street, surrounded on all sides by skyscrapers, made us feel like we were part of a movie scene. A walk through Lau Pa Sat Market with its hundreds of vendors afterwards made us wonder if we would ever eat at home if we lived in Singapore. Reasonably priced good food is literally on every corner.
Gardens by the Bay. Photo: Getty Images

Fuelled up, we headed for Gardens by the Bay, a 101-hectare nature park that's a wild mix of technology, art and flora. We popped in for a quick look at the incredible Cloud Forest Dome with the world’s largest indoor waterfall, but made sure we were outside under the Avatar-esque ‘Supertrees’ at 7.45pm when the light show started. These 12 structures, varying from 25-50 metres in height, are enormous tree-shaped towers covered in plant life; at night they come alive with light and music. Weird and wonderful and impressive in a way only Singapore can pull off.
The ArtScience Museum, left, on the Singapore River. Photo: Singapore Tourism Board

After a stroll past the vibrant bars and restaurants at Clarke Quay it was time to collapse into bed in our lovely hotel in the same area. A leisurely sleep-in was required the next day but after a relaxed breakfast and a swim we headed off to the ArtScience Museum for one last major excursion before our flight that afternoon. It didn’t disappoint. The Future Worlds permanent exhibition made us adults remember what it was like to be a wide-eyed child again as we careened down digital slides that exploded in bursts of colour in response to movement, and coloured in pictures that when scanned transformed into living, moving elements of a giant digital mural. We created digital towns just by moving plastic mountains and buildings, and chased virtual wildlife around the ground floor on an augmented reality tour. It was truly enchanting, in the most futuristic way.

The Singapore Flyer ferris wheel, with views over the Marina Bay skyline. Photo: Singapore Tourism Board

As we headed back to Changi Airport to board our plane we made excited plans to return soon. Universal Studios, the Night Safari, KidZania and the Singapore Flyer plus lots more shopping and eating would have to wait for the next time we have an excuse to break a journey in this quirky, fun, incredibly family-friendly country.

Alexia Santamaria

Alexia Santamaria is a freelance writer for the NZ Herald, Metro, Next and others, focusing primarily on food and travel. Her past includes two years living in Narita, Japan, one year in London and another in Glasgow. She now calls Auckland home.