“Leah, do you remember her name? Who is this?” It’s our last afternoon in town in Singapore and Andrew’s cousin Benjamin is pointing at me. I wait with an inquisitive eyebrow cocked into space. I’ve made good pals with Leah in the last three days. We’ve wrestled, she’s tried to poke my eye out, I sneak her candy, we’ve gone swimming, she has drawn a series of artistic interpretations of life in Sonrisa’s Ship’s Log, and we have listened to as many Audible Book Samples about princesses as we can find. Now, the moment of reckoning has arrived.
A month or so ago, Andrew’s cousin and his adorable little family gave us word that they were coming to visit our neck of the woods…er…jungle. Benjamin's company needed him to handle a ninety-day contract in Singapore, and as luck would have it, we would be arriving near Singapore at exactly the same time. Indeed, as we loaded Sonrisa’s air conditioner into her hull in Putrie Harbor, family was touching down in Singapore less than one hour car drive across the bridge. But, we didn’t plan to go see them quite yet.
With Benjamin working, Baby Felix recovering from, not one but two, vomits enroute the +20 hours of air travel, and both Little Leah and her mom, Erin, trying to acclimate to the time difference and heat, we decided to schedule a trip to visit once everyone has gotten their bearings. It didn’t take long.
As we arrive back to Sonrisa from our land trip to Melaka, we receive a text from Benjamin and Erin: “Anytime you want to visit, we are ready!”
One thing we know about meeting people out and about from the sailboat is: if you get an opportune moment to do it, you’d better take the chance. You never know when weather, boat maintenance, mileage or who-knows-what-else will prevent you from getting your act together. So, since we already had Sonrisa safely tucked into the marina, we decided to rejigger our plans and go directly to Singapore. Tasman the Focus-Kiwi insists we complete a round of laundry, then we pack our land-adventure bags, with Tasman and Osmond attempting to stowaway. Then, we turn back to have a taxi take us to the Kuala Lumpur airport for the short 25 minute flight from KL to Singapore. We look down on all that ship traffic we traversed just a couple weeks before and think: “Wow.
Landing in Singapore, we have our second opportunity to marvel at the spa-like experience of the airport. Simply one of the cleanest, nicest, largest, best airports in the world. We head to the taxi/bus/rental car kiosk and find that you can sign up for a shuttle to the hotel with a touchpad device. A few short minutes later, we load into our shuttle and speed through roads that are perfectly manicured with flowers and trees. The skyline of the city contains all of the most modern marvels including a viewing wheel and a marina hotel that looks like a giant surfboard atop three skyscrapers.
We reach the hotel, marvel at the well appointed lobby. We enjoy a good chuckle as the lobby-robot - whose job is to follow children around like a rumba and give them lollipops - terrorizes little Felix.
A few hours later, we make the walk a few blocks over to pick up Leah from school. We bring her scooter and pink helmet so she can zip her way back home under her own motive power. She gives us the Grand Tour of her “Singapore House,” leading us from room to room holding my hand. How can this not be a fun weekend?
That night, Leah leads us just outside her back door, down the river walk, and across her favorite bridge to find a delicious upscale Mexican restaurant with tacos and mole. Good Mexican food is a rare bird out here, and it tasted “exotic” to me!
The next morning, we decide it’s time for some adventure. We head to the waterfront where we explore the “Tropical Cloud Forest” and the Botanical Gardens.
We laugh because we find ourselves exploring the “exotic plant species of North America.” (See cactus garden above.) It makes for some great people watching, and the indoor garden is air conditioned.
Then we laugh because people are watching us watching them, and pretty soon everyone wants a picture. Felix was the star of this particular show as Leah was off with her dad exploring the “yellow brick road”.
Then, Andrew and I laugh uneasily as we realize that Singapore has built city over the top of the entirety of its island nation and we are exploring nature like it’s a Disneyland ride. We look around at the skyscrapers and think of all those humans stacked on top of each other - one stack for living and one stack for working. We shudder to think this is where humanity is heading.
Leah is still impressed, though, and she insists we take a spin through the Wizard’s house.
Next stop is a tour of a “Cloud Forest”. Yes, they’ve built an indoor mountain complete with waterfalls and clouds that roll in on timers.
But then again, Singapore is really nice! The streets are swept perfectly clean, the buildings are fresh and new, and the economy is bustling with technology, banking, oil refining, and shipping being the primary industries. At first, a part of Malaysia - Singapore split off as it’s own country in 1963. Lacking much in the way of natural resources beyond fish, the Singaporean leaders decided human capital is it’s highest resource. As a result, Singapore invested heavily in education, skill development, and discipline. They run a tight ship. Narry a blob of gum or a cigarette butt to be found in the streets - as chewing gum is illegal (punishable by caning) and cigarettes are both frowned upon and highly taxed. Elders are highly respected, and must be addressed with utmost care. In 1996, Singapore even passed a law declaring that children of elderly parents must provide for their parents financial wellbeing if the need arises. It’s an interesting study of the tradeoffs different cultures make between freedom (to chew gum or not to chew gum as you will!) and cultural values (communal tidiness takes precedence over your desire to chew gum). This is why their airport is pristine.
Good thing Sonrisa didn’t try to check in. She was packing illicit substances!
In between gardens, we stop for a visit at a waterpark where it is sworn to me that I will not get that wet. Taking my chances, I ran through with Miss Leah and by the time I returned I was completely drenched. Maybe it was my technique.
The playground is pretty awesome, too, Andrew took over adventuring at this point - climbing into the sky and sliding the slide.
It’s all fun and games until a giant Monitor Lizard saunters into the scene and we all have to take a moment to watch her lounge in the sun, yawn, and slither away.
This was a big day, so once we head back to the hotel the kids enjoyed some mac-n-cheese and a stress releasing meltdown. Felix is teething…the poor little guy. By the time the kiddos hit the hay, the adults had ordered pizza, wine, scotch and beer each to be delivered to the room by separate “Grab-Eats” sources. When there is two boats in the water…it’s a race!
The next morning, Andrew and I go visit a Hawker’s Market, Singapore’s traditional outdoor food expos permanently installed in cafeteria format. We enjoy wontons, steam buns, and hot and sour soup for breakfast. I could eat this meal over and over again it is so good.
By the time we return, the kids are awake, dressed, and ready for another day of exploring. We gather strollers, umbrellas, extra clothes, snacks, and the other unnamed detritus for transporting children about town, adding in now Leah’s bright yellow impact-proof, water-proof, child-proof camera. Having discovered the day before that she loves the rapid fire click of my camera’s serial shot selection, Leah decides she wants to join the Oddgodfrey Team of Paparazzi. Today, she can explore Chinatown through her own personal lens.
Chinatown Singapore is a pristine, picture perfect line of shops to buy tea sets, calligraphy brushes, paintings, hair accessories, and all manner of knick-knackery. But, this day is inferno-style hot and none of us last very long. We decide to head back to the hotel and visit the swimming pool instead.
Soon, it’s time for us to wrap up and leave. Leah has commandeered my camera and is taking photos of each of us in that unique upward-looking perspective of all four-year-old photographers.
And, she is being quizzed on my name.
Leah pinches her lip with a four-year-old hand still dimpled at her knuckles. Her golden curly hair frizzes about in a halo lit by the sun peeking through the twenty-sixth story hotel windows overlooking the Singapore skyline. “Mmmmmahhhh….”
“Come on, Leah, you know!” Her mom says.
Leah’s face brightens, her eyes sparkle, and her rosy cheeks lift upward as she beams a big smile. “Andrewandleslie: THE GIRL-ONE!” We all laugh. She squats down a little bit, pushing her hands on each knee then takes off running.
She’s not wrong.