Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Finishing up our trip to Singapore, Part 2

We head back to the city for the weekend as a family of four!
So, almost two weeks ago when Kris and I were purchasing tickets, we were excited to see the friends we had spent so much time with in Japan and whom we missed traveling with and eating delicious carnitas while the kids had hilarious nerf wars around us.  We were also excited to have our first real vacation since we went to St. Thomas six years ago.  When we left for Singapore, the plan had been for the kids and I to meet up with Kris on Wednesday (five days after our arrival) when we would spend the evening with him in downtown Singapore.  Then, the next night the four of us would travel back to Kacee's house to spend the evening before Kris left on a flight back to Japan the next morning.  Well, like it always happens when he makes a trip to Diego Garcia, there were schedule changes and delays.  So, I got word on Wednesday that the flight was pushed to Thursday.  Okay, we'll slide everything one day.  Then, on Thursday I get an email that says, change again....I will be arriving Friday morning, but I have to work so I'll meet you at the hotel; and, I have a surprise for you....I booked us a room at the Marina Bay Sands!  I may have gasped at this!  You'll see from the pictures...one of the prettiest hotels I've ever stayed in, by far!  

Okay...okay...rewind a bit.  Friday morning the kids and I hung around the house for a bit before packing three backpacks with clothes for three days and we walked to the bus stop, then got off at the train station.  I made sure I did it right this time and asked the guy next to us if this was the right stop for the train station...he barely nodded acknowledgement, so I assumed I was right.  Thankfully, a guy about halfway back on the bus stood up and said, "Yes ma'am...this is the stop for Kranji Station, get off the bus, go up the steps, go across the bridge, and then down the steps."  Thank you! 

This trip started with the kids getting to ride on the upper deck of a double decker bus.  They were absolutely amazed!  

We made it all the way to the station downtown and then walked the couple blocks to the Hilton, our home for the evening.  We got our keys and then made our way to the room where we watched tv and took a nap before the Hubs joined us after his day at work.  After a quick change of clothes, we made our way back to the train station and then to the Newton stop.  

View of Newton Food Centre from the fly-over
Once at Newton we had a nice Aussie give us directions for getting to the food centre.  Sweet!  Under the road, back up, down a block, across the highway on a bridge (called a Fly-Over here) and then back down where we found one of the entrances.  I wasn't quite expecting the hocker stands to look like this.  A few days before, the kids and I visited a hocker stand that was pure insanity....there was almost any kind of food you could think of and huge lines of people waiting to purchase their bowls of deliciousness.  The Newton Food Centre was more like a food court you could see in the States.  It was nice and it was calm.  And, after the long day Kris had, it was a welcome place to relax.

Newton Food Centre
March 10
Inside the Food Centre
We walked in from one of the corner entrances and then made a lap around the joint to see what food looked good.  Well...problem number one....it ALL looked good!  I wanted a piece of something from every stall around!  We finally settled on Stall #70.  Why did we settle on this area?  Well, Ms. Tan talked us into it.  Ms. Tan is a very energetic lady who insisted her food was "Yummy in your tummy".  (I'm not sure if she knows this or not, but some of the other hockers were using the exact same line).  Anywho...she explained her menu very well, and offered suggestions in the stalls around her as well.  So, she wasn't just a buy everything from me kind of lady.  She shared the wealth to those around her too.  So, we settled on pepper beef (oh so very peppery), lemon chicken, sweet and sour chicken and chicken fried rice.  We got a couple Sprites for the kids and I think I had water.  Kris ordered a Guiness....they were so surprised by this...."You know that is a dark beer?"  Kris:  "Yes, it's ok".  Her: "Are you sure?  You like dark beer?"  Kris:  "Oh yes!"  We also ordered soup dumplings from a couple stalls down from Ms. Tan.  I've never had soup dumplings before, but they were incredibly delicious!  I was the only one that really liked them though.  Well, the kids wouldn't even taste them.  

When we were finished with dinner we decided to walk back to the hotel.  It was a nice walk through the city where we discovered in Singapore crosswalks are called Zebra Crossings....at least on the road we were walking.  We made it back to the hotel after a quick stop at 7-11 for Slurpies and snacks.  We had a quiet evening so that we could get up as early as possible and make our way to the next amazing stop...

The Marina Bay Sands
March 11-12

I loved taking pictures of the curve
on the building....be prepared to see
it a few more times :)
I can't get over this view!!!  So, we woke up early and after the necessary coffee and sweets stops, we grabbed a taxi and made our way to MBS.  When we arrived at the hotel we checked our bags at the curb because we assumed, at 10 am, that our room wouldn't be ready.  No harm in checking though, so I walk in with the kids and start to get in the long line to check in when a smartly dressed gentleman comes over and says, Havens Family?  Me:  Um....yes....(how does he know who I am?).  FancyMan: Please come with me, we have a private desk for you to check in.  Me:  👸  So, we walk through the crazy lobby to the desk and guess what...the room is ready four hours early!  Woot!  We found the correct elevator for our tower (there are three towers, we were in number three in a corner room with a city view).  We decided that we would run out and explore the area before coming back to the hotel for a swim in the phenomenal pool.  What we didn't check was the weather....it was beautiful and sunny when we arrived.  It was cooler and rainy when we returned to the pool.  But, the rain couldn't keep us out of that rooftop pool!

So, Gardens by the Bay is an area that is promoted as a green space for all to share.  It's this big area in the city with so many different kinds of gardens....Chinese gardens, Malay gardens, Thai gardens, children's gardens, water park, etc.

I have to say, the trees were so fun to look at!  They can get as tall as about 150 feet and have living plants growing up their sides.  There are solar cells in them that collect solar power through the day to help power them at night.  There is a walkway that you can pay a little and then walk between some of the SuperTrees.

We took a leisurely walk through a lot of the gardens where the kids took the opportunity to pose. with. every. statue. we. saw.....

After our stroll through the park we decided to grab a bite to eat before we spent the next few hours inside the two domes.  Hm...what's in the area?  What's going to be easy?  What are the kids going to like?  Decisions, decisions....Okay, McDonald's it is.  So, while Kris and Mackenzie stood in the super crazy long line, Garytt and I walked around on a dinosaur hunt!  An 8-year-old boy's most perfect way to pass the time!  At the time we were there the park was having an event called "Children's Festival" and they turned a section of the garden into the "Dye-nosaur Garden".  In the garden were florescent colored dino, no no no, dye-nosaurs.  A few of the dye-nosaurs even moved and roared.  Garytt quickly, well maybe not so quickly, I think it took about 15 minutes for Kris to get all the food, ran around to figure out, and explain to me in-depth, what each creature was and all its special features.  Okay, finally Kris comes back with our food and we find a spot in the shade to eat because the sun was brutal at this point in the day.  The kids and I had the same ole stuff...nuggets, burgers, and fries.  Kris, however, went out on a limb and grabbed a Seoul Spicy Chicken Sandwich.  It was a spicy sandwich and he said he liked it a lot.  His fries came with a Kimchi powder to sprinkle on top.  

Okay...we went through the gardens and made it to one of the two domes.  Gardens by the Bay is free, but entrance to the two domes cost about $30 Sing per adult and $15 per child. The domes were advertised as "Cooled Observatories" ... a big selling point when it's like 100 degrees with 90% humidity.  We walked through the doors and all said, "Aaahhhhhhhhhhhh" ~ it was nice and cool!!!

Cloud Forest
This observatory took us through a simulated cloud forest.  We walked by so many different flowers and plants from the tropical highlands...around 6500 feet and above.  We started on the ground level and were sprinkled with a bit of the water falling from the top of the mountain.  

The kids are on the left side getting wet....refreshing after the heat outside
There were so many different species of flowers and ferns and plants and trees.  

He's got the whole world in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

I asked Mackenzie to sit in front of the statue with her head at the bottom
so it would look like she was part of the statue.  She did, and she posed with a
pretty smile; a perfect happy Mackenzie picture.  Garytt, tho...he sees things
differently.  😑😂 Just like that, Buddy, just - like - that!

This Boy...😂😂😂....fits right in.  It was about this point in our day that my camera beeped at me to let me know that my card was full.  Okay, no biggie...I learned from a previous trip that I need to always have a back-up, or two.  So, I pull out the spare card, load it in and turn the camera back on.  I take one picture and then it beeps at me again.  What?!  Oh no....the battery was almost exhausted.  Oy!  I didn't bring my charger from Kacee's house.  Doh!  So, I put the camera away and start snapping with the phone.  I definitely put the space available on the phone to the test.  I came home with thousands of pictures on the phone.  Obviously not as good as what the nice, expensive, battery-dead camera would take, but not too bad.
Views from the top of the mountain

Once we walked through all the different areas of vegetation and made our way back to the bottom floor, we found the exit and started our journey to the Flower Dome.
Flower pot

There were a lot of neat statues carved from wood and rocks all throughout the Cloud Forest.  The kids had fun searching for the different animals.

Flower Dome

There were weird carvings everywhere
Bottle Tree
The Flower Dome was nice to look through, but honestly, I could have skipped this one.  

The flower dome had different sections to it...an herb wall, cactus section, and then split into regions....South America, Australia, California, Mediterranean, African and an olive grove.

The Flower Dome has special exhibits several times a year.  We happened to visit during ... sakura time ... so, we got a jump start on the blossoms that are just now decorating the cities in Japan.  I just looked at the Flower Dome site and right now is the tulip exhibit...I love tulips!  

A view from above.  This is the sakura (cherry blossom) section.  You can see the
Japanese bridge, and there's even a torii.  There are white sakura, pink sakura, and
even the beautiful weeping sakura.

I didn't take a picture inside the olive tree grove, but they were pretty cool.  It was neat walking between the palm trees too.

Kenzie thought some of the flowers
looked like ballerinas.

"La Famille de Voyageurs" by Bruno Catalano

The kids were a little freaked out by this one.  Parts of their bodies are missing and they are carrying bags.  The description says it's a family that has visited Gardens by the Bay and not only do they take a piece of the garden with them, in their hearts and minds, but they leave a piece of themselves behind. 

The Batmobile!!!!!
Once we were finished with the Flower Dome, we decided to make our way back to the hotel so we could swim.  First, a quick stop at the Super Hero cafe...thanks Kacee and Jon for this suggestion....the kids (okay, okay, Kris and I too) had so much fun looking at the displays....the sweets weren't bad either!

Kenzie with her two favorites, Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn and Boy with his favorite

While we waited on the cupcake, ice cream, milk shake, and frozen coffee....we watched a monk ice skating on the rink inside the mall.

Next up.... THE POOOOOOOOOL!!!!!

This was so much fun!  We all had a blast swimming to the edge to look at the city below!  As you can see, it was very hazy.  There were storms in the area, so the view wasn't the best it could have been.  But, that didn't matter!  It was a pool.  On the 57th floor!  With an infinity edge!!  And, alcohol!!!  

The rain and clouds started to move on out and we got a little better view.  The water was a bit chilly, so I didn't stay in very long.  Well, also I couldn't drink in the pool :)  

The rooftop has one long pool that is divided into adults only and then family sections.  So, the kids could swim around without us having to worry about them watching the adults act like fools.  We ordered a gigantic plate of fries, a beer for Kris and a Singapore Sling for me.  Mmmm...tasty!

An amazing sunset view!

Brother and Sister peering over the edge
Again...love the curve on this building :)

After we swam for a couple hours, we changed and then made our way back to Gardens by the Bay.  I wanted to try out the satay place for dinner, Satay by the Bay, and then walk the Sky Walk around the SuperTrees before we watched the nighttime light show.  Things didn't go exactly as I planned, though.  

Okay, first up was dinner.  It was a good walk from the hotel to the satay place.  About a mile or so, give or take.  It was a nice walk through the park and under the trees again, then down by the water for a bit and past the children's water park....that looked like a lot of fun, but there wasn't enough time.  I had my mind set on doing that sky walk!!!

Satay by the Bay

It was a hocker place similar to Newton Food Centre.  We walked in and quickly picked the satay place right near the entry, Opah Satay.  We chose Set F, two of them, which gave us 20 chicken sticks and 20 beef sticks.  After we placed our order, we then had to find somewhere to sit....not as easy a task as you would think.  This place was crowded!!!  So, I felt like a vulture hanging out in the corner of the seating area looking at everyone eating and trying to spot the crowd that looked like they were done and about to leave.  

As we were waiting for our food to cook and seats to open up I noticed a large table next to me with an Indian family of about 15 people.  They pulled out a box of cupcakes and sang happy birthday (or whatever is the equivalent, I couldn't understand what they were saying) to one of the ladies.  As they were all crowding in for a picture, I leaned in and offered to take a picture of all of them together.  They handed me the camera, I snapped the picture and they thanked me.  At about this time Kris motioned to an empty table and he had our tray of meaty deliciousness!  So, we sat at the kindergartener-sized table and began to chow down on the satay.  Ohsoyummy!!!  The kids didn't care for it too much.  Mackenzie preferred the beef, so Kris and I stuck to the chicken until she said she was done.  The dipping sauce was beyond belief!  It was a spicy peanut butter kind of sauce.  Makes my mouth water thinking about it!  So, about the time we were finishing up our sticks of meat, the birthday lady came over with two cupcakes as a thank you for taking her picture!  My heart melted!  What a very sweet gesture!

Once we finished eating I wanted to make a veryfast beeline to the sky walk.  Kris and the kids weren't walking fast enough for me, so I high-tailed it over to the ticket desk only to discover they weren't selling tickets anymore.  Sold out.  :( Wah Wah Wahhhh....  Oh well, (I say that now, but I may have pouted for thirty minutes while we waited for the musical show to start).  I finally convinced myself that it probably wasn't worth it because it was only from one tree to another and not a windy path through the whole tree park like I thought.  Yeah, that's what I tell myself.

The SuperTrees and the Marina Bay Sands.

The light show was pretty neat.  I think maybe it went a little longer than it needed, the kids were complaining to leave, until they recognized some of the music that was playing....songs from Star Wars, Jurassic World, Little Mermaid, and a few other Disney favorites.  Kris recognized a song from Indiana Jones, too.  The trees flashed different colors along with the beat of the music.  It was quite a sight to see.  

When the music was done, we made our way back to the hotel.  Well, the main path out of this place was a single staircase and single elevator.  Wowee...the crowd!

After safely making it out of the crowd and back to the room, we changed once again so we could hit the pool one more time before bed.

The water was so much colder at night!

We had such a busy day that the kids quickly passed out as soon as their little heads hit the pillows.
Not a bad backdrop to a night filled with dreams of flowers, dye-nosaurs, and giant fluorescent trees!

Those are the two domes...on the left is the Flower Dome and on the right is Cloud Forest

The SuperTree Garden from the top of Marina Bay Sands

On our last day in the hotel I wanted to make sure we got as much time at the pool as we could before making our way back to Kacee's place.  Kris had to be at the airport very early, so he left before any of the rest of us were up.  I woke up around 630 and then had the kids out of bed by 7.  As they dressed I searched the room for coffee....I could not find any!  Gasp!  Garytt said, "Mommy, is this the stuff of your nightmares?"  Yes, son, yes it is!!  I did finally discover the secret drawer with all the coffee in it, but at that point we were all dressed for the pool so I skipped it for the time being.

Our sunrise swim in the freeeeeeeeezing water!

We almost had the pool to ourselves.  The kids made a friend and played splashing games for quite a while.  Probably ticking off a few of the girls trying to get glamour shots by the edge...but, hey, that's what the adult side is for people!

A Boy swimming on the edge of the world!

A merlion.  We didn't get to go
see this in person, just not
enough time.  But, we saw it
from a distance.
After our chilly morning swim, the kids and I headed back to our room for showers and then to pack our bags so we can head back to the Greenstein's abode.  Kacee mentioned the painted buildings and Masjid Saltan and it sounded like a phenomenal experience, so that was my side destination on the way back toward Kranji Station.  

Our backpacks were pretty packed...why I caved and let the kids pack three stuffed animals and a blanket each, in addition to all of their clothes and then I had the added weight of all the food Kris bought for us on Diego Garcia to carry on the plane home (ya know, in case the plane food wasn't good....yeah, there's a story there, just be patient).  So, we made it to Bugis Station and then walked toward Haji Lane to see the painted buildings.  Unfortunately, in addition to the loaded backpacks, it was also raining.  This didn't make for happy children.  The rain did hold off a bit when we got to Haji Lane, so we could walk the road and take in all the awesome artwork.

The kids walking down Haji Lane

This was my favorite wall!

Down Haji Lane and then a left on a little alleyway and then a right toward the mosque.  Boy was so excited to see all the gold.  And, Kenzie was absolutely sure she was looking at Jasmine's palace.  So, you can actually go inside the mosque during a few designated visiting times which are before and after prayer times.  Unfortunately, we made it there about 20 minutes before prayer time, so we weren't allowed in.  If it wasn't raining we would have grabbed lunch and then returned, but our packs were getting heavier by the minute, and the rain wasn't making things any more enjoyable.

There were several amazing stonework paintings toward the entrance.  Garytt said this was his favorite.

On our way out Garytt saw this wall around a corner.  It was his favorite painting of the day. 

So, we made it back to Kacee's in the late afternoon.  This left just enough time for us to enjoy one final evening with our friends....I'm so glad we got the chance to spend time together!  

The kids wanted to know why we were flying in space
As promised...the story behind the airplane food.  So, I was up around 6 am Monday morning and I had the kids up around 7, I think.  We took a taxi to the airport and went to the self check in terminal for our airline.  Well, something was wrong and it wouldn't read all of the passports.  So, we are shuffled down to wait in the 'special' line :/ behind a family of five with about 74 bags to check.  Ugh...need more coffee.... Finally, we get through the line and get our tickets.  Off to find some coffee and food.  We found a Dunkin Donuts!  So, I spent my last little bit of Singapore dollars and we sat down to enjoy our breakfast.  Once that was done, and the kids took the time to beg me to buy toys from a shop there, where everything was marked up at least 30%, we made our way to the gate.  Well, we made it to the chairs next to the gate because at Changi Airport you don't go through security until you get to your gate.  When it's almost boarding time you line up, go through security, then sit in a glass room until they allow you on the plane.  The flight was uneventful.  I think we got food, but it wasn't anything special...I think we all just ate the rice and ice cream.  We arrived at Hong Kong and had a 4 1/2 hour layover, so we had time to relax.  We got more food, Kenzie has discovered that Starbucks makes an amazing chocolate muffin, and I loaded up on more coffee.  Garytt ate snacks from our bag.  Since it was so long before our flight, the information for the gate wasn't yet available, so we found a bench to spread all our junk on and both kids pulled out iPads and Kindles to keep themselves entertained.  I thought when I purchased my tickets that it said our final flight would have power seats, so I didn't worry too  much about charging any of the devices.  What did it matter anyway, they were just going to watch whatever movies were available in the onboard entertainment.  
We sat around for about 3 hours, just waiting for our gate information to come up.  The kids kept running to check the board.  Garytt was getting really close to needing a nap.  He was on the verge of being delirious from exhaustion.  But, because he's so hard headed and stubborn, he refused to lay down for just a second.  Finally, about an hour before our scheduled take off time our gate popped up.  Okay...now, how to make it from gate 24 to gate 510! 😳  So, we walk to the end of the concourse we're currently in, turn left, go to the end of the concourse, go down an escalator, around the corner, down the hallway, onto a bus, across the lot, to a satellite terminal.  Shoo....it was an adventure just to get there!!  We didn't have to wait long to load onto the next plane.  Just a few more peaceful hours until we are back in our home territory!

Macki-chan watching the planes drive by

And....here goes our final leg of this adventurous day.  So, this plane was the smallest we were in for the whole trip.  Just three seats on one side and three on the other.  No biggie.  We settle into our seats (after a brief argument about whose turn it was to sit by the window) and prepare to take off.  I watch Garytt pull down the tray in front of him and nothing clicks.  He puts the tray back up and then pulls down my tray.  Okay, what are you doing?  Mom, there's no tv!  WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?  It's alright, no big deal, I'll pull out the charging cords and plug in the iPads so you can connect to the inflight wifi and watch movies.  Well....for some unknown reason, I packed all of the charging cords into my suitcase.  NNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOO.....Boy is already about to lose his mind from being so tired.  There is enough battery in both iPads for the kids to get about 30 minutes.  Then, it's food time, okay that'll distract them for a bit.  So, out of 48 rows, we were row 43 and somehow managed to be the very last row served dinner.  Guess what was left?  Fish!  😭  None of us are going to eat it.  The Flight Attendant apologizes and I say, we aren't even going to eat anything on that tray...reheated fried fish, noodles with a fish cake.  Nope, not going to happen.  So, I say, "Can you bring me as much bread as you think is healthy?  We will just eat that."  He brings back a dozen rolls!  Haha...okay, we did giggle at that, a lot!

Well, we made it to Haneda, finally....neither kid has slept any.  Garytt gets mad and frustrated with EVERYTHING and his patience is totally gone.  We get our suitcase and make our way to immigration.  Well, the line was actually pretty long, so we waited for about 40 minutes until it was our turn.  Once we got to the counter we managed to get the most unhappy immigration officer I've ever seen.  He didn't just stamp our passports, he nearly cracked the desk from slamming the stamps down so hard.  It was hard enough that the officer working at the desk next to him kept looking over.  He kept demanding that I show him orders too.  I said at least half a dozen times that we are SOFA sponsored and so we don't have any orders.  Oy.....it's been a long day pal, and my kids are about to lose it, which means I'm about to lose it...stamp the papers and let us go!  Finally, finally, we are out of there!  I decide to make a quick stop at the vending machine for a desperately needed coffee at 1130 pm before I drive home.  I get what I think is coffee (I'm pretty sure it was just hot chocolate) and we find the car.  After everyone is loaded I pull up the map to get us home.  It was refusing to connect to the internet.  Understandable, we are inside the parking garage.  So, I put it on the dash and make my way to the exit.  I pay to leave and then check the map again.  Still not working.  I should have pulled over right here and restarted the phone.  But, my brain wasn't functioning properly, so I kept moving, thinking it would click at any moment.  It didn't.  I restarted the phone just as I was coming to the first spot where I had to chose left or right.  I recognized the name Shuto B, so that's the direction I went.  At the next intersection the phone finally started to work, but it was telling me to take a left at an intersection where the only option was right.  Then, it had me driving through grass and next to a river.  ??  After the map did three or four 360 degree turns it finally got it together and put me on the right road.  Only, at this point I had absolutely NO idea where I was.  It was pouring rain, the kids were arguing, and I kept saying "I'm soooo lost.  I'm sooooo lost.  I'm sooooo lost."  I finally got on a road that took me toward where I wanted to go.  I ended up paying an extra $15 in tolls and turned a 45 minute drive into a 90 minute drive.  😱 But, finally, at 2 am, we were home.  Because I have the best husband ever and the most amazing friend (thankyou.thankyou.thankyou, Jaimie!), I had enough wine in the fridge and on the counter to help me forget the horrors of the day!

Enough whining....other than the 'adventures' we had on the way home, this trip was one of the most amazing trips we've ever taken.  From the jungles to the animals to the much needed time with friends to the hotel and pool of my dreams!  So many amazing memories were made in these two weeks!