Posted by Christine Meredith on Jan 25, 2018
In December I made a very different visit to Singapore, mainly so I could visit my daughter Sarah who had moved there with her family in July. My grandsons are 8 and 10 years old. So began a very different visit to that which is normally encountered.

For one thing, we were 6 levels up in a tower block with 9 other apartments on this level. There are 15 levels in each block. There were 3 other apartment blocks in the complex along with 2 tennis courts, very large swimming pool and a toddler pool and air-conditioned gymnasium.
The whole complex is out in Paya Labar, one of the very many suburbs in Singapore. We were about 30 minutes from Orchard St on the MRT. And the nearest shopping centres are in Paya Labar. Transport is not by own car but by MRT, taxi, bus, Uber, ‘Grab’ similar to Uber or walking s-l-o-w-l-y in the heat and possibly rain. If you want to find your way by MRT then ask the 8-year-old Monty who knows and understands the MRT better than most locals.
The apartment was one of 2 on each level with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, lounge dining room and separate kitchen area (along with an unknown number of wildlife taking up residence too). However, there is a small room which the live-in maid could be using and also there was a small toilet area complete with hand held shower and hand basin. Sarah was using these rooms for additional storage. Between the maid room and that toilet was the laundry area. The oddest part was that in the laundry area Sarah had a drop down clothes rack to dry items without using the dryer. If you do not want to use the electrical items coming with the apartment then you have to pay to have them removed and stored until you leave. The extra fridge and freezer space she has now as well utilized over the Christmas time. The washer and dryers and fridge/freezer are part of the included items but NOT a dishwasher!  There was no normal rubbish bin as we usually use but a chute down which you send all rubbish into a large collection area. There is NO recycling. Actually, there seemed to be very little recycling even at malls and shopping areas. The higher up n the apartment block you are the cooler it is as the higher levels get more wind (a slight breeze to Wellingtonians).
Shopping was done at her local shopping malls. Yes malls, as there are 2 within 500m of her apartment, one with a better supermarket than the other one. However, because she does not have a car she gets large grocery orders from an online company and these are delivered to her home at a set time and the frozen are frozen when delivered.
Schooling for expats is normally private schooling and my grandsons go to one which is 1 MRT station away from home. They are adept at getting themselves to and from school alone and have an identity school card saying that they can leave at the end of the school day without having an adult with them. There are 550 students aged from 4-14 years old and the playing fields are about the size of 3 school soccer fields and a small covered area with climbing frames. Their 4 school terms go from August to June each year with a 3-week break over Christmas as a lot of the kids go overseas for this break. My grandkids are learning Mandarin at school (compulsory) and Japanese as extra lessons at home as they learnt Japanese in their previous school in Sydney.
Being a partial tourist in Singapore is very different to visiting Singapore and staying in a hotel in the centre of town. For me so very much had changed from my previous visit over 20 years ago. Singapore has changed and I found it difficult to remember the old one I had known then.
Because my daughter and her family were new to Singapore and had not seen many of the current tourist ‘things to do in Singapore’ it was my pleasure to introduce my family to some of these things, other times they took me to some of their new favourite places to visit. We even found some graffiti there off the main walking streets.
I took the family to visit the Singapore Flyer grandson Monty who is a wiz at finding the way by MRT led us ably there and then balked when confronted with the giant wheel and not sure if he really wanted to go on it! Then both grandsons were quick to point out which block of flats they had looked and could even find the one which they are now living in. A really great way to see a complete overview of Singapore!
Our next excursion was to see the hotel they had stayed in and also to see the Christmas decorations along Orchard Road and the lots of now new to me malls which lined the road where I remembered seeing lots of small shops on my previous trip. However, the one thing we were not able to find was a place to get a photo of our whole family with Santa.
For my significant birthday, I was taken to the Zoo for breakfast with the Orangutans. Yes, they were wild, didn’t need to come to the visit unless they wanted and could leave anytime they wanted. They were mainly a group of females and younger ones and what kept them there…. Sugarcane!. They were only about 10m away from our table and when we had a photo taken with them they were only 1m away from our heads. I’d recommend anyone.
All in all, we visited most of the ‘tourist’ places and thoroughly enjoyed our experiences. For me, I also became aware of some of the inequalities in Singaporean life: the people sleeping rough, begging quietly, the elderly working without superannuation, health system all private, the lack of real news in the newspapers there, women being second-class citizens and the ultra-rich. The different shopping areas and the different forms of education, religions.
to have this encounter.
Would I go again to Singapore? YES, actually I have booked already for the spare bed at my daughter’s place and got my umbrella at the ready. I’m looking forward to my next trip there.