Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Singapore and more

Singapore is often talked about out here as the family friendly South East Asian city. It is said that one starts out single in Tokyo, is married with a baby in Hong Kong and has a full blown family in Singapore. While I never really believed anywhere in the region could earn a reputation as “family friendly”, I was recently proven wrong. Returning from a fabulous weekend there, we all now are big fans. Singapore’s other toted quality, clean air, was much appreciated too. A little blue sky does wonders for everyone’s mood.

Singapore has a much different feel than Hong Kong. Wider highways, many more plants and trees everywhere. Our kids were enthralled by a little grass on the side of car park. People were friendly. Taxi drivers spoke to us. People offered to take pictures of all five of us with our own camera rather than just surreptiously taking pictures of us with their own cameras. Singapore prides itself on its blended ethnicity and it appeared to be working. The population, a mix of Chinese, Malay and Indian folks, has an international feel much different from Hong Kong with its disparity between very high and very low income earners. Generally, life seems pretty good in Singapore and the people there know it.

We hit Singapore’s two well known family destinations, the night safari and the dolphin lagoon, and loved them both. The night safari runs trams through an open zoo at night. We were all awe struck as we slowly drove by animals roaming around. At one point, we got off the tram and even walked among the animals. We went into a bat enclosure that literally had hundreds of huge bats flying around. I panicked a little as Tori went right up to a very large upside down bat. She calmly told us that this bat, about one-quarter the size of her, ate only fruit. Royce and Adam immediately believed her and moved in closer. I hung back, doubting the research time put in by my first grader.

Dolphin Lagoon on Singapore’s Sentosa Island, advertised as a place where dolphins and humans meet, was next up for us. Anyone over six years old (checked very officiously via passports of participant and parents) can swim with the pink dolphins for about an hour. Tori got out there, learned some hand signals dolphin trainers use, stayed in the water while the dolphins jumped around and then rode on the dolphins a couple times across the lagoon. Royce and Adam had chances to pet dolphins as well.

During a dolphin show following Tori's dolphin riding, Adam was even chosen as the audience member to get in the water with Jumbo the Dolphin. Adam did a good job standing in the water while the dolphin kissed him and splashed him. The real highlight for us was actually on-land. The dolphin show director asked Adam where he was from. Adam looked over at us with panicky wide eyes but turned back and answered "USA."


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