It’s taken me a minute to gather my thoughts on this one. I feel like I did a great job (yes, I’m patting myself on the back) blogging about our travels and experiences, but not such a hot job detailing the ups and downs of life in Singapore. We’ve been back in the States one month, and I’ve processed some hard reminiscing. It’s made me realize, a broad scope of Singapore was long overdue.
There are a few things I want to specifically remember about our time in Singapore- some good and some not so good. Yes, I want to remember the negative aspects too. All factors shaped our time and experiences into the solidified memories we now have engrained into our brains forever. So here goes…!
Food- Singapore is the epitome of a melting pot of cultures, including the nibbles! Due to its location in southeast Asia, authentic cuisines can be found everywhere. Korean, Malay, Balinese, Bangladeshi, of course Chinese and Japanese. Typical American food was easy to find in most places, as well as French, Italian, British, German, Spanish, and Mediterranean.
My top favorites are Cambodian Khmer Curry, Spicy Indian, and Thai. Oh yum yum yum…how I will miss all of that!! Josh loved a good Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich 🙂
I was terrible at taking food pictures, but here are beefy noodles, pork dumplings, and red bean steamed buns from Din Tai Fung- an easy spot for the kids.
A visual of my personal favorite below: Pad Thai and Mango Sticky rice!
Korean BBQ is also a favorite of hubby’s.
Shrimp burger at McDonald’s, anyone?
…and ice cream? You can enjoy it IN a slice of bread or a double, drop cone.
The black sesame is my favorite, NOT the corn.
Hawker Centres are a huge favorite in Singapore. They are essentially an outdoor food court. If you can stand the heat, they are worth the cheap price. There’s a popular one near Josh’s office where he would have lunch regularly. It may look gross to you (believe me, I was the same) but the taste is outstanding.
How have the kids fared? They have developed a love for sushi if that tells you anything. If you don’t think your kids would ever enjoy it, just think…it’s mainly rice and a veggie. You can start small with avocado, cucumber, or asparagus rolls. They love smoked salmon and seared tuna now. And Jack will devour some edamame! The sushi express restaurants are super fun for kids, too. Little plates come by the table on a conveyer belt, and you pay by the plates. They are usually a dollar per plate.
Indoor food courts are pretty groovy too.
Living in the tropics, we were exposed to what we would normally think are weird fruits. Dragon fruit was Jack’s absolute favorite. The inside flesh was either white with black seeds or deep purple with black seeds.
Other weird assortments…
Play Centres- these all hold wonderful, lasting memories! Due to the torrential, tropical storms or burning sun, it’s tough to play outside for hours upon hours in Singapore. The play centres are massive – usually include a safe area for toddlers, cafes so momma can get her caffeine on, and deli counters for snack and lunch munchies. Fantastic one stop shop for morning play dates! The boys didn’t go to school on Tues/Thurs, so we would usually head to at least one play centre a week. I already miss these…
Location- our condo was smack in the middle of the touristy shopping mecca of Singapore. I always referred to it as the NYC Times Square of Singapore. I would go down to the grocery shop, and people were constantly bumping into the stroller by having their head in the clouds taking touristy pictures. Although, the convenience of living in that location was bar none. We had anything and everything you could think of at our fingertips. A five-minute walk around the block or ten minute delivery would have any wish in your hands. But the touristy crowds of people, definitely gave me a love/hate relationship with Orchard Rd.
The first square had our grocery store in the basement. Second square was across the street from our condo. Third square is ION; a gorgeous shopping mall.
The city squares are so pretty, full of art work, and CLEAN!
Affordable Help- Having Mirasol was incredible for multiple reasons (check out my previous post, dedicated solely for her), but her permanent presence in our house allowed us to have impromptu girls’ nights, group outings, and endless date night opportunities. Many nights, we would put the boys in bed and head out for a drink, a stroll down Orchard, ice cream across the street, or (my favorite) a late night swim.
Diversity of Cultures- one of the first things I noticed after we walked into the Atlanta airport was everyone spoke American english. It was the oddest thing to me. English is Singapore’s main language, but everybody speaks with a broken dialect or severe accent. We have a few American friends, but the majority of them have accents: Spanish, Australian, Kiwi, British, French, Italian, etc. And even the ones who speak Spanish and French, they have varying accents within their own language. A Spanish speaking individual from Spain is quite different than one from Panama or Chile. Same goes for the Frenchies from France versus Montreal.
The Laws- this is a good one! Singapore is extremely strict with their laws- all of them. Since the country is just over 50 years old, it is young in perspective to many others. In my opinion, it was easy to establish strict laws and have following generations adhere to them. Basically, kids respect authority – teachers, police officers, etc. Of course you will have the stubborn teenager here and there, but not many. And parents actually believe the teachers over their own children. What a concept?? Teaching here would be a dream! Due to the laws- you will never see trash on the street…not even a candy wrapper, it’s the safest city in the world…no guns, no drugs, etc. With the country being so tiny, both are completely banned and easy to police with the limited land and sea boarders. People who visited us were always completely blown away by the amount of respect everyone has for one another and their cultures.
Public Transportation- I already did a BIG shout out to this when I discussed my city life with two under two in tow. Basically- it’s super clean, freakishly safe, and very efficient. The island of Singapore is about the size of the county where I was raised. It’s so easy to get around and the train lines go everywhere. If not, then hop a bus. In most places around the world, buses are frowned upon due to the lack of safety and unsanitary nature. Not the case in Singapore! Everyone uses them, even young kids riding solo!!
Technology- Singapore is ahead when it comes to this realm of first world thinking. See the glowing red beam in the picture below? The city installed these at crosswalks last spring to alert pedestrians to stop walking. Many times, you would hear of people head down, texting away, not having a clue cars were approaching and walk out into traffic. Sounds silly, but it happens frequently in big cities.
The Price to Pay- EVERYTHING is ridiculously expensive!! Singapore is an island with little green space to raise livestock or grow vegetation. Therefore, every single thing is imported. Sometimes from next-door Malayasia, and sometimes as far away as the US, Denmark, Norway, Argentina, or Israel. On average, anything I touch is at least 30% more than the States. As much as I like to cook, I was appalled at my first trip to the market. Then, I slowly acclimated. Thank goodness for our cost of living adjustment, or we would’ve survived on rice and beans. Here’s a sampling of the milk section.
Yes, those are $16/half gallon…
The “local” milk is still almost $6 for half gallon, and the OJ from home is nearly $8.
We switched up our protein intake while living in the Little Red Dot, too. The price of meat is out of this world, so we ate more eggs, almonds, and cheese. Even though an avocado was almost $5 for one, we ate those like wildfire compared to $12/lb for chicken. And forget organic! I tried to buy almost everything organic back in the States, but it’s nearly impossible here…see below!
Yes, $10 for broccoli and $8 for half a small cauliflower…
The conventional grocery stores range from government ran FairPrice, to the standard Cold Storage, and upper-crust, expat grocery stores like MarketPlace and Jason’s. We had each of these within a five minute walk of our condo. Typically our fresh veggies and fruits would come from FairPrice, milks, breads, pastas, cereals from Cold Storage, and occasionally I would pop in MarketPlace if I got in a bind, because it was the closest.
The above picture is the largest Cold Storage in our area. Typically, they aren’t much bigger than the size of a convenient store in the US and the aisle size is nerve-wracking, especially when you have four little arms grabbing items on both sides of the double stroller. Ahhh!
Aside from the conventional grocery stores to choose from, you can get your booty to the wet market. It’s similar to a flea market but only sells edible items. Any and all food can be found there- unpackaged and its original state. The wet markets are great, but I could never stomach the smell for long. The lingering smell of raw, fresh meat and seafood basking in the Singapore sun was too much for me to stomach. I knew lots of people who bought meat there and never fell ill, but I couldn’t put it past me. I only purchased produce when we made the trip.
And of course, while in Asia…
I’ve eaten more rice in the last two years than I have in my entire life.
In a way, though, the expensive prices are a good thing. They have deterred me from unnecessary shopping trips! The only thing we found comparable to US prices was the cinema or movie theater. A normal seat averaged $9, but the fancier spots could be upwards of $20.
Education- Singapore is consistently ranked some of the top in the world. Not only are core academics high on the radar, but they emphasize experiences too. The son of one of my friends was going on a weekend trip to Malaysia with his social studies class. The kid is in 7th grade, y’all. And this wasn’t the once a year, special trip like we went to Washington D.C. in 8th grade. This was a regular occurrence. The teachers are paid extremely well and they fund the schools as it should be! Even for my boys’ Montessori school, they organized a field trip once a month called, Field Trip Friday. As a two year old, Jack did some pretty amazing things! They visited various museums, zoos, parks, and interactive playgrounds. I loved being able to see these things through his eyes and watch him physically learn about the world around him.
TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL!!!- This is hands down the best part about living in Singapore. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, it’s expensive. BUT…you can fly all over southeast Asia on the cheap! Flights, accommodation, food/alcohol- it’s all so.very.cheap. I’m sure you remember my birthday post and the $9 plane tix. Best find ever. It’s not uncommon to have a beer for $.25 and a plate of GOOD noodles for $.60 in a neighboring country. The affordability of travel and the way Asian culture adores children allowed us to bike around through ancient temples in Cambodia, celebrate New Year’s in Malaysia, paddle through a remote fishing village in Vietnam, be included in a Hindu ceremony in Bali, chase crabs in the Maldives, witness the most breathtaking sunset in the Philippines, attend a Coldplay concert in Bangkok, and drink wine and play with kangaroos in Australia. I am so thankful to give the boys these cultural experiences in their little lives. If you sift back through my blog, individual posts were detailed about each trips.
ALLLL the Entertainment!- F1 race, Broadway performances, Marina Bay Light Show, Cirque du Soleil, Monster Jam, sporting events and concerts galore.
Picnics at night were the best!
And swimming in the clouds is always a fun adventure!
A few of the downsides though…
The bugs are massive and annoying. Singapore is in the tropics after all…
The banking laws are super annoying. I forgot my six digit pin number, and was locked out after three attempts. There is no way to reset it online or call, you must wait in line at the bank. Only to have your current debit card cut up in front of your face and charged $20 for a brand new one. All because they cannot reset pin numbers on cards.
HUGE eye roll
You become acquainted with a squatty potty very quickly.
We were 13 hours ahead of our hometown and it was really difficult to keep in touch over the phone or watch our favorite sporting events. Mainly because a 3pm kickoff would stream live online at 4am in Singapore. Or, we had the option of watching local sports like this.
My least favorite things…sand fleas! These aggravating things only bothered me when we were on a cold, damp, beach. Mostly prevalent in southeast Asia, and they love everyone. Bleh!!
And lastly, the two I have constantly ran into the ground…the weather and car situation. I won’t elaborate much on these, since I have in the past. Bottom line: don’t ever come to Singapore if you don’t like heat and extreme humidity. It’s on the equator. The weather in Antartica is freezing year-round. The equator is the exact opposite. Hot, hot, and HOT! I wore pants twice and long-sleeves a handful of times (and still sweated). The beauty is having the ability to go outside every day of the year. Parks, splash pads, and swimming at the condo every single day!!
The warm weather also allowed momma to go paddle boarding on the ocean and do water yoga in December 🙂
…but it also caused the TV to shut down from time to time. Thunderstorms made the power go out when I was a child. The sun will do it in Singapore.
For the car situation, the government does not allow a car on the streets that is over ten years old. If you buy a car brand new, you are only allowed to own it for a decade before they literally ship it off the island. Each driver is required to have a permit to own a car which sometimes costs more than the car itself. For example, I had a 2003 Honda Accord before we moved over. First of all, it would be illegal to have on the roads because of it’s age. But my exact car, ten years old would have easily been over $100,000. I DIED! It was less than $20K to buy when it was purchased four years old. Haha. SO…we were happily a no car family for two years.
This pretty much sums up Singapore in a nutshell! I had a love/hate relationship with this city/country. But overall, the friends I will miss the most. This is a snapshot of the crazies who could make it out for our impromptu going away fete.
So very blessed to have these wonderful folks from all over the world in our lives and their precious kiddos who became like family to us.
Girls’ night out in a big city is amazing, but sometimes we had the best time just staying in.
Day or night, Singapore is spectacular and afforded us some unforgettable memories.
During our 26 month stint, we traveled near and far, added a blue-eyed, redheaded, Asian baby to our crew, experienced major milestones with our eldest, had a lady from the Philippines live with us, starred on a national television show, discovered heaps about ourselves, marriage, and relationship with our kids, and learned to conquer many MANY fears.
If you’ve read this far, I hope you have enjoyed my 82 blog posts, and they have inspired you to be more adventurous and take risks in this blimp of a life! As I scrolled back through pictures for this last post, I realized how much you can accomplish in two, short years and how quickly life truly whizzes by. Don’t let the next two years of your life be ordinary. Try new foods, introduce yourself to new people, apply for that diploma you’ve been dreaming of, take that trip you’ve saved for! Spice it up and make the memories!!