17 & 18 March 2014 – Singapore, the last bits and the journey home…….

With the last day in Singapore staring us down great plans were made to a) fill in the day with activities of goodness and b) have us arrive on our flight with everyone rested and happy……

Our normal breakfast awaited us, where Astrid favorite restaurant staff  seated us before our names being checked off the list by the head woman, which almost caused a riot!  Astrid then ate her body weight in food before sniffing around detecting an odor.. (you always get slightly worried when she starts a sentence with ‘I smell something’). It turns out this time the smell was coming from Anto’s plate. She asked what it was, determined it to be his chicken, asked to try some, then declared ‘I love your smelly chicken, I’m going to eat all of your smelly chicken’.  At this point Nic took Soren upstairs for one last nap and left Anto and Astrid to eat odorous poultry and farewell the attentive staff.

While Soren napped briefly there was some last minute packing and a very quick goodbye to the hotel room, before the worlds fastest 15 second checkout and storing our bags away for the day. As we were flying out they got us to pre-book our bus transfer – including issuing ‘official’ stickers which we were to wear in order to gain access to the bus – all a bit weird and officious, but we were in Singapore.

Before we knew it we were on the shuttle to the MRT station and a train into the city, we figured that by 10:30am  the trains would have calmed down, and we were wrong with a fairly busy train – but still clean and efficient. Luckily people with babies and toddlers are ushered into priority seating, so no need to stand.

Once at City Hall, we started with a walk over to Fort Canning a small hill slightly more than 60 metres high in the southeast portion of the Island- which due to the fact that Singapore is very flat appears to be a fairly large hill. Sadly the weather was not going to play along and we had increasingly strong drizzly rain. Astrid was tucked up in the stroller and Soren in the ergo – but pretty much everyone was getting wet (if not cold as it was still 28C). The park was fairly impressive, it had sculptures, a spice garden and lots of terraced gardens. It was a nice green space right in the middle of the city, but the increasingly heavier water falling from the sky got annoying & we decided to retreat back into the city. No photos since we couldn’t risk our camera getting soaked before the long trip home. We did snap a couple of pics of Soren tucked up in the ergo with his rain hood on and Astrid unconscious in the stroller, despite getting soaked!

Back in the city Nic and the kids camped out at a respectable looking cafe while Anto wandered off in search of the Funan DigitaLife Mall – apparently one of the safer technology malls in Singapore. The mall is about the size of a shopping centre at home, however has nothing but technology – each floor was dedicated to a technology type – except for camera gear – that needed two floors. Sadly Anto was on a schedule and aside from trying to find some kiddie sized headphones for Astrid didn’t so much in the way of shopping before running back to find the others.

When Anto left everyone in the Cafe, Astrid was napping in the stroller, Soren was getting ready for a feed, and Nic was ordering a coffee – by the time he returned Astrid had woken up (Activated) and apparently required a hot drink to warm up. Nic hoped for a baby-chino, which apparently the cafe didn’t do, however they did do a quite reasonably priced hot chocolate (which is almost the same thing right?). Such a beverage was hastily ordered…… When it arrived somehow a hot chocolate had turned into a bowl pretty much the size of Astrid’s head – made with real Swiss chocolate none the less.

Luckily Anto re-appeared before Astrid could drink the whole thing and bravely volunteered to drink enough that Astrid didn’t burst. Everyone was then bundled up and headed out into the rain to make our way back to the hotel – via a now much quieter MRT. This worked out pretty well except that for some reason at non-peak times the train we picked (the next one that came along) stopped one station short of our destination – something that was fairly easily resolved by jumping on the next one along (from memory a whole 5 minute wait). As time was tight we opted for a taxi from the train station back to the hotel – deciding the $8 was probably a worthwhile investment. As per normal Astrid initiated the ‘non-stop question’ protocol, which luckily most of the Taxi drivers think is cute.

Back at the hotel, transfers to the shuttle bus and onward to the airport was pretty simple – with both commentary and questions from Astrid the whole way, and Soren napping in the ergo. As per our plan (it has to happen sooner or later) we arrived at the airport just after 2pm. Singapore has an early check-in service for most of the airlines. By the time we found the counter there was only one person in front of us finishing up their check-in.We went through the formalities of check-in, with the only issue being that we were not seated together. Anto and Nic were together, with a bassinet for Soren and Astrid was placed across the aisle on her own. We didn’t think this was a good idea and requested a seat change, but weren’t given any assurances.  We shouldn’t have worried. The pre-immigration check was painless (where somehow we once again were waved past the xray machine, unlike the young backpackers behind us), Immigration was cleared and we decided to wander up to the Qantas club for lunch before heading back out to look at Duty free and playgrounds. 

Last time we stopped in Singapore, on the way back from Paris, the club was a fairly old and small lounge (without even a baby change facility) – how things had changed. The new lounge (which apparently will be turning a year old the day we happened to be there) is a fairly huge, comfortable lounge, with a number of nice separate areas and a dedicated eating area with real tables & some cooked to order meals available, as well as a huge range of other food, a dessert buffet and a huge bar. There was also a ton of showers and a baby change! 
As we arrived just after opening there seemed to be about 5 or 6 staff wanting to look after us – including a few who seemed rather keen on borrowing Soren and Astrid (which allowed us to eat in peace). While the kiddies received cuddles Astrid was presented with one of the new crayola in-flight kiddie packs – which seems to be a fair step up from the old domestic ones we were used to, although not quite up to the standard of the Emirates pack.

We gradually settled into the lounge with frequent small raids to the food, bar and coffee. Staff were happy to procure us food, drinks and coffee or hold the children. Astrid happily played, while being fed juice and chocolate torte by the staff and Soren grinned it up happily for everyone.

Anto decided that he should get the duty free shopping out of the way (as there were way too many stores). Astrid had previously expressed a desire to shop, however now she was in the kiddie area with staff hovering around she decided to ‘stay and play’ instead. Fairly soon Anto returned with a receipt and a spoon, in Singapore they ‘secure’ duty free by carrying it though security for you (since 4L of strong spirits are perfectly safe on a plane if someone else carried them at some point), which has the advantage that until just before boarding you don’t have to worry about lugging it around. It has the disadvantage that you are trying to re-pack seconds before getting onto a flight.

Astrid, who is normally a good traveller, was showing signs of tiredness and was refusing to nap and her behaviour was less than stellar.  She reverted to whingey toddler mode and her poor parents were not very impressed with the level of whining and the fact that she was falling over every 10 seconds and hurting herself due to being so tired. Soren managed to have a feed and a brief nap in the sling, and Nic and Anto were consoling ourselves with alcohol and dessert buffet raids, but it was turning into a long day.  We gave up on making Astrid sleep and informed her that she would be going straight to sleep on the plane after take-off so there would be no tv or dinner.  She had eaten quite a bit through the afternoon, so wasn’t going to starve, but was not impressed with this arrangement since watching late night TV on the plane is the bees knees.
Astrid and Anto did check out the Qantas club showers and Astrid declared them to be ‘awesome’, mostly because they had a door – easily impressed!

We headed off at 7pm, with kids in PJs and ready to sleep.  Singapore do at the gate security screening so we had to get everything out of the bags yet again, but luckily two cute kids seemed to have us waved through  again despite several laptops and bags of baby and toddler liquids and bottles.We could have sold both kids, who were being is super cute mode, Soren in the sling and Astrid in the ergo. Unlike in Australia Astrid was permitted to stay in the Ergo with Anto receiving the lightest touch pat down instead and Nic a general waving at with Soren attached to her.

Once at the gate we realised the flight was looking pretty empty. We were on a Qantas A330 and it wasn’t looking that full.  We were told we’d been reseated together (hooray) and made our way onto the plane in a boarding procedure that was much more efficient than the Emirates one.  The business class cabin looked pretty full but the front economy cabin was 50% full at best. We were in the front row of the back economy cabin and that row was full but there were maybe 20 people total in the 120ish seat cabin. We’d ended up in 3 seats of the middle 4 seats, with a bassinet, but there was a woman beside us with a toddler on her lap (who looked far too large for the Qantas bassinets) so it was a bit squishy. The air hosties assured us that we could spread out after take-off, which seemed appealing as the toddler was wailing at high volume and his mother looked like she hadn’t flown much and was decidedly nervous (or clueless, she had both the toddler and her handbag on her lap during take-off but the baby wasn’t seatbelted) so it could have been a long 8 hours.

After take-off Anto and Astrid moved a couple of rows back and Astrid was sentenced to sleep.  The other lady and toddler were moved a few rows back and Nic ended up with 4 seats and 2 bassinets to herself. Unfortunately the armrests on that row don’t lift up but it was still nice to have the space.  Astrid protested about sleeping for about 10 minutes and was then unconscious, about 2 minutes before they threw dinner at us.  The flight was so empty that one team was doing the whole economy cabin and everyone was offerred about 3 dinners. Nic actually got her vego meal and was able scam additional pieces of dessert and chocolate off the regular dinners.  Soren happily had a feed, between grinning at air hosties and then was asleep after not too much coo-ing and chatting.  We weren’t expecting he would actually use the bassinet and would end up sleeping on his mother, but some judicious moving got him into the bassinet where he happily stayed for the duration of the flight. Not stirring for the turbulence or noise. The Qantas bassinets were a little squishy for 15-17 month old Astrid when we went to Europe, but fitted a 5 month old Soren well and they have the advantage that you don’t need to take them out when the seatbelt sign goes on!

Unlike our flight over (which left at the same time), when it took them 3 hours to serve dinner, clean it up and then another hour to turn off the lights. This time dinner was done, cleared away and lights off by about 9.30pm Singapore time.  This meant that we tried to get some rest.  Neither of us felt like we slept much but we must have had the odd doze as the time passed fairly quickly and uneventfully.  Overnight flights are great for kids (they mostly sleep, well ours do at any rate) but the adults can get a little tired.

With around 90 minutes to go on the flight, Astrid had begun to stir and the crew unceremoniously turned on the lights at 2am Singapore time to throw us some breakfast.  Astrid was very excited to be having ‘breakfast in the middle of the night, on a plane’ as she loudly declared to the whole plane!  She was also given chocolate milk and cereal so that kept her amused for quite some time.

We again all got offered about 3 breakfasts (unexciting yoghurt and a croissant or cinnamon scroll).
Soren did very well sleeping in his bassinet and ended up needing to be woken an hour before landing for a feed so we could (hopefully) make a quick getaway home upon landing.  He also seemed quite happy to be up in the middle of the night!

We landed at 6.30am Sydney time, and it was still rather dark.  Due to the plane being mostly empty we made a quick getaway, well as quick as you can with 2 kids strapped to you and a mountain of carry on (paranoia about vomit incidents results in 3 changes of clothes being carried for everyone).  Immigration was painless but we did have to laugh as we exited immigration and headed to baggage claim, where Astrid loudly exclaimed ‘don’t worry Dad, this time I won’t puke all down your back!’……….. see our adventures on arrival in Singapore if you want more info on that!

With a vomit-free baggage retrieval we hightailed it to customs and had to declare the infant formula but were hastily waved through without much fuss once we reached the head of the line. It’s always fun watching poor unsuspecting tourists have their bags x-rayed and items confiscated because they have no clue about our quarantine laws.

Since we had left our car in Sydney we didn’t get the pleasure of the International – Domestic transfer, and instead Nic had to sit with the kids and a pile of bags while Anto went to find our car. A process that somehow took almost an hour due to traffic delays.  In this time Astrid was lucky to still be living. After less than 6 hours broken sleep and her body clock thinking it was the middle of the night, she was being a little special. Coffee prevented her mother from murdering her (but only just) and her father returned in time to load 2 tired and cranky kids into a very full (and not too vomity smelling) car for the long drive home.

After about 5 minutes of whinging, wailing and general unhappiness from both of them, both were asleep by the time we hit the M5.  We then drove like the wind (or at least like the speed limit and very slow traffic allowed) to get home. We played the ‘how far can we get before they wake up and screech for food/toilet/entertainment’ game vs the ‘the adults really need more coffee and to stretch our poor economy seat battered bodies’ game.  With them both still sleeping at Sutton Forrest we decided to keep going and  made it a bit further until Astrid woke up. Luckily she was in quite a good mood and was at least happy to chat rather than whinge. Soren made it until 10 minutes before Goulburn, at which time he woke up and realised it was many, many hours since he was fed and he really wanted milk and to be let out of his capsule. It was a long 10 minutes but we made it to Goulburn McDonalds where we coffee and food were obtained and Soren was fed.  Astrid has never actually eaten McDonalds and was happy with a hot cross bun from the McCafe but was disappointed that this McDonalds didn’t seem to have a playground.  Being a long time since the middle of the night breakfast snack Nic and Anto also found something to eat and we were all feeling more refreshed before the last trek home.

Being exactly 100km and 1 hour to our door from that McDonalds has it’s advantages.  Astrid quickly reverted to over-tired whingey mode and it was lucky we didn’t have to endure it for too long.  Soren managed to sleep again and Nic and Anto were powered by coffee and managed to get everyone home alive.

We arrived home bang on midday on the 18th.  Very tired and a little smelly but having survived another overseas adventure.  This one the first with 2 kids (well two kids on the outside at least!).  The afternoon was spent unpacking, decontaminating and napping.  It’s taken a few days to contemplate doing it all again but jobs permitting we will be off on another adventure before too long……….  2, kids and a campervan around Europe perhaps?

Leave a Reply