I am supposed to be writing this post from Tokyo while sipping sake and nibbling on sushi. But as is becoming the pattern of my family's life in 2015…never assume things will go the way you plan them.
Taking our change in holiday dates as a 'sign' it was out with Japan and in with a trip I like to call; "All the places we always wanted to visit while living in Timor but thought we would run out of time to visit…!"
Maybe this trip is meant to be? I never liked sake that much anyway.
First stop on the adventure was the kids' first choice…Legoland - Johor Bahru, Malaysia. If you can't get to Denmark where it all began, well Malaysia is a hell of a lost closer to get to and an easy hop from Singapore airport where our driver was waiting right on time. Fair to say the driver was a little jaded by the journey having probably only done it 1765 times or so - luckily we weren't up for a chat given it had already been a long day, and the 60km drive was apparently going to take 2 hours.
The reason for the lengthy journey became apparent the closer we got to the border immigration station, where the traffic was backed up for a good 2km. We saw motorbikes zooming past us as we sat stationary in the car lane traffic jam and for a fleeting moment I wished we were a 'motorbike kind of family', until we reached the immigration booths. The cars moved through slowly but surely, while the seemingly thousands of motorbikes stood motionless. Tortise 1: Hare 0.
Finally we reached the Legoland hotel and I had been building the momentum up for days with the kids, not letting on that we would be staying in a 'Pirate' themed room in a hotel that literally was overflowing with every piece of Lego you could imagine. Unfortunately I hadn't factored in the kids all falling asleep on the ride there…so after a bit of a slow entrance into the hotel (and Oscar finally realising he wasn't featuring in a movie-set dream about Lego, he was actually awake in a bizarre reality) we were rewarded for our labours by the kids screaming and giggling in delighted at the 'worlds best hotel!'.
True, there were Pirate ships, castles, Lego men, building blocks and towers of Lego at every turn. I felt as though we were living inside a toy box for a few days and can only say (on behalf of the parents) that if the hotel delivered its food service to a 50% standard it does its activities for kids then you would have a pretty awesome hotel. Read into that what you will…but as normally very healthy eaters: lets just say we had Burger King and KFC for lunch and dinner respectively in the one day. This was a regrettable first for us and hopefully last time in our lives that will ever happen!
The location right next to the Legoland theme park was perfect, meaning we could come and go from the room as we needed to - and especially handy if you find yourself in the awkward and potentially embarrassing position of having a large hole (at 6 o'clock) in your bathing suit as you are about to hit the water slides (Oscar). Luckily the gift shop has an excellent rang of swim suits J
We spent a full day at the Legoland theme park, which was designed for the 'little kid', and thankfully there were no queues on any of the rides. Isabel 'owned' the 3-5yo-race track where the kids drove their own Lego cars around and around the mini-track. I think its safe to say we are all thankful the cars went at 5km an hour.
I think Marco still has Isabel's finger prints on his right bicep (which are likely to stay there for some time), the pair of them having ridden one of the roller coasters much to the horror of Isabel who was by all accounts screaming as they manoeuvred past the stationary Lego display before reaching the elevation point. The poor kid who once fancied herself as a mini-daredevil, swearing herself off them for life in favour of a nice safe spot on the ground.
Oscar on the other hand was master of all roller coasters and water slides, and by the end of the day the Malaysian staff all knew him by name and were high-fiving him as he went on the biggest and best there was. He completely put his mum to shame after daring me to go on the 'really slow waterslide down the mat' which was the single most awful experience of my day…and as I recovered in a spluttering mess at the other end - Oscar laughed himself senseless (he deliberately tricked mum and re-told dad with a "hilarious re-enactment of mum screaming"), while the trusty Legoland 'life saver' chuckled from his deckchair, arms crossed and an eyebrow raised ever so slightly over his glasses as he lounged under an umbrella.
An early start and back over the border to Singapore on day two (to beat the traffic) and we were back in Singapore in 45minutes, which feels a little like a second home these days given its our destination of choice to bounce through when we leave Dili.
We always find new and fantastic things to do on our trips to Singapore, and after throwing our bags in the hotel room it was no rest for the fearless five as we decided to catch a taxi out to Singapore zoo to visit some Orang-utans.
Deciding against the signature 'Breakfast with the Orang-utans' experience at the last minute in favour of a normal entry, imagine our delight when the keepers walked directly past us hand in hand with two beautiful adult Orang-utans (about 4-foot tall with 3-foot of gangly long arms and melancholy faces), one with twin babies clutching its underbelly. Literally a metre away I eyed the mamma-Orang-utan carrying her two babies as I stood there with a tired and whinging Henry wriggling in my arms who was demanding I carry him. I am no expert on 'ape to human evolution' but I as I looked into her eyes I knew we shared enough for us both to know what the other one was thinking…
We spent the morning dividing our time between walking around the zoo spotting animals, and utilising the bus to get around in the heat and only lasted a few hours before crashing back in the hotel for a rest.
A very welcome addition to our travel itinerary was locating our good friend Danielle who just happened to be in Singapore for the night, who we had not seen for over 2 years! A wine at the bar and a trip down memory lane, and before you could say 'Din Tai Fung' we were devouring a dinner of our favourite dumplings, before saying gleeful goodbyes to our friend who we only imagined rolled onto the plane to her next destination in a food coma.
Day three we were once again up early to visit Gardens by the Bay, which we had done before, but never fails to impress. Spectacularly shaped glasshouses that are now a pivotal part of Singapore's skyline, filled with gorgeous manicured gardens with every flower on earth you could imagine, impresses even this 'black thumb' who can't grow a pot of basil to save her life. It's no wonder this is celebrated as one of THE places to visit when in town. The 'Children's Garden and Water play area next door isn't half bad either.
We were surprised to find that for a Sunday, the venue was very quiet so the kids were able to duck and weave through the exhibits with ease and burn off some energy. Isabel took great delight in cautiously searching for fairies under the flowers and was at pains to find but one. There happened to be a modelling shoot going on simultaneously where three girls were dressed in elaborate white regalia, and heavily made up - completely fitting the princess/fairy persona we were seeking. But not to be tricked with her 'very high fairy princess standards' and with an eye roll Isabel noted 'they didn't have wings' so were clearly imposters. Our bad.
The tree top walk around the 'Cloud Garden' tested my vertigo, yet I felt tranquil and calm with the background concerto of the large gushing waterfall filling the centre of the dome and enveloping the surrounds.
If only life was floating in a cloud all day away from the humidity and harshness of the outside city.
Gardens by the Bay, as all of Singapore, appears to move in great harmony. Even the bees are on their best behaviour at Gardens by the Bay and in Singaporean style wouldn't dare sting an unsuspecting visitor without first enquiring 'Excuse me…but would it be convenient to do so…?'
The next leg of our journey tomorrow takes us to Cambodia…and its serious ticking off the bucket list time as we make our pilgrimage to the great 'Ankor Wat.'