After some 19 hours of air time, we arrived at Changi Airport, the gateway to paradise.
One of my least favorite things about long-haul flights is the back stiffness associated with being stuck in an ergonomically inappropriate position for too many hours. Well, this time I found out that having a squirmy baby solves much of that problem. Constant attempts to keep her from waking up everyone, or pushing my food tray to the floor, or tearing up the duty free catalog or licking the seat kept us properly stretched and exercised for the duration of the trip. The trade off was not sleeping very much, but hey you can’t have the cake and eat it too, can you?
What made it so much more bearable was that we flew Singapore Airlines, one of the top rated airlines in the world with an especially personal touch to treating traveling parents like VIPs. The blog A Well-Traveled Baby has already described this in detail, so I won’t elaborate except to confirm that our experience closely echoed hers. At the end of the day, I still wouldn’t characterize flying with a baby as enjoyable; but it certainly was more pleasant than I would have expected.
When in doubt, just ask for another Singapore Sling from the flight attendant.
Now, the “paradise” part may be subjective, but here is my list of reasons for why Singapore may just be the most awesome place on Earth:
1. Cleanliness, order, and courtesy. Most people’s first impression of Singapore is how clean and orderly it is. Critics may be quick to point to the borderline harsh legal system that fosters this result, but we believe that civil and law-abiding people should be awarded with an environment that they deserve. Also, people in this busy international city lived a fast-paced lifestyle but remained friendly and courteous like what you would expect in a small town.
2. The stats. Look up the highest GDP per capita, least unemployment, best education system, and lowest crime rates in the world, and you will find that Singapore is the only country that makes to all the top lists. It’s a bit hard to believe that a country with four official languages can be so harmonious and efficient, but they’ve done it.
3. A melting pot. The coastal United States may be diverse, but you aren’t gonna find the most popular Buddhist temple, Hindu temple, and Muslim mosque all on the same street, lined up right next to one another. We also love that everyone in Singapore speaks English and/or Mandarin (though with a British+Hakka accent and Malay vocabulary mixed in), making communication easier than even at home in Taiwan.
4. Airport. As long as you fly, you enter and exit this country through the world’s top rated airport. While some airports in the United States are bragging about their cell phone charging stations, Changi has a bunch of foot-and-calf massage machines to sooth its travelers. Its free Wi-fi comes with free computer stations scattered throughout the terminals, and there are some less functional features such as koi ponds, butterfly gardens, and orchid patches near your boarding gate.
Like nearly all other amenities at the airport, these are free of charge. Just press the button.
5. Climate. Not everyone loves perpetual summers, but there’s something nice about predictable, all-year-round sun. Singapore’s freedom from natural disasters (no snow, no typhoon, no earthquake) is another nice mention.
Setting foot on this tropical island officially kicked off our 10-day vacation. After checking in at the Carlton Hotel on Bras Basah Road and getting some supplies from a local store, we strolled in the evening heat to Arab Street. Zam Zam, the Muslim Malay restaurant with over 100 years of history, was Our first dinner destination.
This sign looks pretty new relative to the restaurant’s 106-year history
Mutton murtabak & chicken biryani. I licked the plates clean (not photoed).
Across from Zam Zam was Sultan Mosque, a big mosque that Singapore’s (British colonial) founding father Stamford Raffles personally funded.