If you are confused where to take your senior citizen parents on a foreign holiday then you have come to the right place. Singapore is one of the most senior citizen friendly countries in the world. Nothing is foreign here. A melting pot of different cultures, cuisines and ethnicities. There’s no dearth of choices here - from art galleries to vast green spaces to museums to top-notch shopping to modern public transit system, Singapore has it all. Above all Singapore is spotlessly clean with zero crime rate.
Here’s my experience of visiting Singapore with my parents
Day1: Arriving in Singapore
Mom…dad lets go. Someone is waiting for us at the pickup area
Wait, let me click some pictures and share with your uncle. I haven’t seen such a beautiful Orchid Garden anywhere.
Beta, wait na. These massage chairs are so comfortable. Not that I am tired but I am loving their foot massage.
This was the first impression my parents had as soon as we landed at Changi Airport. No, it wasn’t their first foreign trip but role reversal had happened. I was the organiser and they were the guests. And who wouldn’t fall in love with an airport like Changi, which has regularly been voted as one of the world’s best airport. There is so much to explore – Orchid Garden, Butterfly Garden, Sunflower Garden, Entertainment Zone, Ice Rink, a rooftop swimming pool with a Balinese theme and the tallest slide in the city, Free Cinemas, Wellness Centres, Food court and outlets for every possible cuisine in the world and at least 300 different retail outlets.
But I didn’t want to spend our entire trip at the airport so I coaxed my parents to leave. At the arrivals, we had a luxury travel van waiting for us with a warm escort. After twenty minutes we were at the grand and spacious lobby of Conrad Centennial Singapore, where a soothing piano was being played. Conrad is one of the best 5 star hotels in Singapore, located within the business, historical, cultural and shopping districts of Marina Bay. At the reception, a Singapore Tourism Board executive with three bags full of Singapore goodies welcomed us.
Our check-in was smooth into the two suites. The rooms came with Marina Bay view, were spacious, had complimentary fresh fruit, chocolates and different varieties of tea and coffee. Bathroom and minibar were tastefully done. The in-room dinning service was good and the food tasted delightfully Indian not the watered down version to suit the western palate.
In the evening, we decided to take a walk around the Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay. Couples, families and friends flocked around the area to get their selfies clicked in front of the Merlion. It is not just any ordinary statue but this solid concrete, 70-tonne, water-spouting, half mermaid-half lion is a mythical symbol of Singapore, and the most sought-after photo-op place in Singapore. After getting our share of the clicks at the Marina Bay, we visited the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay where an art exhibition and a live performance were going on.
I went to sleep with an excitement to revisit my favourite part of Singapore the next day.
Day 2: Rediscovering Sixties Singapore at Pulau Ubin
I was invited by Singapore Tourism board with my family, thanks to a story I wrote on Pulau Ubun earlier. It is an island still stuck in the sixties and looks starkly different from the swanky malls and fancy attractions of mainland Singapore. Until sixties it was used for quarrying and as the quarrying stopped so did its development. But that's what makes it so special.
Palm trees fringed coastline, few kampongs (traditional villages) scattered in the wild, a well-defined trail to explore the Chek Jawa Wetlands (laced with intricate mangroves, corals and sandy beaches) and a well-marked biking trail that earned it the reputation of ‘Bicycle Island’. Though my parents appreciated the nature but somehow the tropical heat wasn't ideal for walking.
The best part of the trip was our guide, Rai. Not only did he speak in our native language but he was also of the same age as my parents. my decision to choose Pulau Ubin over other famous attractions surprised him. We spent the entire day chatting about different topics - how his great grandfather moved to Singapore during British colonisation, how World War II affected Singapore and how life changed in the last many decades. Though born and brought up in Singapore he still feels an umbilical connection with India. Listening to him I realised you can uproot an Indian from India but can’t take India out of an Indian.
Like us, Rai was a foodie and he took us to one of the best Indian restaurant in Little India – Banana Leaf, famous for its fish head curry and chicken tikka. The service was quick, portions were large and the food was similar to what you’ll get in India. After our sumptuous south Indian lunch, we strolled through the lanes of little India and visited the Vis Konsep Chocolate Factory near 787 North Bridge Road. My chocolate fantasyland was in front of my eyes - in all kinds of shapes, sizes and flavours.
Day 3: Relishing Gardens by the Bay and National Museum
After seeing the hidden gem of Singapore, we shifted gears to see one of the top 20 most checked in places in the world - Gardens by the Bay.
Gardens by the Bay contains more than 1,000,000 plants on 101 hectares of reclaimed land.
Rai explained while we were awestruck by the Super-sized trees (orchid flower shaped vertical gardens of 9 to 16 storeys tall), Cloud forest (35 metre tall mountain covered in lush vegetation amidst the world’s tallest indoor waterfall) and Flower Dome (unique plants from all over the world bloom in an ever changing display of flowers). My parents were ecstatically clicking pictures of almost everything - flowers, trees, ferns, cherry blossoms, waterfalls, super trees, domes etc.
Our eyes feasted on the colossal gardens beauty but our stomachs were growling. What we didn't know was Singapore Tourism Board had organised a special lunch for us. Our lunch restaurant was not only amongst the top Asian restaurants but had a great history behind it. Situated in the oldest section of the oldest museum in the world, it was originally opened to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. Yes, we were fine dinning at Flutes, a modern European-inspired smart casual dining experience with an impressive menu inspired by its rich heritage.
After stomachs full, we explored the oldest museum of Singapore – the National Museum. It not only acquainted us with Singapore’s history but also engaged through imaginative and immersive techniques. Instead of staid exhibits it had lively multimedia galleries. All the major events as well as personal stories of individuals (who witnessed the history of Singapore) were well documented. It had Living galleries with 4 themes: Fashion, Food, Film & Wayang and Photography.
We wound up the day by having the most delicious meal of the trip at Rang Mahal, a MICHELIN star awarded fine-dining Indian restaurant serving Pan-Indian cuisine. The food was so lip-smacking delicious that my parents miss it even today. Although be prepared to shell out at least 250$ for a la Carte meal of daal roti sabji salad & raita.
Day 4: Exploring Singapore through Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour
On the second last day of our trip we decided to do the touristy things. Oh wait! Wasn’t I doing that all the while? Well when you are with your parents you want everything to be comfortable and hassle-free so doing touristy stuff wasn’t a bad deal. We decided to use the free passes provided by the Singapore Tourism board. We started with the full day unlimited hop-on, hop-off bus tour, which covered all the major 37 attractions along the City and Heritage routes! Every 20 minutes there was a bus and we could change our route as we liked. We were provided with pre-recorded on-board audio commentary in 9 languages. The best part was we could explore each attraction at our own leisurely pace.
The places we covered were:
One of the city's trendiest nightspots with a variety of restaurants, wine bars, entertainment spots and retail outlets.
A must visit for nature lovers, the Botanic Gardens is a living museum of a wide variety of flora and fauna. The National Orchid garden within the Botanic Gardens houses over 3,000 species and hybrids of Orchids.
The most famous shopping street in Singapore.
Little India & Little India Walking Tour
One of the ethnic enclaves that provide some of the best insights into the Indian community in Singapore.
Known as the Thieves Market years ago, this unique flea market is good place to find second-hand merchandises and Knicks and knacks
Situated along the Singapore River and distinguished by conserved shop houses, Boat Quay is the place to visit for entertainment & dining. A perfect place to sit & relax after a day of sightseeing.
Chinatown & Chinatown Walking Tour
Best place to immerse in Singapore's Chinese culture and history and witness how early Chinese Immigrants lived & worked during its golden years.
The first leg of our unforgettable trip had come to an end. My parents were excited like a kid in a candy store throughout the trip. Seeing their happy faces I felt there is nothing more precious than their smile. So if you too are thinking to take your Senior citizen parents on a foreign holiday don’t think too much Singapore is one of the most senior citizen friendly country.
I was in Singapore on an invitation from Singapore Tourism Board in March-April 2016. We flew by Singapore Airlines and stayed at Conrad Hotel. All the views expressed here are mine and all pictures were clicked by me.