Guest Post: On The Border Line – Strung Out in Singapore

We’re very pleased to have Sarah at Going Walkabout contributing to FNFF today! Check out her blog for the latest on her family’s peripatetic adventures (and misadventures) around the world. Thanks so much, Sarah, for today’s post!
The nature of my husband’s work means that we have moved every 4 months for the past year; these short engagements entail traveling on visitor visas that carry a maximum stay in most countries of 90 days (for those of us carrying an American passport). When our stay stretches past 90 days we have to exit and reenter the country, and this past weekend was one of those occasions. The chosen destination for our ‘Border Run’ was Singapore and, as an early celebration of the twins’ second birthday, Universal Studios.
View from the train near Layang-Layang, Malaysia

View from the train near Layang-Layang, Malaysia

On a whim we decided to bypass the airport and chose train travel for our special weekend. The trip from Malaysia to Singapore takes 6 hours and First Class seats run 38 MYR per person (a little over $10) including cakes- banana bread, in our case- and a bottle of water. First class also includes access to the buffet car that serves fried rice and mee hoon, sandwiches and snacks.

Our itinerary was timed, tight, and tidy. Leave Kuala Lumpur Thursday morning for a six-hour trip to Singapore, spend one night in the city at the Festive Hotel, then take the overnight trip back late Friday evening in a sleeper car. A well-planned and presumably well-executed excursion.
Eight  hours into a “6 hour” train ride that started an hour late, the kids were sick of looking at the jungle and sticky from bribes to remain in their seats. Both twins had endured diaper changes on the floor of the car because the cleanliness of the lavatories was, shall we say, questionable.  The buffet car was out of food, the laptop was dead (no more movies), and Girl had bitten the tip off of her only pacifier and went into a Defcon 1-Empty the Missile Silos-level tantrum. No one napped more than 30 minutes on the train; we were hot, tired, hungry and wired.

We are unamused

We are unamused

We arrived in a downpour, and huddled in the rain at an ATM in order to get cab fare, only to find out that Singaporean taxis take credit cards. We checked into our hotel, found out we wouldn’t have Internet for the night, ordered room service (and paid too much for it), drank our expensive beers and resorted to Cartoon Network on the television to slow the kids down enough so that they could be showered.
It was a long, pacifierless night (and you parents out there know how hard it can be with some kids if you can’t plug the hole) that I spent wedged between the kids on a fold out couch with my feet on the ladder of a loft bed, while Hubs slept in a damp double bed alone, since I had spilled a couple of dollars’ worth of extravagantly-priced beer on it. We weren’t, as it turned out, feeling so Festive.
A gorgeous day to play

A great place to play

On the plus side, the kids were rested enough by morning to enjoy a large breakfast at a nearby coffee shop. We opened and then closed Universal Studios (with a short nap back at the hotel) and had a wonderful day. My two year old twins rode many of the rides in the park (a perk of being super duper tall like Papa) and we decided to stay another night…mostly to avoid a return train trip.  We booked a flight for about $60 a seat on Saturday afternoon to allow us time for a leisurely breakfast and maybe a trip to the Southeast Asia Aquarium.

There were no available rooms at our hotel, so we booked a night in another one in the Resort World complex.  Of course they only had rooms with 1 bed, but by evening it didn’t matter.  We asked the concierge for a roll away bed and positioned it next to the double.  Hubby slept on the roll away and I slept on the far side with the kids in the middle.  Our second pacifier-less night went a little better and everyone got some rest.

Singaporean Frankenstein is no match for Hubby and Boy

Singaporean Frankenstein is no match for Hubby and Boy

The breakfast buffet at the hotel in the morning was a blessing after 2 days of train fare and amusement park junk food.  Boy downed four bowls of fruit and Girl gorged herself on chicken sausages.  While we were eating we were approached by a woman offering us her free tickets to the aquarium – it was her last day and she had already been and the tickets were included in her hotel package. We wandered happily through the largest oceanarium in the world and then headed to the airport for an uneventful 45-minute flight home, arriving in time for dinner.
Southeast Asia Aquarium

Southeast Asia Aquarium

Ahh, now we’re settling back into our routine and we’re looking through the photos and videos of our whirlwind border run. To be honest, the train trip was lovely (albeit long) and we probably would do it again…if we brought extra pacifiers.  It was one of those trips that at the time is stressful and hard and somewhat fraught, but after the fact is remembered fondly.

I suppose I take three things away from the experience. One, thank goodness for mobile Internet that makes it possible to change plans at a moment’s notice. Two, sometimes with kids you have to tear up your itinerary and be flexible enough to flow with the situation on the ground. If you’re freaking out about things not going to plan, nobody’s going to have a good time. And three, it’s human nature to look back on our experiences and recall mostly the good from them. Perhaps it’s a parental survival strategy. Perhaps its the personal folly that allows us to actually look forward to our next border run.

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