It seemed like the world’s biggest pipe dream, at the time, but I’m kind of a ‘dream big’ type of girl. Paul and I had already been on a couple of European adventures without the kids, photographing weddings. Every time we’d see something magical, interesting or even just kind of stinky, we wished we had the kids there to share it with us.
So on our return from one of these trips, I hatched a plan. What if all EIGHT of us could spend most of a summer exploring Europe together? It would take a lot of determination, and the kids would have to be 100% on board as each would be helping with their expenses, as much as their money-making abilities would allow. Initially it looked like a thoroughly impossible undertaking, but everyone knuckled down and worked hard towards the end goal. It took a couple of years to come together, many hundreds of hours of research and planning – about which I could write an entire blog post alone! Finally the day came, we packed everyone and all of their stuff into our van like a tricky game of Tetris and we headed down to Christchurch Airport.
Coming from little ‘ol Blenheim, and having only ever travelled as far as Australia before, we knew that this would be the experience of a lifetime for the kids. Thankfully with our home schooled brood, there was no trouble getting out of regular ‘class’ in order to broaden their horizons and do some real hands-on learning.
Travelling with this many people has it’s logistical difficulties, I’m not gonna lie. Even if everyone packs only the absolute necessities we still end up with a fair bit of luggage. Even the bare minimum times eight is, well, lots.
First stop, Singapore. Partly to break up the long trip, partly to introduce the kids to a teensy tiny bit of Asia. The first thing that hits you as you step out of the airport is the heat. I suppose you can’t expect much less from a country pretty much sitting right on top of the equator. But, seriously, guys, it’s hot. Over the course of the week we were there, I asked several locals if they ever really get used to the climate. Turns out no one ever really gets used to it. Good thing they believe in air-conditioning, pack a cardi.
The second thing that you learn is that it’s just best to say goodbye to your personal space bubble. Here in New Zealand we have the luxury of large personal space bubbles. You could wave your arms about, and dance around and still there would be room in your comfy, roomy, personal space bubble. Just you and the air. In Singapore you need to keep your elbows to your side and kind of walk sideways. I’m sure there is some unseen beauty, or order, in the way the Singaporeans navigate around each other, but I just couldn’t grasp it. To me it looked like a giant game of chicken.
Public transport in Singapore was nothing short of incredible. Cheap as chips, clean, safe and full of people who are more than happy to give up their seat for small people with tired legs. Seriously, I’ve never seen a people who have so much respect for their elders, and graciousness to the little ones.
Sometimes buses have to stop to let some people cross the road. Sometimes the amount of people is more than the entire population of Blenheim.
Accommodation was probably the most logistically difficult part of the entire journey to organise. That was, until I discovered the Home Exchange website! (I promise this is not an ad for them!) But seriously, we made some new friends, and found some incredible accommodation! If you want to live like a local, there’s nothing quite like stepping straight into someone’s neighbourhood, walking their dogs and feeding the hamster. Then, in turn, you know that you can repay the favour.
Chinatown. Crowded, yet endlessly interesting. Every stall offering something so cheap you’re sure you should buy it, except then you have to put it somewhere, plus you’re not really sure what it is. What I can’t convey in this image is the heat, or the smell. The heat I’ve already told you about, the smell, well…. I’m not sure I can adequately explain, but let me try. Imagine if Rotorua and an old fish got married, and then had a baby. That baby would smell like parts of Chinatown.
You can just go to China Town for the interesting signs and general weirdness. Like, ‘Fatty Weng Restaurant’. Or that fan that is just outside the funny smelling shop blowing at all of the people as they walk past – it’s blowing air PLUS some sort of spray that feels cool as you pass under it. You’re left kind of wanting to stand under it, and kind of wanting to run away.
I tell you what, though, if you are ever in Singapore and you’re at a lose end, go check out the aquarium. Personally, I’m neither here nor there about fish in general – but even I thought this place is absolutely worth seeing!
So. Many. Fish.
One benefit of having some older ‘kids’, is that you can easily pop out for the evening every now and then, child free. We met up with some friends who treated us out to an evening of site seeing.
This building looks like it has a boat perched right there on the top. Pretty sure it’s not an actual boat.
Such an incredible place, Singapore is! We were so grateful to have had the opportunity to explore, see, feel and smell all of it’s rich culture and beauty. While we were there I celebrated a significant birthday (it ended with a zero, which makes it significant, apparently). To celebrate, Georgia and I hunted down a fish spa, and had tiny fish chew at our feet. Then, they swapped us to a different tank where the fish were bigger and you could actually see their teeth. I’m not gonna lie. That was weird. While it was a highlight of the trip, I’m still quite pleased my next significant birthday is a decade away…
So our Singapore week came to an end, and we packed up our phenomenal amounts of luggage and boarded the plane and headed to Amsterdam, which I’ll tell you all about that in the next instalment!