What Happens When Your Kid Takes The Lead?

Over the last couple of weeks, since Z returned from his overseas trip, I’ve largely been letting him choose what we do.

Well, with the exception of hunting for a visa for our China trip, obviously…

So, what exactly happens when a ten-year-old boy has his own choice of what to do in Penang, a place he knows quite well, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur? Plus a selection of other kids to play with?

Dodgems at the Berjaya Times Square theme park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Neither of us likes to miss a good theme park. I wrote about the joys of Battlestar Galactica at Universal Studios Singapore. But we also enjoyed the longest indoor rollercoaster in Asia-Pacific at the largest indoor theme park in Asia in Kuala Lumpur, the Berjaya Times Square.

The park takes up seven storeys of KL’s Times Square mall, and the coaster runs an impressive 800m, including one full loop. The dodgems are to die for. And the fairground style rides are blinding, too. But there is something so brilliantly and utterly mental about being upside down on a fast coaster in a mall that that one takes the biscuit.

Universal Studios Singapore
Berjaya Times Square

Crowd-sourced Lego artwork from GOMA in Brisbane.

Of all the boxes of plastic crap we left behind in the UK, currently gathering dust in my parents’ attic, the only one Z has had the remotest longing for is Lego. Lego, therefore, has featured highly in our itinerary over the last two weeks, whether in science museums, malls, or other kids’ houses.

How are we going to cope with this on the road? Well Nano Blocks, a form of miniaturised Lego from (where else?) Japan, will now be travelling with us for the foreseeable. It’s like Lego, but smaller, see? So fits in even a kid-sized backpack.

Nano Blocks

Baby chick surrounded by eggs at the Science Museum, Singapore.

Z’s itinerary for KL? After the theme park, the Petrosains science museum (unlike other science museums in Malaysia, which are sponsored by Shell, with sometimes hilarious results, this one’s sponsored by the STATE oil company, Petronas), then the Planetarium.

They say museum fatigue is a syndrome more often found in adults than in children. However, after an afternoon at the (highly entertaining) Singapore Science Centre, a full day at the (admittedly brilliant) Planetarium in KL, much of it spent watching movies and simulations in their dome, and TWO (count’em) full days at the (admittedly outstanding) Petrosains museum, I had it pretty bad.

Singapore Science Centre
Kuala Lumpur Planetarium

Playing with a stray kitten in Penang market.

Whether blowing things up, setting things on fire or, umm, playing nicely with his new friends, Z gravitates to the society of other kids. We’ve stayed with two travelling families over the last three weeks.

Highlights? Combining trampolining with spraying hoses in Penang; playgrounds, pool time and floatie battles in Singapore; reading stories to the little kids in Penang; very solemn conversations about college education and future plans; the odd game of Risk and Uno; firecrackers; and scoring free fish to feed the stray kitten at the market.

Also more gaming than is good for him.

Jet fighters on Singapore National Day.

We were lucky enough to be in Singapore for Singapore National Day, when half the island heads down to Marina Bay for an epic display of military firepower and processions.

Parachutists trailing flares, a succession of F-16s and F-18s, fast patrol boat manoeuvres, plus a couple of Apaches and Chinooks made for small boy heaven. The crowds weren’t half as bad as we’d expected, either. If you’re in town on August 9th, I’d recommend you make the effort.

Z and D fishing for prawns, Singapore style.

From the unfortunate creatures in the lake at Gunung Mulu, Borneo, to a particularly half-assed attempt at self-sustenance on Lelei in Halmahera, Indonesia, Z’s attempts at fishing are not going to have Hemingway spinning jealous in his grave.

The experience of prawn-fishing in Singapore, a uniquely Singaporean idea, with brightly coloured parasols surrounding concrete tanks full of crustaceans, continued the trend. He did catch one, though.

East Coast Prawning

Takashimaya Mall, Singapore.

In Singapore, KL and Penang, malling (a bona fide word in Manila, where malling is central to human life) is the pastime du jour – not least because the air-con enables you to escape the pretty claustrophobic heat. For many Malaysians, though, it’s not so much about the buying as a sort of promenade.

In KL we found ourselves at Times Square, for the archery, the bowling and the indoor theme park. Also at KLCC for the Petrosains museum, the chocolate éclairs and Kinokuniya, probably the best English language bookshop in Malaysia.

In Singapore? Forget the Singapore Night Safari. He was all about Takashimaya: ice creams, Kinokuniya and a little bit of architecture. And in Penang? Gurney. Because it’s there.

Gurney Plaza
Suria KLCC
Times Square KL

Apparently, we will be visiting Petrosains for a third time, if not a fourth, come December… I will be bringing a book.

8 Responses

  1. There’s worse things than living a kids life! I should know!

    • Theodora says:

      Yes! I think there’s a great deal to be said for it. Though I’d imagine you too would quail at a second day at Petrosains!

  2. Phil says:

    Can I pretend to be Z’s brother and join you two? This looks like a blast! Even the malling 😉

  3. Theodora says:

    You would be very welcome, Phil. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, when a man is tired of theme parks, he is tired of life…

  4. Ainlay says:

    Hah, hah! I just spent the day at the Singapore Science center but you didn’t mention Snow City! Z didn’t want to luge down an ice mountain on inner tubes? Whatever you do, don’t sign up for the skiing tho!

    • Theodora says:

      We didn’t do Snow City in either Singapore or Thailand. There’s something about snowy activities in tropical climates that brings my dormant environmentalist out in hives — even as, of course, one wants to do it…

  5. izy says:

    You might just be the coolest mum ever. Travel is such an amazing gift to give your son.