Column on the quirks and perks of expat life

By Karien van Ditzhuijzen


Glamping in Singapore, did you know such a thing existed? Large canvas bell tents, decked with fans, ottoman poufs, fairy lights and soft fluffy pillows, a complimentary mini-fridge, and a picnic laid out for you on fancy table linen and proper glasses. Last issue I wrote about my plans to do some simple camping on a deserted island, to escape the crowds. We did not quite make it there yet; getting a group of friends organised proved challenging. But we did manage to test our new camping gear a bit closer to home: East Coast Park. Was it glamping? Let’s see.


Camping starts with preparation. I have travelled across the world with substantially less luggage than that needed for one night across town, and we just about managed to stuff the tents, air mattresses, sheets, pillows, a cooler with picnic and drinks, and three kids bikes into our car. East Coast Park has several campsites, and we picked the one furthest out, which we hoped would be the least crowded (more honestly, it was the only one that had spots available on the day –camping is a popular pastime here). Camping is allowed in several sites in Singapore, but you do need to apply for a free permit online.


Of course the next step was arguing about where to pitch our tents. Husband coveted a quiet spot near the trees, and I one near sea breeze and toilets, so naturally the husband graciously yet grudgingly moved everything again. We set up our two tiny tents, that went up in mere seconds just as promised, and husband blew up the air-mattresses by mouth (packing a foot pump would have been good, yes, thank you). Now, it was time to relax. We cycled, swam, played ballgames. There were plenty of other families camped around us, all kids running wild on the beach. I have to admit that we did eye our neighbour’s portable barbecue with some jealously after eating our salad and nachos, but hey, the car was full, right?


Later, when we went to brush our teeth at the toilet blocks, our eyes fell on some serious campers, lounging comfortably in the above mentioned bell tents with fans and amenities. It turned out we had stumbled on Singapore’s premier glamping company, and with slightly gritted teeth we stumbled back to our two tiny domes. To be fair, the purchase price of our two tents was less than a single night of fully serviced glamping. And we all shared the same grass, sea, and toilet blocks after all.


That evening we lay down on our big mat in front of the tents, counting stars above. Now it was the children’s turn to eye our neighbours jealously, who had packed up the barbecue and sat the children in front of an Ipad streaming a movie. ‘No electronics while camping,’ I repeated sternly, and not for parents either, so we took turns in telling stories until our eyes started to drop.


Somewhere in the middle of the night the wind changed, and the planes started taking off from Changi right over our heads, turning the hot night, on too few air mattresses (yes, another packing error) even more challenging. But waking up to a morning breeze, having breakfast on the beach and a quick tour on our bikes before packing up made up for all of that. And a mere half hour drive away, our comfy house awaited.


Glamorous, our trip was not. But memorable nonetheless.