Lately, it seems that my travel blogging can't keep up with all the fantastic photo opportunities I've had. With the holiday season, traveling to more "first-time" locales and my first vacation in a while, I'm trying my best to catch up with my blogs. At times, I want nothing more than to just post photos, but I feel so accomplished every time I write a story to go along with it. I'll get on with it...
Finally departing Subic Bay, as I was ready to get out of Dodge, we made our way towards Singapore. Now, typically I cannot discuss ship's movement and scheduling and the like, my favorite phrase on this topic is "Loose lips sink ships". It's true though, anyone who remembers the USS COLE (not that it had anything to do with a schedule leak) doesn't want to even think of the possibility of giving terrorist types access to our schedule, thus giving them a better opportunity to do damage to us. Since it's after the fact though, I can say where we were and be generic about when we got there, etc. It's a fine line to walk sometimes.
Waiting for the bus to take us to the zoo
Everyone was back on board, with the exception of my boss, upon departure. It's nice to feel trusted enough to act in his place, and with that, he felt comfortable enough to extend his leave period with his family in Norfolk a little longer. He met the ship upon arrival to Singapore. I was soooo happy to have him back! I mean, I can make decisions and run things just fine without him, I am the administration point on the ship for anything and everything. While he was gone though, in anticipation for my soon-to-be leave period, I had prepared everything I could think of for the months of December and January. As you can imagine, my outbox was overflowing and in need of a transfer to his inbox. :) I was all smiles when he got back.
In addition to the normal paperwork, I had prepared a schedule for additional activities in Singapore for the ship to participate in. I knew we would be in Singapore for all the holidays, quite an extended period of time, almost too much time. I had gathered and worked out discounted hotels, trips to the
At the ticket office.
zoo, excursions to Malaysia, etc. It had taken me some footwork to arrange, so I will admit my disappointment and "major annoyance" at the lack of participation. I guess it was my own fault for assuming, and again, I should have zero expectation if I truly did it as a gift for the crew. I could have occupied that planning time in a much more efficient way had I known though. Planning my departure from the ship, for example, with all my tentative side trips to places I haven't been yet. I figure that if I am on my way out of SE Asia, I may as well hit a couple of new countries on my way out, right?
Another disappointment was the charges for some of these excursions. MWR (the Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation component) wanted to charge around $50US per person for the zoo day. After additional calculations on my part, I found that we could do it for about $20US per person on our own. Yes, we would take the MRT train and bus, but to save $30? Uh, that's a no brainer if I ever heard one. I felt guilty for
Garden City indeed
Perfect gardens at the zoo.
canceling with MWR, but saving money in Singapore is hard enough... I couldn't expect the guys to pay the extra. I had managed to plan out a day excursion for the guys on a Friday during the work day(yes, my boss actually went for it since it would contain a group function). It felt like a field trip as we all met at the gangway.
Almost everyone went, it took us about an hour to get to the zoo with the cheaper transit, but it was still a better tradeoff than the expensive excursion way. I had heard about Singapore having a nice zoo, but I was blown away by the layout and natural rainforest setting of it all. Everyone pretty much went their own way, OS2 Hernandez decided to come along with me. The first stop was a group of trees with free roaming monkeys. I've never seen this species before, they are even smaller than the spider monkeys of the movie Outbreak. They reminded me of a designer toy dog breed, you know, the kind that Paris Hilton and other ridiculous stars like to dress up and keep as accessories rather than pets. They were
Cute little guy
I was about 6 inches from this one. He was soooo tiny!
that cute. They were about 6-10 inches tall and had the cutest, expressive faces. Somehow, with food I guess, they manage to keep them on this particular group of trees. The public can walk right up to monkeys and they show no fear. I got some great close-ups, standing less than a foot away from them. Not 20 feet away is another set of trees with another species of monkey... still seemingly cute and adorable, but no less wild and free to move around as they like. They are obviously well taken care of.
For the amateur photographer, there is no greater place than a zoo to get a vast array of lighting, colors and textures. By our first hour inside the zoo, I feel there is no greater zoo than Singapore's... increasing my number of photographs by tenfold. They use little caging, preferring to use rocks, air and water to contain the animals from the public. It truly was a rainforest that gave a natural habitat look and feel, adding greater authenticity to welfare of the animals, in my opinion. Not only was this the most beautiful zoo I have ever seen, it was also about
Nice eyes, or eye rather.
as interactive as can be imagined. Feeding times, workshops on habitats and endangered species, and friendly staff allowed for a more enjoyable experience.
One of the habitats, based on Australian animals, allowed you to walk through a large garden containing emus, wallabies, kangaroos and a few other Australian birds. They had a rope that discouraged people to go into certain areas, but the furry inhabitants could move as freely as they liked. I stood only a foot away from all these animals as they lounged, played, ate, etc. If you have been to the San Diego zoo, you've probably been in the lorikeet and other aviaries... able to walk in and observe the birds at close proximity. The Aussie exhibit was very similar, just larger and the garden had been adapted to better represent their natural habitat.
For each continent, the scenery changed accordingly. They even added some cultural motifs to the walkways leading up to exhibits. The African savannah and rainforests were separated by some tribal art and examples of living huts (for the Maasai I believe). The textures were interesting enough to photograph, the attention to detail was impressive. Even more
I stood about 4 feet away from this guy... no fences.
impressive were the exhibits of endangered species, mostly those native to SE Asia. I find that I'm well-read when it comes to most endangered species, I've always been a fan of National Geographic and Animal Planet, but I found my ignorance quite extensive here, as I'd never heard of more than half the animals housed. It makes sense, I imagine it's difficult to publicize endangered animals indigenous to only 1 Malaysian or Indonesian island. I was fascinated.
Everyone's favorite is usually the white tigers, Bengal tigers. Grace, speed, lithe... and deadly. None of these tigers are albino, but descendants of incest, it's a strange story. Towards the end of the day, we attended a feeding session... that's where I got the poised photo of the soon-to-pounce tiger. A couple of years ago, one of the exhibit cleaners jumped into the pen where he was mauled to death. Not sure what was going on in that guy's mind, but what a terrible way to die. The tour guides don't discuss that aspect, but instead focus on imparting facts to the public on the cats' plight against traditional medicine practices. They are too often killed for their bones and
You know, like where's Waldo?
tissues that supposedly cure or treat medical maladies. What a shame... they are such a beautiful, and important, part of the ecosystem in Asia.
To end the day, on our way out, OS2 and I stopped at a fish spa. I have been wanting to go to one of these ever since I heard of them in Japan. You walk in, take of your shoes, wash your feet and insert them into an aquarium full of little fishies. This was both of our first times (actually, I kind of forced him into it for fun) and I paid for a 15 minute "cleaning". It was the most bizarre and disturbing spa treatment I've ever had. The first 4 minutes, both of us are giggling and yelping like little girls. As the only 2 people in there, ALL of the fish swarmed to our feet and legs, feasting on our dead skin. It tickled like crazy! Finally, we both settled down and just languished in the strange sensation of fish nibbling at our legs. Again, it was an experience, though I don't know that I'd do it again. They got off some of my calluses at least!
I liked the texture of these.
Between feeding manatees and rhinos, talking with orangutans, and shying away from the Kimodo dragon, if you go to Singapore, you must go to the zoo. On a separate night, my boss and I went to the Night Safari, also a must-do. The Night Safari is a separate zoo, set up with nocturnal animals for the public to hike through the expansive trails. It's habitats are similar in their naturalness, but to see how the animals act during their natural awake-times was an experience. Walking through a bat aviary, complete with flying foxes, and watching jaguars on the prowl was just as wonderful as its daytime alternative. I could go over and over again.
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