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Published: August 14th 2018
I didn't manage to get out particularly quickly and got out of the accommodation, after having had the included breakfast, around 10. I hadn't decided what to do yet for the day, and decided that it was too late by then to go to the zoo or bird park because I'd want to get to those two early, so headed out towards the SEA Aquarium. I've got six full days in Singapore which will be plenty of time so I don't need to rush constantly.
In terms of the accommodation in the pods GalaxyPods, they don't feel coffin-like at all because they've got lights and a mirror and air circulation and they're white. The room with the pods is a really high-density dorm, but it works far better than a traditional dorm at such high density because everyone has their own space in the pods and breakfast is provided at a central table in the middle. The pods are very moulded-plasticy though and everything is worked through an RFID card that opens the locker and all the doors and the pod and the lights and there's a lot of beeping. I think the pods do work though.
really need to resist the very strong temptation to get Grab everywhere while I'm in Singapore. It's so easy, and I can get to pretty much everywhere for S$20 which I don't even have to pay in cash because it comes off the card. Although that will of course add up rapidly and at the very least I need to get to a nearby station and then get a Grab. This blog is probably going to be the main thing making sure I do use the public transport because I'm accountable then!
I left the accommodation and headed to the nearest MRT - Mass Rapid Transport - station. My understanding is that Singapore public transport generally uses cards to pay for transport and although single tickets can be bought for trains, many services like the bus can only be paid for by the card. At the ticket office at the station, there was a fairly long queue to get a ticket but I think queues are a common thing in Singapore. It is very organised though, and not a mad scrum pushing in to get tickets. I had two options for tickets, I could either get a 3-day tourist
pass for $20 for unlimited travel and then get another one for the second half of my six days or I could get an ordinary pass which I would have to keep topping up. I decided to get a tourist pass because that seemed easier than thinking about how much money to put on, and unlimited travel I decided would encourage me to use public transport rather than Grab.
I got the MRT a couple of stops down to the Harbourside Station to get towards Sentosa Island and from there I got a bus. A fairly large white bird seen flying over some greenery on the island was a Tanimbar Corella, an introduced but established and countable species in Singapore.
The SEA Aquarium was larger than I had expected with quite a few exhibits which were generally very good. Some cool species too like manta rays and chimaeras. However the aquarium was quite busy and or didn't even seem like a busy day for the aquarium given how long of a queuing area there was. But even on the day of my visit which seemed like probably an average day, there seemed to be too many people relative
to the size of the facility and the amount of visitor space. The other issue with the aquarium was the lack of a unifying theme going around, or at least the lack of a sufficiently obvious one which is a shame because there's lots of good exhibits.
Entry to the aquarium today includes entry to the attached Maritime Museum which seemed quite well done with the sort of theme that the aquarium lacked. I don't generally find these sorts of historical museums very interesting, but this one wasn't bad.
After I was done with the aquarium and had a quick snack and wander around Sentosa Island, I got the bus back across to Harbour Front station. Somehow I managed to get lost for a while navigating the overpasses to where the station actually was, but I did eventually find a train. I decided to continue the sort of theme for the day and head to the Natural History Museum. I had heard mixed reports about whether it was worth visiting the museum or not, but decided it would be worth going over to have a look since I had the unlimited public transport card now and I do
like natural history museums.
Of course I got lost again, or rather confused about the way out, of the MRT station nearest the museum because it's attached to massive hospital and medical school complex as part of the National University of Singapore. Eventually, I made it to the museum which is also part of the National University of Singapore and across the campus a bit.
The museum houses the old zoological collection in a very new building built in 2015 which is the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. They didn't take cash at all for entry to the museum, only card which seemed odd but I think is not uncommon in Singapore. Unfortunately it's not one of those free natural history museums and it's S$21 to enter. This was one of the places I had on my to-visit list that I would drop if it didn't fit in the itinerary, but I'm glad I visited. It's really good! It's not huge, but there's lots of interesting stuff to look at, and it's very well done. I also like how they have quotation marks around the word "fish" whenever it's used, pointing out that's it's not a valid
taxonomic group, and also use the correct plural of fishes for multiple species. I did not notice any incorrectly capitalised scientific names or anything like that. Impressive!
Definitely a museum worth visiting, lots of cool specimens, in interesting and well done displays, great signage and interactive museumy things, and unlike the aquarium it wasn't at all busy. The temporary display at the moment was a natural history of Christmas Island one which was cool. A great little museum.
I was done with the museum about 4PM which is later than I would have thought, but the museum was better than expected and I wasted time faffing about with trains. I was hungry by this point, and found a nearby restaurant which seemed to be catering to university students and staff. In fact, the person I ordered from asked if I was university staff, presumably there's a discount or something, but I was slightly surprised. Obviously I look mad and eccentric enough to work at a university with my mental hair that has not had anything done to it since Warsaw apart from an occasional wash, and my khaki, camo and hiking boots look.
I had thought about
visiting Gardens by the Bay in the afternoon/evening, but it was past 5PM by the time I got back to the MRT station and I decided that I'd rather do the big paid attraction another day (we drove past it in the Grab from the airport so I knew it was impressive looking) and instead went to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Conveniently, it has its own MRT station on the same line. I coincided with students finishing school and university so there were lots of people, but the transit system coped with the numbers well, as you'd expect.
The Singapore Botanic Gardens were quite pleasant and nicely planted with some birds and Plantain Squirrels around too. Pied Imperial Pigeons were flying around, different to the Torresian Imperial Pigeons seen in Darwin. There was a Black Swan on one of the lakes which I believe must just be a single individual, and there were lots of Red Junglefowl-type chickens around. Does anyone know the status of these birds? Are they a real population of junglefowl? There was a Plaintive Cuckoo calling too, and I had a relaxed stroll around the gardens in the late afternoon and early evening, mostly birds
that were common in Malaysia like magpie robins and Pink-necked Green Pigeons and Black-naped Orioles, but nice nonetheless.
At the gardens was a large group of young people, probably about my age, who all had identical matching shirts with the slogan 'we are independent' emblazoned in big bold letters across the front. I'm not sure if they appreciate the depth of that irony, but I certainly did. The National Orchid Gardens was closed by the time I got there, but there were lots of orchids to see outside.
I headed out of the park not long after sunset to get the MRT back to my accommodation. As I was walking out even before sunset, lots of bats started to come out.
I got back at about 8:30 to relax in my pod a bit before hopefully getting an early night. I've decided that I like having a pod much more than a dorm. Tomorrow I think I'll go to either the zoo or bird park.
New birds: Tanimbar Corella Pied Imperial Pigeon
*Red Junglefowl (real wild junglefowl at the Singapore Botanic Gardens?)
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