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Published: April 14th 2013
On Monday morning, I went for dim sum before setting off on my 11am bus ride to Singapore. The journey was pretty straight-forward and the border crossing easy. Considering some of my previous international bus journeys, I was a little pessimistic.
Arriving in Singapore, I went to the cash point to discover that I couldn't withdraw any money. Fun times. I found a money changer and changed the remainder of my ringgits into Singapore dollars, then hopped in a taxi, with the mindset to figure out the bank card issue later. As it happened, I drew money out the next day, no problem.
When I got to the Happy Snail Hostel, I was pleasantly surprised to see Emma still around. I knew she'd been staying here, but assumed she'd have left by the time I arrived. We caught up for a while before she and Leah (who'd been out shopping when I turned up) caught the shuttle bus to the airport.
Since Edd was Singapore-bound at this time, I chilled at the hostel for a while before going to meet him in Little India for dinner.
Over the next few days, we visited Sentosa by cable car,
rose 131 meters above sea level in the Tiger Sky Tower, had a delicious meal in China Town, and saw the colourful Clarke Quay by both day and night. In Sentosa, we saw the 37 metre tall replica of Merlion Park's original Merlion statue. The Merlion is a mythical part-fish, part-lion creature, symbolic of Singapore's history as a fishing village (hence the fish tail) and its original name of Singapura, meaning 'lion city'.
The weather was up and down like a yo-yo, so we did our best to dodge the bouts of rain and find air-conditioned establishments in which to cool off after long wanderings. And then all too quickly, on the Wednesday, I bade farewell to my amazing travel buddy of four days as he set off for Australia. Sad times.
On the Thursday, I treated myself to a lazy morning and an afternoon granny-nap. Then I got chatting to my room mate Rachel from Switzerland, and we decided to grab some lunch at the food court across the road. I paid S$3.50 for a delicious meal of rice, pork and veg, outwardly praising Emma for having recommended the place.
At around 5pm, Rachel and I
set out to visit the Sands SkyPark observation deck at Marina Bay. Seated upon three towers, each standing at 194m tall, it offers breath-taking views of the city skyline. We watched the 8pm light show performance, which I didn't find particularly impressive, but I was later told that it's fantastic when viewed from ground level. Still, we enjoyed the stunning skyline view from both a daylight and nightfall perspective, later sitting in silence, staring in awe at the brightly lit buildings against the dark night sky.
Afterwards, we took a stroll in search of food, and settled upon some little dough-ball things with various fillings, washed down with pearl tea.
On Friday, Rachel, Olga (from Germany) and I headed over to Sentosa by cable car. While Rachel wandered off exploring, Olga and I took the bus to the aquarium. As previously mentioned, the allure of aquariums isn't as strong as it once was for me (following my shark dive), so I didn't expect much. I was suitably surprised.
S.E.A Aquarium is the largest in the world, containing 45,000,000 litres of water, spread across ten zones. The central habitat was what really amazed me, though. At 27 feet
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deep, sitting close to the glass felt like actually being in the tank. This tank houses the only giant manta ray in captivity, and it truly is a spectacular sight. Olga and I sat mesmerised by the exotic array of sealift before us, and the calming wing-like motion of the manta ray.
When we met back up with Rachel, we decided to eat in China Town. And that's where things went hilariously wrong.
After wandering around in search of somewhere decent to eat, we settled upon a place with rather ambiguous-looking dishes. Rachel ordered first and sat down to eat. Now, she was given slightly different information than I was, regarding a specific dish that I ordered knowingly. She, however, not so much. Sitting down opposite her and being told how delicious her food was, the subsequent dialogue went a little like this:
Me: "Do you know what it is?"
Rachel: (reluctantly) "Yes....beef."
Me: "No. It's tongue."
I only wish I'd had my camera ready to catch the priceless expression on her face upon learning that this yummy meat she'd been so happily tucking into was, in fact, the tongues of the cows she
thought she was eating. It didn't help that the other strange-looking concoction on her plate was probably squid, or something similar. I tried mine, but much like Rachel, knowing what it was made it impossible to enjoy. Or, in fact, eat at all. I'm not even sure why I ordered it. Perhaps, subconsciously, I didn't want my new-found friend to be alone in her epic food fail.
The tongue-related jokes lasted us all the way back to the hostel and into the wee hours of the morning, as did the laughter.
After saying goodbye to Rachel, as she set off for Bali on Saturday morning, I bummed around the hostel for a while, had lunch, then bummed around some more. Eventually, I summoned up the motivation to go to the zoo, after having bought the tickets from Mike three days ago. Mike is the hostel manager, and an absolute diamond - so welcoming, kind and knowledgeable of his city.
So, I set out by subway and bus to the zoo. When I arrived, I discovered that it was already 5:45pm. Closing time was 6pm. Bummer. A little gutted, I toyed with the idea of returning the next day, but decided that rather than waste the journey, I'd do the night safari, which started at 7pm.
First of all, you'd have thought they were giving money away, the way people stormed the turnstiles upon opening time. I had a woman pushing up so close behind me, I wondered whether to suggest we get a room! I resisted, however, and firmly asked her to back off. She then proceeded to shove my hand out of the way as I was handing over my ticket, in order to get her one zapped first. I'm not sure what she hoped to achieve by doing this, as there was physically no way that she could have gone through before me.
Around the same time, I was elbowed in the ribs by a man to my left, and, already annoyed at the dumb-ass batty-rider behind me, I responded with a double-handed shove. The woman at the turnstile then told the man to step back and wait, as she let me through. Now, my inner bitch wanted to turn and flash them both a smug grin as I marched onto the next stage of queuing, but I probably would have tripped and made a fool of myself, so I fought the urge.
After twenty minutes of standing in a far more civilised queuing system, I boarded the open-sided tram, bagging a non-windowed window seat (if that makes sense). Well, all I can say is that I was not only disappointed, but I left the park feeling rather distressed. The concept is fantastic: the only thing separating visitors from the animals is a deep trench (and I suspect some sort of concealed electric fencing), which I imagine is intended to add an air of 'true safari' to the experience. The reality, however, is rather sad.
One elephant (deemed by the guide as particularly special, having been born on the grounds) seemed to be stepping from side to side, which I'm sure I've read signifies emotional distress. Not surprising really, given that he was separated from his mother by the very road we were driving along. On the other side of a wooded area, was a third elephant. All three were within eye and ear-shot of one another, yet remained apart.
A playful pride of Asiatic lions, consisting of a number of cubs and a few adults seemed relatively comfortable, despite the seemingly small area in which they lived. I'm still questioning why they sat in the middle area, in full-view, when I'm sure (or would hope) there are more secluded areas for them to rest in. I only hope that it's by choice and not some form of force (although, admittedly, I'm not sure how they'd be forced to sit on that specific spot).
We passed a beautiful lion sitting in the middle of his 'zone' alone, and judging by the way the guide was speaking, he lives in solitude. It broke my heart to see such a magnificent, handsome creature sitting alone and lonely in the rain, with no pride to speak of.
I won't list all of the other pitiful animals I saw, as it's choking me up just writing this, but while I regret going, part of me is glad to have unveiled the 'wonder' that is the Singapore night safari. I'm sure many people enjoy it, but for me, it was a thoroughly heart-breaking experience. If animals must be held in captivity, why isolate them too?
The journey home was an emotionally draining one, as I recalled the trip over and over again. I was so glad to drop into bed.
So, that brings me to today. Starting with an early breakfast at the food court across the way, and following a short shopping trip in which no purchases were made, Olga and I chilled at the hostel until the airport shuttle came to collect her. It was another sad goodbye, but we made plans to meet in Germany next month, so the laughter will soon resume!
I went for dinner (again, at my beloved food court) with my new room mate Lisa, and we literally sat chatting for the rest of the evening.
Tomorrow I'll fly to India, where I will be greeted at the airport by the wonderful Veena! I'm really looking forward to seeing her. It's been almost two years since our evening giggle fits at the back of the Active Language classroom, and we certainly have a lot to catch up on.
Time to hit the hay. Over and out.
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