Packing boxes of stuff doesn't really make for much of a photo - though it does lead to many other discoveries. Like the gift I thought I gave two years ago. Oops.
So instead I thought I'd use one of the panorama photos I took in Singapore. Considering I had no tripod to take this photo I was quite impressed that the camera coped with low light, movement and stitching the photos together.
Taken around the river in Singapore, I found myself around here on several nights, lots to do, and such a sight to see...
Home again! It's nice to be home after a trip. Not to say the trip wasn't wonderful, but coming home is great :D One more day off...
I got up at 5:45 and checked out by 6am, on the first MRT from Chinatown station, went via Perth, by the time I got home it was 9:30pm... honestly it was... well it was plane travel. There's not a lot to tell except that I got a copy of "Go the F*ck to Sleep" in Singapore Airport and the meal on the second flight was way better than the first.
Now to go sleep in my own bed. Ahh...
Feeding time at the zoo!
After sorting out flight check-ins and such for tomorrow and giving up on non-public-transport for getting to the airport I headed out to Singapore Zoo. It's a brilliant zoo well worth visiting. I caught the elephant and rainforest themed shows and hand-fed white rhinos and giraffes. There were a lot of animals to see and quite a few babies, particularly among the primates. But there's nothing quite like tiger feeding time, and the attempts to time a photo correctly - it happens so FAST. I also loved the tamarin exhibit close to the doorway - they're in a little house at night, but during the day they are not caged at all - not even a well disguised enclosure, though they mostly stick to one particular patch of vegetation. It's easy to get up very close to them but if you want to take a photo... be fast!
After the Zoo I took the scenic route home via bus and MRT (when getting on a bus you should know when to get off too...) then had dinner at the Chinatown street market for the last time, and got a really good massage. Feeling rather good after that.
I'm off to the airport quite early tomorrow so I'm going to go get some sleep. Next time I post here it'll be from Adelaide again...
Today I took a bumboat to Pulau Ubin, an Island in the strait between Singapore and Malaysia. It's part of Singapore, but so close that I got a text message welcoming me to Malaysia. I hired a bicycle - not one of the terrifying two dollar bicycles but something mid-range, and a helmet, and a bicycle basket (which the storeholder tied on with string).
The terrain varied from sealed roads to gravel paths and muddy tracks. I spent most of the time on the latter two. The photo shows one of the less extreme sections of muddy track. It was hot and humid, and consequently... I'm glad I took my water bottle. It was quite uncomfortable at times but the surroundings were stunning.
I cycled around the jungle a bit, up to a small beach and then to the wetlands area. Bicycles cannot go past a certain point here and there's a bicycle park. There were hundreds of bicycles there! It's not necessary to lock them up, just make sure you remember which is yours. Not all bikes are the same, but many are... I left a small carabiner on mine, and very glad I did too.
The wetlands were very interesting and like the rest of the island, teeming with life. There are dogs all around, semi-wild. Monkeys (macaques?), birds, insects, particularly mosquitos and apparently wild pigs, though I did not see any of those.
After walking around the coastal and mangrove tracks I intended on returning to the small town, but took someone else's wrong directions and ended up at a beach on the other side of the island instead. It was a nice ride, but when I was back at the jetty after about four hours I was well and truly ready to get going. Rather than take another two hours of public transport to get back to Chinatown I wussed out and got a taxi, which turned out to be cheaper than I expected.
After I had a much-needed shower I did a little market shopping for a few things I'd had my eye on during the last week or so. I had dinner too, street food here is fantastic.
I wanted to get one more geocache to round out my four for the month, that took me close to Marina Bay Sands where I had a decadent hot chocolate and a dessert with specks of gold leaf on it (!). I watched the free show, I'd seen it from other sides of the harbor so it was nice to see it properly, it's quite good, using light projected onto fountains of water set to music.
And last, but not least, I found a fish spa. Last time I was here I tried one of these - many tiny fish nibbling the dead skin from your feet and ankles and apparently promoting circulation and other wonderful things while they're at it. I enjoyed it last time, and this time was just as good, the first thirty seconds just as ticklish as I remembered!
A memorable day for sure, and tomorrow I'm off to spend my last full day here at the Zoo! Also, hopefully getting a good massage.
Today I had a plan, and my goodness I was going to achieve it...
I started out with tea and a strawberry danish (with real strawberries) at Ah Teng's Bakery at Raffles. Deee-licious.
I first had to sort out somewhere to have High Tea. My emails and calling-in-person over the last couple days had told me that the famous and most-recommended places were all booked solid - it's a public holiday, it would seem - and today was the only day I could do this. So I found a place that COULD accommodate me for high tea - Asian Market Cafe at the Fairmont Hotel. Booking sorted, I headed off to the Asian Civilisations Museum...
The cat statue is in a tucked-away spot by a bridge close to the Museum. it made me smile :)
The museum had a display of Terracotta Warriors on - great to see them up close, they had about ten of them, all were different kinds of warriors (and one horse). This is another museum that doesn't put everything in glass cases (except small/extremely delicate items) which is nice. They do have little don't touch signs, but they trust people not to. I couldn't take the interactive tour on this one as it had to be downloaded as an app... and I don't have an app capable device. It was still interesting! I wandered around the museum a little more then headed off to High Tea.
High tea was mostly buffet-style, except for the constant stream of tea and coffee delivered to the table. I had a variety of things, most notably a very, very nice Laksa and nonya kueh, which are local sweets (spelling... not sure there). The sole downer was one of their signature dishes, durian pudding. Against my better instincts I tried some. The first mouthful was quite nice, but the aftertaste and SMELL meant that I just could not go on... euch. Thankfully I had another dessert, a teeny-tiny jackfruit friand-y thing to hand which was an excellent way of clearing out the taste. So at least now I have tried something duriany and can say I don't like it with experience instead of mere distaste... for the most part though, very delicious and very nice.
I wandered a few shops (I wasn't even stalked by shopkeepers that much, something that unnerves me in shops here)then went off to do some geocaching - I have been so busy so far I just haven't fitted it in! I found three caches without too much trouble, wet weather made a couple of others a bit too dangerous to attempt retrieving. But now my furthest cache from home is over 5400 km! how cool is that?
My poor, poor feet were not in a good mood with me after that, so I had a round of reflexology before returning to the hostel. I haven't been all that kind to my feet on this holiday, so much walking I might just be more exhausted when I get home than I was when I left! Just don't tell my body what I have planned for it tomorrow (weather permitting) or it might rebel... I might promise it a massage after it finishes the job...
I spent most of the day at Jurong Bird Park and took a daft number of photos - I chose this one because I love how this bird looks like a caricature...
I had a good day... I was called out from the audience in the birds of prey show and got to handle a hooded vulture named Hazel (much smaller than the vulture at Adelaide Zoo...) and got sat on by lorikeets and a cocky. I learnt that hornbills have eyelashes. And I successfully dodged some seriously heavy rain - the penguins looked miserable about it but the ducks seemed happy... I guess the saying is true.
I went to see the Chinese Garden out in the same part of the city but the gardens were closed - preparations for the Moon Lantern Festival. On the upside, the festival starts tomorrow and I'm definitely going. The festival in Adelaide's good... but this should be AWESOME.
I also had a street-vendor dinner. I got two huge BBQ pork dumplings from one stall, ten satays with all the extras from another... then ice cream. All for $10, cheap even by Singapore standards. And it was all really, really GOOD!
This morning I slept in - not so much by intent but because my mobile had vanished. I heard one of the alarm repeats in the common room but because there were several sources of noise I could not track it down. At least I knew it was in the hostel...
I headed out to buy an alternate alarm clock in case my phone wasn't found today. It took a bit of legwork, but I did find something. (Of course, that means late this evening my phone turned up, someone handed it in).
I tried not to do anything too strenuous today due to inflammation in a knee and ankle (ow) but I wasn't willing to do nothing... so I headed off to see a museum of vintage toys - it was quite interesting with a huge array of toys and related memorabilia. there were even vintage James Bond toys! Thunderbirds, buck rogers... you name it. Plenty of non-licenced stuff too.
As it was nearby I decided to check out the National Library, the building contained both a lending and research library. Interesting to see how much things are the same... and how much they are different. I won't bore you with too many details, but it looks like they're making really, really good use of RFID tags and related technologies in some parts of the library. There was also a really interesting display of art by school students - some serious quality there!
I had dinner at Chijmes - Tapas, quite nice. It was a pleasant change to be in a relatively quiet and calm environment while eating. Today's photo was at the Tapas restaurant, called La Vida, i think.
As I was so close, after dinner I went and did the tourist thing and had a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel (while wearing a Doctor Who t-shirt, clearly the classy choice). Got to love throwing the peanut shells on the floor.
And in the market back in Chinatown I had a chinese-style stamp made with my name written the usual way and in Chinese characters. I've wanted one of those stamps for ages, they're COOL.
Anywho, time to get to bed!
Today I went to Universal Studios and had a great time - The best part was the Battlestar Galactical rollercoaster - particularly the Cylon side - after I'd done a lot of other things I came back... and did it two more times. Then I picked a fight with Frankenstein's monster. As you do.
I could describle all of the various exhibits and rides, but I think I'll leave it there.
Having a little trouble with my knee so I've not made specific plans for tomorrow yet, I'll have to see if it recovers. There are a few things I still want to do that involve a lot of time on my feet, but I don't want to force myself to do too much and make this worse... if it doesn't improve overnight a day's delay might be better in the long run. On the bright side, after seeing a pharmacist and signing forms with my passport number etc etc etc I did manage to get some nurofen...
Well, having avoided Universal Studios today due to the forecast it turned out to be a lovely day with nothing more unusual than a little humid haze. I still had a great day though!
I started out with the National Museum of Singapore, several of their galleries had a blackout but the star exhibit on the history of Singapore was just fine. It had an audio-visual guide that you carried around with you - like the usual audioguides that get handed out, just far, far better. It allowed you to customise your tour, partially by choosing personal stories or the stories of major events, and through being able to control the depth of information at every step. Sometimes specific items would have additional photo or video information on the guide. It was very, very cool. The information on the early 20th century was particularly fascinating, as was the still un-deciphered Singapore Stone. Unfortunately after a certain point i'd just had too much to take in one session. I skimmed through the rest. It'd be a great exhibit to do in two or three visits instead of just one.
I intended on walking over to the Asian Civilizations Museum, and stopped to have steamed dumplings for (late) lunch on the way, then went through a rather unusual little art exhibition in a place called Power Station (or something much like that). Turns out the museum has moved, and the map I have has it in the wrong place, though curiously the write-up on it has the right address. I started walking in the general direction of the new location - it looked like a long way on the map, especially considering it's several MRT stations to get there, but walking that distance showed me that the idea of scale the MRT had given me wasn't quite right, it wasn't so far after all. By the time I was getting there though, it was getting on towards 5pm, and the museum closes at 7pm. I headed over to the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands as it stays open until 10pm. I decided to do all three major exhibitions and the SkyPark over at the hotel. I'll try to describe them but it's honestly hard to do them justice. Should you find yourself in Singapore... go see them.
The first exhibition was 'Van Gogh Alive' which was a very non-traditional exhibition. There were no actual artifacts on show, instead over forty projectors in an unusually shaped gallery... they projected onto all wall surfaces (using all of the wall, not just part) and at times onto the floor. The pictures were constantly changing, and sometimes moving, lots of close ups as well as full shots of the paintings. All of it was set to classical music. I could try to explain the experience for a long time and still not capture it properly, but like Amococo, which I talked about a while ago, it gave me a feeling of being... elsewhere. There were very few people in the exhibition for most of the time I was there and I found a bench from which I couldn't see anyone at all. Just sitting there and taking in the music and visuals was incredible. It was strange to leave it. I could have stayed there all day...
The next exhibit was a collection of items from a shipwreck that occured sometime between 825-850 CE. Over 60, 000 articles, most entirely intact, were recovered from the bottom of the ocean around 1998. It was truly fascinating. Most items were new at that time, but two particular items (Silver mirrors from China) were around a thousand years old when the ship sank...
The third exhibition was a Dali exhibition, as with the other two, brilliantly presented. A combination of prints and bronzes were on display with some good explanations here and there. I have always found Dali's work intriguing and it was great to be able to get up close - this exhibition did not put items behind cordons or in glass boxes (well, except for a very few close to the end) but instead there were a few subtle don't touch signs, and trust for the museum patrons. I loved that.
What blew my mind was that on the way to the SkyPark (if you've seen the building in singapore that looks like three towers with a boat on top... it's the boat) I saw at least three more Dali bronzes - on loan from another gallery - on display in the Shopping Centre - and once again, no cordons! St George was missing his spear, but I suppose that'd be for safety reasons. It looked like it would be easy to return to its rightful place later on. All of them were other copies of those on display in the Museum, but no less in quality.
Getting to the SkyPark was a bit of a challenge. I had to find my way through a shopping centre which was a bit maze-like and enormous. And you can't just cross the road, you have to find the tunnel under it, which was not as well signposted as most things in Singapore. On my way I couldn't help but notice that this shopping centre/hotel complex has a lot of thigns... an expo/conference centre, a theatre, an ice skating rink, a canal... (Really. A canal. With boats on it)
I did find my way to the SkyPark with time to spend an hour up there (It also closes at 10pm). The SkyPark is level 56/57 of the building (the middle is raised and has restaurants and a bar). I was thrilled to see the shipping lane from up there - it looks wonderful all lit up. I saw it from a plane two years ago and didn't have my camera handy then, but did today! I could also see that there is a lot of building work still ongoing in Singapore. It looks like it'll continue to change at an astounding rate. I had a cocktail up there - a Damsel in Distress - which takes the record for most expensive drink I've bought myself yet - and had a bit of time to relax. Should have considered I last ate at 3pm... but it wasn't that powerful a cocktail (phew!) so I was fine. I moved over to another viewing platform just as a light and sound show down on the harbour started (that's what's going on at the bottom of the photo), Some of the laser elements were coming from above where I was standing. As with the exhibitions, I could have stayed a long time, but the area was closing...
I headed down to the food court by the skating rink which was still very much open and finally, at 10:30, had dinner... Butter Chicken. I picked up a small passionfruit and orange meringue tart on my way out and headed back to the hostel to have it for dessert - it was sublime. And now, here I am... hopefully Universal Stuidos will be on for tomorrow!
I didn't do very well at keeping today's entry short, but in my defence, I could very easily have written pages and pages on pretty well every part of my day...
I started with brunch today - Sunday Bruch is a fine Singapore tradition :D very delicious. Nice pot of tea too... so it was a relatively late start to the day but the sleep-in was well appreciated.
I found some directions and headed to the science centre, but when I got there (and I should have twigged earlier) it was clearly not the new place at Marina Bay I had found but another altogether. Seems it was the ArtScience Centre I wanted. Oops! Still, the Sharks exhibit and fire tornado (a tornado made of fire, just what the name suggests) were interesting. The rest, I admit, was... very kiddy. Not quite what I'd hoped for. Added to that was infuriation with children pushing in on EVERYTHING all the time. Still, not a disaster.
After a break at the Hostel I met Natalie and Lisa by the Sri Mariamman temple (as pictured). It's been two years since I saw Natalie (in London). I wonder where we'll meet again in another two years? The three of us had dinner at the Dim Sum restaurant that's more or less below my Hostel, we also had a wander around the market and some rather tasty ice cream.
Anyhow, I was planning on going to Universal Studios tomorrow, but after checking the weather forecast and finding thunderstorms forecast I think I might find myself a nice indoor museum. The weather for Tuesday looks much better.
I was reading up on what's on in Singapore this morning and found mention of free guided tours of the Orchid Garden at Singapore Botanical Gardens... so started my day there. The tour was interesting and covered all kinds of orchids and topics related to them - everything from pollination (the guide looked awfully embarrassed speaking about it) to the politics of naming orchids, not least of which applies to which one got chosen as the national flower.
While in the gardens I saw a lot of birds including some truly tiny ones, koi, squirrels (really) and a metre and a half or so of monitor lizard. That's the dude in the photo today... I heard the bushes rustling, waited for a moment and spotted him before he headed out onto the path and disappeared off into the bush on the other side.
The food court isn't in the gardens anymore so I had what the kiosk there called nachos, and which I call corn chips with pseudo-cheese. I wandered around the rest of the gardens for some time - it's very peaceful there. A vast contrast from where I went next...
Partway back to the MRT on the bus it was getting overcrowded so I just decided to get off... I was on Orchard Road. I was near Lucky Plaza, so headed into the bottom of that to find dinner. I had no idea what most things were so just picked one that looked good - Ding Ji Hor Fun. Whatever it was, it was a generous serve for very little money, and it tasted good. All good by me! I'd spotted mention of a large bookshop nearby, Kinokuniya - big is and understatement. I got lost in there. The comics section is bigger than Pulp Fiction, and the Fiction section is bigger than Dymocks in Rundle Mall. And the Fiction section is by no means the majority of the place. I got a headache just thinking about it... it is awesome though.
I had a sundae in an overcrowded brand-new restaurant, it was good... but not as good as the mysterious dinner.
And then, on a whim, after getting back to my MRT station, I got myself a back massage, where it was demonstrated to me just HOW knotted up my shoulders and arms are. I do feel better now, and I may have to do that again before my trip is up. Also, I have to find one of those places where heaps of tiny fish swim around your feet... So yes. Another good day :)
Well, the Dim Sum last night was delicious, and I did get a steamed pork bun which made me very happy :D there were a huge number of frog dishes on the menu including the worrying "Live Frog" which... well no. Heck no. I'll eat many things but that just makes me squeamish.
Even now I'm yet to pay more than ten dollars for a meal (drinks included) though I'm sure that won't last.
Today I headed to the Chinatown Heritage Centre and when I wasn't being overwhelmed by large volumes of tiny school children I found an amazing number of parallels between the Chinese migrants to Singapore and modern-day refugees.
I walked around the shops for a little while, I had forgotten how much shop assistants follow you, some more subtly than others. The only time I WASN'T followed the shop I was in was busy. I would start having a look around and before long someone close behind me would as "You looking for gift?". I'm afraid I disappointed the lot of them...
My next stop was the Sri Mariamman Temple. It's a beautifully decorated Hindu temple, and just as I arrived a ceremony started. I don't know what it was but it involved opening up the inner shrine, which I may not have been able to see otherwise. I had to stand back behind a cordon - fair enough, really - but it was still quite possible to watch. I looked around a bit more but without shoes on the pavers were really hot! I retreated outside and put my shoes back on...
I passed a shop selling paper cars, clothes, handbags... all for Chinese funerals. After lunch (Satays) I found myself incredibly tired so headed back to the hostel and got a little sleep - I felt much better after that.
I headed off to the City Hall MRT station and wandered around the shopping areas there - stopping for coffee and such. The variety of things on sale is astounding. I didn't buy much - just a handbag, and not from the place I had planned too (I got there and it was all meh) but that was all.
The variety of food that is available is astonishing, so of all the things available, I, of course, went really radical and had... French Ratatouille Soup. Near a place that sold Pizza. And two stores, side by side, one selling British chips, the other selling American fries.
I went for a general wander and stumbled across a free music festival - BayBeats 2011 - and heard a performance by We the Thousands and another by Noughts and Exes (I think I got those right) there were also some really strange art installations. It was right by the riverside and I spent some time taking photos while I continued to listen.
I finished off the day with Mango Pudding and Ice Cream and then headed back here to write this!
Not at all bad for a day which I started with no specific plans...
Last time I travelled I had my best ever record with a travel journal - but still missed journalling the last week due to getting behind. I'm going to try to keep a journal through this, I think one of the things I learnt last time is that I need to write the most interesting things, not every tiny detail. Interesting though the details are they make travel journalling excessively time consuming. On the upside here... I type MUCH faster than I write.
This morning I had one of those forgot-something feelings. I finally worked out what it was that I forgot... the money left from last time I was in Singapore. No biggie, at least. It wasn't that much.
I wrote this on the plane:
2:30 (Adelaide time), QF81, North of Kalgoorlie
Two hours into my flight I have had a bit of a realisation. I’m still over Australia, WA specifically, and I find myself thinking a stack of books to catalogue would be a good way to pass the time. I really need this holiday more than I realised.
later on i found myself wondering about the Dewey number for the book I was reading... oh dear. Then I watched the adjustment bureau, which was good but not what I expected.
Singapore is lovely and warm, not quite as hot as last time I was here, I think, but not far different. This photo was taken while I was still in the airport, past immigration and customs and headed for the MRT. Just after this I used an ATM that, while it was processing, had a quote of the day. It was Voltaire. I think this is an awesome thing.
The hostel is great - already I'm impressed. The double powerpoint, reading light etc... fantastic. When I got out of the MRT I found myself in a street market with various food vendors all over the place. It was a very short walk from there. And now I'm heading back out there for some dim sum (hoping for steamed pork buns) before I get to bed.
It's most definitely autumn - the manchurian pears are really colourful just now.
I just booked myself flights to Singapore. Starting at midnight webjet had a sale, so I had a look and found a very nice deal indeed. It's high time I got a proper holiday again. I've visited friends a couple of times but this is quite different. I'll leave the day after Dad's birthday for just under two weeks.
Might take the opportunity to take tours to Malaysia and Indonesia. I'll have twelve days so it'd be quite doable. I could also see a few of the Singapore sights I missed last time - a theme park has opened since then, and I never did go to some of the other sights. And I definitley have to have another Singapore sling at Raffles.
I felt a little nervous booking flights so spontaneously but it's currently in-budget so... why not?