Singapore: Days 1-3
The internet connection is not good enough to let me put pics in here, but they are all here.
We are staying at Redwood West, a 'serviced apartment.' It has 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, dining room...it's so awesome and makes so much sense. The kids have their own room and we can make cheap meals instead of always eating out. The place is really nice. It has a gym, a pool, a business center, etc. The hot water is a little unreliable and the jet tub is shallower than what I'm used to now, but it's a jet tub, so who cares. The fact that I can't get it really hot is of no consequence, really, because it is HOT here.
Jeff had a run in the morning, and discovered what was around the neighborhood. One of the highlights is the Haw Par Villa, an odd cement sculpture theme park that has the most bizarre exhibit I've ever seen: The Ten Courts of Hell. M was too disturbed by it to look at the whole thing, because it depicts punishments of those who commit various sins. D had no problem with it. I don't know which kid to worry about more.
After we visited that, we walked to the wharf area, where they unload the ships and have the Wholesale Market. Giant piles of dried goods, mostly fish and shrimp, and a fruit section, where the pineapples and watermelons were abundant. They also had some exotic things, like custard apples and dragonfruits from Vietnam, but we couldn't try any, because they only sold by the case. I think they don't see many white tourists there, but we thought it was cool.
It was about lunchtime, so we wandered until we found a hawker food center, which is an open air food court of sorts, full of exotic fast food for the locals on their lunch hour. Pretty chaotic and full of assorted delights like smoked duck and fried chicken feet. I had some sweet and crunchy fried chicken with mystery greens and jasmine rice. On the side were spicy and fishy-salty condiments.
We took the bus up to Orchard Road (the buses are crazy. The drivers have no idea what their routes are and the fares are different depending in where you are going. Sometimes they charge for the kids and sometimes they don't. You have to flag them down and you must have exact change. Made me appreciate the bus system in Japan. However, they are large, air-conditioned, and sometimes double-decker. The upper floor has a video screen on which they show informative short cultural programs and ads). Orchard Road is like any tourist market area in the world, with loads of cheap trinkets and clothes and accessories. M found some YuGiOh cards, I found some clothes, and a tripod for my camera from a funny local guy. You have to haggle even in the proper stores.
We had a brief stop for DQ and coffee in a shop that had cool mist wafting over the patrons. Refreshing.
More shopping and the kids were just done. We bussed it back to the neighborhood and had dinner at a restaurant across the street from the hotel. D barely ate any of the fried shrimp he ordered and M had a freakout about his piping hot lasagna. We had some satay and a mango-prawn salad. It began to rain as soon as we got back. I was hoping for a good T-storm, but just hearing the rain and wind was lovely. Some Animal Planet on TV and bed.
A pretty busy first day. The kids complained a lot about the heat, the food, etc., and wanted to visit every 7-11 they saw (they are everywhere). I was enthralled by all the amazing flora. They sure have pretty trees and flowers here.
The day started with a trip to the pool. Then we were hungry (the free breakfast is only M-F), so we had a quick bite of apples, dried mango, and pumpkin seeds to fortify ourselves for the trip to town. We decided to head to the Raffles Hotel and its Long Bar: the legendary colonial bar where the Singapore Sling was invented. The bar was lovely, but the Singapore Slings were awful. They were obviously made from a mix and I didn't dare ask Jeff how much they were when he paid the bill (he had serious sticker-shock). They did have a great sampler tower (satay skewers, papadum, sugarcane shrimp, samosas, springrolls) and the kids enjoyed the peanuts, because you were allowed, nay, supposed to throw the shells on the floor.
We went to the Raffles City mall across the street, where they had a big bookstore (rows and shelves of books in English! Heaven!) and a BK so we could put some 'real' food in the kids' stomachs. Then we had to figure out the train thing, so we could get to the Night Safari. We found the station without too much trouble, but buying the tickets was kind of confusing, because you buy a plastic card and have to pay a dollar deposit on it that you get back after the trip. We wanted to buy a pass, which is also good on the buses and would save hassle asking the fare amount every time we got on, but we decided it wasn't worth it, because there was a deposit, a first-time purchasing fee, and they didn't have reduced fares for kids. It may be worth it for residents (must be, because everyone has one), but not for visitors. In any case, we got to the proper station, according to the brochure, but we had a hard time finding the right bus stop.
We were getting very hot & sweaty & frustrated by now, especially the kids. As the Night Safari didn't open for a little while anyway, we thought it would be a good idea to eat dinner where we were. We found another hawker center, which was even more chaotic than the other one. M ordered some more duck on noodles, and hated it from the first bite, so I had t eat it instead. I had to admit that he was right this time: the duck slices had bones and the whole dish was rather oily. But it was food. The kids, M especially, were SO whiny by this time that I wanted to strangle a little neck or two. Luckily, Jeff came back with two huge cold Tiger beers along with his dinner (a brightly-colored and very spicy mutton steak dish from the Muslim stall. I feared what it would do to him later, but he emerged unscathed). The kids had some microwaved hot dogs from 7-11 and apple juice with 'crunchy aloe chunks.' D & I had a little adventure looking for a bathroom. It was hard to find one, as the only logical place I could find was a Mos Burger, but the door said Do Not Use. We wandered around some more, as D grew a little frantic, til we found a nasty washroom tucked between some stores. Sadly, we didn't realize til after that there was a tissue vending machine outside (10 cents for a foot and half of TP), and D said the men were gross because they peed all over the floor. But the important thing was that we found one.
So eventually we got to the Night Safari. Unfortunately no flash photography was permitted (understandably), but it was full of wonderful night noises. There were squealing boars, flying foxes (HUGE bats), fishing cats, begging wolves (the tram-drivers would throw them food as they drove by) and the CUTEST mewing pack of small-clawed otters. There was a cool Creatures of the Night show, with a hilarious pop-eyed Indian woman as emcee. They had a serval that did leaping tricks, a trained owl that flew over our heads, a gigantic snake, and a pack of otters that sorted recycling into the proper barrels.
We took a taxi back, which was a great move. It was only $15 S, and the kids passed out within 5 minutes. I did the same almost as soon as we got back to the apartment.
The day dawned, literally, with a great storm. Lots of lightning and a couple of good thunderclaps. The kids were a little scared at first, but then they happily laid in their beds with the curtains open, watching the light show.
We decided to keep it low-key, because if there was another day full of snarling and whining, there are 2 kids who might not make it out of Singapore.
We went to the pool and to a nearby mall called Vivo City. I did some shopping and the boys saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Movies are cheap here.
Of course there are six gazillion photos here.
Next: Sentosa Island.