We're back from Singapore! I just couldn't bring myself to do daily updates, as we were exhausting ourselves. The kids especially. We had to learn to take it easier, because we learned that they can't move at the Jeff-and-Sandi-Abroad pace. I think both of us came really close to strangling them after all the complaining and whining and snarling, so we took a day to really chill out at the apartment and tried not to pack too much into one day. When they are a little older, it will be easier to travel with them. We sincerely hope.
Anyway, we did Sentosa Island, which is a whole island of adventure. There was Butterfly Park, which was a tropical paradise of flowers and lush greenery, waterfalls, and of course, lots of photogenic butterflies. Then there was Insect Kingdom, which D of course loved. Then we took a refreshing break at the beach while waiting for the show at Dolphin Lagoon. M was sad because he thought had been picked for an up-close encounter, but it turned out that the guy behind him was picked (should've chosen the kid rather than the adult in my opinion, but what can you do). Then Underwater World, which was really cool for the stingray petting pool (they are surprisingly slimy and sharks are surprisingly squishy-feeling) and the massive tunnel-shaped aquarium. Lastly was the multi-media show, that had cheesy songs but cool pyrotechnics and lasers and projections with water-spray. Never saw anything like it. All the Sentosa Island pics are here.
We also did some downtown stuff, like The Fountain of Wealth at Suntec City, and some ridiculous mini-Akihabara-like mall stuffed with electronics. Kids hated that, despite the fact that we got them each a DS game and a charger that we could use in Singapore (hadn't planned on the voltage difference). We went to Little India for dinner, after being waylaid by a tailor whose wife tried to convince me to buy a topaz pendant. We managed to walk away and not spend a thousand bucks. Sadly, we wasted a lot of time there and had little time to explore the area. As it was mostly shopping, I'm sure the kids weren't sad about it. Dinner was OK, at a place that was excited to have 'barefoot dining.' Coming from Japan, this wasn't much of a novelty, and the kids didn't each much due to the spiciness, but the chef-owner was super nice. Pics of this day can be found here.
After that was a long drawn-out march in search of a bus and/or taxi to get us home that crabbed everyone out and is best forgotten. Because of this crab-factor though, we did really nothing the next day but watch TV and play video games or whatever. We did go to a Thai restaurant for dinner. It was OK. Personally, outside of Thailand, I think the best Thai food can be found in Seattle.
The next day was, in my opinion, our best day. We woke up slowly and then took a taxi to Bukit Tamah Nature Reserve
, which is a large rain forest with many trails. We took the easy ones, obviously. We were hoping for monkey and lemur sightings, but what we got was a massive thunderstorm. Luckily, we were near a shelter when it started and we got to wait it out there. It was a doozy, too. Right over top of us. The heaviest rain I have ever experienced, to the point of turning the trail into a small river. I was worried for minute that we would have be rescued by a ranger or something. The thunder was so dramatic that it reduced poor D to tears, as he huddled into us in fear. He got over it eventually, as the storm lessened in intensity at last and we were bale to continue our hike. It is an amazingly beautiful place. I was in awe of the trees, twisty root formations, and crazy climbing vines. The chirping squirrels
came out when the rain stopped and man, they were loud. M and I thought at first that somebody was running a chainsaw around the bend, but finally we saw a helpful sign about the squirrels. We also some some colorful birds. We were disappointed not to have spotted any monkeys (I was certain that the crowds of loud schoolkids were as much responsible for their scarcity as the rain), but that was soon to be remedied.
We walked out of the park into a residential area. We were just walking down the sidewalk when the monkeys started appearing. On the sidewalk
. I was so excited that I started snapping pictures like crazy, but then they got closer, and closer, and CLOSER. They came right up to us
. The kids were in absolute ecstasy and M started taking a ton of pictures, too. I had to stop M from getting any closer to a mom nursing a baby, because he was convinced that she had smiled at him. I had to explain that teeth-baring does not necessarily mean smiling in monkey body-language. I couldn't believe this close encounter, then I saw the huge billboard that said STOP FEEDING THE MONKEYS. I guess they figured they'd get more action outside the park.
When we finally dragged the kids away before they could cross the monkeys' personal boundaries, we stopped for a snack at this wonderful little confectionery in a strip-mall of ethnic eateries. I had seen a show on the bus about the recent popularity of Portuguese egg-tarts and this guy had them in a case. That led to the zebra cakes, cream puffs, and dozen assorted fruit-flavored mini-muffins for tomorrow's breakfast. We got a ton of stuff, and it was really cheap (shh,
a woman cautioned us. Not so loud, or he'll increase the prices!
) We also got one durian-creme pastry to try, because we just had to (do you know about durians? if not, read about them here.
There were actually some taxis that had No Durian
stickers on the window). It was really rather uh, nasty, but Jeff admitted that he could see how they could become an acquired taste. I probably won't acquire it. The kids were brave, but they probably won't acquire the taste, either.
That night, we got a sitter (really nice lady named Rose. She is the head-housekeeper where we were staying.) and went out to Clark Quay (pronounced 'key'). We had a drink at the poor-man's bar section of Clinic, which is a fun club that serves nasty sweet Girls' Night Out-type drinks on syringes and IV-drip bags. We got ordinary drinks. Then we crashed a private function at a Moroccan bar that had great decor. We ended up at The Forbidden City (after its
private party had ended). That place was cooool. Big place, great ambiance (spacey lights, huge fishtanks), groovy music, good drinks (I forget whats it's called, but it has red wine, 7-up, lime, and mint), and some live drumming. As Jeff and I started getting into the music, we asked if they had a dance floor. We were told 'you're on it.' So we started dancing first, and soon were joined by others. Unfortunately, the DJ eventually fell into that monotonous-beat not-interesting crap that the dance floors of the world have fallen prey to in the past decade (kids these days), so we took off after awhile. But it was amazing while it lasted and we finally got to dance after far too long. We ran into a Dutch guy we had met on the bus the other night (small world) and we almost went into Clinic with him, but the cover was too high and the music not dissimilar enough to what we had just left, so we decided to bail on Clark Quay. After a long ATM and taxi search, we got back to our neighborhood and went for a nightcap at the loud karaoke bar we had been overhearing all week. We were told they were closing in ten minutes, so I got my beer and Jeff got nothing (this was a good thing by this point, trust me). Somehow, we were adopted by the remaining patrons and ended up staying significantly longer. We had a couple drinks poured for us (brandy and sweet green tea, kinda weird) and talked to Fiona, Edwin 'Scissorhands,' and Kelvin, all Malay locals with very western names.
Pics of our greatest day here.
The next day, we slept in a bit (obviously), packed up our stuff, and went to the Singapore Zoo
for our last day. It's a beautiful zoo. We had yet another rainstorm to deal with, but we passed the time watching the pygmy hippos swim, and it cooled the day off nicely. I think the hippos and the white tigers were the highlights.
We had this grand plan of going to the Changi airport around dinner time at whiling away our time with the famous 24-hour amenities like free movies, X-Box games, shopping, massaging nap-chairs, etc. (our flight was at 6am, so we'd have to be there at 4am anyway, so there was little point in paying for a hotel room). Unfortunately, all that stuff was on the other side of immigration and we couldn't check in because the NWA office was closed or some such BS, so we had HOURS to kill on the uninteresting side of the airport. We had to do something
, so we took a cab to Mustafa Center, a 24-hour shopping mall in Little India. What a madhouse. Indians cramming the narrow aisles of bargain electronics, saris and other assorted clothes, and all kinds of random stuff. I could've stayed longer, it was kind of fun and the fabrics were divine, but D had fallen asleep on the stairs, so we had to go. We found the 'Viewing Mall' at the airport, which was a hall with dim lighting and soft music, and had a nap on the cold floor.
I slept almost the whole flight home, which is almost unheard-of for me. I think I'm getting the hang of this traveling thing at last.
Singapore is a weird and wonderful cultural mix of Indian, Chinese, and Malay, with western tourists all over, especially Australians. The official language is English, but it's more accurately Singlish
, with a heavy accent and its own almost dialectical differences. We had a hard time with the lingo at times, but we managed. It's easier than Japanese, anyway. The people seemed rather abrupt at first, and kind of smart-assed at times, but we warmed to them at the end. Our most recent experience is with the most polite people in the world, so we weren't quite used to the rest of the world's chaos. It was good to take a bath in our wonderfully-deep-and-hot tub when we got home, tho, I must say.
Here's some pics that I couldn't previously post of the first couple days.
If you haven't already, go take a look at the rest of the pictures
. I took about 6 million, but what can I say, it was an interesting and beautiful island.