Thursday, September 18, 2008

Singapore Trip

Before heading back to the United States for a visit, we took a sojourn in Singapore. this is a really cool town and we both enjoyed ourselves. Singapore is heavily influenced by the West, and the U.S. in particular, so it acted like a transition to the states - "Oooh Starbucks...Aaaah Carls Jr....Wow! Clean."

We flew in on Friday (22-8-8) on Jetstar, colloquially known as Jetscare. Jetstar is complete with faux-leather seats to give a false sense of luxury, but nothing dramatic happened. The Singapore airport is amazing, and David wishes he had not booked accommodations and just made us stay at the airport. There is a gym and a movie theatre! Anyhoo, David booked us in at a place called The Royal Peacock, mostly because the name evoked a colonialist atmosphere. On the taxi ride into town, fireworks were being set off along the harbour. It turned out to be the Singaporean independence day.

The hotel was not too bad, small somewhat dingy rooms (clean nonetheless), and a window we paid extra for. Our luggage barely fit with us in it. The first thing we had on our list to do was watch TV. It was all in English, and the news presenters spoke in either a British accent or American, and the news was all about the Singapore ping pong team's silver medal in the Olympics.

The next morning we woke up latish enjoying the first day of vacation. David was first into the bathroom for a shower and tried to turn on the hot water heater that was on the shower wall. The little orange light never went on. So in between yelps and shivers, David managed to take a shower. Jenni on the other hand said "Why didn't you flip the switch?" while walking to the main light switches in the rooms mini-hall. Low-and-behold, the hot water heater's "on" switch was in the hall, not on the hot water heater.

The hotel did come with breakfast, which was a mixture of east and west, from coco puffs to noodles, and some sort of french-fry that tasted remarkably like an Arby's curly fry. From there we wandered around China-town in the drizzling rain, bypassing street stalls and shopkeepers. We found our way down to the main river, and crossed over to go to the Asian Civilization Museum. This was a particularly good museum with a lot of interactive exhibits. There was information on pretty much all of Asia. Since Singapore has always been a major trade center, peoples have traveled and lived there from all of Asia for centuries. A melting-pot if you will. David remarked that Singapore was the second place he has been with several language groups contained in one country (Switzerland being the other) and both are remarkably clean. Some of the more amusing exhibits at the museum were not actually part of the exhibit. We much prefer "Kill Fire" to "Fire Extinguisher"...really gets to the heart of the matter.

After lunch at the Asian Civilizations Museum we headed to Little India. It was still cloudy and drizzly so not too much was going on, but it all smelled really good with lots of Indian spices in the air. Hindu temples are scattered throughout Singapore, and they are really beautifully colored and very ornate with lots of little statues. You have to remove your shoes before entering, so you can tell when you are close to a temple because of the scattering of shoes on the sidewalk.

From Little India we caught the subway to Orchard Road. Their mass transit is clean, and very very efficient. We bought tickets several times on different occasions and each time there was an employee with white gloves ready to help us. Singapore's unemployment rate must be at like 1%...of course no one can afford to live on the island itself. We were told, but never looked into it, that laborers come in from Indonesia and Malaysia and are paid very little. These are probably day-laborers that come in via the ferry.

Orchard Road is the major shopping area. There are at least 10 giant multi-story malls jammed pack with stores and boutiques. Jenni decided that she needed a hair cut, so we wandered around looking for a hair salon. We found one that was not too pretentious, and David dashed off somewhere in the mall to occupy himself (*cough*bookstore*cough*). Upon his return, he discovered Jenni was still getting her hair done. He found his way to the back of the salon, where Jenni was sitting wrapped in a trash bag with a plastic bag over her head. Apparently when asked "Would you like a hair treatment?" Her response was "Sure why not?" When this had ended, we paid which turned out to be 30$ for the haircut and 70$ for the hair treatment. Oh well, at least she got a free cup of tea.

We spent a few minutes trying to find an Indian Restaurant from the Lonely Planet guide (side note: the Singapore city guide was not as good as the usual Lonely Planet). We came across a restaurant that looked like the one we were looking for, unfortunately closed because of a private function. We hemmed and hawed and tried to figure out our next move, and were both pretty hungry by then, which made it more difficult. Ironically, the restaurant we were actually looking for was not even a block away. The guide book gave another suggestion, that was close by - Club Chinois. We got there and went and immediately knew we were in over our heads, and completely under dressed. They said nothing and seated us. The first page of the menu listed Shark Fin Soup at 200$ a bowl. "Um, David, I don't think we can afford this place." A few pages later and we found the "real" menu and some more reasonably priced items. After ordering, the wait staff (and we mean staff, there were at least 5 different people serving our table alone) brought us complementary appetizers. One of the items was Duck Tongue. It looked like a piece of liquorice, but was much more chewy. The sauce covered up any Duck Tongue flavor though. The main course was really good, but the desert was AMAZING. Probably the best desert we have ever had. It was baked chocolate moose, and when cracked open with a spoon a river of dark chocolate came pouring out....Just had to wipe the drool of the keyboard.

The next day we went out to the Singapore zoo. It had been recommended to us by several people. We have to say, it's definitely one of the best zoos we've seen. They've designed it so it feels like you are walking around inside the animal habitats, and in some cases you actually are. It was also very educational. Like, apparently "Do Not Feed The Animals" actually means throw M&Ms at them (who would have thought that Baboons like M&Ms, sort of like rabbits like bananas). The Baboons also taught us some alternative parenting strategies:

It was actually really amazing how many people ignored the warnings and fed or tried to feed the animals. Or if the animals were sleeping, a lot of people tried to wake them up through various methods - throwing things, loud noises, etc...Other than that the zoo was great. They have one of the best Orangutan exhibits in the world. It's almost completely open, and times you walk right underneath them.

Here we are trying to find the lions habitat.

This bit is not for the kiddies and is rated NC-17. Perhaps the most interesting part was that we got to see giant tortoises mating. The male was trying to mount the female while she slooooowllly walked away. The part that made it interesting was the very loud groaning noise the male made. It was very deep and reverberated throughout the pen. Didn't know tortoises could make that kind of noise.


Foges said...

Not sure if I need help or not, but I found the tortoise photo strangely arousing

Anonymous said...

Nice trip to Singapore, wish I could go there sometime.