Singapore - January 2017

23rd/24th January 2017 - Rainy Singapore

Monday morning and up very early for a flight to Singapore. A two hour flight lands me at the self-proclaimed best airport in the world and it is impressive. No immigration queue, bags arrived promptly and the airport shuttle bus into town was very efficient. But the question I am asking myself is why have I swapped cheap, sunny Bangkok for expensive, rainy Singapore. Apparently there is a north east monsoon at the moment and it is causing persistent rain and flooding. It is forecast to lift tomorrow evening; I hope it does. There's an hour difference to Bangkok so instead of working 4pm to midnight I'll be working 5pm to 1am both here and in Malaysia. It doesn't really matter to me. I sight-see by day and then switch to UK time when back in the room working.

The next morning I head out umbrella in hand to have a look around. First up I head to Marina Bay for a look around and to get my bearings. The downtown area is busy with business men and women hurrying here and there. There is a real mix of looks here. Singapore is a melting pit of Asia, Chinese 74.2%, Malay 13.3%, Indian 9.2% and a fair few Europeans (+Brits). The photo shows the Merlion statue with the CBD in the background. "The Merlion is a well known marketing icon of Singapore depicted as a mythical creature with a lion's head and the body of a fish. It is widely used as a mascot and national personification of Singapore."

The rain isn't a downpour but it is not looking like stopping so I decided a museum was in order and headed to the Asian Civilisations Museum, which is housed in the beautiful Empress Place Building. Expensive to get in 23SGD and although decent didn't live up to its rave reviews. I guess there was an impressive amount of old stuff that had been dug up but I'd like more narrative and a feel for the rise and fall of civilisations. But it passed away and hour or so in the dry so served its purpose. Above is the Head of a Bodhisattva, Gandhara, ca. 4th century.

From the museum I headed up to the Raffles Hotel. On the way I passed the Singapore Cricket Club (water-logged pitch) and St Andrew's Cathedral which is quite impressive. The Raffles has some old world charm and I'm sure it would be a novel place to stay. Maybe I'll pop back sometime for a Slingapore Sling

25th January 2017 - Gardens by the Bay

The rain has stopped so off to see the sight at the top of my list, The Gardens by the Bay. Gardens by the Bay is a huge, colourful, futuristic park in the bay area of Singapore. The iconic pictures of the gardens show the Supertree structures and I had to see them for myself. These structures are an imposing canopy of artificial trees up to 50 meters is high towering over a vast urban oasis.

The colossal solar-powered supertrees are part of the 250-acre landscaping project that is an initiative from Singapore's National Parks Board that sees the cultivation of flora and fauna from foreign lands. The man-made mechanical forest consists of 18 supertrees that act as vertical gardens, generating solar power, acting as air venting ducts for nearby conservatories, and collecting rainwater.

Varying in height between 25 and 50 meters, each supertree is covered in tropical flowers and various ferns climbing across its steel framework. The large canopies also operate as temperature moderators, absorbing and dispersing heat, as well as providing shelter from the hot temperatures of Singapore's climate to visitors walking beneath.

After walking around the gardens for a few hours I was getting hungry and headed over to Chinatown and stopped off at the Amoy Street Hawker Market to eat like a local. There are two big floors full of small food outlets catering to the city workers all around. I did as the guideboook suggests and joined to longest queue. As soon as I had got close enough to see what the stall sold the lady shoted back the queue to take orders. There is only one guy with one wok cooking and he cooks up in a couple of minutes whatever there are most orders for. Everyone who ordered that wherever they are in the queue are served and he fires up the wok again. I had beef fried hor fun; thick rice noodles stir-fried with beef, egg, spring onion, been sprouts, chillis ... Huge, delicious and at 4SGD a bargain. 1 SGD is 56p.

I then headed down through Chinatown to the MRT. Older brightly painted woodden buildings with shutters, hundreds of restaurants and streets full of market stalls. And with Chiese New Year a few days away everywhere decorated with dragons, red lantens and as next year is the year of the rooster, loads of roosters.

26th January 2017 - Sentosa Island

A hot, humid and quite sunny day in Singapore and I headed to Sentosa Island. Just off the southern tip of Singapore this island is one big theme park. I don't remember much from my last visit to Singapore 20 years ago but I do remember the cable car so I decided to get to Sentosa that way.

Sentosa has 40 or more attractions all of which cost extra. Universal Studios, Madame Tussards, Bird Park, Butterfly Farm and addrenalin rides like a zip wire, luge run and indoor sky diving. I didn't do any of these. I headed down to Fort Siloso, the only remaining defensive fort on the island. To get to the fort you cross the skywalk. An 11-storey, 181 meters long Skywalk trail provides a scenic trek among the treetops. The fort had some exhibitions on its history, lots of big guns, trails through the forest and best of all was free.

The one attraction I did pay for was the S.E.A. Aquarium. The aquarium was the world's largest aquarium by total water volume until overtaken by one in China. Many huge tanks with all the usual suspects: all kinds of sharks and rays, lion fish and of course Nemo and Dory. I especially liked the jelly fish tanks with coloured lighting which showed them off brilliantly.

On the way back I rode the cable car up to Faber Peak for more views across Singapore. The peak is one big park and being at the top of the hill had a nice breeze.

27th January 2017 - Gardens by the Bay at night

I worked during the day today to free up the evening to head down to the Gardens by the Bay again to see the supertrees lit up and the nightly light show.

The light show wasn't much, just the trees changing colour to music but the whole scene was amazing. The giant supertrees look far, far better lit up against the night sky.

There are two shows a night at 7:45pm and 8:45pm. I went down for the second and was surprised that it wasn't busier. There was plenty of space to wander around and see the lights from all angles.

Not much more to add really.

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

28th January 2017 - Singapore

Quiet day today. Sight-seeing 5 or 6 hours a day and working 8 or 9 hours doesn't leave much free-time. So I had a decent lie-in today and then headed up to Little India for lunch. A small bit of Singapore which is a whole lot of India. I really fancied a curry and where better. I choose a small restaurant full of locals and went for the Chicken Thali. Everyone else was doing as you do in India and eating with their hands, rolling their rice and curry together into balls. Thankfully they found me a fork and I tucked in. It as a decent curry and some great vegetable side dishes.

After lunch I headed down to Clarke Quay. The Singapore River has been the centre of trade since modern Singapore was founded in 1819. During the colonial era, Boat Quay was the commercial centre where barge lighters would transport goods upstream to warehouses at Clarke Quay. Now the warehouses have been restored and house various restaurants and nightclubs. I took a boat tour down past the quays and out into the Marina Bay. It's good seeing things from a different angle.

28th January 2017 - Singapore Zoo

Today I headed to Singapore Zoo. I'd read it was one of the best in the world and the animals had a lot more space than in most others. I headed up early and signed up for the Jungle Breakfast. It was OK, but I wouldn't recommend it. It was a breakfast buffet where half way through they open the bridge to the orangutans and they come across to have their breakfast right beside the seating area.

You can then go up and get your photo taken with a snake or standing right in front of the orangutans. The orangutans were great and so human-like in their actions. Singapore Zoo is home to two species of orangutans: the Bornean orangutan and the Sumatran orangutan. How are the two different? The Sumatran orangutan has a rich rust-brown coat. Adults often sport a golden beard – even the females! Conversely, the Bornean species are much darker in colour.

Once breakfast was over the bridge was opened and the oranutans left via ropes and walkways back to their tree tops. As the zoo describes it "Our orangutan habitat is one of our biggest exhibits and certainly the most unique. Two free-ranging areas, an island and a boardwalk complete with tall trees and thick vegetation, have been created for visitors to view these fascinating creatures. The absence of walls and the inclusion of the raised boardwalk allow guests to have an almost entirely 360 degree view at an elevated angle."

One advantage of doing the breakfast was that it got me to the zoo early before it got busy so I had a nice hassle free coupe of hours wandering around. My favorite part was the chimpanzees. The zoo has set-up puzzles for them to solve to get their food. The picture below shows and chimp using a stick to get food out of the box. Forget Rise of the Machines, Planet of the Apes is real and this is the start.

Despite being very conservation orientated the zoo does have a number of 'performing animals'. I don't have a problem with this but many might. My view is we keep pets and have them doing tasks or tricks. Once you accept that that is OK for one type of animal where do you draw the line. Anyway, the elephants; I love elephants they really are gentle giants. The elephant show consisted of three elephants and their mahouts. The elephants waved, blow water at the crowd, rolled some logs around and generally larked about. With this and another show I saw the animals really do look to be enjoying it. It may not be the wild open African savanna but I reckon they have a pretty good life.

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