Wednesday, February 25, 2015

All About Pandas at Singapore Zoo, and a Few Other Stops

Getting pretty good at navigating the amazing bus system here in Singapore, I ventured out on a long trek to the Zoo. They have four separate sections in the zoo, each with it's own admission of course, and I picked out two to visit. The first was the River Safari, which highlighted the wildlife and ecosystem of all the major rivers of the world and the reason I picked it is because this is where the two panda bears, given to Singapore as a gift from China, live. But on the way to them there were fishies great and small. 

This toothy guy was not impressed

Gorgeous stingrays

Catch ya later alligator

Adorable red panda, maybe even cuter than it's more popular cousin

Kai Kai, the limelight hog. Jia Jia, his female friend, was too shy and nowhere to be found.

I went back to the red pandas many times, they were just too cute.

The big galoot just paced around the back door until feeding time.

The zookeeper hid treats for Kai Kai all over his habitat home, probably to force the lazy butt into some exercise, and he quickly and thoroughly cleared all the food that was stashed away, leaving chewed up pieces of bamboo all over the place. That didn't stop dozens of tourists from snapping happily away at his every blink and turn. It was hard not to get caught up with everyone else, and I now have way more photos and videos of this darn bear then is probably healthy.

To celebrate finally getting out of that part of the exhibit I got myself a bottle of water and a panda shaped bao with chocolate pudding inside. It wasn't that tasty, but it was adorable and I know Donna would be proud :D

The tour continued with other animals and other rivers, but I mostly hung around the sea otters. They're the most playful, happy, lithe creatures alive and it made me endlessly happy just to watch them play their many games.

Ibis from the Nile river

This pair found a small rock and were chasing it around the tank, 
trying to steal it from each other

These guys just played Follow The Leader, doing laps and 
crazy turns around the pool, snout to tail

It's kind of fuzzy, but as soon as this guy got a treat, he took off at crazy speed.
Probably scared his buddy in the back would steal it.

"I'm trying to sleep here! Turn off the darn light!"

"I don't know who put this here, but this leaf is not delicious"

"I have a coconut and you don't. Neener, neener"

These piranhas were definitely creepy. They don't really swim much, 
they just hover and stare and wait for food... 

I was planning on staying for the night safari that evening, but two hours before they'd open the sky opened up instead and a heavy rain/lightning storm began. I waited for a bit to see if it would die down and then talked to one of the employees, who said that if the rain didn't end the exhibit wouldn't open for the day, so I took the bus back to town. As soon as I stepped off the bus in Chinatown...the rain stopped, the sun came out, and it was like nothing ever happened. Oh well, I joined a few people who work at my hostel for dinner and went back to watch Hero 6 on the TV in the lobby with them. 

I took a day off from running around and read for an afternoon, but then since it didn't look like I was going to get to leave anytime soon, I ventured out once more. I visited Little India, as well as a few other sites, but I think at this point I'm running out of enthusiasm for this city. The vacation feeling is wilting and my conscience is starting to look for work to do. Nevertheless, ice cream helps.

This is called Carrot Cake, though as far as I could tell, there were no carrots in it, and as you can plainly see, it's not a cake. False advertising, sure, but tasty.

The Masjid Mosque was undergoing construction, but it's still an 
impressive sight over the rooftops.

The city contains an interesting mix of architecture side by side, and despite the large population, the number of cars is pretty reasonable. I think the 150% tax they have to pay to own a car has something to do with that. 

Just a fun little cafe in Little India

Street art

Fishy ice cream!

After exploring the remaining corners of the city and fortifying myself with ice cream, I double checked the weather report and headed back to the zoo for the night safari. Needless to say pretty much all the pictures I took there were crappy since there's a strict no-flash policy to maintain the atmosphere for the nocturnal animals. I did snap a few semi-decent ones. 

Cloud leopard getting ready to jump

This guy was my favorite. It's a giant flying squirrel and he was the 
fluffiest most adorable creature there. 

And this is Mr. Frog. I'm still not entirely sure if he was the exhibit or 
food for the exhibit, but he's cute

I arrived back at my hostel around midnight and kept my fingers crossed the entire night hoping that my ATM card comes soon as I'm eager to head out to Malaysia and explore a new place.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Walking the Streets of Singapore

Since I find myself with lots and lots of extra time on my hands in this city, I've decided to slow down my pace and take a more meandering approach to seeing the sights. I strolled over to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple just down the street, but while the decor was lovely and it was interesting to observe the many ways and spots along the temple that worshipers could pay respects and pray, I didn't see the tooth itself. 

Pagoda style temple based on Tang Dynasty architecture style

There must have been dozens of big and little Buddhas all along the walls of the temple, and upon entry a person could get a bowl of coins for $20 from one of the attendants and drop them as offerings, with a prayer of course, into golden cups lined up in front. The repetitive motion of step, coin, prayer, step, coin, prayer reminded me a bit of Vegas. The incessant sounds of clinking coins and the patient persistence looked the same, but I would hope that here in this temple the prayers aren't all for money. 

I ventured to a nearby mall in search of a bakery recommended by the "Where Chefs Eat" book, but when I arrived it looked like the bakery was gone so I went grocery shopping instead. Or more like window shopping at a grocery store. It might be that the store was for tourists or maybe this is where the locals shop too, but they had everything under the sun from all over the world available on the shelves for about twice what I'd be willing to pay, and with crazy high prices for fruit...especially mandarins. I picked up some plums and bananas, which were semi-reasonably priced and got out before I was tempted to buy anything else.

 If I liked beer more I'd have gotten this, but keep an eye out guys, this should be interesting.

 Egg tart and chocolate egg tart I got as a snack to compensate for 
the missing bakery I came here to find.

Polina, if that Catbus toy wasn't S$98, I'd so have gotten it for you...
instead you get a picture

There is a long row of restaurants all along the riverwalk with a nice view of the skyline, and of course this is a good place for some spicy crab, a specialty here in Singapore. 

Walking back towards the hostel I passed this deserted alley full of AC units that keep every indoor place cool and it reminded me of a scene out of Boxtrolls. 

The next day I walked in a different direction and started with the Museum of Asian Arts, which talked a bit about the history of Singapore itself and the extensive/expensive effort they they undertook to clean the city and the waterways. It was incredible how the river was emptied of all the businesses that depended on it almost overnight in an effort to remove the pollution and debris that had accumulated in it over the years. The museum also featured small rooms full of carefully curated artifacts from every Asian culture around the world. And coming back to local history, they even had the winning rubber ducky from a charity race back in 2002 when 120,000 of them were floated down the river.

After the museum I set out on my walk once more. Not many things were necessarily noteworthy, but I liked this statue randomly standing in a gated parking lot. Here in this country where the average temperature stays in the upper 80s pretty much year round and is recognized for the greatest number of lightning strikes in the world, that tiny umbrella seems ill advised.

I even found a single block of what must have been a suburb where all the hipster shops were! They had several adorable book shops, one with a thrift store in the back and a cat next to the register, as well as a lovely brunch spot that would not have been out of place in Andersonville. Forty Hands, the name of the restaurant, was where I finally found a good latte, and I'm pretty sure it was named after the drinking game in How I Met Your Mother, where you tape two 40oz cans of beer to your hands and run around the city until they're empty. It's just a guess, but I'm pretty sure I'm right.

Check out the green little army dudes in the display case

Heading back to Chinatown, I watched as they made fishy shaped mochi in the window of one cafe and roasted whole ducks in another, before heading over to the food stalls for a cheap dinner.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Gardens of Singapore - Part 2

The last I left you it was with a full tummy and the beginnings of a plan for the next trek, so to pick things back up I hopped on a bus and headed to the pier. The marina was still decked out with sculptures and floats from the New Year celebration, and as many businesses were still closed for the holidays the streets were filled with people enjoying the hawker street food and taking pictures with the decorations.

Kids, lets go sell beer to the masses!

I know these are supposed to be peaches, but why do they look like onions?

I was born in the year of the rooster and according to the sign next to this guy, this is not going to be a good year for me...better tread carefully!

I love this because to me it looks like a giant played a prank 
and hoisted a cruise ship on top of some buildings. 

The double helix bridge is there on the left and that baseball 
glove looking thing is a museum.

The sign was significantly disappointing as the packages 
looked neither like candy nor dragons.

Ferris Wheel? Check. By the water? Check. By the highway? Check. 
Navy Pier, is that you?

That's right, if you get tired of walking, you can take a boat 
to get around this shopping center. 

Working my way through the crowds and across the bridge, I decided to continue the garden theme and bought a ticket to see the Cloud Forest exhibit. The man-made waterfall was designed to resemble a rain forest at the altitude of clouds, which means the whole building was cool, if very moist. A winding set of bridges took you through and around the waterfall as exhibits inside talked about life in the clouds and global warming. Some people on TripAdvisor complained that everything was too manicured and too obviously man made, but I loved it. This is just what the aliens of the future will have in their museums to teach their pod babies about ancient life on earth. 

A fun little exhibit featuring carnivorous plants made out of Legos!

Happy little pitcher plant wanted to say "Haay!"

Just chillin' with my orchid buddy here. Watch out, he bites.

I kept trying to figure out what this climber plant was, but couldn't find a sign. 
It just struck me as distinctly feminine and lovely.

A glimpse of the future through a window of the past.

Just some clovers that made me happy.

Island of doom if you happen to be a bug. I wonder how they feed the plants, 
the place looked immaculate. 

Once outside the exhibit there were several more outdoor gardens to explore, including the Supertree Forest. The sculptures are pretty impressive in and of themselves, but if you wait till dark there's a free show that really shows off the magic.

Set to beautiful music the trees are lit up and the colors and lights accentuate the rhythm and the feeling of the melody, making this a truly surreal experience. The show lasted maybe 20 minutes, but I'm sure that if Fern Gully was set in Asia, this is what the forest would look like at night. I put a short clip of the show on Facebook and another short clip on Instagram, so if you follow me on either of those, check it out, it's pretty cool.

I grabbed a quick middle eastern gyro at one of the stalls back at the pier for dinner and headed back to the hostel. The decorations looked even more lovely and festive in the dark.