Sat 13 Feb 10 - Sun 14 Feb 10
Josh and I closed out the Year of the Ox by visiting the Jurong Bird Park in the morning, then attempting to bring in the new year in Chinatown. The former worked out, but the latter, well, had some problems.
Let's begin with the Bird Park. The highlight of the day for me was the Lory Loft. I got to feed some of the Lory's by hand, which was pretty fun. I also got to take the typical cheesy picture of myself covered in birds.
We also got to see many other types of birds, which I'm sure we could have seen back home at the San Diego zoo. However, the Bird Park was an incredibly peaceful place to walk through and I was very thankful to just stroll about looking at beautiful birds for a couple of hours. It was a huge contrast to the hectic evening that was headed our way.
The Chinese New Year is a very exciting time in the city. There are decorations and signs about it pretty much everywhere. I planned the trip around being here for the New Year, but some things just aren't meant to be. Since Josh and I had such an early morning at the Bird Park, we were both pretty exhausted before 5:00pm rolled around. We went to Orchard Road, which is known for it's gigantic malls, and saw a movie. Yeah, we reached that point of the trip. It happened to us in week 4 of our Europe trip and it happened on the second to last day here. For those of you who are curious, we saw The Wolfman. Despite a stellar cast, the movie is terrible. Don't see it.
The theatre, however, was gorgeous and I wish we had amazing theatres like that back at home. Let me put it this way, it made the Arclight in Hollywood look run down and that is the best theatre I've ever been to at home. And the ticket was only SGD$9 (about $7USD). The Arclight cost me about $15.
Mall on Orchard Road
Afterwards we headed over the Chinatown. I knew it'd be packed, but when a dozen police officers boarded the MRT with us I began to rethink my master plan. The second we exited the train car we were herded like sheep towards the exit and then greeted by wall to wall people lining the cramped little streets of Chinatown.
The man's face at the bottom of the following picture has captured the general feeling of the place pretty well.
Josh and I debated for about five minutes about what to do, but we were both just too tired to want to fight those crowds. We hopped on the metro back home, which seemed to be a pretty popular idea among many weary looking Singaporeans, and decided to just spend the evening at home. The news said about 150,000 people gathered there last night. That figure doesn't surprise me at all. It felt like more.
This morning we headed over to the main touristy part of the city. Yes, the touristy stuff is on our last day, which seems a bit backwards, but that's how we roll. Since today is the New Year, most other things are closed anyway, so it was really our only choice. We did get to see the infamous Merlion. What is a Merlion you ask? It's the handsome fellow standing behind me in the following picture.
And the Merlion Cub.
Ridiculous? Of course. But the locals are well aware of that. They even use "Merlion" as a verb. See if you figure out what it means.
I'll give you a hint. In Melaka Josh had too much to drink and Merlioned all night long. Get it? Yeah.
We wandered around the waterfront area and got to see the giant Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort (polite Singaporean term for a resort & casino), which will have a hectare sized park on top. There is also some weird spherical thing being constructed in front of it, but I have no idea what that will be.
We also wandered across the River Bao Festival, but it didn't look like it had quite kicked into gear yet. There were a few people roaming about and a tent filled with food, but any booths, rides, and other attractions were completely closed. We only explored for about an hour before deciding to head home.
It's just before 4:00 in the afternoon, but we are pretty much done for the day. That means we are pretty much done with this trip. It's always bitter sweet finishing a journey. On the one hand we are pretty beat and want to go home and rest. However, sometimes I wish I could just travel constantly and never stop seeing and experience new things. I don't know when or where our next trip will be. It always comes down to time and money. With grad school still pending for Josh, both of those factors are extremely uncertain. But when we decide to go somewhere we will tell you all and you can be sure there will be another blog.
Final thoughts on Singapore
-It reminds me a lot of London. Perhaps it's the colonial history or the fact that many place names are British. Or maybe it's just a similar cosmopolitan feel. Whatever it is, I'm pretty sure it's the same lady making the call outs on the metro trains.
-It's interesting to travel in a place that has four commonly spoken languages. English seems to be the dominate one on signs and is spoken by almost everyone I encountered (only a couple of people in hawker centers didn't understand me). The official language is Malay, though, and the largest population is Chinese, so Mandarin is on a lot of signs as well. The fourth language is Tamil, which I know nothing about. Many signs have all four languages on them.
-This is a Singapore suburb.
Buildings like this are literally everywhere. These are some of the smaller ones. They get taller the closer you get to the central part of the city. The first hostel we stayed at was on top of a 25 story building. This one is only a two story building, but it's surrounded by high rises on all sides.
-There are over 100 Hawker Centers in Singapore. Josh and I have eaten at about three of them. Unfortunately we couldn't eat at the one recommended by Anthony Bourdain because it closed early for the New Year. However, I did snap this snazzy picture.
Guess we'll just have to come back to Singapore! Josh is too much of a foodie to only visit three of these glorious foodie playgrounds. Besides, with all the construction all over the city, we need to come back and see how this place looks in a few years. Who wants to join us? Singapore is awesome. I promise we'll have fun!
-Singapore is a "fine" city.
-But it's not a perfect city.
-The method of doing laundry in this city is simple, but unique. It seems that most people have washers, but there clearly aren't many driers around. People will place their clothes and other laundry materials on polls and stick them out the window. Since this city is mostly high rises, this means there are rows and rows of clothes covered poles reaching high up into the sky. This also means many high rises don't have screens on their windows. Josh was slightly unnerved by this on the 25th floor of 1 B and B, and even more bothered by this when we had to hang our own laundry out to dry from the second story here at Hostel One 66.
Laundry across from our Hostel.
Our own magical laundry drying adventure.
It's hard to end this entry because that means this trip has really ended, but it's gotta happen. I guess I'll leave you with this picture. How will you interpret it? A nice summary of downtown Singapore? Or, with your newly learned definition of "Merlion," a clever comment on trendy coffee shops? You decide.