After a slow start, I headed off to the local Hawker Centre to play food lottery. I ended up (having decided against the frog porridge: too Heston Blumenthal!) with some spicy dumplings and noodles, washed down with a cappucino soya milkshake with worms and leeches floating in it (OK they probably weren’t, but I don’t have a clue what they were).
I then had a bimble through some of Chinatown’s shops and alternative remedy supermarkets, quickly realising that half of what I was looking at is illegal back home. If only I knew which half…
Heading for Clarke Quay I ducked into what I thought was a hotel to shelter from a cloudburst, only for it to be a shopping centre. I beat a hasty retreat, out into the heaviest tropical rainstorm I have ever seen in my life. As it showed no signs of stopping, and as I can’t stand shopping centres, I called it as pub o’clock and found a bar on Boat Quay.
Two drinks later the rain was worse, so I jumped on the MRT to see a different bit of town. Sad to say that Orchard Ion has nothing to do with protons, electrons or indeed electrical charges, and is in fact another damn shopping centre. Still, I did continue my amazing streak of being able to find comic book stores in strange cities (I think I can just smell ‘eau de nerd” from a mile off!), and now own a title called “The Zen Of Steve Jobs.” Nice.
Onwards to the north of the island (it’s an easy ride to Ang Mio Ko MRT station, then a 138 bus, should you ever wish to try it for yourself) to the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo. Getting inside and onto the train, the attendant said “make the baby sit inside, it’s safer” to the couple behind me (what was going to happen? Were there baby-gobbling rhinos inside?!), but me having that thought was, sadly, as exciting as the visit got. Extending the public service broadcasting bit… don’t go.
I know it’s a Night Zoo (the title sort of gives a hint) but it was way too dark to see most animals properly (or at all, in some cases) and certainly to take photos of anything at all. The fact that the sum of my “useable” photos extends to a few chronically underexposed shots of a shy leopard, plus a Malaysian porcupine’s arse, probably says it all. Here’s the aforementioned leopard (NB. there may be a slightly better one on my other camera):
There was also a distinct lack of monkeys: inexcusable for a zoo. The Tarsier (more of a lemur, really) managed to save the night by being unfeasibly cute and the squeaky, hide-and-seeky otters helped too. Kudos also due to the Indian Rhino for having the ability to look like a triceratops if I screwed my eyes up, too. Finally, a mention in dispatches to:
- The animals I’ve never seen (or even heard of) before… civet, babirusa, red dhole, gaur, banteng (the latter, I assume, being a distant relative of former Aston Villa and Middlesborough football player George Boateng?)
- The Indian kid who, at the Hog Badger enclosure, started bouncing up and down singing “badger, badger, badger, badger, mush-room, mush-room…”. Nice to see Weebl’s Stuff is popular the world over
End of day one, so first impression of Singapore?
- Besides the obvious places (Chinatown & Little India spring to mind) it’s a much more westernised place than I imagined.
- There are an awful lot of places designed to part you from your money (NB. I do, at this stage, still remember that I live in London, but I try to avoid the shops there).
- Singapore island is bigger than I thought it would be (particularly given how quickly the Japanese crossed it in WW2. Sorry!), but I still managed to find a part that reminded me of Scarborough out north towards the Zoo…!
- Singaporeans + Escalators = danger. Particularly at busy times. They stop at the end to think about where they’re going next, oblivious of the people jam behind them.
Right, of to bed now, to work on that sinas pain peculiar to sleeping in a room with an aircon unit (ah, the things you forget when you’re not travelling…).