Sunday, July 8, 2007

Singapore: Day 4

Sunday morning I ventured out on my own for a few hours. I fueled up with fresh orange/pinapple juice, then took a taxi to the Bugis Street market. I'm a sucker for bargaining in open-air markets, finding treasure among the silly souvenirs. (At Mustafa's I drooled over the silks and batik fabrics and even bought a few. It's never too early to gather decorating ideas for our eventual house hunt next year!)

At the outdoor market I found three spoons for Mom, pretty ones at a third of the hotel gift shop price. I picked up a hand-embroidered shoulder bag in earthy tones, and embroidered mini bags for gifts from the same vendor. This stall was my favorite by far, complete with mystical music and burning incense. Another stall had a filmy Indian tunic in a rich shade of blue--in a "Western" size, no less! Sold. Last but not least: two 5SD watches strung on woven bracelets instead of bands, which tend to get sticky and uncomfortable in the southeast Asian climate. I have terrible luck with watches, but at least if this one stops working I'll be glad I paid $3 US instead of $80 US for the Swatch I was eyeing at Mustafa's.

With the shopping bug mostly out of my system, we all met up around lunchtime and ate at a Chinese hot pot restaurant. Garrett and Kellie, having lived in Shanghai, were old pros. I was totally impressed. I'm pretty timid when it comes to eating, but I tried a few new things and enjoyed the experience. The kids weren't much interested in the food. They built a fort out of chairs in the corner.

Next we took the sky tram to Sentosa island...

...where we rode the luge--some of us more than others. This was actually a lot of fun. The First-Born is a little speed demon. Who knew? Plus the lift system that takes you and the sleds back to the top of the hill was pretty ingenious.

We shopped a little too. I came away a happy camper with a book of short stories by W. Somerset Maugham ("More Far Eastern Tales") and a gorgeous Life magazine publication
entitled "Heaven on Earth: 100 Must-See Destinations." This book will be a guiding force in shaping all future vacations. Bryce has already seen more on the list than I have, but we can fix that. Plus this seems much more manageable than the "1000 Places to See Before
You Die" book that I've paged through but never purchased. Goals are good, so long as the outcome feels attainable, right?

We finished up the day with a babysitter and a meal for the grown-ups at Morton's steakhouse at the Oriental Hotel. It was divine. Inspired. Heavenly. Can I go back?

Day 5: Return to reality.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Night Safari

After the zoo we stuck around for the Night Safari, a separate area where you can either walk or take a tram to see nocturnal animals at their most active. We opted for the tram. No flash photography allowed on the tour, unfortunately, but each area was lit with high spotlights so you could see the critters grazing or roaming around. They encourage hushed voices on the tram while a guide points out animal activity and describes the native habitats. The tapirs were my favorite, round and mellow and standing within arm's reach of the tram as they munched their dinner.

A guest poster (Mr. First-Born) recalls the animals we saw: "I really liked it when I saw the fast animals. We saw rhinos. We saw a sign for flying squirrels, but I don't know why they didn't show them. We drove through water and they said to watch out for the crocodile, so we stayed near the middle. We saw deer come near the tram and then we saw elephants again. We also saw a boy elephant with big tusks. And then we arrived at the tram station and we got off the tram and we went to look around at the really nice stores. And we went home to the hotel."

That pretty much sums it up! Our good friends the Openshaws were such great sports, and perfect travel companions:

Next up: Sentosa Island.

Singapore Zoo

Day 3: Kellie, Garrett, and I went shopping at Mustafa's, a crazy, insanely huge, 24-hour shopping destination in Little India. Bryce watched the kids at the hotel, earning an instant pass through the Pearly Gates for his unselfish act. (Although the guy's in Paris at the moment--without me--and the fact that it's a business trip does nothing to soothe my jealous soul.)

After lunch we took taxis to the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. The zoo was incredible. They take great pains to create natural habitats for the animals--sprawling affairs drenched in greenery, with most fences carefully camoflaged. Crowds were light, so at times it felt as if we had the place to ourselves. We ate Ben and Jerry's. Kellie and the kids rode an elephant. We got very warm and drank a ton of water and/or Coke, but since we were there in the afternoon the temps cooled considerably toward closing time.
The pic with the boys and the zebras makes me smile. We usually get either cheesy grins or wandering eyes. That's okay though. It makes for funny photos. And we didn't plan the matching shirts; it just happened. Little turkeys. I hope they never forget our fun day.

Singapore Part 2

Connected to the Botanic Gardens is the National Orchid Garden, which requires a small entrance fee and is totally worth the price. 700 species of orchids and 2,100 hybrids, according to the guidebook. Stunning.

We had dinner by the towering Fountain of Wealth near Suntec City Mall, then waited in the taxi queue for about two hours before we made it back to the hotel (the women and children, that is). It took the guys another hour to get home. Lessons learned: Call a taxi ahead of time. Don't wait for the mall to close. Don't let the kids get so tired that they're bopping strangers in the face with helium balloons and begging to be carried. 'Nuff said.

Pretty flowers, no? Okay, okay, they're blurry, but look at all the pretty colors! I blame the camera.

Next stop, Singapore Zoo.


I couldn't miss posting on such a memorable date. And I figured this was as good a time as any to post photos from our Singapore trip.
Here's the view out our hotel window. The early light, tempered by a few stray rainclouds, gave this pic a rich, rosy glow. I loved that even the most developed areas were thick with greenery.

We arrived on a Thursday night, marveled at the clean, spacious, efficient airport, checked into our hotel just off Orchard Road (they warned us about the tiny rooms, so we were pleasantly surprised to find that there was room enough for the boys to sleep on the floor under the desk), then had a late dinner at a nearby restaurant and collapsed into bed.

We spent most of the next day finding our way around. The kids enjoyed breakfast at McDonald's (where else?) and visiting not one but two toy stores, including a huge Toys R Us. Then it was the grown-ups' turn to choose the entertainment. We found a hop-on/hop-off tour bus and rode the complete route to get a quick look around the city. (Plus I think it was a welcome break for Kellie, our travel buddy, seeing as how she's six months pregnant and all.) That's when I managed to snap three whole pictures out the window of the bus.

This photo and a few even less thrilling pics are the sum total of the bus experience. But look--we're driving on the left side of the road! I never did get used to looking left first before crossing.

Singapore is full of unique, interesting buildings. Strange angles, bright colors, gorgeous landscaping, etc. We never actually carried out the hop-off portion of the hop-on/hop-off tour, though, so I didn't snap a single one. Ah, well. One more reason to go back for another visit.

The tour ended at the Botanic Gardens, where you can wait for another bus or wander your way through lush, green pathways and breathe in the clean air, perfumed with exotic blooms and a curious absence of Jeepney exhaust. Guess which one we picked?

Inviting paths tempt travelers to wander, ponder, and of course make their way to the inevitable gift shop and cafe. But that's Singapore in nutshell: rampant commercialism and the cleanest, greenest streets you'll see anywhere.
To be continued...