Day 63 Mar 7 (Singapore - day 1)

I slept late. Was up til about 1 AM. Since I didn't have an excursion sleeping late was an option. I got up around 10. I know, I know....
so by 11 I had taped the harbor (pics too of course) and headed off in search of an internet cafe like I found in Sydney. Unfortunately, Singapore isn't Sydney! They have all these strict laws here and control which websites people have access to, etc. (that's right, no porn sites). You already know that I found a coffee shop which had terminals to use but no USB port availability. So I won't go over that but that took up the rest of my morning. I decided I would use my laptop tomorrow. I then set out for the Jurong Bird Park. It was what I decided to do first in Singapore. I figured I'd see the city (or at least part of it) on the way. I got some maps from the information desks in the shopping center with the coffee house and went to the metro.

I took the metro, changing lines once to the Boon Lay stop. I looked at one of the maps and decided I could probably walk to the bird park rather than try to figure out which bus to use. Bad idea! I walked in one direction and then decided I was going the wrong way so reversed direction and walked for about ten minutes. It was hot and humid by the way but I'm not looking for sympathy. Just wanted you to know how grateful I was when I decided to ask a couple of furniture delivery guys if I was getting close. They said I definitely wasn't. They said I needed to take a bus because it was so far and oh, by the way, I was going the wrong way! Duh! I blame the army. They taught me map reading.... LOL! Actually, the maps were terrible and I should know better than to trust maps which look more like cartoons than Google Earth images. The happy ending of the story and a nice commentary on the people of Singapore is that these two guys stopped what they were doing (they hadn't delivered the furniture yet) and offered me a ride back to the bus station (it was adjacent to the metro station where I had arrived). They were even apologetic about the trash on the floor of the truck and asked if I minded it. I made it very clear that they were wonderful for coming to my rescue and they shouldn't worry about a little floor trash. So my little adventure allowed me to prove to myself what we had been told about the lovely people of Singapore. Everything happens for a reason it seems.

So, back at the bus station I took the furniture guys' advice and asked which bus to take to the bird park. The trip from there was a piece of cake. By the time I got there it was after 1:30 PM and I was hungry so I settled for a Bongo Burger. What's that you ask? Well, it is apparently a restaurant chain (there are at least two of them as I later discovered) associated with the Singapore Zoo. They are actually outside the parks so you can eat there without entering the zoo (or paying admission). I was asked whether I wanted my Bongo Burger (extra value meal version ala Micky D's) to be made of beef. I was pretty sure my answer was yes but decided to ask what other options there were. Well, the answer was chicken, fish and lamb! Apparently "burger" is a much broader term here than I know it to be in the States. Beef was my answer of course. My day had already had more than enough adventure. Or so I thought.

After Bongo Burger I entered the park and went right to the Penguin House. They are always too cute and, more important, they require air conditioning. Therefore the viewing area is cool too. I looked at the penguins quite awhile. Actually, I arrived just before feeding time so I have some video and pictures of that. It was pretty neat. Or perhaps I should say it was COOL!

I then looked at a few exhibits (some Cockatoos and other brightly colored birds, and some Flamingos) on the way to the Bird of Prey Show. Now that was an awesome show. They have about half a dozen trainers and in addition to the usual "look at the bird while I hold it" kind of thing they have the birds trained to fly to various areas of the amphitheater to other trainers. They do this so low over the audiences' heads that one vulture bumped my video camera (yes, I was using it at the time) with his wing (hard enough to make me worry about the bird, but it was fine - "tough old bird" appears to be appropriate here). Two other times hawks flew so close over my camera (I was holding it to my eye each of these times) that another spectator came up to me after the show and told me he thought the birds were trying to take the camera. The video is cool and it was a real rush to be on the other end of the camera. I probably should have thought about ducking but never did. I guess I just trusted that the people training and working the birds knew what they were doing. That was the highlight of my day for sure but there was a lot more to come. Since we were staying in port overnight I decided to finish the bird park with the tram ride around it and then head for the Night Safari. I didn't get to see every exhibit in the bird park but the Night Safari was starting around 6:30 and I didn't know how long it would take to get there.

I asked someone at the bird park what the best way to get to the Night Safari would be and they assured me that at this time of day (can you say rush hour on a Friday afternoon?) a taxi was the only way to go. So I did. There was a taxi stand right there and I didn't have to wait more than 5 minutes to get my ride. I arrived at the Night Safari (it is adjacent to the main Singapore Zoo) at about 6:15 PM. Perfect! I had to kill a few minutes before the gates opened so naturally I had a Haagen-Das brownie. (The smell was irresistible! Really!)

The first thing I went to in the Night Safari park was the Creatures of the Night Show. This park is unique among zoos as far as I know. Perhaps others have copied the idea by now but this park is designed to exhibit nocturnal creatures in their nighttime environment. Therefore many of the exhibits have little light. The show was like that but occasionally they used some spotlighting just briefly so we could see the animals for a few moments. The show, like the Bird of Prey show, was pretty interactive. The girl who ran it was very lively and had a good sense of humor. The audience was involved from time to time and right at the beginning. There was a heavy rope (think ship mooring hawser) suspended across the seating area of the amphitheater and as the light dimmed with sunset the rope started easing lower over our heads. When it got sufficiently dark some adult binturongs climbed out on the rope and stopped overhead. They were interested in a couple of trainers who were on the stairs in the aisles with food (of course, binturongs don't work for peanuts ... or do they? Hmmm.). These guys were at least twice the size of the young ones I handled in Bali. But my Bali experience allowed me to appear smart when a nearby spectator couldn't hear/understand our emcee when she said they were binturongs. He asked loudly enough for me to hear what they were a couple of times but she didn't hear him so I turned around and told him they were binturongs, sometimes called Asian Bearcats. Travel is educational you know!

The show was not as exciting as the bird show for me but we did get to see otters, raccoons, owls, wolves, hyenas and servals. Not too bad for starters. After the show we boarded the tram and were transported through many other animals' natural habitat type areas. Still dimly lighted in spots and not lighted at all in others. I guess our eyes adjusted to the light levels because we could see a lot more than my cameras could capture. We saw various deer and antelope, tapirs, cats (including lions), birds, giraffes and Tahr (google that one). I also walked down one to the three walking trails which go through much of the park as well. I ran into a couple from the Amsterdam I had met earlier in the cruise and we found our way back to the ship via a bus and couple of metro trains. The metro system is pretty good and not too different from systems I've seen in Europe and the US. By the time I got to bed it was 1:30 AM. Busy day!

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