I arrived in Singapore and what a change! The bus to the hostel was air-conditioned, a shock after India where there wasn't any glass in the windows. Also they have tv's on the bus, just in case you thought you could escape American Idol.
I spent the first few days just wandering around the city, getting lost in the massive shopping malls and amongst the tall buildings. It's nice to be able to have a drink with ice and not worry about whether you are going to get sick. Also just being able to drink tapwater again is great!
I headed down to a quay, after all Singapore is the second busiest port in the world, although in the centre, it is more tourist boats and colourfuly painted buildings
A large fountain squirts water back into the sea. Looks like some mythical half lion half fish? I walked past a temple which had been recently refurbished so I entered for a quick nosy. Gilded ceilings, lions with red necklaces, and bizarre statues with stange expression. Excellent!
I signed up for a one day course doing rock-climbing, I'd seen it on TV in India and wanted to give it a go, and Singapore has an indoor climbing wall (www.climbadventure.com). I jumped on the MRT (their train system) passing a curiously shaped mall and then the train zoomed off into the distance. The train stations sometime have signs like this, yep the durian fruit is seriously smelly.
After the morning tutorial about ropes & equipment we got let loose on the wall. I managed to clamber to the top of a slightly back-slanted wall on my very first go. Mostly a combination of fear & adrenaline, I think, for the rest of the day I never got to the top again! Once at the top, I realised that I wasn't sure how to come back down, but you just lean back and bounce down like abseiling. Also they showed us some bouldering where you have no ropes, but crash mats, you go sideaways along the wall instead of up. It requires a lot of finger strength and by this time, I was a bit weary so I didn't do very good at all. However it was interesting to watch the experts swing along the wall. Definitely some skill involved with the way they move their centre of gravity and keep their arms straight to minimise strain. It was fun to do!
Another day I popped into the science centre, they had quite a lot of optical illusion which was interesting. Also a van-de-graff generator for zapping people! I picked up a pair of sunglasses around the train station for $4, big spender!
I went to the Singapore Zoo, which was excellent. Most animals are contained in artifical islands rather than cages. I saw loads of animals! Later on I went to the night safari, where a electric bus trundles along through the night with commentary, pointing out all the animals, as you move through simulated geographical regions. Half-way through I jumped off for a small walk through some other sites, including a room with bats, fluttering about. Then back on the bus for the second half of the trip. After that into the auditorium for a animal show. This included an owl silently fly through the air above the crowd, a high-jumping cat, and wee speedy things running about (I don't think I'd make a good zoologist) They had left a toolbox besides one of the seats in the crowd and, of course, there was a giant snake in it, which a guy flung over his shoulders and ran through the crowd causing havoc!
I took lots of photos, here they are:
Downtown at Raffles Quay an
advert was being made while I ate a sandwich, feeling dwarfed by the buildings one of which had some strange balls on sticks beside a pool, maybe it's art? I went through the shopping mall, and won a wallet for making a Timberland design from straws Occasionaly you could still see the traditional architecture the most obvious example being the spiral staircases at the back. I soon had to duck into a coffee shop as the rain started really pelting it down.
Once the rain went off I continued down past some colourful shopfronts and odd masks.
Later I popped into a museum which had a model of singapore, hence the ariel photo. Going to Chinatown I strolled past my HQ (McLennan Centre) across a bridge where a chinese pagoda resided. The lights were slowly coming on across the city.
Also I went on a food walk with the hostel owner, Tony, where we sampled various local foods, including pork dumplings, laksa and some other bits and pieces I forget but a tasty evening. More info here. I saw giant bananas as well!
Also we popped into a Hindu temple, apparently when land was cleared a small elephant statue was found and then the temple was built on top of it. A large proportion of the coast around Singapore is from land-reclamation, in fact it is continuing. Also went into one of the local high-rises, this is where the majority of Singaporeans live. At the base there is usually local amenities, such as a food court and shops. Tony showed us the sensors in the lift, where if you pee in the lift the sensors go off, stop the lift and the police are called. Then you have to pick up litter(although generally not much about) for two weeks wearing a bright green costume!
On Saturday night Tony invited me along to a local event which his friend Wee Cheng (www.weecheng.com) had heard about. Wee Cheng has been almost everywhere, and plans to go where he hasn't been! Anyway this 'event' was actually a spirit possesion.
After a bit of dancing and playing of instruments, four young guys/boys entered the arena riding wooden horses, after inhaling some smoke they all went crazy and got possessed, kinda hard to describe! Things got weirder as they ate bites of glass from a vase and danced over broken glass barefoot. Later the 'ringmaster' hit them with a bullwhip but they seemed impervious to the pain. Eventually they were brought back to reality, but the spirit jumped across to some other people and more chaos ensued. Definitely a strange evening, one part theatre, one part entertainment to two parts weirdness.
The next day I had another stroll through the city, past more tall buildings, some cats, a big spoon and egg race with ankle grabbing?? and finally Fatman and Robin