I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

shoes and zoos

Or should that be zooes? Anyone? ;-)

On my first full day in Singapore I went to the zoo; but that wasn't what I started the day doing. I'd figured that since I had brought some swimming trunks with me it was about time they got some use. I'd had the chance, IIRC, everywhere so far but hadn't taken it up, time to sort that out. So after a bit of a CNBC fix I headed to the 4th floor for a mooch around and ended up swimming 20 lengths. Now this was no full Olympic sized swimming pool or anything, but nonetheless I had thought I'd make just 5 or so, so that was quite a result. Freshened up I decided, like the idiot I am, to go and walk to a shopping mall.

Fucking hell it's hot in Singapore. Yes, I know the lowest temperature ever recorded is 19.4C, but still, FFHS. Almost Dubai-like in its unpleasantness, I didn't get on well at all. By the time I got to the mall I was boiling. Sigh. However, I did find one of the shops I was after, a stockist of MBT shoes. I'd read about these in the in-flight magazine on the day before and the spiel rang my bell. Basically they're a portable gym, they've got a sole which provides a permanently soft surface to walk on, as if you're walking on sand all the time basically, which improves your posture and increases muscle usage and oxygen intake and all that bollocks. A short-cut to better health and maybe weight loss, bingo. I needed some new shoes anyway. Really! So I asked about 'em in the shop and got a 20 minute lesson on how to walk. Come the end of it I was a natural, as if I'd been doing it most of my life. On a serious matter the fella did point out a few of the obvious things wrong with my posture and I did feel my calf muscles doing more work than my knees which is supposedly good. So I bought 'em and went back to the hotel, knackered.

Still having no travelcard or anything I looked up Singapore Zoo's website for how to get there. The public transport ideas were so ridiculous (ie, the involved changing and/or walking) that I ended up asking the concierge at the hotel, who told me to just get a cab. Which is what I did. Cheap as chips too, about 4 quid for something that'd cost 20 or so in London I reckon. Singapore cab fees are massively complicated, a crazy series of surcharges applying to cover all kinds of facets of your journey. There's the initial charge, the per km charge, the per waiting time charge, then the congestion-charge-style ERP charge, then a charge if you phoned for a cab to come get you immediately, a different one if you phoned to book one in advance, a charge if you want to go to the airport (different amounts for budget and non-budget terminals), and an escalating series of extra charges if you want to travel after 9pm and before 6am, in differently-sized time periods. Pfft. I wondered if there was a surcharge for having to sit through Rick Astley covering Vincent on the driver's choice of radio station too.

The zoo, well, not a lot to say that the photos don't say better. Lots of animals, managed to catch feeding time for a couple of 'em, the only non-photographed thing I can think of remarking on is that the curry counter in the food bit charged 3.50 (pounds) for a decent plateful and large soft drink. Tasted nice 'n all.

Got a cab back to the hotel after the zoo, got changed, then got a cab to... the zoo. There's 2 parts y'see, a normal zoo and a night safari. I'd bought a joint ticket for both bits. You can walk around in the evening but I'd taken the easy way out, and bought tickets for the commentated tram ride which takes you round most of it. But before that there was a bit of a show in an amphiteatre where some of the animals were coaxed out to act, well, natural for the baying crowd. A mixture of nationalities in attendance, the woman running the show managed to say in 6 different languages "turn your flashes and spotlights off on your still and video cameras" and was roundly applauded each time she said so. Show started and there was a cavalcade of flashes each time an animal appeared or did something. Sigh. She kept chastising the crowd and pointed out how a few of the animals had shat 'emselves and fucked off back to safety sharpish as a reaction to it all, again applauded by the crowd, but still loads of people kept their flashes on. She even went so far as to volunteer her assistants as technology-friendly folk who could help anyone who didn't understand their equipment... I saw no-one take her up on this offer, and I saw many flashes still going off. I think working at the night safari is only suitable for those with masses of patience because even as a mere punter I was fucking wound up by all this.

The show was good anyway. The night safari is meant to be a way to show off nocturnal animals or just ones that don't do a lot in the heat of the day. Outside of the amphiteatre all the enclosures are lit in such a way that it's really soft for the animals, but bright enough so the humans can make out what's going on. The tram ride takes about 45 minutes and goes through 3 "continents", and at places there are bits where the animals are so close you could touch them... if you wanted to get bitten. Probably.

Deposited back at the start and in no mood to go wandering through the bat enclosure (FUCK THAT) I perched at Bongo Burger and bought a, er, burger. Nice it was 'n all. Finished that and went back to the hotel. The cab ride back took me past an area called Little India, a place full of indian restaurants and currently lit up with all kinds of street decorations in preparation for the festival of Deepavali later in the month. The cabbie himself was of Indian descent and told me I should certainly go there. I failed, but I did read up about Little India a bit. See, Singapore is one of the most cosmopolitan places I've ever been to. Masses of different colours and races and cultures all living happily alongside one another (albeit in a regime where it's illegal to not flush a public toilet, a law I nearly fell foul of myself once or twice) and alongisde Little India there's also a Chinatown. To demonstrate just how cosmoplitan the place is, in fact, I read that 75% of the people who live in Little India are... Chinese. Nice one, Singaporeans.

Anyway, I didn't go there. I didn't go anywhere else, I just went to bed (with CNBC on; my word how I love that channel). I'd not managed to see any of Singapore and truth be told I was wondering how I was going to cope the next day. Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun but wtf are you supposed to do, if you're on holiday, and it's too hot to go out for 5 hours in the middle of the day? I want to sightsee, while it's light. Also I couldn't work out how to "unlace" my new shoes. Damn it.

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