So, Singapore....a big little country/city. I had already planned to meet up with an ex-work acquaintance of mine (Hi, Lorine!) when out of nowhere i learned i had another friend in the area Hey Paul!). Whoa! How is this for a coincidence - an old school friend, who i haven't heard from in 15 years messages me via the blog - Paul was a year or two above me and used to catch a lift in with my madre and i, often relegating me to the backseat - boo. We were on the school swimming team at the same time, spent an entire summer renting low budget videos out softcore action adventure (Amazon Women vs the Barbarians?) to Jackie Chan and the Terminator, playing table tennis and generally hanging out.
There was some back and forth confirming identities and catching up a bit, checking sanity levels ;), when he offers to put Sharan and i up for the duration of our stay...more checking of sanity levels ;OP - we were more than happy to take him up on the offer.
So we arrive by bus from Melaka - a short 5 hour hop, zoomed through Immigration which was nice as the bus driver only promised to hang around for 30 mins before he would leave again. Sharan and i got off the bus in to the sweltering heat in what is best described as a coach park - a quick check of our bearings and we hauled butt towards the nearest tube, a mere 15 min yomp - phew! We made our way to Orchard Rd station, no problem, out for another 10-15min yomp (backpacks seem to get heavier when you're walking in the sun) before turning off the wide, clean but bustling and big building-lined Orchard St for Paul's place.
Hurrah - Paul happened to be residing in a 4/5 star hotel/residential apartment complex! After confirming our ID's, slightly moistening the checking in forms with my sweaty mitts, we were led past the pool (yay!) through a maze of cool, air-conditioned corridors to our new home for the next couple of days. Wow - this was a step above the usual backpacker room - widescreen tv, satellite, dvd, kitchenette which Paul had stocked for our visit!, Paul's laptop for internet and our own bedroom with adjacent showeroom - sweet! Sharan and i wasted no time in getting changed and heading for the pool - we were supplied towels there. It had a waterfall, a couple of jacuzzi's....after a couple of laps and some jacuzzi-time i noticed a lone gentlemen reading a book at the far end....Sharan and i had had a conversation earlier about if i would recognise Paul walking past me in the corridor and i was about to test that theory..."Paul?" i asked, and knock me down with a feather, there he was, just relaxing after coming home from the office.
It was like old times, except all new again, and we all chatted by the pool before changing and heading out for food and drinks. A lovely curry followed by a quick tour of the local redlight 'mall' or 'four floors of w****s' as some of the locals refer to it! We finished the night off with some cold ones at Muddy Murphy's Irish pub and a swing by a local club - great Live Music, lots of friendly looking asian women looking for a *ahem* date, and lots of expats getting merry and dancing the night away. Thanks to Paul for getting the tab on this one :)
Anyhoo, a long lie in later and Paul was at work whilst Sharan and i rolled out to do some more swimming, a bit of laundry (nice facilities!) and have breakfast/lunch. But Singapore was calling - so we went out to explore - we hit a travel agents first and grabbed some medium-priced tickets for Bali (Chinese New Year had pushed up the prices - imagine booking travel 3-4 days before Christmas!) then headed for more cultural pursuits, Fort Canning and the Boom Box, a series of underground bunkers used in WWII. I'm sure they're very good, but we missed last admission by 15mins - boo - but we needed that lie in! So we headed for the National Museum, which was closed also....but only partially. We settled for free admission to several exhibitions about various aspects of life in Singapore which were ok. But time was fleeting even more - we had arranged to meet Lorine.
Lorine works in a sister office from my old job here in Singapore - we had spoken many times on the phone but never met - until this day. And i am glad we did - Lorine turned out to be one of the best guides we have ever had - she took us to dinner in Chinatown (thank you, Lorine), a vegetarian restaurant opened by a religious woman after she recovered from cancer by praying to Buddha. Chinatown was heaving, everyone bustling for stuff to get ready for the New Year. We then proceeded on a fantastic walking tour around the majority of Singapore's landmarks from the redeveloped Quay's, old and new governemnt buldings, the Japanese WWII war memorial...all the while noting various facts - fantastic stuff. As we had a limited time in the city, this balanced out our earlier late start and of course heightened the enjoyment of Singapore even more. Thanks to Lorine - What a lovely lady :).
Our last day was to be a longer one - we made for Singapore Zoo early, 8ish...we were going for breakfast with the Orangutans.
This was worth getting up for-we bought our tickets, for the night Safari also, and made our way to the restaurant - we reserved a great table, right in front of where the oran's were going to join us, then headed off to watch the elephants have a bath - very splashy. We came back, had a massive breakfast whilst across the way those 4 loveable apes also had there breakfast - food was great, the company was even better. Sharan and i posed for some pics with the oran's, i touched about the 5th snake so far on this trip as a guy was coming round with it...then the oangutans finished up and returned to their treehouse and we made for the zoo proper.
This zoo is the best! We got to seeso many amazing animals and displays, all relatively close up - no cages, only enclosures and moats. We saw animal shows, i held snake number 7, saw a polar bear chasing a live fish, a seal called Phil kissed me, the elephants at work and at play...value for money is extraordinary!!!
After a long hot day of zooing it, Sharan and i bussed it out then caught the MRT to Raffles hotel for a Singapore Sling - had to be done - before heading back to the zoo for food and the night safari.
The night safari is next door to the zoo but is a nocturnal event - we caught an animal show, with even more animals that i'd never heard of - a massive python was retrieved from below an entire row of unsuspecting audience members - then it was in to the night. What joins the park up is a tram ride like a guided tour through various 'continents' coupled with several walking tours. You feel quite adventurous strolling around in the pitch black knowing that there are lions less than 500 metres away. Highlights for me included the bats, chomping away on fruit, the flying squirrels and the crocs.
We got home, exhausted but happy late, caught up some more with our venerable host and made ready for Bali -i think we got 3hrs sleep before creeping out at 5am to get a cab to the airport - Bali here we come.
Thank you again to Lorine and Paul for looking after us and making Sharan and i feel so welcome - we loved seeing you and you helped make Singapore a major highlight in a trip full of them!