Saturday, September 29, 2012

Flying and Zooing

On Tuesday, I did some more of that wandering-round-town thing and generally kept myself out of trouble. First stop was a travel agent in the most obscure mall in central Chinatown, where I exchanged a printed out voucher from Groupon for physical tickets to the Singapore Flyer and the Gardens By The Bay attractions. Together, only about half price, and it's something to do eh?

While I was wandering around the area that had, 24 hours beforehand, been the site of the Grand Prix I noticed it was solar noon and thought you might want to see what shadows look like at the equator...

And then I found myself at the Flyer. Clearly, this is inspired by the London Eye (or vice-versa) and was quite deserted. I made my way through the entrance maze, which is probably designed to amuse large crowds when the attraction is busy. Being a Tuesday morning just as the area was trying to return to normal after the Formula One, it really wasn't! I varied my speed through said maze until a couple more people approached and this way I 'rigged' it such that I wasn't the only person in the capsule, suspended 540' above the ground. Which would have been a bit boring and very lonely.

So up we went and I was very interested to see the Formula One being disassembled. Here are the Safety Cars stacked on top of each other. Not sure why though.

And the home straight and grandstand and pit building. I hadn't seen these before since they are not in Zone 4. But of course there were no remnants of the F1 teams any more. Interestingly, this part of the circuit is obviously permanent and yet, immediately after Turn 1, the circuit just ends with a barrier before the public road which was once part of the track. I wonder if there is any use for this small stretch of track for the rest of the year? 

So onwards and upwards; here's the view towards the suburbs and numerous high rise buildings, though nowhere as many as Beijing, since there are only 5,183,700 people living in Singapore.

And as my (our) capsule reached the top, a voice came over the tannoy, hoping that we are enjoying our flight. Bless. Shortly afterwards, Marina Bay and the bizarre and impressive Marina Bay Sands complex came into view:

Here's the benefit of having others in the capsule!

And this modern-looking complex is the very new Gardens By The Bay which I now have a ticket for, being part of the Groupon package I had purchased. The two domes are some of the largest (and environmentally-friendly) air-conditioned buildings in the world. And house lots of plants which would wilt in the consistent 30 degrees C Singapore weather.

I was going to go to the Gardens straight away, but since my camera was getting tired (read: low battery) I decided to walk back to the Hostel. But I did get to have a look at the circuit a bit more, especially Turn 18 and the tunnel under the Marina Bay Grandstand. This was by far and away the most exciting corner in terms of crashes, as in evidence by black marks on the track and the wall!

I also saw an old bridge.

I had lunch, as I tend to here, in one of the canteens that can be found virtually everywhere. Lunch here can generally be bought for $4-5 (around £2) and often consists of rice and meat and sauce. Very tasty and quick food, it's no wonder that very few Singaporeans cook at home when such food can be bought so easily.

Back at the hostel (trying to catch up with my perennially delayed blog and reports), I noticed another chap spending the afternoon inside. This was Greg, another Brit who has taken redundancy and a year out from his job as an Accountant to travel the world. So we swapped stories and it got me thinking about the actual nature of my travel.

You see, what I haven't done (yet) on my trip is thrust myself into completely different cultures for the pure pleasure of becoming acclimatised to them. I have been visiting cities, doing relatively civilised activities 'because I feel like it' and generally getting plump on the good food I've been tasting! But that's also because I have only been visiting places that, conceivably, I might one day live as an Engineer - unlikely to be the case in Bali or the Guinea Islands! And in these places, I have been trying to meet and chat to locals, and trying to find the things I can do to keep me amused, and most of all visiting companies or organisations which can give me some insight into the market or the trends which might take me there.

And this has all been extremely interesting - I have learnt a lot from it, especially the opportunities which exist for an engineer like me in California, in Shanghai, and in Singapore. And I very much hope that I would get the opportunity to live and work in these places at some point in my early career. But after 7 weeks of travelling from city to city to city, learning new metros and transport systems, I am looking forward to a bit of a break. Kathmandu will undoubtedly be a huge contrast, and very welcome, where I don't have to worry about visiting companies or anything else but to help, and work, and enjoy life. I just hope I have the stamina to keep it up for 10 weeks!

But for a little bit of a beach break, I have booked myself a day's excursion to an Indonesian island where there are beaches and dinghies and all sorts of other things to enjoy myself with! More on that next week when I get back.

So upon chatting to Greg, I discovered that he had few plans for the evening, so I proposed that we visited the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo, which is often described as one of the best attractions on the island. Then to our surprise, another Hosteller called Theresa (a German) arrived in the lounge and we quickly discovered that she, too, was off to the Night Safari. So as a group of 3, off we went!

An MRT ride and a bus ride later, we checked in to the Night Safari and boarded the tram which takes you around the different parts of the park.

Theresa, Greg, Yours Truly.

The tram stopped a couple of times, allowing us to explore one of the trails around the animal enclosures. We saw many kinds of deer and pig, plus tigers, elephants, lions, flying squirrels, bats and hundreds of small mammals. Pictures were not easy to take, and looked mostly like this:

It was strange how the commentary in the tram seemed both so enthusiastic and 'charming', yet very much learnt by rote and spoken hundreds of times by the guide... The tram didn't stop for the exhibits, merely slowed down, though of course it was novel to see the animals in the evening when presumably they are more likely to be awake.

We then found ourselves at a 'show' of the nocturnal animals, featuring the classic acts such as 'otters sorting recycling' and 'little girl trying to hide a grape from the Binturong'. It was entertaining enough, especially when a boa constrictor emerged from underneath the seats of the audience!

Then we viewed some more animals (particularly the cave-dwellers and the wallabies), best of all a good show from a tiger. There was also a massive snail - but this wasn't an exhibit, just merely minding its own business as it crossed the path! Still worth a photograph though...

Sorry if you're bored of the photos by now!

So then we headed back to the Hostel, having exhausted the Safari in about 2 hours. BK Eating House again for dinner, but this time it was about to close, so I suspect we were given the random leftovers. Otherwise why did we all have one prawn each, having not ordered them, and a small pile of cashews! On the other hand, raisin and prawn is actually quite a nice combination.

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