Saturday, June 29, 2013

Goodbye Singapore

Friday started out at the "Fresh Market" which is another name for an outdoor market. Here they had a huge assortment of fresh fish, pork and vegetables. There was a small amount of beef and a couple of rows of household "stuff". All of the produce looked wonderfully fresh very tasty especially when compared to the offerings in Fairbanks.

It was a few blocks from the main street and the second floor had a large food court. I had noodles with several pieces of roast duck on top with some grilled vegetables served with a bowl of hot broth. Not bad for $3.20 (SGD) or about $2.75 (US). A cup of hot coffee was another $1 (SGD). The coffee served is almost an espresso served on top of a little sweetened condensed milk. Coffee here in Singapore has been very delicious.

We then went on another walk through a series of parks on the south side of town near where my sister works. We started out in a commercial park highlighting locally grown plants and trees. This park was in the middle of a large commercial area near where we started the treetop walk a few days back.

This led to another treetop walkway though the walkway here was wood rather than the metal grid. There was a thunderstorm on the horizon so we walked through this section pretty quickly. Some good views from the walkway but the city views were starting to look the same. We got a little bit of rain but not enough to get really soaked.

The next park was along the ridge and had a number of exercise areas and picnic areas. At the far end of this park was the National University of Singapore. I'm not sure of the size of the student body but the campus was huge and nicely laid out. Where we ended up walking and catching the subway was near the medical school.

After spending a week in Singapore, we headed back for the U.S. We headed to the airport at 3:15am on Saturday, Jun 29th and arrived in Portland at 8:30am on Saturday, June 29th. The flight stopped in Narita, Japan, for an hour and a half so we had an opportunity to spend our remaining yen. This has been a really long day.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Singapore Zoo & Night Safari

A few days ago we spent most of the day looking at flowers. Today, it was spent looking at animals. My nephew graciously took us and my niece across town to the Singapore Zoo. We spent the afternoon at the zoo and the evening at the Night Safari. Lots of the typical zoo animals and attractions and way too many people and uncontrolled kids.

This is the first picture from the Night Safari. The park opened at 7:00pm and we stayed there until about 9:30pm. It was pretty dark so I got some practice using my monopod. Most of the pictures were taken at ISO 1600 and wide open aperture so they don't look great but then again, it was really dark and flash was not permitted. The Night Safari was one of those attractions that we had heard about and didn't want to miss. I think the tram portion was a waste of time but the walking trails were great.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Singapore - Day 3, Walking Through the Treetops

This morning, we got an early start and went in on the same bus with my sister. After having coffee, my brother in-law took Bridget and I on a hike through the tree tops. The metal walkway was about 30' - 40' above ground level through the canopy. From this vantage point, we saw a lot of birds, leaves and flowers that we wouldn't have been able to see from ground level.

 Plus, being above ground level, we got a good view of the surrounding area. This really demonstrates the contrast between the old and the new in Singapore. Here property is valuable enough that buildings are being demolished instead of being refurbished since they could build taller, more modern buildings on the same plot of land and make more money.

This kind of shows our elevation above ground level and how the leaves are mostly in the upper part of the trees. There were signs warning about monkeys and how agressive they have become. They have learned to associate store plastic bags with food and will come after you if you are carrying one.

The trail was about 4 miles long and wasn't all scaffolding and metal walkways. Here it wound around the larger trees and soon started a series of switchbacks as it ascended the hill. Fortunately for us the smoke and smog level was down from what it was last week though it still wasn't very clear. In the distance we could hear thunder as rain was approaching.

We eventually left the walkway behind us and started to descend a series of stone stairs and stone walkways as we worked our way back down the hill to the highway.

The wooden decking of this bridge over the highway undulated up and down like waves. The metal shelters provides protection from the rain in case you get caught out on the trail and all of them were fitted with security cameras as the local authorities don't want anyone living in them. We were told that this is a popular venue for taking wedding photographs due to the spectacular views of the city from this vantage point.

One of the new housing developments is this artistic structure with bridges linking the upper floors together within the structure. At first I thought it was still under construction but in spite of appearances to the contrary, it is done and occupied. There is a lot of government funded housing within the city as the average resident wouldn't be able to afford housing. The cost of a unit is supposedly based somewhat on what you can afford. You are not allowed to sell the unit unless you are buying another.

In the evening, my mom, sister, here two sons and daughter met with another friend from her work, also from the Corvallis area, to attend a cooking class where we learned to make three local dishes. Kueh Pie Tee, Inche Kabin and Sambal Goreng Serai Udang. The instructor, at the far right in the photo, taught the class at her home in an outdoor kitchen.

After preparing the dishes, we sat down for dinner enjoying what we had prepared. Quite a lot of very tasty food. Spicy but not "hot" even though chilies were used in the preparation. I think the food is a blending of flavors from China, Malasia and India. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Singapore Botanic Gardens

This morning was spent at the Singapore Botanic Gardens and the National Orchid Garden within the Botanic Gardens. The day began hot and muggy and by mid-afternoon, it was pouring rain. In fact it hailed on the north side of the island and this is 1° north of the equator. Weird weather. Here are a sampling of pictures from the Botanic Gardens.

In the evening, we went back down to the Esplanade as Bridget needed to attend a concert. A couple of students gave a free, brief concert singing songs from shows. I thought that they were both fabulous. Afterwards, my brother inlaw and I decided to walk back to the apartment along the channel instead of taking the bus. This is the view from the Esplanade.

 The Marina Sands Casino put on a laser light show and we hung around to watch it. Since we weren't at the hotel/casino, we didn't hear the sound track but it was a pretty good show. All along the channel were bars and clubs and lots of loud, thumping music. It was still a nice walk.

This is just a shot from the balcony of the hotel. I find the design of the top of the neighboring building kind of interesting.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Welcome to Singapore

This morning was spent just traveling around the local area using public transportation and on foot. We finally left the Singapore airport around 3:30am after getting through immigration and customs and figuring out how get from terminal 1 to terminal 3 at the airport. Not trivial at that time of day due to things being shut down. These multi-colored building caught my eye as we were walking around town. You may notice that it is very hazy as there is a lot of smog from burning in Sumatra. Breathing the air is a real hazard.

The first stop was Arab Street where there were a lot of small shops under the residences. It was in the mid-90's all day long and well into the evening. The humidity was also pretty high all day.
Motorcycles and scooters are everywhere here in Singapore though I could probably count on one hand the bikes over 500cc. Here is bike parking in front of the mosque.
A better view of the Sultan Mosque.
The streets are a lot wider here but much more crowded. The vehicles are generally larger. You still see the micro-vans and trucks but you also see large, 5-ton delivery trucks and large tour buses navigating the city streets. We caught a double-decker city bus after we reached the end of Arab Street (the actual name of the street) and rode it to the Esplanade.
This is the financial district from the front window of the double-decker bus. It was fun being able to ride above the traffic and since we were in the very front of the bus, it is about 8' in front of the center of the front wheels which made going around corners interesting.
This striking building is the Marina Bay Sands. It is a hotel and casino and has what looks like a huge boat moored on top. The top has a park and a huge infinity pool on the left end. I'm told that you need to be a hotel guest to visit the park. It should be a great view.

This is the merlion, with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. And is the mascot and "national personification of Singapore". I must admit ignorance as I had not heard of this before today. There was quite a crowd around the statue and this picture is taken from across the harbor at the Esplanade, a grandstand and concert shell that hosts many free concerts.

Just one of many old motorcycles with utility sidecars. There have been a number with food carts attached. You may notice that the sidecar is on the opposite side from U.S. models as they drive on the opposite side of the street here as well. I'd think that I would have a really hard time getting used to that as even as a pedestrian, I find myself looking the wrong direction before crossing.

We walked through several shopping malls on our way back to my sister's apartment and what was obvious is that the primary pastime must be shopping and eating.

Just one of many flowers in the area. Overall, you can tell that you aren't in Japan anymore. Gone are the polite greetings and clean streets. The interior of the cabs look like cabs anywhere in the U.S. There is no conformity. Our introduction last night was on the shuttle bus at the airport. The bus pulled right behind another bus and most people got out except for us and another older couple from Nebraska. We were expecting the bus to go on to the next terminal. The bus driver turned to us and gruffly said "Get out. Next bus".  Welcome to Singapore...