Saturday, 30 November 2013

Jurassic park (Ok actually the Night Safari)

On Thursday night I decided to do the Night Safari.  Though I had heard good reviews, I was indifferent, thinking it was literally going to be the river safari but with different animals and at night time.  It sort of was, but it was pretty cool, and TERRIFYING. (sorry not many photos of animals here, my camera only takes good night shots of things that remain still, when taken from a tripod, so I only have imaged of blurred things)

I arrived about half an hour before it opened, so sat and had dinner before going in.  We were entertained by topless men breathing fire - so I was happy.

When you enter you have several options.  At the beginning there is the tram stop, which gives you a 40 minute tour of zoo and I assumed would be pretty pants and lazy.  Given that the queue for this was going nowhere fast, I asked a member of staff if I could walk round it instead, as they have several different walking trails, and they looked surprised but said yes and pointed me in the direction of the fishing cat trail.  I grabbed a map and headed off in that direction.

Within minutes, because everyone else was queueing for the tram, I was by myself, in the pitch dark, surrounded by shuffling noises, yelps and crickets.  I told myself to be brave and that it was perfectly safe otherwise they wouldn't have let me wander about on my own.  In the distance I could hear the lions roaring, and another horrible noise that I later discovered was the leopard coughing up a fur ball. I was petrified, but too proud to turn back, so soldiered on.  Every time I trod on a leaf or a stick I thought I was treading on escaped animals and had trouble stifling my yelps, but ended up shouting "oh fuck" when I was divebombed by a bat. 


Video of leopard after it was furballing - obviously not me talking 'look at it's head'



Because it is dark, and I was on my own and being quiet, the animals were much more relaxed.  They all seemed much more active than in the zoo, and there was an adorable inquisitive otter that kept swimming up to me and staring.  I started to relax too, thinking how cute the otters and the wild cats were, until I went up to an enclosure that contained Hyenas.  They are horrible creatures, they are all hunchbacked and to be honest everything I learned about them came from the Lion King, so I don't have a lot of respect for them.  They were prowling up and down and looked like they wanted to eat me, and because there's no cages, only ditches which you can't see in the dark, I was scared for my life and didn't spend too long looking at them.  

Several of the enclosures are also behind glass panels. Again, because it's dark, I had to physically touch the glass to make sure it was there, because sometimes I wasn't too sure!

a bit too much information (oh i am so hilarious)



I started to enjoy it more when I heard people behind me, and tried to subtly keep up with them so I didn't feel too scared on my own.

Like the river safari, they have enclosures you can walk into that contain animals.  I decided to be brave (well I had to wait for some strangers to come in with me) and headed into the bat enclosure (there's a big sign on the door that says not recommended if you're afraid of bats).  It actually wasn't that bad and the girl I entered with was more scared than me, which made me feel brave.  She actually screamed whereas I managed to keep my scream firmly in my throat.

They also had an enclosure with flying squirrels - this was fairly boring as they weren't very active and just sat on the tree.  However they don't look a thing like squirrels and are actually rather large.

The tiger was incredible- I think they have one way glass because the tiger came right up to the glass and walked past and couldn't be distracted by us (despite some annoying attempts from some tourists who I wanted to tell off but was too polite).  They truly are beautiful animals. 

Looking at the map, I realised there was a section that cannot be seen from walking around the zoo and can only be reached by tram, so I when I got back to the beginning I hopped on (no queue this time, get in!). This was actually a really good experience and much better than I thought it was going to be.  Not only does it give you a different view of the animals you have already seen, it takes you thorough areas you cannot access by foot, and some parts are actually like a safari - the road goes over a cattle grid and then you are in a field with free roaming animals (nothing dangerous though, stuff like buffalos, antelope and stuff).  It was really good.



After all that excitement I was happy to head home, but realised that the "creatures of the night" show was starting in 5 mins, so went to the ampitheatre and took my seat.  It was a really good show, the presenter was hilarious, and the hight light was the recycling otters.  You heard me right - recycling otters. They have some how managed to train three otters to come onto the 'stage', collect litter and put it into the correct recycling bin. AMAZING.





Thursday, 28 November 2013

A leisurely Sunday

I went to bed late on Saturday.  I went for a buffet all you can eat BBQ dinner with my colleague, which was quite nice - got loads of gossip, had one of the best steaks I have ever eaten, and it all went onto my colleague's bill, so good all round.  Then I skyped my mum and Tim and then just ended up faffing about and didn't go to bed till midnight.  I put my room to 'no service', turned off my alarm and had a lovely long lie in, waking up just in time for breakfast before they stopped it.

I then headed to the pool (I am on to book 3 of sword of truth series) and put a good dent in the book. I chilled out till about 1.30 when I realised I had been really lazy and ought to get off my lazy butt and go do something.  I thought I would be cultural, so jumped into a taxi and went to the National Singapore Museum.  Which was awful.  Maybe it was just me being a ditz, but the only exhibition I could see was one about how TV came to Singapore, and featured lots of costumes from famous Singaporean TV shows - which I wasn't interested in.  They also had an art gallery, but I wasn't that fussed.  I was probably in the museum for all of ten minutes before I decided to head out.

agreed


how polite


reminded me of the wedding of the year

I decided to head in the direction of the sea, and ended up outside the Singapore Flyer (Singapore's answer to the London Eye except a bit taller)  I thought, what the hell, and purchased a pricey ticket to go on the half hour ride.  I ended up in a capsule with 5 other people, so it wasn't at all crowded which was nice.

the net is to stop you falling if you missed getting on the thing


don't look down!

marina barrage






It was quite relaxing, and the views are good, but to be honest it isn't worth the price tag - it works out about £16.  Though one of the plus points was it showed me where I wanted to head to next - the Marina Barrage.

I got off the 'flyer', found a way to cross the river, and headed down in the direction of the barrage.  On the way I passed the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome - not fussed about the Flower Dome but the Cloud Forest looked pretty cool. it has a big waterfall in it and I do like a waterfall.  Annoyingly you can only buy tickets for both, not individual domes, so I decided to pass for the day, but might go next weekend if I have more time.

cloud dome


I eventually made it to the Marina Barrage - which I loved.  Obviously there's a barrage there but they also have a big building containing the pump house, and it is architecturally sculptured in a way that you can go up onto its roof.  I walked up the hill and sat down for about an hour just people watching.  There were loads of people flying kites - proper kites, I counted about 30 in the sky at one point.  My favourite one was one that looked like Superman, and the kite tails were his legs.  I eventually moved when I thought I might be garroted by one guy who didn't seem to have much control over his kite (for those of you who went on Amy's hen do - it was a bit like me and Martha with my kite, except his was a million times bigger and better than mine and probably cost more than £3)





The sun was beginning to set so I decided to head back to my hotel as I had the joyous task of laundry to do.  on the way back I walked past a giant yoga class, so stopped to watch - having done a few yoga positions I know how hard it was, and it was amusing watching some men really struggle and some women do it perfectly.



I thought it would be a bit different, so got the 'water taxi' back. (read - boat).  It did make me laugh - the guy said the boat would be leaving in ten minutes, and then I had to change at the next stop and get another boat. I asked if it were quicker to walk to the next stop and get the boat direct from there, but he looked at me in surprise and said it would take me an hour to walk there.  I went with his option and got the boat (I had it all to myself, it was lovely) and then when I realised where the next stop was, I had to laugh - I have walked past it loads and it takes ten minutes max.





The next boat I got was busier and everyone was on the back outside bit, so I settled for inside.  The captain was playing a soundtrack featuring piano versions of classics such as "Can you feel the love tonight" and "Candle in the wind" so I totally mellowed out and started to feel a bit weird.  Then started to wonder if I could have "Can you feel the love tonight" as the first dance song when I get married - or is it too cheesy?  Probably the latter. Maybe I could balance it out with LMFAO's Sexy and I know it.  I think I am getting a bit too carried away aren't I.

I went for dinner at my nearly favourite place in the whole world (that's a really bold claim to make and I don't know if it really is my favourite place, hence the nearly).  I had Kimchi prawn salad and Lime and Ginger soda, and for pudding I had cappuccino cheesecake - their puds look delicious and I have held off them for 5 weeks, but this week I gave in... look at this baby!


When I paid my bill I told the waiter that I wished they had branches in the UK, and the guy next to him said "well open one up and I will come work for you, I want to go to Stamford Bridge and see Chelsea play."  Sorted - I even have staff to run the place.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Well that was emotional

Just got in from watching Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  What an emotional roller coaster that was!! It's a good job I was sat at the back on my own because I cried all the way through (what can I say, I'm an emotional person)

The seat of solitude
Not as good as the book but still good nonetheless.  I left the cinema feeling emotionally drained.

mmmmm Liam or Chris which to choose
They missed out a few bits and the beginning was really sped up - I found this with the first movie too, I was actually quite bored until the hunger games began, whereas the book I was drawn in from the start.  My problem with the first film is I was very shallow and really wanted Gale to be the one she ends up with because he's so hot (I could stare at him all day, why Miley dumped him I'll never know - just look at his gorgeous face to the left) and Peter isn't good looking and is a bit of a sap.  I don't think the movie really shows him off in the best light either, in the book you're really rooting for him and you see what a good person he is but I don't think it came across that way in the film.  Also I imagined Finnick to be taller, broader and more masculine - more of a Jason Statham type.  It was good though overall.  I LOVE Lenny Kravitz in it. I could stare at him all day too...

Also I just realised, all the books I read recently have strong female characters beginning with K (Katniss, Kahlan, Khalisee) - odd or are they all copying each other?

On the way home from work we got caught in a thunderstorm.  I know I keep banging on about the rain but it's just incredible.  One minute it's sunny and pleasant, literally the next minute it suddenly starts to pour down.  Today's rain was immense - literally like a power shower all around you.  I don't know how it happened but in the 3 min walk to the taxi, my bum got drenched but nothing else did - I guess maybe my bum was sticking out of the protection my umbrella provided?!  We soaked the taxi driver's car which I felt a bit guilty about.  Here's a video of the rain:


It was like that for a good half hour. It was pretty scary driving in it but the taxi man is used to it. Then as quickly as it started, it stopped and we drove into dryness - literally in a space of about 10 metres it was pouring it down then nothing.

view from the train this morning

i don't actually know what this is but it cost 75p.

a water feature 


Regret

I won't go into detail but lets just say I regret the garlic overdose the night before.

Went to the pub quiz last night - everyone in the usual team was busy so I took my colleagues along and their partners.  It was good "team building" actually, we had a good time. We were 3rd until the fourth round where we failed miserably on the movies section, and a lot of the teams had chosen to play the joker on the round. We ended up 15th which wasn't too great - we knew we were losing so we went for it on the wipeout round which in hindsight was probably not a good idea.  I do love a good pub quiz.

Carried out my 3rd interview yesterday too - the lady was a firecracker and I think perfect for the role, only issue is she can't start until January.  Need to make a decision soon.

Monday, 25 November 2013

I'm safe from Dracula tonight

I finished on time today and rushed to get the bus as it was tipping it down.  Luckily it was only drizzling by the time I got to the MRT station the other end, so I walked a leisurely pace home with my colleague.  I think because of the leisurely pace I was walking at, I had a lot of energy still so managed to do an hour in the gym.  I am onto the next Sword of Truth book and managed to prop up my tablet on the treadmill so I had something to do whilst running - it worked a treat!

Anyway - after the gym I showered and headed into Clarke Quay for dinner as I haven't properly explored it yet.  After wandering round the restaurants I settled on this place Mad For Garlic.  I would say 90% of the menu contained garlic, including the drinks and the desserts....



 I refrained from a garlic drink and instead opted for a 'kitty', a red wine and ginger ale concoction which was delicious and tasted a bit of sangria. I will certainly be trying to recreate it at home.  For my main, I chose the showpiece - the garlic snowing pizza.  They have a massive board outside the restaurant showing how many of these pizzas have been sold worldwide, so I thought I would add to the number. 


 Now I am not sure why it is called a snowing pizza, I had visions of them bringing it out and they would drizzle garlic in front of me like snow, but no such thing happened.  Instead what did happen was I spotted a cockroach run across the floor aiming for my foot, and I yelped (embarrassingly) and spent the rest of my meal sitting on my legs too afraid to put them on the floor.  



The pizza was interesting.  Instead of cheese it has a garlicy sauce, and is then covered in crunchy garlic and roasted garlic and pineapple and prawns. Such a strange concoction but it did sort of work.    I really wanted to try a garlic dessert (garlic berry icecream anyone?) but I was really full from the pizza and a little bit scared of the cockroach, so decided to call it a day.  

Weirdly in Singapore, everyone seems surprised when card machines ask you for a pin.  Each restaurant I have been into, the waiter has had to come out and say 'sorry ma'am, the machine is asking for your pin' and I have to go inside to use the machine, because they don't have those portable ones like in the UK. It's funny the things you take for granted.

Anyway that's enough typing for one night!

The best weekend

Apologies for the delayed post, I was having technology issues.  My laptop refused to connect to the internet yesterday and kept freezing every 5 mins.  (My camera also decided to break, as did my BlackBerry - argh)

Annoyingly yesterday I used a cash machine to withdraw $150, and the machine never actually gave me any cash, but took the money off of my balance.  I called the number on the ATM but they couldn't do anything and told me to call my bank, which I did, and I then had to fill in a form and send it off, so hopefully I'll get my money back!

My rocking Friday night in was semi planned, because I knew Saturday was going to be quite tiring.

I had planned to meet up with Paul (from the family I had gone to dinner and quiz with) who was going to come with me to Pulua Ubin, a little island off the coast of Changi, near the airport.  The guidebooks all say this is a must do, because it's meant to be what Singapore was like before they decided to urbanise it and build Skyscrapers.  I had also been invited to dinner at the Raffles Hotel with another Paul (the guy I am working for out here) and his family.  It was nice to have plans with other people.

I woke up early, packed everything I thought I would need (poncho, suntan lotion, water, insect repellent, money, camera) and grabbed a taxi to Paul's condo.  We picked him up then headed off to Changi Village, where you grab a 'bumboat' to take you across to the island.

The queueing system is a little interesting, you sort of just stand where you can, then when there's enough people, they grab 12 of you to go onto the boat.  It's a bargain at $2.50 each.  The journey probably takes between 5 and 10 minutes, depending how far the boat has to go to avoid hitting a cargo ship (the bumboat has to traverse the Singapore Straits - a busy shipping route filled with cruise liners and cargo ships).

I am unsure as to why the boats are called bumboats, maybe because you get on and off from the back - who knows.  They're quite pleasant little things, if a little basic, you sit on a wooden bench either side, and each boat has been customised by its owner - some have glass windows, some have tarpaulin, some are open to the elements, some have flowers on the top, you get the idea.








We got off at Pulua Ubin on a little jetty, and it was like being in another country.  The jetty stretched out into the sea, and you had to walk down it to reach land.  We turned left to where there were about 10 different bicycle hire shops, inspecting several and bartering with prices before deciding upon two lovely nearly new red mountain bikes.  I think we paid $12 for 4 hours, which isn't too bad.  Paul's bike seemed fine and still had the polystyrene wrapping around it, but mine was slightly more dodgy - the right brake barely worked and the left brake worked a little too well, but I soon got used to it.






We headed up to the Wetlands first - a semi easy cycle with a few slight gradients, these were quite difficult because we were cycling up rocky/gravel wet paths so the tyres had little purchase, and the gradient was enough to make me knackered by the time I got to the top. We parked the bikes and walked off to our first stop - a very randomly placed mock Tudor cottage.  It had once been a holiday home for some rich guy and in the last twenty years they have converted it into a visitor centre - so it's now empty but you can use it as a shelter.

After the cottage, there's a boardwalk route you can take around a bit of the island, which we headed to next.  I spotted a large lizard on a rock near the shoreline, but there wasn't much wildlife apart from that - ideally you're meant to go on the boardwalk when the tide is out so you can see what's lurking on the sand below, but the tide was in when we went.




The board walk then leads you through a load of mangroves.  These are truly amazing trees - they survive in salty water environments and just grow through the sediment.  They are pretty flood resistant and harbour loads of animals.



At the end of the boardwalk there is a tower 20 metres high that you can climb.  We got to the top and the view was pretty impressive, we were above all of the trees that seemed so high from the ground.  You could see all the planes coming in to land at Changi airport too.


this was actually really wobbly and swayed in the wind. 


On the way back to the bikes we noticed quite a few of the bikes (luckily not ours) had been knocked over, and there was a bit of a commotion.

destruction! 


On closer inspection, we saw that a family of wild boar had knocked over some bikes and caused a trail of destruction to get at some food - some naive people had left a load of food in takeaway containers in their bike baskets, which the boar had managed to get in to.  The cheeky buggers!




We continued to cycle to the other side of the island - this side was much less jungly and more open.  About 30 metres out to sea you could see floating pontoons with little huts on top - these are for prawn farming.





On the way back to the jetty, we heard screeches and saw a load of monkeys in the trees - I love seeing wild monkeys and think it's so strange where we have squirrels, they have monkeys.

We stopped to refuel and ordered some food - I had mango chicken and rice, and Paul had an oyster omelet (gross), Mee Goreng and sweet and sour pork, washed down with a huge bottle of beer each. So much food came out and we couldn't finish it all - especially me as I was saving myself for the feast I was going to eat later.








After lunch we headed back to Singapore island, amusingly you have to go through security on your way back and have your bag scanned - what they think you could bring back from the island (it is only 10sq m and has about 40 people living on it) I have no idea.

I enjoyed the trip - it was the first really jungle I had seen since arriving in Singapore.  You cycle through little tarmacked roads surrounded by jungle on either side, and you feel like you're in another land.  All you can hear are the crickets who sing in harmony in different pitches, and the occasional monkey shriek.  It's really lovely and I hope it stays that way for a long time - there has been talk from the government of turning the island into an adventure park, but I hope it doesn't happen, sometimes it's good to preserve history.  We were very luck with the weather - it was cool in the morning with slight drizzle, which made for good cycling, and as we were leaving the sun decided to come out and play.

We grabbed a taxi and parted ways, and I then went for a nap as I was tired from cycling in the mid day sun. I slept for a bit longer than I intended, leaving only time to get ready for my dinner at the Raffles Hotel.  This is arguably the most famous hotel in Singapore - built in 1884 it was originally by the seaside, but land reclamation projects have meant it is now 500m from the sea.


It is built in the colonial style, and I was happy to see it afte rvisiting Pulua Ubin - you could really imagine what it used to be like before modern day Singapore.

We had booked for the buffet dinner in the Bar and Billiard's room.  It was INCREDIBLE.  The room itself was such an amazing setting - huge chandeliers, high ceilings, massive windows, intricate floor tiling.  The centrepiece of the room was the Martini bar - a gorgeous dark wood bar with lots of alcohol and a few cuban cigars behind it.  I wish I had taken my proper camera to take photos, but I thought it would be a bit frowned upon and I wanted to seem mature and ladylike and like I was used to that sort of setting so didn't bring it. Instead I resorted to crappy sneaky phone camera shots!  The ones of the decor inside didn't come out too well so haven't bothered sharing them.

It was a buffet dinner, but not just any buffet dinner.  The selection was amazing, and I tried almost everything (with the exception of mussels, oysters and prawns - not a massive seafood fan).  I had beef carpaccio, seared tuna, duck salad, parmesan gnocchi, quails egg, scallops, mozzarella salad, the list is endless.  However I wanted to save myself for pudding, so didn't have much of the mains - besides the options were mainly seafood again, so I passed.  We had probably 3 plates of starters then moved onto the pudding selection - I could literally spend all day here just eating.  For pudding I had ice cream, caramel sauce, tiramisu, 'dark chocolate composition', 'lemon dome', jasmine and sesame cake, chocolate and caramel cake, bread pudding - I tried everything.  The trick is to get a tiny bit of everything so that you don't fill up too much.

artichoke, quail egg, mozzarella, tuna, scallop, tapenade, beef carpaccio, stuffed toms

a 'lemon dome' with gold leaf

I was stuffed by the end though, pretty much defeated by the food.  We realised we'd been there for nearly three hours and we were tired, full and happy, so decided to call it a day - but not before a game of pool on the famous billiards table (I know, spot the deliberate mistake).  Legend has it that the last remaining wild tiger was shot under the billiards table in 1902.  Poor tiger!



The table was the smoothest table I have ever played on, as well as the hugest, and I had to use the rest to make a few shots. Happily, I didn't play too terribly, and I actually pocketed some of the balls which makes a change.

I headed home grinning from ear to ear at such a great day.

Yesterday I awoke early again, and headed into Chinatown to get some gifts.  My plan had been to do that then head off to the Botanic Gardens, but I went a bit crazy with my purchasing and so headed back to the hotel to drop everything off. I realised I also had to do my laundry, so went and did that, and then the heavens opened, so my plans changed and I ended up just mooching about the hotel.  I should have done something more productive, like go and look at museums or something, but I was quite tired so lazed by the pool reading my book (I was going to do blog update/other administrative tasks but because my laptop wasn't playing ball I couldn't).  Anyway here's some (more) photos of Chinatown...




a bunch of old men watching the film they were showing in the shop, they were there for ages
In the evening I headed out to play badminton.  It was nice as people were pleased to see me and asking if my migraine was better which was very kind of them!  I realised the reason I wasn't playing great is because we're playing with feather shuttles, and I am used to lighter plastic ones.  I took the towelling grip off my racquet as it makes it much heaver, and my play improved instantly. Unfortunately though I remembered very quickly why I put the grip on in the first place - because the old grip leaves my hands black!!! One of the the other guys lent me his racquet for the rest of the session which was nice of him (and it was a better one than mine!)

On the way home an old man opposite me kept staring and smiling at me. I thought he was being creepy so gave him evils and ignored him.  When I got home I looked in the mirror and realised my nose was black, and I had black streaks all down my arms.  That combined with the fact my hair was all over the place and I was wearing no make up, was probably the reason he kept smiling at me - I probably looked like a chimney sweep!  Sorry old man for giving you evils, your smile was warranted!