Orchard Road / Santosa Island

We’ve had great weather the entire time we’ve been here in Singapore. So this morning was a bit out of the ordinary when it rained for the first time. Not just rained, but poured down. Enough so we bought cheap $5 umbrellas for walking the street. It didn’t rain for long though and by 11am it would have stopped. This morning we walked a few blocks until we came apon the start of Orchard Road. Until today I thought it was Orchid Road and people were mispronouncing it. But no, its Orchard, or Orchid. As it, there used to be fruit Orchards there. Or so I’ve been told by a travel guide. Anyway we walked the length of the road. Going into a few shopping centres as we walked and then turned around and walked back again. To be honest nothing super interesting. Although did buy a new pair of nice soft sandals. The cheap ones I bought from Big W several year ago didn’t really have any padding and were starting to hurt my feet. But once you’ve seen a shopping centre you’ve seen them all. Except for the Sim Lim Square technology centre of course! Caught the train back to the area near our hotel. The trains are interesting because there is no divider between the carriages. So you can see from one end of the train to the other when you are on a straight bit of track. And as you go around bends you can watch the bend flow down the track through the carriages. When we got off we walked to Sim Lim Square (yes, love it) where I bought a new backpack for all my new toys. Now I’m a walking technology guy. Notebook, digital still camera, digital video, external hard drives, I’ve got it all. Including a bad back within a short period due to all the weight I’m sure.

This evening we caught a bus over to Santosa Island. Its a bit of a resort island (connected by road/rail/cable car to mainland). Didn’t really see much at all as time was very short. Just got dropped off near where they were running the show ‘Song of the Sea’. A little half hour show aimed at families. Was really quite good. Lots of water, fire, and laser projections.

The ‘Hippo’ hop on, hop off, tour bus we’ve been using to get around Singapore.
Hop on hop off tour bus
Brian and the kangaroo on Santosa beach.
Santosa Beach

Tours that surprise

More tour bus riding today. This morning we went to the travel booking place for the tours and booked a night tour for tonight and tomorrow night. Then we caught a bus to the Royal Botanic Gardens. Entry is free but be warned everything else there is expensive. The food was more expensive then every other place we’ve visited so far. The grounds were really impressive and you lived in Singapore I think I’d spent a lot of times relaxing in the many gardens there.
Botanic gardens
Botanic gardens
Today there was a little festival running in the gardens promoting the healthy use of your mind and body. They had some stalls setup telling you different things you can do; play games, exercise, etc.
Balloons advertising healthy mind and body
Stalls at Botanic gardens
Saw this grafitti on a plant while walking around. I guess as long as it doesn’t kill the plants it beats spray painting buildings.
Grafitti on plant
After a few hours at the park we went back to Sim Lim Square and I bought two new lenses for my camera. Its hard to resist (for me anyway). For less then I’d pay for one lens in Australia I got two here!

Back to the hotel for a shower and change and then caught the train to the tour centre for our night tour called ‘the Red Lantern’ tour. I expected it to be a tour of the China town area showing off the lighting and such. Way off. The red lanterns were originally used to indicate prostitutes were working there. So part of the tour was to take us to Geylang, which is an older part of Singapore where the prostitutes are. Was interesting. And yet wasn’t all that sleezy. Nearby in the same streets were families eating dinner together in restaurants. Was a very very busy area with lots of people around. Tour ended early about 9pm and we walked back to the hotel.

Some photos…

Worlds largest water fountain at the Suntec building. The fountain isn’t on in this photo. And its the large red thing, not the little tiny fountain that is working.
Worlds largest water fountain
Famous Raffles Hotel with suites from $600 to $6,000 a night.
Raffles Hotel
Singapore skyline
Singapore Skyline

Hold that bus!

Today we decided to take a bit of a tour of Singapore. And the best way to do that was to get one one of the ‘hop on, hop off’ buses that tour the city. We’d gotten a tourist brochure that explained a bit about them, what you would see, cost, etc. But the only problem was they didn’t say where you actually catch the bus. So we checked at our hotel (where we got the brochure). They didn’t know but suggested we check with the information centre around the corner. We actually walked past the ‘centre’ before we realised it was there. Not so much a centre as a small sign on a backpackers hostel. They pointed us in an approximate direction where the bus ‘might’ turn up. We went to the location and waited a while, but no bus. Ok plan B. We’d make our way to the Raffles Hotel. Its a famous hotel, surely the tour bus would stop there. So we caught the train (we’re now expert train riders) to the area and walked to Raffles. Didn’t go in as I was dressed pretty casual. Since the cheapest room is $600 a night there I didn’t think I’d be let in. As we were looking in through the windows (like poor people that we were) the Hippo hop on, hop off bus rolled up. Yay! And then rolled past. And then kept driving down the road. Doh! Apparently they don’t stop as often as I thought.

At that point we gave up on the bus and walked to the Suntec complex. A big shopping centre and entertainment centre. The second biggest shopping centre in Singapore. Not very exciting, BUT, they had a ticket desk for the bus! And we found out the buses actually stopped there at the centre! So back on the bus plan. We got a two day pass and jumped on a bus. The tour went for about an hour and showed a lot of the city.

Average main street in Singapore
Singapore Street

When we got back we jumped on another bus which took us around the older parts of Singapore. That was another hour, and then we stopped for lunch. We were exhausted by now so went back to the hotel for a rest.

In the evening we caugh the train/bus to the Singapore Night Zoo. Its right next to the Zoo. The place only runs at night and allows you to see the animals when they are active. Well in theory. Some of them were still pretty sleepy. But it was still a good novelty. Went on a tram tour of the zoo and went on a few walks and saw ‘tribal’ show and an animal show. Was all good but when we finished at 11.30pm decided it was too late and we were too tired to do the bus/train back to the hotel. Also suspected the services would shut down before we got home. So we caught a taxi instead. The driver really didn’t speak english. And we didn’t speak… well whatever he spoke. After attempting the name of our hotel without success I showed him the address from the hotel keyring. Still nothing. He gave me the street map book to find it. Except half of that looked to be in chinese. But eventually I found it. Map 111 coordinates C/2; our hotel. 15 minutes instead of 1.5hrs and $15 instead of $8.20 but it was very much worth it.

Singapore Zoo

We had breakfast in the hotel this morning. Had no idea what the arrangement was so when no one was going to help us we just started making toast. Then saw a sign that the breakfast was complimentary for guests. Yay! After we had breakfast we made our plans to go to the zoo. Worked out we need to catch a train to somewhere, and then a bus from there to the zoo. Easy! Asked at the desk where to catch a train and followed the directions without any problems. As we were walking to the station we saw some cigarette butts in the street so if anyone says there are none in Singapore they are lying. But I still wouldn’t litter. Fines here are very very very expensive. $500 for eating or drinking on the trains. When we got to the train station we couldn’t get the ticket machine to work. Asked a staff person who advised we needed to use smaller currency. Once we did that we got our electronic cards ok. You tap the cards on the entrance and it beeps and lets you into the station. Jo had real trouble with this until a local lady showed her how to do it. We got on the right train and even changed trains at an interchange station without any real problems. We got a little lost looking for the bus but found that ok too. The train was $2.60 each (one way) and the bus was $1.50 each (one way). Used cash for the bus but you can use a pass, if you know how, we didn’t. The trip took about an hour, including changing trains to buses etc. The streets of Singapore are very clean (even with a few butts) and everywhere is green. Trees and plants everywhere you look. When we got to the zoo we bought our passes, a day and night zoo pass double ($30 each). We planned to go to the day zoo today and the night zoo another time. We spent the afternoon walking around the zoo checking out the animals and a few shows. The zoo is really impressive and you rarely see any cages. The animals are contained using moats so you feel a lot closer to them. The kangaroo that I bought in Australia got a few photo opportunities as we walked around.

In front of the Singapore zoo
Brian in front of the Singapore Zoo
The elephant show
Elephant Show
Elephant stealing the guys hat
A touch of Australia in Singapore
Travelling kangaroo
Brian and the Kangaroo
Brian and the Kangaroo in front of the monkey exhibit
Kangaroo at the Rhino exhibit
Kangaroo vs Rhino
These Lemurs were running around. I was worried at one stage they were thinking of trying to climb up my leg. I was wearing baggy shorts at the time. You understand…
Lemurs
No zoo trip is complete without monkeys!
Monkeys
More monkeys. Well statues of monkeys… and Brian
Brian monkeying around
Check out the toilets. They were very impressive. Very natural. Had to make sure I wasn’t arrested taking a photo inside the toilets! The things I do for this blog.
Toilets at the zoo

After several hours our feet were sore and we’d had enough. We decided to return home the same way we came. When we tried to get on the bus though we didn’t have exact change this time. The bus driver didn’t have change and wouldn’t allow us to pay more (keep the damn $1 change). So we (I made Jo) ask other passengers if they had any change. Luckily some locals did and were very nice to us. So we caught the bus back to the train station. The train was easy again and no problems. When we got to the local station near our hotel we got some Indian food for dinner (our hotel is in an Indian area). Let me warn you; if you ask a true Indian if the food is hot, when they say no, you are coming from two completely different frames of reference. It was hot! But still nice. Just meant the drink was gone very very quick 🙂

After we’d eaten we went to the Sim Lim Square which was reported to be a place where you can purchase technical goods. Man, they weren’t kidding. This is a techno-lovers dream. The building is about 6 stories tall and every single store in the place is selling technical stuff. Computers, cameras, everything! A lot of them selling the same stuff but was still impressive. Prices were good too. Especially since one Singapore dollar is about 80 Australian cents. And I got sucked in. The prices were too good and I bought a notebook computer. Significantly cheaper than I would have paid at home (I hope!!!). Now I just have to lug the thing with me when I fly. Bugger! When Jo was sick of me gawking at the technology shops we decided to return to the hotel to rest our feet. When I checked at the hotel I could get the login codes for their wireless network and I connected my computer up, and here I am; posting from my new computer. Isn’t technology wonderful! 🙂