Monday, December 01, 2003

I'm pretty tired this evening, so I'll spare you many of the details of how my weekend began as a misadventure. In summary, I didn't sleep Wednesday night because I was excited about my trip; I headed to the airport at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, and at the check-in counter was told there was no record of my ticket; yadda yadda yadda; after a few hours I gave up and came home; after many phone calls to the airline and travel agent (and frantic e-mails to Bill in Singapore), it was determined that the travel agent had spelled my name wrong and that name was in the computer, but there were no more flights that day; the travel agent finally agreed to put me on a flight Friday morning to Singapore via Hong Kong; and I finally got to go to sleep at eight o'clock. And the next day, I went to meet Billy in Singapore!

What a fabulous place. It's so green and open and clean. There are acres and acres of rainforest within city limits. On Thursday night we had dinner next to the river, barbecuing prawns and crab at our table and practicing our Chinese with the waiter, and then walked all along the river. We went to the Fullerton Hotel for drinks (yes, I had a Singapore Sling).

Saturday was a superfun touristy day! Unfortunately, it was cloudy. And so humid! First we rode on a cable car from Mount Faber to Sentosa Island. Look, it's the Singapore skyline way off in the distance:


On Sentosa Island we got ice cream cones and went to Underwater World. It really is amazing to see sharks, rays, jellyfish, seahorses, and fish of the most amazing, unnatural-looking colours up close. My favourite fish looks like it's wearing lipstick and blue eyeshadow:

a parrot fish

And then we went to the zoo! I'm not a big fan of zoos, but I'd read that the Singapore Zoo was exceptional. I really didn't get that icky feeling that I'd been worried about; the environment was beautiful, and most of the animals seemed to have quite a bit of room. It's a huge place, and even though it was very crowded at the entrance, it was very peaceful walking through. It's big enough that we often felt we were the only ones around. We saw all the usual beasts. The big cats were awesome -- cheetahs, jaguars, pumas, white tigers, and lions:

beautiful lion

And of course there were monkeys! So many different kinds, all colours and sizes and funny affectations: gibbons, macaques, squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys. It really is amazing to see how human-like they behave. The big male baboons are like old men. We watched a mother orangutan let her little one punch her in the nose over and over, and she had exactly the same look of affection and patience that I've seen in human parents. These two monkeys were hanging out -- the one on the left is eating fruit, and the one on the right is looking the other way, pretending not to be jealous:

monkeys rock

What else? Snakes, lizards, komodo dragons, pink flamingoes, penguins, sea lions, a hippo, a rhino, a sun bear, kangaroos, gnus, and zebras:


Of course, it wasn't just animals; there was gorgeous flora, too. This photo's for my dad, who always took close-ups of the flowers:

I forget the name...

Anyway, after the zoo, we went back to our hotel to rinse off the sweat of the day and then had dinner in Little India at a restaurant called the Banana Leaf Apollo. Honestly, it was some of the best palak paneer and aloo gobi I've ever had. The food is spooned onto a big square of banana leaf (easy cleanup for them!). After dinner, we were so full and sleepy and happy that we called it a day (it was eleven o'clock at that point, mind you); back to the hotel, where we requested a (gulp!) six o'clock wake-up call -- I had to fly out at 8:05 a.m. Sunday!


Bill: "It's eight o'clock. Isn't your flight at eight o'clock?"

Me: "Unbelievable."

That's right: my holiday began with a missed flight and aggravation, and that's how it was destined to end as well. I missed my flight. No big deal this time, though. I got on a plane to Hong Kong at 11:30 a.m. and arrived around three; I had four hours to kill, so I bombed into Kowloon. Coffee tastes better outside than it does in an airport, don't you think? I didn't have time to do anything really, so I just went down to the Star Ferry terminal and watched people. It was so hazy (smoggy?) that I could barely see Central HK across the water. Quickly popped into HMV, but instantly my memory was erased of any CDs I wanted to buy. (Isn't that always the way? I did end up getting Badly Drawn Boy's "Have You Fed the Fish?") Back to the airport, back to Taipei, onto a bus, into a taxi, and home at eleven. And it's suddenly cold here!

You know, sometimes I complain about this life, Taipei, whatever. I'm far from home, I miss certain comforts, I can't get a decent loaf of bread, and so on. But sometimes I remember how lucky I am. I just went to Singapore for the weekend, for pete's sake. And it was great.

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