Singapore (September 30 - October 3 & October 31 - November 2, 2001)




New Zealand

The kids favourite airline is Singapore Airlines. Each seat had a personal TV with a choice between about 6 movies,  and a host of Nintendo N64 games. They were in heaven - even though they didn't like what was offered for lunch.

Singapore was very green and didn't seem as hot as Hong Kong even though it's almost on the equator. The WTC debacle is much more in the news here - Singapore is a multicultural city with large Chinese, Muslim and Malay populations. There were many calls for racial and religious tolerance in newspaper articles. The Army was also very much in evidence - lots of helicopter troopships and one jet fighter flying around, and a very busy military Firing Range that we drove by.   

We found very nice adjoining rooms at the Metropole Hotel - just across the back lane from the famous Raffles Hotel. We ate a late supper at a local restaurant. It was good food, but after being in Japan and China for so long, it felt strange to eat 'eastern' food with a knife and fork - I felt like asking for chopsticks. 

Orchids Our first day in Singapore, we took the MRT (subway) and bus to Mandai Orchid garden and saw 4 hectares (!) of orchids. 

We then went to the world class Singapore Zoo. The zoo is 'open concept'. There are no cages per se - the animals are separated from the public by moats or small walls that are covered in vines. In fact, some monkeys and birds roam free outside their cages - returning to them to eat or sleep. 

Chloe and Orang

I suspect that animal rights activists would not like it, but there were many hands-on shows. We had 'Tea with the Orang-utans'. We also saw the 'scales and tails' show where two volunteers from the audience were made to sit down and hold various snakes ranging from 12 foot pythons to mildly venomous 'dog toothed cat snakes'. All our kids wanted desperately to be volunteers... Chloe even was pushing Sarah's hand in the air when they said they could not accept kids. The male volunteer turned out to be a zoo staff member who pretended to be terrified of the various snakes  - he was really quite funny. 

In the evening, we went to the Night Zoo - a zoo specifically built to give the illusion of walking through the jungle at night. It was fun to see many of the animals being quite active - and it was a little eerie as well. One area had (big) fruit bats walking around - it seemed like they were just inches from my head. Mark's favourite animal was the Fishing Cats - these crazy cats actually jumped into the water to catch fish. 

Heather was so impressed with both zoo's that she is busy designing the new Vancouver Zoo that she will build when she gets bigger. 

Heather and Orang

On the next day, we went to Sentosa Island - the Singapore amusement area.  The kids and I went to Fantasy Island (31 water slides!) and Sarah took in the Aquarium and Dolphin show, and the Butterfly and Insect museum. After a busy day on Sentosa, we were quite tired and left early evening for a quick supper. 

A real singapore sling

With the kids in bed, Sarah and I took the opportunity to slip across the street to Raffles for the mandatory Singapore Sling. We went to the Long Bar... and then, perhaps showing our age, decided that it was too loud and retired to the laid back outdoor lounge.  

We have a month in this area - we leave for New Zealand on November 2. Originally, we had planned to head by ferry to Indonesia to Bukit Lawang Orang-utan centre and Tuk Tuk. However, Indonesia is off limits according to Canada's External Affairs, so we have been busy reorganizing things. 

We have decided to go to Sabah in Malaysian Borneo - they have great rain forests and wildlife (including the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehab Centre). The first step is to go into Malaysia and buy plane tickets for Kota Kinabalu.

So on our last day, we had a quick breakfast and took the MRT and express bus to Johor Bahru in Malaysia, just on the other side of the causeway from Singapore.

Off to Johor Bahru.

We actually came to Singapore twice. If you have have not read about Johor Bahru and our trip to the Borneo rain forest, you should stop reading this and go there now. If you've "been there, done that", then keep reading! 

We arrived from Kuala Lumpur by bus for our second visit to Singapore. It was quite late, and we had difficulty getting a room. The airport has a reservation desk that can get very cheap accommodation - but the bus stop has no similar service. We wanted to stay at the Holiday Inn Park Plaza but they quoted a rate about $70 more per night than we knew we could get from the airport reservation desk.  After exhausting all other options, we took a taxi to the hotel where thankfully they gave us a much better rate than they gave us by phone. We had a Pizza Hut supper, a McDonalds dessert and then collapsed into bed.

The Holiday Inn is terrific. I think we've decided that we'd rather squeeze into one room in a good hotel, than take two rooms in a cheaper hotel. The hotel is in the Orchard Road area - very nice. The kids went swimming while Sarah & I shopped. We bought binoculars and have picked out mask and snorkels that we'll pick up tomorrow.

The kids were decidedly unimpressed with their Halloween this year. We spent most of it on the bus from Kuala Lumpur. So, the following morning, we went to Marks & Spencers to get some chocolate. 

We left on November 2  at 8:30PM for New Zealand. Off to Auckland!