01.07.2008 - 03.07.2008 30 °C
After saying goodbye to my many new friends in Malaysia, I took a comfortable night train from Jerantut to Singapore. My first impression of Singapore is not how clean the streets are, but how perfect each buildings in each complex are painted. With no water stain or minimum clothes hanging outside, every sight in the city looks like a brand new painting. No doubt about it, Singapore is definitely one of the most developed and efficient cities in the world. Given the relative small size, navigating through different neighborhoods and streets is almost painless.
However, the mentality of its people is also somewhat very typical of big city, namely, 'we are better than the rest'. My Chinese Singapore taxi driver at the border asked me where I traveled before coming to Singapore. Before I finished telling him that I just traveled through Malaysia, he showed me a bitter face. Even my hostel owner kept telling me about how polluted Jakarta is. Although I don't think anywhere in this world is more merticulately crafted and better designed than Singapore, there is always a hidden egoism that I loathed when visiting large cities.
My first visit upon arriving at my eclectic hostel situated at a residential complex is the Singapore Zoo. Truth to its fame, this cageless zoo is exceptionally well-designed and a great pleasure to visit. Each enclosure is designed to resemble the animal's natural habitat, down to the type of plant and soil. Visitor can walk into the kangaroo enclosure or tropical greenhouse and freely interact with its residents. Lemurs jumping on tree branches, bat flying and lizard patrolling less than a metre away. Even the Asian elephant show is narrated with educational and humorous lines that visitors come out with much more appreciation for these magnificent animals.
The Night Safari, next to the zoo, is designed for visitors to see animal at night in their 'natural' habitat, allowing modern city people who cannot survive in the real jungle walk on paved concrete 'trails'. Compared to my jungle trekking experience in Bolivia and Malaysia, this night safari is a five-star establishment comes complete with mosquitoes, the only annoyance here.
Sungai Brunei Wetland Reserve is my first destination on the next day. After having lunch next to a 5-feet monitor lizard, I started walking along the well-indicated trails along marshlands. A few herons, the beautifully-colored kingfishers, all type of lizards, even crabs are spotted in different locations. Crocodiles have been seen on some trails but luckily I did not encounter any, just a few more monitor lizards that run upon hearing my footstep.
For a change after indulging myself in nature, I decided to head to Little India for dinner and walkaround. Compare to the rest of Singapore, Little India feels very lively. All of a sudden, heavy rain started pouring down. And of course, it is the day I took my rain coat out of my bag. So I, like many other, waited on the corner next to loud speakers blasting indian pop music for a good while before braving myself across the street to a vegetarian restaurant. After a cheap and delicious meal, I walked aimlessly into an eclectic indian creamery and had myself an expensive but unique indian ice cream topped with pistachio and other nuts.
I decided to walk my dessert off by visiting the famous Sri Veeramakaliamman temple, dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Kali, the consort of Shiva, on Serangoon Road. The hindu figures outside this rather small but busy temple are detailed and lively, similar to the atmosphere inside. Streams of worshippers come into the main hall and get blessed by the holy water blessed by Kali's devotees.
Last but not least, I visited the national library, a modern architecture building, and ended my day on the busy Orchid street where shopping malls abound. Materialism still rules the majority.