Thursday, May 3, 2007

Chewing gum AND jay-walking in Singapore

Singapore terminal is THE most high security port I’ve ever been docked in. Firstly, it’s the only port we’ve ever been into where you MUST get your passports, not just your cruise ship ID, to walk around. Secondly, you have to go through bag search and passport check on LEAVING the ship, not just on rejoining it. Bizarre, but then, maybe it just confirms that Singapore is as pristine and high-maintenance as they say…

One of my best friends, Maggie, a fellow dancer, is dancing in Phantom of the Opera, (in the same track as I’ve performed in Hamburg) here in Singapore, and I managed to get guest passes for her and her boyfriend, James, to come onboard and look around when we docked at 4pm (okay, 4.30 what with all the crazy red tape involved!)

We watched some of the farewell show at 5.30pm which thankfully I was not involved in, and then at 6.30pm, I left them in Eric’s hands to get acquianted and joined up with some crew members for the night safari tour.
It was about 30 minutes out of downtown Singapore (we were docked about 5 miles out) and just getting dark when we got there.
The night safari involves a tram ride, and then optional walking trails. (This is me with our guide, Jean, at the start.) It’s a theme-park ride type of set-up, there are trams, and it’s a well designed attraction.

The guides spoke wonderfully accurate, very proper English dialect with an exquisite English-Asian accent. By that I mean “flats” not apartments, “storeys” not floors, “toilets” not restrooms, and “plAHstic” not plastic. By now, I’m so used to applying all the Americanisms I’ve learned to my conversational speech, that to hear my mother-tongue spoken with such alacrity was a joy to my ears.
On the tour, we saw 4 male lions all wrestling and hanging out with each other in seeming contentment, hyenas running around, buffalo, giraffes by a huge glass lake as if roaming the Savanna, hippos, rhino and many types of deer. Although it is part of the zoo, the animals had clean, very natural enclosures and did not display any of the signs of depression or repetitive behaviour like pacing morosely up and down, as I’ve seen in other zoos.

On the walking tour, we walked actually through the enclosures of flying squirrels, which jumped and spread their “wings” to get from tree to tree for us, as if paid to do so. The fruit bats were close enough to touch (although of course you’re not allowed to do so) and look like cats with big black leathery vampire wings.
Had I known beforehand there’d be extensive walking involved, I wouldn’t have worn my stiletto Karen Millen heels, which apart from being impractical got ruined through having to walk through soaking-wet sanitising sponges at various intervals, but I still had a great time.
If you’re looking for an authentic, “real” safari, ie. the animals truly do run freely (and you may not see any) you’ll probably be disappointed, but if you want a chance to see healthy animals in their natural, nocturnal waking hours it’s a must.
Oh, why no pictures you ask? Because using the flash is forbidden throughout the park.
We got back at 10.30pm, at which point I met back up with my man and we got a taxi to where Maggie was staying, the Marina Mandarin Hotel in downtown Singapore, right near the Esplanade and Mer-Lion statue (symbol of Singapore.)

The lobby was very impressive, with a wonderful expansive air-space and indoor balcony design as you can see. Eric said it created a very communal feel, which I like.

My friends who are also in the show, Katherine and Deborah were out at the pool on the 5th storey, as was Maggie, when we got there. James went to buy beers from 7 Eleven and we chatted and talked shop until about 3am which was wonderful. Eric and I swam in the pool, and decided we weren’t tired.
We got dressed and walked to 7 Eleven for snacks, buying daring kebab-style convenience food.
Then we made the decision, at 4am, to check out the 24 hour shopping centre my safari guide had recommended, Mustafa, and hopped in a taxi for about 10 minutes to get there. This is it. It is not a commercial, generic type of place. It’s one-of-a-kind amazing. Look at all these things!
I get a very weird mental image when I look at this particular tea, I mean, are we talking ingredient here (ew!), or as a cure for? Oh, look, Eric IS SHOPPING! SHOP-WATCH ALERT! HE CANNOT DENY THIS! HE IS DOING IT! LOOK, HE EVEN CHANGED MONEY IN ORDER TO DO SO! Here’s proof. I love that it says "noodle from India" right above his closely shorn noodle! It’s a five storey place, clothes, then electronics, then toiletries, then dry food, then furnishings.

We bought 2 bags of stuff, from muscle rub, to perfume, to eye drops, to Bhindis and bangles, to Ribena pastilles, to blank CDs.
Does anyone know what a Dhoop stick is? There’s a huge Indian influence in Singapore, and many of the Indian cafes around were also open 24 hour. I was amazed at how busy the place was at 4am! I nearly bought a new comforter for my cabin bed, but as with all of the centre, there was just TOO MUCH CHOICE!
We got back to our room at the Marina Mandarin which Eric was sweet enough to book up the day before, and slept all of four hours before our 10am breakfast date with our friends!

We had a great bath in the room. As you can see, it bathes one tall French Canadian quite comfortably!

After a great dim-sum breakfast in the hotel and a chat with another of my old cast-mates, Anders, also from Phantom in Hamburg, the four of us walked to one of the Thousand Places to do before you die, Raffles Hotel, the Long Bar (this sign is actually misleading, see it says straight ahead, and yet the arrow points left, somehow my alcoholdar got us there though), and the Singapore Slings (which were invented there) therein.

The boys weren’t allowed through the lobby as they were not wearing long pants (tsk!) so we were ushered through the courtyards to the bar, Eric still seemed pretty happy though.

It’s true what they say! They DO have peanuts on the tables and you ARE supposed to throw the shells on the floor. I love the place, the wafty bamboo ceiling fans are still there, and I can just imagine Charlie Chaplin and Rudyard Kipling sipping their drinks and brooding in it’s it dark mahogany corners. Here we are, with Slings!

We walked out, and took a stroll along the esplanade, (I even chewed gum, illegal here, I’m so badass!) past these bars and statues (it’s becoming a recurring theme, this statue Tom-Foolery. I'm bartering over a big bag of spice. See, he says three, I say FOUR!) and Maggie's theatre, which you can see here, to Clark Quay, where we stopped for coffees. I had a great cold coffee with red beans in it, and we left Maggie and James to finish out their contract, which ends in three weeks, in the “Crossroads of the East.”

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