After our early morning arrival, our first destination of choice in Singapore was the amazing Singapore Zoo. The ship berthed right under the gondola to Sentosa Island and alongside a mall where we changed money and where we purchased a two day subway and bus pass which we then used for a 45 minute journey out to the zoo. Once there we spend six happy hours watching animals in very open and natural looking enclosures. Our most favorite by far was the large colony of orangutans (orang=person, (h)utan=jungle). They lived on a large island with plenty of logs to climb and they lived above the pathways of the zoo on platforms connected by ropes. They could not descend to ground because all of the trees they could use were wrapped with hard to notice electrical wires that restricted total free roaming. The oldest had toe touching hair that looked like it had just been washed, braided and then combed out. We watched in awe as mothers carried clinging children up logs and along ropes—by hand and on tight roping walking feet and as children swang by themselves on high ropes,. We also enjoyed watching the large clan of Ethiopian baboons, a large komodo dragon, and up close sleeping and eating fruit bats. We also found animals and signs for each of our Chinese zodiacs. For lunch we ate at a Singapore style food courts where we could choose from Malay, Indian, Chinese or Western food. We shared a fruit cup and the kids got to try their first dragon fruit. Since it was the first day of the two day national holiday for Chinese New Year’s, the zoo was packed with people, mostly non-Chinese Singaporeans with single Indian men being the most dominant group.
Next stop was at Newton Circus, for old time’s sake. Back in November 1975 my group of eight Indonesian bound missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints landed in Singapore to get our hard-to-come-by visas. The process took a week and so we slept on the floor at the mission home on Bukit Timah Road. At the time Singapore would only allow one foreign missionary to serve in the country. He along with two local elders were the only three missionaries in the city. They took good care of us awe struck elders. Several times during the week we walked a block up to the food stalls at Newton Circus. I remember trying fresh squeezed sugar cane juice but can’t remember what other new foods I tried. What I do remember thinking was “think of the germs!” (TOTG). To my Utah senses the small stalls did not seem all that sanitary. At the time, little did I realize that Singapore’s government regulated food services were far and away more sanitary than what I would soon experience in Indonesia. Whenever I am in Singapore I head to Newton Circus (even though there are now many many more hawker centers scattered throughout the expanding city). Many of the stalls were closed for the holiday, but enough were open for us to have a delightful culinary experience. We ordered chicken sate (satay) with peanut sauce that had a definite Indian curry twist to it, fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, bar-b-qued manta ray, and stir fired greens. We ended with fresh fruit smoothies. My only regret was that we didn’t have a week to try more hawker centers and other foods. One student found a list of Singapore’s’ 48 best dishes. His quest for the two days we were there was to try as many as he could. He almost succeeded. Some day I want to have that be my quest.
We then walked to the Bukit Road LDS property. Long gone is the small chapel with a separate mission home and office in the rear. It has all been replaced by three story stake center.
We then rode to the Chinatown subway stop where we walked around to see the New Year’s lights.
Back at the ship I spent a few hours in the cruise arrival center hoping the wifi connections would be fast enough to upload some photos to the blog and most importantly to access i-tunes where I planned to swipe clean and then re-boot Will’s i-touch. No such luck. So next morning we headed out to Orchard Road where plan B called for using the faster wifi at the Holiday Inn Express. It was faster (I uploaded all of the Mekong Delta photos) but for some reason it would not ever complete the re-booting process for Will’s i-touch. Prayers were not answered today (or maybe they were, if Marie has been praying for the sometimes troublesome i-touch to no longer be a point of contention because of too much use). Plan C had us find three different i-stores (there are no official apple stores in Singapore) and an A (for Apple) store in three of the many Orchard Road high end shopping malls—sadly all of these stores (but not other stores) were closed for Chinese New Years. Looks like our next chance to restore his i-touch may be South Africa. I had high hopes for Singapore, but the holiday and a seeming benign neglect for all things Apple (sometimes I could not even get connected to apple sites) did technologically-challenge-me in.
We enjoyed excellent Thai food for lunch (which boosted spirits) and then we hurriedly explored the new harbor area with its new bay surrounded by land filled urban growth now sprouting skyscrapers. Most interesting were the ship-topped Marina Sands hotel (would love to try its expansive roof top infinity pool sometime) and the durian looking performance center. We then wandered through colonial Singapore. In 1975, I took a photo of the river filled with small sampans and lined with historic store houses. Now the river has been Disneyized—cleaned up and then decked out with a sanitized re-creation of neat looking Chinese store houses. That seems to be Singapore’s modus operandi--clean up untidy rivers, housing and food establishments and reprocess them to be clean, safe and efficient (what I like to call Disneyification).
We swang by the Raffles hotel and then hustled back to the ship before the 17:00 deadline. While Marie and the kids lined up, I used up some of our remaining Singapore dollars to replenish our stash of snacks—Toblerone chocolate, Kit Kats and gummy worms were a hit.