Friday, January 14, 2005:

Justin woke up late, still tired from all the walking the day before. Crystal had been up and about for awhile before Justin got up. We ate breakfast, then walked over to the Botanic Gardens, just a couple blocks over from the Shangri-La. The neighborhood on the walk was quite nice – it was filled with the residences of all the foreign diplomats.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens is world renowned for its diverse plant species. It houses the National Orchid Garden (which has a separate entrance fee – the rest of the garden is free), a palm valley, a mini rainforest, a bamboo garden and several miles of walking trails and three bodies of water. Lots of the park was under construction, but the areas open were still huge. At the entrance is a huge Rain Tree (Samanea saman), which is Justin's favorite kind of tree because of the large spreading canopy and powderpuff flowers.

Near the entrance was a palm valley, and it had a real treat. A couple talipot palms (a type of Corypha species) were in bloom. Coryphas are giant fan palms, one of the largest if not the largest in terms of fan size. They grow fairly slowly for 50 to 80 years without blooming, and then they have a huge terminal inflorescence before dying. The one we saw was 75 years old. It was quite a site – the inflorescence is the largest in the plant kingdom, and weighs a couple tons. It goes out the top like a fireworks display. Besides the Coryphas, the rest of the palm valley was very nice. There were several very interesting palms, including Arengas, Salaccas, and a nice Coco de mer (no seeds unfortunately).

We then walked around the rest of the garden, starting with the ginger garden. After awhile all of the gingers, heliconias, etc. get a little numbing because they are everywhere and almost always in bloom. In the US these flowers cost several bucks a piece, here they are weeds. We made our way down to the southern portion, which was being worked on. A lot of it was closed, but in one of the areas that was open there was a huge Albizia lebbeck, a gigantic canopy tree with fern-like foliage. We got a picture of Justin (who is 6'4) standing in front of it, and you can hardly see him in the photo.

The walk through the mini-rainforest was interesting, a bit too realistic. Birds were chirping everywhere, the cicadas were screeching, and there was no one else around on the rainforest trails. There was one spot where there was a short dirt path connecting two of the paved paths. Justin starting walking along it, then turned around and came back. Crystal wondered why he came back so soon. Justin had come within about 2 feet of stepping on a cobra. Both he and the cobra turned around and went away. From then on we stuck to the paved trails.

We decided against going to the Orchid Gardens . We had been to orchid gardens two of the past three days, and we doubted we'd see anything that we hadn't seen already. Plus Justin's feet were killing him from all the walking at the zoo. We went to the northern portion of the garden, which was more open (and therefore much hotter), and walked around for just a little bit. We checked out the bamboo gardens (not sure why there isn't more giant timber bamboo to be found), and an evolution garden which was full of plants from thousands of years ago (ferns, cycads, Araucarias, etc.)

We left the garden around 1pm , then walked back to the hotel, completely exhausted. We decided to take a vacation from our vacation, and just went down to the pool. Justin had some spaghetti, and Crystal had a hamburger that cost S$30 that wasn't as good as In-N-Out. The pool, believe it or not, was actually pretty chilly, so we spent more time in the spa than the pool. After a bit we went up to the room and fell asleep.

We woke up around 7pm , and decided to hit Orchard Road, the main drag through the shopping district. It's a one way road, and is packed on both sides with pubs, small shops, large malls, and hotels. It's like the Las Vegas Strip without the hotels, but with 5x the humidity. Also like the Strip, it was more than warm enough at night to walk around in shorts and t-shirts. We had no clue where to eat, so we tried to look for a “hip” place to get an idea of what was in style. The first place we tried was a piano bar called Rosé, but there was not a single person in the bar, so we turned around and kept walking. We ended up eating at a place called Pre Rouge, which pretty much sucked. The service was very bad, the food was bad (Justin's chicken wasn't cooked all the way, so he had to get another one), and the drinks were so-so. Amazingly, we nonetheless enjoyed ourselves. As far as we can tell, the in-style in Singapore (and also in Malaysia as far as we can tell) is US music, and not current US music but stuff that is a couple years old.

We came back to the hotel, got a few more drinks – Justin got a Singapore Sling (as he did at the Menara KL) for comparison purposes to the Singapore Sling in Raffles, scheduled for the 17th. We went to sleep around 11pm.



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