Saturday, January 15, 2005:

We got up early today so that we could go on one last excursion before heading off to Bintan in Indonesia . We ate breakfast, then caught a cab to the Bukit Timah nature reserve. 100 years ago, almost all of Singapore (except for the area right by the harbor) was rainforest. Since then most of the country has been developed, but Bukit Timah was set aside as a small reminder of what the countryside used to look like. Bukit Timah is a much smaller version of the Malaysian rainforest, Taman Negara, which we didn't get a chance to see because of our short time in Malaysia.

Near the visitors' center were a number of signs telling people not to feed the monkeys. Apparently they are a public nuisance, and feeding them comes with a S$10,000 fine. There were several trails, the red one was paved and the most direct way to the top. We took the green path, which was on the east side of the reserve. In one spot there were a number of monkeys playing, a bit like at the zoo. These were actually the only monkeys we saw in the reserve – the rest were right by the visitors' center.

At the top, we were expecting a good view, but no such luck. Trees blocked the view in all directions. We did get our picture taken with a big rock at the summit, however. We started hiking down the yellow trail, but ended up just making a big circle and ended up back at the top again. So we took the easy way out and just walked down the red trail. Since the red trail was the most direct, it was also the steepest. Especially near the bottom, we had to make sure to place our feet carefully so not to go tumbling down the walkway. It reminded us a bit of one of our early dates, where we “walked” down a super steep trail on a bluff in Rancho Palos Verdes.

At the bottom, we went into a shop and got a large bottle of Gatorade. While Justin tried to open it, a monkey sat by and stared at him, as if it was waiting for him to look the other way so it could snatch it. Instead, Crystal got a picture of Justin with the monkey. Since we were so thirsty, the monkey didn't have a chance to snatch the bottle, as it was empty in no time.

We caught a cab back to the Shangri-La, and for the first time in Singapore the cabby actually talked to us. In KL this was a standard practice, in Singapore it was the opposite. We finished packing, then took a cab to the Tanah Merah Ferry Station near the airport. As we were leaving, the door man at the Shangri-La told Crystal she looked just like one of the other guests at the hotel, a doctor. We kind of liked the idea of Crystal being a doctor.

At the ferry terminal we ate lunch at a café before going through security – a lesson we learned at the KL airport a couple days earlier. The ferry ride itself was uneventful, at least for us – we were about the only passengers who didn't puke. We had taken some bonine a couple hours before we boarded the ferry.

Upon arrival at Bintan, we were greeted by a representative of the Banyan Tree Resort, which quickly took us through some sort of VIP line at immigration and got us into a car in no time. It couldn't have been more than 5 minutes from the time we got off the boat until the time we were in a car, headed to the hotel. Meanwhile, we saw long lines forming for everyone else to get their visas and go through immigration. It was very nice to be a VIP for once.

When we got to the resort, we were greeted with cool napkins and a ginger/lime concoction. They gave us a free upgrade from a Seaview Jacuzzi Villa to a Bayfront Jacuzzi Villa (Room 514). Our room was the bayside (as opposed to the seaside) of the resort. The resort is kind of on a point, with most of the rooms facing the South China Sea to the north and east, but some rooms (like ours) facing west towards a little inlet bay and the sunset. As we got off the golf cart taking us from the lobby to our room, we saw a large lizard. We figured it was a monitor lizard, but the driver said it was a small Komodo Dragon. Our room had polished marble floors throughout, lots of dark wood, a canopy bed with netting (mostly functional, but looked nice also), a private Jacuzzi, and many great views of the bay, including a very nice one from the full-length shower window.

After unpacking we walked around the resort, checking out the various restaurants, pools, and beach accesses. We also made spa reservations for the evening after dinner. We ate dinner at the Tree Tops Restaurant, and both got the same thing, Nasi Goreng. It had three Satay pieces, a piece of chicken, and a large bowl of fried rice with bits of beef and chicken (and also shrimp in Crystal 's). We shared a chocolate brownie/vanilla ice cream dessert.

We were very tired, but dragged ourselves out of bed to go to the spa for our couples treatment. They first gave us a foot massage in warm water while we sipped on some of the ginger/lime drink. Then they took us downstairs into this wet room where we laid face down while they massaged us with warm rocks. After a little bit they turned on a bunch of shower heads above us and continued with the hot rocks treatment. Towards the end they used some sort of exfoliating salt scrub to clean and detoxify our skin. The whole thing lasted about two hours. We caught a golf cart back to our room and went to sleep.



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