Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Since we were up late drinking the night before, we woke up kind of late. We ate and then headed off to the Jurong Bird Park on the western side of Singapore . The special we saw on the zoo also had a part about the bird park. While Crystal is not at all a fan of birds, she was willing to go based on what we saw on the TV show. We weren't entirely sure what to expect, but all the travel books recommended it. We had a discounted ticket based on our purchasing the Night Safari and the zoo, so even it is was bad it was essentially free.

One of the first things we saw was a penguin exhibit which was pretty cool. Baby penguins have brown fur, which makes them really stand out from the crowd. What was odd was that the brown penguins looked just as big if not bigger from some of the adults. After the penguins we went to see some of the birds of prey (eagles, hawks, falcons) and a show showcasing some of these birds. There were a number of fly bys, probably creating some jerking motions on the videos we took. While the birds of prey show was going on, many larger birds of prey (fighter jets) kept flying by – there's an air base nearby the bird park.

We wandered around the park a bit more, then went to the one other show the park had, the All-Star show. This had all sorts of birds, including some birds trained to fly through hoops placed around the stands (one of which was about 2 feet behind Justin's head), talking birds (including one bird that mimicked a chicken amazingly well), and two birds that played basketball. After the show was over we went to the giant aviary, which is one of the largest in the world and includes a 100 foot tall artificial waterfall. It looked very impressive. On the walk to and from the aviary we walked by a Rhea (like an Emu) that kept staring at us like it wanted something. It wouldn't get up, and based on the little bowl it was laying in we assumed it was a mother on her nest.

The park was nice, but not very big, and we finished everything by lunchtime so we went back to the Oriental. As we were leaving we saw something to make us cringe as Americans. There was some guy at the ticket window getting tickets to go in. He was trying to thank the lady behind the window by saying “gracias” but she didn't get it, so he was trying to explain to her how gracias means thank you, and it was apparent from his demeanor that he didn't understand why she didn't appreciate his gesture. We just envisioned the wheels spinning in his head – “she has brown skin, I'm not in America, she must speak Spanish, right?” It was painful.

We took a cab from the hotel to Chinatown to eat lunch – no Irish this time. We were at a place called Far East Square that had approximately 237 Asian restaurants to choose from. They all looked the same, so we found one that had indoor seating with AC and ate. It was good, inexpensive, and we got to drink this thing called a Strawberry Pop, which appeared to just be strawberry puree and soda water. After lunch we walked aimlessly – and we mean aimlessly – around Chinatown. There were little shops and street vendors everywhere – it was unreal. Almost every store had hawkers trying to get our attention – one of the best was all of the suit stores trying to get Justin to come in, as if they had anything within 4 sizes of him.

We took the long walk back to the hotel and relaxed most of the afternoon, watching School Ties, which we forgot had Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in it years before they did anything else. After the movie finished we went back to the Boat Quay for dinner. This time we did some additional research, and noted that all of the tour books recommended Harry's Bar first and foremost among bars at the Boat Quay. We wondered if this was a self-fulfilling prophecy, as anyone reading these books would probably go to Harry's, making it immensely popular, thereby making the travel books write about it, thereby continuing the process. But Harry's was very good – the music, the atmosphere, the drinks, the additional drinks, all good. Both the Quay and Chinatown had tons of hawkers, which was annoying but probably helped prepare us (at least a bit) for Bangkok. We caught a cab back to the Oriental and tried to go to sleep, but it was difficult because with the Oriental's fancy sound system in the rooms, the lowest setting was so loud that not only would it have been difficult for us to go to sleep, it probably would have been difficult for the rooms adjacent to us as well.



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