Tuesday, 26 April 2011

More about Singapore - of winding lanes, dolphin hoops and deceiving flowers

Once I got back from Bali and was fully recovered, which by itself took a full day, I got a chance go around Singapore and explore somewhat. My experience of Singapore proper started with Arab street. Sister and her friends took me there for a lovely sit down dinner and I happily gobbled my way through lots of hummus and foul (now the name might be a tad deceptive there but it's actually a pretty tasty dish made with dried fava beans and loads of olive oil!) amid much conversation and merriment. But what really does catch the eye about Arab Street is the funky street art. The brightly painted walls of roadside cafes add a lot of character and much excitement at chancing upon something quirky as you wander through these little winding lanes (I doubt I could find my way around that place again!).

Singapore, by the way, is a foodie's delight. There's all the "stall" food, the food courts serving all sorts of Asian food and lots of lovely little restaurants. My favourite, and I regret not having my camera along as I went to meet a friend for dinner, was Marche's. A swiss eatery, more than the food, or the "pick what you want" from different counters, what I loved was the way the whole place was done up. Under the streets of Singapore, Marche's had recreated Heidi's farm - complete with vegetable and fruit cards piled high with veggies and fruits to a little barn - all in lovely wood and warm hues. The place looks so inviting that even someone stuffed like a Turkey would feel hungry there. In fact, I really do regret not taking more pictures of Singapore, the city.

But well... coming back to my chronological chronicle, after the night spent at Arab Street, I behaved like a good tourist and decided to make my way to Sentosa. So on to the MRT I got and headed straight to Vivo City. Apart from being the mall from where one takes the train to Sentosa, the star attraction for me at Vivo City was the Nat Geo store. I was all but lost in there for a couple of hours and after glumly picking up just one book (weight and cash constraints you see) I had to literally throw myself out of the place. I would have gladly spent the entire day in there browsing through all the photographs, magazines, books and maps they had in there. However, I did have an agenda for the day and so with another longing glance at the store, I left and went up the escalators and got myself on the monorail to Sentosa.

Sentosa looks very impressive from afar but as you draw closer the artificiality of it all starts to seep through. It's not the kind of beauty that I particularly appreciate. I'd prefer nature to do it's own thing, a little wild and unsculpted. Man trying to imitate nature at her own game is, to me, a bit of a losing battle. We are better off building steel and glass skyscrapers or the Taj as monuments to our skills. The imported silver sand beaches are nice to walk on but I much prefered Coronado, an island off the coast of San Diego, for that or even Goa simply because they are natural... the sands there belong there and the little rocky outcrops create delicious pools of water in which to wiggle your toes.

Anyhow, there I was at Sentosa and after a little bit of random ambling around I decided to head to Underwater world. Once again a pretty big disappointment. I was done touring the entire place in half an hour flat. After Monterey bay aquarium, a definite let down. Apart from the size, the thing that really disappointed me here was the lack of any substantial information near any of the displays and the complete lack of respect that visitors seemed to be showing towards the creatures. So out I walked into the sunshine and plonked myself with a cheese sandwich and my book (recently bought at the Nat Geo store) on the beach outside Underwater world to wait for the Dolphin and Fur seal shows.

This was the highlight of going to Sentosa for me. The pink dolphins and the fur seals are absolutely absolutely cute and adorable. Nothing in a picture or a film comes close to how you feel when you see their "smiling" (dolphins) and expressive (fur seals) faces up front. The show however generated mixed feelings in me. To be absolutely honest, I'd never end up seeing any of the animals up close except in a zoo/aquarium. I don't think I have the enthusiasm to go looking for them in their natural habitats. But watching them being made to do tricks to loud rock music with little fish being tossed to them as motivation for our amusement somehow seemed to make a mockery of their existence. It seemed to me that they were being made to earn their keep. Not fair... since humans are the ones merciless destroying their natural habitats in the first place. I'd be far happier to just watch them swim or waddle around at will. The fur seals also seemed to have similar thoughts as one of them completely refused to move and perform his bag of tricks mid-way into the show and needed much massaging and coaxing to get him moving again.

At this point, I got a call from sister's friend saying she was going to the botanical gardens to take some pictures. Since I'd been planning to visit the gardens myself and I was more or less done at Sentosa and in fairly low spirits, off I went. The Botanical Gardens, I am glad to say, was a lovely end to a day that I would have otherwise written off. Rolling hills, soft grasses, lakes tucked away behind huge trees and wonder of wonders... an entire sprawling section devoted to Orchids!!!

Now I should tell you, Orchids are my favourite flowers. I love them for the vibrancy of their colors, especially that vivid blue, and for the delicacy of their structure. They seem so frail and yet they are amongst the hardiest of flowers. And then this article in an issue of the National Geographic gave me even more reason to be fascinated by this highly diverse family of flowers. So imagine my happiness when I saw a signboard that said National Orchid Garden! Oh the sheer joy of it!!! Happy to pay the entry price and glad that I was carrying a spare battery and memory card for my camera, I joyously ran along and dragged friend also along. We clicked and chatted the evening through in, what was for me at least, complete bliss. As the sun set and more photography became impossible, two tired but happy girls headed home with plans to come back for sunrise the next morning. We did amaze ourselves by actually making it there for sunrise the next day and we shot the swans and wooden gazebos covered in creepers in that magic morning light. A hearty breakfast of fresh fruits and coconut water later we crashed and then saw only the Singaporean evening thereafter.

PS: Links in the article lead to the photo albums (except for the nat geo article link). So please do click on them :)


1 comment:

assorted cookies said...

Nice to know you started at Arab Street. It's really picturesque isn't it! Most people do the Sentosa-Nigh Safari-Bird Park thing and then come back and say Singapore is boring. I'd say a place is as curious and interesting as a tourist! Looks like you had a good time :)