Monday, March 16, 2009

Singapore Update

I arrived in Singapore on Saturday morning, after a night in London connecting. I flew down on Singapore Air, on the A380 - currently the largest passenger airplane in the world. It definitely is big - the first clue is on the boarding pass with the words "Main Deck".  Even on board, looking out the window to the wings was impressive.  Sadly however, I could not get upgraded. I had paid for an exit row at least, but it was quite comfortable.  I was fortunately upgraded on the Toronto to London portion again, which was nice.

Saturday night I visited the Night Safari, which was entertaining.  They
 had quite a variety of nocturnal animals, the most interesting of w
hich was the giant flying squirrel.  It was possible to get right in with them - one swooped down to about 2 feet away from me, and decided to engage in some sort of staring contest with me.  After about 15 seconds, I thought it best to move back..:)  The Malayan Tapir (pictured) was also quite interesting - the tram ride came very close to it. 

Sunday I toured Orchard Road, which is the busy shopping district for tourists.  It was alright - most interesting was a very strange "Hello Kitty" display.  In addition to the strangely dressed up women inside this trailer, there were no-shirts-and-leather-pants-wearing guys wearing large
 Hello Kitty masks being led around by a "seeing eye person".  Odd..  

We also visited the East Coast to check it out - unfortunately it was raining so we couldn't walk a whole lot, so instead we enjoyed a Tiger beer while watching the ships slowly disappear under the approaching storm (pictured right).  It was quite a sight - especially given just how many ships are out there in one of the busiest port in the world.

Today, both for lunch and dinner I enjoyed some very, VERY good food.  Both meals were "family style" - where there is a rotating serving area in the middle of the round table, and everyone simply pushes it around to get whatever it is they want.  The food comes out over time, so generally everyone can have a taste of whatever new dish was brought over.  For dinner, we went back to the East Coast to Long Beach restaurant for some amazing seafood.  Part of the main course was the famous Black Pepper Crab (as well as the Chili Crab) - both were awesome!

The opposite of awesome?  Well, at lunch I was duped into trying Durian - lets just say "not my favourite".  Durian is considered a delicacy - to the point where people will have Durian parties!  So what is it?  Basically a fruit from a tree, that has some, uh, interesting properties.  To help, let me quote some of the descriptions from this wiki entry:

"Its taste can only be described as...indescribable, something you will either love or despise. ...Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother."
"... its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia."

There are some more positive quotes there as well, but it is definitely a complex taste that is unlike anything else I have tried.

Certainly what you notice most about Singapore is:  it is very, very clean.  Ridiculously clean.  My first impression was "Wow - Disneyland, but a city without the rides."  It turns out I wasn't the first one to think this..;)  Minor offences like Littering carry big fines (potentially in the thousands) - but is that bad?  Other slightly more serious offences like trafficking drugs (ie Marijuana) carry the death penalty - quite severe certainly.  And no chewing gum whatsoever (due to high cleanup costs).  Many people call it the safest city in the world - and it definitely appears that way.