Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Travelling Hopefully - Bushwalking in Singapore Edition

There are many words that can be used to describe Singapore; hot, humid.  Ok that's only two but you use them a lot.  For the record Singapore is essentially a modern version of those independent trading cities that used to litter the planet.  Singapore is old time Venice with a worse climate and fewer canals.  It's also a financial centre, a ship builder, a semi benign autocracy and a place where nearly six million people live, work and strive for a better future for themselves and their families.  You will learn nothing about any of that in this blog entry.  The national symbol is the Merlion and if I had any interest in that it would probably remove around what the hell made it into the water supply the day the nation's legislators decided that the perfect symbol of their nation would be a mythical fish beast vomiting into the harbour.

Anyway the point that I totally failed to come to in the first paragraph is that I decided not to look at the history or culture of Singapore per se.  I'm sure they have some, everybody does, but that doesn't mean you have to make a big thing of it.  I'm wandering off the point again.  This is what happens when you write a blog entry on the plane home having been awake for the best part of twenty four hours.

What I was interested in (hurray, paragraph three and I've got there at last) was greenery.  An odd thing for me to be interested in because I have little enough concern for it at home.  Singapore is the very definition of urban but there has been a push in recent times to make it a "green" city.  Not just in terms of environmental friendliness but in literal tree coverage and plant favourable legislation.  I thought I would take a look at some of the already established green bits of this city of cities.

I was helped in this by my choice of accommodation.  I picked it to be close to my gaming venue which placed me on Upper Thomson Road roughly in the centre of the island and only a few minutes walk away from the series of parks and nature reserves surrounding the water reservoirs.  Initial signs were hopeful, specifically the signs on the fences of apartment complexes telling residents not to feed the monkeys.  Less encouraging were the signs warning against the dangers of dengue fever and enumerating the number of cases in the region in the last month, apparently I'm lucky to have survived.

I spent an enjoyable morning strolling (or rather, crunching - see below) along walking paths surrounded by trees.  This being Singapore a walking path could quite easily accommodate a truck and was bedded with stones which made an unholy noise when you walked along them.  People (insane people) were jogging along them.

The trick to spotting animals in the bush is not to look for them (unless you know what you're looking for, I don't) its to listen for them.  I kept as quiet as I could and was soon rewarded with crunches, crashes, hoots and whistles.  They were caused by various Singaporeans walking, jogging, chatting and listening to music as they enjoyed nature.  I moved on a bit and was eventually rewarded with birds, lizards and monkeys.  Well, a monkey which inconsiderately moved out of shot before I could take a photo.  The piece de resistance came when I was walking down the path followed by another bunch of tourists. The bushes ahead parted and a wild boar charged across the path less than ten metres in front of me.  I know it was a wild boar because it looked exactly like a wild boar in Asterix comics.

Flushed with this success (or possibly dengue fever) the next day I took a cable car ride up to Mount Faber in the south west part of the island.  Mt Faber towers a lofty hundred metres above the sweltering lowlands of Singapore and is part of a string of parks situated on the hillier parts of the south west which were presumably more difficult to build on.  The parks are connected by walkways and bridges over roads where need be and allow you to take an eight kilometre walk through the bush in the heart of Singapore.  There were no monkeys this time but I saw birds galore and a snake which is surprising as apparently they make most of their social calls at night.

I had to go to the night zoo of course.  Along with pretty much everyone else who has ever come to Singapore.  It's a thing.  I was accompanied by the Transylvanian German making a brief return cameo before she headed off to Bali.  We spent an enjoyable couple of hours wandering around in the dark gawping at various animals while I tried to restrain her from physically assaulting people who broke the no flash photography rule.  I have a bunch of great photos of various blurs which I'm going to pass off as incredibly rare animals.  The Transylvanian German adores bats (go figure) and we spent a lot of time in the bat enclosure watching them eat, swoop and crap while at least one tourist stared with rapt delight.  I took a photo of otters splashing about but that didn't come out any better than the others.

Finally I managed to get lost in the Singapore Botanic Garden.  For some reason (incompetence seems the most likely explanation) I managed to get myself into some sort of a loop and kept wandering around the same part of the garden for about an hour.  At one point I managed to get out of the gardens entirely and spent about ten minutes trying to find a way back in.

Eventually I got myself sorted out and walked past turtle filled lakes and rain forest until I made my way to the Orchid Garden filled with brightly coloured plants which ran out the battery of my camera.  There were archways adorned with beautiful yellow hanging flowers.  They were lovely but I might write a quick note to the managers of the Orchid Garden to the effect that "golden shower" was perhaps not the most propitious name they could have chosen.  While in the gardens I saw fish, turtles, bucket loads of monitors, black swans, chickens and various other lizards.

You may notice that I haven't mentioned squirrels.  They were everywhere.  The only way you can avoid squirrels in Singapore is to seal yourself in a box.  Singapore health tip:  Do not seal yourself in a box!

The major thing I noticed about all of the gardens and green space was how pleasant the weather was.  Still hot but much more bearable than in the city proper.  Cities are heat sinks of course but it is amazing the difference in comfort levels once you got a few trees around you.

And that's pretty much the end of the travel journal part of the blog.  The next couple of entries will relate to my gaming which I'm sure won't be all that interesting.  The trip was amazing and I should give a big thanks to Alif, our tour leader who guided us through with skill and good humour.  I'll also acknowledge a couple of my fellow tourists by name for the first time.  Ian, my roommate originally from Leeds but now slumming it in Chester who (Baby Shark notwithstanding) was an excellent traveling companion.  Hayley, a vegan from Wagga Wagga who accompanied me on my initial trips around Bangkok and Barbara, the Transylvanian German who was funny, friendly and occasionally scary but always interesting.  It was a pleasure to meet you all.

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