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Monday, November 4

Trekking: The Singapore Zoo

When I found out I was moving to Singapore, there were two questions I was repeatedly asked: 1) Do you know how hot it is there? (Answer: Yes.  As hot as hell-fire.) And 2) Do you know how awesome the zoo is there? The answer was no, but they would all assure me it was the best in the world.  You know what?  They were totally right.

There are three sections of the zoo – the main zoo, the Night Safari and the River Safari.  We haven’t been to the River Safari yet as they are in the process of building it.  As we have some time here, we’re waiting until it is completed to do it.  But we have been to the other two.

Now, I tell you this in the perspective of a Singers newbie mom with two little kids who tend to crash around 8:00 pm or turn into whining, maddening little beasts.  So don’t get all crazy as I explain my Night Safari experience.  Well, actually two experiences, although the first was kind of a non experience as we went on a Singaporean holiday.  There are two things you don’t do in Singapore… go to markets on Sunday or go to the zoo on a holiday.  The crowds are intense as everyone that works six days a week is out and about and you will find yourself trying not to lose your wee ones in a throng which threatens to sweep them away from your loving arms forever.   So the first night that we went happened to be one of these holidays.  After waiting only a half an hour in a line that moved only ten feet in that time, then being told it would be an hour to buy tickets and the train lines would be over an hour and a half long, we bailed… and bribed our kids to come with us with ice cream.  It worked. 

We returned a few weeks later on a random weeknight to much better results.  Err… of sorts.  Here’s the thing.  The night safari trains only start moving at 7:30 pm.  Remember when I told you about my wee lovies to beasts at about this same time?  I can entertain them for a spell, but when we pass the witching hour there's simply no holding off the beasts in them.  We were in line by 7:00 thinking we would be one of the first ones on the train.  Umm… wrong.  When we did finally get on the train and start rolling out, it was late enough that getting off the train to meander around and catch the nocturnal animals doing their thing in the night was just not going to be the wisest of possibilities.  So we sat.  We listened to the talks the zoologist was giving about each animal as we peeked at them from our perch on the train, but we really were… underwhelmed.  We loved seeing that there are no cages around the animals.  Just moats and great divides to keep everyone safe.  But it was the type of animals you can see from the train.  What I recall fully… deer, deer and more deer.  I can hang in my parent’s backyard and see deer, thank-you-very-much.  This was the first time we were inside the zoo and if these are the animals here, I just wasn’t certain it ranked the ‘best zoo in the world’ comments.  This is why we went back… to see what the fuss was all about.

Oh la la!  Like I said, you folks weren’t fooling!  Our third trip back to the zoo was made even more special by an extra little purchase… tickets to a special breakfast with orangutans!  Let me tell you… this is so worth the cost, and even that isn’t bad at $29 for adults and $19 for kids ($23 and $15 in US dollars).  The food is good too!  Not great, but there is a nice mix of Western, Malay and Chinese dim sum to please everyone.  While you eat, the orangutans swing through the trees all around you, and then come… somehow??... when they are ‘called’.  They all climb down onto this big tree clump area where they sit quietly while the zoologist talks about them and a few other furry visitors they bring in to the area for the morning.  After you learn about them, you are invited to stand in front of them, no touching allowed, and get your photograph with them.  They even used my cell phone to take pictures so I didn’t have to pay for the overpriced photo in a cheap frame that they sell!  That’s service! 

Once mommy and daddy were done ogling the orangutans, because you know the kids were over it after a few minutes, we moved over to the other creature that was available for touching and even holding if you were so bold… a milk snake!  Now, I will be totally honest and say I am not a huge fan of snakes.  However, I dislike spiders a whole lot more.  I also make it a priority to never let fear stop me from doing things.  I once held a tarantula because of this personal room, so I would be damned if I wasn’t going to hold the snake.  Kimono Hubby on the other hand is only afraid on one thing in this world (well, two if you count losing his beautiful wife) and that is snakes.  He was never going to volunteer to help the boys with this, so big, bad mommy stepped up to the plate.  Thankfully Kimono Peanut with his no-fear-attitude needed no help at all and was only too happy to have this squirmy thing draped around his neck, and even laughed when it squeezed his neck, all the while shouting “take a picture of me, mommy!”  Kimono Sweet Pea on the other hand was a bit more cautious.  From the moment that thing was placed on him, he never took his eyes off of it… even when it snaked its tail into mommy’s cleavage.  I smiled while this happened, of course, but what I really wanted to do was whip the thing across the forest.  I didn’t.  I just waited patiently for the zoo keeper to untangle it from us, which gratefully she didn’t wait too long to do. 

We left the breakfast and moved on through the rest of the zoo.  Like I said, there aren’t really cages for the animals, beyond the ones that need them as a necessity… like penguins need to stay cold, so they live in an icy building.  There are so many opportunities to get up close and personal with different animals.  We got to feed the kangaroos, which must be incredibly well fed as few had any interest in nibbling for the bowl that my boys eagerly held out for them.  In other places, they had feeding times set up when you could show up and watch the zoo keepers feed the animals.  We missed elephant bath time, but I think that would be a fun and silly thing to watch the next time we go to the zoo.  And we will most certainly be going many times again. 

Like every great place here in Singapore, the zoo has a water play area!  There really couldn’t be a smarter idea.  You bring a bag with swim suits and just change the kids in and out of their wet clothes.  It’s positioning in the zoo also happens to be quiet handy as it is just at the my-kids-are-literally-melting-from-the-heat-and-walking point and you can get them nicely refreshed to finish the rest of the path through the zoo.  My only complaint about the water play area is the selection of food there.  Bring your own picnic lunch, because there is a KFC with very limited offerings (and of course, it is totally unhealthy and kind of blech to me) and a Ben and Jerry’s (which is just as unhealthy, but I am not going to knock on a cone.  Evah.)

All in all, the rumors were true.  If you are just visiting the country, don’t miss this gem.  Your kids, or the kid inside of you, will thank you for it.