Day 133: Operation Rooftop

Apologies if this post is patchy at all, I am writing it 2 days after the events occurred. It was a fantastic day, we crammed so much in, it began with the zoo and ended with a sneaky oceans eleven style act. So here we go:

• It was Anna, Sarah and I that visited the zoo on this glorious sun shining morning. We got up around 8:30am and went about the morning bathroom duties. We then got dressed and headed downstairs for breakfast.

• I only include the point of breakfast, as on this particular morning I ate 6 eggs, and 4 slices of toast. This isn’t really specific to anything, just thought I’d brag about the size of my feast.

• We were told by the receptionist that the bus we’d need to catch would collect us from around the corner. When we arrived there was no sign of a bus stop, only a long 4 lane road. Roughly 10 minutes later, a coach pulled over dead on time (10:25am).

• We were the only 3 people to climb aboard the vehicle, and were taken on a 20 minute journey to the Singapore Zoo’s front gates. Had we missed that bus, it would have been an hour long ordeal of catching the metro and a bus.

• A lady greeted us outside, we had to pay her for the transportation. We asked her to take a photo of us at the entrance. We paid for our tickets, then began our adventure in the greatest zoo in the world.

• Singapore Zoo is by far the best zoo I have ever been to. All the animals aren’t confined to cages, instead they are in enclosures. It’s all open, you can practically touch them, and in certain cases you actually can. For example, they have tamed monkeys that walk freely around the zoo. This doesn’t mean they annoy people, instead they keep to themselves and mostly spend their time eating fruits and nuts. Words won’t do this place justice, it was a truly magical experience, and for once, the animals seemed genuinely happy. Not a single one looked stressed.

We were given a map to explore the vast grounds. The map also showed the feeding times, and shows if certain animals. We began our visit by admiring the majestic elephants. They were putting on a show with their Mahout trainers. It was fantastic. They began by walking them out into the water. The elephants then sprayed water at the audience through their powerful trunks. It was a real marvel to watch. The lady on the microphone was explaining how the Mahouts got the elephants to manoeuvre, to which they demonstrated. One of the elephants then performed a balancing act on a log, followed by a demonstration of their shear strength.

They crushed coconuts with their feet, lifted gigantic logs with their trunks, and one of the older elephants dragged a 400kg log through the water and onto the bank. The elephants then put all the items back in their places for the next show. The act was concluded with a comedy show. They led on their sides and tripped the trainers with their trunks. Some even stole food from their belts. It was great to watch, I just hope it was all above board and no harm ever came to them.

After the first show, we spent the next half an hour looking at the monkeys. They had all breeds, spider, capuchin, mandril, to name but a few. All of which were on islands surrounded by water. They had plenty of room to swing, climb, jump on their large climbing frames. We then walked to our next show: “The Rainforest Show”. This was just as entertaining as the last, even if we did catch it 10 minutes in. It involved all the smaller animals of the jungle, such as birds, snakes, otters, lemurs. At one point, they got a member of the audience to go on stage and compete against an orangutan in coconut cracking. The man, try as he did, couldn’t get the thing open, even after several blows against a wooden spike. The ape on the other hand, grasped it in her hands and feet, and with one squeeze the fruit was in pieces.

They had a man come out pretending to be a lumberjack. He imitated a cutting action on the trees using his toy chainsaw, then several small animals ran across the stage to chase him off. This was all done to demonstrate a point. Another lady on a microphone came out and told us a scary fact. She said, “because of the illegal logging that occurs in rain forests, animals are losing their homes, and the forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. If this continues, in as little as 20 years there may be no rain forests left. Meaning there will be nothing left for future generations!” She finished the speech by saying “lets work together today, to help make a better world for tomorrow”, then loud beautiful music began to play, and all the animals came running down the ropes above our heads, and birds flew to the stage out of nowhere, the otters swam and jumped in the water. It was a real beautiful moment.

There was the option to have your photo taken with a snake at the end, but it wasn’t that big, so we weren’t that bothered (it’s not about the size). We then had some free time on our hands before any more shows, so decided to go for lunch. The food was great, but the fruit was even better. We took the fruit with us, and made our way to the African section of the zoo. There was an educational lesson at the lion enclosure. As well as a feeding. We learned that the lions ate between 5-7kg of meat each day, and during mating season, the male lion mates every 15 minutes for 3 days straight (that’s too much by anyone’s standards! Think of all the chaffing)

Off to the side, one of the trainers threw chunks of meat into the enclosure. Each time, the two lions watched tentatively as it flew through the air and landed at their feet. When the educational lesson was over, we admired the rest of what Africa had to offer. We saw rhinos, gazelles, warthogs, meerkats, and giraffes. You could feed fruit to the tall terrors for 5 dollars. Their long leathery tongues reached out to all those who did. There was also one solemn cheetah. A sad fact beside the enclosure explained there had been many cheetahs killed in the wild, either for their fur, or because of farmers. Due to their natural habitats being demolished, they have no choice but to find food closer to villages. This means they kill live stock in order to survive. The most shocking point on the board was how few there are left in the wild – 100. It could be very well true that the next generation may never get to see them!!!

Africa was great, but what came next was something I was really looking forward to. The white tiger! There was a live feeding, which we got to enjoy. Much like for the lions, the trainer threw in pieces of meat. The tigers were much more energetic about it than the lions. They jumped up to catch it as it flew towards them. The trainer had a good arm, each throw landed right next to them. We were warned at the beginning that if we stood too close, there would be a chance of getting hit by meat juice. “Ooooowww, Sarah you poor thing!” Yes ladies and gents, Sarah got hit on the hand. That was enough to make her scream “eeww”, and walk away.

We learned how white tigers came about. They’re not a rare anomaly like other albino animals. The tigers have black stripes, pink noses and blue or green eyes. In fact, they’re all inbred. Years ago, a sultan went out hunting for a rare white tiger that was in the nearby jungle. After many days hunting, they eventually located it. Amazed by its coat, he took it captive and bred, and bred, and bred it until he had more. So all white tigers you see today are descendants of the first white tiger. I took plenty of pictures of the inbred pair, then we continued around the zoo.

We were quite hot and thirsty by this stage. We made a stop in the restaurant once again, where we had some drinks and took a look at the map. Sarah was ticking off the animals as we went. We had already seen quite a lot, yet still had a lot more to see. Our next stop was to visit the orangutans. I didn’t really listen to what the lady had to say about these animals, as I was too distracted by their cheeky ways. Four of them climbed down to sit in front of us on their branch. One of which was carrying 2 babies. The trainer wiped one of their noses with a tissue, and one by one he gave them a drink. At the end, we were allowed to sit in front of them and have a picture taken. Slightly unnerved about turning my back to such a mischievous animal, Anna, Sarah and I sat down and smiled. Nothing happened to us luckily, we then went about exploring the rest of the zoo.

We had seen all the feedings and shows we wanted to, so for the rest of our time we went about observing the animals from a distance. Here are just some of the many we witnessed: turtles, naked mole rats, leopard cats (like household cats, only a tiny bit bigger, with larger eyes), kangaroos, sun bears, chimpanzees, squirrels, manatees, bats, and crocodiles to name but a few. While in the area of the sun bears (they’re the worlds smallest bears don’t you know!) we learned of how Teddy Bears got their names. Save me having to type, I took a picture of the fact itself, you can see it at the bottom of this post.

We had spent the whole day at the zoo, to the point we almost missed the 5:30pm coach to get back. We rushed as fast as we could, it took a surprisingly long time to leave the premises, but we made it. We paid the lady for another ticket, and 20 seconds later the coach pulled away (that was a close one).

• The journey back took a lot longer, a whole hour to be exact, during which time the weather took a turn for the worst. Not only were we stuck in rush hour, but the heavens opened, and the streets turned into a swimming pool. We thought we had stayed on for too long at first, nothing around us looked familiar. Until the next corner that was, “ah Little India, as bad as your food is, I am glad to see you!” I was even more happy to see the hostel, where we could sit down and relax.

• We remained at the hostel for a while that evening. The girls enjoyed some noodles they bought from the 7 Eleven next door, however, because all their flavours involved seafood, I forwent eating until 2am that morning; but we’ll get to that. We all chatted over cups of coffee, and decided to go visit the Singapore Flyer that evening. When everyone had faffed about getting ready, it was around 9pm.

• The receptionist told us how to go about getting their, it was just a short ride on the metro. When we arrived, the rain was still falling, everyone had an umbrella bar me. My hair got ruined people! All that time styling it was for nothing. Just kidding, I didn’t care. The Singapore Flyer is much like the London Eye, only a lot bigger. From the top (on a clear day) you’re supposed to be able to see the border between Singapore and Malaysia.

The entrance fee cost 33 dollars. Sarah didn’t bother coming up, as she had already done it before. She was right not to do so, as I felt very disappointed by the whole 40 minute experience. The booth we had was steamed up on one side, and each window was covered in rain drops. It made for very difficult viewing, and photographs. It was still nice to be able to see the whole of Singapore from so high up though. We weren’t that upset by it, as next we’d be visiting the Marina Bay Hotel! I was jealous that when Sarah had gone up (2 and a half years earlier) it was during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. She got the chance to see all of Singapore’s night sky alive with fireworks! When we got to the souvenir shop, I did something a bit naughty. Ignoring the no camera sign above the tv monitor, I snapped pictures on my phone of the group photos we had taken before boarding the flyer.

• The Marina Bay hotel was within eyesight when we got back on solid ground. Then again, it’s within eyesight from any place you look, the building is massive. During our walk to the entrance we noticed a long queue of people hoping to reach the rooftop bar. Knowing it would cost us time and money to get there, we formulated a plan that would get us to the top free of charge. Sneaky!

We continued past the first tower, past the second tower, then made our way toward the entrance of the third tower. Outside the entrance were taxis dropping off guests, concierge with their golden trollies, and many business looking men. The girls I had with me all looked great, they were dressed up to the nines. I on the other hand, had a pair of jeans, converse shoes, and a black Tshirt. It’s safe to say I didn’t look the part, though I was wearing aftershave for the first time in a while. Nevertheless, the 5 of us made our way through the intimidatingly sized lobby. The walls went on forever, you could barely see the ceiling, it was that tall. Even the decorative foliage was large. Later on that evening, when we saw employees tending to some trees, they looked tiny. They needed a ladder to reach the top of the pot it was in. It reminded me of those giant chairs you get you pictures taken on.

I felt like George Clooney in the “Oceans” movies as I made my way to the elevators with my team. We strode through like we owned the place. The best way to avoid suspicion was to to look casual. It was a really long walk to the lifts, but unbelievably, we made it without question. When we got in the lifts we all breathed a sigh of relief, and pressed the button for floor 57. “Doors locked” said the sign! “Why aren’t we moving?” A sign read that we had to enter our guest card in order to use the elevators. We thought our plan was ruined, we’d have to accept defeat and join the long queue outside. Just as soon as we were about to walk away, Sarah said “wait a minute”. Our saviour had arrived. A couple guests with their cards, all we’d have to do was join them in the lift and we could go to any floor we wanted.

Inside the lift, we watched as the man put his card in and pressed a button. “This is it guys, we’re going up!” I thought excitedly. No sooner than those words ran through my mind, the same man snatched his card from the slot, and the pair of them darted from the lift. We were then back to square one. I’m not quite sure why they did that, possibly they were new to the hotel and were warned of freeloaders like us. Whatever it was, we needed to climb 57 floors to achieve our goal.

Our plan was falling apart by the second. The longer we remained in the elevator area, the more suspicion we raised. A place that fancy was bound to have an impressive security system, and no doubt we had shown up on the radar. Any second now I was sure security guards would be along to usher us out. As predicted, two figures came around the corner heading right for us!

“Phew!” Another sigh of relief, it was another couple, followed by more guests. We all got in the same lift, only this time we achieved elevation. The 2 couples got off on their floors, then we continued upwards. BING, floor 57 we have arrived. The first thing we did was walk to the railing at the buildings edge to admire the view. It was stunning. As far as the eye could see were city lights, tall buildings, landmarks, and hotels, it was amazing. It was also very windy, but we didn’t come for the view, well we did, but we wanted a drink to sip on as we took it in.

The bar was only 20 metres from where we were stood. At the doors a bouncer stood. By comparison to the a******* back home, he was the nicest bouncer I’d ever met. He asked us for I.D, but seeing as we hadn’t needed it since being in Southeast Asia, we didn’t have it on us. Back home that would have been it. No I.D, no entry. This guy asked us for our birth dates, and after everyone said how old they were he gave us the benefit of the doubt. He finished by said “you wouldn’t lie to me would you?” Bless him. With that said, I wish he hadn’t let us in after what came next!

At the bar, we were handed the menu with a list of cocktails, wines and beers. If you’re drinking something while reading this, I suggest you swallow it now. After tax had been added, it came to 22 Singaporean dollars for a 50cl glass of Stella Artois. That was around £11. I don’t even like the drink that much, but it was the cheapest alcoholic beverage on the menu. Eleven pounds, man, even as I write this I can’t believe I spent that much on one drink. Regardless of the extortion we had been subjected to, we took our glasses and made our way outside.

The city was gorgeous, even that word doesn’t do it justice. The city skyline looked like a magnificent painting. The way the lights flickered on the river below made for a nice view to drink our liquid gold to. We could see the curve of the ship from where we stood. There was a rooftop swimming pool, which was closed off due to the late hour of our visit. During our scooter tour we were told about a traveller who had been confident enough to bluff his way to the roof and have a swim.

The only thing that ruined the experience were the rich business men all around us. I presumed they were business men, I didn’t ask. All I know is they must have been rich, each one of them was suited and booted, eyed up every woman around them, and had enough money to afford all the bottles of liqueur they had around them. I think they may have been insecure on some level and were overcompensating for something. They offered any nearby woman to drink with them, and every few moments they’d join in unison to shout as loud as they could, for as long as they could. A weird drinking game to say the least. They are the sole reason I hate being sober in bars, that sort of behaviour enrages me. However, if I’m drunk, I’m usually the one acting off, so swings and roundabouts.

We took photos to commemorate the night we sneaked into an expensive hotel, then when our glasses were empty we returned to reality. A place where we had no income, and the only way we could afford to stay in such a luxurious building would be in our wildest dreams. By the time we left it was gone midnight, meaning we had missed the last metro, and bus. There were 5 of us, so getting a taxi was out of the question, Meg and Jenna were at the end of their travels, so they couldn’t afford one on their own, it left us with one choice. We had to walk.

• We walked and walked, and walked, and walked, until eventually I noticed we were covering the same route we took on the scooters. Granted, it took us miles out of the way, we would have been better off staying on the track we started on. Sarah was really hungry by this point, in fact we all were. It had been over 12 hours since Anna, Sarah and I had eaten, and by the looks of things, we weren’t getting food anytime soon. After asking a passer by for directions, and following the map for a while, a taxi driver pulled up in front of us. He asked if we wanted a lift, but chose to drive away when we told him there were 5 of us.

He suddenly stopped, all but 5 feet from us, and stuck his head out the window. He told us he’d take us all for 5 dollars more. By then our legs were aching, we were slightly wet, and our stomachs were empty, 20 dollars seemed like a bargain to be free of those ailments. He told the girls in the back that they’d have to try and stay hidden, in case any police were on patrol. Unlike other Asian countries: Bangkok, Laos, Vietnam etc, Singapore was more westernised, and clearly had a better road safety system implemented. Anna volunteered to squat down out of sight, and we continued down the road. It was a good job the taxi driver appeared. As we drove the many different roads, I noticed occasional markers from the scooter tour. We’d have had one hell of a long walk had we continued. We asked him to drop us off at a late night Indian restaurant close to our hostel. It wasn’t a problem, and 10 minutes later we arrived.

• The food was once again infuriating. It the reason I keep poisoning myself with McDonald’s. “How the mighty have fallen”, is a quote that comes to mind. Back home I would have had a McDonald’s once or twice a month, at most! I was much more into healthy living: gym, fruit, veg, meat. All in big quantities. Seeing as we were staying in Little India, we didn’t have much choice, and given the lateness of the hour, we had even less. The girls love the food, and say it’s some of the best they’ve had. That annoys me the most. I may have said this before, and if so I am sorry, but when I order meat, I EXPECT MEAT! Not only are the portions small, but the meat is 80% bone. You have to pick at all your food, and when it’s in you mouth you constantly have the worry that you’ll be stabbed by a stray bone. Oh and to go with that chicken, you get a naan bread. Terrific. When we finished eating, I begrudgingly paid, and me and my harem returned to the hostel.

• I didn’t get round to typing up the blog when I got in as I was exhausted, I prefer to type it up at the end of each day. That way all the memories are fresh, as well as the emotions I felt with each experience. Clearly the food is still an issue, as 2 days later I am still able to have a good moan. It was 4am before I got into bed, where once again I had to share my single bed with Sarah. Only this time, she had somehow upgraded her stay to the wall side. Ready for sleep, I got comfy on the edge of the bed, closed my eyes, and waited to doze off. Bu-Dum Tsss!!

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