…Singapore, part 1

(I apologize for a lack of pictures, imagine a thorougly modern world city, with ample trees, sidewalks and fancy shopping, poised on the coast, and you’ve got Singapore.)

We’re back from a whirlwind immersion in modern luxury that left me in tears on the way to the airport. Why? I was that depressed about having to leave the McDonalds, the Pho, the opportunity to try clothes on before you buy them… and walkable streets, open parks and movie theaters.

Those tears were a pretty clear indication that I enjoyed the trip a lot, of course. I’d move to Singapore, if opportunity presented itself, though the sheer number of malls and shopping centers might make me fear for my bank account. I think we spent 80% of our waking hours in malls of some sort or other, even when we weren’t shopping, we were walking through them on the way to other things. The official language of Singapore is English, but it’s a cultural melting pot, and the architecture, sound and taste are pan-Asian and Western combined.

We arrived at the bleary hour just before dawn on Friday, after an altogether too short red-eye from Dhaka. The flight was 4 hours, punctuated by a meal, children who acted like banshees (not babies, but older kids who screamed like them for long long long intervals—childrearing is very different here than I am used to), and a few bouts of turbulence (it is the rainy season after all). Thankfully, our hotel had arranged for a private car to take us into town, and we checked in incredibly early and crashed on the bed until noon. The room had this great opaque shade that made daytime seem like night.

We then crawled down to the first floor to partake of the included lunch, yummy, and then ventured out into the wide world of Singapore’s tourist industry. We went first to Sentosa Island, a cross between a beach resort, a Disney-like gardening theme, and a casino. We visited an aquarium and saw a dolphin and sea lion show with local pink dolphins. They’re rather ugly because their mottled pink and grey skin looks more like they have a disease or bad case of sunburn than something natural. One of the sea lions was a total ham though, and danced to the music the whole time.

We also walked on the beach there, saw a fountain that was reminiscent of Gaudi, and ate the first of many ice creams over the weekend. I was totally wiped out by the time we got home later that night, crashed again, and woke up just late enough that the housekeeper was already opening the door to clean our room.

On Saturday, we got a tourist transit pass and made our way out to the zoo. The exhibits were almost completely open, many of the animals were on islands surrounded by a stream as way of containing them, rather than cages. They also had some free ranging orangutans. It was truly an amazing zoo, and I’ve been to many of the world’s best zoos. What made it even better was the gentle drizzle that kept the day cool, and the animals active and alert. We saw an elephant show and another sea lion show. Mr. A was chosen to be the audience participant (a big “macho man”) and was challenged to toss Frisbees from quite a distance to a sea lion on stage. He did remarkably well, even considering that they handed him a floppy rubbery disc that I wouldn’t have been able to toss to the computer screen in front of me now. Next door to the zoo is the equally awesome Night Safari zoo, made especially cool by the night mist and the solitary trails between exhibits. We made it back on the last train to our subway stop and creeped back to the hotel for another dead sleep.

Sunday was full of shopping, eating Pho and cheesy fries and picking up some of the stuff requested by people here in Dhaka (lemons, for instance, are unavailable here… weird).

Monday was more of the same, but much hotter and Tuesday we visited a movie theater to see the new X-men movie before hopping on the plane back to Dhaka. We made sure to pick up the strange Korean meat product that was described by previous visitors to the Singapore airport as “meat crack” and sat amongst a forest of orchids above a koi pond while we waited for our flight. And here we are, back in Dhaka, where the weather is surprisingly pretty and blue today, you can thank us for bringing it back with us.

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