The advantage of flying from Mauritius to Singapore is that on overnight flight against the rotation of the earth means that sleeping through most of the flight should reduce jet-lag. The downside is that your night is 4 hours shorter than usual, so you end up fairly tired at the end!
As we were coming in to land, the engines roared back to life and we started climbing again. We did a second lap around the city before actually landing on the second go. They never informed us of what went wrong, but we found ourselves on the ground around 20 minutes behind schedule.
As I was about to discover, Singapore has what seems to be widely accepted as the best airport on earth – so luckily clearing passport control and baggage claim was very quick.
Eugene was waiting for me at arrivals – it had been about 18 months since I had last seen him, so it was great to see him again.
After a not-very-good night sleep, I was tired – but I knew that the best way to avoid jet lag was to stay awake till that evening.
We got a taxi back to Eugene’s apartment. It was great to see the family again (well, minus Emily, who is studying in Europe). Sarah has grown up quite a bit since I last saw her and Matthew towers above me these days.
Singapore has a surprisingly good network of hiking trails – not something you expect for a fairly small and very densely populated city state. Originally I had planned to do a lot of hiking in Singapore, but the 102km of hiking I had done in Mauritius the week before had taught me the pains of hiking in tropical heat – so I realised I wouldn’t manage nearly that much in Singapore.
Eugene, Matthew and myself set off to hike the MacRitchie Trail around midday that Saturday. The trail is the mostly highly recommended hiking route in the country, and I must say that it is well worth doing.
On the way back we stopped for chicken and rice at a local hawkers centre while it was pouring with rain outside.
Sunday – day 9
Sarah had recently turned 11, but due to work pressure, her birthday party had been delayed till early December. So the family, plus some of Sarah’s friends and myself all set off for Universal Studios on Sentosa Island.
On the drive there, I had my first proper look at the Singapore CBD, including iconic buildings such as the Marina Bay Sands.
I am not a massive fan of roller-coasters, and neither is Matthew – so this was bound to be an interesting day.
We all rode the Madagascar ride – which is on water, not a roller-coaster. Afterwards Matthew and I had a discussion on the jokes not designed for kids. We had both been a bit annoyed that the crocodile didn’t move its head and open its jaws as we rode past.
Our first roller-coaster was the relatively tame Enchanted Airways, themed after Shrek – which was fairly fast but over very quickly.
We next did the Canopy Flyer roller-coaster, themed after Jurassic Park. Luckily we were facing forward – I wasn’t keen to do it backwards. I think I was more nervous than Matthew – but it wasn’t particularly bad.
We all regrouped for lunch, before one of Sarah’s friends had to leave and we split up again – with Eugene, Matthew and myself heading to the Jurassic Rapids Water Ride next. This was definitely the most enjoyable ride of the day for me – mostly very tame, but with one short steep backwards descent near the end.
Our final ride for the day was one that Eugene managed to trick Matthew and I into doing. He managed to convince us that the Revenge of the Mummy ride was a simple ride where they tried to scare you with visuals, but the ride itself was simple and non-threatening.
I kind of suspected he was having a go, and I think Matthew did as well – but I knew if I bailed, Matthew would probably bail as well, so I decided to keep quiet. I think Matthew also didn’t want to be the one to chicken out – so he kept quiet as well.
Eventually when we were attacked to the ride and it started moving, Eugene admitted it was actually a very scary ride. Well, nothing we can do about it now, I guess!
The first section of the ride is actually pretty boring. Some story about something that I wasn’t really paying attention to. Visuals like that don’t scare me, so I just waited through it. Soon you hit a screen and there are some fires – and I could see we weren’t going forward. I soon realised we were about to go backwards – and bang, very fast we were dropping backwards. But we have stopped. Then suddenly we were flying forward in a rapid downwards spiral that I did not enjoy – as I mentioned, roller coasters aren’t my thing! Before long it was over and we were cruising to the finish line.
We found the others and soon were making our way back from a rather interesting day at Universal Studios.
Monday – day 10
I had a few activities planned for the day, but was only on the trains around 8:30am, so I was already starting a bit late. The first item on the agenda was the local Botanic Gardens. I expected that an hour or two would be plenty – I usually don’t like these things, they usually feel very fake and unnatural. My first hint that I might be in for something a bit different was when the entrance sign indicated that these were a World Heritage Site – but how can a Bot Gardens be a WHS? This question would very quickly be answered upon entrance.
The entrance area with the usual tree displays didn’t strike me as anything unusual. But I soon found the terrapin and swan lakes and realised this wasn’t what I had been expecting.
Then I started noticing the floral displays.
There were flowers everywhere, and not just one type, but hundreds.
The displays were in amazing shape and very well laid out. I don’t know how many employees this park has, but I think the fact that Singapore has 100% employment rate might have something to do with the amount of work required to keep such a large park in such good shape.
I soon found the world famous orchid exhibit. The displays are constantly rotated so that only flowering plants are ever on display. I don’t know how many orchids they actually had, I read 20 000 different species, but this display is so far beyond any floral display that I have ever seen. To call it exceptional is almost an insult – it is impossible to describe – so here are a few photos:
After spending 5 hours at the gardens, I realised my plans of doing something else on this day were looking unlikely. So I decided to play a little Pokemon Go. As a large group of us finished a legendary raid, it began to rain, and I ended up sitting out the storm with two Singaporeans. We completed a few Pokemon trades and chatted about various topics. Always nice to meet up with some people in the place you are traveling to.
After the storm was over, I made my way to the Burgers’ house. Matthew and I walked from there back to his school to meet Eugene. We walked to the shops so I could buy a new camera to replace the one that broke in Mauritius. We also bought some steak for supper.
I had to get a fairly early night sleep – tomorrow would be a big day. I was about to fly to Kuala Lumpur to head up the Petronas Towers, something I had wanted to do since I was about 12.
My first 3 days in Singapore had gone very well, but I was starting to realise how long it could take to complete my to-do list. This country had already proven to be far more interesting than I had anticipated!