Thursday, October 20, 2011

zoo station

I'm not normally a big fan of zoos.  They're depressing.  There's not much worse than seeing an animal that you normally see (on tv) running and jumping and eating an antelope just sitting around.  Or sleeping.  Usually sleeping.  On a small island of land smaller than the Brady Bunch backyard.  Zoos are really just animal jail.  
I read the Life of Pi a few years ago, and there's a section at the beginning that talks about zoos.  Specifically, why zoos aren't so bad.  Of course, I forget the arguments (the animals are safe?  they get antelope burgers delivery?), but it did do a bit to sway my opinion.  (side note: I enjoyed the book.  I recommend it, though it's not for everyone.  It's sort of a cross between actual literature and an airport book.  And it has this bit at the end where the author whonks you on the side of the head to say "GET IT?!", which is annoying.  But overall, I quite liked the book)

And as there's little left in Singapore to do, I went to the zoo this past weekend.  There are really two parks: the Night Safari, and the Zoo.  They are right beside each other, but are totally separate.  You can buy combo passes, and are encouraged to do so, but it's possible to only visit one if you'd like.  I went to both.  On separate days, but not by choice.

In a move that reeks of absolute genius, the two parks don't have overlapping operating hours.  There's a window of about an hour and a half where both are closed.  Thus, to visit both parks in the same day requires good timing.  Otherwise, you'll finish the zoo too early and be stuck waiting hours for the Night Safari to open.  The key is to get to the zoo late, and when you leave to have as minimal waiting time as possible for the Night Safari.  I missed that window.  

The zoo stops letting people in 30 minutes before it actually closes (how many places did I work that I wished had THAT policy?), and so no entry that day for me.  This meant a solid hour- at least- of sitting around waiting for the Night Safari.  I visited all the gift shops.  I passed on the $15 burger (it wasn't antelope).  I considered paying $10 to have 'doctor fish' nibble the skin of my feet, but then realized paying $10 to have nightmares is a bad idea.

Eventually it opened, and I safaried away.  Night Safari was smaller than I expected, and less exciting.  I'd been told that it was the better of the two, and certainly more unique.  You start off on a tram, taking a tour of the park.  It's a small circuit, and the whole ride is done in under 20 minutes.  You're given the chance to hop off halfway (conveniently at the store & restaurant) and walk around, but I rode the full circuit.  There are slooooow dooooowns every so often to check out the animals.  At the end of the loop, you can go back and walk around, so I did.  The good thing about the Night Safari is that the animals are indeed out and about.  Mostly they seemed to be eating.  The bad things are that (as I learned the next day), they're pretty much the exact same animals they've got at the zoo, and, since it's dark, you can't really take pictures.  You could try, but without flash it's just a dark muddled blur.  
Still, I walked around and generally enjoyed it.  For some reason, Psycho Lunatic was given permission to design one section of the park:  the Night Cave (it has a different name, but I don't remember it and there's no way I'm looking it up).  This is a plaster tunnel, designed to look like a cave, with plastic cages set into the walls.  The animals inside are:  rats, snakes, and centipedes.  It is the Worst Thing Ever.  I can't imagine anyone on the planet finds it enjoyable.  I looked around for some matches and kindling, thinking I would do the world a favor and burn the monstrosity to the ground, but no luck.  I imagine Singapore frowns upon zoo terrorism, even if it's for a good cause.  

The next day, it was back to the zoo.  I'd have gone a different weekend, but my combo pass I bought a month ago expired that day.  I'm glad I went- the Singapore Zoo was pretty enjoyable.  For one, they've got otters.  OTTERS ARE AWESOME.  All parks should have otters.  For another, they had loads of different types of monkeys.  The more monkeys, the better the zoo.  Even though it was essentially in the tropics in the middle of the day, all the animals seemed to be active.  Monkeys, rhino, giraffe, more monkeys, pygmy hippo, regular hippo, white tiger, lion, tapir, lemur, bats, zebra and more.  They all looked well treated, they all seemed to have a decent amount of space (except for the tigers, who zoos must hate because every zoo has tigers on a rinky dink island that could double as a putting green).  
I spent several hours walking around, and only part of that time was because I got turned around and walked to the far side of the zoo again. 

And with that, the checklist of things to do in Singapore was complete.  I've got this upcoming weekend, then one more after that.  I've got a new mini checklist of things to do these last two weekends, but home is in sight.

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