The previous day (26th November) was spent… nowhere. When I woke up, it was raining heavily. I had breakfast from the hotel restaurant and then just stayed indoors for much of day, doing some work online. The plan for today was to go to Maeklong ‘Railway’ Market, but it was far out and given the weather conditions, there was no guarantee I would get there in time for me to see the trains pass through.
Today (27th November), the weather only got slightly better.
I had a Magnum for ‘breakfast’
I decided to have an early lunch and walked around the area heading towards Asoke BTS.
I ended up find this spot on Soi 11, choc full of restaurants and a few pubs
I ate at Shalimar Sharma’s (pictured above) simply because I had reached that stage when I missed Indian masala. It had a North Indian thali which cost ฿250. Feeling full, I then began my day by going to Siam Center.
I had seen a huge billboard stating Psy would be appearing on stage here today
Even though I was officially sick of the song, I thought why not just get a glimpse of the guy in person at this press conference
Being a work day, there weren’t too many fans either. Mostly press, and tourists.
I head way too much “Gangnam Style” in Thailand. Like, every-freaking-day!
“Gangnam Style”-fever reached fever pitch in Thailand, they even made elephants do the dance
Psy was finally in the building!
Before taking to the stage, Psy left a message for the King of Thailand, who was hospitalized
Even passengers waiting for the train were looking at what was going on
Yesterday evening was nice. Today was the last day of Loy Krathong, and I’m guessing tonight’s events were going to be a ‘grand finale’ to the festival. But first, I decided to move out of Rux Thai and take a single room at Centerplace Guesthouse because I was going to be out all day and tomorrow morning, I would leave for Chiang Rai.
A single room at Centerplace Guesthouse costs just 200 baht (Rs. 300/$6.7/€4.5).
After transferring my bags, I decided to spend my morning at Chiang Mai Zoo, which is en route to Doi Suthep.
Now I knew Chiang Mai Zoo wasn’t going to be as impressive as Singapore Zoo, but the main reason I chose to visit the zoo is to see a rare animal I rank among my favourites in the animal kingdom — the giant panda!
Chiang Mai Zoo has three of them. But the entrance fees to the zoo are broken up by the individual attractions the place has to offer. The zoo fee costs just ฿100, but it does not include the chance to see the pandas. That’s another ฿100. Also, if you want avail the open air bus, that’s ฿20. So all-in-all, I paid ฿220 (Rs. 325/$7.2/€5) for my entry.
The Indian elephant
I walked a bit, saw a few animals at the entrance that I’ve seen many time before and then hopped on to the zoo bus to head straight for the pandas.
You have a driver who gives commentary about the attractions as you go along, but it’s only in Thai
I got down here
You hand over the panda entry ticket here
First up, Lin Ping, the youngest panda in Chiang Mai Zoo
This is Lin Ping’s playground. So, where is Lin Ping? (Photo taken on Nokia E72)
To the extreme right corner… she was asleep (I hope)
Chiang Mai Zoo has 3 pandas, among the only 35 outside China
While young Lin Ping gets her massive play ground, her parents Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui are in a separate air-conditioned enclosure not too far away.
“Ni hao” (Chinese for “hello”)
This is the female panda Lin Hui
Play time for Lin Hui
And this bloke here is Xuang Xuang (Chuang Chuang)
Then ‘tooth pick’
Look at its ears!
Lin Ping was actually born using insemination because this bloke wasn’t interested in ‘doing the job’ with wifey
The entire process of how they inseminated Lin Hui is explained near Lin Ping’s section
The first two pandas at Chiang Mai zoo
After getting my panda fix, I moved on.
The zoo has a monorail service too (which costs extra as well)
And the ubiqitous 7-Eleven can be found inside the zoo as well
I took the tram car again, and it stopped for a while at the newly opened aquarium.
At those prices, I wasn’t keen on checking it out
Koalas were busy sleeping
Natural born sleepers
Dunger is one of the koalas
The Kids park
They have a kids section with a bunch of cute animals and some rather interesting tiny creatures.
This creature is called the pygmy marmoset
It’s a really tiny animal and it moved funnily
I moved on to the deer section next
There’s an overhead walkway
I walked to the next attraction
There was a huge tree trunk which had a set of stairs you could climb to get this view (Taken on my Nokia E72)
Next, I entered a birds enclosure.
Lady Amherst’s pheasant
Lovely looking thing
Oriental pied hornbill
India’s national bird — the peacock (Edit: A reader just pointed out it took a dump. Didn’t even notice that until she told me!)
Got the lighting right on this one
Siamese fireback pheasant
This is the birds enclosure (Panorama comprised of 6 shots)
Birds of prey next. This is the White bellied sea eagle
A kite… staring at me
Grey head fish eagle
Seriously, stop staring
Ostrich (if you didn’t know)
After the birds, next up was a large open section entirely for Gibbons.
Apes with really long arms
It was fun to watch these gibbons swing around
The gibbons have a pretty large playground
But they share the compound with a Siamese crocodile
Fun to watch apes play-fight
Look at their feet. Nature and its designs!
The only Rhinoceros in Thailand
When I saw this photo, I thought to myself “Looks so much like a stegosaurus”
They have elephant rides here, costs extra of course
Humboldt penguins, in a seperate temeprature-controlled zone
It’s only at this point I realized Chiang Mai Zoo is quite big
It occupies a large area and is quite hilly
The irony of having a shooting club inside a zoo(!) is beyond me
The land has the slopes for luge riding, but I didn’t see anybody in the cars
Went in search for more animals
The Asian black bear
Poor thing only has his shadow to talk to
Didn’t look at her for too long
Pig tailed macaque
The Bare-bum Ostrich*
And finally, the beautiful white tiger
Passed the same elephant on the way out
Also on the way out, I couldn’t help but buy a small souvenir from Chiang Mai zoo. They were selling stuffed toys of the zoo’s main stars, the pandas. I bought a small Lin Ping souvenir for 150 baht.
All in all, I must have spent nearly 4 hours in Chiang Mai zoo. A lot longer than I thought I would spend. I mostly came to see the pandas and ended up seeing pretty much everything the zoo had to showcase.
So is a visit to Chiang Mai zoo worth it? Well, Singapore Zoo didn’t have pandas (they only get them in 2012), and even koalas, when I visited back in September. So yes, this visit was time and money well-spent. At half the price of Singapore Zoo, you still see a lot of animals. Chiang Mai zoo also has animal shows and even a Night Safari. How good those are, I didn’t bother to find out of sheer dis-interest.
Go up this way for Doi Suthep
I got back pretty late in the afternoon
So I had a late lunch at the small eatery
Chiang Mai looked pleasant as ever
Floats were gathering
Another Grand Parade tonight?
Rachadamnoen road looked empty today
I asked them what time it would start and they said ‘at sunset’
I had some time, so I decided to go back to my room and rest a bit.
This is what a single bed room at Centerplace Guesthouse looks like (Lin Ping on the bed is not included in the ฿200. I just put her there)
The toilet is clean, and has hot shower
I lied down for a while — this day wasn’t over yet.
We only had from morning to evening in Singapore today, so we decided to skip Sentosa as the journey all the way to the theme park wouldn’t be worth it unless we could spend time at Universal Studios as well… for which we didn’t have “sufficient funds”. So, Singapore Zoo it was.
This being our last day in Singapore, I decided to take a few photographs of ABC Hostels, in case you were curious as to what its like from the inside.
The hostel provides free internet; we found it quite slow
This is the kitchen
...where you'd come to make your own breakfast or anything else
Once made, you have to sit outside. Once done, wash the dishes yourself. (Photo taken by my friend Loi)
Our room was at the end to the right
I didn’t take a photo of the room we got because it was in a mess, but picture this: not a big room, big enough bed for 3 mid-sized adults, functional split A/C, well-lit, with a mirror and table. That’s it. If you want more than a room for just sleeping, its best you book yourself into a regular hotel.
After finding out how to get to Singapore Zoo, we set off for Bugis MRT station.
To get Singapore Zoo, we first needed to get to Ang Mo Kio MRT station, and then take a bus from there.
Ang Mo Kio bus interchange
But as soon as we got down, there was a van waiting with a woman approaching tourists with a deal. Buy the entry ticket with 4 tram rides and a drop to the zoo in a van (one way) for SGD23 (SGD18 + 5 for the tram rides). We knew the entry fee is SGD18 (Rs. 620/$14/€10) for adults so it seemed like a good deal (but what do we know). Plus we didn’t have to take the bus.
The entry ticket costs SGD18 even if you were to buy it at the zoo entrance
When the van quickly filled up with other tourists, we set off.
After a 15 minute ride, we arrived at Singapore Zoo. The weren’t a whole lot of people in queue — but we just walked straight in as we already had our entry tickets.
They have real ones too
First up, monkeys…
… then parrots.
From this point on, the zoo truly begins.
Greater mousedeers they are called
These otters were 'busy'
There was a siamang (a type of ape) hiding in the trees
Next up, my favourite animal
There they are!
Its roar was sooo... (oh who am I kidding), it was only yawning
Babirusa, native to Indonesia
The zoo has a few sections for smaller creatures, like reptiles which are on display in enclosed exhibits.
The pygmy hippo... or at least half of it
Desert warthog a.k.a Pumba
This was at the Australian Outback section
If you don't know by now, they're called kangaroos
This I didn't know
Remembering the late Steve Irwin
Funny looking thing, this bird
Next up, baboons!
They have to share their space though
It's fun watching monkeys behave human
Saddle billed stork
Black backed jackal
Next up were Asian elephants
This is where they have the shows
Good on SBI for doing so
Didn't know there were penguins in Africa
Guess what this creature was
Yup. I didn't bother knocking on the glass or anything. I was too chicken.
Boat rides on the lake are also available
This is where the chimpanzees play
Couldn't get a clear shot of its face
They have a few ponies at the kids area
This was some model of an old farm house
Oh the irony of seeing a KFC at a zoo
Malaysian horned frog. Waited for the guy to turn around. He didn't.
This is one of the most intriguing-looking pigeon-type bird I've seen
After this, we entered a fairly large netted section which enclosed a few bats, birds and some more interesting animals of this world.
Took this on the same settings as the last shot, which is why it came out this way. Still, kinda cool.
You can get pretty close to these animals but you are asked not to touch them or feed them
Sloth. How these animals eat upside down is amazing.
Went in here next
Shooting the above leopard proved to be quite difficult, and in this video you’ll see why:
They did stay still eventually
Puma, the real thing
Finally, his highness truly
:P to you too
The king gets a pretty big ground for himself
You can pay to feed the giraffes and get your photo taken
It was very windy and looked like it was going to rain fairly soon
The fastest animal on the planet, the awesome cheetah
The rhino and its cleaning birds
I know you can't make out much of what this is
The one above was a very big ape (I believe an orangutan), quite old in age who was kept in this glass enclosure and it was quite dark… so you really couldn’t see it. It was moving around very slowly but unfortunately, due to the darkness inside its “cage” and the reflection on the glass, I couldn’t really get a good shot.
Aww shucks, I really wanted to see the polar bear
Despite having paid for 4 rides, I never availed the tram rides
With that, we were finally done. Well, sort of. We could have stayed back longer and waited for some of the animal shows. But it was 2:30pm, we had to have our lunch and the skies were quite cloudy.
I still wanted to go to Marina Bay Sands and since Ramesh and Loi were against it, I wasted no time and decided to go on my own.
Something for next time
I waited at the bus station just outside and in under 5 minutes, got one that goes to Ang Mo Kio MRT station.
They have a street named Tagore Drive; not sure if it's after our Rabindranath Tagore
It was nice to drive through the residential side of Singapore. Compared to all the commercial glitz and glamour of the central business district, Ang Mo Kio seemed so quaint and… nice.
Anyway, I arrived at Ang Mo Kio bus terminal in around 15 minutes and got down to take the underpass to the MRT station. Ang Mo Kio is located on the red line, so the train goes straight to Marina Bay — the last stop. The ride took another 15 minutes.
Once I was out of the station/construction site (it looked like they were upgrading the station) it was still drizzling.
That's where I was headed
It was tough holding a camera on one hand and an umbrella on the other
When I saw this, I smiled
Why did I smile? Because seeing the above instantly reminded me of another ‘marina’ I was at in April. I could help but go: “Ahh, so that’s where Dubai got the idea from!”
Marina Bay City Gallery
The mall at Marina Bay Sands Casino & Hotel
More stores are set to open
Felt like going in just to see the car
They offer boat (sampan) rides on these canals
To get to the hotel and Sky Park counter, you need to go down this
Go up, come out the left side of the lobby, which leads out to the Helix Bridge
Then take a left and go down this escalator. Down here is the ticket counter for the Sky Park.
And when I got there they asked me to wait because the sky park was wet.
Turns out they have a “wet policy” which essentially closes the observation deck to visitors if the observation deck is wet. I asked them if I could go up as I was leaving Singapore in a few hours but they said sorry, they couldn’t make an exception.
I told them I couldn’t wait as I had a flight to catch in a few hours time, so I didn’t.
I made way back up disappointed and decided to check out the hotel instead.
You could tell by looking at the guests coming down to the lobby they were high rollers; in town to gamble a lot of money away.
Since I couldn’t check out the Sky Park, I thought I’d at least check out the casino.
Buuuuut… the casino has a strict dress code… and a “No Photography” rule — both of which I didn’t qualify for. I didn’t even bother using the “but I’m leaving Singapore in a few hours” excuse as one sight of the huge security men at the casino entrance will make you think otherwise.
So I made my way back to the mall
Damn you rain god! Ruining everything!
Saw this "wishing well" of sorts outside the mall. I had to take a closer look.
If you are wondering what those are... they're coins!
I went to the other side of the mall to where the buses to the Marina Bay MRT station are.
Besides having a 2500-room hotel, casino and a shopping mall, they also have Singapore's largest convention center
Sigh. So close, yet nowhere near.
It sucks I couldn’t check out Marina Bay Sands Casino & Hotel the way I had planned. Oh well, another thing for next time.
It was past 4:30pm when I boarded the bus back to the MRT station. The drizzling hadn’t stopped, and I had to take the metro back to our hostel. I got to the hostel before my friends did and I used the time to get out of my wet clothes and re-pack. When the other two arrived, we took all our bags and walked towards Victoria MRT.
We took the MRT all the way to Terminal 2 at Changi. As soon as we got out, right in front of us was a board showing the layout of Changi Airport. Three big terminals… and then one tiny red square. That was our budget terminal
It was so funny, I regret not taking a photo of it. It was like the big guys just wanted to keep rubbing it in on how cheap people who avail budget carriers are, just so they would quit and use the regular airlines instead.
Anyway, we were at the budget terminal by around 6:30pm for our 8:15pm Tiger Airways flight. And then the flight got delayed by 30 minutes. While we could pass time by availing the free internet and having snacks at the airport, it was still annoying as it only meant our arrival at Penang would also be late.
A minute before announcing it was time to board, most of them were sitting on the floor
Departing 20:15; current time - 20:38. Oh Tiger...
Once the plane did finally take off, we all three agreed on one thing: we were definitely coming back to Singapore!
Even though it was only 3 days, we loved every bit of it. Except the rain bit, we all hated that. We also decided we come back during F1 week but stay much longer.
Thats just some of the many container ships at Singapore Port
We landed at Penang, got through immigration quick and soon took a pre-paid taxi to head to Georgetown, where our guesthouse was.
It was raining here as well
It took more than half an hour to reach our hotel in Georgetown, that’s how far the airport was. We were going to be staying at Old Penang Guesthouse during our time on Penang island.
We booked a triple/family room
Since it was nearing 12am, we quickly went out in search of dinner.
We were told there were 24 hour restaurants, mostly serving Indian cuisine, not too far from our guesthouse. We walked under our umbrellas and got into one.
What I had: Nasi Kandar
Basically rice with your choice of meat and a mix of curries. Yum it was.
There were many ‘Indian’ restaurants in the area.
Kapitan's is quite popular - and open 24hrs
Yup. A burger stall honouring Machester United. Just one of many such tributes we came across in Malaysia in honour of England's most famous football club.
There is a 7-Eleven and quite a few bars near our guesthouse
Once back in the room, and a warm shower later, we did our calculations and thought about what had to do tomorrow.
In my ongoing quest to try out things I've never had before, I drank this. It was okay.
Our first trip to Singapore was done, and Malaysia had begun. We only hoped it would be nice & sunny in Penang tomorrow.