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 decided to have an early lunch and walked around the area heading towards Asoke BTS.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After getting my panda fix, I moved on.
I took the tram car again, and it stopped for a while at the newly opened aquarium.
They have a kids section with a bunch of cute animals and some rather interesting tiny creatures.
Next, I entered a birds enclosure.
After the birds, next up was a large open section entirely for Gibbons.
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.
I had some time, so I decided to go back to my room and rest a bit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
First up, monkeys…
… then parrots.
From this point on, the zoo truly begins.
The zoo has a few sections for smaller creatures, like reptiles which are on display in enclosed exhibits.
After this, we entered a fairly large netted section which enclosed a few bats, birds and some more interesting animals of this world.
Shooting the above leopard proved to be quite difficult, and in this video you’ll see why:
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.
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.
I waited at the bus station just outside and in under 5 minutes, got one that goes to Ang Mo Kio MRT station.
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.
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!”
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.
I went to the other side of the mall to where the buses to the Marina Bay MRT station are.
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.
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 would come back during F1 week but stay much longer.
We landed at Penang, got through immigration quick and soon took a pre-paid taxi to head to Georgetown, where our guesthouse was.
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.
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.
Basically rice with your choice of meat and a mix of curries. Yum it was.
There were many ‘Indian’ restaurants in the area.
Once back in the room, and a warm shower later, we did our calculations and thought about what had to do tomorrow.
Our first trip to Singapore was done, and Malaysia had begun. We only hoped it would be nice & sunny in Penang tomorrow.