Saturday, January 3, 2009

Well, we have just a few more hours in Singapore! Everyone is finishing up their shopping, gathering their last souvenirs and spending their Singapore dollars!
Yesterday's tour took us to a Balinese neighborhood with a beautiful Mosque, a hundreds-year old Chineses temple, a Gem Factory (gorgeous stuff, by the way!) and a cruise along the Singapore River. After the tour, dinner was along the waterfront watching all the folks enjoying the lovely evening. Our attempts at visiting Chinatown for the Lunar New Year Lighting Festival proved to be impossible! Roads were jammed and closed to traffic, streets were mobbed so we all decided to head back to the 38th floor of our hotel and enjoy the city sights by night with a cold drink in our hands!
Today we visited Sentosa Island which is a 15 minute taxi/bus/tram ride from the center of the city. We went up in the Sky Tower to look at the city from all angles and saw the massive construction going on below us where Resorts World is building a mega casino resort on the Island. According to yesterday's river guide, it's unlucky to only build ONE casino so they are also building a new hotel/casino on the opposite side of the river as well. Everywhere you look you see construction and cranes. The city population right now is 4.8 million in 73 square miles! Everyone lives in multi-generational high-rise apartment/condo towers but the city is green as well. There are flowers and parks everywhere.
We also visited the Underwater World at Sentosa and saw a few critters that we missed in our diving at Sipadan. I've enclosed a shot of a tiny, tiny, tiny mimic octopus! They also have leafy & weedy sea dragons, leopard sharks, guitar sharks, lots of different rays and eels...we also saw a pair of harlequin shrimp, so we had fun at the aquarium!
After an aerial tram ride back from the island, we checked in with Singapore Air for our return flight later tonight and we're back at the hotel resting before we finish packing and check-out! Our flight leaves Singapore just before midnight tonight so we're all planning on sleeping our way west towards Frankfort & New York, with a late Monday morning arrival in New York...I'll be back in the office bright and early Tuesday morning!

That's all for now....see you all soon!

Friday, January 2, 2009

It's AMAZING what a bit of civilization can do....e-mails fly into the laptop, phone connections sound like folks are right next door and the internet connection is lickety-split FAST! We're in Singapore and having a great time!
Singapore is all about the sights, sounds, smells & SHOPPING! It's a gorgeous, vibrant city that has some of the best food & shopping in the world! We've been heading in various directions since Thursday afternoon...I haven't even seen some of the group since we've arrived, but I know everyone is having a great time! I provided all with a lot of comprehensive information about the sights & highlight attractions of the city so everyone has gone in different directions depending on their interests.
Marsha, Paul, Bob & I headed for the Botanic Gardens yesterday morning, cameras in hand! Bob & Paul acted as our photo sherpas...handing us lenses, etc as needed! What a fabulous place the National Orchid Garden is. They have over 30,000 different varieties of orchids in all shapes, sizes and colors. We spent several hours there wandering amongst the gorgeous gardens and displays.
After we were totally wrung out from the heat/humidity at the Gardens, we hopped on the SIA Stopover Bus which circles the city at regular intervals. It winds itself thru the Indian neighborhoods, Chinatown, the cultural areas, the marina areas and then the SHOPPING areas! Our prime destination this afternoon was the Sim Lim Centre which is a five story shopping mall totally dedicated to ELECTRONICS. Talk about a bunch of photographers being like kids in a cady store! Several (well, many) credit card receipts later, we finally had to drag ourselves away from the centre and we'd barely made it inside the doors! I think we're heading back there again today to see what we missed but we're going to have to be STRONG in resisting temptation, that's for sure.
After a short rest, we headed out again...this time our destination was the Singapore Night Safari. It was the first night safari in the world and it's an amazing experience as well. The Night Safari is located next door to the world-famous Singapore Zoo and the operations are kept separate between the two so as to not stress the animals. The whole venue is located about 45 minutes outside the city centre. It's a smooth ride on air conditioned coaches on fantastic highways bordered in flowers all the way. It's a huge attraction and the city is totally jammed for the New Year's Holiday so it was quite crowded. We needed to queue for a bit before we were able to board the tram for the ride thru the rainforest. Flash photography is prohibited so the animals won't be stressed or aggravated so Bob set his video camera on "night" mode and off we went! We saw lions, tigers, rhino, water buffalo, deer of all species, the Indonesian babbe russa which is a 4-tusked boar, all kinds of pigs, some huge cranes and flamingos and the elusive giraffes! They set food out at dusk so the animals gather quite close to the tramway and are very visible under dim lighting provided. Another option is to do several of the "walks" through the rainforest as well. We enjoyed our time at the Night Safari very much.
Today's schedule has us sleeping in for a change! With 5 days of early dive departures (7:15 a.m.) and a 5:00 a.m. departure from the Water Village yesterday, I think everyone is trying to catch up on a little sleep! We're planning some more browsing/shopping and then have a City Highlights tour scheduled for the afternoon as well. Tonight will find us in Chinatown where they will be "Lighting Up" in anticipation of the Chinese New Year celebrations later this month. Chinatown is exciting to begin with, it should be a fun evening with all the festivities scheduled there, but very crowded, I'm sure.
That's what's happening with us in Singapore....we'll be here until late Sunday evening with a later morning return on Monday to Kennedy. I'll try and update the blog one more time before we leave. Til next time.....