Sunday, November 11, 2012

Saturday in Singapore

This is a late post from my most recent trip in October on a lazy Saturday...

Enjoyed a quick breakfast in the hotel and on my way back to the room a woman returning from the gym and a man in a wheelchair with his wife entered the lift. He looked up at the fit woman and said, "don't take anything for granted, I ran a marathon 16 years ago, but that didn't stop me from having a stroke". She was a doll and asked where the marathon was. He said Perth. He asked her where she's from and she said New York. As I left the lift they were exchanging further pleasantries - it was like watching myself as I have had many of these interactions on my travels. His dark words stuck in my mind even though she had deflected them so well. I have internalized that lesson into the deepest part of my being after watching my mother suffer and eventually die from Multiple Sclerosis. And that is one of the reasons I am in Asia today, because the future is uncertain and I know I can do it today.

My morning destination was MacRitchie Reservoir and the HSBC Tree Walk. I lingered a bit at the hotel calling family and got going around 10:30. The taxi driver scolded me for not going earlier when the day is cooler. The travelers dilemma: enjoy a lazy morning or catch the early worms!

Thankfully it is October and a cool front has moved in, so the after noon heat was a comfortable stickiness that fit well with my immersion in the remaining 5% of the rainforest that once covered this small island.

The reservoir allows kayaking and they were out in droves. There were crowds of joggers and plenty of mobile elderly Chinese strolling along the water. Even as the pathway became rockier I still encountered a lot of people.

The first creature I saw was a monkey. They are very comfortable with human presence and so are most of the locals, weaving past without a second glance.

I saw many monkeys on the trail: fighting, playing, picking insects off each other and carrying babies. A woman interrupted my photo session with a firm warning that 'they can be vicious'.

Thankfully I was able to stare them all down so I have no battle scars to speak of.

The entrance to the rainforest trail is well marked in the Singaporean way. They ran out of room for things you couldn't do, so had to add them on the side. They also kindly warn you to beware of falling branches and thunder storms. The forecast said 50% chance of rain. I figured those were good odds, so into the wilds I went.

I had some really lovely moments of peace on the trail between encounters with other people, but the noise never ceased. I don't know how native people slept here. In the video I mistakenly label the sound as a bird, it is probably a cicada.

The cicadas sound like those little golf carts in airports warning you to get out of the way. Or they just hum, consistently. Occasionally a bird song would break through and once I think I heard a frog.

I didn't see a lot of the wild life detailed on the website, the skinks and monitors agreed with the taxi driver apparently, but I did find a giant tree ant.

While friendly, my can driver was not clear on my desired destination. I wanted to go to the parking lot on the north east side and I ended up on the south of the reservoir. I decided the extra 5km would be good for me and I'm glad I did the longer hike around the eastern side.

Along the way there were many huts to allow visitors to hide from sudden rainstorms, or take a nap.

When I finally reached the Tree Top Walk I was drenched in sweat and eager to walk on the suspension bridge draped across a small canyon.

It swayed a bit under my feet, but mostly it was a solid experience. After zip lining in Queensland from tree top to tree top, having something firm under your feet seems exceptionally safe, even at that height. It was so bright I could hardly see without my sunglasses.

The loop trail that returns to the road is a well maintained path that is predominantly wood decking raised a bit off the forest floor. So I was surprised to see a quote from John Muir bolted to the deck in this sanitized version of a rain forest.

On the way out, a friendly woman from Mexico let me know that despite the signs, I was on the right path to the exit. Four languages and a picture - I certainly got the message and stayed on my side of the fence.

I made it out of the rainforest without so much as a mosquito bite, which is unheard of for me, and headed back to the metropolis to meet friends at the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Marina Bay Sands Art and Science museum.

I saw the famous stuff and less famous stuff and liked the shoes the best. The cow wallpaper was fun but not really my style. After Warhol I decided to pay the extra S$6 to see a Magnum photography exhibit, Inside Out, which was worth it. I'm always impressed by that organizations consistent good work. One piece really got me in the "I, Tokyo" section by Jacob Au Sobol, it was an old Japanese man with a cigarette in his mouth and a black cat held firmly in his hand, staring into the camera. Very dark and compelling.

As I was lifted physically out of the basement and emotionally out of the other worlds those photos took me, I saw the tropical rains lashing the windows in the main lobby, a beautiful piece of art in itself.

Somehow I was lucky enough to catch a cab and beat my friends to the Mexican restaurant on Merchant's road called Iguana Cafe. So I ordered a pitcher of Margaritas and wrote out my adventure to share with you.

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