Singapore – Singapore – Wait, Are We Still in SE Asia?

Indonesia only allows visitors a maximum of a 60 day visa and our time was running up. After 60 amazing days in Indonesia, we packed up our things, boarded a plane and headed to the neighboring city-state-country of Singapore where we could apply for another 60-day visa to get us back into Indonesia! We allotted ourselves 3 days for this process but really, if all we needed as a visa renewal, we could have had it done in just one day as on our first morning we dropped off our passports and later that night picked them up. It really was as simple as that, albeit somewhat expensive at the steep price of $130 USD per visa! The price you pay for efficiency and convenience I suppose!

Singapore is a world different from the rest of Southeast Asia. It may occupy only a small amount of landmass, 277 sq mi to be exact, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in culture and infrastructure. Singapore is a melting-pot of ethnicities and we saw a lot of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and especially Western influence in the area. Whoever dubbed Singapore as the location where “East meets West” was on to something!

We arrived at the airport in Singapore and made our way to the MRT, the fast, efficient train system that most people use to get around. We arrived at Bunc Hostel late that night and crawled into our 8-person co-ed shared dorm for a night of sleep. The next day, we woke up, and as I said earlier, our first day mostly consisted of running errands like dropping off our passports and making our way to the Camera Hospital where Ross hoped that he could have his camera and lens serviced, both of which were having their own set of issues. We didn’t do much “fun” stuff that first day other than just take in how drastically different Singapore is from its Southeast Asian counterparts. Food options were abundant and we ate the most delicious Thai food that I’ve had in quite some time {read: ever.} I don’t make a practice of photographing my food so no pictures to show for it (but maybe I should start for the sake of the blog.) Just take my word for it, it was YUM.

We couldn’t just come to Singapore and not do any birding so the following morning we made our way to Hindhede Park to search for Straw-headed Bulbul. The small park that we walked through was quite nice and before long we had a flock of Straw-headed Bulbuls perched in a nearby tree. This bird has been extirpated from neighboring countries and Singapore remains the last stronghold. As I said before, Singapore is a world different from the rest of SE Asia and Singaporeans have a real respect for preserving nature (from what I could see with how much work went into their parks) so I suspect that the little patches of forest they have left will be protected for years to come. We enjoyed our walk through the park and took some time to meander the trails picking up a few other birds for our “Singapore List” such as Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Malaysian Pied Fantail and Large-billed Crow while enjoying watching all of the people who came to do various ‘exercises’ along the trails. Ross told me that the first time he visited Singapore was actually his very first experience with South East Asian culture so the amount of Tai Chi, meditations, random movements and various forms of martial arts being done openly in the parks that initially took him by surprise now felt pretty commonplace. The rest of the afternoon was a blur of errands and various other necessities that we didn’t do much else but I’m sure we logged a few miles of walking. At one point we did a quick walk through of Fort Canning Park and saw a few birds there for the year list, Common Flameback, Black-naped Oriole and Javan Myna. We had planned that our next full day in Singapore was to be our most fun.

We woke up at 6:30am, ate some breakfast, hopped on the train, jumped off at a bus terminal and onto a bus that landed us right at the front door of Singapore’s Jurung Bird park, an outdoor aviary boasting habitats of birds from all over the world containing over 400 species. Public transportation in Singapore is ample and very, very easy to navigate. We spent the next 4 hours meandering through Asia’s largest bird park and were amazed with how much we enjoyed it. They had many exotic birds from around the world and having a chance to see these beautiful creatures up close was super fun! Regardless of your opinion on birds in captivity, we believe that the only way people are going to care about birds and be willing save them is for them to learn about them. Not to mention the amount of conservation done at a place like this is pretty amazing. They were the first to successfully captively breed a 12-wired Bird-of-Paradise, a bird we would soon be seeing in Indonesia! A highlight for sure had to be feeding lorikeets some nectar and having the brightly colored birds climb all over us! Seeing Blue-streaked Lory up so close was especially nice because we would (hopefully) be seeing some when we arrived back to Indonesia!

We left the bird park and spent the rest of the day sightseeing! Singapore is many things but if there is one thing that it is not, it would be cheap. Most prices are comparable with the USA. That being said, there are a lot of activities that are free, and we took full advantage of them. We walked downtown taking in the sights. Ross was able to show me Marina Bay Sands Resort and was totally reminiscing when he and a fellow Marine once spent a night in that crazy nice hotel. (Vu, I hope you are reading this!) There’s a boat on top with a super nice bar and an infinity pool, or so I hear — I didn’t get to go up there but next time I come back to Singapore surely I’ll check it out! We ate dinner in the ION Orchard Mall food court, had some amazing frozen yogurt for dessert and checked out the free exhibits at The National Museum of Singapore. In one of the exhibits we were given handheld smartphone devices set up so we walked around in a virtual reality to help save the forest! Pretty neat stuff.

We ended our day at Gardens by the Bay seeing the solar-powered ‘supertrees’ and watched two amazing light shows, one where the supertrees lit up and then running back over to the bay to catch then end of the water laser light show. It was pretty rad. They have these light shows every night of the week and they are totally free!

Our last day was only a half-day and we had to check out of our hostel by noon. Like clockwork we ate breakfast at 6:30am and hopped on the train. Today happened to be National Day (aka Singapore’s equivalent of the 4th of July) and many businesses were closed for the festivities. We knew it would be crowded so we opted to get to the famous Botanical Gardens. We walked around the gardens and they didn’t disappoint. Always birding, we brought our binoculars and did pick up birds such as White-breasted Waterhen, Sunda Woodpecker, White-rumped Shama, and Common Myna for the year list. The botanical gardens are a great birding location. Our favorite part though was the walk through the Orchid Gardens. Pictures won’t do it justice but here you go anyway:

We got back to our hostel before checkout time and hung out there until it was time to get to the airport. It was a whirlwind few days and we left several activities (like the cloud forest at Gardens by the Bay) for when we come back!

For now it was back to Indonesia!