It’s not in the blogosphere where I first bumped into this creative writer. I got acquainted with his articles in CQ (Collegiate Quarterly) many years ago. It’s just surprising how we end up collaborating. And I’m grateful for God’s gift of friendship authored by the Heavenly Wordsmith.
If you haven’t read the Part 1 yet, I encourage you to read it first: “A Visit to the Lonely Lion”
S.E.A. Aquarium and Universal Studios
The second day was more action than sight seeing. We navigated our way by bus to Vivo City Mall. Our destination was Sentosa where Universal Studios and SEA aquarium were located. We took the monorail from Vivo City. It would have been a delight since there has been no monorails in the Philippines since they phased out the trams before the world war.
However, the crowd was reminiscent of our local MRT with some folks pushing and trying to get ahead of you in the queue. Some nationalities really don’t observe the queue. They just had to push their way in with their whole family in tow. The moment the monorail left, the heavy rains started to pour
Here comes my evil twin! I thought to myself. It was stormy when I was born and every year since, it would rain hard. This was no exception even if I was miles away from the country. Since the rain seemed to ruin our plans of roller coaster conquest, we decided to visit SEA aquarium first.
Going around the aquarium, I thought that our Manila Ocean Park was better. There were more jellyfishes and there is even a seal and sea lion show. The underwater tunnel was far longer although their sharks are larger. I walked through most of the exhibits and tried not to bump into any children along the way. I still looked at some of the more interesting ones particularly the exhibit that looks like the cylindrical aquarium from Finding Dory. I was almost bored to the point of rushing everything until we reached the last room. I was totally floored by the last room.
Imagine a huge aquarium the size of your IMAX theater screen with the glass 70 centimeters thick. There were two huge manta rays and all sorts of huge fishes. Some of the manta rays seemed to be kissing the glass and smiling back at you. They would swim next to each other sideways as if waving hello. It was a glorious sight. I sat there feeling small and insignificant before these huge creatures of the deep. It was as if the sight stole my soul away and made me really weak. This was just a part of God’s majestic creation, what more if I saw Him? This was by far the best part of this day.
When we had enough of the sight, we decided to go out and have lunch. Rains had already stopped when we went out of the SEA aquarium. We ate a quick lunch, luckily they had a hawker inside the compound. After eating we proceeded to Universal Studios. The place was ripped straight out of a Hollywood street. Some shops would make you totally geek out or just plain nostalgic like the Transformers Café and the Sesame Street Gift shop.
A little while later I was floored once more.
While walking through the Hollywood looking boulevard, we took a turn and found ourselves staring at a huge monstrosity called Battlestar Galactica. This was two roller-coasters twisted together in one exhilarating ride. The red rollercoaster is labeled Human. This is your usual rollercoaster where each person is seated. The blue rollercoaster is labeled Cyclon. This is the wild one wherein a person is seated as if hanging from the ride. Both rides definitely spell enjoyment. The 2 hour queue is worth it.
One thing you have to remember in Universal Studies Singapore, everything is worth the wait. Even if it was the Madagascar ride which was actually designed for kids, the queuing time is almost an hour. The best rides take longer. The Transformers Ride even has a 2 ½ hour queuing time but the ride was worth the wait. We tried every ride including the Jurassic Park river ride and the canopy ride. It took us the whole afternoon to try everything. We went home exhausted but with giddy smiles. I fell asleep as soon as my back hit the mattress.
The next day, I requested for a free day. I met up with some college friends to a place that I was really looking forward to visit.
Whenever I travel I make it a point to visit the centers of culture in the area namely: churches, museums or libraries. Singapore has all three. I was ecstatic when I saw their library. It was huge and really state of the art. There were books of varying genre and language. They had a separate section for different kinds of literature including Japanese, Malay and Chinese. Each corner has a sitting area but if you really love books, the floor is always a welcome. Most retirees and students occupy the sitting areas while others would just cluster on the floor. The latter are my kind of people. I felt at home knowing that they are there.
In most libraries, the kids section is just a small area with some books for kids. In Singapore, however, they created a separate library for kids. This is fully equipped with a giant tree in the middle that serves as a sitting area or if you are an energized 5 year old, a play pen. It was one of the most amazing sights I saw yet. The kids were running around gathering books while their parents look on. Some were not even old enough to recognize pictures but they run around anyway. The area was colorful and clearly sends the message that this was kid’s zone. The flooring was more than carpeted there were areas that even had a trampoline like feel. It was amazing. I felt like I could live there.
Marina Bay Sands and the trip to Planet Namek
In Singapore, everything was simulated. This was what I discovered when we visited the Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay. The Marina Bay Sands looked very expensive. Going through the building, I began to doubt my own existence. It was huge and intimidating that my knees buckled just by looking at it from the ground floor. There is nothing much to see there other than the rooms and the ultra-expensive shops on the ground floor.
The Gardens by the Bay is exactly what Planet Namek looked like (for noobs see Dragon Ball Z). There were 6 huge tree like structures that tower over a garden. It looked huge overly decorated Christmas trees. However, when you look at it, it functions more than just a view deck and a decorative piece. It was actually designed to clean the air. This was due to some mechanism that I cannot explain. Just go there so you could see for yourself.
The next highlights of the Gardens by the Bay were the two conservatories: The Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Both domes were really cold. That is the only thing I appreciated there. Cloud Forest teaches the tourists and visitors about how clouds were formed. They had a huge artificial water fall from a structure that seemed to resemble a mountain. Inside, you could get to see the stalactites and stalagmite galleries. If you were a mountaineer or have been to the forests and outdoors, these were not surreal. However, most Singaporeans and tourists have not seen an actual waterfall or have played inside real caves with stalactites and stalagmites. Still it was nice to see.
The Flower Dome is a place for lovers. Need I say more? There are flowers and plants with representation from almost all the continents. It was a place where lovers could just walk hand in hand while checking this flower and that. Since we were two guys on tour, it was boring and tiring. The only consolation we had was we got to see real Baobab trees. If you have read The Little Prince, you would know how surreal that would be.
On the onset, I thought the River Safari was a huge river ride with lots of animals on the side. It was not. Yet it was the most surreal attraction ever. I’ll explain later.
On the way there was the longest commute. We had to go north to the more sub-urban side of the country. It takes an hour and a half to get to the place but the travel by bus was worth the hours. You could see how the scenery changes from a business district to tenement housing to sub-urban gardens.
The River Safari is an attraction beside the Singapore Zoo. The attraction features the flora and fauna of the major river systems in the world including the Ganges, the Nile and the Amazon River among others. It was a walk around tour which was a bummer. I was thinking of an actual river cruise. The best part though was that they have the twin Pandas. Anyone who has been fascinated with these creatures would surely have a geek moment to see them in the flesh. In videos on Facebook, they are doing all sorts of stuff. In real life, they are lying about sleeping. Amazing right?
After all the attractions, we were ushered into a cold dome. Inside we were greeted by yet another huge aquarium. This was the real surreal experience. Inside the glass panel was a herd of manatees. It was the most amazing sigh ever. Imagine a herd of huge sea creatures gracefully dancing in the water. It was really breath taking. I had to take a seat and take everything in. I sat there for an hour. The photos I took could not give justice to these beasts. This beats the Manta Ray Exhibit in SEA Aquarium and I can attest that it was all worth it.
We went back to our Inn with giddy faces. There were other exhibits in the River Safari but this was the highlight of it all.
Honestly, seeing Singapore made me wonder about living there. For someone in my profession that would be easy. However, the hustle and bustle of the city life with no nature in sight is daunting. While I was born and raised in the big city, I am comforted by the fact that an hour or two away, there is a mountain waiting to be climbed or a waterfall waiting to be dived in. In our country there is still nature, in this country, you had to go out to see them or be satisfied with simulations.
Over all, it was a blessing to see this country. It was a delight to experience the sights and sounds with a companion who was more than willing to explore. This was a 30th birthday well spent. I will surely be back for more.
Worthy Habla is speech pathologist by profession. Obviously, he’s a bookworm and blogger by passion. Aside from being a nature enthusiast, he’s empowered being an a youth leader, a deacon, a deaf ministry co-coordinator and volunteer.
As much as he loves to capture memories, he is fond of chasing the wind through running. He strives to rise above the state of mediocrity, and literally, he challenges himself to conquer heights though hiking.
Check out more of his musings through his blog, MANACLED.
Keep posted for the other guest bloggers! Who knows, the next could be YOU!
© 2016 LAF
Note: Photos credit to Worthy Habla and Google Images. This blog has a copyright. The photos and articles should not be used, reproduced and manipulated by any means without a written request and consent from the author.