White tigers and Singapore Slings

Sunday we had a free day before the event and decided to make our way to the famous Singapore Zoo by taking buses, the subway, and walking. Each near-city neighbourhood has a distinct "flavor" based on its ethnic or colonial origins. All are within easy reach by bus or the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system. Most of the population is Chinese, having arrived here three or four generations ago. Malays come next, and Indians comprise about one-tenth of the population. There are also many Eurasians and expatriate workers from around the world. According to Travelpack Singapore, by Vivien Lytton, the island state has about 300,000 foreign workers employed under a strict guest program. The construction industry can hire four foreigners for every Singaporean employee, and enjoy higher pay and better working conditions. Workers generally stay two years and the government strictly enforces occupational and health and safety rules. The city is close to the equator with an extremely high humidity. During our trip, we got caught in an afternoon downpour and happily waited it out at an open restaurant at the zoo.

    Singaporean people are extremely polite for the most part, and almost everyone speaks English. Lines to buses and subways remain orderly.

  • The city seems quite citizen-friendly, as evidenced by various project such as this one which gives elderly folk a special card they can swipe at crosswalks to make the green walk light stay on longer.

  • Althought crowded, the subway is immaculate and the interior of the trains are sparkling white. Littering is strictly prohibited, with the first offense costing you $300. I have been told that if you are caught bringing drugs into the country, they literally hang you within a few days. This was said to have happened in the early 1990s to a young couple caught at the airport.

  • Live parrots grace the entrance to the zoo.

  • Seeing one of these magnificant white tigers up close is amazing. You can get a lot closer to the animals here than in U.S. zoos. The animals seemed playfuland happy -- you could swear that some thought of themselves as "fashion models," posing and pacing in front of us humans.

  • A rope "trail" winds through the zoo treetops. Monkeys and gorillias are free to climb it, so you can literally see a gorilla just above your head at almost any time.

  • The end of the day calls for a visit to the famous Raffles Hotel, where Hemminway used to drink at the Long Bar. The recently rennovated bar still evokes some of its past. Note the ceiling fans. Used to be, servants would sweep such fans by hand to cool the cliental.

  • Here is the famous Singapore Sling. I had two of them, and so was feeling pretty good by day's end. The drink includes gin, Cherry Heering, Benedictine, and pineapple juice, which creates a foamy top.

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