Silent Nights

We have been celebrating Christmas in different ways for a while now. This is our tenth year living in Singapore, and that means spending Christmas away from our extended families. Not all of our Christmases were spent in Singapore, but we don’t necessarily fly home to the Philippines every year to celebrate. It would be nice to. But it wouldn’t be practical. So we call it as we see it.

Say Cheese!

We were out and about on the weekend before Christmas with Matthew’s cousins. If it wasn’t the Christmas season, it would just be a normal day out in Orchard. But it is the season, and Orchard road is lit up once again for everyone’s viewing pleasure. To be honest, we (me, mum and Matthew) stopped bothering with it after three years. To us, it just wasn’t worth the hassle squeezing yourself through a thick mob of sweaty people to get a blurry photo to share on social media. Nope. We grew wiser and decided to just stay home or go out only if we needed to. So we go out when we have family and friends visiting and want to see the sights. With kids in tow, we spent the afternoon in Bounce to tire them out, I mean, for them to have fun. Impromptu photo taking sessions followed and we ended the night with a quiet dinner at Din Tai Fung (yes, not very festive, I know). The highlight of the evening was the trip home, where our XL Grab vehicle turned out to be a mini-bus! We had a good laugh all the way home.

On Christmas Eve, the extended family had gone back to Batam and we were left on our own again. Being the working man of the house and the 24th being a Monday, I spent the day in the office doing office-y stuff and met up with the family for dinner. A short stroll down Haji Lane to look for a bag for mum got us chatting with the shop owner who happily offered us seats and warm tea. I think that friendly chat was one the best Christmas presents we received this year. Our Christmas dinner came after tea. It was made up of Truffle Fries, Turkey Ham Pasta and Guava BBQ Beef Ribs. The Turkey Ham Pasta we ordered with Aglio Olio … which turns out to be a very, very spicy version in I am …’s menu. The Guava BBQ Beef Ribs though were awesome. It was definitely not Christmas ham.

Guava BBQ Beef Ribs

On Christmas day, we attended mass at our new favourite church, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on Queen Street. It’s quite a long way to travel to from Tampines, but we really like the service here. So even if we have to wake up much earlier, we travel anyway as it is worth it. Christmas day mass was no different, except that there are much more people around. But it remained a calm and serene celebration. After the mass, there was still time for Christmas lunch. The queue at PS Café was not what we expected (1 hour waiting time), but we’re glad we stuck around. This time, lunch was made up of Chicken Rossa Penne and Honey Glazed Iberico Pork Chop with a side of garlic bread. It seems that we were meant to put on pounds this Christmas as we were once again stuffed after lunch. That Iberico Pork Chop is not on the regular menu so I would suggest that you grab it while you can.

Glazed Iberico Pork Chop

We are thankful for the presents that we received and the greetings of joy and cheer from family and friends. This Christmas was a calm and easy celebration. Our family is small, but I believe that we had a better year this year than the last. We hope that everyone else had a good holiday cheer this 2018. Merry Christmas!

After Christmas Lunch …

Here we are looking forward to the new year and wishing everyone a blessed holiday season.

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Revisiting Singapore Zoo

It has been a very long time since we have gone to the Singapore Zoo. The River Safari opened in 2012 and Inuka (the polar bear) was put to sleep in April of this year. And now, in October of 2018, we decided to come back and visit the zoo.

Do not feed the animals
Do not feed the animals

The cool thing about our recent visit is that the commute isn’t as bad as before. Don’t get me wrong, Tampines is still quite a distance from Jurong. However, we no longer took the train from Tampines to Jurong East and then transferring to the zoo-bound bus from the interchange. Instead, there is now a bus that you can take from OTH (Our Tampines Hub) which will take you straight to the Singapore Zoo. The Mandai Express is bus service to the zoo from Tampines, Bedok, and Sengkang. It’s 3 SGD per adult per trip. Children 12 years and below only pay $1 per trip. The service is available on weekends and public/school holidays. Full details are on their website (as well as booking details) at https://mandaiexpress.beeline.com

We expected changes to the zoo since it has been a long time when we were last there. The zoo still looks good. It still has well-manicured gardens, clean enclosures, healthy animals and the facilities are still well maintained. What seemed to be missing though, are animals. Wait, what? A zoo without animals?

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Let me explain. There are animals. But their numbers seemed to have dropped significantly. I only saw one white tiger, a pair of lions, one meerkat, one zebra, three giraffes, a bunch of chimps, two warthogs and then some. I’m just saying, the Singapore zoo that I remember was livelier than this. It’s still a zoo. The habitat is still there and so is the smell. I don’t know if it was just me or if the animals all decided to call it a holiday when we visited but to be honest, it became underwhelming. Yes, there are still portions that will pique your curiosity and places that feel better after revisiting them. But the experience doesn’t feel the same. Maybe I’m getting older or maybe I’m becoming more demanding. Maybe the zoo has lost some of its magic. Or maybe it was just one of those days. I won’t be dismissing the Singapore Zoo anytime soon. It is still a great zoo. And my experience may be different from yours.

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The Singapore Zoo is divided into zones. Depending on how you follow the map (if you decide to follow the map), you will go around and through the different zones before arriving back at the entrance (which is also the exit point). The map is a good enough guide, but one should note that it is nearly impossible to reach all of the zones or see all of the animals. Unless you are just running around and not really appreciating what the zoo offers, you would need to back up and slow down and you would be needing a whole day to see the whole park.

Timon, is that you?
Timon, is that you?

Our route took us through the Treetops Trail where surprisingly, the most interesting thing to see was not in the trees but rather down below in the water where an alligator was minding its own business. We continued on through the Otter enclosure but none of the Otters were there. We figured they were probably at Marina Bay Sands where they take selfies and wefies. We were trying to follow the suggested route on the map so we managed to enjoy the smell of the Malayan Tapis and we saw the White Tiger airing his … belly. We also saw Warthogs along the way and as if taking a cue from The Lion King, a lone Meerkat was on the opposite enclosure. It was supposed to be on guard duty. A few red bottoms of the Hamadryas Baboons later, and we found ourselves in Australasia. In here, the Kangaroos are nowhere to be found. They must have joined the Otters. We decided to move on through the Primate Kingdom after that and hoped that our cousins were hanging out. We were not disappointed as there were dozens of Colobus Monkeys and Patas Monkeys hanging out with Douc Langurs and Crested Macaques. This route led us to the Shaw Foundation Amphitheatre where we stopped by to catch a show with a Sea Lion. After the show, we were hungry, so we headed out for lunch.

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After lunch, we found ourselves walking along the Orangutan Boardwalk. There was a family of Orangutans having a crazy day on the treetops and they kind of reminded us of ourselves. We may have evolved from apes after all. Maybe. We reached the Wild Africa zone shortly and observed some Giraffes eating. They were in the same enclosure as the Zebras who were strangely only eating from a designated area with a bunch of leaves. There were other plant life all around the enclosure but the Zebras didn’t seem to move away from their feeding spot. The grass must be greener there. It took us a while to find the Lions from their pride rock, but there was a pair of them in there. It must have been quite the party the night before as they were pretty much zoned out and couldn’t be bothered. It started to rain then which brought us inside Reptile Garden and RepTopia where there are, well, reptiles. Which included a vast variety of small snakes and desert reptiles. When the rain finally let up, we were only able to venture forward to the Fragile Forest. The Fragile Forest is home to a good number of animals including the Flying Fox and Ring-Tailed Lemur. A variety of birds were also there and if we aren’t wrong, some adorable Mouse Deers. Then it rained again and we were stuck looking through an enclosure of Proboscis Monkeys. I have had my share of the Proboscis that would last me a lifetime after being stuck with them for so long.

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Our trip back to the Singapore Zoo ended with a light snack while waiting for our coach to pick us up and bring us back home. Again, the Mandai service did not disappoint and we were back in Tampines without having to tough it out on the train coming from Jurong East. It had been a nice trip back, and while it would have been nicer if the rain let up much earlier, it doesn’t change the fact that the zoo experience has changed quite a bit. They are continuing to improve and update. During these times, your experiences may turn out better or worse than it should. Don’t let it hamper your enjoyment of the park, another opportunity will present itself soon enough.