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Singapore and the Jurong Bird Park

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I love birds, I mean, I really, really love birds and I could spend the entire day just watching them, feeding them and generally being "One" with the birds. Okay...just being overly silly, but I was very excited to find out that Singapore has an amazing bird sanctuary full of some of the world's most exotic birds.

Scarlet Ibis 

I have other posts to write about Singapore, but I thought that I would start here. The "Jurong Bird Park" is  the largest bird park in the world. It's been open since 1971 and has over 8000 birds (600 species), spread out over approximately 55 acres.


Jurong, is an award winning facility for their attention to conservation and care of these wonderful animals.

Jurong Bird Park

The environment that surrounds you in the park is one of tropical forest. Most of the paths meander through various mini-environements that generally allow for open air viewing of the birds, such as ponds and forest settings.

Jurong Bird Park

Some areas are enclosed with enormous environments that allow the visitor to walk in and not remember that there is an enclosure way above their heads. One such area is designed to mimic a rain forest. The high humidity and sounds of tropical birds are wonderful.

Jurong Bird Park

There is a large waterfall that is built inside this area and so many trees and plants that you almost feel as though you could get lost in it. However, there are short paths that make sure you know where you're going.

Jurong Bird Park

One of my favorite areas was where you could walk in to a large enclosure that housed hundreds of colorful parrots (and similar). For about $3 Singapore, you can buy some nectar to feed them. It is not uncommon for them to land on your arms and shoulders while you're offering. These birds are very gentle and small though, so they are very safe for children to be around.

Jurong Bird Park

There is a variety of species around the park. There are a few here and there that some would not call a "pretty" bird, but non the less, they are very interesting to watch.

Jurong Bird Park

There is more than one area for Flamingos, the most colorful ones are situated at the entrance to the park.

Flamingos in the Jurong Bird Park

There is an indoor area that houses some interesting and beautiful Penguins. It's actually quick refreshing to walk in from the high humidity and enjoy the darker and cooler experience.

Emperor Penguin in the Jurong Bird Park

There are some cages throughout the park, where it is more difficult to view and photograph the birds, but it probably has more to do with the safety of the animal and the guests.

Cassowary in the Jurong Bird Park

One bird, the Cassowary, is not in a cage, but in an enclosed yard which is only viewable by guests. The Cassowary would be dangerous for guests to physically interact with, so they keep you at a safe distance. However, he's an amazing bird to look at and read about.

Jurong Bird Park

Jurong also offers shows throughout the day in the outdoor amphitheater. The shows are wonderful and the trainers even let the birds fly through the audience. The park staff are very helpful, professional and friendly.

Jurong Bird Park

As far as cost, general park admission (as of today's date) runs $18 in Singapore dollars ($13 U.S.), Children are a few dollars cheaper. Keep in mind that this is a very large park, and it can take hours to experience, even if you hurry. So, if you're on a tight schedule, then it may not be a good idea to take a trip out here. I would say that you need at least four hours in the park and about an hour commute. The train stop for Jurong is at "Boon Lay" Station, then you have to transfer to a bus, which takes you directly to the park. The bus terminal is right outside the doors of the train station and the bus number is 194 or 251, I took the 194 and it dropped me off right in front of the park. The buses are reasonable, but try to have coins. The subway stop takes a while to get to from the center of town, I think it took about 30 minutes each way, so try not to cut it close. If you want more detailed information about how to get there from hotels, etc, then I will place the links at the end of this post.

Jurong Bird Park

Overall, Jurong is amazing and well worth the time and trip out there. This experience will allow you to see birds from all over the world which might be difficult to find in other parks. The paths are laid out well and are even handicap accessible (with a few small hills here and there). Be sure to take your camera and some extra money if you plan on eating or buying items from the gift shop. Credit cards are accepted with no problem though. Also, there is a monorail that rides through the park, which can be purchased separately for about $5 Singapore.

Jurong Bird Park

The main link for the park is HERE, and the "Visitors Info" link will give you directions. There is a link to the Train system HERE and the bus system HERE. There are also many more photos of these birds in my Flickr album, which you can access HERE.

Jurong Bird Park

bird perms in paradise

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Apparently, Bird Perms are the new trend. At least in Singapore. Finally tired of being made fun of and being the "ugly/cute" picture that is the must-have for bird watchers everywhere, the Emu has had it!! In an attempt at glitzing up the image and bringing Sexy to the world of flightless birds, the Emu has incorporated an uplifting, but not too-tight curl to it's hair. Yes, that's right, you may stare in awe and admiration. Have we been wrong all along and just didn't realize that such beauty was hiding underneath? Some colored contacts, a little teasing around the brow and....well, I'm just speechless.

Trendy Bird Perm on the modern Emu in Singapore

Although, after further investigation, it seems that this newcomer to all that's stylish and hip has miscalculated and left the Perm chemicals in just a bit too long. That's right bird,  I have no shame in showing the world what happens when you have let your vanity go too far!!!. Not so sexy now, huh? Well, maybe this one time, we'll overlook it.

Bad Perm job on Singapore Emu

Besides, look at this guy below, he realized that it's all about the bird lips, not the hair. A pouty, in your face close up and that's what makes it on the cover of magazines. Don't give in to peer pressure next time, Emu, just say "No". 

Non-coformist Ostrich who's working the beak in Singapore

Flowers around the world- Nevada

Monday, February 22, 2010

Here is a shot which I took at home. I thought I'd post it before the season was out. My Amaryllis decided to do it's thing a couple of weeks ago, so I was lucky enough to capture these shots. I'll post these in their stages.

My Amaryllis

Full bloom, Single flower

My Amaryllis

Full bloom

My Amaryllis

Sihanoukville, Cambodia and the mysterious fried things

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I was really looking forward to Cambodia. How exotic it seemed to me, and I had heard that there was a lot of beautiful places to see. On this particular trip, I only had time and budget for one place, and that was Sihanoukville. Yes, a very strange name and one that I had never heard of, my spell checker just goes nuts on this one.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Cambodia requires a travel Visa and the ship was "kind" enough to get one for us (although they charge way more than what it's worth). So, here we go, off into this exciting foreign land. Our journey took us up to the coast line where our port was. As I looked off the boat, there were the most interesting houses lined up along a narrow line of rocks that jutted out into the ocean. This foundation was obviously man made and seemed to be a perfect place for people to have their fishing houses. At least I'm assuming that's what they were.

Off the shore of Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Our dock was mainly just an industrial port and was lined up with the same police presence that was common in many of the Asia countries. We were only allowed to leave this port by a bus that was provided by both the city and ship. It was explained that we were not allowed to walk out of the port at all. This disappointed me because there were some more homes off to the left that looked very interesting, but we were told that there had been "Issues" in the past and that it wasn't safe.

Outside of Sihanoukville, Cambodia

After boarding the bus, everyone seemed to be buzzing with excitement. The sun was shining and rather hot, but at least it wasn't raining. The port was not in town and it would take about 15 minutes to get to Sihanoukville. As we drove along, there was the occasional local standing on the side, watching the strangers ride by.

Outside of Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The countryside was somewhat interesting, but reminded me more of southern California, than what I would consider a tropical environment. It felt and looked different than Thailand on one side and Vietnam on the other. After pulling into town, it only took a moment to begin to see those smiles on my fellow passenger's faces, turn to frowns. I feel bad saying that, but that's what happened. As the town unveiled itself, it was simply not an interesting place. There was dirt and dust blowing up everywhere as if we'd come into a Western town.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

There were buildings lining the street and people everywhere. Our bus driver, for some reason, decided to pull us into a parking lot where there were literally hundreds of locals who began to surround the bus. They began frantically pounding on the bus windows with their hands and shoving signs up at us that said "Tuk Tuk". A Tuk Tuk is a type of three wheeled motorcycle that has a of cart on the back for passengers. It is a taxi system. 

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Many vendors with jewelry and other items were also in the crowd. The door of the bus opened and the driver had to try and push the people back who were trying to enter the bus. This situation became quite awkward and unfortunately, about half the passengers on the bus decided not to get off. I wanted to see this town regardless, so I made my way out the bus door and through the insane crowd. Being a nice person or not, it's not fun when lots of strangers start grabbing you and your clothes. I finally made it through the crowd and as with Vietnam, I had to turn down constant offers for Tuk Tuk rides. It actually took me a while to get those chiming words out of my head.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

My travel partner and I managed to get a short ways down the street. I love the different cultures, architecture and scenery of other countries, but this town didn't seem to have much of any of it. The poor buildings were run down and not built well, except for a few newer structures being replaced. I do understand this that it's a less prosperous country, and I don't mean to sound judgmental. We walked a few blocks in one direction, looking for an ATM.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

We finally found a bank and was able to get some cash. It was possible to use U.S. dollars there, which was nice, but we had to change the money in the bank to get smaller bills. Even outside of the bank, people approached us.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Our aim was to have a nice meal, see the town and take some photos. We found a market area that contained many stands of fruits and vegetables. There was also a warehouse building next to it which was a type of "Flea Market". The interior of the market was dark, and at least cooler than it was outside. We looked around for items to buy and prices were okay, but not much of a bargain. For instance, they were charging $20 U.S dollars and up for T-shirts. Kind of high for that type of venue.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The vegetables and fruit stands looked great. After walking through the outside rows, we came to the inside portion of that market, which happened to be a place for selling meat.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

All of the meat was laid out on wooden tables in the open. Pig's heads and raw meat everywhere. With such heat, there was a strong smell and we left pretty quickly. That is why I didn't take a photo in there.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

As far as the locals go, they were not too friendly. I hear that the experience for people who visit Siem Reap is quite different. It's a few hundred miles away and a much different area. I suspect that the locals in Siem Reap are much more used to tourists. Sihanoukville, didn't seem to have that familiar comfort. I had to be cautious with the camera, to avoid the constant dirty looks.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Yes, some people are offended by having their picture taken, even if you're just taking a shot of a building and they happen to be in the way. Again, I kind of understand this and tried to be considerate. However, this meant that I didn't get many photos of the town. Also, you couldn't really stop for five seconds without becoming involved in a conversation with a Tuk Tuk driver who wouldn't take "No thanks" for an answer.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

We did finally find a small cafe to sit down and have some lunch.We needed to take a break from the heat and the chaos. The service wasn't too friendly and an English man and woman who were just leaving warned us that they had just tried to overcharge them considerably.

Having a bite to eat in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

However, we decided to set down and have a lunch anyway. We ordered some fried rice dishes and a couple of sodas. The meal tasted quite good. Yes, it did end up being overpriced at $8 per dish and $1.50 for the soda, which was high for cambodia and this cafe. We just smiled and paid it without question, not that big of a deal.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

As we enjoyed our food, we watched the many school children and workers walking up and down the streets.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

As we left the cafe, I saw this man having a nap on some boxes. That's one way to protect the beer.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The highlight of this visit was when I saw an older lady sitting on the corner with a wok.

Local vender in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

She was frying something squishy, that ended up being a golden brown stick of about 10 inches. It looked, and smelled great. I smiled and indicated I wanted two and handed her a dollar. She tried to put 5 in a bag, but that was way too much to eat after lunch, so I convinced her I only wanted two and the dollar would be fine. I finally got a smile out of her. As we walked away my friend and I began to eat these brown crunchy things and...WOW, were they good. Banana...fried banana stick..thingy's.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Of course we realize how great these were after we had gone half way down the block. I could have sworn I wanted 5 of them in the bag, but hey...maybe she just didn't hear me. :-)

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The day was long, hot and, well, uncomfortable. A few locals seemed to be laughing a enjoying the day, but the only smiles I found were on the school kids who were enjoying a bird in the school yard. The teacher actually smiled and allowed me to take this shot, so at least I had a couple of friendly encounters while in Sihanoukville.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

I am glad that we hadn't decided to stay there, but I am thankful that I got to see a part of Cambodia. I didn't end up buying anything, and didn't really have good memories to take back with me. I imagine that my experience will be much better next time I go to Cambodia and visit Siem Reap. It's no one's fault that it was the way it was in Sihanoukville, just an awkward cross of cultures and a struggling town trying to make a living.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

There are some more pictures of Sihanouville in my Flickr account, which you can access by clicking HERE.  I had some camera (lens)  issues in Cambodia, so most of my shots are not that good.

Koh Samui, Thailand and absolutely the last buddha (part eight)

Monday, February 15, 2010

While finishing up our wonderings through the island of Koh Samui, it was inevitable that we would arrive at not only the last Buddha of our journey, but the biggest. I've seen so many Buddha statues, drawings, painting, rugs etc.. over the past couple of months, that I could free-hand draw one in my sleep. However, culture and education are the most important aspects of this particular trip, so I will march where I'm led....except up these stairs. Yes, I see you "Big Buddha" way over there with your golden, shiny arms outstretched. You're the biggest on the island and a main draw for many tourists, but this is as far as I go. No more step climbing for me. I learned my lesson with The Great Wall of China.

Big Buddha on Koh Samui, Thailand

You have to give me credit, I've been running around this island all day with a group of energetic and enthusiastic tourists from around the world. Eight of us just exploring every corner and rock on this island. I haven't even blogged about all the many things we've done so far, just a few. These girls were so funny, as they struggled to walk barefoot out into the water to get their photo taken in front of a huge statue.

Thai girls posing for picture in front of statue on Koh Samui, Thailand

This area where the Big Buddha sits is quite nice. There is a small peninsula which comes inwards and gives these homes a bit of protection from the currents.

Koh Samui, Thailand

Given that this area is so popular, it's amazing that they don't pave the rest of this road, which is only feet from the staircase to the Buddha. At the moment of this photo, I have wet hair, wet clothes (from a combination of sweat and rain/flooding) but who can tell what's what at this point. My shoes are now muddy and who can worry about shiny Buddhas when there's a wonderful fruit cart that is just beckoning to me over to the right.

By the Big Buddha on Koh Samui, Thailand  

This kitty cat decided to come and sit at my feet for a moment. So, this is what a Thailand kitty cat looks like in case you were wondering. I want one.

Tropical Kitty on Koh Samui, Thailand

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about my 7 other various travel mates. We're all just wondering around and laughing at each other. No one is pretty at this point, and my travel mate is incredibly incensed that the only english language that the local tour guide and his Koh Samui shop friends can muster are the words "Big Buddha", while pointing a finger from Billy to the statue. This coming after a fascinating discovery that there seems to be a similarity between Billy's bald head, over-fed stomach and the largest Buddha statue on the island. They're in hysterics. He's not. He's sooo sensitive (And no I'm not showing you a picture for reference. He reads this). Mmmmm...more fruit carts.

Fruit stand on Koh Samui Thailand

This house sat right across from the waterway. Someone needs to clean up their back yard. I'm such a Virgo that I almost swam across there to do it for them. What?? I was wet already!!

House on Koh Samui, Thailand

Some random Thai dudes just chillin' by the Buddha Thai shops. Such a great combination of "Construction Wheel Barrel and soft cotton, pink T's".

Thailand locals and some comfy chairs

Oh, and a random pink Bicycle, just because it was there (and I had a color scheme going).

Bicycle by the Big Buddah

There are many more posts about Koh Samui on my blog. You can find them with the drop-down menu on the sidebar. There are also more pictures of Koh Samui in my Flick photo album, which you can access HERE.
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