Friday, January 25, 2008

Making friends in Singapore

11:30am and I was receiving my second ever marriage proposal in the back of a taxi on the way to Singapore's Zoo (my first being from a passenger claiming to be a Kenyan prince in need of a fourth wife). Crammed into the taxi with three of my other colleagues our driver popped the emotionally charged question via his reflection in the rear-view mirror after I had declared my love for his fair city. The gentleman suggested that if I enjoyed visiting so much I should simply marry him and move there. It was certainly a lovely, albeit insincere, way to start the day. "See you at the wedding!!" I promised as we spilled out of the cab at the entrance to Singapore Zoo and began sizing up posters of the furry friends we were about to make.

The most valuable member of our entourage that day was undoubtedly my friend Tim from Queensland. A former employee of the Australia Zoo and farm boy, he was worth his weight in gold with informative stories and factual tidbits on the inhabitants. Of course along with this position of power was also his enjoyment in secretly scaring us all by violently shaking bushes as we walked past, or gently scratching a stick across the backs of our necks instilling the fear of god into some of our more timid colleagues.

Tim showing us how Steve Erwin did it, and A close encounter with a real one

The first non-Tim related adrenalin rush of the day was about to present itself to us by way of a very large and hungry fish who was not circling under the zoo handler for a pinch of fish flakes! This gilled fella was about to be fed small silver fish speared onto a long skinny stick. We watched tentatively as the man swished the skewered offerings lightly against the water's surface making lots of gentle ripples, enticing the hungry fish just like an aroma of a yummy meal. Then out of the dark reflective waters - BAM!! - the pieces of silver were pulled off into his mouth faster than our eyes could keep up. Most of the people looking on gasped with surprise at the speed and precision of this big thing. My heart was certainly racing at this point and when I was encouraged to have a go at swishing the dinner around myself, I was not only petrified of the fish's force, but the possibility of dropping the valuable feeding implement into the water! It was truly impressive at just how the bolt of power travelled right up the stick into my hand as the big fish ripped his dinner away. Quite an adrenalin rush which doesn't quite translate into video or pictures but this will give you some idea how idea of how fast it all was:

Fish food!

Nearing the end of the day after hours of oo-ing, ahh-ing and finger pointing we were heading for the exit (and a long awaited fix of Ben and Jerry's ice cream) when we walked right up to the orangutan enclosure at the precise moment they were beginning feeding time and allowing the raven haired beauties to come down from the trees for fruit and photo opportunities with their excited fans (me!). For a few years now I have fantasized about a face-to-face meeting with one of them. I've watched many episodes of them playing around on animal channels and I have read about people travelling to the depths of Indonesian rainforests to sit with baby orangutans and cry over their innocence and beauty - and here I was sitting shoulder to shoulder with these absolutely amazing animals which cast their own unexplained spell over me.

Staring into their large black eyes it took all my power not to touch them and feel their mass of hair, I can't begin to make sense of why I was so moved by them but it just further fulled my desire to one day plan a trek into the wilderness for an even closer encounter, sans the Ben and Jerry comforts! It was a special way to end our fun day out, and over dinner that night in the outdoor food court Tim took great delight in making jokes to our other colleagues about my hair colour camouflaged against my orangutan friends! The cheek of it all I tell you!!

Although he is very beautiful, I was quite glad to have a sheet of glass between us


steve at the pub said...

Singapore Zoo! Worth seeing just for the landscaping!

fralyn said...

Wow! Nice story, Ash. I have heard about other people's face-to-face encounter with these compelling creatures, who's genetic makeup closely mirror ours. I especially love watching the mums feeding and caring for their babies.

PS - I like your hair.

Traytable said...

Ooh, I have a Singapore trip soon, must go see!!!

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Sandie said...

gives you goosebumps!

Jaggu said...

THis is cool

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Little black sheep said...

Singapore zoo is absolutely amazing. And I did the same orangatan expreience too, its a fantastic feeling with them just over your shoulder tickling your skin, so cute!! Just came over to your blog after you commented on mine (tinylittlebubbles), I'm glad I did as you've got some amazing experiences to read about. P.s Good luck with your invites :)

AC said...

Thanks Little black sheep. I enjoy reading your blog too (although I haven't touched my own in some time!). :)