Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 9

Or at least I think it's day 9.  Anyway on this day we went to Malaysia.  [Chorus of angels].  No, it's very exciting becuase with a 2 hour bus ride, we ventured into an entirely new country where, as the tour guide gently reminded us many times, the people speak Malay.  Maybe some Chinese, maybe a little bit of English but Malay, Malay, Malay.

First impressions?  My goodness, this place has some forest in it.  Being engulfed by the traffic and buildings that is Singapore for a week has had its effects.   I've found myself wishing for open water, like in Beaufort - seeing the sun set on the ocean, ocean 360 degrees around.

There were also a lot of rubber and palm oil trees, plantations I guess, but just fields of large palmy trees lined nicely in rows.  Apparently you can harvest palm leaves all year around.  
They simply harvest one section of the field at a time, moving from section to section and then coming back round again.  
Rubber, as I recall from my foreign movie prowess, comes from tapping the rubber tree and collecting the sap.  After some processing, it becomes rubber. 

We also saw orchid farms.  Apparently all the gorgeous flowers come from Malaysia.  Singapore gets to keep some in its botanical gardens. 

Our destination was a small Kampong, or traditional village, on the coast, a traditional fishing village built on the water.  Kukup.  Yes, I looked that up on Google just now.  My first attempt was Kekup.  Correct me if I'm wrong now.

The interesting thing about the village, and all of these villages traditionally, is that they are built directly on the water.  (Move over Venice).  They have foundation poles than run into the ground, and then the houses, road/pathways are built about 6 feet above the water, give or take a couple feet due to the tide (which was really fast - we saw a lot of mudskipper activity, due probably to the changing water conditions at the time).   But, as we saw, being on the water has an impact on the water.

Some of the toilets were more primitive than the squat stalls everyone has been trying to get used to.  They were literally a hole cut into the drywood.  Where's the flush?  The tide, I guess.  It's also really difficult keeping possessions, especially waste, out of the water when it's all around you.  Around Beaufort, there is considerable trash in the intertidal zone.  Here, it was that times 10.  Slumdog Millionaire has been a big hit recently.  It's like the pictures of the Indian slums initially, the kids just running through a jungle of trash.  The rubbish collects underneath the houses closer to the shore.  We also saw the cleaning mechanism of one of the docks - hose it into the ocean.

In addition, these fishing villages have a tradition of aquaculture and currently practice it to considerable lengths.   We saw maybe 20-40 farms out on the water.  Students got to play with archerfish, which shoot sprays of water out at their prey (spiders) in the wild.  Hold up an anchovy and they'll do the same trick for you.  Just watch out for your eyes.  We also saw a fishermen harvest jellyfish.  They were so large!  I imagined the small stinging ones you see in aquariums, but these jellies for food had a diameter of maybe a foot to a foot and a half.  We saw various fish.  I'm not a fish expert, so I won't try to name them all.  I believe we saw tilapia.  Maybe bass?  On the exotic side, we saw baby sharks, horseshoe crabs (blood shipped off to pharmaceutical companies), and a pufferfish, I think.  We also snacked on Prawn chips.  My favorite!  Ugh, but so bad for you.  I was very tempted to buy a bag, but then realized I don't eat this stuff anymore.

After the boat ride to the aquaculture facilities, we walked through another village, then had lunch or prawns, fish, tofu, veggies, and rice.  I was glad to be able to get a vegetarian lunch for a day.  Getting fast food (well, quality fast food - hawkers) has meant a lot of meat and wheat for the past week.  (Rhymes! Sometimes I ammuse even myself).  I was glad to have some greens.  It reminded me of my grandmother's apartment.  I love my grandmother.

Oh, but epic Day 9 is not done!

The night we spent at Night Safari, Singapore's zoo experience minus the heat and even the walking.  Disclaimer: I am not a fan of zoos, in that I don't like them.   My initial reaction to Night Safari was "Disneyworld?"  Honestly, it's like Animal Kingdom minus the fact everyone going to Disneyworld has a rental car.  There was a tribal dance with fire.  (Is this slighly insensitive considering the indigenous populations that are still in SE Asia?)  The place has a food court, restaurants, and like 8 tourist gift shops.  They also have the fish that nibble away your dead skin, also known as exfoliation, like at Sentosa.  My goodness.

But I have to say, I had a decent time despite everything.  They had asian tropical animals.  The Asian elephant.  Tapirs.  A Golden jackal.  A striped hyena.  Barasingha.  Babirusa.  Red dole.  Gaur.  Also, a capybara from South America.  See what I mean?  I've never seen these before.

They also had a quite entertaining safari guide who had an accent mixed between Singaporean and British.  I wonder if they hand the guides scripts, because what she said was really cheesy, to the point that I don't know how it could look respectable written down on paper.

But all in all, it was a long day, and we were ready to take that taxicab home at like 10:30 PM.  Wakey wakey at 6 AM the next day for MacRitchie Reservoir hike! 

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