The final day in Singapore was reserved for the zoo. It is regarded as the best zoo in the world and at only $18SGD for adults and $12SGD for kids (£9/£6) it’s an absolute steal.
We headed from Malaysia through Immigration and into Singapore. The taxi from Woodlands immigration point was about $6SGD and took about 10 minutes.
The zoo is set on an island inside a lake, the island of course is huge. This allows the zoo to be one of a kind, given that many animals are natural to SE Asia such as monkeys, they are not fenced in, or in an enclosure. Simply they are left to roam the zoo, it was bizarre walking around and seeing a Lemur run past you, or a chimp be sat on a sign post. It was probably the most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced, almost like walk around safari.
I don’t remember anything that was in an enclosure, even the lions were only a few feet away surrounded by water. It was awesome, the habitats were world class in that they were as natural as possible whilst being completely unobtrusive for visitors.
In the rivers that cris cross the island are crocodiles, flamingos and all manners of fishes and marine wildlife including giant turtles – Which are far bigger than I’d ever imagined and left the kids in awe! We missed it, but kids can ride around on them at certain points throughout the day.
There is every type of monkey and wildcat imaginable and most roam free in their own locations or throughout the zoo. At one point the kids were stroking lemurs and whilst doing so we noticed something clung to a fence, it was a sloth.
Probably the most amazing animal we saw were the white Tigers. There were two beautiful, huge cats with gorgeous blue eyes, they are tantamount to the beauty of animals and we were so privileged to have witnessed them only feet away from us.
We caught the sea lion show, where Carlos showed just how intelligent Sea Lions are and then we watched in awe as the enormous Polar Bear basked in the30 degree heat of Singapore – In her own air conditioned spot.
There were elephant rides, animal shows and simply every animal imaginable all set inside a tropical zoo whereby most experienced complete freedom. How the zoo pulls it off I will never know, but it is as close to animals as I’ve ever been and believe me I have been to zoo’s all over the world. From the intimate Jackson Zoo in Tennessee, USA to seeing Pandas in Beijing Zoo, China – They don’t come anywhere near Singapore Zoo. It makes Chester Zoo look absolutely shameful in comparison and the only sad thing is that I’ll never be able to visit another zoo again without comparing it to the awesome Singapore zoo which in all our opinions is quite rightly the best zoo on the planet.
From the Zoo we had to make the journey North bound to a small Island off the North Western coast of Malaysia, just South of Thailand. Pulau Penang/Pinang (depending on where you come from) is an old British colonial ‘gateway’ Its capitol city George town, a fully habited city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to an amazing history and culture. It is widely accepted that the best food in Malaysia is found in Penang, along with some of the best history and cultural diversity. It is also very easy on the budget travellers wallet and rooms cost from 8MYR (£1.60)
We left the Zoo and headed to Larkin Bus terminal in Johor Bahru, it is the main terminal and we were hounded instantly. The going rate for the bus to Penang is 65MYR per seat. After a bit of negotiating we had 65MYR for me and then 40MYR or the kids (£13/£8) and the bus left in 15 minutes at 10.15pm. The bus was VIP and as such it had 2 business class seats then the aisle and then one seat. They lay almost horizontal when reclined and after reading for a while the driver switched off the lights and we went to sleep. We awoke as we were pulling into Penang at 8am the next morning. Connected by a hefty bridge Penang is not a big island, we got kicked off the bus at the long distance terminal some 5km from the centre of Georgetown. We knew the backpacker area was Lebuh Chulia in China Town and so set about finding it. Like all Malaysian taxis haggling is prohibited and as such you must go by the meter. Of course we got quoted 25MYR for the journey and no, the meter wouldn’t be put on. The price was fixed and so we got the bus. Most buses head to the Jetty and so the walk to Lebuh Chulia is only about half a kilometre, the bus cost 2MYR for me and 1MYR for the kids (40p/20p) just as id known the taxi drivers were trying to cream us. I took huge satisfaction giving them a cheesy grin as the bus rolled past them.
We got booted off at Komplex and so headed straight for Starbucks. An American company that has two core company values at its heart; Firstly the prices are extortionate, you will never pay as much for a cup of tea anywhere on the planet, even in the event of a global drought and you have the very last tea bag in existence, and secondly even if there was a Starbucks on the bottom of the ocean floor you could guarantee it would have free WIFI. So over the most expensive cup of tea on the planet I searched for us a hotel and found nothing. We got directions and then found Lebuh Chulia.
We wanted somewhere with 2 beds and were getting prices around the 30MYR region (£6). We found somewhere with a queen bed and then a double with air con and settled with it.
We chilled out for the rest of the day before hitting the night market for to sample the amazing food that supposedly comes out of Penang. I settled for a Tiger beer and Japanese Chicken Skewers with Garlic Rice and the kids had Chinese Pork with Noodles and Won Ton soup washed down with fresh Apple and Orange Juice. I can confirm that the food is delicious. Absolutely gorgeous at rock bottom prices too.
Already we are loving the diversity and laid back attitude of Penang. We are staying smack bang in the centre of China Town, yet walk two minutes and you are in Little India. Continue further and you are amongst Muslims and Catholics and Christians. For such a small Island it offers a great opportunity to sample many different cultures all within walking distance and all sharing their cultures and creating the very reason we came to Penang in the first place – Culture and History.