Category Archives: travel

Speaking of Monkeys

What I didn’t tell you in my last post was that the warning signs about monkeys were not my first encounter with said creatures on this trip.  My first ever experience with monkeys occurred just the previous Saturday while visiting Batu Caves, which is just north of Kuala Lumpur at the end of a suburban railway line.

The main entrance, just a 2-min walk from the railway station.

The main entrance, just a 2-min walk from the railway station.

Batu Caves is named after the nearby Batu River, and is both a natural attraction (the caves themselves) and a Hindu shrine, supposedly one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India (according to Wikipedia).  The shrine is dedicated to Murugan, the Hindu god of war, victory, wisdom, and love (wow, that’s quite a range!).  The statue is the tallest one of the god in the world, at 140 feet (and used 300 liters of gold paint), but is pretty new as it only dates to 2006.  For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batu_Caves and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murugan.

Yes, those are 272 steps that I had to climb in the punishing midday heat and humidity (and lathered in an intoxicating mix of 50sph sunscreen and bug spray!). At least the steps were relatively short and in good condition (unlike my last step-climbing adventure at the pyramids of Teotihuacan in Mexico).

Yes, those are 272 steps that I had to climb in the punishing midday heat and humidity (and lathered in an intoxicating mix of 50sph sunscreen and bug spray!). At least the steps were relatively short and in good condition (unlike my last step-climbing adventure at the pyramids of Teotihuacan in Mexico).

Although it was interesting to visit, the caves themselves were a bit of a disappointment – a little too sculpted at ground level to accommodate lots of visitors and a lot of junk lying around.

Note the poured concrete floor here.  There was a bunk of junk on both sides, maybe for some sort of special events, but it just looked messy and certainly not part of the natural setting.

Note the poured concrete floor here. There was a bunch of junk on both sides, maybe for some sort of special events, but it just looked messy and certainly not part of the natural setting.

The shrine in the clearing at the back seemed a little out of place, I have to say.  I really took this picture, though, to capture an amazing invention – the selfie stick!!  The woman in front of these two guys appears to also be capturing it.  My boss said he saw the very annoying American backpackers (that I, along with a 6-car train full of Malaysians, overheard getting acquainted after having just met at their hostel – gag) also with a selfie stick, and I would have preferred a picture of them with it.

The shrine in the clearing at the back seemed a little out of place, I have to say. I really took this picture, though, to capture an amazing invention – the selfie stick!! The woman in front of these two guys appears to also be capturing it. 

At least the rock formations and light filtering down into the clearing in the back were natural!  There were a few water drops falling down and I could actually see the drips coming all the way down – it was pretty cool.

At least the rock formations and light filtering down into the clearing in the back were natural! There were a few water drops falling down and I could actually see the drips coming all the way down – it was pretty cool.

The real attraction here, it seemed – at least for most of the tourists – was the monkeys.

I like the standard nature of this sign including something decidedly non-standard!

I like the standard nature of this sign including something decidedly non-standard (at least for me)!

Unfortunately, no one seemed interested in following that rule (I assume that would not have been the case in Singapore, where rules are taken a bit more seriously!).  Note the baby clutching onto the monkey.

Unfortunately, no one seemed interested in following that rule (I assume that would not have been the case in Singapore, where rules are taken a bit more seriously!). Note the baby clutching onto the monkey.

The babies were remarkable – they look like humans!  If you want some evidence of evolution, here it is…

The babies were remarkable – they look just like human babies! If you want some evidence of evolution, here it is…

Not sure if someone gave him this or if this is just a lucky monkey, but this monkey is putting opposable thumbs to good use.

Not sure if someone gave him this or if this is just a lucky monkey, but this monkey is putting his opposable thumbs to good use.

Having finished that milky drink, you can still see the evidence on his face!  The rest of his anatomy is also in view, along with an incredibly long…tail.

Having finished that milky drink, you can still see the evidence on his face! The rest of his anatomy is also in view, along with an incredibly long tail.

It was interesting and kind of creepy to me to see these monkeys up close.  They were amazingly agile and quick, bounding up and down that massive staircase on the hand rails with ease.  One jumped over some people and knocked someone’s sunglasses off their head.  I was really surprised to see the babies as well.

Overall, this was a good short trip out of the city to see something different in the midst of a busy working schedule.

 

Monkey See, People Don’t

There were too many of these signs for comfort along the Southern Ridges walk in Singapore!

There were too many of these signs for comfort along the Southern Ridges walk in Singapore!

When I saw this sign the first time, I asked myself – am I comfortable with the presence of wild monkeys?  Then I figured that, hey, it’s Singapore – if the monkeys are only half as well behaved as the people there will be no problem!

I’m just finishing a 12-day trip to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, having left home last Monday night and getting home Friday night.  I’m glad to say that I really love both cities, especially the people and the food.  The heat, however, is another matter entirely; when I was going to bed the first night in Singapore at about 1am local time the Internet said that the temperature was 88F and it felt like 101F – always crazy hot and humid 365 days a year!

On my last morning in Singapore, when the working was done, I decided to try the Southern Ridges walk.  I had read about this on my first trip there a year ago but didn’t have time.  So, I got up very early, skipped the shower, and headed out.  Now, you might be thinking that nature and me don’t go together, and you’d be right; but I was attracted by the chance to travel out of the city center to a different part of the city-state (use different metro stations!), for a chance at some views, and for some of the architecture there in terms of bridges.  I figured that if I went early enough I could at least deal with temperatures in the 80s instead of 90s, reduce my sun exposure, and even make it back for the hotel breakfast!  And, dare I say, even I was yearning for a little physical activity and time outdoors after more than a week where there is virtually no walking and everything is sealed indoors due to the heat.

The Alexandra Arch, linking the Horticulture Park with the Forest Walk.  This was my access point.

My chosen access point was the Alexandra Arch.  The curved deck and titled arch are like an opened leaf (thanks, Wikipedia – I didn’t get that on my own!).

So, after a quick trip on the MRT to HarbourFront and a connecting bus the last 10 minutes or so and uphill, I had reached the trail.  The elevation and the threat of serious rain produced a nice breeze.  After crossing the bridge I immediately entered the Forest Walk, a 0.8-mile path through the woods.

Right away, the city and its people disappear - a really nice feature in such a dense place!

Right away, the city and its people disappear – a really nice feature in such a dense place!

The walk soars over the ground, apparently as much as 60 feet up in places.  Unfortunately there were some hills to climb too!

The walk soars over the ground, apparently as much as 60 feet up in places. Unfortunately there were some hills to climb too!

Lest you forget where you are, though, the prolific residential tower blocks of Singapore are never too far away...

Lest you forget where you are, though, the prolific residential tower blocks of Singapore are never too far away…

Then abruptly the forest ends, leaving you in Telok Blangah Hill Park and a short “Hilltop Walk” connects to the next point of interest.

This is the Henderson Waves, another high-design pedestrian bridge.  It is 118 feet above the road, and the undulating wave form would probably be better appreciated from under than on the bridge.  It gets lit with LEDs at night which would be cool to see.

This is the Henderson Waves, another high-design pedestrian bridge. It is 118 feet above the road, and the undulating wave form would probably be better appreciated from under than on the bridge. It gets lit with LEDs at night which would be cool to see.

Visible from the bridge is the waterfront 'Reflections at Keppel Bay', which I learned is a luxury residential complex designed by Daniel Libeskind.  Astrid and I have been seeing Libeskind works scattered around the world, and have developed a distaste for his work - this is probably the first high-rise work I've seen (apart from the new World Trade Center in New York, but I think that those designs were heavily modified by others).

Visible from the bridge is the waterfront ‘Reflections at Keppel Bay’, which I learned is a luxury residential complex designed by Daniel Libeskind. Astrid and I have been seeing Libeskind works scattered around the world, and have developed a general distaste for his work – but this is probably the first high-rise work I’ve seen and I have to say that I kind of liked it, at least from a distance (he was involved in the ex-Freedom Tower, but I think the design was modified by others).  

Looking back through the canopy of trees the other way was a nice view of the city core.

Looking back through the canopy of trees the other way was a nice view of the city core.

The last section of the walk is in Mount Tabor Park, which is more accessible and more popular - including through this cable car that goes through the building in the middle by HarbourFront and then continues over to Sentosa Island, which is a big beach resort.

The last section of the walk is in Mount Tabor Park, which is more accessible and more popular – including through this cable car that goes through the building in the middle by HarbourFront and then continues over to Sentosa Island, which is a big beach resort. You can really see the moody sky out over the water beyond – I was ready to be drenched but instead only got a few small drops.

There were some lovely bright orange flowers along the walk, and I thought it was neat to see that framing a view of the massive port operation down below that has been so critical to Singapore's history.

There were some lovely bright orange flowers on a trellis all along the walk through the park (don’t ask me what kind – but I can still appreciate them!), and I thought it was neat to see that framing a view of the massive industrial port operation down below that has been so critical to Singapore’s history.

So, after a very nice and nearly solitary walk, I hiked down massive staircases to HarbourFront and dashed back to my hotel on the MRT during rush hour.  Singapore is one of the most densely populated places on earth, in a sense – it is the third-most dense country or territory (after Macau and Monaco, just ahead of Hong Kong), but as a city it doesn’t even make the top 50 (but neither do any other modern fully developed world cities).  The Singapore model, though, involves lots of towers with residences and lots of green space, which helps to temper at least a bit the incredibly hot and humid climate.  I really like Singapore, but I will be glad to return to my chosen climate in the UK!

The red tiled roofs of Lisbon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the title of the blog post says it all!

 

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Looking out over the Alfama district to the port with the big cruise ships.

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Gazing out from the Santa Justa Elevadore over to the hill with the Castel do Sao Jorge.

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The view from our room! Fantastic!

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