Places!

Jurong Frog Farm: Frog in the well hops into your claypot!

Hiya dudes! After a week’s hiatus, we decided to get closer to the wild outdoors of our sunny island, and we arrive at the Jurong Frog Farm because XL says she wants something ‘special’, and I honestly don’t know if this is ‘special’ enough for her, but I guess a farm full of American Bull Frogs should do the trick! (Kill me please if this is not good enough for her, it’s alright if you readers out there like it 🙂

OK! This is how the frog pen looks like, kindda big because each pen is home to so-many-till-i-lost-count number of frogs, and yes XL is smiling, I guess she must be satisfied 🙂

$1 worth of frog food gets you a small packet of pellets to feed the frog

Pellet launched.

One Pellet Away!

Apparently some frogs (read: almost all) aren’t enthusiastic, hence the disclaimer

We caught these 2 *ahem ahem* away, OK we get the message.

Bull frog tadpoles, pretty big!

Like a boss!

Another one of the farm’s produce, freshwater patin fish

Tilapia is also on the menu!

And yes, this is the gist of our farm visit. The frogs here are reared for consumption, mainly for out favourite frog porridge, as well as for the snow jelly dessert (hashima). For that reason, the frogs are of only a single species. So those who are disappointed that there is a lack of variety of animals, do note that this is a commercial farm, and not a reptilian park.

Admission is free and you can walk around the farm by yourselves, as advised by their friendly staff. However, to fully understand the operations of the farm and handle the frogs etc (see below flowchart for more info), it would be advisable to go for one of those guided tours. For more info, refer here.

Besides the farm tours, you can also purchase some of the farm produce such as the frogs and fish. On certain days, the staff may offer some cooked food, which can be purchased and consumed on the spot (for the non-cooking folks out there)

As noted from the chart above, certain tours require a minimum group size of 20 pax. This was the unfortunate situation which we faced today….. And…. to avoid future disappointment of all of you, we have decided to collate groups of 20 or more so that you guys can enjoy the tours instead of simply milling around helplessly. *Disclaimer: Do leave your actual name, contact number, group size and intended date of visit. We do not guarantee that there would be a minimum group size of 20; and in the event that we do not gather 20 pax or more, we are in no way responsible for it since this service is provided on our own goodwill (meaning FOC). Once the group is confirmed, we will link you guys up, where you guys can then contact each other to confirm the type of tour and the date of intended visit. 🙂 So do be nice and not cancel the appointment at the last moment because many others are dependent on you to make the tour possible 🙂

As I’ve mentioned earlier, if you do not sign up for any of the tours, you will not gain much information about the farm and their produce. TO fully maximise the experience, the best time for the tour would be around 10am in the morning.

So there, we are done with Mr Frog; those poor souls we see today should land up in somebody’s claypot soon 😦

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Gardens By The Bay: Paid Conservatories, the flowers and the splash and the dash

Hi all! After leaving the Gardens by the bay without visiting the paid conservatories, we made a vow that we would be back ASAP to pay it another visit! And of course, when the attendant (whom I personally feel, is bloody business savvy) tempted me on the opening day by pointing out to the largest man-made waterfall in Singapore (surpassing the previous record holder at the Jurong Bird Park), I just can’t say more. And yes, we went back, and yes $20(for local Singaporeans entering 2 paid conservatories) was well worth the money if you ask me.

Look who’s grinning from ear to ear!

Ahhh, the roof of the Flower Dome, a pleasure to the eyes, and to the lens]

Our first stop was the Flower Dome, which is filled with such grandeur; it envelopes you the moment you step into the conservatory. Remember I mentioned that the Gardens by the Bay looks somewhat like Avatar at night? The plethora of flora, shrubs, and other plants really bring that out here, unlike the free area, which consists of mainly common shrubs and of course, the synthetic Supertrees, which have drawn a lot of flak online for being a smack in the face of conservationism, which the Gardens purports itself to be. Hokay, let’s not get into this controversial quagmire; today we will all enjoy the little pleasures of life, and what botany can bring to our concrete jungle.

The first thing that grabbed us when we entered was the whiff of air-conditioning. I felt that it was a rather ingenious little idea, given our warm tropical climate. This place is dubbed ‘Eternal Spring’, and the temperature is maintained at approximately 20 degrees celsius. So all the human polar bears, do not stay huddled in the shopping malls, this place is for you too! We’ll let the pictures do the talking for now!

Cacti family, how sweet!

Epitome of the word ‘Glass Ceiling’

Roses galore!

Basically, the Flower Dome spans 2 storey high for us to walk. You start at the 2nd storey (which is actually the ground level), then exit at the first storey (basement). Here, XL is overlooking the first storey, which is heavily planted with more species of flowers than you can ever imagine.

Marriage of man-made and natural grandeur

Some handsome looking trees

Couple pic at last, god bless the service staff there!

Exotic lilies!

If you’re really el cheapo, you can try plucking them and proposing to a girl on the spot. (‘course I’m kiddin)

Kindda interesting little bench I came across, and of course, a good rest for my legs!

which is more astonishing? XL’s big mouth or the pretty flowers?

Ehh, this place is really disabled friendly. The elderly woman here was basking in the glow of the garden!

The old and withered seems to be out of focus; let’s not let this happen to our society.

After spending almost an entire morning lazing around in the Flower Dome, we head on next to the Cloud Forest, somewhere I have always wanted to go ever since that business savvy attendant tempted me on the opening day of the Gardens. Basically, the structure of the entire Cloud Forest is centered on the waterfall. So yes, unlike the Flower Dome which covers a vast horizontal expanse of land, the Cloud Forest is more intimidating for those who do not prefer heights.

The moment we entered, a giant majestic waterfall greeted us. Wait a minute, not just the waterfall, but also a massive crowd gathered at the fall, all posing for pictures. A note of advice, if you’d like to snap a photo without any photo-bombs by others, it is wise to either (1) Act fast or (2) rush straight to the Cloud Forest when the Gardens begin operations at 9am. We suggest the latter because we really camped there for quite some time before getting this shot. Oh yes, those who have a severe fear of heights, you might want to avoid going all the way up the waterfall structure.

Finally, the waterfall is all ours!

Personally, I felt that this Cloud Forest attracts children more than the Flower Dome. For one, it is more gimmicky in the sense that, in place of diverse species of flora, you get elevated platforms to walk on, not unlike the ones seen in the giant bird cage of Jurassic Park 3.

Elevated walking platforms

Yes, there is a teeny weeny bit of resemblance. I totally felt that a pteranodon would swoop down on us anytime

Another reason I felt that the Cloud Forest gave a more ‘artificial’ feel because there is a lift inside the waterfall structure to take us right up to the last level! There isn’t much plants here, but you can see some Pitcher Plants on top though.

Le me, nursing a bad toothache.

We are now right at the pinnacle of the waterfall, amazing but fake.

Now walking on one of those elevated platforms

It is a big drop down, beware of your belongings falling overboard!

Walking along those elevated platforms are countless photo opportunities. If you enjoy taking photos with the backdrop of the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands or the CBD, this is the best part of the Cloud Forest. XL the cam-whore obviously enjoying her moment, posing beside the flowers.

Lots and lots of elevated platforms for photo opportunities, but in dire need for more flora!

Spotted a mirror near the crystal rocks (which look totally out of place) and cam whore moment for XL

The crystal rocks, you get what I meant.

The Cloud Forest is basically a walk down the waterfall structure. At the basement, there is this area which explains lots about environment conservation, because the Gardens by the Bay is an advocate of environmental conservation. Yes many have debated that the use of air-conditioning to cool the 2 conservatories are anti-conservation. But let me give you my take.

Firstly, to spread the word about conservation, the Gardens must first get a sizeable crowd to be interested. Given our tropical climate, it is more likely to see people huddled up in the comforts of air-conditioning. Hence, to attract those who are more inclined towards air-conditioning, we must first air-condition the conservatories. The next step is what the Gardens have done rather well, which is to air a video of how the temperature of the Earth will rise by 5 degrees celcius, and a frame by frame explanation of what happens each time the temperature rises by a certain quantum. The provoking video might eventually encourage more people to use less energy by weaning off their air conditioning at times, creating a multiplier effect. OK please don’t castigate me for coming out with this POV. I would be most interested to hear your views about this 🙂

This was the video I mentioned about. Quite awesomely done, though (could be) dramatised

FYI.

Next up, we purchased a $5 ticket per pax to go up the OCBC Skyway, which is actually a rickety bridge connecting some of the super trees.

The queue for this attraction is MASSIVE, so do be prepared to queue for at least 15mins on weekends.

Up up and away!

Those who have fear for heights/motion sickness, be aware that the bridge would shake. It is not a fixed structure

Wonderful photo opportunity you get up there.

To be honest, we did not feel that the OCBC Skyway was worth the visit. At $5 a pop for a extremely short walk, it was more like a novelty experience than anything else. We will say that it is something you can afford to give a miss.

As we head for lunch, we couldn’t help but think about the possible controversies that this Gardens have brought about. Was there an over-zealous urge to showcase our tiny island state’s majesty, or was it a sincere attempt to bring about greater awareness for conservation. Regardless, it is an ideal place for one to bring a book, and bask in the the presence of pollen and nectar (you can actually smell the flowers inside the conservatories). So do not be too quick to put a ‘ – ‘ to this location if you feel that it might exceed your budget, or if you do not believe in its cause. $20 might be slightly on the high side if one were to think that locations like the Singapore Zoo (which can provide an entire day of entertainment) costs approximately the same price. If budget is a issue, go for the Flower Dome if you enjoy the simple pleasures of life, the peace, tranquility of chilling out with a book all day, admiring the flowers. Or go for the Cloud Forest if you intention is to be wowed by the magnificence of the waterfall, and would prefer more photo opportunities with the city’s skylines rather than macro closed up pictures of flowers. It is all dependent on your agenda really.

The Good: 

  • Viewing a wide range of plants and floral in comfortable Spring environment (aircon)
  • Suitable for family, couples, disabled and elderly. In short, all inclusive
  • Novelty factor
  • Kudos to the Flower Dome! 😀

The Bad:

  • Can be considered pricey, even children aged 3 are charged admission rates
  • Cloud Forest is rather artificial
  • Controversy surrounding the relevance of the Garden.
  • OCBC Skyway is a disappointment

elson

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Gardens By the Bay: The Green Green Grass of Home (erm, maybe, maybe not!)

So, as we have promised ourselves, we must must must make it to the Gardens By the Bay on its opening day, which is right after work. Shagged by the audit internship, but fresh for the weekend. Dinner was quick. As I asked the girlfriend what she wanted to eat, she just said, ‘Just eat at Maxwell luh, so that we can ‘hurry up get to the Gardens’ ‘ Word for word quote, purrfect.

And yes, we drove down to the Gardens and along the way, we sight throngs of cars being literally piled by the road-side as the entire road was chocked full of cars delivering people with the same ideals (to visit the Gardens on the first day) So yep, we had to park far far away. But hey, no pain no gain. Is this worth the time and effort? The answer is….. It DEPENDS. Let’s sink right into the pictures first!

Bay South Entrance!!! WE ARE HERE!!!

Hey this must surely be the symbol of the Gardens.

Speaking of it being a symbol, there must definitely be times when you’ve noticed it whilst driving down the ECP. Funnily though, I think it resembles the Dolby Digital THX Amazing Life clip which all of us (surely) must have seen before during a movie. This is the clip  in case I’ve not been coherent enough.

OK let me give you my 2 cents worth. This structure is definitely awe-inspiring. I felt that it represented life branching out from a single source. And a complex, intricate but robust network that is formed reflects the need to network, not just for benefits sake, but forming bonds with not only among our own species, but also with the environment. A perfect piece of art I’d say, really enjoyed looking at it. On the flipside though, it is but a man-made structure; it might be a tad too synthetic for those who might prefer something natural. (Well, it is rather impossible unless we live on the movie set of Avatar. But I will touch on Avatar the movie laterrr on!)

Gift/Souvenir shop

XL makes her first appearance of the night with some  procession ( I dunno whut ) seems to be going on! Is it Mardi Gras?

For the Hungry ( We are not sure if it’s nice, cos we ate at Maxwell, remember?)

Aaah! Marvelous Backdrop!

Somewhere near the ticketing booth, picture opportunity for the girlfriend.

Cloud Forest, one of the paid Conservatories

Speaking of which, there are two Conservatories which are air-conditioned and contain certain species of plants that are supposedly rarer. The going rates are $20 for two conservatory for an adult Singapore RESIDENT (yes, you need not be a citizen, being a resident would suffice) and $12 per conservatory. For Non-resident adults, a standard rate of $28 for two conservatories apply. For more details, please head on to :  http://www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en/plan-your-visit/visitor-information.html  

Personal we find the rates rather steep, even for the fact that the Cloud Forest contains the tallest waterfall in sg. Besides, we noticed that even children were charged admission fees. This is not an encouraging fact if the place is intended for educational purposes. We propose that citizens be charged a token rate since the attraction was built with support from the money from the public. This would not exclude certain groups of Singaporeans who cannot afford the exorbitant rates. A wonderful garden like this should be accessible to all.

Flower Dome, another paid Conservatory.

Sneak peek at waterfall inside the Cloud Forest

Somehow it gives me the same feel as when I watched Avatar. Here’s some scenes which resemble the feel below

Spot the difference

More Avatar-esque pictures!

I call this picture, The Synergy. Light produced by man, and light produced by nature. Intertwining of man and nature. Absolutely Zen.

And Yes! Something that everyone must try is the SkyWay, which is actually narrow stretches of roads up above the Avatar-like ‘Super trees’

Look closely at the bridge

Tadah! there are ppl above. This really really really reminds me of Avatar and their Home Tree!

The SkyWay bridge costs $5 per pax and it is rather worth the money going up and feeling like a real Na’vi. However the ticketing booth were already closed when we went there so we did not have any opportunity to go up 😦 But we will be back really really soon!

After which, we milled around the park, and found the gateway to Marina Bay Sands!

HUAT AHHHH!!! (more likely to lose $$$ though, we have already warned you!)

More scenic sights ahead!

Blue Art Science Museum, where we went to see the Harry Potter and Andy Warhol exhibitions!

Dragonfly Pond

Jason Mraz’s concert venue!

After a long trek, civilization spotted!!!!

If you are not the walking type, there is also buggy rides for hire at $5/pax!

Shy Flyer goes into hiding!

To be truthfully brutally honest, after walking round the park and immersing in the atmosphere, there isn’t really much to shout about besides being awed by the psuedo-Avatar atmosphere. While it is really a dream come true for me (an avid Avatar fanboy), folks who prefer nature and the wild outdoors will be uber-ly, epic-ly disappointed by this. Species of plants were not carefully explained, and if one does not look too closely, one might presume that most of the plants belong only to a few species. Educational value, there is none. However, this is only the start of the Gardens and there might be more additions. Proof as shown below

Although expensive, we strongly believe that the Conservatories are where the good stuff are kept, so we will definitely be snooping around there the time time we come. Although the public area is more synthetic compared to the naturalistic feel of the Botanic Gardens, the govt might be heading in the direction of grandeur rather than natural when drawing up the blueprint for this Gardens. This might be done to fit into the ‘Atas’ feel of the neighbouring CBD as well as the Marina Bay Sands IR. Nothing to do this weekend, head on down to Gardens by the Bay. The public area is free, and definitely worth the visit, especially the spectacular night scene. BEAU—TIFUL!

The Good:

  • Great news for Avatar fans! Come at night and watch the place turn into Pandora.
  • Breezy and nice to chill out and admire the picturesque view of the city at no charge at all

The Bad:

  • Conservatories are expensively priced, and  might not be as value-for-$$$ as say, places like the Zoo.
  • Rather inaccessible compared to the Botanic Gardens. Only Bus that ply this route is Bus 400 ><

so long!

elson

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Written in the Stars – Science Centre Singapore Observatory

Hi everyone! Welcome back to our little enclave in the amazing Milky Way blogosphere! Speaking of the Milky Way, XL and I will be heading down today to observe the heavenly bodies in their original glory, unedited and unadulterated. Where to, then?

The Science Centre Singapore is home to the 3rd largest observatory in Singapore, the bigger two are not accessible by the general public, sad to say.

Whoopee! Finally at the Science Centre…. Erm… knock knock, anybody home?

When there is need for help, ask and it shall be given. We approached the wonderfully nice security guards, and realize to our pleasant delight that, YES! We were at the right place after all, we just needed to trace the orbit (pardon the pun) of tunnels to reach our destination.

Approach the first security guard and she will lead you on to the next security guard in the tunnel (Amazing Race anyone?)

First sign of hope (Aah, we are in the right track)

Second sign of re-affirmation (Good things come to those who are patient)

Third sign of restlessness (Mommy! Are we there yet?! @.@)

AAHHHH Hell yeah! Cool stuff beckons! Let’s push that door… and let’s see what awaits us!

Upon pushing the door, alas! What greeted us was a pitched black sky enveloped by the heavenly bodies that we will be observing tonight! And here is what it actually looks like, from the eyes of our lousy, old Panasonic camera though, with no editing whatsoever.

A small note to our dear readers, do expect a higher volume of visitors during the holiday seasons.  So either be there early or endure the queue under the starry starry night.

Time check: 8:06pm, we had to take the second option, which is to queue. YAY! Indeed Singaporeans’ favorite past time, could we not enjoy it, especially since we have the privilege of queuing under the sky-lit night?

And up the observatory we went!

Cam-whoring while queuing! (and elson can’t seem to open his eyes in the flash…)

Do enjoy the cool breeze under the romantic night skies while queuing.  What is life, if full of care, we have no time to stop and stare. So go ahead! Stare at the skies all you want to! If you are armed with a smart phone, we would advise you to download an app on your smart phone’s app store, Android market, which allows you to point your phone at the skies to identify the star/cluster of stars you are currently staring at? Bazinga! Go try it now, if you own an iPhone, you can try this out using the free Distant Suns app! 

Finally! We are right in front of the 3rd largest telescope in Singapore! Apologies for the lack of photos here, as no flash photography is allowed in here. The main attraction for tonight is the planet Saturn. You can find a complete schedule of the optimal time of the year to view certain planets right here (http://www.science.edu.sg/events/Pages/Stargazing.aspx)

The main treat for tonight is Saturn! It was certainly a delightful experience seeing the planet in the flesh, after reading so much about it, particularly in primary school. Gosh that is wayyyy back in time!

Anyway, here’s some Saturn tidbit for all of you:

  •  Saturn is not colored as depicted by most books, but rather, monochromatic. (There is a friendly Caucasian chap manning the telescope, dishing out tirades of astronomy facts. Do say hello to him and fire away your doubts!)
  • Our Milky Way is that ex-planet Pluto is 15years (!) away from earth and currently there is a spacecraft being sent on an expedition there. No signs of life and water on Mars? No problem. Pluto is close enough; challenge accepted and we shall hunt for life on Pluto, says the folks of NASA. We don’t know about you guys, but this idea sounds out of this world (well it is, literally!)

And here’s Saturn projected on the computer next to this mega big telescope where everyone is peering into.

OK, mission completed. We trudge down the observatory with a sense of achievement. It was our virgin experience viewing planets through the lenses of a telescope.

BUT ALL IS NOT SETTLED YET. Wait a minute, there are a few other telescopes below the observatory. We discover that most of the staff are actually volunteers rather than paid employees of the Science Centre. There are even astronomy enthusiasts who bring their own telescopes here to share with members of the public. Uber generous dudes! Thank you guys for your generosity and sharing of your astronomy knowledge. 

Clusters of people gathering at the different telescopes

While queuing up to view the Alpha Centauri (ehh pardon me, Alpha Whutt??? Was the first thing that came into out minds), we had the opportunity to interact with two of the volunteers. Let us share our newfound knowledge here. The Alpha Centauri is the closest cluster of 3 stars to our solar system, and it is 4.3 light years away from us (in human speak, it takes a beam of light 4.3years to reach our eyes) Speedpost anyone? HAHAHAH! Well the implication of this fact is that we are looking into the past of the star, to be exact, the image of Alpha Centauri that we are seeing through our telescope is the image of the stars 4.3 years ago.

There was a heated argument between the both of us and I must admit that I had a heated discussion with XL about this. EHHH! Are you saying that we can travel back into the past?

Finally we managed to clarify our doubts. What actually happens is that the PAST of the star is what we see in the telescope. It does not mean that the star is currently living in the past. CLOSE ENOUGH! (insert meme)

Dudes and dudettes, if you own your own spanking DSLR, and are interested in taking pictures of the planets and stars through the telescopes, do head down to a photography store and purchase an adaptor which allows you to mount your DSLR onto the telescope to capture images of the heavenly bodies. According to one of the astronomy buffs there, it costs around $60. Do note that it might take awhile to mount your camera, so you will only be able to do so when the crowd disperses, or alternatively head down when it is not the school holidays.

The Good:

  • Enriching night for the both of us! Friendly
  • Excellent place for all, whether it is for couples to romance under the blessing of the stars and planets. or for  families to educate their children on astronomy. Best of all, at totally ZERO admission charges, it is completely free! Free parking at the Science Centre as well. So do not spend your Friday nights simply going to the same few places in town. Take the path less travelled, and be rewarded with a splendid experience.
The Bad:
  • Some of the telescopes belong to private enthusiasts, who have been very generous to share them with all of us. Hence do not be alarmed if they are not service-oriented like how Science Centre employees would have been.
  • It can get rather hot on humid nights. (as in the case in Singapore most of the time) So it might be a cool relieve to bring along a fan of sorts to fan yourselves while queuing up to enter the observatory.

(imagine we can afford a fan made of these, hah!)

  • For non-astronomy buffs, do note that it is not possible to see all planets in a single night.
Getting there!
Here’s the detailed link as to how to go there for anyone who might need it!
What we felt could have enhanced our experience would be for the Science Centre to be more involved instead of relying a lot on the kind volunteers. Perhaps there could be commentaries to explain certain astronomical bodies that will be observed for the evening.

But hey, at a grand total of $0, we really couldn’t ask for more. It has been an astronomical experience for us, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Cya on our next expedition! Ciao!

elson

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