Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jurong Bird Park

I woke after twelve hours of blissful sleep, to hear my wife completing the washing up from last night. (In the old days we'd have paper plates or smash all the glasses, but now we're 'civilised' there's extra work entailed.  It doesn't feel like a progression.  I was planning on spending the whole day being lacksidaisical, but instead, in just three short hours I was propelled out of the flat, down to the MRT station and over to Boon Ley to catch a bus to the Jurong Bird Park.

Consistent with Singapore's orderly approach to naming things, the Jurong Bird Park is in Jurong, is full of birds, and is a park. There's also two restaurants outside, one serving chicken rice (is that their idea of irony?) and the other serving burgers, with less of a cooked-avian theme.

We went into the bird park and began to walk around. There are a lot of birds there that look like distressing old men; bald heads, beady eyes and enormous black coats. Not nice old men, that you'd help to cross the road. Nasty old men, that you'd cross the road to avoid. Some of them were Marabou storks, some of them were ostriches, and some were cassowaries, but they all looked rather malefic.

We didn't spend all our time looking at dishevelled birds, mind you. We went off to see the flamingoes (reliably pink) and then some more flamingoes, and I was hoping to see some pelicans, but on the way there we stopped in the south east Asian bird house, and spent a happy half hour following quite fearless birds around. There are various species of pigeon that will blithely wander past you, as if you're just another thing they can happily ignore. Or perhaps they were posing for photos.

All of a sudden, we heard a clap of thunder, and the first spots of rain. We went for shelter in the antechamber of the aviary, and I was quite optimistic that this would be one of those organised Singaporean showers that lasted ten minutes, and then we'd be on our way.

Forty minutes later, with a river of water flowing out of the aviary and onto my shoes, and with no sign of the thunder or rain abating, I began to reconsider my view. We decided we couldn't stay for the rest of the day here, and made a break for it, first to a rather disappointing restaurant with no food. We went on under a series of blessed covered walkways, back to the entrance. On the way we stopped for a Cornetto at a small kiosk, where a grumpy man desperate for a bottle of water tried to push past me and my wife, and then started interrupting the woman at the cash register while she was giving us change, to foist his money on her. I was going to give him a stiff elbow in the ribs and tell him to settle down, but then I remembered I haven't got the right of permanent residence in this country, and probably my employment pass could be revoked in the case of extreme jostling.

So we left, Cornetto in hand, and went back to the entrance, where we bought some fetching (robustly horrible) plastic rain ponchos, and then recommenced our wandering around the bird park. IfI hadn't slept for twelve hours we could have viewed the whole bird park before the rain came, but then I wouldn't have been indolent if I hadn't been drinking the night before, and if only we had some ham, we could have ham and eggs. If we had some eggs.

With the rain and thunder continuing, we had the place pretty much to ourselves, and got to see lots of toucans, some enormous eagles, and the dread cassowary, running around with its wattles flapping and its dirty old man coat shaking. Some of the birds were quite content with the rain, and others were getting quite grumpy. We at least had the choice to go home and dry out if we wanted, whereas most of the birds were stuck in cages.

The pelicans weren't caged in, and I wonder why they don't fly away whenever they feel like it, although perhaps life outside the Bird Park isn't so great for a bird. After all, there are two vultures in the park that were rescued from Orchard Road 7 years ago after they got lost (I reckon what really happened is the vultures spent all their money on overpriced designer t-shirts in one of the malls, and then pawned their tickets home so they could buy more junk) so perhaps the regimented, organised lifestyle of Singapore doesn't suit birds so much. Then again, I doubt the average goose ever wants to carry a 32 inch television through a metro station, so perhaps I'm imagining problems where there would be none.

Having seen the pelicans, and now feeling faint because all I'd eaten today was a bowl of ice cream and a piece of toast, we returned to the entrance and I had a burger at Bongo's, without any grumpy people barging past us. Bliss. And thence home, to the joyful discovery that we had remembered to close our windows against the storm before we left.


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