Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mark & KT Meet the Monkeys

Ever since Mark and KT announced their intentions to visit me in Singapore, I've looked forward to introducing them to the monkeys.  So, on their third full day, after they'd begun to feel a little less jet lagged and a little more acclimated, we ate some breakfast and headed to Bukit Timah.  We were there a little late in the morning, and the monkeys weren't hanging around their sleeping spot near the Visitor Centre.  We did the circuit of places where the moneys often hang out, and I found my monkeys deep in a construction zone that's off-limits to people.  After watching the monkeys from afar for a few minutes, we decided to move on in the hopes that we'd be able to see the monkeys up-close later.  We started off on a hike, but before going too far down the path, we spotted a different group of monkeys (not the ones I work with).  Some were running around the path, and a few were up in the trees, munching away on some hefty jackfruits.  Mark and KT marveled over their first up-close glimpse of wild monkeys, and I promised them more excitement when we tracked down my monkeys in a more accessible place, as my monkeys are much less timid.

We watched the monkeys awhile before moving on, and after hiking for about 15 more minutes, we found another group of monkeys!  By then it was raining a little bit so we pushed on without taking any pictures.  After a few hours and getting hopelessly turned around a couple of times (if you start a hike on the bike path, the way isn't very well signed), we decided to turn around and head back to the Visitor Centre.  On our way, we spotted a skink, a few monitors, and this yellow and black lizard that I've never seen in Singapore before.  I've looked for some information on the striped yellow and black lizard, but haven't found anything.
Anyone know anything about this little guy?

When we got near the Visitor Centre, I heard the telltale sounds of monkeys alarm-calling, and when we rounded the last bend in the bike path, there they were!  The monkeys that I work with were hanging out along the path and in the parking lot.  I started pointing out the individuals to Mark and KT: Leo, with his distinguished white fur, Catherine with her crippled hand and Oliver, her adorable infant, muscular Hercules, impish Punk, gray-eyed Tanis, mischievous Bryan, and on and on.  We had a tense moment when Mark set his camera down, and Quill stealthily moved in and reached out to swipe it.  KT noticed just in time and crisis was averted.
Catherine & Oliver


My friends got a kick out of watching the monkeys gather around me like my little minions.  The little ones love to come up to me and pull on my boot laces, tug on my backpack, and attempt to climb my legs when I'm not looking.
Monkey Lady

Once I handed my backpack over to Mark and KT, the monkeys started paying them a little more attention.  Even though I never keep food in my backpack when I go to Bukit Timah, the monkeys can't seem to resist trying to look in there, just to make sure.  I warned my friends to keep a hand on the bag, lest the monkeys scamper off with it.  KT had a foot on the strap, but troublemaker Quill got ahold of it and tugged it away a little bit.  Even though KT still had her foot on the strap, I saw a problem brewing when Quill began to appear a little confrontational.  I walked over and pulled the bag back, then put it on my back.  Quill protested with a weak attempt at tug-of-war, followed by some unhappy grunts and protests, but he let it go pretty quickly, distracted as he was by a riveting game of keep-away his pals were playing with a trash bag.

After enjoying the monkey antics for awhile, our hunger finally got the best of us, and we had to abandon our wildlife watching in pursuit of food.  We walked out of the nature reserve and across the street to a hawker centre, where we enjoyed some tasty Indian food at Al-Ameen.  KT ordered an entire coconut, and Mark got lassi, which he promptly downed in one gulp before ordering another.  Our food was delicious, and even Indian food-wary Mark enjoyed a family-size portion of briyani, which he annihilated with a desperation that I usually associate with starving refugees.  One of my greatest joys of having Mark and KT around was watching them eat.  Some strange family trait enables these two to down unfathomable quantities of food without any apparent consequences- never any indigestion, or a single added pound.

Once we had stuffed ourselves to capacity, we headed home to clean up and get ready to go out for drinks.  As always, a cold shower after a hot day with the monkeys was delightful.  By the time we'd made ourselves presentable, Bryan was home and we all hopped in a taxi and headed for Raffles Hotel.  Raffles is a historical institution around here- the man is a legend, and the hotel has been around since the late 1880's. In its time, it has been the site of a number of notable events, including the killing of the last tiger ever seen in Singapore.  The hotel now stands in a modern neighborhood, a stalwart reminder of Singapore's colonial period.  We were venturing there to see the fancy hotel itself, but also to enjoy Singapore Slings at the Long Bar, the place where the drink was invented!

Bryan and I had been to the Long Bar before, and this time was similar to the last- the atmosphere was relaxing, the bar was beautiful, and the drinks were extraordinarily overpriced but delicious.

After guzzling down Slings at Raffles, we headed to Clarke Quay to show Mark and KT what a Singaporean night on the town is like.  We started out at Brewerkz, one of the places that Bryan and I go when we're craving real American food (they have mac & cheese with the breadcrumbs on top!! Yes!!).  In addition to decent American food, the brewery also concocts some pretty tasty beer.  I love their fruitbrewz, which change regularly.  My all-time favorite was the dragonfruit ale.  Mmmm...

After a round at Brewerkz, we roamed the lit-up, trippy Dr. Seussian quay.  We ogled some of the stranger bars, like the place where you can sit in wheelchairs and have drinks served to you in an IV bag by a waitress dressed like a nurse, or the Whopper Lounge, which is like a fancy Burger King that serves cocktails.  We bypassed these places for the tamer and more reasonably priced Mama's Caribbean Bar, which had yummy cocktails and buckets of Sol, my favorite Mexican beer, which is strangely widely available in Singapore.
Only the finest girly drinks for Mark!! : )

A few drinks at Mama's were all it took to finish us off- after a long, long day, we weren't up for partying the night away, so we put ourselves in a cab and headed home to rest up for another day of adventuring!

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