We love talking with cab drivers. They are part of the fabric of most big cities, and generally have their fingers on the pulse of society.
Today we are on the way to the famous Singapore Zoo. The zoo is relatively remote, by Singapore standards, so we’re in Mr Singh’s little blue cab working our way through the traffic. We talk with Mr Singh and, in the space of about half an hour, learn about his life, his job, and what the government needs to do to make things better for ordinary people. We’re just getting started on the challenges of shopping with wives and daughters, and the joys of grandchildren when we reach our destination. As the little blue cab melts back into the throng of taxis looking for fares back to the city, we wonder if we will ever see Mr Singh again. Probably not, but who knows?
Now for the zoo! Nanette particularly wants to see the orang-utans and the pandas. Surprisingly, this is a relatively common wish list and the girl at the ticket counter has a spiel in about thirty languages. “You need to buy zoo teeket to see orang-utan and river safari teeket to see panda. We have good price for combine teeket.” Sure, no worries. “You also need buy teeket for river boat ride for extra five dollar so you see all the animal in river safari park.” OK, if you say so. We dutifully buy all the recommended tickets and head through the turnstiles.
We opt to do the river safari park first and – it’s surprisingly interesting. The park is arranged so visitors are channelled along a set route through the major rivers of the world. About midway through we reach the panda enclosure and head inside to find that panda Kai Kai is out in the viewing area – asleep. We take a few snaps and head off for our river boat ride, full of eager anticipation.
This ride boasts animals you will never see again. Actually, you don’t see them the first time either. As our little boat glides down its artificial channel, we imagine that the shadow behind that tree might be an “elusive amazon jaguar”, and maybe those leaves over there were moved by the “shy triple crested rainbow mountain goat”. Ah well, you can’t win them all – time to go back and see the pandas sleeping again and then on to the main zoo.
We spend the next few hours wandering around this amazing place. The zoo is huge with enclosures cunningly blended into the natural jungle landscape. We skip the Australian Outback area, complete with kangaroos and a broken down land rover (who really drives land rovers in Australia I ask?) and head for the main attraction. The orangs are as amazing as we expected, and the entranced look on Nanette’s face tells me that the long wished for trip to Borneo to see orangs in the wild is definitely still on the list. We wander off from time to time to look at other things, but somehow keep finding ourselves back on the benches near these big bags of shaggy brown fur. We’re a bit sceptical when they tell us that orangs have about 95% of human DNA, as we’ve seen lots of humans that are nowhere near as intelligent looking as these guys. “Are they happy?” Nanette asks the keeper sitting on the bench beside us. “Oh yes, they eat well and they breed – they don’t do that if they’re not happy.” Fair enough, sort of says it all really.
At last it’s closing time and everyone is leaving the park. Our feet are really tired so we gratefully climb into another cab. “Where do you want go?” asks the driver. “Back to our hotel please.” “Ah no, it is too early for that. You should go to Little India and see Mustafa’s shopping mall. It has everything you can imagine, it’s cheap and it is open 24 hours a day.” Hmmm. Who can argue with a taxi driver?