Thursday, March 04, 2004

Singapore--Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia--Day 34

It seemed best that I keep going on my original itinerary instead of trying to stay another few days in Singapore in hopes of getting some good pictures of the Night Safari hippos as there are so few days that I have at each place along my way. So, I had to put the Singapore hippos  on hold and head off to Malaysia today.

Today started off early with checking out of the hotel and catching a cab to the airport for my 8:45 am flight. I made it to the airport 2 hours early and checked in my bags and spent the remainder of the time waiting while flipping through People magazine. As always, my flight to Kuala Lumpur was just fine, and it was really a short journey (only about 35 minutes total). Once we landed I got in line for immigration and finally had good luck with the lines and made it through in no time. I got my bags and met my driver to take me to the hotel.

The hotel that I am staying at is in downtown Kuala Lumpur which is about an hour from the airport, so we had a long drive to get to the hotel. That was fine, I spent most of it trying to watch the scenery and not fall asleep because I was so tired from not getting much sleep last night. After checking into my hotel and putting away my things, I grabbed my daypack together and went off in search of the Zoo Negara (National Zoo) of Malaysia.

This time around though, my taxi driver was a little less helpful than Anil and Ruberu. J When I suggested that he go into the zoo with me, he looked at me as if I were nuts. Hmm, maybe I didn t need him to come in and things would be just fine. He offered to wait for me outside of the zoo which sounded like a good idea since it seemed like not many cabs passed through the area. I went and bought my ticket and found out that the hippos have feeding time everyday at 3:45! Perfect! I ran back out to tell my taxi driver that he probably shouldn t wait 4 hours for me and that instead we arranged for him to pick me up tomorrow and take me to the Taiping Zoo, which is about two hours north of here.

I headed back into the zoo. It was hot. It was muggy. I hadn t had anything to eat all day with all of the traveling and grabbed some water and an ice-cream to keep me going (very healthy, I know). I looked on the map for the hippos and there they were, right next to the giraffes. Only problem was that when I went to look for them, I couldn t find them. Oh no! I walked down this long path past the giraffes, where they should ve been, and there was nothing but a blocked sidewalk with workers fixing it. Frustrated, I walked in circles (not literally) before finally finding another map which showed the hippos, right where they were supposed to be, past the giraffes. So I made a second attempt to find the hippos and walked past the men that were working. I found the hippos all right, but the PYGMY hippos, not the Nile. Argh.

After wandering around again for a while and then finally finding a handheld map, I found out where the Nile hippos were, right were they were on the paper maps, but not on the huge maps plastered around the zoo. So I went past the monkeys and past the children s play area, and finally found them.

There are three Nile hippos at the zoo, two males and one female. There are the father and mother (Chombi and Kibu, respectively) and their baby son Duke, who was a feisty little fellow. He was constantly chewing on the bars and making quite a fuss. It seemed though that Dad was on one side of the water and Mom and Baby were on the other, and so the three spent their afternoon sleeping and playing in the water with their faces all pointing towards each other in a little huddle, even though they were separated. Chombi is a huge male and I was able to get a glimpse of his body when he rose up out of the water a few times. Luckily Kibu got out of the water and walked around a bit, however there were many bars in the way so it was difficult to get a clear shot. Duke was really funny, and kept harassing Mom and Dad. Snap snap snap.

By this time it was about 1:45 so I had another 2 hours until feeding time was going to occur. The trio didn t seem to be moving all that much (Duke settled down) and so I walked to the baboons nearby and watched them for a while, who are funny to watch and not nearly as cute as the hippos, but entertaining nonetheless. Several minutes passed as I read my guidebook on Southeast Asia and started reading all about the dreaded mosquito bites and Malaria again. This is when I realized that I had forgotten my long sleeved shirt and was probably being eaten alive by infected mosquitoes that very moment. So I got up to go try to find a nice, cooler place to be (weather wise) and relatively free from mosquitoes.

My plan didn t work, I couldn t find anyplace so instead I opted for the tram stop (the dreaded trams again) and read while I waited for time to pass. Several minutes later I was joined by an interesting guy who was more interested in me and where I was from, and we chatted for a few minutes. He wanted to know why I came all the way to Malaysia just to go to the zoos! J He left and not two seconds later it started to downpour with rain.

That s when I realized that I forgot my umbrella AND my rain jacket. Ugh. I just kept thinking, well at least today is not as bad as yesterday. Throughout the rest of the time that I waited, the rain came and went several times. I finally put down my book and went to see where the loud music was coming from that I could hear over a loudspeaker. It turned out to be a chimpanzee show with a host and all, and so I took shelter from the rain in the amphitheater along with all but 10 other people. There was this show going on and hardly anyone there and rain kept interrupting it. I was definitely amused.

Finally it came just about time for the hippo feeding so I went back over to the hippos who were enjoying the wet rain. They saw me and grunted a lot and Duke even got out of the water a bit to take a good look at me and of course, pose for his picture J I waited. And waited. And waited for the zookeeper to come and feed them! Soon it was well past 3:45 and heading into 4:30!! I didn t want to leave the three because I knew that if I did THAT would be the moment when the zookeepers came, and so I kept on waiting. Finally I figured that something was up and that there wasn t going to be feeding time today, so I went on a search for some answers. I found a zoo employee and he told me that they don t feed the hippos on days that it is raining. Hmmm, not ever? They must be hungry hippos then!

Anyways, he was very helpful and we talked to the hippo zookeepers over the intercom and they gave us the names of the hippos and apologized for not feeding them today, but that it was too late because the zoo closes at 5 o clock (it was about that time).

So I hit the gift shop and then went back into the parking lot to find a taxi home (the ONLY taxi in the parking lot). Anyways, as my luck had it there were two other young people like me also heading for the taxi and we all sort of got there at the same time. So we decided why don t we share the taxi? So we hopped in and I met Tim (from Germany) and Kristy (from Georgia) who were both extremely nice. We had a great time talking in the cab to the center of Kuala Lumpur and it was really nice to meet people my age!

After parting ways with them I headed back to the hotel to do the usual photo stuff and then had dinner at a Chinese restaurant in the hotel. The people working in the restaurant were really nice to me and were interested in talking to me, which was nice. So, where are you from? The waiter asked. Oh, from the States, I say. Oh? The State? Where is the State? He says back. Oh, I mean, uh, not the State& umm& I meant, oh, well, never mind. Both the waiter and waitress who brought me my good kept insisting that I switch my chopsticks for a knife and fork, even though I kept saying that I was fine, I could use chopsticks. You don t want chopsticks? Are you SURE? The waitress says giggling profusely. Umm, yeah, why? Do I look like I need them? I say back smiling (knowing far too well that the disaster on and around my plate gave it all away) My food kept falling everywhere and at least we were all getting a good laugh at it. I stuck to my chopsticks and ended up having a nice dinner and excellent frozen mango custard for dessert.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.