Singapore – Part 2

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Hey friends ! I was supposed to write this post last week but traveling to my native place didn’t leave me with much time . So here it is now ! [Check out Part 1 posted previously 🙂 ]

DAY 5 – The last 3 days at SG had been quite hectic, so we decided to keep this day a bit relaxed (comparatively ! 😀 ). We left late morning to explore the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The weather was quite humid as we walked towards the MRT, so we decided to window shop at ION Orchard Mall for a while. By the time we reached the Botanic Gardens the air was so thick one could cut it with a knife. Even though there was so much open space around us we felt suffocated & although we very much wanted to explore the Gardens we realized that walking all those miles would be extremely difficult due to the weather conditions. So we rushed back to the air conditioned environment of the MRT with a sigh of relief.TIP – Keep a copy of the MRT map with you for convenience .

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Chinatown MRT

We soon made our way to Chinatown. It was evening by the time we reached there. No longer had we started browsing the souvenir shops it started raining. Soon the weather improved, all of Chinatown was lit up with colorful lanterns and inflated monkeys to mark the Year of the Monkey. TIP – Chinatown is a great place for souvenir shopping.

 

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After shopping for a while we came across the Chinatown Food Street, an upgraded version of the food complex.  After trying some SG style dessert we moved on looking for the Chinatown food complex. The food complex was a lot further than we expected it to be. Passing the market place again we came across the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, a stunning sight indeed. Unfortunately it was late and the temple was closed, finally we spotted the Chinatown Food Complex situated opposite the temple.

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Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum

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Inside the Food Complex

TIP – Food complexes do not stay open till very late. Half of the stalls were already shut by the time we reached there. My sister was very keen to try the Singaporean Crab Chilly dish , one of SG’s specialities. We managed to find a stall specializing in this dish with the help of some friendly food stall owners.

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Crab Chilly !

And before long my sister sat with gloves on her hand ready to tackle the dish. Gloves were provided to avoid hand contact with the spicy gravy. Intimidating as it seemed, my sister got right to it. So after a satisfying authentic SG style dinner we caught the train back to our hotel.

 

DAY 6 – With only 2 & ½ day left in SG we wanted to make the best of it. As we had already visited the Jurong Bird Park & Singapore Zoo on our previous trip to SG we wanted to explore other places.

We reached Arab Street in Haji Lane by afternoon. Arab Street is known for its trendy boutiques. Here one can shop for Clothing’s, accessories & home decor items. The narrow lane is filled with colorful boutiques on both sides. Shops after shops we browsed, there were few jewellery shops selling gorgeous silver jewellery.

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 The home decor shops were filled with such awesome trendy and innovative stuffs that I wished I could take them all back! From what I observed though 60% of the shops were selling the same products, which was surprising as I had seen more variety on Bugis Street and was expecting the same here.

TIP – Shops open up only by afternoon in Arab Street. At the end of the lane we came across cafes and pubs where people were taking respite from the sunny weather.

17 -wmA large building was covered from top to bottom with colourful wall art , which was a treat for  the eyes!

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Wonderland Cafe

A cafe called ‘Wonderland’ situated near the graffiti work is quite well know & we decided to check it out ( Super hungry that we were J ). After trying exotic rich pastries like lavender cake & honey crumble, feeling on Cloud 9 we left for our hotel. TIP – Must try pastries at Wonderland Cafe . . Droolworthy !

 

After resting in our room for a while we left for the ‘Gardens By The Bay’. Collecting our entry tickets we proceeded towards the 2 large man made domes – Cloud Forest & Flower Dome.

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We first entered the Cloud Forest Dome, my personal favourite of the two. One gets a feeling of having entered a rainforest in this dome. After spending almost an hour walking around inside, admiring all the work put into creating this unique structure we finally exited the dome.

 

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View from Cloud Forest Dome

Next was the Flower Dome , where there was a never-ending  varieties of plants flowering & non-flowering species. There was a wedding taking place in the glass house present within the Dome. We soon left to witness the Garden Rhapsody show which was to take place in the Super Tree Grove area.

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When we reached the Super Tree area we felt like we were Alice in Wonderland, the huge tree like structures were lit up making the place look so magical ! We could see people walking along the skywalk which seemed quite fun . Although there was a long waiting for entry to the skywalk people waited patiently to experience it. As it would soon be time for the show we decided to sit on the ground with others waiting  for the show to begin. Soon with music ringing in our ears and the lights on the Super Trees twinkling, the show began. . It was a fascinating experience, watching the change of lights on those humongous trees to the beat of the music.

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The show went on for 15 minutes after which we headed towards Marina Bay Sands to get a 360 degree aerial view of SG.

TIP – The Light & Sound show called OCBC Garden Rhapsody takes place daily twice in the evenings at the SuperTree Grove area. Must check out ! 🙂

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Marina Bay Sands

After waiting in a long line to reach the top, we finally reached the observatory deck. The sun had set and the darkness had filled the sky by this time. We could clearly spot all the well lit attractions of SG from here ! The SG Flyer, F1 track, Helix Bridge , Art Science Museum , the Domes & Super Tree Groves @ Gardens By The Bay, and others !

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TIP – Try to view SG from the observatory deck at sunset or after for a well lit & colourful sight.

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After enjoying the view from the top we headed down and came across a very attractive bakery on the ground floor of Marina Bay Sands tempting us to try their sumptuous desserts. After tasting some of the lip smacking pastries we went looking for the Helix Bridge.

 

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35 -wmPassing though The Shoppes stores we finally found the Helix Bridge. Much to our delight the laser Light & Sound Show had started and the images were being projected onto the walls of the Art Science Museum. We watched this magical sight for a while mesmerised by the play of colours on the lotus like structure of the museum and the music playing all around us.

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We spent a couple of hours mall hopping on Orchard Rd. Browsing brands familiar & ones we hadn’t heard of yet we whiled our time away. As we had enjoyed at Bugis Street so much we decided to go back to Bugis.

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Chewy Junior ! ❤

Getting down at Bugis MRT we walked through the subway and came across a small stall selling colourful and yummm looking cheese puffs & cupcakes called Chewy Junior . They were the best we’ve had so far! The most chewiest puffs & the most gooey cupcakes we’ve tasted !TIP – When in SG do try cheese puffs & cupcakes from Chewy Junior ! 🙂

 

We then headed towards Bugis Junction Mall. There were independent stalls placed right outside the mall, a flea market like setup with stalls selling clothing, accessories, eateries & all so checked those out too! Soon we were too tired to walk and left for our hotel.

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In the evening we reached the Clarke Quay station and found our way to the riverside. What an awesome sight it was! Couldn’t think of a more happening place to spend our last night in SG at! There were people sitting by the river side watching the play of colours on the other side of the river, restaurants lined by the river on the opposite side all lit up with music playing there.

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So passing the mall along the river we moved towards the bridge leading to the other side. As we reached the other side we realized that there were a lot more pubs & restaurants on the inside here. It felt like we were teleported to Las Vegas! There were bright colourful pubs & restaurants everywhere, belly dancers dancing in front of a Mediterranean restaurant, bollywood themed pubs, sports pubs, people everywhere enjoying the night life, tall umbrella-like structures covering the skyline to provide respite from the erratic rains. The extremely humid & stuffy climate played a real spoiler for us though.

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And That’s how we spent our last night in SG ! ❤

 

DAY 8 – Our flight back to Bangalore was at night so we had enough time to visit the Merlion Park, one last attraction left on our list! So after an early breakfast and completing our last minute shopping at Bras Basah, we headed to the MRT.

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Near Fullerton Hotel

Getting town at Raffle’s Palace station we started walking towards the Merlion Park. The Park was not located very close to the station and after receiving directions from friendly Singaporeans we soon reached the Park.

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One can view Esplanade – Theaters by the Bay from here. .

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We first came across an adorable cub version of the Merlion ! The large Merlion Statue stood tall facing the water with gallons and gallons of water pouring out from its mouth all day long. The original merlion structure measures around 9 meters tall, whilst the Merlion cub located near the original statue measures 2 metres tall.

 

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One can view the Marina Bay Sands & Art Science Museum across the waterfront from here. After enjoying the view for a while, we left to pick our luggage from the hotel and head towards the airport. Although our flight was late at night, we wanted to spend a couple of hours at the SG airport as it is one of the best in the world !

Enjoying the free foot massage machines at the airport, tasting new dishes at the numerous food stalls, shopping for cosmetics and perfumes we spent our remaining time at Singapore ! 🙂

B R Hills ! A Slice of Heaven . . .

w1 - evening jeep ride into forest 4.jpgB R Hills also known as BiligiriRanga Hills is one of the few places i have visited which seems truly magical . . . The expression ‘Heaven on Earth’ is truly meant for places like this . . .

We went to B R Hills last November to celebrate a special occasion – my husband’s bday ! We booked a 1N/2D stay at K Gudi Wilderness Camp by JLR situated inside the tiger reserve itself currently! So Exciting !

We left around 7:00am from our place. Thankfully there wasn’t too much traffic and we were outside the city within an hour. B R Hills is located at a distance of 170 Kms from Bangalore. The quickest route being Bangalore – Kanakpura – Malavalli – Yellandur – B R Hills.

w1 - fields enroute.jpg          So passing the scenic farmlands interspersed with coconut trees we drove on towards B R T wildlife sanctuary. We finally reached the forest check post. Once you pass the check post the contrasting change in scenery is so dramatic! We passed settlements of the Solage tribe surrounded by lush green vegetation and big trees. Hearing the birds chirping all around as if welcoming us to the forest we drove ahead only to be stopped by curious monkeys in the middle of the road.w1 - greeted by curious monkeys.jpg They watched us as if deciding if we were worthy of being allowed to go ahead into the sanctuary, after a few moments of intense silence they moved to the side giving us permission to drive on. The drive through the forest was a treat to the senses, smelling the fresh clean air, viewing the beauty of all things natural, hearing different species of birds singing through the trees, feeling one with nature we moved at a slow speed taking it all in just enjoying the drive, feeling at bliss !The feeling so profound that one cannot explain, only experience to believe !

We finally reached JLR property and after checking in were shown to our log hut by one of the friendly staff. The log hut we were lead to was located at the corner of the resort much to our delight. We were told that our cabin was situated in the leopard/tiger crossing terrain ! Our excitement knew no bound when we were told this , deciding then and there to stay up late that night hoping to be lucky enough to witness a leopard or tiger crossing !

The log huts as compared to the tented cottage accommodation were built at a height with a balcony overlooking the downward sloping lush green forest ahead. Cane chairs were provided in the balcony so one could enjoy the bounty of nature ,the animals passing by grazing on the vegetation around the property grounds. One could sit outside the cabin on the balcony at night and try to spot wild animals without the risk of being attacked.

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[About  Jungle Lodges & Resort Properties:

This is the third JLR property we have visited and have not been disappointed so far. JLR is a Govt. Of Karnataka run chain of resorts usually located in areas rich with wildlife or places of historical importance to promote tourism. The staff is always welcoming and friendly, food nutritious and healthy & the rooms very well maintained. Fixed itenary exists at each JLR location to make sure the guests get to make the most of their trip.]

The drive from Bangalore had taken us 4-5 hours and after resting for a while we went to have lunch at the GolGhar – the JLR dining area where meals were served buffet style. After enjoying the home cooked food we went on to explore the property grounds. w1-jlr property.jpgThe resort is designed such that it gels in with the surrounding forest area. Staying within the tiger reserve was a unique feeling. Its as close to nature as one can get . The main reception Area of the K Gudi Camp was once the hunting lodge of the Maharaja of Mysore.

Right opposite the JLR camp is the Forest Dept. Rest House. It was interesting to see a number of spotted deers and boars grazing calmly all around the property. Shy creatures although they are they had no hesitation about being in the vicinity of humans, they seemed to be quite at home here.

We sat for a while on our balcony taking in the beautiful view and the sounds of nature feeling at peace within, watching deers and boars grazing around, and different species of birds flying around singing their own tunes.

I sat there till the hammocks beneath our log hut beckoned me . . . there were hammocks and rubber tyre swings hanging from trees all around the properties, so there i was lying on a hammock with the sun shining on my face reading a book, feeling very relaxed till it was time for the Safari !

We were served tea, coffee and snacks in the Maharaja’s Hunting Lodge where they had a large wooden table with a seating capacity of 25-30 people. They even had a mini library there which contained books on BR Hills and wildlife which people could read up on.

At 4:30 pm before dusk fell we were taken on a jeep ride into the forest. There were a couple of routes into the forest & different jeep riders took different routes after keeping a gap of couple minutes between each jeep ride. This was done to minimize the noise made by the jeeps which scares away the animals.

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We spent almost 2 hours in the forest trying to track down a tiger or leopard . We spotted lots of animals like spotted deers,barking deers, owls, bald headed eagle,giant squirrels, etc.  but unfortunately we didn’t get to see the ones we were most eager to spot. Our jeep rider tried really hard to track down a tiger or a leopard but it wasn’t meant to be.

w1 - evening jeep ride into forest 3.jpgBut even then the ride into the jungle was really worth it ! We even got to witness the sunset at the top of a hill with the vast ravine before us. We even came across few people from the Solage tribe. It was dark before we made it back to the camp and climate had become quite pleasant by then. We were served some more tea, coffee and snacks & got to watch a documentary on B R Hills.

w - campfireBy dinnertime it was extremely chilly and a bit foggy. A perfect ambience for the campfire we had on our schedule. Enjoying a hot bowl of soup sitting by the campfire, watching other guests covered in jackets, mufflers and shawls trying to cope with the cold climate. We then headed to the GolGhar for dinner. After a hearty meal we headed toward our log hut following the lantern lit route along the resort, listening to the crickets chirping all around us. Enjoying the cold climate we settled on the cane chairs in the balcony with blankets covering us.

The electricity made available through Generator is turned off by 10pm daily at the resort as it is located within the tiger reserve to facilitate animal crossing in the vicinity. Once the lights were turned off we waited with bated breath to spot a tiger or leopard. Sitting in the dark with torches and snacks we waited for some sign.

After a while when we almost gave up hope . . . . we heard it ! The rustling of dry leaves on the ground, movement among the shrubs near our log hut. . . and then the animal stilled. For a minute we froze! We knew for certain that it was a big animal moving somewhere nearby. . . As excited as we were to spot a leopard or tiger we were even a bit terrified of being attacked. Although the log hut was at a decent height , we weren’t aware of how high these wildcats could jump.

So we rushed towards our room door and stood there wondering what to do next . Should we shine the torch at the animal so we could spot it in the darkness thus making it aware of our presence or just run into the room to be safe. After all the waiting for this moment we were not ready to just run into the safety of our room . So there we were standing quietly , feeling the seconds pass by , hearing for the movement which seemed very slow and not very often.

After waiting for 5 more minutes feeling really highstrung we built up some courage and shined the torch in the direction of the movement to spot the mysterious animal. Feeling frustrated and amused at the same time we spotted . . .   a deer! ! ! Finding the situation exasperating we decided to give it one more shot. After waiting for awhile when we didn’t hear anymore movement we decided to call it a night . . .

The next day we were woken at 6:00am with bed tea and biscuits. It was Safari Time again !  On inquiring we were told by the wildlife specialist at the property that the wild animals preferred warmer climate and so migrated downhill where there were more watering holes and warm weather which made spotting elephants, tigers and leopards more challenging in this weather. . . and voila ! the mystery was solved !

w1 - jeep ride at dawn 1.jpgThe jeep ride at dawn was a refreshing feeling ! Watching the freshly dewed plants, the lush radiant greenery and a light fog misting up the place we headed out. The route chosen this morning was not the same as the evening before.w1 - jeep ride at dawn7.jpg We headed outside the JLR Camp, passing the Forest Dept. Rest House and towards the grasslands. Where the evening before we had ridden into the forest, the view before us this morning was that of grasslands interspersed by sparse thin short trees & small hills. w1 - jeep ride at dawn 3.jpgHere one could see the Indian Gaur (the largest species of wild cattle) in all its glory! For a moment i felt i was in the savannah grasslands!

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Safari Time !

 

 

Although we were feeling really sleepy before the ride, we were wide awake now taking in the mesmerizing scenes of the hills before us. These jeep rides are one of the most memorable moments in our journeys till date.

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After having breakfast back at the camp, we settled on our balconies for one last time to enjoy the view. We heard the sounds of birds we had never heard before and saw numerous species of birds flying by and of coz watched the spotted deers and boars grazing around the property.

Feeling in awe, weary to leave & already planning to return soon we left K Gudi Wilderness Camp . . .w - jlr property1.jpg

Not done with B R Hills yet we thoroughly enjoyed the forest route on our way back out at a slow pace taking in as much as we could before reaching the forest checkpost .

Its strange how in a forest you have sounds of nature all around you but it helps you find inner peace whereas being in a city just raises your stress levels , thus making it even more important to preserves these small slices of heaven !It makes us realize how out of touch with nature we are and how rare it is to have such experiences in cities, yes we still do have forests and sanctuaries and reserves today. . but what of tomorrow ? will the coming generations be so blessed ? at the rate trees are cut down and the air & water bodies polluted just thinking about the future sends shivers down my spine. . . .

Some more info about B R Hills :

B R Hills gets its name from the temple Biligiriranga Swamy Temple situated at the edge of a bare cliff overlooking the northern parts of the sanctuary. The rock cliff looks almost white giving the hill its name Biligiri (‘white hill’ in Kannada) .The Ranganatha deity (another name for Lord Vishnu) at this temple is possibly the only standing form of Lord Ranganatha.

Situated at an altitude of 1800 to 6000 ft, the sanctuary benefits from pleasant climate all year round. BR Hills links the Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats facilitating the movement of wild animals between them. This sanctuary serves as a bridge for the entire Deccan Plateau thereby making it unique & a place of great significance.

The wide range of climatic conditions teemed with the altitude variations has made the vegetation, the flora on these hills quite unique as well. The hills are a mix of all major forest vegetation types – scrubs, deciduous, riparian, evergreen, shoals & grasslands. B R Hills is also home to the Solage tribe. It is elephant, gaur, tiger & leopard terrain.  The forest is also home to around 250 species of birds!

The sanctuary is a protected reserve under Wildlife Protection Act 1972. The site was declared a ‘Tiger Reserve’ in Jan 2011.

Summer at B R Hills is a stark contrast to the lush green monsoon season. The forest shows a different facet in each season and attracts different types of animals and birds, tempting one to explore this place in every season.Hope thats enough description of this stunning place to start with !      (Info credit – Wikipedia)