austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

I'd ask my friends to come and see

So today started off with a good heavy rainstorm. The solution: go to the Underwater World. This is a marvelous display at Sentosa Island, Singapore's little striving-to-be-a-theme-park tourist trap. Our goal was to take in the Underwater World, the Dolphin Lagoon, the Southernmost Point in Asia, the Merlion, and whatever else we could find; we achieved ... uh ... two out of four concrete goals, and might have managed the other two if I didn't mess things up. Basically, we started too late -- my problem, with work and all that again, and then I turned us into Fort Silosa rather than going to the dolphins.

Underwater World is at heart a bunch of aquariums, with bundles of remarkably photogenic fish, plus some enormous groupers. There's a ``prehistoric world'' slice with some huge fish and lungfish and the like, a display of sea angels and jellyfish and clown fish and all, and then the starring attraction, a long plexiglass tube underneath an even bigger aquarium.

This lets fish swim all around you. The curve of the tank lines through the partial magnification of the tube is an ongoing inner ear imbalance. But you get leopard fish or sharks coming from what your peripheral vision thinks is over your shoulder and it all starts all over again. The selection ranges from several kinds of sharks to various rays who like to rest on the top of the tube, giving great pictures if the camera figures out the focus, to fish so brightly colored and irregularly shaped they look like Sid and Marty Krofft puppets, to dugongs, to silvery fish that look like what Cobra-la reincarnated Destro as. But maybe most wondrous is a bit with an undersea rock cover, on which air bubbles (mostly from the scuba diver cleaning the tank) gather, giving an eerie antigravity 'rain' of air. It's wondrous.

After Underwater World we meant to go to the Dolphin Lagoon, but turned to the adjacent Fort Silosa. The Fort was built by the British in the late 19th century to secure the western harbor against enemy attack, and since the only substantial attack was the Japanese invasion and occupation, the Fort is divided into two themes. One is the 'average life' of a British Army regular posted to the Fort in a generic 19th century date. The other is the invasion, when the fort's guns were turned away from the ocean to fire on the Japanese troops coming from land; and Japanese occupation; and how the big naval guns were turned to face the invading Japanese; and the resistance; and how the story about the guns facing only out to sea, where the Japanese did not invade from, is a myth; and slices of life as a prisoner of war or as an ordinary civilian; and how the defense of Singapore was organized. It's necessarily a bit somber. One of the more interesting displays is of various artilleries, ranging from guns used by the British in different eras, some Japanese guns (a couple of these were found in the 1970s during excavations on the main island), even centuries-old Malay cannon. A surprising number of these nobody has any good history for, past estimates of their creations.

We spent so much time wandering all over the Fort that, unknown to us, Dolphin Lagoon closed for the night; so did many of the Fort displays, including the wax museum replica of the Japanese surrender. After this we turned right, to the Silosa Beach -- adjacent to the Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Hotel, as seen in the Singapore tour packages on The Price is Right, where I was sure we'd find the Southernmost Point in Asia, a little offshore island connected by rope bridge to Sentosa island, connected by causeway to Singapore, connected by causeway to Asia. You may sense some marketing in this point, which I believe I've noted, is an utter lie anyone with a map can debunk. That doesn't matter, though. The point I was looking for was down the island a bunch, near Dolphin Lagoon. Sorry for the confusion.

By this time, believe it or not, we were getting close to sunset, so made our way to the Merlion. Here we got to listen to a highly repetitive song with awful lyrics about a ``Voyage, voyage of discovery'', and as soon as we isolate the tune we intend to use it against an unsuspecting society in order to take over the world. We enjoyed a Samurai Jack-esque cartoon giving a very tenuous explanation of why Singapore has a Merlion anyway, and went up to the top just enough after sunset that if we held our cameras braced against something we could take pictures that were almost intelligible. And when we got down spaceroo was able to run interference with the Helpful Attendants enough that I got to keep the Commemorative Merlion Token given as we entered; he had to return his for a prize ticket which turned out to be a luggage tag. And I got a merlion stuffed doll a friend had asked me for months ago that I hadn't found anywhere else.

And we closed out the night with a trip to the Carlsburg rotating tower, taking us (oh, call it) 131 meters above sea level and slowly rotating. This let us take in great night views of downtown and Sentosa while a squeaky kid elsewhere on the ride made noise. And then it was a recently-reopened cable car ride back to Harbourfront, and home. Pictures to follow, here and at spaceroo's place.

Trivia: On his first expedition Christopher Columbus set sail with 88 crewmen. Source: 365: Your Date with History, W B Marsh and Bruce Carrick.

Currently Reading: Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 11 (1949), Isaac Asimov, Martin H Greenberg, Editors.


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