Saturday, April 18, 2015

Post card from Singapore: Jurong Bird Park

swans at Jurong Bird Park in Singapore

Swans are a-swimming in one of the man-made lagoons inside the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore. They look so graceful and seem so harmless; but I have a different story to tell.

I will always tell this (mis) adventure of mine in this part of Singapore, which happened during my first visit to the city-state and on my first ever trip outside the Philippines.

I only fancied visiting the bird park because my parents seemed to have had a grand time there during their visit sometime in the mid-1990s. They seemed to have enjoyed the park, at least based on their pictures. 

"It's nice there," my mom told me when I asked for some sort of confirmation.

And so I decided that a trip to the bird park would be part of my five-day itinerary.

But I have to tell you one thing: I am afraid of birds. Ornithophobia, as they call it. "Abnormal, irrational fear of birds," according to Wikipedia. I was like this ever since I was I kid, which has become a subject of laughter among my friends while wondering how that happened.

"You must have been a worm in a past life," said a friend, who I think is not really a friend because of this remark. Toinks!

So anyone who knows me would think a visit to a bird park would be a crazy idea. 

But I thought going to this bird park is what a tourist is supposed to do to maximize the Singapore experience.

This is the time to conquer my fear, so I thought.

And so I went to the bird park all by myself, as my Singapore-based cousin was too adamant to take me there given the two-bus and two-train rides required to get me there from where we were staying. 

And she didn't want mo to go there given the fact that I have ornithophobia.

It took me a few dollars for the bus and train rides and S$20 for the entrance (now its S$28 for adults), which already included a ride in a monorail that meanders through the park. 

The first few aviaries that I went into were pretty nice despite the fact that huge birds really scare me. 

Fowls with colorful feathers and little birds chirping, they all looked harmless as they were all in huge cages where visitors can't touch them.

All sorts of large eagles? Bring it on! They're on a leash, anyway.

Big pelicans, flamingos,kingfishers, and various species of ducks swimming on the lake? The poor creatures can't even get out of the fences!

I chanced on free-flying birds that looked like humming birds or bee-eaters at the African Waterfall Aviary, but they all seemed harmless. And besides, a view of one of the largest man-made falls -- the Jurong Falls -- did not disappoint.

But what caused my palpitations was the large aviary called Lory Loft. As the name suggests, it contained almost every species of parrots, lorikeets, and macaws. 

But as soon as I passed by the barrier made of plastic chains, I was so surprised to see all of them flying around freely inside the huge aviary. 

And then I stepped out. To breathe. To collect myself. To regain my composure.

And I was reminded of my mission: to conquer my fear. 

So I stepped in again, only to find several bright red and yellow macaws perched on the head and shoulders of what seemed to me was a caretaker. And large birds swarming on God knows who he is!

I stepped out again, with a firm resolve to run away from the aviary.

And to cap off my visit to Jurong Bird Park, I went to an auditorium to see a large hawk show off antics at the aviary. It was for free but still a bad decision for the ornithophobic, I thought, as the show had a portion where the bird will fly from the guy onstage to one of the kids in the audience! To save myself from humiliation, I had to move away from the eager-beaver kids who wanted to experience the bird up close and personal!

As for the ornithophobic me, was it a good decision to travel that far (and spend that much) for what could easily be considered as a tourist trap?

Well, the ornithophobic thinks it's a waste of S$20.

But for bird lovers, bird watchers, or simply all of you out there who aren't afraid of birds, by all means, go and enjoy yourselves!

Photo above was taken using Nikon FG powered by Fuji 400 film. The author aimed to take a beautiful picture of pink flamingos, only that palpitations due to his fear of these beautiful creatures prevented him from doing so.