Breakfast With the Orangutans

It’s been a very exciting 24 hours, ML decided that both of us didn’t have to miss our grandson’s first birthday and has arranged a flight home for me a couple of weeks before him. He is such a sweetie, it is our 33rd wedding anniversary next week and I will fly home after that. This will give me a couple of days to recovery from the inevitable jet lag before the festivities begin.

I must admit to being very excited about flying home but I shall miss ML and feel a little bit guilty that he will miss the parties. I have promised to take lots and lots of photographs to share with him. But this early departure means I have to pack up most of the house before I leave as ML is not going to have the time. So my sorting of drawers and cupboards has speeded up.

We are packing everything we want to take home into additional suitcases and these will be sent back to the UK by one of the courier companies leaving ML just to pack his clothes when he finally heads out.

I’m hoping fingers crossed that the house across the way is finished before I leave, they have started painting the insides and putting up tiles in the kitchen and bathroom and yesterday that started building the perimeter wall for the front of the house and the pillars to hold the gates. I would really like for my Desert Rose to flower one more time but it seems to be just growing leaves at the moment. I will check later for any sign of flower buds. If not ML will just have to send me lots of photographs.

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The heat is relentless at the moment and according to the forecast there is no possibility of a break from it until well into next week. When ML went to his car yesterday the temperature was 50 degrees C, from 11 am onwards until at least 3 – 4 pm there are very few people out and about. Everyone is doing their utmost to keep cool and I feel somewhat guilty when I see the workman outside although they are now working in the shade so that helps.

I’ve been reading that it’s not just here in Vietnam that the temperatures are rising, the UK seems to be experiencing unusually hot weather and in India the monsoons are late and there is a huge human cost to its absence. On a lighter note I have been reading an article about how the animals in Singapore Zoo are keeping cool in the heat. ML and I visited the zoo when we visited Singapore during the lunar New Year celebrations.

The keepers have been using different strategies to help, the elephants have been given giant frozen blocks of fruit juice and pulp and the orangutans are covering their heads and shoulders with hessian sacking. Omar the white tiger is using his pool to cool down in and the rhinoceros is wallowing in a mud bath.

 Keeping Cool 1

We had a wonderful time at the zoo, we arrived as the zoo was opening and so it wasn’t too busy as I  also think lots of people were getting ready for the New Year celebrations that evening. We decided to go to the’ Breakfast with the Orangutans’, I’m not a great lover of animal shows but we had read reviews and it didn’t seem to be anything bad for the animals. We went to a large open air restaurant called Ah Meng next to the enclosures and there was a huge buffet breakfast available, as both of us had already eaten we just had some fruit and a drink.

Ah MengAh Meng was an orangutan that was discovered by a vet in 1971 and taken to Singapore Zoo, she had been illegally smuggled from Indonesia and kept as a domestic pet. She featured in over 30 documentary films and met many famous people. She had two sons, three daughters, six grandchildren and two companions, Rodney who died in 1987 and Pusung who was moved to Adelaide Zoo.

She was recognised in 1992 for contributing to the raising of Singapore’s profile and received the ‘Special Tourism Ambassador’ award, the only non-human ever to receive this accolade. She was thought to have been born in 1960 and died in 2008 aged 48, the equivalent of 95 human years. 4000 people attended her memorial service and a bronze statue of her was placed near her burial site.

I think she lived a more exciting life than many people!

Ah Meng RestaurantAh Meng when she was alive used to regularly attend the breakfasts. At around 9.30 am we could see the keepers lowering a large branch down towards a small area to the side of the restaurant. A number of orangutans climbed down, mainly young ones although a mother and babies also came down to the surprise of the keepers as they didn’t seem to be expecting her.

It is the choice of the orangutans whether they come down or not but those that did arrive seemed very happy to sit and be fed fruit, vegetables and leaves and given a drink by the keepers. Around where they were sat was a roped off area so people couldn’t get too close to them, in fact there was no interaction between the customers and the animals. Although they did allow people one at a time to stand in front of the area to have their photograph taken towards the end of the session.

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What you did get for the half an hour that they stayed was if you were tall enough an uninterrupted view of them, ML and I watched them feed and play, annoy each other, hang upside down and climb over the adults. We were able to get some amazing photographs between us and I discovered that I was able to worm my way to near the front of those standing and get some close up shots.

The keepers gave a commentary about the various orangutans, their feeding habits, etc but I must admit to being so enamoured by their antics that I didn’t really take in that much but spent all of my time trying to successfully capture their playful antics as they swung about and played. The sun was behind them as so the little ones were backlit turning their coats an eye wateringly bright orangy/red. Their thin straggly hair was stood up straight on the tops of their heads like baby punk rockers.

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All too soon the experience was over and it was time for them to leave and for us to explore the rest of the zoo.