Saturday, May 2, 2009 ;
12:18 AM
21 Apr

ds1's class coincidentally organised a field trip to the Beijing Aquarium on this day, so we all headed out to the zoo from Ascott. The aquarium is situated within the zoo.

My dad decided to stay in Ascott till we returned so he wouldn't overtax his feet. Ascott kindly allowed us late check out till 2.30pm too.

Along the way, our cab got caught in the infamous Beijing traffic jams. So I smsed ds1's teacher, saying we are running a little late, and to go ahead into the aquarium first if they have arrived. (They were taking the school bus from school in Tianjin. They met in school at 6.45am. Meeting time at the aquarium was to be 10.30am.)

Fortunately, we arrived at 10am. The teacher texted me back, saying they are caught in a massive jam as well, so no need to wait for each other. If I arrived, I can go right in and meet them at the dolphin show.

The poor kids, moms and teachers. They said they were on the road for 4 hours.

So we went in and browsed the zoo animal exhibits near the aquarium first.
I read a lot about the zoo's special animals. The others were what we have seen many times in other zoos, so I didn't want to waste time on those. I thought we should see the pandas since it is synonymous with China, but the kids were not interested.

Perhaps because the place didn't too too clean nor well-maintained. Most of the animals were lethargic and there were few of them in each enclosure.

These 2 elephants were the only animals the kids want to see. The zoo is very big, but somehow it didn't give me the excitement I usually feel when I walk around the Spore Zoo or the San Diego Zoo for example.

The only plus point was the weather. In Singapore, I usually feel very hot and sticky. Here is it cool and dry.

Why were they more interested in the "dead" statues instead?

They spent some time climbing the stone elephants, then we decided to enter the aquarium.

If you wanted to view the general zoo, it was only 20 yuan (S$4). If you wanted to see the panda, and other special exhibits, you paid extra. Quite troublesome, cos you have to queue and buy extra tickets at different areas. If you want an all-inclusive ticket, it was 25 yuan, and you can see the pandas too.

If you wanted to see the aquarium, it was 120 yuan! There was a big disparity in the price indeed.

Later we found out it is because the aquarium was comparatively much cleaner and better-maintained. Not sure how big it is compared to the Underwater World in Singapore, but definitely the Underwater World has the "wow" factor. Best we ever saw was still the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago but I heard several others in California were better.

Most of the exhibits were usual fish. This was the pond that first greeted us as we entered.

We walked right on to the theatre first, because the show starts at 11am. To our surprise, there were many local school groups too, so it was very crowded despite it being a Tuesday morning.

Still no sign of the kids' school mates. But fortunately just after the show started, the kids arrived. It was easy to spot them even though they entered from right across the theatre from us. Thanks to the golden blonde heads of many of ds1's European classmates. They really stood out from the sea of black haired kids.

The show was very entertaining. Probably the highlight of the trip for me. I'm that shallow???
Actually I felt the exhibits lacked info boards, and there weren't many special fish, so I wasn't very excited when I walked through the aquarium. It wasn't big also. Therefore, this show was the best part, for me.

Here are some short clips. I wanted to save on memory space in my SD card, so I usually take short clips.

Sea lion dancing, clapping and twirling to the music.

Sea lions can sing? Wow! (vocalisations)

Dolphin flipping a ball to the audience. The lucky boy who caught it! ds1 so wanted to catch the ball but we were seated too far away.

Dolphin pair riding with their trainer then tossing him up.

Dolphins leaping so high up to touch the suspended balls!

After the show, I told my mom she can bring ds2 around herself, we can meet up later at the exit.
I brought ds1 to meet up with his teachers and friends.

He only missed Mon (one day of school) but it was as if he had a long hol! He rushed over to his friends, shouted some of their names from a distance, and then stuck to them, chatting non-stop. I went to report to the teacher, let her know we had joined the group. She passed ds1 his clipboard and worksheets to complete in the aquarium.

Then she said we could bring the kids around ourselves. Anyway the place is very small. She gave us a meeting time for lunch and designated a venue.

So off we went. Either they had been briefed before, or ds1 was very independent. He looked around the exhibits by himself, and filled in the worksheets like a pro. At most exhibits, when he was sketching the animals or filling in nuggets of info, he would attract a lot of attention from other visitors, especially the kids from the local schools. At one point, they all crowded around him to watch what he was drawing.

If it was me, I'd be aware and be self-conscious. Funny, ds1 did not seem to notice others observing him. He was oblivious to everything and just continued his work.

That is so like his dad who can totally not hear what I am saying if he was reading something, watching the TV, surfing the internet or playing his violin.

The tide pool area with a small area for touching. However, we couldn't get hold of anything to stroke or feel. The touch area was very empty. I missed the usual sea cucumbers, sea stars...

Out of all the exhibits, I liked this the best. It was suitably big, unlike all the other tanks, and the sharks were happily swimming about... We spent considerable time here, because sharks are also one of ds1's favourite marine animals.

Arowana? Too crowded, I think.

12.30pm was lunch time. While the kids ate, we moms caught up with each other and the teacher came to talk to me about the journey as well.

She was saying how maybe this would be the last year they attempt this trip. It took them 4 hrs to come, and perhaps another 3.5hrs to go back. Not worth it. They'd reach Tianjin only past 5pm.

Yet taking the high speed train involved bus, train, bus, which could take up a lot of time with so many kids and parents too. Furthermore, it wouldn't be free anymore (school bus from Tianjin is free). And they would need a lot more manpower to help the kids at the train station, and ensure safety. Yet not all parents could come.

However, the teacher lamented that there is nowhere good in Tianjin she can bring the kids to... So it remains a big struggle each year.

She said the school bus driver kept complaining about the time on the journey too. The kids were so restless on the bus. Some had car-sickness and vomitted cos the jam made the bus jerk back and forth. And then there was poor ventilation on the bus as well. Then one of the boys wanted to pee and the bus just couldn't stop on the highway. So a parent gave the boy a bottle and he did it on the bus. Sigh. Not easy, the planning...

So we should just treasure this trip, it could be the last!

The sturgeons seem to be very impt in China. They had a special exhibit room to themselves.

Saw some fish being fed. The staff released the feed weighted down by a brick. And the fish came to nibble on the food. Lovely to observe.

Part of the worksheet required the kids to scrutinise a huge wall mural on pollution of the seas and reflect on it. They were asked some Qs, like why do they think it became like that, why, and how to overcome such pollution. I liked that part of the worksheet.

Then everyone picked a souvenir at the gift shop. The teachers had already instructed parents who are not following to give their kids some money to select a souvenir. Teachers did talk to the kids about making wise decisions.

I had also talked to ds1 about budgeting and cost, and not buying toys that may spoil easily or things he wouldn't use after a short period of time.

Was very glad that he picked a few plastic sea creatures, like sea stars, various fish species and crabs. His choice cost less than 20 yuan (S$4). hee. It was ds2 who picked a polar bear stuffed toy that cost much more than that. I still bought it because I felt he had fulfilled the criteria of something that won't spoil easily and I know he will hug it to sleep every night (ds2 is that kind). It's good that ds1 has not started the "it's unfair" phase, so he did not comment at all, apart from saying "wow, how come the polar bear is so expensive?"

After that, it was 1.30pm and the school bus had to leave Beijing else they won't reach Tianjin at 5pm. ds1 said goodbye to his friends.

We walked around some more and then left as well. Some kids were flying kites in the zoo as we left.

We took a cab back to Ascott for my dad, who was already waiting in the lobby, then we went straight to the train station, took the high-speed train and arrived back home before the school bus did.

Road travel is not a breeze in this area, indeed.

We got reunited with Dh and then ordered beef noodles from a Taiwanese restaurant "大成家". Very yummy. And they pack their food properly, not in plastic bags like the ones we were used to!

So it's not that we are biased and always eat food from foreign sources/ companies. It is not that we like to spend extra money to eat better food all the time. It is just that, for the familiar taste, the healthy way of packaging, and the quality of the food, we have to...

Yet we get accused of not being more thrifty, not doing as the Romans do and run the risk of people saying "huh? you live here and you don't try all the local food?".

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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