Saturday, 30 August 2014

Universal Studios Singapore

The Best Things in Life are Free.  Always Look at the Bright Side of Life.  Take my Ticker for a Spin.

 30 °C

We've been to Singapore for a little over 5 years, and had never considered going there. One of our favourite HK restaurant is Kim Gary with bottles for glasses in Vivocity. It has a nice view (now) towards Sentosa Island. When we ate there, we could see the symphonies of cranes coordinating the cacophony of construction noises with the loud percussion of jack hammers, and drills on Sentosa Island across the narrow strait.

Starting 2009, Sentosa Island begun its transformation to what it is today. Month after month, I would have my lunch there and witnessed the fast-paced progress. It was as if the the U.S. sub-prime induced financial crisis didn't exist. The memories of all the idle construction cranes in Dubai and Bahrain city skyline was still quite fresh as we stayed there awhile only a few months back.

Resort World Hotel and Universal Studios under construction, Singapore
Resort World Hotel and Universal Studios under construction
Photo taken at Aug 2009

Many of these projects on Sentosa Island were initiated by the Genting Group (Malaysian conglomerate. This also explains the Malaysian Street foodcourt next to the entrance of Universal Studios).

The Sentosa Walkway under construction, Singapore
The Sentosa Walkway was also being built at the same time
Fast forward to 2014 where Universal Studios has been opened more than 3 years. It's time for a visit. Just a side note, Universal Studios had promised Singapore that this is the only Universal Studios in S.E. Asia for the next 30 years. So don't hold out for the next and bigger Universal Studios. Take your children there now, or else you might have to take your grand children there.

map of Universal Studios SIngapore
Click to enlarge

As part of the customer loyalty program, Starhub - our one stop shop phone/internet/tv programs provider - gave us a couple of Universal Studios entry tickets. I love bribery. Made me feel important. We have other choices of theme parks to redeem our tickets. But Universal Studios entry tickets are priced at $74 a pop for a One-Day Pass seemed to be the best redemption. Besides, the best things in life are free. By not paying, it makes this place one of the best things in life.

Steep price is one reason we hadn't visited this place. Another is because Etta said that at our age we don't have the kids to use to cover our embarrassed faces of being seen in such a place. I told her to tie two ponytails, wear a school bag pack, and a mini to pretend to be my daughter. That way, we both look good. I meant it as a compliment. "Ha ha! You're SO funny!", she said it in a sarcastic tone, and made faces at me. I took it as a compliment. That's me. I always look at the bright side of life.

At the turnstile, I pointed out to her, "See that guy, he's like 100 years old, and he's here by himself". Well, it's sad, but it kept her happy. That's called building happiness out of others' misery. Shadenfreude. German speaking, or speaking of German, is this Far Far Away Castle based on the very famous Neuschwanstein Castle just like the one in Disney logo or Sleeping Beauty Castle? You can read my visit to this Neuschwanstein Castle here.

Far Far Away Castle, Universal Studios Singapore
the Far Far Away Castle is probably the only Universal Studios structure visibly from Vivocity across the starit

Sesame Street - Oscar the Grouch - in Universal Studios Singapore
Wow! This is one giant hand that's at least 5 feet tall

There're signs in the theme park that says "you must be taller than this to go on this ride". Well, there's no sign that says "You have to be this young to go on this ride". However, in some theme parks, there're warning signs against would-be riders who have heart problems. I couldn't see any here. Maybe I wasn't looking hard enough. Maybe the rides are too tame. Maybe there's no unhealthy visitors. Maybe customers don't sue business here. Maybe people feel lucky, Maybe...fill in the blanks yourself. Maybe.

As we got to the Ancient Egypt part of the park, that's when I decided to take my old ticker for a spin, literally, on the Revenge of the Mummy ride . What could go wrong? The worst is that my ticker stopped and needed to be rebooted with a defibrillator. Nothing can't fix with a reboot. If it's true for computer and mobile phone, it must be true for me as well.

Number 5 is alive!

The waiting time for the queue was about 15 mins. The verdict? It wasn't a bad ride with sudden brake and reverse, and twists and turns.  And my ticker did speed up as it should. Operational normal. I always like a quick medical check-up. I hope this ticker has a life-time warranty. If it doesn't, I want my money back.

Battlestar Galactica ride in Universal Studios Singapore
Battlestar Galactica ride

This Battlestar Galactica ride in the Sci-Fi City is one of the only open-air classic roller-coaster ride and it's closed for the day. Disappointing kids is one thing, disappointing middle ages should be a crime (as they don't have as long to live). We demand satisfaction.

This ride had technical glitch a week after their opening, and have had problems ever since.

We also tried out the Transformers Ride, which involves the so-called 4-D effects. I.e. 3-D video with other thing throwing at you like hot air, water spray, etc. You sit in a row of seats that simulate that you're inside the Transformer rampaging through NYC and destroying everything in its path trying to save it (I could be wrong as I said, I haven't watched the movie).

While the cubicle / vehicle we were in only moved from one room to another, but with the simulation of sights, sounds and motions that assaulted our sense, you felt like you had actually moved through some distance in the city.

Queueing area in the Transformer ride in Universal Studios Singapore
Queueing area in the Transformer ride

My heart is fine with this ride, but my stomach is slightly quizzy with the constant assault of 3-D video, lots of short, abrupt movements and sharp turns. I used to drive like that, but my passengers never liked it. Now I'm being put in their shoes or ride. I've learnt my lesson. Next time when I drive, I would give them some vomit bags (I got some from the airline the last time I flew. I know it will come in handy one day). For back-seat driver, I gladly give him/her a knuckle sandwich.

Transformer robot in Universal Studios Singapore
I'm probably the only person in the theme park who hasn't watched Transformers the movie

Following are the characters I met. A couple of them didn't move at all. I worry about them. One didn't even have legs. Scary. The two animals, I hope they drink plenty of fluid.

If you want a gentle ride, you take the Water Boat Ride in Madagascar. It's so gentle, some boats are catered for wheelchairs.

Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure ride, Universal Studios Singapore
Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure Ride

Judging from the number of empty rafts that came out, I have to conclude that this isn't a popular ride. I suspect this ride get people wet, and the park designers haven't understood their visitors.

Canopy Flyer ride, Universal Studios Singapore
Canopy Flyer ride

The Canopy Flyer is the most popular ride in the park. We went there in early afternoon and saw that the waiting time is 30 mins. So we decided to try again near closing time when we assumed the ride would be less busy. Most rides were less busy by that time, but the waiting time for this ride was 45 mins this time. We gave up.

While this is more gentle version of a classical roller coaster such as the Battlestar Galactica ride, but the twist (no pun intended) is that the roller-coaster cars are suspended (instead of mounted on) the rails. This make your feet dangling in the air, and you don't get the feeling of security of a floor. This adds excitement and thus popularity for the ride.

Universal Studios logo globe, Sentosa Island, Singapore
This giant globe is actually outside the Universal Studios. The smoke is done to good effect just like in the movies.

Not a bad day-out considering it's free. For tourists, you can get some discounts on tickets with website. There're probably other places as well. For locals, some travel agents sell cheaper tickets than at the door.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Singapore Kite Festival

  29 °C

This festival is an annual event that held in the Promontory @ Marina Bay, so the venue is excellent. Marine Barrage - locates diagonally across the Bay from Promontory - is the favourite place where Singaporean go to fly kites (and picnic). But it isn't big enough for a kite festival.

Naturally this event is very popular for the family. Some people may have a contrary view about Singapore, but Singapore is a happening place for young people. I didn't think so too. But then Singapore was a different place back then when I could consider myself a spring chicken (is that a chicken with a coil spring?).

There's a very narrow window in the year where it's good time to fly kites (at least to hold a kite festival) in Singapore.

Singapore Kite FestivalBetween January to May, Singapore outdoor could be quite hot and humid. Living practically in the equator, understandably, Singaporean like the sun as much as Russian like snow. I'm quite sure the Singaporean would find snowing magical while Russian find the tropic a paradise (this is evident by the allure of Pattaya to Russia as seen by my trip there as well as popularity of Maldives to the Russian).

In the 2nd half of the year, Singapore is increasingly wet until November to December when the daily chance of rain is greater than 70%. In last December, it rained practically everyday for the whole month (not that I totally dislike it).

So the best time to fly kites would be between the narrow window from May to July. August is a bit more chancy.

The 1st half of this year had been quite hot and dry comparing to the last 5 years of the same period that I lived in Singapore. Just when I thought it remains to be quite dry for the rest of the year, August arrived, and the rain started to pour. Just when I thought I bid a sad farewell to the wet La Niña, and a reluctant hello to the dry El Niño, I may have too hasty in doing so. But that's a topic for another article (which I will write by the end of the year when I have the whole year weather in perspective).

Kite shop in the Kite Festival, Singapore

Luckily, the day of the Kite Festival was a perfect day to fly a kite. It's mostly overcast, so it's quite cool (for Singapore) to spend time outdoor and no rain. In fact, it rained the next day on Sunday, which is the 2nd day of the Kite Festival weekend. On the ensuing Monday, it rained cats and dogs. Actually more like elephants and rhinos, which howled like a wolf (ok, maybe just dogs is a better description with the downpour). So we were lucky. It was a very close shave.

Holding the Festival between May and July would be a better bet.

Kite, Singapore Kite, Singapore
Singapore Kite Festival Singapore Kite Festival

Spiderman kite, Singapore
Is it a plane? Is it a spiderman? No! It's a kite flying in Singapore financial district !

Kite flying for the kiddies, and classical performance for the parents.

What a tangled (Spiderman's) web we weave

Financial shark

Singapore Kite Festival