Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Universal Studios Singapore. March 2011.

The plan was to check out of our hotel, Traders at the top of Orchard Road, and check into The Siloso Beach Resort on Sentosa Island for 3 nights; If your planning a holiday in Singapore, it may be of interest to you to know that by staying in the ‘City’ at the weekend I got a very good, almost half price room rate at Traders. Then the quote for Siloso Beach was reduced, again by 50%, due to the stay being during the week as opposed to the weekend. This is due to the fact that Sentosa is very busy at weekends.
Back to the plans, well, even the best laid plans have to change. Once again the sky was grey and leaden, and the rain was torrential. I do not know if it was the same weather front that was causing the floods in Koh Samui, but what I did know was that I had not left England for more of the same, even if it was warm rain. After a quick phone call to Emirates my flights were changed, and we would be leaving Singapore for Dubai the next morning. This meant the Sentosa Island visit was cut short. So instead of enjoying all the attractions on Sentosa, we would just be experiencing Singapore’s latest attraction; Resorts World Sentosa.
Resorts World Sentosa has been developed by Genting Singapore and it is located on the resort island of Sentosa. Resorts World Sentosa’s aim is ‘to provide fun for the whole family’. To help in the provision of the fun a casino has been built, along with six themed hotels, a massive selection of dining choices, shopping alternatives, a sophisticated spa, a Marine Life Park and a Maritime museum. But what we had come for was the latest Universal Studios.
Universal Studio Singapore is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, with 24 movie-themed rides, specially designed for Singapore.
This is my review of the park.
First impressions were not good, as getting to Universal Studioes was very muddled. Firstly a bus took us from Singapore to Imbiah Station on the Island of Sentosa. There we had to wait for the ‘Red Bus’, this bus then took us back the way we had come to a Bus Stop deep under the Resorts World Sentosa. We then had a very long walk underground and up escalators to the entrance gate of the Theme Park. The park was still under its ‘Soft Opening’ title, but despite this is was full price.

To start we went into the Pantages Hollywood Theatre and enjoyed a Monster Rock show. The show was top quality with a lot of very local jokes, I think they must have been local as   we did not get the jokes and the audience were roaring with laughter.  The story line was a bit weak, centring around a mad professor who turned his monsters into Rock and Roll Stars, but the performers were top class, as was the set and the theatre itself. 

We walked through the Hollywood Boulevard, where people were meeting Frankenstein and Betty Boo, and turned left to enter the world’s first Madagascar.

Unfortunately,  the main ride in this area, Madagascar: A Crate Adventure, billed as an unforgettable river boat ride with Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria, was not completed. So we were not able to go on this ride and had to satisfy ourselves with a ride on King Juliens Beach Party-Go-Round, a carousel. This ride was very bumpy and jarring, it felt as if some thing was broken in the mechanism, but at least we were dry on it. As far as rides go that was it! Very disappointing, the Street Entertainment of Madagascar Boogie! Was good and the cast did move it move it despite the bulky costumes. The scenery in this area was very good and I was very impressed by the giant Baobab with the skeleton in it.


 Next was Far Far Away with Shrek’s swamp house causing problems as people tried to get into it. There are a lot of attractions here, and the sets were very high quality. We went into the castle to go on the Shrek 4-D Adventure and this was excellent, as we saw, felt and heard the 4-D experience, with the added bonus of being dry, or rather out of the rain.
We waited our turn to get on the Enchanted Airways flight to Far Far Away and found ourselves on a junior roller coaster in the shape of a dragon.
There was a very long queue for Donkey LIVE, a sing-along with Donkey interactive live show. It was dreadful, dull, boring and over acted, I don’t understand the reference to the ‘sing a long’ bit, the audience all sat in stony silence, stunned by the awfulness of it!
For little ones there is a Magic Potion Spin Ferris wheel, and for big kids a Lilly pond with lots of frogs to kiss. 
By now the heavens had opened and it was pouring, so we splashed into Water World, The Lost world. This was a stunt show based on the Water World Film. This was real live entertainment, in an almost slap stick fashion. I loved it and so did the audience. Really good fun with, good stunts, the story line was weak, but the daring stunts so good you failed to notice such minor detail!
The Lost World greeted us. With the Canopy Flyer giving you a birds eye view of this Jurassic park.  A children’s ride Dino-Soarin was busy over in the corner but the Amber Rock Climb was closed due to the wet weather. We joined the very long queue for the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure. Slowly we wound our way towards the start. The river rafts were just in view when the ride broke down. It was then closed for the day as it needed to be reset, this involved emptying the water and was predicted to take a few hours.  so we did not experience the ride through the dinosaur habitat.

Undaunted we ventured into Ancient Egypt. The Revenge of the Mummy, a roler coaster ride in total darkness was very popular with Sarah, she went on it about six times. The Treasure Hunters jeep ride was very popular with children, who especially enjoyed the grunting hippos.

In Sci-Fi City I braved The Battlestar Galactica Human Red Track, but found zooming at speeds over 90km/h, twisting and turning, even though I was seated, too much for my delicate balance centres and came away feeling very sick. Sarah however tackled the Battlestar Galactica Cylon Bule track and was suspended as she spun up, down, around and upside-down through corkscrews and a cobra roll, again she went on this ride multiple times.
The Accelerator was not open yet.

I mistook New York New York, thinking it was just street sceans and almost missed on of the best attractions of the day. The Lights, Camera, Action! Introduced by Steven Spielberg this empty sound stage had the special effects that transformed it into a hurricane hitting New York, it was my best experience of the day and captures the magic of the movies.
By now we were back at Hollywood Boulevard and the Daddy Os were performing outside of Mels Drive-In, and very good they were too!
We had a fun packed day, and really enjoyed ourselves. I was disappointed at the rides we couldn’t go on, and do feel that the price should have been reduced due to the ‘Soft Opening’. But all in all the actors at universal were all very good, there was a lot of them so I suppose they have to be paid, even when the park is new, and it is the trial run.

We got a Taxi back to Traders, it only cost £6.00, and had dinner at the food court in Tanglin Mall. Then it was an early night as we had to be at the airport at 07.00 in the moring to get our flight to Dubai.......and the sun. 

Monday, 4 April 2011

Singapore Day 2. The Merlion Hotel.

So when we woke up today it was Raining. To quote my South African friends, ‘it was really coming down!’. The rain was pouring down like a thick grey blanket. So, that was the end of the plan to go to the Botanic Gardens and its National Orchid Garden.
We were staying in Traders Hotel at the end of Orchard road and it was a short stroll to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The 152 year old Gardens are home to thousands of tropical plants and the National Orchid Garden that houses the biggest collection of Orchids in the world. It will have to wait till another visit.
So we hit The Orchard Road and it’s many Shopping Malls. We started with Tanglin Mall right at the top of Orchard Road, then dodging the rain and trying to stay dry we admired the modern facades of the many shopping malls. The Mandarin Gallery was full of independent fashion and jewellery stores. ION Orchard was massive with eight levels of boutiques, restaurants and stores from food courts to art galleries! Along with Cartier, Prader ect.
As we walked down the road I recognised where the hotel had been on my last visit, it is now a large Mall with a New Look on the ground floor. But I noticed the buildings known as Peranakan Place. Located at Emerald Hill Road, off Orchard Road. Were the same,the restored original double-storey shophouses dating back to 1902 were renamed Peranakan Place in 1985. We stopped and had had a nice meal in the Alley Bar.
By now the rain has stopped and the sun had come out so we got back on our open top tour bus and went for a tour of China Town calling first at the Sri Mariamman Temple. This Temple; the oldest Hindu place of worship on the island, is decorated with about 73 Hindu deities, the wall around the temple is topped with figures of sacred cows and a few lions. 
Then we called in at the new and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. This is a large Tang Dynasty inspired complex, said to contain a tooth from Buddha. I really wanted to find the old Thian Hock Keng Temple, but got lost! Not wanting to waste any more time, we went to the MRT at Raffles place to walk along the Singapore River. Walking past the UBO Plaza to see the Salvador Dali Homage to Newton and The Big Bird Sculpture. We crossed the Cavanaugh Bridge, getting a good look at Anderson Bridge and walked along to the place Raffles is said to have fist set foot on the island this spot is commemorated by a statue of the man….but he was covered in green balloons to celebrated St Patricks Day……so no photo! We walked past Boat Quay and its crescent of shophouses towards the Merlion.
The Merlion is the mythical half fish, half lion symbol of Singapore, corporate logo if you want. It guards the river as it opens up into Marina Bay. I was having difficulty location the Merlion, until I realized that he (is it a He) had been turned into a hotel!
According to Conde Nast Traveler as part of the Singapore Biennale 2011. Open for just 32 nights between 4th April and 5th May, The Merlion Hotel will be a single, luxury hotel room, temporarily constructed around The Merlion. The room, which is designed by acclaimed Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi, will be fully-fitted with a double bed, bathroom, amenities, personalized check-in, and even a dedicated Merlion Hotel butler. After spending the night under the lion's imposing gaze (the fountain will be switched off, HaHa!) guests will be invited to enjoy breakfast at the nearby Fullerton Hotel. The cost was £73.00 per night and if I had known I would have booked the room! No surprise, Its fully booked up.

The Fake Merlion.
To make up for the lack of the Merlion,(a small one has been erected instead), we had afternoon tea on the terrace of the Fullerton Hotel, confusing the poor waiter in the process as we should have been inside. And I have to report that It was very, very good. Sitting by the banks of the Singapore River having afternoon tea, I am a simple sole and it was pure bliss.