Sunday, September 25, 2011

Who's That Girl?


After seeing her high school crush’s name on the obituaries, Elizabeth Pedrosa (Anne Curtis) heads straight to the wake and loudly expresses her grief and undeclared love for the guy. It is not until she sees the body in the coffin does she realize that it is the father, John Eduque Sr., who actually died and not the son (Luis Manzano). In the background, wife Belinda (Eugene Domingo), along with the many guests are flabbergasted leading them all to ask out loud, “Who’s that girl?!”

The movie is another example of a Wenn Deramas comedy that relies on exaggeration and overacting to deliver a point. The thing about this is that the trick is getting old. The said director has a movie out every year and the technique used is not changing at all, only the actors are. On second thought, most of the actors are recurring like Eugene Domingo and Deejay Durano, and even Anne Curtis. While the movie is enjoyable at some point, majority of the jokes fall flat and in the end you just laud the effort of the actors because you know they can do better and probably just wanted to do something light as a breather for their next big movie role. In Domingo’s case that would be her role in Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank. For Anne Curtis, it is her role in No Other Woman.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

[BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN] Budget and Itinerary

SUNDAY: September 18, 2011
Ferry (Labuan - BSB) - 35.00

Bus (BSB) - 2.00
Caffe Vito (Sweet & Sour Chicken w/rice + Pepsi + Choco Shake) - 9.10
Pusat Belia (2 nights/1 dorm bunk aircon) - 20.00
Jollibee (1 pc Chicken w/rice & Milo + Fries) - 5.55
Souvenir (Keychain x2) - 5.80
Caffe Vito (Fries and Pepsi) - 4.30

Monday, September 19, 2011

[BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN] The Filipino Invasion of Brunei

Forget any attempt trying to speak Malay with people who you might think are locals. Chances are, they are Pinoy too. Case in point: the bus driver. The money changer at Labuan gave me a hundred Brunei dollars and I forgot to ask him to break it into smaller denominations. Ending? I did not have small bills for the bus ride to BSB. So I negotiated with the bus driver, in Malay, that I would just pay in Malaysian ringgit. Halfway through the trip I suddenly heard people conversing in Tagalog. Lo and behold, it was the driver and the woman seated in front. The other guy whom I asked earlier on how long the trip would be also turned out to be Filipino. What were the odds!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Brunei Through Labuan Via Ferry

Coming from the Philippines, first you have to get to Kota Kinabalu. Both Air Asia and Cebu Pacific have flights to the said destination. Since most flights arrive in the late afternoon, you have to postpone your three hour Labuan trip until the next day. I suggest you stay at a guest house that is located near Jesselton Point, which would be your point of embarkation the next day. Sleep well.

Ferries from KK to Labuan usually take three hours and a half. The ticket price is 31 ringgit plus a 3.60 terminal fee. As far as I know there is just one counter selling this ticket. They also have discounted tickets if you are planning to go directly to Brunei on that same day. It costs around 55 ringgit. A single journey ticket from Labuan to Brunei, on the contrary, will cost you another 35. However, if you are planning a one-day stop at Labuan, I don’t think this ticket is an option. There are two ferries on a daily basis. One leaves at 8 AM, the other at 1:30 PM. If you want to reach Brunei on the same day, take the morning trip from KK. Upon landing at Labuan you’d still have time to run and change money or eat lunch before you ferry to Brunei leaves.

The ferry is air-conditioned and it would take you not more than three hours and a half to get to Labuan. It gets a bit chilly inside so better wear a few layers, or just bring a light sweater. There would be a TV in front playing a pirated movie. The film of the day was Too Fast Too Furious. You would be able to finish that movie because the trip is long and bumpy. May lubak ang dagat? Hahaha. I almost got seasick so I just tried to sleep but could not find the right position.

I guess it would be nicer if the ferry was of an open-air type. Nothing beats being slapped in the face by the strong winds of the sea while battling motion sickness. Projectile vomit! Better sedate anyone from your party who is paranoid because this part of the South China Sea is really rough, and it is not uncommon to see giant waves by the window. I no longer tried to find out if going outside was an option, or what the difference was between economy and business class. Better to just stay on your seat. You really don’t want to vomit on someone while trying to navigate the shaking cabin.

Since the Labuan Ferry is an international port, you would have to go through the immigration counter if you are going to or coming from Brunei. Having said that, please always bring your passport with you. The terminal is small so getting lost is not an issue. If you still need to buy a ticket for the next day (if you are not going direct) the ticket counter is just next to the arrival hall. In the arrival hall itself are flyers and counters for renting cars or motorbikes, which is a popular choice for foreigners who would like to explore the city on their own. A motorbike costs around 30 ringgit per day. A Proton Gen-2 would cost you some 70 ringgit, not bad for driving around Labuan in style. You will also see lots of paper ads for Uncle Jack’s guest house.

The Departure Hall is on the other side, but still in the front side of the building, next to the toilets. Both international and domestic departures pass through there. There is an X-Ray for your baggage and a counter at the center where a member of the staff gets one part of your ticket. After that you head straight to the immigration counter where your passport will be stamped for exit of Malaysia via Labuan. Again, only guests going to Brunei pass through here because Brunei is the only international destination. Check-in time is not that strict. The ticket would tell you to be there 45 minutes before. Do that and the crew at the terminal would tell you to wait until 30 minutes before the trip before they let you pass through immigration. There are around five daily trips to and from Brunei and not all of them are full. In our case, not even half of the ferry’s seating capacity got filled. Or maybe because it is a Sunday? Connect? Hahaha.

My seat number was not indicated on my Labuan - Brunei ferry ticket because as I already told you, it wasn’t full. Free seating! The toilet was pretty nasty. It was flushing but looked so unsanitary. And the smell is not something you’d really like. In other news the movie playing on the ferry TV was very inspirational. It was Titanic starring Catherine Zeta Jones. Okay. At least this particular ferry ride lasts for just less than an hour and a half. Upon arrival at Muara Terminal you have to line up for the immigration again. And then you go through the Customs’ X-Ray. I mean, your things go through the X-Ray, not you. Welcome to Brunei!

This is not yet BSB. BSB = Bandar Seri Begawan, not the BackStreet Boys. There would be a bus waiting for you which would bring you to the city center of BSB, but not before it goes through the airport. Muara belongs to a different district. BSB is also in a different area, so expect around an hour of travel, or maybe just around 40 minutes. After that, welcome to BSB!

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Brunei Through Labuan Via Ferry

SABAH: Budget and Itinerary (2)

FRIDAY: September 16, 2011
124.00 - Taxi (Makati - NAIA 3)
1, 620.00 - Travel Tax (NAIA 3)
750.00 - Terminal Fee (NAIA 3)
50.00 - Piattos (Cebu Pacific)
50.00 - Pepsi Can (Cebu Pacific)
50.00 - Banana Loaf (Cebu Pacific)
1, 684.50 - Cebu Pacific (Manila - Kota Kinabalu)
PhP4, 328.50

7.70 - Balak (Nasi Goreng Kampung w/Coke)
25.00 - Borneo BeacHouse (1 night/1 bunk aircon)

SATURDAY: September 17, 2011
1.00 - Bus 16A (Wawasan)
0.50 - Citybus (Jesselton Point)
31.00 - Ferry (Labuan)
3.60 - Terminal Fee (Jesselton Point)
20.00 - Uncle Jack Backpacker (1 night/1 bunk aircon)
8.00 - Jolly Roger (Nasi Goreng Cina + Coke in Can)
2.80 - Mini Bas 6 (Chimney)
7.80 - Jolly Roger (Milo Sejuk x2)
8.00 - Jolly Roger (Nasi Goreng Ayam + Coke in Can)


PhP4, 328.50
PhP1, 673.30

PhP6, 001.80 - TOTAL

****Estimate of MYR1.00 = PhP14.50

FRIDAY: September 16, 2011

Taxi (Makati - NAIA 3) 14:35 - 15:00
Check-in (Travel Tax/Immigration) 15:00 - 15:20
Delay (NAIA 3) 15:20 - 15:40
Boarding (NAIA 3) 15:40 - 16:10
Cebu Pacific (Manila - Kota Kinabalu) 16:15 - 18:00
Immigration (KKIA T2) 18:00 - 18:30
Walk (Airport - Borneo BeacHouse) 18:35 - 18:45
Check-in (Borneo BeacHouse) 18:45 - 18:55
Dinner (Balak @Perdana Park) 19:40 - 20:25

SATURDAY: September 17, 2011
            Van 16A (Tanjung Aru - Terminal Wawasan) 07:05 - 07:10
Citybus (Terminal Wawasan - Jesselton Point) 07:15 - 07:25
Ferry Tickets (Jesselton Point) 07:25 - 07:30
Ferry (Jesselton Point - Labuan) 08:00 - 11:30
Check-in (Uncle Jack Backpacker) 11:35 - 11:40
Lunch (Jolly Roger) 12:15 - 13:00
Ranjit (Money Changer) 13:25 - 13:35
Ferry Ticket (Ferry Terminal) 13:35 - 13:40
Sightseeing (Financial Park/Labuan Square) 13:40 - 14:30
Mini Bas 6 (Bandaraya - Chimney) 14:30 - 14:50
Sightseeing (Chimney/Bird Park) 14:50 - 15:50
Mini Bas 6 (Chimney - Bandaraya) 15:50 - 16:15
Drinks (Jolly Roger) 16:20 - 16:40
Dinner (Jolly Roger) 19:30 - 20:15

SUNDAY: September 18, 2011
Check-in (Immigration) 08:30 - 18:40

Saturday, September 17, 2011

LABUAN: 02 - So There's a Chimney Made of Bricks

And then what? Labuan is really just stop over for me. I could have easily bought an Air Asia ticket to Miri and asked my parents to accompany me for a weekend Brunei getaway by car (they live an hour away) but I really wanted to try the ferry from KK. Since my flight arrived in the late afternoon, I just went to Borneo BeacHouse to spend the night. I reached Labuan by ferry the next day during lunch time. For directions regarding the ferry, just refer to the Brunei Through Labuan Via Ferry article where the trip is discussed in detail.

Labuan is referred to as the Pearl of the South China Sea. It is composed of the main island and surrounded by around five or six smaller ones that serve as weekend getaways for both locals and foreigners alike. It is also known to be an offshore financial center. I've read somewhere that there are around 65 foreign banks in here. I don't know if it's true though. The place is also popular for Duty Free shopping and is well connected to the rest of Malaysia through its international ferry port with connectiona to Brunei, and its airport with daily flights to KL.

After checking in at Uncle Jack's, I had my typical nasi goreng lunch in a bar nearby where the waitresses were Filipinas. There are a lot of Filipinos here and it should no longer be a surprise to anyone. When in doubt, talk to them in Tagalog. Again, physical appearance is not the best indicator of nationality here. You could also try to distinguish them through their accents, which is a bit hard to do because some of them are proficient in Malay.

I ended up not seeing a lot. Just like its neighbor Kota Kinabalu, Labuan has the same set of tourist attractions which mostly consist of beaches and vacation islands. I decided to do a city tour in lieu of island hopping. The city center is small and most sights could be reached on foot. For tourist spots located north of the island (mostly beaches and historic structures) you can ride one of the vans which they call Mini Bas.

Heading east I was able to visit Labuan Square, the Labuan museum (did not go in), Labuan Walk behind it, and the Tourism Info Center next to it. The Financial Park is just a few steps away in front of the Grand Dorsett. The said business center has a handful of skyscrapers that make up a good looking skyline, specially when viewed from the ferry offshore. The Grand Dorsett seems to be the most expensive accommodation here as per the Tourism Bureau list, with rates going upwards of 390 ringgit per night. I only paid 20 for Uncle Jack, haha.

Farther east are the Labuan International Sea Sport Complex and the Marine Museum. Both could be reached on a leisurely stroll from the Waterfront although a ten minute bus ride is also an option. The corresponding bus would be Mini Bas 1, which go farther north to reach the Botanical Garden and the World War II Memorial, none of which I was able to visit. I'm lazy. And it was hot! I just wanted to find a public pool and jump in, but it didn't happen. Instead, I went to the Bus Station and boarded Mini Bas 6 to the Chimney.

The said van could bring you to three tourist locations: the Chimney and the Labuan Bird Park which are just next to each other, and the Pancur Hitam beach, which the flyer claims to be the most developed on the island. The Chimney is a tall tower of red orange bricks,  a remnant of the British occupation and had something to do with the coal mining industry. I had to spend some time looking at it because buses were infrequent, and I did not walk around to discover soon enough that the Bird Park was just three cartwheels away. The Chimney has a museum by the entrance by the way. For the Bird Park I just took a photo before heading to the bus stop once again to wait for the van. I never reached Pancur Hitam in fear that a bus wouldn't come to pick me up. The place is a good 15 km away from the Bandaraya if I'm not mistaken.

It was time for rest and two iced Milo glasses after that. I just stayed at the guest house and finished my Osaka backlogs before falling asleep. Some more tourist spots in Labuan if you are interested: Layang-Layangan Beach, Peace Park, and Surrender Point, all of which are to the north and could be reached by Mini Bas 4. If you are a diver, Labuan has around four wreck dive spots that you could visit, seems like fun but most likely to be expensive.

LABUAN: 02 - So There's a Chimney Made of Bricks

LABUAN: 01 - Uncle Jack Backpacker

What’s noteworthy about this place is Uncle Jack himself. He is very hands on. In fact, he sleeps with us one one of the bunks in our dorm. The guest house is new and I guess that is the reason. Nevertheless I admire the dedication, enough to forgive the minor setback the guest house gave to the scheduled publication of my blog articles because the Internet was down. I guess it is not a normal thing, but I hope they get to fix it soon for the benefit of the other visitors. Nowadays, WiFi is a must and no longer a luxury or an added benefit. Our dorm room has a total of four double deck beds, but the place does not look cramped at all. The neat arrangement allows for some generous space at the middle, making it ideal for claustrophobic guests.

Perhaps what people would find as a disadvantage in this guest house would be the bathroom, which I find too narrow, and there are only two of them, although there is an open shower area at the veranda. Still, staying at Uncle Jack’s is a steal. Have I mentioned that I only paid 20 ringgit for a night’s stay? The room is air-conditioned. The place is just a five minute walk from the international ferry terminal. I believe this place is the cheapest accommodation you would get here at Labuan. And the many positive feedback from visitors from all over the world is hard to ignore. If you are still in doubt, check Uncle Jack’s Facebook page.

LABUAN: 01 - Uncle Jack Backpacker

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Zombadings 1: Patayin Sa Shokot Si Remington


As a kid, Remington (Martin Escudero) used to make fun of homosexuals by calling them “Bakla! Bakla! Bakla!” straight to their faces. One day at the cemetery he meets his match when he gets hexed by a grieving gay played by none other than THE Roderick Paulate. Fifteen years later, Remington is almost turning 21 and behaves like the typical neighborhood bum: drinking in the middle of the day while chasing skirts. Meanwhile, his mother (Janice de Belen), a policewoman, is trying to solve a serial murder case in which all victims are gay. At the same time, Remington’s curse starts to manifest. Is he the next to fall prey to the serial killer terrorizing Lucban’s third sex population?

Most of what I am going to say here is in consensus with what various reviews have already stated. First of all let me join the bandwagon by saying that Escudero should be nominated for an acting award for his role in this movie. His transition from neighborhood bum to loud homosexual is so natural. There is no instance where it seems that he is faking it. The gradual shift in character is flawlessly achieved thanks to his nuanced performance, which does not seem technical at all.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Receiving 1,500 Yen from Someone I Barely Know

In the end all the blame on this one would be on me. I just know it. You know how people would tell you that you should always be prepared, that you should always anticipate errors and misfortunes along the way, that what happens to you is entirely your fault. Sometimes fate uses some people as instruments to victimize you, to learn a lesson, as they would love to say. At times, this lesson comes to you in cahoots with giant worldwide banking companies or their fvcking machines that you just want to axe-kick, karate chop, kidney punch (I do not care if ATMs do not have kidneys), bitch slap ad nauseam, douse in gas, and set on fire. Sorry, I got carried away. So, what really happened? I almost got stranded in Osaka, that is what happened. What is my defense then, your honor?

[KANSAI] Budget and Itinerary

THURSDAY: September 8, 2011
Taxi (Makati - NAIA 3) - 117.50
Travel Tax (NAIA 3) - 1,620.00
Terminal Fee (NAIA 3) - 750.00
Cebu Pacific (Manila - Osaka) - 3,049.00

JR Kansai Airport Ltd. Express (Tennoji) - 1,030.00
JR Loop Line (Momodani) - 120.00
Bonsai Guest House (3 Nights/1 Bunk Aircon) - 7,500.00

Monday, September 12, 2011

[KYOTO] Geisha Hunting at Gion

It would have been nice had there been an actual Geisha apparition. Actually, there was one when I rounded a corner but it was more like a middle-aged woman in a kimono. Not one Geisha in full regalia in sight! Are they on day off? Are they fictional? Non-existent? Invisible? It’s funny because there was this Korean couple walking along with me who flagged down a taxi just to ask the driver where they could see a Geisha. Unfortunately I couldn’t understand their conversation. All I could fathom was the sign language where the woman was saying “Geisha! Geisha!” while doing walking gestures with her pointer and index finger. Funny. The taxi driver did not run us over but was explaining something in rapid Nihongo.

[KYOTO] The Golden Pavilion of Kinkakuji

What do you do with a Golden Pavilion? You pose in front of it! This is not a sequel of Despicable Me and you don’t have the high-tech gadgets to steal wonderful landmarks and display them incognito in your backyard. Of course, there is an entrance fee and they say that they are only open until five, which makes me wonder how I was able to spend around an hour in there despite coming in 30 minutes before closing.

[KYOTO] Simple Japanese Castles

My trip to Kyoto was supposed to take the whole day. I would ride the Metro at 6 AM and arrive there past 7 and have enough time for breakfast and some walking and whatever it is that needed to be done. I rode the MRT at 12:55 after a quick lunch at Yoshinoya. Should I even reiterate this on every blog post I am going to make? My case is hopeless, okay. Sleep is more of a priority for me. Sightseeing takes the backseat! WTF. After the train transfers I arrived at Nijo Castle at 2:15 PM, which gave me just enough time for a rushed tour because they close at 4 PM. Yipee! Amazing Race Kyoto!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

OSAKA: 06 - Universal Studios Osaka

When I was a kid I found out from two cousins from the US that there exists a magical place called Disneyland where one can ride roller coasters and Ferris wheels. Later on I also found out about Universal Studios, which they say is actually more exciting than Disney. Now as an adult I have experienced both, although they are not located in the United States. Hong Kong Disneyland is boring and not advisable for the thrill seeker even though one could not dismiss it as worthless because Disneyland HK is cool, in a sentimental and trip-down-memory-lane kind of way. Universal Studios Osaka is the place for adventurers. If you want thrill rides and jaw dropping effects laden live shows, this is the place for you. I haven’t been to Tokyo Disneyland by the way, so forgive me if I say that Universal Studios Osaka just overtook Everland in my book as the best theme park ever, again, if thrill is the sole criterion.

Board the JR Osaka Loop headed for Nishikujo. You have to transfer trains there but you only get charged once. From Shin-Imamiya it was 170 yen. Universal City is the name of the station. Upon getting off the train you just follow the crowd towards the exit and you will find yourself at Universal City Walk, which is an avenue full of stores and restaurants. Call it a mall if you like. The entrance to the theme park is not so far away. In fact, it won’t take long before you see the Hollywood Dream roller coaster, which made me go “Wow. Wow. Wow.” My last roller coaster ride was at Genting, and for reasons that still baffle me, I don’t know why I skipped China and Taiwan’s theme parks. Understandably, I was excited. But before you go, be warned that the only ATM machine they have at the entrance only accepts cards issued in Japan. The one that accepts Visa and Mastercard has been shut down. My debit card was accepted at the cashier. The entrance fee is 6,800 yen for a full day pass. There are other passes available depending on the schedule that you would like.

After the queue, make sure you go back to the spinning Universal Studios globe. That is the de facto souvenir photo spot for everybody and you won’t have to wonder why when you see it: perfect lighting from the sun, perfect combination of colors, gigantic enough for you head not to cover it when you strike a pose. Plenty of reasons. After that, you could go inside and walk down the avenues with buildings that look like downtown Manhattan. It is not hard to tell that America is the theme. Besides, Universal Studios is an American phenomenon, and all of the attractions here are inspired by it, otherwise they won’t name it as such!

All in all there are just two outdoor roller coasters here. The more popular one is the Hollywood Dream ride, where you are in a comfortable seating position listening to J-POP while plunging down the steep drops. There are no loops, just highs and lows, but still exhilarating. The only caveat is the line, which is moving but always long. This is one of the more popular rides in the park probably because it is the closest to the entrance. The other outdoor roller coaster is the Snoopy ride, which I snubbed because it seemed like a kiddie ride to me. But then I road a kiddie roller coaster ride at Everland! Maybe I was just turned off by the heat of the sun. Boy, was it hot that day!

Don’t be surprised if you see locals with mats on the sidewalk loitering there as if they were fire victims waiting for government aid. I would have joined them if I had a mat. Though not that big, walking around the park under that intense heat of the sun was just energy-draining. Segue, there was a Hello Kitty shop but no Hello Kitty component. Sorry, Ma, your Hello Kitty souvenir seems to be non-existent. Looking for my next adventure, I found myself passing by the Jaws area which is hard to miss because of the giant fake shark hung as a centerpiece under the blazing sun. If I am not mistaken there is a flume or boat ride of some sort, which I also snubbed. Instead, I found myself lining up for the Waterworld attraction.

Now I have not seen this movie but it seemed interesting enough. Since the next show was about to start, I fell in line. What I noticed about Universal Studios Osaka is that despite the long line, people are not that bored because there would be displays all around you featuring the corresponding movie. For Waterworld, they had the props and sets used for the movie like the jet ski (and its evolution from crisp and clean to dirty and rusty) and some more like tables and dinnerware.

Once you enter the arena there would be actors playing several characters who are there to keep you entertained while the main attraction is being prepared. This is one of the things I find cool about this Universal Studios. I don’t know if it is the same thing in the other Universal Studios, but the comedy bar acting here is plain funny. The dialogues were all in Japanese but I was laughing my head off anyway in spite of the language barrier. This is also true for the other attractions such as Terminator and the Sesame Street 4D movie (recorded, not live). The show itself is entertaining because of the special effects: a combination of water, fire and various pyrotechnics. I think I could spoil this one for you since it is already in the video anyway. At the end of the act, a dual propeller amphibian plane bursts from behind the giant wall, with matching explosions and fire all over the place. If you don’t find that impressive, I don’t know what is.

Jurassic Park was next. At the entrance you would find the waterfall and the big hole on the wall from where the boats plunge for a wet finale. Fall in line. Waterproof Ponchos are available from vendo machines at 400 yen. It is a mechanical ride on a "rubber boat" with mechanical dinosaurs in the background moving via animatronics. This is a far cry from the Rio Grande ride at EK where you get annoyed more than entertained because you just get wet. Here, you get to experience Jurassic Park itself. You’ve already seen it. Now it’s time to be part of the cast. Once you reach the laboratory area it would start to get dark. The climax is reached when a T-Rex surprises you and threatens to flip your rubber boat over. At this moment you would hear a Japanese announcement asking you to secure your personal belongings including your cameras. Why? Remember the plunge I was talking about earlier? It’s about to happen very soon.

You will get wet. Just lie on your back so that your chest would be the one to get wet instead of your back. If you visit the park during the summer, you’ll easily dry up under the sun in ten minutes after this ride. Just avoid getting your back wet to prevent any respiratory illnesses. Souvenir pictures are available for an astronomic price.

I tried that Backdraft attraction next. It seems to be a movie from the 80’s or 90’s about firemen, and it smelled like freshly baked bread in the venue that I suddenly got hungry. I didn’t know what I was lining up for. Later I found out that it was interesting after all. Whoever told you that this attraction is boring never reached the third act. There are three rows and I was in the front row. This is both a blessing and a curse. The first part is a boring talk from the producers dubbed in Japanese. If you don’t know Nihongo you wouldn’t be able to relate, or maybe just try deciphering the meaning through the images. The second one is a simulated fire accident where you would see a lot of combustible drums in front of you. Of course those are fake, and I am paranoid. It is more like a lights show displaying a big glass window with fire breaking out inside. No shattered glass here, just a small fountain of fire from one of the drums. It gets a little hot if you are in front.

I do not recommend this attraction to anyone who has experienced a fire accident in his or her lifetime. The special effects are so believable that the trauma might just come back to haunt you. I’d say the same thing for people with a heart condition. The final act is set in a warehouse. There are combustible drums all over the place. The warehouse door explodes and fire starts to spread. By “fire” I mean real fire. You will get to feel the heat. If you are in front this would make you wish you took one of the rows behind you. The drums start to explode one by one as the warehouse collapses. You would see falling stairs and steel bridges, ceilings falling down, and fire everywhere. Like I already mentioned, it starts to get hot in there. If you haven’t experienced a fire accident in your life, consider it done after seeing this attraction. I can’t say anything about safety issues. I’d bet they would shut that down if it were not carefully controlled. But still, it just seemed so authentic, and I was really paranoid for a while in there.

The Back to the Future ride is a cinematic experience where you are led to small room leading to another small room with a car in it. Six people fit on that car. At first you wouldn’t know if it is a roller coaster or not because of the darkness. Later on you would find out that the walls are actually just removable barriers separating you from other cars. In front of you is a giant screen where a special movie plays while you car tilts here and there making it feel like you are flying. It is not that thrilling and would actually result in some body pain later one because the seats are not cushioned. Enjoyable, nonetheless, but I just prefer roller coasters.

The Spider-Man Ride is an indoor roller coaster ride without loops or twists. Instead, the wagons rotate wildly while you, the rider, watch with your 3D glasses as Spider-Man’s enemies throw pumpkin bombs and other projectiles at you. Of course, the hero saves the day and the villains end up tangled in a giant web dangling over downtown Manhattan. The combination of cinema, 3D, and roller coaster makes it a fun ride. The seamless integration offers something unique to the regular roller coaster enthusiast. Don’t worry about the queue. The setting is inside the Daily Bugle complete with desks, trophy shelves, and walls meant for the glorification of John Jonah Jameson himself. Not one boring moment while waiting. Everything is in Japanese though. Have you forgotten? You are still in Kansai, and here, Spider-Man and friends speak Japanese.

The Terminator attraction is a simulation of a Skynet seminar and what makes it fun is the female host who looks like an Air Asia stewardess. Her energy level is high. Her acting is so theatrical. Her quips are of comedy bar calibre judging from the reaction of the audience. This made me think. If only we could transform Enchanted Kingdom into something similar, we already have a truckload of comedy bar people to light up similar acts. If only! Back on topic, the place looks like the Skynet office, and again, you are invited to a seminar. Eventually the system would be hacked by Sarah Connor and her son.

Once inside the seminar room itself, robots would appear to your left and right. Everything goes on smoothly until the mother and son duo appears onstage. Live. What follows is a mix of live action and 3D movie experience as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s clone teams up with the two to defeat that liquid metal villain first seen in Terminator 2. As a part of the audience, you are snubbed. We are not the protagonists here, although we are still part of the show.
The other indoor rollercoaster is less thrilling than the Hollywood Dream ride, but they even things out with the special effects. The theme of the ride is a fantasy world complete with other galaxies and heavenly bodies. A wonderful lights show is inevitable but most of the ride is in the dark. If you want a photo, make sure you hide your camera well. The mechanics are the same for the Hollywood Dream ride and for this one. You leave your valuables in a locker, which would lock after you insert a hundred yen, which you would retrieve after getting your stuff after the ride. The crew is strict and would sometimes do spot checks. Fortunately, mine wasn’t found, but bringing it proved to be futile because of the darkness. If you really want a picture, there is one part before the end of the ride where you would be overwhelmed by a room of strobe lights. That’s your queue. Snap the photo there or record the video. It’s there or never. Make sure you hide it immediately after because the exit comes next.

Last stop for me was the 4D Cinema experience. I wanted Shrek but only Sesame Street was playing during that time. It was still fun although I was already very tired by that time that I just sat there lazily almost falling asleep. As it is 4D expect your senses to be titillated by the scent of cookies, the sight of falling bubbles, and some water spraying. The show, once again, is in Japanese.

All in all Universal Studios Osaka now ranks as my favorite theme park of all time. The rides and attractions are few but the theme just meshes everything together into a renewed cinematic experience. We’ve seem most of those moves before. Why see them again? The answer is simple: Because here at Universal Studios, you are no longer just watching them again. This time, you are part of the show. I can’t wait for Universal Studios Singapore, but it would be on a heavy disadvantage because this one just sets the bar high.
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