Sunday, January 29, 2012

SINGAPORE: 03 – Marina Bay Sands + Universal Studios

My first full day of gallivanting ended at Marina Bay Sands, but not after another quick run to Chinatown to grab dinner. I already ate mixed meat for lunch so I tried mixed duck this time. It was not bad but I guess I just prefer meat. After a quick shower at the hostel I explored the MRT routes and ended up at Tanjong Pagar station which apparently was not that far from the guesthouse. I have to warn you, though, that I love walking. What I consider to be walking distance for me might not be the same for you. Anyway, I think I had to transfer four times to get to Marina Bay Sands. There are additions to the MRT line not yet shown on the free Singapore map I had with me. Thus, I had to pay extra because the light on the turnstile thingy turned red and what followed was a wild siren followed by loud chanting to the tune of, "Hindi siya nagbayad ng ticket! Hindi siya nagbayad ng ticket!" Joke. It was simply rejecting my card. No need to panic if this happens to you, just approach the counter and pay some extra centavos.

I came to Singapore for Wicked and already told myself that I would just fit whatever itinerary I could around that. Wicked did not disappoint and I do not regret having paid the hefty ticket price. I would see it over and over again if I had the resources. The said musical is running at the Grand Theatre of Marina Bay Sands. If you are going to see something cultural such as a dance program or a play make sure you are at the right theater. I almost went to the Esplanade, the one that slightly resembles the Sydney Opera House. Good thing I inspected the ticket first. The theater was big. I saw Atom Araullo with a girl, by the way, and then I saw them again the next day at Universal Studios. No, contrary to popular belief, I was not stalking them. Maybe they were stalking me? Ooh... Me already. Back to Marina Bay Sands, it is a rather large mall with a skating rink that was not in operation when I was there because they turned it into some Narnia exhibit venue.

Aside from shopping, Marina Bay Sands is quite popular for the striking views, particularly in the evening. At the promenade you have a good view of the bay. It is no Victoria Harbour but there are enough buildings that warrant attention like the LV Maison, the Esplanade, and the skyscrapers. The Singapore Flyer is also sparkling in blue from a distance. They say that it is a tourist trap so I did not bother going there anymore. Within the area of the promenade itself is the Singapore Art Museum. Science Museum? Art and Science Museum? Plural with an S Museum? Suffice it to say that it is a weirdo looking museum that looks like a giant white flower. And of course, behind you are those three buildings that have a surf board on top. They say it houses a garden, although many would also add that going up there and paying the entrance fee is not yet worth it, at least for the time being.

I am allergic to people so clubbing afterwards was not an option. I just lurked around  for a bit before going back to the hostel. I easily fall in love with efficient MRT systems, and Singapore’s is not that hard to like. Just make sure that you do not go past 11:30 in the evening and you are good, at least for most of the lines. Moving on, after a night of forced insomnia I woke up the next day at around 12 noon, just in time for check out! HAHAHA. Luckily, Matchbox is not that strict. You could leave your things with them for retrieval later and you can even loiter at the lounge and take a shower even when you are already checked out, which was what I actually did later that evening.

My date with Universal Studios started at three in the afternoon after meeting Vivo City. You have to pay SGD3 to get into Sentosa. That is the system if you are using their monorail. I am not aware if you would have to pay a toll fee or what not if you go by cable car, car, bus, bike, kariton, kalesa, skateboard, roller-blades, scooter, wheelchair, or simply on foot. Or by sea. Mermaid? Underwater toll? Anyway, the first stop after Sentosa Station (Vivo City) is Water Front where Universal Studios is. You have to take note, though, that Sentosa is not Universal Studios or vice-versa. The said theme park is just part of Sentosa Island and there are more to explore aside from this theme park. Well, just correcting a notion I had earlier. And so, what happened next? Universal Studios was closing at seven in the evening that day. WTF? WTF! I tried to back out but I badly needed a roller coaster ride. It has been months! Fine. There is no half day fee so I paid the full rate. Surprisingly, I only needed three hours and a half to tour the whole place. It was that small.

The one in Osaka is larger or maybe I am just thinking that it is. Wait, it really is! There were more attractions there but what I did not like about the Japanese cousin is that it only had that Hollywood Dream ride as its thrilling roller coaster ride. Sure there was the Snoopy roller coaster ride, but what the heck am I, a toddler? And then there were a few indoor roller coasters if I remember correctly. For the Sentosa counterpart they have Battlestar Galactica, and you do not have to ride this one to know that it is going to be more exciting. Before we go into much detail, let me put the verdict out now. Universal Studios Osaka is larger but I enjoyed Universal Studios Singapore more. Perhaps it is because of the variety of thrill rides present here and the fact that it is smaller, which makes it easier to tour.

Since this is my second Universal Studios experience I have confirmed that they indeed follow the same motif. Aside from the movie worlds that you could get into through various thrill rides and live shows, there is also that part set to mimic New York, its alleys, its buildings. They do look authentic, in my opinion. If you get hungry you could buy their overpriced meals, which is the same case in almost every theme park out there. There is no Disney magic, although some sense of nostalgia is set to be eventually triggered because of the movie worlds inside which you might know from your childhood.

For roller coaster enthusiasts you should not miss Battlestar Galactica. It is a dueling roller coaster which means two of them run simultaneously: Human and Cylon. Human is boring and could be used as a breather after Cylon, which is the more exciting one. You have to leave your belongings in the designated lockers which are electronically controlled and free for the first 30 minutes or so. Exceed that time frame and you would have to insert a bill in there to reopen them, which might be tricky because chances are, you also left your wallet inside! They are strict about loose items and video grabbing while on those rides so you have to be creative on how you would smuggle your camera or your phone. That is if you really have to record your roller coaster ride. I do, I have a 30 before 30 mission to complete. Harharhar.

They also have indoor roller coasters that are not as thrilling and rely more on special effects based on movies such as The Mummy and Transformers. The Enchanted Airways roller coaster is for kids and I had to ride it twice because right when I was withdrawing my camera during the first time, the loudspeakers suddenly blared announcing how it was verboten. The Canopy Flyer only has four sharp turns and is more of a mechanism to see the Jurassic Park area from an aerial point of view. The Water World attraction is a live show complete with stunts and camp acting. That is if it is the same as the one they have in Osaka. I skipped the one here because as already mentioned, I only had four hours! The tour ended observing three Caucasian girls singing and dancing 40’s style and how some men in the crowd badly wanted to grab them. Entertaining.

The day ended at Imbiah station where I just ate at KFC, bought some souvenir magnets, and ogled at the Merlion statue and the overload of flowers surrounding him. Beach Station was next in line, where you would find Sentosa’s three beaches. There is also a zipline ride which you might have already seen on the Amazing Race, and some more activities like a ropes course and a butterfly or animal park of some sort. Since I was already emo I just went back to the hostel and took a shower before heading back to the airport for my midnight zombie flight. At least I got to use the MRT this time. It took 40 minutes but the ride was cool. I just think I annoyed some people because my headphones were playing Wicked and Mamma Mia! in full volume. Pardon me. I just needed a pick-me-up.

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