Sunday, January 29, 2012

[SINGAPORE] Marina Bay Sands + Universal Studios

My first full day of gallivanting ended at Marina Bay Sands, but not after a quick run to Chinatown to grab dinner. I ate mixed meat for lunch so I tried mixed duck this time. It wasn't 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 case 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'd just fit whatever itinerary I could around that. Wicked didn't disappoint and I don't regret having paid the hefty ticket price. I'd see it over and over again if I had the funds. The musical is currently 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. Back to Marina Bay Sands, it's a large mall with a skating rink that wasn't in operation when I was there because they turned it into a 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 you don't go past 11:30 in the evening and you're good, at least for most lines. Moving on, after a night of forced insomnia I woke up the next day at around 12, just in time for check out. Luckily, Matchbox is not that strict.

My date with Universal Studios started at 3 PM after Vivo City. You have to pay SGD 3 to get into Sentosa. That's the system if you're using the monorail. I'm not aware if you'll 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 theme park is just part of Sentosa Island and there are more to explore aside from it. 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 that Japanese cousin is that it only had that Hollywood Dream ride as its thrilling roller coaster ride. Sure there was the Snoopy roller coaster 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 can get into through various thrill rides and live shows, there is also that part set to mimic New York, its alleys, its buildings. If you get hungry you can buy 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 can 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'll have to insert a bill to reopen it, 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 to smuggle in 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 it here because as already mentioned, I only had 4 hours! The tour ended observing three Caucasian girls singing and dancing 40’s style.

The day ended at Imbiah station where I ate at KFC, bought souvenir magnets, and ogled at the Merlion and the overload of flowers surrounding it. Beach Station was next in line where you find Sentosa’s three beaches. There's also a zipline ride which you might have already seen on the Amazing Race, and some activities like a ropes course and a butterfly or animal park of sorts. Since I was already emo I just went back to the hostel 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.
[SINGAPORE] Marina Bay Sands + Universal Studios

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