Its exotic history began in 1819 when Sir Raffles “founded” the city. Before then it served as a strategic base for England in Southeast Asia during Britain’s expansion of its empire. During World War II it was a bastion of strength in the area. Later it became a hub for travel and trade. It gained independence in 1965, and is now home to Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Indonesians and others. It's hard to determine what constitutes a true Singaporean. The culture is an amalgamation of each of its immigrant groups with their own historical lineage. Singapore is an economic giant – clean, safe and prosperous.
The nickname for Singapore, “The Fine City”, has double meaning. In order to maintain the “public order” and to protect the “fine state” of Singapore, the Government has imposed a multitude of strict laws and hefty fines. The usual “No Smoking” or “No Littering” signs are accompanied by the unusual “No Jumping”, “No Riding”, “No Running”, “No Heel Shoes” and “No Umbrellas” signs. Singapore is a diverse melting pot of cultures and races, with four official languages: English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin.
I went to see the Universal Studio as part of my tour package. The Universal Studio Singapore opened in 2010. It is part of the Sentosa complex on Sentosa Island. The park consists of seven themed zones – Madagascar, Far Far Away, The Lost World, Ancient Egypt, Sci-Fi City, New York and Hollywood.
Each themed zone has its own attractions, shopping, eating, establishments and street entertainment around the theme. There are also rides, live shows and movie characters. In addition there are various entertaining shows like comedy and magic show at various times.
The admission fee is different between weekday and weekend. As you enter the park you will be handed a map, which will help you navigate the park and its various sections.
On each displays an approximate waiting time which helps visitors decide whether to wait or revisit later. Here is a quick review of each of the themed zone.
Not that you need to be familiar with the movie to enjoy this area but we actually watched Madagascar right before we left because of this attraction! This area is great for the young ones. There are two attractions – one takes you on a raft ride to and through Madagascar with the characters from the movie. The other is a big carousel. Both were a hit with us. There are regular times to meet the characters from Madagascar, and you can pose for photos.
Far Far Away
This area is mostly about Shrek with a “live” show with the donkey and Shrek’s 4-D Adventure. That was really a new experience for us. My son loved it very much, especially the donkey offensive and wet sneezing on the visitors.
This zone had some very cool architecture and a cute jeep ride. Move on to Ancient Egypt, face mummies and scarab beetles on an indoor roller coaster in total darkness – to ignite your fears. The Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster ride involves moving in high speed and twisting in the dark. The dark surrounding diminished the thrill and increased the possibility of walking out with a strained neck due to its erratic motion. But where's the fun if there isn't a little danger?
This zone has one of the best attractions at Universal Studios Singapore. The Transformers ride with the “ultimate 3D battle” is truly amazing even for someone like me who has never seen a transformers movie. There is also a spinning cup like ride which we enjoyed. The transformers ride was just unbelievable. I spent the ride with mount wide open. It felt like we were flying around a city and involved in some battle with big robots.
The Lost World
This Jurassic themed land is probably the most fun with five great attractions including the Water World live stunt show. The stage was not very big, but well decorated. The seats were divided into three zones – wet zone, splash zone, and dry zone. During our visit, the dry zone was only safe place to stay dry. By the way, you will not get wet during the show. The water is basically splashed purposely by the supporting actors in funny ways before the show begins. We loved the three rides. They included a suspended roller coaster, flying on prehistoric birds and the the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure, which saw us getting very wet on a river raft ride. If you hate walking around in wet clothing then you really need a raincoat during this part. Thankfully you can buy a raincoat at the entrance to the ride or you can buy a cheaper one outside. Along the ride, we saw dinosaurs moving their heads, waving their front legs, and making dino noises. The movement of dinosaurs looked unrealistic.
This zone looked fabulous and we were lucky enough to arrive right on time to see some great street dancing. There is also a special effects show where we experienced a hurricane and a Sesame Street ride which was great. Light, Camera, Action! is a must visit in USS. It is located at the New York Street. Although the 5 minutes show was stunning, we were actually accompanied by a small number of visitors. By the way, the first row of spectators might get wet due to the splash caused by the falling building at the right side of the stage. Spaghetti Space Chase is a Sesame Street themed ride. It is a gentle and cozy ride.
The park starts and finishes in Hollywood. This area is mostly about shopping but there is also a live rock show full of monsters such as Dracula and Frankenstein.
We were lucky to visit USS during off season. There were not many visitors in the park. The longest queuing time was encountered at the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure, and the shortest was the Revenge of the Mummy. Plan ahead and be early. Go straight to the most interesting rides as early as possible before the queue forms. Do not go around the park theme by theme. For us, we had four main mission objectives – the Transformer 4-D Adventure, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park Rapid Adventure, and the Water World Live Show. After that was accomplished we went around the park picking up on the "leftover" rides and shows.
The food and beverages are expensive, at least for us they were. All in all it was a fun-filled day and I can honestly say I enjoyed the theme park, even though I am not a big fan of theme parks.
Bio: Eliza Binte Elahi Faculty at School of Business of University of South Asia, Dhaka