Thursday, 26 June 2014

Ideal Group Size when Visiting a Theme Park

I have seen people visit theme parks alone, but I also seen people in groups of over 20. For better or worse, I realised that the level of fun you experience in a theme park is largely determined by the number of people that goes with you. In fact, I myself has visited theme parks with all kinds of groups, from 13 Grassroots Volunteers through a family of 4 and even going solo. I visited with friends, fellow bloggers and even special needs individuals.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Legoland Malaysia Trip Report

I visited Legoland Malaysia about 2 months after its opening in November 2012, as part of my high school class farewell outing. This 76 acre park is branded as Malaysia's first international theme park, and as with every other legoland park, is mostly geared towards children and their families. Before I begin, please take note that prices will be discussed in Malaysia Ringgit (RM), and 1 RM is approximately SGD0.4/USD0.3

Friday, 20 June 2014

How to save 2 HOURS of queue time in USS

Queuing is an integral part of the theme park experience. On average, a typical visitor spends about 4 hours of each visit waiting in line, and this number quickly grows on peak days. Universal Studios Singapore (USS) attracts about 10,000 visitors a day, which places it as one of the top 20 theme parks in Asia. This, unfortunately, also means long lines.

Update September 2015: Even more tips for Battlestar Galactica

USS Queue 2 Hours Transformers Battlestar Galactica

Monday, 16 June 2014

3 Beautiful Places beyond the Theme Park of KL

While I usually crave for theme parks, this trip to Malaysia has exposed me to the wilder side of things. From farm visits through fireflies to cave exploration, I have seen attractions that can probably never be emulated at a theme park.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Little innovations in KL's Rail Network

Most people have the impression that Singapore is ahead of Malaysia in every aspect of life. That may be true 10 years ago, but Kuala Lumpur's (KL) transformation has placed its rail transport system ahead of Singapore's. Granted, it may not be as technologically sophisticated or aesthetically pretentious as Singapore's, but my experience there shows that some customer-oriented initiatives can succeed over mere money and technology.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Analysis of KLIA Terminal 2

After nearly 1 year of delays, Terminal 2 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA T2) is finally open to the public on 2nd May 2014. I have a chance to visit this terminal 1 month after it's opening, and it was a mixed experience at the airport. I personally loved the wide and well lit spaces of the terminal, though the lack of travelators in the building is a major drawback for luggage laden passengers.

Just some background, KLIA T2 was opened in response to the explosion of low-cost carriers in the Southeast Asian region. This terminal is dedicated to budget airlines like Air Cebu and AirAsia, but with the comforts and conveniences of a mainstream airport terminal.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

8 Rides in USS where you can get wet!

Most people remember to wear their ponchos in Jurassic Park, but is that the only ride in USS where you will get wet? You will be absolutely surprised.

Although USS is not a water park, it probably breaks the record for the largest proportion of rides where a person will get wet. In fact, 8 out of 18 attractions (~45%) comes with a splash or two. In this post, I will explain all the rides where you will get a big splash, and any techniques you can use to avoid it (apply the opposite if you crave for it).

1) Sesame Street and Spaghetti Space Chase

Brief description: This family attraction simulates a flight through space to bring spaghetti back to Earth. It is a short little ride but the space scene is very well done as the stars look quite 3D.
How you will get wet: At the scene where super grover is held by 4 ropes in the arms and legs on the right side, the water will spray from the left side.
Avoid splashes: Sit on the right side

2) Lights Camera Action

Brief Description: This special effects attraction simulates a hurricane about to hit New York City. The actual show is very short but there are quite a lot of surprises.
How you will get wet: Some props like a support column and a ship anchor will fall into the water in front of the guests, creating huge splashes
Avoid Splashes: You will not be wet as long you stand on the second or third row

3) Transformers: The Ride

Brief Description: Autobot Evac has been tasked to bring the All-Spark safely out of the city. The Decepticons will to everything to get it back
How you will get wet: In the 4th screen, Megatron grabs Evac and says "You can escape Megatron". As Evac attempts to shake free, water sprays onto the riders
Avoid splashes: Unfortunately, there is no way for this ride

4) Revenge of the Mummy

Brief Description: This indoor roller coaster pits riders against the evil power of Imhotep, with with backwards and forwards launches, a dose of airtime and overbanked turns.
How will you get wet: As Imhotep says "Serve me and savour eternal riches..." in the second scene. As the warrior mummies jump up out from the side, some cheeky warriors also squirt some water.
Avoid Splashes: You will get most wet on the second row and least wet on the fourth row

5) Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure

Brief Description: This rapids ride places riders in rough waters as they escape from a massive flood about to hit Jurassic Park
How you will get wet: Well...lets just say... many ways
Avoid Splashes: If you don't want to get wet, don't take this ride. Alright, honestly, I think the priority is that you are not wearing shoes with socks. The water will seep into your socks and you will be uncomfortable for the rest of the day. Also, DO NOT put your stuff on the raft floor. You will soak all your belongings during the drop.

6) WaterWorld

Brief Description: This live show simulates a battle between good and evil over dry land. Attraction includes loud noises, gunfire and a lot of splashes
How you will get wet: Via waterguns and buckets in the pre-show, jet skis during the actual show
Avoid Splashes: Look at the diagram on the left. Sit in the middle areas of the green zone (away from the aisle) or on the red zone.

7) Shrek 4D

Brief Description: Join Shrek and Donkey to rescue princess Fiona from the grasp of the both dead and alive Lord Farquar
How you will get wet: Every time donkey sneezes, when Dragon saves the pack from the waterfall and when Shrek pops champagne at the end
Avoid Splashes: Due to the seat design, every seat has its own set of sprinklers so there is no way

8) Madagascar: A crate Adventure

Brief Description: This scenic boat ride is like a brief summary of the first Madagascar movie.
How you will get wet: A monkey will fling water onto guests just after the crocodile scene. Also, in the final scene, some water from the final waterfall bounces over the boat's edge and into the passenger cabin.
Avoid Splashes: If there is no big crowd, ask to have at most 3 people sit in 1 row and squeeze towards the center near the ending. Also, the splash from the monkey is biggest for people in 2nd and 3rd row.

Finally, a scorpion and the naughty penguins of Madagascar will also spray water during the Hollywood Dreams Parade. So now you know how and when you will get wet in USS. Please comment on whether you like these water effects, and perhaps share your own techniques of avoiding them.

Photos courtesy of Resorts World Sentosa and Dreamworks Animation

Friday, 6 June 2014

Adventure Cove Waterpark Trip Report

I visited Adventure Cove Waterpark in Sentosa, Singapore with my parents in November 2013. I went on a weekday (actually took leave for it) after hearing many stories of long queues on The park was over six months old at that time but thankfully most of the things look as good as new.

Myself with my parents at Adventure Cove Waterpark

My family was able to enter 30mins before the park opened via a limited time offer for POSB Card holders. The staff was friendly but it was clear from the start they had a lot of rules to follow.

In general, the park is very well themed - more so than the other water parks I been to like Sunway Lagoon of Malaysia (trip report coming soon). Even seemingly minor items like handrails are adorned with mysterious symbols and sculptures. Although the first attraction we encounter was the river, we decided to head straight into middle of the park.

[tip] Change at the Wave Pool area and use the lockers there so you will be closer to the slides and most attractions.

[tip] Bring smaller bags so they can fit in the smaller $10 lockers. The larger ones cost $20. My family actually squeezed all 3 of our bags inside that 1 small locker. Lockers are valid for use for whole day

 Note the extensive theming in the water park

Attraction 1: Riptide Rocket

Riptide Rocket is the park's most intense ride powered by both water (downhill) and electromagnets (uphill). This is actually my first waterslide I took in my entire life (cannot believe, right?). The best part is that you do not have to climb up - there is a conveyor belt that brings you all the way to the top with your raft. Thank goodness I went to that ride first, the queue was almost an hour long just minutes after we hopped off the ride.
[tip]Take this ride first thing before the crowd comes or last thing when everyone else is at the showers.

The slide itself is really dynamic. The motions are more sudden but less dramatic than Revenge of the Mummy. Be careful at the final dark tunnel - I see many people fall out of their rafts throughout the day.

Attraction 2: Rainbow Reef

This is one of the highlights of Adventure Cove, alongside Riptide Rocket. You basically get to snorkel in a salt-water reef with 20,000 fish. It is one of only 2 attractions where Adventure Express can be used (the other is Riptide Rocket). I really love the large variety and number of fish in the reef, and just viewing from the side is quite an experience. The arrive super early or super late rule also applies to this attraction.

However, I had difficulty breathing through the masks, so I gave up this attraction. I actually tried a couple of times at the load area but still cannot do it properly.

[tip]Do not get adventure express. It is valid for only 2 attractions and you can simply use the technique I highlighted above to circumvent the queues.

Attraction 3: Adventure River

This is the largest attraction of the park, and the one of the longest lazy rivers in the world. However, I think it also breaks the record for having the most number of lifeguards at any single pool. A staff told me that single attraction needs over 30 lifeguards on active duty alone. This is safety conscious Singapore at its finest.

The river itself has very good pacing, perhaps about 3-4 km/h. Depth of 0.9m is shallower than most other rivers which I visited. The theming is impressive, and there are many zones including a tunnel through an aquarium and view of the ray bay.

Floats and life jackets are available at no extra charge. Many floats simply drift along unattended.

[tip] Go to this attraction when the park is most busy, say about 2pm-3pm. This is the only ride where no queues are required

Other water slides

There are 4 other "normal" water slides, and 1 mat racer.

I do not like Dueling Racer as there are just too few lanes so (1) big groups cannot play together and (2) the queue for this 5 second slide is disproportionately long (it was my longest ride of the day)

Spiral Washout and Whirlpool Washout are located beside the grotto. Although only double float are provided, singles can also slide (though they must carry the huge 2 person float themself). I personally like the toilet bowl style Whirlpool Washout more. In fact, the funnel at Spiral Washout was quite a letdown as the oscillations are so mild and pacing of the ride really slow.

Tidal Twister and Pipeline Plunge are located between the wave pool and Riptide Rocket. Pipeline is a much faster slide but it is also very short. Tidal Twister has a more moderate pace and the ride is quite long (almost a full minute, rare for water slides).
[tip] Queue for Tidal is usually much longer than pipeline. It is better to take pipeline 3-4 times than to ride Tidal once.

Of course, this is Singapore, so no new passengers will be dispatched into the slides until the previous person has completely cleared the splashdown pool. That is no big deal for short slides like Pipeline, but the the queue for long slides like Tidal Twister moves really, painfully slow (imagine 1 person every 2 minutes)

Spiral and Whirlpool slides only provide two-person rafts

Other attractions

There are 2 kids areas, a bigger one called Big Bucket Treehouse and a smaller wading pool called Seahorse Hideway. Surprisingly, they allow adults to take the small slides at Big Bucket Treehouse, something that it's Malaysian counterpart Sunway Lagoon never allow.

The wave pool called Bluwater Bay alternates between calm seas and rolling waves. I can really see many guests bored during the calm period (which lasts a full 15 minutes) so I think the park can really consider shortening that interval.

My parents tell me that Splashworks is a waste of space. I kind of agree. There are a few activities that I can do for free at West Coast Park playground without the risk of getting wet, and the requirement for proficient swimmers means many people are left out. (fyi I don't know how to swim)

The food at adventure cove comprises of a couple of food stands at a quick service eatery called The Bay Restaurant. Food is same price as USS, about $12 for set meal with drinks. Quality is mediocre - no match for the themed meals at USS. I honestly think it is more worth to simply use the water coolers provided, though take note: Unlike USS, there are NO water coolers in the queue lines, so drink before you queue

 Water jump at splashworks. The one I did at OBS is like 3 times the height

Bluwater Bay with the big waves

Overall I had a good day there. My ratings are
  • Lazy River: *****
  • Wave Pool: *
  • Kids Area: **
  • Water Slides: ****
  • Special Attractions: ***
  • Park Operations: **
  • Theming: *****
  • Dining: **
  • Overall: ***

Other tips:

  • If you feel shy, you can choose to wear T-Shirt and PE Shorts. No need to wear revealing swimsuits
  • Singapore is really hot. Do not forget your sunscreen
  • Attraction may be closed due to lightning. Please do check the weather forecast before buying
  • Souvenir photos costs upwards of $30 each. You may not want to trouble the photographers (politely decline them) to take photos of you using their cameras if you don't intend to buy
  • Average queue lines for slides is about 20 mins on this Thursday I went. I really cannot imagine the queue during weekends
  • The shoe racks outside attractions are for SHOES only. Do not act smart and place your valuables there. I seen I-Phones on the racks several times

Sunday, 1 June 2014

USS Update 1 June 2014

In this month, there are no major new events or experiences offered by the park. One really curious new souvenir is the Despicable Me Monopoly set, found at both the Universal Studios Store and Minion Mart.

From what I see, this version is more akin to the Monopoly Junior game, with its smaller board and simpler currency denominations. However, it is priced at full monopoly levels ($49.90), so I guess only a die-hard minion fan will buy it.

I was also shopping around for transformers toys for a relative, and one (actually quite obvious) thing is that same itemed souvenirs cost slightly more at USS. The megatron+optimus prime set I bought cost $34.90 in Toys R'Us and $37.90 in USS. However, don't forget that season pass comes with 10% discount.

However, the highlight of this update is about Battlestar Galactica. Apparently, some scaffolding and blinds have been erected around the Human side entrance.

 There are some pieces of steel bars (not rebar) behind this translucent covering

From this angle, you can see that the scaffolding extends only to a very small portion of the ride. In fact, the whole thing is perhaps only 2m deep.

It is quite hard to predict what RWS intends to do. Perhaps it is just re-imaging the debilitated entrance in preparation of the re-introduction of the ride. Unfortunately, the small pieces of steel we saw in the third picture is likely to be scaffolding material rather than actually construction material, so it is hard to anticipate what changes.

I will continue to monitor the progress of this new, unexpected development and personally hope that this is not a sign that the ride will be torn down. Also, the new far-far away ride is still not making much headway. Do stay tuned for more updates and share with me what you think is happening to either ride.