8/13/2013

Singa Singa

I recently visited Singapore for the following:
1) Phantom of the Opera, Sands Theatre
Previously I watched the musical Wicked so I received an email about this wildly popular musical which will play for only 1 month, so I quickly rounded 3 other pals and bought the early bird tickets (10% off for concerts on Mon - Thursday).

2) Universal Studios Singapore, Sentosa Island
I've been to USS twice before, but it always feels like I've never been there before :p It felt sweet that MasterCard had a promotion: buy 3 tickets free 1. Handy that 4 pax are going!

Now that I've 2 attractions planned, I got to the rest. I've always wanted to visit the Gardens by the Bay because of the concentrated environmental efforts the center represents, plus it looks amazing in photos. Also I thought this would be a good opportunity to explore Sentosa island, I considered Skyline Luge and sightseeing the many man made beaches there.

The funniest part of this particular trip-planning was hotel selection. There were 3 options, one was recommended by friends and the other two were offered by Groupon. I estimated the MRT fare from each hotel to all the potential destinations coupled with hotel rates/deal values so I selected the hotel which gave me the lowest cost overall. The winner was Best Western (now Jayleen 1918) near Clarke Quay. 

Next, transport. We relied on the MRT to get around Singapore and the 3-day tourist pass (S$10 - pay $20 and the deposit $10 will be returned when the card is returned) was very handy, especially when we found out we'd to interchange between lines many times! There are 3 options to get to Singapore: car (no way), bus (done that before) and flight (never took that before, so yes!). We booked JetStar because it's pretty decent for a budget airline, plus the boarding terminal is at KLIA which is very accessible for me thanks to ERL. 

Day 1
We took the afternoon flight to Singapore. First shock: it took us an hour to clear immigration. Wut? Then it was mad rush to the hotel, quick check-in, change of clothes and off to Sands Theatre. There was another shock when the train we hipped on was not functioning and we had to wait for another train to reach Marina Bay station. We reached the theatre just in time to collect the tickets and grab a sandwich before settling in. Whew.
How was the show? Superb. The switch between scenes is seamless and the props are impressive...the music and singing was spectacular. My only problem was I couldn't catch some of the lyrics because the pitch of the song was so sight, I couldn't distinguish the words. Still a memorable experience, nevertheless. We had dinner at the food court near the ice rink; sigh pricey food court experience!
Then it was a cool night out taking pictures of the splendid Marina Bay Sands and the ArtScience Museum. One day, hopefully, I'll write about spending a night at the top of that sparkling ship :D 
Tip: The museum had an exhibition on Egyptian mummies which I couldn't view due to the busy schedule. However there are always good exhibitions at the ArtScience museum so do keep an eye out, I previously visited the museum for the amazing Titanic exhibition which featured artifacts brought up from the ship, it was a very touching experience for me :)

Day 2
It was an early day for us, we took the train to Vivo City Mall then opted for the boardwalk across to Sentosa island. The boardwalk is free but the island fee (S$1) is compulsory once you reach the other side. It was a lovely morning and we enjoyed the breeze as we made the short walk over. We headed straight to USS and there was a moving queue at the Customer Services counter where I redeemed the tickets. Maybe because it wasn't a crazy Friday + school holiday, we got through the ticket gate quickly and got to photo-snapping Hollywood! 
On to Camera, Lights, Action and the Transformers ride wheeeee! We had a delay scare for the latter but luckily it was just a 30 min wait to awesomeness! I could never tell if the motion was due to the vision or the movement of the cart haha! To my disappointment, the rides at Battlestar Galactica were closed for maintenance so my ultimate adrenaline shot will have to wait. The Mummy Ride blew my mind away and we reached the arena just in time to watch the action-packed Water World. 

Tip: a bottle of water, sunscreen and light snacks are great weapons against the heat and fatigue. 

We strolled around Ever Ever After and watched the entertaining 4D movie before trying out the surprisingly thrilling DragonExpress ride.We slowed down the pace with Madagascar's ride before catching the Monsters Rock show. We ate at Mel's Drive-In; the ambience was very sunny and similar to the 70's soda pop f&b outlets in the US. 
We exited USS and window shopped, checked out the casino (free drinks yo!) and went to the new S.E.A. This impressive indoor aquarium is one of the largest in the world and the layout was according to ocean regions. There were many creatures on display that I've never seen before. the best part has gotta be the huge acrylic viewing pane where you can see many water inhabitants swimming and sailing across. I thought playing The Aquarium from the Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint Sa├źns was a clever and tasteful touch. 

Tip: The S.E.A. is housed with the Maritime Museum, the latter has hourly screening of Admiral Cheng Ho and the maritime history of Singapore. It's an interesting show of information and lights so don't miss if it you're in the vicinity.

We chilled before watching the visual feast that is the Crane Dance. We took the Sentosa Express back to the mainland and got a cab ride back because we missed the last train...haha so much exploring the island! 

Day 3
With half a day left before our flight back home, we went to the Gardens. Unfortunately there was a light drizzle so we couldn't linger much at the Supertree Grove or go to the OCBC Skywalk (S$5)m so we strolled around the various cultural gardens before approaching the Conservatories. 
Tip: Entry to the outdoor section comprising the cultural gardens and the Supertree Grove is free. A ticket to the two Conservatories is S$28 (different fee applies to Singaporeans and PR).
We went to the Cloud Forest and the first thing that hits you is a spray of mist -- literally! The humidity and temperature is controlled so that the climate within the conservatory is maintained ala highland style. There are 7 levels; take the lift to the top and meander down, there's also a section devoted to cave structures. This conservatory made me feel like I was transported to Pandora *bliss*
We exited the dome and entered the Flower Dome. The fragrance of various flowers punches through the nose as you explore the many gardens designed to represent various habitats from around the world. Plenty of photo taking opportunities here, as the landscapes are artfully laid out to give a myriad of options. There's a 5 degree slides show which describes the changes across the globe affecting mankind, wildlife and the planet if the temperature increases by 5 degrees. There's a nifty model and video explaining the working of the Gardens -- a must-see! 
We paid S$2 for the shuttle ride to the bridge across the Marina Bay Sands. It looks just as impressive under daylight as it did under the night sky. We did a bit of light shopping at the Sands and had lunch at another food court which was better in terms of variety and price. Then it was a easy train ride back to the hotel, quick packing and off to the airport. Changi airport is the best airport I've been so far, the duty-free shop gives you a chance to be a Changi millionaire if you shop there. The flight back was uneventful and we reached KLIA ahead of schedule. 
Summary
It was a good retreat to indulge in the Phantom, roller coaster rides, an aquarium and the beautiful Gardens. It was even better because despite the setbacks and tight schedule (we didn't get to do other activities as I'd hoped), I was with good company and they're definitely the #1 reason why I had such a good time :)

PS if you're interested in details of my expenditure, drop a comment, I'd be happy to share :)

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