Thursday, December 31, 2009

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” – Arthur C. Clarke

It was said that good things come in small packages. And some say that they come in pairs. That’s definitely true for USS Sci-Fi City. Arguably one of the smaller zones in USS, Sci-Fi City currently boasts of two attractions – the Battlestar Galactica (BSG) and the Accelerator – due to be opened early 2010 (with another one planned to debut the year after). Not only that, the BSG are duelling coasters and currently the tallest pair in the world.

As a brand new attraction based around the TV series of the same name, the BSG dueling coasters claims many titles. It is the world’s tallest pair of dueling coasters. With both a red conventional coaster signifying the Humans and a blue suspended coaster signifying the Cylons, they will be a pair of the most thrilling rides in USS. With all the twists and turns of the tracks, my legs get all jelly-like just by looking at it. Well it will definitely be in my USS to-do list, that’s for sure! And please, you do not want to puke into the lagoon.

 Night view of the BSG from across the USS lagoon

Now something less intimidating but possibly no less exciting is the Accelerator. Now with all the hype surrounding the BSG (after all, it is hard to ignore), we should not forget about the less well known little brother of the Sci-Fi City. Now, what is this Accelerator? As its name implies, it will accelerate you. But the fact is you’ll be accelerated to crazy, dizzying spins. Again, caution to those who cannot handle these, please do not consume food and drinks before hopping onto either this or the BSG.

  The Accelerator - looking nice and spiffy - just inviting you to hop on.

For all you collectible junkies out there, don’t forget to visit the Galactica PX where you will get all forms of merchandise from the Battlestar Galactica universe as well as other science-fiction related accessories. Now as part of the conspiracy, there are NO F&B outlets in Sci-Fi zone, since I doubt the Operations people would be happy to clean up people’s puke on a daily basis. So, share some thoughts for the poor souls and please try not to ingest anything that you cannot keep down before taking those rides.

Now we are speeding into the finishing line, I can’t wait for the IR and specifically the park to open. I am eagerly planning getting onto all these rides and go nuts. As I am sure you are as well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A land of mystery, mummies and engineering wonders that is Ancient Egypt

Let’s step back in time to the marvels of Ancient Egypt, a land that was one of the three oldest known human civilizations and one that till today is still cloaked with an air of mystery. It is a place of contrasts; highly fertile floodplains of the River Nile, hot and arid elsewhere; highly scientific and mathematical, yet highly superstitious; capable of humanly impossible feats of engineering, yet also condoning some of the darkest deeds of human history. It is a place of wonder. And Universal Studios Singapore will try to bring that to you.

The first of its kind in any Universal Studios theme parks in the world, the USS Ancient Egypt zone would strive to bring the enigma and awe of the exploration era of the 20th century to USS. The area is themed to look like an excavation site and the two attractions here tie in directly with that.

 Perspective view of Ancient Egypt from across the lagoon – in the foreground is the Treasure Hunter attraction and the big building in the back houses the Revenge of the Mummy

 Partially excavated statue - work in progress
Walking into Ancient Egypt (from either Lost World or Sci-Fi City), you would immediately be confronted by the immensity of the statues holding up the collapsed entry archway. And thus setting the tone for almost everything else in Egypt, you are well advised that big is the order of the day.

The four statues marking the boundary of the land; the Treasure Hunter is in the foreground

Along the southern section of Egypt, you will find an enormous Egyptian tomb, newly excavated and obviously have seen better days. It is the biggest building in the whole of USS so I kid you not when I said things here are mostly huge. This very impressive structure houses the equally exciting Revenge of the Mummy (RoTM) dark ride. Expect to be surprised, thrilled and awed by the experience as you twist and turn your way past flesh-eating scarabs, deadly mummies and Imhotep, the ‘Mummy’ itself. While similar to the rides from US Florida and US Hollywood, USS’ RoTM will have its own storyline and variations. And it promises to be one hell of a ride.

 On the right, the Egyptian facade where the Revenge of the Mummy is situated - check out how small a person is compared to the size of that monument!

  Close up of the columns to the right of the entrance

If you manage to get out alive and in one piece, drop by Carter’s Curiosities where you can get a hold of some of the excavated treasures. Looks like the archaeologists couldn’t wait to unload their discoveries.

Carter's Curiosities is right behind that rockwall

Now if you are not into thrilling coaster rides, along the northern shores of Egypt, bordering on the massive lagoon in the middle of USS, you can instead take a serene Treasure Hunters’ ride in an abandoned excavation site. Drive your jeep deep into the site while around you danger lurks in the form of wild animals and the ever deadly scarabs. Take in the treasures hastily abandoned while you wonder what made the excavators disappear without taking their findings along with them…

 Part of the Treasure Hunters attraction - work in progress

Feeling hungry? Head towards the Oasis Spice Café, where they served food from the archaeologists’ food stores. Just kidding! Here you can find Mediterranean, Indian and Malay cuisines served buffeteria style. So this promises a varied selection of food for discerning tastes. Enjoy your meal while surrounded by intricately done Egyptian wall murals, warm lighting and a great ambience. Skylight included.

 I just love the feel and ambience in the Oasis Spice Cafe, don't you?

 I’m also told there’s a building here that is of a rather mysterious sort. It looks great from the outside but no one really knows what is supposed to be inside. Some say that it is an outhouse. If it is, I’d say it is a very elaborate one at that, that’s for sure. Be sure to check it out.

Now, right beside the Café and in front of the RotM attraction, there is the Pharaoh’s Walkway leading all the way to the lagoon in the middle of USS. While not technically an ‘attraction’, this is a great place to experience, for a moment, life back in Ancient Egypt. Walk in the shadow of the towering Obelisk, flanked on both side by statues of kneeling Anubis as you head towards the viewing platform by the lagoon. There are plenty of photo opportunities with all these awesome backdrops.

 The Pharaoh's Walkway – this is taken while facing the Egyptian tomb with the obelisk and lagoon behind

There is something for everyone here. I just cannot wait to experience all these when the park opens. I’ll be seeing you next year at USS!

Monday, November 2, 2009

When giant lizards walked the earth…

Step into the Lost World of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park fame in one of Universal Studios Singapore (USS) heavily themed zones. Experience the lush jungles where every step you take may just be your last. Nestled in the easternmost part of USS (and the Integrated Resort), in between Ancient Egypt and Dreamworks, this zone currently houses 5 attractions, 2 F&B outlets and 2 Retail shops.

So what can you expect when you walk among the lizards?

Well for starters, definitely visit the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure. This attraction is a flume ride so you definitely need to be prepared to get yourselves wet! Based loosely on the blockbuster hit Jurassic Park and the sequels, this attraction have you revisit John Hammond’s (you still remember the grandfatherly old man?) Jurassic Park after it re-opened after days of torrential downpours. A routine Rapids Adventure through the safe regions of the park was disrupted due to flooding and the visitors (you included!) are thrust into an unplanned trip into unchartered territory. While there, come face to face with Velociraptors (raptors), Dilophosauruses (spitters) and the notorious Tyrannosaurus Rex (T-Rex) as you try to escape with your lives. Will you survive? Just wait and see.

 Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure - A section of the ride, water not filled yet!

Another major wow here is the WaterWorld (WW) attraction. Re-visit the oceans and human settlements set in the post-apocalyptic film world of the same name released back in 1995. Be awed by the spectacular and death-defying stunts as the Smokers (in WW speak, that’s the pirates and the bad guys) attacked the Atollers (the good guys) in an attempt to discover the secrets to Dryland (the Paradise). It culminates in a showdown between Deacon (of the Smokers) and Mariner (helping out the Atollers), both vying for Helen, the person with information to Dryland. There will be plenty of actions on jet-skis, lots of explosions and plenty of humour in the antics of the casts. Not to mention, a seaplane would also make an appearance. A fan classic from Universal Studios Hollywood and Japan, don’t miss this out. And for those sitting in the front rows, you will get wet.

Oh and did I mention this was a live show?


Amber Rock Climb – work in progress!

Rock climbing buffs will be interested in checking out the Amber Rock Climb, an actual rock climbing wall themed to the look of the Lost World. Climb the sheer rock face of the era filled with ambers and fossilized insects. And take in the breathtaking view at the top. Would there be some ‘treasure’ at the top? You’ll just have to find out.

Parents with children would not want to miss out visiting the Dino Soarin’, a carousel ride where the young ones can ride Pteranodons as they soar up into the skies and dive towards the ground, metaphorically speaking of course. Of course don’t forget the view from up there. Unfortunately, only children are allowed.

Canopy Flyer – part of the route, you can see the Dino Soarin’ in the foreground

If you are looking for a leisurely ride along the tree tops of the foliage, head over to the Canopy Flyer. Sit in a 4-person gondola under the wings of a Pteranodon as you glide across the Lost World zone. Take in the view of the other attractions and the central lagoon while you are up there.

Discovery Food Court-- Centerpiece

Don’t forget your souvenirs from the Jurassic Outfitters and the Dino-Store where you can obtain all sorts of paraphernalia. And if you are feeling hungry, just visit either of the two F&B outlets in this zone; a quick and fast meal over at Fossil Fuels or sit down in the Discovery Centre building and have a relaxing meal at the Discovery Food Court.

Once you are ready, it’s time to visit the other zones and attractions in the park! That, however, will have to wait until next time.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where ogres, penguins and a Dragon reign

Among the six zones in Universal Studios Singapore, DreamWorks is the largest in terms of footprint size; it takes up nearly the whole northern section of the park. In fact it may even be considered two zones!

Some of you may have read the press release announcing collaboration between USS and Dreamworks. If that has whet your appetite and you want to know a little bit more, dive on in!

This huge zone is separated into two distinctly themed areas: Far Far Away and Madagascar.

Far Far Away on the eastern region revolves around the fairy tale world of Shrek. Entering from the east, expect to be awed by the 40-metre high Far Far Away Castle as you pass under the castle wall’s archway to be greeted by attractions and sights featuring the now familiar names of Shrek, Gingerbread Man and of course the quirky Donkey, among others.

If you head towards the eastern wing of the castle, you’ll come across the Donkey LIVE show, where guests get to interact with the lovable Donkey in a theatre setting. I wonder whether there will be a real life Donkey character in there…

If you head towards the castle entrance proper, you will reach the location of Shrek 4-D. Be indulged in a whole new, never-been-seen-before Shrek adventure, where you’ll be in for a treat of 3-D cinematography, complete with special glasses as well as seats that come equipped with all kinds of (hidden) contraptions to bring your 3-D experience into the next dimension, hence the name Shrek 4-D.

Nestled in between Shrek 4-D (in the main keep) and Donkey LIVE (in the east wing), you’ll come across the Fairy Godmother’s Potion Shop, perfect for those looking for memorabilia and gifts to bring away. Not only that, right at the back of this shop, you’ll stumble across a miniature Ferris wheel, the Magic Potion Spin, an attraction in itself, where the countless potions for sale are actually made, or so we are made to believe! Hop on and maybe, just maybe, you may get sprinkled with some magical powers during the ride.

After all that, you can cross Romeo Drive and visit either Goldilocks Fried Chicken “Tastes just right!” or Friar’s Good Food (or both!) to quench your thirst and satiate your hunger. When your belly is full and you are ready to adventure on, head on west and…

You will see, on your left, the Enchanted Airways. This is merely a moniker for a ride on the back of a dragon! Hop onto the Dragon (that female dragon that’s enamored with Donkey) and coast along to sights from the World of Shrek. This ride is fit for the whole family, so parents can join their young children for this adventure.

It is then time to bid farewell to Shrek and friends. And it’s time to move it, move it to the land of the lemurs, the Foosa and the cast from Madagascar.

If you haven’t had enough to munch on previously, or if you want to try the tastes of Madagascar, head on to Casa de Wild right beside Far Far Away Castle. Or you can keep your tummy space for later and visit Madagascar: A Crate Adventure.

Follow the quartet of Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria of the Madagascar fame on their adventure after the ship they were on ended up beached on the shores of Madagascar. As this is a flume ride – a crate ride to be exact – be prepared to get slightly soaked while taking in the sights of lush jungles to forbidding volcano, to meeting the lemurs and the erratic King Julien. You may even get to show off some of your dance moves.

Of course we must not forget the surprisingly charming though thoroughly psychotic penguins; in fact they are undoubtedly the reason you – and the quartet – are stranded in Madagascar in the first place.

Once you are done saving the world (or saving the lemurs), grab some memorabilia and/or photos of yourself during the adventure on your way back out at the Penguin Mercantile – the penguins never fail in trying to take you unawares.

Right across the street, you will see the domain of the King Julien and the lemurs where you will find the King Julien’s Beach Party-Go-Round. This is a carousel ride meant for the young – sorry folks, adults not allowed. As the kids spin around, be prepared to be assailed by King Julien and his repertoire of high-energy dance music. Now if only he can shut up for a while…

After you get away from the incessant King Julien, now it’s time to eat some more! Visit either Gloria’s Snack Shack right beside the carousel or head back towards Casa de Wild.

And that’s about a short preview of Dreamworks. Phew! Right about now, I should be getting a nice pina colada at Gloria’s Snack Shack, if only I can fast forward into the future. I can wish, can’t I?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

So bowled over

Nearing the end of the year, construction work on site is moving into overdrive. However, off-site, things are ramping up as well.

If you happened to be walking past the bowling alley in Marina Square after work on Sep 16, I hope you were not shocked by the screams emanating from the group of over 80 Universal Studios Singapore Park Ops personnel having a game or two of bowling there.

Yup, they were feisty, they were loud and they were definitely screaming themselves hoarse. And all these were part of having fun of course.

Two buses were chartered for this first team building event, organized by the FUN Committee.

The participants, mostly garbed in the bright orange tees of Universal Studios Singapore vPark Ops, descended upon the quiet Marina Square on a cool drizzly night and turned it riotous. Starting from 7pm, for two hours, they bowled, howled (probably more than they bowled!) and had a blast.

Universal Studios Singapore's Park Ops' John Hallenback giving his speech

The captive audience

"When will his long lecture end?"

The event kicked off with some words of wisdom from John Hallenbeck, the USS Park Ops Director.

Not to be outdone, Nelson Chan (below), the event organizer, followed up with instructions on the flow of the night’s events.

Ater this, the group helped themselves to the buffet while the bowling lanes were opened for some trial throws. The event proper commenced at around 7:20pm and the screams didn’t subside until nearly two hours later.

The mad rush for food

Da Boss shows who's boss

Meanwhile the award for the team with the highest aggregate score went to team 17 comprising of Fu Shiqi, Paul Yuen, Chan Chee Wah, Huang Huimin and William Ang. They won a set of Vivocity shopping vouchers.

She bowled us over with her prowess..

The most-likely-to-improve awards went to Andrea Ng for her individual score and team 5, comprising of Joey Guo, Tan Qiuhua, Fey Cho, Joshua Nathaniel and Iffah Suhaila. They won the encouragement prizes: The Cruise to Nowhere AKA Float for Miss Andrea and Exotic Dinner AKA instant noodles for the team.

The winners of the 'exotic' dinner prize

She can't bowl, but now can float!

We are expecting great things from them the next time round!

Everyone gathered for a final round of photo-taking and there were, not surprisingly, more screams.

With more people coming on board as the time nears opening, future events would undoubtedly become larger in scale. And you can be sure they will definitely be ear-shatteringly loud indeed.

So pooped

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Who is Jimmy Sho?

Jimmy has been with RWS since October 2007. He joined the Projects team that is currently busy completing construction of the IR, specifically dealing with one of the attraction in the Universal Studios theme park.

The idea was to see what goes into the process of getting an attraction from the drawing boards all the way into reality.

His interest lies in a multitude of disciplines. His main and probably first long-lasting interest is in the written word. For the longest time since he could possibly remember, he loves to read: he prefers fiction but any well written (read: not dry) non-fiction works just fine.

He's currently especially interested in books on alternate history, psychology and morality. But he’s ready to pick up books from any genre: thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, adventure, romance, life, current issues, technical, self-help, magazines, reviews etcetera.

In fact if you have something to recommend, he would really love to hear them.

He also likes to share his thoughts but seldom professes to have much to share. At least that’s what he thinks. And that’s also the reason he gives for his constantly un-updated blogs – yes he has a few, though he should probably consolidate them all into one. Unfortunately (or rather perhaps fortunately since he seldom updates), he is probably only rambling about inane stuff. But he digresses...

When he’s not reading, he enjoys his computer games. He used to go on a gaming spree for up to 48 hours at a go. His friends reportedly mentioned that Jimmy once slept for 36 hours at a go. He refuses to validate or deny that statement.

He loves his RPG – role-playing games. But he’s always ready to play any games, as long as they are fun, has great gameplay, good storyline, excellent user interface. He doesn’t care much about graphics, music or sound effects – as long as they are good enough to bring across the message or mood; visceral and aural stimulation is secondary to the vast worlds his imagination allows him to visit.

He prefers games on the PC – nothing beats the control the mouse and keyboard gives, especially when matched against the clumsy controllers on the consoles (sorry, he remains thoroughly unconvinced that FPS – first person shooters – are worth playing on the consoles). Unfortunately, he has less and less time nowadays to commit himself to this passion of his.

That’s because...

Jimmy’s too busy indulging in two of his most recent ‘hobbies’: in-line skating and running. He dabbled with roller blades when he was still a young ‘un. It was only in December 2007 did he buy his first pair of in-line skates, the K2 Exo Alu, and he went nuts with them.

He went skating every Saturday and Sunday; he makes time if he couldn’t find time. He was so crazy about it he even tried skating after work on Fridays. Now that didn’t work out too well; the paths were a little too dark for his liking.

His favourite haunt was, and still is, the relatively straight and flat paths along East Coast Park. Distance and speed are his mainstay workout as he’s not yet limber or agile enough to perform the tricks of aggressive skating.

He took a break from skating, literally, after a bad fall in which he fractured his left humerus in May 2008. But that didn’t deter him and he’s back to it after a near 6-months hiatus. And still loving it.

You can usually find him breezing along East Coast Park on both weekends, unless he was taking a trip or running his legs jelly in a race in some other part of Singapore; sometimes you may even find him running a race at ECP.

So what was that about running?

After his 'failed experiment' skating after work on weekdays, he wondered if he could do something else. Something like... running! You just need a pair of good shoes, some lighting, a running path relatively free from vehicular access and you can run your heart out.

He started running sometime in February 2008 after being influenced by his friend to sign up for the Sundown Marathon 2008. Now perhaps you may think he’s crazy to sign up for such an extreme distance after 20 over years of near sedentary lifestyle and you are absolutely right, he was nuts!

Little did he know the pain people put themselves through running a marathon but ‘luckily’ for him, the accident with the skates put him off any physical activities for at least 3 months. As the marathon was slated for end of May 2008, that was definitely a no go.

Not feeling grateful that he missed out on his serving of pain, he signed up again for Sundown Marathon 2009. This time he ran, he wept, he walked, he limped and he practically crawled his way past the finish line.

And not merely content with the pain he suffered (and upset with his timing) he promptly signed up for the next marathon in town – the Standard Chartered Marathon 2009, held annually on the first Sunday in December.

In between marathons, he trains 3 times a week. Recently he has been participating in a multitude of ‘shorter’ distances races aka the 10-kms and 10-milers. He’s been trying to get in more long runs in between the hectic race schedules and also having enough rest so that he does not get himself injured.

Jimmy is now looking forward to his latest project: unloading his mundane ramblings weekly. Hopefully the masses wouldn’t just disappear like the dodo bird when his mind starts wandering and his fingers start dancing.