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.