Had a pleasant break from the daily routine on October last month, so Wifey and I decided to book a flight to our neighboring country of Merlion and spend an entire weekend there. We had actually been eyeing to visit Singapore for quite some time ever since return flights from Surabaya got ridiculously cheaper and cheaper with budget airlines introducing new flight routes from Surabaya. We got the return tickets for roughly USD 100 each. The price could get even cheaper if we had booked our flights waaaaaaayy before the departure date, but we could not confirm our schedule soon enough to grab those bargains.
Anyways, the three days spent there was quite enjoyable as we could do what most Indonesians would do when visiting the country of Merlion: take a selfie in front of Universal Studio Singapore globe (with tongsis of course)!
Nah… I’m just messing with you.. But we did visit the theme park on our first day there 🙂
Universal Studio Singapore (or as people call it there, USS)
The theme park that got opened in 2010 is located in Resort World Sentosa. The place is accessible via the adjoining VivoCity shopping mall located on Singapore mainland across the Sentosa island. Both Singapore MRT and bus service have a station directly connected to the shopping mall, so going there was quite a breeze.
There are several ways to get across to Sentosa island. The most convenient way to do is via Sentosa Resort Monorail service. This monorail service costs SGD 4 for one day unlimited ride back and forth. The ticket can be purchased via automatic vending machine in front of the monorail entrance gate on the top floor of VivoCity shopping mall. As I discovered later, you can also use your MRT card to get into the train platform, but doing so only grant you one way ride to Sentosa island. Other means of transportation include cable cars and shuttle bus service from the same shopping mall that I didn’t get to try. If you are feeling up to it, you can also take 20 minutes walk across the bridge to the island at no cost at all!
There are three monorail stops on the island, and USS is located at Waterfront Station which is the first stop that you will come across. The ticket to enter the park can be bought at the ticket counter located in VivoCity before boarding the monorail, which costs SGD 78 per ticket for an adult. Though in our case, we had bought our tickets from a local travel agent before we went to Singapore for as low as SGD 60!
Asking Google-sensei certainly paid off since I got to discover bargains like these. As it turns out, USS actively promotes its theme park to foreign tourists by issuing bargain tickets that is not only priced cheaper than buying on the spot, but also include meal and shopping voucher that will instantly give SGD 5 discounts each with a minimum purchase of SGD 10 inside the park!
USS was very exciting place that made us felt that we weren’t in Singapore at all. The atmosphere inside was very different with real and mock buildings built with contrast architecture that reminded me of New York, Hollywood, Egypt, and even Jurassic Park forest or fairy tale castle that I’ve only seen in movies and TVs. You can easily spend an entire day inside the park and feel excited all the time with the park rides and attractions.
Speaking of park rides, USS has various rides that can appeal to any age. While I would love to try them all, I didn’t think I would last an entire day if I queued on each of the rides. I had to pick several that interest me the most, such as Transformers the Ride, in-door rollercoaster The Mummy Returns, and Madagascar boat ride that is actually a doll house filled with all the lovely animals in the movie.
Out of all the rides that I tried, I’d have to say that Transformers is my favorite. I got to sit on a car that would rock and move in sync with the movies that are projected on the walls of the ride as we moved along. The movie uses 3D technology so all of us must wear a special glass to enjoy the 3D effect. There are also other effects such as real flames and water splash that makes the movie quite life-like. The Mummy Returns is also a must ride where you can enjoy the thrill of getting trapped inside a pyramid while being chased by spirits and other grotesque living beings in a pitch black atmosphere. They helped me alleviate my disappointment since the number one ride that I wanted to try, the BattleStar Galactica rollercoaster, wasn’t operational that day 🙁
Should you want to just relax and enjoy the park, you can also watch various shows that got performed by professional actors and entertainers in the park. I got to watch the live rendition of The Muppet Show with all the lovely characters that accompanied me ever since my childhood (Elmo is still the cutest!) You have to pay attention to the show schedule as they are only played on certain time. You can also take pictures with various characters that got affiliated with Universal, ranging from Woody Woodpecker to an actress imitating the infamous Marilyn Monroe! The actress was the most popular character in the park as I saw a lot of dudes got excited queueing just to have a chance being snapped along with her. I probably would also join the queue myself should I not come with Wifey.. (^^’)
We finally left the park around four in the afternoon after we toured all of the attractions inside. Since the sun had not set yet, we decided to visit the Singapore most famous shopping street which is only six MRT stops apart from VivoCity.
The glamorous (and helluva expensive) Orchard Road
Orchard Road is by far the most famous shopping street in Singapore. The street that spans for about 2.2 km is surrounded with shopping malls, luxurious hotels and business buildings from end to end. We would love to venture the interesting places around the street, but our legs were reaching their limit and we could barely stand or even walk. We decided to stop by at two places there, namely Lucky Plaza and Takashimaya department store.
I have heard from my Indonesian colleagues that Lucky Plaza is the place if you would like to search for bargains at Orchard. The place is filled with kiosks and small shops that remind me of local shopping arcade for emerging economy class (ITCs anyone?) I found a lot of trading companies that sell many imported goods from other countries, ranging from Japanese goods, Indians curry, and even Indonesian instant noodles. I bought one muscular ache balm in one of those shops to ease my aching thigh due to prolonged walk in Singapore, which I don’t get used to do in Surabaya since I always use car or bike to get whenever I want to go. We were tempted to buy several things there, but we held our urges so we didn’t regret if we find better bargain afterwards (and we glad we did! more on that later)
With nothing to buy, we went to our next destination Takashimaya which is located just across the street. The department store is accessible via an underpass from Lucky Plaza. I was about to visit the main Kinokuniya Singapore bookstore inside the mall to buy a book published by my favorite independent Singaporean comic artist Evacomics, only to find that the place was temporarily closed for renovation!
Feeling dejected, we decided to just eat there and headed straight to the basement floor where the food court is located. Since we were at a Japanese department store, we decided to eat at Japanese beef bowl franchise a.k.a. Yoshinoya that we loved so much during our trip to Japan. We were quite lucky as we found that all of the shops were having a special promotion menu to commemorate Takashimaya Singapore anniversary! We had a complete set of meals for two added with extra desserts, fruits and side dishes at 40% off the normal price.
Our journey for the day ended after that as we could hardly feel our legs anymore, but the excitement continued in the second day! After we rested our feet, of course..