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A trip to Universal Studios in Singapore arouses childlike enthusiasm in Swetha Amit and provides her a quick visit back into childhood
-By Swetha Amit
Theme parks have always been a fascination for children. Fairyale and Disney characters and magical roller coaster rides make a visit to a theme park a joyful experience. The trip ends up being a treat for adults as well, who get a rare chance to bring out the child in them, making it a must-visit place irrespective of its location around the world. Inaugurated in March-April 2010, Universal Studios in Singapore has gained popularity in no time.
The grand entry: Situated right next to Sentosa, Universal Studios seemed to overshadow it. As we entered the fantasy land, we were greeted by colourful candy carts and Kung Fu Panda posing for photographs. We joined the long queue waiting to click pictures and got our turn and a warm hug from Panda. It helped that we had a map of the studio to find our way around. It was divided into seven theme sections, each of which had its attractions, namely rides, souvenir shops and restaurants serving global cuisine.
We like to move it, move it: We paid a visit to the characters of the well-known animation film Madagascar at the park. The theme of the section revolved around the four main characters in the movie, namely the lion, giraffe, zebra and hippopotamus and the group of eccentric penguins. After clicking photographs, we went to join King Julian’s Tea Party Ride, a simple merry-go-round with merry characters and lively music in the background. It was a pleasant five minutes when we became children all over again.
The Kingdom of Far Far Away: The next theme section was centred around another popular and well-loved animation character called Shrek. The first attraction was a spectacular Shrek 4D adventure where we got an opportunity to hear, feel and see the characters in close proximity. The second attraction was the Enchanted Airways, which was a roller coaster ride. We flew over the Kingdom of Far Far Away and beyond. The other features in this section included The Donkey Live Show, which was an interactive singing session, and a Magic Potion Spin only for children. The latter was a miniature giant wheel which proved to be a treat for the young ones, as they were spun around for a good five minutes. After a ‘happily ever after’ experience, we geared up to go back in time to encounter some extinct species.
Dinosaurs and more: The Lost World was like walking into a Steven Spielberg thriller. Our first ride was probably one of the best. As we entered this section, we were instructed to buy plastic raincoats at the counter as there was a possibility of us getting drenched. We waited patiently in the long line for the Jurassic Park Rapid adventure and presently headed to the circular raft. Fastening our seatbelts, we entered the primeval habitats of the gigantic species. Every corner had a thrill in store and we couldn’t help but give a shriek or two. The special effects were well-executed along with the lifelike cutouts of dinosaurs everywhere. The end took us by surprise. We glided down the stream into darkness only to find the ride coming to an end.
After the excitment of the ride, we opted for the milder Dino Soaring next, a merry-go-around with friendly-looking baby dinosaurs as seats and buttons for moving up and down. The other attractions included Canopy Flyer, which was another roller coaster, and a rock-climbing ride; both didn’t quite catch our fancy.
Water water everywhere: An interesting poster of the Water World caught our attention and words like death-defying stunts enticed us to go see the show. The artists poured water on the audience in a friendly greeting. There were some spectacular stunts and explosions. The high-risk stunts left us gaping in awe.
Mystical mummies: We then entered the realm of the pharaohs, ‘Ancient Egypt’. Our first ride in this section was The Revenge of the Mummy, which was a psychological thriller. We entered a dungeon to board the ride, which passed through a never-ending twisting and turning passage. The eerie land had mummies and pharaohs out to seek ruthless revenge. Scary booming voices, special effects and the roller coaster left us gasping for breath. The second ride is designed primarily for young children. It was called the Treasure Hunt. Children could drive their own desert jeep through an abandoned Egyptian excavation site. The large line put us off and we decided to explore the other theme sections instead.
Sci-fi reality: To our amazement, this part of the studios was practically empty. There were only three rides in this area. The first two were called cyclone rides, which, with their massive appearance and descriptions of whirling upside down, scared crowds away. No one dared to board them. We opted for a milder one called the Accelerator. There were circular seats, reminding us of a cup and saucer, that whirled us around for a good five minutes. Feeling a little dizzy and hungry at the same time, we decided to grab a bite. After which we proceeded to New York City.
New York: Universal Studios left us marvelling in admiration at this unique section. They had created a miniature of New York City. The bright yellow cabs, the bustling streets and the coffee shops made us feel that we were actually in the Big Apple. We gazed around in awe and clicked a few pictures. The main attraction was a light-and-sound show hosted by the renowned director Steven Spielberg. After a video of a welcome speech, we proceeded to watch a hurricane hit the city. The special effects were riveting as we felt caught amidst nature’s fury.
Hollywood: This was the last section of the theme park. The sole attraction was the Pantages Hollywood Theatre. This was a musical show about the infamous Universal Classic Monsters. However, we couldn’t watch it as we arrived late and the last show for the day had already begun. We chose to visit the merchandise section instead and browsed around for a while. The day was ending and we were quite tired after long hours of walking around. We seated ourselves on a bench in the Kingdom of Far Far Away awaiting our chauffeur. To our immense delight, a jovial Puss in Boots strolled by. Forgetting our fatigue, we shook hands and clicked photographs.
Our fantasy trip ended and we headed back to the real world. We look back at our visit to the theme park rather wistfully. It had been a joyful tryst with a part of our childhood, making it worth another trip.
Some useful points:
1. Book the tickets to Universal Studios online before your visit to avoid disappointment.
2. One can go on as many rides as many times as one wants.
3. Avoid going on weekends as it gets very crowded.
4. Carry a plastic raincoat or umbrella as Singapore receives light showers during late afternoon throughout the year.
5. Some rides do not permit one to carry cameras or water bottles; however, Universal Studios offers locker room facilities.
When to visit: Singapore is a year-round destination.
How to get there: Major cities around the world have direct flights to Singapore.