Wednesday 5 September 2012

Universal Studios Singapore - Trip Report

I woke up last Thursday at around 2am, as you do when you have absolutely no structure to your life. I was sitting at my computer procrastinating, using the time I should have been spending to catch up on the poker grind that I'd recently taken a 5 week break from to read about various completely random and unimportant stuff on Wikipedia.

I came across an article about Universal Studios that opened in Singapore last year and it looked awesome, especially the incredible 'Transformers: The Ride'. Some minutes later I had booked myself onto the 7am flight to go there that same day. Possibly one of the most impulsive things I've ever done. I was going to have to do a visa run in about 10 days time anyway, so that's kinda how I justified the cost to myself.... yeah.

Taxi For Dale

I left my condo at 5:35am. It's a smooth 20 minutes to the airport at that time in a taxi, which left me with 20 minutes of leeway, as check-in closes 45 minutes before departure. There are a bazillion taxis in Bangkok 24/7 and I'd bet my left nut that I could get one within a few minutes, even at that time.

The building next to my condo is a hotel, and all hotels in Bangkok have taxis that wait outside looking to scam stupid tourists who don't know how easy it is to get a taxi, or the fact that it's illegal for them not to use their meter. There were two taxis waiting outside and I'd normally never entertain using them, but they were just sitting there with their thumbs up their arse doing nothing at stupid o'clock so I thought I'd have a go at getting them to take me on the meter like a regular honest taxi driver, and save myself the 2 minute walk to the main road in the process.

I usually get the 'Thai price' for most things just by approaching vendors using some very basic Thai language. I'd like to think that them giving me the fair price is them showing me respect for bothering to learning their language, unlike the majority of foreigners they encounter, but it's more likely that they just know I must have been living here long enough to know how much things really cost. So, I walked up to the taxi blokes and said (whole conversation in Thai) "I want to go to Suvarnabhumi airport", immediate response was "how much?", to which I replied "not how much, use meter". The pricks laughed at me like I just said the most ridiculous thing ever. Yes, so completely ridiculous for me to want someone to do their job without trying to steal from me. Feckin' arseholes.

As I turned away from them one of them shouted "OK, 400 Baht". Now, I've taken this exact journey many, many times and I know it is roughly 180 Baht (£3.65 GBP / $5.75 USD) on the meter. I started to walk away and they were shouting "300 Baht", then quickly "200 Baht" - barely more than the meter price, but I decided that if they wanted my money they would have to take LESS than the meter price and I turned around and shouted "150 Baht" which got them laughing again, and I went on my way.

As I approached the main road, where around 30 taxis pass per minute, one of the taxi blokes that I was negotiating with a minute earlier drove up beside me, rolled down the window and said "OK, I take you airport, use meter". Not speaking Thai any more, I told him "nah mate, 150 Baht is your lot, take it or leave it." to which I got a mouth full of abuse. Well, I assume it was abuse, the only word I understood was "farang" which is what Thais call white foreigners.

I insta flagged down a legit taxi and as I went to open the door, the same geezer was shouting across at me "Ok, 150 Baht, let's go". After all that carry on, trying to rip me off, it turned out he was so desperate for a fare that he was willing to accept my lowball offer. Regardless, I just shook my head at him and got in the legit taxi. I think if I had went with that guy at that point he'd have probably accidentally, on-purpose, taken me in the opposite direction of the airport or something. As we drove off the geezer was leaning out his window shouting and screaming abuse "blah blah blag FARANG" etc. etc.

You hardly ever see a Thai person lose their temper in public. It's a huge faux pas in their culture. So I must have reeeeeeally pissed him of, haha, great. A fun and amusing start to my trip and I hadn't even left for the airport yet.

Some of you probably wonder why I even bother about paying pennies extra on a taxi service that is already one of the cheapest in the world, especially while in the process of splashing out a lot of money to fly to a theme park in another country. Well, it's not about the money, it's the principal. What those taxi bastards do, along with all the other tourist scams, is illegal and screwing over honest people who visit Thailand. So I will screw with them when ever I can to teach them a lesson.


There were more fun and games before I'd even gotten my ass out of the country. I was waiting in the queue for exit immigration which was about five minutes long and there was a family behind me, with the dad of the family standing so close behind me that he was actually touching me. If that wasn't irritating enough, the guy smelled of some eau de rank, some disgusting BO / shit combination. Extremely foul. He also kept shouting at his little annoying brat kids in 'foreign' (I'll leave their nationality / ethnicity out of it because all countries and races have their arseholes, some more than others I might add, but no doubt some PC cretin reading this would give it the old "what does it matter if he's an X, you sir are racist!" line.).

When the people in front of me in the queue moved forward a bit I tried to leave a larger than usual gap, so that I could have a bit of a buffer to move forward into if this clown got right up my arse again, which he did. But it was useless, as soon as I moved forward he was right behind me with every step. So the next time the people in front of me moved forward, I just stood there, not moving as I knew that would piss him off. There was a meter and a half gap between me and the person in front when the man tapped me on the shoulder and sharply pointed forward with an arrogant look on his face, as if I was the idiot here and he was showing me how to behave in a queue, the twat. I'm British, I know how to bloody queue. I've had enough bloody practise.

I realise that the bloke was probably in a hurry to get to the end of the queue, but you really have to be quite special to think that you're going to reach the end of a queue any faster by constantly moving up as close as possible to the person in front of you.

I put the small rucksack that was in my hand onto my back with both straps. I could still feel him pressed up against the bag but the small amount of extra distance it kept me from this smelly, loud, obnoxious imbecile was something at least. Nearing the end of the queue though, I was starting to absolutely hate my life. Well, more so that I was absolutely hating that guy and his annoying family with every fibre of my being. Like the great Stevesbets once said "I seriously hate you so much I can't breathe". But to be honest, the smell of the guy was also a major contributing fact as to why I couldn't breathe.

In a last ditch attempt to get this guy to back the f off I started shimmying from side to side so that the straps on the back of my bag would rub against him. It's kinda like when a dog does something wrong, you hit it, and it doesn't like pain so it stops doing the thing that is wrong. This guy was very much dumber than a dog though.

None to pleased about having my bag scraped across his chest and bare arms, he started having a real go at me. Great, the second man to shout and scream at me in the space of an hour and the day had barely begun. He was asking my why I was acting like an idiot and a child. Quite ironic considering how he could barely control his own restless, idiotic children that were with him. He was going off on one while his ugly wife was looking at me in disgust and shaking her head. The cheeky cow. I didn't even say a single word back to him, completely calm I just smiled while he ranted at me. I didn't need to bring myself down to his level by getting in a shouting match. I feel like I win by having the self control to remain in a calm state while this guy loses the plot an inch away from my face.

"Blah, blah, blah" he continued to rant at me. I didn't hear a word he said, I was too distracted by his wife's moustache. I just stood there, staring at her, thinking about how much pleasure I'd get from slapping a wax-strip onto her and ripping those dirty, nasty whiskers right off her stupid face.

It wasn't long before the airport policemen stepped in to see what all the barny was about. I pointed to the guy and said "ai hee-ah bah mak mak", which literally means "Mr Lizard is very, very crazy". Sounds stupid but it's a hugely strong insult in Thai language. It's basically saying that the person is as low, slimy and horrible as is possible. The police burst into laughter, and after pausing for a few seconds of not knowing what was going on, he started ranting towards the police and pointing at me. I just shrugged my shoulders, smiled and shook my head.

I was very polite towards the police and they let me through to the booth to get my passport stamped without any hassle. As I looked back they had taken Mr Lizard and his lizard family off to the side to have a word and/or calm him down. I sincerely hope he ended up missing his flight because of it. He was acting like a complete lunatic because he wrongly thought I was holding him up in the queue, resulting in him being held up by the police. Poetic justice.

Universal Studios

My flight arrived in Singapore at 10:15am local time and I got to Universal Studios on Sentosa Island by 11am, only an hour after they opened. It was an off peak day (weekday in late August) so it wasn't busy. I paid extra for an Express Pass anyway because I didn't go the hassle of flying there from another country just to spend time standing in queues.

The first ride I went for was Transformers: The Ride.

My expectations were extremely high based on what I'd read and seen about it online but I am pleased to say that I was still absolutely blown away by the experience. It is hands down the best theme park ride I've ever been on in my entire life. Simply breath taking.

The ride involved getting strapped into an Evac Autobot which is actually a high-tech flight simulator capsule. You are then thrown around an incredibly realistic Transformers universe that is created by massive wrap-around high definition 3D projection screens that cover 100% of your vision.

It is so incredibly realistic. The 3D is so good that you want to reach out and touch stuff. You genuinely feel like you are in the middle of a battle in a Transformers movie. It's really is tough to describe just how good it is as none of the reviews or videos of it can do it justice. It's something that you just need to experience for yourself.

After the Transformers sickness any other ride in the park was bound to seem lame. I really should have left it for later instead of blowing my load so soon. I did a few of the more "kiddy" rides like Madagascar: A Crate Adventure, which is a leisurely indoor boat ride with a bunch of animatronics. I think most people my age would find rides like that to be incredibly lame, but I enjoy them somewhat, just not as much as the thrill rides.

I walked past the Transformers ride again. The Express Pass that I got only lets you use the express queue once for each ride, and I'd already used it, but I noticed that there was no visible queue and the Wait Time sign read 5 Minutes. So obviously I went on it again, and again, and again.....

I found it really incredible that the best ride in the whole park, and one of the best theme park rides in the whole world didn't even have a queue. Especially when some of the piss poor rides like The Mummy themed Treasure Hunters had long, long queues, up to 50 minutes in the non-express line. But then I looked around and realised that almost everyone in the park were families with small children. All of the epic thrill rides have height restrictions so none of the little kids can go on them, and their parents are not going to be able to leave them alone to use the ride themselves. So that right there eliminates the majority of customers in the park from the best rides. Fantastic!

The second ride(s) I was most looking forward to riding, after Transformers, was the Battlestar Galactica roller coasters. This is the major thrill ride at Universal Studios.  

Just as I was on my way to Battlestar Galactica it started slashing down with extremely heavy rain. When I got there there was no queue at all, and I figured they probably closed the ride during the rain because it's outdoors. Nope, it seems that people just like staying dry more than they like riding badass roller coasters. Idiots. Not me though, I'm Scottish, I've spent most of my life getting soaked in the rain. Most of the time in freezing temperatures and high winds. In Singapore when it rains it's still over 30C degrees, so it's wet but still hot. Easy game.

For the hour that the rain lasted I went on the rides so many times that I lost count. It was friggin' awesome.

The Battlestar Galactica coasters are two tracks intertwined, with a "Human" ride and a "Cyclone" ride that are launched at the same time. The Cyclone one was by far the most extreme, it's a suspended ride as opposed to Human which is seated. and has some awesome inversions in the form of a zero-g roll, a cobra roll, corkscrews and vertical loops. The best part was the the fast vertical drop that makes you think you're about to smash into the ground at high speed, but is actually a deep pit filled with thick artificial fog.

My third favourite part of Universal Studios, after Transformers and Battlestar Galactica was Mel's Drive-In. Not a ride, but one of the many food and beverage outlets. Outside in the parking lot there were cute girls singing songs from the 50s / 60s. I was watching them and clapping along for quite some time and all three of them blew me a kiss *blush*.

But to hell with the cute girls in the parking lot. And heeeeeello to the beautiful junkfood inside the diner. Lots of tasty burgers and hotdogs on the menu. I recommend the deliciously unhealthy Shiok Burger.

I managed to go on every ride before the park closed at the stupidly early time of 7pm. The Express Pass was certainly worth paying for. Notable rides / performances were:

Shrek 4D: A 20 minute Shrek movie in 4D (moving seats etc.).
Waterworld: Based on the movie, a performance show with stunts and pyrotechnics.
Revenge of the Mummy: Indoor rollercoaster, a million times better than the other Mummy ride called Treasure Hunters which is lolbad.
Monster Rock: A rock show / musical featuring a bunch of monsters from the movies (Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, Wolfman, Phantom of the Opera etc.) that was very enjoyable.

I had a lot of fun at Donkey Live. It's a show in a small theatre with Donkey from the Shrek movies "live on stage". He's actually an animation on a huge screen, and he talks to the hostess girl, and later the audience. At first I thought this was fake and lame, because it seemed clear to me that it was Eddie Murphy's voice and that the hostess was just having a rehearsed conversation with a pre-recorded video.

But then Donkey started making some observations about the audience and I wasn't so sure. It seemed too slick to be fake. When he was trying to guess which country we were in based on what the audience looked like his fifth guess was "I know, we're in CALIFORNIA U-S-A, woooooo. That guy in the yellow t-shirt in the second row, that's Justin Bieber, right?". Yeah, I was the white guy in the second row with the yellow t-shirt. The whole theatre was looking at me and laughing. Very embarrassing but very funny.

It was clearly a live actor behind the Donkey character on the screen doing an amazing Eddie Murphy / Donkey voice impression. He had some some real good banter with the audience. What I thought was going to be lame was actually really cool and enjoyable.

Night Safari

After Universal Studios closed I went to Singapore Zoo for their Night Safari. It's pretty far out of the city but it's open until midnight so it didn't matter that it took me bloody ages to get there.

I've never had the chance to visit a zoo at night time before so it was a unique experience. The weather is much cooler at night, and you get driven along in a tram with a guide. So it's nice and easy and comfortable. I think it was easily the nut choice for something to do at night on my own in Singapore.


I checked into a small hotel in Chinatown. Unfortunately I seemed to have chosen a hotel for hobbits, at least judging by the size of the room.  Since I just wanted to use it to sleep overnight then check out in the morning the size of the room wasn't such a big deal, and the price was right. It cost about 1/3 of the price I paid for accommodation on my last Singapore visit.

I sorted a flight back to Bangkok the next day at 10pm so I'd have a whole second day free to do.... stuff. I didn't really know what stuff I wanted to do, and I didn't bring my laptop so it was hard to research. So I started my day with a wander around Chinatown.

There's lots of culture etc. etc. etc. but I could barely bring myself to give a damn. I went into some massive pagoda building where there were loads of tour buses parked outside, so it must be really cool and interesting, right? Meh. I just wasn't in the mood so I GTFO.

Sentosa Island

I ended up back at Sentosa Island where Universal Studios is. There's a bunch more cool stuff to do on the island. I started with a trip to the beach, but damn it was hot, I got there around midday and it was 39C degrees.

I didn't last long in that damn heat. I headed for the shelter of a nice shaded beach-side bar for a tasty Pina Colada and a Salmon Sandwich.

Elsewhere on the island I visited Sentosa 4D Magix where there are two 4D rides (Pirates and Log Ride) and an interactive first-person shooting game (Wild West theme on the back of a horse). Not overly amazing but a decent enough way to spend an hour.

I also took a trip on the Cable Car which has an Angry Birds theme to it.

I rounded the day off with a steak sandwich at Hard Rock Cafe then got my ass to the airport fairly early, direct via the metro for only a couple of bucks. Changi airport is the best in the world in my opinion and the only airport I would purposely want to arrive at early.

I plugged my phone into the free charging pods, played some free video games and watched a free movie in the free cinema. Although that movie was "We Bought A Zoo", so clearly not worth paying for anyway.

It felt weird to travel to another country for such a short period of time, maybe I should have stayed longer, but it was completely unplanned. These days I'm not really used to planning anything beyond what and where my next meal will be. Perhaps I'll take another cool trip soon though.

1 comment:

  1. I've had so many bad Taxi experiences in Asia, worst was India where they will frequently charge 350 rupees for a 30 rupee journey, and they pounce on you after you got of a long bus journey and just want to get to your hotel, then they have the cheek to ask you for a tip or try and take you to there 'uncles' tailor shop.