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Guide to 2013 Countdown parties in Singapore

CD2013

Note: Click here for the latest guide on 2013-2014 Countdown events. This page is outdated and only has last year’s events.

Not sure where to party this New Year’s Eve? Here is a handy guide to the 2012-2013 countdown parties in Singapore!

This entry will be continuously updated as new information is available. Do bookmark this page and check regularly for updates.


Quick Links

Siloso Beach Party (Sentosa)
Supernova Countdown 2013 at Universal Studios Singapore (USS)
Marina Bay Singapore Countdown 2013
Celebrate 2013 (The Float @ Marina Bay)

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Natsu Matsuri 2011

Entrance Ticket

Natsu Matsuri, or Japanese Summer Festival, is an annual event held at The Japanese School (Primary Level) in Changi, Singapore. Highlights include festival games, performances and a bazaar sprawling across almost all major hallways at ground level.

Although I knew about this event for years, I have not been to the festival until mere days ago. This is the first time I secured my admission ticket before the event, thanks to Dwight and his connections at the NUS Japanese Studies Society. Each ticket costs $2 – just a token fee – but the most important thing is getting tickets BEFORE the event, so that you could bypass the long line outside the school and enter the festival compound quickly.


Entrance
The queue is actually 6-7 times longer than what it appears here.

There are actually 3 lines at the festival: Queue to buy tickets, queue for those with tickets on hand, and queue for those who wish to rent yukatas. Yukata and Obi goes for $2 and $1 respectively and can be worn throughout the evening until the festival programme ends.

Yukata zone

As for the bazaar, it’s a mix of the usual Japanese snacks, such as Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, to bento boxes and some unusual treats – the infamous candy apple for example, which gets sold out within the first hour of the festival. Food here is slightly marked up compared to outside, but hey, it’s really all about the atmosphere here! As for the merchandise available here, well, there was a stall selling some figurines at fire-sale prices. If you are in the market for Japanese trinkets, there were quite a selection available. There was even a random nubox outlet selling accessories for Apple products(?!). The main problem really was getting around because of crowd issues, despite the organiser’s efforts.

School Grounds
School Grounds

The expansive grass field is most people would end up later in the evening, either to enjoy their picnics in the open and/or watch the performances. Festival games are located at a far corner of the field.

Game Coupon

Festival Games (as in, the “official” games conducted by the event organisers) cost $2 per game round. One tip: Buy game tickets early if they are offered for sale by roving staff members! The queue to buy tickets at the game booths are just as long as the line to ENTER the school. Anyway back to games: there were three stalls this year.

Yoyo Tsuri
Yoyo Tsuri

Yo-yo Tsuri, or “Yo-yo Fishing” involves picking up a floating water balloon from a pool of water. The thing is, you are only given a “W” shaped hook that is attached to a curious white “string”. Sounds easy? Unfortunately most players end up catching nothing! Well, the white string is just rolled tissue paper. The game keepers are kind though, and give away “sympathy” water balloons even if one fails. The trick here is to find the lighter balloons – those that are floating higher than the rest. I managed to catch one water balloon (which had barely any water), but made the mistake of swishing the hook around to get a better view of the rubber band loops – the paper broke when I tried to lift another balloon.

Shooting Game
Shooting Game

The second game, which I will just call Shooting Game uses NERF guns instead of the traditionally seen BB guns, thanks to local regulations. One game coupon gives you just two foam bullets – it is more of a game of luck than skill. Prizes include well, Collon biscuits, pocket notebooks (which go for $0.30 outside ??!) and some toys for children (the real prizes).

"Pull String" game

The last game is Senbonbiki (千本引き). I don’t know what’s the right translation but most people call it the “Pull String” or “Lucky String” game. Each game station is a box with a lot of strings from the centre. These strings are connected to items flowing out from the sides of the box. To play this game you simply have to choose a string and pull it, causing an item to rise. You just win that. Prizes range from small packs of snacks, cute trinkets, toys and even shockingly, the worst prize possible: a bottle of mineral water.

Since this is really based on luck, there really aren’t any strategies at all. There are three lines for this game, each with a different choice of toys: Boys, Girls and Unisex.

Natsu Matsuri

The last event at Natsu Matsuri is the Bon Odori, which is a sort of dance around the stage at the grass field. Everyone is encouraged to take part in this simple, rhythmic dance which lasts for about 90 minutes. I didn’t stay late enough for most of the Bon Odori though.

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The Grand Opening of Universal Studios Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore - Grand Opening 2011 - Parade 17

Universal Studios Singapore marked an important milestone on 28th May 2011 with a glitzy, action-packed event filled with celebrities and a grand procession show.


2014 Remaster – Happy USS 3rd Anniversary!


In Celebration of Universal Studios Singapore’s 3rd Anniversary, this entry has received the Remaster Enhancement treatment. I have revisited the digital negatives and re-processed the photographs taken back in 2011. Apart from improved colour, clarity and consistency with my current visual aesthetic, there are also some photos that are published for the very first time. This is an opportunity to relive the magic of the Grand Opening Celebration. Enjoy!


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RSAF Open House ’11


Entrance Gateway

Paya Lebar Airbase is open to public again this year as part of Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Open House 2011. As I am currently part of MINDEF, I snapped on the chance to visit the open house on a preview day and show my support during office hours. It was also field trip day for students – the whole airbase was packed with chatty youngsters, many with DSLRs coupled with large zoom lenses in their hands. The organisers were not very strict at admissions though, there was no ID checks or anything – essentially it is “sort of” open to public.

If you like to know more about RSAF’s organisational structure, the people behind RSAF, its Air defense arsenal/capabilities or just love aircraft in general, then you should go to the RSAF Open House. It is also a good place to “sight-see” photography equipment, for obvious reasons!

And for those who goes to such events for freebies, the goodie bag I received has the following items: A cap, a fan, a bottle of water, a small carton of Milo, a tattoo sticker, two magnets, a fighter jet-shaped mobile phone charm thing and.. a yellow highlighter (which ironically, most random but will be very useful when term starts!)

Since it is a free event, why not just make a trip down? Details can be found here:
http://www.mindef.gov.sg/rsafopenhouse/


Some of the new aircraft “premiering” at this Open House include the F-15SG – one display was accompanied by a very neatly arranged chain of highly polished rounds:

F-15SG

20mm rounds

Some of the of pilots were around to give an in-depth tour of some aircraft’s controls. They even made the effort to explain all the complicated stuff to children:


Guided cockpit experience

Guided cockpit experience

There were also three Arming demonstrations, here is one of them (AH-64D):

AH-64D Arming Demo

AH-64D Arming Demo

AH-64D Arming Demo

In my opinion, this open house felt a little underwhelming, especially when compared to the Navy Open House, which had a lot more things to see and do. Due to the layout of the airbase, there are a lot more sparse walking areas than actual attractions (the aircraft and related equipment) which were all very closely packed and swamped by photographers (like myself, I’d admit). The most interesting attraction of the Navy Open House was the large variety of ship tours (non-moving), all guided by the actual ship crew, as well as the very fun and exciting ship rides! Okay – to be fair it is not exactly possible to do the same with aircraft.

The RSAF Open House is primarily an outdoor event, although it does also offers two exhibition halls with indoor displays, as well as a “Food Village” situated inside gloomy, air-conditioned hall. There is also a rock climbing wall (???) which I thought was rather irrelevant.

There were no “rides” available on the staff/school preview days. Probably because air fuel surcharge is on the rise lately. Haha.


RSAF

AS332M

Bridge

C-130 Hercules

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Madagascar: A Crate Adventure

Madagascar: A Crate Adventure

Madagascar: A Crate Adventure (MCA) is an attraction based on the successful Madagascar film franchise. It is a gentle river boat ride designed for children. The official ride description explains: Join our four heroes – Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria – on a river boat adventure as you arrive at the shores of Madagascar. Defeat the foosas at the rim of the bubbly volcano cauldron with the aid of the technically-savvy but psychotic penguins.

While this ride is supposed to be one of the park’s “E-ticket”* attraction, this attraction can be best described as a C or D-ticket ride when compared to other attractions at an international level.

*Informal designation for a theme park’s potentially popular or “Grade-A” attraction.

The attraction was supposed to be operating a year ago but was met with unfortunate delays – rumoured to be caused by some accidents and design issues with certain technical aspects of the attraction. The attraction went through a major overhaul and some elements, such as a second level and a drop at the finale, were scrapped in the final version of the attraction.

A year later, The Crate Adventure is finally ready to be open.

Ride Testing

As an Annual Passholder, I was invited to the Passholders’ Preview event on 13th May 2011. The turn out for this event was tremendous – easily a few thousand passholders attended the event, spawning a need for a long line of excited guests queuing to enter the Madagascar zone, which will only be open from 8pm that night, in order to enter the MCA ride queue.

Queue zones at Night!

Crates!

The queue area of MCA has a large capacity: The stand-by line is a series of 5 zigzag, switch-back queue zones. Universal Express line is truly express (as compared to other ride queues in the park which follows most part of the normal queue but with many shortcuts), leading directly to the loading platform in seconds. There are no interactive or narrative elements in the queue, apart from some video screens giving some back story about the attraction. The queue however, is very lushly decorated with flora and fauna, draped with colourful flower lamps and crates scattered all over.

Loading queue zone

Fortunately, the ride has a very decent capacity**, so the queue moves briskly. The loading platform also has an efficient and clear system to direct guests to the boats clearly and with ease – only possible with the courteous and energetic MCA crew!

**Maximum of 20 guests per boat, each ride takes about 10 minutes with load/unload which means each boat can serve 120 guests, in ideal conditions. Now we need to figure out what’s the maximum number of boats the ride could use at any time, but I’ve seen at least 5 pairs of boats running (10 boats, so 1200 guests per hour in a best case scenario?)

Loading Gates

Adorable crate-like boats are used in this attraction. Each boat has 5 rows of seats, with a maximum capacity of four adults per row, with soft bamboo-shaped lap bars for each row. Unlike usual gentle river rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World, MCA does not use any track or guide rail system, there is nothing in the water – giving the ride a slightly different “afloat in the water” feel. The boat is moved entirely by the currents, with hidden wheel bumpers beneath each boat to allow itself to maneuver along the ride’s water channel.

The Ride
While I do not wish to spoil the ride for readers, the story of MCA is heavily adapted from the first Madagascar film. The ride starts from the scene where the Madagascar animals wake up to find themselves trapped in crates on a ship. Almost immediately, the penguins take over the ship and after a brief chaotic scene with crates falling overboard, the animals find themselves stranded on an island, settling down comfortably soon after. Or not it wasn’t so comfortable, once they discover the natives!


Inside the Ride

Inside the Ride

Inside the Ride

Inside the Ride

Inside the Ride

My thoughts on the ride
Visually, the attraction looks impressive and I can see that there is certainly a great deal of hard work and effort behind it. The ride is very well decorated with a wealth of detailed props and thematic lighting.

In terms of music, the main themes and yes, the famous “I Like to Move It” song are used throughout the ride. It is all very fitting to the ride scenes, although the sync between scenes could be better – the music does not loop or flow smoothly at some scenes. Also lacking is new arrangement of music in the queue area – it gets tiring hearing the “Whacked Out Conspiracy” theme over and over! (Actually this is a problem with the park in general, there is barely any original music in the park, but recycled tunes from the films.)

Now, onto the animatronics: There is a lack of consistency among the animated robotic characters/props. There are some figures with a great degree of movement and some that really just “moves up and down”. As they are all placed in the same scene and at the same distance from guests, it does feel like they were actually supposed to animated and was probably not working properly. Possibly to mask the lack of (or limitations) of the animatronics’ animation, spotlights are turned on only when the characters are about to move/speak and then switched off when they are done. This may cause some parts of the scenes to be missed entirely. It also gave me the impression that the park made a lot of compromises due to budget constraints, as they had to rebuild many segments of the ride.

The MCA storyline is chopped into bite-sized pieces and simplified, which I feel was to better suit the main target audience of the attraction, children. To keep the ride family friendly, there aren’t any exciting ride elements, such as dramatic directional change, lifts and drops. The boat just gentle floats along the river for 7.5 minutes. Therefore it is very common to see bored adults streaming out from the ride’s finale. There isn’t exactly an energetic “YAY!” moment at the unloading platform when the crew member tried to stir up a round of applause (a common practice performed at all rides in the park)

The theme park-techy aspect here: I am a little concerned about the loading/unloading platform. There is only one of such platforms and if something is were to happen there, it would disrupt the flow of the entire ride and choke up the loading/unloading process, causing guests to be stuck. Given how there is no track or any sort of barrier gate system in the river, there is no way to stop the ride other than stopping the water current. I saw a situation where the conveyor belt used to hold (and release) the boats safely at the platform has malfunctioned and caused all the boats behind to stall. Since there’s no way to stop the river from flowing (quickly enough) the boats would just pile up together, as seen below – unfortunately just when the crew members were adding extra boats to cope with the long lines. Hopefully the ride engineers can resolve this issue in time for the ride’s grand opening on the 16th.

Madagascar Bumper Boats

So in general, how good is this ride? What can it be compared against? Putting things into perspective (children’s ride, family orientated attraction) and that I have downplayed my expectations when it comes to what the park offers… I would say that MCA is better than the Winnie the Pooh and It’s a Small World attractions in Hong Kong Disneyland. Some have said to me that overall, MCA can be compared to the Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! at Disney California Adventure. The mentioned rides opened many years ago, however. This is 2011. I would expect something similar, or better than Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage from Tokyo DisneySea (which was opened in 2001 and had a narrative revamp in 2006).

The debate is moot however, when I heard and saw families laughing throughout the ride and thoroughly enjoying themselves. They hurriedly got off at unload and queued for the ride again. The ride has found success with its actual target audience. And also importantly, this is something that grandparents and their grandchildren can finally enjoy in the park together. So as long as it can amuse and entertain the right target audiences, Madagascar: A Crate Adventure, can still be a star attraction in Universal Studios Singapore.

My thoughts on the event
Compared to the Annual Passholders’ event for Battlestar Galactica, the MCA event was a lot better. Ticketing booths were used as opposed to makeshift tables. The Madagascar area was thoroughly cleared and remained exclusive for Annual Passholders for the night.

There was also a little fanfare when the ride opened – drinks were served to all guests (not just Superstar Annual Passholders!) and the staff handed out colourful plastic garlands as they welcomed guests into the attraction queue. I believe there was also a Meet-and-Greet with Madagascar characters. Everyone went home with a little gift bag: a Lanyard card and a memo pad. It’s a nice gesture. In contrast, the Battlestar Galactica event was what theme park enthusiasts call “ERT”. Exclusive Ride Time. It was really bare-bones and there was nothing special going on except the roller-coasters operating at night. They have really turned around this time and got a lot more staff to help out with the event, be it interacting with guests or other small but important duties.

The Globe

It seems like a good sign that RWS has heard, or is starting hear what their guests have to say. The park appears to have rebounded from the “soft opening slump” and is finally looking more refined. The globe has been repaired and there are a lot of minor improvements everywhere. Plus, the park is finally going to celebrate its grand opening on 28th May 2011. Keep up the good work!

Bonus Section
Here you will find links to various media related to MCA:

– Full ride-through video (Spoiler Warning!)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRpAdZa15fo

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