Tag Archives | photos:nex

Trip to Hong Kong 2011 – Day 3 and 4

I’ll just consolidate the last two days of this trip into one post!


Nathan Road
Skip Skippity Skip
Typhoon 
Alert #3

The weather forecast warned us about Level 3 typhoon winds – and it was accurate. It was very comfortable to walk outdoors, but the wind brought about several bouts of unpredictable sweeping rain. Most of the day we were inside shopping malls on the third day.

In Search of the Summicron-M 35mm in Hong Kong
I tried my luck searching for 2nd-hand Leica and Zeiss lenses in Hong Kong, but the only reliable place was some shops at Mody Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. Tin Cheung Camera has a few stores in the area so I visited their newly-relocated store in a mall called K11 – great selection, they have almost every essential lenses BUT the reason why they still have stock? The prices are not exactly great, in fact um – it’s at the level of “I just want it even if it’s $1500 more” sort of price. The second shop I went to was Tin Cheung Camera Classic, a pre-owned photography store. The prices are close to what you see on eBay, but at least you could inspect the lenses and try your luck bargaining.

Canton Road

The Southern part of Canton Road is better known for its incredible concentration of European flagship boutiques, but also the Louis Vuitton Maison store – that is easily twice the size of outlet at ION Orchard in Singapore. This entire stretch is linked together and is part of a larger mall called Harbour City.


Mak's Noodles
Mak's Noodles

One notable place we had lunch was Mak’s Noodles, located in Causeway Bay. They have a few branches in Hong Kong, so either Google it yourself or contact me for details. The original restaurant is at Central though. Even if you are not a fan of Wanton noodles, you should really try Mak’s! The noodles have a fresh, crunchy texture – coupled with plump, scrumptious wantons that is served with fragrant soup stock in a small soup bowl. You might end up having a few extra servings!


Mong Kok area
Mong Kok area
Street food

As usual, the streets of Hong Kong at night are more characteristic. Locals roam the streets and shop till very late at night. It is not surprising to see crowded shops even at 11pm – unlike back in Singapore where most shops close at 8pm and even if they are open (like most stores at Marina Bay Sands), it’s mostly deserted.


Morning market
Towel vendor

We explored Garden Street again on the last day. In the morning there aren’t as many shops open but there are still interesting things to see. This microfiber towel stall, for example.


road works
Public light buses

Apart from the usual public buses, there are also light buses that seems to stop at almost random places (without bus stops) to pick up passengers. For tourists I think taking a cab to get around is best option.


hope it holds up
scaffolding

The buildings in Hong Kong seem to be always in a state of construction (or re-construction). Bamboo is used for scaffolding and it seems rather precarious to walk under them when there are strong winds, especially when you discover how they’re held in place together!


near jade market
Jade
Stalls
Clarity

The northern section of Canton Road houses Jade Market. According to my Mom, it is very difficult to find any good deals here anymore if you are in search of higher quality jade. Apparently there is now an EVEN higher concentration of mass-produced altered jade, so do be watchful and well obviously, bargain!! until the stall owner brings her broom out to chase you away, that is.


Cooking Mama 360
Cooking Mama 360
Cooking Mama 360

At last, it was time to go to the airport. There is now a very large food court in the departure hall, but it was too crowded and crazy so we just went to this restaurant with an quaint name – Cooking Mama 360. There is no relation to the famous series of video-games, but the food served here is more interesting than their name – there’s a mix of Korean and Japanese dishes that are coupled with Pasta-style mains, but with thick wheat noodles. Worth a try!


All photographs were snapped using my NEX-5 with a rather old LEICA Summicron-C 40mm f/2.

The complete flickr album can be found here.

0

Trip to Hong Kong 2011 – Day 2

The second day in Hong Kong was mostly spent at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Just like Universal Studios Singapore, Hong Kong Disneyland is located far away from the busy city center. It rests on reclaimed land at Lantau Island. There are a few options to travel to the park: the most popular being public transport, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) of course.

Day Tickets at Hong Kong Disneyland goes for HK$350, which is equivalent to about S$56. The price is the same for any day in the year and can be used on most days, anytime 6 months after date of purchase. However, for some special days, such as public holidays, tickets will need to be purchased with a confirmed date of use.

The park also offers Annual Passes, called the Magic Access which is split into 4 tiers of membership and is priced from HK$2400 to HK$650.


Sunny Bay MTR Station
Disneyland Resort Line Train

The Disney experience begins the moment one arrives at Sunny Bay, the interchange station between the Tung Chung line and the Disneyland Resort line. Typically, the iconic Disney train will be there waiting for eager guests to run across the transfer platform.

There is a little fanfare during the ride to Disneyland Resort, with a special message being played in the train cabins. It is all part of a thematic journey, transforming from “modern city of Hong Kong” to the “magical world of Hong Kong Disneyland”. Visually, the stations were designed very differently as well – with the Sunny Bay station having a lot of glass and white roof work, looking like most of the other stations in Hong Kong. Visitors will be surprised with a spacious Modern-Victorian design at the Disneyland station.

The entrance area of the park has been decorated for the park’s 5th Anniversary festivities, Celebration in the Air. It is quite a cohesive theme and includes some tweaks to the park’s merchandising, decorations and is supported by a very impressive daytime parade show and night castle show.


Esplanade Gateway
Tinkerbell

It was a Tuesday when my family went to the park – although marked as an off-peak day, there was a lot of people. FASTPASS is no longer a novelty, it is a necessity if you wish to do the rides multiple times. As for the park crowds, it’s comparable to a school holiday weekend at Universal Studios Singapore.

If you are wondering why the photos below show an empty park, here is the explanation: The main gates of Hong Kong Disneyland opens 30 minutes before the scheduled timing (usually 10:30AM). Only the Main Street area is accessible, for some quick bites or (hopefully not) overly well-planned shopping. A rope is held in place at the end of Main Street, just before the roundabout (where Sorcerer Mickey is) in front of the castle. Moments before 10:30AM, there is a ceremony called “First Family” where a family is chosen to open the park by “cutting” a ribbon. The First Family thing is an opportunity is given out to families with small children who at the gates during park opening. Apart from this little fanfare and some special photo-op moments, I recall reading somewhere that the First Family also rides down Main Street before a parade starts, but I’m not sure if that is done anymore during the 5th Anniversary Celebrations.


The Castle
The backdrop

The location for Hong Kong Disneyland is unlike any other Disney parks. The lush mountain backdrop frames the park beautifully, masking any hints of the outside world. While yes, the park is entirely artificial and built on reclaimed land, the surrounding landscape creates an illusion – a “magical” one that is reinforced with thematic music – to trick the guests that they are in some other world. I really wished Universal Studios Singapore had the large walking spaces between park zones, which offers breathing space between each zone’s thematic design.

Tinkerbell Castle
Tinkerbell Castle
Tinkerbell Castle

As part of Celebration In The Air, Sleeping Beauty Castle has embellished with golden trails and sparkly pixie dust by Tinker Bell! The “sparkly” effect is made out of shiny metallic discs that moves with the wind, creating a graduated shimmering effect. This is similar to the kinetic art by Ned Kahn, which has been replicated at many places, including the Wind Arbor at Marina Bay Sands. Hidden behind the curtains of discs are LED lighting arrays. The evening castle show, known as Tinker Bell Castle Illumination, is a dazzling spectacle.

Another important element of Celebration In The Air is the Flights of Fantasy Parade which unfortunately I have no photos to provide. It is a stunning parade and has been compared to some of Tokyo Disneyland’s parades by some theme park fans. There are 7 parade floats in total: Dumbo + Mickey and Friends, Winnie The Pooh, Disney Princesses, Jungle Book/Lion King, Tinker Bell, Lilo and Stitch – and lastly, Toy Story. The theme song is very catchy, memorable and uplifting (well, it’s about flying, after all).



Flights of Fantasy Parade, © Disney

Flights of Fantasy Parade

Main Theme – English Lyrics

It’s a sky high celebration,
So come on! come on! come on!
Let’s fly away!

Take a flight on imagination,
So come on! come on! come on!
It’s a brand new day!

We’re chasing rainbows,
Wherever the wind blows.
So come on, come on,
The Flights of Fantasy!

Hey, Hey, Hey

I can only grasp this line from the Cantonese version of the song:

我會帶你飛越萬里, 常飛起,飛起,飛起!

Interestingly, the parade theme music is also used in the original Disneyland Park in Anaheim but with a different narrative altogether. It is called Mickey’s Soundsational Parade. In the chorus instead of “The Flights of Fantasy!”, you get “It’s Soundsational!”


Notable Attractions at Hong Kong Disneyland


it's a small world
Excited girl
Marie

it’s a small world

Originally created for the UNICEF Pavilion in the 1964 New York World’s Fair, it’s a small world is one of the few attractions that exists in all Fantasyland zones around the world. It is a gentle indoor boat ride that sails through various colourful scenes with animated characters singing the same tune. Although the music might drive some people crazy, this attraction is well-known for its very high-capacity per hour, which has influenced future Disney attractions in their design, such as Pirates of the Caribbean (from a walkthrough attraction into boat ride). In Hong Kong Disneyland, it is also one of the most comfortable rides to enjoy in a hot summer day.


Space Mountain
Space Mountain queue
Space Mountain queue
Space Mountain queue
Space Mountain queue

Space Mountain

In contrast to Universal Studios Singapore, which has several roller-coasters, Space Mountain is now the only high adrenaline adventure in Hong Kong Disneyland. One commonly heard rationale is that the locals prefer photo opportunities compared to intensive rides. This is set to change with the construction of new attractions in the three new themed zones, to be completed in 2013.

Despite being a smaller, more compact version compared to the other Space Mountain attractions in the world, this ride has a slightly different theme and queue design. There is also a lot of detail in the design of the loading/unloading area. The ride safety video is also carefully done to be both succinct and heavily themed, something which was perfectly executed for Battlestar Galactica in Universal Studios Singapore back in 2010, but was unfortunately altered in the 2011 reopening with “real-world videos” spliced in between themed sequences.


Other activities

Apart from rides, shows and parades, there is also a special summer event going on called Rev Up Your Summer Fun! which is tied closely with the new CARS 2 film.


Cars Secret Mission
Cars Secret Mission

Cars Secret Mission is an activity that involves finding game stations scattered around the park and playing minigames. Players will need to get a little leaflet from a cast member (My sister’s holding it in the photo above) that has a QR code on it. At each station, players will need to scan their leaflet and proceed on with a simple minigame, which varies from memory to “spot the difference”/”find a character” style games. Cast members will invite players to get a stamp on their leaflets. Upon completion of all game stations… you actually get nothing except for a (presumably) random Cars character profiling and a certificate which you have to print online on your own. Well, you didn’t pay to participate in this anyway.

There are also Cars photo opportunity zones (which are actually, just large 2D installations) themed to certain cities around the world. It doesn’t just stop there – the theming continues with snacks offered at each zone, such as sushi rolls for sale at the “Tokyo” zone, for example!

Seen around the park


Theatre in the wild
Queues for Festival of the Lion King, a short musical performance of the popular hits and compressed narrative from The Lion King.

Fantasyland
The area behind the Castle in Fantasyland

Dumbo
Dumbo: The Flying Elephant ride

Moving bin
Talking Bin in Tomorrowland

Lantern
Lantern at the interactive zone in Adventureland

Royal Banquet Hall
Royal Banquet Hall – We had lunch here.

Royal Banquet
Mixed Grill Set

Main Street snaps
Happy couple at Main Street

While not exactly comparable to the other larger Disney Parks in the world, Hong Kong Disneyland still retains Disney magic – with the successful formula in designing and running theme parks that Disney has decades of experience to rely upon. I have visited the park a handful of times for the past five years and the park has always been improving, with exciting seasonal and milestone events. Things will get very exciting at the resort when three new themed zones – Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point – are completed in the years to come.


After spending almost a full day in Hong Kong Disneyland, we got tired of the heat and went back to Kowloon. Yep, we gave the evening shows a miss.


Garden Street
Garden Street

My family went to this night market street called “Fa Yuen Street” which translates to “Garden Street”. There’s always those usual night market stalls selling cheap clothes, souvenirs and trinkets. The more interesting parts are actually the shops hidden out of the florescent glow of the night markets though. My sister goes to a random shop and after some bargaining and trying them out – if I remember correct – paid S$80 for 4 pairs of shoes.


Sabotage??
Investigation

I witnessed this interesting incident of a billboard being sabotaged and the canvas was flapping dangerously in the wind – it was fixed the next day though, which was good as the Typhoon warnings started coming up the next morning.


All photographs were snapped using my NEX-5 with a rather old LEICA Summicron-C 40mm f/2.

The complete flickr album can be found here.

1

Trip to Hong Kong 2011 – Day 1

Just mere days after finally completing National Service, I found myself at Hong Kong with my family. We’ve not traveled together since late 2009.


CX710

We took the 8:05AM flight on Cathay Pacific. Upon arriving and dropping our luggage at the hotel, we went straight to Causeway Bay for lunch at Hunan Garden. Located at Level 13 of Times Square Food Forum, the restaurant offers Hunan cuisine in a European setting. It’s interesting to note that the Times Square Food Forum is very popular and during the lunch hour it becomes necessary to actually queue (à la theme park rides) for the lift to the higher levels.


Hunan Garden

Hunan Garden

Hunan Garden

Hunan Garden

Hunan Garden

At the ground level of Times Square was.. Hogwarts Express! It was accompanied with Platform 9¾ (and yes, the trolley was there as well.) Unfortunately it seems like classes has just ended and the whole area was flooded with students!


Hogwarts Express

We then went to SOGO at Causeway Bay. Despite being owned by a Hong Kong company, it still has the strong makings of a Japanese department store – with a structured department store layout and even greeters at every floor and the lift attendant ladies. There was a memorable moment where two of the attendants were in a lift, filled to capacity and when a shopper wanted to squeeze her way in, the lift attendant said “Sorry we’re full already” politely, only to receive a snide “Why are there TWO of you in there??” back.


SOGO Hong Kong

street.hk


Found at SOGO Causeway Bay is one of the only two Kura Chika boutiques in Hong Kong. Kura Chika deals with items from PORTER TOKYO and YOSHIDA & CO. While the store does not have the full PORTER TOKYO collection, they do have the classic items and if you’re lucky, some obscure limited edition items.

Like I’ve told many people (and countless people have told me), if you want to get a PORTER bag, please only buy either a PORTER TOKYO or HEAD PORTER product. Stay away from PORTER INTERNATIONAL (based in Taiwan). While the designs may look similar (to some), the INTERNATIONAL label is not directly related to the Japanese company and most importantly, those items are not Made in Japan. There is an exciting tale about how this Taiwanese company came about, which I will save for another entry – or you can ask me for a short version in person.


Edit: Since I’ve received many emails about this, I’ll just post it here:

I’ve been told by streetwear and bag aficionados that Porter International (Taiwan) started off as a knock-off brand, copying designs of PORTER TOKYO/JAPAN and HEAD PORTER. Instead battling through copyright lawsuits, both Porter International and YOSHIDA & CO. came to a settlement. They now work in a partnership and the Taiwan brand now produces their own designs and collections, though some of them share the same look as the Japan variant.

Under the partnership, Porter International also operates KURA CHIKA, a chain of stores that sells Porter Japan items outside of Japan.


After spending some time here, my Dad finally decided on a nice PORTER canvas shoulder sling. We then traveled back to the hotel and took a short rest. We then decided to head to another mall which we’ve never been to, called ELEMENTS.


road works

ELEMENTS

Louis Vuitton, ELEMENTS

Surrounded by major road works and urban redevelopment, ELEMENTS is perhaps, a diamond in the rough. Like other similar malls in Tsim Sha Tsui, it is clearly aimed for the Upper-Middle class in Hong Kong. The mall is uniquely structured into 5 zones, themed after the Chinese elements of nature: Water, Fire, Wood, Earth and Metal. While each zone has a specific “subject area”, i.e. Wood zone for health, well-being stores, there are some minor inconsistencies. The Metal (or more accurately, GOLD) zone however, is strongly focused for an ensemble of the most coveted luxury brands. It feels like the Middle section of Marina Bay Sands Shoppes.


Hermès, ELEMENTS

miu miu, ELEMENTS

Unlike the highly illustrious lane in Canton Road where stores have to temporarily close at times to accommodate their patrons, ELEMENTS was quite deserted and could offer a safe haven for those who seek a tranquil shopping experience. At least you don’t have to wait for your own SA here. My sister finally found the bracelet she wanted.


night life

night market

It was a very relaxing experience to walk around ELEMENTS and soak in the intoxicating aroma of European leather goods, but we decided to travel back to the drastically different streets of Mong Kok. This is where most of the shopping took place for the next few days – major bargains to be found, even for items bought at retail, they’re usually 10-20% cheaper than Singapore!

There’s probably too many stores to list, but if you are looking for something and would like addresses or names, just let me know via comments or messaging. Of course, the famous Sino Centre, Langham Place and Argyle Centre are some of the must-go places for clothes and other knicks-and-knacks.

Mong Kok is also where Hong Kong’s iconic night markets happen. There are several streets, each (supposedly) catered to certain groups of people (Ladies’ Market, Temple Street’s Men’s Market etc) but over the years it has become “everything” night market.


Gong Cha

The last stop of the day was GONG CHA. For just HK$13 (that’s about S$2), you get the large cup of milk tea. In Singapore, the small cup goes for S$2.80. What is this?

The adventure continues in the next entry!


All photographs were snapped using my NEX-5 with a rather old LEICA Summicron-C 40mm f/2.

The complete flickr album can be found here.

2

Tanjong Pagar Railway Station – Photowalk

Slated to close on 1st July 2011, the 88-year-old Tanjong Pagar Railway station is a place lost in time, and space.

The entire compound felt rustic and rather laid-back; almost as if I’ve stepped into a portal to Malaysia. Even the food vendors speak Malay almost exclusively.. just that payment is in Singapore dollars!

Fence

Framing the Orient Express

E&O in a Circle

Changing roles

Beyond the station

The rope

Metal tool things

Jelly lights

Life on the line

STOP

There are two coffee shops in the station (or Stesen), a bookshop that sells anything but books and some kampung hut in the center of all the business. I felt one momentary breeze of cool air in the hot weather – it came from the VIP Lounge for the Eastern & Oriental Express.
After walking to the end of the platform, there is a path which leads to some abandoned buildings, an outdoor restaurant (of sorts) and the train depot which is rather empty and weathered. Many opportunities to take photos of yourself standing/planking on some railway tracks here! Of course, do not wander to the actual working tracks!

The LEICA SUMMICRON-C 40mm Short Review / Thoughts about the Leica lens
For this photo trip, I used a LEICA SUMMICRON-C 40mm f/2 made 38 years ago. Most close-up and shallow DoF shots are taken at f/2.

After months of using the Carl Zeiss Planar lenses on my NEX, I have chanced upon some articles about Leica’s most underrated offering. The price seemed affordable (Leica-wise) and reviews just kept praising this tiny German-made lens – which was often overshadowed by its SUMMICRON-M brothers but yet appears to offer almost similar optical performance for the lenses within the same era. This means of course, no comparison with Aspherical lenses please – just not sensible. I then spoke to Desmond, who is very knowledgeable in this field – but also a very dangerous person to speak to when it comes to photography and audio equipment! Then yes, the DECISIVE MOMENT arrived.

Fine lines

I am enjoying the film-like colours and look of the Leica. The Summicron is sharp wide open, yet produces a pleasantly soft effect at the same time. The colour signature (out of camera) is quite similar to what I have to process for the high-contrast, vibrant images from Carl Zeiss lenses. I guess I am not the type of person who loves vividly loud colours. I prefer smooth, subtle and subdued (Triple-S? ha!) tones and surprisingly, this 38-year wonder just does it for me. There is just something about this lens. It brings out the very fine subtleties in colour tone.

Of course, even though it’s a Leica, it is not miracle glass. Understandably, the lens was made decades ago, so it does not have the best lens coating to suppress flare. I am using it with a camera it was not designed to pair with. Being a Leica rangefinder lens, the minimum focus is at a shocking 0.8m (0.1m more than the Nokton lenses and 0.3m more than the Contax G Zeiss lenses!). It does bring a lot of challenges in real-world use and I am being brought back into the tedious (and rewarding) experience of using M lenses again. I will probably write an entry soon about all the lenses I have used so far with the NEX – Both to document the experience and also help fellow “Mirrorless Cameras” enthusiasts in making acquisition decisions.

NEX-5 right now

4

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

0

Singapore Biennale 2011

Featuring 60 artists from 30 countries, Singapore Biennale 2011: “OPEN HOUSE” promises to intrigue and invoke the imagination of its visitors. This year the Biennale venues are a bit more unique, going to places such as the Old Kallang Airport, SAM @ 8Q and even at the Merlion (Singapore River/Marina Bay version). I find that this year’s exhibition is a lot more thematic and has many contextual pieces. The strongest works are, like back in 2006, very closely linked with the venue where it is being shown. The Old Kallang Airport venue has some of the most interesting – especially the interactive – pieces I have seen so far!

While the 2006 Biennale has a special place in my heart, 2011 has somewhat redeemed the Biennale for me. I’m sorry, but SB2008 was felt rather incongruous as a whole and had a very (inherently) vague theme, “Wonder”.

Enjoy the photos.


OPEN HOUSE at Old Kallang Airport

[Robert MacPherson]

[Rubén Ramos Balsa]

[Gosia Wlodarczak]

[Martin Creed]

[Michael Lin]

[Michael Lee]

[Rafael Lozano-Hemmer]

[Tiffany Chung]

[Charles Sandison]

SAM

[Shao Yinong & Muchen]

[Stuart Ringholt]

[Sopheap Pich]

Complete photo set can be found here: Flickr: Biennale 2011

0

Universal Studios Singapore: One Year Later

18th March 2011 was the first anniversary of Universal Studios Singapore’s public opening. A year ago, the park was perfect as there was theme park magic – courteous crew members, proactive and sincere guest relations, exciting new ride equipment and a park that looked so new and clean, it actually sparkled.

Probably no one remembered that the park is a year old. I only realized it when I was at the park and took one of the park programme leaflets. It is disappointing that the park chose not to commemorate this major milestone – Almost every major park has done up something, from just a simple show at night to a full-blown campaign (just look at Tokyo DisneySea’s First Anniversary) that not just made the park visually different, but also pampered their guests with clever new programmes as the park celebrated the special moment – as we all know (or at least Disney Parks does), theme parks are all about special moments.

Yes, it can be argued that the park has not had its grand opening, so it is still “Day Zero”. However, it is embarrassing to acknowledge that the park has actually operated under the guise of a “soft opening” phase without a sound plan to move on. Maintenance is a worrying matter – Some attractions are in desperate need of rehab to fix broken props and damaged queue zones. Breakdowns are still occurring (although less often) at the problematic rides.

One Year Later
Park Programme, 19th March 2010 and 18th March 2011.

So what has been changed from March last year?

Mel's Dinette Show

Hollywood Street stage (Next to Mel’s Diner)
– ‘Kowabunga Kove’ show replaced by ‘Daddy-O’s’ and ‘Mel’s Dinettes’

New show at Sci-Fi City

Sci-Fi City stage
– ‘On Location with Sci-Fly’ show trial-tested and scrapped
– ‘Dance with Captain Starbucks’ show trial-tested but unsure what happened.

Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure
– Outdoor Queue area removed
– Indoor queue area remodeled, new vending machine (selling Ponchos) zone
– ‘Dinosaur Proximity Alarm’ flashing beacon located at the centre of boats completely removed – it never seemed to be reliable.
– Ride is more reliable than last year; at least it doesn’t go offline for an entire day now.

Revenge of The Mummy
– Queue switches broken
– Still missing elements at Treasure Hall scene
– More effects at “Gravity Zone/The Arena”
– The Book of The Living prop no longer functions properly, replaced with flashing pedestal effect

Shrek 4D Adventure
– Pre-show changes
– New projection effect in queue area added in late 2010

Enchanted Airways
– Ride restraints modified from the “netting” sort to more robust design.

Lights Camera Action!

Lights, Camera, Action!
– Queue Decor added to the otherwise “concrete and steel” queue area
– Falling ceiling truss effect, broken in April 2010, was finally repaired in late 2010
– Flashy signboard at entrance

Pantages Hollywood Theatre : Monster Rock!
– Some costume and script changes

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica
– Extended sheltered areas at entrances
– Huge warning signs added at entrances
– Pre-show video changes (sadly, breaks the fourth wall)
– Fog pit operating sporadically

Events
– Movie Nights programme: Short season mid last year, discontinued.
– Special events for Superstar Annual Passholders, somewhat discontinued.
– Halloween Horror Nights (replaced with two nights of “Netherworld” event)
– RWS Fans Day Out – A nice gesture by RWS where large group of fans (including myself) interacted with the energetic and hopeful New Media team. Sadly, it seems like this effort somewhat died after the new year.
– New Year Eve’s Party (that Annual Passholders weren’t even invited)
– Battlestar Galactica Annual Passholders Nights

Other Park Changes
– Park Operation Hours (9am-6pm to 10am-7pm. Park hours extended during holiday season – till 9pm)
– Park maximum attendance increased from 3,000 to 12,000 guests. Will be increased to 18,000 guests eventually.
– Universal Globe no longer spinning as of October 2010
– Hollywood After Hours becoming regular event, then scrapped, then brought back again
– Sheltered walkways added at some essential areas
– Reflooring of some walking areas
– Information signs, showing attraction wait-times and show timings added at Hollywood, Sci-Fi City and Far Far Away
– Special announcement for extended park hours (very Disney, but it’s a nice touch)

What SHOULD have changed:

– Removal of “Coming Soon” attractions from park map, especially when there is no definite timeline apart from vague “by Mid-2011” sort of statements -which, I should probably remind you here, had been constantly delayed when they failed to meet deadlines. Attractions like Madagascar – The Crate Adventure and Stage 28 have been “Coming Soon” since a year ago. The shocking thing is, Stage 28 is NOT even stated as “Coming Soon”, neither is this reflected on the status boards at the park gate.

– A more robust and standardized wait-time system. Some attractions use the LED boards, some use laminated pieces of paper stuck over the LED boards (???) with Blu-Tack. Why the discrepancy? The information boards scattered around the park display the incorrect timings based on the LED boards.

– The park’s style of public and guest relations. I am not expecting Disney-level standard, but please do take a leaf out of their book from time to time. They have rides coming out this Summer, but instead of hiding behind the curtain, Disney has regularly released updates to keep their guests informed of what to expect. Lately there has been a lot of “behind the scenes” features to further engage their guests. Actually, before the resort opened, RWS did quite a nice bit of work with this aspect, drumming up quite a large amount of hype, I’m puzzled as to why the good effort fell apart after the park opened.

– Some foresight when it comes to park events. Nobody plans their holidays a week (or 2 days) in advance. Almost every major park out there has released their schedule for 2011.

– Revision for the prices of annual passes. $1098 is a lot to pay for all-year access, although the unlimited “Universal Express” perk makes up for it. Personally, I feel that there should be more price tiers, and overall the passes should priced similar to those in Hong Kong Disneyland.

CYLON entrance

It is unfair to say that the park hasn’t improved after operating for a year – because there are several positive improvements. The crew members are now very experienced and I have seen them handle problematic situations (guests attempting to abuse/cheat Single Rider lines or displaying dangerous/rude behaviour etc) professionally. The staff in the park are very courteous and welcoming. The newly constructed sheltered areas are really useful for tired families to rest under, in this sunny and hot park, especially during crowded days. There is now a greater variety of merchandise available (although their tie-up with the attractions are not exactly strong). And yes, the attractions are breaking down less often (it still happens, but it’s completely expected at any other major park).

But… how long more would this soft opening phase last? I mean, how much more can the park change?

There were hints last year that soft opening was not meant to drag on for months. Look at the website and you will notice how soft opening is mentioned as “weeks” (not months, or years). Here’s a snippet of the ticketing information released last year before the park opened:

For Guests who purchase their Fun Pass during the soft opening period (18 March till 1 April), they will be given the opportunity to visit the park ONE (1) time prior to 5 April, at which time their annual membership will begin.

I am staying at one of the hotels at Resorts World, how do I purchase Universal Studios tickets?
Same day tickets are available for sale during the soft opening weeks.

In their FAQs, they did mention that there is no definite end to this phase.

How long will this soft opening period last?
The soft opening period allows our team members to make technical and creative adjustments in the park to improve the customer (“Guest”) experience. The park soft opening phase will end when we are satisfied that the park is ready.

What does it mean by “the park is ready”? When all the attractions are ready? Look at the American parks: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion for Universal’s Islands of Adventure park soft-opened for handful of weeks (it’s an expansion after all) but Islands of Adventure itself soft-opened for just 2 months back in 1999.

Is this a cause for concern? Yes. There seems to be a lack of long-term plans – the park is enjoying its success on a large number of “theme park virgins”. The park operators don’t even seem excited enough to organise seasonal events, apart from extending park hours and adding a night pyrotechnics show – in short, the park has become VERY passive/reactive. Take the Chinese New Year season for example. The park was open till 9pm during weekdays, but it was empty. Why? Apart from the same pyrotechnics show and taking the rides at night, there isn’t anything special to rationalise staying back late.

Once the “theme park virgins” have visited the park, it’s ‘been there done that’ and they have no reason to return unless there is something new – which has created a rumour on the internet that the park is intentionally slowing down construction and delaying rides in order to have new offerings (that were supposed to be available from the beginning) to keep its visitors returning. I love the park but not so much on the management and overall effort for maintenance. I do want it to bounce back to its early (March 2010) days.

How do the park’s fans (regulars, annual passholders) feel? Just take a look at Greg’s blog:

http://sentosathemepark.blogspot.com/2011/03/you-would-never-know-universal-studios.html

3

Valentino Retrospective

“This exhibition pays tribute to a man who has been placed in the history of haute couture as an undeniable ambassador of elegance. His work combines romanticism, modernity and classicism; his silhouettes combine sovereign grace with timeless allure. His style is determined by a graphic line which is sober and sophisticated at once. His designs accentuate the silhouette, giving it fluidity, femininity and sensuality. Forms are clear, fabrics are sumptuous and all collections always possess a large scale of colours enhanced by rich embroideries.”
– Ms Pamela Golbin, curator-in-chief for the Fashion and Textiles collection of Les Arts Décoratifs

1
Back to Top