Saturday, November 23, 2013

Universal Studio Singapore

We started our journey to Universal Studio Singapore (USS) from Johor Bahru (JB). The bus ticket was available at the ground floor of Merlin Tower. A few bus companies were operational, but we only managed to find one with the bus departed at 8:30 am (707 Travel Group). We bought two-way tickets with RM10 per person. The ticket from USS back to Johor Bahru was sold at SD5 at the ticket counter at USS, instead of RM5. So, it was more worthy to buy the return ticket at JB. We parked our car at the basement of City Square with the rate of RM25 per day- expensive but safer choice.

Merlin Tower, 8:15 am, most of the counters were still closed (upper left), with only Nusantara 707 Travel Group provided bus to USS at 8:30 am (upper right). We boarded the bus in front of the old Johor Bahru train station opposite of Merlin Tower (lower left). The bus was new and very comfortable.

As we traveled on weekday at non peak hour, we just experienced minor congestion at Singapore. The whole journey to USS from Merlin Tower took us around 1 hour 40 minutes. 10:10 am, we reached the front door of USS. Our cousin at Singapore helped us to buy the tickets a day earlier, so we didn't face much problem at the ticket counter.

Photo with our cousin Mia Ming and our sister Kelly (first and second from the left) in front of Universal Studio.

With Kelly's extensive planning, we went straight to Transformer The Ride (delayed one to two minutes by the Sesame Street Stage Shows), followed by Revenge of the Mummy. After the thrilling rides, we buffered ourselves by slow-paced Treasure Hunter ride. Our queuing time for all three rides were remarkably short- 15 minutes for Transformer and Treasure Hunter each, and we were actually the first few to enter the Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster ride, with zero waiting time.

Autobot model standing on the street opposite of Sci-Fi City (left). The queue was quite long for the ride, but we managed to get to our turn in 15 minutes (middle). While waiting for our turn to hoop onto the ride, we enjoyed the transformer themed surrounding and the videos showing the background of the world of robots.

The Ancient Egypt is well themed with giant statues. It is next to Sci-Fi City.

The entrance to Revenge of the Mummy ride. It is a roller coaster with most of the time, moving with high speed and twisting in the dark. As people can't see anything around, it is advised to keep the our head to the headrest. The dark surrounding diminished the thrill and increased the possibility of walking out with a strained neck due to its unpredictable and out-of-expectation motion.

Time was running fast. We went straight to the WaterWorld live show at around 12 pm. The show ended 20 minutes later with lots of gun fires and explosions. Then, we went to The Lost World where we took the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure and Canopy Flyer, with less than 15 minutes of waiting time respectively.

This live show brought us back to the movie Water World by Kevin Costner. The whole area was covered by metal plates resembled the settlement in the movie.

The stage was not very big, but well decorated. The seats were divided into three zones- wet zone, splash zone, and dry zone. During our visit, the dry zone was only safe place to stay dry. By the way, you will not get wet during the show. The water is basically splashed purposely by the supporting actors in funny ways before the show begins.

Gun shoots, explosion, and smoke are the main attractions. The storyline however was weak.

You will get soaked in Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure, especially in the last 60 seconds of the ride. You really need a raincoat. Well, you can buy a raincoat at the entrance to the ride with SD4, or you can buy a cheaper one outside. For those who travel from Malaysia, you can get a cheap disposable raincoat with RM2.50 from Seven-Eleven. Along the ride,  we can see some dinosaurs moving their heads, waving their front legs, and making some noises. The movement of dinosaurs looked unrealistic.

Canopy Flyer is a suspended roller coaster. It is nearby Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure. With about two minutes of riding time, it was a bit too short for us. The photo shows a view during the ride.

Our advices- wear shoes and store all the loose items at the rack provided before riding Canopy Flyer, or your cap and flip-flops might ended up landing on the roof top of the building. 

Next station, Far Far Away. We found Shrek 4-D Adventure was interesting, and Puss-in-Boots mascot was cute. The rest like Donkey LIVE and Enchanted Airways couldn't really raise our interest to walk through the entrance. We visited Shrek's tree house before joined the street party hosted by King Julien and other characters from Madagascar at 3:15 pm. Of course, the cutest characters were the Boogie penguins! Then, we moved on with King Julien's Beach Party-Go-Round and Madagascar: A Crate Adventure.

We went back to Far Far Away to take photo with Puss-In-Boots at 4 pm. The time for photo session with the big cat was not available in the leaflet. We were lucky to receive the information from a cleaner in the theme park. Exhausted, we took a rest at Mel's Drive-in fast food restaurant at Hollywood street. There, we enjoyed french fries, cooling air, sipping Coke, and watching the show from the Street Party entertainers- Mel's Dinettes and the Cruisers!

Entrance to the Far Far Away.

House of Shrek (upper left) and castle of Princess Fiona (upper right), along with few shops and food stalls along the street.

Photo session with Puss-in-Boots.

"We like to move it move it!" energized the hot afternoon.

Excellent performance by the Cruisers at Hollywood's street stage. Watch their performance at Youtube by secretayu21.

Recharged, we went back to New York street to pick up the leftovers- Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase and Light, Camera, Action. To our surprise, Light, Camera, Action! hosted by Steven Spielberg was a stunning show that really gave us the "Hollywood" feel. We watched the Monster Rock at Pantages Hollywood Theater before we started shopping around.

Light, Camera, Action! is a must visit in USS. It is located at New York Street (upper left). Although the 5 minutes show was stunning, the visitors were not many during our visit (upper right). By the way, the first row of spectators might get wet due to the splash caused by the falling building at the right side of the stage. Spaghetti Space Chase is a Sesame Street themed ride. It is a gentle and cozy ride.

Hollywood street houses many souvenir shops.

New York street is around 50 meters long, with a few eateries and rides.

We were lucky to visit USS at none peak season. There were not many visitors in the park. The longest queuing time was encountered at the Canopy Flyer, and the shortest was the Revenge of the Mummy. Well, none of them exceeded 15 minutes. We went straight into a few shows and ride as well with almost zero waiting time (Shrek 4-D, The Revenge of the Mummy, Party-Go-Round, A Crate Adventure, and Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase).

Plan ahead and be early. Go straight to the most interesting rides as early as possible before the queue forms. Do not go around the park theme by theme (although that is more systematic). For us, we have four main targets- the Transformer 4-D Adventure, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park Rapid Adventure, and the WaterWorld Live Show, which we completed all of them before 1 pm. Then, we went around with slower pace, picking up the "leftover" rides and shows later.

The food and beverages are expensive, at least for us. Converting SD1 to RM2.50, a simple meal with burger plus fries and Coke can be RM42++. So, bringing some snacks, bread and sandwiches might be helpful to save some money. A milk shake at Far Far Away costs RM17.50 but it costs around 1/3 at Mel's Drive-in. So, if you really wish to take something in the park, do go around and survey the price of the food, of course only if you mind about the price. How about the drink? Worry not, the drinking water fountains are available at all the entrance of the restrooms to keep us well hydrated.

We went out of the theme park around 8 pm. Although the park was closed at 7 pm, the shops continued their operation till the visitors left the premises. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Mia Ming afterward, and headed back to JB at around 9:30 pm.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Kampung Morten, a Tranquil Island in the Ocean of Development

Kampung Morten, or Morten Village is a village in the middle of the city of Melaka. Named after the British Land Commissioner, F. J. Morten who had contributed to the opening of the village, the village was found around 1920 an by Othman Mohd. Noh. Surrounded by skyscrapers and highways, Melaka River is the only barrier that eludes the tranquil village from the bustle world on the opposite bank.

Retaining the traditional architecture, the peaceful village is claimed to be the living museum. Most of the residences there are fenceless, which means visitors can actually take a very close look and feel the daily living of the community. Of course, most of the families have cars and motorbikes park in their houses.

To reach the village, a walk along the walkway beside the Melaka River from Melaka Tourist Information Centre (near Stadthuys) will take around 20 - 30 minutes. If you stay in Ramada Hotel, Bayview Hotel, Orchid Hotel, and Hotel Central Melaka (formerly Continental Hotel), then the village is just one to two minutes away by foot, through a bridge beside Putra Specialist Hospital.

Kampung Morten consists of more than 50 traditional Malay residences. Beautified Melaka River draws border between the village and the city, dividing the modern and the traditional.

 Kampung Morten is surrounded by modern buildings.

The red traditional village rooftops can never be harmonized into the skyscrapers behind. The visitors on board of the cruising water taxi can feel it the best.

Nicely decorated walkway spanning from the tourist centre at the middle of the city to the village. One thing is lacking- the cover. So, umbrella is necessary for those who wish to take the journey in the middle of the day.

The bridge that connects the new and the old, the modern and the traditional, like a time machine.

A late afternoon walk in the village is definitely a leisure experience. Villagers are coming out for outdoor activities, drinking tea and coffee, chitchat with their neighbours while kids are playing around. 

"Apa khabar?" (How are you?) or simply "Hello" will yield fruitful conversation from the villagers. Even if we simply wave to the pakcik (uncle) sitting in front of the house, a replying wave and a big smile is surely followed.

Villa Sentosa is opened to public daily from 9 am - 5 pm, with one to two hours of lunch break from 1 - 3 pm. The address is 136, Kampung Morten, Malacca. Tel no.+606-2822988. Visitors can actually go into the house for a visit with resident tour guide.

Many traditional kampung houses adopt open community concept, which the fences are built for decoration, not to refrain anyone from moving freely within the compound.

 Very old-fashioned kampung house.
See, the door is open for better ventilation, with nobody at home... We can't really experience the lifestyle like this anymore nowadays in the city.

Drying clothes in an open space in the middle of the city will end up with something stolen, but not in Kampung Morten. Villagers trust the visitors, as much as they trust their own neighborhood.

5:30 pm, the sun goes down and children start coming out for their outdoor activities.

How close you can go to count how many fishes are there in the aquarium? Well, you can go as close as you wish to.

To be frank, Kampung Morten is too young to stand side by side with Stadthuys or A' Famosa. It is too quiet to be compared to Jonker Street. However, if you are in Malaysia, and have not visited any traditional Malay village yet, then Kampung Morten is definitely a worthy choice. Neither long journey nor overnight stay are required, as Kampung Morten is located right in the heart of Melaka city area. Plus, the entrance is free.
 Several homestays are available within the the village area.

 Modern and old- chairs in front of a house.

Very cute curtains.

In 1988, Melaka State Government gazetted the village as a heritage area. Well, tourists start to come, and of course, business opportunities emerge. Well, our personal opinion, grabbing the opportunity is good, but don't get it overdone.

The wooden booth built beside the road promote the souvenirs and tourism related business, while creating jobs for the villagers, but at the same time spoilt the peaceful village atmosphere.

We really appreciate nice looking village house, but this one is a bit... overdone. Well, originality is what the visitors treasure.

As the development of the surrounding area is intense, it is important for the village to be kept as close as it's original state.

If you ask, is this kampung a must visit site in Melaka? Well, it depends on your schedule. If you have a tight schedule, then save your time for the historical sites such as A' Famosa and Stadthuys, as well as the museums and Jonker Street. If you have some time to spare, then, visiting Kampung Morten will be a great option to fill your itinerary.