Thursday, February 9, 2012

Singapore 2011: Sentosa & Jurong Attractions

To read all posts about our 2011 Singapore Trip click here

Sentosa Island:
We were not able to do all the things we set out to do on the day that we took the kids to Sentosa as the weather did not cooperate with us.  The gray sky was heavy with clouds as we left our hotel that morning, an ominous warning of things to come.

There's a complimentary bus service which stops at our hotel every morning to bring tourists to Sentosa, but since our hotel was the second to the last stop and our visit was also timed at the peak travel season, the Filipina at the reception lobby advised us not to queue up anymore as the bus gets to our hotel already filled to the brim with passengers/tourists picked up from other hotels. 

The first time I visited Sentosa a few years ago, I remember feeling let-down after I realized that's all there is to it.  We visited the aquarium, walked on its sandy beach, took the nature walks...  Through the years, Singapore continuously developed it as the foremost leisure island spending billions of dollars to market it as" Asia's Favorite Playground."  

I remember feeling sorry for the Singaporeans because the synthetic island atmosphere of Sentosa pales in comparison to our own lovely paradise such as Batangas and Mactan, among the many others.  The imported sands that lined the Siloso Beach have nothing on the shoreline of our own Boracay.  Nothing beats the natural island vibe our own islands have to offer.  I feel that what Sentosa has achieved is a perfect and effective  marketing plan; something which our own Department of Tourism is still establishing to do.  Despite the best efforts of a long line of people at the helm of the agency, our country's crack at tourism fame has yet to ignite.  Sigh!

But to go back to talking about Sentosa...
Underwater World is still an attraction that continues to draw in a lot of tourists.  The touch pool is the first thing that welcomes us and we took quite a while convincing the kids to touch the slimy, slippery sea creatures.

My kids enjoyed the massive oceanarium, even going through seemingly endless rounds on the travelator that goes around the aquarium.  

After all, it's not everyday that they see underwater scenes like this diver feeding the fishes in a Santa costume. :)
...or watching a manta ray have its meal

... or a shark asking for second servings!

The ticket for the Underwater World also comes with a Dolphin Show, but the slight drizzle worsened into a downpour shortly after we came out from the giant aquarium so we just decided to wait it out by riding on the tramline that goes around the island.

We decided to get off at the Palawan Beach, where a suspension bridge links beach-goers to the Southernmost Point of Asia, the tip where Asia is closest to the equator.

We climbed the viewing tower where we can see the panoramic view of the entire island on one side and the sweeping vista of the open sea on the other.

By now the rain has stopped, and we decide to take our chances with the unpredictable weather and lined up for the Luge.  The Skyline Luge offers a unique outdoor experience suitable for all ages. The Luge is basically a ride that relies on gravitational pull to move.  The riders control the speed of the cart by moving the handlebars back and forth.  It goes faster as you let go and it brakes as you pull on the handlebar closer to the rider’s body.  This allows the rider to control how fast or slow the ride is. 
image source
C and R were the first one to take on the forked tracks.  They sped downhill the 650-meter forest trail.  C and I agreed that I should be last so we could split looking out for the kids, and I trailed the girls as they took on the 688-meter dragon trial.

The kids found the adrenaline rush so addicting that they were begging for a second ride as soon as we finished.  But sadly, the weather did not cooperate with us, especially me – at all!  Since I was the last to go, I was still in the middle of the tracks when rain poured down.  I was truly torn between letting go of the control to take out a jacket, but of course that would mean total disaster since letting go of the handle bar would mean letting go of the brake… making for a truly fast ride.  In the end, there wasn’t really anything else to do but to just enjoy the moment – getting soaked in the rain and all. 
After the luge ride, we took the Skyride to bring us back to the starting point.  The Skyride is similar to a ski lift.   It offers a fantastic scenery of the beautiful coastline, which I failed to pay attention to... because I was too busy being scared. :)You see, it was still raining that time and so I had my umbrella open, and I was too pre-occupied preventing it from being snatched up by a sudden burst of wind.  Yeah, I know... scaredy-cat!:)

Getting held up by the rain is no reason to complain, so we looked for other options as we waited for the downpour to stop once again. We tried our hands at origami...

We also tried interviewing the trees...
... But sadly, the rain did not show any signs of easing up, so we had to cancel all the other Sentosa attractions on our list, ate an early dinner at Vivo City Mall, and finished our day with more shopping along Orchard street. 

Do be aware, though, that while entry to Sentosa is free, you have to pay for all the rides and attractions separately.  For the complete list of things to do and attractions to see, visit the Sentosa webpage.   

Jurong Island:

Singapore Discovery Center
Since Jurong is located far away from the city, we planned to tackle three of its attractions in one day.  We initally intended to start our day in Jurong by visiting the Singapore Discovery Center, then walk through Jurong Bird Park mid-day and end with the Science Center

The Singapore Discovery Center, as Wikipedia describes it, is an attraction that offers engaging exhibits for everybody, providing insights into what makes Singapore ticks.  
Someone (namely me!) obviously did not research enough... halfway through the attraction, the kids were starting to get bored because it was after all not an attraction, per se, but more of an information center about everything Singapore.  Still having paid for the entrance already, we did explore the place as much as we can.  However, if I were to advise you, I would tell you to skip this with the kids.

Unfortunately, due to the rain unexpectedly appearing as we exited the Discovery Center, we had to veer away from our itinerary.  We decided to go to the Science Center first and just go to the bird park when the weather clears up a bit.

Singapore Discovery Centre
admission:  kids $6, adults $10

Singapore Science Centre
At the  Singapore Science Centre, the kids had such a great time satisfying their curios minds and busy hands.  The Science Center is actually a playground of knowledge for adults and kids alike.  With close to 20 permanent exhibit areas and frequent travelling exhibitions, the Singapore Science Centre is home to a huge collection of interactive exhibits featuring the science of outer space, the earth, sound, inventions, ecosystems, human bodies, technology, and visual illusions.

At the Sound Exhibit, the kids were charmed by the playful and theatrical demonstration of sound waves in action as shaved iron fillings controlled by an electromagnetic plate dance to a variety of tunes.
image source
The exhibits, although appealing and interesting, are not the star at the Singapore Science Center; the shows and demonstrations are the must-sees!  We were mesmerized at how they simulated one of the most virtually impressive BUT terrifying phenomenon in nature, a fire tornado, inside a specially built enclosure in the museum.  Fire tornadoes are not usually something that is captured on cameras, so seeing one simulated up close is something that captivated everyone.
This demonstration only comes up once a day at 3pm, so be sure to be there when they light this up
Another must-see demonstration is the Tesla Coil Show, an explosive and electrifying live demonstration of high voltage electricity.  Electrical arcs travel wirelessly and pop out hydrogen-filled balloons, making an explosive demonstration.  Audience who are brave enough can also volunteer to sit inside a giant bird cage while electric currents travels around it. 

There is a Science show, as well, that is truly entertaining and engaging, with a lot a strong element of fun and play thrown in.  There are a lot of activities which involve audience interaction and participation.

Here we are crossing a tunnel where psychedelic lights illuminate when motion is detected.

Dinosaurs Live! is one of the traveling exhibits on display, and C and R took the opportunity to visit since they missed this when we were in Hong Kong.  There are almost 50 life-sized dinosaurs in their created habitats.  There is a separate admission to this exhibit. 

There are a lot of things to do and see that an afternoon is almost not enough for my kids. We ended up staying the whole afternoon, foregoing a visit to the Jurong Bird Park, in the process.  You can visit this site if you need any help planning your itinerary at the Science Centre

This is pretty much like the Science Museum in Hong Kong where there are a lot of interactive exhibits to entertain the kids.  Only, the HK Science museum already had a mini-dinosaur exhibit. For the Singapore Science Center, we had to pay another admission fee to get in the Dinosaur exhibit.  While I personally think that the hands-on display and exhibits of the Hong Kong Science Center were superior in terms of variety and the ability to engage the kids.  Nonetheless, the Singapore Science Center makes the trip more than worth the while with its unique and must-see shows and demonstrations!
Singapore Science Centre 
admission kids $3; adults $9; senior citizens $6; children below 3 free
Dinosaurs Alive!
admission:  kids $15; adults $23; inclusive of Science Center admission 

OmniTheatre, also called the Science Centre Observatory 
We purposely, intentionally, deliberately planned for our visit to the Science Centre to fall on a Friday since that is the only day when the Observatory is open to the public for a night of FREE stargazing from 7-10pm.  

My kids have this National Geographic telescope at home which they use to look at major constellations on nights when the sky is clear.  So I know the kids, most especially B, would love to have a chance to observe the heavenly bodies using the Observatory's state-of-the-art telescope, which can be made to swivel in any direction and its shutter can be made to slide open for the telescope to focus on any interesting objects in the sky.

It is just our luck that the rain did not let up; while the observatory was still open to visitors, stargazing through the observatory's telescope has been rendered impossible due to the weather. Sigh! 

Phenomenal TIPS:
1.  It is best to arrive at SENTOSA early to avoid the crowds that start coming in in the afternoon.
2.  Like the Philippines, Singapore's weather is unpredictable.  It can be sunny in the mornings and turn rainy in the afternoon, or the other way around.  It is advisable to bring foldable umbrellas and lighweight but water-proof jackets/parkas.
3.  If you are traveling with kids, bring along water bottles and some light snacks.
4.  The Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park have a 3-in-1 joint ticket called the Park Hopper Ticket. This is great value if you plan on visiting all 3 parks. You get to save a chunk off the total ticket price. You may also get a variety 2-in-1 Park Hopper tickets for entry into any 2 of Zoo, Night Safari or Bird Park. Prices vary according to your selection of parks and rides.
5.  If you/your kids are into astronomy, make sure to experience the FREE stargazing session every Friday night at the Science Centre Obervatory.

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The Sunset Goddess said...

Hi! :) So if I have to choose just one between the Singapore Zoo and the Jurong Bird Park, you think the Singapore Zoo is the not-to-be-missed quintessential SG destination? :) Thanks!

jen laceda said...

I'm not sure how it is in Singapore, but here in Canada, we are notorious weather watchers. When we travel, I am always checking the weather report. We are fortunate to have pretty accurate report on weather, down to an hourly report - when the rain or snow or sun will come. In fact, when we travel, we always have a weather app on, especially in Europe, where they have pretty accurate weather reports as well. That way, we can decide to change our course or what not. I do remember how in the Philippines, PAG-ASA (is this what it's still called?) has some really off and inaccurate reports - never reliable!! Ugh!

Your SG trip looks so much fun! We wanna go there as well!!!

The Phenomenal Woman said...

Hi Sunset Goddess! Personally, I think the Singapore Zoo is not to be missed. The collection of savanna animals alone are impressive already, add to the fact that they are kept cageless in wide open areas is another wow-factor.

The Phenomenal Woman said...

Hi Jen!

Weather around Southeast Asia is generally rainy during December. Bad time to travel, really, but it is the only time we can travel due to C's office/work schedule. alam mo na...

Rain falls intermittently during the day, so we just have to take our chances. Nanghinayang lang talaga ako sa stargazing session because how often can I actually give the kids a chance to use a "real" telescope... and around that time there were a lot of planets visible pa naman.

We've never bothered to download a weather app, maybe because we are so used to Pag-asa's inefficency that we just leave everything to chance. hehehe!

Nonetheless, there is always an element of surprise in every travel experience, and those unexpected chances are what makes our travel memories so rich... and unforgettable!:)

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