03 July 2011

Sentosa Play Pass - Play More Pay Less

Every once in a while, I like to pretend I'm holidaying in Singapore, to be a tourist right at home. My HDB flat becomes Whampoa Hotel and it comes with 2 guest relations officers called Joy and Rainbow (my dogs). Once a week, the chambermaid (hired part-time cleaner) comes in to disinfect my room and every night, I get a duo (my parents) who provides 'live' entrertainment with their duet of nag-songs. Isn't it great what a little imagination can do?! Haha.

Recently, my home tourist syndrome acted up again so I cured it with a visit to Singapore's No. 1 holiday destination, Sentosa! I can't remember when was the last time I visited this playground in Singapore's backyard and wow, so much has changed! For the better. I didn't need to pretend I was a foreign visitor, all the new stuff brought out the tourist in me.

Took the Sentosa Express train at VivoCity (Lobby L, Level 3) for the first time. I still remember the open-air monorail system with audio guides that was the vein that linked up Sentosa back in those days. Now it's this convenient air-conditioned train that takes visitors to the island from mainland in less than 5 minutes. A whole day train pass cost S$3.00.

After a period of major revamps and overhaul, new attractions have been added to Sentosa (other than Resort World and Universal Studios) and the organisation of the island's attractions are in my opinion, better structured and more accessible. The island is divided into 3 distinct zones - Imbiah Lookout, Beach, and Siloso Point.

Imbiah Lookout contains a cluster of closely-knitted attractions that offer a glimpse of Singapore's naturescape, history and aerial panoramic views of the Southern part of our country-state. The Beach zone, as the name suggests, is the place for fun in the sun and a chance to drool at gorgeous babes and hunks. Siloso Point invites visitors to take a walk through the historic military remnants of Singapore's colonial past and get to meet the inhabitants under our surrounding seas.

Singapore's most recognisable icon at the Merlion Plaza at Imbiah Lookout. This shot is a "I've been to Singapore" must-have!

In my past visits to Sentosa, the Beach zone had always been my only destination and I haven't seen the other attractions in the other zones. So this visit, under an invitation by Sentosa to experience more of the island theme park with the Sentosa Play Pass, I saw another side of this top-rated tourist destination for foreigners and locals alike.

After visiting Sentosa with the Play Pass, my conclusion is that it is the best deal for enjoying the island and getting a comprehensive all-in-one taste of Singapore's nature, culture and adventure!

The 1-day weekend Sentosa Play Pass costs S$69.90 (adult) and S$51.90 (child) and it covers entrance fees and equipment rental for 13 attractions! The pass can be used from 9am to 7pm. Total price of the attractions if the tickets were bought individually - S$159 (adult), S$125 (child). It's more than 60% in savings!

The Sentosa Play Pass covers costs for enjoying 13 attractions on the island spanning the Imbiah Lookout, Beach, and Fort Siloso zones. It provides a good mix of natural environment appreciation, historic learning journeys, and adrenaline-pumping action! You are only limited by time and energy!

I didn't manage to cover all 13 attractions. Prior to this Play Pass excursion, I did some math... The pass can be used from 9am to 7pm. That's 10 hours (600 minutes) divided by 13 attractions. That gives me about 46 minutes per attraction. Taking out time for commuting between attractions, queue time, lunch, and toilet breaks, essentially I'm left with 35 minutes per attraction.

So it is possible to cover all 13, but that's too much of a rush. The great thing about the Play Pass is that it allows you the flexibility to control your time and not limited by the time allocation of a guided tour. I managed to cover 8 attractions but even with just 8, I calculated that the total ticket prices for these attractions have already far exceeded the cost of the Play Pass' S$69.90 tag. Phew! Didn't lugi (Malay for losing out). Now let's go explore the 8 fun stuff Siow Har and I did...

Sentosa Nature Discovery
Individual Ticket Price : S$8.00
Opening Hours : 9:00 am - 6:00 pm

Although I didn't cover all 13 attractions, I must qualify that that's because I spent quite a lot of time at some of the attractions to take photos. One of the places I sunk a lot of time into was the Sentosa Nature Discovery trail which includes the Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom. If you enjoy nature photography like I do, this trail can yield some pretty rewarding shots.

I arrived in Sentosa at about 9.45 am and the nature trail was my first stop as the morning light was preferred for nature photography and bugs are more active. It's free to enter the Sentosa Nature Discovery centre but the Play Pass can be utilised for a guided tour at 2.30 pm and 4.30 pm.

The centre itself is very simple with static posters talking about the geological heritage and ecology of Singapore with some artefacts of animals and insects.

Torch ginger flower and the underside of the massive fan palm leaf.

Didn't take the guided tour so spent only a short time here before heading to one of my favouritest nature photographic subjects - butterflies and bugs!

Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom
Individual Ticket Price : S$16 (adult) / S$10 (child)
Opening Hours : 9:00 am - 6:00 pm

The Sentosa Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom is made up of 3 parts - butterfly garden, aviary and insectarium. Here is a chance to get upclose and personal with the fairies of nature, colourful birds and creepy crawlies.

The butterfly enclosure is a cosy, rustic space that is home to a variety of tropical butterfly species. 

A newborn Paper Kite Butterfly (a.k.a. Rice Paper and Large Tree Nymph) emerges from cocoons that have a resplendent golden hue.

Mystic blue luminescence of the Ulysses Butterfly. This species of butterfly was my favourite when I collected insect specimens during my childhood. Before I learnt its actual name, I referred to it as the Turquoise Blue Swallowtail.

A pair of mating Ulysses butterflies. It's interesting that their underside is so dull compared to the electric blue when their wings are opened. The male Ulysses is reportedly attracted to all things blue, which they mistake for a female.

When a butterfly lands on you, it is not a sign that you possess Snow White's charm but that the insect is feasting on salt from your perspiration. But of course, the feeling of a delicate butterfly trusting you would not hurt it is magical! 

Crossing from the butterfly enclosure, we came into the aviary which is again, rather concise. Here, we walked amongst colourful parakeets, parrots and spotted necked doves.

Brilliant blue-green remiges of a parrot. The colours of bird feathers are affected by pigments and the feather's structure which will determine how it refracts light. I remember being told that there are no green parrots but rather, the effect of yellow feathers overlaying a structural blue refraction. Hence, the parrot appears green.

A giant Stag Beetle which the insectarium keeper has very kindly taken out of the glass case for us to take closer pictures. The protruding incisor-like mandibles look like they can give a nasty bite. Yikes!

From the aviary, we entered a passageway lined with glass cases on the wall showcasing live bugs, beetles and mantises. A large collection of the live crawlies belonged to the giant Stage Beetle so there wasn't much to see. Quite a few of the cases were also empty. Perhaps the new specimens haven't arrived yet.

There were also 2 dark tanks which I believed were for showcasing fluorescent scorpions. They were empty too and I can't find the switch to turn on the ultraviolet lights that these displays usually come with.

Coming out of the live insects lair, we entered the museum portion of Insect Kingdom. Here, hundreds of specimens are on display with some of the most bizarre and beautiful bugs I've ever seen. I could've spent a whole day in this place admiring the wonderful designs of these small creatures.

This is a very, very rare specimen of gynandromorphism in butterflies. A gynandromorph is an organism that displays both male and female characteristics in one body. I think in human terms, it's a tranny / dyke butterfly. The chance of finding a gynandromorph is 1 in a million!

Scary eyes used as defense mechanisms to scare away predators, but I thought they looked rather comical. The kungfu mantis in the right photo really cracked me up!

Say "zulu wakaka" and meet the Goliath Beetle from Africa, one of the world's largest beetles in terms of size and weight. Featuring beautiful designs that resembled a warriors shield, the long-horned Macrodontia Cervicornis can reach up to 17 cm in length!

Don't know how long I got lost in the world of insects. While the Sentosa Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom fascinated me, I can't help comparing it with the Butterfly Farm in Penang which is much better in terms of ambience and landscaping. Plus some of the more docile preying mantises there were openly displayed on plants so visitors can actually touch and hold them.

4D Experiential Shows
Individual Ticket Price : S$12 - S$18 (adult) / S$11 - S$12 (child) per show
Opening Hours : 10:00 am - 9:00 pm

After sweating it out with nature, we decided to head for the three 4D Magix shows hoping to just sit and relax while enjoying some air-con. Little did we expect, Siow Har and I have just stepped onto an adventure of the senses! These shows were not meant for passive viewing...

Synergising 3D cinematographic technology with motion simulating seats and fixtures, the 4D Magix cluster of show (Pirates), ride (Extreme Log Ride) and game (Desperados) takes us on a thrilling adventure that had Siow Har squirming in fear and me shouting till I'm rather hoarse.

The shows run at scheduled intervals of about 15 - 20 minutes so the queue wasn't too long to get in to each of them. At the Pirates and Log Ride theatrettes, there are interesting pre-shows that kept us entertained while we waited.

Our favourite was Pirates, a short 4D movie with lots of laughs and surprises that made me jump at my seat twice. I shan't reveal the surprises and spoil the fun but it's definitely worth checking out!

As for the Extreme Log Ride, do not pull or adjust your seat belt once the show has started as it will cause the show to stop. A kid in our seat cabin pulled the seat belt shortly into the ride and it just came to a complete halt. The lights came on and we had to restart the ride again.
Images of Singapore
Individual Ticket Price : S$10 (adult) / S$7 (child)
Opening Hours : 9:00 am - 7:00 pm

From nature and adventure, our next stop was to steep ourselves in culture at the Images of Singapore gallery. Housed within a restored colonial lodge left on the island, the gallery is a must-see as it is a very well thought out historic journey that traced the major events and transformation of Singapore from a small fishing village to the nation's independence on 9 August 1965 to the metropolis it is today.

As I'm in the exhibition / gallery / museum line of work apart from insurance, I enjoy visiting such places to see the latest in exhibitory techniques and technology as well as to satisfy my anthropological curiousity. I'm naturally quite kaypoh (busybody) and love to poke my nose to sniff around how things were to understand why things are the way they are now.

What I really love about Images of Singapore is the amazing life-size replicas, incredible sets and solid staging. Everywhere we went, it's as if we stepped back in time and the transition from era to era is seamless. It's like walking through a time tunnel with yester-year scenes and activities brought to life.

The exploration of Singapore's past began with a telling of the early trade beginnings that led to the establishment of this small country as an important maritime port. The show featured innovative use of junk ship sails as projection screens and a projection on a smoke. So cool!

Siow Har posing as a lady of the street. Apart from working as Ma Jie or Samsui Woman, early female Chinese immigrants also worked as prostitutes with many brothels set up around the Tanjong Pagar / Keong Siak Street area. The men who came to Singapore worked as hard labourers in the form of shipyard coolies or rickshaw pullers. And that's what I'm trying to portray although I'm too fat to be a coolie as many were skinny and malnourished.

Life-like wax figures and actual scale reconstructions of olden day scenes made this gallery really special for immersing in the lives of our forefathers and reliving some of the familiar memories in my childhood. There are no fanciful digital exhibition technologies but that's the nice thing, it thugs at the heart strings.

I love it here because the gallery has none of those irritating 'Do not touch' signs. It really felt like I walked into the lives of the different races and I can touch and feel the artefacts. This gallery is great for cam whoring!

Left pic : "Tolong ibu tolong! Saya jalan besar percuma istimewa, lotong, mee siam, nasi lemak!" (That's about most of the Malay words I have in me.)
Right pic : Old lady thinking to herself in Cantonese, "Yit gor say chai bao gom pak gua!" (This guy is so busybody!)

Great attention to details. This wall symbolising the Japanese occupation of Singapore during World War II (1942 - 1945) even has bullet holes! I pretended to be shot. How? My expression can pass or not? Heh heh...

Majulah Singapura! Images of Singapore will help foreigner visitors learn about history and heritage of our country and inspire a sense of pride in Singaporeans for what we've achieved as a small nation against great odds; an ethnically diverse society as one family.

Tiger Sky Tower
Individual Ticket Price : S$15 (adult) / S$10 (child)
Opening Hours : 9:00 am - 9:00 pm

Less than a minute away from Images of Singapore is the Tiger Sky Tower which offers a 360-degrees vantage view of Sentosa and the Southern part of Singapore.

The sky tower reaches up to 50 storeys high and rotates during the acension so we get a all-round bird's eye view of the surrounding. The view is priceless and the feeling is pretty awesome!

The whole ride up and down lasts about 10 minutes. Kinda brief. You may want to plan your time up around sunset to capture the dusking hues. We went up around 5:45 pm.

View of Resorts World Sentosa in the foreground with the bridge linking Sentosa to VivoCity in the middle ground and the PSA cranes and port in the background rolling back to the Central Business District (CBD) area.

Skyline Luge & Skyride
Individual Ticket Price : S$8
Opening Hours : 10:00 am - 9:30 pm

Our final stop was the Skyline Luge and Skyride. Initially I thought this would be just some lame ass slide with the thrill factor of watching ice melt. But having gone on it, it's sure one hell of a ride!

The luge is basically a ride downhill on a plastic sledge with wheels. It is very easily to operate and prior to zooming off, instructions are given its operation. It's so simple that if I can learn it (considering that my previous driving instructor gave up on teaching me how to drive), anyone can. Even kids.

There are supposedly 2 routes to take - Beach and Dragon Trail. I took the Dragon Trail although I think both leads to the same end point. In case you think the ride is granny pushing a baby stroller, let me assure you it's not! If you're a speed devil (watch yours and others safety), you can let it rip and go really fast! But of course, that means your ride will end very soon.

Alternating between slow and fast speeds, the ride was over for me in what seemed like 3 minutes. The Play Pass doesn't cover it but I think you can buy tickets for unlimited rides on the luge. When I saw the sign for it, I scoffed thinking who would want to ride this thing more than once. I was wrong. This bugger thrills!

What goes down, must come up. Ha. Upon reaching the bottom of the hill which is around the beach area, we took the Skyride back up to Imbiah Lookout. Now, the staff at the end point are pretty fierce so don't you go around trying to take photos of partner or friends before they get off their luge here.

While the Skyride is very safe, it still sent some chills for being suspended so high up. Especially when the whole system intentionally stalled for a while to 'scare' everyone. Okay, I admit, I'm wussy when it comes to not having my feet on the ground.

Oh yeah, love the excitement! Nature, culture, adventure! 

Did you make it to this far in this exceedingly long post? I only covered 8 attractions. Can you imagine if I did all 13?!

I haven't been back to do the touristy stuff in Sentosa for a long time and I must say, the improvements are impressive although I think some of the attractions may be a little pricey in terms of the value they offered. By making that statement, I'm comparing them to other similar attractions I've encountered overseas. But of course, there are those attractions that are worth more than the admission charges.

All in all, having experienced the convenience of the Play Pass (you just need to pay once for the pass instead of having to go to each attraction's ticket booth to buy tickets) and considering the cost of it, in my humble opinion, I would strongly recommend that visitors get it for ease of visiting theattractions and most importantly, great cost savings. The Play Pass is so much more economical and a great way to play more but pay less!

Useful Links :

Sentosa Website
Getting to and around Sentosa
Sentosa Play Pass

1 comment:

  1. Sentosa has changed so much!
    Ain't been there in ages...


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