(from Australia)

DAY 1 of 6

Transformers The Ride.
Based on the recent Movies by Michael Bay, Universal Studios Theme-parks created a theme-park ride under his guidance.  With four Universal Studios theme-parks around the world (California, Florida, Singapore, Japan), the first Transformers Ride was built at the Singapore theme-park in December 2011.  The second one opened up at the California/Hollywood theme-park in May 2012.  A third one has now been announce for the Florida theme-park for mid-2013, so maybe the one in Japan is likely to have one as well.

Three months ago (September 11th, 2012), I had the opportunity to experience the Transformers Ride at the Hollywood Universal Studios (in California). Flying around the world from Australia to America for just 17 hours, that adventure can be read about here.
Before I even went to the Hollywood one, I was keen to try out both Rides that were currently operating, to compare and to say that I've been to both as an over-dedicated fan of Transformers.  So as soon as I got back from America, I investigated and booked the Singapore trip.
Now that a third Transformers Ride has been announced for the Florida theme-park, I will now have to plan ahead for that one too... eventually.  Hopefully it will be open before next year's BotCon Transformers Convention, to do both at the same time.

The Singapore trip was during November 20th to 27th, with the actual day of going to the Theme-park being on the 21st.
This is my coverage of the Ride itself, plus my time over there, which includes 520 photos.
A big thankyou to my friend Julian for actually agreeing to come with me, as it wouldn't have been as much fun on my own.

(I can't forget Dispensor either.... see how many photos you can find him in)

QUICK INDEX - to jump to a specific page, event or day
DAY 1 - Pre-trip planning, (Tue 20th) flight over there, first evening and local area recon.
DAY 2 - (Wed 21st) Universal Studios.
DAY 3 - (Thu 22nd) Toy Museum & retail toy hunting.
DAY 4 - (Fri 23rd) Vintage toy hunting.
DAY 5 - (Sat 24th) Tourist Bus tours around Singapore.
DAY 6 - (Sun 25th) Singapore airport and return home (Mon 26th).


As noted above, this trip was planned at the beginning of September, hyped up from the California trip.
I started looking at flight costs and how soon I could go, because the closer to christmas, the harder it would be to get time off work.
I also wanted to be at the Theme-park mid-week, to avoid the weekend crowds.  So the initial plan was 3 days, with at least one day at Universal.  That way, I wouldn't have to take as much time off work.
But when I started looking at flights, it had me thinking that if I wasn't going for just one day like the California trip, maybe I should see if any of my friends would go with me to make it a more enjoyable experience.
After all, I wanted to share the adventure, and the better BotCon adventures were with friends.
The list of candidates was small though, as this was short notice, and most of the people I would have loved to go with, were in other states, or too tied up with things to afford the time and/or money.
With three local people on my short-list, I asked the first one... not sure if he'd take up the offer (because he had just finished four years of Uni, so didn't have a huge amount of savings to waste on a single trip).
Surprisingly, he said yes.  Something about it being a good break after 16 years of schooling.
And the best thing for me is that Julian is Asian, so could help me out with the foods, the writing, and the people (he'd be less likely to be treated/scammed as a tourist than I would).  We'd both benefit from the trip then, as he'd be able to rely on my traveling experience, and my occasional bouts of maturity.
Mutual benefit.
Or so I thought...
It turns out that just because someone can speak and read "Chinese", it doesn't mean that they'd be able to interact easily with other people who speak "Chinese".  This is because of there being two main dialects of Cantonese and Mandarin - and unfortunately for me, Singapore is predominantly Mandarin, and I took along the "non-citrus" variety of Asian.

So now I had to plan for two. And to make it more worth it for him, I extended the planned trip to 6 days.
I was a bit unsure if we could find enough to do to fill in six days, as Singapore isn't much of a Tourist destination... it is more of a Tourist transit point, stopping for a day on the way to somewhere else.
We both looked online for other tourist ideas, but couldn't see much at all.  Right up until we left, all we had planned was a day at Universal, a day toyhunting, and a day being tourists... leaving us with 3 days to fill, which we'd just have to fill out when we got there.

For a bit of fun though, I sent Julian a "proposed" itinerary....
20th arrive, check-in & browse nearby for dinner options.
21st Universal Studios.
22nd toyhunting.
23rd drinking and hookers for an all-day orgy.
24th quiet recovery from hangover.
25th source drugs and insert in rectum for flight home in the evening.
no wait... that's not right... I forgot about needing to buy up a heap of cigarettes to smuggle back and sell on the black market.

Fortunately he got the joke. I didn't want to have him wondering what the heck he's gotten himself into.

I did some research on the Transformers Ride, and could only find one decent report that covered both the ride and the merchandise store.
Plus looked up vintage toystore locations, using fellow collector Heroic Decepticon's list and map, as well as this list on a Singaporean fansite.
While researching the Singapore Universal Studios park, I came across this site, which has a great collection of photos showing its construction, and revealing that it is only about 2 years old.
I also realised that I'd need to buy a new power-point adapter, to use the power sockets in Singapore.
Plus, I was keeping track of the exchange rate too, which was sitting around 1.2 - 1.25 Singapore dollars for each Australian dollar.

When I ended up going to the travel agent to book the trip, I had flight details for the dates I wanted, and asked about Business Class flights... just to really make the adventure something special.  I was aware of the pricing difference to Economy Class (it's about 4 times the price), but the travel agent couldn't understand my thinking, so actually talked me out of the more expensive flights.  Yes, she was willing to sacrifice that extra commission, just because she knew how cheap I usually am with all my long-distance travel (thinking that the unnecessary expense would have bugged me so much, it would have spoilt the trip).  It's possible... but I would have gotten over it, eventually.
The main issue I had though was the cost of Hotels in Singapore, or at least, the tourist ones that aren't considered "slums".  The options being given were all double what I'm used to paying at American or Australian hotels.
At least with an expensive plane ticket, you get better everything, and access to heaps of extra stuff (like the airport lounges), but a hotel isn't something you spend much time in when on holiday.  As long as the room is comfortable enough to sleep in, and has the basic facilities of any regular hotel, you spend most of your time away from the room when you aren't sleeping. If you did spend your waking hours in the hotel to make the most of your money on the daily rate, you waste the point of traveling there in the first place.
So to me, an expensive hotel is a waste of money.  I don't fly to other countries to spend time in the hotel when I'm awake.  All those frills that add to the cost of the room is money wasted.

Anyway, I ended up choosing a hotel that included free breakfast every morning, as it was one of the cheaper ones (at $246 per night!!!), which would save me a fortune in food... much of which would have been junk.

I also decided to go with Singapore Airlines this time, to see what they were like.  I usually fly QANTAS, to be patriotic and for the points, but wanted to see how another competitor compared.

When I tied to pay for the package, I had trouble with my keycard because it had a daily limit... and my credit card also had a limit (as a safety measure, after one of my cards were fraudulently used earlier this year).  In the end, I had to do a bank-transfer on the travel-agent's computer.  So frustrating... just to prevent other people from raiding my accounts.

It was a long 2 months... counting down the days until I would be off to my first Asian country.  I still want to go to Japan and Hong Kong (mostly for the vintage toys), but Singapore should be a good start, as it apparently mostly english (being from a British colony).

The week before the trip, I started have some pains in the chest, which I thought might have been from trying out a cheap energy drink from the supermarket.  Not wanting to risk a repeat of the BotCon trip in April (I went to hospital 5 days before my flight to America because of abdominal pains, to end up having my appendix removed), I decided to not have it checked out until after I got back... and just take it easy until then.  That meant, no more caffeine, nothing strenuous, and minimal junk food.
I was taking a risk, but I didn't want to risk missing the trip, or preventing Julian from going... so I didn't tell him about it until after we got back.
That might seem a bit irrational, risking death over a mere trip, but I weighed up the possible outcomes. If it ended up being something minor, I could have missed the trip over something that could have waited until we got back. And if it was something serious... well, then I'd go out doing something fun (and just hope an untimely death didn't psychologically scar Julian, as his first trip overseas without his family).
(I did get it checked out when we got back, and even though three days in hospital ruled out anything cardiac... tests are still being done to find out what the heck is going on)

The day before departure (Monday 19th November), I had off from work, so it was good to have the night free to sort out as much messageboard stuff as I needed to, in case internet access in Singapore was limited.
First off in the morning though, I dropped off my car at a servicing place, to have a major overhaul done, as it had several things due for over a year now.  I just couldn't afford it before, or be able to be without it for several days while they worked on it.
Then when I got back home, I walked to my post-office, which is only 10 minutes away.  I wanted to check my mail as I was expecting several boxes, so didn't want them sitting there for a week.
They had three big boxes... which was good for me... but bad to have to carry them back home on foot in the heat.  And I didn't have much time to do much with them either, as I had packing to do, and print out maps and checklists.

At 2am I went to sleep, with two alarms set to wake me up in 5 hours time.


7am - wake up and finish up packing, dressing and printing out maps and checklists.

11am - pickup from home by Julian and his mother, to the airport

11.40am - arrive at Brisbane International Airport, drop off luggage (already checked in online, to make sure we got adjoining seats)

11.50am - After we got our boarding passes, we checked out a store in the upstairs food court for the Transformers figurine Capsules that were there in September (they had over 20, and I still needed 2 of the set of 12).
They had none left, but still had heaps of the other Capsule brands that were there in September (typical).  One of the reasons I wanted to get there so early, aside from making sure we didn't get stuck in any traffic or delays, was to spend some time buying up Capsules to get the two that I was missing.  Now we had a heap of extra time on our hands, with nothing much to fill it in with, except keeping each other company (checking out the various stores at the airport and me grabbing a snack to eat, as I hadn't eaten much in the couple days beforehand).

12.30pm - Went through security & customs, which barely had a queue. (yet, when I am in a rush to get to a flight, it takes 30-40 minutes to get through security)

2.15pm - Boarding.  We were in the third/rear section of the plane, which was coloured brown/orange... compared to the more pleasant looking blue/green mid section.

2.45pm - Depart gate and take off.

Estimated flight time - 7 hours 30 minutes
Approximate distance - 6,300kms.

What is with the hot towels?  I've only had them in Business Class on QANTAS, but Singapore Airlines were giving them out in Economy before we took off.  They aren't very moist, so aren't very cleansing... they are just hot, which cools down very quickly in the airconditioning.  What's the point, since people are just fresh on the plane?  Wouldn't it make more sense to be given out at the end of the flight to freshen people up to wake them up?
They gave out menus too.  The food sounded interesting, but didn't end up being too much more fancy than other airline Economy meals. I think I had a beef dish, but Julian had a chicken meal with a huge piece of chicken... which I was rather impressed with for an airline meal.

Similar to QANTAS, we had personal entertainment units for each passenger (a tv screen at the back of each seat and a controller to navigate), and a big book of programs and games available.
Heaps of movies and TV shows, including a large range of foreign programs.  I only managed to watch one movie on my list (Batman - Dark Knight Rises), because I was sitting next to someone who was rather talkative.
I got an hour into Spiderman before the entertainment system was switched off for landing.

8.25pm - land at Singapore airport

8.40pm - get off the plane



Singapore airport - toystore in the arrivals level.  It was late for getting to the hotel (being 8.40pm already), otherwise I might have looked around the airport more.  It was quite empty of people, so didn't think much would be open anyway.  If we hadn't walked past this store, I probably wouldn't have bothered to look around for one..

Found these licensed kids luggage at the front... naturally it caught my eye.

But the real prize... toys. And lots of them.

Being so excited about seeing all the new toys, I bought four figures, despite them being about the same price as they are here. Also, since they weren't released here yet, and the chances were slim that they were, I was so keen to start my toy purchasing, that I didn't realise until a couple days later that I already had two on order from America (which left me with doubles when I got back home)
From left, at the back - TFPrime Rumble, Kup, Skyquake & Vehicon.  Dispensor (at the front) is welcoming his new minions, on his plans to conquer Singapore.

9.00pm - downstairs to collect our bags (fortunately they were still there after spending about 15 minutes in the toystore).
Then through customs, which seemed to be more interested in watching TV than wanting to attend to us.  I had some medications in my luggage that I wanted to declare, but they just waved me through before I could even say a word.
9.15pm - went to the shuttle bus desk to get transportation to the hotel.  It cost us $9 each for seats, which seemed really cheap for the distance we needed to go (see map below - airport is on the right, hotel at "A" is on the left).
The shuttle bus took 45 minutes to stop at the other two terminals and other hotels before ours, but we didn't know how cheap the taxis are in Singapore.  We found out on the way back to the airport that it would have cost about the same amount ($18), but would have been half the time.

Zooming in on the hotel and central Singapore area that we spent all our time in.

And closer on the Hotel area. Orchard Road was mostly a tourist strip, as this was where high-class label Western stores and shopping centers were all located. Even several of some of those high-class within a couple blocks of each other.  During the week, we walked up as far as the intersection that has the 268 address on the map below, finding two ToysRUs stores, a department store with toys and a lot of food places, including some Western/American fast food chains.

10.00pm - Arrive at the hotel and check in.
I had read before we left that the hotel had been undergoing renovations in recent months, so I asked if they still were.  They said that the hotel wasn't yet completely redone, but they had stopped the renovations at this time (probably during the Christmas peak period).  That was good, because a number of reviews weren't good, from people on floors being renovated, or on a floor above or below the noise.
They told me that our room was one of the ones yet to be renovated, and that the rest of the hotel was fully booked.  I was a bit worried that an "old" room might be a bit dingy, but when we went up to it, it was as good as any hotel I've been in before. On the next day, they showed us a renovated room (if we wanted to change rooms at a higher rate), and even though it was more modern looking, the room was very "cold", with a black and white deco and wooden floors instead of carpet. The only thing better was the bathroom, but that wasn't worth an extra $40 per night on top of the $246 we were already paying (for a room we mostly just use to sleep in).

The Orchard Parade Hotel during the day.  Six floors at the base, and 13 floors in the tower. (not to be confused with the Orchard Hotel which was across the road... which is where a taxi dropped us off one day)

The Hotel at night (from a booking website)

Inside our room on the sixth floor.  We had a minibar and snacks in the cabinet under the TV, which included a big bottle of water in the fridge. There were also two small bottles of water on top of the cabinet, which I wasn't sure were free, as there was no price list in our room of the snacks.  I rang down to the front desk, and they sent up a price-list, plus confirmed that the small bottles were free (and would be replenished each day).  That was great, because it meant we could take water with us during the day while we were out (didn't have to buy water, or risk drinking from public sources).

The view from our window/balcony.  We were on the sixth floor, which was the highest floor of the non-tower level, so we were looking out over the pool deck and courtyard.  We had a sliding door to the courtyard, but it was signed to not open it, as there was a main entrance to the courtyard (and they probably wanted to prevent people from getting into rooms if people left their doors open or unlocked).

Outside, looking out onto Orchard Road from the courtyard. (taken on a later day)

10.20pm - head out of the hotel to look around the nearby area on foot, before too much closes up (so we could get something to eat).

We found a ToysRUs across the road to the hotel, making it really convenient to check several times over the week, in case anything new came in.  It was already closed that night, so we planned to check it out first thing in the morning.
Walking down the main Orchard Road just three blocks, we found three Starbucks and five 7-11 stores.

I bought a few interesting snackfood items from a couple of the convenience stores that were open.... Some odd flavours of familiar snackfood brands.

Despite not finding a Burger King yet, two blocks from the Hotel was a Wendys... yes, the actual American fast-food chain that I love... WENDYS!

I was hungry enough to buy up several burgers, but due to my health, I had to restrain myself to just three and a Side.  I got a Baconator (top left), a "Hot N Juicy burger" (top right), and a Chicken mushroom burger (bottom left), plus a side order of Chilli-cheese fries.  I love the big thick square patties of Wendys, but these ones seemed a bit smaller than the American ones.
They gave me a heap of ketchup packets for some reason, which weren't needed, as the fries had all that chilli and cheese with it.

Apparently there was a Burger King at the airport... and Julian knew about it but didn't realise how obsessed I was, so for the next couple days, I kept hassling him over it... just for a bit of fun.  It's not like it was vital for me to sample it as soon as I could, because we had all week to find another one, and even if we didn't, we'd be back at the airport on the way home anyway for me to check it out then.  As it turned out, we found one on our third day, but the menu was very disappointing. (see day three for pics)

11.00pm - back to the hotel to eat, play with the new toys, check up on the messageboard, and freshen up after the trip.
The internet at the hotel is usually $25 per day (ouch!), but while we were there, it was free... possibly to offset any issues with the renovations recently (or to compete with other hotels that included it free).

1.00am - sleep.

Continue onto DAY 2 OF 6

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