The Fountain at Okada Manila

The Fountain at Okada Manila

The Fountain at Okada Manila, tagged as the world’s largest multicolor dancing fountain, was unveiled last March 31, 2017 in a star-studded launch featuring Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach as host, German-Filipino classical crossover singer Gerphil Flores (performing classical music with the 40-piece Manila Philharmonic Orchestra as accompaniment) and American singer-songwriter Robin Thicke (behind the hit “Blurred Lines”) as the main act.

This iconic destination attraction of the Philippines, capable of moving in rhythm with music and lights, draws guests not only around the country but from the world over. The US$30-million fountain has an area of 9.2 hectares, reportedly taking up a third of the property’s land area. In terms of size, it is bigger than the 3.4-hectare Bellagio Fountain of Las Vegas. Like the Bellagio, The Fountain at Okada Manila was designed by WET Designs, a renowned Los Angeles-based water-feature design firm.

WET team of  fountain choreographers infused a local touch to The Fountain’s twofold design inspirations – the festive traditions of the Philippines, and the sampaguita, the country’s national flower.

The fountain, a spectacular show of lights and sounds, is equipped with 739 high-power water nozzles (which can shoot water beyond the height of the Okada Manila hotel building), including WET’s proprietary underwater robots, 2,611 colored lights and 23 high-fidelity speakers. The water in The Fountain can also fill 50 Olympic-size swimming pools.

The Fountain Show, a gift of Okada Manila Chairman Kazuo Okada to the Philippines, is available for free to guests of all ages who watch the show from 6 PM onward. Before the show begins, the peaceful fountain takes the appearance of a manmade lake from the ground. When the show starts, water jets soar high at the centre of the lake, allowing for the projection of abstract videos from two sides.

The water nozzles and colored lights work together to create a sensory experience like no other.  The fountain’s movements, dazzling as it danced in sync to the tune of classics and modern songs, features jets of water racing and spurts twisting and twirling with the feathery grace of a dancer with water blossoms budding, unfurling and forming the eight petals of a massive sampaguita.

Both sides of The Fountain also feature projections during spectacular water shows. A permanent yet invisible performance stage installed in The Fountain’s lake enables performers to give the illusion of being able to walk on water, interact with the water features, and amaze the audience with an enthralling, unforgettable show.  Accompanying this are two other immersive shows: LED Mapping and World of Wonders.  Joining the ranks of Manila’s most iconic landmarks and a bold take on creating a global icon, The Fountain of Okada Manila’s grandeur and accurately choreographed water, light and music performances will rival those in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and Las Vegas’ Bellagio. Truly, it is a sight to behold.

Okada Manila: New Seaside Drive, Parañaque City, 1701 Metro Manila.  Tel.: (02) 888 0777.

Fountain Show Schedules: Mondays to Thursdays, one song at the top of each hour (6 PM to 10 PM); Fridays to Saturdays, two songs at the top of each hour (6 PM to 12 AM); and Sundays, two songs at the top of each hour (6 PM to 11 PM). Every 8 PM, from Friday to Sunday, the World of Wonders will be performed on the floating stage. A projection mapping show, meanwhile, will be held from Friday to Sunday from 8:30 to 9:30 in the evening.

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (Maryland, USA)

Inner Harbor

The Inner Harbor District, a historic seaporttourist attraction and landmark of the city, is located within walking distance of Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, at the mouth of Jones Falls, creating the wide and short northwest branch of the Patapsco River.

The name “Inner Harbor” includes any water west of a line drawn between the foot of President Street and the American Visionary Art Museum plus the surrounding area within the approximate street boundaries of President Street to the east, Lombard Street to the north, Greene Street to the west, and Key Highway on the south.

The author (lower right corner) walking along the waterfront

The Inner Harbor, with its historically shallow water (prior to manipulation through dredging), was not conducive to large ships or heavy industry and, in the 1950s, suffered from the economic decline with the arrival of container ships after World War II as well as restructuring common to many industrial cities in the United States, ending both its freight and passenger use.

Jandy crossing a pedestrian bridge

To reverse the city’s decline and reconnect Baltimore with its waterfront, the Inner Harbor was gradually transformed with award-winning parks and plazas surrounded by office buildings, hotels and leisure attractions, starting with the adoption of the 13 hectare (33-acre) Charles Center project.

Children frolicking at a fountain

Between 1958 and 1965, Baltimore renewed this center of its business district with office buildings, hotels and retail shops. In 1963, the redevelopment program was expanded to include 97 hectares (240 acres) surrounding the Inner Harbor with corporate headquarters and hotels being built around the shoreline, with a public park and promenade added for leisure activity and community gatherings.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Following the U.S. Bicentennial, other tourist attractions were developed such as the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center and the Harbor Place Festival Marketplace (opened on July 4, 1980 and operated by The Rouse Company). The nearby Baltimore Convention Center and Hyatt Regency Baltimore Hotel added to the services, resulting in increased population density and attracting a huge number of tourists.

In recent years, Inner Harbor East, the area along the waterfront to the east of the Inner Harbor (in the direction of Fells Point and Little Italy), has been developed with mixed-use developments incorporating office space, condominiums, street-level retail space, restaurants and hotels.

In the 1970s and 1980s, with the success of the renewal of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the city became a worldwide tourist destination and a model of urban renaissance, planning and development in cities around the world, influencing more than 100 other cities and winning more than 40 national or international awards.  In 1984, the American Institute of Architects cited it as “one of the supreme achievements of large-scale urban design and development in U.S. history. In 2009, the Urban Land Institute described it as “the model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment around the world.”

Federal Hill Park

Federal Hill Park (300 Warren Ave.), a former lookout during the War of 1812 and the Civil War located on the south side of the Inner Harbor, allows visitors to take in ​a dramatic view of Baltimore’s cityscape from the top of the hill.

National Aquarium in Baltimore

The National Aquarium in Baltimore (501 E. Pratt St., Pier 3 and Pier 4, Inner Harbor) has a collection of more than 16,500 specimens representing 660 species, with exhibits including a multi-storey Atlantic coral reef, an open ocean shark tank, a 4-D immersion theater, a tropical rain forest, a glass pavilion with Australian wildlife, and a mammal pavilion that holds Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.

Check out “National Aquarium in Baltimore

Sloop-of-War USS Constellation

The Historic Ships in Baltimore (Piers 1, 3, and 5) features four historic ships permanently docked in the harbor that visitors can climb aboard and experience – the USS Constellation (first launched in 1854, it is the only Civil War-era ship still afloat), USCGC Taney (last fighting ship still afloat that survived the attack on Pearl Harbor), the USS Torsk (a Tench-class submarine, it is the last ship to sink an enemy vessel in World War II) and the Lightship Chesapeake (a U.S. Coast Guard lightship from the 1930s) plus the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse.

Check out “The Historic Ships of Baltimore,” “USS Constellation Museum”  and “USCGC Taney

Harborplace and the Gallery

Harborplace and the Gallery (Light and Pratt Sts.) are two pavilions with a mix of local and national restaurants and stores, plus Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium (has 500 of Ripley’s trademark “oddities” in seven different galleries, plus a mirror maze and a 4-D movie theater)

Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Odditorium

Maryland Science Center (601 Light St.) has 3 levels of exhibits, a planetarium, and an IMAX theater plus a special exhibit on blue crabs.

Maryland Science Center

Top of the World (401 E. Pratt St.) an observation deck on the 27th floor of the Baltimore World Trade Center, offers sweeping a 360-degree birds-eye views of the city. On the pedestrian promenade outside the building is a memorial to the victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Baltimore World Trade Center

Port Discovery Children’s Museum (35 Market Place), on the site of the historic Baltimore Fish Market, is a children’s museum with a three-story jungle gym specifically designed for kids ages 2-10.

Holocaust Memorial

American Visionary Art Museum (800 Key Highway), a mosaic-clad museum, has a  collection of offbeat, innovative art produced by self-taught individuals, plus free outdoor movies and the Kinetic Sculpture Race.

Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African-American History and Culture (830 E. Pratt St.), the largest of its kind on the East Coast, is dedicated to preserving the stories of the Maryland African American community, past and present.

Baltimore Civil War Museum

Baltimore Museum of Industry (1415 Key Highway), located in an old cannery, holds exhibits on various types of manufacturing and industry from the early 20th century. one of its star attractions is the Baltimore, the oldest surviving steam tugboat and a National Historic Landmark.

Baltimore Visitors Center

The Baltimore Visitor Center (401 Light St.), just north of the Maryland Science Center, has touch-screen kiosks that tell visitors where to go, and staff can help clue you into events happening in the city. It also has public restrooms inside.

Philips Seafood

Power Plant Live! (601 E Pratt St.), the former Pratt Street Power Plant  located 2 blocks north of the Inner Harbor, is an entertainment complex that comes alive at night with bars,  clubs, restaurants and music venues that includes Phillips Seafood, Rams Head Live!,  Hard Rock Cafe (opened July 4, 1997) plus Barnes & Noble and Maryland Art Place (a contemporary art gallery for Maryland artists).

Hard Rock Cafe

Other places to visit here include the Lloyd Street Synagogue (the third-oldest synagogue in the United States, now the Jewish Museum of Maryland), Civil War Museum (President Street Station), Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards, Dr. Samuel D. Harris Museum of Dentistry (University of Maryland), Babe Ruth birthplace and museum, Oriole Park at Camden Yards (home of the Baltimore Orioles), Camden Yards Sports Complex, Columbus Center (home of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute), Bnai Israel (a Moorish Revival synagogue now open as a museum), Holocaust Memorial  (E Lombard and S Gay St.), Lockwood Place, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (a privately owned pop culture museum at Camden Station opened last September 2006), M&T Bank Stadium (home of the Baltimore Ravens), Royal Farms Arena and the Pier Six Pavilion (a music venue at 731 Eastern Ave.)

Pier Six Pavilion

Blue and white water taxis (US&6-12), from 17 locations, connect passengers from the Inner Harbor to Fells PointCanton, and Fort McHenry.

Check out “Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine – Birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner

Water Taxi

You can explore the Inner Harbor on a traditional paddle boat (US$12 per half-hour rental) or the colorful Chesapeake Bay ‘Chessie’ Monster (US version of Scotland’s ‘Nessie,’ US$20 per half-hour rental),  both classic childhood favorites. Both boats hold up to four occupants. If you don’t feel like paddling, there’s the electric boat (half-hour rental – US$10 for one person or US$15 for two).

Cheska, Jandy, Grace and Kyle in a Chessie

Visitors can also explore the harbor via the red and purple-bottomed Cruises on the Bay by Watermark (US$6-17) and the larger yacht Spirit of Baltimore (US$42 and up); the bright yellow speedboats of Seadog Cruises (US$20 range) and the wood-paneled pirate ship The Fearless by Urban Pirates (US$20-25).

Spirit of Baltimore

Cruise ships also offer narrated, 45-min. tours of the Inner Harbor where you’ll learn about the city’s maritime and industrial history as well as the resurgence of the waterfront, Federal Hill, and Fells Point.  You can also avail of 60-min. tours focusing on Fort McHenry, 90-min. cocktail cruises and spectacular 60-min. “city lights” tours. 

The Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show (Austria)

The Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show

For our first night in Salzburg, Grace, Manny, Jandy, Cheska, Kyle and I proceeded to Sternbrau Restaurant, at the old heart of the city (next to the famous “Getreidegasse” shopping street), to watch the amazing “Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show,” (Check out video here) a daily show & dinner event with 74 seats available.

Sternbrau Restaurant

The most successful dinner show in Salzburg, it has, for 24 consecutive years, been mesmerizing and entertaining Salzburg visitors from all around the world with its harmonic blending of songs from The Sound of Music movie, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, operettas and other excerpts of Salzburg’s musical past.

Cheska, Kyle and Grace at the entrance of the restaurant

In 1991, three entrepreneurs – Franz Langer (music director), Martin Uitz (former CEO of Salzburg Land Tourism) and Stefan Herzl (CEO of Panorama Tours) – created the Sound of Music Dinner Show (as it was called back then), a dinner concert with live on-stage performance of The Sound of Music compositions combined with an Austrian dinner. It was staged daily, from May till October, in the big hall of the Salzburger Stieglkeller underneath the famous Hohensalzburg Castle.

In 2000, the dinner concert moved, from the Stieglkeller, to the Sternbräu with Franz Langer updating the program, featuring more compositions of W.A. Mozart and Salzburg‘s operettas, and renaming the daily event to “The Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show.”  Even a stepdaughter of Maria von Trapp, also called Maria, used to visit the show several times.

In 2014, Roman Forisch took over from Franz Langer (since 1997 sole owner of the show) as new manager and relocated “The Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show” to the Festungssaal (Fortress Hall) on the first floor of the K+K Restaurants am Waagplatz, a historical landmarked building next to the famous Salzburg Cathedral and right in the middle of the historic district of Salzburg.

Festungssaal (Fortress Hall)

The building, one of the oldest sites in Salzburg, was a brewery in the Middle Ages first mentioned in 1542.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart liked to come here regularly, especially in 1777. At the beginning of 2013, the building was restored, modernized and, after almost two years, re-opened as a restaurant in 2014.

Soup of the Day

Viennese-style Schnitzel with Noodles

The move to this historical building added a final piece to the cultural tourism highlight, providing the makings of a truly wonderful evening with its ideal combination of a splendid, high class culinary experience and a comfortable and atmospheric  Medieval location.

Roast Pork with Dumpling and Cabbage Salad with Bacon

Before the show, a dinner is served at 7.30 PM (Doors open at 7 PM).  We enjoyed a traditional Viennese 3-course meal, in a candlelit setting, prepared by chef de cuisine Michael Pratter and his team.  It featured a starter (Soup of the Day), a choice of white or red meat (Roast Pork with dumpling and cabbage salad with bacon or Vienna-style Schnitzel with Noodles) and their famous homemade Grandma’s Apple Strudel with Whipped Cream for dessert.

Grandma’s Apple Strudel with Whipped Cream

The one-and-a-half-hour show began at 8.30 PM at a stage with an area of about 10 square meters, right in front of the dinner tables. The “Sound of Salzburg Show” features a group of 4 singers (2 female and 2 male), all trained artists from all over the world, and 1 female pianist.

The four performers and the pianist (at right)

On stage, they performed a program which includes the greatest hits of the aforementioned The Sound of Music musical (Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein) and  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as well as Salzburg‘s operettas.   For the Sound of Music, they performed “The Sound of Music (song),” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Do-Re-Mi (Reprise),” “Do-Re-Mi (Fuge),” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Maria,” “My Favorite Things,” “Lonely Goatherd,” “Laendler Tanz,” “Edelweiss” and “So Long, Farewell.”

The two lady performers dressed up as nuns

The Mozart repertoire consisted of “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” “Ronda Alla Turca,” “Papageno Arie (Zauberflöte),” “Pa-Pa Duett (Zauberflöte),” “Vedrai Carino Arie (Don Giovanni)” and a “Minuet from Don Giovanni.”

Salzburg operettas featured, with live piano accompaniment, were Ralph Benatzky’s “Regenlied (Im weißen Rößl),” “Im Salzkammergut, da kammer gut (Im weißen Rößl)” and “Im weißen Rößl am Wolfgangsee (Im weißen Rößl); Fred Raymond’s “Saison in Salzburg (Saison in Salzburg)” and  Franz Lehar’s “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz (Das Land des Lächelns)” and “Lippen Schweigen (Die lustige Witwe).”  A folk song, Und jetzt gang i ans Petersbruennele, was also featured. 

Cheska dancing with a male performer

The show thus featured 5 different composers who each have their own style and lived in various parts of the musical history.  Thus, the job of the singers (who perform in 15 countries around the world as musical ambassadors for Austria) of the Sound of Salzburg show wasn’t easy as every single song they sang was supposed to be sung in the right way, in the way the composer intended.

They also needed to have a broad understanding of music to perform every one of them, know what the songs were actually about as well as to learn them by heart. In short, they have to live the song.

The real Maria von Trapp

The show also included an 8-minute, really interesting film clip of an interview from the real Maria von Trapp. The video, not the best quality, was from the 1980’s but you can see and hear everything you need to understand the real von Trapp story behind the movie.

Manny, on stage, serenaded by a lady performer

The dinner side of the show was great and the show itself was very entertaining.  The show was in English so we didn’t have to worry about not understanding anything. There were a couple of songs sung in German but we didn’t need to understand German to enjoy the tunes.  The performers also did a little audience participation.  Manny was pulled on stage, seated and serenaded by a lady singer.

Kyle (center) on stage with performers and other members of the audience

The male singers also grabbed a few ladies from the crowd (including my daughter Cheska) and taught them how to dance a traditional Viennese dance. Some kids (including my grandson Kyle) also joined the performers on stage. If you love “The Sound of Music” or simply just love Austrian music and culture, you would have a great night at the “Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show.” I definitely would recommend it. 

Kyle (second from right) with the performers

Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show: Sternbräu Restaurant, Griesgasse 23 5020 Salzburg. Tel: +43 660 5020520 and +43 699 10248666.  E-mail: office@soundofsalzburg.info . Website: www.soundofsalzburg.info. Daily show times (from mid May to mid October): 7 – 10 PM (dinner & show) and 8:30 – 10 PM (show only). Admission: € 39 (adults), € 32 (Salzburg Card & Students), € 20 (children 7-14 years of age) and free for children under the age of 7 (accompanied by an adult). Click here to book tickets online)

Guests can choose between three different 3-course menus (drinks not included) or our deluxe 4-course menu with premier seating (with drinks, the show and a CD). Menu choices for vegetarians and seafood lovers are available on request.  Food and beverages must be paid directly at the restaurant.

Dinner at Ucoy Beach Resort (Libertad, Antique)

After watching the sunset at Pucio Point, we boarded the big motorized outrigger boat bound for the 45-min. trip to the charming, 3-star Ucoy Beach Resort, along Libertad Bay.  Our boat landed at the beige sand Sulu Beach in front of the resort. At a picnic shed along this beach, the LGU of Libertad treated us to a dinner of tinolang manok, beef steak tagalog, grilled talakitok with vignarette and chicken afritada.

Check out “Resort Feature: Ucoy Beach Resort”

Dinner by the beach

Dinner by the beach

The resort is a popular choice amongst business travelers and tourists in Antique, whether they’re exploring or just passing through.  Its patio has views of Libertad Bay, the garden, swimming pool or lake.

The fire hoop performance

The fire hoop performance

After dinner, we were treated to a fire performance show, a very dangerous but popular fire-oriented performance art that involves manipulation of objects on fire.  Avic Magsipoc and Joon Dejuan Alonsagay, both performers at Boracay’s West Cove, regaled us with the fire hoop, swinging flaming tethered weights through a variety of rhythmical and geometric patterns.

Watching the performance up close

Bravely watching the performance dangerously up close

Its performance in the dark, choreographed to music, produced a dramatic effect that enthralled us, as well as the Libertadnon crowd and resort guests present.  Clelia and I, as well as some resort guests, even watched it performed up close, with the flaming hoops just inches from our faces. They also did fakir skills such as body burning and fire breathing.  After this performance, we said goodbye to and thanked our Libertadnon hosts, boarded our van and returned to Pandan Beach Resort for a well-deserved rest.

Members of media with resort owner

Members of media with resort owner Ms. Lucia D. Schotz

Ucoy Beach Resort: Brgy. Union, Libertad 5710, Antique.  Tel: (036) 278-1681. Mobile number: (0907) 640-2418 and (0919) 594-9451. E-mail: info@ucoybeachresort.com. Website: www.ucoybeachresort.com.  It is located 19.5-kms. (a 1 hr. drive) from Brgy. Caticlan (Malay), and 52.8 kms. (a 2-hr. drive) from Kalibo, both in Aklan.

Chang Kai-shek Memorial Hall – Changing of the Honor Guard Ceremony (Taipei City, Taiwan)

Soon the memorial was officially opened and we were led up to the main hall where a crowd of tourists were already gathered.  The hall’s main feature is the massive 3-storey high bronze statue of a smiling Chiang, in traditional Chinese dress, sitting on a  dais. An elaborate caisson is set into the ceiling  which is also decorated with the emblem of the Kuomintang (KMT).  Chinese inscriptions on the walls are the characters for Ethics, Democracy, and Science.

The bronze sitting statue of Chiang Kai-Shek

Five members of the Taiwan Marines , in immaculately white uniforms and helmets, were guarding the main hall with rifles with fixed bayonets. The branch of service represented here changes periodically according to a rotating schedule  (every 4 months).  The Army wears green uniforms, the Navy wears  black in summer and white in winter, and the Air Force wears blue.

The Main Hall’s ceiling

The much anticipated, impressively synchronized Changing of the Guards ceremony soon took place at the appointed time (it takes place every hour). At this formal, elaborate and precisely choreographed ceremony, the ceremonial guards are relieved by a new batch of sentries. This ceremony is also conducted at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and the National Revolutionary Martyr’s Shrine.

The Changing of the Guard ceremony

Chang Kai-shek Memorial Hall: 21 Zongshan South Rd., Section 1, Zhongzheng District, Taipei, Taiwan.  Tel: (+886-2) 2343-1100. Open daily, 9 AM-6:30 PM. Admission is free.

How to Get There: Take THSR or train to Taipei Station then transfer, via Taipei MRT, to Chiang Kaishek Memorial Hall Station.

Universal Studios (Singapore)

Jandy and I planned to spend our second day in Singapore at Universal Studios, Singapore’s second integrated resort and Southeast Asia’s first movie theme park (and the second in Asia after Japan).  This would be a first for both of us as it was still under construction during our 2009 Singapore visit (it only opened on March 18, 2010).  After our buffet breakfast at Amara Hotel, we took a taxi (S$14) to get there, dropping off at the entrance of Resorts World Sentosa.  At the entrance of Universal Studios is the large and famous revolving globe.

Universal Studios Singapore

We were in luck at the ticket booth as we got 20% off the one-day ticket when I paid via my BPI Mastercard (valid until November 18). We also received a S$10 retail voucher upon presentation of our charge slip at the Guest Services Counter.

Hollywood

The main entrance area of the park is Hollywood, a replica of the famous Hollywood Boulevard. Its only attraction is the 1,500-seat, indoor, Broadway-style Pantages Hollywood Theater which is fully equipped to host plays, musicals and performances.  The theater is accompanied by several restaurants, a variety of flagship shops and also features a replica of the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Pantages Hollywood Theater

Hollywood Boulevard, framed by dynamic architecture and palm trees, made us feel that we have landed in the center of the entertainment universe. Here, there are “Daily Meet and Greet” (10 AM-7 PM) special character appearances from  the wacky Woody Woodpecker, the  glamorous Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Beetlejuice, Betty Boop, Po (from Kung Fu Panda), Frankenstein’s Monster and Winnie Woodpecker (we posed with the last three).

Po (Kung Fu Panda)

Winnie Woodpecker

Frankenstein’s Monster

Outside Mel’s Diner, we also watched the 4:45 PM performances (other show times are 10:45 AM, 12:15 PM, 1:45 PM, 3:15 PM and 6:15 PM) of Daddy O’s (a boy band group singing classic surf  songs of the 1950s and 60s) as well as the 2:30 PM and 4 PM  shows (other show times are 11:30 AM, 1 PM and 5:30 PM) of Mel’s Dinettes (waitresses “shaking, rattling and rolling” to the high energy hits of the 1950s and 60s).

Daddy O’s

Mel’s Dinettes

After the show, we went inside Mel’s Drive Inn for snacks.  This classic 1950s-themed diner, based on the 1973 hit U.S. film American Graffiti, serves up all-American favorites such as delicious rocket sauce burgers, French fries, chicken sandwiches, chicken fingers, onion rings, root beer floats, thick and frosty milk shakes and Cokes the old-fashioned way plus golden oldies on the jukebox.  We both dined on crispy barbecue chicken burgers with French fries and Sprite (S$10.80 each).

Mel’s Drive-in

At the Pantages Hollywood Theater, we watched the 4:15 PM (other show times are 11 AM, 1 PM and 6:15 PM) showing of “Monster Rock,” a major Broadway musical featuring the infamous Universal Classic Monsters in  a live rock-n-roll style indoor revue show with pyrotechnics. The theater is fitted with cutting-edge cinematic technology, including state-of-the-art digital projectors.  This mega-monster spooktacular features great music, dancing, comedy, special effects, and enough pyrotechnics to wake the dead.

Pantages Hollywood Theater – Interior

Before leaving the park, we dropped by the Universal Studios Store, a shopping extravaganza which offers the largest variety of Universal Studios-themed collectibles, toys and apparel from all 7 themed zones of the park. Here, I bought 2 shirts (1 with collar and the other round-necked) for Jandy, using my S$10 retail voucher.

Universal Studios Store

Too bad we missed out on the Lake Hollywood Spectacular, one of the main highlights of Hollywood After Hours.  This special live pyrotechnics show happens every Friday and Saturday night (9:30 PM) and is set to a musical score over the central lagoon of Lake Hollywood in the park.

Lake Hollywood

Hollywood also has several other restaurants. Celebrity Cafe & Bakery is a 1950’s-themed food outlet where guests can dine on freshly-made gourmet sandwiches, coffee, puff pastry pies and classic desserts.  It serves all-day breakfast.  Hollywood China Bistro is a stylish yet casual Art-Deco restaurant where guests can feast on both traditional Cantonese favorites and “East meets West” cuisine in a modern setting straight out of a Hollywood movie set.

Celebrity Cafe & Bakery

There are also a number of retail outlets.  The Dark Room is a store that sells a wide variety of camera accessories for the photography needs of park visitors. Star Characters sells exclusive Dream Works Animation character merchandise and other fun products and keepsakes. Silver Screen Collectibles offers authentic collectibles of celebrities straight from the Hollywood Walk of Fame such as celebrity photos and posters, collectibles, books, as well as Betty Boop themed souvenirs and apparel such as photo frames, shirts, sexy lips pillow, cups, combs, bags, purse, etc..

Superstar Candies is a candy store that sells a wide variety of sweets and treats with star appeal such as candy floss and homemade fudgeto park visitors with a sweet tooth.  At Brown Derby, guests can shop for headwear of all types including visors, character hats, novelty hats, wigs, Universal Studios logo caps and other stylish lids.  That’s a Wrap, at the theme park exit, also sells apparel, toys, novelty hats and other souvenirs.

Kuala Lumpur: New Year’s Day

Upon our return to our hotel from our Melaka trip, we decided to rest a bit. It was now just a few hours before New Year’s Eve, our first outside home and country, and we asked around at the front desk on where to spend our countdown party.  They suggested watching the free, spectacular fireworks displays at either the Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka) or the Petronas Towers.  We opted for the latter.

The Last Dinner of the Year at Sushi Tei (Pavilion Mall)

Before anything else, we still have to take our dinner so we all walked to Pavilion Mall along Jalan Bukit Bintang and dined on Japanese cuisine at Sushi Tei.  Here, we were surprised to find out that our waiters were Filipinas.  One was already a supervisor.

Waiting for the New Year at Petronas Towers

After dinner, we returned to our hotel to change clothes and decided to start our long walk all the way to Petronas Tower.  Others were doing the same. The numerous pubs we passed by were also filled with countdown revelers.  When we arrived at the park in front of the iconic Petronas Towers, it was already packed full with local residents and foreign tourists.

The Brightly-Lit Petronas Twin Towers

At the stroke of midnight, the street party started, with kisses, hugs, greetings and shouts of “Happy New Year!,” just as spectacular fireworks started to lit up, coloring the sky near the brightly-lit, landmark towers, Mandarin Hotel and the other buildings around us. The show was over when the fireworks stopped. There were no crackling and exploding firecrackers like in Manila, just horns and merriment in the streets.  What a unique way to start the New Year.

The Spectacular Fireworks Show

Sushi Tei: Level 1, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, 168 Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Tel: +603 2141 4640. Fax: +603 2141 466.

Genting Highlands

We arrived at the resort by lunch time and our van driver dropped us off at the First World Hotel which, in 2006, was listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest hotel with its total of 6,118 rooms.  The resort has three theme parks – the Genting Outdoor Theme Park (set around an artificial lake), the First World Indoor Theme Park (arcade games and children’s rides) and the Water Park.

The Outdoor Theme Park

Among its 20 signature attractions are the Flying Coaster (a hang-gliding roller coaster), the Corkscrew (the only double-loop roller coaster in Malaysia, it speeds and spins up to a height of 90 ft. above the ground), the Genting Sky Venture (Asia’s only free-fall skydiving simulator), the Haunted House, the Ripley’s Believe It or Not!Museum, Solera Space Shot (a rapid vertical ascent and descent open-air amusement ride) and SnowWorld.

Snow World

We all tried the last mentioned attraction, donning thick winter jackets and gloves as we tried to last 30 mins. in this 6 degrees below zero winter wonderland. We only lasted 15 but within that time we went tobogganing and bravely ate ice cream before calling it quits.

Genting Skyway

Another welcome treat was our spectacular 3.38 km. (2 mile) cable car ride on board the relaxing Genting Skyway which, at its opening on February 21, 1997, was recognized as the “World’s Fastest Mono Cable Car System” (with a maximum speed of 6 m. per second or 21.6 kms. per hour) and the “Longest Cable Car in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.” Open 24 hours, our gondola lift ride took all of 11 mins. as we glided above a blanket of montane vegetation at its lush rain forest.

First World Hotel

Coffee and pastries at First World Hotel’s Starbucks outlet, prior to our being picked up by our tourist van and return to Kuala Lumpur, capped this cool, fun-filled day.

Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu – Chun Yi (Red Theater)

After our tour of the Temple of Heaven, we again boarded our coach and proceeded to the nearby Beijing Red Theater which specializes in traditional Chinese performances.  Here, we were to watch the 5:15 PM (the next was 7:30 PM), 1 hour and 20 min. showing of “The Legend of Kung Fu,” a unique and spectacular fusion of modern dance with Chinese traditional arts performed here since 2006. The Red Theater, originally known as the Chongwen Worker’s Cultural Palace Theater, was renovated and its stage facilities has been dramatically improved.

Beijing Red Theater

This show is all kung fu, dance and acrobatics and the actors, the best kung fu practitioners from all over China, do not speak (English subtitles shown above the stage keep you informed of the story line).  Their average age is 17 years.  The costumes, set design and special effects (complete with requisite lights, fog and bombastic music), all up to international standards, were created by some of the best stage directors and designers in China.

Beijing Red Theater Lobby

This Las Vegas-style show, produced by China Heaven Creation International Performing Arts, China’s leading performance art production company, follows the story of a young boy named Chun Yi who, like every boy in China, dreams of becoming a kung fu master.  He was brought by his mother to an ancient Buddhist temple to train to become a monk in the kung fu tradition. On the road to enlightenment, the young monk slowly grows, through kung fu training and encounters with difficulties and temptations, into the next leader of the temple.

Chun Yi

During the show, we weren’t allowed to take photographs or do videotaping during the performance as the theater makes most of its money selling DVDs and trinkets after the show.

Red Theater: No. 44 Xingfu Da Jie., Chongwen District, Beijing, People’s Republic of China.  Tel: 86-10-67103671. Ticket Prices: RMB180 (Yellow Zone), 280 (Blue Zone), 380 (Green Zone) and 680 (Red VIP Zone). E-mail: thebeijingtickets@gmail.com

Macau: Tree of Prosperity Show at Wynn Hotel

After our own Macau churches tour, Jandy, Cheska and I had our dinner at MacDonald’s in Leal Senado Square. After dinner, we made our way to Wynn Hotel Macau, the first Las Vegas-style blended resort in Asia, where we were to meet up with Daddy, Mommy and Grace. Together, we were to watch the hotel’s signature performance of the Fountains of the Performance Lake and the Tree of Prosperity and Dragon Shows, all open for public viewing and free.

The Musical Fountain Show at the Performance Lake

When we arrived, they were already seated in one of the benches in front of the fountain and lake in front of the hotel.  The lake houses over 200 water nozzles and shooters and holds 800,000 gallons of water. Together, we watched a fascinating and delightful fountain show featuring lofty plumes of water and fire shimmering and dancing through the air to the tune of classical and popular music as well as Broadway show tunes, all expressing a complexity of moods, rhythms and emotions.

The Opulent Ceiling at the Atrium

After this vibrant performance, we proceeded to the atrium in one of the wings of the casino to watch the Tree of Prosperity Show.  The atrium has an opulent and beautiful golden dome ceiling decorated with the 12 animals depicting Chinese and Western astrological symbols of the Zodiac.

The Ceiling Opens

The show begins when its 20 m. wide ceiling opens to reveal a screen of abstract designs. A giant chandelier then slowly descends. At the same time, a copper dome on the ground floor opens and a tall golden tree ascends and then rotates with the music.

An Abstract Display of Lights

The iconic golden Tree of Prosperity, a symbol of auspiciousness, has over 2,000 branches and 98,000 leaves composed of 24-karat gold leaf and brass leaf. As the tree rotates, there’s a play of lights that changes the tree’s vibrant color according to the four seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall).

A Chandelier Drops From the Ceiling ......

Later, after 30 minutes, we witnessed the Dragon Show on the same atrium platform. However, instead of a tree, a giant dragon structure emerged from the dome on the ground. We, as well as the other guests, can’t help but be thrilled and excited as we marveled at the creativity and showmanship of this truly beautiful and impressive technical shows. Truly a choreographic masterpiece of shimmering, sculptural patterns, music, video and light.

..... And the Tree of Prosperity Emerges From the Ground

Wynn Macau: Rua Cidade de Sintra, NAPE, Macau. Tel: (853) 2888 9966.  Fax: (853) 2832 9966. Email: inquiries@wynnmacau.com. Website: www.wynnmacau.com.