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.

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.

Taipei City: Chang Kai-shek Memorial Hall – Changing of the Honor Guard Ceremony

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 – Hollywood

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.

Macau: Macau Fisherman’s Wharf

From Macau Tower, we next proceeded to the Macau Fisherman’s Wharf, the first theme park in Macau, located near the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Pier and right beside the huge Sands Casino. Grace, Mom and Dad stayed behind at the bus, leaving just me, Jandy and Cheska to explore the place.  There weren’t too many people around during our visit.

Sands Casino Macau

The HK$1.9 billion, 111,500 sq. m. (28 acres, 40% reclaimed from the sea) Macau Fisherman’s Wharf complex, was opened on December 31, 2005.  The complex has a slots hall, a 72-room hotel, a casino and is divided into three major theme “wharfs”: Dynasty Wharf, East Meets West and Legend Wharf.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Dynasty Wharf, composed of many Chinese towers which are built in the imitation of the Tang-style, encapsulates Chinese history and culture in the form of traditional items sold on the streets, handicrafts in the exhibition halls, and sampan and “jumbo” seafood restaurants.

East Meets West

East Meets West, constructed on mainly reclaimed land, mixes together Oriental traditions and features of Western design.  Vulcania, a  a 40 m. (131 ft.) high man-made volcano, “erupts” every evening. Housed inside are waterfalls, night-time laser shows, the ‘River of Fire’ white-water and ‘Dragon Quest’ roller coaster rides. The exterior of Vulcania includes walkways styled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa (Tibet).

Vulcania and Potala Palace

There’s also an ancient battleship, an Arabian children’s play area, a  and large ceramic crucibles and mine carts to ride in inside for that Indiana Jones experience.  Alladin’s Fort,  an attraction in the style of a Middle-Eastern fort, is home to a large variety of children’s funfair rides and  playground for kids and teenagers.  The Greek Square serves as a leisure park and performance area, with banqueting facilities and ice-skating rink attached. Aqua Romanis is a Roman-themed shopping center. The outdoor, 2,000-pax Roman Amphitheater is designed as a venue for concerts and other performances.

Roman Amphitheater

Legend Wharf includes over 150 stores and restaurants in buildings built in the style of different world seaports such as Cape Town (South Africa), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Miami (U.S.A.), New Orleans (U.S.A.), Lisbon (Portugal), Venice (Italy), the Italian Riviera and Spain. It features the leaning Tower of Pisa, a 16th century Portuguese restaurant, 18th century French inns and a galleon museum.

Legend Wharf

It also has a disco and is equipped with all kinds of recreational facilities such as a 21st century, high-tech games center and a video games center.  Its Vasco da Gama Waterworld is a performance venue, complete with dolphins, for water-based shows including four jet-ski performances every day.

Macau’s Fisherman’s Wharf: 1/F., Rome, Avenida da Amizade e Avenida Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, Macau. Tel: (853) 8299 3300, (853) 8299 3581 and 8299 3582. E-mail: info@fishermanswharf.com.mo.  Website: www.fishermanswharf.com.mo.

How to Get There: Take bus no. 1A, 3, 3A, 8, 10, 10A, 10B, 17, 28A, 28B, 28BX, 28C and 32, get off at Macau Fisherman’s Wharf. Free shuttle bus service from ferry terminal to the Fisherman’s Wharf leave every 30mins..

Singapore: Sentosa Resort

After our Singapore Flyer “round” trip, we had a  late lunch at Seafood Paradise. Next in our itinerary was Sentosa and, to get there, we again boarded 2 taxis and dropped off at Sentosa Imbiah Station.

Tiger Sky Tower

Upon arrival, we all first tried out the Tiger Sky Tower, Singapore’s tallest free-standing observatory tower, opened on February 7, 2004.  Once inside the large, 72-pax air-conditioned, disc-shaped cabin fitted with glass windows all round, it then revolved slowly as it ascended the column of the tower to a maximum height of 131 m. above sea level (110 m. above ground). On the way up, we enjoyed panoramic views across Sentosa, Singapore’s southern islands and neighboring Malaysia and even Indonesia.

View of Sentosa and Outlying Islands From Tiger Sky Tower

After our tower ride, we walked to the nearby Images of Singapore building to try out Singapore’s award-winning attraction – the Images of Singapore. A quick peek into Singapore’s history, culture and heritage, this walk down memory lane was the second for me and Grace and the first for the rest.  A journey to the very soul of the nation, it brings the country’s past back to vivid life using multimedia displays, multi-screen theater presentations and life-sized tableaus depicting local history.

Images of Singapore Building

Here, legend, facts and folklore are creatively interwoven into an “I am there” experience as we journeyed from the earliest days of Singapore’s founding, when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles stepped along the banks of Singapore River, to today’s modern Singapore where cultural diversity, unity of values and adventure converge. We were also amazed by the many colorful festivals celebrated in Singapore.

Images of Singapore

After our Images of Singapore, Jandy, Cheska and I tried out the non-motorized Luge, a self-steering, gravity-driven 3-wheel cart, originally from New Zealand, that is part go-cart, part toboggan. Here, we all navigated 650 m. down the Jungle Trail or 688 m. down  the Dragon Trail with the option to go thrillingly fast or to cruise slowly as we went down the hill to Siloso Beach. Truly a unique outdoor experience.

The Luge

After the Luge, we next boarded the Skyride, along the way taking in the panoramic and breathtaking scenery of the city skyline, harbor and beautiful coastline. The used luges are also slung underneath our seats for transport back up the hill.

The Skyride

Come evening, we proceeded to the S$4.5million Cineblast, opened in June 2007, to watch “Extreme Log Ride,” Singapore’s only cinema ride. This thrilling, 4-dimensional, motion-simulated “ride of your life” combines the virtual “roller coaster” rides with high-definition wide-screen projection.  Here, we all sat inside a cyclone unit that is mounted onto a 6-axis system and then experienced amazing real-life thrusts and motion unlike any other as we felt the exhilaration of flying to the top of the highest mountain, the stomach-churning virtual thrill of rushing into the deepest valleys, and the gripping excitement of being tossed about by whitewater rapids.

Cineblast and 4D Magic

Next, we moved on to the S$3.5 million Sentosa 4D Magix Theater, opened on January 2006, to watch the comedy “Pirates!”   This whole new generation in movie magic, the first in Southeast Asia, is an interactive movie experience with 4-dimensional digital effects, using a state-of-the-art digital projection system and a DTS 6.1 sound system.

Cineblast and 4D Magic

We were seated on a motion-based chair equipped with a wide spectrum of special visual, sound, motion and environmental effects such as built-in speakers as well as environmental effects like water features, seat vibration, leg ticklers and base shakers, placed us right in the middle of the action. During the 3-D show, visual effects kept popping out of the big screen, we were tossed about in our seats, felt the wind blowing in our face and the water rushing our way, all environmental effects that provided a life-like feel.

Songs of the Sea (Palawan Amphitheater)

We again met up with the others at the 2,500-pax, open-air Palawan Amphitheater for the 7:30 PM showing of the mesmerizing “Songs of the Sea.” This one-of-a-kind entertainment spectacle, with a live cast, features dramatic effects, pyrotechnics displays, water jets, flame bursts and lasers amid captivating music.  Truly, a performance we didn’t want to miss.  Designed by Yves Pepin, this show was started on March 26, 2007, replacing the 25 year old Magical Sentosa show. The water jets, water screens, lasers and projectors are hidden at the back of the 120 m. long Malay kampung (or kelong) by the sea. The show runs twice nightly.

Songs of the Sea (Palawan Amphitheater)

After the “Songs of the Sea” presentation, Grace accompanied Dad and Mom back to the hotel while Jandy, Cheska and I tried out the after-dark Go Green Segway® Eco Adventure, a first for all of us.  Here we tried out the Segway, a futuristic personal mobile transporter and mobility device, along a secure circuit.

Segway

After the Segway ride, we had a late dinner at a 7-Eleven outlet and loll around, for some time, at Palawan Beach. We, as well as many other tourists leaving Sentosa, waited a long time for the arrival of the monorail to Vivo City.  From Vivo City, we took the MRT to Dhoby Ghaut and then a taxi back to our hotel.

Sentosa Resort: 33 Allanbrooke Road, Sentosa Development Corporation, Singapore 099981.  Tel: 6275 0388.

Singapore: Jurong Bird Park

We decided to spend our second day at Singapore all day at the fresh and interesting Jurong Bird Park, a first for all of us.  At first glance, I did not think that a park with just birds would interest me (that’s why I didn’t go there during previous visits to Singapore), but I was to be proven wrong. Again, the park being very far from the city, we all went there (and returned) via 2 taxis, arriving there by noon after a 20-min. trip.

Main Entrance of Jurong Bird Park

Managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore, this world-famous S$3.5 million, 202,000 sq. m. (50 acre) bird zoo and landscaped park, built on the western slope of Jurong Hill, within the Boon Lay Planning Area of the Jurong District, was opened on January 3, 1971. In 2006, it  completed its S$10-million makeover.

Souvenir Shop at Main Entrance

The well-maintained Jurong Bird Park, currently the world’s largest bird park in terms of number of birds and second largest in terms of land area, after Germany’s Vogelpark Walsrode, is home to an impressive collection of 4,600 exotic birds of 380 species, (29 of which are endangered) from South East Asia, Africa, South America and Australia. Some exhibits are fully open (Flamingo Lake, Swan Lake and Pelican Cove), some are cage-based (Parrot Paradise) and 4 are large walk-in aviaries.

Birds and Buddies Show (1 PM, Pools Amphitheatre)

Upon arrival, we opted to first watch the 1 PM Birds and Buddies Show (formerly called the “All Star Birdshow”) at the Pools Amphitheater. This lively and entertaining, 25-min. bird show, professionally presented with an environmental message, showcases a large number of species of performing birds, trained to such amazing levels, interacting with humans in a single act.

Birds and Buddies Show (3 PM, Pools Amphitheater)

During the show, we were enthralled by the antics of talented birds like the mimicking cockatoos, parrots and macaws singing , playing basketball, doing stunts etc..   We liked it so much, we attended the second show at 3 PM, also at the same venue.

In between these 2 Birds and Buddies Shows,Jandy, Cheska and I climbed up a couple of flights of stairs and hopped aboard the relaxing, airconditioned Panorail (S$5), the world’s only monorail that runs through an aviary.

The Panorail

We dropped off at the Lory Station were we visited the 3,000 sq. m. (32,000 sq. ft.), 9 storey high Lory Loft, the world’s largest walk-in flight aviary for stunningly colorful lories and lorikeets.

Lory Loft

Here, we walked on suspended bridges at tree top level, surrounded by over 1,000 free-flying lories. The ambiance here is said to be similar to that of a rainforest vale in tropical Northern Australia. Cheska, wanting an up close encounter, tried to offer the lories a specially concocted nectar mix in a little cup (S$3) so that the birds would flock to her.

Up Close and Personal With a Lory

We also visited, on foot, the 32 aviaries (housing 92 species of parrots) and the interpretative pavilion at the 1-hectare Parrot Paradise; the impressive colony of 1,001 roosting, flamboyant flamingos at the beautifully-landscaped Flamingo Lake; and Pelican Cove.

Flamingo Lake

At Pelican Cove, we observed a cosmopolitan colony of all 7 species of pelicans, including the endangered, 11-15 kg. Dalmatian pelican (the largest of the 7), while strolling along a boardwalk. However, we failed to catch them at the world’s first underwater viewing gallery for pelicans, where the birds scoop for fish at feeding time.

Pelican Cove

Next to Pelican Cove is Swan Lake where, from an observation deck close to the water edge, we observed, at close quarters, graceful Black-necked Swan, Black Swan and the Mute Swans roosting, fishing, bathing and swimming amidst the tranquil ambiance.

Swan Lake

Jandy and I again hopped aboard the Panorail and dropped off at the Waterfall Station where we visited the African Waterfall Aviary, the world’s largest walk-in aviary with more than 1,500 free-flying birds from over 50 species from Africa. Species here include the golden-breasted starling, turacos, bee-eaters and the hoopoe.

African Waterfall Aviary

Here, the birds tend to stay further away and we needed to move slowly round the jungle landscaped paths to avoid spooking them. Later, we met up with Mom, Dad, Grace and Cheska at the 30 m. high Jurong Falls, the world’s tallest man-made waterfall in an aviary and a popular photo-ops.

The 30 Meter High Waterfall

At 4 PM, we watched the Birds of Prey Show at the Fuji Hawk Walk. Here, we watched majestic birds of prey such as eagles, hawks, vultures and falcons fly in aerial loops and soar above, moving from one treetop to another. We also learned about falconry as these birds were put through their actions in a simulated hunt.  The birds sometimes swoop just 6 inches from our head.

Birds of Prey Show (4 PM, Fuji Hawk Walk)

After the show, Cheska and Jandy had a cool time having their pictures taken with a live owl, first putting on gloves so that the owl can be transferred to their hands.

Up Close and Personal…. This Time With an Owl

After the show, we next visited the 1,600 sq. m. (17,000 sq. ft.) Penguin Coast which houses 6 species of penguins. Featuring a 21-metre (69 ft) tall Portuguese galleon facade designed to resemble a ship, the interior of Penguin Coast, a great place to escape to during a hot day and one of the few places where you can see live king penguins outside of Antarctica.

Penguin Coast

Constructed with wooden beams and flooring,  Penguin Coast has 2 displays, one indoor and the other outdoor.  The Humboldt, Rockhopper, Macaroni, Fairy and King Penguins live indoors in a captivating, climate-controlled den while Jackass penguins, one of the few species that are adapted to the tropics, can be viewed, with Cape Shelducks and gulls, at an outdoor penguin enclosure.

World of Darkness

At 5 PM, we dropped by the 400 sq. m. World of Darkness, Asia’s first nocturnal bird house, opened in April 1982. It features a system of reverse lighting, converting day to night and vice versa, thereby inducing night-active creatures to come alive during the daylight hours. It is akin to a quiet nocturnal walk along a starlit jungle path, watching birds in a simulated “moonlit” night and hearing them beckon. On display are 31 birds (mostly owls) from 9 species: Black-crowned Herons, Stone Curlews, Lesser Whistling Ducks (Javan Tree Ducks), Snowy Owls, Malay Fish Owls, Eurasian Eagle Owls, Barn Owls, Great Grey Owls and the Bobook Owls.

Royal Ramble

Next, we dropped by the 800 sq. m. Royal Ramble where we had an unobtrusive view of the world’s largest pigeons.  It has a 40 m. long walkway and 3 separate aviaries housing the 3 species of Crowned Pigeons found in the world (Common Crowned Pigeon, the Victoria Crowned Pigeon and the Scheepmaker’s Crowned Pigeon).

Dinosaur Descendants

Finally, at the 4,579 sq. ft. Dinosaurs Descendants we were greeted by a huge rock with a relief of feathers and ostrich eggs. Here, we learned the similarities and intriguing facts which link ratites (flightless birds such as ostriches and cassowaries) to dinosaurs, amidst the simulated grassland habitats of these birds.

Dinner at Bongo Burgers

Come evening, we dined at Bongo Burgers’ delectable but quite pricey choice of pure and lean patties in generous, American-sized servings.

Jurong Bird Park: 2 Jurong Hill, Singapore 628925. Admission: S$18.00 (adults) and S$12.00 (children, 3 – 12 years). Tel: (65) 6265 0022. Fax: (65) 6261 1869. E-mail:info.jbp@wrs.com.sg. Website: www.birdpark.com.sg. Open daily, 8.30 AM-6 PM.