Ngong Ping Village (Lantau Island, Hong Kong)

Ngong Ping Village.  In the background in Lantau Peak while on the right is the Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha)

The terminus of our 5.5-km. long Ngong Ping 360 cable car ride  was Ngong Ping Village (Chinese: 昂坪; pinyin: Ángpíng; Jyutping: ngong4 ping4), located on a highland in the western part of Lantau IslandHong Kong. Lantau Peak, the second highest peak of Hong Kong, is at its southeast.

Check out “Ngong Ping 360

The arched entrance to Ngong Ping Village

When we arrived at the village, “360 Ultimate Masters Face-off: Shaolin vs Emei” kung fu show (running from September 29 to October 28) was ongoing.

360 Ultimate Masters Face-off

Featuring kung fu masters from Shaolin and Emei, they performed a marvelous mock up of a vigorous battle featuring three new weapons – the meteor hammer of Shaolin and the fans (an offensive and a defensive weapon) and long-tasselled sword (an aggressive but flexible weapon) of Emei.

Long-tasselled sword

The kung fu of Shaolin is said to be strong and powerful while Emei emphasizes softness and flexibility in their moves. Their battle is a fusion of Yin (Emei) and Yang(Shaolin).

Fans of the Emei

The fairly new Ngong Ping Village, created at the top of the Ngong Ping plateau, was opened in 2005 together with other facilities and tourist attractions that include the Walking with the Buddha (Stage 360), the Monkey’s Tale Theatre and Ngong Ping Tea House, all built to accommodate the influx of tourists now flocking to the Tian Tan Buddha (or Big Buddha) and the Ngong Ping Cable Car.

This well appointed, 1.5-hectare open-air and culturally-themed village, built at along a “tourist corridor,” serves as the central point for the many highlights and tourist attractions in the area.

Blessing Drums

It has modern facilities, 6,000 sq. m. of shop space and an 18,600 sq. m. piazza between the cable car terminal and the Po Lin Monastery (a youth hostel is located near here), a quick 5-minute walk from the Village. A visit to the Tai O Fishing Village is a short 15-minute ride away from Ngong Ping Village.

Walking With Buddha Show Theater

This tourist trap is complete with a wide array of “themed” souvenir shops, tea houses as well as fast food outlets (Subway, Starbucks, etc.) offering both Western and Asian fare. Monkey’s Tale Theater and the Walking with Buddha Show are short 15-minute audio-visual, multimedia attractions that recount Buddha‘s legends and stories.  We chose to skip these shows and save on the extra ticket costs.

Monkey’s Tale Theater

It also serves as a transportation hub. The nearby Public Transport Interchange has bus lines and taxis for easily getting around to other parts of Lantau.

For visitors who expect to see something more “genuine” and less “commercialized,” it is, by no means, an “old village.” Though built in the old traditional Chinese architectural designs to mirror and uphold the cultural and spiritual veracity of the Ngong Ping area, it has somewhat of a theme park atmosphere and this is what disappoints some visitors. Unless you need to eat (we had a late lunch here), this was an attraction not particularly worth spending time at.

Ngong Ping Village: 111 Ngong Ping Rd, Lantau Island, Hong Kong.cChinese New Year, Christmas and the three days of Buddha’s birthday are among the most crowded days.

How to Get There:  Ngong Ping Village is connected, via the Ngong Ping Cable Car, to the Tung Chung lower terminal which is linked via the Tung Chung Station MTR to the rest of Hong Kong.


Dinosaur Island (Clark Special Economic Zone, Pampanga)

Dinosaur Island Entrance

Clark Freeport Zone’s very own Dinosaurs Island, the Philippines first ever animatronics dinosaur amusement theme park, is the next best thing to watching Jurassic Park.  

Apatosaurus (Deceptive Lizard) 


It was designed to help us understand better the dinosaurs that roamed the earth  and what transpired during the Mesozoic era over 100 million years ago.

Tyrannosaurus (Tyrant Lizard King)

Brachiosaurus (Arm Lizard) 

Opened on August 4, 2012, this new attraction in Clark Field is the Philippine version of the 1993 film Jurassic Park.  It has four attractions – Dino Trail, Fossil Museum, Dino World of Fun and Adventure Ride.

Maiasaura (Good Mother Lizard) 


At the Dino Trail, visitors, upon entering the big wooden doors of the park, follow the forest trail, via a dino guided tour, to learn more about how the dinosaur era may have looked like as well as get up close to see how large they were in their time.

Stegosaurus (Roof Lizard)

Over 30 species of dinosaurs, living in a natural habitat with tall, probably centuries-old trees as backdrop, are featured at a moving dinosaur display.  

Dimetrodon (Two-measures Tooth) 

Iguanodon (Iguana Tooth) and Velociraptor (Swift Thief) 

Along the trail are Dilophosaurus (Two-crested Lizard),  Apatosaurus (Deceptive Lizard), the flying Angustinaripterus (Narrow Nose), Brachiosaurus (Arm Lizard), Dimetrodon (Two-measures Tooth), Irritator Spinosaurus (Spiny Lizard), Maiasaura (Good Mother Lizard), Parasaurolophus (Near Crested Lizard),Stegosaurus (Roof Lizard), Styracosaurus (Ostrich Mimic), Triceratops (Three-horned Face), Tyrannosaurus (Tyrant Lizard King) and Wuerhosaurus (Wuerho Lizard). There’s also an Iguanodon (Iguana Tooth) attacked by 3 Velociraptors (Swift Thief). 

Fossil Museum 

These are brought to life using the latest animatronics technology similar to the techniques used in the movies and TV, making them look, sound and move their heads and limbs like the real ones, triggered by strategically placed motion sensor devices as people approach them.

Tuojiangosaurus (Tuo River Lizard)

Triceratops (Three-horned Face)

Some expand their chests like they are breathing or open wide their enormous jaws to bare those sharp, pointed teeth.

Yandusaurus hongheensis

At the Fossil Museum, you get to see mounted replicas of dinosaur fossils as well as our real life-sized skeletons that help you understand more about their evolution and extinction.

Skull of Allosaurus 

Horn of Styracosaurus  

On display are complete skeletons of Triceratops (Three-horned Face), Yandusaurus hongheensisTuojiangosaurus (Tuo River Lizard, found in the Tuojiang Area, China) and Tyrannosaurus (Tyrant Lizard King); the scattered bone of a Shunosaurus (Shu Lizard); the horn of a Styracosaurus (Spiked Lizard); the skulls of an Allosaurus and Hadrosaurus; and the toe bones of a Plateosaurus (Broad Lizard). 

Toe Bones of Plateosaurus 

Skull of Hadrosaurus 

The World of Fun is a designated area where dino mascots roam around, interacting with or chasing visitors and little kids or doing dance numbers.

World of Fun 

Dino Mascot

Dinosaur Island: Clarkland Picnic Grounds, Gil Puyat Ave., Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga.  Mobile numbers: (0905) 261-6521, (0915) 943-3689 (Globe), (0932) 744-9783 and. (0923) 907-7342 (Sun).  Tel: (632) 293-0531.  Admission: PhP350 (adults) and PhP300 (children). Kids 3 years old and below get in for free. Open daily, 9 AM – 5 PM. E-mail:

How to Get There: coming from the Main Gate, take M.A. Roxas Ave., then turn right at C.M. Recto Ave.. Upon reaching Gil Puyat Ave., turn right until you reach Clark Nature Park. Dinosaur Island is at the farthest end.   Coming from Mabalacat Gate, go straight along Gil Puyat Ave. then turn right at Clark Nature Park.

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.


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.

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.

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:  Website:

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.


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.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong Disneyland

Too excited to even wait for our check-in, from the Hollywood Hotel we all proceeded to the park via its regular complimentary airconditioned shuttle.   The actual 100-acre park, the smallest Disneyland in the world, currently features 4 themed lands similar to those at other Disneyland parks: Main Street, U.S.A., Adventureland (the biggest one among all the Disneyland parks), Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.

Entrance Promenade

We had a choice of 22 entertainment items in the park (there are 44 in Paris, 45 in Tokyo and Florida, and 65 in California).  The park’s biggest draws were its shows and there were three on our list. The Golden Mickeys, at Disney’s Storybook Theater in Fantasyland, is a spectacular musical extravaganza featuring all the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood tribute, honoring your favorite Disney films.

Golden Mickeys - Disney's Storybook Theater

Also at Fantasyland, we donned special sunglasses at Mickey’s PhilharMagic and watched a hilarious and dazzlingly immersive 3-D attraction of movies, music and mayhem featuring Maestro Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Alladin and other animated Disney characters as they burst forth before our amazed eyes.

Festival of the Lion King - Theater in the Wild

At the newly decorated Adventureland, temporarily renamed Pirateland (until June 30) to celebrate the release of the new feature film “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” we watched the fantastic Festival of the Lion King at its Theater in the Wild. This colorful pageant of music and dance, inspired by and celebrating Disney’s animated classic “The Lion King,” features a vibrant collaboration of live performers (including a number of Filipinos), stunning costumes and exotic scenery. We liked it so much; we watched it again the next day.

Jungle River Cruise Pirate Takeover

Also at Pirateland, we tried out the Jungle River Cruise, Pirate Takeover!, venturing down the dangerous waters of a seemingly mysterious river filled with new surprises; and took a motorized log raft to Tarzan’s Island (inspired by Disney’s animated feature, “Tarzan”), climbing the moss-and-vine-covered Tarzan’s Treehouse, along the way  learning the story of this human child raised by gorillas.

Sleeping Beauty Castle - Fantasyland

Other park attractions are their rides.  We took one giant and tumultuous leap for fun at Space Mountain, an indoor roller coaster, where we seemingly rocketed, at warp speed, to into the inky blackness of the nether reaches of space, amidst synchronized music and sound effects.

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters - Tomorrowland

At Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, in Tomorrowland, we became Space Rangers saving the galaxy from the Evil Emperor Zurg, riding Star Cruisers and firing moveable, hand-held laser cannons as we tried to blast enemy targets and amass points. Less tumultuous was our horseback ride on the Cinderella Carousel, a sure hit for the young and the young-at-heart.

Posing with Snow White

Other favorite activities of kids, including mine, were photo opportunities with costumed Disney characters. However, you have to sometimes wait in long lines to do so.  Where the queue was short, we posed with Captain Hook at Pirateland; and Belle, Goofy and Snow White at Fantasyland.  We again got to see them, and the others we missed, at the magical 3 PM Disney on Parade, a daily cavalcade of Disney characters and music in a procession starting in Fantasyland and proceeding down to Main Street, U.S.A.

Royal Banquet Hall

In between rides and shows, we quenched our thirst and filled our stomachs with rice meals at the Royal Banquet Hall at Fantasyland, and chicken burgers and French fries at Comet Café at Tomorrowland.

With a Tricycle-Mounted Filipino Piano Player at Main Street, U.S.A.

Main Street is our favorite hangout, cooling off (and buying souvenirs such as shirts and key chains) at Main Street Emporium, again cooling off and admiring (but not buying) expensive and exquisite crystal figurines of Disney characters (including watching a demo on how they were made) at Crystal Arts.

The Disneyland Story - Main Street, U.S.A.

We also learned “How Mickey Mouse came to Hong Kong” in The Disneyland Story, or simply watching  people passing by or enjoying a nostalgic and leisurely trip along Main Street to Town Square on board quaint Paddy Wagons or Main Street Taxis or on the excursion-style train of Disneyland Railroad.

Disney on Parade

I also enjoyed chatting with many of our kababayans employed in the park, including a tricycle-mounted piano player. Main Street is also the venue for a grandstand view of the 8 P.M. Disney in the Stars, a  magnificent, magical and colorful fireworks spectacular, choreographed to classic Disney songs and music, and held over the towering and graceful spires of Sleeping Beauty Castle. We capped our evening with fine dining at the nearby Corner Café.

Disney in the Stars Fireworks

Hong Kong: Ocean Park

From the Peak Tram, we all met up at the Ocean Park main entrance where we rode cable cars in 3 groups, ascending to the headland section (1,400 ft. above sea level), during which we had an unparalleled and spectacular view of Hong Kong Island, the sublime South China Sea beyond and the expanse of the park including Atoll Reef, Shark Aquarium, Ocean Theater, the 72-m. (236-ft.) high Ocean Park Tower (with its cabin which slowly revolves from ground to top) and its rides.

Cable Car

This marine park’s main draw is its marine attractions at Marine Land.  Mark,  Nenette and their kids Gelo and Matthew watched the thrilling theatrics of adorable Pacific bottlenose dolphins and Californian sea lions (the official mascot of Ocean Park is “Whiskers,” a waving sea lion) in a huge pond at the open-air Ocean Theater.

Atoll Reef

On the other hand, we visited the Shark Aquarium where 70 sharks from 35 species are displayed. At its underwater viewing tunnel (Asia’s first), we observed Black Tip Reef Sharks, Pygmy Swell Shark, Hammerhead Sharks and other kinds of sharks, looking at them eye to eye as they safely passed overhead.  Too bad we missed seeing divers feeding or playing with sharks.

Shark Aquarium

We next visited the expansive Atoll Reef where 2,000 fish in 250 species are displayed in a huge, coral-themed aquarium. Shaped like a 3 or 4-storey, elliptical fishbowl, here we viewed a variety of fish through 6-cm. (2.4-inch) thick glass windows. Atoll Reef is divided into the shadow and the deep levels, each exhibiting its characteristic aquatic life.

Marine Life at Atoll Reef

The collection includes sharks, tropical fish, nautilus, tiny Pomacentridae fish, a gigantic Zebra Shark, morays, groupers, turtles and over 400 kinds of maritime animals from the Pacific Islands or the South China Sea, plus some corals and cays.

Sea Jelly Spectacular

Another sensory wonder was the Sea Jelly Aquarium, Southeast Asia’s first.  Here, we were awed by over 1,000 sea jellies of all sizes, shapes and colors from all over the world.

The Dragon

The park’s other attractions are its numerous exciting rides.  Too bad the Dragon, a steel roller coaster (the longest one in Hong Kong) with 842 m. of track, was closed for servicing.  I, however, tried it (alone) on my second visit. My 2.5-min. ride, travelling at a maximum speed of 77 kms. (almost 48 miles) per hour, consisted of heart-stopping twists, turns and 360-degree loops with a brief but thrilling stint of being suspended upside down.

Abyss Turbo Drop

However, Cheska and I tried out the swinging Crazy Galleon, the Eagle and the thrilling Abyss Turbo Drop.  At the latter, we were slowly raised, on a platform, vertically up a 185-ft. tower (where we had an overall view of the ocean and park). The platform then stops briefly at the top before it drops abruptly straight down in free fall in 5 sec., surprising even us who were prepared.

Flying Swing

Jandy joined us in the Ferris Wheel and Flying Swing were we were swung in chairs as high as 7 m. (23 ft.) through a gyrating wave.  We missed out on the Zamperla Mine Train (a roller coaster), the Space Wheel and the Raging River, all at Adventureland.  Upon closing time, we all left the park the same way we came in – by cable car.

Ocean Park: Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong.  Tel: 3923 2323.  Open Mondays-Fridays, 9 AM–5 PM.

Ocean Adventure Marine Park (Subic Freeport Zone, Zambales)

After dropping off our luggage and freshening up at the Subic International Hotel, Jandy and I then returned to our Toyota Revo and hied off to Ocean Adventure Park, nestled at Camayan Wharf in the West Ilanin Forest area inside the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.  Once in, we first had to satisfy our growling stomachs, doing just that with much-needed lunch at the park’s 240-sq. m., 70-pax Ilanin Bay Cafe.

Bottlenose dolphins

The world-class Ocean Adventure, managed by the Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium Inc. (SBME), is the first and most astounding nautical sanctuary in the country and the first and only open-water marine park facility in Southeast Asia.  Opened on September 15, 2001, this 20,000-sq. m. (12,000 sq. m. on land and 8,000 sq. m. on water) park showcases some of the world’s most amazing sea mammals and is home to 8 South American sea lions (Otaria byronia), 6 false killer whales (Pseudorca Crassidens), 4 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus gili) from Japan, and porpoises, all moving about in their inherent, natural habitat (not man-made as in similar parks abroad), fenced off only on one side of the shore.

Park trainers

The park aims to provide guests with what they call “edutainment” (educational entertainment), educating the people on marine life and the rich resources people should learn to value and conserve.  It thus gives the Filipinos an opportunity to truly appreciate the value of marine mammals as partners of humanity in the enormous task of saving our oceans.  The park is currently managed by a team of highly trained professionals, all formerly involved with internationally recognized theme parks such as the Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, Walt Disney World and Florida’s Animal Kingdom. In its effort to protect, preserve and develop wildlife and the forestland, Ocean Adventure also corroborates with the Wildlife in Needs (WIN) Foundation and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Ecology Center, putting up a rescue center within the compound for sick, injured and confiscated wildlife in the Subic Bay area.  About 50 injured animals are presently under the care of experts and veterinarians in the facility.  The WIN Rescue Center is open for public viewing.  Here, visitors can get a peak on how the animals are being cared for and treated.

The Sea Lion Show

The Animal Care Clinic, a behind-the-scene look at how the animals are cared for, offers visitors a chance to view the actual lab work evaluating individual health parameters of the mammals.  The Animal Nutrition Center, on the other hand, is a behind-the-scene look at the kitchen support extended to the animals. Visitors can see how animal food and dietary programs are prepared.   The Sea Lion Show, at the 350-seat Nautilus Theater, starred the adorable and amusing showgirls Brandy, Simba and Thalia.  They amused us, as well as the audience, with their funny antics.

Ocean Discovery Aquarium

Next on my itinerary was the Whale Show at the 700-seat El Capitan Stadium. In between shows, we visited the 280-sq. m. Ocean Discovery Aquarium.  Its arrangement of fresh water and seawater (marine) habitats hosts different species of corals and fishes of the Philippine marine ecosystem, recreating Subic’s marine life at different levels.  The Ocean Discovery Aquarium aims to inspire understanding and help promote conservation of the natural environment by providing the public an entertaining and educational facility that serves as base for protective and educational activities, extending into the surrounding forest watershed and bay area. The 50-pax Learning Center, a classroom and library, offers educational materials and information on marine mammals and marine conservation.  We also visited the 180-sq. m. Ocean Treasures, the gift shop located by the Entry/Exit gate.

The Whale Show

The Whale Show, the main attraction, featured the three awesome false killer whales Cook, Founder and Tonka plus some dolphins. After the show, Jandy and I opted to have our pictures taken, petting a dolphin. For the more “adventurous,” the park also offers a “Whale Encounter Program” at the Encounter Cove where guests get to join in and swim with the whales in the water, pet and feed them and have souvenir photos taken with the gentle creatures.  It also offers a “Dive with the Whales Program” and dive courses.

Ocean Adventure: Camayan Wharf, West Ilanin Forest Area, Subic Bay Freeport Zone.  Tel: (047) 252-9000.  Fax: (047) 252-5883. Manila tel: (632) 706-3344 to 46.  Fax: (632) 706-0808.  E-mail: Website:

Singapore: Sentosa Island – Musical Fountain Show

From Underwater World, we walked to Monorail Station No. 7 and boarded one of the 6-pax cars of the Sentosa Monorail that circles Sentosa and alighted at Station No. 1 (Sentosa Ferry Terminal). Here, we plan to watch the 7:30 PM Musical Fountain (also known as the Magical Fountain of Sentosa) show.

The Sentosa Monorail was closed in 2005 and most of the island’s monorail was dismantled, though parts of the original track structure still remain. The monorail was replaced by the red, blue and yellow bus lines.

Sentosa Monorail

Started in 1972 and opened, 10 years later, in 1982, the fountain show was designed by world-renowned fountain designer Yves Pepin.  The star attraction at the resort, it was just upgraded early in the year and the fountain is now Neo-Classical in look, with heavily decorated arches.  Its design was also themed to look like a nature wonderland, with small ponds, shrubs and  gigantic man-made waterfalls flanking the fountain grounds.

Musical Fountain and Fountain Gardens

The pool consisted of 25 million gallons of water which took 3 man-hours to fill and the fountain and could be shot up to 20 m.  It had more than 19 different water formations including the famous Phoenix flanked by waltzing “chorus-lines.

The Neo-Classical Musical Fountain

It was already late in the afternoon when we arrived at the amphitheater which could  accommodate 5000 people seated and at least 100 standing. The 7 seating zones in the arena were themed after the colors of the rainbow.  The 3 minute and 36 second fountain display show we watched was said to have been inspired by the synchronized dance of the Fountains of Bellagio.  The show capped our visit in Sentosa.

The Musical Fountain underwent a major restoration and upgrading project in 1999. In 2002, Yves Pepin replaced all the musical fountain shows with the Magical Sentosa Show but this show did not last long. After operating for 25 years, it was shut down to make way for an integrated resort called Resorts World Sentosa . Its last show was staged on March 25, 2007 and was replaced by the “Songs of the Sea” show. The area once occupied by the Musical Fountain is now occupied by the Lake of Dreams, Hotel Michael and Crockford Tower.