The ride of my life on Battlestar Galactica

25 02 2011

I embarked on the ride of my life on Monday. It took place on an island that I had associated more with slow moving vehicles from the first experiences that I had on it. Of course these days, the island is a very different place from the one which for a time, I would visit on Wednesday afternoons, arriving by ferry from Jardine Steps before making my way on foot to what was the canoeing lagoon at the far end of the island. The island now hosts one of the two integrated resorts in Singapore, the Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) and has Singapore’s new Wonderland (Wonderland was the amusement park to be at when I was growing up in the 1970s), Universal Studios Singapore in which I managed to get an invite to for a preview of the relaunch of the world’s tallest dueling roller coasters, Battlestar Galactica. Having long outgrown my adrenaline craving days during which I even paid a visit to South East Asia’s first looping roller coaster at Siam Park in the outskirts of Bangkok, I would have normally hesitated if I was offered a ride on a roller coaster that takes you some 14 storeys up in the air and gives you a sense of a near miss with another at speeds of up to 90 km/h, but when the opportunity arose, I somehow grabbed at it.

A test run before the preview.

So with a bunch of fellow blog kakis, I found myself staring up at the 14 storey high mess of steel, pretty imposing from the bottom looking up and I started to have second thoughts about it …after all, I’ve had my share of thrills and spills in my youth and maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Somehow though, I got caught up with the excitement that was buzzing around me and I somehow lost that initial apprehension that I had and having left all my loose items behind (including my glasses – my glasses flew off during my first ever upside down roller coaster experience at Siam Park!), I soon found myself walking along with the group up to the first ride, on the Human Coaster, one that was supposedly the less intense of the two – one without any inversions. I had perhaps thought to myself that that wasn’t going to be too bad … after all, it was only going to last for a mere 90 seconds … Seated and locked into a centre seat (phew!) next to the barefoot prominent blogger Dawn Yang, it wasn’t long before we were blasted (the coaster unlike most sets off at high speed) up the rails and after that initial sense of trepidation, I actually found myself enjoying the rush of adrenaline that I got … there were moments when we were literally off our seats, held only by the restraints … and before we knew it … it was over in a flash!

The 14 storey high mess of steel that greeted us.

That did not deter me ....

Posing for the customary photograph before the ride.

On the Human Coaster - looks like most were enjoying it.

Stepping off and in spite of my legs being a little wobbly, I found myself actually wanting more. That certainly had to be the Cylon Coaster! The Cylon, we were informed would offer us the experience of several inversions: a zero-G roll, a cobra roll, vertical loop, cockscrews and as when we were on the Human Coaster, the Cylon wasn’t running, we would be experiencing one of the features of the rides, a near collision which is said to be mere inches apart. Seated in the Cylon, one is suspended under the rails – and also features a deep pit filled with mist which provides a sensation of a near miss with the ground. It did sound a little scary, but after that first experience, I was actually looking forward to it!

Riders on the Cylon are suspended below the rails.

The ride on the Cylon I must say was the ride of my life! I wasn’t at all disappointed – as we were twisted, inverted and thrown along the 975 metre track … an experience that I guess only can be described by the word “Awesome”! Maybe I was too caught up with being whisked around but the near miss sensation seemed more exciting than scary … and at the end of it as the coaster ground to a halt, the 90 seconds seemed a little too short …. and it an experience that I will certainly look forward to reliving on my next visit to Universal Studios Singapore.

One of the twists on the Cylon ...

The coasters appear to cross paths along the 975m track, giving the sensation of a near collision.

We survived!

Blogger Walter Lim speaking about his experience.

Dawn Yang was all smiles (and she wanted seconds)!

Riders on the Cylon ...





Wonderland and the thrill of Bangkok

6 01 2011

I guess the school of thrills for me was the roller coaster of the wonderful Wonderland Amusement Park in Singapore, back in my wonderful childhood in the Singapore of the 1970s. Then, Wonderland was the world to me and the roller coaster was where I spent most of my time at whenever I succeeded in pestering my mother to take me there. Wonderland offered no end of fun, and besides the roller coaster, I could also remember the kiddie train that went round a track and the Ovaltine cups that span around – ones which could be made to spin faster by turning a wheel in the centre of the cup (which I did very often, much to my younger sister’s discomfort).

A photo in the National Archives collection of Wonderland under construction in 1969 (source: National Archives of Singapore's online catalogue).

A view of Wonderland in 1970 with the tracks of my favourite roller coaster (source: National Archives of Singapore's online catalogue).

The park had opened in 1969, just in time for me to have the many thrills and spills as I sought as a primary school boy. It was a time when interest in the “Worlds” of Singapore was waning and Singapore needed a new amusement park to bring fun to its children. The park, built on reclaimed land that had once been part of the old Kallang Airport, in its time hosted many corporate events as well, probably being one of the first places which saw family days being held in Singapore. It was a place that I enjoyed until I guess I outgrew the rides as I entered secondary school in the early 1980s and it was after this, in 1984, that an accident occurred in which planes fell off a merry-go-round injuring 16 people – the first accident in my memory what had been 15 years of accident free operation up to that point in time. I can’t quite remember when and what had shut the park, but based on newspaper archives, the park closed in 1988 to make way for the large open air carpark meant to serve the Kallang Indoor Stadium, a car park which is still with us today, bearing nothing to remind us of the good old amusement park.

The merry-go-round of planes which also a favourite. An accident in 1984 in which planes fell off resulted in 16 injuries (source: National Archives of Singapore's online catalogue).

The Ovaltine cups were evil!

News on the Indoor Stadium's opening in 1989.

By that time, my idea of thrills had evolved and looking for something more than what Wonderland offered, I was soon to find that in Bangkok. It was in the year of the accident (and around the time of it) that while in the Thai capital, I came to hear of a water themed amusement park (possibly the first water themed park in South-East Asia and one that featured a wave pool), some 20 kilometres outside of Bangkok, Siam Park. The park, which had opened some 4 years before, featured a looping roller-coaster, the Loop-the-Loop, something that had been unheard of in this part of the world. Without knowing a word of Thai, I bravely set out on the public transport system (being on a shoestring) that carried me over the dusty streets out of Bangkok, and there I soon was, staring in awe at what was in fact South-East Asia’s very first looping roller coaster.

South-East Asia's first looping roller coaster at Siam Park, outside Bangkok, in 1984.

My first ride wasn’t actually the best of experiences. Getting into the prime front row seat, I was soon locked in by the safety bar and looking forward to what was surely going to be the ride of my life. In all the excitement, I had somehow forgotten (as well as not being reminded by the staff on hand) to remove my glasses and was soon caught up in the anticipation of the ride as the roller coaster rode up on end of the rail and prepared for its descent. Down it quickly went amidst a chorus of screams, up the loop, as I braced myself for what would be my first heads-down roller coaster experience. That feeling that came with the moment the world turned upside down I still remember very well, with my heart feeling as if it had fallen out of my chest. The moment that happened, I felt my glasses falling as well, and that being something that I would have been at a lost without (being shortsighted and not having a spare pair on me), I shot my arms out, managing to somehow grab my glasses out of the air, relying perhaps on the reflexes that my early days playing football as a goalkeeper had developed in me. I had several more rides on the roller coaster, taking a break from it only to have the occasional dip in the wave pool, during which I made it a point to remove my glasses, and it was only at closing time that I made my way back into Bangkok, tired from the thrills and glad to have survived my first ever looping experience.