Brand new water world

Updated: 2013-03-24 08:01

By Rebecca Lo (China Daily)

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 Brand new water world

Schools of fish swim behind the world's largest open water viewing panel. Photos by Sam Yeo / for China Daily

Brand new water world 

Happy kids bob along the meandering Adventure River.

 Brand new water world

Shrek's castle at Far Far Away, one of the seven zones at Universal Studios Singapore.

 Brand new water world

Sesame Street cupcakes, available at Louis' New York Pizza Parlor.

Resorts World Sentosa officially opened last December with a splash. Rebecca Lo buckles up to relive the movie Transformer, and chills out watching fish at the vast Southeast Asia Aquarium.

I rushed through the turnstiles and an attendant waved me into the front seat in the world's first Transformers theme park ride that is about to take off at Resorts World Sentosa. "I hope you don't mind my joining your family," I said to the group surrounding me as I squeeze into the last spot available. I noticed that they all had 3-D glasses on and I asked where I could get mine. "They gave them out when we boarded - you should ask someone," the dad replied.

I turned around to do so but we rushed off with a jolt at that point. For the next 10 minutes, we were bombarded by the voice of Optimus Prime as our Autobot propelled us into one high octane experience after another.

Even without the glasses, I was carried along by the exhilaration around me as Transformer fans got to live out their favorite movie. Although I can't say that it converted me into a Michael Bay fan, I did have newfound appreciation for why his films are blockbusters.

More my cup of tea was the ever-popular Battlestar Galatica roller coaster, where riders can choose to be either human, with feet firmly planted, or cylon, with feet dangling in mid-air.

A serpentine assortment of corkscrews and loop-de-loops, it is not for the faint of heart. I screamed my lungs out for the entire duration, feeling like a kid again with a renewed love for roller coasters.

It is easy to overlook that Sentosa has a gaming component, just like Las Vegas or Macao. Six years after Genting Group's chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay announced that his company had won the contract to build Singapore's first integrated family resort on Sentosa island, he has fulfilled his promise to build a destination for young and old.

At the opening ceremony prior to a gala dinner prepared by celebrity chefs Sam Leong and Joel Robuchon - who both boast restaurants at Resorts World - with entertainment courtesy of Sarah Brightman and Sun Nan, Tan said: "We wanted to create a destination that no one has ever attempted. It would be a place where children would laugh, grandparents could come along, and families would bond. Today, standing here, I am proud to present the reality of that vision."

Genting has been careful to keep the casino separate from the rest of the attractions.

Tucked away in a corner of the park in the basement level underneath Hotel Michael - named after its architect and master planner Michael Graves - those wishing to try Lady Luck have to make an effort to play, with locals charged a S$100 ($82) entrance fee. You must be 21 or older.

In fact, guests could spend days at Resorts World Sentosa without ever encountering a craps table.

"The casino in terms of square footage is a small part of the resort," says Tan Hee Teck, CEO of Resorts World Sentosa during a press conference held during the opening ceremony weekend.

"This is a family resort - it is the only integrated resort in the world with a significant portion of family entertainment relative to gaming business." He said the resort expects 17 million visitors in 2013.

The second phase of Resorts World completes the corporate vision.

It includes accommodations varying from the 172-room Equarius Hotel, beach villas and tree-top lofts; ESPA luxury spa and resident show Incanto featuring three-time Merlin-award-winning illusionist Joe Labero as the Sorcerer starring alongside local actress and singer Oon Shu An as the Seeker.

But the real showstopper is the launch of Marine Life Park, a sprawling water world consisting of Southeast Asia Aquarium, which claims to be the world's largest, and the outdoor Adventure Cove Waterpark.

Its lively combination of education and wild, wet fun will shape both future marine biologists and families looking to keep their kids entertained by something smart during holidays.

The aquarium's highlight is a tiered hall dimmed to allow visitors to feel like they are part of the ocean, with views into the largest swimming panel in the world.

The open ocean habitat behind a 36 meter by 8.3 meter sheet of 70 centimeter thick glass was a favorite place to hang out for many visitors, mesmerizing us with schools of fish swimming from one side to another.

"We have the largest collection of sharks and manta rays in the world," says staff aquarist Joshua Gan. "When I'm stressed out, I stand in front of the glass and it calms me down."

For those who want to immerse themselves in the underwater experience, Equarius Hotel offers 11 two-story guestrooms with floor-to-ceiling views into the open ocean habitat.

"We hope to inspire people to love animals and want to do something about them," says Biswajit Guha, director of education and conservation at Marine Life Park. "Adventure Cove is for the young and the young at heart. It's a day of fun in the sun. The Rainbow Reef lets people try out snorkeling for the first time in a very safe environment with 20,000 reef fish."

Brand new water world

Another popular attraction at Adventure Cove is the Bluwater Bay wave pool, where waves up to 2.2 meters are generated at 15-minute intervals for a combination of gentle bobbing and high adrenalin body-surfing.

By this time, I've worked up a huge appetite and head over to check out the hawker stalls at Malaysian Food Street.

The multi-stall food center takes its interiors from the colorful shop houses that can be found in Penang, with brands such as Klang Bak Kut Teh from Klang, Penang Assam Laksa from Penang and Heun Kee Claypot Chicken Rice from Kuala Lumpur just a few of the choices.

I had a craving for the soothing medicinal herbs of a traditional bak kut teh, and picked up a bowl with a side of snipped dough fritters. The rich and fragrant broth came with button mushrooms and was just the taste of Southeast Asia I was seeking.

Although Singapore is certainly not lacking in authentic hawker experiences, it is nice to know that within the glamour of Resorts World Sentosa, comfort food is readily available.

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(China Daily 03/24/2013 page16)