Legoland Malaysia

10th September 2016

Legoland Malaysia is located on the southern edge of the country just a few kilometres away from the border with Singapore. The cheapest way to get there is to use public buses on both sides of the border, but that approach requires both effort and good luck as the schedules are somewhat patchy. At the other extreme there are a number of companies that can supply a private car with chauffeur, but the costs for doing that are prohibitively expensive for those travelling independently. The happy medium is a coach tour; I purchased an all-inclusive same day return package from WTS Travel for SGD $75 (~€49).

My coach departed the Singapore Flyer shortly before 9:00am and headed west for the Tuas Second Link. There were very few cars on the road, and we made good progress until about five hundred metres from the border checkpoint when we stopped moving entirely. The tailback, which I later learned was due to the Hari Raya Haji holiday, took the better part of two hours to get through as each bus in turn disgorged its passengers into a busy passport control hall before picking them up again on the far side of the building. It's fair to say that I wasn't in the best of moods by the time I'd completed formalities, and my general outlook on life wasn't improved by the fact that the toilet facilities were closed for maintenance.

The checkpoint on the Malaysian side also had no restrooms, and worse yet, it had no air conditioning and an utterly haphazard queuing system. The concept of personal space had apparently been lost entirely in the previous few minutes, with the angry crowd pushing and shoving and a steady stream of line jumpers seeking personal advantage at the expense of the rest of us. Every few minutes someone with a young baby would be escorted to the front by officials, and while this was a noble enough approach it was hard to understand why each needed to bring at least fourteen members of their extended family with them. The wait time ended up being around three quarters of an hour, but it felt far longer as I stood there dripping sweat and desperately needing to pee. It was only after customs that I finally found a functional bathroom, some four hours and ten minutes after first boarding the coach for what I'd been told was normally a two hour journey. The facilities smelled like they hadn't been cleaned in the previous century but despite that represented a truly blessed relief.

Entrance

The morning rain had burned off entirely by the time we reached the park shortly after 1:30pm, rendering my incredibly masculine pink umbrella surplus to requirements. There were lockers available near the entrance, but the larger units were full and in any case would only accept RM 10 banknotes which I didn't have available. In other parts of the world I'd probably have to abandon it, but there were no issues here; a member of staff at the gate told me that there were storage boxes available on the coaster platforms that I could use at my own risk.

My first port of call was Project X (#2298), a Mack-built mouse that marked the resurrection of the "Large Park" model after an eight year hiatus. The hardware on this unit seemed to have been the prototype for a new braking system, insofar as it featured alternating block designs. Roughly half featured traditional friction brakes that the cars passed through unhindered, but unfortunately the remainder had magnetic skids that brought the cars to a virtual standstill. The uneven pacing didn't seem to bother the locals very much, all of whom seemed enthralled by what they were riding, but from my perspective the experience was scarcely better than Coast Rider, being more annoying than fun. Worse, each drop had a hard landing, and though not dreadful the comfort level was well below what I'd have expected from a four year old coaster. The one saving grace was the final stop which was probably the best I've ever experienced on a mouse, being fully controlled and smooth; aside from that the ride was a tick and little more.

One train load at a time was being allowed into the station for Dragon's Apprentice (#2299), and the coaster gods saw fit to give me first choice. Under normal circumstances I'd have gone to the back, leaving the front seat open for a child, but the little brat who'd have claimed top spot had spent the previous ten minutes repeatedly bumping into me despite my best bad tempered glare in C minor. It was therefore perversely pleasurable to lay claim to it myself, all the more so when there was a loud "awwww" from the sprog in question. The ride experience was pure vanilla, being my third encounter in as many months with the Force 190 design, and as with the other versions we were given two laps.

The best attraction in the park at the moment is Dragon (#2300), a Zierer Force Five prepended with about thirty seconds of dark ride. The track layout is identical to that of Feuerdrache (and the two new Legoland parks in Dubai and Nagoya) but the theming is unique, consisting of mostly static models surrounded by gold ingots subtly embossed with the logo of Maybank, the ride sponsor. The slow portion concludes with an encounter with a bright red dragon with glowing green eyes and a decent drop of perhaps fifteen feet that leads out to the lift hill. The rest of the course felt like any other large format family coaster, but the track was negotiated without any jarring and there was a good sense of speed. For my first lap I was sitting next to a Malaysian kid who couldn't have been more than six years old who was apparently on his eleventh lap, suggesting a coaster enthusiast in the making. He was still there several hours later, by which stage he was probably brushing up against triple figures.

With the coasters out of the way my immediate priority was to find somewhere with air conditioning, leading me to Star Wars Miniland. The experience began with a screening of Lego Star Wars: Bombad Bounty, an entertaining five minute video starring Jar Jar Binks as a cleaner in scenes adapted from the original movies. Following that were a series of seven rooms featuring Lego recreations of various places from the movies, including the Naboo Royal Palace, Tatooine, and Hoth. The models were lit elaborately and each had a "push to start" button that triggered a variety of special effects. I also spent some time enjoying the outdoor Miniland, which featured both Angkor Wat and the Taj Mahal among a collection of local landmarks not immediately recognisable to this writer.

Star Wars

One of the staple attractions found in all six Legoland parks is Lost Kingdom Adventure, a target shooting dark ride designed by Sally Corporation with Egyptian theming based loosely around the Lego Adventurers series sold from 1998-2003. There were both green and red targets, the latter worth double points, and the difficulty level was kept low by a visual indicator of each shot, allowing quick adjustment after every miss. There was no wait at all and given that I decided that I might as well go through a second time so that I could appreciate the theming in full.

I took a quick spin on The Tower, a rotating observation platform with positively glorious air conditioning that allowed me to quickly confirm that I'd not missed any significant attractions barring the log flume, which I'd already decided to skip given that I didn't much fancy the idea of spending several hours on a bus in wet clothes. The main benefit from the heights was a clear view of the large construction site for Ninjago the Ride, a local version of the attraction that premiered in California earlier this year to critical acclaim. The version here is due to open in November and I may well make a return visit when that happens.

I'd given myself more time than needed at the park, and decided to burn some of it by watching a 4D movie. The park has five different selections available depending on the time of day, and there are even a small number of performances localised into Chinese. I caught A Clutch Powers 4-D Adventure, starring "the best builder and explorer in the Lego Universe", which was completely new to me. My brain had shut down for the day and thus the plot went in one ear and out the other, but I did appreciate a wide variety of effects including wind, water sprays, bubbles falling from the ceiling, and flashing lights next to the screen. At the end of the show there was an announcement asking for the glasses to be returned that explicitly noted that they "were not designed for use outside of the theatre and provided no sun protection", suggesting rather strongly that pairs had previously gone missing.

My day finished with two more laps on Dragon followed by a sympathy lap on Project X taken only because there was no queue at all when I walked past it. The ride operators seemed almost relieved to have something to do, and seemed a little disappointed when I chose not to stay on board for more than one circuit.

The coach departed the park on schedule after the driver warned us about the various things we were not allowed to bring back into Singapore, including cigarettes, meat products, and chewing gum. I'd mentally prepared myself for another tortuous journey, but was pleasantly surprised when the Malaysian border post turned out to be completely deserted. The Singapore side was busier, but the line moved quickly despite the officer on the international desk apparently being in a chatty mood; when she saw my Irish passport she launched into an exhaustive discourse about how much she liked Westlife, a conversation that I expect will remain my most unusual immigration experience for the foreseeable future.