And so the wait was finally over. Way back in March, we bought the Legoland annual passes at pre-launch rates – RM199 for adults and RM149 for children. That is about 30% cheaper than current rack rate. Then we waited eagerly for them to announce the official opening date.
That date was set as 15th September 2012. A memorable day in Iskandar Malaysia’s history as it marks the opening of the country’s first international theme park and Legoland’s first in Asia. But more importantly is its symbolism of the country’s stability for investment.
We waited until October to make our first scout of the area and collect our annual passes. We didn’t stay long but it left a scorching hot impression.
Legoland is surrounded by flat land stripped bare of trees which is still currently under construction. With lack of shelter all around the park, this leaves its visitors toasting under the hot sun on sunny days and stranded on stormy days.
On our second visit, we visited the park in the late afternoon to escape the noon day sun. Thankfully it was a cloudy day and that helped to relieve most of the heat. The theme park is made up of 6 exploreable lands – Lego City, Miniland, Lego Kingdom, Imagination, Lego Technic and Land of Adventure. According to my brother-in-law who worked at Universal Studios Singapore, Legoland is way bigger in comparison.
The benefit of holding on to an annual pass is that it takes away the stress of having to try all the rides within the day. So we had only one objective this time – to try all the rides at Lego City with the children.
For younger children, this would be an immediate hit as most would be thrilled to experience driving their own car, flying an aeroplane, piloting their own boat, riding on a train and going on rescue missions on a fire engine. The latter was especially exhilarating as you have the option of pitting your crew against others to be the fastest rescue team.
The advantage of Legoland being relatively inaccessible is that one doesn’t have to wait forever to try the rides. We waited no more than 30 minutes for each of the rides and some even shorter. This compared to the ridiculous 2 hours waiting time at USS just to fly the pteranodon.
Each land also has its own themed playground which provides tired parents with an instant source of relief as they can leave their children to explore the playground and exhaust their boundless energy. The playgrounds are artfully designed and will even provide adults with some amusement as they tinker with the buttons.
I was initially surprised to see carnival like booths set up to lure naive visitors to part with their hard earned money. But on all our visits, we unwittingly forked out the RM20 each time for a chance to hit a bottle, shoot a ball through a hoop or catch a fish. I have to admit that the huge Angry Bird plush toy prizes is mighty attractive.
In all our second visit to Legoland was much better than I expected and both Joel and Elizabeth had a wonderful time riding on the vehicles. Joel was especially thrilled to have passed the mini driving school and looked forward to try the bigger boys’ one.
On our third visit, we brought all three children plus our helper. After lunch at KFC in the next door Mall of Medini (which by the way is a really convenient way to grab cheap food before entering Legoland itself), we brought the children through Miniland.
The hallmark of all Legoland, the Miniland comprise of famous landmarks of all the Asian countries made of Lego bricks. The Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat and Forbidden City exhibits are particularly impressive! While looking at the structures, we also had a fun time pressing buttons to figure out what it did. <Spoiler alert!> Most times it resulted in someone getting wet.
From Miniland, Lego Kingdom awaits. This land as the name suggests follows the medieval knights, castles and dragons theme. Our first stop is Merlin’s Challenge, a hi-speed merry-go-round that goes up and down. There was no queue here at all and we got on on the very next turn. After that, Joel attempted to ‘ride’ a Lego horse around a track. This ride is only for children.
There are two roller coasters in this land – Dragon’s Apprentice and The Dragon. The former is a milder version and suitable for children. The Dragon looked pretty daunting from below and elicted the requisite screams from its riders. Father and son tried the smaller roller coaster while I wanted to pass time at the playground. However as part of wet weather precautions, all playgrounds are closed to public on rainy days. Drats!
By the time they had finished their ride and were eager to take on the bigger dragon, it started to downpour and we ran towards Imagination for shelter. I had thought to pass time with the 4D rides but decided to queue for the Observation Tower instead.
I was quite surprised that they continued to operate the tower even in the rain but I guess they have the necessary SOPs. The ride afforded a 5 minutes ride up, down and around to see all of Legoland and the bare land that surrounds it. However I could barely make out what the controller was saying over the PA which is one dissatisfactory aspect of the park – the standard of spoken English of the park attendees.
After the tower, we went into the Build and Test studio where we spent a good part of 2 hours inside. It wasn’t because we were trying to pass time, it was because we became totally immersed in our project to build the fastest, most cool looking car or the tallest stablest building that can withstand earthquakes. It is amazing how simple exercise could engage both child and adult alike. What was rather frustrating though was that there was a limit to the number of wheels given out so not everyone had a chance to build a movable car.
After the rain stopped, Joel and I tried out the Kids Power Tower. Basically born out of a pulley system where you have to use raw energy to pull yourself up to the top of a pole with your child or alone and then let gravity pull you down. I supposed you could try competing with groups of friends as well.
While it sounded simple enough, I actually felt scared to let go of the ropes to descend from that height. Also hauling us up was exerting and while I had set a target to go up 5 times, we ended only with 4 and really red raw palms thereafter. Quite a no-brainer really. The Duplo Playtown (playground) is a really fascinating area with houses, cars, animals in Duplo shapes as well as a for children only mini express train.
While the experience of our third visit was dampened by the rain, overall the children had a solid wonderful time again. However having said that, Legoland is really more for children 12 and below. Older children and adults might find the rides boring or not adredaline pumping enough. But so long as I have young kids, this would be the place to bring them.