Sunday, January 15, 2006
We had 4 days in Tampa and out of this, 2 days were reserved for Orlando. We had to decide which 2 theme parks to go to in these 2 days. Disneyland itself had 4 theme parks, Epcot, MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom and Magic kingdom. Also, there is Universal Studios, Sea World and also Kennedy Space Center nearby. We ruled out Magic Kingdom first as it is for kids. We also ruled out Kennedy Space Center as we decided to go for theme parks completely. After much confusion, we decided that from among the rest, we will go to Epcot and Universal Studios, as MGM is similar but not as good as Universal and Animal Kingdom does not have much rides or anything like that, and Sea World had to wait. Actually, my friend Preetham, in Tallahassee also referred to that. He kept saying Shamu is in Seaworld and I was wondering, who’s this guy Shamu? We do have a friend Shyam in India but what will he do in seaworld? Who else is there? Have I met him in Bangalore? All these questions were answered when I realized Shamu (atleast that’s what the name is, I think..) is the name of a whale which does lotsa tricks!!
Anyways, so we had decided Epcot and Universal. Since Meghna also hadn’t seen Universal, we thought we’ll go there on Thursday and Epcot on Tuesday. Meghna and Mahesh dropped us off at Epcot and picked us up again in the night, around 9.30 PM. This place, Epcot has the 2nd largest Parking lot in the world (or US??, whatever), so don’t worry about Parking problems before coming here. And there is a tram which takes us to the entrance from the parking lot!!
The Entrance to Epcot is a huge dome which is really huge! It has 2 main sections, one part containing most of the rides and shows and another, which is basically a showcase of different countries. Once we enter, we have to plan our day properly in order to enjoy the maximum and get a full worth for the $60 ticket per head. Now, the good thing here is that, you don’t have to stand in queue at all places all the time. At every sow entrance, it displays the approx. waiting time and a “Fast Pass” time. If you cant wait till waiting time, you can go to the Fast pass counter and insert your ticket and it will give you a time when you can come back and also a time, only after which you can use another fast pass for some other show, generally, is after a gap of around 2 hrs. So you have to decide where all to use fast pass and where all to stand in queue. Nice system!
We decided to finish most of the rides and shows before evening and then to the world showcase section. We first went to this ride, where they take you across time and show how communication evolved, starting from pre-historic age to the modern age. Nothing scary, just a nice little dark ride for starters. We then went to a future world which was a total waste as we waited 30 mins just to see a futuristic house demo, typical family stuff, and we would need to win a lottery twice to get all this stuff! Our next stop was “Mission Space”. This is a really good place where there is a simulation ride to space. As the rocket launches and you go up, you actually feel as if you are flying to space! You are part of a team and you need to press some buttons from a console in front of you when you are asked to do so to ensure that the rocket lands safely on Mars. We really enjoyed that ride. After that, we did some time pass playing some video games and recording some videos showing our face which will be added to a prerecorded cartoon video as if we are a part of it! Here are some links of those videos. (You might be required to install some plugin for viewing it.)
http://ms.go.com/retrieve?card_id=4B0685D64071C26F000050BE9E13A489 http://ms.go.com/retrieve?card_id=3D1E7D6F1043F012200914B1CA585673 http://ms.go.com/retrieve?card_id=502498F42551EC76917B96719003A5D9
A few more small shows later, we went to the show “Honey, I shrunk the audience” at the Imagination institute. This is a 4-D show and we will be wearing 3-D glasses to get the effect. This is an awesome show where the shrinking machine is targeted towards the audience and suddenly we feel as if we are very tiny as the characters on the screen are blown up. The 4th Dimension is basically a feeling effect, like mice running over you, and also, there is a dog which sprays water on us and actually, there is a sprinkling of water! So that was a very good show.
After this, we had one more ride, the GM test track left but we had it on Fast pass at around 7.30 PM and we had around 2 hrs to cover the world showcase. We first entered Canada and it had some restaurants and a waterfall, there was nothing special there. We next went to UK, and there was nothing there as well, except for a few English pubs and a castle. Next was France, and there was a replica of the Eiffel Tower but we could not go near that. There was also a show about France on a 180° screen and it was good. After that, we covered Morocco, Japan, Italy, Germany and 19th century USA. After that, was wild Africa, followed by China, and it was pretty good. We then entered Norwegian territory where we spent some time checking out different Viking helmets and swords. We finally rounded our world tour with Mexico, which was undoubtedly, the best. Situated inside a Mayan pyramid, there is a huge Mexican market with a boat ride which shows Mexico in full light as it goes along and was good. So, in around 2 hrs, we covered the entire world. Who needs 80 days for this?
The only bad things during this “trip” was my camera battery which went down and so the snaps came out bad as it was dark and flash was poor, and also the “hot” peanuts which we bought and which turned out to be sweet and bad! :(
After the world tour, we were pretty much tired as we had been walking all day, but we had the GM test track to cover. This is also an awesome ride. They show you all the tests which are performed on a car, like hi-speed braking, surviving crashes, different environments like extreme hot and cold and corrosive etc… After seeing them, we will see them practically as the cars we sit in are made to undergo these tests! The crash test and the speed test are particularly awesome, in which our car touches speeds more than 150-200 mph! let me tell you, life begins at 150 mph!!
After this, there was a car display in which you could actually sit in the car and take some snaps, and so it was time for some showoff. By then, it was around 8.30 PM and we rounded out trip with one last show which was something about universe and energy with TV host Ellen Degeneres hosting it.
Finally, there was a fireworks display which was really superb and I managed to capture a part of it on video (approx 1 min as I did not have enough memory left). The video weblink is given below:
It was 10.15 PM by the time everything got over and we were out. Meghna and Mahesh were waiting for us at the parking lot by then, and we left Orlando at around 10.30 PM and reached Tampa at around 12. All in all, a fantastic day, and we were in so much josh when we left Orlando that we were ready for another round, but by the time we reached Tampa, all our josh had sizzled away and hit the sack and fell asleep immediately.
Our next day was meant for local sightseeing and so we woke up pretty late. Lunch was a buffet at Udipi café! The buffet menu included Masala Dosa, Poori, ghee rice, carrot halwa among others and we savored it! Knoxville does not have any place like this except 2 lousy Indian restaurants serving bland food, so we never miss chances like these!
That afternoon, we went to a place called St. Petersburg (not the one in Russia), a nice town with an awesome beach with white sands, St. Pete beach! Before that, we went across Sunshine skyway, a superbly constructed cable-bridge and it kept my camera busy for a while. Some views of that bridge..
We could not swim in the beach as the water was cold but we did take some snaps of the sunset and it was a glorious sight.
We later had dinner at an Indian restaurant, run by an American! During this journey, I was again interrogated about my many “girlfriends” who do not exist. Wonder why I am only asked these things all the time??? My friends even selected my wedding venue and all I had to do was to arrive on time as they’ll do all the other hard work like inviting guests, arranging food and drinks, selecting a bride etc…! Anyways, we were back in Tampa early as we had to get up early the next day and go to Universal studios. All revved up for that trip, we called it a day. More about that trip coming soon...