Prescott and I took a staycation on the island of Sentosa last weekend.
I find Sentosa deeply weird. The island bills itself as the “State of Fun” and claims to be “The Best Place in Singapore.” It’s basically a giant resort island, home to Universal Studios, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, an aquarium, a water park, Segway rides, zip lines, golf courses, and so much more. There are brightly-colored signs and objects everywhere — and everything screams “fun!”
It feels to me like Singapore said, “what if we take one of our many tiny islands and Disneyfy it?” And once they took off with that idea, they never looked back.
Sentosa is a good example of what the Singapore government can do when it sets its mind to something. They decided in the early 1970s to take this island, which had been a British military fortress with a few fishing kampongs, and make it a holiday destination. The project started with a name change: the island was given the name “Sentosa,” meaning “peace and tranquility” in Malay, in 1972. Prior to that, it had been known as “Pulau Blakang Mati,” which means “Island of Death from Behind.” It’s no wonder they went for something new.
Then they built a short causeway bridge from mainland Singapore to Sentosa. There are tollbooths to get over the bridge, and you can’t take public busses over, so the general consensus is that getting to and around Sentosa is a pretty pricey endeavor. And most of the attractions on Sentosa are also expensive. But my school was having its holiday parties at one of the hotels there, so we decided to pay a visit.
When they first turned Sentosa into a resort island, they realized it needed an attraction or two. So they built a giant Merlion:
That’s the biggest Merlion in Singapore — large enough that you can go for a tour inside its tail. We declined that option, but we did learn fun facts, like “the four teeth of the Merlion represent the four races of Singapore.”
Sentosa is also having some kind of glow festival right now, which means that there’s somewhat random (but also somewhat interesting) art around. We found bikes that are supposed to light up when you pedal them (only this one seemed to be broken) …
… and unicorns whose eyes are supposed to follow you when you look at them with your phone …
… and very cool 2-D houses that look 3-D when viewed through the camera lens:
Sentosa is the type of place where they warn you to prepare — and give you an emergency contact number — before you walk up 132 steps:
Sentosa also has some of the only beaches in Singapore. I had been to Tanjong Beach before, so this time I took a walk along Palawan Beach:
Palawan Beach is probably best known for having a suspension bridge…
…that leads here:
Prescott says that Singapore can’t have it both ways — it can’t call itself an island (and then have a bridge to another island, Sentosa, and then a bridge to a teeny-tiny island, on which I found this sign) and still be part of “Continental Asia.” But this sign insists otherwise:
The Southernmost Point in Continental Asia boasts two lookout towers …
… from which you can view the hundreds of container ships out in the sea and also look back along the beach:
The beach itself would be much nicer if the water were a little less murky and if the water didn’t leave black sludgy marks along the shoreline:
I swam, but I didn’t spend a lot of time with my head underwater.
I did love the determination (assisted, I know) of this palm tree:
Sentosa also has peacocks — lots and lots and lots of peacocks. I’m not sure who brought them in, but they’re everywhere.
Our hotel was built at the site of an old military station:
…and peacocks roam freely all around the grounds. They even frequent the hotel’s outdoor restaurant:
One even came up to us at dinner, stuck his head up on the table, and took a bite of my chickpea salad!
As a final note, our hotel had a “free fish spa.” Here are my feet being nibbled — a truly odd feeling.