Tuesday 12 June 2001 – Sentosa, Singapore
Today, with no appointments planned and several quite busy days behind me, I decided to be a complete tourist and visit Singapore’s ‘playground’, Sentosa Island. I had a couple of entry vouchers from some photo processing I’d had done, and decided to take the chair lift from the World Trade Centre near Singapore’s harbour. The chair lift runs from the WTC to Mount Faber, a lush jungle garden on a hill behind the harbour, then to Sentosa in the other direction.
Once on Sentosa I took the free monorail service to the other side of the island and checked out the popular beaches. It was so funny. They are all man-made, in that they are on reclaimed land with carefully positioned palm trees and art-directed off shore islands, coves and lagoons.
The coves are all fenced in, and there are even tinier fenced in areas (around the size of a small swimming pool) on the foreshore. There are no waves and no boats bigger than canoes are allowed anywhere near the beach. There was even a little ‘train’ that chugged up and down the two-kilometre or so length of the three beaches, so you never had to walk far.
Just off shore, a mile or so away, Singapore’s never ending stream of shipping was queuing up to get into port. Further away again were the offshore petroleum refineries and the Jurong industrial area, one of the largest of its type in the world, where electronics and petrochemicals are manufactured. Somehow the combination of all this put me off going for a swim, despite the stringent safety measures.
Back on board the monorail I headed back to the city side of the island and some lunch – very ordinary hawker food, not nearly up to the standard elsewhere, but that’s what you get on a tourist trap, I suppose. After poking around some of the gardens I happened across the most pleasant toilet I’ve ever encountered. It was not enclosed. Rather, after walking through the door, the facilities were in an open pavilion, under cover but open to the surrounding garden. The toilets themselves were in cubicles but the hand basins and facilities were pleasantly open and fresh, albeit carefully screened from the surrounding passers-by.
I decided to be a complete tourist and visit the water park, Fantasy Island, for some adolescent nonsense. It was very tatty and the staff, mostly teenagers themselves, didn’t seem very helpful. I tried a couple of waterslides and decided that it really wasn’t for me. Back outside, it was time for the evening performance by the Musical Fountain(!) A quite impressive set up of computer controlled valves in a large pond created patterns of swirling water to a really dreadful soundtrack of the Kenny Gee-variety, but the tourists on the whole seemed to love it. In the background, the Merlion (a 10 storey concrete version that one can go up inside) looked over proceedings with its flashing green eyes.
Unfortunately one of the Indian labourers decided that the exact same time as the show began would be a good time to clean up some fallen leaves in the arena with his leaf blower, which was a touch distracting. Caught the monorail and completed the circuit of the island back to the cable car station. Was about to head home when I thought I’d just have a little wander around this area, which seemed pleasant. I stumbled across some of the nicest areas I’d seen yet, including a scented garden and a spice garden, which weren’t listed as attractions anywhere I’d noticed. The spice garden was especially interesting to me, containing specimens of nutmeg and cinnamon trees, pepper vines and several exotic spices I’d not heard of, as well as all the usual herbs and spices that one associates with Asian cuisine.
Having wandered to the end of the gardens I found I was almost back at the beach, so wandered down and had a beer at one of the ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ type huts dotted around. The sky was threatening rain but it didn’t come to anything much (although later I realised it had been raining heavily elsewhere in Singapore). A pleasant way to end a reasonably relaxing day, before wandering back to get the chair lift back to the main island.