Our trip to Sentosa contained all the usual qualities I was coming to expect of Singapore taxi drivers – a comfortable car, metered fare and a guy who actually seemed to be genuinely taking the quickest way down there. Sentosa Island itself meanwhile was much bigger than I’d expected it would be and as we drove up (and paid a $5 admission fee to just drive onto the island, which I considered to be a load of rubbish) and around the island looking for the beach, it dawned on me that it seemed almost exactly like Disney World in Florida in terms of being planned and everything being just ‘perfect’. And indeed it should have been – Sentosa Island, originally an island south of Singapore with not a whole lot going on has, in recent years, been converted into an entertainment hotspot with a Universal Studios theme park, a whole resort and shopping complex and a bunch of attractions. To start with, we made our way down to the beach and out into the searing midday heat. With Sentosa primarily now being an entertainment complex, the beach, while quite beautiful, contained all the artificial wave-riding attractions, bars and shops you could possibly want on a beach. In many ways in fact, it was quite surreal – neatly-painted bars and attractions on one side, cargo ships all waiting to dock and hustling close together for space on the other. Walking along the beach, we came along various attractions, shows and eventually, what would turn out to be the attraction of the day – The Luge.
The Luge was basically a little plastic go-kart like car that you could steer with a set of bike-like handlebars, which braked the contraption when pulled back. All in all, it was quite scary – and the having to take a tiny cable car up to get to the top of the hill (particularly ever since the Genting cable car experience) was actually by far the most terrifying aspect of it all. Going down meanwhile was a lot of fun and I really did begin to wish that we’d got more tickets to do it a few more times. With that done, we were back on our beach walk and with the heat getting hotter and more severe by the minute, there was barely time to visit the ‘Southernmost point’ of Asia (if you believe that, which I didn’t really), before repairing to a bus stop to all near pass-out. Honestly, I didn’t know if I was going to make it a step further. So, we returned to the nearest bus stop (like Disneyland, the island was mapped by a highly efficient bus system, complimentary of course) and into the heart of Sentosa, near the Imbiah Lookout. Where Genting was more or less full-on tack central, the planners of Sentosa Island had the decency to at least remember to try and make things a little more natural and a little less tacky. So, wandering through the resort complex, it actually looked quite nice – truly, Singapore was hard at work once again refusing to tolerate so much as a single gaudy sign. The personal highlight for me meanwhile, was that I managed to get a picture with a walking Hershey’s bar.
But the day was hot – extremely hot – and after more walking around, it was time to hit the aquarium to see what it had to offer. While it was admittedly a bit shorter than I’d have liked, there were turtles, plenty in fact – and I’ve quite a strong support for turtles – so that was really nice. Afterwards, with the heat of the day refusing to pack in, it was time to head back to our hotel for a cool down in the air conditioning (all while hoping that our own air conditioning back in KL was being fixed in our absence) before heading out for dinner. Sadly, despite giving Singapore so many chances with food, there seemed to be two ways eating out could go – one way was that the food would be bland and a little tasteless, but that the service would be ok. The other way would be that, in the case of that particular evening’s meal, the food would be great but due to some staffing issues, the service was abysmal. And I’m a growing lad, so I need a reliable source of good food, so I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was a slight disappointment. However, Singapore is of course home to a favourite beer of mine, Tiger, so when all else fails, I went ahead and had a couple of Tiger’s to forget the dining woes. The next morning, there was just enough time to walk along to Singapore’s old fire station and tour their museum, which for something free, was outstanding. I can never understand why it is that some museums cost a small fortune and lead to great disappointment, whereas others, sometimes for hardly any charge or in this case free, are actually so good that you wouldn’t mind paying for them.
Museum sights done, it was time for one last search for food and we finally struck the balance between service and decent food by going into a little Chinese restaurant slightly off the beaten track. Strange how that can also be the case too – quite often in Asia, here in Malaysia in particular, the worse a place looks, the better it can quite often be. I have a favourite shop here for getting chicken chop, ‘Yut Kee’ which seems not to have been changed in generations and yet serves the absolutely most delicious food. That done, it was time for us to make our way back to the Golden Mile Complex for our jaunt back to Malaysia, hopping on the bus just in time as the rains began to come down. Whether Anna’s parents had brought a small bottle of wine with them, or a barrel of the stuff, mattered not a jot meanwhile at the border this time as we were all passed through immigration and back on the bus for the hop to Kuala Lumpur in absolutely no time. Our bus of course (the ‘supernice’ once again) made the compulsory stop in the middle of nowhere for a ridiculous half an hour to enable us to take in the sights of this truly horrendous rest area, before finally continuing our journey and reaching home late in the evening…just in time to enjoy our freshly-repaired air conditioning!