Wikipedia reliably informs me that the Malay translation of Sentosa is peace and tranquillity, so naturally it was high on our list of places to visit while we were in Singapore last week.
The Littlest Hobo wasn't very well while we were in Singapore so we ended up dropping most of our plans in favour of taking it easy and trying to get her better, but on our last free day, after a better nights sleep, we decided we could re-discover the world beyond the hotel room and went for a day out to Sentosa Island Resort.
We got there using the SMRT underground train, which was an experience in itself given I'm rarely keen to travel on underground transport. But the MRT was clean, quick and functional, and felt safe and spacious, which were all big pluses. The Littlest Hobo was the main attraction on our short journey; with her blonde curly hair and overall cuteness this seems to be rule of thumb whenever we are in Asia.
We got off the train at Vivo City shopping centre (which was huge) and opted to walk across the boardwalk to Sentosa Island - alternatives were to ride the cable car or take the monorail. The walk took about 10 minutes and the walkway had several moving platforms, which was very welcome in the humidity of Singapore. As with much of Singapore, it was immaculately manicured and well maintained. When we arrived on the Island we paid for our entry - $1 per person and the Littlest Hobo was free. We couldn't really work out the point behind the $1 fee, but I'm sure there's some logic in there somewhere.
|On the boardwalk|
Once inside we started to wander in the general direction everyone else was heading in, and soon came across Resorts World, which is the main area for restaurants and hotels. It's also where the entrance to Universal Studios is housed, and a large portion of the crowd seemed to drop off at this point so Universal is obviously a big reason for many people visiting. This area felt really Disneylandesque, as much as I could remember from my one visit to Disney twenty or so years ago. The Littlest Hobo was quite taken with the giant M&M's at the huge sweet shop - that's the closest she'll be getting to a peanut M&M any time soon!
|Just beware of the nuts!|
We'd decided to head for Underwater World, and see how we got on there before deciding whether to go to anything else on the island. I was also keen to see the Merlion, and to have a look around the Sentosa Flowers exhibit, which happens for a few days every year around Chinese New Year. The Littlest Hobo had given Mr T a promise of tickets to the Songs of the Sea show for his birthday, so we were hoping to hold out to see it in the evening, but didn't know if we would manage to.
|Sentosa flowers exhibit|
Looking at the map before we went, I had imagined Sentosa to be about the same size as a theme park. The reality was very different - the place is huge! Given how small a proportion of the map Universal Studios occupied, I really should have been able to figure this out before we went, but it just didn't sink in until we got there and realised that Underwater World, at the far end of the island, was going to take us quite a while to walk to. On top of this, we went up one escalator away from Resort World and onto Merlion Walk, which housed the Sentosa Flowers exhibit, to discover that the vast majority of the p[opulation of Singapore were also spending the second day of Chinese New Year on Sentosa. We fought through the crowds, largely choosing to by-pass the flowers as this seemed to be where the main mass of people were congregating, and headed up the hill using a series of escalators. In amongst our horror at the craziness of the area, which is usually described as a nature trail, and our scramble to get past it, I did take a few seconds to look around and thought how beautiful it would be without 50,000 other people sharing the immediate vicinity with us.
|The Sentosa merlion, with part of the Sentosa Flowers exhibition at the foot|
By the time we'd got to the top of the hill, and fought our way through yet more people dressed in their new year finery and waiting to have their pictures taken amongst the flower displays, and a group of snake charmers who were pulling quite a crowd, we decided to sit down for a drink and some lunch. We were right at the crest of the hill, so, short of finding somewhere indoors and air-conditioned, this was the coolest place we would be likely to find - pretty appealing really. We bought three chicken hot dogs, which we didn't realise were cold until we bit into them, a water each and two cold beers - that'll be $40 of your hard earned cash please. I still suspect that it was this hot dog that gave me the upset stomach that lasted until yesterday.
|Beer and hotdogs at a premium|
We continued on our trek to the far end of the island, made slightly more complicated by the lack of signage for anything other than those attractions within the immediate surroundings, but we worked it out and headed for the beach as the littlest hobo was asleep in the stroller. It was a really nice beach with lots of space and some sahdes dotted around. The slope into the water was relatively steep, but otherwise, the beach was fairly child friendly.
We made our way to Underwater World - we paid $26 for each of the adults and the littlest hobo was free as an under 3. We took about half an hour walking around the indoor areas, including an underwater tunnel which had a novel moving walkway which you could step off if you wanted to spend a bit more time in that section. We then made our way to the outdoor dolphin arena, where unfortunately a show was just finishing, and the next one wasn't starting for another hour and a half. We waited around for a little while but there really wasn't much else to do, and we were pretty exhausted from our hike around the island, so we jumped in a taxi and headed back to our hotel.
|My favourite exhibit in Underwater world was the jellyfish|
I was a bit disappointed in Underwater World - maybe we have been spoilt with Sydney Aquarium, but I just felt that there wasn't enough here. In fact, the whole of Sentosa was a bit disappointing - possibly it would have been different had we not been visiting on what was probably one of the busiest days of the year, and possibly it wouldn't. We arrived wondering why we hadn't booked a hotel on the island, and left thankful that we hadn't.