South of Singapore lies the island of Sentosa. It seems to be the main tourist attraction in the country. Fully loaded with nature parks, a 4D Adventureland, theme parks, a larger version of the Merlion, all surrounded by heaps of hotels and resorts. It wasn’t exactly high on my list of things to do. It is branded as the state of fun which sounds a little bit tacky. I have done a little bit of reading on Sentosa since our visit and it seems that at some stage it was known as Pulau Belakang Mati, which roughly translated to the Island of Death from Behind. A rebrand was obviously a high priority; Sentosa translates to Peace and Tranquility. Top job.
With our final day in Singapore we figured we might as well check it out. I was keen to catch the cable car across the water, so why not see what was on the other side while we were at it. We purchased the Free & Easy package at the cable car station which would give us unlimited crossings for the day, including entry to Sentosa and two attractions while we were there. A bargain you might say.
The gondolas were themed with DC super heroes. If you got to choose, which you don’t, who would you pick: Batman, The Green Lantern, Superman or Wonder Woman? We were loaded into our carriage to find we had won the super hero lottery. A classic Batman theme awaited us. We crossed the narrow harbour, the views being a little less than spectacular, before landing safely on Sentosa where we would have to decide which two attractions would be the best use of our time.
Elena has told me on numerous occasions the best ride she has ever been on was The Simpsons 4D ride at Universal Studios. It was her idea to try out one of the attractions in the 4D Adventureland as part one of our Sentosa experience. I haven’t been keen on roller coasters until recently. It would be a new experience if nothing else, to see how they compared. The virtual 4D roller coaster “Extreme Log Ride” seemed like it would probably be the best of the available options.
It began with a pre-show experience. A lot of lights flashed, tribal drum beats boomed across the room. I can’t say I was overly impressed at this stage. I thought perhaps there was some scientific research that proved a disorientating experience of lights and sounds makes a person more susceptible to believing in the virtual reality to follow. That makes sense, right? We moved through to the main event, got into our cars and endured a mash-up of safety advice that repeatedly advised our seat belts must be on at all times. I had to wonder if maybe the stewards kept noticing people without their seat belts in place. Perhaps a constant repetition would see them pay attention. Eventually everyone buckled up, it was time for our Extreme Log Ride!
Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe they weren’t. This just wasn’t a good 4D experience. The cars threw us left to right, rising up and down in an attempt to simulate the experience of being on a log, or were we supposed to think we were actually a log? I don’t know. In the beginning I was impressed, it did look and feel like I was going around corners. The first big drop signified the dawn of my disappointment. I didn’t in the least bit feel like I was falling. Was I doing it wrong? I reckon the moment I stopped suspending my disbelief the ride was essentially over for me. Should I have made more of an effort to run to the middle car at the front? I know people think there’s a sweet spot at cinemas, does the same theory also apply to virtual realty theatres?
At the end of the ride Elena too told me she felt it wasn’t a good representation of a 4D ride. It might have been the graphics were old, or the whole thing was dated. Her feelings were echoed by another man in the queue. He spoke of a Transformers ride, also at Universal Studios, which he thought was incredible but the experiences here were simply not up to scratch. This settled part of our debate regarding our second attraction, it would not be in the 4D Adventureland. After a little discussion we settled on our original choice: The Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom.
The garden is supposedly home to 15,000 actual live butterflies. I wouldn’t like to say this is a fact, there were definitely some butterflies flapping about the place. 15,000 sounds like a bloody great swarm. I think we saw more at the end of the Insect Kingdom. Dead, pinned to boards in displays showing off their size, elegant shape and colour. I wasn’t mad keen on the Insect Kingdom, spiders don’t appear particularly high on the list of things I enjoy. There were some pretty cool stag beetles though! More importantly than this though were the birds. I know what you’re thinking. Haven’t you had enough birds yet? You spent a whole day at a bird park! No I haven’t. Beautiful macaws were hanging out in pairs, preening each other. Adorable.
We caught the cable car back to Faber Peak on the mainland to check it out. I’m absolutely certain we managed to get the exact same Batman gondola on our return trip. A double victory in the super hero lottery! What are the odds? There wasn’t much happening up on Mount Faber, so we headed back in to the city for our final dinner. During one of our many strolls between our hotel and Bugis Street, I’d spotted a place with a big picture of what looked like BBQ pork buns on one of its windows. I navigated us in its general direction to find the Hong Kong Dim Sums Shop. The menu was extensive and we sampled lots of little things, all entirely delicious. Was it the best Asian food I’d ever had? I can’t be 100% certain, but I’m going to say yes anyway. It was divine.
Sentosa then, not exactly riddled with fun on our short excursion but it would be hardly fair to judge it as a bad time. We had barely participated in the wide range of activities on offer. Perhaps it requires a return with a day pass to really come away feeling like we’d had a grand day out. Singapore, overall, certainly worth the visit. It will no doubt appear on future itineraries with it being perfectly located between the UK and Australia to help break up the long, seemingly un-ending nightmare of a flight. The food was simply a perfect end to our rather varied adventure overseas.