Newcomers often ask, "What can we possibly do with only one day in this tiny country?" The answer is simple. To enjoy the pleasures of Singapore, a traveller with little spare time, should spend the entire day on Sentosa, the country's holiday island, reached via ferries or overland by way of a causeway. However, the ideal mode in which to appreciate this pleasure ground is via cable car. The car leaves Mount Faber, second highest point in Singapore, and, as it moves along, offers a panoramic harbour view of the busiest port in the world.
Like many visitors, I had little time to spend in this city-state. Hence, I joined a half-day tour to Sentosa, and I was not disappointed. In fact, far more than tourist literature indicated, the cable car view of the port, overshadowed by the city's skyscrapers, and the tour of the island, were both fantastic.
As we descend to the terminal on the island, the first object that catches my eye is the 37 m (121 ft) high Merlion, a half-lion, half-mermaid fantasy creature, the symbol of Singapore. At night, located on a hill in the centre of Sentosa, it comes alive with a spectacular light, sound and water extravaganza.
Visitors enter the Merlion, and then ride to the viewing decks in its mouth or those at the crown. From this high vantage point, they enjoy breathtaking views of Singapore harbour and the surrounding islands and, if the day is clear, Indonesia's Riau Archipelago.
On the edge of the Sentosa cable car terminal, we tour the Images of Singapore Museum that depicts Singapore from the 14th century to the present, including the saga of Singapore's pioneers, the Second World War Surrender Chambers, capturing the humiliation of defeat and the joy of victory, and an exhibition of the city's festivals.
Leaving the museum behind, we walk to Monorail Station 4, and climb into one of the six passenger cars for a leisurely tour of the island. Past the Merlion, the Monorail winds its way through a jungle landscape to Stop 5, where 'Central Beach,' the southernmost place in mainland Asia, is located.
Passing Stop 6 and the Beaufort Singapore Luxury Resort, we arrive at the 54-hole Sijori Wonder Golf Sensota - a world of lush, manicured greenery. From the monorail, we view landscaped putting greens, ravines, streams, ponds and geysers in the golfing mecca.
At Stop 7, next to the monorail station, the Seafood Sentosa Restaurant serves the top seafood dishes in Singapore. A short distance away is Fantasy Island, the ultimate in exciting roller coaster rides and water slides, and the Orchid Gardens, highlighting a flower clock, Japanese teahouse and colourful exotic orchids.
Past the causeway, joining the island to the city and the Sentosa Riverboat, there's a replica of turn-of-the-century Mississippi riverboats that serve fast food. Soon after Sentosa's Ferry Terminal and we are at Stop 1. Here, after a few minutes walk appears the Musical Fountain - spectacular at night with its laser displays. Edging the fountain is Volcano Land, where one takes a subterranean journey into the earth and, not far away is Asian Village, a replica of three Asian towns that showcase ethnic foods, arts and crafts.
On the monorail again, past Lost Civilization, displaying idols and runic stones, then Ruin City with its broken columns, we reach Stop 2 and the Underwater World - the highlight of our island tour. The largest Oceanarium in Asia, it houses more than 6,000 marine creatures from 250 species.
Despite exploring Sentosa for only half a day, nevertheless, I enjoyed a taste of what Singapore's holiday isle had to offer, and its flavours were bountiful.
Facts about Singapore:
Habeeb Salloum has authored numerous books, his latest: Arab Cooking On A Saskatchewan Homestead: Recipes And Recollections - winner of the Cuisine Canada and The University of Guelph's Silver Canadian Culinary Book Awards in Winnipeg in 2006. He contributes to Forever Young (Oakville), Contemporary Review (Oxford, UK), Canadian World Traveller (Quebec) and the Toronto Star.
- Citizens of most western countries do not need visas, only valid passports to enter Singapore.
- For transportation from the Changi International Airport to the city, the best bet is to take the MRT. Trains run every ten minutes and the fare to the city centre is SGD $1.80.
- Exchange cash at 'Money Changers;' traveller cheques in banks. 1 US dollar = 1.45 Singapore dollars (SGD).
- Tipping is prohibited at the airport and discouraged at hotels and restaurants.
- Singapore's humid temperature averages 23 C to 30 C (73 to 86 F). Only light clothing is needed.
- Singapore is also known as a food paradise for its myriad variety of food.
- Water is clean and safe to drink from the taps.
- Singapore one of the safest countries in the world to visit.
- In Singapore you are fined if you litter, chew gum (except smoker's gum Nicorette), and smoke in public places. Firecrackers and guns are banned. There is a mandatory death penalty for anyone trafficking in drugs or discharging a firearm in the course of committing a serious offence.
- For hotel rooms contact Asia-hotels - check Web site:
- Singapore has an International Airport Departure Tax of SGD 21, but it is usually included in the ticket price.
- For more information about Sentosa see website:
Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Singapore Tourism Board
If you go
Singapore Tourism Board, Tourism Court, 1 Orchard Spring Lane, Singapore 247729.
Tel: (65) 6736 6622. Fax: (65) 6736 9423.
Singapore Tourism Board, 1156 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 702, New York, NY 10036, USA.
Tel: (1-212) 302 4861. Fax: (1-212) 302 4801.
What's happening, money, distance, time?
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Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/
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