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Singapore's relaxing getaway, Sentosa Island

Picturesque beauty unfolds on island when nature meets recreation, history

Nighttime view of Singapore (Kim Hae-yeon/The Korea Herald)
Nighttime view of Singapore (Kim Hae-yeon/The Korea Herald)

SINGAPORE -- A vast urbanscape with skyscrapers and a vibrant melting pot of diverse peoples and cultures, Singapore's tourism industry is fast recovering from the impact of the pandemic.

The multicultural spirit that the country embraces allows tourists to spot the familiar in the unfamiliar, and a taste of home.

With Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street all located within a short distance, the colorful enclaves of ethnic groups make the country one of the leading tourism hubs in Asia.

"From January to August, Singapore saw more than a 4 percent increase in the number of Koreans visiting the country compared to the same period last year," Kim Young-hee, Korea Tourism Organization's Singapore branch manager, told The Korea Herald.

Kim added that the number of Singaporean tourists to Korea has also seen a major increase, recording 4.6 percent. "Travel recovery will gain momentum for both Korea and Singapore, with travelers on both sides visiting the other country, and this time, the pattern spreads out to travels in diverse cities and regions."

With Singapore's temperature reaching 32 degrees Celsius in October, staying at the city's urban center can be exhausting at times. For those looking to take some time off from the bustling city, Sentosa Island off the southern coast may be a fun diversion.

Cable cars connect Sentosa Island and the main island of Singapore. (Mount Faber Leisure)
Cable cars connect Sentosa Island and the main island of Singapore. (Mount Faber Leisure)

Sentosa -- "peace and tranquility" in Malay -- was the name chosen through a public contest organized in 1972 by the Singapore Tourism Board. It replaced the unpropitious name of "Pulau Blakang Mati," which means, "Island of death from behind."

The island was occupied by the British as a military fortification from 1878, with a number of forts and batteries defending the island, before the British military pulled out in 1967 following Singapore's independence from Malaysia in 1965.

In 1972, Sentosa was turned into a recreational area of 500 hectares.

Today, Sentosa receives more than 20 million visitors a year, holding three beaches, an integrated resort, two championship golf courses and a wide range of hotels and resorts. In 2010, Resorts World Sentosa opened as an integrated resort, comprising Universal Studios Singapore, Sea Aquarium and many other attractions.

The island is also home to more than 2000 households located at the exclusive residential precinct of Sentosa Cove, established in 2003.

Central Beach Bazaar

Central Beach Bazaar with water fountains, Sentosa Skyjet and international food street (Mount Faber Leisure)
Central Beach Bazaar with water fountains, Sentosa Skyjet and international food street (Mount Faber Leisure)

Newly opened on Sept. 15, this one-stop family-friendly beach destination has something for visitors of all generations.

Located just steps away from Sentosa's Beach Station, the Central Beach Bazaar is a unique carnival beach experience that brings together international food vendors and trucks with nine different food concepts, three captivating shows and simulation rides and carnival games.

While digging into scrumptious eats at the food arena, visitors can catch the Wings of Time night show, which operates at full capacity with an audience of 2,750.

Wings of Time night show at Central Beach Bazaar (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)
Wings of Time night show at Central Beach Bazaar (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)

With the sea as a backdrop, the 20-minute show features a spectacular art laser show, pyrotechnics, fountains and water jets.

Led by a mystical pre-historic bird, Shahbaz, that appears in the water show, the journey goes back in time to reminisce on critical moments in world history. The show starts every day at 7:30 p.m, and standard tickets are 18 Singapore dollars ($12.60) per person.

The destination is also known for its 80-meter-tall Sentosa SkyJet, the tallest fountain in Southeast Asia.

Entry to see the Skyjet or a five-minute musical fountain show, Sentosa's iconic show of the early 1980s with music from the era, are complimentary with a minimum spend of S$5 dollars at the food street or activity rides.

Bentori snacks at Central Beach Bazaar's international food street (Mount Faber Leisure)
Bentori snacks at Central Beach Bazaar's international food street (Mount Faber Leisure)

SkyHelix Sentosa

SkyHelix Sentosa at night (Mount Faber Leisure)
SkyHelix Sentosa at night (Mount Faber Leisure)

Although frequent rains are expected during monsoon season, if lucky, one can catch a beautiful sight of the evening glow with only the skies, the sea and the greenery in harmony.

One of the best places to enjoy sundown is SkyHelix Sentosa, Singapore’s highest open-air panoramic ride and the first carbon-neutral attraction on the island.

Situated at the Imbiah Lookout zone, a short stroll from the Singapore Cable Car’s Sentosa station, SkyHelix Sentosa is one of the highest vantage points on the island, traveling up to 79 meters above sea level.

Each ride is approximately 12 minutes long, including a 10-minute rotation at the peak.

With the choice of acool refreshment in hand, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view from Sentosa to the Keppel Bay area and the developing Greater Southern Waterfront.

The outdoor attraction provides both daytime and nighttime experiences, depending on individual preference. Recommended viewing times are around 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Resorts at Sentosa

The Barracks Hotel, Sentosa Island, in Singapore (Far East Hospitality)
The Barracks Hotel, Sentosa Island, in Singapore (Far East Hospitality)

Day-to-night destination resorts and hotels, some of them rich in history, are located in the central area of Sentosa.

At Blakang Mati, British Army soldiers were segregated along the lines of rank and ethnicity, and the recreation ground served as one of the rare places where soldiers could meet as equals, with troops competing in soccer, cricket, hockey and athletics.

Far East Hospitality's four hotels built on Sentosa occupy the former recreation and parade grounds and two British military barracks.

The homegrown hospitality operator intended the four properties for specific segments of visitors: Village Hotel Sentosa for families, the Outpost Hotel for couples, the Barracks Hotel for heritage aficionados and Oasia Resort Sentosa for wellness-seeking travelers.

As the name indicates, the Barracks Hotel Sentosa was once home to British artillerymen, and is currently a conserved heritage building with key features of the colonial past preserved.

The Outpost hotel is also inspired by the colonial military base with its black-and-white interior designs.

By Kim Hae-yeon, Korea Herald correspondent

(hykim@heraldcorp.com)

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