Sentosa Island Singapore - the former 'Island of Death from Behind' is more like an 'Island of Life in Your Face' today.
Between animal shows, laser displays, roller coaster rides, standing waves, beach babes and swank hotels - it is actually kind of hard to describe the island in a word, so let's stick with playground.
View Sentosa Island Singapore in a larger map
It sits just off the 'mainland' of Singapore, near the harbor. Go there by car, cab, the convenient monorail from an adjacent shopping mall, or hover in via cable car with flashing lights from Mount Faber Hill.
Let's start off with just getting oriented and have a look at the
Sentosa Island Singapore website which gives a good and interactive extensive overview of the place.
Essentially, Sentosa Island Singapore can be divided into two parts - the playground with its attractions - and the exclusive seaside living cum golf course area.
That part is hardly accessible without a golden key and a Porsche anyway, so let's skip it for this account.
As I already mentioned, to get there cross over the vehicle bridge or hop on the monorail that leaves from the top level of the very big VivoVity shopping mall by the waterfront.
Already at this point you can see Lord Farquaad, Shrek's 3-foot nemesis, looking down from the spires of the fantasy castle at Resorts World Sentosa - Universal Studios theme park.
Hey - it's an American theme park, so guess what you'll find?
Right! Movie-based roller coasters from outer space and Egyptian pyramids, a leisurely float along a river right into a Tyrannosaurus Rex' jaws and a Jersey dock battered by a hurricane, complete with sinking ships and sheets of water.
It isn't the biggest park on the planet, but packs its punch and is worth the day out.
The downside: it gets really really crowded. It gets doubly crowded on weekends and triply so on public holidays, so unless you love standing in lines in the tropical sun, get there early and get there during the week.
Even then, you will still meet many, many tourists from around Asia, so don't expect tranquility.
Oh, did I mention the casino?
As you cross the bridge by car, be careful to check your lanes - the far left one takes you to the second big casino in Singapore with its huge underground parking facility.
The casino is - well - a casino with all the attendant sleek cars, good-looking women and well-dressed high-rollers, so if that is your thing, you'll probably enjoy it.
In 2010, a local seafood merchant lost over SGD 20 million in one night at the casino, only to complain that they should have given him a limit in advance.
The things people do when they have too much cash.
As you head in farther, expect to meet The Biggest of them All - another Merlion. And what a big one this is. 37 meters, or 120 feet, from base to mane.
Climb the stairs and stand in its jaws to see the islands, the sea and the tropical trees everywhere.
The Merlion stands on a little peak called Imbiah Lookout - that's where the cable car stops and the area has a sky tower, too.
I don't know why, but someone seems to have wanted to stage a battle of the views, what with Merlion, Skytower and the cable car all converging here.
Get your feet back on the ground and head downhill to the terminus of the monorail and parking garage.
The center of it all on Sentosa Island Singapore is Beach Station
This area hosts the artificial skydive facility, iFly, where a big wind tunnel holds you afloat and gives you the feel of a skydive,
and the brief but quaint
Songs of the Sea light and laser show that tells the story of a prince looking for a lost princess in the ocean.
Songs of the Sea has some interesting effects, especially as the lasers project onto curtains of water instead of regular screens.
It is unique, even if the story and the acting cater to the popcorn crowd.
From this main plaza at the station, you can either go left or right, along the beaches.
They are artificial beaches, but nevertheless agreeable enough and the water - if not crystal clear - is reasonably clean for a swim.
Check out Sundays: hundreds of Bangladeshi or Indian construction workers descend on Sentosa Island Singapore and splash and play in the water with a zest for fun hardly seen elsewhere.
They (the beaches, that is) are lined with bars and restaurants and ice-cream shops and many people hang out here to party late.
If you head left (facing the sea and the long line of tankers and cargo ships), you will reach the pavilion with animal shows.
Don't expect a big spectacle, but this place is nice in that it is one of the original attractions on Sentosa Island.
It offers mathematical parrots, a huge white snake among the seated visitors (scares the heck out of you the first time around), and some monkeys that you can touch.
Go on a little bit farther along, cross a very narrow footbridge to reach the southernmost point of continental Asia - hmm.
Debatable, of course, because at the tip of Malaysia you cross a bridge into Singapore, then a bridge onto Sentosa Island Singapore, and yet another bridge onto this smallish island. But ok, let's give them the benefit of the (marketing) doubt...
There are two towers to climb and catch a sea breeze as you look out to sea.
If you head right from the plaza, you will find attractions such as a luge ride (fun, but short and somewhat slow), a wave house with a standing wave to surf on and a very long zip line that takes you from the hill down to another little island just off the beach.
The zip line has had some issues in 2011 - a few people got stuck midway, another tourist was hurt when he didn't brake early enough.
Finally, at the end of the Sentosa Island Singapore, you reach the smallish but nice Underwater World Aquarium, which has a shark tunnel, a vertical aquarium and a touch pool.
If you are courageous, buy some pieces of herring from the attendant and feed the mantas by hand - they come up and gobble the piece of fish from your flat hand - a tickly and ever so slightly unnerving experience.
Sentosa Island Singapore also offers a number of hotels and restaurants, including some very high-end ones, so you can literally spend a few days there and not even need to leave.
Here are some of the choices:
Sentosa's Dining Options
All in all, count on a full day to see it all on Sentosa Island - Singapore and bring a healthy credit card - prices are not the lowest around.
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Do you have any attractions that you like and would want to see here?