Europe Trip 2012: Part 2 - Sentosa Island

Sunset-over-Singapore.jpg

We’re off. After all the months of planning and anticipation the day had finally arrived. I woke really early again that morning. I’m not sure why I had been having such problems getting a good night’s sleep in the weeks before we left. Perhaps it was subconscious anxiety about the trip - a worry that it might no go perfectly to plan. After all, the itinerary was that packed it didn’t leave much to chance.

Trip Series Links

We were up bright and early that morning to go out for a pre-flight breakfast at the Lighthouse Restaurant in Cleveland. Well that was the plan. We got there shortly after 8am only to find it was shut. Perhaps it only opens for breakfast on the weekends? We’ve only ever been on the weekends before.

So then we went to Raby Bay only to find the restaurants and cafes were all shut there too. We ended up at the Coffee Club at Capalaba Park mall. Not exactly the views we were after but the breakfast did manage to sort out my minor hangover from the work End of Financial Year party the night before.

We had a day flight, leaving on a Qantas Boeing 747 to Singapore. It was the first time that we had flown with Qantas and I was pleasantly surprised. The food, leg-room, entertainment system, all good, no complaints.

We had booked into the Hard Rock Hotel on Sentosa Island, which is part of Resorts World Sentosa.

Resorts World Sentosa is a mega-resort that opened in 2010 and is home to integrated hotels, casino, Universal Studios, Marine Life Park, and a number of other attractions that are all inter-connected across the island by monorail and cable car.

We arrived at our hotel early evening. We’ve been to Singapore a few times now but never fail to be surprised by the 100% humidity that slaps you in the face as you emerge from the air-conditioned cocoon of the airport or hotel. Brisbane is sub-tropical so the humidity is high most of the year, but it’s nothing compared to Singapore, or most of South-East Asia for that matter. I couldn’t imagine living in those conditions year-round. No wonder much of South-East Asia is one air-conditioned mall after the next.

Another characteristic of Singapore is the grey skies. I don't think I've ever been to Singapore and seen the sun. The humidity causes a permanent haze over the island which, unfortunately, is not very good for the photographs. The grey skies are deceiving - you can still get sunburnt within minutes, as we found to our cost on a previous visit.

The hotel was pretty snazzy, with reminders that you’re staying in a Hard Rock hotel everywhere - from the pictures of Jimmy Hendrix on the wall to the toiletries in the bathroom presented in a mini guitar box. Of course, there’s also an Hard Rock Cafe and the obligatory Hard Rock shop.

Hard Rock Hotel roomHard Rock Hotel bathroom

After checking out the room we headed out to explore the resort. The hotel is directly adjacent to FestiveWalk which has a plethora of restaurants, shops, fountains and bright lights leading up to the Merlion.

FestiveWalk SentosaMerlion - Singapore

The intention of our weekend on Sentosa was to start the holiday off with a bit of relaxation before the madness of the city visits ahead. The next day (Saturday) fully lived up to the billing. Lauren was in her element thanks to the hotel’s large pool with lots of nooks and crannies for her to explore. Rach and I were also sorted thanks to the swim-up bar and the lovely cocktails. God knows how many Mojitos and Singapore Slings I got through that weekend.

Hard Rock Hotel poolHard Rock Hotel pool bar

The following day we had tickets to the Universal Studios theme park. We expected to spent most of the day there but we were finished by early afternoon. I know theme parks grow over time and this one is new, but when you’ve been to the Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, this is like going to a school fair by comparison.

Universal Studios Singapore

To enhance the experience we had purchased express passes to allow us to skip to the front of the lines. It adds more expense to the day but it’s definitely worth it - queuing for an hour in 100% humidity for a ride that lasts 60 seconds is not my idea of fun.

Universal Studios

Lauren had a great time and there were a few rides that we all loved, but in general, I would say the theme parks on the Gold Coast 40mins from our house are just as good, if not better.

Universal StudiosUniversal Studios

The good thing about Universal Studios it it’s only a short walk back to our hotel, so back to the pool we went.

In the evenings we sampled some of the restaurants. On the Saturday night we went to an American Blues bar which promised Cajun food and live Blues music. The food was bland and they did that thing of bringing the starters and mains out at the same time, which is always a bit bizarre for non-asian food. On the Sunday evening we went to a restaurant specialising in local cuisine. This was better but nothing to write home about.

After eating we walked around FestiveWalk. The lights and the music result in a nice buzz to the place in the evening, but it wasn't long before the humidity would leave us in a sweaty mess and wanting to retreat back to the hotel bar and air-conditioning. Luckily the hotel bar made some fantastic cocktails.

Hard Rock Hotel cocktail bar

Monday was our final day on Sentosa. In the morning we took the monorail over to the other side of the island (less than 10 mins) to check out the beach area. Strangely the place was deserted. I’ve no idea why no one was around. There’s a few more hotels and attractions on that side of the island. Perhaps the hotel guests prefer to stay around the pool than head to the beach.

Sentosa beach

After taking a paddle we decided to have a go at one of the attractions before heading back. There were a few to choose from but as soon as we saw it our minds were made up - Segways! It was our first time on a Segway. What fun. Afterwards we all said the same thing - I want one!

I remember when the Segway was first announced on the news a few years ago. The announcement was that tomorrow a revolutionary invention would be unveiled that would change the world. Mmm, it’s not quite had the impact that the inventors expected but it really is a fantastic piece of machinery. It doesn’t take long at all to get the hang of it and the gyroscope makes it virtually impossible to fall off. I was leaning forwards as far as possible to try and make it go faster but there was never any danger of completely toppling over.

The price of the Segway means that it’s currently limited to the odd tourist company and urban police, such as this one I spotted while I was in Omaha in the US. Hopefully one day the economies of scale will finally be reached so that we can all afford one. I can’t see that happening any time soon though. Perhaps a good thing considering the obesity epidemic in the western world.

After tearing around an off-road track on a Segway we took the monorail back to FestiveWalk, where we enjoyed one final attraction before heading back to the hotel - the Sentosa Cable Car over the island, across to the Singapore mainland and back.

Sentosa Cable CarSentosa Cable Car
Sentosa Sentosa looking to Singapore mainland

We had a late flight Monday evening so I asked reception if we could get a late check-out. They obliged by extending it from 12pm to 1pm - not quite the late check-out I had in mind. It didn’t really matter though. We were able to use the locker room facilities next to the pool so that we could have one final afternoon around the pool and get a shower and change of clothes before leaving for the airport.

Sentosa Island was a great start to the trip and is a fantastic purpose-built family holiday destination. We visited at the right time of the year - mid September. It was fairly quiet which meant no fighting for a sun-bed or a seat at the swim-up bar. It was bliss! I’d highly recommend Sentosa if you’re visiting Singapore, it makes a nice contrast to the wall-to-wall malls on the mainland.

SentosaHard Rock Hotel cocktail