We made an early start to the day as it was our intention to travel over to Sentosa Island before it started getting busy. After our breakfast in the hotel’s Crystal Cafe we took the MRT to HarbourFront station and then followed signs for the Sentosa boardwalk.
Visitors to the island can reach Sentosa by cable car, bus, monorail or on foot. As we had taken the cable car earlier in the week we thought it would make a pleasant change this time to take the boardwalk.
This 700 m long pedestrian walkway shares the same bridge carrying traffic and is accessed from the eastern end of the VivoCity shopping mall. Taking the boardwalk, one can either walk the entire way or speed along using a series of five travelators. These moving walkways are under cover sheltering pedestrians from sun and rain.
The route passes through five themed tropical garden landscapes taking visitors through mangroves, rock gardens, terrain and hill, coastal flora and rainforests. Between travelators there are several look-out points where one can take advantage of the splendid views across to Sentosa Island, of the port and looking back towards the mainland.
On reaching Sentosa we took advantage of a free ride on the Sentosa Express monorail as all transport once on the island is free of charge. Our morning destination was to Imbiah Station as we planned to start the day with some fun by taking a ride on the Skyline Luge. The luge is a cross between a go-kart and a toboggan with riders selecting between four different descents on purpose built trails. The first Skyline Luge was created in Rotorua, 33 years ago and has now expanded from two locations in New Zealand to Canada, South Korea and Singapore.
Ticket counters are located both at Imbiah Lookout (the top) and at Siloso Beach (the lower end of the track). We had arrived at the top and after obtaining our tickets we selected suitable sized helmets before joining a short queue for first time rider training. We’d just brought one small rucksack with us to store essential items and this was small enough to be worn on both the Skyline Luge and Skyride chair lift. For those with bulkier items, storage lockers are available at a cost of SG$5.
I was slightly apprehensive as I climbed into the luge but my worries soon disappeared as I learnt how easy it was to steer and control the speed by releasing and pulling back the handlebars. After completing the training with flying colours I received a competency stamp on the back of my hand and was able to be let loose on the track.
All rides start from the same place with signposts then leading riders onto their selected track. There are four routes, each approximately 2.6 km in length, consisting of the Jungle, Dragon, Kapu Kapu and Expedition trails, each with varying degrees of difficulty. I let my son go on ahead so that he could hopefully be in position to take some photos of me from the finishing line and then I was on my way.
The downhill ride was exhilarating and I loved every minute of it, finding it so easy to manoeuvre and control the luge at whatever speed I felt comfortable with. I carefully navigated the hairpin bends and accelerated along the straight sections. Approaching the end, it’s necessary to reduce speed through a series of chicanes as all four trails merge into one with a traffic light system and a series of lanes preventing luge riders from running into the back of each other at the finish line.
The run only lasted a few minutes but having reached the end in one piece I was raring to do it all over again. To get back to the top, riders take the four seater Skyride chairlift which is similar to a ski-lift as it doesn’t actually stop but is simple to get on and off.
The 9 minute ride gave us a bird’s eye view over the island’s tropical beaches and the lush vegetation below. Once the safety bar was clamped in place I felt safe and secure and able to sit back, relax and enjoy my ride over the tree tops.
The Skyline’s tag line is ‘Once is never enough’ and it definitely felt that way for me. With my newly found confidence and a rush of adrenaline, I whizzed down another of the trails taking the steeply sloped corners in my stride. Then it was back up the chairlift for a final time after such a fun filled start to our day. Combo tickets covering two luge and chair lift rides cost SG$24 (£13.60) with other ticket options being available. We arrived at 10.30 a.m. when it was fairly quiet but later in the day and at weekends it tends to get busy so I suggest arriving shortly after opening or coming late in the evening to be able to enjoy the perfect run and avoiding any long queues.
Following on from our session of downhill racing we decided to take a relaxing stroll along the beach. Siloso Beach is gorgeous and although surrounded by several attractions, a large children’s playground and a handful of bars and beach clubs it wasn’t at all rowdy.
Continuing our stroll a little further along the seashore we reached Palawan Beach which was less commercialised and my absolute favourite with its landmark suspension bridge connecting to a small man-made island. As we crossed the narrow wooden bridge its ropes swayed gently and leaning over its railings we stared down into the crystal clear water where several species of fish were visible near the surface.
On reaching the island we spotted a sign claiming that we had reached the southernmost point of continental Asia. I’m uncertain if this was technically correct but the scenery was idyllic, so I wasn’t complaining.
This tiny tropical paradise has two connecting wooden observation towers up which we climbed to take in the stunning views. As we looked back towards Sentosa, the turquoise blue sea gently lapped the palm fringed white sandy beach and it felt as if I had been transported to a remote tropical island. We retraced our steps and slowly made our way back to Siloso Beach where we had lunch in one of its cafes before taking the Sentosa Express monorail back across to the mainland.
Our plan for the afternoon was to visit the Singapore Botanical Gardens which conveniently have their own MRT station on the Circle Line adjacent to the Bukit Timah Gate entrance. There is no charge to enter the gardens with a SG$5 (£2.85) charge to visit the National Orchid Garden located within the main gardens.
This 160 year old tropical garden covers 74 hectares and is the only botanic garden to have been honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site having held this accolade since 2015. Our stroll took us through the Foliage Garden where we meandered along gently sloping paths. In this garden, leaves take centre stage and viewing their contrasting shades, textures and structures was beautiful. One of garden’s paths was along a metal grilled walkway which had been designed to allow visitors to view plants below their feet.
Continuing, we enjoyed wandering around the vast gardens where pink and white bougainvillaea were at their best and rubber trees flourished in the Rainforest Garden. The garden was instrumental in pioneering rubber cultivation and tapping techniques which developed into a major industry across the Malayan peninsula.
An historic clock tower stands proudly in the centre of Orchid Plaza and at first I thought the clock must have stopped as it appeared to be displaying the wrong time. I soon realised that each clock face displays the current time in a different location. It was the tower donor’s preference for the cities of Tokyo, London and Vancouver to be included alongside that of Singapore. The tower has a special connection to the gardens as the design of its intricate Sealing Wax palm tree engravings were used to form the logo for the botanic garden.
The National Orchid Garden is absolutely exquisite and it’s definitely worth the modest entry charge to wander amongst such fragrant, delicate blooms. Some newly cloned varieties were on display and these had been named after celebrities. Work was being carried out at one end of the garden to transform its design but despite this section being inaccessible, there was still much for us to see and the orchids were a joy to behold.
We continued through the Heritage Garden towards the Tanglin Gate exit passing the Swan Lake on our way which was living up to its name with a solitary swan in residence.
There was a main road just beyond the Tanglin Gate and as luck would have it, the first bus to appear was heading close to our hotel. We hopped on board and were back early enough to enjoy a swim and relax around the pool for an hour before it closed for the evening.
After eating dinner near Raffles Place we strolled along the banks of the Singapore River from Boat Quay to Clarke Quay soaking up the Friday evening atmosphere. There was just one more day left for us to enjoy beautiful Singapore, our week’s stay having sped by far too quickly.
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