Sentosa and Our Lost Memories

With the construction of the Resorts World Sentosa, many attractions familiar to visitors of the 1980s and 1990s have since been demolished (such as the Ferry Terminal and the Musical Fountain), and the rest slipped into obscurity (such as Fort Siloso and the Underwater World). We’ll take a trip down memory lane as we revisit some of these places.

Fantasy Island
Constructed: 1994
Status: Lost
Demolished: 2002

Fantasy Island was to Sentosa what Big Splash was to mainland Singapore, but with an additional entrance fee for Sentosa itself (it is, after all, an “island” within an island). However, it is curious how this water theme park was located nowhere near the beaches. It seems unlikely for visitors looking for water activities to get wet at Fantasy Island, get changed, and get wet again at the beaches. Therefore, despite being located close to the central axis, Fantasy Island never attracted the number of visitors they wished for.

Following a series of accidents that occurred at Fantasy Island, it finally closed down in 2002 and was demolished soon after. Today, the land is occupied by Universal Studios. The Adventure Cove Waterpark can probably be considered the “replacement” for Fantasy Island.

Constructed: 1995
Status: Lost
Demolished: 2006

Volcanoland 02

Before the northern part of Sentosa became a theme park, the Volcanoland was probably the closest thing to it. A Mayan-themed attraction with an artificial volcano, visitors would go through an “adventure” to the centre of the Earth and learn about the origins of the Universe. Never mind if the Mayan culture is totally on the other side of the globe, or that Singapore is not located near any Volcanoes; if visitors would travel to Las Vegas to watch an artificial volcano erupt, why not Singapore? Volcanoland was probably more exciting for local students though, who would have learned about volcanoes in school but never got to see a real one.

Volcanoland 01
Volcanoland 03

While such mystery-adventure kind of attraction may generate interest, especially among the younger visitors, it probably was not worthed revisiting over the years. Its relatively favourable location near the central axis indirectly resulted in its eventual demise when the entire area as redeveloped for RWS.

Asian Village
Constructed: 1993
Status: Lost
Demolished: 2006

Asian Village 01
Asian Village

The Asian Village seems like Sentosa’s attempt to have a throwback at the earlier tagline of the then Singapore Tourist Promotion Board – “Instand Asia”. This village was zoned into three areas, namely the North Asian Village, South Asian Village and Southeast Asian Village, showcasing copies of representative architecture from these respective regions, along with performances, crafts and other features. It was probably Sentosa’s answer to similar ethnic/region-themed attractions on the mainland, such as Tang Dynasty City and Geyland Serai Malay Village (both of which have also been demolished).

Asian Village 02
Asian Village 07Asian Village 03
Asian Village 06Asian Village 08
The different zones in Asian Village

In addition, there was the Adventure Asia zone, with rides for kids who wished to take a break from the cultural bombardments. While there were attempts to name some of the rides with more local-sounding names (e.g. Sotong Balls, Sultan’s Carousel), others were really just included to attract more visitors.

Asian Village 04
Asian Village 05
The Magical Cups and Sotong Balls rides

Although there were no monorail stations dedicated to it, the Asian Village was a few minutes’ walk away from the Ferry Terminal. The cable car service from Mount Faber ran directly above it, thus it would have been quite visible to incoming visitors. However, this was not sufficient to attract enough visitors to sustain it. The Asian Village was closed in 2000 and was stuck in limbo for about 6 years before giving way to RWS.

Lost Civilisation / Ruined City
Status: Lost, Found

Lost Civilisation 03
Lost Civilisation

It seems ironic that the attempt to artificially create evidences of a lost civilistaion and ruins is now largely forgotten. Yet at the same time, it is also one of the few attractions replaced by RWS to have surviving evidences still standing in Sentosa.

Lost Civilisation 02
Lost Civilisation

Lost Civilisation 04
These stone relics were clearly visible from the monorail when it ran from the Ferry Terminal to the Underwater World

Similar to Volcanoland, this attraction was given an intriguing storyline to create a sense of mystery. Relics and artifacts were scattered along the trail between the Ferry Terminal and the Underwater World, clearly visible from the monorail. Storyboards were also located at strategic points, revealing more and more about this “lost civilisation” that once lived on Sentosa. The centrepiece of this attraction was the Ruined City.

Lost Civilisation 01
Remnants of the Lost Civilisation along the Coastal Trail

Today, a few of these “relics” can still be seen along the Coastal Trail, near the periphery of RWS.

Coastal Trail 01
The Coastal Trail can be accessed from the Siloso Point bus stop, near the Underwater World

Dragon Trail
Status: Lost, Found

Dragon Trail 01
Dragon Trail

The Dragon Trail was yet another attempt by Sentosa to play with the mystery factor. A simple stroll in the secondary rainforest at Mount Imbiah was overlaid with a storyline about dragons living in the forest (probably to differentiate itself from the nature reserves on the mainland). Thus, visitors were expected to engage in a game of treasure hunt, to discover the various dragons lurking around the trail.

Dragon Trail 02Dragon Trail 04
Dragon Trail 06
Dragon Trail

The trail technically began at the Dragon Court of Imbiah Lookout. The Dragon Court featured a statue of a dragon’s head and front claws, while its tail was supposed to be somewhere along the trail. The dragon’s head was demolished in 2003, and was replaced with the Carlsberg Sky Tower (now the Tiger Sky Tower).

Dragon Court 01
Dragon Court

Imbiah Lookout 01
Another dragon at Imbiah Lookout

Dragon Trail 03Dragon Trail 05
”Skeletons” and “fossils” of the dragons

Most of the other dragon “relics” are still visible today, although the dragon narrative has been dropped. Today, the Nature Walk is promoted purely as such – a walk in nature. The Nature Discovery directs visitors from Imbiah Lookout to the Nature Walk.

Nature Walk 03
The Nature Discovery leading towards the Nature Walk

Guardian of the Grove 01
The “Guardian of the Grove” can be found near where the Nature Discovery meets the Nature Walk. It is apparently the same lion statue that stood atop the Thye Hong Biscuit Factory at Alexandra Road

Mount Imbiah Battery
Status: Found

Mount Imbiah Battery 01
Mount Imbiah Battery

At the top of Mount Imbiah stands the Mount Imbiah Battery, which served as one of the military installations on Pulau Blakang Mati, along with Fort Siloso and Fort Connaught Battery. Fortification on the island began as early as the 1880s.

Mount Imbiah Battery 02
Apparently the concrete blocks were not part of the battery back then, and were relatively newer additions

Mount Imbiah Battery was decommissioned in the 1930s, and subsequently became a storage location after WWII.

Mount Imbiah Battery 03
Cartridge Recess No. 5

While Fort Connaught has been overtaken by a golf course, and Fort Siloso converted into a tourist attraction, Mount Imbiah Battery has remained relatively untouched after the British army left. Remains of the battery can be found next to the MegaZip Adventure Park and the Imbiah Tower.

Mount Imbiah Battery 04
Mount Imbiah Battery

Interestingly, there seems to be a consistent trend in the various attractions of Sentosa over the years. Artificially constructed heritage and history were abandoned for the two polar extremes: a more authentic historical/natural heritage (i.e. the forts, the nature walks and the beaches), or an explicitly artificial narrative (i.e. Universal Studios). Yet the basic nature of the attractions remains largely unchanged. There is still a water-based attraction, an oceanarium (two, rather), a series of themed attractions, a musical fountain, a network of nature trails, a number of historic sites, and of course the beaches. However, as visitors increasingly demand for “new” experiences, what further changes will Sentosa undergo in the future? Only time will tell.

File Last Updated: September 23, 2015

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