Sentosa, Singapore’s staycation island, has a fascinating history

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(CNN) — It was formerly known as Pulau Blakang Mati. Some translate the name as “island of woe,” but the most common translation is “island after death.”

Now, it is called Sentosa, from the Malay word for peace. Filled with theme parks, beaches, luxury hotels, casinos and other entertainment, it is Singapore’s main vacation destination and one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations. world

But how did it start?

Fifty years ago last September, Singapore’s homeland established the Singapore Development Corporation (SDC), which – as its name suggests – was designed to transform a province at the time, most of the uninhabited island was a city playground.

A Malay island

The 500-hectare island is shaped like a large smoke pipe, which is currently winding around the southern part of Singapore. Its shape and location made it an ideal destination for traders traveling to and from Malaysia — and a hideout for the pirates who attacked these ships.

There are three main villages here: Ayer Bandera, Serapong and Blakan Mati. The people living on the island are a mix of Chinese, Malay and Bugis (from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi).

Then, in 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in what would become the city of Lyon.

The British state left a mark not only in Singapore but in most of East Asia, which he explored and wrote about during his diplomatic positions there.

Sentosa has a small portion of Singapore's famous Merlion statue.

Sentosa has a small portion of Singapore’s famous Merlion statue.

Sentosa Development Corporation

In the second half of the 19th century, the British began to build forts around Singapore. In Sentosa, there are four of these — Fort Serapong (near the center of the island), Fort Connaught, the Imbiah Battery and Fort Siloso (on the western side).

While Singapore was controlled by the British, the soldiers stayed on Pulau Blakang Mati. Malay, Chinese and Indian workers washed clothes, drove the sampan boats and cleaned the land for the White soldiers.

Although Sentosa’s moniker was changed in the 1970s, history buffs will still recognize the names of many places around the island. Fort Siloso – a public park and historical museum – is still there, but there is also a beach, an elevated walkway through the forest and a parking lot named after Siloso.

The Imbiah Battery is now a tourist attraction for pedestrians, while the abandoned buildings of Fort Serapong are popular for fans of urban exploration and “hue porn.”

Currently, the beautiful hotel The Barracks, as its name suggests, is also the home of British artillerymen. Although the accommodations are more comfortable these days, visitors can make themselves available on the first parade ground.

Singapore is an island

The history of Sentosa is as much as the history of the country of Singapore.

In 1965, Singapore officially declared independence from Malaysia and began to think about what kind of nation it wanted to be.

As business and industry grew in Singapore, Sentosa remained rural and uninhabited. Most of the locals left in the 1970s and resettled in Singapore.

Changes come quickly. In the 1970s, visitors to the island could take a cable car, but within ten years, there was an overland bus that made it easy to get from anywhere. Then, in 1992, the Sentosa Causeway was opened, connecting the two islands.

Tourist attractions have come and gone as popular trends change.

Underwater World, at the time the largest aquarium in Asia, opened in 1989 but did not open until 1991. The number of visitors changed over the years, and Underwater World was closed. in 2016.

Another relic of the past is The Asian Village. This attraction is similar to Disney World’s Epcot, with different “villages” based on Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and other Asian countries, and some rides. It was closed in 2000.

The Apollo Hotel is the first tourist hotel on the island. It was opened in 1978 and closed in 1986.

Currently, Shangri-La is the first beach resort, which welcomed its first guests in 1993. It took ten years, but in the end, other major luxury businesses followed suit. in international resorts – the Capella in 2009, the W in 2012. and Sofitel in 2015.

A musical fountain light show was also a dead development, as it was released to make way for the Resorts World complex that includes the Universal Studios theme park in Southeast Asia and some 1,700 hotel rooms in among many properties.

On the way out is Sentosa’s own Merlion, a sibling to the famous one across the water in Singapore.

“As tourism takes off, expectations are high (and we have to) do something new,” Christopher Khoo, managing director of global tourism consultancy MasterCounsult, told the Asian News Channel. “The next step is to give.”

These days, he says, tourists are more interested in experiences than landmarks.

The constant heat and humidity of the city has created a market for night activities. Digital functions and light displays are on the list of accessories.

Ferries take visitors to Sentosa, but these days most people come by car.

Ferries take visitors to Sentosa, but these days most people come by car.

Sentosa Development Corporation

Most of what’s available in Sentosa is new and shiny so it’s understandable why the “it’s a man-made island” myth keeps going around.

Land dedication may be a source of confusion. Blakang Mati Island is about 280 hectares in size, and since 1972 Sentosa has grown to about 500 hectares.

Despite the violence, you can find the peace that Sentosa’s name promises, while staying at one of the island’s hotels. Capella Resort is surrounded by greenery and is a popular spot for sunbathing.

Although the military days are over, Sentosa reappeared on the world’s political radar in 2018 when US President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at Capella , where a small plaque records the property’s place in history.

Another major change is the return of full residents to the island. However, the new residents of Sentosa are almost completely different from the communities that settled on Pulau Blakang Mati.

Sentosa Cove, on the eastern side of the island, is the only luxury gated community in Singapore. With many people living in low-income areas, these have quickly become the most sought-after properties in the country.

Today, houses in Sentosa Cove can be sold for as much as $23 million Singaporean ($16 million USD). Most of them have swimming pools, gardens, multiple parking spaces and other amenities.
Sentosa Sensoryscape Rendering

The interpretation of Sentosa Sensoryscape, coming to the island in 2023.

Thanks to Sentosa Development Corporation

What will happen next

Singapore, always looking for new development opportunities, is thinking beyond Sentosa.

The new Sentosa may be Palau Brani, a trapezoidal land and a former Navy base between Singapore and Sentosa. Today, most visitors only see Brani from the corner of their eyes as they drive from island to island, but the Sentosa-Brani Master Plan connects them with a link $90 million Singaporean ($63 million US).

This “Greater Southern Waterfront” plan is a ten-year plan to drive away some of the city-state’s commercial hubs in favor of tourist and resort areas.

Like many other programs in the world, this has been blocked by the coronavirus pandemic but Singapore has recently begun to release restrictions and adopt a “survival with the virus” plan.

The two islands are divided into five parts — the beach, the island heart, the beach, the living area (think attractions, events, etc.) and the front.

The first major project, a dual “pedestrian walkway” in Sentosa connecting the northern and southern parts of the island, will open next year.

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