Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Sentosa: Island under surveillance


Many moons have passed and of late I have had various sojourns in Kyoto, Singapore, and Beijing. We recently spent an afternoon on Sentosa, that perfectly terraformed, strangely astroturfed paradise of flowers, butterflies, packaged entertainments and fireworks at the bottom of Singapore. On the weekends it is now free to walk across the bridge on foot; it is a mere 10-15 min from Vivocity and the walkway is now littered with selfie-stick and souvenir sellers. With the roaring machinery of the Pasir Panjang port as a backdrop to this leisure island, on a good day when the sun glitters across the waters and the city is like a mirage behind, you can pretend it is a movie picture moment as you step into this giant theme park.


Near the entrance there is an artificial cave with a waterfall gushing over it, lushly draped with tropical flora, and the huge san-serifed words "SENTOSA" loom overhead as a brightly decorated monorail train cycles through it like a futuristic hyperloop dream.


Constant, non-stop playback of a few choice selected tropical island songs that will have you wondering, where on earth is all this music coming from? Because in Singapore, Singapore, you'll find happiness, for everyone...


Concealed electrical wires keep the sound and magic running to order.


Discreetly installed lights prepare to illuminate your way once night falls.


A service entrance is artfully painted in a stone-like pattern to match the artificial stone landscaping.


Sitting in front of the Merlion Plaza, we observed an undulating, neverending cascade of visitors taking selfies of themselves at this scenic spot by the foot of the Merlion. What did people do at the Merlion Plaza before selfies were invented? Prior to this, I hadn't realised that such a simple open square in front of a 40-foot tall merlion could provide so many hours of selfie-taking entertainment for so many.


Here is the coup de grâce; after you have crested the hill of Imbiah lookout and descended the stairs towards Wings of Time, this astroturfed photo spot awaits you. Whether an artist work or ironic advertising spot, it is one of the curious things about Singapore - in attempting to describe itself, it frequently doesn't seem to be able to escape this phase of awkward self-awareness, in which the satire is just as easily misread by those who see nothing wrong in sinking into the blissful oblivion of a comfortable, unquestioned life full of playing safe, talking cock and shaking leg, and queuing for food and hello kitty...


  1. Complain!
    Stalk online profiles!

    Reminds me of the poetry of Kenneth Goldsmith.

  2. Hi Debbie: I'm a Californian, an American, a geographer, a cartographer, a spatial analyst, and maybe even a data scientist working in California Bay Area regional planning. I wish I found your blog _before_ my May 2016 trip to Singapore. I found your post thanks to a Google search for Island under Surveillance pics from Sentosa. I hope to return in 2017 and I look forward to reading your blog before hand and maybe even meeting you when I am next in SG.

    I LOVED Singapore but it was my first trip to Asia, I only spent nine days and lived in a tourist hotel over Raffles City. While I tried to get to experience "real" native Singapore, it wasn't really feasible. I don't have a blog (although I should) but sometimes tweet and comment in urban planning groups on LinkedIn about topics that overlap your interests. I'll follow you on Google+, to start! Best regards, Stella