The Gardens by the Bay is a nature park spanning 101 hectares. The park consists of three waterfront gardens. The largest of the gardens is the Bay South Garden. Its Flower Dome is the largest glass greenhouse in the world.
Fort Siloso is a decommissioned coastal artillery battery in Sentosa, Singapore. It consists of 12 such batteries which made up "Fortress Singapore" at the start of World War II, and saw action during the Battle of Singapore.
One of the things I had wanted to do whilst we were in Singapore was to visit Fort Siloso on Sentosa Island. I visited the fort over 30 years previously but wanted to see what had changed in Sentosa as it had developed massively as a resort island in the intervening period. We caught the MRT to Vivo City, just across from Sentosa and walked across the bridge.
When I visited Sentosa many years ago it was parkland full of wide-open spaces, but today it has been transformed into a jungle of concrete buildings; hotels, shops, and entertainment centres – including an aquarium and theme parks, such as Universal Studies. It used to be an escape from hot and densely populated Singapore but has now been absorbed into the amorphous urban mass. Even more than the city, Sentosa has no character and has been laid bare by the Covid-19 pandemic – there are dozens of shops and restaurants that have closed and the ‘downtown’ area of the resort feels deserted. We only saw a handful of people milling around. Apparently, thousands of employees were laid off when the tourists stopped coming and it is evident that the recovery is slow – let’s hope it happens before the hotels and buildings start to deteriorate and Sentosa becomes a ghost town. Anyway, we weren’t here for theme park thrills we were here to visit a historic site hidden away at the very tip of the island, Fort Siloso.
It wasn’t a long walk from the centre of Resorts World, Sentosa, but it was hot. We could have taken a bus or monorail to Beach Station and then the cable car to Siloso Point. Instead, we caught one of the free buses that circle the island to Siloso Point.
From the bus drop off there is a short walk to the fort. You can take the walk through the jungle, or like we did take the Fort Siloso Skywalk, a 181-metre-long Skywalk trail, a scenic trek among the treetops en route to Fort Siloso. You can take the stairs to reach the Skywalk. There is also a lift. Fort Siloso Skywalk offers bird’s-eye views of the harbour and the Southern Islands. from 118 ft above the ground, keeping an eye out for squirrels and birds nesting in the treetops. The glass floor is an exciting detail as long as you are not afraid of heights. Look for the panels providing information on the history of the fort and the surrounding area.
Some history of Fort Siloso. Located on the western tip of Pulau Blakang Mati (known today as Sentosa Island), Fort Siloso was one of the many coastal fortifications built around the 19th century by the British and remains the most intact fortification in Singapore. The Fort was built on Mount Siloso, where the name “Siloso” is said to be derived from a Malayan word meaning “rock”, a possible reference to the rock outcrops that once stood at the western entrance to the present-day Keppel Harbour.
Built in 1878, it was one of three forts (the other two being Fort Connaught and Fort Serapong) that had been constructed on the island to protect the New Harbour (later renamed Keppel Harbour) and the straits around Singapore. The Fort played an important role in the Battle for Singapore and served as a Prisoner-of-War camp during and after the Japanese Occupation. In summary, the Fort performed a key defence function and bears testimony to Singapore’s military and war history.
During the Battle for Singapore (8 – 15 February 1942), Fort Siloso was one of the two known busiest batteries (the other being Fort Connaught) on Pulau Blakang Mati. Although the guns on Fort Siloso and the other forts on the island were designed to protect Singapore from a sea invasion, most of the guns had all-round or near all-round traverse that allowed them to be turned landwards to engage the invading Japanese troops. Its guns also destroyed the oil refineries at nearby Pulau Bukom and Pulau Sebarok to prevent the Japanese from using them. On the eve of the fall of Singapore, at 5 a.m. on 14 February 1942, the battery at Fort Siloso was deliberately destroyed by the British to prevent the Japanese forces from using the Fort.
During the Japanese Occupation, Fort Siloso, like the rest of Pulau Blakang Mati, served as a prisoner-of-war camp for the Australians and the British. After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, Fort Siloso was returned to the British and became a Prisoners-of-War camp for the Japanese.
There are several buildings to explore in the Fort Complex. Inside these that are display panels, exhibits of artefacts, and films that tell the history of the Fort, especially its role during the Battle for Singapore. Additionally, there are stories about the impact of the war on Singapore itself, the destruction from the shelling and bombing by the Japanese forces and life during the Japanese occupation. The different ethnic groups in Singapore were treated very differently from each other, with the ethnic Chinese receiving the harshest experience.
As well as visiting the building you can also walk through the underground tunnels that were used to move safely around the fort complex during the conflict. There are three tunnels: A, B and C. Inside the tunnels, there are more displays of waxwork figures. A sound system is used to give a more immersive experience. One of our favourite displays was the collections of drawings and cartoons that were done by prisoners of war held in camps in Singapore such as Changi and on the infamous Thailand to Burma ‘death railway’.
One trail around the fort goes down to the shoreline where you get a fantastic view out onto the entrance to Singapore harbour. Here there is a Fire Director Tower, where lookouts would peer out towards the horizon watching for approaching enemy ships and aircraft. At the base of the tower is a 12-pounder cannon. Inside the tower there are waxwork figures brandishing binoculars, looking out seawards.
As you move around Fort Silos there are numerous pieces of artillery, from the 19th century through to the mid-20th century. Some of the artillery pieces are stand-alone and others are set out in gun emplacements and configured as how they would have been during their use.
Our final port of call was the Surrender Chambers.
The Surrender Chambers at Fort Siloso have a long history. It was first opened in 1985 at the building where the present-day Madame Tussaud Singapore is now located and was moved to Fort Siloso almost 20 years later in 2004.
Its key exhibits comprise wax figures showing the scenes of two surrenders – the British to the Japanese in 1942 and consequently, the Japanese to the Allies in 1945.
There is a 15-minute tour, using lights, audio and graphics that takes you through the surrender of the British to the Japanese in 1942, the Japanese conquests in the Asia Pacific region, to the Allies regaining territory – including the dropping of atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the Japanese surrender.
From Fort Siloso we took the bus to the Beach Station. There are some nice-looking beaches on Sentosa, but they all look out onto the bay, with its islands covered in oil storage tanks and the hundreds of container ships sitting out at sea. Hardly idyllic! The monorail from Beach Station dropped us right at the Vivo City shopping mall. We headed to Marks & Spencer’s to see if we could pick up some snacks but were put off by the incredibly high prices. So, we beat a retreat on the MRT back to our hotel.
Planning your visit to Fort Siloso
- By Sentosa Express : Alight at Beach Station. Transfer to Sentosa Bus A, C or Beach Shuttle
- By Public Bus : Board Bus 123 and alight at Beach Station. Transfer to Sentosa Bus A, C or Beach Shuttle
- By Intra-Island Bus : Board Sentosa Bus A or C and alight at Siloso Point
- By Sentosa Beach Shuttle : Alight at Siloso Point
|Location:||18 Marina Gardens Dr, Singapore 018953|
|Hours:||Fort Siloso & Surrender Chambers : 9am – 6pm|
Exhibits open at 10 am. Last admission at 5.30 pm
Fort Siloso Skywalk lift operates from 9 am – 10 pm
|Admission Fees:||Free for all|
Download the Fort Siloso Brochure here.
Getting around Singapore
The best way to get around Singapore is via its Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) subway system. This underground network has lines that stretch across the entire city. However, once you’re in the desired neighbourhood, walking is your best option. MRT also operates bus routes that can get you just about anywhere on the island.
The best time to visit Singapore
Although Singapore is a year-round destination, the best time to visit Singapore is from December to June. The months of February to April fall within Singapore’s dry season and is typically when the country has the least amount of rain, the lowest humidity, and the most sunshine. Singapore has fairly consistent weather and welcoming enough for travellers all year round for sightseeing. However, if you wish to avoid any crowds flocking the places, the best time to visit Singapore is from July to November.
Monsoons prevail from December to March in Singapore, with December recording the highest rainfall. The weather is generally windy, cloudy with low sunshine and humid. There are chances of thunderstorms during these months.
Where to stay?
1. LLOYDS INN
During our last stay in Singapore, we stayed at the Llyods Inn. Our stay was quite short but we found to staff welcoming and the facilities were great. The decor was clutter-free and the design contemporary, with industrial-chic concrete walls and muted pallets and plenty of white – which Karen loved – yet it was also very comfortable. There is a roof terrace, modern garden deck and dipping pool surrounded by greenery.
Located off Killiney Road in a quiet residential area, Lloyd’s Inn is a short walk to the heart of Orchard Road. Somerset MRT Station, 313@Somerset, Orchard Gateway and Orchard Central shopping malls are within a 10-minute walk away.
2. WANDERLUST HOTEL
A couple of years back we stayed in the Wanderlust Hotel, which is housed in a historic 1920s Art Deco building (very cool!) At that time each of the rooms was individually decorated in quirk ways. Since then the hotel has been sold and bought and been remodelled so we can’t really comment on what the rooms look like now but the pictures look good!
What we can say is the hotel is located in a fabulous position to access the MRT. It is also in heart of Little India and all that it has to offer (did I mention we love Indian food). For these two reasons alone we would recommend the Wanderlust Hotel.
3. THE SCARLET SINGAPORE
We have not stayed in The Scarlet Singapore yet but it is on our shortlist for a future trip!
This luxury boutique hotel can be found in the heart of Singapore’s Chinatown (we also like Chinese food!). The hotel is one of the oldest conservation buildings in Singapore and comprises a row of 13 1868 shops and a 1924 Art Deco building (see why we are interested in this). The exteriors are historic the interiors are bang up to date. If you want to use Chinatown as your base in Singapore this is a great place to stay. Scarlet Hotel is less than a 10-minute walk from Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar MRT Stations.