As a volunteer museum docent and heritage trail guide, Donough-Tan gladly joined Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosaâ€™s newly launched Amara Heritage Trail to discover fascinating nuggets of history. The experiential tour, offered by hotels, is part of the next wave of Singapore's Passion Made Possible campaign.
Pulau Blakang Mati (island behind death in Malay) was transformed from a place with centuries of piracy and fierce territorial battles to the pleasure-isle of Sentosa (which means tranquillity) in 1970, and it has not looked back since.
The hour-long trail integrates the buildingsâ€™ colonial history with nature and conservation. It is is open to the public, and sets off every weekend starting at 10.00 from the hotel lobby.
We kicked off the tour with senior tourist guide Carol Dragon from Journeys, who invited us to munch on kacang putih (peanuts) as she narrated how Indian sellers hawked titbits in the past.
Then beneath shady saga and petai trees, we learnt that petai beans used in spicy local sambals (paste made from a variety of chili peppers) are believed to help clear body toxins â€“ which perhaps explains their lingering smell in oneâ€™s urine! We also stopped by the hotelâ€™s herb garden to touch and sniff common herbs and spices that go into local cuisine â€“ think lemongrass, curry leaves, holy basil, ginger, pepper and cloves.
Another stark contrast was the Married Soldiersâ€™ Quarters. Constructed between 1897 and 1905, they were upgraded in the 1920s and converted into the luxurious Courtyard and Verandah Suites by Amara. But the boots cleaner contraption has been preserved at the entrance of each doorway.
In addition, the last two air raid shelters in Sentosa are located on the resort grounds. We clambered down, expecting to find a small space with poor ventilation. But the little rooms now sported oscillating fans, and pictures of poignant moments decorating the walls.
Another pleasure was standing at the Sky Pool to view the container port, oil refineries, Southern Islands and South China Sea while listening to how Singaporeâ€™s entrepot trade developed, up to todayâ€™s petrochemical industry.
The tour concluded with refreshing Gunner cocktails, after which we relished the specially-created colonial lunch.
Customisation options for corporate groups include flexible timing, special menus (such as kacang putih with Gunner cocktails, selected herbs and spices, sambal petai side dish), personalised name on dessert plate, trail shirt and memorabilia.
The maximum group size is 20 people. Larger groups will be split into smaller ones. Prices start from S$250 (US$182) nett for 20 people (trail only). If combined with a three-course set lunch, the cost will be S$694.60.
Journeys can also customise tours to include teambonding activities on Palawan Beach, or a guided tour of Fort Siloso (transport required). A recommended group size is 20-30 participants per guide. In this case, prices would start from S$30 and go up to S$50 per person depending on group size and itinerary.
Throughout our walk, our animated guide regaled us with stories, quiz questions, and â€˜then and nowâ€™ comparisons. The programme was a stimulating mix of physical exercise, light history lesson imparted with great gusto by our tour guide, which was rounded off with delicious F&B.
Tel: (65) 6825 3873