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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

See Sentosa on electric bike

Exploring the historical sights on a heritage tour of the holiday island is a breeze on electric bicycles
The Straits Times - August 7, 2011
By: Melissa Sim
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See Sentosa on electric bike -- ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM

There are many ways to explore Sentosa - bus, tram, monorail and even Segway - but I did a double take when I heard that electric bicycles were the latest way to take in the sights.

Not sure what an electric bicycle even was, LifeStyle headed to Sentosa for the Heritage and Island Explorer tour, which started about a year ago and uses these bikes.

If you think a little extra horsepower makes no difference to the enjoyment of the tour, you are wrong.

Some slopes on the tour were so steep the average rider with a regular bicycle would end up getting off and pushing it.

But I simply turned down the gear, powered up the bike by hitting a button, and the ride was as effortless as cycling on flat land. For someone who cycles perhaps twice a year and hardly exercises, the electric bicycle is a real boon.

This tour, organised by Gogreen Holdings, costs $28 a person and runs daily from 9.30am to 8pm. It starts at the bicycle stand, a three-minute walk from the Beach Station. Its Sanyo hybrid bicycles are not sold here and are available for use only on Sentosa. They are not recommended for those under 1.5m but the tour is great for families with older children.

Gogreen operations manager Richard Anthony took LifeStyle for a spin around historical sights on Sentosa's western side.

Gogreen's sales and marketing manager Chng Poo Chong says: 'We wanted to introduce people to different parts of Sentosa, parts left untouched that people don't know about.'

These are some of the highlights.

PILLBOX STOP

Cycle along Siloso Beach and spot a... pillbox.

But this is nothing to do with a container for pills. This is a military 'pillbox' that was part of the beach defences built to protect Singapore from sea invasions during World War II.

The name is derived from its shape, which resembles pillbox containers of yesteryear. They are guardposts with small holes to fire a gun through.

This one, built around 1936 to 1940, is hidden in the undergrowth. It is one of at least six existing pillboxes along the beaches of Sentosa, says our guide Richard Anthony. When they were in use, each had been equipped with two Vicker machine guns, a small search light and a generator.

This one has survived the war and the island's redevelopment - not to mention, ZoukOut. Purists may not appreciate its modern white-and-green camouflage pattern, though.

TREES OF LIFE

Weave through the Coastal Forest Trail and spot Heritage Trees that are more than 100 years old.

Such trees - earmarked for conservation by the National Parks Board - are nominated by the public and evaluated by a Heritage Trees Panel. The panel looks at criteria such as a tree's girth, rarity, historical significance, and cultural, social and educational value before it is deemed a Heritage Tree.

There are 179 Heritage Trees listed on the NParks website. This Common Pulai - there are 11 such trees categorised as Heritage Trees in Singapore - can grow up to 45m in height.

It has a deeply fluted trunk and buttresses, and fragrant white flowers.

VIEW ACROSS THE WATER

Along Sentosa's northern coast, take in the view of the changing face of the mainland, including Harbourfront Centre and the Reflections at Keppel Bay condominium, which is under construction.

Guide Richard Anthony tells us that after the British arrived in Singapore, they blew up rocks in the Keppel Bay area in the mid-1800s to allow big ships into the port.

In the distance, you can also see a replica of the 'Dragon's Teeth Gate' in Labrador Park.

This granite outcrop formerly stood at the gateway to Keppel Harbour and was used by ancient mariners such as Admiral Cheng Ho for navigation.

BATTERY LIFE

A run-down Mount Imbiah Battery, complete with fallen leaves and cobwebs, is what you would expect of an abandoned military post.

It was built in the 1880s to house a 9.2-inch coast gun.

In the coastal defence of Singapore, Imbiah and Siloso batteries were organised to protect the western entrance to the harbour.

Visitors can stand in the battery pit and imagine the flurry of activity when this one was in operation. It was used to screen all merchant vessels before allowing them to enter the Singapore harbour. Ammunition was brought up to the gun from underground magazines by pulley lifts.

While charmingly untouched, the battery has become a storage area for plastic chairs and wheelbarrows.

CHANGING IMAGES

Images Of Singapore, a gallery which charts Singapore history and culture, is a regular stop for tourists but what they may not know is that the building was used by the British as a military hospital and was later used by the Japanese as a brothel.

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