Written and photographed by Maureen Mai.
It’s never easy saying good-bye to an old friend. Born in 1995 and standing 37 meters tall, the Sentosa Merlion is an old friend indeed. He’s one of our first memories of Singapore when we arrived in Asia fifteen years ago. Standing tall and majestic, this guardian of prosperity, watched over Singapore as it emerged from a small fishing village to the world-class city that it has become today. Yet sadly, by the end of this month, he will stand no more as progress makes way for a themed pathway linking the northern and southern coasts of Sentosa. Saying Good-Bye to the Sentosa Merlion will take some adjustment. Fortunately, the female Merlion at Merlion Park will remain to continue the tradition.
The Merlion is not just a tourist symbol of Singapore; he’s an icon. His lion head symbolizes Singapura (Malay for lion city), and his fish body represents the city’s origins from the sea. The magnificent Sentosa Merlion is worth a final visit. You can book your tickets in advance through the One Faber Group. Their exclusive online offer has a free upgrade to a guided tour at 11.45 am 1.45 pm or 3.45 pm. But you need to hurry, as the Sentosa Merlion officially closes forever on October 21, 2019.
Sentosa Merlion and the Sentosa Express Monorail
When you arrive, you can collect your ticket and your Prosperity Card. You’ll view an animated video of the Merlion’s origins. Then you can insert your card into a machine to collect a commemorative gold Merlion coin (while supplies last). After that, you are whisked up 60 meters above sea level to view the two lookout galleries. You will see views far and wide of Sentosa Island and the Singapore Strait. The Head Gallery is upstairs, and the Mouth Gallery is downstairs. Make sure you ring the Sentosa Merlion Bell when you get to the Mouth Gallery for a special blessing from the Merlion.
Images left to right: Merlion coin, view from the Mouth Gallery, Merlion bell
Where can you find other Merlions in Singapore?
If you missed visiting the Sentosa Merlion before he leaves, there’s no need to worry. He left behind several of his family members to continue the tradition. The Singapore Tourist Promotion Board recognizes several official Singapore Merlions. There’s the original Merlion at Merlion Park. Born in 1972, she’s been standing strong ever since. Not even a lightning strike in 2009 could take her down. She spent a short time rehabilitating herself and resumed spraying water about a month later. She stands 8.6 meters high as she overlooks Marina Bay Sands. Not far away is the little Merlion Cub, who also sprays water and stands two meters tall. There are a couple of male Merlions that don’t spray water at three meters high. You will find them at Faber Point on Mount Faber and in the lobby of the Singapore Tourism Board. You can quickly tell whether a Merlion is male or female. The female Merlions spray water, and the males do not.
Female Merlion at Merlion Park
A colorful Merlion found at Sentosa and the Merlion Cub at Merlion Park.
You can have fun finding other versions of the Merlion throughout Singapore’s local neighborhoods. Here’s a hint. Rumor has it that there were some Merlion twin sightings in the Woodlands and Ang Mo Kio communities. Legend tells of another Merlion sighting in Changi, but that was some time ago.
And now, as we say our final good-byes to the Sentosa Merlion, it’s also time to say “Majulah Singapura” which is Malay for “Onward Singapore”!
© 2019-2020 Maureen Mai Photography, All rights reserved.