The name “Singapore” means “Lion City” and with that many legends and stories came along explaining why an island where there are no lions native to it could possibly be called the “Lion City”. I guess we can safely say the Merlion; a mythical creature with a head of a lion and the body of a fish is now considered to be the lion of the “Lion City”.
Native to Singapore, you can find the Merlion in the form of nearly any souvenir imaginable in Singapore. But if you want to find the “real” ones, there are a few official places to go to. According to Wikipedia there are 7 statues of the Merlion in Singapore, 5 of them officially recognized…and 3 officially visited by me. We made our way to Merlion Park and then to the Merlion Sentosa.
The most iconic and recognized image of the Merlion can be found at Merlion Park. Merlion Park is located right in front of the Fullerton Hotel and overlooking Marina Bay across from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. It is actually not hard to actually get a 360 degree view of this 8.6 meter (28.2ft) tall Merlion statue sprouting water from its mouth.
Before going to Merlion Park you can actually view the Merlion face to face-ish; I guess it’s more like a front view than face to face (since it is a 28 ft tall Merlion). Singapore River cruises will take you into Marina Bay and gives you a view from the water. And if you are planning on going on a hop on hop off river cruise, you can actually get off right at Merlion Park.
And a just a few steps from the river cruise pier, you will approach the Merlion and get a view of its right side. There are steps that almost go all the way down to the water and from here you get a view of the Merlion and Esplanade behind it. This is where I snapped my favorite picture of the Merlion. I am a little biased; most people will want the Marina Bay Sands with the Merlion but this is the view I remember the most since 2007.
Merlion Park is quite obviously a park solely dedicated to the Merlion. There is a little pier thing built out into the water that gives you the perfect left and front left view of the Merlion. I would say this is the most popular spot since you get views of the Merlion, Esplanade Theatre, and Marina Bay Sands.
There were a lot of tourists and it takes a little bit of patience as you wait your turn to take a good picture of anything. My favorite was when I snapped a picture of 2 different sets of tourists.
And as a final touch to Merlion Park you can find another Merlion. This one is much much smaller standing at only about 2-meters (6 feet) tall dubbed the Merlion cub. If this is the Merlion cub, then I guess the Merlion behind is its’ Mom and next we will find the Dad.
After plenty of pictures of the (original) Merlion at Merlion Park, it’s time to get inside and learn a little more about it. This is more of an experience compared to site seeing and snapping a ton of pictures from every angel possible of the same thing. But then again in Sentosa, everything has to be an experience.
The Sentosa Merlion is located on Sentosa (as the name states). It’s not hard to find since you will see the Merlions head peak out above the trees from most areas of Sentosa. And of course Sentosa also makes it very easy to get there via cable car and getting off at “Merlion Station” or by bus etc at Imbiah Station.
It is the tallest Merlion (and the only one you can get inside of) standing at 37 meters (121 ft) tall. We used our Sentosa Fun Pass and made our way inside of the Merlion.
When we first arrived, there was no one there! We took our time to take pictures and explore the underwater themed interior as we approached the theatre room. And just as we were waiting, we ended up being joined by a big Korean tour group. I guess we ended up being part of a big Korea tour group for a little bit as their tour guide explained things in Korea.
We were then ushered into a small theatre that shows a short animated film about the origins of Singapore and the Merlion. This has not changed at all since 2007! “Legend has it that the Merlion would visit Sentosa island every year to guard Singapore’s well-being. One dark night, the island was threatened by a violent storm and the Merlion fought the thundering skies with its mythical powers and preserved the land.”
There are several other different legends that tell the story of the Merlion and in the end of the each of them, the Merlion is a symbol of Singapore the “Lion City”.
And then we each use our ticket to claim a lucky Merlion coin as we waited for the elevator to take us to the head of the Merlion. So nice of them to keep us occupied at all times.
The elevator to the Merlion head makes feel as though you are going up from the bottom of the ocean to jumping out of the water to land (and back down as we headed back down later).
When you step off the elevator there are 2 signs. Once to the left to the Merlion mouth and one to the right to the top of the head. The tour group headed to the mouth; so we headed to the head.
From top, you get 360 degree views of Sentosa. There are a few signs that compare your current height to other buildings etc. around the world and after a few pictures we headed back inside. There is no shade up there making not fun at all.
The inside of the Merlion is not glamorous. It’s feels like you’re inside of something and in a way it looks like you almost get to see the inner workings of something secretive. In this case, I guess it’s how the Sentosa Merlion comes alive with all of the lights on it etc.
And then you can walk right out to the Sentosa Merlions mouth for the same view of Sentosa the Merlion gets to see. It really is a just a spot for you take a picture with the effect that you are inside the Merlion mouth (teeth and all). And of course, there will be “professional” photographers ready to take the perfect family picture for you (just buy your picture at the gift shop on your way out).
I have to admit, I never felt so much in a tourist trap and yet I kind of enjoyed the little experience (as long as I don’t feel like I spent too much money or time). I didn’t feel like I paid too much thanks to the Sentosa Fun Pass. Without the pass or any discounts it is SG$12, and I’m not sure if I would pay for that.
What do you think of the Merlion?