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It has been a while since I – along with many other Singaporeans – last took a cable car ride.
So when I join the new Gai Gai Tour, a two-hour guided tour around Mount Faber Park that includes a 30-minute round trip on the Mount Faber line, I am pleasantly surprised to find that the rainbow-hued cable cars from my childhood have been given a refreshing update.
We ride in sleek, black, fourth-generation cabins, with UV-tinted panes and an air circulation system to keep us cool. A new commentary system, currently under pilot, points out attractions such as Mount Faber Park as we glide over them.
This is Singapore, where things are constantly being refreshed, modernised, upgraded – essential to attract the local crowd. And there is no better time than the present to explore at home, with overseas travel halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since cable cars began plying the skies in July after the circuit breaker, One Faber Group, which runs services, attractions and food and beverage outlets in and around Sentosa, has launched attractive deals to woo travel-starved locals hungry for a different view.
These include a round-trip on the Sentosa Line at one-fifth the usual price, just $3 an adult and $2 a child.
The Gai Gai Tour, at $20 an adult and $15 a child, is also good value – it is more than $10 cheaper than the cost of the full-priced cable car ride alone.
The tour begins at Faber Peak, where tour guide Omar Shariff, 51, says the lush hilltop location makes him feel like he is overseas.
At first I think he is exaggerating – every other tour these days seems to promise the same. But when dappled sunlight streams through coniferous trees, glinting off a canopy backdropped by the city skyline, I am indeed transported.
Shophouses and housing board flats lend colour; slate-grey buildings of the Central Business District tower impressively.
A stroll past the mural wall is a reminder of how we got here. Sixteen copper-tooled murals depict Singapore’s journey from fishing village to garden city. It is a history lesson in a nutshell, winding up at a rain tree almost half a century old.
- GAI GAI TOUR
- WHAT: Cable car and walking tourFEE: $20 an adult and $15 a childDURATION: Two hoursCOMPANY: One Faber Group (onefabergroup.com/gaigai)
Former deputy prime minister Goh Keng Swee planted it on Singapore’s first tree-planting day in 1971, three years before he launched Singapore Cable Car in 1974 – one of the country’s first tourist attractions and a feather in the cap of a young nation.
It is nuggets of information like these that One Faber Group hopes guests will remember.
“The location of Faber Peak lends itself well to telling the story of Singapore’s history through the eyes of a local,” says Mr Patrick Lee, director of sales and business development at One Faber Group.
Knowing where we have come from makes the present all the more impressive.
From the air, Sentosa is awash with colour – looping roller coasters at Universal Studios, staycationers lounging by the pool, dolphins frolicking at Resorts World Sentosa. Cable cars, laden with families, zip past. The tourism industry, picking itself up from a battering, is slowly finding its footing once more.
There is some way to go. Water slides and plunge pools at Adventure Cove Waterpark remain dry. Singapore Cruise Centre is bereft of the towering cruisers that used to dock regularly. On weekends, says Mr Omar, the waters used to be streaked in the wake of Batam-bound ferries.
But he is hopeful, as am I. One day, these waters will bustle again. And there will be no better vantage point than from a cable car.