The Island of Death: that’s what ‘Pulau Blakang Mati’ stood for before it was renamed to Sentosa in 1972. Getting there was easy – either by cable car, monorail, ferry or, following its construction in 1992, the Sentosa Causeway.
The novelty of the cable cars meant scores of lovebirds would flock to the island to take in the then-newly built attractions: among them the Sentosa Coralarium and its lookout tower, Palawan beach lagoon, the Butterfly Park, and the musical fountain that a few of you might still remember from your childhood. There was even a roller-skating complex that opened there in 1975 – and who can forget Fantasy Island in the ’90s?
Saadah Khamis, 53, and Ramli Ani, 56
‘There weren’t many places to go around Singapore back then, and Sentosa was the place to be – we’d go on double dates with our friends. Most of our dates were spent either here or in a cafeteria in Changi Airport that’s since closed down, sadly.’
Before the Singapore Zoo became the home to scores of beasts both large and small, only 270 animals – led by the queen Ah Meng (RIP) – used to roam the compound. That was back in 1973, and even that relatively paltry number didn’t deter throngs of young couples from hitting up the wildlife park on dates.
About 17 months after it opened, the zoo managed to attract its millionth visitor – and, honestly, it’s still a great place to paktor in 2016. We don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Steven Ng, 60, and Bernadette Rayney, 58
'The zoo was a great place for early dates. It gave us the chance to walk around and get to know each other better. We loved the zoo so much that we continued to visit when we had our little girl.'
Long before the modest plot of land became famous for being the site of Speakers’ Corner, Hong Lim Park was the island’s first public garden when it opened in 1876. It was only in the ’50s to ’70s that its reputation as the grounds for political expression really took hold: rallies and speeches were held there, alongside more fun-loving pursuits such as cricket matches and Chinese opera performances. And, yes, as a spot where couples in the ’80s would find a wedge of reprieve in the middle of the city.
Yvonne Teo, 53, and Anthony Ng, 52
‘My husband and I love dancing – we met in a dance class – and folk dancing was really popular in the ’80s. We used to go to the open space in Hong Lim Park where young people would meet and dance together. It was always very crowded but very fun!’
We like to think of Changi Beach as the less populated equivalent of East Coast Park, perhaps in part due to its location. The 3.3-kilometre slice of sand, which extends from Changi Point to Changi Ferry Terminal, remains a draw for couples and families with winning views of Pulau Ubin, barbecue pits for get-togethers and, of course, memories sealed in eternity in photographs such as this one.
William Liew, 79, and See Tee Hong, 80
‘We relocated to Malaysia in the ’60s, but would regularly return to Singapore to revisit our favourite spots. We had a picnic by the beach that day but it was too windy, so we headed to Changi Village to browse the shops.’
Who remembers the old Marina Square, where skinny aqueducts of water would stream down the mall’s spiral-tiled aisles and stop at small fountains along the way? This was back in the early days of the now-shiny temple to retail – it opened in 1985, way before the Esplanade and Singapore Flyer would rise beside it – when it was the largest mall in town.
And as proof that shopping centres are as Singaporean as chicken rice, families and couples alike would make the pilgrimage there, if for nothing else but to dine at the erstwhile (and poorly ventilated) food court, the former home of one-Michelin-starred Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle.
Peter, 62, and Doreen Ang, 58
‘This was taken 30 years ago. Marina Square was the newest shopping centre then, and we loved the open-air food court and huge variety of shops. We remember it being crowded all the time, unlike now.’