City Slicker: Singapore
As the Lion City prepares for the start of its Formula One Grand Prix later this month, Evelyn Chen discovers more treats in store
Sunday 06 September 2009
Singapore has never been this hot. The city-state is on the travellers' radar as one of Asia's most happening destinations.
On the cards to open in early 2010 are two integrated resorts: Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa. The complex will include a Universal Studios Theme Park, two casinos (Singapore's first), and various additions to the hotel scene including the city's very own Hard Rock Hotel. And as cranes hover over towering structures, the Lion City prepares to host her second Formula One night race this month.
Meanwhile Singapore's retail showcase looks set to capture the frisson of Fifth Avenue with a recent S$40m (£17m) makeover; think slate tiles, brighter lights and exotic flora. The recession-defiant Orchard Road will impress fashionistas with the plethora of mall openings costing S$4bn; among them, Ion Orchard and Orchard Central were recently unveiled while 313@Somerset is slated to open in November.
If you want to escape the bustle, make for the foliage of Singapore's lesser-known green belt. The newly opened Southern Ridges is a chain of green spaces made up of undulating hills and parks and spanning more than 5.6 miles). Take one of several hiking trails which offer panoramic views of Singapore, forest hikes or even a canopy walk.
Alternatively, take a stroll down the streets of Chinatown, Malay Village, or Little India and revel in the rich mix of cultures. Take time, too, to observe the wonderful juxtaposition of architecture; here and there a Chinese temple against a backdrop of soaring skyscrapers.
Don't miss ...
*The Chinatown Heritage Centre (chinatownheritagecentre.com.sg). Housed in a restored triple-storey shop at 48 Pagoda Street, this museum chronicles the journey and hardship endured by the early Chinese immigrants.
*The Singapore Flyer (singapore flyer.com) on Raffles Avenue. The giant observation wheel opened at the beginning of 2008 and provides breathtaking views of Singapore's skylines and of Marina Bay. At 165m (541ft), it is currently the world's tallest ferris wheel.
*The Long Bar at the iconic Raffles Hotel (raffles.com) on Beach Road. Order a Singapore Sling and savour the sense of imperial nostalgia.
*The Ya Kun café experience (yakun.com). Sample an authentic local breakfast of kopi (Hokkien for local coffee) with kaya (coconut and egg jam spread) toast at one of the 28 outlets across the city-state.
*Jaan restaurant at the top of The Stamford Hotel (swissotel.com) right in the heart of the city. Marvel at Singapore's nightscape while you tuck into Andre Chiang's daring modern southern French cuisine.
*Mustafa (mustafa.com.sg) on Syed Alwi Road. This budget-shopping complex in Little India is open 24 hours a day and specialises in electronics, clothes, skincare products, and groceries.
*Singapore Botanic Garden (sbg.org.sg), close to the centre, off Cluny Road. Take a jog or do a tai chi workout followed by a spicy mee siam noodle breakfast at the Les Amis Café.
*Tekka Market on the northern corner of Bukit Timah Road. Browse the meat, vegetable and fresh fruit stalls of one of Singapore's most vibrant and colourful destinations.
*Newton Hawker Centre, Singapore's favourite supper hotspot with food stalls set around a big square. Watch the world go by while you sip on Tiger Beer and tuck into a plate of Hokkien mee (wok-fried noodles with shrimps and squid).
You get a comprehensive insight into the Peranakan culture of the Straits Chinese settlers at the Peranakan Museum which offers an impressive collection of artefacts, but for an intriguing, offbeat Peranakan experience, check out Baba House. This 19th-century townhouse, at 157 Neil Road, served as a home to six generations of a prominent Peranakan family before it was conserved and turned into a museum. The redecorated interior features original antique furniture as well as period pieces sourced from Malacca, Penang and Java. It is open to the public by appointment only on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Details: 00 65 6227 5731; nus.edu.sg/ museum.baba/index.html
Sentosa's slickest development in years, this S$400m (£170m) hotel has 111 suites and villas and opened discreetly amid the April gloom and doom. It was created by a star-studded cast including architect Norman Foster and Indonesia's Jaya Ibrahim, and its stylish design combines colonial elegance with technology flourishes such as touch-screen panels to control room temperature, blinds, and lights. Diners can choose from sleek Cassia for Cantonese classics and The Knolls for an international spread; while the Library serves all-day complimentary tea and coffee on Wedgwood bone china. Meantime signature treatments at the Auriga Spa are based on the current moon cycle.
A stone's throw from Singapore Botanic Gardens, this sprawling former British army barracks is now a hip hang out. With lush surrounds, laid-back vibe, and an eclectic mix of cafés, restaurants, boutiques and antique furniture retailers, this lifestyle enclave attracts a very cool crowd. New here are Tawandang Microbrewey, a popular Thai-German restobar from Bangkok; and Beauty Emporium @ House, a spa-turned-beauty playground that opens next week.
This S$2bn, 56-storey retail and residential complex is Singapore's most striking new landmark. Strategically situated atop the Orchard MRT station, there are 333 slick stores spread over eight floors offering a smörgasbord of designer flagships-in-duplexes and new-to-Singapore high fashion brands. Foodies, too, have reasons to cheer with the range of dining options – from food hall, fine dining restaurants, and cafés to gourmet supermarket.
Bistro Du Vin
Just off Scotts Road in the city's heart, Bistro du Vin recently opened two doors away from its renowned sister restaurant, Les Amis. Its sultry, Parisian-inspired interior conjures up a smart yet casual ambience. So you can expect to mingle with an appropriately hip crowd here. On offer are Parisian bistro classics, including gratinated French onion soup, Burgundy escargot with herbed garlic, and duck confit with goose-fat French fries – all at a fraction of Les Amis' price.
Insider's secret: Leesa Lovelace
Just a few minutes away from the bustle of Orchard Road, off Sime Road and Kheam Hock Road, is a wonderful, unspoilt bit of jungle – perfect for a peaceful stroll. A leafy canopy of enormous rain trees shades the narrow roads and paths through the old Bukit Brown Cemetery. The carved images of Chinese deities and symbolic figures stand guard over many of the tombs, some of which are meticulously groomed while others are nearly lost in the vines and lush undergrowth. A walk through Bukit Brown is a step back in time and a fascinating introduction to the history, culture and traditions of Singapore's Chinese community.
Leesa Lovelace is General Manager of Eastern & Oriental Express
How to get there
Singapore is served from Heathrow by BA (0844 493 0787; ba.com) and Qantas (0845 774 7767; qantas.co.uk). Singapore Airlines (020-8750 2708; singaporeair.com) flies to the city-state from both Heathrow and Manchester airports. Regional departures are available with Middle Eastern carriers such as Etihad (0800 731 9384; etihad airways.com) via Abu Dhabi, and Emirates (0870 243 2222; emirates.com) via Dubai.
Singapore Tourism Board (020 74842710; visitsingapore.com).
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