I wanted to share with you my first experience of being in Singapore and the hip guide to a long weekend in Singapore, a small island state off the coast of Malaysia and an integral part of the original Asian Dragons. This small but very diverse country is an example in terms of order, sustainability and economic development.
Although a lot of Singapore can be classified as man-made or artificial for the cynics out there, half of the territory is green, with lush forests and gardens to reduce the effect of urbanization. Singapore’s most spectacular parts are built on reclaimed land, but a short visit to the Marina Bay and the ecological and solar powered Gardens by The Bay will literally take your breath away.
Hotels to stay at or visit:
- The Raffles hotel, which is the oldest hotel in Singapore with colonial architecture, it is also the home venue to Singapore’s poshest weddings. Walk around the different terraces and gardens and have a drink at the outdoor bar. It is located close to Singapore’s high street Orchard Road and Arab street where a visit to Haji street on a weekend afternoon is quite the experience.
- The Fullerton Bay hotel is right on the waterfront with a spectacular view of the Marina Bay Sands complex. You can also have a drink at their poolside rooftop bar called the Lantern.
- Marina Bay Sands is the main attraction of Singapore if not THE place to be. Resembling a giant Vegas casino hotel, MBS is a feat of architectural prowess: three gigantic tower 56 stories high with spectacular views on either side (the Marina Bay overlooking the Fullerton Bay or the futuristic Gardens by The Bay and the Singapore wheel). The three towers are linked together by a gigantic infinity pool flanked by the swankiest bars and restaurants in town. The Hotel links directly via an air conditioned underpass to the Casino and the mall called The Shoppes. The pool at MBS is a great spot for people-watching and for witnessing the latest gadgets in selfie picture taking: think extra long sticks and waterproof cases and special cameras that will put your iPhone camera to shame.
Things to see and where to shop:
- Gardens by the Bay: this is a huge garden built on reclaimed land, with lush vegetation and humungous towers in the shape of a tree that have solar receptors that power the entire garden and domes with solar energy. You should visit the Flower dome, a huge greenhouse and the Cloud dome which houses a spectacular rainforest waterfall. The Gardens are accessible via an overpass from MBS.
- The Singapore Flyer: is right next door to the Gardens, this is like the London Eye with a 50min-long ride which you can frankly pass on.
Do a river cruise. Tell the taxi driver you want to do the river cruise at Clarke Quay. You can get tickets from a booth near the water, 1min from where the taxi drops you. The boat is the old boat where the cruise (recorded audio tour) lasts 45minutes. It is really worth it as you see all the historic buildings along the Quays.
Sentosa: is another resort man-made island and is home to Universal studios. If you have been to the one in California you will notice that the Asian version is more about the thrilling rides and rollercoasters. If you are into some great special effects, take the Transformers ride. If you would like a mild ride on a rollercoaster, take the Lost Land Canopy ride, which goes over Jurassic park. And for those with a very brave heart, you can go into the Mummy indoor rollercoaster and the terrifying Battlestar Galactica high speed rollercoaster. Once you are done with the adventure park, go and have a well deserved lunch at the Atelier de Joel Robuchon in the hotel complex.
- ArtScience Museum: standing pretty below the MBS and along the Marina Walk, the building looks like a flower and has a beautiful floating garden underneath. The other great feature is a sculpture by Anish Kapoor the Sky mirror which reflects the Artscience museum and makes it look like a real flower.
A couple of dozen meters along the Marina walk and you get to the show-stopping Louis Vuitton island, an absolutely awesome LV landmark that houses special edition collections and a child-sized leather made car for a cool GBP 38,000.
- Orchard Street: this is like Oxford Street, it is very busy with loads of malls that mainly house designer stores, you will find several Gucci and Prada shops along the street and little choice in terms of local Singaporean brands. The better known local brand is Raoul and a local collective of designers called Keepers. You will find many brands that are pared down in terms of aesthetic and embellishments: Sabrina Goh, In Good Company and Ling Wu for exotic skin bags. Otherwise Orchard Central mall on Orchard road has local designers. International luxury shops are very expensive compared to Europe and the US, and even the Middle East; you would have to have to buy a special edition or a hard to find item to justify the price gap.
Venture to some streets with ethnic flavours in Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street’ Haji street. You will find a few shops scattered all along Haji street and some cool Mexican restaurants and outdoor pubs with live DJ sets on most weekend afternoons.
Places to eat:
- Dempsey Village: Mexican called Margarita’s, Chopsuey for Asian fusion, very good continental food at PS Café and Culina. Jones the Grocer for lunch, White Rabbit, The prime society..etc Dempsey is an area full of restaurants and very green, a quick check of their website for restaurant is useful if you want to narrow your choices down.
For pepper crab, Jumbo is the place to go, they have many locations, one is in Dempsey.
Club Street is an area behind Chinatown, full of expats and locals, it is buzzy and full of trendy bars and restaurants. Go for steak frites at Les Bouchons or L’Angelus.
Although most people like to stay away from malls when traveling, the Marina Bay Sands Mall (The Shoppes) has many great restaurants with good atmosphere: Cut. Daniel Boulud and a very popular Chinese dim sum place. There is also a great Asian food court called Kasapura Masters for a quick bite of Korean, Chinese, Indian, Japanese or Singaporean cuisine.
Bars with a great view:
Ce La Vie – rooftop bar at Marina Bay Sands hotel where Singapore’s society goes to see and be seen. Wolfgang Puck’s Spago has a great terrace overlooking the MBS infinity pool.
Lantern – rooftop bar at Fullerton bay hotel
1 Altitude – rooftop bar at UOB Center
Catalunya – Spanish bar..great atmosphere with nice Marina Bay view
Clubs which have been recommended by local Singaporeans but which we didn’t have the time to visit:
Kyo, Vault, Clark Quay area – Saturday is the most happening in Club street area – Friday is the most happening night Pangea – in MBS
Small Bars in Singaporean small streets
Boat Quay area, Emerald hill – in the middle of Orchard road (when you are tired of shopping, drop by), One fullerton – Many bars and restaurants overlooking MBS
Trendy and happening place:
Club street – Ansiang hill – Keong Siak Road (these are all next to each other in Same areas) try Cuffling club, Potato Head, Vascos, Neon Pigeon, Esquina, Eye.