Singapore has recently hosted the most important peace summit of the past few years. Kim Jong-un spent a night strolling around the city-state’s most attractive diversions, and called it a “clean and beautiful” place. So what does Singapore offer that might have soothed President Trump and his North Korean counterpart to think peace not war?
Singapore is a foody place like no other. This small island is a melting pot of Asian cuisines from a plethora of cultures and countries. Eating at a hawker market – the little food stands first set up to feed immigrant workers food from their own country – is an obligation.
Tai Hwa Pork Noodle
One of the very best street food stalls is Tai Hwa pork noodle. It reveals itself discreetly in a hawker market sitting among a block of nondescript high rises. There are only three choices – $6, $8 or $10 bowls – but it is the most beautiful pork and noodles you will ever taste. The bowls come with dissected pork slices, pork hash, pork balls, pork liver, pork scratchings and a dried fish, all arranged on a salty red chilli soup. If you look very carefully you will see a small sticker above the stall telling you that it’s been awarded a Michelin star.
Housed in the National Gallery, Odette serves exceptional French food. From guinea fowl with celeriac risotto and foie gras croquettes to pine-smoked egg and bread-crusted Arctic char, there’s as much art on the plate as there is on the walls.
Smells like rotten onions, tastes like custard: durian is an acquired taste but Singaporeans love it. Drop by the durian stall at Dempsey Hill, the former British Army barracks now a colonial-style bar and restaurant, to sample some. If you really feel sick, you’re welcome to pop into the multitude of other eateries in the location, including famous Thai restaurant Jim Thompson, high-end Chinese Candlenut, Samy’s Curry house and Long Beach Seafood.
Housing more than 1,000 bottles of gin, Atlas has one of the most diverse collections of the spirit in the world
Lavo is the bar at the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel. At 57-storeys high you can look out across the skyline and get what is one of the best views of the city. Already bored of the view? Then turn around and enjoy the swimmers splashing around the hotel’s rooftop pool. If you want to join in you’ll have to stay at the hotel, which is not exactly a hardship.
For more great views, try Aura at the top of the National Gallery. Aura Sky Lounge transforms from day to night, with its lunch and high-tea options in the afternoons moving on to a cocktail menu full of refreshing coolers and classics. The bar food isn’t half bad either. Try artichoke fries with truffle mayo, and foie gras and duck sliders.
Housing more than 1,000 bottles of gin, Atlas has one of the most diverse collections of the spirit in the world. And the place itself is hugely impressive. Magnificent champagne-coloured tapestries line the ceiling, intricate gold and bronze balconies surround the space, and a massive 15m-high gin tower stands towering at one end. Try the Atlas Martini, made with London gin, Ambrato vermouth, orange bitters, champagne vinegar and pomelo.
Singapore Cricket Club
For a more refined offering, try this old colonial haunt for a sip of Scotch and some cricket chat. They require you to come with a member or be a current or ex-cricket pro, and should you get in you’ll find yourself stepping back in time to when Jack Hobbs was England’s opening batsman.
One hour from Singapore, the island of Bintan is billed as the new Bali
The Mandarin Oriental overlooks Singapore’s Marina Bay, which was constructed from the dregs of an antediluvian swamp. Make sure you get a room looking out over the bay and, if you’re feeling active, go for a pre-dawn run around the water, catching the calmness of the morning before the city wakes. Breakfast is one of the highlights here ‒ a vast smorgasbord of eastern and western food that you won’t get through in three visits.
Unlike its illustrious colonial rival, Raffles, Fullerton Bay gets less attention. The striking interior is constructed from the old post office and seems a hotchpotch of rooms fitting into the architectural shell of the old building. But once you get used to this slightly dishevelled feel you’ll realise it is an infinitely interesting place. A bit like the proverbial box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get room-wise. Oh, and stay on the third floor which guarantees admission to the straits club with its Wodehousian feel, particularly so at high tea where you can nibble on an assortment of sandwiches while reading The Times.
The Sanchaya, Bintan
One hour from Singapore, the island of Bintan is billed as the new Bali, and an alternative to Sentosa. It is not nearly as developed as the latter, and there is a rough beauty to the island, but it has its new luxury hotels cropping up. Best of the lot is Sanchaya, designed like an old bayou French colonial house with its white walls and huge, lit swimming pool bordering the beach. If you get bored of this go out and take a boat ride among the mangrove swamps where you will see snakes resting in trees and monkeys chattering away.
Though only two square miles in size, Sentosa is dubbed Singapore’s pleasure island
Though only two square miles in size, Sentosa is dubbed Singapore’s pleasure island and indeed has a number of luxury attractions which led to its choice for the sit down between the US and North Korea. It has two golf courses, some of the most perfectly groomed and cleanest beaches in this part of the world and expensive, high-class hotels, like the five-star Capella where the summit was held. While not fashionable, Singaporeans do love to come here as a guilty pleasure. Its name translates as ‘peace and tranquillity’ though it was formerly known as ‘Pulau Belakang Mati’ – ‘the island of death from behind.’ Let’s hope not.
Escape the heat at the Botanic Gardens, an altogether cooling state of affairs under the shade of an exotic array of plants and flowers including the orchid garden housed in two vast glass domes. Kim Jong-un seemed to enjoy it.
The National Gallery is a soothing oasis in the middle of Singapore’s tropical bustle. Converted from the Old Supreme Court, the tall wooden walls house some interesting Southeast Asian art, but the place is as much of a draw for its beautifully quiet interior design as the art itself. It’s a nice interlude from the sweat-inducing air outside.
Mustafa in Little India
Singapore is a haven for luxury shopping. Orchard Road and Marina Bay Sands have their fair share of luxury designer shops mixed with high street fashion. The Louis Vuitton store at Marina Bay Sands is an architectural classic, shaped to resemble a little yacht floating on the water. However, if you want something a bit more characterful go to Mustafa Mall, a manic department store in Little India with everything you could possibly need, seek or desire – all arranged with no semblance of order.
For more info, see Visit Singapore