For some of you, Singapore will mean Changi Airport – a necessary stopover on the way to Europe or New York (albeit one with an insane butterfly garden). But venturing inside the city centre, even for a couple of days will change your mind about this Asian metropolis.
A friend once described Singapore to me as “Asia lite” - on one hand the streets are busy and filled with the familiar smells of south east Asia with spices, chaos and Hawker stalls on every corner. On the other hand, there are skyscrapers as far as the eye can see, structures that look like something from the Jetson’s, and just enough hipster eateries and bars to make it feel familiar (or at least in Sydney’s Surry Hills). Plus, they boast some of the cleanest streets you’ll find (no doubt attributed to their no-gum rule) and there’s plenty of shopping - both high end and high street- so there’s plenty do if you visit for business or pleasure. Here’s some of the must-sees.
1 The Knolls Sentosa Island
Located on Sentosa Island, Capella is a genuine oasis amongst the hectic cityscape. Staying here feels like you’re on a deserted tropical island - yet you’re still only around 20 minutes drive from the city. The hotel is part of the Leading Hotels of the World luxury group, and definitely lives up to the hype. Set on a cool 30 acres (gigantic by Singaporean standards), yet there are only 112 rooms, so it still feels like a resort, but with out the high-rise apartment feel.
A perfect example of Singaporean history, reception is house in an original British colonial building, with architecturally-designed guest rooms (reminiscent of the modern city) that face views of rainforest and ocean at the rear.
To add to the luxury feel, personal assistants contact you before your stay to take any requests, and also tend to your needs when there – not that you’ll need it, you’ll be too busy relaxing. Oh, and the piece de resistance for the beauty editor in me was the Aesop product in the bathroom. Just yes.
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice
Stall No. 10/11 Maxwell Food Centre
Sure, Singapore is full of posh places to eat, and while it’s easy to drop a couple hundred at a fine dining eatery, you can do that at home. Instead, do as the locals do and eat at a local Hawker Centre. Singapore is famous for its Hainanese Chicken Rice and Tian Tian is the place to eat it. At any time of day you’ll see lines weaving around this stall as locals, students and tourists alike wait patiently for their chicken fix. As simple as it is (literally rice, chicken and some sauce) you’ll understand what the fuss is about when you try. And at around $4 a dish, it makes lining up for an overpriced burger seem just plain ridiculous.
If you want to splash out head to a restaurant that serves the iconic Singapore Chilli Crab. It’ll set you back around $130 and although is delicious, wearing white (or any clothing that possesses a care label) is not recommended - trust me. As a rookie chilli-crab eater, I ended up with equal amounts on my dress and in my stomach.
9 Yong Siak Street
As much as I love a new handbag, it’s treasures like finding this quirky little bookstore that really make shopping gun. It’s the kind of store bibliophiles dream of, with book porn – in limited editions, pretty hardcovers and more – as far as the eye can see.
While you’re on the street you can also check out Nana and Bird for a fashion hit – they stock local and international designers, plus treat yo’self to a cupcake at Plain Vanilla Bakery. After all, you had to walk to get there.
For more on the clothes front try Haji Lane for a mix of local designers and vintage, or Orchard Central – a mall with all the usual suspects (designer and high street).
Chye Seng Huat Hardware
150 Tyrwhitt Road
One Singapore’s greatest surprises was that finding decent coffee didn’t require intensive PI work. One of my favourite finds was Chye Seng Huat Hardware, which from the outside looks like a defunct hardwarde store, but inside houses some great coffee, specialty brews and delicious treats like banana bread with espresso butter. On one side of the café there is also a local craft market, and on the other a boutique brewery, so it’s definitely got a touch of hipster, but hey, when the coffee is good…
Full disclosure: as a beauty editor I can’t visit a city without treating myself to a luxe spa treatment. In fact, before I’d even booked my accommodation, I knew I wanted to visit Auriga spa, and I’d already chosen my treatment - the lunar cycle massage which changes according to the moon cycle.
The theory is that your body has different needs according to the moon phase when you visit. So, at the beginning of the month (the new moon, when I visited) it’s time for renewal, to set new goals and feel invigorated. I’ve had many treatments during my time in beauty (one of those *terrible* hazards of the job) but this was nothing short of incredible. From the facilities (there’s a steam room to detoxify prior, a plunge pool and a relaxation room with snacks to finish) to the service, everything was next-level luxury.
And the massage itself was so thoroughly relaxing from start to finish that my boyfriend actually fell asleep (snores and all) during it.
Potato Head Folk
36 Keong Saik Road
The younger cousin to Bali’s mammoth beach club (Potato Head) this three level bar is set in an iconic Singaporean building. With a quirky interior of illustrated walls (courtesy of a collab with Aussie David Bromley), you can get food on levels one and two, but the rooftop bar is definitely where you want to be at night for a delicious cocktail, people watching and fun, yet relaxed vibe (and also to escape the stifling humidity).