So Slinky in Singapore
19th Sep 2008
But it’s here now and with the addition of two gigantic upside-down wicker baskets that serve as the performing arts centre, Singapore is a very modern, attractive place filled with culture and vibrancy, if still a bit humid in the afternoons. Which makes it in local lingo, totally perfect-lah!
So people are flocking in, everyone has a bit of business to do in this hub for technology and media as well as spiritual home of the rice noodle.
nice flowersSure, it’s been called an authoritarian state with little hope for democracy, but in defence of the super-state, please note that chewing gum is now legal under certain guidelines. On arrival, the benefits of a two-person-planning commission are in evidence: Singapore’s Changi airport is so nice and fun to hang out in that it belies its true use. Of particular note are the occasional DHL men who set up shop near the duty-free area. It is actually possible to do your shopping, from Lacoste to laptop, pack, ship, and send everything home. That’s power shopping, the Singapore way. After customs, you’ll see the orchid sellers before you get to the taxi queue. Then a taxi will whisk you away at exactly the speed limit (not over, not under), down a beautiful highway lined with palms and exotic flowers evenly spaced to eternity for exactly S$35 or so. Ahhh, central planning-lah!.
off to sleepThere are many nice hotels, and tourism is probably the biggest industry after park maintenance and power-shopping. Nothing quite beats slipping into the octagon tubs at the Ritz Carlton Singapore and melting away as you look like a young prince out over the city at twilight. So high up, and with a beautiful view from any room, the Ritz Carlton Singapore is still the power spot in town even after the boutique boom and the renovations at the Westin and all that. Laps in the pool are nice too, a waterfall sprinkling gently at your heels.
If you are looking for a hotel with a fun scene, and you don't mind a bit of a hike over to Chinatown, The Scarlet Hotel offers plush rooms and a happening scene. This small boutique hotel is in a series of row houses and has a charming feel to it uncommon among the city's big hotels. Still on the hot scale is The Fullerton, which has a lively bar in the lobby and is located across from a few cool night-spots along the harbour. However, if you stay here, it is imperative to insist on an outward facing room, as the ones facing inward are like coffins. Meanwhile, you only need to hit the Raffles for a drink, if.
There are four things to do in Singapore, in any order:
1. Iced Javanese mocha from any Coffee Bean,
2. Iced tea at the Raffles Center, after you've been shopping for discounted digital equipment,
3. A glass of Sancerre with ice as you sit with your client at an outdoor café in the Esplanade, laughing at how easy the media buy was,
4. Iced Mojitos at Thumper once you realize your competitors undercut you on the reverse auction SMS bid that went out while you were at the Esplanade.
All this iced drink drinking is because Singapore is very hot, and after walking approximately seven steps your kidneys will fall out from overwork because you have already sweated out seven gallons of iced tea. Once you are hydrated, it pays to eat, and Singapore has a lot to offer. The international food is okay, but what could be more fun than sitting on a plastic stool in a hawker market? Clarke Quay has the best satay in the city, and there’s quite a scene at the old Victorian Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre, near Raffles Place. Many stalls are open until very late. After your Malacca red curry noodles, try some fruit desert with glass jelly and wash it all down with a chrysanthemum juice – the latter not for the faint-hearted.
Should you require something a bit more sophisticated than a plastic spoon and service with a toothy smile, try a business lunch at Mezza9 at the Grand Hyatt. It features very crunchy bread sticks with vaguely authentic Italian food in a nice decor. Or go at night when Mezza9 turns into Singapore's premier martini bar. Also in the evening try the areas around Little India and Beach Road for great drop-in places—there are so many good ones because the city is rather divided into culinary districts, and these reflect the multi-ethnic flavour of the city.
One thing about living in a tropical city-state with a young population dying for some great beats is that an interesting club scene has developed. The ‘Sing & Bore’ karaoke nights have been replaced with an internationally recognized line up of DJs and venues that beat almost any place in Asia for innovation and a cool scene. Zouk remains a perennial choice and Thumper is one of the places of the moment and featuring a smoke-free zone. We hear the acid jazz is good.
Another option is One Rochester, which features as a bit of a hike from the centre areas but makes up for it with its beautiful setting inside a colonial house and adjacent park. Guests hang out in beautiful gardens, and it is appropriate for breakfast, daytime or evening as a destination.
It's hard not to take pictures in Singapore as its such a beautiful city, if only to e-mail them to the urban planners in your home country crying “see what you could have done!” But life is a trade; perfect cities like Singapore can’t last forever. One of these days a flower will wilt, some gum will get left on the sidewalk, and it will be all over. That still may not be for a while, but go now.