My article and photos about the beautiful city-state of Singapore in February's issue of Nihao, the in-flight magazine of China Southern Airlines.
Located right in the heart of Singapore, close to Clarke Quay, Hotel Clover of the Arts is a nice luxurious boutique hotel designed for the discerning traveller. Clean, neat and quiet, each of the hotel's tiny yet cosy rooms contain all the creature comforts that one may require (dove-feature ultra-comfortable duvet and pillows, hot rain-forest shower, complimentary breakfast and in-rom minibar, iron & board, safe box, free fast & reliable wi-fi and a very helpful and friendly staff). Highly recommended. Perfect for families, couples or business travellers.
Singapore (and Sentosa Island in the background) as seen from around 4,000 ft....night shots from a plane moving at 250 knots and taken through a triple-glazed window is not easy...I'm sure someone else can do a better job then I- my hats off to them....in this photo you can clearly see Marina Bay Sands too...
My latest article for Skylife, the in-flight magazine for THY Turkish Airlines. Click here for the link.
Of course, Singapore is full of gastronomic delights, but there is one place I found that will fulfil any food wish. Sky on 57, the signature restaurant at Singapore’ Marina Bay Sands, is no hidden art of Singaporean cuisine, yet it does not fail when it comes to the challenge of presenting the ultimate gastronomic journey. The eatery is the culinary home to celebrity chef Justin Quek's modern interpretation of Franco Asian cuisine and has a skilfully designed interior oozing an elegant ambiance. I was on a hectic and tight press trip, and with only around an hour to cover what this hyped restaurant has to offer, I had definitely presented their team a challenge to create the dishes as quickly as possible and with the full-on high quality that they are renowned for.
The 12,000 sq ft eatery has a main dining area, private dining rooms, a bar, lounge and an outdoor terrace. The restaurant delivers one of Singapore’s most sought-after dining experiences. The views are equally stunning, facing out to the sea, though not sure if you would want to gaze upon the endless number of freight ships that lie dormant in the calm and clear waters in the distance. Light-filled and family-friendly, the restaurant and its cuisine are sea-inspired, created with a blend of French, Cantonese and other Asian tastes in mind. Make sure you try the ‘Crispy Scale Coral Cod'.
It is chef Quek’s belief that ecologically friendly farming results in better-tasting food and drinks. On the whole, I would say that this is a place that provides great food, great staff and amazing natural beauty. The restaurant is so popular that hotel guests make a booking before they check-in.
With adventurous days, glamorous nights, and a rich and diverse culture which brings the best of Indian, Malay, Chinese and British colonial history, Singapore offers everything from scuba diving at Sentosa Island to historical parks and some of the world’s best high-end eateries. Located within all this hype on Scotts Road, and a stone throw’s away from the world renowned Orchard Road, is the multi- award-winning Grand Hyatt Singapore.
With tasteful luxury, premier service and all that this tiny city-state has to offer, the Grand Hyatt Singapore, complete with its 677 luxury rooms and suites, is one of its kind. The first thing that hits you as you enter the lobby of the hotel is how remarkably generously spaced it is. The lobby itself feels like a spacious art gallery, except that there are no paintings on the walls but plenty of shops selling all kinds of designer fanfare. The hotel’s lobby and immediate exterior gives the visitor a chance to engage themselves with the hustle & bustle of the local area.
The hotel’s guestrooms and suites are some of the most spacious accommodations in Singapore, giving guests plenty of peace and privacy in which to unwind. All the rooms are beautifully designed with every detail crafted by expert hands and are conveniently fitted with every modern creature-comforts required for a stay that gives you a complete peace of mind, such as generous work desks, luxurious beds and elegant baths. Amenities are provided by June Jacobs. The hotel’s Grand Club® Rooms & Lounge are creatively put together with the business traveller in mind. If you are a busy professional who wants to get some work done efficiently and without any interruptions and want to have a good rest to recharge the body before another busy day at work, then the Club rooms are perfect for you.
If you are looking for an authentic Singaporean experience but still want high-end luxury, this is your place. After walking around Singapore the whole day, or even after a long day at a business meeting, it’s nice to come back to the tranquil settings, have a swim at the free form swimming pool...or enjoy a soothing treatment to put your senses at ease at the secluded Damai Spa, Singapore, which comes with a fully equipped 24-hour gym. Of course, one of the aims of travel is to make you happy and feel rejuvenated from the pressures of daily life in your own backyard. But there is a fleeting oh-this-is-fun and then there is a deeper, Zen-happy. In Singapore, and especially at the Grand Hyatt Singapore, you can appreciate both.
Guests are spoiled when it comes to wine and dine. There are seven dining venues, offering buffet or a la carte choices. The menu focuses on garden-fresh produce, local seafood (especially at the Starits kitchen), and the finest imported meats, used to create a fusion of international and Singaporean dishes. I was most impressed with the cosy surroundings of the glass enclosed ‘martini bar’ located behind the well-popular mezza9 restaurant on the 2nd floor. It can be consider a place to unwind with a distinctly vivacious vibe. In other words, it’s the kind of place where you can just while away the evening with a classy homemade martini in the company of good friends. There are over 30 specially martinis to choose from. Don’t leave without trying their signature Asian-inspired drink, the Lychee martini.
For a definitive haven of relaxation and indulgence, head to the CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La Hotel and melt away your tensions with their spanking new K-Lift Facial.
If you are in Asia and want to experience what it must have been like to live during the colonial years, then there are some architectural marvels where you can stay and do just that. In Hong Kong, it is the Peninsula Hotel and in Singapore it is without a doubt, the Raffles Hotel.
Contrary to popular belief, the Raffles was not established by the British, but by two Armenian brothers from Persia—Martin and Tigran Sarkies—in 1887. The hotel was later named after the British Statesman who founded the city-state, Sir Stamford Raffles (he also founded London Zoo). Designed by the architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell of Swan and Maclaren, the current main building of Raffles Hotel was completed in 1899. The name Raffles is associated with all things connected with Singapore.
Amidst the high-rise concrete jungle that modern Singapore is, the Raffles Hotel thankfully sticks out like a sore thumb and it is perhaps one of the key places where people can marvel at how great and powerful the British Empire really was back in the days. While the hand-operated punkhas (fans) may have been replaced with modern air-conditioning, the mahogany furniture, glandular ceilings and the grounds are still in tact.
No doubt, this is still the place to see and be seen at, especially for the elite and the A-listers. As I left the Raffles, I noticed that a new high-rise hotel was being built right in front of the main building. While the feeling of sadness conjured up, there was also hope in thinking that thankfully there is only one Raffles Hotel and no one can take away that brand identity from it.
If you’re flying into Singapore it’s great to break the trip with a couple of nights at a stylish boutique hotel. The Quincy Hotel may not be quite as petit as some of the other boutique hotels in the city-state, but with just 108 ultra-comfortable rooms spread on 14 floors, the multi-award winning Quincy is ideal for the savvy business traveller or discerning leisure travellers looking to add a trendy touch to their vacation.
This hotel is in a great location with the Orchard Road MRT station only a few minutes walking distance and close to multiple shopping malls. The Quincy is the perfect place to cool down after a long muggy Singapore afternoon because even though it is located close to the busy Orchard Road, it’s neatly hidden away from the crowds and the noise.
The thing that I found really attractive about the Quincy was the complimentary extras that are provided as part of the hotel room rate. The list of freebies included as part of the room rate seem to be endless: the one-way airport chauffeur pick-up at Changi Airport, daily free 2-piece laundry service, mini-bar re-filled daily, all day dining by Dean & DeLuca and Modesto's, parking for hotel guests, free local calls, unlimited free Wi-fi and evening cocktails for two every day. These complimentary extras are all enough for me to say that I’ll pay to stay here even when I’m not on an official media trip. You end of wishing that every hotel around the world would stick to this business model. Why? Because it works, and the customers appreciate it for the value of money. At the Quincy, you certainly get more than what you pay for.
All of the generously spaced and warmly decorated rooms face the city, as does the open-air swimming pool, sauna and gym on the 12th floor, which is open 24 hours a day (very useful if you are jet-lagged!). The spacious bathroom, complete with a rainforest power shower, is equipped with amenities are provided exclusively by Molton Brown.
Most important of all, I found the hospitality staff is nothing short of extraordinaire in providing customer service that exceeded my expectations. They seem to be around just like they are friends staying at the same house as you, but are forever ready to grab you a glass of wine or present you with whatever you need, with a genuine smile included.
If you are after an air of relaxation, then the Quincy is perfect for those seeking nothing short of intimate surroundings. This is the place to sit back and appreciate the art of doing nothing.
..CLEAN...in fact, this tiny city-state employs specialist cleaners (more than other countries I am told) to keep the streets, parks and all other public areas in an immaculate condition. All aspects of public life here come across as being well organised, efficient, clean and colorful. More importantly people of all different cultures and faiths live in harmony and tolerence with each other.
Both Singapore and Hong Kong are tiny, densely populated , and yet so much full of life; Both of these cities are only three hours away from each by flight time other; are well connected with at least 25 daily flights each way; are home to two of the best International airlines in the world, Cathay Pacific Airways, and Singapore International Airlines; are chosen by many Multinationals as the Headquarters for their Asia Pacific Region operations; and both cities are the financial hubs for many banks and equity firms in the Asia Pacific Region.
For any new western business start up or any business leader, the question is almost always, will it be Singapore or Hong Kong? (Of course, the other major option people have is to set up in mainland China or in Hong Kong- but we'll discuss that some other time!).
I personally believe, and I still stand to this point, that Singapore is somewhat like an “Asia for dummies”.
My experience of living and working in both of these Asian cities as an expat has provided me with a privileged insight into their culture, lifestyle and general nature of doing business or travelling in these cities. Both are unique in their own ways. Hong Kong, with an area of around 1,105 km2 and a population of around 8 million, goes by the slogan "Asia's World City" because of its diverse mix cultures from all around the world. While Singapore, with an area of only 710.2 sq km and a population just under 5 million is equally diverse in terms of cultures, but more concentrated towards Asian cultures (Especially India, China and Malaysia). There are some people who may argue that it is indeed Singapore which should hold the title of "Asia's World City" because of its rich combination of Indian, Chinese and Malay population living side-by-side in harmony with each other. This argument is understandable when one observes that in Hong Kong you won't get a national holiday for Diwali (Hindu festival), Hari Raya (Islamic Festival), or even Vesak Day (Buddhist Festival); but in Singapore you will.
I personally believe, and I still stand to this point, that Singapore is somewhat like an “Asia for dummies”. This is not a criticism about the country but rather an observation. Let me explain: If someone is flying from Europe to, say as an example, Australia or New Zealand, they are more than likely to stop over in either Hong Kong or Singapore (not discounting other Asian destinations of course). Now say that person has never been to other parts of Asia, and if Singapore is their first destination in Asia, they will get to experience some of the places of interests in Singapore, such as Little India, Arab Street and China Town (all of which have the strong ambiance of their respective cultures…so when you are in Little India- it actually feels as if you are in India and not Singapore, and so on). So it will give the visitors a taste of Asian cultures and cities. Singapore (or Singaporeans in general) actually thinks of itself as an island of modernity in a backward part of Asia. This may be true, but it is one of the most modern cities in Asia, and one of the fastest transformations that happened from being a developing country to a developed country all within a space of around 40 years.
There are number of things which single out Singapore from Hong Kong. Singapore is one of the cleanest countries in the world (Chewing gum, smoking, spitting and shouting loudly are just some of the “habits” that are illegal in public places), plus the air is so much cleaner than in Hong Kong (sorry Hong Kongers…its true); its modern and its multi-cultural ambiance where, as an example, Malays happily celebrate Chinese and Indian festivals; and vice-versa. So if you ever want to experience true racial harmony, Singapore is the place for you!
Equally well, there are a number of things which single out Hong Kong from Singapore, such as its vibrant fast pace and strong fusion of Chinese (Cantonese) and English cultures that you won’t see anywhere else in the world. Singapore's strong Chinese culture speaks Mandarin (like elsewhere in the world) with a Hokkien dialect (Fújiànhuà), unlike in Hong Kong where Cantonese is the primary language.
If I was to pick out something unique about Hong Kong, it would most certainly be that Hong Kong seems to have an edge for the manufacturing industry because of its close proximity to China. Most foreign business persons also find the advantage of living in the “International” environment of Hong Kong while having their manufacturing base in Mainland China. There are a number of companies which have moved to Singapore because they see it being cheaper than Hong Kong, but the harsh reality is that Singapore is not a large country, so space is a big problem.
On the whole both Singapore and Hong Kong are beautiful, diverse, full of rich culture, and energetic. If it came to a personal choice, I would say that Hong Kong is a great city to visit, do business in and explore; but it would be Singapore that I would choose to live in. This is because of two reasons: Less Pollution in Singapore (you are bound to see a clear blue sky in Singapore around 80% of the year according to my personal experience, but in Hong Kong that figure may be like 40% of the year); and Singapore is slightly cheaper than Hong Kong in terms of the cost of living.
It comes down to personal choice. In terms of tourism, both Singapore and Hong Kong are incredibly great, and can easily be explored within three to four days (maybe a little longer for Hong Kong). I still miss those days when I used to commute on business between Singapore and Hong Kong on a regular basis. If there was a direct comparison between the two cities to those in the west, I would say that Singapore would the Los Angeles, while Hong Kong would resemble Manhattan, New York. Since 2008 Singapore has been one of the newest venues for the FORMULA 1, with the “SingTel Singapore Grand Prix” being heldat the new Marina Bay Street Circuit, and was also the first night-time event in Formula One history. It would be great fun to see if Hong Kong can also host the Formula 1 championship race. Punters would get the best of both cities. :-)
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