Singapore — the Lion City — as I step off the plane the full force of the heat and humidity hits me like a freight train. Yet, the feeling isn’t stifling — it’s comforting.
Singapore Changi Airport is one of the world’s most inviting, and most high tech. Multiple departure lounges and frequent flyer clubs offer luxury waiting-for-a-flight experiences — but I’m not here to talk about the airport.
Singapore is one of my favourite cities, it’s high tech, it’s clean, it’s got style and culture.
One of Asia’s melting pots, the city is home to those of Chinese descent, Malay heritage and, of course, those hailing from the Indian subcontinent as well — all whose descendants came here to make a go of life in this international city. Not to mention the significant group of Westerners who have decided to call this Asian financial powerhouse their home.
The result is a mash-up of culture that inspires some of the most interesting conversations, communities and politics anywhere on Earth — not to mention an amazing cuisine that will leave tastebuds crying out for more.
It’s time to get in on the all of action Singapore has to offer. The first choice I have is how to get downtown? Will I take a cab or will I do as the locals do and ride the MTR through the city to the glimmering streets of downtown Singapore?
I chose the latter. Singapore’s light rail rivals that of any European country, however, I fail to take into account one thing — it is 9 am on a weekday, the perfect time to experience the commuter crush. The trains are packed — although it’s nothing a Londoner or New Yorker would think twice about.
It is hot — ‘maybe I should have taken the cab?’ passes quickly through my mind, however, the people-watching here makes the journey worth it. Stylish professionals make up the majority of the commuter crowd and everyone is chatting and sipping coffee — or chai — as they prepare for a day in the office.
Signs on the wall inform me that there is no Durian — the pungent Southeast Asian fruit that has the ability to turn stomachs for the uninitiated — is allowed on the train, I’m thankful for that.
After quickly walking between trains, I finally reach my stop — Bayfront. In front of me is my first destination in the city — the majestic Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Anyone who has seen Singapore’s skyline will instantly recognise the unique building.
Three sleek towers act as Atlas, holding up not the world, but a truly massive ship high above the skyline. Architect Moshe Safdie designed this marvel of engineering which some might call mad — but which I call genius.
Of course, I’ll be staying here for the evening — after I retire from a long day of exploring Singapore’s sights. The wait at reception is non-existent and I am whisked towards my room.
I find a simple yet elegant room — bright and airy with marble bathroom fixtures and a long wooden desk. The view is the high note here — a fortieth-story window overlooking the harbour.
I head upstairs to the famed Marina Bay Sands infinity pool on the roof — well, the deck of the ship, that is. You need your room key to enter, and the views of the Singaporean skyline are nigh indescribable.
After a quick dip in the somewhat-vertigo-inducing pool and a quick nip down to my room to get changed I wonder to myself — is it too early for a cocktail? Surely not, it’s afternoon.
Here, I am incredibly happy the devil on my shoulder won out as I sip my Singapore Sling — yes, I am that cheesy — sitting in Ce La Vi Restaurant. The gentle buzz of the cocktail bar and restaurant as I gaze across the city’s skyline does it for me. I’ve already fallen in love with Singapore and I’ve only just arrived. Ce la vie indeed.
I decide I better depart before I spend the rest of my day here. In an attempt to walk off the alcohol, I head for Singapore’s famed Botanical Gardens. I decide to take a cab this time — did I mention it’s hot?
The gardens are exceptional. Thousands of orchids and other flowers adorn the massive — albeit strange — structures towering above. Just like Marina Bay Sands, you would recognise these monoliths if you saw one. Also, like Marina Bay Sands, you can head up the structures — offering views of the city and the surrounding gardens.
As I sit in the shade wondering what they are for, I begin to get sleepy in the afternoon heat — time to move again.
The next stop on my journey is Orchard Road — Singapore’s bustling shopping district. It is not far from the gardens and when I reach it — I am sure that I’ve reached the heart of the world.
Bustling is an understatement — this neighbourhood is alive with shoppers from all walks of life creating a living, breathing fabric on this 2-kilometre stretch.
I nip in and out of glittering complexes like ION Orchard and Paragon — mostly window shopping although I did pick up a pair of Ray-Bans to replace the ones, I had unwitting left behind in my London flat.
Big names in luxury like Gucci, Armani and A. Lange & Sohne — to name just a few — are the draw here. If you’re looking to do some shopping in The Lion City, this is the place.
Orchard Road isn’t just luxury shops — although there are plenty — hawkers selling all kinds of goods and clothes at street level are sure to arouse the interests of bargain shoppers and I stop at a few small bars and cafés for a cheeky Tiger Beer and a bite of the local cuisine.
By now it’s getting late — the sun is still high but I’m beginning to think about my evening. To start, I want to head to Singapore’s famed ‘Little India’ or ‘Tekka’ as the locals say. I head to Serangoon Road to see what the fuss is all about.
I am not disappointed — I am transported out of Southeast Asia and onto the Indian subcontinent. Hindu Temples tower around me, Mosques let out the Muezzin call to 5 o’clock prayer.
Although the day is winding down, the city never sleeps. I pick through markets full of produce, clothing and other trinkets. Cafes sell classic Indian Chai with samosas on the side. As an unabashed Indophile — I feel right at home.
I’ve crossed the city at this point, I can’t help but wonder what views the Marina Bay Sands will offer me as I sip cocktails overlooking the city lights of late-night Singapore.
Arriving back at where my day began, I don some more appropriate attire and head up to the Spago Dining Room on level 57 of Marina Bay Sands.
The restaurant by Wolfgang Puck serves seasonal California cuisine with ‘global accents.’ After debating whether to get lobster or steak, I settle on the latter. Perfectly cooked with fingerling potatoes and a Bordelaise Sauce, I could not have been happier with the meal.
The restaurant has a fairly extensive wine menu to pair with whatever dish you’ve decided to have for dinner.
After dinner I head out to the alfresco bar overlooking the infinity pool where I had my dip earlier — this is the life.
I contemplate the hours spent walking, shopping and eating my way through this truly majestic city — all the while bright lights of downtown Singapore dance across my horizon. As the night slips by I realise it is time to retire and end my perfect day in the Lion City. As I head to my room I wonder — what will Singapore have on offer for tomorrow?