is a nearly inevitable stop for anyone doing business in Southeast Asia. Executive
travellers come to this tiny city-state from across the globe, attracted by
opportunities in its biggest industries, including shipping, banking, trading,
oil and gas, and increasingly, tourism.
last few years, Singapore has successfully shed its image as “Singabore” – a
bland stopover city – by adding two gigantic and hugely popular “integrated
resorts”, the bureaucratic name for the government-controlled casino developments
Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa. These two casino resorts contribute
nearly 1.5% of Singapore’s gross domestic product, and along with casinos come
luxury hotels, new dining and entertainment options, and millions of new
passenger arrivals at Singapore’s Changi Airport hit a record 51.2 million in 2012, up
10% from 2011, and in the city, there are at least six new hotels slated to
open in 2013, including the 301-room Westin Singapore and the 134-room Sofitel So. Changi is home base for Singapore Airlines – known for its attentive service and well-appointed cabins – which
hauls in visitors in droves. Singapore Airlines carried 18 million passengers
in 2012, up from 16.9 million in 2011. With a nod to the budget-focussed business
traveller, in 2012 Singapore Airlines launched Scoot, a
low-fare subsidiary focussed on routes between Asian and Australian cities.
of Singapore is small – just 49km by 25km – and sits at the southern tip of the
Malay Peninsula, the southernmost point of continental Asia. Singapore’s
commercial centre, known as the Central Business District (CBD), is located on
the southern side of the island, but the 2010 addition of the enormous Marina
Bay Sands complex (built on reclaimed land), has meant that the city centre has
shifted east, with Marina Bay acting as its focus.
Singapore is well-known for being home to some of the world’s most top-notch,
well-groomed business hotels. The 747-room Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, located on a sprawling 15-acre
compound on the western edge of the CBD, is a legendary stop for diplomats,
CEOs and celebs escaping the bustle of the city. Ask for a room in the hotel’s
low-slung garden wing, which emerged from a 68-million Singapore dollar renovation
pleasing dose of colonial-era luxury and space-age design, check into the
112-room Capella Singapore, located just south of the CBD on
Sentosa Island. Architect Sir Norman Foster elegantly combined a refurbished British-era
military structure surrounded by
manicured green lawns with curved, metal-clad modern hotel buildings and villas
that tumble down a hillside to the South China Sea. Even if you are not staying
here, it is worth the cab ride from town just to see it, or to enjoy the
hotel’s Cuban-themed Bob’s Bar at sunset.
hoping for better views of the city and bay should consider the cluster of
elegant hotel high-rises on the northern end of Marina Bay. There is the
790-room Pan Pacific Singapore, which emerged from a five-month
renovation last September; the 608-room Ritz-Carlton, Millennia Singapore, known for its decadent club level;
and the 527-room Mandarin Oriental, which has dramatic
367-room Parkroyal on Pickering, which opened in January, is draped
in layers of lush greenery that cascade from garden and pool terraces at
various levels of the 16-storey building, creating a striking, contoured rice
paddy-like exterior. Located between the skyscrapers of Raffles Place and the Chinatown
district, the hotel’s rooms feature pickled wood panelling and floors, and
sinks and tubs made with a composite of recycled stone and glass. Book an
Orchid Club room for helpful extras including complimentary laundry or
pressing, a hot breakfast buffet and evening cocktails in the handsome 16th-storey
Asia-meets-Las Vegas at the enormous, eye-catching and now iconic 2,561-room Marina Bay Sands on the eastern edge of the CBD. On top of three 55-storey hotel
towers sits the famous Sands SkyPark complex, with a stunning 150m infinity
pool, the uber-hot Ku De Ta restaurant and bar, and a huge observation deck.
While vacationers are there to shop or gamble, business travellers will likely have
meetings at the adjacent Sands Expo and Convention Center – the city’s largest, with a
capacity for up to 45,000 people. Convention-goers hoping to stay at Marina Bay
Sands should book early – the hotel regularly runs at 90% to 100% occupancy.
art-and-design focussed, 240-room W Singapore Sentosa Cove opened in September 2012 on a
Mediterranean-style marina at the southern end of Sentosa Island. While the
hotel has a distinct resort feel with a palm-fringed pool enclave, a DJ-hosted
lobby bar, casual open-kitchen restaurants and a yacht-filled harbour, it is
only about 13km from the CBD by cab – or via one of the hotel’s Audi, Porsche
or BMW sedans. In mid-April, the W will be the best place to see some of the world’s
largest yachts during the annual Singapore Yacht Show.
Vegas, the buzzy atmosphere and crowds at the Marina Bay Sands complex have attracted
a globetrotting cadre of celebrity chefs eager for outposts in the fast-growing
Asia market. Some of the complex’s hottest tables are at Cut (steaks/chops by Wolfgang Puck), db Bistro Moderne (French/American fare by Daniel Boulud), Guy Savoy (French nouvelle cuisine), Osteria Mozza (Italian by Mario Batali) and Waku Ghin (Japanese fusion by Tetsuya Wakuda).
the buzz of the casinos, enjoy the sunny flavours of the French Mediterranean at
the intimate 30-seat Restaurant Andre near Chinatown, named for
chef/owner Andre Chiang, who trained under such masters as Joel Robuchon and
Pierre Gagnaire. Chiang changes the menu frequently and sources ingredients
from around the world, shaping them into small, intensely flavoured,
meticulously presented dishes such scallop carpaccio or foie gras jelly.
super-trendy Pollen Street Social restaurant has opened its
first Asian outpost, Pollen, in a bright, modern space inside one of two
conservatories at the new Gardens by the Bay park. Inside the giant glass dome,
diners escape Singapore’s heat and humidity, eating among olive trees, and
enjoying dishes created by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton that are
seasoned with temperate climate herbs grown inside the dome.
upscale Vietnamese food in a setting reminiscent of the French colonial era (think
arched windows, wood floor inlaid with hand painted tiles, wooden chairs) at Annam in the Orchard Road area. Exotic fare includes
dishes like thit kho (pork and eggs
poached in coconut water and caramel) or bun
bo Hue (a piquant bowl of noodles flavoured with beef and pork).
Off the clock
break from the air-conditioned hotel or office and check out the new Gardens by the Bay. The 101-hectare park to the east of the
Marina Bay Sands complex is home to some 250,000-plant species – most are
native to the region, but two glass-enclosed, cooled conservatories (the
“flower dome” and the “cloud forest”) host plants from more temperate regions
of the world. There is also a grove of 25m to 50m-high metal structures called
Skytrees, from which vertical gardens of ferns, orchids, bromeliads and other
tropical plants hang. The cooled conservatories are open until 9 pm; the free outdoor
gardens stay open until 2 am, every day.
decide to invite your Singaporean colleagues out for a night of gambling at the
local casinos, keep in mind that citizens and permanent residents must pay a levy of 100 Singapore dollars to enter. Visitors with passports can
enter for free.
food is a combination of flavours and ingredients from China, Malaysia and
India. Signature dishes include chilli or pepper crab, satay, chicken rice,
laksa (soup) and fish head curry. When local clients or colleagues ask where
you would like to eat in this food-obsessed city, forget the fancy restaurants
and go with them to their favourite hawker (street food) stall. There are
hundreds of these hawker stalls in hawker centres (or food courts) all over Singapore
– some are great, some are good, some should be avoided. If you cannot get a good
recommendation from a local, check out Gluttons Bay near the esplanade on the northern edge of
Marina Bay. Local food critic KF Seetoh has handpicked the best purveyors at
this hawker centre in his popular Makansutra Guides.
Don't do this
equatorial location magnifies the heat and humidity, and after anything more
than a 10-minute walk, that sharp look you started out with will end up looking
wilted and damp. So do not walk from your hotel to your office on the morning
of your first meeting or big presentation. Take a taxi instead – they are
plentiful, relatively cheap and thankfully air conditioned.