SIN­GA­PORE

Far from just a re­fu­elling point, the city-state is burst­ing with fan­tas­tic food and slick shop­ping. What’s not to love?

Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) - - Escape - By EL­IZA O’HARE

FLY­ING BUSINESS CLASS on Sin­ga­pore Air­lines means both pri­or­ity bag­gage and dis­em­barka­tion, so I am into my wait­ing car in less than 10 min­utes and walk­ing into the re­cep­tion of my ho­tel just 29 min­utes af­ter land­ing; time is of the essence if you’re do­ing Sin­ga­pore for one night only. I have ex­actly one day and one night here — a true stopover, in which I in­tend to cover all the bases. The key to such a short amount of time is to choose two things that mat­ter and let the rest just un­fold. I def­i­nitely need to start with some lo­cal art to un­der­stand a bit about where I am, then I’ll hit a hawker cen­tre to hunt down some Hainanese chicken, a spot of shop­ping will fol­low, and then a Sin­ga­pore sling in the birth­place of the drink. Done.

Sin­ga­pore is a work in progress; my driver, Jonathan, in­forms me that the rate of con­struc­tion here turns it over and makes this a brand new city ev­ery three years. I’m stay­ing at the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Sin­ga­pore Robert­son Quay, a new ho­tel with a warm, invit­ing vibe and tex­tu­ral in­te­ri­ors with touches of cop­per as a nod to the coins lo­cal river traders once used. It’s homey — and home is a big is­sue in Sin­ga­pore.visit prop­er­tyguru.com.sg and you’ll dis­cover that a neat two-bed­room apart­ment runs at about $2 mil­lion.with space at such a pre­mium, it makes sense that my ho­tel room is on the com­pact side. But smart de­sign with floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows, high ceil­ings and a hid­den bath­room make the space feel more gen­er­ous.

The ho­tel is sit­u­ated in a hotspot on the Sin­ga­pore River, which makes walks be­fore sun-up easy. Lo­cated near the equa­tor, Sin­ga­pore

is a dark-morn­ing kind of place; at 7am, the sun is nowhere near the hori­zon, and the time dif­fer­ence means my body is reg­is­ter­ing 10am. But hang­ing in the room isn’t what a week­end in Sin­ga­pore is all about. Se­questered in the same build­ing is the new pri­vate mem­bers’ club 1880. Hard to get into and hugely de­sir­able to be part of, the club is a who’s-who, though man­age­ment stresses that its Mem­ber­ship Com­mit­tee val­ues “char­ac­ter over no­to­ri­ety”.as you step out of the mir­rored es­ca­la­tor tun­nel and through the arched glass doors, you are met by a 1.5-tonne rose quartz crystal. It was shipped from Mada­gas­car and hoisted up the three lev­els to act as the re­cep­tion desk. (Re­port­edly, the crystal’s sis­ter and brother now re­side in the home of Robert Downey Jr.) It’s the first in­di­ca­tor that this place has good vibes — there is def­i­nitely some new-age good­ness (and gen­eral high-end net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties) headed your way at the beauty bar, lounge, Leonie’s restau­rant and cafe-cum-cock­tail-lounge The Dou­ble.

Next stop: Na­tional Gallery Sin­ga­pore, the big­gest per­ma­nent col­lec­tion of Sin­ga­porean and South­east Asian mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art. Housed within two beau­ti­ful colo­nial build­ings, the old Supreme Court and City Hall, the gallery opened in 2015 to share works that span the Malay king­dom, British colo­nial­ism, tra­di­tional life on the river and the bo­hemian wave of the 1930s.while you’re here, try Odette, a two-miche­lin-star restau­rant with a mod­ern French menu — but book be­fore you ar­rive in Sin­ga­pore, as ta­bles are no­to­ri­ously hard to nab. Or go down­stairs and try Na­tional Kitchen, owned and run by star chef Vi­o­let Oon. Hainanese chicken is next on my list, so I head to Tiong Bahru, a neigh­bour­hood that was once in­fa­mous as the lo­ca­tion of choice for wealthy busi­ness­men look­ing to set up their mis­tresses in love shacks, now un­der­go­ing rapid gen­tri­fi­ca­tion. Gourmet stores and spe­cial­ist gela­te­rias sit along­side the most fa­mous hawker cen­tre in Sin­ga­pore. Go here for Hainanese chicken rice.this is demo­cratic eat­ing, with chic lo­cals and tourists all jostling to­gether on plas­tic seat­ing for this Per­anakan del­i­cacy. A quick trip down Or­chard Road is ad­vised — just to check in on tax-free op­por­tu­ni­ties.take your pass­port for Gst-free pur­chases at some high-end stores or a 10 per cent in­ter­na­tional-vis­i­tor dis­count. There’s some­thing very clever about es­tab­lish­ing your­self at a ho­tel that has a great happy hour.af­ter a day in a new city, hav­ing an hour on a rooftop to re­lax into a gin & tonic and a cheese plate is heaven.the Club In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal lounge (ac­ces­si­ble to guests in Club rooms or suites) boasts a pa­tio from which to take in the sun­set and plot din­ner us­ing the nifty Take Me Withyou, a smart­phone loaded with restau­rant and shop­ping tips.the sto­ried Raf­fles Ho­tel is un­der­go­ing a ren­o­va­tion, so my Sin­ga­pore sling is out, but this is a gin town, so a gim­let will do nicely. While Sin­ga­pore is burst­ing with op­tions, it’s com­fort­ing to know I can ven­ture down­stairs for a great din­ner.we eat in Pub­lico Ris­torante and choose the house spe­cial­i­ties: flash-fried cala­mari and cau­li­flower; house-made spaghetti with lob­ster; and a pizza laden with mush­rooms and truf­fles. One of the big­gest trends in Sin­ga­pore’s bar and food scene is trans­formable rooms, a by-prod­uct of the scarcity of space. By day, Pub­lico Deli serves up New York-style Reubens and cof­fee, while at 6pm, a slid­ing par­ti­tion re­veals Mar­cello, an Ital­ian-style speakeasy. By 6.30am, the space has been re­turned to its cheery day­time glory to serve pan­cakes and fruit for break­fast, be­fore my short cab-ride back to the air­port and on­wards with my jour­ney.

Odette at Na­tional Gallery Sin­ga­pore.

In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Sin­ga­pore Robert­son Quay pent­house study. Left: Na­tional Gallery Sin­ga­pore. Above: Pub­lico Ris­torante.

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