MOD­ERN HER­ITAGE

The Lion City is in a con­stant state of rein­ven­tion. Diana Plater ex­pe­ri­ences its ever evolv­ing cul­ture and nightlife with a stay at the newly trans­formed In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal Sin­ga­pore.

Signature Travel & Lifestyle - - Travel & Style -

Ho­tel In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal Sin­ga­pore Room Deluxe Room Date March 2016 Best for A cul­ture-in­fused re­treat in the heart of the city.

The Per­anakan peo­ple are the de­scen­dants of early Straits Chi­nese traders who set­tled in and around Sin­ga­pore, mar­ry­ing Malay women and adopt­ing the lo­cal cus­toms and tra­di­tions. They cre­ated a unique hy­brid cul­ture that has had a huge in­flu­ence on mod­ern Sin­ga­pore, with de­scen­dants in­clud­ing the coun­try’s first prime min­is­ter, Lee Kuan Yew, and his wife, Kwa Geok Choo.

As well as be­ing highly cre­ative, they are known as hos­pitable peo­ple. So in this spirit, when you ar­rive at the In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal Sin­ga­pore, you are ush­ered into the Concierge Lounge, dec­o­rated as if it is a liv­ing room.

Two large shelves con­tain a jum­ble of colour­ful items, spe­cially se­lected to rep­re­sent the city’s mix of cul­ture, par­tic­u­larly around the ho­tel’s neigh­bour­hood: the bustling shop­ping streets of Bugis and Bras Basah, close to Arab Street and Kam­pong Glam.

They in­clude Per­anakan – or Ny­onya ware – porce­lain food con­tain­ers with bright blue, pink and yel­low tra­di­tional prints of phoenixes and pe­onies, used to serve de­li­cious “sweet and sour” dishes. I fall in love with this gor­geous porce­lain, which is dot­ted through­out the ho­tel, with re­pro­duc­tions used as soap hold­ers in the bath­rooms. An el­e­gant trans­for­ma­tion The ho­tel’s façade is based on colour­ful two- to three-storey “shop­houses”, where the shop was down­stairs and the fam­ily lived up­stairs. There are still around 6000 left in a city that val­ues its rich her­itage.

The aim of the 1995 ho­tel’s re­cent multi-mil­lion-dol­lar re­fur­bish­ment was to keep the feel of the ho­tel res­i­den­tial. This in­cludes a stun­ning makeover of the Lobby Lounge, ho­tel lobby, tower guest rooms and suites and fit­ness cen­tre.

With white walls fea­tur­ing blue and gold trim­mings, my Deluxe Room in the main tower is pretty and bright, with mo­tifs on the head­boards above the beds, mir­rors and air-con­di­tion­ing vents mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tions of Per­anakan de­signs.

Other de­sign el­e­ments take from Sin­ga­pore’s Chi­nese and Bri­tish Colo­nial cul­tures. For ex­am­ple, the Lobby Lounge, where we sip tea and nib­ble on tiers of cakes, scones and sand­wiches dur­ing High Tea, cap­tures old English grandeur with enor­mous chan­de­liers and tow­er­ing colo­nial pil­lars.

Her­itage and evo­lu­tion To learn more of Sin­ga­porean cul­ture, I visit the Per­anakan Mu­seum nearby and speak to one of the guides, who still owns a pair of tra­di­tional beaded slip­pers made by her grand­mother. At True Blue Cui­sine, wait­ress Dorothy Tan ex­plains the un­usual menu – a blend of Chi­nese, Malay, In­dian, Thai, In­done­sian and Euro­pean in­gre­di­ents and method – while we sip lon­gan and red date tea.

On Satur­day af­ter­noons, the ho­tel of­fers a free guided her­itage tour and we set off to ex­plore the once no­to­ri­ous Bugis Street area. Like the new Na­tional Gallery, which fo­cuses on South­east Asian art, we ex­pe­ri­ence a flavour of Sin­ga­pore’s trans­for­ma­tion.

The city’s nightlife and bar scene is al­ways evolv­ing, so we ex­plore some of the new­est places. Din­ner is at Bird Bird, a Thai chicken eatery owned by lo­cal Bjorn Shen. Just around the corner from lively Club Street, we sam­ple the un­usual cock­tails at Op­er­a­tion Dag­ger. You have to be in the know to find the base­ment bar, which dis­plays no signs. An­other nifty nightlife place is The Li­brary in Keong Saik Road, which is hid­den be­hind a mir­ror and re­quires a pass­word to get in. Cock­tail con­tain­ers range from bath­tubs to rub­ber ducks! If you pre­fer rooftop bars with spec­tac­u­lar views, there are many to choose from in­clud­ing 1-Al­ti­tude, Kinki, Lantern Bar and Smoke and Mir­rors.

I have to say I pre­fer rooftops for swim­ming. On a Sun­day morn­ing as I do laps in the In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal’s rooftop pool, the church bells of St Joseph’s toll, re­mind­ing me yet again that Sin­ga­pore is the epit­ome of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.

Travel file In­for­ma­tion www.yoursin­ga­pore.com Get­ting there www.sin­ga­pore­air.com Ac­com­mo­da­tion www.in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal.com/sin­ga­pore

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