Singapore chic awaits in the wings
IT feels like a resort. The pool is lagoon-like, the 6ha grounds are thick with the standard-bearers for the tropics: heliconia, frangipani, torch-ginger, bougainvillea in pinky pastels and fiery purples, fruit trees in such immense numbers they form a mini-orchard and groves of fanshaped palms and bamboo. Gardeners conduct tours for guests, everyone ambling around as if on a nature walk.
The Shangri-La Singapore is no runof-the-block city hotel; it has the tucked-away feel of an oasis, and accommodation wings named Garden and Valley. VIPs and heads of state choose the Valley Wing, with its dedicated entrance and hushed service, as the perfect hideaway from crowds and cameras.
A 2003 overhaul of the Valley Wing, which opened in 1985, has made this accommodation arguably the best in Singapore. Certainly you’d journey a long way to find more spacious and meticulously detailed guestrooms and a higher level of care and service from staff.
There are 131 rooms— said to be Singapore’s largest — in this exclusive enclave, each with a classic European manor feel, all Queen Anne chairs and Wedgwood china, the scene embellished with oriental art and including welcome touches such as jasmine tea served on arrival, the pot left to stay warm in a cane basket. Personalised stationery, in-room fax machine, laptop and printer (for guests booked into suites), a range of newspapers and magazines: maybe there’s no need to leave the room. All a bit reminiscent of those signs years ago on the inside of guest doors at the unreconstituted Raffles: ‘‘ While at Raffles, why not visit Singapore?’’
The bathrooms are layered with comforts, too, even down to a pack for ‘‘ lady guests’’ with pantihose, nailcare bits and bobs, and a headband, plus Bulgari and Shangri-La housebrand toiletries. The shower dumps water like equatorial rainstorms; there is mood lighting, a television by the bath and a remote control in a bespoke plastic pouch.
In the spirit of oasis, the world outside seems out of reach. Even the food here is good enough to encourage a happy exile: Nadaman for classy Japanese; Blu on level 24 of the adjoining Tower Wing for a Blutini with a stirring view; orange-accented indoor-outdoor Line for fab cook-toorder buffets that make any ordinary smorgasbord spread look about as appetising as the cafeteria in TheBill .
And so the concierge has to force me out. Selected treats await in the nearby shopping hub of Orchard Road. At the front desk’s suggestion, I head for All Dressed Up (Mandarin Gallery, ground floor, 333 Orchard Rd), a showcase for Singaporean designer Tina Tan-Leo, where the look this season is the New Gatsby (polo shirts, culottes, flouncy skirts with maxi pockets, tiny cotton cardigans with big buttons).
On the diagonally opposite corner of Orchard Road, in the Paragon Shopping Centre, is the Bagbar where ladies who lunch (and spend) are sitting up at a counter as if being served cocktails: the delicious goodies, however, are sparkle-andbling bags by Chloe and Judith Leiber. At this point, knowing I amout of my league, I head up to Marks and Spencer on level three to stock up on serviceable underwear and economypack bath gels.
Back to the 10m-high Valley Wing’s Carrara marble lobby — the aura of a
The Shangri-La Singapore, Orange Grove Road, Singapore. +65 6213 4190; www.shangri-la.com. Tariff: Check website for best seasonal deals, especially weekends. Rooms in the Tower and Garden wings are cheaper. Getting there: Qantas to Singapore (check www.qantas.com.au for Global Deals specials to Singapore; book and pay by August 25). About 25 minutes from Changi airport. Checking in: The glitz and famous (the Beckhams), royal personages and world leaders such as Prime Minister John Howard. Some guests combine a stay with Shangri-La’s Sentosa Resort on Sentosa Island. (Tip for best eating on the island: the super-chic Il Lido in the Sentosa Golf Club; www.il-lido.com.) Bedtime reading: Ask your butler for a copy of James Hilton’s tale of fabled Shangri-La, LostHorizon . Stepping out: Close to central business district and Orchard Road shops (shuttle bus available). Brickbats: Over-eager butler service can seem a bit intrusive. An in-room bath menu (say, a rose and lavenderscented Lady’s Retreat, drawn by the butler) seems a bit too swank for most guests. Bouquets: Pillow menu; Egyptian cotton sheets; all-day drinks and canapes in the lobby. Regular guests are provided with monogrammed bathrobe and pillowcases.
Class of its own: A Valley Wing suite at the Shangri-La in Singapore