Sin­ga­pore chic awaits in the wings

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - AT THE INN Susan Kuro­sawa

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

Check­list

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

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