Singapore rolls the dice
IN a typically uproarious episode of QI, quizmaster Stephen Fry rolled off the world’s most unlikely threeletter airport codes. Amongthe mix were BUM(Butler, US), FUK(Fukuoka, Japan) and SEX(Sembach, Germany) — all rather childish, really, but it does make methink of SIN (Singapore) and howthe labels on the baggage rotating around the peerlessly organised carousels at Changi airport carry such unlikely promise.
Singapore is not a tawdry place but it’s much more lively than many of us might think. I was there in December for two days and wished I could extend my stay. For a start, there are not enough mealtimes in 48 hours, even when factoring in afternoon tea at Raffles (tiny cakes, scones and fall-of-empire sandwiches).
The two standout meals were at Ryan Clift’s industrial-chic Tippling Club on Dempsey Hill (tricky to find; go for the cocktail pairings) and at Cassia (sensational Chinese fare) at Capella resort on Sentosa.
The new Gardens by the Bay attraction is terrific — get an aerial overview from the SkyPark lookout atop Marina Bay Sands; those futuristic Supertree installations look as if they might just up and march away, like triffids about to take over the whole joint.
Tourism is thriving and fuelled by casino traffic, which pleases meless. Hard to imagine spending a holiday engaged in the risky pursuit of gambling. The Singapore government sanctioned casinos in 2010 and coined the softer term IR —‘‘integrated resorts’’ — to describe such developments; licences have been given to operators (including Marina Bay Sands) that develop parallel attractions such as shops, restaurants and hotels.
While the government makes its citizens and permanent residents pay a casino entry levy of $S100 ($78) a day or $S2000 for an annual pass, visitors are flocking unabated from China and Malaysia . More than 60,000 jobs have been created in the IRs and across the broader economy. Therapists are nowtreating Singaporeans for gambling disorders. Cash registers are ring-a-dinging. Sin city after all, perhaps.