TAST­ING THE HIGH LIFE

A Crazy Rich Asians guide to the Lion City

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - INBOX FORUM - WORDS SANJAY SURANA

On page eight of Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Re­port 2017 is a map of the world with coun­tries shaded in var­i­ous colours to rep­re­sent de­fined eco­nomic strata. Red, sig­ni­fy­ing wealth lev­els of more than US$100,000, is no­table in Asia for its ab­sence, ap­pear­ing only in a hand­ful of dis­tinct ar­eas – Hong Kong, Ja­pan, South Korea, Tai­wan and, if you look re­ally hard, a speck at the bot­tom of Penin­su­lar Malaysia: Sin­ga­pore.

Ac­cord­ing to Credit Suisse’s anal­y­sis, the “Lit­tle Red Dot” ranks ninth glob­ally (and the high­est in Asia) for house­hold wealth per adult. It’s a place that’s f lour­ished through in­dus­try, ship­ping and now fi­nance – a mod­ern econ­omy rolling in money. There are more than 150,000 mil­lion­aires in Sin­ga­pore (in a coun­try of 5.6 mil­lion peo­ple, ap­prox­i­mately ev­ery 37th per­son), and this is pro­jected to rise to 170,000 in 2022. Look­ing at the num­ber of ul­tra-high net worth in­di­vid­u­als – those with as­sets of US$50 mil­lion or more – the to­tal stands at a stag­ger­ing 1,000.

So, it’s no sur­prise that if you want the full Crazy Rich Asians-style ex­pe­ri­ence in Asia, Sin­ga­pore is where to go. For one, the book is largely set here and good chunks of the film were shot around the city-state, so even ca­sual vis­i­tors can ar­range sim­ple, low-thrills ways to re­live mo­ments from the movie. For in­stance, af­ter land­ing at Changi Air­port, where the cou­ple’s ar­rival scene takes place, tourists can en­joy a no-frills meal at New­ton Food Cen­tre (the hawker din­ner in the movie). They can also stroll around Chi­jmes, a for­mer Catholic con­vent where the wed­ding took place, or­der a cof­fee among the shop­houses of Bukit Pa­soh Road, pose by the Mer­lion foun­tain at Mer­lion Park, and ogle the Su­pertrees at Gar­dens by the Bay.

But there are ways to em­u­late the film in a man­ner aligned to its un­in­hib­ited sense of joie de vivre and con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion. In a city where Rolls-Royces, Bent­leys, McLarens, Maser­atis, Fer­raris and Lam­borgh­i­nis rum­ble around the roads with dis­arm­ing reg­u­lar­ity, thrill-seek­ers can tear up and down the East Coast Park­way – the road­way in the open-top car driv­ing se­quence in the film – in a power ma­chine (stick to the speed limit, though). Ul­ti­mate Drive of­fers short rentals for three dif­fer­ent types of Lam­borgh­ini, the Fer­rari Cal­i­for­nia, or the sleek 750cc Har­ley David­son Street, mus­cu­lar mon­sters that can reach 100 km/h in less than four sec­onds.

The Lion City’s top-end ho­tels don’t hold back when lur­ing the su­per-rich. Ma­rina Bay Sands – the city’s de facto em­blem and at the time of open­ing the most ex­pen­sive build­ing ever con­structed – has ar­guably the most ex­clu­sive room in Sin­ga­pore. The Chair­man’s Suite, of­fered by in­vi­ta­tion only (any­one who’s any­one will have the know-how to get in­vited), has four bed­rooms, a pri­vate gym, mas­sage room, hair salon and me­dia room with karaoke. It

There are more than 150,000 mil­lion­aires in Sin­ga­pore – in a coun­try of 5.6 mil­lion peo­ple, that’s ap­prox­i­mately ev­ery 37th per­son

comes with views of the bay through floorto-ceil­ing win­dows and its own ded­i­cated ser­vice team that’s adept at ar­rang­ing any­thing and ev­ery­thing for VVIPs: fourpiece string quar­tets, pri­vate yacht tours... any­thing is all in a day’s work.

For those trav­el­ling with their pooch – prefer­ably one that is white, fluffy, small enough to fit com­fort­ably on a lap, and has the pro­cliv­ity to yap at the slight­est hint of dis­sat­is­fac­tion – the Capella of­fers a cod­dling pet stay. The prop­erty, a lushly land­scaped re­sort on Sen­tosa Is­land with a sin­u­ous wing de­signed by Nor­man Fos­ter, sup­plies a bed and wa­ter bowl and if you give the ho­tel suf­fi­cient no­tice, staff will em­broi­der the pet’s name on its pil­low.

Premier Suites at The Ritz-Carl­ton Mil­lenia will have you feel­ing like a king or queen, es­pe­cially while soak­ing in tubs that come with un­in­ter­rupted per­spec­tives of the Sin­ga­pore Flyer through the ho­tel’s sig­na­ture oc­tag­o­nal win­dows.

The St Regis oozes high-class, old-money sen­si­bil­i­ties through its suites with hand-cut crys­tal chan­de­liers, hand-painted chi­nois­erie wall­pa­per, butler ser­vice and bath­tubs with mul­ti­coloured French Breche de Be­nou mar­ble. Bath­tubs – and beds – in the Ocean Suites at Re­sorts World Sen­tosa come with win­dows look­ing onto 40,000 ma­rine an­i­mals, thanks to the rooms’ lo­ca­tion along­side the S.E.A. Aquar­ium.

The new­est plush ho­tel ex­pe­ri­ence is The Capi­tol Kempin­ski, where two his­toric land­marks – Stam­ford House (built 1904) and Capi­tol Build­ing (built 1933) – were united by es­teemed ar­chi­tect Richard Meier for a 157-room prop­erty that opened on Oc­to­ber 1, 2018. The iconic Raf­fles, where the film’s lead char­ac­ters stayed, will re­launch in 2019 af­ter clos­ing for more than a year for ren­o­va­tion.

Ho­tel spas also prom­ise pam­per­ing for the priv­i­leged. At the Man­darin Ori­en­tal, a deca­dent fa­cial re­vi­talises age­ing eyes, faces and necks us­ing caviar prod­ucts by Ker­stin Flo­rian. The first La Mer ho­tel part­ner spa in Asia-Pa­cific, at The Ritz-Carl­ton, of­fers the Cello Con­certo, a body mas­sage with melodies played by a live cel­list, while

The St Regis’s Or­ganic Oxy­gen Bo­tox Fa­cial com­bines three ther­a­pies to di­min­ish the ap­pear­ance of lines and wrin­kles. Porce­lain, one of the city’s premier aes­thetic brands, of­fers what some reg­u­lars play­fully call the di­a­monds-and-wine treat­ment: the Il­lu­mi­nate Fa­cial in­cludes a mi­cro­der­mabra­sion with a di­a­mond tip, a grape wine peel that feeds the skin with an­tiox­i­dants, and a hy­per­baric oxy­gen in­fu­sion to hy­drate the pores.

Hy­dra­tion of the in­tox­i­cat­ing va­ri­ety awaits at some of Sin­ga­pore’s luxe wa­ter­ing holes. Skai Bar is the Lion City’s lat­est craft-cock­tail bolt­hole, with drinks that utilise in­gre­di­ents found at dif­fer­ent al­ti­tudes – sea level, rain­for­est, desert, alpine – and sig­na­ture li­ba­tions like Desert Rose (smoky mez­cal, prickly pear cor­dial, wild liquorice, lime and mesquite). From this high up – the 70th floor of the Swis­sô­tel Stam­ford – the views stretch as far as the eye can see.

Man­hat­tan, at the Re­gent Ho­tel, snagged the top spot in “Asia’s 50 Best Bars” this year and the gleam­ing, classy refuge re-cre­ates the Golden Age of cock­tails, host­ing an ex­tra­or­di­nary Sun­day adults-only brunch in ad­di­tion to pro­duc­ing fabulous tip­ples. For an­other dose of glam­our, the gilded At­las has mu­rals of an­cient Egyptian roy­alty, 1,000 gins, and con­cocts cock­tails that pay homage to the Art Deco era around the world; big spenders might con­sider un­cork­ing a bot­tle of 1907 Hei­d­sieck & Co Monopole Goût Améri­cain Cham­pagne, re­cov­ered from a 1916 ship­wreck (cost, a pal­try S$190,000/US$138,000).

A sense of grandeur also in­hab­its the pri­vate mem­bers club 1880 (mem­bers of re­cip­ro­cal clubs across Asia-Pa­cific have ac­cess), with de­sign el­e­ments like an op­u­lent 1.5-ton re­cep­tion ta­ble made of Mada­gas­can crys­tal (one of three such pieces in the world, the other two owned by Robert Downey Jr), cylin­dri­cal 2.5-me­tre-tall phone booths clad with spit­fire alu­minium and up­hol­stered with Chi­nese silk, and a bar stud­ded with 360 vin­tage teapots.

Din­ing in the Lion City guar­an­tees equally ex­trav­a­gant en­coun­ters. At Swis­sô­tel, Miche­lin-starred Jaan is a study in re­fined pre­ci­sion on the same high floor as Skai Bar. In mid-2018, the restau­rant un­veiled a new culi­nary fo­cus, Rein­vent­ing Bri­tain, with a menu shaped by sea­son­al­ity and mov­ing away from Mod­ern Euro­pean to show­case Bri­tish gas­tron­omy (in­clud­ing a sin­fully in­dul­gent Devon cream tea). Celebrity chef restau­rants pop­u­late Ma­rina Bay Sands, the re­sort part­ner­ing with house­hold names like Wolf­gang Puck, Daniel Boulud, David Thom­son, Gordon Ram­say and David My­ers. Tet­suya Wakuda is the cre­ative spark be­hind

Waku Ghin, an in­ti­mate two-Miche­lin­star restau­rant with four pri­vate din­ing rooms and not more than 25 guests at any one time (plus you can or­der from a 3,000-bot­tle wine col­lec­tion). Work­ing through the ten-course de­gus­ta­tion menu is a pri­vate and ex­clu­sive treat.

On top of the Ma­rina Bay Sands tow­ers, the Sky­park is home to an ob­ser­va­tion deck, swim­ming pool (star of thou­sands of In­sta­gram shots and the syn­chro­nised swim­ming snip­pet at the end of the film) and the restau­rant/bar/lounge Cé La Vi, where the show-stop­ping views en­sure the place is per­pet­u­ally packed. Op­tions at Cé La Vi in­clude a cu­rated six-course menu with wine pair­ing by the only Master Som­me­lier in Sin­ga­pore, and a pri­vate din­ing room with sub­lime views of the Sin­ga­pore Strait. The club lounge can also be cus­tomised for a pri­vate party

(as in Crazy Rich Asians).

At the Na­tional Gallery, the bright, airy Odette is a homage to chef Julien Royer’s grandmother and earned the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing recog­nised as the top restau­rant in the city. The high­light of the mod­ern French menu is un­doubt­edly the eight-course din­ner tast­ing menu with wine pair­ing, a gus­ta­tory ex­trav­a­ganza that cel­e­brates Royer’s use of Asian in­gre­di­ents and French prepa­ra­tion. For haute cui­sine lib­er­ated from the con­straints of the stan­dard restau­rant ex­pe­ri­ences, The In­side Ac­cess concierge ser­vice can sup­ply al­ter­na­tives with chefs from es­teemed es­tab­lish­ments like Pollen, Black­wat­tle and Les Amis. For the Chef ’s Ta­ble se­ries, meals can be hosted at a restau­rant with a menu cre­ated just for the client, the per­sonal in­ter­ac­tion with the chef through­out the meal a hall­mark of the

ex­pe­ri­ence. The Chef on Board sees evening trips on a yacht shad­ow­ing Sin­ga­pore’s coast­line while canapés like clams from New Zealand and urchins from Hokkaido are served with cock­tails pre­pared on board.

High-end stores fill the floors at Paragon on Or­chard Road, but a more over-the-top ex­pe­ri­ence awaits at The Shoppes at Ma­rina Bay Sands, where a cus­tomised concierge ser­vice whisks top shop­pers to lux­ury re­tail­ers. Among the spoils are the Omega Sea­mas­ter Planet Ocean 600m Co-ax­ial Master Chronome­ter (about S$140,000/ US$102,000), or be­spoke fra­grances up­wards of S$45,000 (US$33,000) from French per­fume house Henry Jac­ques. On the bay, the Louis Vuit­ton store, the largest out­side the Champs-Elysées in Paris, is set in­side an an­gu­lar glass pavil­ion and has Asia’s first Travel Room, with an out­door log­gia that re-cre­ates the deck of a lux­ury yacht.

For lovers of ac­tual yachts, One 15 Ma­rina stocks a num­ber of ves­sels for charter, the largest a 40-me­tre West­port which can sleep up to ten guests for over­seas char­ters. The ma­rina of­fers char­ters in Sin­ga­pore wa­ters that visit the city’s outer is­lands, while for the more ad­ven­tur­ous, more cash-heavy client, boats can travel to is­lands as far as Langkawi and Phuket, so a lo­cal trip with top-shelf seafood and wines or a month-long div­ing trip around South­east Asia are both plain sail­ing.

Gold, a metal and colour that rep­re­sents wealth like no other, makes a cou­ple of sur­pris­ing cameos. TWG Tea, with a few lo­ca­tions in the city, sells Grand Golden Yin Zhen, white tea leaves plated with 24-karat gold and sold at S$19,000 (US$13,800) per kilo. At be­spoke tai­lor The Pres­ti­gious, the li­brary of fab­rics in­clude Holland & Sherry cloth with 22-karat gold; but for the true crazy-rich ex­pe­ri­ence, the Di­a­mond Chip col­lec­tion fab­ric from Sca­bal has crushed di­a­monds blended into the wool and silk, lend­ing gar­ments a sub­tle, lux­u­ri­ous glow. The ef­fect? You’ll feel like a mil­lion, or maybe more ap­pro­pri­ately, a bil­lion dol­lars.

On the bay, the Louis Vuit­ton store, the largest out­side the Champs-Elysées in Paris, is set in­side an an­gu­lar glass pavil­ion and has Asia’s first Travel Room

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT PAGE:Skai Bar; 1880; The St Regis; Capella; and Re­sorts World Sen­tosa

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT PAGE: Jaan; Odette; The In­side Ac­cess; TWG Tea; and Porce­lain

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