I was recently invited, along with my Significant Other, to join my father on a business trip to Singapore. I had visited the city before and, let’s just say, it wouldn’t quite make my Top 20 Favourite Cities In The World list. In three words, I would describe it as ‘sterile, boring and soul-less’. I know that sounds a bit harsh, but when you’re from scenic Cape Town and have been lucky enough to spend time in culture-rich cities like Rome, New York and Paris, the city of Singapore leaves a lot to be desired.
However, when we were offered the chance to travel in the spoilt-rotten comfort of a private jet and attend the world-famous Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix, I decided to give this city another shot. Who wouldn’t;)?
We were booked in at the five-star Shangri-La Hotel. I had previously stayed at the Shangri-La in Shanghai and, let’s just say, it was like comparing creme brulee to vanilla sponge cake. If the Singapore branch had been my first taste of the luxury Shangri-La group of hotels, it would have been my last. Let me summarise.
The pros: It’s close to Singapore’s designer-lined Orchard Road, and the fabulously decadent ION shopping mall. The in-house nail bar did a good job of my mani and pedi and they’re well-stocked with loads of OPI, Shellac and Gelish colours to choose from. The cons: the rooms and common areas are in need of a serious style injection and refurbishment, the breakfast buffet restaurant The Line felt more like an eat-all-you-can dormitory hall than a five-star foodie spot and the housekeeping service was unsatisfactory. The verdict: my last stay in Singapore was at the Mandarin Oriental in Marina Bay, a far superior hotel on all accounts.
Day 1 (Friday)
For our first night out in Singapore, I decided to introduce Marco to the Raffles Hotel, a glamorous and old-world Singaporean institution. Dinner at the Long Bar Steakhouse took the meaning of ‘pricey’ to a whole new level, when a couple of glasses of bubbly and two steaks (one being Wagyu) left us about USD600 poorer! I guess that’s what you get for dining in one of the world’s most expensive cities, in one of that city’s most luxurious hotels. The verdict: good steaks, good service, decent decor, but not quite worth the price tag.
Touristy and cheesy as it may be, I could not let us leave without at least one Singapore Sling at the world-famous Long Bar, frequently rated by travel guides as one of the best bars in the world. Coming to Singapore without having a drink at the Long Bar is almost like visiting Cape Town without seeing Table Mountain. The verdict: fabulous drinks, great live music and a bustling atmosphere make this bar a must-visit.
Day 2 (Saturday)
We spent the day shopping at Takashimaya on Orchard Road where I picked up a few fabulous printed blouses from Diane Von Furstenburg‘s new collection. Verdict: this mall is a huge (almost too big and too busy) department store, which I would not recommend if you dislike mall-crazed crowds.
For pre-dinner drinks, we met up with some fabulous friends currently living in Singapore. They treated us to drinks at the Fullerton Bay Hotel, a well-known five-star hotel right on the beautiful and modern Marina Bay. This was followed by a feast of truly delicious tapas dishes at trendy Spanish restaurant Catalunya. Patatas bravas, truffle finger sandwiches, croquettes and suckling pig were just some of the mouth-watering treats we tucked into, whilst enjoying the spectacular views. The verdict: I would recommend both these spots for a fabulous dinner-and-drinks night on the town.
Day 3 (Sunday)
The majority of Day 3 was spent dragging my poor father and boyfriend along in my hunt for the iconic Chanel Little Black Jacket. We eventually found My New Love at the Chanel branch in Takashimaya mall. They both deserve a medal for patience.
That night, we eventually made it to the Singapore Grand Prix, the only Formula 1 race held at night-time. The heat, humidity and deafening noise of the cars whizzing by us at lightning speed were not quite my idea of the perfect night out. Of course, most people don’t go to these kinds of events to watch the actual sport. Unfortunately, we didn’t last long enough to make it to the mingling stage of the evening, as – by the fourteenth round of watching the same thing over and over again – we decided to head back to the hotel for a glass of bubbly and chicken fingers. (Apparently, the drool-worthy David Beckham was in the same suite as my father, who had been invited by some fancy bank. Had Golden Balls been in closer proximity to us, on the stands, I am sure my verdict would have been somewhat more positive.)
Pros? As we entered the arena, Tom Jones was up on stage singing Sex Bomb. That was pretty cool. Other performers at this year’s event included The Killers, Rihanna and Justin Bieber. It was exciting to be there, amongst the rallying crowds, watching cars fly by faster than I’d ever seen before…for the first hour. Cons? The noise (I know I sound like a granny, but seriously it’s impossibly loud. I ended up buying very dorky (:) protective head phones), the food (really really bad takeaway stalls are all that’s available) and the monotony of watching the sport for someone who doesn’t know or really care all that much about the intricate technicalities. The verdict: The event itself was a bit of an anti-climax, but nevertheless got me ticking off an item on the Bucket List.