By Michelle KARAMAN-JONES
Singapore has always been one of my favourite destinations for a well-earned break and it is the most popular place to have a stop over between connecting flights to anywhere around the world.
Singapore is super clean, has less traffic than other Asian cities (no crazy scooters), has efficient public transport and less crime. As a former British colony, the first language is English and the five million-odd population is made up of Chinese, Indian and Malays. It has tropical balmy weather all throughout the year, is extremely friendly and safe to walk around any time of the day or evening. Best of all for those looking for retail therapy, most of the shops stay open till 10pm.
It is a very structured city. You cannot hail a cab in the streets but instead have to line up at taxi stations; you can’t smoke unless you are in a designated smoking area; you can’t litter without receiving a hefty fine. Travelling in taxis is not expensive compared to Australian cities. From the airport to centre of the city only costs approximately $25, and this is the maximum you can expect to pay during your stay – no trip is too small and you can take a ride for as little as $8.
Another public transport alternative is the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport). This is Singapore’s train system, which runs so frequently that it doesn’t matter if you miss one train because another will be along in a minute. It also runs from the airport into the city. Ticketing schemes are based on stored-value smartcards to suit your needs, from standard one-time travel tickets to tourist concession passes. Getting a grip on public transport always helps me feel orientated in a strange city, so I ditch the taxis and take trains everywhere.
When it comes to eateries, Singapore will never fall short. There is an abundance of restaurants from Clarke Quay to Chinatown or, if you like more traditional Indian delights, you can make the trip to Little India, which is only few stations away and has its own underground subway station.
During my most recent trip, I was on a mission to try all that Singapore has to offer. My first night, I decided to hang out in Clarke Quay, only walking distance from where we stayed at Swissotel Merchant Court.
Clarke Quay is a historical riverside quay located within the Singapore River Planning Area. The quay is situated upstream from the mouth of the Singapore River and Boat Quay, and is named after Sir Andrew Clarke, Singapore’s second Governor and Governor of the Straits Settlements from 1873 to 1875. He played a key role in positioning Singapore as the main port for the Malay States of Perak, Selangor and Sungei Ujong.
Clarke Quay is also the name of the road along the quay, part of which has been converted into a pedestrian mall. Clarke Street, located next to Clarke Quay, was officially named in 1896, and was originally only made up of two streets, known simply as East Street and West Street in north Kampong Malacca. Similar to Clarke Quay, Clarke Street has since been converted into a pedestrian mall.
At present, five blocks of restored warehouses house various restaurants and nightclubs. There are also moored Chinese junks (tongkangs) that have been refurbished into floating pubs and restaurants. The Cannery is one of the anchor tenants of the place. There are over five different concepts in one block. Notable restaurants and nightclubs include Hooters and Indochine. River cruises and river taxis on the Singapore River can be accessed from Clarke Quay. One of the most popular attractions is its exciting host of CQ’s signature events which happen once every quarter. Clarke Quay has become known as a hub of Singaporean nightclubs including Zirca, and up until 2008, the Ministry of Sound.
The next day, I head to the Gardens by the Bay, which opened on 29 June 2012. Gardens by the Bay is a park occupying 101 hectares of reclaimed land in central Singapore, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir. The park consists of three waterfront gardens: Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden.The largest of the three gardens is Bay South Garden, standing at 54 hectares. Gardens by the Bay is now Singapore’s premier urban outdoor recreation space, and a national icon.
Where to stay in Singapore:
Swissotel Merchant Court
This deluxe hotel is very well situated along the Singapore River in the CBD, at the centre of everything. It is walking distance to Clarke Quay, Boat Quay, Chinatown and the metro station. Has 476 beautifully appointed guest rooms and suites to suit all travellers from business to leisure.
Recreational facilities include an idyllic pool area with water-slides – perfect for families – and an outdoor Jacuzzi for relaxation. For an invigorating workout, there is a well-equipped two-level fitness centre that is open 24 hours a day. Spa & Sport at Swissotel Merchant Court is the perfect haven to relax and recharge while you enjoy a wide choice of treatments, from contemporary therapies to traditional ayurvedic treatments.
Located at 20 Merchant Road Singapore. For more visit www.swissotel.com/hotels/singapore-merchant-court/
Ideally situated at the crossroads of Singapore’s central business districts, world-class shopping and entertainment, Fairmont Singapore is positioned directly above City Hall underground with Singapore Changi Airport only a 20-minute drive away. The Fairmont has excellent views of the Marina Bay and its location in the heart of the Lion City is convenient to access the MRT station and Raffles City Shopping Centre. This is one of the premier luxury hotels in Singapore. I stayed on 18th floor.
Fairmont Singapore engaged award-winning design teams to embark on a revitalisation project that commenced in August 2013 to entirely transform various spaces within the hotel including a vibrant new lobby, a modern cocktail bar and all 371 guestrooms in the North Tower of the hotel. Largely influenced by the unique Straits Chinese culture, also known as Peranakan, the newly renovated spaces collectively feature a modern interpretation of the Peranakan culture which highlights a vibrant amalgamation of design elements that are distinctly and authentically local.
The 769 lavish guestrooms and suites cater to the desires of the most astute travellers, offering a wealth of amenities carefully chosen for the highest degree of pampering. With an extensive collection of 15 distinctive restaurants and bars, uncover the enticing and globally inspired dining choices that will bring on a journey of sensory delights. For the business traveller, Fairmont Singapore proves to be an unrivalled business venue crediting to its highly developed award-winning service teams and 70,000 square feet of prime meeting space at Raffles City Convention Centre.
Fairmont Singapore is located at 80 Bras Basah Road. Contact email@example.com or visit www.fairmont.com/singapore/
The tallest hotel in Singapore. Located in the heart of the business district with a magnificent view of Marina Bay. The bar located on the 70th floor has all the views of Singapore. Strategically located in the heart of Singapore’s shopping, dining and entertainment districts and with the City Hall Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train station and other major transportation nodes at its doorstep, this five-star upscale hotel is the gateway to explore Singapore’s landscapes at your convenience.
Be treated to unrivalled comfort in 1,261 beautifully appointed guestrooms and luxurious suites with private balconies providing breathtaking views of Singapore’s bustling cityscape and nearby islands of Malaysia and Indonesia. With high-speed Internet access in the rooms and wireless access in the other public areas of the hotel, as well as comprehensive business services at the Swiss Executive Club, travelling executives will find working away from home much more convenient.
As an unsurpassed business venue, the 70,000 square feet Raffles City Convention Centre provides a versatile range of 27 fully-equipped meeting rooms capable of accommodating events of all sizes. Complemented with up-to-the-minute technologies and a team of experienced convention specialists, every detail is organised to perfection allowing you to focus on getting the most from your meeting.
Swissotel The Stamford’s boasts 15 restaurants and bars, which include the Equinox Complex, Singapore’s most exciting dining and lifestyle hub where guests may indulge in the idyllic ethos of Artisanal French cuisine at JAAN, or Modern European classics with traditional values at Equinox Restaurant, and conclude the night with cocktails at the plush City Space or with heart thumping music at New Asia.
Swissotel Stamford is located at 2 Stamford Road. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.swissotel.com/hotels/singapore-stamford/
Raffles Hotel Singapore
Early Singapore’s beautiful colonial structures are dwarfed by the skyscrapers of Raffles Place, on the other side of the Singapore River located in the heart of modern Singapore.
The three floors were designed and constructed by Architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell and developed by Sarkies Brothers.
Raffles Hotel Singapore opened its doors for the first time in 1887 offering only 10 rooms overlooking the beach then. Today, it has 103 suites.
The historic Raffles Hotel is located at 1 Beach Road. For more visit www.raffles.com/singapore/
How to get there
I choose to fly Tiger Air and Tiger Air flies direct from Perth Australia to Singapore daily. For more visit www.tigerair.com