SINGAPORE – Have a look-see!

A bit of old-fashioned luxury is nice, isn’t it?

This is why if ever I had the chance to move to Singapore I’d take the offer without a thought. I love to visit for a few days every now and then.If you can overlook the boring bars full of live music and way too many prostitutes per square metre across the island, you can find some gorgeous gaffs – some bizarre, some breathtakingly beautiful and quite titillating.

I would definitley advise anyone to stay at the Fullerton Hotel, which is hard to miss there on the waterfront in all it’s neoclassical magnificence.It was completed in 1928 at enormous expense and I say it was money well spent. The hotel’s Asian Spa is one of the best I’ve ever been to and is open every day from 10AM – 11PM. The waxing is well done and I love the seaweed body treatments. It’s right next to the business and banking district and a few minutes walk from the lovely Boat Quay – an area of beautifully preserved historic shophouses wrapped about the water that now serve as shops and restaurants. If you want to be even more extravagant, go to Raffles, but I prefer eating there and sleeping at the Fullerton because it’s got such comfortable beds, it’s central and it’s always got an interesting exhibit in the lobby. Book ahead to get a place at the dim sum weekend brunch.

The Fullerton Hotel (Left, next to bridge) and Boat Quay (Right, the row of old shophouses) fringed by skyscrapers

The National Museum of Singapore is a delight – it’s got a fashion section, a modern art area, great audio guides and the building itself is an historical wonder.

Take your camera to the Merlion Park; The Armenian Cathedral; The Sri Mariamman Temple on South Bridge Road near Temple Street. There are some cute little buildings on Emerald hill and some nice shophouses in and around Arab Street that house some cool boutique shops.

Sri Mariamman Temple, Chinatown

It’s hard for me to comment on Asian cuisine after spending so much time in Japan where everything is just divine. I don’t necessarily agree that the Lion City is the “food paradise” of Asia but it certainly offers some eclectic fare. There are outstanding restaurants but one does have to pay for quality here: cheap stuff is, well… cheap. It is worth trying hawker centres for satay sticks and the like but I couldn’t eat them every day.

I do believe that not many places can do afternoon tea or tiffin like Singapore. Head to the Tiffin Room at Raffles for a wonderful afternoon tea/high tea (although a bit early for high tea) including curry buffet and chicken pies as well as sandwiches and scones. Order a champagne or a cocktail if  you so fancy. NB: the spread is a bit light on the old jam and cream but don;t be shy and just ask for more.

The Tiffin Room at Raffles

Even better than the Tiffin Room, if you are in town on a Sunday, is the Bar & Billiard Room Sunday Buffet. I can’t explain how wonderful it is! It’s $188 for 1, that includes all the champagne that you fancy for about 2.5 hours.They have several types of oysters, fresh lobsters, and 2 or 3 large billiard tables with all these amazing delicacies piled on top. It’s worth going just for the desert table…

The Bar and Billiard Room dessert buffet

Another noteworthy place to dine is Iggy’s in the Regent Hotel. We had an outstanding dinner including wagyu beef, snapper duck confit and peanut butter ice cream, which was blindingly well done.. and then I received a blindingly large bill, probably because of the wine. A dinner for two, including wine was about $500 including tax.

Anywhere on Club Street is usually good, too. I recommend Da Paolo or Cugini Trattoria especially for very high quality Italian cuisine. This street is one of the few places in Singapore that you will find real shops and cafes, it is devoid of all Starbucks, Carrefour or H&M. Let’s hope that it stays that way.

Right by picturesque Club Street is Chinatown. The Yum Cha Restaurant off Temple Street is a nice place for tourists because it has a good view of the old Chinatown and great dim sum with very interesting desserts. Approximately $100 – 200 for two people.

Yum Cha Restaurant, Chinatown

There are some casinos popping up in town these days. The one on Sentosa Island is good for serious gamblers but I don’t find it interesting, glamourous or appealing. Today we’re going to have a look at the opulent Marina Bay Sands  which I visited in its opening week. A casino, an upmarket shopping mall, a hotel and the boat-shaped structure on the roof has bars and pools, it’s quite something. I must say that the Ku De Ta club on the roof is a bit of a boring fizzer but the Skybar is alright. It’s all a bit pretentious and dull. For me, life is too short to be in a place that isn’t cool. I’ve never had more than brunch or bar snacks at Ku De Ta but my friends enjoyed dinner there. I believe that the man behind Zuma, one of my favourite Japanese places in Hong Kong and Dubai, is in charge of the kitchen so it can’t be too bad. Pangaea is a younger, cooler nightclub in the basement of the building. I find the people more interesting and it’s fun.

The Marina Bay Sand Casino’s rooftop Skypark

The shops in the Sands shopping centre, which are now open, were just having the finishing touches applied then but they are the now the place to go for couture. If you aren’t into big shopping malls, Club Street is boutique and very cool. The cafes, the vintage stores and the flower shop make you feel as if you are in a village. Pop into the Gem Pub on the corner for a pint, or a Bristol Cream sherry.Kiki, Trolley and Inspire are great for homewares and jewellery;  Pantry Magic for kitchenware; Woods in The Books for children’s books and locally published works for everyone; Ana and Stevie General Store are the places to pick up exclusive clothing and accessories. Around the corner from Club St. is the renowned Maxwell Food Centre, which serves local delicacies, fresh juice and beer for around $6 per person.

For a night out on the town stay AWAY from the hellish venue which is Brix – a dodgy club in the Grand Hyatt on Scotts Road. This grotty club markets itself as an exclusive joint but it’s really a pathetic brothel of a place with blonde prostitutes imported from Russia and modelesque Malaysian he/she “girls” who look slightly too tall with breasts that are too large on their too-slim frames to be, well – real females. Size 11 feet on a girl? You can figure it out. Pretty Mongolian girls and ugly old Chinese men, do they not realise how laughable it is? I wish they’d do it in a hotel room instead of subjecting us to their vomitous behaviour. The men that follow these type of whores are not the kind of people I want to brush against on the dance floor. They do try to be classy and this pretence is what makes it laughable. Maybe if they weren’t situated in a basement full of transexual sex workers… to be fair, there are plenty of real girls there too but I know more than most because I’ve been to the bathroom there. I am, fortunately, never to return to Brix.

Enough of my ranting – if you don’t need to pay for a date, head to somewhere truly cool  like the famous and fabulous Zouk – this lovely, lively and FULL nightclub has been around for many years and attracts a young crowd of cool locals. There are 3 sections, so depending on your taste you could go for hip-hip, avant-garde or house music.I love the Wine Bar (great place to mingle) and the Velvet Underground sections best of all. The club brings the best DJs in the world to Singapore and is very beautiful. Some other clubs that are Azzura and Tanjong Beach Club on Sentosa Island, which is especially fun on the weekends – you can stay for hours and have a swim, breakfast lunch and dinner and tropical cocktails.

You must be sick of my Raffles waffle already – no, I’m not on their payroll.Yes, I should be – but a trip to the Long Bar and home of the Singapore Sling is something I like to partake in on a regular basis. Touristy it may be but I’ve never had Singapore slings or fresh juice cocktails this good.This is the only place in Singapore where one is encouraged to litter : feel free to throw your peanut shells on the floor, this tradition is encouraged. They still make their Singapore Slings the same way since the bar staff invented the cocktail in 1915. It is never EVER the same in other bars – no where else seems to get it right.

The Sling

The Floor

The Fans!

While we are on the subject of bars, there are some crazy theme bars that are worth a visit. They used to have such fun places in Japan but they closed when people got bored of them so please do go there while you have a chance.

An exciting bar that I stumbled across by chance is the Divine Wine Extraordinaire – the wonderful wine bar that is the home of the wine fairy. I heard a friend talking about it and as soon as I heard the words “wine” and “fairy” I knew this was the place for me. It’s a gorgeous art deco bar in Parkview Square with a real “fairy” (apparently she is real, not just a girl in a costume) who “flies” up the wine rack, which is really a tower, and fatches your bottle. Only for the well heeled and don’t go alone unless you are a heavy drinker, the fairy only flies up for a bottle. You’ll spend around $100SGD for a bottle. Glasses are available too, but unless it’s full of people buying bottles you won’t see the fairy in flight.

I’m afraid I can’t find a website for the Divine Bar but it’s on 600 North Bridge Road and the best time to go is 7pm – 10pm when it’s busy and everyone is buying bottles!

The Divine Wine Fairy

Clarke Quay is a very fun place to go out and has air conditioned streets so you can sit outside but your makeup won’t run. I feel like the oldest person there but it’s still fun.

This is the nightlife area and it’s full of bars and restaurants including the famous Crazy Elephant and my personal favourites:  Cuba Libre and the delightfully macabre  The Clinic: a bizarre alfresco bar with an Emergency Room decor.

vodka cranberry syringes

The “patients” however, instead of having a bypass are seated in wheelchairs and served cocktails from the “dispensary” in syringes and iv drips by doctors and nurses – I’m sure they’re all fully qualified – they do look the part… The drinks are quite stong and The Clinic is open till quite late so it’s just as well we have those wheelchairs!

Your correspondent on her second “IV drip” at The Clinic

*UPDATE, March 2013: The Clinic seems to have shut down or relocated, but that’s Clarke Quay – there is always something new.

The Cuba Libre bar and cafe was a very exciting find for a Cubanophile such as myself. Unfortunatley, the kitsch Cuban interior didn’t match the menu. It’s all very good food but only 1 or 2 things (besides the cigars and cocktails) that are actually Cuban – the rest is Puerto Rican, Italian or Brazilian with some fajitas thrown in – I shouldn’t complain, I love their fajitas.It’s all good stuff  but I recommend the Pollo Empanado and the Melon Tree. The menu is a Havana licence plate! Lovely mojitos and great music – enough reason for me to make a repeat visit.

Cuba Libre in Clarke Quay

What a cute menu!

SOME SINGAPORE TIPS:

  • Industrial-strength antiperspirant and talcum powder/other powders are a MUST if you intend to wear makeup, suits and/or your best silk shirts. It’s always sticky in Singapore
  • Stay away from bars that are really brothels, especially if you are a girl and waiting alone to meet a friend. You may get some fat old Germans asking you for your rates. Of course it’s very safe, but don’t put yourself in that position.
  • If you eat at a local food centre, bring tissues and wet wipes to chope (“reserve”) your table and to clean up, there is no napkins or toilet roll at such places
  • Suncream required for those intending to make the most of all the lovely hotel pools
  • Bring a coin purse – I seemed to have a lot of coins on me!
  • DO drink the tap water – it’s clean and, aside from Scottish tap water, the nicest I’ve ever tasted!
  • Tipping is not customary and discouraged in some places – where there is a 10% service charge, don’t bother
  • Make sure you tow the line as punishments are severe: don’t litter, get into a fight, take illicit drugs, steal things… apart from being illegal, little things like this are just plain rude and part of the reason that this town is so lovely is that people do actually follow the rules. You shouldn’t have to be told.

4 responses to “SINGAPORE – Have a look-see!

  1. Hmmm. Thanks for the suggestions, but at the end of 3 months in Europe I don’t have the money for most of them. I will definitely be staying away from the Brix club as I am almost 6 ft tall with size 11 feet! Yes I do stand out in Singapore especially having blonde hair! However I can assure you I haven’t had any bits removed nor grown anything.

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