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The New SingaporeJune 10, 2010 By: Mary Ellen Schultz Travel Agent
The Fullerton Heritage complex, set to open later this year, will be another attraction in the city-state’s Marina Bay area
We bring you the scoop on the city’s new hotels, shops and restaurants
Mention Singapore and many people think of the Southeast Asian island state as a stopover for shopping, eating and maybe sipping a Singapore Sling at the fabled Raffles Hotel en route to nearby (and more exotic) Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Long popular as an R&R stop for sailors, businessmen and adventurous travelers, the English-speaking city-state of 5 million people is often referred to affectionately as “Asia Lite” or “Asia for Beginners.”
Indeed, according to Kershing Goh, regional director for the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) (212-302-4861; www.visitsingapore-usa.com; www.yoursingapore.com), The Americas, “Singapore is the gateway to Asia.
It’s a cosmopolitan city with distinctive Asian roots and influences…a melting pot of cultures, and yet visitors do not need to step out of their comfort zone to experience [them]. No language barriers, as English is the most commonly used language in Singapore.” It’s all this, coupled with being within a seven-hour flight radius of Asian and South Pacific destinations—from China, Japan and India to Australia and New Zealand.
On top of all that, the 250-square-mile main island (26 miles long by 14 miles wide) boasts the world’s busiest port, is Southeast Asia’s leading financial center and transportation hub and is in the midst of becoming a top-tier 21st-century metropolis.
This year, Singapore celebrated the opening of its first integrated resorts—Resorts World Sentosa (in January) and Marina Bay Sands (soft opening April 27; official launch slated for June 23). Other developments and events planned for this year include the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and completion of the Fullerton Heritage waterfront project, plus the world’s first Formula One night race. The end of 2011 will see the debut of an International Cruise Terminal (ICT) and a 250-acre Gardens by the Bay project, including the city’s second botanical garden.
The newest addition to Singapore’s already spectacular skyline is Marina Bay Sands. The $5.5 billion resort, unveiled by Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, comprises a skyline-teasing three-tower luxury hotel, state-of-the-art convention center, world-class theater/entertainment venues and Singapore’s second casino. In addition, it has an 800,000-square-foot dining and shopping space consisting of more than 50 restaurants and a tempting mall that includes retailers such as Cartier, Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany.
Marina Bay Sands Hotel opened with 963 rooms; the remainder of the property’s 2,560 luxury guest rooms will be available after its grand opening this month. Eighteen room categories include 230 luxury suites. Daily rates begin at $288. When completed (projected for year-end), the hotel complex will be crowned by the Sands Sky Park—a 3-acre tropical oasis complete with an outdoor infinity pool, restaurants and gardens, meeting spaces and observation deck. Contact Marina Bay Sands’ Call Centre at 011-6688-8888, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. for more information.
Sitting on Sentosa Island, Singapore’s popular getaway, is the $4.4 billion Resorts World Sentosa. One of the world’s most extensive integrated resorts (a casino resort with family options), it was completed in record time (less than three years), three years ahead of schedule.
A 15-minute drive from city center, the complex has four hotels open so far with two more planned. The four are: Festive Hotel (389-room, family-friendly, with kids’ VIP check-in and the only loft hotel beds in Singapore, rate $389); the signature Hard Rock Hotel Singapore (363 rooms, rack rate $325); Hotel Michael (470 rooms, designed by architect Michael Graves, rate $361) and Crockfords Tower (featuring 128 discreet, invitation-only suites, mansions and villas; prices upon request) with a combined inventory of 1,350 rooms and suites. Opening later this year are the eco-inspired 370-room Equarius Hotel and Spa Villas (40 villas and rooms).
Nearly half of Resorts World’s 121 acres are taken up by Universal Studios Singapore. Once complete (year-end 2010/early 2011), it will include 18 new rides and a Marine Life Park that is set to be the world’s largest oceanarium. For more information, visit www.rwsentosa.com/attractions/universal studiossingapore.
The Fullerton Heritage complex will further rejuvenate Singapore’s Marina Bay area. Slated to open later this year is Fullerton Bay Hotel, sister property to the original, historical waterfront Fullerton Hotel. When it is completed, the complex will offer fine dining, entertainment and upscale shopping and The Fullerton Bay Hotel will have 100 rooms with sea views and an outdoor dining area sheltered by a pavilion and sculptural plantings.
What to Do
The people of Singapore are passionate about shopping and eating. For retail therapy, you can’t beat the trendy, two-mile stretch of Orchard Road, where you are beckoned by a host of air-conditioned malls.
ION is one of the newest and largest malls, with a neon-crazed facade and eight floors, housing some of the world’s most recognizable brands. Iluma, a 10-story mall in the shop-happy Bugis district, opened last year as the country’s first urban entertainment center. A light-and-media, crystal mesh facade envelops the building in a dazzling light show. Along with the retail shops, themed and concept restaurants tempt diners.
One of the newest is Chef Daniel’s Kitchen, a rooftop restaurant overseen by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud. The eatery boasts more than 60 varieties of East-meets-West cuisines, including wok-charred salmon, Thai-style Galanga braised duck and Japan’s tender Wagyu beef.
To get a bird’s-eye view of the island city, visitors may opt for a ride on the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest observation wheel. Each cabin accommodates 28 passengers. While a 30-minute rotation is priced at $20 per person, the Champagne Flight, with a flute of Moët & Chandon, chocolates and strawberries, is $50.
Singapore’s mixed Chinese, Malaysian and Indian heritage ensures countless opportunities for experiencing not only the individual cultures but also the extraordinary blend called Peranakan. This mix is evident everywhere, in the tile-ornamented shophouse architecture, multicultural festivals and, most of all, in the variety of mind-numbing, stomach-pleasing gastronomy on show 24/7 in food-hawker halls, coffee shops, street stands and high-end restaurants.
After spending years in California, native Singaporean Alvin Yapp returned home a couple of years ago and purchased and renovated a traditional shophouse in Katong/Joo Chiat, the central Peranakan neighborhood. The Intan, exquisitely decorated with heirloom and antique furnishings, welcomes visitors for a traditional breakfast, tea, lunch or dinner; Yapp’s mother does most of the cooking. Recent guests include actor Will Smith and family. The price ranges from $45-$100. For more information, contact Yapp (011-65-9338-2234, [email protected]).
According to the Tourism Bureau’s Goh, “We expect the average visit length and frequency to increase because these new developments not only offer additional activities for the American traveler but also recognizable brands and personalities, such as Marina Bay Sands and its group of celebrity chefs—Daniel Boulud, Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali and others. When the new cruise terminal is opened, it’ll bring more liners into Southeast Asia, providing attractive holiday options for Americans, who remain one of the main source markets for the cruise industry.”
Getting agents to book clients for more than the usual two to three days is a challenge, but she expects the situation to change, given all the new options. “Singapore’s uniqueness is the concentration of sights, sounds, tastes, culture and attractions, coupled with unparalleled user-centricity…even in a short time. We believe no other Asian city can offer this. Visitors could enjoy a breakfast amidst the tropical rainforest with orangutans at the zoo; visit the ethnic precincts—Little India and Chinatown; savor our world-renowned street food; and indulge in ‘shop-till-you-drop’ on Orchard Road—all within a day,” Goh says.
|One of eight suites at the Hard Rock Hotel Singapore, now open at family-friendly Resorts World Sentosa|