Monday, 29 March 2010
Who wouldn't want to wake up to this view on a Saturday morning?
It was my *bright* idea to journey up to Rawa on Friday night instead of leaving early Saturday morning, as before, to avoid feeling obliged to go to some rubbish nightspot to stay awake. We left Singapore just after six thirty and arrived at midnight after a loooong border crossing involving a stop for 'more booze', urination behind a bush, the border police and forgotten employment passes. Nevertheless, it meant that we had two full on Paradise P!ss-Ups, ending both nights at 6 a.m. Pure class in a glass and an awesome send-off to our dear friend, Katie, who soon leaves these shores for the Motherland.
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
Now, of course you can already find at your webbed fingertips mainstream media coverage of 48 hours in Singapore. I'm not going to waste any time on telling you about how amazing Changi Airport is, where the best place to eat chicken rice is or how to get to Singapore Zoo. Here's a quick list of famous mainstream attractions that are 'hit' or 'miss' and a bunch of ideas for alternative places to have on your Singapore radar:
- Mustafa Centre - full to bursting with things you didn't know you needed.
- Little India & Arab Quarter: try a tour by Geraldene Lowe-Ismail. Call Geraldene on (+65) 6737 5250 or send an email.
- Chinatown Heritage Centre - even if you're only vaguely interested in how Singapore used to be, the collection of antique items and the mock-ups of living quarters is pretty eye-opening.
- Bugis Junction - By far and away the best mall as it houses independent stores stocking unique labels.
- Orchard Road - unless you shop at Chanel or LV, this road is filled with slow-walking locals whose main past time is window shopping as they saunter from one air-conditioned mall to the next. Visit at your peril.
- The Singapore Flyer - Afraid of having to be winched down? Save your $30 and put it towards lunch at Si Chuan Dou Hua at the top of the UOB Plaza. Amazing dim sum, awesome tea service and a superb view of Singapore that comes free with your meal. [Once the Sky Park at Marina Bay Sands opens, this will surely add another nail into the Singapore Flyer's coffin.]
1. Club Street
Avoid Clarke Quay at all costs (one giant meat market for men across a full spectrum of miscreants: SAS (Still At School) to POP (Prostitutes Only Please).
- The Scarlet Hotel; and The Screening Room - Rooftop tippling doesn't come much better than this.
- Les Bouchons - Enjoy a superbly succulent steak with unlimited portions of French fries.
- Beaujolais - Knock back a few glasses of fermented grape juice and watch the world go by.
The old Army barracks has been transformed into a hive of bars and restaurants. However, quantity does not mean quality. Stick to the following for weekends only (lest you want to be Billy No Mates):
- Tippling Club. Pull up a chair barside and keep your fingers crossed that Chef Ryan likes the look of your face. Get yourself a Death in The Afternoon, a Smokey Bastard or a bottle of fine wine... and be seriously wowed by the awesome service, delicious bar snacks and divine beverages on offer. Worth every cent.
- White Rabbit. Set in an old church, with quality house music at weekends played by homegrown talent such as NOMSTA*.
- House. Famous for its cocktails, this place has a cafe and a bar to choose from, complemented by outdoor seating with a view of the jungle.
- Speak Easy, Outram Park - Nestled amongst the shophouses with a great wine list and a gallery upstairs.
- Blu Jaz, Bugis - Alternative drinking hole offering quality music, three floors of mis-matching furniture and a laidback atmosphere.
- Klee Bar, Portsdown Road. You pick a fruit. They make a customized cocktail with it. The barmen are quite pretentious really, but the place is undoubtedly romantic with 10 vintage deco seats and a long and low wooden bar. The terrace is surrounded by savannah trees and very quiet... Only a few cars pass by every hour once night has fallen...
- LOOF, City Hall - If drinking a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel doesn't tickle your fancy, head over the road and chill in this rooftop oasis complete with plastic trees.
- Orgo, Esplanade - Hidden on the roof of The Esplanade (Durian). Watch the sun set and sip a delicious (if a little pricey) cocktail by renowned Japanese mixologist, Tomoyuki Kitazoe.
- Canopy Dining, Bishan Park - Chillax to the max whilst feeling like you have left Singapore (OK, so you're half way to Malaysia but it's easy to forget you are in the heartlands until you have to walk out to the main road).
- Zac Cafe, Arab Quarter - One of a number of good quality Arabic restaurants serving up delicious humus and grilled meats. Finish your meal with a shisha and a wander through the backstreets for an incomparable vibe buzzing with locals and expats in the know.
See & Do
- Sculpture Square, Bugis - The only space dedicated to 3D artworks is small but perfectly formed. Not open Sundays.
- La Salle, Bugis - If you want to see what urban wear looks like in Singapore, head down to this iconic building. Often, they have flea markets where students sell their unique hand-crafted items or free talks and seminars. It's one of those rare places in Singapore that feels like it has its own heartbeat.
- White Canvas Gallery, Tiong Bahru - Set in Singapore's oldest housing estate and next door to awesome French patisserie, Centre PS, is Enrico Furlan's homage to thought-provoking sculptures made from modern materials, such as recycled plastic and silicone. Everyone needs a five metre long red crocodile. Believe.
- Blackmarket, Arab Quarter - Within a stone's throw of the über-trendy Haji Lane is a shop dedicated to urban chic wear and re-vamped vintage sunglasses. Check out the ceiling - they actually drank all of the Orangina themselves.
- Strangelets, Tanjong Pagar - Militant craftsmanship at its very best offering unique design items for the pocket or home.
- The Southern Ridges - Take a bus or taxi to Hort Park and pick up the start of the Treetop Walkway, leading to the highest pedestrian bridge in the country, Henderson Waves. Carry on to Mount Faber and down to the Marang Trail which winds down towards Vivocity (Harbour Front MRT) via some incredibly impressive old Black & Whites. I prefer to do the walk in the reverse of the recommended as then I can reward myself with an ice cream at the end. After two hours of walking, you'll need it.
My dear friend, Thibault De Rocca Sera (a.k.a. "Mr. Chill"), advises that you don't need to head to Indonesia or Thailand if you enjoy being pampered.
- Spa Botanica, Sentosa. An amazing feeling to have flown to Bali during the time of an afternoon. You are invited to enjoy the full facilities before and after your treatment. Surrounded by lush vegetation, you will most probably enjoy the salad bar between a dip in the mud pool and a nap on the floating mattresses under the waterfall. SGD160 per hour with use of the facilities.
- Healing Touch Massage, River Valley. The "deep tissue massage" is a must try. The best therapists in Singapore. The obviously experienced therapists "read" your back and muscles, and make you want to hire them permanently. SGD50 per hour.
Avoid the over-sized monsters of the hotel world and check out the following boutique establishments:
- New Majestic Hotel, Outram Park - Rooms designed by Singaporean emerging artists.
- Hotel 1929, Outram Park - Beautiful colonial architecture and modern interiors.
- Gallery Hotel, Clarke Quay - Every boutique room and suite expresses its designer's unique interpretation of space.
- Naumi Hotel, Bugis - Personalised luxury and a superb rooftop bar and pool.
- The Scarlet Hotel, Tanjong Pagar - Great location, 100 m away from Club Street and China Town.
- Quincy Hotel, Orchard Road - Modern chic space near Orchard Road.
- The Klapsons, Tanjong Pagar - Unique rooms crafted by a leading design house: Sawaya & Moroni. Member of Design Hotels.
- Wangz Hotel, Tiong Bahru - Complete with awesome rooftop bar with a great view.
- Hotel Nostalgia, Tiong Bahru - Rooms decked out in bright fabrics and a rooftop mini-pool with adjacent bar in the heart the oldest neighbourhood around.
- The Club will open on Ann Siang Road in late April this year.
- HungryGoWhere - foodies congregate here to extol the virtues of a perfectly foamed wasabi mousse or cause death by criticism of an overly surly waitress.
- Gothere - Unbeatable local knowledge on how to get from point A to point B using all methods of transport, except hoverboard (coming soon, no doubt).
- Outré - street fashion blog - get the Singapore look.
Monday, 15 March 2010
Image Credit: firstname.lastname@example.org
This month, we have mostly been...
- Celebrating the Tiger, twice:
First up was my office Chinese New Year 'party' held at the Golden Peony, Conrad Hotel. A magnificent eight course menu ensued covering dishes from double-boiled sea whelk in golden pumpkin soup to meltingly soft Wagyu veal cheek stewed in 'rich brown sauce'. To 'mix it up' a little each Head of Department was on rotation with each course, which made for interesting, if a little stunted, conversation. The highlight of the evening was watching a local newbie down no less than six large glasses of red wine in a row. Once the poor chap had his full Asian Glow on, the ang mors retreated back to their corners to re-group and decide to which dirty basement establishment they would be heading to for the classy 'after-party' with the 'professional ladies'. Nice.
Second, was the Tiong Bahru Community Lunar New Year 'Get-Together' held in a large open-sided tent on a patch of grass next to the MRT station. Despite having to cater for approximately 500 hungry locals with a smattering of ang mors, the chefs did an excellent job of dishes ranging from taboo-but-delicious shark's fin soup to chili prawns and steamed grouper. Sadly, with the only drinks choice being fanta or lemonade, a swift nip to the 7-11 was required to purchase cold water and beers, lest we choked on an unchewed morsel during the local MP's enthralling speech. Strip-lighting and overhead ceiling fans provided an electric but sweltering atmosphere enhanced only by various on-stage performances ranging from a local marital (sic.) arts group to a lone Chinese belly-dancer. We've already bought our tickets for next year. No, really.
Leaping with a Singaporean back drop
- Booze Cruising: The Seaquel. Pack even more of your friends onto the same boat, with even more booze and head for the same stretch of the Singapore Straits and you've got an even bigger and better party than the last one. When asked if the crowd wanted 'more', Malaysia could have heard those tigers roar.
- Learning how to be a Producer. We were lucky to win tickets to hear Nik Powell speak at the National Museum, courtesy of the British Council. Little did I know that he started Virgin Records with Richard Branson BEFORE going on to produce 'The Crying Game'! Nik was highly amusing, kept up a solid pace and left me with the feeling that he should become a spokesperson for Nike's "Just Do It" campaign. His selected Latin proverb said it all, "It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, but because we do not dare, things are difficult. (Non quia difficilia sunt non audemus, sed quia non audemus, difficilia sunt.) Coupled with his three-pronged advice: "Never turn down a good thing"; "Be comfortable with going in a different direction to everyone else"; and "Do not be afraid to fail", I left feeling thoroughly inspired. Upon entering my office cubicle the next morning, I felt thoroughly uninspired.
- Drinking beer on The Blackmarket. Another awesome launch party, this time for früfrü & Tigerlily who are taking over part of this forward-thinking independent clothing store. If you're wondering where the trendy kids 'hide' out in Singapore, this is it.
Up next month are a seafood feast, a party on a rooftop and another hedonistic weekend in Rawa-wa-waaaah!
Finally, for those who have been wondering, like I did: The "OOO-OOO" bird you hear in Singapore is called an Asian Koel, a distant relative of the cuckoo:
Local nature trivia doesn't get better than this.