Earlier this year I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit Sinagpore – it was a work trip first and foremost but once I knew I was going, I made plans to extend for a few days so I could see some of the sights! Apart from my fabulous trip to Bali, Indonesia I haven’t actually seen all that much of Asia so I was definitely excited when this opportunity came up!
As it was a work trip, I was grateful for the business class flights I was able to book with Qatar Airways. I left from JFK and flew 12 hours to Doha’s Hamad International Airport and then another 9 hours into Singapore’s Changi Airport. That’s a lot of flying….!
I flew Qatar when I went to Bali which was almost 24 hours total flight time (again with a layover in Doha) and I have to say I really like Qatar – great fleet and really professional.
Their QSuite (or business class offering) is really luxurious, the flight staff are so attentive and lovely and I especially liked the ability to pick anything off their extensive menu at any time of your choice. I’m fairly sure this was one of those breakfast for dinner moments!
When I landed at Changi, the heat and intense humidity hit me as soon as I got off the plane, it was stifling and I just hoped I’d packed enough light clothes! You’ll notice very few pictures of me from this trip as the humidity just destroyed my hair, and this was before I found my amazing Magic Sleek!
I hopped into a (thankfully air conditioned) taxi and must’ve got the friendliest taxi driver ever! On realizing it was my first time in Singapore, he happily gave me a potted history and pointed out some famous landmarks on the way.
After being under British colonial rule since 1819, and temporarily occupied by the Japanese during WWII, Singapore has been an independent state since 1963. And despite being a small island off southern Malaysia, Singapore is now a heavy hitting financial center with a truly global population of 5.6 million residents (40% are foreign nationals). There are four official languages spoken: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil and Singapore has highest religious diversity than any other country. As a result, Singapore is a glorious ethnic mix of cultures, religions and food!
It’s also known for being meticulously clean (just slightly different from good old NYC!), its stunning modern architecture and the sheer amount of wealth contained on just one small island! Some of Singapore’s accolades include: ‘most technology ready country’, ‘city with best investment potential’, ‘world’s smartest city’ and ‘world’s safest country’. Singaporeans and Singapore residents alike seem exceptionally proud of their country and value its multiculturalism – a fundamental tenet enshrined in its constitution since independence.
Needless to say, I was feeling pretty educated by the time I pulled up at the Pan Pacific Singapore! I didn’t get to see much of the hotel as my week was fairly full on with work but the lobby bar was a stunner and I definitely made time to have a drink or two in one of the floating pods…
And the breakfast…. oh my! I’ve stayed at a lot of lovely hotels and seen some pretty decent breakfast spreads in my time but this was on another level! The breakfast ‘buffet’ (sadly that word is completely inadequate to capture what was really going on here) was epic! So epic, I even got lost on my first morning because it took so long to look at everything that was on offer! As well as the traditional western and continental breakfast items we may be more familiar with, there were even more Asian style dishes – savoury rice, noodles, curries and then sweet matcha cakes and pastries which were absolutely divine!
Work was intense but really rewarding. I had designed and was facilitating a series of strategy meetings for a newly formed leadership team. This was the first time they were meeting in person (as they’re spread across offices in India, Australia, China, Japan and Thailand). I had been asked to lead the sessions by one of my colleagues C who heads up the Asia team and is based in Singapore (although Australian originally).
I’ve known C for a couple of years and not only is she a great colleague who I absolutely love working with, she’s one of the most fun, genuine people I’ve ever met. She also suggested that I stay on with her for a few days after our meetings wrapped so I could get to see Singapore – how kind! I definitely didn’t need asking twice, lol!
During the week, we had a beautiful team dinner at Empress – a Michelin Guide restaurant serving traditional Chinese food in a gorgeous contemporary setting, perched on the bank of the Singapore River.
The surrounding area by the river is lovely – lots of historical buildings and monuments, and Empress itself is part of the Asian Civilisations Museum. It’s such a pretty restaurant, I loved the decor and the indoor/ outdoor feel with the floor to ceiling glass doors which were thrown open whilst we were there. It has a very celebratory feel to it, lots of groups dining and special occasions being toasted.
As one of our team members was from mainland China, we asked her to order for the table. What followed was the most magnificent meal – so good in fact that I was immediately preoccupied with learning the names of new dishes and absorbing all the delicious morsels that kept flying out of the kitchen, that I completely forgot to take any photos! All I can say, is if you’re visiting Singapore, please go! You won’t be disappointed!
Once Friday evening came, C and I downed tools and promptly congratulated ourselves on a week well done with a bottle of champagne back at her gorgeous apartment! Take a look at that view from her balcony…
For just a couple of days (I had a flight back to NYC on the Sunday evening), C did an absolutely FANTASTIC job of hosting me and showing me the sights, sounds and tastes of Singapore! I also got to meet her partner R, who I adored and by the time I left, felt a bit like an older brother!
We carried on the evening with more champagne with some of C’s expat friends over dinner – it was so interesting to meet them and find out how they were getting on living in Singapore. After dinner came dancing, a lot of it and it’s safe to say I wasn’t quite prepared for the 6am finish! We literally danced the night away!
Despite the late night (or should that be early morning?!) C and I dragged ourselves up the next day so I could see a bit of Singapore. As a city girl through and through, who loves all the bright lights and skyscrapers I can get, I fell in love with Singapore.
Its a modern city with absolutely amazing architecture everywhere you look but you also feel the old colonial elements in the older parts of town. That juxtaposition of the new and the old, against the tropical backdrop – think palm trees and stunningly bright flora and fauna – makes for possibly the most attractive city I’ve ever seen. And being an island, you’re always close to the water – what more could you want?!
After a couple of hours sightseeing (really all we could manage hungover, braving the heat and humidity – lucky for me Singapore’s quite small) we decided it was high time for a late brunch. C really wanted to take me to visit Dempsey Hill – a former British Army barracks now known to be one of the cutest but also more hipster parts of Singapore. It has a village-y feel and there’s restaurants and shops a plenty, all set in the most breathtaking lush, tropical canopy.
After a quick look around at some of the restaurants, we made the decision to stop for fuel at Jones The Grocer, a light, bright cafe which describes itself as a food emporium specializing in natural ingredients produced by specialist, artisan suppliers. I loved the look of the menu – exactly what I needed to perk up!
And while waiting for our food, C and R introduced me to the cheese room. Yes, you read that right, the cheese room! I could’ve gone a little nuts in there!
After brunch, we took in more sights around Dempsey Hill. C was right, I loved it here and it would definitely be one of my favourite spots to visit again to explore more of.
As fate and strange coincidence would have it, my cousin L and her boyfriend K had decided to embark on a 5 month world trip starting – in of all places – Singapore AND on the exact same weekend I happened to be there! So on Saturday evening, C, R and I headed out to meet L and K who had just arrived from London. What started out as just a drink or two to say hi and wish them good luck on their travels, turned into another evening of fun/ debauchery!
We started out with cocktails at Birds of a Feather, had a beautiful dinner at a local Italian restaurant, Noti, (where we felt like celebs since C and R are so popular around these parts and know the owner Tony well) and then ended back at the same club C, R and I had been at the previous night! I never normally go out clubbing and I can’t even remember the last time I did two nights in a row, but it was the most spontaneously, unplanned night of fun I’ve had in a while!
As C and R are both adventurous sorts who’ve had the most interesting lives themselves, I think they loved hearing about L and K’s travel plans. It was so lovely for me to have everyone embrace each other so openly and just let loose! Here’s C, L and I towards the end of the night. Slightly worse for wear but loving our foray into Singaporean nightlife!
After giving L and K a huge hug goodbye in the wee hours and wishing them well on the 5 month adventure they were just beginning, it was back to C’s for some well deserved shut eye.
The next day, my last (sigh) was spent mostly taking in the mesmerizing sight that is Gardens By The Bay, the incredible nature park set in 101 hectares right next to the iconic Marina Bay Sands complex. Comprising of three waterside gardens, Gardens By The Bay is an amazing display of horticultural ingenuity – the gardens are absolutely stunning. Even if you’re not particularly a nature person, I promise, you’re going to be impressed! I’ve really never seen anything like it in my life.
The famous Supertrees were just spectacular, so huge and imposing, you just can’t stop looking at them. I honestly felt as though I was in The Borrowers! It was stunning during the day and I wish I had been able to catch it at night all lit up. Another reason why I need another trip to Singapore in the future!
After taking in all the gorgeousness at Gardens by the Bay, C and I decided to finish the weekend as it had started, with a final bottle of champagne at Spago, one of the rooftop restaurants at the very top of the Marina Bay Sands. What a fabulous spot to take in these beautiful views of Singapore…
Singapore doesn’t do anything by halves! I couldn’t get over how much this country really does seem to have it all – the most amazing lush greenery and nature, a thriving global business centre, water all around you (which I just love), luxurious hotels, cutting edge design and architecture, more shopping malls than you can shake a stick at, a never-ending variety of food options ranging from Michelin star to street vendors, such a rich history and beautifully tolerant, diverse culture with a unique fusion of east meets west! It seems like you can have a wonderful lifestyle in Singapore. I know how much C and R enjoy their time there and I could definitely see myself living there for a bit if the opportunity came up.
Feeling deliciously tipsy it was back to C’s to pick up my case, say my thank yous and goodbyes and head to the airport. For a whirlwind 48 hours, I was so glad about how much I got to see and do in Singapore, it was a really special couple of days. We saw Singapore, we ate, we drank, we talked, we laughed, and we danced until the sun came up…..twice! It was a good trip for the soul!
I really fell in love with the country and I felt so much closer to C after she opened her home and I was able to get to know her on a more personal level! I was so appreciative of C and R’s kindness and generosity all weekend. And I got to see my cousin – which when you live 3000 miles away from home and often miss family, was such a lovely and weird surprise!
And just like that, it was over! Such a quick but fantastic trip! I settled back into my QSuite for the 22 hour trip and prepared to add at least five more layers of clothing before getting back to NYC!