Saturday, 1 August 2009

Singapore, June 2009

Our latest holiday combined 5 star luxury in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur with quite basic island accommodation on Pulau Perhentian (Malaysia), and it was absolutely fantastic!

We started off our holiday by staying at the Manchester Airport Radisson SAS hotel. This allowed us to catch an early flight without needing to leave home extra early, nor getting stuck in stressful traffic jams. The hotel is actually situated within the airport grounds and allows direct access to Terminal 2. From hotel check-out to being checked in with Singapore Airlines, it took us about 10 minutes.
By choosing for the Room + 15 days of Parking bundle we managed to make our departure much more enjoyable, while not paying much more than airport parking.
This hotel gets very mixed reviews on TripAdvisor, but in our case it worked really well and we would certainly stay here again. The rooms (and most of the hotel) look a little dated, but staff was excellent and the convenience outweighed all the potential negatives.


A fully packed 13-hour flight later we landed in Singapore at 6am. I'm sure Singapore Airlines must have had a "
Nursery Promo Sale" earlier on, because I've never experienced so many babies on one flight. Needless to say it was absolutely impossible to sleep and the Emergency Exit looked disturbingly appealing, even at 35,000 feet.
On arrival we unfortunately made the mistake of trying to make our way to the hotel using public transportation and the hotel shuttle bus from Vivo City (shopping mall). Even though this was a good way of getting an immediate feel for Singapore, I wouldn't suggest this if you are traveling with much luggage. The MRT public transportation system is very efficient, but the many changes and stairs make it a bit of a drag, literally. Also, it is not that easy to find the Sentosa Resort shuttle pick-up area outside Vivo City. We ended up spending 2 hours getting to our resort while a taxi would have done it in less than 30 minutes, and taxi prices are very reasonable in Singapore.

We had booked The Sentosa Resort & Spa on Sentosa island via XO Private. Yvan and Isabelle from XO Private had suggested this place and it actually looked much better in real life than it does on The Sentosa's own web site. We checked in and after just a few minutes it was clear that this would make the perfect start to our holiday. The place looked great, the grounds were immaculate, the peacocks added yet another aesthetic touch, the service was very good, the concierge was faultless, the food and drinks were amazing and the big pool and sun loungers really gave this place an immediate holiday feel. We enjoyed the place that much and were really able to relax to such extend that I completely forgot to take daytime pics of Sentosa Resort and the island itself. At no point in time did the thought cross my mind "oh I should get my digital camera out" even though everything looked fantastic at the resort. There is a really good atmosphere at night time too with The Pavillion and The Cliff bar allowing you to enjoy a nice drink in a surrounding that is miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Which literally is only miles away ...

I did find some other pics online which might give you a better feel for the resort...

Singapore City itself was quite impressive and it definitely is the most "sanitised" (in a good way) of all South-East Asian capital cities I've experienced. Some people seem to have a bit of a problem with this, but what is not to like about a well organised graffiti-free city with extremely polite, helpful and highly educated people? This place makes you feel really safe, comfortable and "at home" in no time. Maybe that is the only concern, feeling "at home" while being on a long-haul holiday is probably not really the idea ... but it is very easy, I must admit, after a long haul flight and being jet-lagged.

Clarke Quay and Boat Quay offer a wide wide variety of bars and restaurants and you definitely have to go and experience the almost-Disneyland'esque atmosphere in some of these places. In Clarke Quay we ended up having dinner in a seafood restaurant along the water. It was absolutely packed, mainly with locals. I don't remember the name of the place, but I do remember the scallops main dish and the absolutely fabulous award winning Chili Crab.

We afterward had a drink at Le Noir and tried to get a taxi at closing time. From the taxi queue we spotted a few more bars that were still open and we ended up at Cuba Libre. You can't queue while being on a holiday, when there's a perfectly good bar around ;-) We ended up having a good night at this bar, chatting with a group of PE teachers out on an international sports event. Amongst them a Belgian expat now living in Manila and a German expat living in Kuala Lumpur. The Sunday evening BOGOF at Cuba Libre made it even more chatty.

We only briefly went to Chinatown and ended up eating in a Cantonese Restaurant that has been around for ages and that was quite busy with mainly locals and expats. The deco was a bit rubbish, but the food was excellent and we ate the best Roasted Peking Duck ever! I had read about a bar called The Breeze in TimeOut Singapore, so we decided to give this nearby bar a try.

The most impressive aspect of this bar is actually the hotel on top of which it is located. The Scarlet is absolutely amazing. Everything about it, just says "Absolutely Fabulous". The deco is glamorous and ornate, without being tacky. The attention to detail is amazing and even though the shapes and colours are bold, it just works. It takes a great designer to achieve such a "More is Less" interior.

The location of the hotel feels a bit weird however and its lack of an outdoor pool with sun loungers might not make it the ideal leisure hotel, but depending on the experience you are looking for this might just be a great place to spend a few days feeling like a rock star.

In the Old Colonial District we went for the compulsory Singapore Sling at Raffles' Long Bar.

It obviously is a bit of a tourist attraction with overpriced cocktails (don't stick to the Singapore Slings) and the obligatory peanut shells on the wooden floors, but the house band Moudique was very, very good.

We initially didn't intend on staying at Raffles all night, but the band was just too good and so we downed a few more drinks while getting into the groove ;-)

Raffles really is quite impressive and walking through its corridors gives a feel for the grandeur that Sir Thomas Raffles brought to Singapore in the early 1800's. It seems the entire neighbourhood has been Rafflesized actually.

Our only real daytime trip, was the have-to-do Orchard Road shopping trip. It is one big stretch of luxury shopping malls, but once you've seen one Louis Vuitton shop, you've seen them all ;-) Getting hungry we spotted a Food Centre and went for sushi, which again was really good. Sushi in South-East Asian shopping malls and food courts seems to systematically be so much better than what we are being offered in most European sushi restaurants.

Sentosa island itself has quite an artificial feel to it, and the little trains (not really on rails) running around the island give it a fair park feel. The man-made white sand beaches you find around the island are ok, but the big tanker ships cruising along spoil the view a little obviously. Now, I must admit this is purely based on first impressions because we didn't explore too much of the island. The pool at The Sentosa Resort & Spa was just too appealing for jet-lagged daytime leisure.

When flying Singapore Airlines, this is now going to be a regular stop-over because there is so much more to see and do in Singapore that it would be a shame to miss out on this.

We only spent 3 nights in Singapore, after which we flew out to Kuala Lumpur... see next Blog post!

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