Singapore: Tasting the high life

30 Nov 2018 by Business Traveller Asia Pacific
Ritz Carlton Singapore Premier Suite - Bathroom

On page eight of Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report 2017 is a map of the world with countries shaded in various colours to represent defined economic strata. Red, signifying wealth levels of more than US$100,000, is notable in Asia for its absence, appearing only in a handful of distinct areas – Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and, if you look really hard, a speck at the bottom of Peninsular Malaysia: Singapore.

According to Credit Suisse’s analysis, the “Little Red Dot” ranks ninth globally (and the highest in Asia) for household wealth per adult. It’s a place that’s flourished through industry, shipping and now finance – a modern economy rolling in money. There are more than 150,000 millionaires in Singapore (in a country of 5.6 million people, approximately every 37th person), and this is projected to rise to 170,000 in 2022. Looking at the number of ultra-high net worth individuals – those with assets of US$50 million or more – the total stands at a staggering 1,000.

So, it’s no surprise that if you want the full Crazy Rich Asians-style experience in Asia, Singapore is where to go. For one, the book is largely set here and good chunks of the film were shot around the city-state, so even casual visitors can arrange simple, low-thrills ways to relive moments from the movie. For instance, after landing at Changi Airport, where the couple’s arrival scene takes place, tourists can enjoy a no-frills meal at Newton Food Centre (the hawker dinner in the movie). They can also stroll around Chijmes, a former Catholic convent where the wedding took place, order a coffee among the shophouses of Bukit Pasoh Road, pose by the Merlion fountain at Merlion Park, and ogle the Supertrees at Gardens by the Bay.

But there are ways to emulate the film in a manner aligned to its uninhibited sense of joie de vivre and conspicuous consumption. In a city where Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, McLarens, Maseratis, Ferraris and Lamborghinis rumble around the roads with disarming regularity, thrill-seekers can tear up and down the East Coast Parkway – the roadway in the open-top car driving sequence in the film – in a power machine (stick to the speed limit, though). Ultimate Drive offers short rentals for three different types of Lamborghini, the Ferrari California, or the sleek 750cc Harley Davidson Street, muscular monsters that can reach 100 km/h in less than four seconds.

1880 Singapore - Teapot Bar

The Lion City’s top-end hotels don’t hold back when luring the super-rich. Marina Bay Sands – the city’s de facto emblem and at the time of opening the most expensive building ever constructed – has arguably the most exclusive room in Singapore. The Chairman’s Suite, offered by invitation only (anyone who’s anyone will have the know-how to get invited), has four bedrooms, a private gym, massage room, hair salon and media room with karaoke. It comes with views of the bay through floor-to-ceiling windows and its own dedicated service team that’s adept at arranging anything and everything for VVIPs: four-piece string quartets, private yacht tours… anything is all in a day’s work.

For those travelling with their pooch – preferably one that is white, fluffy, small enough to fit comfortably on a lap, and has the proclivity to yap at the slightest hint of dissatisfaction – the Capella offers a coddling pet stay. The property, a lushly landscaped resort on Sentosa Island with a sinuous wing designed by Norman Foster, supplies a bed and water bowl and if you give the hotel sufficient notice, staff will embroider the pet’s name on its pillow.

Premier Suites at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia will have you feeling like a king or queen, especially while soaking in tubs that come with uninterrupted perspectives of the Singapore Flyer through the hotel’s signature octagonal windows.

The St Regis oozes high-class, old-money sensibilities through its suites with hand-cut crystal chandeliers, hand-painted chinoiserie wallpaper, butler service and bathtubs with multicoloured French Breche de Benou marble. Bathtubs – and beds – in the Ocean Suites at Resorts World Sentosa come with windows looking onto 40,000 marine animals, thanks to the rooms’ location alongside the S.E.A. Aquarium.

The newest plush hotel experience is The Capitol Kempinski, where two historic landmarks – Stamford House (built 1904) and Capitol Building (built 1933) – were united by esteemed architect Richard Meier for a 157-room property that opened on October 1, 2018. The iconic Raffles, where the film’s lead characters stayed, will relaunch in 2019 after closing for more than a year for renovation.

Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore - Ocean Suites

Hotel spas also promise pampering for the privileged. At the Mandarin Oriental, a decadent facial revitalises ageing eyes, faces and necks using caviar products by Kerstin Florian. The first La Mer hotel partner spa in Asia-Pacific, at The Ritz-Carlton, offers the Cello Concerto, a body massage with melodies played by a live cellist, while The St Regis’s Organic Oxygen Botox Facial combines three therapies to diminish the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Porcelain, one of the city’s premier aesthetic brands, offers what some regulars playfully call the diamonds-and-wine treatment: the Illuminate Facial includes a microdermabrasion with a diamond tip, a grape wine peel that feeds the skin with antioxidants, and a hyperbaric oxygen infusion to hydrate the pores.

Hydration of the intoxicating variety awaits at some of Singapore’s luxe watering holes. Skai Bar is the Lion City’s latest craft-cocktail bolthole, with drinks that utilise ingredients found at different altitudes – sea level, rainforest, desert, alpine – and signature libations like Desert Rose (smoky mezcal, prickly pear cordial, wild liquorice, lime and mesquite). From this high up – the 70th floor of the Swissôtel Stamford the views stretch as far as the eye can see.

Manhattan, at the Regent Hotel, snagged the top spot in “Asia’s 50 Best Bars” this year and the gleaming, classy refuge re-creates the Golden Age of cocktails, hosting an extraordinary Sunday adults-only brunch in addition to producing fabulous tipples. For another dose of glamour, the gilded Atlas has murals of ancient Egyptian royalty, 1,000 gins, and concocts cocktails that pay homage to the Art Deco era around the world; big spenders might consider uncorking a bottle of 1907 Heidsieck & Co Monopole Goût Américain Champagne, recovered from a 1916 shipwreck (cost, a paltry S$190,000/US$138,000).

A sense of grandeur also inhabits the private members club 1880 (members of reciprocal clubs across Asia-Pacific have access), with design elements like an opulent 1.5-ton reception table made of Madagascan crystal (one of three such pieces in the world, the other two owned by Robert Downey Jr), cylindrical 2.5-metre-tall phone booths clad with spitfire aluminium and upholstered with Chinese silk, and a bar studded with 360 vintage teapots.

Inside Access, Singapore

Dining in the Lion City guarantees equally extravagant encounters. At Swissôtel, Michelin-starred Jaan is a study in refined precision on the same high floor as Skai Bar. In mid-2018, the restaurant unveiled a new culinary focus, Reinventing Britain, with a menu shaped by seasonality and moving away from Modern European to showcase British gastronomy (including a sinfully indulgent Devon cream tea). Celebrity chef restaurants populate Marina Bay Sands, the resort partnering with household names like Wolfgang Puck, Daniel Boulud, David Thomson, Gordon Ramsay and David Myers. Tetsuya Wakuda is the creative spark behind Waku Ghin, an intimate two-Michelin-star restaurant with four private dining rooms and not more than 25 guests at any one time (plus you can order from a 3,000-bottle wine collection). Working through the ten-course degustation menu is a private and exclusive treat.

On top of the Marina Bay Sands towers, the Skypark is home to an observation deck, swimming pool (star of thousands of Instagram shots and the synchronised swimming snippet at the end of the film) and the restaurant/bar/lounge Cé La Vi, where the show-stopping views ensure the place is perpetually packed. Options at Cé La Vi include a curated six-course menu with wine pairing by the only Master Sommelier in Singapore, and a private dining room with sublime views of the Singapore Strait. The club lounge can also be customised for a private party (as in Crazy Rich Asians).

At the National Gallery, the bright, airy Odette is a homage to chef Julien Royer’s grandmother and earned the distinction of being recognised as the top restaurant in the city. The highlight of the modern French menu is undoubtedly the eight-course dinner tasting menu with wine pairing, a gustatory extravaganza that celebrates Royer’s use of Asian ingredients and French preparation.

For haute cuisine liberated from the constraints of the standard restaurant experiences, The Inside Access concierge service can supply alternatives with chefs from esteemed establishments like Pollen, Blackwattle and Les Amis. For the Chef’s Table series, meals can be hosted at a restaurant with a menu created just for the client, the personal interaction with the chef throughout the meal a hallmark of the experience. The Chef on Board sees evening trips on a yacht shadowing Singapore’s coastline while canapés like clams from New Zealand and urchins from Hokkaido are served with cocktails prepared on board.

Porcelain, Singapore

High-end stores fill the floors at Paragon on Orchard Road, but a more over-the-top experience awaits at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, where a customised concierge service whisks top shoppers to luxury retailers. Among the spoils are the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m Co-axial Master Chronometer (about S$140,000/US$102,000), or bespoke fragrances upwards of S$45,000 (US$33,000) from French perfume house Henry Jacques. On the bay, the Louis Vuitton store, the largest outside the Champs-Elysées in Paris, is set inside an angular glass pavilion and has Asia’s first Travel Room, with an outdoor loggia that re-creates the deck of a luxury yacht.

For lovers of actual yachts, One 15 Marina stocks a number of vessels for charter, the largest a 40-metre Westport which can sleep up to ten guests for overseas charters. The marina offers charters in Singapore waters that visit the city’s outer islands, while for the more adventurous, more cash-heavy client, boats can travel to islands as far as Langkawi and Phuket, so a local trip with top-shelf seafood and wines or a month-long diving trip around Southeast Asia are both plain sailing.

Gold, a metal and colour that represents wealth like no other, makes a couple of surprising cameos. TWG Tea, with a few locations in the city, sells Grand Golden Yin Zhen, white tea leaves plated with 24-karat gold and sold at S$19,000 (US$13,800) per kilo. At bespoke tailor The Prestigious, the library of fabrics include Holland & Sherry cloth with 22-karat gold; but for the true crazy-rich experience, the Diamond Chip collection fabric from Scabal has crushed diamonds blended into the wool and silk, lending garments a subtle, luxurious glow. The effect? You’ll feel like a million, or maybe more appropriately, a billion dollars.

Sanjay Surana

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