Singapore Travel Guide
The hotel in May
We don’t really mean that of course: who are we to suggest the Kaiser would ever be late? But we couldn’t resist the alliteration, and the delay is very real for Sofitel So Singapore, now not opening until March 2014.
When we had a proper look around in May, we tried to give the hotel the benefit of the doubt when it came to a planned November opening (given the breakneck speed of construction in Singapore). Unfortunately, our innate skepticism was justified; now we are looking at another five months before this emblem, by the hand of Lagerfeld, will greet guests upon arrival.
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It's no secret that we love drinking in hotels here at HotelChatter. In fact, hotels might be our favorite "local" bar. So all this week, we'll be pouring out some drinks for you during our first-ever Hotel Cocktail Week. All this week, we'll be posting specialty drinks, booze trends, mixology tips and most importantly, drinks recipes so you can recreate your favorite hotel drink at home. Everyone will be getting tipsy this week! But don't forget to tip your bartenders, in this case, us.
Raffles Singapore, the place where the famed Singapore Sling was created, has launched a cocktail menu designed to take you around the world while you still remain seated and sipping in their Long Bar, god bless ‘em.
Resident mixologist, Randolph Velasco, has come up with eight spiritus drinks inspired by a Raffles hotel destination, so come join us as we embark on our virtual journey through time and space. First stop? Seychelles.
The Seychelles conjures images of an island paradise with deep blue skies, sultry breezes and emerald seas. No surprise, then, that the Raffles Seychelles cocktail is an emerald green beauty created by combining Smirnoff Vodka with melon-flavored Midori and tangy Apple Sourz, then topped off with apple juice. Garnished with slices of star fruit and a lemon wedge, this is a sipper meant to be sipped in a rattan chair with one of those tropical ceiling fans swooshing slowly overhead.
Next, we go to Raffles Cambodia –- specifically, Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh and Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor. Using the Kingdom’s national fruit, the five finger banana (who knew?), this golden concoction consists of rum, banana and pineapple juice, but it’s the finishing touch of zesty kaffir and fresh, green pandan leaves (a herbaceous tropical plant) that gives this drink its aromatic and mysterious character.
The Raffles Philippines takes you to the newly-opened Raffles Makati in the heart of Manila’s financial district. A mix of Bacardi rum, juicy mango and pineapple are enhanced by a mere suggestion of basil and the tart, citrus flavor of calamansi, a wee fruit that bears a resemblance to a lime but is about the size of a kumquat. Calamansi is supposed to have some health benefits, so drink up.
Raffles Istanbul anticipates the opening of Raffles Istanbul Zorlu Center in late 2013 (no date as of yet) with a cocktail that evokes the complex flavors of Turkish coffee. Rich Kahlua is layered with potent Pisco, fresh lime juice and anise to create a boozy drink not quite appropriate for the morning but it does kinda taste like coffee, so we’ll leave it up to you. (Recipe below!)
We promised you a closer look at W Sentosa Cove when we discussed those nifty moveable phone ‘booths’ in the lobby just over a month ago, so here we are today with a gallery full of shots from the 240-room resort on Sentosa Island, a short hop from Singapore’s CBD.
Particularly popular with Singaporeans for a weekend stay-cation, the hotel has everything you expect from one of the latest W properties: slick rooms, lots of facilities that incorporate a W in their name (WET pool, AWAY spa, W lounge, Wired Business Center), and an atmosphere that is, let’s say, party-friendly. We wouldn’t bring the kids, is all we’re saying (notwithstanding that we did see some).
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We've been wondering what Karl Lagerfeld has up his sleeve over at the Sofitel So in Singapore, which we looked at mid-construction a few months back. Due to open in November as the third So property by the French group (there’s Bangkok – which we loved – and Mauritius so far), details are coming out painfully slow, but one thing we now know is his design for the hotel’s emblem: “The Lion’s Seal”.
Linking back to the origin of the Asian city-state, it references the 14th century folklore of Sumatran Prince Sang Nila Utama spotting what he believed to be a lion on the island, and naming it Singa Pura, or the Lion City, as a result. While it’s most likely the creature was a tiger, as lions never lived in this area, the Lion City name stuck. Singapore’s mascot, the Merlion, a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish, can be found about ten minutes’ walk from the hotel.
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If you had to pick your favorite hotel poolside cabana anywhere in the world, where would it be?
To be honest, it's not something we've ever given much thought to (seen one cabana, seen 'em all)—until, that is, we visited the fifth floor garden terrace of Singapore's Parkroyal on Pickering the other week.
We mentioned last year, before it opened, that the hotel would drip with tropical gardens, and indeed, it is certainly one of the lushest hotels we've seen in a while. Wild flora grow up and down the building's exterior, creating a sort of "secret garden" 120 feet above ground.
This effect is best seen from one of the poolside cabanas—large, sturdy structures that look like human-size birdcages—that are built right on the edge of the fifth floor terrace. Mini-worlds unto themselves, the cabanas are furnished with mountains of pillows and cushions so that once you've entered and plopped down on the floor (preferably with a cold Tiger beer in hand), you never want to leave. Ever.
The Marina Bay Sands is easily Singpore's most iconic hotel. And if you make it to the city, we recommend at the very least taking a peek inside the atrium-style lobby or even heading upstairs for lunch at the rooftop eatery KU DE TA.
However, if you're Singapore-bound this summer, and are planning to book a night at the 2,561-room hotel, here's some friendly advice you may want to keep in mind: every August 9, Singapore celebrates National Day to commemorate Singapore's independence from Malaysia in 1965. And just like how towns across the US explode with fireworks every July 4, so too does Marina Bay light up with an impressive pyrotechnics display on the big day.
From what we hear, sh*t gets real cray. Not only do the malls fill up with shoppers ready to cash in on the Great Singapore Sale (that's a whole other story), but all the Marina Bay-facing hotels get bought up by locals who want to have the best views possible of the fireworks.
This means that rooms at the MBS can go for as high as SGD $700/night, when usually they're about half that price—or less.
OK, we confess: we did not opt for the $58 per person buffet while having dinner recently at the Parkroyal On Pickering's restaurant, Lime, for the simple reason that, well, $58 is a lot of money.
So we figured we'd just stick with the regular a la carte menu and give our wallets a break. Big mistake.
Not that our $24 hand-tossed roasted duck pizza with spring onions wasn't the bomb dot com (because it was), but just out of curiosity, we also took a brief wander around the dining room to see what life on the other side was like, and we can safely say, the buffet is where it's at.
First off, the restaurant is massive, so it takes a good 5-7 minutes just to inspect all the different food stations. The first counter had us salivating over luscious platters of fresh prawns, mussels, oysters and sushi, artfully laid out on mountains of shaved ice. A dedicated sushi chef was on hand to make sure the display never runs out, and he graciously let us snap the above photo even though we weren't buffet customers.
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There are five suites offered at the Fullerton Bay Hotel, each loosely styled after a particular culture that has played a significant role in Singapore's rich history. Our favorite is the Shenton Suite, a gold- and brown-accented number which the hotel describes as "fit for a Maharaja," a subtle hint at the suite's Indian influence.
Walking in, there is a small lounge area with rich textures of suede, rosewood and chrome. An L-shaped sofa sits directly across from the minibar, which is stocked with full-size bottles of Johnny Walker Black Label and Belvedere Vodka; the walls are covered in wooden panels decorated with Indian-style motifs.
We're told all of the rooms here are designed to make guests feel like they're on a luxury cruise ship, and that is exactly how they feel. The Shenton Suite, for example, is small, but more miniature-small, not cramped-small. Walking around it, the space was so fluid and ergonomic, we actually felt like we ought to have been on our tiptoes to avoid disturbing the peace.
Click through for our full photo gallery!
We've said it before, but boy do we love a well-stocked hotel gift shop. After a recent visit to the Paramount Hotel, where we found nifty travel gear and Big Apple-themed tchotchkes, this week it was the Raffles Hotel in Singapore that had us acting like a kid in a candy store, inspecting every single item displayed on the shelves.
And believe us, there was a lot.
Located next to the fountain courtyard, the gift shop is like an ode to the entire Raffles Hotel, every ounce of its fabled existence neatly preserved in an endless array of crockery, loose leaf tea tins, tea towels, vintage travel posters, stuffed animals, leather-bound notepad holsters, and pretty much any other form of souvenir you can think of.
A true hotel geek would be hard-pressed to enter here and not walk out with some kind of goodie.
Here's a quick look at a few of our favorite Raffles-branded things:
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On our last spin through the Lion City, we took you inside the trendy Wanderlust Hotel (see: the Typewriter Suite). Now, along comes a brand new boutique hotel in the city's Kampong Glam district with a whole new set of goodies to ogle over.
The place is known as the Clover Hotel, and it's located off the Bugis stop on the MRT, just under a mile east of the Wanderlust Hotel—and right around the corner from Arab Street, where tourists like to go eat kebab and buy silk.
Though the lobby is bright and modern-feeling, the decor is all out of a museum: everywhere you look, there are suitcase typewriters, Singer sewing machines, an old gramophone, a rotary telephone, and even a wooden bullock cart loaded with canvas sacks.
This is old-world Singapore done up as a chic boutique hotel, and we loved it.
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The other day, we met a friend for tea in Singapore. To get there, we entered a hotel lobby, walked past the reception desk, down some steps, and found ourselves in a long, corridor-like lounge area enclosed by floor-to-ceiling windows, with a 42 1/2 foot long bar.
Promptly at 3pm, we were led to our table, a low-slung divan wedged around a coffeetable in an intimate corner of the bar. Behind us, stunning waterfront views of the Bay. Above us, a silver-haired gentleman in a tuxedo began tinkling the ivories, while jacketed waiters whizzed by, and more and more folks showed up to rendezvous at the promenade-style bar.
Unknowingly, we had stumbled into one of Singapore's most vital social traditions: Afternoon Tea at the Fullerton Bay Hotel.
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You know those people who can't walk by a pet store without coo-ing over the adorable puppies in the window? Or, say, walk around a mall without popping their head in every darn shoe store? Well, that's pretty much us when it comes to cute teddy bears, and we totally fell for this little guy on a recent spin through the lobby at Singapore's Fullerton Hotel.
Dubbed the "Fullerton Bellhop Bear," he is one of four collectible stuffed animals being offered by the iconic hotel.
The complete Fullerton Bear collection includes: The Fullerton Postmaster Bear (referencing the hotel's history as a former post office), The Fullerton Bellhop Bear (pictured), The Fullerton Bay Ship Captain and The Fulleron Panda Plush Bear.
And just in case you're rolling your eyes right now at the frivolity of this post, keep in mind that the sale from each bear goes towards supporting two charities chosen by the hotel: Mainly I Love Kids (MILK), and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF- Singapore). The fundraising initiative started last year with just the Postmaster Bear, but due to its popularity, the hotel debuted the other 3 bears this past April.