Arriving to Singapore’s award-winning Changi Airport is a traveler’s nirvana. World-class restaurants, shopping, hotels, gardens, spas, salons, swimming pools and recreational activities galore, including a zoo, render it difficult to leave, but leave one must as an enchanting city-state awaits.
In his infinite wisdom, Oscar Wilde once said, “I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.” In this regard, Singapore could be Wilde’s geographic poster child, where the coupling of cultures and cuisines result in a vast culinary cornucopia. It’s also a place of natural beauty and architectural feats.
The neoclassic Fullerton Hotel, a historically significant property listed in 2015 as Singapore’s 71st National Monument, was originally built in 1928. Named after Scotsman Sir Robert Fullerton, the first governor of the Straits Settlement (1826-30), it once housed the General Post Office and the prestigious Singapore Club. Perfectly situated overlooking Marina Bay on one side and the Singapore River on the other, it’s the ideal location for conducting business or exploring this remarkable locale.
Besides an enviable location, The Fullerton has elegantly appointed public spaces and guest rooms including incredibly comfortable bedding, marble bathrooms and all-important Nespresso machines. A gorgeous infinity pool, spa and well-equipped gym round out the property. It’s also difficult not to deeply love a hotel that provides consistently impeccable service and also boasts on its lobby level a delectable chocolate buffet and a separate cake boutique that would have made Marie Antoinette dither in delicious delight. www.fullertonhotels.com
Eating in Singapore is no spectator sport but is serious business. Indulging in a meal in one of the many hawker stalls — no white linen or crystal here — will provide authentic and mouthwatering culinary experiences, all for just a few dollars.
At the Chinatown Complex Hawker Market, there are over 600 stalls of scrumptious cuisine from which to choose. If you have an hour to spare — and it’s well worth the wait — get in line for an unforgettable meal at Liao Fan Hawker Chan’s stall. Hawker Chan, now a household name here, became the first hawker in 2016 to be awarded a coveted Michelin Star. Try the roasted pork rice and the char siu noodles. Closed Sundays. www.liaofanhawkerchan.com
At Tekka Centre Market in Little India, more hawker stalls provided my fill of traditional biryani and dosa. Footballer David Beckham was also there that day enjoying cuisine though he opted for Mee Goreng, a flavorful Malay dish. Since I didn’t have football practice to work off those calories, instead I “trekked” upstairs and engaged in retail therapy, partaking in Singapore’s well-known national shopping obsession. While I didn’t lose even one ounce in that lofty endeavor, it should count for something that my wallet was significantly lighter on departure.
For tasty Indonesian fare in the heart of Kampong Glam near Masjid Sultan Mosque, head to Minang Restaurant. Here try the Nasi Padang and the Beef Rendang. www.minang.sg.
By far the best breakfast/brunch is at The Fullerton Hotel’s Town Restaurant. Here diners can travel around the world without ever needing their passports in a lovely setting. There are sections boasting outstanding Chinese, Japanese, Indian and of course Western cuisine, including an enviable bakery section.
For a real dining extravaganza, not to be missed is db Bistro & Oyster Bar in the atrium of the iconic Marina Bay Sands Resort & Casino. The first Asian outpost for international restaurateur, James Beard winner and two-starred Michelin chef Daniel Boulud, db Bistro serves up an unforgettable classic French bistro experience coupled with modern American flair and seafood that made me seriously swoon.
Intending to have escargot and steak frites, I shifted gears entirely after seeing db’s signature Seafood Platter sail away to a nearby table. It included Cape Cod and Puget Sound Oysters so fresh they were surely submerged in seawater just moments before. Marvelous Maine lobster, jumbo prawns, mussels, clams, ceviche and three types of tartars including Tasmanian sea trout had me swearing allegiance to the sea. An allegiance cemented by db’s signature Kaluga Caviar served with traditional condiments.
The seductive Rocher chocolate caramel dessert and warm-from-the-oven Madeleines ended an utterly exquisite dining experience. www.dbbistro.com
One of the newest additions to Singapore’s skyline is Gardens by the Bay. Set on 250 acres of reclamation land near the Marina Reservoir, this nature park includes the magnificent Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. Here the world’s largest glass greenhouse houses plant life from around the world, contains the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, 16-story “super trees” and thousand-year-old olive trees. It’s also a reminder that Singapore is a sustainability showcase: over 47 percent of the island is covered in greenery and it’s one of the world’s 20 most carbon efficient countries. www.GardensByTheBay.com.sg
In Chinatown, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is housed in a beautiful example of Tang Dynasty architectural style. On the fourth floor the tooth recovered from a Burmese stupa sits amid 70 pounds of 24-carat gold. Perhaps even more remarkable, the intricately carved enormous watermelons on either side of the tooth are cut daily. Additional anatomic relics are on the third floor. If all those body parts conjures up an appetite, there is complementary vegetarian fare downstairs. www.btrts.org.sg
The Civic District’s former Supreme Court and City Hall, both national monuments built in neoclassical style with Corinthian columns and Bas-relief panels, were exquisitely restored and turned into the National Gallery Singapore, home to the world’s largest public collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian modern art. Many pieces beautifully depict 19th and 20th-century life in the region. Excellent docent-led building tours explain details such as the teak ceiling carved to look like a chocolate bar. When art makes you peckish, Michelin-starred Odette Restaurant is located within the Gallery, along with other restaurants. www.nationalgallery.sg
First-time visitors to Singapore should head to the National Museum for an excellent historical perspective of Singapore. The interactive space showcases Singapore’s colonial background and the role of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, the Japanese arrival in February 1942, World War II’s impact, and onward to independence in 1965 under Lee Kwan Yew, the brilliant leader who ruled Singapore for 31 years until his 2015 passing. www.nationalmuseum.sg
After all that eating and exploring and a blissful 90-minute Asian Heritage signature spa experience at The Fullerton Hotel Spa, there was a real risk I would request Singaporean residency. However revisiting Changi Airport made the idea of departing not just palatable but downright pleasant.
The lessons learned
Every time I’m about to leave, Singapore’s seduction make’s clear I will return. Singapore is also a delicious reminder of George Bernard Shaw’s wise words: “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” Indeed.
Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, attorney, legal columnist and the author of the award-winning memoir: “Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight.”
She can be reached at Julie@VagabondLawyer.com. Some vendors hosted the writer however content was not reviewed by them prior to publication and is solely the writer’s opinion.