As Published in Just Ubane (May): Singapore in a Hurry

The May issue of Just Urbane has just been published and inside you’ll find my story about a weekend in Singapore, just a weekend. Just Urbane is India’s leading lifestyle magazine with a print circulation of nearly 80,000 and online subscription readership of much more than that.

Enjoy my story in the file above but to read all my stories in Just Urbane, every month, take out a subscription with Just Urbane by clicking on:

Lau Pa Sat satays are the best in the world (sorry mum!)

Singapore in a Beautiful Hurry

The writer was a guest of the Mandarin Oriental, Singapore Flyer and Tiger Air.

For a recent trip to Singapore, travelling from Bali, my family elects the Singapore headquartered Tiger Air to carry us. Tiger Air is now part of the Value Alliance, the world’s largest partnership of leading low cost airlines.

Our flight meets and exceeds our expectations. We leave on time, arrive early and get our bags quickly. I could leave it at that for my expectations but there are also some other experiences that deserve a mention. Before the flight, Tom (6) is invited to the cockpit to meet the pilots and study the dizzying array of instruments. He talks to the pilots who have noticed his t-shirt has an aircraft print on it. It’s a visit I’m allowed to photograph and will later feature in his presentation for class news when school resumes.

Taking our seats, Matilda and Tom are each presented with Tiger Air gift bags with a soft tiger toy. It settles the kids well, particularly given their concerns for not having movies to watch like the full service airlines provide. It’s easy to forget a time when there was no personalised inflight entertainment offering games, tv shows, movies and music. Tiger Air have got around the lack of entertainment by providing a friendly service that includes making conversation and taking the time to look after the kids.

For most of our family, we have visited Singapore before. For our youngest member, Tom, it’s a first look at this remarkable island. We only have two days and Tom is still a bit short to go on many of the rides available at the theme parks on nearby Sentosa Island.

Ruling out Sentosa we also decide to give Singapore Zoo a miss this time. It’s a spectacular zoo that we have enjoyed by day and by night in years past (sans Tom).

Singapore has so much to offer that even without being drawn to the drawcards of the zoo or Sentosa Island we have decided to spend our time within walking distance of our hotel.

We arrive at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, perfectly placed in the heart of Singapore and looking out in all directions thanks to its oriental fan shape design. The Mandarin Oriental has 527 rooms and suites and we’re lucky enough to have two rooms overlooking Marina Bay.

For a number of years I have heard people describe atrium style hotels as outdated but it’s not my love of all things 80’s that is responsible for my love of atrium style hotels. I love that wonderful sound you get when you enter atrium style hotels. It’s a hum. You can hear the life of the hotel. It makes you feel a part of it right away and the warm sunlight streaming in from high above the centre of the hotel add to the light, active atmosphere. Glass elevators glide up the sides of a column that rises up from the centre of the hotel.

As night falls, Marina Bay becomes one of the most spectacular city sights in the world. Each of our two rooms has a wall sized panoramic window that feels as if the activities on Marina Bay are there to entertain just us. Way out to the left are the Gardens By The Bay while dominating the Marina Bay landscape is the Marina Bay Sands Hotel with its three tiers, topped by a structure surely inspired by Noah’s Ark. In front of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel is the ArtScience Museum, described as resembling an opening lotus flower and often referred to as the welcoming hand of Singapore.

Further around the bay is the Fullerton Hotel. The former 1920’s post office basks in its colonial past with architecture designed when the British Empire was at its height. In front of the Fullerton Hotel is the Merlion statue, water cascading from its mouth into the bay. Closer to the Mandarin Oriental is the Esplanade Theatre building, resembling the biggest durian fruit you’ve ever seen and on the waterfront near the hotel is a street food market with sizzling satay sticks and giant crabs trussed up, waiting to be cooked with black pepper or maybe chilli and garlic.

Having taken in the view, taken a breath and taken in the view again, it’s time to head out. We’ve got a booking on the Singapore Flyer, one of the world’s greatest giant observation wheels. In your capsule at the top, you are 165 metres off the ground and you have 360 degree views of Singapore and the sea beyond.

The Singapore Flyer doesn’t stop and you step into your capsule as it slowly rotates through its orbit. For half an hour you can look at the islands great landmarks and you have plenty of time to try out the various features of your camera to get some spectacular photos.

It’s a great way to start your Singapore adventure. While it’s gentle and relaxing, the anxiety starts to build that there is just so much to see and do. Perhaps it would be better to do the Singapore Flyer at the end of your adventure so you could look out at everything you’ve done. I’ll leave it to you to decide.

The Singapore Flyer venue includes hawker style food stalls and a gift shop with plenty of merchandise to stock up for friends, family and work colleagues.

On our way back to the hotel we walk along the waterfront and through a food market busy with locals all bustling for the food being sizzled and grilled to order. Back in our room we’re just in time to sit at our window and watch the laser show that takes place on Marina Bay each evening. Streaks of purple and green scan across the bay but tiredness is setting in and as we take the shopping bags off the beds they are quickly replaced by sleepy heads.

The following day the family spend some time in the 25 metre swimming pool that while not quite on the rooftop is certainly up high and has great views of the city skyline.

Singapore has always used space very well. There is room to work, rest and play, and breathe. The Mandarin Oriental similarly uses its space very well. Apart from the space created by my beloved atrium, the views from the in-house Chinese restaurant are of a green belt of foliage on a large balcony, beyond which is the congestion of buildings clamouring for the sky. Around the pool deck there is wide open space and more foliage that breaks up the city skyline.

While the family are swimming, I have gone to the hotels spa for the signature spa treatment. They have their work cut out for them with me. I have had one spa treatment before in my life and as I tell the staff, it resulted in me mistaking the disposable underpants as a hairnet. Added to this sense of unfamiliarity and anxiety is the damage I have done to myself in recently climbing a mountain. We discuss my blackened toes and agree that they should not be touched. I’m not sure who was most relieved not to touch them.

The signature spa therapy devised for me considers my anxiety and desire for a simple experience that is enjoyable and therapeutic. I answer a questionnaire about my health as honestly as I can and in consultation with my therapist we selected oil aromas that calm me and actually stop my mind and body fighting each other. I stop thinking about what’s coming up next in my life. I stop thinking about what I need to do for my family. I just stop. I relax.

I returned to my family still with blackened toes but with a spirit that was soaring higher than any summit I’ve stood upon.

My rejuvenation was quickly tested by our next Singapore excursion. It’s time to pick some shopping malls to visit and close to our hotel is the Raffles City Mall, Suntec and Marina Square, all renowned for having plenty of opportunities for all ages to find something to buy.

Our mission is to make Matilda’s day. She has read somewhere, months earlier, about Bonheur Patisserie who specialise in gorgeous macrons. Macarons and Matilda go hand in hand, or hand to mouth as the case may be. We make our way to Raffles City Mall, pausing for a photo with the kids outside the Raffles Hotel. The Long Bar is calling me back after many years of absence but Matilda’s needs are greater.

Watching her gaze in wonder at the assortment of macarons at Bonheur Patisserie is a greater joy to me than any Tiger beer and a bowl of peanuts at the Long Bar could ever provide. We all choose a flavour to savour and not a word is spoken as we ensure each little crumb is gathered and devoured. My Rum and Raisin is rich and strong while the Earl Grey, Nutella and Salted Caramel all carry distinctive flavours that linger.

That evening we walk over to the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and have a superhero themed dinner at the Super Heroes Cafe before walking to the Gardens By The Bay. For the time we have and the little legs wearing out we decide to forego exploring the 101 hectares of pavilions, domes, lakes, sculptures and conservatories and make our way straight to the Supertrees. These giant structures are between 25 and 50 metres tall, filled with vertical gardens and come to life at night with a display of light and sound described by Tom as ‘Epic!’

I’ve secured tickets for the OCBC Skyway, a steel platform that links several of the Supertrees together. It’s 22 metres off the ground and 128 metres long.


We’re allowed just fifteen minutes to walk on it and take in the view of this amazing botanic park and the city lights beyond. It’s our last adventure in Singapore before heading to Changi airport and it leaves a wonderful impression on all of us.

We leave Singapore having met our challenge. More than that, we have had fun together without having to go our separate ways. We’ve stayed in luxury together, eaten and shopped together, enjoyed adventures together and we’ve done it all by walking distances that weren’t too much for even the youngest member of the team. Not bad for just two days. Next time we’ll make it four.