Singapore! David and I had been looking forward to visiting Singapore ever since he was supposed to have a work trip back in 2015, so we were thrilled when the time finally came to visit as our last stop in Asia! In contrast to the typical futuristic sights Singapore is known for such as The Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands, we sought out some of the city’s older charms during our visit. And who knew Singapore was so colorful? From the charming Peranakan shophouses to the rainbow-clad Mica Building this may be my most vibrant travel diary yet. I’ve been continually surprised by how at home I feel in these large Asian cities (Osaka, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok…) and know we’ll return to Singapore to explore even more in the near future.
Here are some of our favorites from our time in Singapore:
St. Regis Singapore. Some of our favorite moments of our trip have unfolded at St. Regis hotels around the world including our friend’s magical wedding at the St. Regis Kauai and experiencing sakura while staying at the St. Regis Osaka, so we were really looking forward to staying at the St. Regis while in Singapore. One thing I love about St. Regis’s around the world is how they all tie in signature design elements and experiences established by the Astors (the family that founded the first St. Regis in New York in 1904). Even on the other side of the world, you can feel the Astor’s legacy in details large and small. On a large scale, each hotel has a massive crystal chandelier (one of Lady Astor’s favorite things), and my favorite small detail is that each location has a signature Bloody Mary inspired by the local culture. In Singapore, it’s the Chilli Padi Mary, a deliciously spicy recipe and the perfect way to ease into a getaway weekend in Singapore, where spicy foods reign from hawker stalls to fine dining. The rooms were beautiful, and I loved the pastel colors in our suite set against polished hardwoods. (If only that chartreuse marble coffee table wasn’t too heavy to cart home!) I had remembered seeing their penthouse featured in an issue of Architectural Digest several years back, so one rainy afternoon I asked for a peek at the gorgeous de Gournay chinoiserie wallpaper in the King Cole Suite, one of the hotel’s best rooms.
We visited at the beginning of monsoon season, so afternoons were often spent indoors. Whether hunting down the best hawker food or visiting Singapore’s National Gallery there’s a lot to do in Singapore whatever the weather. When the sun was out we would walk – for miles – trying to take in as much of the city’s design and atmosphere as possible. Here are a few of our favorite walks around town:
- Botanical Gardens. The Singapore Botanical Gardens are not only one gorgeous park, but they are also recognized by UNESCO for the garden’s cultural significance, both as a tropical British colonial garden and its role today as a scientific institution for conservation and education. We recommend taking a loop around Swan Lake, heading through the Frangipani Grove, and ending near the Orchid Gardens. We even ran into Sophie McShera (Daisy from Downton Abbey!) walking through the gardens a few days after the announcement that they’re making a Downton Abbey movie. I died!
- Emerald Hill Conservation Area. Our favorite architectural area of Singapore, Emerald Hill Conservation Area is lined with neatly manicured Peranakan homes and shophouses, arranged in beautiful pastels and reminiscent of West 12th Street in Manhattan or a line of homes on Pacific Heights in San Francisco. The charm of this neighborhood is intensified given that it’s tucked behind the glitzy shopping destination, Orchard Hill Road. Old and new! Stop at Que Pasa for a nibble after your walk.
- Little India. A dance of eye popping-ly bright colors splashed across homes and shops, Singapore’s Little India takes around 20 minutes to see completely, and you can extend the tour by walking 20 minutes south to the rainbow-shuttered Mica Building on Hill Street, the Chjimes Building, and Singapore’s Central Fire Station.
If there’s one thing Singapore’s known for – it’s food. We spent most of our time trying as many hawker food stalls as we could stomach, in addition to having the most incredible Italian we’ve enjoyed outside of Italy. Here are a few types of food experiences typical to the city and our recommendations:
- Hawker Stalls. Signature Singapore, these food stalls packed into markets offer a range of Singaporean, Malaysian, Indian, and Chinese cuisine for rock-bottom prices, perfect for sampling small snacks from several stalls. One of David’s college acquaintances holds the accomplishment of eating at every hawker center in Singapore. That’s over 108 meals! We used his list and recommendations to guide our hawker stall food tours, even going as far afield as the Old Airport Road Food Market. Even the tiniest stalls are graded on their food safety, similar to the rating system in New York, so you can decide how adventuresome you want to be while dining by viewing the restaurants grades (A, B, C…).
- For drinks, we loved the Chilli Padi Mary at the glossy Astor Bar in the St. Regis, and sipping wine on the terrace at Que Pasa.
- For finer dining, we loved watching Singaporeans meet for power lunches at Yan Ting (upscale Chinese), and had the best Italian we’ve had in months at La Brezza. We tried La Brezza’s degustation menu which included a gorgeous lobster bisque starter and ended with the chef coming out to assemble our tiramisu at the table!
Thank you to the St. Regis Singapore for the memories and for partnering on this post!
All photos by David and Stacie Flinner for stacieflinner.com