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Singapore On A Roll

Published: 30/03/2010 - Filed under: Features » Features » Destinations » Archive » 2010 » April 2010 » Destinations »

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For many years, Sentosa, the small island at Singapore’s southern tip, was a sleepy tourist spot whose anaemic attractions struggled to keep visitors. Not anymore. About a decade ago, new management overhauled policies that made the island more accessible by adding a road to the island and lowering entry rates. However, it is the launch of Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) in January that has put Sentosa back in the spotlight.

Resorts World Sentosa

RWS is a 49ha property owned by Malaysia’s Genting International, the overseas investment arm of the Genting Group. The chief attraction of RWS is the 15,000sqm casino, which has more than 500 tables offering about 10 types of games. The casino opened on February 14 and attracted some 60,000 people on the day itself and over 149,000 visitors by the end of the first week.

Madam Sally Yeoh, 53, visited the casino when it opened and described the place as classier than the one in Genting Highlands in Malaysia. “It’s a massive place with thick carpets and high ceilings. It was very crowded when I went.”

The casino has a stage for live performances, a bar, lots of seating areas and restaurants serving local food.

“My only complaint was that there didn’t seem to be enough toilets and the queue for the women’s toilet was very long,” Yeoh points out.

As Singapore’s first legal casino, Resorts World is drawing a steady crowd, especially from tourists. Tour buses regularly disgorge a crowd of people at the casino’s entrance. A weekday check showed that there was a constant queue of tourists waiting to get in.

Singapore’s excellent infrastructure also makes the casino popular with gamblers from around the region. People who enjoy a flutter on the tables can get whisked straight to the casino from Changi Airport. Local taxi drivers are reporting that they are picking up day-trippers from the airport who head straight for the casino and who don’t have any luggage with them.

To dampen the enthusiasm of locals, the Singapore government has required that Singaporeans and Permanent Residents pay a daily levy of S$100 (US$71) or an annual levy of S$2,000 (US$1,430) to enter the casino. For visitors to Singapore, entry is free.

Immediately after it opened, Resorts World faced complaints from punters that the croupiers seemed unsure of themselves, which the company put down to the fact that many of them are new to the job. It is expected that they are improving daily as they work the tables. No further complaints have been heard since.

Although the casino may be the main draw, Singapore has limited it so that it only occupies part of the 49ha of land allocated to the resort. Universal Studios Singapore, is taking up 20ha, or a significant chunk of the available space. It is Universal’s second to open in Asia, and the first in Southeast Asia. The theme park, which opened on March 18, has a total of 24 attractions, though not all of them were ready at the time of launch. Of the 24, 18 are new or have been adapted especially for Singapore. The theme park features the world’s tallest duelling roller coaster.

Apart from being popular with families, Robin Goh, the RWS spokesperson, expects the theme park to be popular with the meetings and incentives crowd too. “It’s closed to the public in the evening, meaning that the various restaurants and attractions are available for private events,” he notes.

The opening of Universal Studios was greatly anticipated by Singaporeans who overwhelmed efforts of the ticket buying system. People complained of long waits over the phone and slow loading pages on the website.

Crockfords Tower

The rest of RWS is devoted to six hotels and other attractions. Of the six hotels, four are already open. They are Crockfords Tower, Hotel Michael, Festive Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel. Each of these hotels is aimed at a different crowd. Crockfords Tower is an all-suite hotel reserved for high-rollers, VIPs and royalty. To make it easy for them to get to the casino, this hotel is located just above it. Festive Hotel, on the other hand, is a family-oriented hotel with rooms that feature bunk-beds for children. Hotel Michael and Hard Rock Hotel are the two hotels that business travellers are likely to gravitate to. Hotel Michael, named after designer and architect Michael Graves, is an 11-storey boutique hotel which has maple-coloured rooms as a distinguishing feature. The Hard Rock Hotel is likely to be popular with convention planners as it is directly connected to 26 meeting rooms as well as the Compass Ballroom, a column-free space that seats up to 7,300 people.

Hard Rock Hotel Sentosa Singapore

Those in need of retail therapy can find the usual high-end names at the Resorts World Galleria. They include Alfred Dunhill, Bvlgari, Chopard, Jimmy Choo, Shanghai Tang and Vertu. The Galleria also has the only Victoria’s Secret boutique in Asia.

Palio

Naturally, Resorts World is not short of food options. Hotel Michael has a Tuscan restaurant called Palio and a contemporary Chinese restaurant, Chinois, the latter helmed by well-known
chef Susur Lee. Festive Hotel has a contemporary Brazilian restaurant, Fiesta, as well as a patisserie called Boulangerie.

Joel RobuchonMore restaurants are slated to come online later this year. They include three outlets by chef Joël Robuchon, namely La Table de Joël Robuchon, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and The Pastry Shop and Lounge. Robuchon currently has 20 dining establishments worldwide with some 25 Michelin stars between them. Japanese haute cuisine will be represented by Kunio, which will be opened by four-star Michelin chef and owner Kunio Tokuoka. Celebrity Australian chef Scott Webster will be bringing contemporary Australian cuisine when he opens Osia.

Other facilities slated to open are two more hotels, Equarius Hotel and Spa Villas, the Spa by ESPA, a water theme park, a marine life park that will be the world’s largest oceanarium and a maritime museum. Several permanent shows are also in the works, including Voyage de la Vie at the Festival Hotel and a water-based Crane Dance that will involve 15-storey high mechanical cranes performing in the waters off the island.

While RWS is currently the jewel in the crown of the island resort, this is not to say that nothing else is happening on the island. Sentosa itself has seven other hotels. The most recent hotel to open outside Resorts World is Capella Singapore, a six-star hotel designed by Lord Norman Foster. It is located on 15ha of secondary rainforest and borders Sentosa Golf Club’s two 18-hole courses. The other hotels on the island of interest of business travellers would be the Sentosa Resort and Spa and the Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa. Coming up by the end of the year is the Mövenpick Hotel Sentosa, a 182-room hotel run by Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts.

Sentosa is not short of dining options either. These include private dining at 35 Artillery, Braise, which serves contemporary European cuisine, Chinese restaurant Cassia, il Lido Italian restaurant, Nogawa Japanese restaurant, Si bon boutique Japanese restaurant, Thanying Thai restaurant and The Cliff at Sentosa Resort and Spa.

Sentosa has come a long way from the time when the island was derided as “so expensive and nothing to see also”. Those with an adventurous streak will find Sentosa to be a refreshing change from the air-conditioned malls of Orchard Road that Singapore is famous for.

Wave House Sentosa is a S$15 million (US$10.7 million) artificial wave centre that offers the experience of surfing in a three-storey complex. The highlight of Wave House is The Wave, which
can simulate a 10-foot wave for those who like surfing but haven’t got the time to slip off to the beaches of Indonesia.

Wake boarders and thrill seekers can also head for the Azzura Hydro Sports Centre, which offers banana boat rides as well as rides on a “flying fish”, a craft towed behind a speeding boat.

The Megazip Adventure Park is for true adrenaline junkies. It features a 75m high, 540m long flying fox that hurtles you forward at a maximum speed of 50km/h. If that isn’t hair raising enough, there is a three-level obstacle course that is a vertigo-inducing 12m above the ground as well as a 15m high ParaJump that replicates the feeling of a freefall parachute jump.

Finally, opening by the year-end is iFly Singapore, said to be the world’s largest skydiving simulator. This transparent vertical wind tunnel offers a flying height of 17m and simulates the effect of skydiving while simultaneously offering users a view of the South China Sea and Sentosa’s Siloso Beach.

Naturally, it goes without saying that those of us who regularly enjoy foie gras and Veuve Clicquot should probably not be giving our hearts too much of a workout. However, for corporate bonding activities, these attractions might be an interesting option.

Thanks to the land bridge between Singapore and Sentosa, getting to and from Sentosa is now possible by car or taxi. A monorail service also links Sentosa to the VivoCity Mall. Resorts World also has a bus service that will take visitors straight to the casino. 

More Boutique types to come

The Club of the hotel arm of Harry’s International (as in Harry’s Bar) is to soft open on April 28 on Ann Siang Hill in the picturesque Chinatown district. The four-storey property will have a skybar and tapas outlet.

Studio M opens this month with 365 rooms, brainchild of the Millennium & Copthorne Hotels group.

Wonderlust will be the epitome of industrial glam when it opens in July in the Little India district with 29 rooms. It’s being fashioned from a series of old shophouses.

The Fullerton Bay Hotel, located at Clifford Pier, the landing point for Singapore’s early settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries, will have 100 rooms. Part of the Fullerton Heritage precinct, which includes The Fullerton Hotel, it will open this year.


Boutique-y…quirky

It’s suddenly raining design-driven hotels and boltholes in Singapore. Margie T Logarta surveys this new-generation of upscale addresses

klapsons

klapsons hotel singapore

The hotel’s name was derived from the owning family’s initials – KL (dad), Lionel (son), Adrian (son), Peggy (mom) and sons representing “my brother and I, who are at the back of it all”,  says Adrian Lee, director of investments, Jit Sun Investments.

klapsons is a unique hotel annexe to an office block at the southern end of Singapore’s CBD. A philosophy of challenging benchmarks is clearly seen in much of the public spaces that boasts breakthrough design and iconic furniture pieces such as the Moraine bench by Zaha Hadid. Expect the unexpected as well in each of the 17 guestrooms, no two of which are alike, even the standard entry ones.

On the first floor is Lucas, a contemporary grill that reinterprets classic dishes with an infusion of modern twists. Signature dishes include the 14-day dry-aged prime US beef cuts, grilled blue-fin tuna and dark chocolate mousse.

Contact: 15 Hoe Chiang Road, tel 65 6521 9030, www.klapsons.com

Wangz

Wangz Hotel Singapore

The aluminium cylindrical façade already proclaims this 41-room hotel as unusual. And the impression is borne out further inside where flora and fauna is the theme and a stunning collection of original artwork emphasises that over and over again.

Guestrooms come with king-size or twin Sealy Posturepedic beds, luxurious linens, goose feather down duvet, pillow menu, free Wi-Fi internet access, 37-inch flat-panel TV, DVD player and an iPod docking station and electronic in-room safe. The bathroom has some unusual amenities: a view of the city and piped-in mood music. Selected beverages from the minibar
are complimentary.

F&B offerings consist of Nectar for modern Asian cuisine and Halo lounge on the rooftop for martinis.

Contact: 231 Outram Road, tel 65 6595 1388, www.wangzhotel.com

Hotel Re!@Pearl’s Hill

Hotel Re! Singapore

Retro décor and colours transport guests from today’s high-tech era to the funky vibe of the 1960s and 1970s. Each of the 170 guestrooms features all the mod cons of LCD TV with cable feed and Wi-Fi access among others, with an accent wall papered with silhouettes of past popular icons like the divine Marilyn Monroe and the immortally suave James Bond. Trading on the hotel’s name, the restaurant is cleverly dubbed Re!Fill (for international cuisine), the spa is Re!Fresh (treatments are appointment only) and the function spaces is Re!Union (for up to 120 people).

Contact: 175A Chin Swee Road, tel 65 6827 8288, www.hotelre.com.sg

Hotel Michael

Hotel Michael

A collection of “all things Michael Graves” is the best way to sum up the essence of this 470-room one-off project. Named after the renowned designer, it carries his stamp on everything, from the guestroom’s honey-coloured maple walls to the archaic landscape morals to the circular blue mosaic showers. Even the carpets and crockery haven’t been spared his creative flair. Sweeping views of the harbour or the Merlion statue are afforded in Deluxe Rooms, Club Rooms, Deluxe Suites and two Presidential Suites. An Italian restaurant and two bars – off the lobby and another on the 11th floor – provide stylish entertaining options.

Contact: 8 Sentosa Gateway, Resorts World Sentosa, tel 65 6577 8899, www.rwsentosa.com


TIP OFF – Smart Travel Intelligence

Apart from having to pay to get into the new integrated resort, SINGAPORE also provides one and all with free Wi-Fi, concept shopping and sound health facilities

GET WIRED UP

Through a service called Wireless@SG, you can get free wireless internet access at most cafés and malls around town. Sign up for it at www.infocomm123.sg/wireless_at_sg/registration and you can be online from your laptop or smartphone. Once you are in a Wireless@SG hotspot, you will be prompted to sign on to the service when you attempt to use your web browser. To sign up, you will need to input your mobile number.

SHOPPING MECCA

It staggers the mind that so many high-end malls can fit on Singapore’s Orchard Road, but there you have it. The latest to open are the hoity-toity ION Orchard and the lively 313@Somerset. Ngee Ann City is older, but is still one of the largest malls in Singapore where you can spend the whole afternoon in.

BROWSE FOR FREE

Shopping may be a popular pastime but it’s not just about Ermenegildo Zegna or Bvlgari. Singapore has two large well-stocked bookstores as well, Borders at Wheelock Place and Kinokuniya in Ngee Ann City, where you can bone up on management techniques or find the latest New York Times bestseller.

ADMIRE THE ARTWORK

There is no shortage of art galleries, museums and theatre performances in Singapore. The Singapore Art Museum is well known for its collection of contemporary Southeast Asian Art while the National Museum of Singapore is having an exhibition on ancient Egypt until April 4. The Esplanade is an arts centre with a world-class concert hall, theatre and numerous small spaces.

GET CHECKED

Singapore has a reputation for excellence in medicine and people from around the region fly here for specialist treatment. However, if you are here on business, you might consider a medical check-up. Private hospitals such as Mount Elizabeth, Gleneagles Hospital and Raffles Hospital will be happy to do a complete scan for you. Ask your concierge to help you get an appointment.

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