I had visited Singapore before this trip of a lifetime, though admittedly, only as a stopover en route to my final destination. After five days filled with fun, unique activities, incredible dining and unforgettable experiences, I was shown Singapore in a completely different light, learning just how spectacular the island-city is as a destination in its own right. A vibrant blend of cultures, cuisine and contemporary attractions was topped off perfectly by the luxurious base of the Mandarin Oriental Singapore.
Day 1: A Warm Welcome
After a comfortable flight, we arrived in Singapore in the late afternoon. Following a friendly meet-and-greet at the airport and speedy transfer, we were ready to check-in for four nights at Mandarin Oriental Singapore. The grand exterior, elegant lobby and warm welcome were just a sign of things to come, as I was shown to my Marina Bay View Room, complete with huge floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the shimmering water and bright lights of Marina Bay, an area filled with amazing architecture, a scenic waterfront and the iconic Gardens by the Bay. Each day in my room, I was met with a new, locally-inspired treat - from artisan tea to famous Mandarin Oriental chocolates.
Once settled in, it was time for an evening cycling tour around the neighbourhood of Marina Bay, Singapore's main dining and entertainment district with so much to see and do. While exploring, we stopped for dinner at Gluttons Bay - ideally located just in front of the magnificent Mandarin Oriental - a bustling area of stalls that serve Singapore's best street food. Sitting here, eating delicious dumplings and noodles accompanied by an ice-cold Tiger Beer, was the perfect start to what was going to be a truly unforgettable trip.
Day 2: Tai Chi, Temples and Tantalizing Trees
My first full day here meant my first breakfast, which I blown away by! The choice on offer in Mandarin Oriental's beautiful Melt Café ranged from fresh farmhouse eggs and sweet treats, to local delicacies and freshly baked bread and pastries - heaven! More than satisfied, we head out to the famed Botanic Gardens for a private Tai Chi session. The ideal way to begin a Sunday morning and rejuvenate after a long flight the day before, a local expert in the martial art showed us the basics. I must say, it was quite a work out, but I absolutely loved it and have since looked into taking it up back in the UK! A delicious healthy smoothie with views over the gardens was the perfect end to our energetic morning. If you want to try out Tai Chi on your next trip to Singapore (and I wholeheartedly recommend that you do), our dedicated Concierge Team will be happy to arrange it in a location that best suits you.
Next, it was time to explore Little India, a bustling area where I was met by the delicious smells of Indian food and incense. A friendly guide took us around this fascinating pocket of Singapore, passing amazing street art, beautiful temples, ornate mosques, impressive gold shops and countless food stalls. This brilliantly busy day wasn't over yet and as the sun began to set, we head to the Gardens of the Bay, definitely the sight of Singapore that I most recognised. It is a gigantic nature park that lies next to the marina, consisting of three gardens, futuristic domes and the iconic Supertrees - huge structures that measure up to 50 metres tall - connected by a walkway. As darkness fell, music began to play and the gorgeous trees lit up in the impressive Garden Rhapsody show. I have honestly never seen anything like it and was mesmerised throughout the fifteen-minute spectacle. Right within the gardens is the fine dining restaurant, Pollen, where we ate dinner that evening. Following the cool temperature of the Flower Dome conservatory, it was a unique dining experience with delicious food and wine to match!
Day 3: Exploring in Style
Today began with perhaps my favourite activity of the trip: exploring the city by vintage Vespa sidecar! Mandarin Oriental is one of the few hotels in Singapore that allows the Vespas to pick riders up right from the property, meaning it was no time at all until we were (very safely) gliding around the city. My driver was named Junwei, a super-friendly local whose knowledge about Singapore blew me away! You can decide which route you want to take and which sights you want to see, and my group chose to explore the enchanting backstreets and areas that we may not have stumbled upon otherwise.
One of these areas was called Joo Chiat & Katong, where we learnt more about the fascinating Pernakan culture, a vibrant mixture of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage. Cute shops selling local sweets and trinkets, bustling eateries and colonial houses line bustling Koon Seng Road, while visiting children can try on local dress - making the area great for families. We enjoyed lunch at a restaurant called Folklore, where dishes blend Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian and Pernakan flavours. The chef Damian was so friendly and passionate, and it was unanimously one of the group's dining highlights on the trip.
Returning to our hotel, the rest of the day was spent experiencing more of the legendary Mandarin Oriental hospitality. After a dip in the rooftop pool, it was time for cocktails in the new MO Bar with views over the bay. The cocktail menu here is incredible, with each drink inspired by Singaporean heritage. I chose the Mother of Dragon cocktail, which the menu explained was based on a local legend that the ancient gods sent a family of dragons to protect the bay against invaders. A true piece of art, it was easily the most beautiful drink I've ever seen - with a delicious taste to match! We then head up to Dolce Vita for dinner, their Italian restaurant that is located next to the swimming pool. It was laid-back while remaining chic and sophisticated, and the risotto I ate here was sensational.
Day 4: A Day of Fun and Discovery
After another fabulous breakfast, we head to the island of Sentosa. Part of the journey was by car, while the rest was by skyride, which provided amazing views that stretched for miles. Sentosa is a resort island just south of Singapore which offers everything from three beautiful beaches to a range of theme parks, making it great for families as well as adults. Among the adventures here are Universal Studios Singapore, the Adventure Cove Waterpark and KidZania, where little ones can role-play and try out different careers - from chefs and scientists, to pilots and mountaineers!
Back in Singapore and less than ten minutes from the gorgeous Mandarin Oriental, we spent the afternoon at the ArtScience Museum. I mean it when I say that this was the most fun, interactive and interesting museum I've ever been to in my life, with plenty for all ages through a huge variety of exhibitions and features. My highlight was an area named FUTURE WORLD, where you enter a huge digital universe of interactive art installations. You could even draw your own building on a screen and see it appear as part of the virtual town around you - amazing!
Day 5: Singapore's Blend of Cultures
Though I was gutted to wake up for the final time in this unique and incredible island-city, there was still plenty to do on our last day, with activities highlighting the captivating combination of cultures in Singapore.
The morning was spent touring an eclectic and wonderfully relaxed local neighbourhood called Kampong Glam. As well as a rich Malay- Muslim history and fascinating heritage trail, the colourful Haji Lane here is home to amazing shops, quirky boutiques and hipster bars, showing yet another side of Singapore. Then, we went to Chinatown to participate in a tea ceremony, sipping delicious blends as we listened to the traditional Nanyin music brought over to Singapore by the Chinese. We even tried our hand at playing the instruments ourselves; what an incredible finale to the most amazing stay in the city.