Singapore may be perceived as squeaky clean and well regulated but that just adds to its delights as a modern and efficient business centre
ABOUT THE CITY
Few places provide such a gentle introduction to Asia as Singapore. The city is so squeaky clean and well regulated that, climate aside, it would make a near perfect fit if it were to be transported to, say, Switzerland. The island state did go through a period when it was about as exciting to visit as some suburban UK new town. But much has changed and a trip to Singapore is now a very attractive proposition.
There’s a very good choice of ways to travel around in Singapore, including taxis, which are reasonably priced with knowledgeable drivers, and the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), a modern air-conditioned train service with stations all over the territory.
TOP BUSINESS HOTELS
This is a favourite with well-heeled business travellers keen on choosing the “right” address. Many of the rooms at this landmark hotel have views across the bay. All the usual five-star facilities are to be found in this very stylish hotel, designed with the familiar atrium by John Portman at its heart.
A stylish Singapore landmark hotel, right next door to Bugis Junction, which manages to preserve at least a hint of the area’s history in the form of its shop-house-style setting. The hotel is ideally placed for the financial district, as well as the Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre
The Fullerton Hotel
Transformed from the Fullerton Building, built in 1928, this luxury 400-room hotel is right by the riverside with all its fashionable restaurants and bars. It’s a firm favourite with local business people as an after-work gathering place.
One for your time off: Raffles Hotel.
Stay here and you are in a piece of Singapore’s history. Raffles, named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, is one of the few remaining great 19th-century hotels of the world. Declared a national monument by the Singapore Government in 1987, it reopened in 1991 after a major refurbishment programme. Make sure you try a Singapore Sling cocktail in The Long Bar, where it was invented.
PICK OF THE RESTAURANTS
Given the name of this restaurant it will come as little surprise that meat makes up much of the menu, particularly prime steaks, but they are presented very well, cooked and served on oak planks, a technique popular in parts of South America. Thought to be the first of its kind in Singapore, this Argentine-style restaurant has been packing in the crowds, if only for its novelty value.
A well-known Singapore restaurant, which has now relocated to a historic shop-house in the Mohamed Sultan conservation area. Food tends to be modern European, so this is an ideal place to visit if you are feeling a touch homesick for something familiar with a gourmet twist.
There’s certainly no shortage of bars to be found in this surprisingly vibrant city. Some of the liveliest, though not necessarily the smartest and most stylish, are to be found in Clarke Quay, a refurbished riverside development of old warehouses now made up almost entirely of bars and restaurants.
Some others worth checking include Butter Factory (01-03, Riverside 48, 48 Robertson Quay), a stylish and chic modern bar, part of which is an art gallery, and Red Dot Brewhouse (01-01, 25A, Dempsey Road), a superb microbrewery masterminded by a self-trained brewer who took the plunge and opened his own brewhouse.
The tropical climate means that suits tend to be worn only at the most important and formal business meetings; otherwise a long-sleeved shirt and tie are the norm. For women, light suits are customary. Local businessmen and women tend to stay in their offices until quite late, often even if there is no urgent work to do, because of the perception that late workers are hard workers.
A boat trip along the river from Clarke Quay is a good sightseeing starting point. Then head over to the Botanical Gardens, where the highlight is a herbarium, specially built to house orchids, Singapore’s national flower, of which there are reputed to be 12,000 types growing here.
Singapore Zoo is worth a visit, too. Go at breakfast time if you can, and you can eat with the orang-utans. Next door to the zoo is the Night Safari where, between 7.30 pm and midnight, you can see buffalo, deer, tigers and fishing cats as they come out to feed.
OTHER THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Singapore is eight hours ahead of UK time.
Office hours are generally Monday to Friday, 8.30am-5.30pm.
English is the main business language.
Pack an umbrella - finding a taxi during tropical downpours is notoriously difficult.