Whether your interest lies in food, fitness, fragrance, or booze, Singapore has enough to stimulate your senses. As the city opens its doors to tourists after a two-year hiatus, we find that its scenic views and deftly designed experiences go hand-in-hand in creating a memorable sojourn
The Marina Bay Sands hotel
When an interest is expressed, I find myself attempting to strike a business deal. For two per cent royalty, I am willing to reveal my winning recipe—a selection of seven scents among the 200 available before me. We’re sampling scents at Sentosa Siloso Beach’s Sentopia (quite a tongue-twister, isn’t it?). Given that only moments ago the team at the guided perfume tour and scent-making workshop had claimed that my concoction resembled that of a luxury fragrance brand, I conclude that they’d stand to benefit from its sales. They laugh. I laugh. No deal is struck.
Scentopia is a flamboyant addition to Singapore’s array of reimagined attractions born out of the pandemic. As the southeast Asian city-state opens its doors to tourists in the aftermath of a burdensome two-year hiatus, the outlet offers a desirable assault on the senses by letting tourists sample Singapore’s ingredients and culture, captured in 5 ml bottles. Visitors leave with self-created concoctions as souvenirs.
A meal preparation at the Interim Market. Pic/Getty Images
Albeit strikingly vibrant, Scentopia doesn’t stick out as a sore thumb amid Singapore’s lush landscape. Viewed from atop, the towering architectural masterpieces leave Singapore with a silvery matte finish. But, closer to the ground, the city comes alive with every shade on the palette. Its lush greenery isn’t relegated to the fringes, but is interdigitated with its architecture. We’re told this is owing to the foresight of its lawmakers, who anticipated the repercussions of global warming on
the tropical city, early into the development.
A discussion on Singapore’s colours is incomplete without a mention of The Museum of Ice Cream (40 SGD). Washed in pink, this pandemic baby kicks off its proceedings with a naming ceremony for all its visitors. It is here that I am rechristened Sonia Lulime, just like Shah Rukh Khan is Shah Rukh Khrunch, and Justin Timberlake, Justin Timbershake. Navigating a sprawling trail punctuated by five ice cream stations, we find references to the city’s culture, both old and new, as we feast on its finest flavours. Its final station— a cheesecake preparation—is not to be missed!
At the scent-making workshop at Scentopia, we created our own concoction to take home
As a keen fitness pro who is yet to train attention to meditative practices, I felt palpable excitement on realising how accessible such methods were at the Wellness Sensorium. Of course, tasked with stacking a collection of stones atop each other elicited more rage than joy, but creating melodic music while spinning at the Spin Orchestra, or immersing myself in the Light and Sound Bath were experiences I could hold on to for tad longer.
Singapore is a haven for fitness enthusiasts. Exploring four jogging trails over my five-day stay, I am told I only scratched the surface of its scenic routes. A four-kilometre stretch encircling the Marina Bay emerges as a hotspot. We find ourselves accompanied by joggers, cyclists and skateboarders, whilst enjoying the scenic view of the city’s iconic architecture—the Apple Marina Bay Sands store (as visually arresting from the outside as it is from within) which offers a panoramic view of the city as it sits on water, the almost nine-metre tall Singaporean mascot, The Merlion, as well as the Marina Bay Sands hotel.
The Apple Marina Bay Sands Store as spotted along the jogging trail
Atop this three-towered hotel, on its 57th floor, we catch a glimpse of the break of dawn, while breaking into a sweat. The sunrise yoga session (30 SGD) at SkyPark attracts locals and tourists in equal measure, offering an unparalleled view of the city’s skyline while executing a series of vinyasa flows.
“Float,” they say. We are at Singapore’s Palm Ave Float Club, facing a pristine white pod carrying 600 kg of Epsom salt dissolved in water. In a bid to disconnect one from external stimuli, the city’s first flotation therapy (120 SGD) outlet, launched in 2014, aims to create an ambience where neither gravity, nor sound or light, is experienced. “Claustrophobic, impatient,” I remind myself of traits that would make it difficult for me to survive in the pod for over 15 minutes of the hour-long session. Lilting music aims to lead us to a state of calm, as we spend the first 10 minutes twisting and struggling, clasping onto things to maintain balance in the spacious pod. Moments later, the therapy manages to do what it promises—create a sense of disconnect from oneself. We’re brought to awareness only at the close of 60 minutes.
In a bid to pay tribute to the hardware heritage of Tyrwhitt Road’s hardware companies, the Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar retains its original structure while reimagining its interiors. Coffee lovers will be at a loss to give this café a miss. While you’re at it, dig into its immersive chocolate banana muffin. At Harding Road, Chef Julien Royer’s three-month-old Claudine presents a fine array of French cuisine; at the world-famous Jewel Changi Airport, Violet Oon serves a delectable selection for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian feasters. However, it is at Sentosa’s newly launched food hall, the Interim Market that we get a taste of Singapore’s finest cheese pizzas, fresh vegetable preparations, and black rice and vegan coconut sorbets, among four other preparations. A modern Indian outlet, we’re told, is likely to be the newest addition here. Even if you aren’t a foodie, this is a place you’ll be returning to.
Singapore has been masterfully crafted. But what stands out during my time spent in the city is its people, and their stories. An emphasis on approaching work with diligence appears to have been ingrained among its residents, and its importance, reiterated by lawmakers. We unwittingly leave Brass Lion Distillery’s gin tour (70 SGD) with more knowledge than we bargain for as co-founder Satish Vaswani—inarguably among the finer storytellers we have met —interlaces details of gin production with stories of his company’s inception. Vaswani employs sarcasm to entertain his audience as he pulls out samples of Asian botanicals used in the making of his handcrafted products, or discusses the laborious making of the dry gin, with 22 spices.
We’re introduced to Bernard at the close of our five-day tour at Nox’s dine-in-the-dark experience. While sampling Singapore’s finest cuisine, Bernard also gives us a taste of his unwavering determination, as he emerged to craft a journey as a visually-impaired, only five years ago. At 47, the then-healthy teacher returned home after a regular day at work, fell asleep, but woke up to darkness. Four unsuccessful eye surgeries later, he trained himself to live life as a visually-impaired. Five years on, Bernard guides us into his world as we, like the name suggests, dine in complete darkness. Using familiar cues, and abundant humour, he guides us through a scrumptious three-course meal, teaching us to eat precisely what he wants us to, and in the order that he desires. Was the experience unnerving? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely!
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