With new hotels, a street food revolution and an award-winning airline, Singapore is becoming Asia's hottest destination for well-heeled travelers.
"Singapore Street Food and Cristal Champagne!" promises a teaser for Food Republic Beer Garden, the latest project owned by a preeminent chain of Singapore food markets. Open-air food courts are not a new concept, but Food Republic is probably the first chain to think of serving top-shelf Champagne alongside its hawker fare.
This niche-somewhere between exotic, island-style, contemporary and chic-is Singapore's specialty. The city-state is English-speaking, multi-cultural, idiosyncratic and quite wealthy. And lately, it's resumed its efforts to outreach to Westerners.
Since the logistics of getting to a long-haul destination can be either half the battle or half the fun, Singapore wins the first travelers-choice round for its in-the-skies experience. Singapore Airlines has always been a standout international airline, and continued this streak with a slew of awards in 2010 including a spot on our Editors Choice list for Best Luxury Airlines.
Business Traveller UK named it "Best Overall Airline," while it won the readers' choice award for "Best Overall" from Business Traveler USA. Picking up the baton once SIA's celebrated A380s land, Changi Airport, always notable for its excellent shopping and hospitality amenities, raised the bar last year with the unveiling of a 39-foot-high slide at T3.
The hotel scene enjoyed growth in 2010 and will continue to in 2011. Marina Bay waterfront welcomed the Fullerton Bay Hotel-notable for its six handsome themed suites, each featuring a different Asian motif that's significant to Singapore's hybrid culture. The Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa reopened in January after a $63 million refurbishment.
Further to the themed suite trend, Singapore recently announced plans to convert its iconic Merlion mascot into an artistic suite that can accommodate overnight guests. It's not entirely clear how a water-spewing 20-foot-high statue in the form of a magical creature can be turned into a hotel suite, but after a design makeover by Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi, the Merlion will be available for one-night stays (April 4 to May 5 only).
As for Singapore's food...although Westerners may not yet have tasted it, Singapore's street food has been hailed by experts from Top Chef and the Martha Stewart Show. The Singapore tourism board, smartly, has decided to capitalize on that media with the SPICE campaign, which will feature pop-up restaurants in nine cities including New York, London and Sydney.
When foodies are finally inspired to make the trip over here, they'll find a wealth of tasting experiences; from "heritage hawkers" on the newly opened Singapore Food Trail to a classic Singapore Sling at the Long Bar to shrimp skewers and Dom Perignon.