Being asked to choose your favourite city is a difficult task; it depends what you’re looking for. Given my love of food, Singapore is a metropolis that I adore. It’s an amazing place and it satisfies the four things that I personally look for in a city: rest, nature, architecture and gastronomy.
The most stunning thing I have ever seen in Singapore is Thaipusam, a festival in which devout Hindus walk for five kilometres along Serangoon Road as a symbolic show of their devotion. As a visitor, observing the colours, the powerful aromas and the rituals that take place, like coal walking and body piercing, is truly something special to behold.
For me, there are two categories of shopping: fashion and antiques. Singapore has both. Three storeys of the Tanglin Mall are dedicated to antiques and Asian crafts. The Sungei Road Thieves Market is a bit of a time warp, but very fun to browse and dig around if you have the time. When it comes to designer clothing, Singapore is a great place to shop as there is no tax for visitors. ION Orchard is a new mega-mall and it has everything you could imagine, being billed as “Singapore’s first multi-sensory experiential shopping and lifestyle mall.” And Orchard Road (it’s comparable to Toronto’s Bloor Street) is pretty incredible, too.
Singapore is like no other city just for the sheer variety of food. It’s very multicultural; there is food of Indian, Malay, Indonesian, Thai, and all of the Chinese ethnicities. The food markets are not to be missed—it’s street food at its very best! Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre and Old Airport Road Food Centre are two of my favourite spots.
My restaurant partner in Singapore, Andrew Tjioe (the executive chairman of TungLok Group), has 14 different restaurants in the city—one of which is TungLok Heen by Susur Lee—as well as outposts in China, Japan and Indonesia. I can honestly say that I had never met anyone who loves food as much as I do, who would eat anything or travel to an unknown place for a meal, until I met Andrew. All of his restaurants are great, but I love Lao Beijing. It’s casual and serves northern Chinese food. The popiah is just so flavourful and so different from what a North American would expect from Chinese food. I also can’t resist the amazing Indian buffet hosted by Raffles Hotel each Sunday.
There is no luxury like the Mandarin Oriental. In Singapore, the five-star hotel has an incredible view of the skyline, a wonderful spa and a Sunday brunch that is over the top. Raffles Hotel is a close second, and given that it opened in 1887, its architecture is historical and beautiful. Long Bar, a lounge situated inside of the property, is where the Singapore Sling was invented.