AN OASIS IN THE CITY: FINDING BLISS AT THE SHANGRI-LA, SINGAPORE
Jet lag can be a bitch. And despite a lovely experience flying Singapore Airlines Premium Economy Class, I still feel it strongly. I arrive in Changi Airport dazed at the fact that it’s bright and early morning in Singapore, and that the sun is shining and humidity has already hit 100%. It’s quite a different scene to the drizzly 15 degree British summer I left behind at the other end of my flight. Already, I’m incredibly excited to be back in Singapore, one of my favorite cities in the world. But all I’m thinking about is a big cozy bed and a cup of tea. Luckily from the moment I land, the Shangri-La staff can just about read my mind.
I’m picked up at the gate and helped every step of the way until I get into my air-conditioned car which takes me straight to the hotel. I sit back and begin to take it all in, watching the city go by my window frame as the tropical landscape speeds past. I’ve missed Asia so much – the constant smell of spices, the buzz of spirituality and even the intense humidity which I secretly love. The first time I truly explored South East Asia, Singapore was my starting point. I looked beyond the skyscrapers and Marina Bay Sands and found a fusion of cultures and cuisines which still makes me love the city today.
This time around, I’m doing it a little differently. I’m here for only three days to experience both the city and the Shangri-La, Singapore. It’s the original Shangri-La Hotel, built in 1971, but even 45 years later, is still one of the most exciting hotels in the city. I’m here to find out why.
From the moment I arrive at the Shangri-La, I feel I’ve entered into a garden oasis. It becomes immediately obvious that this place is not like other 5 star hotels I’ve stayed in – for Asian hospitality and culture runs through its core, from the food to the decor to the Japanese vibe in my room. I’m staying in the Tower Block, the oldest block and part of the original 1971 hotel. You’d never know that though, for it has recently undergone renovations to update it; with injections of Japanese design and green-inspired flair, you can really feel that care and consideration has been injected into every part of the building. The design is based around 5 key elements; Wind, Water, Wood, Trees and Stone. The feeling of nature is brought in and out of the hotel, giving a tranquil feeling of flow and adding to the oasis feeling of a stay here.
I’m escorted to the Horizon Club Lounge, a space which becomes one of my favorite parts of the hotel. Located on the 24th floor, the glass house is fitted with comfortable sofas, and tea, coffee, juices and snacks are available all day. I quickly snuggle into one of the sofas and sip on a green tea. The view is outstanding, and breakfast service is just beginning. The staff at the hotel make every part of my stay from this moment on a complete breeze. After a rest and tea, I’m shown to my room.
My Horizon Grand Premier Room is sleek and stylish, with the Japanese design from the lobby continued into the space. The corner room has a lounge space, huge bed, small kitchen, bathroom and a desk area with sweeping views over the city. It’s light and airy, comfortable and minimal.
A box of chocolates awaits me (the strawberry truffles are divine!) as does a bowl of fruit which includes lychees, another part of Asia I have desperately missed. A shower and tea quickly energizes me and I know not to waste time sleeping (despite how good that bed looks). I’m ready to explore this hotel and all it has to offer.
Exploring can wait, as breakfast is served. The Shangri-La has a range of different spots you can grab breakfast. For my first morning I head back up to the 24th floor and to the Horizon Lounge. The selection is small but perfectly formed. The chef will cook you up eggs of your choice (top tip – she does incredible omelettes!), and you can match that with a cooked breakfast (grilled tomatoes, sausages, beans – the works!), Chinese dim sum, oats, fruits, pastries and a cold spread of cheeses and meats. I love the fresh berries, range of non-dairy milks and the unique cold pressed juices. The immune juice, a blend of carrot and ginger, is the perfect thing for my jet-lag. The lounge is incredibly peaceful in the morning, and the sun rising over the city can be seen from all angles.
The next day I opt for something different, and head down to The Line, the hotel’s top breakfast spot due to the incredible range of foods on offer. The Line has 16 different live cooking stations, and just about every kind of breakfast food from around the world you could imagine. I’m completely spoiled for choice, and spend at least 15 minutes walking around in awe of everything I can eat. In the end I stick to my favorite cuisine – Indian, and pile my plate with rice idli, egg parottas, vegetable curries and sambas. A fresh juice washes it all away before I head back into the arena for seconds – waffles with fresh fruits and maple syrup. You could eat at The Line for weeks and have a different breakfast everyday. Whatever you felt like starting your morning with, it’s available!
With a hearty breakfast over, it’s time to explore the hotel grounds. What makes the Shangri-La so unique is the greenness of the hotel. Singapore is in fact one of the world’s greenest cities, and it recently topped a study looking at urban tree density in cities around the world – with around 30% of the city covered in trees. That’s quite incredible for a small island running out of space! The Shangri-La has bought the tropical island feel into its grounds, with a lagoon-like pool surrounded by palm trees, an orchid house and the mass of places inside the Garden Wing.
It’s easy to get lost in all the lush greenery and stunning flowers growing everywhere. It’s this greenness which makes the Shangri-La feel like such a tranquil escape. While it’s located only 15 minutes from Orchard Road, the city’s busiest shopping street, when inside the hotel you really do feel like you are away from it all on a tropical island. I loved relaxing at the pool, shaking off the humidity in the cold waters and in the evening, soaking in the jacuzzi. It’s perfect for kids too, and often easy to forget there’s a whole city just beyond the hotel grounds to explore!
One of the highlights of my stay at the Shangri-La was my visit to the hotel’s on-site spa, Chi, The Spa. This slice of luxury is located in the Garden Wing, and from start to end was pure bliss. And especially essential for kicking off any jet-lag! I opted for a Himalayan Hot Stone Massage. I didn’t know what to expect but it was honestly the best massage of my life. The hot Himalayan stones work with pressure points on your body to heal, soothe and relax. Cold stones are pressed on your face and the contrast is incredibly healing and energizing. Afterwards I sat in the spa’s lounge with a hot cup of ginger tea and felt completely nourished.
The Shangri-La Singapore has 5 restaurants on-site so you really are spoiled for choice. Keen to check out the hotels selection of Asian cuisines I opted first for NAMI, a new Japanese restaurant with sweeping views over the city. Kindly, they created a unique 6 course vegetarian menu for me. Each part was delicious, and just as food is served in Japan, picture perfect art.
A few nights later I headed to Shang Palace, a signature of the Shangri-La and a restaurant which has existed since the hotel opened. It is also in the Michelin guide, so I had high hopes. They certainly did not disappoint as Shang Palace’s dishes were probably the best Chinese food I have ever tasted. Once again they were kind enough to prepare a unique vegetarian menu for me. Each course was breathtaking, from mushroom dim-sum, to crispy eggplant, to clear soup served in a young coconut to the desert of Avocado cream, green tea and black sesame dumpling and ice cream. The service was friendly and informative and I loved the selection of teas they have to accompany the meal, with different unique varieties from all over China.
From start to finish my stay at the Shangri-La was a blissful escape, and an unforgettable hotel stay. With the Asian fusion of the Shangri-La brand laced throughout, and the incredible kind hospitality of all the staff, my stay has really set the bar for luxury hotels, and I’m very keen to experience more of the Shangri-La brand around Asia and the world. It’s safe to say that by the end of my stay, all my fears about jet-lag were washed away.
All photographs by Annapurna Mellor
I was kindly invited to stay by the Shangri-La and Singapore Airlines. All views are my own and it really was a wonderful stay!