Hands up if you’re guilty of seeing this island as a convenient urban sprawl that generates enough income to indulge your real pleasure, travelling? Be it lying on a beach in Phuket or hiking through Northern Burma, for most of us the true attraction of living in Singapore is the ease with which we can explore everywhere else in Asia.
“Now hang on!” I hear you protest. “I’ve been to Haw Par Villa, eaten hand-pulled noodles and drunk more than my fair share of extortionately priced Singapore Slings while peanut shells crack underfoot.”
But, if you’re honest, you’ve probably only done these things when you’ve had guests or family in town. Apart from visiting the newest restaurants to see what all the hype is about, we’re unlikely to stop and appreciate this little city-state. So that’s why the beau and I embarked on our first staycation; well, that and the fact that we’d get a lot more time holidaying and less time travelling during a 48-hour break.
Picking a staycation location can be tricky. My beau works in the CBD, so didn’t want to be anywhere near a view of MBS or the UOB Tower. That left the East and West Coasts, Sentosa and, well, Seletar!
We opted for Sentosa; and the new W Singapore – Sentosa Cove Hotel .
Most of us have had a giggle at the oversized Sentosa Merlion (Singapore’s answer to the Sphinx), been surprised at the speed of the luge and sipped a cocktail while watching giant hulks of steel slink across the horizon.
But there’s another part of this island playground that doesn’t get nearly as much attention. Sentosa Cove is home to some of Singapore’s wealthiest residents (and non-residents – many of the well-appointed buildings look uninhabited). Its private marina boasts super-yachts and a members-only restaurant. So unless you’re lucky enough to know someone who moors a boat there or lives in one of the sea-gazing condos or water villas complete with private jetty, it’s unlikely you’ll have paid it a visit. Which is probably why we immediately registered a change of scenery as we drove past the prancing dolphin fountain and made our way down deserted, immaculate roads towards the W.
On arrival, we met with a digital waterfall wall and a sweeping 1920s-style staircase, while electronica pumped in the background. Stepping a well-manicured foot (the W deserves nothing less) inside the hotel, it was hard to know if we were entering an über-trendy club, gallery or theatre. But check-in was quick, mostly because we sat staring at the pimped-out pool, its sunken bar and the stylish shaded hammocks that coquettishly call for an afternoon snooze. Which was perfect, because we didn’t plan to do much on this staycation other than lie by the pool and go for a short nosey around Singapore’s millionaire village green.
Exploring the Cove
The W has free bikes available on a first come, first served basis, and the next morning we decided to go for a lazy cycle after munching down a delicious breakfast at The Kitchen Table. As we rode past Porsche after Maserati (you really aren’t anyone here unless the helper’s got a Hummer) stabled at brand new builds, we couldn’t help but feel we were being given a glimpse into a private world in Singapore that we don’t have much to do with in our everyday lives. Every house is imposing, gardens are immaculate and the roads and pavements shimmer in the sunlight. We fantasised about which home we’d like to buy “when we’re older” and which boat we’d pick for weekend jaunts.
We also came across some mad-looking buildings; a particular favourite had two Egyptian guards flanking the entrance and a hieroglyphic archway above the door. There were two Tiki shack-style homes, too, with bamboo detailing and thatched roofs – the interiors were far from shabby, though.
We stopped to grab lunch and a drink at Sabio By The Sea in the new quayside restaurant development just around the corner from the W, and in the stillness of the cove we felt a long way from the bustle of the mainland, or even Siloso Beach just down the road.
Dinner back at the hotel was perfect for two people who crave different cuisines. The Kitchen Table offers different counters (much like a hotel brunch) that serve noodles, sushi and items from the tandoor oven; there’s also a large à la carte menu. Surprisingly, for an achingly contemporary and upmarket hotel, it has a very casual atmosphere, and resort-style shorts and T-shirts wouldn’t be out of place here. The food has a home-cooked feel and we saw it as a bit of a treat to try out three different cuisines in one sitting.
We then sampled cocktails at the Woobar, listening to a DJ enjoy his Saturday night at the turntables. Whether you like it or not, music is at the heart of any stay at the W. It pumps continuously through every lobby and lift, and even underwater in the pool. That night it was at trendy nightclub levels, but the volume was dialled down a bit during the day. It was fine for the beau and me, as we’re fans. An older generation or people who prefer less invasive classics might be less keen.
Satisfied and relaxed, we headed to our room and had fun playing with the many lighting options (including a UV under-bed switch) before rolling back the bathroom divider to soak in a hot bath and watch a film on TV.
It wasn’t until we dumped our bags in the hallway at home that we realised that we genuinely felt like we’d had a weekend away. With no need for passports, visas or currency conversions, the travelling had been far less stressful but the holiday bit was just as relaxing. We’d seen things we’d never seen before (life-size Egyptian guards included), eaten well, soaked up the sun and, most importantly, recharged. All of which are key elements of any mini-break – so, somewhat to our surprise, our staycation in Singapore was a resounding success.
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