By: Rory Winston
While our perception of optimal urban societies may have evolved from ‘melting pot’ to ‘salad bowl,’ we often forget that cultural diversity is not a phenomenon reserved solely for western cosmopolites such as New York and London; rather it exists the world over in equal if not more elaborate measure. Nowhere is such multiculturalism more apparent than in Singapore where populations from Malaysia, China, India and Europe interact with one another on a daily basis. More profoundly, many of the locally born Singaporeans are members of a unique people, Peranakan – a culture that has assimilated disparate traditions from Chinese to Malay, Portuguese, Indonesian and Dutch. Absorbing the best of this indigenous world without sacrificing an iota of comfort, the Intercontinental Singapore has earned its illustrious reputation as a high-end property imbued with history. It is, in fact, the only 5 star luxury Hotel in all of Singapore committed to preserving Peranakan heritage.
Located in the heart of the shophouse-style setting of the Bugis Precinct, Intercontinental Singapore is an architectural triumph whose design brilliantly integrates into its surroundings while managing to retain the feel of a cloistered realm. Tastefully decorated with heritage woodcarvings and ornaments, the hotel is a bastion of East-meets-West and ancient-meets-contemporary. Complete with wooden louvered windows that overlook a row of 1920’s shop houses dotting the street below; the property exudes timeless charm.
Homage to local culture, however, does not end with décor. With three delectable restaurants from which to choose, the Singapore Intercontinental celebrates diverse culinary traditions in its choice of chefs. While Olive Tree Restaurant sports a cornucopia of international dishes in buffet form, Chikuyotei serves some of the most authentic Japanese food to be had on the island. As for Man Fu Yuan Chinese restaurant, its sumptuous signature dishes paired with a battery of the fine teas makes for a most memorable Cantonese experience.
No sooner does one leave the hotel grounds than one finds oneself immersed in a colorful world of garments and textiles. A myriad of exquisite fabrics and densely populated alleyways draw visitors into a part of the city that boasts one of the oldest architectural heirlooms in the country, the Sultan Mosque. From here it takes no time at all to find oneself in a maze of boutiques, bars and cafes where fruits like the local durian intoxicate with their scent. Returning to the hotel for a quick dip in the outdoor pool is a gratifying way to cool off after such an excursion.
Complete with live entertainment, the lush garden landscape surrounding the pool is a perfect setting for enjoying a cocktail before embarking on a new adventure. But whether one ends up frequenting the highly interactive Chinatown Heritage center (with its enticing look into the past) or whether one decides to take in one of the many performing arts that the city has on offer, ending the night in one of Clarke Quay’s ritzy clubs, the hotel’s 24 hour complimentary state-of-the-art fitness center makes for an ideal segue. Blending British colonial sensibility with more traditional oriental textures and tones, the perfectly up to date suites with large bathtubs and beds evince a lasting sense of harmony. In addition, the hotel is an IHG Green Engage Hotel member, ensuring that sustainability and environmental values are on their list of priorities.
Sitting in the lobby bar with its evocative skylight and pillars, it’s easy to understand how Singapore was born to dream big. As a center for disparate cultural motifs, it has done an astonishing job in fostering the best in each tradition and creating a space for dialogue between the present and the past.
In a speech made in 1976, the former US president Jimmy Carter had been quoted saying, “We (America) become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.” The same could easily have been said for Singapore. And, while Singapore is known to have the second largest Ferris wheel in the world, when it comes to truly unobstructed views of Singapore as a country, the one had at Singapore’s Intercontinental is hard to beat.
For more information: