Friday, October 31, 2008

Singapore - Clarke Quay

Clarke Quay used to be the centre of commerce in Singapore. Lying at the mouth of Singapore River,the shophouses and godowns served the shipping trade between Asia and Europe. You can imagine that Sir Stamford Raffles and his officers once roamed these streets to keep things in order. 

Today, Clarke Quay has been transformed into a tourist magnet, with dining, shopping and entertainment venues fitted into the converted warehouses and shophouses. A street canopy designed by London Architect Will Alsop provides shelter from the tropical sun and rain. Specially designed low speed fans in the shape of  "Whale-tails" introduce artificial breeze into the covered streets. The canopies are called "Angels" - the umbrella-like structures are constructed out of steel frame and covered with high-tech plastic ETFE. 

Some of the most interesting dining establishments in Singapore can be found here - e.g.  The Clinic - a fine-dining restaurant and pub fitted out as an operating theatre, Restaurant Madame - part of the IndoChine group of restaurants, Coriander Leaf - a Pan-Asian fusion food hub, and Tomo Izakaya where the seafood is flown in straight from Tokyo's Tsukiji Market.

The canopies do function as intended, and walking in the streets even under the hot tropical heat is quite pleasant.

There are more covered terraces next to the River. The circular sun-tents are supposed to evoke Chinese lanterns, but to me they look more like those huge magnets they use in a scrap-metal yard. A bit scary to sit under these !

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Singapore - Botanic Gardens

Another green oasis worth a visit in Singapore is the Botanic Gardens. Located just a stone's throw away from Orchard Road, it is easily accessible. The garden is open from 5.00 a.m. to 12.00 mid night, so very convenient.

The Garden covers an area of around 52 hectares. It is huge for the land-scarce island of Singapore. There are many attractions including 3 lakes, an orchidarium, a mini-rainforest,  a ginger garden, etc. 

If you don't have much time, head to the entrance at Holland Road. Take a quick walk around the Swan Lake, then head back to the Green Pavilion for a nice cold drink. It's a great way to spend a couple of hours and get some much needed exercise.

If you are into nature photography, the Garden provide great photo-opps.

Singapore - Crowne Plaza at Terminal 3

Crowne Plaza at Terminal 3 is one of the latest designer hotels to open in Singapore. Designed by white-hot Singapore architecture firm WOHA, it features an iconic white twisted metal screen on the facade. Externally it is basically a rectangular box dressed-up by the metal screen. When seen close-up, the screen takes on the shape of little flowers. 

The interior is done in the currently popular spa-chic style, with very dark lighting and small repetitive decorative elements scaled up to cover whole walls and features. While most of the ideas can be seen in trendy design magazines, overall the execution was quite well done. It is definitely one of the more interesting hotels in Singapore.

The hotel as seen from skytrain from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3.

The twisted metal screen.

The entrance to the hotel from Terminal 3.

The lobby and atrium spaces.

The coffee house. Looks interesting with the repetitive retro tile design on the screen and walls behind.