James Hilton a British novelist describes Shangri-La as a mystical place filled with beauty and harmony. A paradise on earth filed with happiness and isolated from the outside world. Pause for a moment and muse on the word Shangri-La. Does it not evoke some vivid imagery of the exotic Orient?
My own fascination of Shangri-La Hotel Singapore started in 1990 when, as a teenager I had taken a wrong turn on my way somewhere. The greenery that enveloped it fascinated me and my curiosity egged me to walk into the hotel. I probably spent about three minutes inside and saw what appeared to be a gorgeous rainforest. It made me fall in love with the hotel. It’s a love story that I have until this very day.
The Shangri-La Singapore was built in 1971. It was an attempt to take the imaginary land of Shangri-La and transform it into a reality. To this very day, it remains an oasis in the midst of a city of concrete wilderness and our experience began from the moment the limousine picked us at the airport.
“Welcome to Singapore,” greeted a smiling chauffeur waiting at Changi Airport. “I am here to drive you to Shangri-La Hotel,” he explained as he led us to a waiting limousine.
We sank into the plush seats and strapped ourselves in and the limousine drove us off into the warm embrace of Singapore. We had just returned from China and the sheer thought of being pampered in luxury amidst 15 acres of lush greenery, was pleasing to body and soul.
Since we chose a limousine transfer, we were escorted to our Garden Wing room immediately upon arrival. The need for a check-in at the reception is eliminated. It was 5.30am and with no waiting around in the lobby, it was straight to the room to relax immediately. That meant a warm bath and off to bed for us.
The room colors were amber and mahogany. The tones provided a soothing and cosy ambience. There were fresh red roses on the dining table which was a beautiful thought by the hotel and they also had hand-made chocolates. Flowers and chocolates always make Rosemarie smile. She started humming a tune as she unpacked and I went about charging our phones and laptops. The room has international adapters built into the wall and they have several charging points. I charged two phones and two IPads at one go.
Our room was more like a studio apartment sans kitchen. It’s a spacious room with cupboards, a pantry, a large marble-clad bathroom with a separate shower and bath, a king size bed, a small lounge, dining table and even a bougainvillea-laden balcony overlooking the property.
How many times have you been in a city hotel that has a ceiling fan? We just love the concept of leaving the balcony doors open (that automatically shuts off the air-conditioning) and sitting under the breeze of a ceiling fan. For the both of us, we find the breeze of a celling fan a welcome break from the constant air conditioning we are used to. It also brings back nostalgic memories of our childhood. Back in the boiling cauldrons of the sub-continent from whence I came, a ceiling fan is still one of the greatest luxuries one can possess.
After a nice warm shower, the curtains are drawn with a click of a button and we climbed into our comfortable bed and dozed off. A few hours later, it was time for breakfast and when you stay in the Garden Wing, you can choose between two options.
The lift doors opened and we heard the gush of water. I stood transfixed for a minute. It was the same spot I stood in 1990. Things had changed a bit but the soul of the green forest was still lingering. We have stayed in a few Shangri-La properties before but the one in Singapore is the only one that always makes me feel that I am visiting it for the first time, everytime.
The sheer calm brought about by the sound of a small brook and a waterfall is like tonic to a tired soul. We sat by the waterfall pond and gazed into a pool of koi. A friendly attendant from the hotel handed us some fish food smilingly and we started feeding the koi. A couple of tiny turtles also swam towards us and competed with the gusty koi for the morsels we tossed. It was great fun feeding the fish. But now our tummies growled for attention.
Coming back to those choices aforementioned. We could either have breakfast at The Waterfall or at The Line. The Line boasts modern surroundings and has a large breakfast buffet spread that services guests from the Tower Wing as well. The Waterfall, on the other hand is catered for guests from the Garden Wing. It’s eclectic, colonial interiors and comfortable plush seating adds a new meaning to luxurious breakfasting.
Apart from the regular assortment of breads, cereals, yoghurt, fruits, cheese, sausages and a variety of healthy options at The Waterfall, guests get to select hot breakfast dishes from a special menu. We had poached eggs and buttermilk pancakes. It was a lovely morning to savour our breakfast slowly while reading the morning paper. The atmosphere of The Waterfall provides a sophisticated relaxing feel.
Its difficult not to relax at the Shangri-La Hotel. Believe us when we say you automatically tend to simmer down and put your feet up. It has been more than two years since we were back in Singapore and had several things to do and people to meet but yet we found it much more appealing to stay in our luxurious room than to go out.
We took a short stroll through landscaped gardens, taking ample time to stop and read the names of different plants in the dense greenery that is encased in the four walls of the hotel before heading back to the sanctuary of our 50sqm room to doze off some more.
Before long it was past noon. We had slept through lunch and so we headed down for afternoon tea instead. The tiered stand was filled with savoury and sweet bites. Finger sandwiches too. There were about 164 premium tea blends to choose from. Its an enticing choice that had us excited. We sat in the Lobby Court instead of the Rose Veranda and enjoyed the rest of our afternoon devouring the tasty bites while guzzling down on delicious blends of fragrant tea.
It’s often said about tea that “each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.” My wife and I have been on our own voyages through our life both individually and as a couple. We have stayed in many an astounding place. But for us the Shangri-La Singapore is like homecoming.
In an age of great and fabulous hotels each surpassing one another in quality and style, the Shangri-La remains true to its name. It’s a mystical, happy and eco-loving place since 1971 long before words like eco-friendly, preservationist, green activist, etc became a part of our lexicon. My wife and I feel it was a great honour to enjoy and experience their legendary Asian hospitality that began forty five years ago and grows stronger everyday.
We can’t wait to go back again!
Shangri-La Singapore is located at 22 Orange Grove Road, 258350, Singapore. For more information on rates, head to their official page.
**We were guests of Shangri-La Singapore. All opinions are entirely our own.