Flora Ioannou joined a Gold Medal Mega Fam in Singapore
"Welcome to Singapura!” Our tour guide Abdul explains that the name is derived from the Malay words for ‘lion’ and ‘city’. “An ancient Malaysian king thought he saw a lion when he first stumbled across the island and gave it its name,” he says.
And there was I thinking it was because the humidity in the region is so high it turns your hair into an untameable mane.
In comparison to my barnet, Singapore’s traffic looks pretty calm. Its British colonial history explains driving on the left – and speaking English – but the lack of cars on the road is down to the Certificate of Entitlement Singaporeans need before they can drive, which can cost up to a whopping £47,000 for some vehicles.
With so little traffic, our Gold Medal fam trip group found it easy to jump between the tourist hotspots – everything can be reached in half an hour.
At trendy Marina Bay, we joined a guided river cruise to see the sights in a water taxi – known locally as a ‘bumboat’ – including the ship-shaped, triple towers of the Marina Bay Sands resort, with its 57-storey-high rooftop pool.
Like a futuristic version of the Eden Project, Gardens by the Bay showcases plant life from around the world, by both day and night. We walked the 22-metre-high skyway of the Supertree Grove and enjoyed the free light and sound show.
If clients fancy getting active, send them to Sentosa Island, a 30-minute journey from the centre. We raced each other in carts down the Skyline Luge, and took the Skyride back up for panoramic views from 320 metres. Next door, Universal Studios
Singapore is smaller than its Florida cousin, but does boast the world’s tallest ‘duelling rollercoasters’, which propel passengers more than 14 storeys into the air.
Most of Singapore’s attractions seem to involve a breathtaking view, but then this is a beautiful spot – and the hotels aren’t bad, either. The sample packages below are with Gold Medal.
Book well in advance, as occupancy for the hotel’s 103 butler-service suites is always high. Most of the rich and famous have stayed at this distinguished address, from Michael Jackson to the royal family. It’s the epitome of luxury and sophistication, and service is discreet yet attentive. A stay here will make clients feel as if they’re starring in a movie set in the colonial era.
Agent verdict: “This hotel would suit my top-end, more-mature clients who love traditional luxury, and those who have it on a wish list and want to experience an iconic afternoon tea or the famous Singapore Sling.”
Lucie Town, Meon Valley Travel
Book it: From £236 a night.
Located in the heart of the city and set among six hectares of lush greenery, this was the first Shangri-La property to open, more than 40 years ago. The 747 rooms and suites are in three distinctive wings: the Garden Wing for general holidaymakers, the Tower Wing with its executive Horizon Club rooms for business travellers, and the exclusive Valley Wing, where rooms have butler service. We loved the free Wi-Fi, the pillow menu and the swimming pool – one the biggest of any hotel in Singapore.
Agent verdict: “I would send top-end clients who want something special or honeymooners who are seeking a stay slightly out of the way.”
Rebecca Choppen, Hallmark Travel
Book it: From £121 a night.
Hotel Jen Orchard Gateway
Hotel Jen opened its doors late last year, which means everything is shiny, new and modern. Its contemporary style and location – on the corner of Orchard Road, home of the busiest shopping area and the liveliest bars and restaurants – will suit young business travellers and those who enjoy a buzzing area. The rooftop infinity pool, with its gorgeous views, is the perfect spot to recharge jet-lagged batteries.
Agent verdict: “This hip and trendy hotel, right in the centre of the shopping district of Orchard Road, would suit young to middle-aged clients. Being directly above the underground rail system makes it a great location to explore from.”
Lisette Storr, Lincolnshire Co-operative Travel
Book it: From £174 a night.
Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore
The former Traders Hotel is undergoing a renovation to bring it up to date and into line with the Jen look. It’s in a good location just off Orchard Road and runs a shuttle bus into the financial district. Business travellers or busy, connected holidaymakers will appreciate the free Wi-Fi, a large business centre and the 24-hour gym. I was told the chilli crab – a traditional local dish – served at poolside Ah Hoi’s Kitchen is the best in the city. We certainly thought it was to die for.
Agent verdict: “This hotel has been brought into the 21st century. The refurbished rooms look cool and retro. I would send business travellers here for a short stay.”
Tony Fowler, Future Travel
Book it: From £83 a night
Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa
Situated on Sentosa Island, this is the only beachfront resort in Singapore, and all rooms have private balconies. The trade-off is the cute but light-fingered wild monkeys – a letter in each room recommends keeping windows shut and not leaving items unattended on balconies. The resort offers clubs for babies, children and teens available from morning till early evening. For parents who just want to relax, the spa is an oasis away from the lively island, or they can sunbathe on the resort’s private beach.
Agent verdict: “This hotel would suit families on a stopover to Australia. Its children’s facilities include clubs for children of all ages that offer meals and entertainment. There are enough activities in the vicinity to keep any active family happy.”
Deborah King, Departure Lounge Travel
Book it: From £112 a night.
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