Sunday, January 2, 2011

Of gifts, happiness and walking away...our Singapore New Year

I spent the New Year with my family and partner in Singapore. It was a fitting cap to 2010. Perched on the roof top of the luxury boutique hotel - Naumi Hotel, we counted down to the fireworks amidst the splendor of Marina Bay, with champagne on one hand and canapes on the other.

The trip was a bonding of sorts - Universal Studios, shopping on Orchard, dining out, shopping on Bugis and Chinatown, eating out, shopping on Raffles, gastronomic experience. Of course, everyone who still had some cash left, shopped all the way to Changi Airport and onboard duty free on Singapore Airlines.

Naumi Hotel is a charming personal luxury hotel on Seah Street, right at the back (or side) of Raffles Hotel. The cab drivers definitely had a hard time looking for the hotel. It was a virtual unknown hotel to the locals. As a member of, I had the opportunity to find a good hotel - swanky, personal and yes, fabulous location - at the heart of Singapore. I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to stay in a great hotel in Singapore. The personal touch, Molton Brown toiletries, the free minibar (sodas and water till you drop) and healthy breakfast is icing on the cake of the sprawling suites where the flat screen supersized TV sets are divided from the bedroom and living room and the bathroom shower has a rainshower head and a steam bath. Where the bedroom and living room has a divider controlled from your bedside panel. Where there beds have 7 layers and a menu of pillows to choose from. Where the lighting system can be controlled from romantic mood to study mood. Where wifi is free all over the hotel. But the selling point of Naumi is its great location and wonderful staff!

Universal Studios Singapore is a let down. For everyone that plans to go to Universal, may I suggest that you simply defer this until the whole place is finished (which I doubt will even be comparable to the US Universal Studios versions). It is tinier than HongKong Disneyland and quite expensive. For $65 per person per admission, the queue is so long that it would take you forever to enjoy a 50 second ride. I got the express land pass which meant an additional $48 per person. Of course, we didn't have to queue anymore so Universal was done in 2 hrs - rides, shows and shopping. Located at Resorts World Sentosa, unless you plan to play and stay at the Sentosa area for 2 days, then Universal should be in your wish list. But if you're just visiting Universal Studios and would not want to have anything to do with the casino and other sites at Sentosa island, skip Universal Studios.

As Singapore is at the equator, there is NO DAY that it does not rain in Singapore. Be ready with an umbrella or get ready to get really wet in Universal (not only from the rain but from the rides) or get wet while you're out shopping.

Marina Bay Sands is chic, but all hype. You need to be a guest at their hotel in order to have access to the pool at Skysands. Then again, if you're the spending kind and wouldn't want to stay at the casino cum hotel cum shopping mall, there's always the Skysands entrance at $20 per head. We had a sumptuous buffet lunch at $45++ per head at the Rise restaurant in Marina Bay Sands upon our arrival in Singapore. Unfortunately the restaurant was located in the lobby so access to Skysands restaurants was not allowed. The booking is a mile long and they have preferential booking for hotel guests.

Singapore is a revelation in itself. Sparklingly clean and safe, you could actually feel that it tries to achieve Nirvanah or Shangri-La where everything turns out to be perfect. I hate saying it, but too perfect to even be thrilled at anything. It's a country where business is business and where politics and graft and corruption is frowned upon. Where crime is deterred through severe punishment. Where drug trafficking is punishable by death (ironically, the Europeans don't even deter the death penalty in Singapore and even when they do, the Singaporeans tell them to just shut up and these die hard goodies just roll over shut up). Where laws are laws and rules are rules and no one, not even government officials are exempted from them. It's a country so ideal that it makes us cringe at the thought that we live in a third world country that is like a roller coaster ride with life and death.

Whatever I spent during this holiday spree (which was my gift to my family) cannot be measured in terms of seeing us all laugh, play, rest, and eat together. As the slogan goes - happiness is priceless, everything else there's Mastercard.

Which leads me to the end of this short blog.

The presents we give should be one out of love and from within our hearts. When we give presents, we must fade away quietly. We do not make a big fuss over these gifts and how generous we are. The real challenge in life is how to do something good and then exit or fade away quietly, how to live life and let go, how to play our role and do our part and then take a bow. That is how people will "notice our star when it has faded into the night."

And as we all start the new year, it is time to get back to work and save enough for the next gift for the coming year for my family. Again...

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