SHOP, SEE, SAVOR SINGAPORE THIS CHRISTMAS
MANILA, NOVEMBER 22, 2006 (STAR) By Joseph O. Cortes - Itís 36 days before Christmas, and in Singapore, locals and tourists alike are in a tizzy celebrating the season. But why shouldnít they? For the past 23 years, Singapore has promoted its country as the ultimate Christmas destination in Asia with its annual Christmas in the Tropics.
This yearís theme is "Enchanted Christmas Garden" for the stretch of Tanglin, Scott and Orchard roads, while the stretch from Bras Basah Road to the Marina Bay district has the theme "Christmas Bells."
Celebrity designer Dick Lee, creative director of Christmas Light-up 2006, who is conceptualizing the themes for this yearís light-up, says he was inspired by nostalgic memories of Christmases from his youth.
"The Enchanted Christmas Garden" transforms the Orchard Road district with its golden and bejeweled birds, richly-colored ornaments, gold foliage, and fairy lights. At the junction of Orchard and Scotts roads, a grand glittering celebration arch made of majestic golden giant trees dripping with jewels announces the season. Flanking the sidewalk at The Heeren junction are four Christmas fountain trees that cascade with water in spring green, summer gold, autumn red, and winter white.
The mood turns more stately and majestic at the Marina Bay area with the "Christmas Bells" theme. The walkway across Suntec City has been decked with 34 golden bells in different sizes. Hanging from trees around the area are floral arrangements of poinsettia balls and ivy.
The themes might be a bit traditional, but they are not in execution. The Orchard Road light-up spans four kilometers, using 48,000 meters of rope lights and 46,800 meters of fairy lights. Hung throughout the length of the road are 1,388 bejeweled birds, 98,680 diamonds and gems, 4,600 meters of golden garlands, 8,860 red Christmas baubles, and more.
At the Marina Bay area, the statistic is just as impressive: 2.4 kilometers covered with 40,000 meters of fairy lights, 2,500 meters of rope lights, 100 golden balls, 20,000 meters of ivy leaves, and 1,200 poinsettia balls.
The Christmas light-up is from 7 p.m. to midnight from Sunday to Thursday, from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Christmas eve and New Yearís eve.
And thatís not all. The Singapore Tourism Board announced the lineup of events during the Christmas holiday in Singapore, including a Parade of Floats, Christmas concerts by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and a number of countdown parties island-wide. There are also special shopping deals, late-night shopping, and post-Christmas sales.
If you think youíve shopped in Singapore, think again. The newly-opened Vivo City at the HarborFront Center offers more than nine hectares of shopping space! Yes, you read the figure right. And this huge mall is touted to rival Orchard Road with its many attractions.
Positioned as a first of its kind one-stop retail, entertainment, and lifestyle destination, this mall doesnít just offer retail therapy. It has wide open spaces for waterfront relaxation and entertainment, as well as a good view of Sentosa Island just across Cruise Bay. The mallís second floor has a Play Court, an open-air courtyard with a childrenís playground and interactive water features, while the third floor Sky Park has play pools the size of four Olympic swimming pools and an outdoor amphitheater. And when the Singaporeans say pools the size of four Olympic-sized swimming pools, theyíre not kidding. On a hot day, you will find adults soaking their feet in the poolsí warm waters, while the kids will be splashing their way through leg-high water.
Vivo City was designed by acclaimed Japanese architect Toyo Ito, who conceived of a surfing theme for the mall. Thatís why the mallís corridors and alleys flow and curve towards each other. You wonít find a sharp turn or corner here. To emphasize this flowing concept for the mall, there is a three-story ribbon feature that towers at the heart of the mall, its many arms spreading outwards throughout the mallís ceilings.
Thatís just the interiors. The shopping at Vivo City is just as exciting, with familiar Singaporean brands and new global labels making their first appearance. The mall has three anchor tenants: Cineplex giant Golden Village with its 15 screens and 2,172 seats; Tangs department store, which opened only its second branch since it first started in the 1930s; and Dairy Farm Singapore, an innovative three-in-one destination shopping concept with the best in fresh, organic, wellness, health, beauty and grocery product services, under the VivoMart brand, which features Giant Hypermarket, Naturally Marketplace by Cold Storage, and Guardian Health and Beauty Store in a hectare of floor space.
Some of the brands that are new to Singapore are opening at Vivo City. These include Adidas Original Store, Gap, Ted Baker, Pull and Bear, and the Spanish retail enclave Spain2Dream, which consists of labels such as Desigual and the Barcelona FC Store.
More than the shopping Vivo City is also home to a collection of artworks specially commissioned from international artists as part of the Singapore Biennale 2006. Commissioned at a cost of S$1.5 million, the collection comprises 13 art pieces by six artists.
And what trip to Singapore is complete without food? The Food Republic complex offers some of the best local hawker fare with an ambience thatís uniquely local. For greater variety, thereís Kopitiam and Banquet at the basement for even more dining choices. The mallís 300-meter boardwalk also offers al fresco dining with a panoramic view of the sea and Sentosa Island. Among popular restaurants here are Brotzeit German Beir Bar & Restaurant, Corduroy Cafť, Crystal Jade Dining IN, Dian Xiao Er, Earle Swensenís, Go India, Shin Kushiya, Sushi Tei, and Thai Accent.
Vivo City is at 1 HarborFront Walk. For details, log on to http://www.vivocity.com.sg
If you think youíve seen everything there is to see in Singapore, think again. If you are nostalgic about the toys from your youth, then check out MINT (Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys) Museum of Toys. Conveniently located at 26 Seah St., right in the heart of the city opposite Raffles Hotel, Mint takes children of all ages to a "journey of re-discovery."
Museum curator Richard Tan says the collection, totaling more than 50,000 pieces, was slowly acquired by a serious toy collector during the past 30 years. Priced at S$5 million, the toys date back to the mid-19th to the mid-20th century.
"The collection stops at around the 1970s, because if we collected toys until past that period, we will just have too many toys to collect," he says.
The collection comes from more than 25 countries, including Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and even Bulgaria. These include Disneyana toys and memorabilia; character toys such as Astroboy, Batman, Bonzo, Dan Dare, Popeye, etc.; pre-war Japanese toys; China-made toys, including a Door of Hope doll collection from the turn of the 20th century; a teddy bear collection; a collection of Chinese comic covers from the 1920s; comic books dating back to its golden age during the 1930s to the 1950s; and Tintin collectables, among others. More than half the collection was found in Singapore and can be regarded as part of Singaporeís heritage.
Among the unique items in the collection are sets of Mickey Mouse dolls made in the United States and the United Kingdom. Unlike the American-made items, the British Mickey Mouse had a more rat-like feature, which was totally unlike Walt Disneyís creation.
There is also a collectible King Kong poster from the 1970s that is now five times its original worth. The reason? King Kong stands, not on top of the Empire State Building, but on the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
If you love toys, then a stop at Mint should be on your schedule. Visit its website at www.emint.com.
If youíre a flower and bloom enthusiast, then the First Singapore Garden Festival from Dec. 16 to 25 is a must-see. To be held at Suntec City, the show will occupy two floors and will bring together top international award-winning landscape and garden designers under one roof.
Festival highlights include Best of Show Designer Gardens featuring creations by local designers and world-known designers like UKís Julian Dowle, Australiaís Jim Fogarty, and Americaís Michael Bruce; Floral Windows to the World, featuring colorful and vibrant cut-flower displays and floral masterpieces; the Singapore Orchid Show; and a garden fiesta and marketplace. For details, visit www.singaporegardenfestival.com.
The National Museum of Singapore opens next month to offer locals and tourists cutting-edge displays on Singapore history. Unlike conventional history museums, it will showcase Singapore history from the 14th century to the present as a multitude of stories using narrative approaches inspired by contemporary film, installation, and theater using state-of-the-art modes of presentation.
The Singapore History Gallery covers a 2,800 square meter space telling the history of Singapore through various points of view. Audio companions allow guests to choose what point of view they would like to hear regarding a chapter in Singapore history Ė whether the political viewpoint, the man on the streetís, etc.
There are also four Singapore Living galleries that focus on food, fashion, film, and wayang and photography. Rather than deal with historical events, the galleries deal with the lifestyles of Singaporeans. The Photography gallery offers behind-the-scenes footage on the lives of the people in the images featured in the room. At the Food gallery, popular Singaporean hawker foods are given 3D presentations that give guests not just a view, but also the smells of the food. Similar attention to detail are featured in the Fashion and Film and Wayang galleries.
For details on the National Museum of Singapore, visit www.nationalmuseum.sg.
When youíve shopped ítil you drop and dined to bursting at any of Singaporeís hawkerís centers, then itís time to party. Yes! Singapore has a nightlife, and there are a number of clubs that will surely complete the experience.
The Ministry of Sound at Clarke Quay is the biggest MOS worldwide, with 40,000 square feet of floor space with a capacity of over 3,000 spread over two annexes. This iconic club houses different music concepts in six venues. The best audio systems provide excellent acoustic with ambient surroundings that are also a visual as well as audible treat.
The main dance area is Arena+, which also has an exclusive members area; a retro/disco room known as 54; Pure, a room devoted solely to chill-out and sexy funk house music; Sky Lounge, an exclusive by invitation members-only area, with a great view of the Arena+ dance floor; and Smoove+, offering soul groove music and hip-hop, with a VIP area within the main room; as well as three themed VIP rooms for private parties and groups. It is open Wednesday to Saturday from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
The St. James Power Station at the HarborFront Center is an all-in-one destination, with nine distinct outlets themed to meet entertainment needs. The venue reinvents what used to be Singaporeís first coal-fired power station, built in 1927.
Two outlets are now open, the Latin Movida, and Peppermint Park, an outdoor bar located at the front of the complex. Opening this month are the Bellini Room, which offers big band, swing and jazz by the Bellini Room house band; the Boiler Room, a venue for rock, R&B, and pop; The Lobby, a bar where guests can chill out with friends; and Gallery Bar, a bar lounge setting at the top level of the complex that offers guests a birdís eye view of the entire St. James Power Station.
For details, visit http://www.stjamespowerstation.com.
For something more laidback, Q Bar Singapore offers the drinks and the ambience of Singaporeís popular Boat Quay. Located at the annex of the Old Parliament House, on the opposite side of busy Boat Quay, Q Bar lists over 100 varieties of vodka, both top brands and unfamiliar ones. Highlights include super premium labels, exceptional flavored vodkas, unique grape-infused selections, and organic vodkas.
If youíve been to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, you would have encountered the original Q Bar there at the old Saigon Opera House. Q Bar Singapore is affiliated with Q Bar Bangkok, which was established by Q Bar founder David Jacobson after he left Vietnam. Whatever memories you may have of these Q Bars, you will surely find them here, too, in Singapore. Visit its website at www.qbar.com.sg.
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For details on Christmas in the Tropics 2006, visit http://www.visitsingapore.com/cit06/. Also visit the Singapore Tourism Board website at http://www.stb.com.sg.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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