#SG50 – Five Reasons To Visit Singapore in 2015

Party With Us In Singapore

I love travelling.  I am deeply convinced that travel is the only thing money can buy that will make you richer.  Most days, I’m just looking for any plausible excuse to hop onto a plane.  As I grow older, however, I tend to look less abroad, and closer towards home for inspiration.

Singapore is evolving.  Yes, we still retain our quirks and hybrid culture.  Most of us still call any elderly man, especially taxi drivers, “Uncle”.  And we still love durians enough to have durian buffets.  But as a country, we are also rapidly modernising and progressing.  And by “progress”, I mean we are developing a more vibrant art, culture and music scene, and a greater sense of national identity.

Recently, Singapore was listed by CNN as one of the 10 top destinations to visit in 2015, and Lonely Planet elected us as #1 on its Best in Travel 2015 list.

All this couldn’t have come at a better time.  As a born and bred Singaporean, let me share with you five reasons you should visit me at Capella Singapore this year.

2015 Is One Big Party

Party With Us In Singapore

Party With Us In Singapore

New Year’s Eve last month was just the beginning of a year long party.  If you were here, you’d remember how top DJs were flown in from the coolest cities in the world (including DJ Mr. Best for Capella Singapore).  Fireworks also lit the sky everywhere—not just at Sentosa where Capella Singapore is nestled, but even at suburban areas around the island.

This is but a taster of what to expect this year.  In a couple of week, Chinatown will celebrate a special light-up ceremony, with lion dancers prancing around our ‘Lion City’ to cue in Chinese New Year.  After this, you can look forward to holidays such as Vesak Day and Hari Raya Pusa before Singapore officially turns 50 on 9th August.  You can be sure we’ll pull out all the stops for that party.

We Are Committed Foodies

Your taste buds will love Singapore.  Our running list of celebrity chefs includes Joel Robuchon, Tetsuya Wakuda, Jamie Oliver, Wolfgang Puck and Daniel Boulud, to name a few.  And this year, Gordon Ramsay joins the fold.

Our food culture, however, extends way beyond these international culinary stars.  New dining concepts are sprouting out by the minute—including NOX where you dine completely in the dark, and secret bars such as Operation Dagger and The Library with no signage and password requirements for entry.

We are also one of the few countries in the world that truly believes in supper.  If you happen to be hungry at 1am, you won’t have to satiate yourself with cold bites.  You can find piping hot Singaporean food anywhere, including Bak Kut Teh (peppery pork rib soup), Indian food, noodles, oyster omelette…  Here is a list of places.  Supper in Singapore is a unique and bustling experience, and one of the best ways to get a true taste of local culture.

The Art Scene Is Booming

Let’s not talk about the iconic ArtScience Museum, which of course, is a must-visit.  We’ve also got the Gillman Barracks, a colonial army base-turned-contemporary art cluster, and the upcoming National Gallery Singapore, which will house an extensive collection of Southeast Asian and Singaporean art when it opens in mid-2015.

Music is also thriving in Singapore.  If you love seminal music, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival is just a few days away, and if you prefer jazz, Singapore Jazz Festival is scheduled for early March!

Green Is The New Black

Gardens By The Bay

Gardens By The Bay

Granted, our ‘garden city’ moniker is a bit of a tired cliché for locals.  We are however, embracing the global green movement.  Whether you prefer real food or raw food, you can probably find a quaint café nearby.  You could even saunter into an organic farm such as Bollywood Veggies, and ask for farm-fresh Indian fare.

On cool evenings, we also love to spend time in our little pockets of green.  And being city folks with famously short attention spans, we need to be entertained.  Gardens by the Bay and Singapore Botanic Gardens regularly organise music performances, artists’ workshops, writers’ workshops and seasonal exhibitions.  So pack a picnic basket and some wine, and enjoy round-the-year summer.

Superlative Creature Comforts

From the minute you step into Changi Airport, you’ll sense how obsessed we are with shopping.  In space scarce Singapore, we’ve somehow managed to cramp an incredible number of big name designers into our airport.  In fact, many of us head there for our shopping and dining fix, even when we are not travelling.

That said, I’m sure you’re not in Singapore just to shop at Prada.  We’ve got amazing local designers such as Hansel and Ong Shunmugam as well.  Check out this list.  Other local brands I love include Carrie K, founded by advertising managing director turned artisan jeweller, and Merci Encore, an aromatherapy atelier founded by the former senior beauty editor of Harper’s Bazaar Singapore.

Of course, to end your trip with the ultimate indulgence, you should definitely make Capella Singapore your final pit stop.  As part of SG50, we are launching a decadent 50 fingers massage from mid-2015.  In just 60 minutes, our five dedicated spa therapists will knead out tension and aches you didn’t even know you had.  You’ll emerge feeling utterly renewed and as light as a cloud.

 

10 New Year Resolutions for a Better New Year

capella-ixtapa

capella-ixtapa

The New Year has started beautifully at Capella Ixtapa.  We wrapped up a wonderful holiday season with our guests from all over the world, and we are ready to enter the new year with the intentions to make this best year ever!  I have written a list of my new year resolutions, and wanted to share it with you – and at the end of the year you can ask me how I was able to keep up with my goals!  It doesn’t matter if you have one big wish for 2015 or a long list, I hope the year brings you inspiration and motivation to fulfilling your goals.  Please feel free to share your list in the comments below.

  1. Travel more:  there are so many places I want to visit, and in this new year, I would like to visit Singapore (and our sister hotel Capella Singapore), and Oaxaca, a beautiful and colorful Mexican state.  But – I also want to use my days off work and holidays to explore more of my own town, Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, and visit beautiful places I am surrounded with every day (romantic horse back riding at the beach, sunset walks, colourful towns are within reach easily.)
  2. Stay healthy:  this is probably one of the resolutions that is on my – and probably everybody else’s – new year resolutions list every year, and it should be.  Without health we can’t achieve anything, and it’s important to stay healthy.  To be more efficient, I have decided to talk to our wellness consultant at Capella Ixtapa, and have him help me create a detailed list of tips, ideas and activities, that will help me stay on track and not lose sight of my goal as the year goes by.
  3. Eat healthy:  I love cooking, but preparing 3 healthy meals daily can sometimes feel just too time consuming.  I have scheduled a cooking class with a visit to the local market with Chef Miguel Baltazar, who will share some of his healthy cooking recipes and tips with me.  I will repeat this each new season, so I can update my recipe book with new seasonal recipes and tips.
  4. Stay fit:  I intend to continue with my pilates classes, but want to add weekly running (both my dog and I will be happy for this one), and start with morning yoga at least twice per week.  Capella Ixtapa is located next to a Ciclopista, a bicycle path, so I am planning to try cylcling to work (I am thinking of making Fridays my bicycle Fridays)!
  5. Manage stress:  This busy life is keeping everybody stressed nowadays, and I believe we all deserve to be pampered now and then, don’t you think?  I have already bookmarked every first Saturday in the month at El Capricho spa for an ‘obligatory’ spa treatment.  I look forward to it already!
  6. More reading for fun and education:  I love reading, but find myself finding excuses too often for taking a reading break. Reading not only helps to prevent memory loss, but it boosts creativity and imagination as well.  My new year resolution is to read 10 fiction and 10 business books in the year too come (if you have any favorite books you have read in the past year, or are planning to, please share your suggestions with me in the comments below).
  7. Stay in touch with friends and loved ones:  time passes by too fast, and before I know it months pass without spending any time with my long-distance friends spread across the world.  Facebook just doesn’t compensate for a conversation in person.  Set a date with your friends, pick up the phone and call them, or send them a handwritten postcard or letter.  If you live in the same area, make time to see them in person.
  8. Save money:  With small lifestyle adjustments I want to save money so I can travel more.  By going to work by bicycle, I intend to stay fit, save on gas and at the same time pollute less.  When buying clothes, I will not buy based on current trends, but will buy clothing that never goes out of style.  That way I won’t need to change my wardrobe each season, but can keep using and combining my items for longer.
  9. Buy local:  I love supporting the artisans from our local community.  It helps them make a living and support their families, while at the same time carry on the tradition of their craft from generation to generation.  When I travel I tend to support local artisans as well.
  10. Volunteer to help others:  Doesn’t it make you feel happy when you help others?  It doesn’t cost us to help others, but it provides huge benefits to our happiness.  Last year I started helping local organisation with children in need, and I walk the dogs at Animal Humane Society of Zihuatanejo.

May the New Year bring only the best to you and your loved ones!

Romance In Singapore

Romance in Singapore

This February, love is in the air, especially in Singapore where the Chinese Valentine’s Day, which is the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, coincides with the Western Valentine’s Day.

To commemorate this occasion, I sought to uncover some of the most romantic spots and activities where you can savour the best of Singapore while enjoying the company of your loved one.  These are my top 3 recommendations:

The Jewel Box Cable Car Dining
I particularly love this because you get to enjoy a private dinner with your loved one high up in the sky with a panoramic view of the vibrant Singapore city and Sentosa Island below you.  It is certainly a remarkably memorable experience to watch the glistening lights below.  You will truly feel the romance of spending quality time in a space which you can call yours exclusively for the evening.

Romance in Singapore

Be My Valentine: A Spa Villa at Capella Singapore
Last week, I had the pleasure of having a preview of the Be My Valentine package here at Capella Singapore.  Now this is romance!  Enjoy one of Capella Singapore’s romantic villas for the weekend, which has been completely transformed with romance in mind.  This weekend getaway includes in-Villa Auriga spa treatments, a special Valentine’s dinner at The Knolls and even a one-hour photo-shoot to memoralize the weekend.  Of course there is plenty of champagne and chocolate as well.  Frankly, I can’t imagine a more romantic way to spend the holiday!

Take A Trishaw Ride Though Singapore
In my book, nothing says romance more than a whimsical tour though Singapore’s rich colonial heritage.  Trishaws are bicycle drawn carts, an evolution of the rickshaws, which were used as transportation for the wealthy in old Singapore.  Today you can cosy up to your loved one as you take a ride though some of Singapore’s most culturally rich places like Chinatown – just you and your partner, and of course your friendly trishaw guide who’ll be eagerly share fascinating historical tales.

If you would like to know more about any of these couple’s activities in, please approach your Capella Singapore Personal Assistants who would be pleased to share their favourite romantic haunts in Singapore.

Changi Airport

Changi Airport

As I settle back into the swing of work in the New Year, I can’t help thinking back on my travel adventures of 2012 as I start planning for the ones to come.   For me the adventure begins in the airport.  And lucky enough, Singapore’s Changi Airport is truly one of the best.

With the increasing demand in international flights, Changi Airport was first opened in the 1980s with only one terminal. Since then, Changi Airport has grown to become an award-winning hub featuring three beautifully designed terminals.  A fourth terminal is slated to open in 2017 and I am excited to find out what that new terminal will have in store.

Changi Airport

Changi Airport’s three terminals are connected by sky train, which makes it easy to hop between them.  I always believe that the vacation really starts at the airport and I have to say that Singapore’s Changi Airport really is a retreat, simply because there are just so many things to do!

To begin with there is a wide assortment of restaurants throughout the airport.  Singapore is a foodie haven and Changi is no exception.  Everything from local fare to Western cuisine can be found throughout the terminals.  You can experience the world’s flavors without ever getting on a plane!

Changi Airport 2

But it isn’t just the food that makes Changi Airport special.   It also features a whole array of lifestyle and leisure activities.  There is a salon, a spa, a swimming pool and so much more.  There’s even a nature trail!  Could you imagine going for a hike then getting your hair done during a layover?!

Clearly Changi Airport is not your average travel hub.   It really is a great introduction to Singapore and hopefully a destination you will have the chance to visit.

Taxco, Mexico: A Silver Town

Taxco

Taxco is a lovely small town 3 hours away from Capella Ixtapa, located in the hills between Acapulco and Mexico City.  It has retained its natural charm and colonial ambiance, characterized by red-tiled roofs, cobble-stoned streets and the impressive 240-year-old Santa Prisca Cathedral.  I love to wonder the streets and explore the city, but the strongest feature that attracts me to Taxco is its silver history.

Taxco_3486

The colonial city was founded in 1529, and in 1531 the first Spanish mine in North America was founded.  According to legend, Don José de la Borda arrived to town on a horse in 1716 from France at the age of 16, when his horse stumbled, dislodged a stone and exposed silver.  After amassing a silver fortune, Borda built The Templo de Santa Prisca as a gift to Taxco.  The church can be seen from all over Taxco.  I love to sit at one of the lovely cafes or restaurant terraces to admire it as it glitters in the sunlight.

Taxco

During Mexico’s Independence Fight, the Spanish barons destroyed the mines rather than lose them.  With most of the silver gone, Taxco became a quiet town with a dwindling population and economy.  That changed in 1929, when an American architect William Spratling arrived and set up a silver workshop as a way to rejuvenate the town.  Spratling motivated the community artisans to create designs and rediscover the silversmith tradition.  The workshop evolved into a factory, and Spratling’s apprentices began establishing their own shops.  Today, Taxco is home to hundreds of silver shops, which I love to explore!

Every November, Taxco organizes the world famous Silver Fair, when craftsmen, artists and silversmiths show their work and a national prize is awarded to the best silver artist.  This is a particularly impressive event and a time of true artistry!

When in Taxco you may want to visit also the Spratling Museum, the Museo Virreynal de Taxco, The Old Arches and of course the Santa Prisca Cathedral.  Ask your Capella Ixtapa’s Personal Assistant to organize a visit for you!

Taxco, Mexico: Una Ciudad De Plata

Photo by Flickr user Dennis Elliott.

Taxco es una pequeña y hermosa ciudad a 3 horas de distancia de Capella Ixtapa, ubicada en las montañas entre Acapulco y México D.F.. Taxco ha sabido conservar su ambiente colonial y encanto natural, caracterizado por sus techos de teja roja, calles empedradas y la majestuosa Catedral de Santa Prisca con más de 240 años de antigüedad. Me encanta perderme en sus calles y explorar la ciudad, pero la mayor atracción para mí de Taxco es su historia con la plata.

Taxco_3486La ciudad colonial fue fundada en 1529, en 1531 se abrió aquí la primer mina en Norteamérica. De acuerdo a la leyenda, Don José de la Borda (que llegó de Francia en 1716) montaba su caballo y este sin querer descubrió yacimientos de plata al golpear las rocas con los cascos. Tras amasar gran fortuna, Borda construyó la Catedral de Santa Prisca como regalo para Taxco. La iglesia se puede admirar desde cualquier punto de Taxco. Me encanta sentarme en una de las terrazas de cafés o restaurantes a admirar como brilla con la luz del sol.

TaxcoDurante la guerra de Independencia, los españoles destruyeron las minas para no perderlas. Con la mayoría de la plata ausente, Taxco se volvió un pueblo tranquilo con una población y economía bastante mermada. Esto cambió para 1929, cuando el arquitecto americano William Spratling estableció un taller de plata como medio para reactivar el pueblo. Spratling motivó a la comunidad de artesanos a crear nuevos diseños y redescubrir la tradición del trabajo de la plata. El taller evolucionó en una fábrica, y los aprendices de Spratling comenzaron a establecer sus propios talleres. Hoy día, Taxco es hogar de cientos de tiendas y talleres de plata los cuales me encanta explorar!

Cada Noviembre, Taxco organiza la mundialmente famosa Feria de la Plata, donde artesanos, plateros y artistas muestran su trabajo y un premio nacional se otorga al mejor artista. Este es un evento muy especial y lleno de verdadero arte!

Cuando estés en Taxco visita también el museo Spratling, el Museo Virreinal de Taxco, Los Arcos y por supuesto la Catedral de Santa Prisca. Pregunta a tu Asistente Personal de Capella Ixtapa que organice una visita para ti!