It’s painful to get up at 5am and make the trek to Tsukiji Fish Market before work. But strange as it might seem, if there’s one thing you have to see, it’s this. It’s the largest wholesale fish market in the world, and handles more than 400 different types of seafood from tiny sardines to 300kg tuna. Watching the gigantic fish prepared for sale or the auctioneers’ enthusiasm at landing their prize is a fabulous way to start the day. A tip: make sure you eat breakfast at the market before you leave.
Near the Tsukijishijō Station on the Oedo subway line and Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya subway line:
The real star of the beautiful Lost In Translation, this towering masterpiece is the best way of retreating after a bewildering working day in Tokyo. The New York Bar on the top floor is super-hip and the swimming pool/spa, on the 53rd floor, is breathtaking. If you don’t have the cash – or the expense budget – a normal room is certainly good enough, but if you do book a Park Suite (with its separate bedroom) or, best of all, its signature Diplomatic Suite: with its own library, dining room and grand piano, it is a spectacular way to wind down and wow your clients.
The only problem with the Park Hyatt is its location – Shinjuku is good for business irrefutably (it’s the Financial District) but it’s also fairly dull.
The Conrad Tokyo’s major attraction is its location. Walking distance from the Hamarikyu Garden and the legendary Tsukiji Fish Market (amongst other tourist delights), this is the place to stay if you don’t have a weekend (go for the Hyatt if you do) but do have time to explore in the evenings. The in-house Gordon Ramsay restaurants are also a bonus. Book an Executive Room or an Executive Suite; the latter is exceptional value given its 83 square metre size.
Fukuzushi, near Roppongi is great for a quieter (perhaps weekday team) dinner. It is a dinky, gorgeous, family-run restaurant, with sushi dominating the menu. The sashimi – especially tuna and salmon staples – are irresistibly delicious and the sake deserves your full attention. Two important tips. Get there early – it gets rather empty after 9pm – and make sure you get very clear directions – it’s remarkably difficult to find.
The New York Grill on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt is heaving every night, it serves some of the best seafood, poultry and red meat I’ve ever tasted in Japan (no mean feat). There’s also a super-high celebrity quotient.
The two XEX bars in Tokyo are wonderful insider secrets. The first, situated in the Atago Green Hills Mori Tower, is ten minutes from Roppongi and has spectacular views of the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower. The second, located in Daikanyama, is irrefutably the city’s best bar for spring/summer; it features the city’s trendiest folk and also serves very stylish teppanyaki.
If it’s total oblivion you’re after, Yellow and A-Life are marvellous clubs. The former is a cavernous, multi-floor maze with twenty-somethings going completely overboard to the unmistakeable sound of Japanese techno till after you’re back at work; not for the faint-hearted. Perhaps better for the average business traveller looking to let his or her hair down is A-Life. The staff speak English, there are expats to chat and party with, champagne is the predominant drink of choice, and the music is mercifully more tame.
Singapore loves to do champagne brunch on a Sunday, and it has become something of an institution with most of the big hotels serving it. You get a buffet selection that includes seafood, sushi, cooked breakfast, roast dinner, dim sum, cheese and several deserts and the champagne is free-flowing. Set aside at least three hours and make sure you haven’t got anything to do for the rest of the day. I had a fabulous brunch at the Fullerton, which has wonderful views across the river. They serve from 12pm until 3.30pm with unlimited champagne until 3pm and a total cost of about £60 per person.
If you want to be in with the media and creative set then I suggest you book a room at the New Majestic in Chinatown – it is a bespoke hotel in which each room has been designed by local names from the theatre, cinema and fashion industries. There is wireless broadband internet access in all the rooms and there are huge free-standing bath tubs and plasma TV screens.
Singapore’s international gateway, Changi Airport, has been open for business for 26 years and, in that time, has collected 250 international aviation awards. And it’s easy to see why. There are only two major terminals; check-in is very close to where you enter; security is a stone’s throw from check-in; and the lounges are comfortable, full of friendly staff, and a short walk from security. All of this means you can (for once) afford to turn up late – if you’re flying First or Business, an hour and a half before the flight is more than sufficient. The airport has numerous shopping and eating outlets, so you can actually get yourself or your family something useful on departure, including top brand name products from Prada, Gucci, Bulgari and Hermes. In addition, Changi has six open-air gardens, numerous business centres, internet and games facilities, prayer rooms, showers, a gym and even a swimming pool (!). Plus, this is an airport which, unlike “Tokyo” Narita or “London” Stansted, happens to be in the city it purports to serve. You can reach it by high-speed train (only 27 minutes to the centre), buses, taxis, limos, airport shuttles and the standard car rental companies. Going by road is good - ask your hotel to book you a car in advance and you can experience the luscious greenery of the East Coast Parkway.
With Singapore being Asia’s avant-garde country, the boutique phenomenon has just arrived. If you prefer cool over pool, choose The Scarlet or 1929. Both are located around Chinatown and represent the more confident, sexy vibe that Singapore has begun to embrace. The Scarlet is a complete contradiction of the city’s prim, proper, dull, boring reputation. Boudoir-like interiors are dominated by black, gold and (yes) scarlet; the restaurant, called Desire, serves dishes called Skinny Dipping, G-String and Cuckold; and there’s a private gym called Flaunt, a meeting room called Sanctum and an outdoor jacuzzi that helps make up for the lack of swimming.
33 Erskine Road Singapore 069333
Tel: +65 6511 3333
Fax: +65 6511 3303
If you think that going to dinner in a hotel is tantamount to some kind of defeat, swallow your pride, and go for it in Singapore. Morton’s in the Mandarin Oriental is a genuinely great hotel restaurant. It may be an American chain but, when every guide book tells you that it will be one of the finest dining experiences of your life, they’re not lying. Its atmosphere is vibrant, the beef extraordinary, the service flawless and the wine list award-winning. Steak fans are kept very happy, and the menu also features veal, chicken, seafood and fantastic sides: fresh green asparagus with hollandaise, creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, and several versions of the humble potato are all perfectly prepared and plentiful.
Dessert is a must, particularly one of the soufflés or the hot chocolate cake.
Mandarin Oriental, 5 Raffles Avenue, Marina Square, Singapore 039797 Tel: +65 6338 0066 Fax: +65 6339 9537
For a less mainstream dining experience – and one outside a hotel – try IndoChine Waterfront at the Asian Civilisations Museum. It’s located in the most romantic setting in town, with lovely views of the river; has an amazing décor with oriental antiques and modern furniture; and its Vietnamese-Laotian-Cambodian-French fusion cuisine is just gorgeous. Things to try: seafood galangal soup, black pepper beef, grilled scallops and basil chicken. The service can be slipshod but the food’s good enough to forgive them. After dinner, stop by the adjacent Bar Opiume; a super-stylish spot that's popular for cocktails and celebrity sightings.
Asian Civilisations Museum, The Historic District, 1 Empress Place
Located in a Manchester-style old warehouse, Singapore’s most fashionable and famous club is always rammed with a variety of folk. And despite the incredibly hip vibe, it’s extremely friendly. If you want a breather from the mad action downstairs, hit the quieter members' bar on the second floor.
The new Singapore has drawn in some of the world’s best known DJs and the Ministry of Sound. Like its London division you'll find house, trance, progressive, techno and breaks here. It’s the place to be seen but, unlike its Elephant & Castle counterpart, not at all closed to a slightly older crowd who might have thought their hardcore clubbing days were behind them. In fact, the clientele is so mixed and the atmosphere unintimidating that even the relatively conservative Business Traveller magazine (a bible to so many business travellers!) was touting its virtues earlier in the year.
If you’re looking for somewhere to wind down, there are plenty of sedate but hip options in Singapore. Art-bar fusion is currently a big thing in the city. The Majestic Bar features the 7.6m tall ‘Living Man’ metal sculpture by Zadok Ben David and other works by regional artists Yuki Chong, Donna Ong and Sandra Lee. And Night & Day – Bar + Gallery + Friends, which opened in September. Set up by Kelley Cheng and Randy Chan – founders of iSh magazine and zArch Architects, respectively – the revamped four-storey Art Deco building serves as a space for gallery-goers to chill out with a drink in hand, while soaking up graphic art. Another option is the Merbau Gallery Bar. It’s ultra-trendy and has recently hosted architectural photography exhibitions, social events and networking cocktails.
But if all this hipness turns you off, try the Post Room at the Fullerton. Its modish décor and comfy couches and chairs are wonderful, and it might just be the best place in Asia to enjoy oysters with Dom Perignon. Finally, Harry’s Quayside Bar is the best place for jazz on the island, ideally positioned on the beautiful Boat Quay and was the haunt of renegade Barings Bank broker Nick Leeson. You can't really ask for more than that!
Go to Sentosa Island and climb to the top of the 361-foot tall Carlsberg Sky Tower for a breathtaking view of Singapore. Or visit the Botanic Gardens for a great escape from the city and a charming education in tropical flora and orchids, with black swans and enormous fan palms. Or try the inspiring Night Safari, which you can take by tram. And if you like religious architecture, take a trip to the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple or the Sultan Mosque or the Thian Hock Keng Temple.
Or you could take a simple walk. Start from Collyer Quay and Clifford Pier (where most European colonists and Asian immigrants first set foot on the island); meander past the General Post Office (now the Fullerton); walk along Cavenagh Bridge onto North Boat Quay; take in the Empress Place Building and Raffles’ statue; admire Old Parliament House then take a breather at the Singapore Cricket Club. Walk on to Raffles City and while there, grab some lunch. Perfect.
The Glamour bar on Shanghai’s bund is an amazing place. Very chi-chi with pink lighting and huge Chinese print panels, it has three huge windows that look out on the city. They sometimes have live cabaret events and the best martinis in town.
Forget the big stuffy international hotels and book yourself into the Christian Lacroix designed Petit Moulin in the Mariais. It is a charming little hotel in a 17th century building that used to be a boulangerie and still has the old signage. There is wireless internet in all the rooms, and you are right in the heart of a very trendy district full of design shops and art galleries – getting into town isn’t difficult and the extra minutes spent traveling are well worth it for staying in such an original place, with none of the hollow impersonality of larger hotels.
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