Hitting The Roof In Singapore By Stuart Forster

Issue 99

Singapore is by no means short of rooftop experiences. Whether it's bars, swimming pools or observation platforms, the island's tropical climate helps make it pleasurable to spend evenings outdoors in a destination that many travellers visit only fleetingly, between long-haul flights.

At the Smoke and Mirrors cocktail bar, on the roof of the National Gallery Singapore, I gaze through the pleasantly warm night in the direction of Marina Bay. Jets of water, illuminated blue, are blasting upwards accompanied by music in the Marina Bay Sands’ Spectra light and water show as the iconic buildings behind shift colour.

My presence, you may think, must be a reward for detailed pre-trip research? It’s pure serendipity that I’m here witnessing the nightly 8.00 pm spectacle. As I discover, there’s another at 9.00 pm plus a further one at 10.00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Earlier, I learnt that Allied troops were forced to parade along St Andrew’s Road, directly in front of the art gallery, following the surrender of Singapore to Japanese forces in February 1942. The freshly revamped Battlebox – a museum occupying the wartime command bunker, in Fort Canning Park – conveys the story of blunders and bad decisions that lead to one of British military history’s most humiliating episodes. Singaporeans suffered during the brutal occupation that followed, as is documented in the free-to-visit Fort Canning Heritage Gallery.

As someone who appreciates contemporary architecture, I also made it my mission to go online and book a visit to the CapitaSpring skyscraper at 88 Market Street. The result of an impactful collaboration between Bjarke Ingels Group and Carlo Ratti, the 280-metre tall mixeduse building presents panoramic views from its 1-Arden Sky Garden on the 51st level. Open from Monday to Friday, the building also warrants visiting to experience the Green Oasis, a fourstorey vertical garden between the 17th and 20th levels. It is ingeniously integrated within a framework that gives the impression some powerful giant has twisted girders to give trees and shrubs space to flourish.

CapitaSpring is free to visit, unlike the SkyPark Observation Deck on the 56th level of Marina Bay Sands, which presents paying guests with fine views of the nearby Gardens by the Bay, ships idling in the Singapore Strait and, of course, the Central Business District’s skyscrapers. By contrast, only residents have access to the world’s biggest rooftop infinity pool on the 57th storey. That means I can’t take a dip in the pool that appears in the film Crazy Rich Asians.

Not quite a rooftop view, my plush bedroom on the 20th floor of the Mandarin Oriental, Singapore – which reopened in September 2023 following a comprehensive refurb – is an ideal spot for observing a golden sunrise beyond the Singapore Flyer, the giant Ferris wheel that stands 30 metres taller than the London Eye, and the three towers of the Marina Bay Sands.

Simon Wong, the co-founder of Singapore Sidecars, explains that the iconic resort-hotel’s design represents a mountain. To high-rolling Chinese gamblers who believe in Feng Shui that is significant: it means the casino fortuitously lies between the water of the bay and the ersatz mountain.

Simon steers me along streets on a restored Vespa scooter. The sidecar is an exhilarating way of following stretches of the street circuit that Formula 1 cars lap during the Singapore Grand Prix. As we idle outside of the Neo-Classical building that was formerly Singapore’s General Post Office and today houses the five-star Fullerton Hotel, Simon points up at the rooftop overlooking Fullerton Road and identifies it as a choice spot for viewing the race.

We then rattle past the Raffles Hotel towards Kampong Glam, the district that houses the Sultan Mosque and whose lanes are dotted with stylish boutiques and cafés. Simon explains that the street we’re travelling along, Beach Road, was so named because it was by the waterfront before land reclamation during the Victorian era.

To round off the day I head to Lau Pa Sat, a market where dozens of stalls sell Singaporean street food. On Satay Street I order skewers of succulent chicken grilled over charcoal and check my phone. With so many good rooftop bars in Singapore, there must be one nearby for a nightcap.

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