The verdant, tiny, bustling-yet-totally-efficient city state of Singapore makes for a perfect long weekend break from Dubai. Think lush rainforest-like greenery everywhere you look, a pedestrian-friendly city plan and delicious culinary highlights like chilli crab and laksa. And, right smack-bang in the centre of the island is the Mandarin Oriental, a looming, fan-shaped hotel with views out to the ocean, as well as over the green city centre and out to the atmospheric harbour.
First impressions are key, and here they’re good: walk into the lobby and take in the grand atrium and the traditional arts and artefacts dotted around (there’s a particularly stunning sculptural skyline-mimicking installation on the fourth floor) while the staff whisk away your stresses. The hotel is most famous for its service, and it deserves its reputation.
Once you’ve donned your fluffy robe and relieved your tired legs at the newly renovated spa with a reflexology treatment or had a few laps in the beautiful, 25-metre pool – which has views over the skyline, sunken in-water loungers and water sculptures that double up as handy back massagers – take a stroll around the area. Turn left from the hotel and you’ll find yourself in the brand new Marina Bay Sands area.
Built on entirely reclaimed land, it boasts celebrity restaurants, shopping and more. Or, if you turn right from the hotel, you’ll soon find yourself on the other side of the harbour, where you can snap yourself next to Singapore’s famous Merlion. And, while there is much to see in Singapore, you’ll be tempted to head back to the hotel, as your room (where treats like fresh fruit will be delivered every evening) will have a better view than anywhere further afield.
Book a table at the hotel’s brilliant modern Cantonese restaurant, Cherry Garden; finish off with a panoramic-view and a cocktail at Axis Bar & Lounge and then head back to your modern suite to watch the wonderful city of Singapore – whether the view is of the boats in the harbour or over the green city streets – pulse through the night.
While the hotel’s food options are enough to keep even the most discerning foodies satisfied – Melt, The World Café, has a gorgeous garden and a buffet of Dubai-worthy proportions – you can’t leave Singapore without eating at a hawker centre. The best of these bustling, marketstyle eateries are in the suburbs, but there’s also a very good one right opposite the hotel. See makanasutra.com for more.
Rooms from approximately Dh1,200 a night with breakfast | mandarinoriental.com/singapore
Aoyama District, Tokyo
If you’re looking for young, luxe and stylish, the Tokyo’s Aoyama District will be your idea of shopping heaven, within the space of a few metres you’ll find Prada, Cartier and Chloe, with goodies all lined up and waiting to be taken home, care of your credit card. The cosmopolitan area, often dubbed the Champs Elysées of Tokyo, is also packed full of chic restaurants and cafés to see and be seen in, make sure you pay Café Acote a visit, with a cute shop upstairs and classically Japanese interiors, it will tick a few must-dos off your tourist list.
Viva Forever, London
Spice Girls fans, rejoice! The Spice Girls may not be releasing another album to make your 90s’ dream a reality, but the musical powers that be (including Absolutely Fabulous comedienne Jennifer Saunders) have penned a West End musical including all of their biggest hits. So get your tickets for the London show, which, yes, is about a group of friends trying to make it in pop – and expect to be up on your feet singing and dancing to Wannabee by song two.
Piccadilly Theatre, London | vivaforeverthemusical.com