Singapore fling: 48 hours in the Garden City

Day 1

Arriving at Singapore's impressive Changi airport is always a joy and a foretaste of this island republic's perfectly ordered world. The half-hour drive into town on highways lined with giant acacia trees and blooming bougainvillea provides a refreshing welcome all the way into the lushly landscaped city center.

Our group settled into The Fullerton Bay Hotel, ideally situated in the heart of Singapore's central business district and vibrant arts and culture area. One of the most recent additions to the wonderful Marina Bay waterfront, this modern colonial hotel, completely built over water, is sandwiched between two iconic heritage buildings: Customs House and Clifford Pier, the original landing point for immigrants and settlers to Singapore in the 1930s.

The Fullerton Bay's luxuriously appointed rooms and public spaces are illuminated by floor-to-ceiling windows offering enchanting views of the bay and the Singapore skyline.

We are just in time for tea-where else but TWG Tea at Marina Bay Sands. A veritable tea institution, TWG Tea celebrates Singapore's almost 175-year history as a major trading post for teas and spices.

TWG Tea's charming salons and boutiques (with at least five outlets scattered around Marina Bay alone) are fitted out with dark wood and brass cabinetry and nostalgic furnishings, and offer a dizzying selection of over 800 fine harvest teas and tea-based products as well as tea accessories, tea-infused savory dishes and patisseries. (Attention tea lovers! This Singaporean establishment will soon be making a foray into Manila!)

After browsing through the "Shoppes at MBS," a retail haven with 800,000 sq ft of global fashion brands, up-and-coming labels and new concept stores, it was time to head back to our rooms for a quick change into "tropical chic," as specified by Bulgari's invite to the Italian luxury house's first-ever regional High Jewelry event.

A brief ride up the lift took us into the Lantern Bar, the hotel's rooftop bar and pool-one of the city's hot night spots du jour. (Its name is derived from Clifford Pier's Chinese name "Red Lantern Pier," a reference to the lanterns that used to line the pier, guiding seafarers along their way.)

Amidst tropical foliage and spectacular views of the glittering evening skyline, colorful vignettes featured models swathed in Bulgari's dazzling jewels as waiters passed around a feast of gourmet tapas and libations.

In true Pinoy fashion, we needed to satisfy our Hainanese Chicken Rice fix before retiring for the night. (No trip to Singapore is complete without it!) It was a toss-up between hitting the traditional street hawkers or going for the most convenient option. Given the lateness of the hour, Clifford, the hotel's beautiful brasserie, easily won out.

Day 2

After a peaceful breakfast overlooking the bay, we were off to the Fullerton Hotel (the Fullerton Bay's renowned older sibling across the street) for the official High Jewelry viewing.

At the Presidential Suite, we got up close and personal with each and every piece of Bulgari's exquisite one-of-a-kind jewels created from exceptional gemstones. Director for High Jewelry Giampaolo Della Croce and director for High-end Watches Andrea Granalli had both flown in from Rome especially for the launch. They shared fascinating insights on this fabulous collection that represents the quintessence of Bulgari design.

The private exhibition was followed by an epicurean lunch at the Post Bar, named for the General Post Office Building which it now occupies: tuna carpaccio with crisp vegetable and eggplant salad timbale, sweet peas and mint soup with lemon zest-scented shrimps, seared wagyu sirloin with rocket and artichoke salad and lemon curd and red berries tart with meringue crumble.

Models dressed in immaculate white wove gracefully around the tables, giving us one last close-up of Bulgari's magnificent jewels.

Later in the afternoon, despite the intense tropical heat, the more adventurous among us took a long, leisurely walk around the city in an attempt to work off the gargantuan feast. Singapore is home to architectural wonders, air-conditioned pedestrian subways that connect every building, crime-free streets, abundant greenery and manicured botanical gardens that make walking in this town an absolute pleasure.

Still on full Italian mode, the entire Manila contingent regrouped for a late farewell dinner at Osteria Mozza. Conceived by celebrity chef Mario Batali and centered on a mozzarella bar, this immensely popular restaurant has people queuing up for a taste of the house specialty-mozzarella, burrata and burricotta cheese served in a variety of delightful ways. The laid-back evening was a happy ending to a short but sweet Singaporean sojourn.

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