Singapore, its name is taken from the Malay Singa Pura, meaning Lion City, and this is a nation that has roared louder than its geographical size for decades, writes Scott Armstrong.
Its founding father, the late Lee Kuan Yew is credited with taking this former British Colony from third world to first world, creating an economic powerhouse so impressive the likes of Dubai looked to copy that success.
So while it is both a Lion and a Tiger (Asian Tiger economy), today it is much more, a place where both history and the future co-exist with reminders of the past sitting alongside visionary projects in harmony.
And no word sums up Singapore so well as harmony, for this is a place that feels very much at peace with itself, and its reputation as a low crime, corruption-free country only helps that.
Modern Singapore is a heady mix. Astonishingly clean, the city gleams amid the lush tropical foliage that it sits within, though this should come as no surprise as a visit to the world famous Gardens at the Bay will prove how Singaporeans are able to take two opposites and make them co-exist.
Which is why this city-state has become such as destination for visitors and businesses alike, indeed it is a place one can be tourist while simultaneously on a work mission.
One place that epitomises the harmonic duality of Singapore is its five-star St Regis Hotel, a haven of luxury that exudes the service spirit of decades past and yet is utterly contemporary.
That is perfectly illustrated by the car and the driver this memorable hotel sends to pick you up from the airport.
As the Continental Flying Spur Bentley rolls up, a car which itself is a unique blend of history and luxury, you begin to feel you are heading for somewhere special.
Hidden in the vehicle’s classic design is of course free wi-fi, but you won’t spend long checking facebook, you’ll learn more from a conversation with the charming, convivial Singaporean chauffeur.
Another sure sign that quality and service are assured is, this writer learned, if the chauffeur is at least as educated as you are. By the time you arrive at the hotel any stresses on the flight in are forgotten, you are just looking forward to what comes next.
As well you should.
St Regis around the world are masters of creating luxurious spaces of peace in the heart of bustling cities, and Singapore is one of the best.
This brand also has a canny knack of hitting the same high notes of luxury, but wherever you go that refinement also reflects the culture and heritage of the country.
So when you walk into the lobby you are greeted by acres of shining marble and glittering giant chandeliers but that is offset by the dark lacquered wood furniture which grounds you in Singapore and sumptuous red furnishings tone down the brightness and bring in the elegance. Like many of its guests the St Regis Singapore has a timeless style.
One mistake ‘posh’ hotels often make is they confuse stuffiness with refinement, with staff trained to almost look down their noses at guests.
But at St Regis the service across the board is that practiced deft light touch, just enough but never too much or too little.
Take the St Regis butlers for instance. I’ve written this before about their counterparts in Abu Dhabi but they could have literally stepped from a scene of Downton Abbey or the pages of an Agatha Christie novel. Courteous and thoroughly competent at all times, these professionals make guests, who may be using a butler for the first, feel totally at ease.
They are an added bonus, especially helpful when checking in to your room, in my case an executive deluxe room of some 52 square metres. You could say this is the ‘entry level room’ of the St Regis but that doesn’t do it justice, especially with wall to ceiling windows that give a panoramic view of the city adding to the feeling of space.
That oriental dark wood furnishing abounds again, the perfect offset for the king-size bed of crisp linens and Jim Thompson silk pillows (Jim Thompson is big in this part of the world).
Perhaps the pièce de résistance is the French marble bathroom, with a huge free-standing bathtub, a jet massage and monsoon shower.
Tempting as it is to stay in your room being in Singapore it would be a shame not to see a little of this shining city-state.
Thankfully your hotel is minutes from the city centre, particularly Orchard Road, a 2.2km boulevard flanked by iconic shopping malls, restaurants and hotels – essentially think a tropical version of London’s Oxford Street.
By day this is a draw for anyone seeking retail therapy, especially as visitors are able to claiming the seven per cent Goods & Services Tax (essentially VAT) back when they leave Singapore.
By night this street hums with conversation and conviviality being a draw for the young people of Singapore with a range of restaurants to suit most budgets.
The St Regis is also close to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Singapore Botanic Gardens should you wish a something a little more cultural.
Taxis in Singapore are safe and inexpensive, to explore a little further, for example Marina Bay Sands and those astounding Gardens at the Bay, it’ll take you about 15 to 20 minutes from the St Regis.
When the sight-seeing is done (or part done as one-trip will not be enough) the St Regis reliably waits for you, its suited doormen ready to welcome you back for nourishment (Brasserie Les Saveurs) and relaxation.
You may only spend 24 hours in this city if you are on business, but Singapore and St Regis combine to create a memorable experience, one you’ll want to repeat.