LIGHTS. CAROLS. ACTION!

Barely recovered from our family vacation in Singapore, I returned to the island republic at the invitation of the Singapore Tourism Board for the 2009 Christmas in the Tropics visit. This glittering annual event transforms world famous Orchard Road into a magical wonderland filled with  twinkling lights, illuminated storefronts and a wonderful kaleidoscope of lights and colour carollers, musical performances and roving performers. This immediately brought me back to 2007 when we were treated to dazzling lights and shimmering decorations on a complimentary open-top bus (and no, the light effects are not Photoshopped).

SINGAPORE’S CHRISTMAS IN THE TROPICS IS A DAZZLING CELEBRATION LIKE NONE OTHER FOUND ON THE EQUATOR. Christmas often conjures up images of snow, reindeers, fireplaces and lots of wool—woollen socks, scarves, beanies and so on. But in Singapore, Christmas is a time to celebrate outdoors with street light-ups, carolling performances and musicals as well as enjoying unbeatable shopping and delectable festive dining offers.

If there was one thing I wish I had when I visited Orchard Road after hours that would be a tripod for long exposure shots to soak up the dazzling lights. Stretched from end to end along Orchard Road and decked out on pedestrians walk path on both sides of the shopping complexes, each step marks a festive moment. Even as I write this post, these pictures are a vivid reminder of the vehicular and people traffic that make Orchard Road so alive! A video would convey the mood a lot more effectively but it’s Singapore so you all know it’s the real deal.

Themed “I am The Light of the World”, you only need to walk past Tangs Christmas Store to be showered with all that is gold.

I visited 4 new shopping malls which opened for business within days or weeks of each other in time for Christmas: Mandarin Gallery, 313@Somerset, Orchard Central and ION Orchard. I share pictures from each of these starting with the Mandarin Gallery,  an intimate-sized mall which underwent an extensive S$200 million facelift and now offers a vibrant mix of 103 fashion, lifestyle and food & beverage tenants—both international and local.

“The mall is nearly completely leased out, and we expect our tenants to move in by January 2010″ according to Patrina, Senior Vice President of Retail & Leasing. The Mandarin Gallery offers a lot more than what it seems from the outside. It had me fooled until I was inside on a guided tour by Jessica Davidson, Asst Marketing Communication Manager, Retail, Marketing & Leasing.

These shoppers have plenty of reasons to be delighted. According to Mrs Patrina Tan, Senior Vice President of Retail & Leasing, “the highly-affluent, well-traveled and fashionable young is a niche market group that we recognise has yet to be tapped into, and with Mandarin Gallery’s intimate size and mix of tenants, we aim to offer them a tailored shopping experience in a refreshing retail environment which caters to their lifestyle needs.”

Putting the needs of discerning shoppers first, this designated rest area is one of a number of features of the Mandarin Gallery. Outside, the five flagship duplexes are fronted by Emporio Armani, D&G, Montblanc, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Bread & Butter. As the Meritus Mandarin hotel is one of our favourite haunts, I look forward to visiting the Gallery on my next stay. There’s simply so much more to discover.

Before I end my writing on the Gallery, I want to give WILD HONEY a mention for its uniqueness. This place may already been on many foodie’s radar but it’s a first for me. This restaurant serves breakfast (international breakfast menu) all day long. I’ll reserve the pictures for another post that focuses on the places where I actually sat down to rest and refuel. With people waking up at all odd hours, I guess this concept actually makes a lot of sense.

Moving on, we met with Karon Cameron, Development Marketing Director of Lend Lease, who gave us a guided tour of the newly opened 313@somerset shopping which has undergone an exciting re-branding campaign — “Sense The Difference.”

At 313@somerset, we have the opportunity to differentiate ourselves by the way we do things — we understand that it is the small things that make the biggest difference and it is our unique combination of benefits that sets us apart. The moment you step into 313@somerset, you’ll be able to feel that it is different: from the way it looks, sounds, tastes, smells, behaves and feels.

FOREVER 21 is expected to create a new and exciting fashion and accessories experience not yet seen in Singapore. However, on the day of my visit, the store was still under construction. Forever 21 is a four level flagship store while international retailer ZARA occupies a three level flagship store. Other names include Mango, Esprit, Lacoste, M)phosis, Charles & Keith Signature, BYSI, New Look and a new larger format Pedro store.

True to their brand positioning, 313@somerset is indeed different. The very first thing you’ll notice as you enter the store is a hotel style Concierge service, “A concierge is a customer service executive who, apart from being an ambassador for the brand, will arrange anything and everything within his or her means, from the most sublime to mundane of tasks.”

Our visit coincided with the official opening of HMV Singapore’s new store where Korean Pop Group T-MAX and local favourites including Nathan Hartono, Dawn Ho & Jae Leung performed.  HMV gave each of us a souvenir which is now a part of a growing collection of memorabilia from my photo journey. Anyone visiting my studio cannot miss this  iconic purple “pet.”

Comprising of everything ranging from food to fashion, this exclusive mall promises an intriguing time for both young and old. Not to mention the fusion of art and design in its structure and space, Orchard Central promises a unique experience for the stylish shopper. — Orchard Central

A Vertical Lightfield by Hans Peter Kuhn. No, it’s not Hans Solo but it might  as well be. “The work combines the precision of modern technology with the unpredictability of a natural process.” 26 light sticks (fluorescent tubes, acrylic tubes) moving very slowly and independently as individuals …

The Tall Girl art sculpture standing at 20M high starting with her feet at the Discovery Walk (Level 1) Orchard Central is made of polyurethane and fibre glass reinforced gypsum steel frame.

The Abyzz boutique in Orchard Central is owned by local multiple award winning designer Desmond Yang. Desmond’s unique designs from his superb tailoring won him accolades such as the International Apparel Federation (IAF) International Designers Award 2007 and Smirnoff International Fashion Awards in 1998 and 2000. This one pictures cannot do any justice to the versatility of his clothing design. According to the gentleman who demonstrated some of their store’s collection, 60 is the number of ways one of his designs can transform into. Desmond was out of town when we popped in but I would like to have a chat with him someday.

↑ Desmond’s versatility is as illuminating as this bottom-lit showcase ensemble which can transform in a
number of ways limited only by the imagination. Below, Philippines blogger Melo checks out a magazine article of Desmond Yang.

Just in case shopping isn’t quite your thing, there is the “GET HIGH ON THE WORLD’S TALLEST INDOOR VIA FERRATA.” Border X is formed by passionate outdoor people, wanting to infuse a love for mountain sports into one and all. Realising there is a learning curve for proficient climbing, the Border X team have brought in the first ever via ferrata to Singapore. Via Ferrata is a traditional  European mountaineering activity which means “Iron Way” in Italian and climbing takes place without the risks associated with unprotected climbing.

Via Ferrata is a thrilling and safe sport that can be enjoyed across a broad range group. It’s also an excellent activity for team building. It looks mighty tempting especially after seeing the courtesy photos from Border X below. Unfortunately, height is not my thing so I’ll take shopping :)

Photos courtesy of Border X

Other than the art pieces and attention to detail, one definite attraction of Orchard Central is the roof top garden which also showcases various art work. Here, it’s a Japanese piece by Yayoi Kusama entitled “Let’s go to a paradise of glorious tulips”

On the dazzling earth of life, death and illnesses seeking after the truth, I have lived my life shedding tears in my broken heart, I have always been in search of the sweet scent of tulips, dog shouting love, and on top of them, the numerous songs girls have been singing since the day they were born ….” — Yayoi Kusama

Soak in the street buzz while you enjoy the unique experience of dining along an open-air verandah at a high vantage point above the busy Orchard Road strip – for those who love alfresco dining at an altitude!

The stenciled ceiling where interesting light patterns are formed as shadows are cast onto walls and floors.

MANCHU, another local brand to note @ Orchard Central.

Last stop on Orchard Road takes us to ION ORCHARD which has become the “centre of gravity” in the retail scene, with spectacular frontage and cutting edge designs and concepts. It brings together the world’s best loved brands for their flagship, concept and lifestyle stores within one development, with over eight levels of intelligently designed shopping space – four levels above ground and four levels below – totalling 66,000 square metres of retail space at the prime site of Singapore’s commercial and shopping artery. ION Orchard won the Best Shopping Centre award at the MIPIM 2009 Awards.

TWG Tea at ION Orchard. I asked if they would allow me to take some pictures inside but was politely refused unless I obtained permission from TWG management. Perhaps another time when I have another opportunity. From a photography standpoint, I look at all that as macro heaven! So much detail so little chance!

I’m working on other posts from the Dec 10—13 Media Familiarization trip which includes entertainment/nightlife and food locations. Check out my Facebook page for night pictures of the great Singapore landscape from vantage point of the Singapore Flyer and New Asia Bar and also links from previous visits A Marathon Weekend and Retail Therapy.

It’s that time of the year when we wind down, leave work at the office where it should be and take the family for a vacation. Is Singapore your holiday or shopping destination? Feel free to share your views here! Merry X’mas and happy holidays!

SO MUCH FOOD SO LITTLE TIME
ZOUKOUT 2009