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Passport Required
Sentosa, Singapore

This was my first visit to Sentosa (using offspring as an excuse to visit Universal Studios), and it was hard to imagine that there would be an architectural masterpiece set barely metres behind Lord Farquaad’s Castle. But literally across the road, hidden from sight by lush greenery was the genteel colonial centerpiece of the Norman Foster-designed Capella. It is a fairly brave move to attempt a chic resort ambience in Singapore and braver still to attempt it in Sentosa, home of the manufactured environment. In a way, Capella is exactly that, but it largely succeeds. The main building looks like a giant red pretzel, with a lovely series of pools cascading down in front of it. Peacocks roam the grounds, adding to the exoticism.The common areas are uniformly good looking, as are the staff, who were charming, enthusiastic, warm and welcoming. A couple of opening hiccups (which were not the fault of the resort) were soothed with a complimentary bottle of Veuve and our “personal assistant”, Mackenzie, was extremely sweet and could not do enough for us.

We chose a private villa rather than a room in the main building, mostly for noise control. Our villa was in the trop-mod-luxe style with a cookies and cream colour scheme punctuated by the ubiquitous potted orchid and plunge pool. The only factor which placed it in Singapore rather than Bali or Thailand was the flotilla of industrial vessels plying the South China Sea in front of the resort. Outrageous, lah?

The Auriga spa was a masterpiece of zen, from the soaring curves of the hushed corridors to the twinkling lights in the ceiling of the bisazza-tiled steamroom. It made the St. Regis' Remede Spa look like a gulag. Expertly administered treatments drew from a variety of asian influences, using delicious products from A W Lake and The Organic Pharmacy:  peach and almond milk, pomelo and tangerine, peony and plum blossom………it’s also the only spa I’ve ever been to which plays Kiss covers (in this case a bossa nova version of “I was made for loving you”). I wondered if the therapists realized the fun they could have with face and eye masques.

The food was generally excellent. We stumbled too far into the Sunday evening buffet to withdraw graciously, and were astonished to see foie gras, duck rillettes, the freshest lobster, and a cornucopia of exquisite miniature desserts which wouldn’t have been out of place in Lenotre.

As for brickbats, the worst thing I can say is that there was way too much Gilberto (take your pick - Astrud, Bebel, Joao) piped into every common area. There also seemed to be several functions on, although these were handled discreetly and didn't interrupt or corporatise the experience.

We were there over Easter and the resort was full, with a large contingent of Japanese families and a few Australians. Despite the family atmosphere (egg painting, cookie decorating and a visit from the Easter Bunny on Sunday), the resort still seemed whisper-quiet and honeymooners could emerge after dusk to lounge on oversized chaises by candlelight and choose from a million different types of mojito.

Overall a good experience, a stylish escape from the bustle of town.

And if you want my comments on Universal Studios – hell on earth would be a good way to describe it. But the offspring loved it. And if you can’t say no to your offspring, then at least lessen the pain with a Universal Express Pass. Yes, it is a total rip off. Yes, it holds you captive to your basest emotions – impatience and the secret thrill of queue jumping. And yes, it will make those people who have just waited an hour for their ride hate you, as you get on it. But you will get back around 6 hours of your life that you would otherwise have lost, along with your sanity, waiting around in 35 degree heat and 90 percent humidity. Then pop the offspring to bed, and have a rose and pomegranate massage by moonlight. You will have earned it.