The perfect place for taking care of business
"Singapore is the easiest place in Asia for conducting business," claims Kevin Isherwood. As a media trainer and facilitator, he has considerable experience of business travel, and works regularly in Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand as well as other parts of the region. "I prefer working there to Hong Kong," he adds. He cites the seamless hospitality and excellent service among the reasons for his choice: "People will bend over backwards to help."
Thomas Crow works in the film industry and is often in Singapore for meetings. He remembers one aspect of doing business that surprised him at first. "Everyone, whatever their position in the company, will present you with their card, and will expect to receive one in return. This is a very formal procedure, and it is important that the cards are given and received with both hands." He has learned to follow local practice during meetings with the cards he is given. "Line them up in front of you, with the most important one at the top, so that you know who everyone is and where they fit in," he advises.
Doing business in Singapore is not like operating in Europe or the United States, but Kevin Isherwood has learned to work around the cultural differences. Any difficulties are "more than compensated for by the incredible comfort, luxury and ease of doing things," he explains. Talk to any business traveller about Singapore and they will say the same thing: efficiency, good service, ease of getting things done are phrases that come up again and again.
The superb restaurants and bars along the Singapore river are frequently praised by business regulars, too, as they look for a night of relaxation. Harry's Bar (00 65 6538 3029; harrys.com.sg), the watering hole down on the Boat Quay that Nick Leeson and his banking colleagues frequented during the Nineties, is still a popular jazz bar, although now there are plenty of other places where you can enjoy a drink and some live music. (00 65 6327 4671;), along the same riverside strip is another popular venue.
On the north side of the river, the redeveloped Clarke Quay is a good area for anyone in search of drinks and dinner: a new recommendation is the Pump Room (00 65 6334 2628;), a lively microbrewery which serves tasty food and homebrewed beers in relaxed surroundings. But to avoid the throng of people who flock to this area, regulars advise heading along the river towards Cavenagh Bridge for drinks at the sophisticated Bar Opiume (00 65 6339 2876; ), before dinner in the Chinese IndoChine Waterfront (00 65 6339 1720; ) restaurant next door.
Thomas Crow prefers Divine Society (00 65 6338 8558), an art deco bar in Parkview Square, on North Bridge Road. Here, fine wines are served by winged fairies, who hover above the bar to locate your choice of drink. He also loves the New Asia Bar (00 65 6837 3322;) at the top of the Swissotel The Stamford: "The view when the sun goes down is mesmerising," he says.
If you prefer to get away from the city centre, and join local friends in one of the more relaxed neighbourhoods further west, then Crow suggests a visit to Rochester Park. "Lots of people recommend Holland Village because there are so many bars to choose from," he says. "But I always prefer going to Rochester Park, which is far more cool; it's the sort of place where you want to be seen." CATHY PACKE
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