Tuesday, 27 September 2022

How to enjoy winter in London… outdoors

Winter days in London are cold and short – temperatures typically hover between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius, and the sun sets as early as 4pm. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun outdoors. Planning a year-end trip to the London? Instead of spending your time cooped up indoors, layer up, hit the streets and make the most of London in winter. 

1. Hone your ice skating skills

Ice skating is a popular winter pastime in London, with rinks popping up all across the capital. At Skate at Somerset House (November 2022 to January 2023, exact dates TBC), you can take a spin around the neoclassical courtyard, where a 12m-tall Christmas tree takes centre stage. Or head to the Ice Rink Canary Wharf (22 October 2022 to 25 February 2023), which is set against the backdrop of the district’s gleaming skyscrapers. Over at the Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink (November 2022 to January 2023, exact dates TBC) – situated in the gardens of Henry VIII’s historic home in south-west London – you can glide across the ice while admiring the complex’s striking Tudor architecture.

Ice skaters at Somerset House. Photo credit: Shutterstock

2. Check out the Christmas markets

If you’re visiting London during the festive season, be sure to check out one of the city’s magical Christmas markets. At the Southbank Centre Winter Market (dates TBC) along the Thames, you’ll find rows of Alpine-style chalets selling everything from street food to stocking fillers. Warm up with a delicious cup of mulled wine, or perhaps some creamy cheese fondue. Elsewhere, the Leicester Square Christmas Market (dates TBC) sees the bustling tourist district transformed into a winter wonderland of sorts: think traditional wooden stalls selling food and drink, trees draped with fairy lights, plus a lineup of comedy and cabaret shows – held in a 1920s-style speigeltent (travelling tent used for entertainment) to boot.

 

3. Enjoy some Yuletide fun

Of course, the biggest Yuletide extravaganza in London is undoubtedly Hyde Park Winter Wonderland (18 November 2022 to 2 January 2023), which attracts millions of visitors every year. Kids will adore the family-friendly fairground rides, which include a Ferris wheel, an ice slide and a funhouse. In the mood for some white-knuckle fun? Try the Munich Looping, the largest transportable roller coaster in the world, or the XXL, a vertigo-inducing, pendulum-style ride that can swing to a height of 47 metres. After all that action, chill out with a frothy pint of lager and some grilled bratwurst at the Bavarian Village, or wander around the Christmas market and pick up a knick knack or two.

The enchanting Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. Photo credit: Shutterstock

4. Admire the festive lights

When darkness falls, it’s time to see London’s sparkling Christmas displays in their full glory. In 1954, Regent Street was the first location in central London to put up Christmas lights. It has continued to do so ever since: from November to January each year, 16 spirit-shaped sculptures studded with twinkling LED lights soar above the length of the street. Nearby, Oxford Street also puts up quite a show every Christmas: last year’s display featured thousands of shining stars suspended on strings of fairy lights. Other places that receive festive glow-ups include Trafalgar Square, which is graced by an enormous, illuminated spruce – an annual gift from Norway in gratitude for Britain’s support during World War II.

The Christmas light-up at Regent Street. Photo credit: Shutterstock

5. Get back to nature

There’s nowhere better to enjoy the crisp winter air than at one of London’s famous green spaces. Avid bird-watchers will love Regent’s Park, which is frequented by winged winter visitors including the Mistle Thrush and the Pied Wagtail. The park is also home to the ZSL London Zoo, which is open all year round except on Christmas Day. Here, you can get up close and personal with over 700 animal species, from llamas to lemurs. To admire some winter greenery, make a trip to Kew Gardens in south-west London, which features one of Europe’s most comprehensive holly collections and a diverse range of conifers. Or for views of a different kind, take a stroll through verdant Hampstead Heath, where you can drink in magnificent vistas of the London skyline from atop Parliament Hill. 

 

6. Take an invigorating dip

Up for a bracing winter swim? London Fields Lido in Hackney is open 365 days a year and features an Olympic-size outdoor pool that’s heated to a comfortable 25 degrees Celsius. Alternatively, intrepid travellers can consider cold water swimming, which purportedly improves your circulation and boosts your metabolism. Take the plunge at Hampstead Heath’s natural swimming spots – the Kenwood Ladies’ Bathing Pond, the Highgate Men’s Pond and the Hampstead Mixed Bathing Pond – which remain open throughout winter. Just remember to read the safety guidelines and bring your wetsuit! 

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Monday, 26 September 2022

7 otherworldly adventures of a lifetime in Western Australia

Disconnect from the everyday and the well-trodden in Western Australia, where you’ll step outside of the everyday and into a dream. The country’s largest State with its longest coastline and sunniest capital city of Perth, Western Australia is a place to recharge your spirit – outdoors in the fresh air and wide open spaces, where it’s always summer somewhere. If it’s adventure you seek, these seven destinations are worthy additions to your travel bucket list.

1. Swim alongside gentle whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef

Ningaloo Reef is a dream destination for nature and wildlife lovers thanks to its easy accessibility and lack of crowds. Over 300-kilometres long, this UNESCO World Heritage listed reef is one of the most biologically diverse marine environments on the planet and home to over 200 species of coral and 500 species of fish.

Ningaloo is also home to the gentle whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world. Here you can take an ecologically respectful boat tour run by passionate locals and swim alongside these plankton-eating giants of the ocean – a rare wildlife encounter that will stay with you forever.

You can also swim with graceful humpback whales as they migrate along the coast each year on Western Australia’s ‘Humpback Highway’, or flip underwater with Coral Bay’s acrobatic manta rays. If you prefer to stay dry, you can always glide over the dazzling reefs on a glass-bottom boat tour.

Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
Swim with gentle whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef

2. Embark on an Aboriginal bush tucker tour near Margaret River

Feel the freedom and experience the flavours of the Margaret River Region. Journey through more than 150 wine producers and 100 cellar doors, where the forest meets the ocean. Best part? It’s only a 2.5-hour drive south of Perth. Winemakers, farmers, surfers and creatives have congregated here, inspired by nature’s beauty. Margaret River is rightly renowned as Australia’s most premium wine region, producing a quarter of the country’s fine wines.

Of course, it’s not just about the wine and beer – there are plenty of other adventures here too. Hike or mountain bike along forest trails that hug the stunning coastline. Surf world-class breaks, watch migrating whales and see other native wildlife.

Take an Aboriginal bush tucker tour or feel the thrill of rock climbing, abseiling, canoeing, horse riding or sky diving. Slow down and discover the stillness of an ancient cave, stroll along the longest timber piled jetty in the Southern hemisphere or just relax on some of the world’s best beaches.

Margaret River Western Australia
Celebrate the art of wine in the Margaret River Region

3. Sunbathe with kangaroos in Esperance

An ocean and nature lover’s dream, Esperance is an isle-wrapped town with an unspoilt coastline rivalling any in the world. Nestled amongst white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, pristine national parks, dramatic rock formations and untouched islands, Esperance is about 8 hours’ drive or a short 90-minute flight from Perth.

Share Australia’s whitest beach, Lucky Bay, with friendly sunbathing kangaroos. It stretches for five peaceful kilometres with a stunning backdrop of the Recherche Archipelago’s 110 islands. Other beaches that are popular among locals include Hellfire Bay, Twilight Beach and Blue Haven.

For further adventures, cruise or fly in a helicopter to the small nature reserve of Woody Island — a great day trip or stay longer in a ‘glamping’ hut overlooking the ocean. Spot dolphins, sea eagles and sea lions at play on the boat ride over. Join an eco-tour, swim, snorkel, kayak or just relax on the beach.

Share Australia’s whitest beach, Lucky Bay, with friendly sunbathing kangaroos
Share Australia’s whitest beach, Lucky Bay, with friendly sunbathing kangaroos

4. Meet the adorable quokkas of Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island is a little pocket of paradise in Western Australia that’s jam-packed with adventure. Getting to this car-free, protected nature reserve is easy: take a short ferry ride from the mainland or arrive in style by helicopter or airplane.

You’ll be greeted by 63 stunning beaches, 20 beautiful bays, an abundance of spectacular marine life, and the world’s happiest animal, the adorable quokka. Discover Rottnest Island’s cultural significance and history on an Aboriginal guided tour, then enjoy an ocean boat cruise dining on sumptuous local seafood.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, join a hiking trek through nature or a guided snorkelling tour of the island’s underwater wonders. Jump on an adventure boat to watch whales, dolphins and seals. Savour dinner and a cool drink while the sun sets over Thompson Bay, before retiring in your luxury, eco or glamping accommodation.

Rottnest Island Quokka
A friendly quokka poses for a photo

5. Soar over the Bungle Bungle Range on a helicopter tour

Spread over the north-western corner of Australia, and with fewer people per square kilometre than almost any other place on earth, is the ancient and untouched Kimberley region. Quiet but powerful; part soulful, part magic. The Kimberley grounds you and the red dust never leaves you.

Gaze from an open-door helicopter at the 350 million-year-old World Heritage-listed Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park. Feel the thrill of a boat cruise through the Horizontal Waterfalls or tackle one of Australia’s greatest four-wheel-drive adventures, the legendary 660-kilometre Gibb River Road.

The Kimberley also offers a range of profound Aboriginal experiences with the world’s oldest living culture and the traditional custodians of this land. Explore ancient rock art galleries, learn about the different Aboriginal language groups or hear Dreamtime stories from an Elder. Got some extra time? Go mud crabbing or spear fishing then camp on Country for bush tucker.

Bungle Bungle Range Western Australia
Tour the 350 million-year-old World Heritage-listed Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park

6. Hop on a camel and catch the sunset in Broome

Broome is both a laid-back tropical oasis and the western gateway to the Kimberley. Thanks to its 1800s pearling history, Broome is one of the world’s finest producers of pearls today. It’s also the perfect destination to unwind after more rugged adventures. Relax by the beach with a cocktail in hand or savour local specialties like pearl meat, ginger beer and barramundi.

Sunsets in Broome are a sight to behold. Locals and tourists congregate each evening on pristine, 22-kilometre-long Cable Beach to witness the spectacular fiery colours – sometimes on the back of an unhurried camel. The iconic Sunset Bar is the perfect place to enjoy a cool drink as the fiery sun dips into the turquoise ocean. When the full moon rises over the mangroves of Roebuck Bay at low tide, you can see a ‘Staircase to the Moon’, a legacy of some of the most dramatic tidal movements in the world.

Alternatively, hop on a guided tour to a working pearl farm or cruise through Roebuck Bay to see rare snubfin dolphins or migrating humpback whales.

Broome Western Australia
Go on a sunset camel ride at the iconic Cable Beach in Broome

7. Discover the sun-drenched beaches of Perth

Situated on the banks of the Swan River, Perth is a modern city nestled in nature and brimming with all kinds of adventures. Ready to discover a thriving metropolis filled with small bars, creative restaurants, curated cultural experiences and street art? Visitors to Perth can also look forward to unique wildlife encounters, strolls along vast scenic parks and afternoons spent exploring wine country. It’s all here, in this one sunny city, filled with friendly and welcoming people.

And with 19 stunning beaches within easy reach of the city, a relaxing oceanfront escape is never far away. While you’re there spend an evening at Cottesloe or City Beach and sip a cool drink or savour delicious local seafood while watching the spectacular Indian Ocean sunset.

For more information on Western Australia, click here. To learn more about Singapore Airlines flights to Australia, visit singaporeair.com.

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Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Why Barcelona is fast becoming the world’s cocktail capital

What do London’s Connaught Bar, Singapore’s Jigger & Pony and legendary Buenos Aires speakeasy Florería Atlántico have in common? Other than featuring in the top 10 of The World’s 50 Best Bars list, they all understand that in order to catch the eye of today’s discerning drinkers, you need an identity (and I’m not talking about putting a sparkler in a martini).  

Take Two Schmucks, for example. The charming, irreverent hangout in Barcelona’s El Raval neighbourhood has won acclaim for melding the fun-loving features of a dive bar (think happy hours, late-night cheese toasties and grungy decor) with a spectacularly inventive cocktail menu that could go toe-to-toe with any drinking den in the world. It’s a beguiling dichotomy that has put Two Schmucks in 11th place on The World’s 50 Best Bars list, as voted for last year by more than 650 drink aficionados.

Two Schmucks Barcelona Bars
Two Schmucks placed 11th on The World’s 50 Best Bars list. Photo credit: Two Schmucks

“It’s really pleasing for us to see so many different bars with completely varied identities getting to both the top of the list and entering into the list for the first time,” Mark Sansom, content director at The World’s 50 Best Bars, tells us. “It’s about what underlies that identity. It’s the skill of the drinks programme, the staff and their attitude toward each of their guests that makes a bar sing.” 

Since the world reopened after the pandemic, bars have been crooning louder than ever, though few cities have attracted the cocktail world’s spotlight quite like Barcelona. In recent years the Catalan capital has become one of the most exciting cities to order a drink in, and like an expletive mural on the wall, its blend of gastronomy, culture and nightlife has made a statement that’s impossible to ignore. So much so that on 4 October, Barcelona will become the first city outside of London to host The World’s 50 Best Bars Ceremony. With the event now in its 10th year, Mark says the time was nigh to shine the light on another cosmopolitan cocktail capital.

Paradiso Barcelona Cocktail Bars
The entrance to Paradiso is hidden behind a retro fridge door in a pastrami shop. Photo credit: Paradiso

“Last year was the first time Barcelona had three bars on The World’s 50 Best Bars list, which is quite rare for a city outside of London, New York or Singapore. Everyone seems to congregate here because they love the city. [The locals] are open to global tastes and because they’re so used to varied gastronomical influences, they’re equally accepting of new cocktails and styles.”

Last year was the first time Barcelona had three bars on The World’s 50 Best Bars list, which is quite rare for a city outside of London, New York or Singapore

One of the many things that has distinguished Barcelona’s bar scene over the years is its relationship with gastronomy, and food continues to have an influence on the city’s drinking culture today. Indeed, hop from one bar to another and you’ll find it almost impossible to complete the journey without stopping by one of the infinite number of tapas spots for a plate of creamy croquetas or charred padron peppers. As a result, Barcelona’s most popular cocktails tend to be punctuated with savoury and bitter notes, which means you’ll never be far from an outstanding martini. And if you’re looking to enjoy this classic mix of vermouth and vodka (depending on how you enjoy it) on your next visit, the list’s three Catalonian venues are as good a place to start as any.

With showstopping cocktails throughout the menu and interiors that range from kick-back boozer to spaceage speakeasy, each bar proves yet again that having an identity can turn a good drinking experience into a great one. Take Paradiso, for example, which is sitting pretty at number three on the list. At first, you’re greeted by an old-fashioned pastrami bar, but swing open the retro fridge door and you’re suddenly inside an otherworldly watering hole, with curvaceous wooden beams and glowing menus that advertise the coldest martini on the planet. Then there’s Sips, a newcomer which entered the list for the first time last year at number 37 having won critics over for its elaborate glassware, refreshing takes on classic drinks and relaxing open plan layout.  Sandwiched between them both is Two Schmucks, the rough-around-the-edges locale everyone wants to end their night in.

SIPS Barcelona Cocktail Bars
SIPS is a Barcelona newcomer that made it onto the World’s 50 Best Bars list at number 37. Photo credit: SIPS

And they undoubtedly will when the world’s leading mixologists and drinks industry bigwigs come to Barcelona next month to see the unveiling of The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022 hotlist. As new, rambunctious venues enter for the first time with a view to dislodging the heavy hitters at the top, it’ll be the ones with that magic ingredient that have the power to truly elevate their city’s cocktail culture. As Mark says: “A bar needs to find what it does well and really focus on that. Bars that don’t tend to fall by the wayside pretty quickly.” 

[sk_quiz]

What cocktails to order in Barcelona according to the experts

 

Paradiso

“For sure the Mediterranean Treasure, because of its surprising presentation. The cocktail is smoked with Mediterranean flavours and all the aromas come rushing out of a treasure box. The flavour is a mix of sea and land thanks to the unique oyster leaf and it’s served in a seashell shaped glass.” Giacomo Giannotti, owner, Paradiso.

Mediterranean Treasure at Paradiso Barcelona Cocktail Bars
The Mediterranean Treasure at Paradiso. Photo credit: Paradiso

Sips

“THE KRYPTA is a cocktail you can drink and inhale and is made with kiwi, gin and Armagnac. Meanwhile, the COMPRESSED is a mix of sherry with jasmine and peach flavours, while the MOSAIC is inspired by Barcelona’s most famous architect, Antoni Gaudí.” Simone Caporale, co-owner, Sips.

SIPS The Krypta Cocktail
The Krypta at SIPS. Photo credit: SIPS

Two Schmucks

“The head bartender at Two Schmucks used to be a chef at a very high level so all the drinks on the current list are influenced by food. There’s a curry colada which is one of the best drinks I’ve ever had.” Mark Sansom, content director, The World’s 50 Best Bars.

Negroni Blanc at Two Schmucks Cocktail
The Negroni Blanc at Two Schmucks. Photo credit: Two Schmucks

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Tuesday, 20 September 2022

10 secret spots in Singapore that will surprise you

If you’re familiar with the tiny country of Singapore (which measures just 64km at its longest), it’s easy to assume that everything the Little Red Dot has to offer can be seen in just a few days. But behind unmarked doors, nondescript alleys and off the coast, you’ll find that Singapore still has plenty of secret spots to uncover. From secluded parks in the city to jungle-swathed hideaways and alleyway pizzerias, you’re bound to find something that inspires you to explore in this list.

1. Smith Marine Floating Kelong Restaurant

For a fresh seafood dinner out at sea, book your table (and a 15-minute return bumboat ride) at Smith Marine Floating Kelong Restaurant. A short stroll on the decks of this modern kelong (aquaculture farm) located off the north-eastern coast of Singapore lets you see how flower crabs, lobsters, sea bass, grouper and other seafood are farmed. You can even try fishing for your own dinner; the chefs will cook up your catch in a variety of styles. As the sun goes down, enjoy the sea breeze as you tuck into garlic lobster, sambal mussels, steamed squid and of course, Singapore’s signature chilli crab.

01’23’52″N – 103’57’42″E. Nearest ferry terminal: Changi Point Ferry Terminal

SMITH MARINE FLOATING KELONG RESTAURANT secret spots in Singapore
Tuck into remarkably fresh seafood at Smith Marine Floating Kelong Restaurant. Photo credit: Smith Marine Floating Kelong Restaurant

2. Bollywood Veggies

Occupying a sizeable plot of land in the sprawling Kranji Countryside is the organic farm bearing pineapples, bananas, starfruit, eggplants and more. Tour Bollywood Veggies’ farm, learn about local culinary history at the Food Museum, then tuck into a delicious meal featuring fresh produce at the fabulous farm-to-table Poison Ivy bistro. Don’t miss the Jackfruit Lemak stew, which features chunks of sweet fruit immersed in creamy coconut gravy. You can also learn how to whip up tantalising local dishes at the on-site cooking school.

100 Neo Tiew Road. Taxi recommended

Watch a video of what goes on at the Kranji countryside at the weekends…

3. Bincho @ Hua Bee

There are many secret spots in Singapore for a tipple, but there are none quite like this one. By day, bowls of bak chor mee (minced meat noodles) are tossed up in this 70-year-old kopitiam (coffee shop). It happens to be where local indie movie Mee Pok Man was shot. At night, Hua Bee’s modest little space in the hipster Tiong Bahru neighbourhood is transformed into an ultra-cool yakitori (grilled skewers) bar. Another surprise awaits in the back of the premises: a fashionably frowzy, dimly lit cocktail bar that resembles an underground bunker.

78 Moh Guan Terrace, #01-19. Nearest MRT: Tiong Bahru

4. Pearl’s Hill City Park

Just behind the hustle and bustle of the Chinatown district lies this nine-hectare belt of greenery perched atop a 45m-tall knoll. Visitors must climb flights of stairs to get to the summit, where they’ll find the tranquil oasis of Pearl’s Hill City Park. This fortress-like structure was built in 1898 to supply drinking water to Chinatown, which it still does today. Along the way, relax under the shade of mature tembusu trees and breathe in the sweet perfume from the pink and white blooms of frangipani trees. On your way back down toward Eu Tong Sen Street, a little exploring will uncover more relics from colonial times – like a cannon sitting alongside a five-storey blue building. This is one of a pair of Neo-Classical-style conservation buildings built in 1935 – the Upper and Lower Barracks that once housed the Straits Settlements Police’s Sikh contingent.

Chin Swee Road. Nearest MRT: Outram Park, Chinatown

PEARL'S HILL CITY PARK secret spots in Singapore
The tranquil oasis of Pearl’s Hill City Park. Photo credit: National Parks Board

5. Wessex Estate

Once home to British officers, this elegant enclave of black-and-white colonial buildings is where a community of local artists now live, muse and create. You can tour their studios at the annual ArtWalk@Wessex or make appointments with individual artists to have a gander around their workspaces at other times. While you’re in the neighbourhood, you can also check out Joyce Loo’s clay sculptures at JoyClay Studio & Gallery.

4 Woking Road. Nearest MRT: Commonwealth

6. Gardenasia

A surprising sanctuary ensconced in the Kranji Countryside, Gardenasia comprises a farm, bistro and remodelled black-and-white British colonial villas spread over two hectares of picture-perfect greenery. A relaxing farmstay at one of the English-, oriental- or contemporary-style villas lets you step back in time, with their classic carved wooden furniture and exposed timber roof beams. Rustic at first glance, the interiors are fitted with luxurious marble-tiled bathrooms and modern audio-visual systems. Wander amid herb gardens and fruit trees, before tucking into dishes created with freshly harvested ingredients at Bistro by Gardenasia. Try their pan-roasted lamb to accompany salad with ingredients of your choice, washed down with farm-fresh roselle.

240 Neo Tiew Cres. Bus: 925m

GARDENASIA SINGAPORE VILLA
Gardenasia’s charming villas. Photo credit: Gardenasia

7. Lloyd’s Inn

There’s a chic hidden oasis in a residential area just a stone’s throw from the bustling Orchard strip. With 34 minimalistic rooms attached to semi-outdoor bathrooms, this Lloyd’s Inn, which also has a dipping pool and a garden patio, has a distinct resort-like atmosphere. Its exposed concrete body lends the whole place a raw, industrial vibe.

2 Lloyd Road. Nearest MRT: Fort Canning

8. Ann Siang Hill Park

Even the heart of Singapore has secret spots that are easy to miss. The ever-hip Ann Siang area is known for its cool bars and eateries tucked inside heritage shophouses, but not many people have ambled through Ann Siang Hill Park. The lush trail begins at Telok Ayer Green and ends at Club Street, passing by historic landmarks such as Thian Hock Keng temple. Try to spot yellow rain, nutmeg and cinnamon trees along the meandering path.

78 Club Street. Nearest MRT: Telok Ayer

Ann Siang Hill Park
A narrow passage at Ann Siang Hill Park. Photo credit: National Parks Board

9. Proper Slice

Just a short walk from Ann Siang Hill Park lies another one of the neighbourhood’s secret spots that offers a rarity in Singapore – the humble New York-style pizza. Venture into the alleyway just at the bend of Gemmill Lane and you’ll find an unmarked steel door beneath a maroon awning. Enter, and you’ll be greeted by the enticing smell of freshly baked pizzas. The New York-style of pizza is distinguished by large slices, simple ingredients and a delightfully thin and floppy crust. In addition to pizza, other Italian-American staples are available like the garlic knots, stromboli (essentially a more portable pizza) and a sweet calzone filled with ricotta and hazelnuts.

110 Amoy Street, #01-02. Nearest MRT: Telok Ayer

Proper Slice secret spots in Singapore
One of the few places you can find a “Proper Slice” of New York-style pizza. Photo credit: Proper Slice

10. Kampong Lorong Buangkok

For a taste of life as it was in the ’60s (before the advent of multi-storey carparks and air-conditioned malls), head to Singapore’s last surviving kampung (village). Located off Gerald Drive in Yio Chu Kang, some 20 families live in this sleepy hamlet of zinc-roofed houses connected by dirt paths. Here, chickens roam freely amid gardens lined with chilli, lime and hibiscus plants.

Gerald Drive. Nearest MRT: Buangkok

– TEXT BY CARA YAP & MANDY LIM BEITLER

This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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Monday, 19 September 2022

6 things to know about the SQ Batik Wall at Changi Airport Terminal 3

The SQ Batik Wall in Singapore Changi Airport’s Terminal 3 is becoming one of the most popular selfie spots these days.

And with the rising number of travellers passing through Changi Airport for work or leisure trips – there were 8.9-million passengers in the first six months of 2022, or almost 10 times more than the previous period – this stunning façade is winning more and more fans who are no doubt intrigued by its exquisite, handcrafted glass flowers that are inspired by the Singapore Airlines Batik Motif.

Located within the departure transit area, to view this masterpiece in all its glory one should first clear immigration, before heading to the A1-A8 cluster gate and taking the escalator to the second floor.

Unveiled to the public in June 2022 after two-and-a-half years in the making, the SQ Batik Wall features glass flowers that are lit from inside, with each individual piece being one of a kind and assembled by hand. Here, we reveal the creative process behind the making of the SQ Batik Wall.

1. What is the SQ Batik Wall about?

The wall facade features 105 glass flowers and leaves. These flowers can be found in the current iteration of SIA’s Batik Motif, which features native flora from Singapore as a nod to the country’s status as a garden city. The rich art of batik has long been a source of inspiration for SIA, beginning in 1968 when it was first incorporated into the design of the Singapore Girl’s sarong kebaya uniform.

2. Who made this artwork?

The creative team behind this glass floral sculpture was led by award-winning Australian glass artist Barbara Jane Cowie, a Singapore resident since 2003. When not busy glass blowing, Cowie holds workshops at her Refind Studio within The Yards in Joo Chiat Place, Katong, in the eastern side of Singapore. She is also a KrisFlyer member and has always flown with Singapore Airlines – making this an incredibly special and uniquely challenging project for her.

3. What can we see in this work?

The glass sculpture looks as if it is floating from a curved metal wall that has been painted in SIA’s iconic blue. Eight branch clusters showcase 12 types of flowers that are native to Singapore, in different sizes and shapes, and surrounded by leaves. The wall is about 13m wide (almost the tail height of a Boeing 777) and 3.7m high, and weighs just under a tonne (similar to a grand piano).

4. How do we identify the flowers?

If you go by quantity, the easiest to spot among the featured flowers is the Lipstick Plant (Aeschynanthus parvifolius), as there are 13 of them in varying sizes. If you go by colour, perhaps the Seashore Purlane (Portulaca pilosa) is most striking because its five dark-red sepals (petal-like formations) are large and a stark contrast to the blue background; there are nine of these. If you want a challenge, try to look for the Malayan Ixora (Ixora congesta) with four petals – there are eight of them. For this project, the artist Cowie spent plenty of time in nature, studying the foliage and flora.

The flowers that make up the SIA Batik Motif are the key elements to the intricate design of the SQ Batik Wall. The blue Aquatic Ginger (left) is the biggest flower, weighing at 15kg.

5. What else makes up SQBatikWall?

Apart from glass, the floral sculpture uses metal for the canvas and branches, and LED lighting to illuminate the flowers. All the metal components were laser-cut to be the exact size. Once the pieces were cut, they were hand curved to form the branches. The metal boxes that contain the light and the glass flowers were formed by hand. Since the artist wanted the sculpture to look like it was floating in mid-air and did not want to see big bolts, glue or exposed wires, she used fixtures and fittings that were designed and made specially for the project.

man installing lights changi airport
Apart from glass, the floral sculpture uses stainless steel metal components to securely hold the glass flowers and lighting that illuminates the flowers.

6. How long did it take to finish the work?

This was a two-and-a-half year adventure for the artist Cowie: a year-and-a-half devoted to researching, sampling and developing ideas; and another year to making the glass sculptures, with at least 100 kiln firings to get the colours right and create the initial prototypes.

The artist was given a design based on SIA’s Batik Motif and tasked to faithfully reproduce this 2D design into a three-dimensional glass sculpture.­ Cowie spent 120 days nonstop to make the glass flowers (not one of them is the same); firing the kiln for 20 hours each day – each kiln firing taking about three to five hours to prepare and load – and doing it all over again if the piece is not perfect. With a small team of roughly 15 people to complete the project, Cowie believes that the number of people involved is not important, as long as they are passionate and committed to the craft and prepared to do their best to create the artwork.

Once all the moveable parts were ready, it took two months to complete the wiring, 15 hours to mount the branches, another six weeks to install the glass flowers, leaves and LED light panels. Installation at Changi Airport began in February 2022 and it was unveiled to the public in June, now seen as one of the most popular spots for selfie shots.

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