Thursday, 30 July 2020

This stunning hotel in Saigon is a study in upscale Italian design

*Produced by SilverKris for The Reverie Saigon*

Beyond the sleek edifice of the Times Square Building lie the decadent interiors of The Reverie Saigon, an upscale hotel occupying the top floors of the mixed development skyscraper. Situated by the Saigon River, the property is designed by chief architect Kent Lui, in collaboration with Italy’s most prominent furniture and interior designers.

The Reverie Saigon
The lobby on the first floor is quite a sight, with chandeliers and marble accents. Photo credit: Matthew Shaw

Upon entering the lobby on the first floor, guests are greeted by expanses of marble, clusters of chandeliers and palatial furnishings. The main reception area on the seventh storey boasts a more contemporary look, juxtaposed with statement pieces such as the 3m-tall Monumental Clock, custom-made by Italian luxury brand Baldi with emerald green malachite and gold accents.

The Reverie Saigon
Visitors are greeted by a palatial and grand reception area on the seventh floor. Photo credit: Matthew Shaw

Other highlights include the baroque-style sofa, featuring an intricate, gilded frame and purple ostrich leather upholstery, and the iconic winged cherry wood console, hand-painted and embellished with semi-precious crystals – both of which are from Italian furniture-maker Colombostile.

The Reverie Saigon
The Saigon Suite’s Parlour boasts a more modern look. Photo credit: Matthew Shaw

The Reverie Saigon houses 89 residential-style suites and 286 rooms and suites, each one designed to reflect a unique interior style ranging from European classic to contemporary chic. Every suite is furnished with designer pieces from Italy’s top names such as Giorgetti, Visionnaire and Poltrona Frau Group.

The Designer Suite by Giorgetti, for instance, boasts a striking mosaic wall depicting golden peacocks that inject a dose of drama and elegance. And while the Liberty One-Bedroom Suite evokes glamour and nostalgia with Art Nouveau-inspired textiles, The Saigon Suite combines the works of Poltrona Frau and Philippe Starck to create a modern, artful haven with touches of the avant-garde.

The Reverie Saigon
The spa is equally magnificent. Photo credit: Matthew Shaw

The hotel’s extravagant design continues at its sixth floor spa, with over-the-top architectural details including a grand, marbled staircase and whimsical ceiling alcoves. Here, guests get access to plush treatment rooms, a hair salon and a wealth of Southeast Asian and Western-style wellness treatments. Also on the same floor is the gym and pool, which features mosaic art and is equipped with an underwater sound system.

The Reverie Saigon
The resplendent La Scala Ballroom is perfect for weddings and special events. Photo credit: Matthew Shaw

The property comes with an abundance of function rooms, event spaces and ballrooms, the most extravagant of which is the pillarless La Scala ballroom on the fifth level, laden with ornate carvings and clad in hand-woven Venetian wall-coverings.

The Reverie Saigon
Enjoy a sumptuous Italian meal in an intimate setting at R&J. Photo credit: Matthew Shaw

Treat yourself to gourmet Chinese delicacies and dim sum at The Royal Pavilion, or dig into Italian favourites such as Wagyu osso buco and squid ink tagliolini at R&J, an upscale lounge and restaurant with a refined yet eclectic decor. Café Cardinal, on the other hand, offers all-day dining against a backdrop of white marble and a trio of upcycled glass light installations by Brazilian duo Humberto and Fernando Campana.

The Reverie Saigon
You can take a dip in the 24m-long swimming pool and wind down at the jacuzzis. Photo credit: Matthew Shaw

In line with the latest health measures, the hotel has installed hand sanitiser stations at all lift and building entrances. Temperature checks are also administered before anyone enters the premises. Guests are required to observe safe distancing while in the hotel and submit a health declaration.

Each room is disinfected with hospital-grade cleaning agents before check-in and after check-out, while shared facilities are regularly sanitised as well. The hotel’s white glove service also ensures minimal contact between the staff and the guest’s personal belongings.

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Business of Change: How a simple chatbot turned Singapore’s circuit breaker into a business opportunity

*Produced by SilverKris for DewTouch*

While Singapore leads the region in digitalisation, the past six months have shown that many enterprises are still vulnerable to disruptions. Across the city-state, hundreds of small to medium businesses (SMEs) and even departments within multi-national corporations (MNCs) have struggled to cope with remote work, changes to workflow and legacy IT systems that are unable to cope with the new normal.

For DewTouch founder Chua Aik Boon, the advantages of digitalisation were obvious well before Covid-19. Founded in 2012, DewTouch is the parent company of Fleetnetics, which develops software for car leasing and auto repair companies. Fleetnetics’ cloud-based solutions make remote work possible, automate time-consuming tasks such as invoicing, archive important data and more. DewTouch’s Foodnetics offers similar services to catering companies, speeding up business processes and eliminating human error in areas such as front-end web order forms, scheduling and delivery.

In recent months, Aik Boon has been busy pivoting to the demands of the circuit breaker, as well as helping his clients stay afloat. These challenges have resulted in exciting new innovations that have transformed both DewTouch and its clients.

Here, Aik Boon tells us about his most interesting new innovations, and the regional opportunities that nimble and lateral-thinking start-ups can mine.

DewTouch Fleetnetics
DewTouch developed Fleetnetics, an all-in-one cloud-based enterprise software for the automotive industry

How was business affected during the circuit breaker, and how did you respond?

Most of Fleetnetics’ vehicle rental company clients suffered from lack of customers – both tourists and Grab and Gojek drivers who rented vehicles from them. At the same time, the market saw an increase in e-commerce and food delivery services. DewTouch has catering businesses as clients through Foodnetics. These clients had huge orders to deliver food to various dormitories, but not enough drivers. I thought, “Can we match all these people up?” We quickly developed an autonomous chatbot to automate this process. Now, with access to drivers and jobs, our car rental customers can take up corporate contracts and become logistics companies as well.

Why did you go for an autonomous chatbot rather than a standalone app?

If we were to develop an app, for iOS and Android, it would take a lot of time and money. You wouldn’t be able to manoeuvre fast enough. So we decided on developing a Telegram bot. The Telegram app itself is very versatile, and it can be installed in anyone’s phone. In Singapore, we typically use Telegram for only one or two chat groups. Most of our social interaction takes place on WhatsApp. In fact, in the region, Telegram is underutilised, but it has a lot of interesting security features and functions that we can use quickly.

Singapore is way ahead in the region for digitalisation, but many of the SMEs and even corporate departments are at stage zero

It would seem like the opportunities are endless in that space right now.  

Yes, and this dispatch bot is just one of many bots we are building. We have another bot, Townetics, for our car workshop customers. It all started because during lockdown, people couldn’t take their cars to Malaysia for servicing anymore. But the uses are endless. What if you’re driving from Johor to Penang, and your car breaks down, and you don’t know who to call? A simple chatbot like what we’ve done asks simple questions: What’s your car plate number? Share with me your location. And we use that to match you with the nearest person who can rescue you.

DewTouch Fleetnetics
Some sectors are still not jumping onto the digitalisation bandwagon

Singapore leads the region in digitalisation. Are there gaps yet to be explored?

I agree that Singapore is way ahead in the region for digitalisation, but many of the SMEs and even corporate departments are at stage zero. When we first started, most of my customers were all using Excel, even the MNCs. That’s where we found a gap and capitalised on it.

What’s the regional applicability?

Without a cloud-based system like ours, Singapore companies would not be able to branch out into the region. These days, you can’t just send a person overseas. Singapore is such a small market, and companies have to look at ways to manage overseas subsidiaries. You may have a gigantic, million-dollar system in Singapore, but there’s no way for you to clone it overnight and deploy it overseas. So some big clients use us to help start a mini-start up in a new country. We are even talking to customers in the Middle East and various parts of the world.

You may have a gigantic, million-dollar system in Singapore, but there’s no way for you to clone it overnight and deploy it overseas

So you have to be lean and nimble like a start-up, despite being a decade old.

I call it a guerrilla way of doing business, and so far it’s been working for us. We hire people in the local market, and I already have programmers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia. We also try to convert our overseas customers to become our distributors in the local market – chances are those bosses are looking for additional businesses, and they already know our system is good. This is quite unlike commercial businesses that set up a new office in each country. We are able to scale very quickly and effectively.

Digitalisation is crucial in streamlining operations

What are other advantages of digitalisation for SMEs?

When it comes to small family businesses, digitalisation can create value for the company, especially when the younger generation is looking to sell. Without a proper digital system and recurring income, who will buy your company? If there’s a family feud, for example – and these are not so unusual, even for huge corporations – digital systems can help manage breaking up companies into smaller ones.

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24 hours in Singapore’s history-rich City Hall area

*Produced by SilverKris for The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore*

9am: Start the day with breakfast at Berthold Delikatessen 

Situated at the Arcade @ The Capitol Kempinski, Berthold Delikatessen is a European-style deli that serves mouth-watering German delights. Skip the usual toast and eggs and opt for a hearty German salami sandwich or the beef pastrami that’s topped with horseradish and sauerkraut on toasted sourdough bread. If you prefer something lighter, you can go for a ham and gruyere cheese croissant or a serving of the Berthold Muesli to start the day with a satisfied tummy.

11am: Explore the boutiques of Capitol Singapore

Linger around Capitol Singapore after a hearty breakfast and explore its diverse array of lifestyle boutiques for some retail therapy. Takumi Artisans, an upscale Japanese retailer that specialises in handmade, gold-plated jewellery and home accessories, is a must-visit. You can also pick up some fresh flowers at Petals Artistry or go gift shopping at ARCH, a homegrown brand with a focus on Singapore-inspired designs. For dapper footwear, swing by Carmina, a Mallorca-based, fourth-generation business that offers classic oxfords and loafers.

Capitol Kempinski
The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore has a wide range of dining options, including Broadway American Diner

1pm: Indulge in American comfort food for lunch 

Transport yourself to a 1960s-era American diner at the Broadway American Diner, a retro-themed joint at the Arcade @ The Capitol Kempinski. The revamped version of the defunct Magnolia Snack Bar – an iconic local F&B gem that first opened here in 1937 – is known for its burgers and milkshakes. Go all out for lunch with the Stamford burger, which serves Black Angus beef in an egg wrap, and a Chendol Milkshake for a local twist to the meal. You can even order a 1m-long hotdog for you and your friends to devour. Newer dishes that also deserve a taste include the Philly Steak Sandwich, a decadent classic stuffed with steak slices, mozzarella and Colby cheese, the equally over-the-top Double Black Angus Cheese Burger, and the Chilli Beef Hot Dog, served with smoked beef sausage, chilli con carne and pico de gallo.

3pm: Get up close to the finest art in Southeast Asia 

Unleash your inner culture vulture while strolling through the permanent exhibitions of Southeast Asian art at the National Gallery Singapore. This cultural landmark is home to the world’s largest public collection of local and regional art, featuring everything from the iconic works of watercolourist Ong Kim Seng to the more experimental installations of up-and-coming artists. Don’t forget to take in the building’s grandiose architecture – from the regal façade to the ornate friezes.

The historic CHIJMES. Photo credit: Shutterstock

5pm: Spend a romantic evening at CHIJMES 

CHIJMES, a historic, former Catholic convent known for its gothic architecture, is where many weddings have taken place (including an on-screen one in Crazy Rich Asians). Besides being one of the most romantic spots in Singapore, it’s also where you’ll find some of the best eats in town including French-Japanese restaurant Whitegrass and matcha specialist Hvala, where you can indulge in a time of reflection with a carefully curated cup of tea.

7pm: Savour Asian-inspired dishes at 15 Stamford by Alvin Leung

Come sunset, mosey over to 15 Stamford by Alvin Leung (conceptualised by the two Michelin-starred chef, who also serves as a judge on MasterChef Canada), the perfect dinner spot located at the lobby of The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore. Get a taste of the culinary maven’s interpretation of Asian classics against the backdrop the fine-dining establishment’s elegant interiors. Start with the Grilled Cauliflower, a simple yet well-loved appetiser that elevates the flavour of the humble vegetable. The artfully plated Grilled Eggplant, which is topped with almond slices, saikyo miso and Nanami chilli pepper, is another must-try. Don’t miss the Singapore Laksa, a gourmet twist on a local favourite, or the Fremantle Octopus, a more adventurous dish that pairs fire-grilled octopus with jambu slaw and wok-fried chilli.

War Memorial Park
Just a short walk away from The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore is the War Memorial Park. Photo credit: Shutterstock

10pm: End the night at the War Memorial Park

At the heart of the War Memorial Park at City Hall is a stately, 61m-tall monolith that was unveiled in 1967 to commemorate the victims of World War II. Also known affectionately as The Chopsticks, it is made of four white pillars, which represent the multiracial communities of Singapore. A quiet, calm location, it makes for a good place to rest your feet and wind down after an eventful day.

With a stay at The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore, a luxury hotel situated along Stamford Road, at the heart of Singapore’s City Hall, you won’t have to venture far to hit up these top spots. What’s more, you’ll get to return to a plush hotel suite with contemporary, upscale amenities and access to facilities such as a salt water pool and luxury spa.

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How to have the perfect solo self-care weekend

Living in pandemic times hasn’t put us in the highest of spirits: a recent study by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Harvard Medical School revealed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that 55% of participants reported being more stressed in May of this year as compared to January. Trying to draw the lines between professional time, family time and alone time all within the confines of your home and city doesn’t make for a strong sense of equilibrium either.

While it’s certainly not a cure-all, a weekend dedicated to self-care and reconnecting with yourself can uplift your spirits and refresh your senses. And although travel is on hold for the time being, there are plenty of places in Singapore where you can take a break from the daily grind, indulge a little and enjoy the pleasure of your own company.

Take in the lush greenery at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Photo credit:


Kick off your morning and energise your body with a stroll at your nature park of choice. For a solid workout coupled with lush greenery, we recommend scaling the 163m hill at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. There are a few different trails of varying difficulty you can take to the summit, so check the signage at the base of the hill before you begin your trek. It gets increasingly crowded as the day goes on, so come extra early for a serene solo walk.

For a post-hike brunch, stroll to the nearby Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre, and take your pick from over 80 hawker stalls selling everything from wanton mee and carrot cake to prata and kaya toast with perfectly runny eggs.

The scrambled eggs on toast at Micro Bakery & Kitchen

Alternatively, if you’re in the mood for Western-style food and are a fan of sourdough bakes, hop on a quick bus or MRT ride over to Micro Bakery & Kitchen at Serene Centre. You can tuck into delicious scrambled eggs served on a thick slice of toast, or enjoy a cinnamon roll with a cup of coffee. Be sure to grab a loaf of bread to-go for the week ahead.

Take a relaxing dip in the pool at PARKROYAL on Beach Road

After you’ve headed home to wash up, it’s time to check yourself into your hotel for a one-night staycation. Plenty of places have once again opened their doors to guests, and you can find the most updated list of approved hotels here. Among the options are PARKROYAL on Beach Road for those looking to stay close to the centre of the city; The Barracks Hotel Sentosa if you’re feeling like a secluded heritage retreat; and The Warehouse Hotel for a boutique stay in well-designed digs on the Singapore River.

The Moon’s colourful shelves are filled with thought-provoking reads

After you’ve settled into your room, it’s time to feed your mind and soul with a trip to The Moon. This independent bookstore in Chinatown specialises in inclusive literature and retails works by writers from marginalised communities, women and people of colour. Over 50% of their tomes are written by women authors, and span genres from fiction and poetry to politics and cookbooks. Once you’re done perusing the colourful shelves, you can enjoy your new read over an afternoon pick-me-up at their in-house café.

Assorted teas with a local twist at ETTE Tea Company

Once you’re done, drop by ETTE Tea Company along Kreta Ayer Road to browse their impressive collection of both classic and creative blends. The Mango Sticky Rice tea is composed of genmaicha, black tea, roasted barley, diced mango and candied coconut; while the Nasi Lemak tea features hojicha, genmaicha, coconut flakes, dried pandan and dried chilli.

The pulled pork sandwich is one of the signatures at Burnt Ends

Head back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner and make your way to Burnt Ends along Teck Lim Road, which placed fifth on the most recent Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2020 list. Their counter seating is perfect for solo diners, and you can watch as a team of expert chefs whips up signature barbecued meats in a custom-made wood-burning oven.

Cap off your evening at new bar Sago House, also in the Chinatown area. The menu specialises in six core drinks based on classic styles such as the Daiquiri, Highball, Martini and Old Fashioned, but flavours switch up every week. Grab a seat – be sure to check out the couches that were upholstered using upcycled coffee bean sacks – take in the ambience and indulge in a well-deserved cocktail.


Since Saturday was action-packed, make the most of your hotel room and take it easy with a lazy Sunday morning lie-in. Once you’re ready to greet the day, grab breakfast at the hotel – many are offering packages that include a complimentary breakfast or discounted rates at in-house F&B outlets – before spending a couple of hours either lazing by the pool or exploring the other facilities.

After checking out, head to Dempsey Hill for a spot of lunch at one of two recently opened restaurants: Tuga and SPRMRKT. The former, originally established in Taipei, offers Portuguese cuisine in a relaxed environment, with dishes such as spicy sautéed mushrooms with black pig ham; grilled padron peppers; and octopus fillet.

Meanwhile, the latter is the latest outlet of the homegrown hospitality company (with outposts at Robertson Quay and Cluny Court) and offers inventive café-style fare such as wild honey farro grain bowl (farro, black barley, roasted cauliflower, eggplant, blistered tomatoes and a wild honey dressing) and blackened fish & chips (squid ink battered sea bass with kimchi slaw and fries).

After walking off your meal by exploring the area’s retail stores – Dover Street Market is always worth a visit for the streetwear-inclined – and meandering through its lush pathways, head off to the spa for some afternoon pampering.

Experience tranquility and zen at Ikeda Spa

With a plethora of options, it all comes down to the kind of experience you’re looking for. If you want to feel like you’ve been transported to a Zen Japanese ryokan, opt for Ikeda Spa in Bukit Timah or Clarke Quay, which features Singapore’s very first onsen made with hinoki (cypress wood) from Japan. There’s also Passage New York in the CBD should you want to indulge in a Caviar Anti-Aging Face Spa treatment – which makes use of caviar extracts to speed up the natural production of collagen – or St. Gregory Spa, which has a few locations downtown, for a range of options including Ayurveda treatments, Thai massages and sound therapy treatments.

Make your own pasta at home with one of Pasta Bar’s pasta kits

After a relaxing afternoon, head home to chill out before the week ahead. For dinner, support a local restaurant and have some hands-on fun in the kitchen while you’re at it by whipping up a delicious pasta dish. Pasta Bar at Keong Saik Road offers freshly made rigatoni, tagliolini and tagliatelle for delivery, which you can cook up with your sauce of choice; while Bar Cicheti has pasta-making kits that include one to two servings of fresh pasta, sauce, condiments and even a set of instructions to guide you along in your culinary adventure.

End your weekend of self-care by getting comfy on your couch and doing some exploring of the virtual kind. Although attractions around the world have slowly started opening again, many top museums – including the Louvre in Paris and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum – are still offering online tours of their collections, so you can view masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa in situ without leaving your place.

SEE ALSO: Rediscover Singapore with our Phase 2 weekend itinerary

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from SilverKris

The Maldives has reopened to tourism – and this secluded island is its best-kept secret

*Produced by SilverKris for Lily Hotels*

The Maldives made international headlines recently by reopening its borders and welcoming tourists from around the world again. With 26 atolls and 1,190 different islands, many of them uninhabited, social distancing is theoretically built into the geography of the country and contact-tracing relatively straightforward to carry out on resort islands should the need arise.

Though tourist arrivals are generally low this season, for a truly remote getaway, consider the island of Dhonakulhi. Located at the northern edge of the Maldives, in the Haa Alifu Atoll, the 33-hectare, crescent-shaped island is a hidden gem and perhaps one of the Maldives’ best-kept secrets. On that island too is the Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa, which offers a cornucopia of luxury experiences.

Hideaway Beach Resort Maldives
An aerial view of the crescent-shaped island of Dhonakulhi, which is home to the Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa

Far from the madding crowd

Hideaway’s unspoilt beauty and otherworldly quiet is in large part due to its remoteness. To get to the resort, travellers take a 45-minute domestic flight from Velana International Airport in Male to Hanimaadhoo, itself situated on a remote island noted for its isolated observatory. From there, it’s a further 30-minute boat ride to the island. Direct seaplanes from Velana International Airport take 75 minutes, but do not take off without a minimum number of passengers.

All this to say that Hideaway has an unparalleled serenity, and those making the journey here are after that elusive edge-of-the-earth feeling that’s hard to come by, even in a tropical paradise like the Maldives.

Your own private paradise

A great place to hide away from the bustle of city life, this resort is set to reopen September 2020. The 103-suite sanctuary also has social distancing built into its architecture. Located either among coconut groves by the beach, or on stilts over a natural lagoon, each villa is purposefully designed for maximum privacy – with a backyard, a pool and private access to one of the most stunning beaches in the world. With all the mod-con luxuries you’d expect from a top resort, your villa also comes with two bicycles for independent exploration, as well as butler service.

Across the eco-conscious resort, facilities are designed to have minimal impact on the environment, with local line-caught fish, an on-site vegetable garden and water bottling plant all part of daily operations. This thoughtfulness extends to the resort’s recreational offerings, which include a world-class spa, yoga classes and tennis lessons. And with wood-fired pizzas and grilled seafood at the poolside Meeru Grill and international cuisine at the oceanfront Matheefaru, it’s all too easy to cocoon up in your own little hideaway.

There’s no shortage of things to do either at Hideaway, which offers adventurous fly-fishing, snorkelling and scuba diving excursions, as well at kite-surfing, kayaking and all manner of water sports, led by a team of experienced instructors. If you’re looking for a more laid-back vacation, head to the resort’s spa for a detox treatment or savour the abundance of gourmet dishes at its wellness-focused, on-site restaurants.

Best of all, the September reopening comes with new sanitary measures and, more excitingly, several all-inclusive packages suitable for couples and families.

Lily Beach Resort Maldives
Nestled on the private island of Huvahendhoo, Lily Beach Resort & Spa offers absolutely stunning views

Closer to the action

If your preferred dates are booked out for Hideaway, or if you’re looking for jaw-dropping beauty and secluded villas closer to Male, consider Hideaway’s sister property Lily Beach Resort & Spa.

An award-winning, all-inclusive resort in the Maldives that was named the best, all-inclusive resort in Asia by TripAdvisor in 2020, Lily Beach on Huvahendhoo is the country’s pioneer in all-inclusive tourism.

It’s 25 minutes by seaplane from the airport, and its Platinum Plan covers everything from food and drink to snorkelling equipment and fitness classes to multiple excursions, offering the most value for money among the country’s resort offerings.

For years, the Maldives has offered respite and sanctuary to the weary traveller in search of peace and awe-inspiring natural beauty. And after a difficult few months, Hideaway and Lily Beach are pleased to offer that once more.

For more information on Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa and Lily Beach Resort & Spa, visit their respective official websites.

Travel Advisory: Please refer to the latest travel restrictions of your country before making any reservations.

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Made in Singapore: 8 homegrown brands to love

*Produced by SilverKris for the following advertisers*

Local homeware boutique Lim’s Holland Village is known for its vintage-inspired, Asian-style catalogue of furniture and home accessories

Lim’s Holland Village

Situated within the bohemian enclave of Holland Village is a homegrown boutique, Lim’s Holland Village, which boasts an eclectic catalogue of individually sourced Southeast Asian furniture, homeware and decor. Born from a passion to preserve and accentuate the value of traditional crafts, the family business was founded in 2016 by CK Lim (who opened his first homeware store in the 1970s at Changi Village before starting the now-defunct Lim’s Arts & Craft in Holland Village) and his three daughters. Well-loved by locals and expats alike, the brand has expanded to two outlets in Singapore, one at Holland Road Shopping Centre and the other at Great World.;; +65 6466 3188

Vesi+Derm’s latest line of products includes the Invigorating Night Cream, the Daily Skin Fortifying Body Lotion and the Intense Fortifying Cream


Singapore-based skincare technology company Vesiderm was founded on a technology that was developed by A*STAR scientists. It creates nano-sized liposomes, or water soluble bubbles, from egg yolk lecithin that help the skin absorb active ingredients in beauty products more effectively. At the same time, the liposomes work to reduce skin inflammation and reinforce the skin’s barrier function against chemical agents. With this new formula, the company launched its inaugural skincare brand, Vesi+Derm, with a focus on natural ingredients that are free of parabens, steroids and petroleum derivatives. The clinically tested, liposome-packed Daily Skin Fortifying Body Lotion — one of its best sellers — fights the aging process and keeps the skin moisturised without leaving a greasy residue.;; +65 9178 5985

The 1872 Clipper Tea Co.’s newly launched Singapore Tea Party Mix comprises two tea blends – Nyonya Dawn and Merlion Dreams

The 1872 Clipper Tea Co.

An artisanal tea producer that launched in 2013, The 1872 Clipper Tea Co. is part of the BP de Silva Group, a fifth-generation family empire that was founded when Sri Lankan entrepreneur Balage Porolis de Silva came to Singapore and opened a jewellery store in 1872. It offers the finest teas from Sri Lanka, India and Taiwan, as well as tea-infused patisserie at its flagship boutique at ION Orchard. This year, in celebration of Singapore’s 55th birthday, it has unveiled the Singapore Tea Party Mix, a limited edition set that includes the Nyonya Dawn and Merlion Dreams tea blends – the former features Ceylon black tea with notes of pandan, while the latter is a caffeine-free blend infused with lemongrass and butterfly pea flowers.;; +65 6509 8745

GudSht’s bubble tea-inspired Mao Cha is a fragrant mix of Thai milk tea and Japanese whisky


The brainchild of the bartenders at Elite Bar Solutions, GudSht is a quirky, homegrown bottled-cocktail label that was born out of the pandemic to support the livelihood of Elite Bar Solutions’ bar team. Its range of alcoholic concoctions — developed within a week from conceptualising the brand — includes the Singapore-inspired Cheng Tng Gao, which combines the traditional local dessert (made with barley, winter melon and ginkgo nuts) with cognac and amaretto. Bubble tea fans will also love Mao Cha, a fragrant mix of Thai milk tea and Japanese whisky, topped with jelly pearls. GudSht’s best-seller, however, is the cheekily named Unicorn Barf. Swirling with silver glitter, the purple cocktail pairs Campari and Roku gin with butterfly pea and yuzu syrup – appealing to all taste buds.;; +65 8820 4459

Each pint of the Stinky Scoop contains about two mid-sized Mao Shan Wang durians’ worth of flesh


The playfully named Stinky’s specialises in desserts made from the supposed world’s smelliest fruit. A subsidiary brand of local durian café 99 Old Trees, it uses only the freshest durians sourced from Pahang, home of the oldest Musang King durian tree in Malaysia. Crowd favourites include swiss rolls made from the Mao Shan Wang variety and shortcakes that pair rum-soaked Japanese sponge cake with durian custard cream. Another popular order is the Stinky Bowl, a creamy bowl of D24 durian mousse that will leave you wanting seconds. The pièce de résistance, however, is the Stinky Scoop – a small-batch ice cream made with pure Mao Shan Wang pulp, with each pint containing two mid-sized durians’ worth of flesh.;; 46 Owen Road, #01-277; +65 8792 4589

Salted Egg Fish Skin is Shi Le Po’s signature product

Shi Le Po

Founded in 2017 by three friends, Singaporean snack empire Shi Le Po is known for its signature salted egg fish skin, a best-selling snack concocted by chef-owner Kelvin Yam. The first in a line of offerings from Shi Le Po, the snack uses dory fish skin, which is cooked at 200°C in industrial-grade stir fryers, before being baked for a crispier finish. Inspired by Singapore flavours and zi char dishes, the brand’s fish skin snacks also come in flavours such as black pepper crab, and ginger and spring onion, all of which are available at all outlets of The Cocoa Trees.;; +65 6684 7767

Rice dumpling maker Kim Choo Kueh Chang celebrates its 75th anniversary this year

Kim Choo Kueh Chang

Traditional Nyonya dumpling and snack specialist Kim Choo Kueh Chang was established in 1945 by Lee Kim Choo, who sold kueh under a banyan tree along Joo Chiat Place, where the brand’s flagship outlet now stands. Three generations later, it still serves as a guardian of Peranakan culture in Singapore, offering not just an array of traditional treats such as pineapple tarts and the nine-layer rainbow kueh lapis, but also heritage tours, workshops and kebaya fittings. As precinct caretakers, Kim Choo Kueh Chang also runs a Singapore Visitor Centre for the Katong-Joo Chiat neighbourhood.;; +65 6741 2125

Pow Sing’s signature dish is made with organic, hormone-free chicken

Pow Sing

Singaporean institution Pow Sing is beloved for its Peranakan signatures. But its most popular dish is in fact the Hainanese chicken rice. In a city teeming with renditions of this iconic dish, what sets the Pow Sing version apart is its organic, hormone-free chicken, sourced from a Malaysian farm that plays classical music to its poultry. Pow Sing’s original branch in Serangoon has been going strong since 1983, but East-siders can visit its new outlet at Jewel Changi Airport. While you’re there, try the signature Nyonya cabbage roll, curry fish head and ayam buah keluak (braised chicken in gravy) as well.;; +65 6243 3155

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How young architects are injecting life into Ho Chi Minh City’s cityscape

HCMC Architecture feature
The façade of Vo Trong Nghia (VTN) Architects’ offices

Over the decades, Ho Chi Minh City has developed myriad layers of architecture, something that can be hard to notice as you concentrate on negotiating the dense, hyperactive motorbike traffic that swarms through its cacophonous and crowded streets. Look up, though, and you’ll see a melange of styles mirroring the city’s storied past – from decaying, once-grand colonial French villas and functional Mid-Century Modernist concrete blocks to densely packed tube houses and contemporary skyscrapers that wouldn’t be out of place in New York or Hong Kong.

But closer to the ground, a group of boutique architecture studios is forging a new and more distinctive path. Often working at the residential level, they harness local materials such as clay bricks and bamboo, sustainable design tenets and traditional inspiration in an effort to create a distinctly Vietnamese contemporary style. While still in its early stages of development, two central aspects of this movement are the prioritisation of greenery and natural light – a far cry from the tall, narrow and often dim tube houses widespread in Vietnamese cities – and the creative use of space, which comes at a premium in these dense urban settings.

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Wind and Water Café by VTN Architects

Vo Trong Nghia (VTN) Architects is arguably the most prominent of this new raft of studios, having won international acclaim and awards for its bamboo- and brick-focused designs in groundbreaking buildings such as the Viettel Academy Educational Center in Hanoi and the Wind and Water Café located in a suburb of Ho Chi Minh City. The studio’s House for Trees project in the heart of the latter is perhaps indicative of its efforts to firmly connect its designs with nature. It features five concrete residential buildings that serve as “planters” for a series of large tropical trees.

But VTN Architects is not alone, and across the city there are a number of other firms moving in a similar direction, as evidenced by projects like The Myst. Opened in 2017, this hotel in central District 1 is one of the largest and most prominent iterations of this design movement. A block from the city’s Saigon River, The Myst is visibly unique: The smooth white exterior is dotted with balconies overflowing with lush greenery, while a huge anchor and wooden beams used in ships from the city’s former colonial-era port decorate the elegant entrance.

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Nguyen Hoa Hiep of a21

Nguyen Hoa Hiep, the thoughtful, soft-spoken founder of a21, the architecture studio behind The Myst, explains that this new movement hasn’t always been universally embraced. “After finishing university, I worked in a few offices in Ho Chi Minh City, but some of my designs were too difficult for architects to take responsibility for and make happen,” he explains of his decision to establish a21 in 2009. “I decided it had to be my responsibility.”

It might be hard to believe, but The Myst was a21’s first hotel project. “We knew nothing about hotel design,” Hiep explains. “When we designed it, we thought about a place we would like to live in. We weren’t thinking about making a statement, we just wanted to make something as pure to our style as possible.” The hotel’s guest corridors feature warm colours, while the rooms are filled with natural light and their own small-scale “green wall”. The rooftop pool is surrounded by trees and vibrant flowers, and while it is impossible to hide the neighbouring high-rises, the greenery helps soften them, creating an oasis in the city.

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The exterior of The Myst

Designing a space for living is the core of a21’s ethos. Hiep’s home, where he lives with his wife and young son, is connected to the studio’s office by an open-air dirt-floor courtyard. Chairs and tables made of reclaimed wood fill the space, while a rustic treehouse is perched above. “We do look at traditional buildings… but I will try to draw and re-draw until I know it’s my design, not taken from someone else,” Hiep says as he traces and re-traces circular shapes on a large sheet of paper. “Then, we will refine the design into something that can be built; something that we would live in.”

Indeed, staying true to their own creative visions is something shared by this new breed of young Vietnamese architects. Tran Thi Ngu Ngon is the co-founder of Tropical Space, a Ho Chi Minh City-based architecture firm known for their unique, predominantly residential projects. An example of their distinct design ethos is the Termitary House in Danang, which won the Residential Use category in the 2016 Wienerberger Brick Awards.

In many ways, it embodies the firm’s journey towards a unique identity. “In the beginning, we weren’t sure what the architectural answer was to the name that we chose,” Ngon says. “But we felt that gradually we’ve gotten closer and closer to something worthy of the name.” Most recently, Tropical Space’s Cuckoo House — a radical family home situated on top of a coffeeshop — was selected by Wallpaper* as one of the 20 most promising architectural practices worldwide in 2020.

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Interior of the Termitary House

Tropical Space often takes inspiration from the insect world in their designs. Termite mounds, for example, are built to create cool spaces, and Ngon and her team utilised these techniques to create Termitary House, to counter central Vietnam’s scorching summers.

Ngon believes that with the country’s burgeoning economy, people are gradually waking up to the importance of more unique, distinctly Vietnamese designs. “Just five years ago the demand for new, thoughtful buildings wasn’t as high as it is now,” she says. “So between 1975 and then, people here in the city didn’t really know what they wanted, and the result is that you see a lot of buildings with a mix of everything from all over the world.”

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Tran Thi Ngu Ngon (left) and Nguyen Hai Long, the founders of Tropical Space

This is particularly true of houses. For instance, the Thao Dien neighbourhood, across the river from downtown, has become increasingly wealthy in recent years, and is now home to upscale restaurants, boutiques and bars. The houses here represent the moneyed residents’ varying architectural interests. Along with business partner Nguyen Hai Long, Ngon strives to offer something different to the international designs found in the city’s larger building projects. “We wanted to create our own path; execute our own thoughts and ideas about the environment that we live in, the society we live in, how it is and how it should be,” she says.

“We want to tell a story through each design so they have a Vietnamese soul”

Beyond Thao Dien and greater Ho Chi Minh City, Tropical Space and a21 have both designed homes across Vietnam, bringing another important aspect of their philosophies – sustainability – into every step of their process. Hiep and his team, for example, place great emphasis on using reclaimed materials such as bricks, wood and glass in their work.

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The white façade of the Gem Center by a21 sports verdant window boxes

The a21 office, located in a residential district of Ho Chi Minh City, is made up almost entirely of reused materials. “When you use reclaimed stuff, you don’t really know what you’re going to end up with,” Hiep says. “So a chair, or a collection of doorknobs, anything we can find, you don’t know how it will turn out. But based on our experience, sometimes you know this piece of wood will look right, that it’s suitable. We like to be experimental.”

D1, another boutique studio based in the city, strives to incorporate the work of traditional artisan builders and craftspeople into its process. “Nowadays, everyone is so attached to mass production,” says Tan Nguyen, D1’s CEO. “That is not our idea to follow. We are connecting traditional materials and artisans in our designs, and we want to tell a story through each design so they have a Vietnamese soul.”

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Tan Nguyen, CEO of D1 studio

Before D1’s designers begin a project, they study the local context of the specific part of Vietnam they are working in. “We research the local weather and climate, as well as local materials and what kind of artisans live nearby,” Tan explains. “A problem in Vietnam right now is traditional techniques are dying because they haven’t kept up with new ideas or designs. What we do is bring new contemporary design values to local artisans and then merge the two together to make something different.” Examples include their M Villa in Hoi An, which sports a large bamboo roof, and the multi-purpose Olwen House in Ho Chi Minh City, which has its roots in traditional shophouses.

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The brick exterior of the Cuckoo House by Tropical Space allows for better airflow

To date, most of these projects have been on a relatively modest scale, yet the designers behind them believe that change is coming. “The architects are getting out there now and they have a better base than when we started,” says Tropical Space’s Ngon. Some clients, such as Silverland Hotels, the group behind The Myst, are already showing more interest in functional, high-quality architecture with a more local viewpoint.

Tan, of D1, believes this conversation between architects and clients is vital to ensure the success of their design ambitions. “Many owners are focusing on economy, but it’s important that they also know what is good for the community,” he shares. “Our mission is to make sure each of our projects paints a bigger picture of the city. We want to create a soulful city, and that is what’s missing right now in Vietnam.”

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The Reunification Palace is a grand and imposing example of Vietnamese Modernism

Architectural gems to seek out

Vietnamese Modernism, which flourished from the 1950s to the ’70s in what was then South Vietnam, left behind a number of unique public buildings, including the Reunification Palace, the General Sciences Library and the extremely popular “café apartment building” at 42 Nguyen Hue. Once used as housing for American military officers, many of the units in the latter have been converted to hip cafés, restaurants and boutiques with great views of the city.

Three notable examples of the new contemporary Vietnamese style

Gem Center

Designed by a21, this is a striking events building located in Ho Chi Minh City. It features a dramatic greenery-clad façade and a soaring wood-panelled atrium.

Cuckoo House

Tropical Space’s Cuckoo House, in Danang, utilises the studio’s distinct exposed brickwork to combine a café and a house for a family of four.

Farming Kindergarten

VTN Architects’ Farming Kindergarten in Dong Nai Province, close to Ho Chi Minh City, includes a green roof where students can grow food for their lunches.

Singapore Airlines flies to Ho Chi Minh City two to three times daily. To book a flight, visit

SEE ALSO: The path less travelled: Ho Chi Minh City’s hidden gems

This article was originally published in the March 2020 issue of SilverKris magazine

The post How young architects are injecting life into Ho Chi Minh City’s cityscape appeared first on SilverKris.

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