Savouring and Selling Singapore
French National and Residence Manager of Somerset Orchard, Nadege Schmidt, shares her uniquely Singapore experience
Issue: Aug 2011
Garden city, cosmopolitan metropolis and food paradise – Singapore, one of the best places in Asia to work and settle down in
Photo Credit: www.singaporeyoutholympicgames.com
I was born and bred in France but I have always been very comfortable living and working in Asia. Before coming to Singapore seven years ago, I studied in Beijing and then worked in Hong Kong. I even picked up Mandarin while in Beijing. Although, I must admit that I've forgotten quite a bit of it from lack of use. On the plus side, I am quite fluent in Singlish now! In my opinion, Singapore may be the best place in Asia to work and settle down in.
I have been working with The Ascott Limited for two years. In the first year, I was Assistant Residence Manager at Somerset Liang Court. I find that discovering Singapore for myself has helped me to introduce my adoptive country to my guests and residents.
Schmidt's staff and her (in a red kimono) with the residents of Somerset Orchard at the Night Safari on Halloween last year
The Singapore Every Tourist Needs to See
When I first moved to Singapore, I spent the first few years going to all the famous attractions. I would highly recommend the Night Safari as a unique experience not only in Singapore but in the world. I recently visited a safari in Africa and I must say that the Night Safari gives an accurate idea of the real deal. About a half hour's drive from Somerset Orchard, The Night Safari is the first wildlife park for nocturnal animals. A nine-time winner of the Best Visitor Attraction Experience Award by the Singapore Tourism Board, the 40-hectare park has over 1,000 animals from 115 species.
Your magical journey into the night begins with a 40-minute tram ride that takes you through the eight geographical regions that make up the Night Safari. You can see one of the world's largest goats, the markhor; the biggest of Asian deer, the sambar; and the greater one-horned rhinoceros. There are fewer than 2,000 of the greater one-horned rhinoceros left in the wild and the Night Safari is one of the few zoos left in the world where you can see them. Other exotic animals you might glimpse on the ride include the cape giraffes, hyenas, Asian elephants, and Malayan tigers.
One of the best parts of the Night Safari is the three inter-linked trails which you need to explore on foot. It's quite a thrill to venture in the dark while being serenaded by the symphony of the jungle at night. These trails allow you into the animals' sanctuary. So, don't be surprised if you hear a rustle in the bushes or feel the flutter of wings in the air. It's probably a bat, flying lemur, nightjar, owl, Malayan flying fox or any number of nocturnal winged creatures that roam wild and free on the trails. I like the place so much that I have even organised a trip to the Night Safari for my residents during Halloween.
The Asian Civilisation Museum right by the Singapore River has a gallery devoted to the history and development of the river
Photo Credit: www.fotopedia.com
Another favourite of mine that I think guests should visit is the Asian Civilisation Museum. It is a 10-minute Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) ride away from Somerset Orchard, which is located near the Somerset MRT. The museum is a great place to appreciate and understand Asia. It is the first of its kind in the region to present pan-Asian cultures and civilisations in such a comprehensive manner. Its 11 galleries houses over 1,300 artifacts from China, Southeast Asia and West Asia. The Singapore River Gallery actually has a window where you can see the river flanked by towering skyscrapers in the financial district. To then turn your attention from the window view back to the Singapore River Gallery which has stories and images of how it was in the early days of Singapore feels like a walk back in time. After that history lesson, you might actually want to stroll over to modern Clarke Quay nearby and see how life by the river has been transformed by time.
The Singapore Botanic Gardens is a place Schmidt and her husband enjoy visiting to enjoy local greenery
For those who appreciate Nature, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is ideal for enjoying local floral. Sprawling greenery dotted with centuries-old trees, local sculptures and ponds, the Gardens is a local favourite picnic spot. The National Orchid Garden within is the best place to view the country's national flower. There are over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids in the collection with about 600 of these on display. You can also see the largest display of tropical orchids in the world there. I like the Gardens because it is a good place to soak in the sun. Believe it or not, I love the eternal summers here. It's the best part about living in Singapore.
The Hidden Singapore We Love
In my leisure, I like to take walks at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park with my husband. It is one of the four reservoirs in the country set within nature reserves and offers an unexpected respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. It is certainly not what you would usually associate with cosmopolitan Singapore.
I live in the West. So the West Coast Park is another place I love to go on weekends. I find it fascinating and peaceful to look at the lights from the cargo ships and refinery reflecting on the waters. It's like watching a floating city.
If you get the chance, step away from the city centre and explore the several neighbourhood heartlands in Singapore. They are self-containing cities in a capsule. To truly understand how the regular Singaporean lives, you need to explore the neighbourhoods. My husband and I spent a lot of time walking around these places when we first moved here. From Somerset Orchard, hop onto the MRT and you can have your pick of neighbourhoods from there.
Schmidt enjoying some local food with her friends
Singapore offers just about any cuisine in the world from Mongolian to Mediterranean. But you would not do yourself any justice if you do not give the local foods a try. Go to any seafood place and treat yourself to chilli crab and cereal prawns. One of the best-kept food secrets is this little place I have discovered called Seafood Paradise @ Defu Lane. It has some of the best seafood dishes ever plus great coffee ribs. If you don't want to travel so far, there is a restaurant called Paradise Inn at ION Orchard. You can have your fill of the same standard of cooking there. Their selection of xiaolong baos (soup dumplings) is very impressive.
Other places to sample local cuisine are at hawker centres that can be found all around. Lau Pa Sat, a few MRT stops away from Somerset Orchard, is a good place to start. I love beef rendang (a spicy beef stew), wanton mee (noodles with dumplings) with black sauce, roti prata (an Indian pancake), any kind of dumplings and kueh lapis (an Indonesian layered cake). I am more tolerant now when it comes to spicy food but I must draw the line at durians. It is definitely not for me.
Singapore may be small but it has so much to offer, I never run out of places to recommend to residents at Somerset Orchard. Not long ago, my team and I even gave detailed directions to an Indonesian family staying at the residence to local supermarket, Sheng Shiong. I suppose I am becoming uniquely Singaporean.
Stay with us at …
Somerset Orchard Singapore
No 160 Orchard Road
#06-01 OG Orchard Point
(Entrance via Koek Road)
Tel: (65) 6735 0500
Fax: (65) 6831 1811