Singapore is the setting for new Hollywood movie ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ – an adaptation of a best-selling novel that explores the insatiable consumerism of new money and old-world opulence in a continent producing more billionaires than anywhere else.
While the low-tax financial hub is often called a playground for the rich, Singapore’s wealthy tend to live a more conservative, low-key life than Hong Kong’s showy socialites or Macau’s high-rollers.
In step with the film’s release in the United States on Wednesday and ahead of its release in the city-state next week, here are five ways to spend your cash in Singapore.
1. Orchid-shaped supercars
Cars in Singapore are some of the most expensive in the world, owing to huge government taxes aimed at limiting their number in the tiny island-state.
That doesn’t stop the super-rich – Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini are commonly sighted. When a Singaporean character in Kevin Kwan’s book, Goh Peik Lin, moves to America to study she immediately buys a Porsche saying they are “such a bargain.”
For the super-rich patriot, Singapore-based firm Vanda Electrics has designed an electric supercar – Dendrobium. Its roof and doors open in sync to resemble the orchid that is native to Singapore and after which the vehicle is named.
A show car, built by the technology arm of the Williams Formula One team, was unveiled last year. It was originally estimated to cost around 3 million euros ($3.44 million) before tax, although Vanda Electrics advised the final price will likely be lower.
2. Yachts with submarines
Yachts are an affordable alternative to such supercars.
“Impulse buys of luxury items such as yachts are becoming more common” said Phill Gregory, the Singapore head of yacht dealers Simpson Marine, who sell everything from sports boats to super yachts costing tens of millions of dollars.
Gregory said Singapore-based clients have some of the most sophisticated tastes and an eye for style: sometimes he flies them to Europe to deck out their yacht with luxury furniture from the artisans of Milan or world-famous Carrara marble straight from the quarries in Tuscany.
Others have more unusual requests. These include a bespoke ‘beach club style’ lounge area set underneath a shimmering swimming pool, helipads or even a space to park a small submarine or sea-plane.
3. 999 roses
The iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel – which resembles a giant surfboard perched on three tall columns – features prominently in the film’s trailer.
The hotel features the invitation-only Chairman’s suite – the largest in Singapore – which has its own gym, hair salon, and karaoke room, and according to some media reports costs over $15,000 a night. There is no publicly available price.
The likes of former British soccer star David Beckham and Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan have stayed at the hotel.
George Roe, director of hotel operations at Marina Bay Sands, said he has had some unusual requests from his guests including organizing the delivery of 999 roses to a residential address in Singapore as a surprise.
4. Rare beef
“You do realize Singapore is the most food obsessed country on the planet?,” Nick Young, the very well-heeled protagonist of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ tells his girlfriend Rachel Chu ahead of their trip to the city-state.
Even hawker stalls hold Michelin stars in Singapore but there’s no shortage of places for the super-rich to get their fix.
The restaurant CUT by Wolfgang Puck is the only one in Singapore to offer Hokkaido snow beef – which is even scarcer than Kobe beef – through an exclusive arrangement with a private reserve in Japan.
Only two cattle are harvested from the reserve every month, with CUT receiving about 20-30 steaks a month – a chunk of which goes to regulars who visit the restaurant every time it comes on the menu, said general manager Paul Joseph. The current price is S$330 ($240) for a modest 170 gram serving.
5. Gold tea
Forget wearing gold – in Singapore you can drink it.
Boutique Singaporean tea company TWG Tea claims to sell one of the world’s most expensive teas – a white tea plated with 24-karat gold which retails at S$19,000 ($14,000) a kilo.
The Grand Golden Yin Zhen is described as a “glimpse of the divine in a teacup”, and the gold is said to have anti-oxidant properties that revitalize and rejuvenate the skin.