IN PHOTOS: Touring the Singapore of 'Crazy Rich Asians'
SINGAPORE – By now, Crazy Rich Asians finished its theatrical run and made its impact, not only as a watershed moment for Hollywood but as a major pop culture event, too, as it made the rounds online with such memorable catchphrases as “Bok bok, bitch” and “You will never be enough.”
The film, a romantic comedy based on Singaporean-American Kevin Kwan’s eponymous novel, offered a picture of the lavish lifestyles of some ultra-wealthy Chinese Singaporeans. (READ: Security guards, Michelle Yeoh's own ring: The costumes and gems of 'Crazy Rich Asians')
In case you missed it, this is how the movie goes: American-Chinese Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a professor of economics at NYU (New York University), goes on holiday with her beau, Nick Young (Henry Golding), to his home country of Singapore to attend his best friend Colin Khoo’s (Chris Pang) wedding to Araminta Lee (Sonoya Mizuno).
Unbeknownst to her, Nick is actually not just living a “comfortable” life but is actually super rich. (READ: ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ review: On the money)
In Singapore, she encounters a totally different world: Nick’s family and the circles in which they move. Also, for every kindhearted cousin like Astrid Leong (Gemma Chan), there’s the also kind of Nick’s fearsome mother, Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh), who doesn’t necessarily approve of their romance.
Crazy Rich Asians also showcased the tiny but immensely gorgeous city-state of Singapore in a way that only Hollywood can: a prosperous nation with quaint charms, a great culinary scene, and of course – as it’s in the title – luxuries that are only within reach of a few.
Although year after year, Singapore is often listed among the world’s most expensive places to live in, enjoying it can prove to be actually accessible.
The version of the city seen in the 2018 blockbuster rom-com shows different sides of the Lion City that you can experience: from the cheap to the exorbitantly-priced, the tourist destinations to the locals’ favorite spots.
Note that some scenes were actually shot in Malaysia, and just made to look like Singapore with the magic of editing and CGI. Also, not all locations are open to the public.
Here are just some of the places where they filmed Crazy Rich Asians:
After a long-haul first class flight from New York City, Rachel and Nick arrive in the multi-awarded gateway to the Lion City, Changi Airport, where they are greeted by the soon-to-be-wed couple, Colin and Araminta.
Named the World’s Best Airport for six consecutive years by Skytrax, this civilian travel hub goes the extra mile with not only the usual amenities and shopping options, but even attractions like themed gardens (like the Butterfly Garden mentioned in the movie), a 4-storey-tall slide, a movie theatre, and even a play: Peranakan Love Story, a love story set in the 1930s. (READ: What PH’s NAIA should learn from SG’s Changi Airport)
In 2019, the Jewel Changi Airport, a much-awaited addition to the airport complex, is set to open. Dubbed a “magical garden” by its architect Moshe Safdie (who also worked on Marina Bay Sands), the space will not only be home to shopping and dining establishments, but also to one-of-a-kind attractions.
Find Changi at: Airport Blvd
Newton Food Centre
One of the city’s hawker centres (an open-air food court), Newton Food Centre is where Colin and Araminta take out Rachel and Nick for a veritable feast of Singaporean favorites: chili crab, satay (although Nick’s claim that it’s the best in the island is up for debate), and more.
Newton is notorious as a tourist trap though, and even Kevin Kwan’s source novel mocks it as “only for expats and tourists.” Close to the popular shopping destination of Orchard Road, this hawker centre’s fare is relatively pricey compared to the many scattered throughout the island, including those found in residential neighborhoods.
However, in Singapore, you are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to gastronomy – from the humble hawker stall to those found in Asia’s and the World’s 50 Best. Nick even made a point of mentioning that Singapore “is one of the only places in the world where street food vendors actually earn Michelin stars.”
For cheap, it’s very possible to chow down on a large, mouth-watering spread. (READ: Around Singapore in 16 dishes)
Other popular spots for hawker fare include Maxwell Food Centre, home to the Anthony Bourdain-approved Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, and Lau Pa Sat, which is actually the location in Kevin Kwan’s source novel and known for its satay stalls.
Check out Eatbook’s recommendations, which counts the BBQ sambal stingray from Guan Kee Grilled Seafood, oyster omelette from Hup Kee Fried Oyster Omelette, and more as must-haves in Newton. You can also read this story from the Michelin Guide on what went on behind the dining scenes.
Find Newton Food Centre at: 500 Clemenceau Ave North
Together with Nick, Colin escapes his bachelor’s party, ostentatiously hosted by their former classmate Bernard Tai (Silicon Valley star Jimmy O. Yang) on a shipping vessel in international waters. With their chopper parked on a rock, the best friends end up lounging somewhere in a quiet part of Sentosa Island.
Just several kilometers away from the main island, Sentosa is the serene backdrop where the two have a heart-to-heart as Nick reveals his plan to propose to Rachel.
In reality, the island is more resort and theme park than the idyllic El Nido/Phuket-esque paradise it looks like on-screen. Universal Studios Singapore and other attractions such as S.E.A. Aquarium and Madame Tussauds can be found here.
However, there are several man-made beaches on the island, including Siloso, Palawan, and Tanjong – little pockets of serenity in a spot that’s more known for its busy attractions. (READ: First time in Singapore? 12 places to visit)
Raffles Hotel, the dashing colonial-style hotel where Nick and Rachel stay away from the Young’s ancestral home of Tyersall Park, is currently under renovation as of writing. Because filming took place before repairs had started, there could be significant changes when it’s expected to reopen in the first quarter of 2019.
An elegant setting steeped in 131 years of history, the reopened Raffles Hotel will feature old favorites as well as new restaurants and bars. The hotel’s Long Bar, the cradle of the famous Singapore Sling, is set to return. Celebrated French chefs Alain Ducasse and Anne Sophie-Pic are also going to open restaurants here.
You can find Raffles Hotel at: 1 Beach Rd
Bukit Pasoh Road
“Bok bok, bitch,” exclaims Rachel’s best friend from college, Peik Lin (Awkwafina), as she gives a pep talk to the economics professor of game theory not to back down from the intimidating and imperious Eleanor Young, Nick’s mother.
This memorable dialogue happens at Humpback, a seafood restaurant serving superb tapas and cocktails along Bukit Pasoh Road in the Tanjong Pagar area where quaint and colorful shophouses line the street. Right across the restaurant – also seen in the movie – is the Reading Room, a café by day and bar by night.
Trendy establishments and historical association houses find its home here. As in many other streets in Singapore, hip and heritage co-exist, as old shophouses find new life as cafés, bars, and niche boutiques.
Get your head in the game at: Humpback Restaurant – 18-20 Bukit Pasoh Rd
The white Gothic-style and elaborately designed chapel of CHIJMES (stands for Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Middle Education School, but pronounced as “chimes”) was turned into an ethereal and spectacular garden-like setting (or as Eleanor called it, a “paddy field”) for Colin and Araminta’s nuptials – Singapore’s wedding of the year. (READ: Security guards, Michelle Yeoh's own ring: The costumes and gems of 'Crazy Rich Asians’)
This is also where Kris Aquino makes her cameo as Princess Intan, the infamously icy and reserved Malay royal who Rachel manages to impress discussing the the former’s paper on micro-loans for indigent women – baffling the upper crust Singaporeans in attendance. (READ: Here's the Filipino team behind Kris Aquino's 'Crazy Rich Asians' looks)
A former Catholic convent and now lifestyle and entertainment hub, CHIJMES has a variety of dining options, including modern Australian restaurant Whitegrass, one of Asia’s 50 Best.
The abovementioned chapel-turned-function hall is also a National Monument of Singapore.
Find CHIJMES at: 30 Victoria St
Gardens by the Bay
As it appears in Colin and Araminta’s wedding reception in the film and in real life, the stunning Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay is best visited at night when it looks otherworldly – almost like Pandora from James Cameron’s Avatar.
In the evening, the tree-like structures are illuminated, and light and sound shows take place around 7:45 to 8:45 P.M. daily. The nearby Flower Dome and Cloud Forest cooled indoor conservatories though are popular destinations throughout the day and are a welcome respite from the country’s sweltering tropical climes (the city-state is located one-and-a-half degrees north of the equator).
Find Gardens by the Bay at: 18 Marina Gardens Dr
Esplanade Park and Merlion Park
Following a tense confrontation with Eleanor and Nick’s ah ma Su Yi (Lisa Lu) after which she secluded herself in Peik Lin’s home, Rachel agrees to meet with Nick at the waterfront of Esplanade Park. There, he proposes to her, promising to just leave everything behind – even his family – to start a new life with her.
While the Esplanade Park is a relatively quiet setting with a several historical monuments and a decent vista of the city’s downtown skyline, the nearby Merlion Park (accessible via the Jubilee Bridge or Esplanade Bridge) is extremely jam-packed with tourists. The half-lion, half-fish creature and statue fronting Marina Bay, its main attraction, appears at several points in the film – after all, it is an emblem of Singapore.
Find these spots at: Esplanade Park – Connaught Drive / Merlion Park – 1 Fullerton Rd
Ann Siang Hill
Dressed in a white striped power suit, Michelle Yeoh’s Eleanor Young is seen walking down a row of shophouses in Ann Siang Hill before she enters a mahjong parlor, agreeing to meet Rachel there.
Ann Siang Hill, together with the adjacent Club Street, is a popular nightlife destination in Singapore’s Chinatown where the heritage shophouses have become home to dozens of bars and restaurants. On Fridays and Saturdays, these roads are blocked off to traffic, so crowds tend to fill up the streets.
Check out The Honeycombers’ guide to some of the bars and restaurants in the area.
The final showdown between Eleanor and the Crazy Rich Asians heroine, however, was actually shot elsewhere. The interior of Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion a.k.a. the Blue Mansion in George Town, Penang, Malaysia served as the interior of the mahjong parlor. (Read Jeff Yang’s explainer for Vox on this pivotal scene)
Find it: The exact spot on Ann Siang Hill that is seen in the movie is somewhere between shophouses 13A (Innit) and 17 (Backbenchers).
Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands, one of Singapore’s most famous landmarks and architectural icons, appears several times throughout the film. You can’t miss it: it’s the one with three skyscrapers arranged like cards and a roof deck that looks like a boat stuck on top of it.
With Eleanor’s tacit approval (with her own ring), Nick finally gets engaged to Rachel, and their engagement party is held at CÉ LA VI, a bar on Tower 3, with some synchronized swimming action going on in the world-famous infinity pool.
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In case you haven't heard... We've made it on the big screen with #CrazyRichAsians ! P.S. @henrygolding touched the handle of our doors and we haven't laid a finger on it since. P.P.S: @harryshumjr smells as good as he looks. : @constancewu #celavisingapore #marinabaysands
Earlier in the film, when Radio1Asia’s gossip spread throughout the island while Rachel and Nick were in New York City, the integrated resort’s observation deck was also seen.
This area in the SkyPark and CÉ LA VI – along with some dining establishments – are open to the public, but getting drinks at the latter seems to be the better option than having to pay S$23* access to the former.
The infinity pool, where many a tourist selfie has been taken, is only for hotel guests.
Find it at: 1 Bayfront Ave
*S$1 ≈ P39