Crazy Rich Asians makes history as the first major Hollywood movie with an all-Asian cast since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club. Better still, it was actually filmed in Asia. The story, originally a book by Kevin Kwan, follows Asian-American Rachel Chu as she heads to her boyfriend Nick’s hometown of Singapore for a friend’s wedding, only to find out his family is one of the wealthiest on the entire continent – and Nick’s mum is very hard to impress.
Drama, wisecrack one-liners, and a fashion montage follow, of course. Singapore plays its own part in the film – we counted at least four Merlion fountain shots in 120 minutes of screen time – and some of our favourite spots made the cut. ‘I was fascinated by this idea of the city of the future, with its mix of nature and modern buildings, that at the same time has this tropical colonial style about it,’ says director Jon M. Chu (who also directed Now You See Me 2 and Step Up 2). ‘The island is just such a mishmash of commerce, of cultures, of food, of fashion. I wanted to show that both visually and through the characters.’
With major scenes set at recognisable Singapore spots like the infinity pool of Marina Bay Sands towers; Gardens by the Bay, a futuristic urban park with 16-storey-high ‘supertrees’; and Raffles, the city’s most historic hotel, the tour of the island is thorough, to say the least. But the cast and crew didn’t just stay in Singapore. One of the movie’s most breathtaking set pieces, the Young family home, is one country over. ‘There were certain aspects to Tyersall Park, where Nick’s grandmother lives, that you couldn’t find in Singapore. That’s what makes the fictional Tyersall Park, this sort of Central Park within the tight squeeze of Singapore, such an amazing location in the book, because those properties just don’t exist anymore. So we had to go to Malaysia to film that part, and since we were there, there was a lot we could find,’ says Chu. (Financially, moving a lot of the sets to Malaysia made sense too, he says.)
From Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and far-off Malaysian archipelagos, the Crazy Rich Asians cast and crew zipped across South-East Asia to make their $30 million film a reality. Here are nine spots you can visit for yourself to live out your over-the-top Singaporean romance.
NEWTON FOOD CENTRE, SINGAPORE
Naturally, Nick and Rachel’s first stop in Singapore? A hawker center, the sort-of open-air food courts found in every neighbourhood. Though the film was shot at Newton Food Centre, Chu’s favourite spot to eat while filming was East Coast Lagoon Food Village. ‘I wish I could be there right now to eat lunch. It’s outdoors and right next to the beach and it was actually one of the first places we went. There were families biking by, people swimming, of all cultures and ethnicities. It was right at sunset and we just thought, This is the heart of what we want to show in the movie.’
RAFFLES HOTEL, SINGAPORE
It’s the grande dame of Singapore, so it’s no surprise that Rachel and Nick check into the Raffles Hotel. The hotel is currently being renovated (expected to reopen in 2019) and its Long Bar, the birthplace of the gin-based Singapore Sling, is closed for now, but stopping by for the iconic drink is ‘just so classy,’ Chu says. ‘The tea in the lobby is a must.’
CHIJMES HALL, SINGAPORE
If you stopped by CHIJMES Hall on a weekend, you might see a wedding party in the all-white, restored 19th-century chapel – though we doubt it could top Colin Khoo and Araminta Lee’s ceremony. The Singaporean party venue was transformed into an indoor marsh for the fictional Khoo-Lee wedding, complete with a truly jaw-dropping water feature. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.
SUPERTREE GROVE, SINGAPORE
Where to have a wedding reception after an over-the-top ceremony? One of the most over-the-top spots in Singapore: Gardens by the Bay’s Supertree Grove. A dozen tree-like vertical gardens – some 16 stories tall – are the site of the party of the century in the movie. Admission to explore the grove is free but if you want a bird’s-eye view of where the reception was filmed, spring for the $6 skywalk.
CARCOSA SERI NEGARA, KUALA LUMPUR
Two adjacent mansions, which made up the former luxury hotel Carcosa Seri Negara in Kuala Lumpur, were used to film the interior and exterior of Tyersall Park. It looks like a lake was digitally added to the mansion grounds in the trailer. Director Jon M. Chu told Condé Nast Traveler that “There were certain aspects to Tyersall Park, where Nick’s grandmother lives, that you couldn’t find in Singapore. That’s what makes the fictional Tyersall Park, this sort of Central Park within the tight squeeze of Singapore, such an amazing location in the book, because those properties just don’t exist anymore. So we had to go to Malaysia to film that part.”
You won’t be able to recreate Colin’s bachelor party fiasco on the shipping container (Chu and co. built the ‘ship’ in a Malaysian parking lot) but you could visit where Colin and Nick escaped to ‘Rawa Island’, or Langkawi in real life. An hour’s flight from Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur, ‘we took a boat around some bends in Langkawi where all of these rocks just jut out of the water. We only took a small crew, like ten of us, to shoot the scene on the raft,’ Chu says.
FOUR SEASONS RESORT LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA
You won’t have to go far to celebrate with the bride’s party, either. Araminta’s girls’ getaway was filmed at the Four Seasons Resort Langkawi, where each beachfront villa has its own spa room and private plunge pool. The bride isn’t the only one in love with the island: In 2015, we named the archipelago of about 99 islands ‘the jewel of South-East Asia,’ as an underrated alternative to Bali and Phuket.
CHEONG FATT TZE MANSION, PENANG
Colloquially called the Blue Mansion, the former home of a 20th-century Chinese businessman is now a hotel in Penang that hosts daily tours. While you won’t see too much blue on screen, you may recognize the interior from the climactic mahjong scene, between Rachel and Nick’s mother Eleanor. ‘Penang is so awesome. Outside of filming, the 3D street art is just incredible,’ Chu says.
BUKIT PASOH ROAD, SINGAPORE
Singapore’s pastel-colored shophouses are an integral part of Peranakan Chinese architecture. You can spot them in the background of Rachel and Peik Lin’s heart-to-heart on Bukit Pasoh Road, in Singapore’s Chinatown. One of our favourite spots in the area is the Chinatown Heritage Centre, which itself inhabits a trio of shophouses and tells the history of the city’s Chinese immigrants.
MARINA BAY SANDS PARK, SINGAPORE
It’s hard to miss the Marina Bay Sands towers on the Singapore skyline, so of course they played a role in Crazy Rich Asians’ over-the-top finale. You’ll have to book a room to take a swim in the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool, but non-guests can still enjoy the views from the 57th-floor observation deck. We can’t promise synchronised swimmers, disapproving grandmothers or Henry Golding as Nick Young, your knight in a luxury suit, but the view alone will take your breath away.