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Walking through Singapore's Little India neighborhood one morning, I was on a mission: find the newly opened Wanderlust boutique hotel.
Little India is not like the meticulously manicured Singapore that you or your clients might be familiar with; it's a little bit louder, plenty more colorful and, even in the morning, you can take in the smells of fragrant spices as locals dine on breakfasts of nasi lemak and roti prata. Much of it consists of historic buildings and one of these, the former Hong Wen School from the 1920s, was recently converted into the Wanderlust.
While 2010 saw the openings of Singapore's anticipated integrated resorts, it also saw the additions of new, highly design-driven boutique properties -- [email protected], The Saff and Wanderlust among them -- each offering a uniquely different ambience in two of Singapore's most beloved cultural enclaves.
Finally spotting the Wanderlust, I walked through its doors and instantly felt like I'd entered a whole other world.
Wonderment at WanderlustWanderlust is the newest property from Loh Lik Peng, the hotelier responsible for Singapore's Hotel 1929 and New Majestic Hotel. Peng's hotels are known for their dedication to design and, with the 29-room Wanderlust, which opened in August 2010, that commitment rose to a new level. Four different firms designed each floor, and the results are striking. For clients seeking a one-of-a-kind stay in memorable, albeit non-traditional settings, the Wanderlust is a perfect fit.
The "Industrial Glam" lobby houses a cozy bar/seating area, much of it constructed from recycled materials, and Cocotte, an all-day dining venue serving rustic French cuisine. The second level, "Eccentricity," features 11 capsule rooms, each swathed in a different monochromatic shade lifted directly from the Pantone color palette. The third level, "Is it Just Black and White?," was inspired by origami and pop art. The fourth floor, "Creature Comforts," was my favorite with nine loft-style rooms done up in five different themes. One theme, "Typewriter," even featured a sofa that resembled an actual typewriter.
While no two rooms are exactly the same, standard amenities include an iPod docking station, a Nespresso machine, a tea set, Kiehl's toiletries and complimentary minibar access, Wi-Fi and breakfast; rates range from $230 to $495 per night.
Over the [email protected]Across the street from Wanderlust is [email protected], an 83-room hotel that evokes a modern and minimalist design. Walking through its glass doors, the first thing that strikes guests is how sleek everything is -- from the glossy communal dining table and lounge to the front desk. Crisp whites are accented throughout with pops of purple, green and pink.
The hotel, which opened in October 2010, offers three room categories -- Standard, Deluxe and Executive -- and a spacious rooftop Moonlight Suite. What the guestrooms may lack in physical space (Standard rooms measure approximately 172 square feet) they make up for in their range of amenities and cleverly efficient use of space, with queen-size platform beds, iPod/iPhone-compatible stereo sets and Internet Protocol-equipped televisions. Internet and minibar access, breakfast and evening cocktails are included in the nightly rates, priced from $114.
Travelers who are comfortable with small spaces that are big on functional amenities and sincere hospitality will enjoy their stay at [email protected]
Sumptuous Silks at The SaffAfter making my way through Little India, I headed south to Chinatown to see The Saff, which opened last October. This 79-room hotel is managed by Grace International, the same hospitality group behind Chinatown's hugely successful boutique property, The Scarlet, and is housed within an old shophouse on Keong Saik Road that dates to the pre-war era.
Taking a cue from its namesake, the saffron spice, The Saff's decor is both rich and opulent. Much like its diverse settings, the hotel blends together a multitude of cultural influences, from a Chinese feng-shui-friendly front door and luxuriant Indian silks to ornate Turkish carpets and beautiful Moroccan lanterns.
Guests may choose from three main room categories -- Standard, Superior and Deluxe. Rack rates are priced from $175 per night and rooms range in size from 133 square feet to 322 square feet. Each includes an in-room safe, a flat-screen television, Wi-Fi connectivity and coffee and tea amenities. To me, what was most striking about the guestrooms was their use of color. Saturated hues of violet, lime, mauve, lemon and orange imbue each room, making you feel as though you were on a film set instead of a hotel.
And that is exactly what each of these three boutique hotels manages to do: to transport guests into environments that are both wildly imaginative and genuinely hospitable.