When in Singapore, on many peoples list of places to visit is the Marina Bay Sands complex. It is the hotel which looks like it has a ship stuck on top, it is also a large upmarket shopping complex, a theatre and an Arts Museum. Now this is where I digress from my usual Art Deco accommodation as I do feel that I need to check out the architecture and try out that infinity pool!
So my first impressions, well considering that I have come from a small boutique hotel where personal service is the key, to a gigantic complex where cues reign supreme at the check in, I thought I might be a little overwhelmed. No not me, I am flexible when it comes to travelling and I adapt quickly to different situations and places. A staff member was walking along the aisle giving out free drinks and ice creams to waiting guests, of which the children were lapping up. It took approximately 10 to 15 minutes in the cue before getting to reception.
Once nicely ensconced in my room with its spectacular marina view I made myself familiar with all the gadgets, then I thought that I best go up to the 57th floor to check out the infinity pool. After all, that is one of the main reasons that most guests are here. Now, we cannot turn on the sun and on this day it was very overcast with grey clouds, this didn’t deter me I was straight in that pool which was very cold. Not what I expected but ‘hey ho’ I am not opposed to a cold swimming pool either. This put off many people so I happily swam the three different sections of the pool a couple of times and by then I was nicely warmed up. Yes, the view is surreal from the edge of the water and it does seem crazy being that high up wallowing in the pool. After an hour of swimming and people watching, I decided to go and check out the observation deck. This is complimentary to guests of the hotel and is open to the general public for a fee. This massive cantilever part of the building is hoovering along the bay with its strengthened perspex walling, topped with steel railing so that the all important camera can be positioned to get that special photo. Again it is also rather surreal giving one the feeling of being able to take off and fly.
I chose to eat in the restaurant LoVo also on the top floor with its great views across the city skyline. After some very good food it was time to retire to my room and keeping the lights off I just sat and soaked up the view from the floor to ceiling windows.
Now considering that from checking in to checking out, if staying only one night, it doesn't take a master mind to tell you that you are actually in the hotel for less than 24 hours, so you really do have to make the most of the facilities. The next morning I set my alarm clock for 5:50 am!! I had the swim wear ready and just needed to grab it in the morning. I was determined to see the sun rise and be in that pool for it. The pool opens at 6am so I was up and waiting for this on the 57th floor and to my astonishment I was the only person. Now dawn breaks around 7am so for the next hour I swam in the pool under the stars mainly on my own. The other guests did arrive around 6:30am but did not want to dip in as the water was really cold this morning having no sunshine to warm it. I spent a total of one and half hours swimming up and down then I went and sat on a sun lounger drying off while the swathes of guests all started to arrive pre their breakfast time. After a very good breakfast I spent the rest of my time catching up with some work and soaking up the view from my very large room, making the most of every minute I had in this very unusual hotel.
Architecturally this hotel is absolutely amazing. The whole concept is stunning and I am pleased that I can tick it off. Would I stay again, no, personally for me one night was enough and I actually got 23 hours! (I checked in 2 hours early as I accepted a room on a lower floor of 29 instead of 40, it was well worth the sacrifice in this case for the extra 2 hours enjoying the facilities).
Now each place I visit in the World I always like to bring back a little souvenir dating back or having significance to my beloved Art Deco era. When seeking out my little treasure I like to scour the markets or off beat shops. During my time in Little India, Singapore I encountered only two shops which had some items which had real age to them. I did fall in love with a beautiful sculptured head of an Indian bride. I ummed and ahhed about it and then my mind told me not to go with my heart and that the cost to ship it home would be a burden (I am known to buy the biggest or heaviest items which usually cost more to post back to the UK than the item itself!).
However, she was mesmerising and I could just see her in my home calmly resonating her peaceful persona. The shop owners could not tell me her history only that most of the items come directly from India. I told the owners that I would consider the deal and after much pondering I decided to leave her sitting in the shop enchanting the other visitors.
My quest continued to no avail, until I was wondering around the fabulous indoor market in the national heritage district of Tiong Bahru. This is no ordinary market as it has two sides. The upstairs is devoted to all the little local food outlets and the downstairs has it sections of commodities laid out in order. Firstly are the vibrant flowers, the vegetables and fruit, where I come across the durian fruit which is a marmite moment. People are divided its either a definite yes or an adamant no, if you like this king of fruits. It is an art watching the stall holders slice open the large prickly fruit unveiling the unusual pale green/yellow fruit. It has a textile of a very sweet avocado and a very pungent smell. So much so, that many hotels have a note in the terms and conditions stating that no durian fruit is to be consumed in the hotel or the guest rooms. I so wanted to enjoy this fruit despite the overpowering unusual smell however it was a definite no for me. Not to be disappointed I did enjoy the bright pink dragonfruit, which was absolutely delicious.
Now after my fruit escapades I turned the corner of the outer part of the market to find a gentleman with this watch repair stall, then I noted he had vintage and other random items for sale at the back of his small space. Keeping in mind packing up items to take home, I asked the gent to pass me the tray at the top of a shelf, it was full of dirt and he rapidly wiped it with his dirty cloth. I asked him how much and he quickly responded with fifty five Singaporean dollars. I had a good look and advised him that I would have another wonder around the market and then decide if I wanted it. Within all of twenty seconds he then said twenty five dollars (GBP 14.00), I had fallen under the spell and knew it would look good with my art deco glass trolley and cabinet. After the deal was done the friendly gent tried to sell more of his mass produced newer items, politely declining I made hast back to the air conditioned room of my hotel. The hot humid conditions were becoming exhaustive so with an hour to cool down in the hotel and a long cool glass of fresh coconut juice, I was once again for my afternoon explorations.
I like to think that I’m pretty travel savvy by now with the wisdom which only comes with age! (And of course lots of travelling either low or high budget).
Often travelling solo, I like to think that I know the Golden Rules however it was so nice to find a hotel like the Vagabond Club. I chose it because first, it’s Art Deco but I hadn’t realised it’s also a hotel that actually prides itself with being solo traveller friendly.
Without being obvious or over intrusive the wonderful, friendly and very professional staff make it their job to know you are back home safely and your destinations. It is a hotel that makes you want to share your days events with the staff members and you are never just a room number here!
It was built in 1950 when British Colonial rule was still in place. It’s another example of World Art Deco architecture continuing into the 1950s. The Lady Boss a term she is affectionately called by her staff, used to travel extensively on her own prior to being a hotelier. This prompted her to make the hotel seem an extension of your own family being personal, approachable and caring. The hotel certainly exceeds this.
The exterior and opulent interior are ‘wow’ moments, also the budget despite looks certainly won’t break the bank. Singapore is known as being a safe place to travel however never get complacent. The residents may be on the whole law abiding citizens but you never know about the thousands of other visitors you are ‘rubbing shoulders with’.
After a smooth uneventful flight with that very rare indulgence of spending 13 hours watching movies, documentaries and listing to music with of course the mandatory scoffing my way through all the on-flight food I finally arrived in Singapore on a humid morning at 6am. I had prearranged with the hotel to have a cab waiting for me as I knew that my big case (I usually travel much lighter but this Art Deco Travel had to go all out with what I have in store). And yes I do travel via airports now with wheeled luggage the far more attractive vintage cases are now for driving holidays only as these older bones cant carry them the way I used to!
Now getting back to the pick up at Singapore airport, its not often it happens but when it does I do like to get a photo of the ‘poor sod’ who is having to stand with my name displayed on his iPad (used to be on a piece of white card!). He was none to pleased but he soon warmed up once we got nattering during the 25 minute drive to the hotel. The downside of the time difference here is that arriving so early the room will not be available until later in the day. This can easily be overcome, I left my luggage with them and set off to get my square backside in action after the long haul flight so the exercise was needed. Also Singapore being a hot and humid country most year year many people start working and shops opening much earlier than in the UK.
I strolled along little India and stopped off at a couple of the outside locals cafes. I had sweet masala tea and a paratha which was a little spicy however it kick started the taste buds. After enjoying people watching for a couple of hours and getting introduced to the local wildlife with the chattering black and yellow beaked Javan Mynah birds, I made my way back to the hotel. They had kindly put me on the priority list so as soon as a room came available and was cleaned (as it was fully booked) then my number was up. I only waited an hour and then I could relax shower and have a little nap (I had technically been awake over 24 hours now).
My first impression of the hotel.......Wow. It is ticking all the boxes, such an eclectic mix with exotic Indian influences, decadent furnishings and opulent surroundings. All this with a modern art collection and the largest selection I have ever seen of malt whiskeys under one roof. In the afternoon I went out for another explore of the local area and came across some Art Deco architecture which was built later here in the 1940s. The ornate tiling and mixed styles in little Indian are from the 1920s.