Monday, October 19, 2009

Singapore's New Majestic Hotel

IN the course of my work as a freelance journalist covering mostly lifestyle subjects, I have been very fortunate to visit some of the most interesting places not just in my own country (and believe me there are a lot of them here in the Philippines) but also in Southeast Asia. For the most part, my experiences in these places have been quite unforgettable.

Singapore is one country I most often found myself in. It's true that there are quite a few people who would say that Singapore is far from the most exciting place in the planet, especially if you don't have enough shopping money to spend. But there are also those, myself included, who consider the clean, orderly and generally laid-back ambiance of this country to be refreshing, relaxing, therapeutic and very much stress-free. And yes, I know those descriptions pretty much mean the same thing.

Singapore, however, is not without its own share of pleasant surprises and in addition to the increasingly vibrant tourist attractions and events that the country has to offer, there are also a good number of interesting places to stay while you're there. One of them is the New Majestic Hotel which made me feel like a very welcome guest in 2006.

Here's a revised version of an article I wrote about boutique hotels in general that included this rather unusual "design hotel." Perhaps one of the many good reasons why the country is now fondly referred to as Uniquely Singapore:

UNIQUELY MAJESTIC
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

Located in the heart of Chinatown at 31-37 Bukit Pasoh Road is another winner of CondĂ© Nast Traveler magazine’s Hot List of Best New Hotels Worldwide in 2006. The New Majestic Hotel is a place that regards itself as more of a "design hotel" than a boutique hotel and for good reason.

As its architecture suggests, this hotel is in fact a refurbished old building. One can see traces of its storied past upon entering its lobby. The over-exposed ruins of the concrete ceiling of the original 1928 structure balances a showcase of glass orbs, restored vintage Compton fans and old-fashioned barber chairs which along with the chic, period colonial furniture is something that you only usually see in glossy designer magazines.

The New Majestic Hotel has only 30 rooms but boy, does each one stand out from the other. Nine emerging Singapore artists namely Safaruddin Abdul Hamid (aka Dyn), Andre Tan, Lee Meiling, Heleston Chew, Tay Bee Aye, Kng Mian Tze, Miguel Chew, Sandra Lee and Justin Lee were tapped to design these rooms and guests are greeted with a brief description of their respective works right beside the door of the rooms.

Bordering on over-the-top, the New Majestic Hotel pushes the boutique hotel concept boundaries to rather uncharted territories, if not the extreme. Its rooms are categorized as mirror rooms, hanging bed rooms, aquarium rooms and loft rooms.

Although very impressed with the hotel’s overall concept and execution, I initially felt that functionality was compromised in favor of style, at least in certain rooms. On the plus side, a plasma or LCD wisdescreen TV’s, an iPod charging dock and a Bose personal CD/radio stereo are all standard features of each room. The compact loft room that I was originally booked in also has a wall painted with the image of a bird in a cage hanging in a tree, a nice touch.

I had a little problem with this design, though which requires guests to climb the steep ladder (yes, ladder not stairs) to get to the queen-sized bed. It looks really cool from a design standpoint but not too practical in terms of, say, access to the bathroom (should one needs to go) or even the door in case somebody knocks and the guest is up there in his bed.

Airing these concerns with the hotel staff eventually led to my transfer to one of their mirror rooms, an upgrade at surprisingly no extra cost, at least in my case. For those who like to watch and be watched, the mirror room which is described as “a continuous ribbon of mirrors that begin on the walls, climbing up and on the ceiling, and returning to the ground to form a bedhead” is the closest thing to a narcissist's wet dream. That aside, it's very cozy, too.

Equally impressive are other standard features like the slick rain shower systems with hydro-massage functions in the rooms and the free internet access. Even those without laptops can avail of free computer use (Apple MacBooks, no less!) with broadband internet access at the reception area. Only two were currently available at the time and since I was part of a Singapore Tourism Board media fam that included nine other journalists who also wanted to use the MacBooks, there were quite a few times when we had to take turns using them.

Our rather tight itinerary could not afford me the time to try out its other amenities such as the vintage cast-iron bathtub in my mirror room, the funky-looking swimming pool, the equally state-of-the-art gym facililties and the Majestic Restaurant offering modern Chinese cuisine.

But that's okay. All told, I had an extraordinary time at the New Majestic Hotel and yes, I'll be more than happy to be a guest here again and experience another, well, "majestic" treatment sometime soon.

For more info, visit http://www.newmajestichotel.com.

And here's a guest giving us a tour of her room:

2 comments:

Frances said...

I'm going to Singapore! Yey! This post helped me a lot. Thanks!

Jugs said...

Frances, I have more Singapore stories to post. Will just balance the tags and post some. Enjoy your upcoming trip!