Monday, April 26, 2010

The Scarlet in Singapore

Excerpts from a 2007 piece I wrote on boutique hotels for The Manila Bulletin. Slightly revised and updated:

As defined in Wikipedia, “boutique hotel” is “a term that originated in North America to describe intimate, usually luxurious or quirky hotel environments.” Sometimes known as “design hotels” or “lifestyle hotels, ” these types of hotels differentiate themselves from their larger five-star counterparts with their personalized level of accommodation and service facilities.

“Typically boutique hotels are furnished in a themed, stylish and/or aspirational manner,” its Wikipedia entry continues. “Although usually considerably smaller than a mainstream hotel (often ranging from 3 to 100 guest rooms), boutique hotels can often have hundreds of rooms in major cities. Guest rooms and suites are fitted with telephones, Wi-Fi internet access, air-conditioning, honesty bars and often cable/pay TV. With guest services attended to by a 24-hour hotel staff, many boutique hotels have on-site dining facilities, and the majority offers bars and lounges which may also be open to the general public.

The Scarlet in Singapore is one such hotel. Only a year after it opened in December of 2004, The Scarlet has already been reaping one accolade after another having made Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s Hot List of Best New Hotels Worldwide for 2005, DestinAsian magazine’s 2005 Luxe List and Luxury Travel magazine’s Luxury Travel Award for one of the Best New Hotels of 2005. says that “the hotel occupies a row of preserved shop houses dating to 1868, and an original 1924 Art Deco building, all joined together and converted into a quite delightfully over-the-top boutique.”

Described in its web site as “vivacious and uninhibited” and with “interiors pulsating with eclectic tension,” there’s something about the low-rise Scarlet (a word that refers to a color synonymous with red) that makes it tower head and shoulders above the more established hotels in Singapore. It must be its Victorian-meets-Goth interiors punctuated by the usually tall and yes, made-up (!) doorman wearing a black trenchcoat that could have come easily been imported from Transylvania.

The rooms, be it the Deluxe/Standard, Executive/Premium or the more decadent suites, also have a certain 18th century European feel to them. Furniture that conform to this theme like the small couch, the work desk, the lamp shades, the tall bed headboard, the closets and even the throw pillows add to this ambiance. I’m not sure if I stayed in each type of these rooms in the three different occasions that I stayed in The Scarlet since last year but I do remember each one as having a personality of its own.

A nice touch is the cigarette-shaped leather pouch included in each door of these rooms where the complimentary copies of The Strait Times is delivered every morning.

The Scarlet is actually only the second hotel that I ever stayed (the one is our very own Nami in Boracay) that includes a DVD player in each room. Original DVD’s of popular titles can also be borrowed for free at the reception counter. I know people don’t usually come to Singapore just to watch DVD’s but in the case of journalists like myself who never really find the time to watch our favorite flicks at home, I have to say that having one at the hotel is a good reason to while away your free and idle time there.

There’s also something cool about the way certain suites are named (i.e. Swank. Lavish, Opulent, Passion and Splendour) as well as other facilities like its bars and restaurant (Bold, Breeze and Desire), meeting room (Sanctum), open-air Jacuzzi (Soda), gym (Flaunt) and even the branded bathroom amenities (Flair).

Buffet breakfast at Desire is complimentary but only during the last day of your stay or just hours before check-out time. Other nice touches include nearby proximity to the Maxwell Road Hawkers Centre where you’ll find good food including some of the tastiest Hainanese Chicken Rice at very affordable prices, a 7-11 outlet in the building itself for other quick fixes including the same potato chips and snacks at the hotel’s mini-bar for more than half of its price. The S$1 instant mashed potato there is one thing I keep coming back for.

Although Wi-Fi internet is free, only guests who brought their own laptops are the ones that stand to benefit most from it. The hotel does have its own laptops for rentals but rates are pretty steep and availability might also be an issue. Fortunately, being located in the Chinatown area at 33 Erskine Road is also another plus for The Scarlet. not only was I able to shop for a lot of bargain pasalubong in Chinatown, I also found an internet rental station in one of the streets there that charges only S$1 (or about P30) an hour, by far the cheapest rate I encountered in Singapore.

Published room rates at The Scarlet don’t come cheap but the very five-star feel of the hotel’s facilities and yes, personalized service (the staff actually remembers returning guests like myself) makes the well-branded The Scarlet an ideal alternative to the Ritz Carlton and other posh high-risers in Singapore.

The Scarlet is located at 33 Erskine Road in Singapore. According to its Facebook page, the hotel is currently offering 50 percent discount on all suites until May 20 of this year. Photos for this blog post also taken from The Scarlet's Facebook page. 

An event for bloggers hosted by The Scarlet:

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