In 2005, Japanese fashion label Comme des Garcons sparked new life on Haji Lane when it opened a guerrilla store in a tiny lifeless row of shophouses used to store textiles.
What came over the next decade was a horde of hip businesses from independent clothing brands to customised cocktail bars. Slowly, they fanned out of Haji Lane and took over chunks of the precinct, sitting alongside traditional Malay, Indonesian and Arab cultural landmarks like the Istana Kampong Glam and the Sultan Mosque.
It marked the start of trending neighbourhoods and the end of the Orchard Road shopping belt as the only spot to unwind. Now, it seem like the area’s transformation has reached a gleaming pinnacle.
Enter Andaz Singapore, a 342-room luxury property perched in Duo – a pair of skyscrapers that also houses offices, retail and residences.
The hotel is 20 minutes away from Changi Airport by car if you’re arriving from abroad. It’s hard to miss the building once you’re in the area. The twin skyscrapers have a distinct concave shape and if you arrive at night, the entire building glows with lights designed to resemble a honeycomb.
Otherwise, it’s a walking distance from Bugis MRT and is in fact, linked via an underground passageway. To check in, head up to the 25th floor and the hotel staff will be on hand to receive you.
Special mention needs to be made of the design. Andaz Singapore is hardly the only hotel in Bugis but it’s the only one that goes to great lengths to incorporate the history and design elements of the area. After all, even the name of the neighbourhood, Bugis, is derived from a sea-faring community in Indonesia, reflecting on the immigrant nature of the precinct’s historical residents.
This fact has been interpreted and implemented in plush ways by award-winning interior designer Andre Fu. Textiles, carpets, furniture and even doors are given this treatment – the lifts for instance feature a texture made to resemble a weave while doors in the rooms open out like shophouse windows.
Everywhere else in the hotel, wood in a walnut stain is seen in furnishings and walls; redolent of Southeast Asia’s traditional houses. That in itself is refreshing and makes us wonder why it wasn’t done earlier. After all, plenty of Singaporeans holiday in nearby beach resorts where the décor is unmistakably tropical, with strong wood accents.
The design thread continues into the rooms but here, everything is geared to your comfort. The floor-to-ceiling windows for instance allow ample daylight and a couch is placed right next to it should you feel like cosying up for a read.
The colours here are warm – think brown, mustard yellow and earthy hues that juxtapose against the inviting whiteness of a plush king-sized bed. Bathroom doors open to a generously sized space that’s further divided into two – the toilet and the shower. If it’s a bathtub you’re after, then book a Suite and above, but otherwise, the Standard, Accessible and View rooms would more than suffice for refreshing showers.
The trio of shower gel, shampoo and hair balm has been specially created by French perfumer Christoph Laudamiel, featuring tropical scents that blend orchids with orange blossoms, cloves and ginger lilies.
Still, we’ve saved the best for last: the in-room minibar (at least the non-alcoholic option) is complimentary. It feels like a real treat as in an age where hotels are increasingly removing the minibar, Andaz Singapore awards its guests with quality snacks like nut bars and fruity drinks by San Pellegrino.
Up for a good drink? Award winning Atlas Bar with its cavernous art deco interiors is just across the road.
Still, that doesn’t mean that the hotel is bereft of F&B outlets. In fact, it’s selection of restaurants and Mr Stork, its rooftop bar only makes the precinct that much sexier.
All day dining venue, Alley on 25 is where it’s happening and it’s here that the hotel breakfast is served. Expect a decent spread of fruit, small breads and yoghurt to accompany a breakfast menu that’s prepared ala minute.
One of the things we loved the most about the hotel’s amenities is quite frankly, the gym. Sure there’s an infinity pool along with several sun decks but when it comes to functionality, the gym is what truly matters.
This is no ordinary hole in the wall space that some hotels have, severely limiting what you can do. Instead, there are weights machines, benches, free-weights and even a smith machine for your compound movements. Up for some cardio? There are four treadmills for guests to utilise.
Despite the fact that Singapore is saturated with hotels of every stripe, Andaz Singapore has managed to hold its own. Its location has provided fertile ground for design inspiration and it’s clearly one wielded to great effect.
The rooms are plush and comfortable, the service is heartfelt and unpretentious and our stay overall was deeply rejuvenating.