Looking for some cool Singapore hotels? Expat Living’s Lara Sage recounts two recent stays: The Barracks in Sentosa, Singapore’s very own island retreat, and Oasia Hotel Downtown in Tanjong Pagar. Both included some unexpected discoveries!
#1 The Barracks in Sentosa, Singapore
The Barracks Hotel Sentosa is steeped in the charm of two conserved colonial buildings previously occupied by the British Army. Carriage lanterns decorate the outdoor walkways, giving a sense of days gone by. The landscape is accentuated by palm trees and water features.
This Sentosa hotel is a romantic and secluded place for a getaway. The leather and copper trimmings of the interiors are tasteful with a touch of masculinity, and there are all the comforts you’d expect of a luxurious stay, including inviting bathrooms with large bathtubs. Lower rooms open onto the pool; some even have a jacuzzi to step right into.
The location of The Barracks near Imbiah sky train station means you can conveniently explore Sentosa. Additionally, the adjacent Mess Hall, synonymous with colonial Singapore, offers a range of different eating experiences. Also, don’t miss the hotel’s complimentary in-house cocktails and canapés – and make the most of the fabulous breakfast with authentic local and international choices. All feature exquisite flavours befitting a place of this calibre.
Guided tours of Sentosa, Singapore’s past and more
The Barracks is a Sentosa hotel that marries the quiet comfort of the property itself with something very different: expert-guided tours of Singapore that leave guests with nostalgic experiences to retell beyond the hotel staycation itself.
The Heritage Safari Experience is a two-night offer that gives you a chance to see Singapore’s colonial past. You’ll explore cultural heartlands and hawker culture through specially curated excursions included in your stay.
There are two excursion options. The Colonial Architecture Tour explores the black-and-white buildings that were home to the British armed forces last century. These include the key spots of Fort Siloso, Mount Imbiah, Seletar Estate, Gillman Barracks and also Dempsey Hill. At the latter, you’ll learn about the evolution of the area from a nutmeg plantation to military barracks, and the retail and dining destination of today.
Exploring these historical sites by jeep, the main mode of transport for British soldiers back in the day, makes for a bona fide experience. We travelled in a trendier version of the vehicle, which was a welcome addition (as was the aircon!). You also get the complimentary novelty of a tailor-made colonial shirt for your Heritage Safari.
The other option is the Cultural Gems Theme. Four different itineraries trace Singapore’s multicultural heritage through the city’s ethnic enclaves. They include Chinatown (with a private Chinese tea appreciation workshop), Kampong Glam (offering the opportunity to create a batik masterpiece) and Katong (where you’ll have a go at making popiah skin and visit a Peranakan chef’s house).
Exploring Tiong Bahru
We chose the Tiong Bahru tour – a perfect introduction for a visitor, or a refresher for a seasoned expat. The excursion began with visiting the famed marketplace alive with fruit, flowers and all the colourful flavours of this uniquely Singaporean culture.
Next, we strolled through the adjacent housing estate dating to the 1920s and built in the Art Deco style; it was an enjoyable reminder of an era where popular design was characterised by geometric or stylised forms and aerodynamic curves. Here, you can see architecture being influenced by technology – the sleek designs of planes, trains, automobiles and luxury ships are incorporated into the structures, reflecting the surge in travel in that era.
It was heartwarming to hear that this housing estate was declared protected in 2003 and will forever showcase this heritage. A professional photographer guided us and shared tips on capturing great angles while taking guests around the picturesque neighbourhood. We particularly enjoyed the murals along the way.
Of course, after an informative and interesting day out, we welcomed returning to the luxurious comforts of The Barracks Hotel.
2 Gunner Lane, Palawan Ridge, Sentosa Singapore Island
A downtown hotel in Singapore – Oasia hotel
Towering amongst skyscrapers is the impressive, eye-catching Oasia Hotel Downtown by Far East Hospitality. From nearby Tanjong Pagar, the red building stands juxtaposed against the skyline of neighbourhood shophouses.
The varying shades of the Oasia hotel’s red metalwork reach skywards. Architecturally, it feels akin to a Jenga tower, as if “blocks” have been removed to create open outdoor spaces on the upper floors.
Nature and design
There’s also an attention to wellness in the design. The Oasia hotel in Singapore is covered in 21 creepers that flower at different times of the year. This adds continuous interest as well as an organic touch. (A butterfly even passed me by on the 27th floor!)
Geometric patterns abound in the design and décor. For instance, outdoor turquoise features reflect the colours of the inviting rooftop pools. From those two pools, the views stretch in every direction, out to sea and also inland. Tranquillity pods beckon and loungers set in the water offer a peaceful way to trail your hands and feet in the cool water. You quickly forget you’re in the heart of the city!
Therein lies another delight in this staycation in Singapore – the proximity of sights and landmarks. Our all-inclusive Club Stay experience at Oasia included the novelty of complimentary bikes that we cycled on to nearby Chinatown. It was a fun and also effective way to explore the area. Only a stone’s throw from Maxwell Food Centre, Club Street and Ann Siang Hill, the area also offers countless places to eat out.
Our room overlooked the red rooftops of Chinatown. It’s the perfect location for a holiday, business trip or staycation, in an evocative building. The room’s lampshades and wooden trimmings echoed the hotel’s exoskeleton. A desk was on hand for any work commitments, and the bathtub offered a view of the TV for those who enjoy a leisurely soak. Plus, there are quirky sliding doors for privacy.
A last word
Finally, our all-rounded staycation in Singapore also extended to complimentary yoga and other wellness offerings. There are even aqua spin classes, plus superfoods and special dietary options available in the Club Lounge. You can also head to the Lounge for canapés and cocktails in the evenings.
This was such a satisfactory stay that I hanker to try the other Oasia properties. They certainly seem to have this one just right!
100 Peck Seah Street | oasiahotels.com
This article first appeared in the October 2022 edition of Expat Living. To read about more Sentosa hotels and Tanjong Pagar highlights, buy the latest issue or subscribe!
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