I’m just stepping into the Holiday Inn Singapore Little India when the taxi driver whose crooning of the Bee Gees had formed the soundtrack all the way from Changi Airport calls after me. Bilal had enthusiastically shared his passion for both the Gibbs brothers and betel nuts on the drive in equal measure. ("The Bee Gees make me happy! I am in disbelief you’ve never tried betel nuts!") Now it seems, he is equally enthusiastic about offering me a handful of his precious bounty to take inside the hotel.
"These help with stayin’ alive in lots of ways," he says, as he waggles his eyebrows at his own joke and as if to explain "lots of ways". As Bilal has already ticked off his top three betel nut health benefits ("indigestion, constipation and stopping many unfortunate trips to the bathroom"), I’m pretty sure that whatever concerns he may have for my digestive tract after a flight from Sydney, the contents of the twist of paper he now presses into my palm is his answer to them all.
He is eager to get to his next fare and so my "I’ll let you know if I get Saturday night fever" is lost as the hotel doors shut behind me.
By now, I’ve swapped the humidity and bustle of outside for the coolness and calm of the hotel lobby. Aircon bathes me in an iced veil of relief. The click of heels on marble floors beat the age-old rhythm of luxury to welcome and comfort the travel weary. Right now, that’s me.
Holiday Inn Singapore Little India’s room with a view
No matter. A smiling and efficient check in at reception, a cold-pressed juice from Soul Brew in the hotel’s brand-new lobby lounge, a quick glance at the e-bar as a place to open my laptop later and I’m on my way to my room with a view.
And what a view it is.
Set on the highest level of the hotel, expansive floor-to-ceiling windows frame the cityscape. There’s the juxtaposition of sleek glass buildings tickling the clouds alongside age-old Hindu and Chinese temples, mosques and churches of the vibrant Little India district.
Colorful murals lend the streets a permanent air of celebration
In the 1840s, Europeans lived here mainly for the racecourse which was the hub for entertainment and socializing. Later, the proximity to the Serangoon River meant cattle trading took off and with the hiring of migrant workers, gradually the area became best known for what it is today; a hive of flower-garland vendors, modern restaurants, boutique hotels and art projects.
The bohemian vibe means Little India is home to many artists. Examples of their work are everywhere and colorful murals lend the streets a permanent air of celebration.
Located right by Farrer Park MRT Station, Holiday Inn Singapore Little India is an easy ride to the city center and I’m tempted to drop my bags and explore immediately – if not the CBD, then the multicultural mix of Serangoon Road on the hotel’s doorstep. But my inbox is bulging and for now, it’s time to power up my laptop.
Lofty living for work and play
While the Holiday Inn Singapore Little India’s Sky Loft room isn’t huge, there is still plentiful space to work, relax watching one of the two widescreen TVs or climb the stairs to reach an expansive, pillowy bed. The room’s high ceilings add to the sense of light and space.
Outside, the Lion City continues in its scrupulously clean, ordered and unfailingly polite kind of way
These duplex loft apartments cater for up to two adults and a child (there’s a roll-away bed for youngsters on the lower lounge level giving the grown-ups privacy and the kids their space) which is handy if you’re combining work with a family trip. There’s also the all-important fact that children under 12 stay and eat free which is even more handy if they have hollow legs and endlessly empty stomachs like mine do.
I consider the plump cushions of the sofa on which to relax but then opt for reclining on the queen size bed in the loft area instead from which I can keep on top of my emails and enjoy the panorama of this city state spread out below. I also consider the betel nuts but with a silent thanks-all-the-same to the undeniably generous Bilal, the room’s tea and coffee-making facilities prove to be far more inviting.
The business of luxury
Inbox deftly slashed and burned to a more manageable size, I soon decide that choosing to stay in a Sky Loft room at the Holiday Inn Singapore Little India is less like your usual hotel room stay and more akin to opting for a cool New York loft experience – albeit safe in the knowledge that outside, the Lion City continues in its scrupulously clean, ordered and unfailingly polite kind of way.
Laptop closed, I join those at the alfresco bar by the outdoor pool which entices those who wish to sample an aperitif before dinner coupled with a sky-high swim. It’s here that I contemplate what it is exactly about the Holiday Inn Singapore Little India that’s working for me as a traveler who’s here to do business.
The hotel staff are attentive and seemingly appear the moment just before you realize you need them
The atmosphere is at once luxurious but bright and modern too. There’s no stuffiness but the hotel staff are attentive and seemingly appear the moment just before you realize you need them. The open lobby allows for both socializing and informal business meetings and there are a multitude of spaces in which to work if you need to, play if you want to. It’s… easy.
Dusk falls fast in Singapore and now stars glimmer in competition with the bright lights of the surrounding tower blocks. I resolve to head out on foot to explore before it gets too late. Pockets checked for room pass and wallet, I note the twist of paper with its contents of purple nuggets that Bilal loves so much.
Who knows? I may just get a taste for betel nuts as much as I have for this hotel haven.