Sometimes, you just know it when you see it. Like those who don’t know their Merlots from their Cabernet Sauvignons know that they love the glass of red wine in their hand, or those who aren’t gear heads just know they found the right car as soon as they take it for a test drive. That’s how we feel about design hotels, which we find can be very hit or miss, often times more flashy design than substance.
Difficult to find even with a local cabbie, we finally located the hotel in the backstreets of Singapore’s Little India district. From the minute we walked in to the Wanderlust (til the minute we left) we knew that this hotel was IT!
Emitting a funky, artsy vibe from the start, this hotel is not just a design lover’s hotel. The Wanderlust is truly a traveler’s hotel and though not travel-themed, the first thing I notice is right outside hanging above the entrance. It is a tiled antique lamp on which ‘Tourist Rooms’ is written in blue ink. It inspires a feeling of traveling through Turkey or Greece a century ago, giving away nothing of the sharp, intelligent and modern design just through the sliding glass door.
As we walk in, there is no lobby, per se. The ground floor, designed in pure industrial, recycle-chic is dedicated to French-themed bar and restaurant Cocette. We sit in seats refashioned from antique barber chairs and shopping carts, take photos of the Indian food labels on the wall and flip through a coffee table book with marvelous pictures of, you guessed it, design hotels around the world. But, it is after a few minutes, when our room is ready and we are in the elevator, that I realize that the Wanderlust hotel and the GlobetrotterGirls are kindred spirits.
I am glancing through the ‘Wanderlust Itinerary’ which holds our room key. The booklet looks like a passport, though with the red, white and blue stripes of old time ‘Air Mail’ envelopes. Inside, one page is dedicated to tips on taking local, public transportation (we are within an 8-minute walk from two metro stations and loads of buses), another lists simple, local Indian places to eat in the area, while others have maps, and information about Singapore and the neighborhood. With mid-range to high room rates (starting at $125 a night), it would be easy for this award-winning design hotel to recommend dinner at the Marina Bay Sands or other luxury establishments (of which there are many in Singapore) and offer to call over-priced taxis for guests who wish to remain inside a luxury bubble. Instead, this hotel respects true travelers. People who, while willing to pay more for a hotel that is a true sanctuary, also want to get out and explore the local aspects of the city. People just like us. This simple detail, this ‘Itinerary’ spoke volumes about the ethos of the Wanderlust, and won our respect immediately.
Our room is like nothing we have ever stayed in before.
Entirely black and white, the walls are covered in black and white sketches, backlit. Above our bed on the wall is a canopy, perfect in this ‘Princess’ room, and although it is obvious that the staircase and ceiling fan are purely decoration, in my morning daze the next day I do tug on the bedside table drawer to see if I can really open it. I can’t, of course, and I giggle at my silliness. The lighting and sketches create such an other-worldly feel, we have no interest in even opening the curtains. It would just ruin our limited time living inside this cartoon.
Singaporean hotel owner Loh Lik Peng collaborated with four local design agencies to create this 29-room boutique hotel.The result is three distinctly different room types. The Mono rooms like ours, Pantone, where each room one single hue and nine ‘Whimsical’ lofts, which are more like exhibits at an art museum than hotel. Hard to choose a favorite style, we do find that an all-neon green or all-red room might be hard on the eyes after a night or two.
There are a few constants. The incredible beds (which did not fit in my luggage on the way out, unfortunately) flat screen TVs, iPhone/iPod docking stations and the bathrooms, which are made up of two gray tiled stalls – one with a rain shower and the other with the toilet, a complete set of Kiehl’s toiletries, a white pedestal sink and an external closet, complete with a hair dryer, white bathrobes and fuzzy slippers.
Remember the good old days of travel when all your non-alcoholic drinks were complimentary on your flight? Well, this is still alive at well at the Wanderlust. The mini-bar stocks complimentary bottles of water, cans of coke and diet coke, and little tin cups (like the ones that used to come in a packed lunch) of apple, orange and pineapple juices, but it is the Nespresso machine that win our hearts the most. Sipping strong coffee in our fluffy white robes, we relax before heading out to explore Little India. Just as one coffee becomes two (oops…but it’s Nespresso!!) there is a knock at the door. Two smiling employees have come to drop off our afternoon snack. Five delicious cookies arrived, unrequested, which go perfectly with our coffee. How many hotels have offered us bottled water for $4, or beer/gin in a mini-bar at triple the price of a restaurant – and yet here is the Wanderlust, treating us as true guests, making sure we are happy with absolutely no upsell. Though our room wasn’t noisy, we appreciated the earplugs in case of noise from the construction site next door.
After a dip in the rainbow Jacuzzi outside on the second floor that night, we slept like babies, and woke up just in time for breakfast, which ranks as one of the best hotel breakfasts we’ve ever had.
Realistically, the incredible design of the Wanderlust is impossible to miss, but it is the breakfast that impresses us the most. Included in the room rate, this breakfast not only offers phenomenal value for money, but it is exactly the way we would serve it if we ever ran our own hotel. Just seconds after sitting downstairs, we are served coffee and warm breakfast rolls and croissants to nibble on while choosing a main item (omelets, fruits, pancakes) and then are encouraged to head over to the amazing selection of goodies on the table behind us. Dozens of healthy cereals are available to choose from, along with healthy extras such as wheat germ, almond slices, raisins, fried fruits, sunflower seeds, etc, to make a true power breakfast. There are also two loaves of freshly baked bread, coffee and tea pot refills, fresh orange juice, fresh jams and soft butter. By the time breakfast comes we are already full, but the fluffy omelet and fruit salad are so delicious, we somehow manage to finish it all.
The Wanderlust makes free wi-fi available, but only one password per room. Similar to other couples, we have four internet-ready devices (laptops, smartphone, Kindle) and would expect to be able to use them all at a hotel of this caliber.
The Wanderlust is a trendy, inspirational hotel that offers excellent service and great value for money in one of Singapore’s most interesting locations. Like just the right glass of wine, or the perfect car, we knew right away that this hotel is just about perfect for travelers.
Location: 2 Dickson Road, Singapore 209494
Price: Starting at $195 per double room
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: If wi-fi passwords are provided for all devices, yes.
Amenities: Jacuzzi, free wi-fi, cable TV, Nespresso machine, complimentary (non-alcoholic) mini bar, fridge, iPod docking station, air-conditioning, restaurant, breakfast included in room rate
You can find all our photos of the Wanderlust Hotel on Flickr.