For a variety of reasons, this year has me re-thinking my priorities when I travel. I am predominantly a leisure traveler, though I usually let the blog dictate decisions about how I travel. In particular, I’ve often avoided smaller or independent hotels because they don’t tie into the rewards and loyalty programs that so many readers are interested in.
Yet some of my most memorable experiences have been at exactly this type of property. Maybe I should be chasing those experiences more than I do a flashy card — this is possible to do while still using miles to book my flights. I don’t have an answer to that dilemma yet, but I do want to share one such experience at the New Majestic Hotel in Singapore.
As a reminder, I traveled as a guest of the Singapore Tourism Board earlier this year. They paid for all my expenses, but they did not request or review any of my content prior to publication. For those of you getting tired of this disclaimer, this is the last post I plan to write from that trip. For those who are just joining the conversation, here are the earlier posts in this scattered trip report:
- Behind the Scenes at Singapore’s Changi Airport
- Eating Well in Singapore
- Off the Beaten Path in Singapore
- Revisiting Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay
- Discovering Singapore’s Peranakan Culture at the Intan
- Review: Raffles Hotel Presidential Suite
Singapore is a giant, urban metropolis. Although it doesn’t feel as dense as Manhattan, sometimes it seems that skyscrapers and shopping malls are all there is. The major luxury brands certainly reinforce that feeling, whether you stay along Orchard Road or Marina Bay.
But the island has a surprising amount of older construction that hasn’t felt the heavy hand of development. I’m a big fan of the zoo. Pulau Ubin is a convenient nearby island that now serves as a nature preserve. And Chinatown still has several blocks of two- and three-story buildings. On the south end of China Town, down narrow Bukhit Paso Road, is the New Majestic Hotel.
The New Majestic is part of a network, the Unlisted Collection, but you wouldn’t know it during your visit. Each room in this former row house is uniquely decorated by local artists. Away from any high traffic streets, I found it a very calm place to rest between activities with the tourism board. At the same time, it was within easy walking distance of Chinatown and the Maxwell Hawker Centre if I felt like exploring or getting a bite to eat.
My “Premier Pool” room on the second floor had a cat/Arabian Nights theme, which probably biased me because I love cats. The foot of the bed contained a television stand and shelf, and beyond that was the washing area with a sink, shower, and toilet. Bath amenities were provided by Khiel’s, though the hand soap was a large refillable pump.
The bathroom didn’t offer much privacy beyond the frosted glass around the toilet, so keep this in mind if you’re traveling with an unfamiliar companion. Personally, I was more annoyed by the television in the middle of the room.
What won me over were two other unusual features. The far wall contained a set of Dutch doors opening onto a large private patio with its own soaking tub. If you think this is a fluke, it turns out eight of the 12 rooms on that floor have this private patio. The other four are larger suites that look out over the front street.
The second cool feature was that the near wall had a combination closet and desk with a mobile phone to use during my stay. (There was also a Nespresso machine, which is critical when trying to fight jet lag.)
The phone is actually the idea of Handy, a Hong Kong-based company company that you can also find at the Hotel Icon in that city. My Handy phone was a Samsung S6 that included free calls and free data throughout my stay. I could call my wife without the inconvenience of Skype and even used it as a mobile hot spot when I preferred my own mobile phone to access email and Twitter. But Handy had some built-in apps that provided suggestions on nearby restaurants and activities.
If your room doesn’t come with an outdoor patio, the center courtyard has a pool and gym. Singapore is so hot and humid sometimes (all the time) that it’s nice to have a place to cool off during a mid-day break.
As I said, it’s a small hotel and a little out of the way. But that was the point. I enjoyed being off the beaten path of Singapore on this trip, much of which was spent seeing, tasting, and experiencing things I hadn’t before despite two previous visits to Singapore. I’m glad options like this still exist.
Rates at the New Majestic are as low as $142 for an upcoming weekend in September and include free Internet and breakfast, though I’d rather walk down the street to the hawker market and eat with the Singaporeans. For those interested in a more local experience with great amenities, I think the New Majestic deserves consideration.