A couple months back, Intercontinental Singapore launched their Suite Surprise promotion. For just $388nett, guests get to enjoy a stay in a mystery suite (revealed only upon arrival) and club lounge benefits (inclusive of afternoon tea, evening canapes and cocktails, and an exclusive breakfast menu). On a normal day, booking their lowest-tier suite without the club lounge benefits already starts at about $300++, so this promotion seems pretty value-for-money.
Upon check-in, we got to spin a wheel to determine what suite we will get. We got a Heritage Suite, and I was pretty disappointed at first because I wanted a higher floor with better views. Even the check-in staff seemed to be “consoling” me by telling me the Heritage Suite is pretty. She was right though, the Suite was cosy and lovely in its own way, with a little alfresco front yard of our own. To find little outdoor spaces in a hotel building, I think that’s pretty cool! Also, we would never have discovered many nooks and crannies of the hotel if not for the fact that we stayed in the Heritage Suite (more details in “Exploring the Hotel” below.)
Curious blend of modern and traditional fixtures, think they did a pretty good job.
There is also a HDMI port for you to connect your electronic device to the smart TV, perfect for movie nights!
Also low-key love how they have 2 basins (apparently some of the bigger suites only have 1)
Only downside of the room is we were not allowed to open our windows or go into the balcony for security purposes 😦
Exploring the Hotel
The Heritage Suites were located deep inside the hotel at the Heritage Wing. There was a fair bit of walking from the lift lobby but it also promised more surprises.
Part of the Heritage Wing is this unique outdoor corridor, where you will see little traditional doors leading exclusively to each Heritage Suite. We thought it was quite a cool experience as we seemed to be returning to our little landed home with an outdoor yard.
Even though the hotel prizes itself in retaining its heritage and tradition, you would not feel that the furniture is dated at all, in fact it felt cosy yet classy.
Enjoyed every bit of the afternoon tea, we ordered the tea set to sample one of everything, and were able to order seconds for our favourite bites! Personally love the savoury beancurd skin with goji berries, and the chocolate tarts.
Evening Cocktails and Canapes
There were some hits and misses for their canapes selection, but I love how they deliberately dimmed the lights for a more relaxing atmosphere.
Guests with club lounge access can opt to have breakfast at either Ash & Elm or the Club Lounge, the latter having a wider menu. Of course, our choice is clear. Plus, what’s not to love about the spacious lounge with more than plenty of social distancing!
Overall, it was a great stay and service by IHG is impeccable as always. Hopefully we get a bigger suite next time!
Our recent staycation is at Sofitel Singapore City Centre, directly linked to Guoco Tower and Tanjong Pagar MRT in Singapore’s Central Business District. Albeit a little too physically close to my office tower, the cosy room and facilities offered a great mental respite and escape!
My favourite part about the hotel is its attention to the little details -think luggage-themed furniture and gigantic bears seated around the lobby lounge and restaurant. Perfect for a stuffed-toy lover like me!
Breakfast is no longer buffet-style, but we get to pick anything we want through a digital menu. We love that it is completely hassle-free, dishes get nicely plated and served pretty quickly to our tables.
Our favourite was the 3-course dinner at their in-house restaurant, Racines. Helmed by award-winning chef Jean-Charles Dubois, Racines’ edge lies in the fact that they serve both traditional French classics and timeless Chinese dishes. Apparently, they only use seasonal local produce and organically grown ingredients. The herbs used at the restaurant is harvested from the hotel’s very own herb garden. Needless to say, each dish was delish!
Our 3-course dinner was yums!
The hotel also offers an infinity pool – albeit with not much of a view. But you get to marvel at the architecture wonder that is Pinnacle @ Duxton – so that’s not too bad! They also have plenty of daybeds and a gym.
We also got a complimentary cheesecake for my birthday!
Overall it was a pleasant stay, though my only gripe is I am not sure why we were given one of the lowest floors despite it being an off-peak Monday and there were ostensibly not many occupants in the hotel. We also noticed from some platforms some got higher floors on special occasions their complimentary cake served on a nicely decorated plate but ours was just in a takeaway box… Of course as guests we are not automatically guaranteed such privileges, but it does make me curious as to the differential treatment.
I fell in love with Bath! People who came here generally had mixed comments, perhaps because Bath was not the first English town they visited. But, I really enjoyed my time so much I wish I stayed overnight.
- Free Walking Tour
If you are not staying over, you might not have time to see everything because of the fixed train hours. If so, I highly recommend the walking tour I did which will allow you to cover a lot of ground and history in a short time: Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides
This is the first walking tour I did is which is legitly free and no guide accepts a tip. You can tell the guides are doing it simply because they love their city. The walks are super popular with visitors and sometimes up to 100 people can gather at the starting point with four or five guides each setting off leading smaller groups. The guides are knowledgeable, entertaining, and made history come alive for me. I saw so many places of interest and the history behind which I would never have known about had I not taken this tour. It is also a brilliant way to get to hear the main points to research or tour further.
2. Sally Lunn’s
They are famous for the Bath delicacy the Sally Lunn Bun – the original Bath Bun, and while I was not very impressed with the lukewarm bun, it makes a good tea break in the afternoon. The interior is really cosy and there is a mini museum at the basement for the history buffs.
3. Explore the museums, shops and Bath Abbey
One of the key landmarks in Bath is the Bath Abbey. I did not go in because entrance fee was pricey (by London’s free museums standard), and it did not look very big. Nonetheless, the abbey gives off an imposing vibe, and I love how it seems to “look over” the whole of Bath. If you join the free walking tour, the guide will give you a description of the Abbey and the significance of the exterior, which was sufficient for me.
There are at least 10 museums within Bath itself, the most famous being the Roman Baths. There is also plenty of shopping and little food shops, because locals do stay here and there is a pretty huge university.
You really cannot get bored here!
Matcha and Hojicha, have been the “in” thing since about 2014.
But, who else has had this experience? I sometimes find myself ordering a Matcha latte in a random café or coffee chain, only to take a first sip and realise that something is off, or this is not the taste that I am looking for. The self-proclaimed “Matcha latte” either tastes like sugar overload or simply just milk with an artificial tinge of Matcha essence.
Think my worst experience is when I had to add water to a “Matcha latte” because it was cloyingly sweet to drink on its own. Pretty sure these options don’t give me the health benefits that real Matcha is supposed to offer! Real Matcha/Hojicha is really hard to find and this is why over time I don’t “anyhow” order a Matcha drink just because it’s in a menu, sad but true!
In fact, with so many coffee chains and cafes claiming to make Matcha-related drinks nowadays, do we actually have an idea what real Matcha or Hojicha tastes like?
One day, I had a friend who posted Craft Tea Fox’s bottled latte on his IG story and captioned “best latte ever” or something (can’t remember the exact words), and that intrigued me. Is it really that good? How good can bottled lattes taste? Then I saw the source of their ingredients, it says Uji, Japan. Ok, sounds legit, maybe it’s worth a try. I decided to buy 1 bottle of each flavour and for a lack of a better phrase, my sister and I never looked back. My sister asked me to buy the 6-lattes bundle for her as a gift and since then she has been comparing every matcha latte she drinks to Craft Tea Fox’s. I guess CTF became a benchmark, a very high one at that.
The Matcha latte boasts a creamy mouthfeel and slight bitterness.
Do you know that Matcha is the only suspension tea in the world? This means it does not ever fully dissolve. My favourite part is when prior to drinking, I shake the bottle slightly, and I can see it resulting in a creamy yet not overly milky suspension – this action in itself is quite therapeutic!
The milk to Matcha to sugar ratio is also well-balanced. I have a sweet tooth so this drink is really a best of both worlds in combining sweetness and fragrant bitterness. You also know straight away this is not made with cheap Matcha powder.
When I drink it, I have the urge to stand beside my window and look out and appreciate life.
I actually prefer the Hojicha latte as compared to the Matcha because of its sweeter yet earthy flavour. Think some may describe it as a “strong nutty” flavour but most importantly the latte remains light and smooth.
I tried the Matcha latte first before the Hojicha. And when I got to the Hojicha, it gives me the “this is the taste I am looking for” feeling even if I had not tried many other lattes.
You know the feeling when you found the one?
I am no tea expert, but the above is what I felt when drinking their lattes!
Anyway, I am particularly sensitive to caffeine, even drinking bubble tea can keep me up at night. But I personally found that the lattes act as a quick perk-me-up in the day but I can still sleep quite well at night. That’s a sure plus for me! Roasting supposedly reduces the caffeine content of the final brew so maybe those caffeine-sensitive like me can consider drinking the Hojicha instead.
I like how the lattes come in cute glass bottles with classy designs, which keeps my tummy and Instagram well-fed. They are also delivered chilled in Styrofoam boxes, and if you don’t want to keep the bottles you can return them to the courier for recycling. I also like that I can enjoy high quality lattes at the comforts of my home and without paying for service charge in a café. My only grumble is drinking one bottle at one time is not enough.
I got my regular dose of Craft Tea Fox lattes from here – there’s islandwide delivery in Singapore! They also have a subscription bundle that makes it easier and more affordable for you to incorporate it as part of your regular routine too!
I am a huge fan of Batam! Because of parental objection I am not able to go to Johor Bahru for a weekend getaway like most people. So Batam, to me, has been a great alternative all these years. Except for the more expensive transport (about $30 to-fro) to Batam, you get to enjoy cheap but amazing seafood, cafes and most importantly, the beach!
Here are the accommodations I’ve stayed in, ranked from 1st to 5th:
My favourite hotel in Batam! This is not your typical Batam beach resort. Even though it is not near the sea, it is precisely so that’s why the nightly rates are cheaper and might give you greater value for money. I love how it is very close to the main shopping areas and cafes, and has such an amazing view of the golf course from its executive lounge and pool.
I bought the hotel stay vouchers from Fave and wasn’t expecting much, but the entrance blew me away! The service was also really good, staff could speak English well and I love their buffet breakfast!
For me, the only downside is that unlike many hotels, their executive lounge is purely for business purposes and there is no executive club benefits which allow you to dine and enjoy tea in the lounge.
This is technically not on Batam Island but you have to get to Batam and take a 3/4 hour sampan ride to get here, but I assure you it is worth it! When I went in 2015 it was quite primitive (no 3G or wifi), and not as expensive as now, but that 3 days of disconnect till date still remain memorable to me. I remember just chilling at the hammocks, playing volleyball, board games and talking for hours. You also get to do a rope course, kayak and stand-up paddle boarding! And fishing, and jumping off their deck… too many to list. Would go back if the journey wasn’t so rabak.
This is a private island so there is a limit to the no. of people who can be on the island at any one time – Peace and tranquility a huge plus for me! I also recall the staff being very hospitable and friendly.
This resort shares the same beach as Turi Beach Resort (no.4) below, meaning you get to access water sports nearby but at the same time enjoy the peace and tranquility of this resort! It was very quiet when we went so it felt like we had the whole pool to ourselves. Service was also very good and their Indonesian ala carte dinner was glorious (though breakfast was simple). Memorable! Have been wanting to go back to support them but there’s just too many Batam hotels to explore.
Also I don’t have the pictures I took here, so here are some photos from other sources. Super picture-worthy!
This resort is perfect for water sports lovers! I went quite some years back but I recall that the water activities were varied and affordable. You can even do parasailing! This is a slightly more boisterous resort since the activities are catered towards kids and young people, but the chalets still offer plenty of privacy.
The pictures you get from this hotel are probably going to be the prettiest among the five, but I am ranking it last because it didn’t meet my expectations. We intentionally booked the hotel with club benefits but it turns out that the “lounge” was simply the same shared public space as their rooftop bar. The hotel is right beside the main road and the rooftop bar is also open-air, which means that it gets really noisy. Buffet breakfast is not as varied. There were also other grievances which I shall not air.
Perks are that this hotel is near to cafes and shopping areas, but unless you are here for the gram I would recommend the nearby Radisson intead.
Here are my top recommendations recommended by locals and guides I’ve met. Most of them are within walking distance from one another.
- Bodegas Las Mancha
One of my free walking tour guides introduced this place. PLEASE ORDER THIS THING IN THE PICTURE! (I have no idea what it is called.)
2. Bar La Sitarilla
Granada is the city of free tapas. When you order a drink at the bar, a free tapa arrives at your table together with your drink. Even though they are free, they are still so delicious! I came into this bar and it was crowded with locals, which is a good sign. But I felt super overwhelmed because I was the only Asian and you basically had to fight for the bartender’s attention to order. PLUS there was an ala carte menu which I thought was the only way to order. In the end 2 couples helped me, 1 pair told me that actually I can ignore that menu, just order a drink and it will come with a “mystery” tapa (which was very filling for me). The other pair invited me to sit with them. I ordered 2 drinks, and that’s how I spent 4 euros for a filling dinner.
3. Los Italianos
Somehow the locals really love this ice cream shop. There are so many flavours you will be spoilt for choice!
I recall spending less than 15 euros everyday in Granada. I had free breakfast at my hostel, mainly did free walking tours (you can offer the guides a stipend of any amount) and ordered 2-euros-Sangrias that came with tapas. If you want to save money in Europe, come to Granada.
For ideas on what to see in Granada, click here!