Above: The suite’s bedroom, with subdued Peranakan stylings.
Property name: InterContinental Singapore
Where: Bugis Junction neighborhood
Street address: 80 Middle Road, Singapore 188966
Rates: About US$400 per night
The Shophouse Suites at the Intercontinental Singapore were refurbished last year, so we made a mental note to try them out when the opportunity arose.
In their previous incarnation, noise from the air-conditioned, pedestrians-only street outsideâ€”essentially a street that’s morphed into a shopping centerâ€”made the suites noisier than less expensive rooms on higher levels. This was a shame because the hotel is rich in Peranakan heritage, which is best enjoyed from the shophouse section.
The suites overlook street level because Peranakan shopkeepers lived on the upper floors of their businesses. Today you can look out of the suite windows, with their charming wooden shutters, and imagine what life was like when the scene outside was slightly dustier than today.
We’re happy to report the sound insulation has indeed been vastly improved: You can barely hear anything from the walkway outside, which now closes at night in any case. But the redesign went deeper than that, with subtle improvements all around. The suites today are a beautiful blend of modern restraint and subtle Peranakan styling, high-tech convenience and old-world charm.
For instance the solid wooden desk is complemented by a discreet iPod docking station, the plush living room sofa by Bose surround-sound and a 46-inch LED TV. But the modern conveniences don’t detract from the dark wood floors, ornate rugs, and Peranakan-style furniture, artifacts, and lattice work that transport you back to a more stately time, when things were built to last and be appreciated for their artistry. At the same time, the period touches are nicely understated and feel natural.
Of course you can find lesser hotels in Singapore that are housed in former Peranakan shophouses, but the advantage here is that you get both the heritage aspects and the luxury levels of the InterContinental. Good luck finding a bed comparable to the famously comfy ones at InterContinental, for example.
The location is convenient, with anything you’re likely to need in walking distance. The hotel connects to the Bugis Junction shopping center, which itself links to a subway station a few levels downâ€”with dozens of stores and eateries along the way. From the shopping center you can cross North Bridge Road to narrow, shophouse-lined streets like Liang Seah that are full of lively cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Coming back into the hotel, you pass through a grand, high-ceiling lobby lounge that is graced by beautiful Peranakan artwork, fixtures, and furnitureâ€”and begin your journey back in time.
These refurbished suites are hard to beat for their blend of stately Peranakan heritage, location, and modern comfort and convenience.