By Mili Semlani
The whiff of fresh pastry set against spicy laksa; tiled walls with a unique blend of Chinese, Malay and Indian influences and the string of colourful houses sprinkled with artsy boutiques and age-old eateries, made Katong the most cultural district in Singapore. As I walked past pastel-coloured houses on Joo Chiat road, I started to like Singapore.
A walk down memory lane
A few hours were not enough to enjoy this neighbourhood and to truly live the experience I walked into the newly-opened Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong. Promising to recreate the feel of a typical Peranakan-style home, they had weaved the local culture throughout the hotel in many ways.
A mere 15-minute drive from Changi Airport, Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong was easy to spot. The hotel opened with a local piece of heritage true to Hotel Indigo’s signature style. What most locals wished to avoid then, the Joo Chiat Police Station-turned-restaurant, Baba Chews was slowly becoming a hit with Singaporeans and tourists alike.
But the real neighbourhood was further inside. Greeted by a collage of intricate Peranakan ceramic patterns, colourful pop-art renditions of water jars, art murals and a bright table; the lobby depicted the laidback, communal lifestyle of Katong. A pop-up ‘mama stall’ reminiscent of small convenience stalls often located in housing estates of the 1960s, doubled up as an in-house souvenier store with local artisans’ crafts.
Living the Peranakan life
Resonating a narrow but long Peranakan home, the rooms were quaint. Effectively propped with fusion furniture– a carrom board coffee table, batik print couch and pop coloured furniture; they exemplified the Peranakan love for bright colours. The spa-style baths laced with characteristic Peranakan tiles had a fantastic view of the Katong neighbourhood. The traditional cabinet stocked all the basic supplies, but the addition of local Singaporean candy was quite a nostalgic surprise. And the street-life graffiti on the walls made sure I was in good company all night.
Overlooking the low-lying houses of Katong, the rooms managed to integrate even the most discrete elements of the Peranakan life. The chamber pot, common to Cantonese and Peranakan culture interestingly, doubled up as a bin under the wastafel. Every tiny detail in the room told a little story of the Katong lifestyle in the 60’s. The DIY foot soak tub with a signature ‘Good Morning’ towel, was all I needed after a long hunt for the best Laksa on Joo Chiat. Hotel Indigo’s attention to detail and small efforts made sure I absorbed the Peranakan feel and returned home with an authentic experience.
While the 24-hour gym was called for after the pastry tasting at Chin Mee Chin Confectionery, I ditched it for a relaxing dip in the rooftop infinity pool overlooking the cultural enclave that Katong was. That was a great way to map the district in my head before I explored more of the bylanes. I borrowed suggestions off Hotel Indigo’s friendly staff and set out to enjoy the heritage neighbourhood after a hearty breakfast at Baba Chews.
Hotel Indigo’s guide to Katong.