Above: A ‘pantone’ room on level 2.
Property name: Wanderlust Hotel
Where: Singapore’s Little India neighborhood
Street address: 2 Dickson Road
Rates: In the US$150 to $220 range
Singapore-based Unlisted Collection, the hotel and restaurant group behind Wanderlust, focuses on design-driven properties that fall outside the norm. The hotels tend to be radical in design but set in lovingly restored heritage buildings. Wanderlust occupies a 1920s school building. “Fiercely quirky” might be a good way to describe the company’s attitude. Besides three in Singapore (Wanderlust, Hotel 1929, and New Majestic), the company has hotels in Shanghai and London. Wanderlust is a member of Design Hotels, and it was chosen for our 2010 Luxe List. Read the entry for the latter here, and check out our interview with David Lama of Design Hotels here. Following is a more detailed review of Wanderlust.
Each level of this four-floor hotel was given over to a different design firm. Not only are no two floors the same, but no two rooms are the same either. If you could inspect every room before your stay, you’d surely identify one that for whatever reason holds special appeal for you. Of course you can’t, so there’s a good chance you’ll miss what would have been your favorite. Alas, quirkiness leaves much to chance.
The pantone-themed second level features compact capsule rooms dominated by one loud color—it isn’t for everyone, but they’re the cheapest rooms and certainly are an interesting experience. (Or experiment—how does staying in a bright yellow room affect one’s mood?)
The mostly black-and-white third level features rooms inspired by the theme of paper, whether it’s origami or pop art. The fourth-floor loft rooms, with high ceilings, are the biggest and to most folks probably the most interesting. Each room has friendly “monsters” to keep guests company. In the Typewriter room, the long-armed keys of a giant manual typewriter spring out from behind the sofa, ready to strike.
Staying in a hotel like this generally requires a sense of humor. If you’re in the mood for luxury, spaciousness, and predictability, the city has plenty of top-tier chain hotels that can provide that. Sometimes, though, it’s refreshing to stay in a unique, quirky property.
The lobby is just as off-beat as the rooms, with an industrial glam theme and old-fashioned barber-shop chairs to relax in. The wall next to the cashier features Indian product labels from the kinds of goods you might buy in the surrounding shops.
Food and Drink
Behind the lobby is a popular and unpretentious French restaurant called Cocotte, with mismatched chairs and inexpensive servings of braised baby squid, escargot gougeres, and chocolate souffle cake. Breakfast here is free for guests. In a nice touch, the hotel provides guests with a passport-themed guide to the neighborhood’s bars, shops, and restaurants. We wish more hotels would celebrate their neighborhoods like this, rather than not mention potential competition to the in-house offerings. Then again, Little India has few if any other inexpensive French restaurants.
You won’t find much in the way of facilities here—no pool, fitness center, tennis courts, or the like. There is, however, a jacuzzi on the second floor.
The hotel offers free and fast wi-fi, an iPod docking station, and even a Nespresso coffee machine.
Exploring the Area
The Little India area of Singapore is arguably its most interesting. Step out from the lobby and you’re soon in a world quite different than the rest of the city-state, a bit less clean perhaps but full of bustling shops, the scent of Indian spices, and great little restaurants that have been serving home-sick Indians for generations.
The Little India MRT subway station is a short walk from the hotel and can connect you to most anywhere in the city. Finding a taxi from the hotel can be a challenge depending on luck and the time of day, so order one ahead if need be.
This hotel is not right for everyone—or rather, not right for every situation. You won’t see many guests wearing ties and frowns and carrying a brief case. But it is right for anyone in the right frame of mind. Bring along your sense of humor, sense of adventure, and craving for something different and you’ll love this delightfully unique property. Quick: how many stays in standard hotels can you recall?