Friday, September 19, 2014

A Uniquely Singapore Staycation: Hotel Clover The Arts

Sponsored Review

The Mid Autumn Festival just passed us by and while we usually do not celebrate the festival in a big way, I thought it would be nice to soak ourselves in the whole joyous celebration and the best place to do that is of course Chinatown! It was so apt that we were invited to review Hotel Clover The Arts, which is near Chinatown area, so last week, we had our first staycation in Chinatown. We’ve stayed at many big luxurious hotels with huge lobbies, but it was our first time staying at a much smaller scale boutique hotel. It was a rather unique experience, I would say.

When you step into Hotel Clover The Arts, don’t expect anything too grand. The hotel’s focus (as its name suggests) is on the arts. Throughout the hotel interiors (and some parts of the exteriors), you will be able to spot one-of-a-kind spray art pieces created by independent professional artist, Ceno2, and many of which depict significant landmarks in Singapore. I imagine that if I am a tourist in Singapore and staying at the hotel, I would be very intrigued and drawn in by the whole uniquely-Singapore feel.

Let me bring you on a visual gastronomical experience round Hotel Clover The Arts!

The Lobby

The lobby is very small but that small space is splashed with so many colors and graphics. I totally love those patch fabric armchairs! I’m sure you would recognize the significant landmark of Singapore on the wall because that was the first thing my kids pointed out to me when we stepped in.

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Breakfast Area

Next to the lobby is the breakfast area, and it’s not an ordinary area. There are many interesting artwork on the walls and everywhere that really intrigued the kids when we went for breakfast the next morning and I had a hard time getting them to sit down to eat properly. Looking at these, can you blame them?? It was like having breakfast in a forest?

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If you think this is a 3D butterfly, you are wrong! It’s just one of the many amazingly well-drawn 3D artworks by the artist.

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Breakfast was decent – There were 4 hot items, bread with butter/jam, fruits, cereals, salad and coffee/tea. Inline with the theme of the hotel, everything was colorful! In particular, the kids enjoyed the pasta very much.

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Back Facade

Stepping out of the breakfast area, a surprise awaits! This extremely huge artwork on the back facade of the hotel is a genuine masterpiece. I was told that the butterflies look 3D at certain times of the day when the sun shines on it. So pretty!

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The Rooms

Every room in Hotel Clover The Arts is different. Not only that, every room on Levels 2 and 3 are designed and completed by students who submitted their artwork in a competition! What a feat that is – To me, it’s the owner’s contribution to promoting the arts in Singapore, and giving our art students a platform to display their talents. Such a great idea!

On the door of every room, you would find the design of the room.

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Our room is a family room with a queen-sized bed and a single bed, and there are only a few rooms in the hotel of that size. The rest are all suitable for two pax because the hotel is marketed mainly as a hotel for couples.

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The room is basic with a standing shower area and a wash basin outside.

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The Nescafe Gusto machine was a nice surprise. :)

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We went to check out the other rooms in the hotel because we wanted to see other pretty designs, and I must say I was so wowed by them!

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I imagine the students must be very proud to see their own designs translated into real interior designs with matching bedsheets & cushions.

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The Lift Landings

You must be thinking that it’s weird to see such a category and why it would be worth mentioning at all. Well, at least at Hotel Clover The Arts, there is a compelling reason to do so!

Drawings on the wall continue at the lift landings, so that every time you step out of the lift, you are welcomed by splashes of colors everywhere. I love how the artist made use of existing fixtures that cannot be removed, and incorporated them into his artwork. Plus, if you go up the different levels, you would see how the story of the cat unfold – The cat moves from inside the house, to outside the house and then somewhere else! This might be the only hotel that encourages guests to take lifts up and down to check out the artwork?! The kids had fun spotting the cat at every level though. :)

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Under the Hotel Clover Group, there is also another hotel nearby called Hotel Clover 5 Hong Kong Street. We took a one-minute walk to the hotel and checked it out as well. This hotel is more business-like and targets travelling businessmen. The rooms are small but comfortable, and the designs are more contemporary and classy.

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The Roof Top Pool

As there is no swimming pool at Hotel Clover The Arts, guests may utilize the swimming pool at Hotel Clover 5 Hong Kong Street. The kids had great fun at the pool because it’s only 1 metre deep! It must be the most kid-friendly pool I’ve seen at hotels. I love it because it’s on the roof-top and has a really pretty wall art. It was quite an experience swimming here while overlooking the old shophouses outside. This is unique at Chinatown hotels!

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Don’t you love this lush greenery on the wall? So pretty – I love it!

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Finally a pool that Joey can have fun without worrying because she cannot swim.

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We had a fun weekend at Hotel Clover The Arts. Thank you for hosting us, and for letting us soak in the great vibrant atmosphere unique to this part of Singapore! :)

Hotel Clover The Arts
58 South Bridge Road Singapore 058689
Website: http://hotelcloverthearts.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hotel-Clover-The-Arts/245463962294474

Hotel Clover 5 Hong Kong Street
5 Hongkong Street Singapore 059648
Website:
http://www.hotelclover5hongkongstreet.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HotelClover5HongkongStreet

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bangkok Travel: Amphawa Floating Market

Last year when I travelled to Bangkok with some friends, we visited the Damoen Saduk Floating Market and enjoyed it very much. So, this time round when we were planning our family trip to Bangkok, I thought it would be fun to include that as well. You see, when we were still kids, my dad brought us on a family vacation to Bangkok and we visited a floating market together as well. My irritating brother then (OK, in all fairness, he was probably only 5 or 6 years old) played with our camera and took out the unused film, exposing all the photos we took at the floating market! Till today, I still blame him for the lack of memories I have of that experience. So, this was a trip to make up for my loss! Haha!

The voucher I bought from deal.com.sg was for a half-day trip to Mae Klong Railway Market (I blogged about it here), as well as Damoen Saduk Floating Market, but when the agent got to know that I had visited that place before, she suggested to bring us to Amphawa Floating Market instead, which was supposedly more authentic and localized, with lesser tourists. So that’s the one we went to in the end.

Our Amphawa Floating Market tour started off with a 60-minute boat ride round the coast of the nearby village. Love the breeze and the rural and rustic feel of the place – Almost non-existent now in Singapore.

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Jayne makes a drama out of every experience, as you can see. In this particular episode, she’s singing in the wind with an unmatched gusto.

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Don’t be deceived by the somewhat cloudy weather. The UV rays were still strong, as you can tell from the shade of my Transitions Signature lenses. Someone once joked before, “Wearing Transitions has a bonus point – You would know how much sun block to slap on your face.” That’s really true, isn’t it?? Even though it may not be sunny, the UV rays may still be present and strong. Put on more sun block to protect your skin, just as Transitions lenses do for the eyes!

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Love what we saw during the boat ride, and definitely made me appreciate my life more. Many of these poorer people do not have good living conditions. Their main water supply is the river, from which they take water for cooking, bathing and washing. Yet, so many of those villagers smiled broadly at us when we passed them by, and their happiness was obvious. How ironical that urban dwellers like us, who live in better conditions, are often not as happy as these simple folks?

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Because I’ve been to Damoen Saduk Floating Market, I could understand what the agent meant when she said that Amphawa is a more authentic and localized market. Unless the former which has lines and lines of shops targeting at tourists, the latter is a lot simpler in terms of layout. There were only a few shops accessible by boats, and obviously selling souvenir items targeted at tourists. Majority of the shops were onshore, and they were all selling local produce, daily necessities and the food stalls were packed with locals. Definitely made me feel like I was in the midst of a local Thai market. Love that feeling!

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Cooking on these narrow wodden boats require skill, in my opinion. Yet, the vendors all did it with great ease and grace. It’s after all, their livelihood.

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We disembarked, and the first thing we looked for was coffee. Typical Singaporeans, you see. Don’t you love this little cafe with its charms, little knick knacks and a little resting corner?

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The kids were given ice-cream while the adults indulged in their caffeine. In Bangkok, always go for coconut ice-cream, I say! They are served in real coconut husks with generous toppings of mango & coconut strips, peanuts and corn. It’s an extremely tummy-happy food!

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While exploring the market, we came across very colorful fruits, local produce and even sumptuous BBQ seafood offerings such as HUGE prawns (Not kidding you – Extremely huge ones), squids, clams, mussels and even lobsters!

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It was such a happy sight to see many locals feasting on the river banks. Everything smelled delicious and no one bothered with whether they were hygienic or not. In Bangkok, just indulge!

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We couldn’t resist and ordered a beef noodle soup to share. It was SO GOOD. The soup was flavorful and tasty and the noodles were so springy!

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You might frown on this but I let the kids eat it too (and they didn’t have any tummy ache after that, for the record). In fact, they were the one fighting to finish the noodles!

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Damoen Saduk and Amphawa Floating Markets have their own strengths and weaknesses. At the former, we could buy fruits and little snacks from many vendor boats on the river. It actually felt more like a floating market. There are many shops on the river banks accessible only by boats selling souvenirs and gifts, targeted at tourists. At Amphawa though, you get a taste of authentic local Thai markets. There are a lot more food options and many shops selling souvenirs, local produce and titbits and even clothes and shoes. In any case, you can find none of such things in Singapore, so go ahead and explore Bangkok at its most authentic! :)