If you’re hoping to do a staycation on a ~S$100 budget, does that rule out all but the seediest of hotels?
In regular times, perhaps. But with foreign visitors practically non-existent thanks to COVID-19, hotels have been facing up to economic reality and slashing their rates accordingly. We’re now seeing some pretty unprecedented deals, with options to suit every price range.
One property that caught my attention was Hotel Soloha, a boutique hotel tucked away in a repurposed Keong Saik shophouse. As someone used to a steady diet of cookie-cutter chain hotels, the opportunity to try something different was too enticing to pass up.
|🏖️ The Milelion’s Staycation Reviews|
Booking a staycation at Hotel Soloha
When Hotel Soloha opened in September 2019, rooms started at S$185++ per night.
It says quite a bit about the situation we’re now in that rates currently start at S$98++. That’s a steal, in my opinion, given what’s on offer.
At the time of booking, a Standard Room was pricing more or less the same on the hotel’s website and Klook at S$115 nett. I opted for the latter because I wanted to confirm Klook’s MCC (it’s 4722- Travel Agencies and Tour Operators), but if you’re thinking of booking now, do note that Klook has increased their price to S$127 nett.
It’s cheaper to book on the official website, which is currently offering the following staycation rates:
|Suite w/Outdoor Tub||S$178++|
Hotel Soloha: Arrival and Check-in
|Airport Shuttle?||Parking?||Closest MRT|
|Not offered||Public carpark||Outram Park|
Hotel Soloha is located at 12 Teck Lim Road, in the too-hip-for-you Keong Saik area. If you’re taking the MRT, don’t make the mistake of alighting at Tanjong Pagar. Outram Park MRT is actually much closer, and it’s no fun walking in the open on a hot and humid day.
I arrived slightly after the official 2 p.m check-in time, and found the area to be pleasantly quiet. The hotel is near many restaurants and bars, which means there’s a lot more activity in the evenings. That said, I never found noise pollution to be an issue, and I’m usually very sensitive to stuff like that.
The first thing you should know about Hotel Soloha is that they’re big on design. The architecture was overseen by ASOLIDPLAN (CV: designing the National Day 2018 stage), with the interior design handled by Avalon Collective (CV: Four Seasons Maldives, Hyatt Regency Shanghai, Kempinski Hotel Hangzhou).
The hotel boasts creations by local artists Ethrisha Liaw and Danielle Tay, and the overall theme could best be described as “urban jungle”- quite literally. Each floor has its own spirit animal (my spirit animal is a tapeworm, in case anyone’s wondering), and you can have your own little safari spotting the many more painted on the walls.
The lobby’s cosy, but they make use of mirrors to create a sense of space. The image above looks like two photos stitched together- it’s not. Part of the wall has been replaced by a mirror to reflect the bar opposite.
There isn’t even room for a proper check-in desk, but those are so last decade anyway. Check-in was swiftly handled over the counter (a S$100 room deposit is taken), with the usual SafeEntry and declaration forms processed too.
Keycards were issued, and though it may be a weird thing to notice, I love that Hotel Soloha uses premium card stock for their keycard holders. It’s the kind of thing you’ll won’t understand unless you’re there, but the tactile feel of embossed letters on sturdy paper was a nice touch. Many other hotels wouldn’t have bothered.
Raymond, the GM, was welcoming guests as they checked-in. He was a delightful chap, ready to give dining and drinks recommendations, as well as a brief overview of the situation the hotel found itself in.
He told me that although Hotel Soloha has 45 rooms, they could currently only sell 24 of them (I didn’t know the STB was imposing occupancy restrictions, and it seems that capacity controls may be a function of your overall size- the W Sentosa was definitely more than half full). Also, they’re not offering any breakfast, and they’ve had to empty the complimentary mini-bars in the rooms.
You can still help yourself to a selection of free canned drinks and peanuts in the lobby, and the staff will serve (proper) coffee and tea on demand.
The lobby is also where you’ll find Hotel Soloha’s lone restaurant, Takeshi Noodle Bar (I kept thinking of Takahashi from Fallout). This was unfortunately closed the day I visited (Tuesday), so I can’t comment on the F&B quality.
Although quite a few hotels have closed their bars, Hotel Soloha is keeping theirs open. Raymond mentioned that as per current regulations they have to serve you food along with drinks (Anti:Dote has the same practice now, I believe), but if you just wanted a drink they’d rustle up some snacks to make it kosher.
I took the sole elevator up to my room on the third floor. The elevator has a bubble design, which allows you to enjoy this 13-metre mural when riding up or down.
CNA Luxury has a little write up about the artist Danielle Tay and the rest of her work, which is well worth a read if you’re into that sort of thing.
I got off at level 3 (spirit animal: toucan), and headed down the corridor to my room. The theming even extends to the carpets, bespoke numbers created by local design firm TRIPPLE.
Hotel Soloha: Standard Room
There are five types of rooms at the Hotel Soloha:
|Junior Suite||15-29m2||2 adults + 1 crib|
|Suite with Outdoor Tub||16-23m2||3 adults + 1 crib|
|Family Loft||29m2||4 adults|
My Klook voucher booked me into Room 308, a Standard Room. Not all Standard Rooms come with windows, and Hotel Soloha is careful to manage expectations in this regard. The website uses a windowless photo as the default image for this room type.
So I was pleasantly surprised to luck out with room assignments and snag a Standard Room with a view. As my windowless stay at the YOTELAIR Changi taught me, a window makes a world of difference the smaller your room is.
My room happened to overlook two of the suites with outdoor tubs. You can’t see the tubs because they’re under large privacy umbrellas, but you’ll definitely hear the patio noise. A family with kids was staying in the suite just below, but fair play to them, they kept the noise down after dark.
I loved the overall design of the room, with its straight lines and modern finishes, but let’s be clear: these rooms aren’t meant for stretching out.
Space optimization is the name of the game here, and every last inch is used. Luggage can be stored in a deep nook beneath the bed, and there’s also two drawers here for loose items like shoes.
Even the mini-bar has been moved under the bed, although it’s been emptied out. The hotel told me that as per government regulations, they weren’t allowed to stock items in the mini-bar. I think there’s a lot of confusion regarding these rules, actually, seeing how the W Sentosa still had fully-stocked ones when I visited recently.
Other ways of saving space include hiding the safe in a vanity table drawer…
…and adopting an “open wardrobe” concept of sorts, where you could hang clothes just above the vanity area.
The vanity area needs to accommodate a kettle, phone, cups and a container for coffee/tea, which doesn’t leave a lot in the way of working space.
Fortunately, my laptop just about fit, although the edge hung off ever so slightly. I could have moved it further in by removing the kettle, but then the ledge above would overshadow the screen somewhat and cast shadows. You also can’t shift to the left, because there’s no cut out for your legs (see photo above).
Nestled just beneath the ledge are four universal power outlets and two USB ports.
The room does come with two bottles of mineral water and a hairdryer, but you might miss it if you’re not looking carefully. They’re inside the topmost drawer of the vanity table.
I tried to get some work done, but found that Hotel Soloha’s Wi-Fi is surprisingly slow for this day and age.
It’s still good enough to play Netflix without stuttering, but clearly lagging behind the competition. I don’t mean to cast aspersions, but even Hotel 81 had faster Wi-Fi than this.
|🔽 Download||🔼 Upload|
|YOTELAir Changi||29 Mbps||49 Mbps|
|W Sentosa Cove||34 Mbps||34 Mbps|
|The Barracks Hotel||7.3 Mbps||7.7 Mbps|
|Hotel 81 Tristar||7.0 Mbps||6.8 Mbps|
|Hotel Soloha||4.7 Mbps||5.1 Mbps|
|Internet speeds based on Speedtest.net scores as recorded during my own visits|
In my opinion, the bed was one of the highlights of the stay. It was nice and firm, and if you look closely, it’s actually two mattresses stacked on top of each other. The top one is a thinner mattress topper, the kind you might find laid over your Business or First Class seat. The bottom one is thicker and more like a traditional mattress.
I slept extremely well, thanks in part to the excellent black-out blinds at the foot of the bed. For those of you who are noise sensitive, walls at the Hotel Soloha are built to STC-45 specifications. This means a listener in a quiet room would hear raised speech in adjacent rooms, but would not be able to understand the conversation. For what it’s worth, I had no issues.
The main control panel is located by the door, but they’re thoughtful enough to put another (plus two more USB outlets, a HDMI port and a power socket) touch sensitive panel on the wall by the bed. You can easily switch mood lighting, activate the do-not-disturb sign or turn everything off without getting up.
Unfortunately, you can’t control the air conditioning temperature from the bed- that requires getting up and walking across to the opposite wall (the horror).
What you can do from the bed is watch TV, and there’s a Sony flatscreen that swivels out from the wall.
It’s a smart TV, but do note that you’ll need to sign in with your own Netflix/Spotify account. This can be quite troublesome given that you only have a remote to enter your credentials (not to mention you’ll want to remember to log out before leaving). There was an option to mirror your phone’s screen on the TV, but that’s not the same as casting- the audio still comes out of your phone.
With a room this small, the bathroom is bound to be a tight squeeze too. That said, it had a luxurious feel to it, thanks to the use of marble and premium fittings.
The toilet is a TOTO wall hung model (those don’t come cheap, as I learned while researching renovations), complete with tornado flush (if it can handle me, it can handle anyone). Sadly, there’s the glaring omission of a bidet seat or hose.
Also, the positioning of the toilet also leaves a lot to be desired. I measure in at 1.8m, but even the 1.6m Milelioness had issues with leg clearance.
When seated on the throne, you’ll find less seat pitch than Ryanair. The solution is to either open the door and sit diagonally so your legs can extrude from the bathroom, or to sit very far back and risk not having an optimum angle of attack. Neither is ideal.
I’m sure there are well-founded architectural reasons for not rotating the toilet 90 degrees counter clockwise, but the long and the short of it is that it’s not the most comfortable of positions for answering the call.
On to the shower, and I think I’m a sucker for shower mixers with buttons. A hotel could lose my luggage, burn my supper and kick my dog, and I’d go “yeah, but I could bathe by pushing a button, guys (and tell Fifi to stop yapping)“ In fact, I’d say the hansgrohe ShowerTablet was one of the highlights of my stay at the Outpost Hotel.
There’s no tablet here, but Hotel Soloha has still sprung for a hansgrohe button mixer, which delightfully lets you activate both the rain shower and hand shower at the same time.
Water pressure could be better, although the thermostatic mixer at least ensured that a constant temperature was maintained throughout. I didn’t like that they opted for a shower curtain instead of a sliding glass partition. Shower curtains just feel icky to me, and they don’t do a great job of keeping water in.
Bulk toiletries may well become a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they still live at the Hotel Soloha. These wall-mounted pump bottles contain Soloha’s own house brand, which was subtly scented, if not a bit thinner than what I’m used to.
Other bathroom amenities included two toothbrush kits (they cheaped out on the toothpaste though, opting for the infamous Colgate-lookalike AME), a shaver, comb, vanity kit and shower cap. Don’t let the fancy French name fool you, these are the house brand of a local hospitality distributor.
And finally, the moment you’ve all be waiting for: the blacklight test. With the exception of one odd stain at the entrance to the the bathroom (which I couldn’t rub off no matter how hard I tried)…
…the rest of the room passed muster.
Hotel Soloha: Facilities
|Kids’ Club||Business Centre||Others|
Hotel Soloha is a boutique hotel, not a resort, so don’t expect anything in the way of facilities. There’s no pool, gym, spa or kids’ club, and the sum total of recreation options is to hang out in the lobby playing one of the few board game titles they have on hand.
On the TV you can find some offers for spas in the vicinity, as well as walking tours. Given the current conditions, however, it’d be wise to check in advance whether they’re operating.
I think the real perk is the location, though- you have a wide variety of eating and watering holes at your doorstep. Burnt Ends (life-changing) is two doors down, and Potato Head Club is across the street. Also nearby is Meta Restaurant, Tong Ah Eating House, The Old Man and a host of other options.
Odds and Ends
There weren’t a lot of opportunities for service interaction, but the few I had were good. Remember those spirit animals I talked about earlier? It turns out they pipe in said animal’s sounds along the corridors via overhead mounted speakers. It’s cute at first (if not a bit kitschy), but got annoying when I could hear it through the door in my room. A quick call got the offending speaker shut off.
When I first entered the room I thought the cleaning staff had left their equipment behind. It turns out that in a nod to the current situation, all rooms have their own disinfectant spray and paper towels, I guess for those who want to do a little DIY cleaning.
A couple of minor annoyances with the bathroom shouldn’t detract from an otherwise high quality stay, and I dare say you won’t find much better in Singapore for S$115.
This won’t be a natural choice for those who want traditional hotel facilities, or who crave some space to stretch out. If you’re okay with that, however, and like to stay amidst the hipster-est place in Singapore, look no further.
|🏨 In Summary|
At the current price point, Hotel Soloha represents excellent value for those who want a change of scenery sans the usual resort facilities. The staff are pleasant, the style is refreshing, and the rooms are (mostly) well designed.
Do say: It’ll look good on Instagram
Don’t say: I discovered this hotel while it was still underground, you know