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Manse away from home - The Capella Hotel, Singapore
The Capella Hotels are relatively new to the luxury travel scene, but have already made quite a name for themselves. They aim to create unique experiences for their guests by keeping their sizes small and fostering a home-like atmosphere -- and the seven-month-old Capella Singapore is no exception.
The Capella Singapore looks, from the front, like a grand plantation house. It was built in the 1880's, and used to be the weekend getaway for British soldiers (they'd bring local girls there and party). The hotel incorporates two original buildings, which they remodeled from the inside out, along with an enormous new structure (above) by Lord Norman Foster. The historical building houses the front desk, the library, and the acclaimed restaurant Cassia. Behind that, the new portion of the hotel contains a modest number of beautiful guest rooms with breathtaking views of the sea below. The landscaping in the back includes extensive terraces with one and two bedroom villas, three infinity pools, and a path down the the beach (days from opening at the time of my visit) -- which, though large ships are continually passing by, people do in fact use for swimming.
The concept of the hotel's design is very indoor/outdoor, and one morning when it was pouring rain, one of the breakfast staff escorted me all the way to my room to ensure I could find a dry route -- that's impressive service.
This trip was paid for by the Singapore Board of Tourism, but the views expressed within the post are 100% my own.
The elegant, stately rooms are a spare, yet comfortable fusion of traditional Asian decor and modern convenience, featuring bedside touch screens (concealed in the night tables) which control the lighting, air conditioning, and curtains. Large flat screen TVs are standard, as are Nespresso machines, spacious rain-style showers, and generously-sized bathtubs with views of the ocean.
When you stay at The Capella Singapore, you are entitled to your very own personal assistant, who can arrange travel details for you and take care of any odd requests you may have. The beautiful breakfast haunt, The Knolls, has a continental buffet of fruits, meats, yogurts and baked goods, as well as an impressive offering of Eastern and Western breakfast dishes (and quite possibly the best fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice I've ever tasted).
The hotel may seem somewhat out of the way on the tiny isle of Sentosa, but there are a number of attractions right there including the Butterfly Park, Dolphin Lagoon, Fort Siloso, and a number of adventurous excursions like rides and a flying trapeze; basically, the island is like an elaborate playground, and attracts over 5 million visitors, mostly from Asia, per year. Oh -- and Universal Studios Singapore is opening there in 2010. So, yeah. And downtown is only a $10ish taxi ride away.
Don't get the wrong idea about the Capella, though. Sentosa may sound like a madhouse, but the Capella Hotel is serene, quiet, and both a relaxing place for travelers (definitely check out the Auriga Spa's moon phase-based treatments) and an elegant, home-like choice for events like weddings. Insider tip: Check out the library (above the lobby) when it rains; many guests gather there to read and socialize. It's just like staying in your rich friend's country house. Like I said in the title, The Capella is like a home away from home -- if your home is an elaborate mansion. It may take a long time to get there from the United States or Europe, but after a long journey, the comforts of a living-room style lobby and a friendly staff will make you feel welcome and pleased you came to Singapore.
Rates start at around $530 (US) per night.