Friday, February 17, 2006

Berjaya Hotel – Singapore

When traveling to Singapore, I try to sample a variety of boutique hotels. This time I stayed at The Berjaya, formerly known as The Duxton. It is located on Duxton Hill, not too far from China Town and The Scarlet, where I usually stay.

The exterior of the hotel is similar to Scarlet only in the fact that from the exterior they are both rows of shop/houses. But the Berjaya is not as new as the Scarlet, giving it a more rustic appearance. I would even go as far as to say that it looks more colonial. They also have an Architectural Heritage Award plastered beside their main entrance.

Upon entering the lobby, one does get a bit of a feeling that this place is a bit beyond its day. Although there was obviously an attempt to revamp the joint, I still found the atmosphere to be relatively depressing. There seemed to be no real design theme nor were there any cozy sofa arrangements where one could unwind after a day walking around the city. I should also add that they have the slowest moving elevator I have had the displeasure of using in my entire life. Even the death traps at the Ghana Ministries (which are older than time) move faster than this puppy.

However the staff at the very small front desk was very helpful. I was eager to watch a cricket game that happened to be on that day and they made calls all over the city trying to find out where I could watch it. They went beyond their call of duty to accommodate me. Unfortunately I did not get to watch the cricket but that is another story all together.

As you can see from the long corridors, this hotel did not really set it self apart from any other hotels I have visited. I did notice though that to the left and right of the corridors, there were short staircases alternately leading up and then down to the room doors. I had booked a suite and was curious to see how this would affect the rooms design.

I managed to capture an aerial shot of the living room. It was not as spacious as this picture makes it look. If you wanted to invite a couple of friends over and have a little pre or after party, you could only get about 4 or 5 people in comfortably. For a suite, that just will not do. We got to have the whole entourage.

The bedroom as actually in a loft with a low, slanted ceiling. This was a first for me and I was already thinking how I could harass my comrades, throwing pillow, drinks, and shaving foam at them from the upper level, and perhaps even attempting some bed sheet bungee jumping off the banister. Alas, I was solo on this vacation so no such debauchery of the room occurred.

The twisted stairs leading to the sleeping area did prove to be some what of an obstacle course. Coming home at three in the morning, when you body and brain is still overflowing with whiskey and tequila shots will render you completely helpless against this warped mesh of tangled steal that some cruel designer dared to use as a staircase.

But if you do manage to scale the abomination you are rewarded with a clean and comfortable bed. I found that there were more than enough pillows for me, where as in most hotels I am always forced to ask for more. But there is no TV in the bedroom which I consider to be a positive thing. Unless you are one of those people who cant sleep or have sex with out the TV on.

Trekking to the upper level also prevents one from having to piss or vomit all over the living room, because this is where the only bathroom is. It is a pain in the ass to make it there after every 2 beers but it would not be so bad if you had friends to throw the empty cans at when you get up there. But the bathroom is clean and the toilet is wide enough for most asses. I did however find the complimentary kit to be quite weak. They did not even have skin moisturizer or a spare tooth brush and tooth paste.

The shower was very powerful and the water was extremely hot. I did find the shower curtain to be a bit nasty with some residue at the base of it but as most of us know, I have lived with WAY worse.

I guess what should really be a selling point for any boutique hotel is its location. Where as the Scarlet celebrates the birth of an art deco district in the heart of Singapore’s China Town, the Berjaya celebrates the availability of Philipino ass. If I can be any blunter, the street that this hotel is on is studded with hostess bars. Normally this would not be such a bad thing if I was planning a stag night but during a business trip this could force my associates to form a pretty skewed opinion of me. In the day light the street looks harmless enough, but when night falls…

I was on the way home at some ungodly hour. I was waking up to my hotel when I heard a young lady call out to me, inviting me in for a drink. I knew this was not a good idea and Singapore really scares me. I could be walking down some dark street in Sierra Leone and I would feel safer than talking to strange women in Singapore. I believe this fear was conditioned during my teen years there. Anyways, being the investigative journalist that I am, I figured I must venture into this bar and see what the nitty gritty is. All for the sake of this blog.

The bar was not large at all, but the space well utilized. There were a few tables scattered around the room and it was dark. I strolled up to one and ordered a Jack and Coke. Before I knew it, I was flanked from every direction by young Asian women in tight or skimpy clothing. Normally I would be flattered but some thing gave me the feeling that they were not overwhelmed by my rugged good looks. Upon further investigation I found that these follies were hostess’s commanding $20 for a drink and would in return spend time with the patron, sitting dangerously close to him and engaging idle conversation. I also met with the owner of the establishment and enquired how an operation like this could exist so openly in a well regulated city like Singapore. He informed me that these girls are NOT prostitutes and that the police would come around at closing time and even visit the residences of these girls after working hours to insure that they all return home and do not venture out for any ‘hanky-spanky’ liaisons. However, I did peer into the back of the club and I noticed that some gentlemen were seated around a small stage with a pole where 2 girls were twirling around each other wearing nothing but their birthday suits. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to find that even in a city like Singapore there are still harmless and fun adult activities that one can pursue. With that information in hand, I returned to the safety and comfort of my hotel room and went straight to bed.

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